RJTW: Saint John

Our ladies have been excited to participate in an indoor track event “Run Jump Throw Wheel” as advertised at school.  For weeks before, they talked about the event held in Saint John, occurring usually every couple of months in the winter.  Ages 8-14 are allowed to enter events such as running, sprinting, long jump, high jump and shot put.  Its such a fun chance to try out events in an organized way.

I love Rebecca’s saying on her shirt.  I only seemed to notice when processing these pictures!

Here’s Abby in the standing long jump and Rebecca in one of her two running events, this one being the 150m.

I was proud of Abby trying the 60 metre.  She was in a large group of older girls.

I took a couple of videos of the events.  More videos didn’t work out as both girls were doing events in different places at the same time.  As well, to add some fun context to the last clip in the video:  Rebecca was one of the last to throw the shot-put.  Her first throw was a bit short and the judge said for her to try and hit the ‘measuring’ guy in the head.  Rebecca pushed it out so hard that she gained an extra metre and made her arm sore after (hence the face!) .  I laughed for a while after that one.

RJTW video

The next event is a regional/provincial one in March.  We’ll definitely be doing some more practice for that event.

Cape Breton Spring: Hiking, Fishing, Dancing


Our last weekend in April was spent on a spring trip to home in Cape Breton for a long awaited visit.  We had wonderful weather for our trip, which allowed us to do some hiking, beach walking and fishing.  The above photo is Abby holding up her intro rock to our trip and her photo slide show.  She was very excited to compile a number of photographs for her class to see where she had been and what she had done while she was away.  This became a common discussion throughout our time away!

 Our hike took us to the MacKinnon's Brook trail in the Cape Mabou Highlands.  It was a crisp day, but great weather for hiking.  We took the kids the 1.5k uphill to the look-off of the Northumberland Strait.  PEI was visible from our perch above the ocean.  Here's Rebecca with her newly found hiking stick.  


The path to the look-off leads to a nice clearing and a good spot for lunch.  


Abby relished in her usual job of caring for Willow along the trail.  We love it too, because she keeps the pace going quite well.


There was the usual excitement upon arriving at our destination.  


The timing was slightly off between cameras, but makes it fun playing with angles.  


We were invited on another day of our visit to see the animals at a neighbour's house.  There were quite a few sheep for them to see, chase around and in Rebecca's case, pick up like a cat.  


There's also a kind horse called 'Flicka' at the farm.  The girls enjoyed giving apples as a treat.  They were laughing at the way she reached out with her teeth to pick the apple from their hands.  


No trip to the Mabou and Inverness area would be complete without a beach walk.  We spent a couple of hours enjoying the sights and also keeping our heads down for sea glass.  



 Our Saturday afternoon was planned for a while, specifically to go fishing with Grampa in the Southwest Mabou river area.  Both girls picked up the casting and fishing very quickly this year.  They are certainly growing up fast.  Grampa took home two fish, which Abby really enjoyed cleaning!  She was so excited and retold the story of how she used scissors to 'cut the fish from the poop hole to the head'.  



Last but certainly not least, we had a big moment while in Cape Breton.  The girls have been listening to East Coast music, noteably fiddle music since they were very young.  They've danced around our house, their grandparent's houses and elsewhere.  They've heard stories of us going to square dances and listening to fiddle music, but were never able to go because a) they were a bit young and b) they couldn't manage to stay up that late.  However, finally, this weekend, we had the chance to bring both of them to the year-round square dancing in West Mabou.  These dances have been going on for decades and although not in the busy season at this time of year, they still provide some fun on a Saturday night.  Its a bit hard to take photographs and video in the dimly lit hall, but hopefully you'll get to see the kids at their first dance.  I'll never forget the looks of surprise and enjoyment on their faces while they swung around with us and figured it out (ha!).  Abby was a trooper and danced three sets (9 figures) while we were there.  So much fun yet to be had with these two!




