How’s the fishing?

Our cruise ship – The Oaisis of the Seas, was at port in Labadee when this little row boat came around the bend of the beach area and approached the walkway that leads to the island.  It was afternoon so, I assume the he was probably coming in after a morning of work.  Watching him paddle through the shallow, crystal-clear water was a beautiful scene.

It looks like he had lots of nets piled up in the stern but we could not see any pile of fish anywhere.  Maybe he had already off-loaded his catch and was just coming by to watch the silly tourists as they walked over to get sunburned on the beaches.  I’m not sure, but I thought this was an interesting image to get some true local flavor in the cruise port.

Local Fisherman
Labadee, Haiti

Nikon D7100
Tamron SP 16-300mm F/3.5-6.3 Di II VC
300mm @ f/9.0 – 1/400 sec – ISO 400

Remnant of the Past

Thimble-shaped structures like this dot the island of Jamaica and most people probably see them but don’t notice or don’t know what they are.  This is the base of a windmill that was used in the production of sugar.  These mills were all over the island when Sugar Plantations fueled the growth of the British colony that thrived here.  The mills were used to grind the sugar cane to produce granulated sugar and molasses.  Molasses is what Rum is produced from and this is the other big product of the colonial era.

At one time, Jamaica was the top producer of sugar in the world.  Today, it is still a major producer of sugar and rum but tourism is the biggest source of income.  It was very neat to learn a little of the island’s history when we were on our tour going from Falmouth to Montego Bay.

Jamaican Sugar Mill ruins

Nikon D7100
Tamron SP 16-300mm F/3.5-6.3 Di II VC
44mm @ f/14 – 1/50 sec – ISO 200

So close and yet, so far

On our trip to Montego Bay in Jamaica, the tour bus let us out on a busy section of the shopping district.  We parked right next to Margaritaville and piled out onto the narrow sidewalks to spend our “free time” before the tour would move on.

As I mentioned before, this section of the city is packed in with touristy shops and vendors trying to get you to spend your dollars before you moved on.  As we walked down the street, I noticed this wall with a fence that looked out on the beautiful blue waters of Montego Bay.

It’s kind of a tease here.  The street is hot and crowded.  If you’re into shopping, that’s fine but if you’re wishing for the blue waters and gentle breezes it seems like that’s far away.  The fence is locked so you can’t get out to the beach without paying the entrance fee or being a guest at one of the businesses that has beach-front access.  I guess it is a subtle form of advertising – Just a peek to make you long to be out there.  Now that I think of it, being on the beach would be great right now!

Montego Bay, Jamaica

Nikon D7100
Tamron SP 16-300mm F/3.5-6.3 Di II VC
110mm @ f/11 – 1/50 sec – ISO 200

Just chillin’ in Jamaica

Everywhere you go in the Caribbean, there are vendors selling food or miscellaneous trinkets.  This guy just seemed to exude a Jamaican vibe doing nothing other than sitting at his cart full of coconuts.  For all I know, he could be from New Jersey but from a distance, this just seemed to me to capture the laid-back nature of this island.

It was awful hot as we were waiting for our excursion to Montego Bay and those ice-cold coconuts looked really tempting.  Of course there were many beautiful sights here that just call you to relax and enjoy.  I can see why they say one of the most common phrases here is – No Worries, Mon!

I totally agree.

Falmouth, Jamaica

Nikon D7100
Tamron SP 16-300mm F/3.5-6.3 Di II VC
50mm @ f/14 – 1/30 sec – ISO 200

Leading the way

It seems that guys on stilts are the easiest way to attract attention in the Caribbean.  I mean, with all the beautiful scenery around here, how else are you going to get people to pay attention?

This group of musicians, led by the guy on stilts, roamed through the market street on Labadee while the vendors yelled out for each passer-by to look at what they were offering.  The drums and vuvuzela horns did their part to get you to notice them also.

Joyce and I had been to Labadee once before and this is one of the places that we remembered well.  The market is packed with locals desperate to sell their artwork and trinkets.  It is all very well maintained and controlled by the cruise line but it is still one of those spots where I feel pressured into looking at stuff that I don’t really want.  It’s also kind of hard to say no when you know that this island is one of the poorest spots in the world.  A place where you can feel grateful for natural beauty and guilty for not doing more for the poor at the same time.

Haitian Troubadours
Labadee, Haiti

Nikon D7100
Tamron SP 16-300mm F/3.5-6.3 Di II VC
16mm @ f/10 – 1/30 sec – ISO 100

Wastin’ away Montego Bay

The shopping area around Montego Bay, Jamaica is much like other Caribbean port cities.  Lots of t-shirt and souvenir shops, bars and restaurants with people standing out on the sidewalks beckoning all the tourists to come look.

