Photos from India

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

St. Lucia, Antigua and planning for South America

So, here I am in Antigua, a couple of hundred miles north since my last entry when I arrived in St. Lucia. St. Lucia was a bit of a slow time at first since we had anchored in the busiest harbour there, Rodney Bay. It was there that I discovered that this would be the only place on the island the boat would stop. From there, Tanya and I were left to fend for ourselves if we wanted to see any of the other parts of the island. Now Rodney Bay had a beautiful beach, but this is not where I would want to spend a vacation by any means. Jet skis were everywhere and people were walking up and down the beach trying to sign you up for different day trips and what not while you tried to sit there and relax. Definitely not what I look for in a Caribbean island. Too much mass tourism there. After a couple of days of sitting on the beach, Tanya and I rented a car and headed south to hike the pitons. Those are those two giant peaks you see in every photograph of St. Lucia that make the island look so beautiful, remote and tropical, not the side of St. Lucia that our captain liked. Anyway, we spent a couple of hours driving south to Gros Piton, the bigger and taller of the two where we planned to hike up to the top. Upon arrival at the bottom of the trail, we were made aware by the parks service that they required a guide to take you up and this would cost you $25 each. We reluctantly agreed and headed up the mountain. Now this guide was about the worst guide I have ever had. On the way up, she pointed out that some wet rocks were slippery, there was a river down the hill, a cactus that grows there, two small football sized rocks that were loose, and a low branch that we should watch our head on. The hike went on without incident on a slightly overcast day. The trail was easy to follow so the only reason I could guess that you needed a guide was another way of someone making money off tourism in the islands. Either way, it was worth the hike up to the top with amazing views of the nearby coast as well as the views of petit piton, the other mountain.
From there, we had one day left in St. Lucia and decided we would do a dive. We checked a few dive shops in the morning and they were all booked up. One however called over to the local Sandals resort where they had a couple of spots available for us to do an afternoon dive. Over the phone the cost was $40 each but by the time we arrived, it had gone up to $50 and they claimed to have never said $40. Oh well, I guess I just imagined it, probably not another person down here trying to rip off the tourists. That could never happen . . . . The dive turned out to be well worth the money. I am still working out how to get the best shots with my underwater camera case, but they will be on the website soon! The reef was in great shape, considering most down here have been depleted by the number of divers crashing into everything over the years. There were tons of bright green, red and purple corals everywhere and not too many big fish, but lots of small ones that you would usually see on a reef down here.
That night we set sail for Antigua where the captain of the boat had more business to take care of. The sail to Antigua would be about 36 hours and over two hundred miles. We began at 9:00 at night, passed Martinique, Dominica, Guadeloupe and Montserat. Again we pulled into the busiest harbour on the island with the same basic amenities as the one in St. Lucia. Upon arriving, I had decided that it was time to move on to something different. This trip on the boat was not exactly what I was looking for. I was hoping to be on a boat, visiting a different beach every day with great snorkelling and good diving. Instead, I am on a boat where the captain has business on each island so we pull into his favourite and most convenient harbour, drop anchor and are run into shore every day at 9:00 and left to fend for ourselves to get out and see the island. Its nothing different than flying to each island, getting a hotel and exploring the island by foot, bus and car. I could do that without the sailboat (Although we were are under sail it is quite exciting). Anyway, as I was saying, I had decided that it was time to get off the boat. I spent some time on line the first day here, booked a flight to Miami for Sunday, and then a flight to Ecuador on the following Tuesday. From there, I fly home to Birmingham on May 25th from Lima, Peru where I will have about 10 days before heading on to Tonga.
Antigua has been uneventful, minus a day of hiking and exploring Nelson’s Dockyard. Nelson’s Dockyard is this historic harbour that has been preserved and is much like it was four hundred years ago. You can imagine what it would have been like to be here in the British Colonial days with large wooden ships rolling into the port. Anyway, Tanya left on Saturday. Her time on the boat was over and I am left here with the captain and his friend Dave who has been on board since St. Vincent. Dave is a good laugh and breaks the tension on the boat when Captain Norman get’s angry. I enjoy having someone else on the boat to talk to. I have spent the past two days sitting on the beach and it looks like today will be spent on the boat typing emails that I will send tomorrow. As for tomorrow, we set sail for St. Martin, my last stop in the Caribbean journey!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Volcanos, Waterfalls, Pot Farms and the Midnight Watch

