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Archive for the ‘central America’ Category

Xibalba, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

I have produced a short Mexican documentary on the Yucatan entitled ‘Cenotes in Tulum’. In this video I visit a number of cenotes around tulum, all reachable by bike from the town.

the cenotes are a favourite dive site and their density and their extent makes Tulum arguably, the cave dive capital of the world. admittedly, I think they mean cavern dive.

See the Mexican documentary on the Yucatan and Cenotes in Tulum here.

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P0000199, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Echoing my own sentiments our guide says, “We hope it no make an eruption today si!” He has the habit of stuffing the microphone under his arm pit and snickering like a mad man. “We go 10 kilometres to 8000 feet now.

In the accompanying picture you will notice, the lake down in the caldera. It is hot and acidic I am told (.01 Ph). “You put your head in the water and SSSSTT. Smells like a barracks, how you say… a foort” He hides the microphone and giggles again.

Maggie, my wife, and I are in Costa Rica for a holiday. It is an amazing place but we cannot aford to go there all that often. I am hoping to have the cash again soon. Sadly the tax man was not so kind this year. We are in a little tourisimo bus winding our way from lush green slopes, planted with coffee bushes, up into the cloud forest. We pass a mountain biker, they are everywhere. Up ahead a bank of clouds hangs low; Invariably those who reach the summit find themselves in thick mist. “We are lucky today si! If jesus is with us it is sunny”. Apparently jesus is only with 30% of the tours. “Iss very important we have rules in the national park, we do not take rock or drugs, only pictures”.

The “Tourismo bus” parks with several others and we file out into the thin mountain air. I hope for Jesus to appear but he is nowhere in sight. There is a short hike to the rim from here. “We spend 15 minutes at the crater, if it makes eruption you run for the bus!” Jason our guide can hardly finish his next sentence; “If you do not see me and the driver, and the fire is behind you (he is doubled over now making choking sounds) we are back in San Jose already”. Its great to see a guy who loves his job, hes having almost as much fun as us. “Good luck compadres”.

We are definitly noticing the elevation, I am right out of breath though it appears that there is a small patch of sunlight up ahead. Just as we arrive, Maggie dragging along in tow obsessed by the humming birds, the clouds streak over the rim. They move at phenomenal speed and we find ourselves breathing fog as thick as cotton balls. Somewhere in the mist ahead I hear the sad lament of “Jesus has left us”. We hover there on the edge and then as though by miracle, the clouds are suddenly torn away and for about two minutes we are treated to intermittant glimpses of the moonscape below. “Jesus, he has come back! You are all lucky persons. You know why? It is because you come with me”.

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A visit to Sian Ka’an is one of the oddest experiences that I’ve ever had. Who’d think that a day in the swamp is a day well spent? And yet the haze, the turquoise water and holes from which the lake bubbled were intriguing.

The Mayan ruin of Muyil is one of many Mayan treasures crumbling in the forest and sinking into this oddly scenic place. There is a very unique feeling to the landscape – nothing like the sterile desolation that the well traveled tourist ruins at Tulum have become. And in amongst the grass and crocodiles there is a rusting narrow gauge railway. There is also a channel that connects the lake in the middle of the swamp out to the Caribbean Sea, and a current of incredible strength flowing down this channel which was dug by slave long dead and sacrificed.

In the accompanying video on the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, we wandered amongst the pyramids and climbed to the top of one such crumbling edifice that Manuel called the castle. It was over fractured blocks that I clawed my way up to a platform way above the canopy. One misplaced handhold would have sent me bouncing back down the pyramid – a fall that I’d not survive.

I assume it was an alter that I found myself leaning on and behind me a grotto from whence I gazed across the swamp to a structure known as the Customs building. In the shadow I noticed a kneeling figure up against the wall, just a faint outline where the light caught the edges of raised plaster. It seems that the fresco must be decaying in the humidity, and the building is supposedly slowly settling into mud.