A Canoe Trip in Kejimkujik National Park

This year, we diverted from the usual backpacking adventure for our yearly trip and tried out our sealegs in a canoe and kayak while camping throughout Kejimkujik National Park, located in Southwest Nova Scotia.  Kejimkujik or "Keji" is a park filled with plenty of lakes, marshland, hiking trails and varying types of forest.  While we had previously hiked in Keji, going a few nights on the water was a new experience for us.  I had been keen on trying a canoe adventure after having watched canoeists in Algonquin Provincial Park during our 2014 adventure.  What I would realize is that a canoe really is a workhorse for carrying gear over long distances.  Also, when adding the 'portage' element to your travels, it makes for a significant challenge carrying your gear over distances between the water.  Despite the challenge, completing a difficult portage was rewarding and actually used different types of exercise, making for a good change after paddling.  As we were taking on a canoe trip this time it also presented us with a few new routines with packing, changing clothing, waterproofing, and carrying our watercraft.

 Our plan was to spend 4 nights in Keji, although considering our past experiences, I would think of 'plans' as loose as possible.  Here was our itinerary:

Day 1 
Portage Q to Big Dam Lake to Portage R to Still Brook to Portage S to Frozen Ocean Lake to Portage T to Portage U to Channel Lake to Portage V to Little River to Campsite.
Day 2
Minard Bay to A to N. Portage E to to Mountain Lake to Portage F to Peskowesk Lake to Portage N to Peskawa Lake to Mason's Cabin.
Day 3
Campsite 37 (Mason's Cabin) to Beaverskin Lake via Portage L.   Peskowesk Lake via Portage K. Gabrielle Lake to Portage C to Puzzle Lake to Portage B  to Cranberry Lake Portage J to Keji Lake Campsite.
A great park map with the portages and distances can be found here: http://www.paulillsley.com/kejimkujik/park.html.  Our average distances were between 18 and 22 kilometres.  As for our trip, holy portages you say!  Yes, there were quite a few.  Many though were only short distances, with the exception of Portage E, which was 2.3 kilometres!

Our group started off with a portage to the first lake, Big Dam Lake.  One thing to note was that the portage trails were well trodden and groomed throughout our trip.  



Portaging the canoe was something we traded off between all of us.  The canoe was heavier, but easier to carry.  The kayak was lighter, but required carrying on your shoulder – which became a pain after a while. 

The weather and water for our trip was exceptional.  Clear skies and flat water made for some awesome paddling.  The photo below was us travelling on Big Dam Lake.



Each trail is well outfitted with rest stops.  This one depicts the type of rest stop for canoe carrying. The frame is made so you don't have to heft your canoe too often after resting.


The campsites were well set up with tent pad areas and all the firewood you could burn (if you so chose to do so).  This campsite was on Channel Lake.  I will never forget the sound of the frogs that night.  Imagine the sound of thousands of frogs croaking and echoing throughout the night — as loud as any highway or factory.  Amazing, yet I was glad I had my earplugs. 


Knowing we had a long day ahead of us, we left early in the morning on the Little River toward Kejimijuik Lake.  We also learned that there were new skills we needed to master, such as locating and avoiding rocks.  Little River was full of rocks, but a slow paddle was just as nice in the morning calm water.


One of the more memorable paddles was our first travel across Keji Lake.  A quiet morning with more calm water awaited our long crossing.  I couldn't help but be awestruck by the serenity of the morning with the dim light from the clouded skies and the reflections off of the lake.  



IMGP3953For all of our portages, we opted for a single carry, necessitating for us to carry our packs and the boats in one trip.  This was tiring, but doable and also made for us to make quick work of the walking portions.  After a long day, we made it to Mason's Cabin off Peskawa Lake (see above).  The area around Mason's Cabin was an incredible spot.  Surrounded by high pine trees, Mason's cabin was a really fun spot to visit.  The cabin is completely outfitted with stove, bunk beds, fire wood, outhouse, picnic table and large firepit area.  