The one really unusual spot here was the local Margaritaville which is actually at the end of the block here.  The front side is not all that special, just a big parrot-head sign but from the side, you see the real difference.  There’s a water park out back with people out enjoying the amazing blue waters of Montego Bay to go with their margarita.  Pretty cool, Mon!

Oasis of the Seas-029-Edit

Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville
Montego Bay, Jamaica

Nikon D7100
Tamron SP 16-300mm F/3.5-6.3 Di II VC
16mm @ f/11 – 1/500 sec – ISO 200

Lucky number 13

In Mayan culture, the number 13 was considered to be of special significance and many of the structures at Chichen Itza feature repetitions of images in this number.  This building, the largest of the Classical Period (600 – 950 AD) architecture is known as “The Nunnery”.  The early Spanish explorers gave it this name (Las Monjas) because the building has many doorways that reminded them of monastery cells.

This structure is actually not believed to be a temple but a royal palace.  The face of the building is covered with intricate carvings with a focus on the Rain God “Chac”.  The side entrance shown in this image  includes 13 images of Chac, 8 on the bottom level, 4 on the top and the whole side is a huge face with the door representing the mouth.

Las Monjas (The Nunnery)
Chichen Itza
Yucatan, Mexico

Nikon D7100
Tamron SP 10-24mm F/3.5-4.5 Di II
11mm @ f/16 – 1/500 sec – ISO 200

Ya, Mon – I like cruisin’

Well, we’re still living the Caribbean life on day 9 of our 7 day cruise.  Today was supposed to be a leisurely trip heading back towards our home port but had to shift into high-gear as there are some passengers needing medical care.  The plan is to pass near Miami tomorrow morning and drop them and then slow down again and drift in to Port Canaveral on Wednesday.

Our traveling gnome was happiest at Montego Bay in Jamaica where it was a beautiful day at the beach.  The weather has been great for us throughout the trip but now that we’re moving at twice the rate we had been going, the smooth seas have been traded in for a constant roll.

I’m very grateful that we have not had rough seas at all as it makes a big difference when the floor starts to rock under you.  You would think that rocking would be comforting but it is actually disorienting.  Things calmed down after dinner so, it looks like we’re back to a nice easy ride again.

Nikon D7100
Tamron SP 16-300mm F/3.5-6.3 Di II VC
86mm @ f/11 – 1/320 sec – ISO 200

Dance of the Flyers

Hurricane Irma has given us some bonus cruise time while we wait for the storm to clear.   Last night, we made a move about 100 miles south from Cozumel to the port of Costa Maya, Mexico.

This port was built for the exclusive purpose of attracting cruise ships to stop along Mexico’s Mayan Riviera.  There is no major city here but it’s actually not a bad place to stop.  The port area is quite touristy but not over-run with people hawking cheap stuff at every corner like some other places.  Everything is pretty new and clean with a beach area, swimming pools and lots of little shops.

At the center of the shopping area, there is a tall pole where a demonstration is done on days when ships are in port.  This is described as a Mayan rain ritual which ties in with  the local history but the ceremony, known as  the Danza de los Voladores, is a centuries old tradition practiced by numerous indigenous peoples of Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua and El Salvador.

The ceremony involves a dance of 5 participants with music and chanting followed by a climb up a 30 meter pole.  Once the “voladores” have climbed to the top, four of them tie themselves to long ropes and launch into the air, spinning around the pole 13 times (a magical number to the Mayans) until they reach the ground.  In this demonstration, there are only 4 flyers but the original includes a fifth person who stays standing atop the pole while the others spin their way down.

This was a neat display which was only diminished by the fact that it took a fair amount of time to complete which made it hard to watch looking up all that time with the hot, Mexican sun beating down on you.  I am glad we got to see this as it added to our Mayan history lesson.

Danza de los Voladores
Costa Maya, Mexico

Nikon D7100
Tamron SP 16-300mm F/3.5-6.3 Di II VC
16mm @ f/10 – 1/800 sec – ISO 200

Predicting the Weather

This column is believed to represent the four seasons of the year – one on each side. The images on the closest side show a representation of the rain god – Chac shown with the nose of an elephant.  Chac is one of the most frequent images that we saw throughout Chichen Itza.

Obviously, rain was extremely important to the Maya culture.  I assume this was primarily because the Yucatan peninsula is very hot and they would have been highly dependent on rain for drinking water and agricultural irrigation.  On our visit, we have been more concerned with the over-abundance of rain related to hurricane Irma.  Either way, it is obvious that predicting the weather has been a chief concern of people for a very long time and we still don’t quite have it figured out.

Nikon D7100
Tamron SP 10-24mm F/3.5-4.5 Di II
10mm @ f/10 – 1/800 sec – ISO 400