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

Inspiration for stone carvings?

The structures of Chichén Itzá are covered with carvings of powerful wild animals.  Today, the ruins are also covered with local inhabitants like this iguana.  I can easily picture ancient Mayans looking at these miniature dinosaurs and imagining dragons or feathered serpents, perhaps?

If you don’t look closely, you could mistake this one for another carving.  Basking in the sun on a chac mool (sacrificial sculpture) the lizard blends in with the colors of the stone and seems not the least bit bothered by the tourists who wander about the site.  I guess they just get used to all these silly people being awed by this amazing history.

Chichén Itzá, Yucatan, Mexico

Nikon D7100
Tamron SP 16-300mm F/3.5-6.3 Di II VC
78mm @ f/16 – 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

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

Chichen Itza

Our one pre-planned land excursion was a trip to see the Mayan city of Chichen Itza.  This was an all-day trip leaving from the port of Cozumel early Friday morning and not returning until around 6PM.  We took a ferry across to Playa del Carmen and a 2 hour bus trip out to Chichen Itza which is in the middle of the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico.

We were worried that the weather might not be good since hurricane Irma was passing by this area of the Caribbean but it turned out pretty well. There were puffy white clouds in the sky making for interesting photography but no rain until we were half-way home on the return trip.

Chichen Itza itself is amazing.  Our guided tour gave us so much history and background on the Mayan culture and interesting details about the architecture.  One of the neat things they kept demonstrating were the acoustics of the pyramids and other large buildings.  They produce echoes to allow the priests and leaders to make announcements and speeches to the people from atop these structures.  At the main pyramid – dedicated to the snake-bird god, if you clap your hands, you hear an echo that sounds like a bird.

This was a fabulous trip and our tour guides were fantastic.  Thanks to Diego and Hermondo for getting us there and teaching all about the Maya and the history of this site – one of the wonders of the modern world.

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

Labadee, Haiti

The first port of call for Oasis of the Seas is the private island of Labadee, which is owned by Royal Caribbean.  The island facilities have expanded significantly from the last time that we visited.  The beautiful water and surrounding mountains of Haiti are the same, however and the day was a bright, sunny and hot day in the Caribbean.

We will be heading to Jamaica tomorrow and the weather forecast is for a similar day there.  After that, we will have to see what comes.  You can’t really argue with hurricanes so, there may be some change of plans depending on what happens at the end of the week.  So far, it’s been blue skies and smooth sailing.  Hoping this pattern will continue as long as possible.

Nikon D7100
Tamron SP 16-300mm F/3.5-6.3 Di II VC
16mm @ f/18 – 1/30 sec – ISO 200