IMGP3961We spent the evening swimming, reading books, perusing the cabin's logbook and relaxing in the warm evening air.  I couldn't believe that we were in Keji, but the bugs only came near dusk.  We were clearly lucky on this trip.  




Another clear sky morning and amazingly calm water greeted us for our departure from Mason's cabin.  We made way for our long haul back to Keji Lake.  Our shoulders were definitely feeling the portages now, after three days into our trip.  I managed to find a sweet spot between my pack and the yoke, which certainly helped spread out the weight.  I've since seen a few other ways of carrying using straps and such, which may make it easier to carry the canoe.


Our arrival at Campsite 18 was welcomed by a few snakes and a wonderful pebble beach.  Matt and I lounged in the water for an hour before really doing anything, which also included baking myself on the hot rocks.

Our final day of travelling was only by canoe.  We had finished our portages and we were to enjoy a paddle across Keji lake.  Of course, in our usual style (I'm not sure why I forget this every trip), we left bright and early and then decided to change our plans.  Seeing that we were so close to the end, we continued paddling to Jakes Landing, opting for a night out on the town (not) in Halifax, than another night in the woods.  This change of plans did require a bit of whining on my part, with five minutes of circling the canoe to prevent from leaving our last campsite.  In the end, peer pressure won over.  Despite our early departure, our final day was another amazing day of amazing weather for paddling.  The time well spent in Keji just proves I'll just have to go back to feed my new found addiction, canoeing.  (Oh, and to prove the Keji-tick-nay sayers, we only had 1 tick between us on the whole trip and I had it quickly found and remedied! )


Matt made a clever montage of our time in Keji.  See his video below, as posted on Youtube.  



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Backpacking in Ontario: Algonquin Park

At the end of August, Kris and I drove to meet Matt at for our annual backpacking trip, this year at Algonquin Park in Southeastern Ontario. Algonquin Park is primarily known for its water bound trips via canoe and kayak.  With a humongous 7,653 km² of forest and lake filled wilderness in the park, our backpacking trip planned to explore a little portion of the western side of the park on the Western Upland backpacking trail.

This trip also had a bit of travel time for us (33 hours total driving) through 4 provinces (for Kris).  Our travels to Ontario included an overnight camp out in Voyageur Provincial Park campground near Montreal.  The park and campground came recommended for us and was an easy off-the-road, good quality campground outside of the traffic of Montreal, but yet just inside Ontario.  The campground borders the Ottawa River and has access to the water.


Camping at Voyageur made for a relaxing evening and morning to break up the days of travel.

We met Matt in the Algonquin Park itself, having one of his shortest drives yet for our backpacking trips (from Toronto).  It was a typical reunion of good friends and hikers with talk of new gear, conversation about how to spend the next few days and of course, sampling  Matt’s ‘craft’ soda.

The following day, we decided on getting our hiking legs in action to do a few day hikes the day before we began our backpacking trip.  This ended up being a good decision as we needed to ease our bodies into what was going to be a long first day of backpacking.  Our early planning had the first backpacking day at 25+ kilometres.So, the 18+ kms of day tripping over three hikes (Oxtogue Falls, Lookout trail, Track and Tower trail) was welcome exercise.  We were also introduced to the big wood forests, plentiful watercourses and covered canopy hiking that is typical of Algonquin Park.

It was also clear just how popular Algonquin Park is for day visitors and campers alike, likely due to its proximity to the more populated areas of Ontario.  The day trip trails were relatively busy with a variety of hikers and skill sets.  The views from the trail lookoffs were grand and made a person appreciate the expansiveness of the park itself.

There are a few stores and shops within the park boundary, spread out along highway 60.  For about an hour, we searched for a magazine or book for Matthew with no avail.  Matt had forgotten his mandatory hiking reading companion and would lament the same throughout the trip.

By the end of the day, we had our plans for the backpacking trip.  We hoped to hike to Clara Lake (25+kms) by Day one, Rainbow Lake (10+kms) by Day two and back to the start on Day 3 (20 kms).