Check out this video on the Sian Ka’an –  Mexican documentary, Exploring the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve

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Turtles in Tulum – Mexico, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

It was a quiet shuffling in the sand and a strange mewling sound that announced the arrival of the drunk policeman. I think he had come looking for a lost cat, but when he saw that Maggie had cigarettes, he made it plain that he’d like one. It did not seem sensible to argue as he had an UZI. When he wandered off, making cat sounds and looking under bushes in the darkness, we finished dinner, blew a little time in town and then returned to the beach in search of turtles.

It was an incredibly stormy night, with warm wet winds moaning off the Caribbean – a beautiful setting that took me back in time. I waited in expectation to see a huge black hump rising from the surf – it was not long before I saw exactly that.

See video of turtles in Tulum – Mexico here.

That night I stumbled across  several sets of tracks and one monstrous turtle as big as my coffee table crawling through the sand. It was something that I’d never imagined would be exciting, but until you see these creatures you have no idea how incredible they are. It’s like you are face to face with a million years ago, and yet they are so gentle.

The above photo is of two gents who took me out onto the Tulum Reef the next day – again to see if I could see more turtles lying in wait for nightfall. Unfortunately, I later learned that the biggest turtles lie out much further than where I was.

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A free learning is something of value that you gather by way of the experience of another. while visiting Tulum – Mexico (Yucatan) I decided to investigate the properties of tequila – in particular, the mescal variety along with it’s distinctive worm that is found floating at the bottom of your bottle.
Being reasonable thinking people I would hope that you can enjoy a free learning at my expense.
see video on mescal tequila – here.
Not only should you derive wisdom from my suffering, but also an understanding of tequila’s psychoactive properties, and from a local, something of its preparation, consumption and the finer differentiation of various mescal drinks.

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Cenotes in Tulum, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

In case you were wondering why I stopped posting, I’ve been in Tulum for the last little while – exploring cenotes and just generally enjoying the culture of the Yucatan.

Check out this video on some cenotes near Tulum here.

we stayed in our usual hotel, the Punta Posada Piedra, spent time learning Spanish from Santiago, the night watchman, watched turtles crawling up on the beach to lay eggs – and one that changed its mind. We visited the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve and to me, most significantly visited several local cenotes and snorkled in them.

Cenotes that I have documented on the video link above are Gran Cenote, Cenote Calavara (Temple of Doom), Manati Cenote and Dos Ojos. Of course there are plenty of others, but those are the ones that are most easily reached from Tulum.

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A map of Costa Rica will be confusing in the maze of convoluted roads along the Guanacaste shoreline. Here we are, several world class beaches within about 20 minutes drive. But where to surf in Tamarindo?

A simple map of Costa Rica with some broad destinations plotted relative to each other might sometimes be the way to go. Follow road signs and ask the locals and providing time is not an issue you will get there.

As they say in Costa Rica – Pura Vida!

Check my simple map of Costa Rica here.

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Behave Yourself! – Rockwatching Blogging Protocal

 

scan0001, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Well, Rockwatching has been up and running for a number of years now (5 to be exact) and I believe it has contributed significantly to the interest of people like myself who like caving, rocks, the outdoors, gems and minerals in Ontario.

We are just a few short days from 2011 and I believe it’s high time we made some resolutions -all of us  (you my loyal fellow bloggers as well).

So in the interests of all involved a few ground rules to follow on Rockwatching from now on

1) Lets not carry a personal vendetta onto this site which is meant to be a forum where like minded enthusiasts can interact in a positive way.
2) Lets respect each other and try not to get personal when we are frustrated.
3) Lets respect the basics of conservation and eco-minded thought.
4) Lets not assume stuff we don’t know for sure (hence the survey at the bottom of the post).
5) Lets keep in mind that this is all about enjoyment.
6) Lets keep in mind that just because the topic is on the table, every single aspect that pertains to it is not an open book.
7) Lets respect people who are not on the site, private property, reputations etc. Just because there is discussion of a site or feature does not mean permission has been granted to go there.

8) Lets not get petty, self righteous or important. Stop correcting my grammar, spelling or use of terms. I am a writer at heart and so I believe I can use the language as I please (providing it’s in good taste, or if I choose, not in good taste).