Ok, so here I am in St. Lucia after an incredible couple of days in St. Vincent. We sailed up to St. Vincent from the Grenadines a few days ago and docked in a small bay on the caribbean side. The bay was actually the location of where they shot Pirates of the Caribbean. The town and movie set there was intact but definitely pretty run down. It was amazing how small the set actually was. As for the ships, they had all gone back home, but I actually saw the black pearl this morning as we pulled into St. Lucia. I think they just use it as a tourist boat now. Anyway, the first day there was a bit lazy with a short hike up to a small waterfall where along the way, to go with the many goats, donkeys and cows, I saw an iguana that was proably five feet long. Unfortunately I missed the photo as I think I scared it off by hissing at it. Oh well, I am sure there will be plenty more.
The next day, I awoke at about 5:00 to get an early start on hiking to the top of the volcano on St. Vincent. I think it last erupted in 79, but it is still steaming and they expect it to go off again sometime in the next five to ten years. Anyway, the british girl on board the boat, Tanya, came with me. We had hired a guide as the trail is hard to follow and there are a lot of pot farms on the way up with people living and working them. The hike started on a black sand beach, and headed up through the jungle before following a narrow ridge that had been created by a past explosion of the volcano to the top. This was the highest point on the island, right around 4000 feet. A pretty tough uphill climb. I was impressed the British girl kept up as this was not her fortay back home and she was wearing little boat shoes without socks. At the top, you were battling 60 to 70 mph winds to stand up and you could look over into the caldera. Pretty impressive view inside with a view back to the caribbean sea on the other side.
On the way up, we had seen several pot farms and our guide had stopped by to say hello and have a glass of water at one of them. We stopped again on the way down and I got up the courage to ask a guy who was clipping the marijuana from the dried plants if I could take his picture. I mean this guy was sitting in front of the biggest pile of pot you have ever seen, just cutting it off of the branches. He said no, but sent me to another guy. From there, Tanya and I got the full tour. He took me around the back of the hill to show me all of his plants that were ready to be harvested. We then went to his drying area where he probably had hundreds of pounds of marijuana hanging up and drying. After that we were shown how after it is clipped from the plants, they put it into buckets and it ends up weighing 18 pounds in each bucket. From the bucket, it goes into tightly wrapped plastic packages for it's worldwide distribution. I got some photos and made some interesting new friends to say the least. One of the stranger things I have done in my travels by all means! From there we hiked down to the bottom and then over to a two stage waterfall that was about 200 feet high. Very impressive, especially since no one was there. It was a good opportunity to get some good photos. I think I will have some posted soon as I am sending a cd home to have someone upload them. Anyway, we returned to the boat in time to prep the boat before setting sail at 9:00 that night for St. Lucia.
This sail was my first night watch. Basically, my first shift was from midnight to three in the morning. I was very tired not having slept since the night before but it was a wonderful experience to be sailing between islands with no land in sight and millions of stars in the sky. As we departed from being blocked by the wind from St. Vincent around 10:30, we put out the sails. It was an experience to be out on the bow of the boat with strong winds and heavy seas that you could barely see, letting out the sails! Definitely intimidating, but wearing a safety harness helped to ease any fears of falling overboard! Once the sails were all up, I waited for my turn to go on watch. After watching a few shooting stars and a couple of freight ships come by, my turn was over. Although tiring and a bit slow, it is amazing to sit there under the stars, looking at all of the phosphorescents in the water every time the bow dips down into the water and listening to the waves breaking onto the side of the boat. I am looking forward to more.
From here, I am spending a couple of days in St. Lucia and will set sail for Domincia after that. Sorry for the lack of photos and good stories, but hopefully this email has painted a good picture for you of what is going on down here!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