We started off toward the Western Upland early the next morning in our clean shirts.  Within a few minutes of starting off, we saw a large moose on the trail ahead of us.  With a crash it disappeared into the woods and so began the ondulating trek toward Clara Lake and our evening campsite.  The day’s weather was perfect and we enjoyed the tree cover to keep us away from the sun while making our 25 kilometre day.



Algonquin also has alot of unique signage.  The trails are also very well marked and well trodden.  We had no trouble finding our way.  For the first loop section of the Western Uplands trail, we followed a blue hiker sign.  The second loop follows a yellow hiker and the third (and hardest) is red.  What was also interesting to see on our hikes were the cross trails marked the portages between lakes.  At the lakeside, the trail markers are posted on trees with the distances of the portages ahead.  We saw some portages that were 2500m or more! Those that take on these adventures are clearly some people dedicated at canoeing.

We began to see the iconic Algonquin lakes on our way, many with islands dotting the middle.  Few beach shorelines are found  as the forest comes to the water’s edge and many fallen trees fill the shallows and shoreline.  We quickly passed Maple Leaf Lake and reached Maggie Lake for a lunch break.

After blasting across the woods between large lakes and late in the evening, we finally arrived at Clara Lake, our first destination.  Despite the long haul of travel, we quickly set to work with our nightly chores of campsite making, food cooking, eating and in my case, swimming.  I tried to swim at every opportunity in the evenings as a relaxing break to hauling backpacks.   The campsites are well established and most had a metal stand for mounting stoves and other cooking utensils.  As we ate supper, I reflected on the day’s hike and realized 25 kilometres in a day (on trail) is clearly my limit, or just slightly over that.  Nevertheless, it was still nice to take an evening swim.

Despite the beautiful surroundings, we were surprised to find small visitors arriving at the campsite just after sundown.  Like roving zombies (I had just had an apocalyptic book marathon prior to this trip), the mice emerged from the woods around us and could be heard gnawing on all things loose and crawling across the top of our tents.  We had hung our food as per our camping ‘rules’ — at a distance well away from our campsite.  However, this did not stop the mice from coming — and even chewing into my new(ish) water filter bag and tubing which was hung from a tree!  In the morning, Kris awoke to find that the mice and or chipmunks had a late night snack with his breakfast, lunch and dinners.  We were now down to one water filter — thankfully we decided to double up on some communal gear (another ‘rule’).






With our second day underway, we took our time traveling across the 10.4 kilometres to Rainbow Lake. After our long first day, we jokingly said we’d continue onto the 20+ kilometre diversion toward Islet Lake  — and then quickly decided to continue the ‘easier’ route, knowing Day 3 would be another long day of travel. We arrived at Rainbow Lake early in the afternoon and had plenty of time for camp setup, swimming, island conquering and even a campfire to stave off Matt’s no-book boredom.  That evening, we had another visit from the mice, but were better prepared for the scurrying undead.



Day Three began with a bit more mice and food carnage.  Kris was now down to three nuts (kidding), but seriously was reconsidering all previous ideas we had about packing food!  We were also graced with a bit of heavy rain in the morning, but given the tree cover, had very little need for pack covers.

With our last day having been the start to a long weekend for those outside the park, as we hiked past the four lakes (Susan, Redwing, Lupus and Thunder Lake), we began to see more hikers (we had only seen two in our days in the backcountry).  We passed more groups heading to the first night campsites and began our quick hike to the end.  I was getting a second wind after a slow earlier part of the day and was anticipating the bag of chips in the car at the end of the trip!  I had experimented a little with packing ‘less’ food than I normally pack (lacking evening snacks), which was taking a bit of mental toll.  I realized that chocolate and/or sweets in the evenings may be a necessity for me on backpacking trips.