9) Lets not waste my time by having to re-direct you to one of the above rules.

Happy and prosperous 2011 – Mick

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Michael14, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Somewhere above some pretty deep shafts that lead down to Friar’s Hole this lama used to live. I was returning from one such shaft and he followed me – more like terrorized me, just kind of pacing along behind. I’ve had a few weird experiences with lamas so …

Any way, off that particular topic, but on the topic of cave shafts, check out these cave base jumps. Not a sport I’d considered before, but it looks amazing, as the Chinese guide says in a massive understatement, “Everybody will have an exciting day today” …

Cave of the Swallows – Mexican cave base jump

Cave Base Jumping in Oman – Base jump in Oman

Chinese Cave Jump – Chinese sinkhole jump

Down the shaft – another of the Cave of the Swallows

Guatemala Sinkholes – How sinkholes form

It’s Timmay – something just a little different

Rubber rafting it – a deviation from cave jumping!

Detroit – Sneaky Base jump

Just a bit much – Fainting

If you are wondering why no update on broken rowboat cave, its serious snow up there right now and neither JC or myself can hack through that kind of terrain in those conditions and also I’m working like a mad man to finish off my next book – it’s now a week overdue. Keep your eyes peeled – “Tamarindo”,  Published by Edgehill Press.

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Cuban Farm – Beyond the Playa

This picture appeared in the July/August 2008 issue of “Atmosphere” – Air Transat’s inflight magazine. My article was “Beyond the Playa” though initially I had called it “Mario and the Crocodile”. Mario was not one of the fellows in this picture, he was our host and a very decent and generous Cuban at that! My visit with Mario was on the same trip that I visited the Cuevas de Bellamar with Jesus (pronounced hay-zeus).

Before dinner we went on a tour of Mario’s farm – he had an alligator on a chain that he goaded for our entertainment. It lived in a scum covered cement pool behind the shed where he kept his Lada. I wondered if I could keep a pet like that, but come to think of it, we have some kind of exotic pet law back in Guelph.

Here is a little bit of how the article had initially appeared (though in “Beyond the Playa”, the editor had coaxed it into something more about the dinner than the crocodile) …

““My he looks like a nasty fellow” I commented to my host. The creature eyed me coldly. “How long have you had him?” “9 years” “ And I suppose you are going to take his belly skin? Use it for handbags? Gangster shoes?” “Si, my pet, I feed”.  Still no reaction from the beast, it seemed indifferent to its fate. I doubt that it understood me, but then again, neither did my host.

Life never fails to amaze, I wondered at the bond that must have developed over those 9 years. Master gazing fondly over his ill-tempered charge; a rusty chain fastened around its armoured neck. Reaching over in provocation the farmer yanked it’s tether and the beast went absolutely beserk, snapping and thrashing it let loose a fetid hiss from its gaping mouth. Whereas a dog bites at 300 pounds per inch this killer pulverizes bone at a crushing 5000 pounds pressure.

I wondered what it was that had bought me here. My resort offered a perfectly suitable meal – rice and beans – typical Cuban fare, and chicken or some kind of fish. “What kind of fish?” I would ask. “Cuban fish” they would invariably reply.

Well here I was in the banana grove of a farm near Varedero; overlooked by the various creatures who lived there, my host’s Cocker Spaniel, Hootie, the hootia and of course the angry beast. “Nombre?” I asked my beaming host. “Crocodillo” he told me. The “Tinyosa” – great flapping black vultures watched from a tree nearby. I am sure they hoped that I might get to close.”

As for the piggies in the picture, sweet and snuffling as they were, I believe we derived a significant amount of guilt. I hadn’t realized that one of their brethren would serve as dinner until a part of him/her appeared with our meal. I believe we would have paid for his freedom if we’d realized the consequence of our visit, but then again, a wild pig soon grows ferule and even uglier, so freedom for these creatures might be good in theory, but in practicality Mario’s family would go hungry and so would we – “Circle of Life”.

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