St. Vincent and the Grenadines

So far so good down here. I have been on board for almost a week now and after arriving in St. Vincent last Thursday night, I took the ferry out to another island called Bequia. We spent a couple of days here exploring the island and mostly relaxing on the beach and reading. We then headed south to canouan. There was not much there other than really nice beaches and a new resort being developed by Donald Trump. He is actually tearing down a mountain on the island to build new land in order to extend the airport. Terrible! Anyway, from there we went further south to Union Island and Mayreau. Another couple of small islands with nice beaches and clear water. This is what the carribbean lifestyle is all about.
We arrived back in Bequia today for the afternoon and are setting sail for St. Vincent in the morning. While there, I am planning on hiking to a few waterfalls as well as to the inside of a volcano on the island that last erupted about 20 years ago. It is supposed to be well worth the twelve hour hike! From there, I think we will depart at night in order to arrive in St. Lucia the next day for Sunrise. The island is supposed to be incredible to pull up to at Sunrise! The plan is to stay there for a few days, then head up to Dominica and on to Antigua. After that, I am not sure, but I am assuming we will proably keep heading north for a bit. Anyway, I do have to admit that I am missing everyone a lot right now. The carribbean is not the kind of place you go to make new friends. There aren't many travelers like myself down here other than on other boats, and I don't get to interact with them. The days are quite nice, swimming and snorkelling and wandering around the islands, but it get's very boring at night back on the boat, just sitting around on deck reading. It would be nice to see everyone back home!

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Puerto Rico

Arriving in Puerto Rico, I was pretty excited about seeing a country with lots of beautiful beaches, mountains, and rainforests. I rented a car and headed out of San Juan to a small beach town that was near Americas only Rainforest that is a national park. After spending a night sleeping in my car, I woke up to enjoy a beautiful sunrise on the beach. From there, I drove the El Yunque National Park where I spent the morning hiking about ten miles to several different waterfalls, and the peak of El Yunque. Hiking in the rainforest is always amazing and fortunately since it was morning and I was on a mountain, the temperature stayed around 80 degrees. So far everything in Puerto Rico was what I expected.
I spent the rest of the day driving along a series of roads that winds through the central mountain range in Puerto Rico. It is called the Ruta Panoramica and follows about a thousand turns every five miles along the ridge of the mountains. The drive was pretty impressive and the map that I had identified sites along the way. The only problem was, I kept driving and coming up on these "sites" and there really wasn't anything to see. The road was filled with lot's of abandoned cars and no where to eat. At sunset the first day of the drive, I went into a town that the guide book said had a place to camp and shower. After searching for a couple of hours, it was nowhere to be found. I looked for something to eat forever it seemed like before coming across a burger king in the middle of nowhere. I settled for this and found a nice quiet spot to settle in for the night in my car again. I was extremely frustrated. With the next day came a new beginning. I was excited about returning to the ruta panoramica to cross the rest of the island. After a few hours of seeing the same scenery and no real sites, I had enough! It was time to get off this winding road and get to the surf towns on the west coast.
Upon arriving at the surf towns of the west coast, I was disappointed in the lack of atmosphere and quality of the beaches. I stopped by several places and then deicded to move on to another area of the island that contained the third largest cave system in the world and the big radio telescope that you see in the movie contact and goldeneye 007. The caves were supposed to have camping so I pulled up to the gate and found that they were only open from wednesday to sunday. Realizing it was Tuesday, they would not let me even camp there for the night since they weren't open until the next day. I found a bite to eat at a road side guy grilling chicken and found a spot nearby to park my car for my third night sleeping in the car without a shower. At this point I was beginning to hate this place!
I awoke the next morning in desperate need of a shower. I had a cup of coffee and a donut and headed to the caves. I was able to convince the guard to let me use the shower at the camping area that morning. This was the first thing to go right in several days! After a shower and shave, I felt like a new person! The caves were pretty impressive, but a bit on the overly american tourist route. Well worth the quick tour. From there, I headed over to the Arceibo Observatory, home to the largest radio telescope in the world. This thing was impressive! It was a cool as it looks in all of the movies. Billy would have been in paradise!
After leaving the observatory, I headed for old san juan, an area of san juan with cobblestone streets, historic buildings and a couple of gigantic forts protecting the bay. After checking in to my $28 hotel room, (it looked like what you would expect a $28 room to look like), I headed out into the city. Overall, it remindse me of a spanish new orleans. Narrow streets and sidewalks with little balconies and bright colored buidlings everywhere. The forts are pretty impressive, taking several hundred years to construct and surviving use in multiple wars, until we stole Puerto Rico from the Spanish about a hundred years ago. Anyway, I am wrapping up my tour of Puerto Rico this morning and heading to St. Vincent, which is pretty close to South America. From there, I will be sailing on a 75' schooner for a while. I am looking forward to settling in to my own living space for a bit without having to worry about gathering up my things to go to the next destination. We will be sailing throughout the carribbean so at the moment, I don't even know where we will be heading! You can visit the website for the boat at:

Stay in touch!!

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Sailing to St. Martin and Beyond

So, I have survived yet another week of sailing without managing to wreck any boats or run over any swimmers. As of yesterday, I am finally finished with six different sailing courses that I took. This was actually a good bit of work to learn everything and study for all of the different test it took. So far, I really have not had a good chance to just sit back and relax except for with a few beers on the boat, late in the evening. Now all is complete and I have a better understanding of navigation and making passage between different islands that are pretty far apart.
The sailing last week took place on a beautiful Lagoon catamaran that was only a couple of years old and 44 feet long. This boat was absoloutely beautiful, and more space than myself and three british x patriots who were with me could use. I had a nice king size bed and bathroom all to myself for the trip. Not bad, I think I should have a photo of it in my albums sometime soon. As for the trip itself, it was an impressive thing to do to spend 15 hours travelling between the BVI and St. Martin. We were heading directly into the wind and waves and did manage to have one sea sick man on board. On the way over, we ran into a slight problem with the Dinghy. After hearing some strange noises, we found that the dinghy, which was attached to the boat, was hanging upside, had been skewered by another pole on the catamaran, and the engine was drug through the water. The instructor decided that the best thing to do at that point was to cut the dinghy loose and leave it. From there, we had no more dinghy, making it difficult to get into shore. We arrived late, and spent the next day exploring some of the towns and beaches in St. Martin. Once out of the bigger port town, it was a wonderful place. Beautiful beaches and wonderful outdoor cafes overlooking the water. From there, we were planning on heading to St. Barts but decided the next day to sail to Anguilla instead as the winds were more favorable in this direction. Anguilla turned out to be one of my favorite places down here. Lots of empty beaches with calm and clear carribbean water. From Anguilla, we spent a long day sailing back to the BVI and docking the boat at it's home in Nanny Cay.
Today, I flew to Puerto Rico where I am desperately trying to upload my first group of photos online and trying to figure out how to unlock my ipod. I am not sure how the ipod became locked, but from what I can tell there is not a good way to unlock it without erasing all of my music! Not a good scenario! Any advice on that matter would be greatly appreciated. Anyway, back to the trip. I am in Puerto Rico till Thursday. I have rented a car and am planning on staying mostly inland, exploring some rainforests, mountains, caves and that giant satellite dish from the movie contact. So, from here, I am heading to Saint Vincents, further south in the carribbean to meet up with some people to sail on a 75 foot schooner. Should be pretty fun, but we will have to see!