Rainbow Lake Poses

The final part of  our trip was quite the denouement.  We had arrived safe and sound at the trailhead parking lot and quickly drove to the campsite hoping to empty out and dry our gear (amid great weather), before we scrambled off to the Portage Store restaurant for a well deserved meal.   After our meal, we thought it would be relaxing to play scrabble on the covered deck and watch the newbie canoeists with their daily rentals.  What we didn’t forsee was the thunderstorm rolling in and downpouring, all over the canoeists, but also all over our gear hung out at the campsite a 10 minute drive away.  It ended up downpouring for 10 hours straight, making our last night in Algonquin a bit soggy, but redeemed with thoughts of a another good trip done.

Matt made a great compilation of the entire trip using his new camera.  It does capture the terrain very well and shows some of our fun along the way as well.

Below is our last photo before our final (damp) night’s sleep for an even earlier (4:50am) wakeup to begin to the long drive home to the Maritimes.  Note: all photos of Dave in this post were taken by Kris Griffon.

Deck Building with Helpers

This week, we started building a side deck with a closeline pole.  We've worked on the deck the last couple of days. Yesterday, between rainshowers, Rebecca and Abby wanted to be helping as much as they could.



Rebecca loved drawing the cut lines on the wood.


Abby is never without her Princess crown lately.  She's wearing it with her sun suit, which they were wearing while running around in the warm rain earlier in the day.


All hands were on the deck wood while cutting!


Here's a video of our helpers in action.

We finished off the day with some home grown vegetables!  This was our first crop of yellow and green beans, snow peas and our second and third of cherry tomatoes.


Our Cuban Vacation (Pt 2): Coffee, Underwater Gems and Waterfalls

(Continued from Pt. 1)

Our fifth day in Cuba was by far our most memorable.   After speaking with our resort DSC01108 DSC01115 representative, we had found out about a couple of excursions and one that caught our eye.  The trip we decided to take was called the 'Rambo Tour' and would lead us into the Topes De Collantes National Park in the Sierra del Escambrey.  These mountains (sierra) have unique history and were some of the areas that Fidel Castro, Che Guevera and others prepared for their revolution.  Ironically, it was also the location where other revolutionaries tried to revolt against Castro.  Now, the mountains house some of the DSC01131 DSC01133 best trekking adventures in Cuba.  Our planned trip was to see a coffee plantation, tour the national park and head to another adjacent Park de Guanayara to see Salto el Rocio Falls.  One of the surprises we had was that our transportation to the mountains would be on an open air African-imported Soviet troop carrier truck.  We would learn and appreciate that the monster of a truck was one of the only ways to travel in the dirt roads of the Escambrey mountains due to the steepness and sheer rough travel of the roads.

Once in Trinidad, we met our tour guide Asael and were immediately impressed.  Asael spoke five DSC01144DSC01162 languages and had a mastery of English including the humor.  After some short   introductions between our other Canadian trip-mates, we left the surroundings of Trinidad and headed for the mountains.  As we went further into the mountains, we began to see road ahead of us simply by looking straight up.  On more than one occasion, we met other similar sized trucks and had to slowly sidestep our way around the other vehicle to pass safely on the narrow road.  DSC01171 DSC01180

Our first visit was at Casa del Coffee, a coffee house  and farm found among the township in the national park.  After a tour, we began our 15 kilometre trip further into  the tropical jungle.  Truck travel became obviously necessary due to the conditions of roads, although an open truck was something Sheena didn't appreciate after we saw the size of the Cuban wasps!

We arrived at our trailhead, expecting a 3 kilometre hike through the river valley toward waterfalls, caves and our end destination at a house turned restaurant in the middle of the jungle.  We continued along the trail, realizing there were 'tourists' and 'hikers' on our walk.  The tourist DSC01473DSC01463 group tended to pass over the fun stuff, such as a large cave we explored and  the main attraction — the waterfall! Our guide Asael noticed this a bit and when I asked if we could swim in the falls, he at first said we needed to stay with the larger group.  Then to our surprise, as we continued to walk along the trail following the river and more falls, Asael asked me if I wanted to go down river with him and accept a Cuba vs Canada challenge. (He had earlier claimed that all Canadians do is go to all inclusive resorts, rather than DSC01476 DSC01480 hiking in Cuba).  Because he was so good at our humor, I thought that he was kidding at first.  But, when he started stripping off — Sheena, myself and a couple of others were delighted to join him on a  rockhopping and waterfall jumping trip down river.  So, with the 'tourist group' following another guide to a lagoon about a half a km away, the six of us followed what seemed to be Asael's route that he's followed DSC01197DSC01209 since he was a DSC01484DSC01487 kid.  We laughed as we jumped off smaller waterfalls and enjoyed the jungle  like surroundings.  As we got to the lagoon and we found a way to repeatedly climb the small cliff to jump the falls, Asael looked at us and said, "I thought I was crazy, but you're crazy."  Hopefully we restored a bit of the Canadian outdoors reputation.  Once we made it to the lunch at the La Gallega jungle restaurant, it would have been easily the best meal we would eat all week.  You can't beat rural chickens! DSC01515DSC01497DSC01510DSC01500

The following two days, we tried to enjoy the beach as much as we could.      We also decided to brave  the heavily salty water and try snorkeling from the catamaran, a trip that takes you about 1km off shore to the nearby reef.  Strangely only about 15  feet deep and seeming like a deep pool, Sheena and I and a few others explored the wonders of tropical coral reefs, colourful fish and incredible sea life.  Watching the fish watching us was an incredible experience.  In returning to the beach, we realized we would like to try it again on our next trip — maybe even DSC01242DSC01213DSC01237scuba dive next time!  On our last day, we returned to our beach routine, enjoying the last few hours of warmth and meeting up with Alex and Leslee for  an evening of Chilean wine, salsa dancing  and great music

The trip home was long — up at 3:30am, and finally home to Belleisle at 9:00pm with 2 feet of new snow.  How soon can a person forget you were in a sunny paradise?  Lets hope its not too long before we go back to Cuba to refresh our memory.

Our Cuban Vacation (Pt. 1): Sand, Sun and Trinidad

 The winter in the maritimes has been a bit of a long one, with storm after storm and only four feet of snow piled up in our yard (!).  During the last week of February, Sheena and I decided to go somewhere we've always dreamed of going with all its history, culture…maybe something about being able to relax on a beach in February: Cuba. DSC00952DSC00954

So, we booked our trip (through tripcentral.ca; which was surprisingly easy and well  organized mostly all through email) and left for Halifax after leaving the kids with Gramma and Grampy MacDonald.  Our flight on Cubana Airlines was a complete and pleasant surprise, totally DSC00960DSC00965 different than the online reviews of the airline experience.  We were  treated with a nice airplane meal and free drinks, something unheard of in the Canadian airlines experience.  As we approached Cuba, I couldn't help but notice the amount of forest fires visible from the air. They would be something we'd see throughout the trip, although no one seems to be concerned about them.  

After a four hour flight, we landed in Santa Clara, which appeared to be an old military airport.  It was interesting to see the small concrete dome fighter plane hangers covered in overgrown grass and vines a sign of the old cold war, now being used as storage for the present commercial airport.  More importantly, we got off the plane and were greeted with a blast of warm air.

     One of the more interesting yet nerve racking events was the bus trip from the DSC00989DSC01008 airport to the resort.  As we were in the Playa Ancon area, it was a  three hour drive (but only 140 kms) through Sancti Spirtus province's city and villages.  There is a shorter route, but it is impassable as it passes through the mountains a fact which we we would fully understand later on our mountain excursion.  The 140km drive we took on the bus was long due to the variety of traffic: a blend of new and old world transportation.  I've never seen a place where brand new Chinese made air conditioned buses drive on the same highway as pedestrians, bicycles, bicycles with more than one rider, horses, horse drawn cart taxis, mopeds, multirider motorcycles (we passed one with 3 riders), 1950s era cars, Russian trucks, modified transport trucks converted to buses, coco-taxis (coconut), and brand new European rental cars — all on the same roadways.

After our first night, we woke up to the first of our daily morning beach walks, exploring  the Ancon peninsula.  Our resort area was situated on a peninsula with a several kilometre long beach on the south Caribbean ocean.  We found various types of shells and sea life on our walks.  We were amazed at the warmth of the air and the ocean, as well as the beautiful sunrises.  Along our walks, we also saw a few remnants of beach defences from some era (1950s?) and a couple of old and closed resorts, now used as hangouts for locals. 

The meals were interesting and different  at the same time.  Most food was similar to ours, although with an emphasis on fresh tropical fruits and juices and delicious seafood. The meats were unfortunately mostly lower grade meats, but still tasty.   With the DSC01015DSC01017exception of nationally produced items such as coffee, the challenges brought by the US embargo were especially exemplified in the food and beverages.  The lack of every day things such as spices or other items familiar to westerners.  If one were to use soft drinks as an example: finding a bottle of 'Diet Coke' is actually a difficult endeavour. We we did see some of it, but it was actually called 'Light Coke'…and we saw no Pepsi.  We tried the local 'refrescos' called 'Dietika'.  It tasted similar, but had very little carbonation.  In another example, DSC01021DSC01032chocolate was virtually non-existent in our area of Cuba.  As a result, you begin to really appreciate what was offered to you by the local restaurants.   The coffee was absolutely exceptional (and we brought back as much as we could!).

While on our first days at the resort, we met a couple from from PEI, Alex and Leslie.    Both have travelled a fair bit and Alex, originally hailing from Chile, speaks Spanish.  Meeting Alex and Leslie made our trip much more interesting as we had new friends to explore the area with and just share conversation and stories while enjoying the beach. Alex was also able to converse and share some of the locals conversation and experiences with us, which DSC01049DSC01027DSC01045helped us to understand that much more about Cuba.   

On our third day, the four of us rented a taxi cab (use government taxis when possible) and travelled the 15 kilometres to Trinidad.  (Sheena and I had originally planned to rent bicycles for  this trip, but after bus ride into the resort, we decided to avoid taking our life in our hands in an unprotected bicycle!)   Arriving in Trinidad, we began to understand why it is  designated as a UNESCO heritage DSC01067DSC01066DSC01020site.  The city is a colonial gem,  built during the sugar production boom of the early 1900s.  We walked on cobblestone streets and stopped to take in the market, local  musicians and artists.   One gentleman named Lorenzo sat with his   rooster Bancho watching the passers by.  We later found Lorenzo's son working as a painter in a nearby shop, painting a picture of his father.  Around midday, we got out of the hot sun for a while and stopped for lunch at a popular spot for salsa music, Casa de la Musica.  During our lunch, we were treated to a band playing music amplified by the natural acoustics of the restaurant and surrounding buildings in Plaza Mayor.  Afterward a delightful lunch a DSC01093DSC01089nd refreshing cerveza  (beer), we strolled through town — eventually  leading us to an old convent turned revolutionary museum, Iglesia y Convento de San Francisco.  From the tower, we took photos of the surrounding town and mountains.

The following day, we spent most of our time on the beach and tried an excursion on the DSC00982DSC01455 catarmaran with a friendly sailor named Alberto.  Alberto suggested we try the snorkelling offered at the resort and if we were willing to, he would take us out to the reef off shore.  We were relatively untested at the snorkelling, so we opted for some snorkelling nearby the shore.  It was fun to be able to see the white sandy bottom, mixed with eel grass — but other than a few errant fish, we mostly only saw starfish.  It was a good refresher though, except one critical mistake  — wearing my wedding ring while swimming.  Lets just say that it is now a permanent resident of Cuba.

 (continued part 2: Coffee, Underwater Gems and Waterfalls)