A Cruise to Anywhere but Cuba

November 7, 2019

On board ship, the Royal Caribbean’s Empress Of The Seas, in Miami on our cruise to Anywhere But Cuba. Originally booked earlier this year, this ship was scheduled to sail to Havana. But then, 2016 happened and suddenly Americans were, once again, no longer free to travel. Build up that wall, Mr. Gorbachev! So we set sail in search of exotic unknown destinations and occasional passing sailboats to board and pirate. Yeeearrgh, me maties. Lost at sea, again.

November 8, 2019

Adrift in the Gulf of Mexico a dozen miles off the northwest coast of Cuba, the ship half full of reverse Cuban refugees. “Cuba libre”, we intone as we gaze wistfully to our south towards the still amazingly large and forbidden mountains of Vinales. In seconds, a smartly dressed waiter, named Kenneth, hailing from the Phillipines arrives, libation in hand. I ask him for the frequency. Courage!

November 9, 2019

Sailing through the night, we washed ashore on the rocks in George Town, Not Cuba, at sunrise. Here be trinkets. And jewelry. And cigars (Not Cuban). On shore was a den of pirate dogs and scurvy plagued privateers (AKA jewelers).

November 11, 2019

Spent the day at the incredible Lamanai Archaeological Reserve in northern Belize on the New River. We climbed to the top of the tallest Mayan temple and listened to the howler monkeys in the surrounding jungle canopy. Magical. The only thing missing was a sacrificial offering or three. Being back in Belize brings back fond memories of Jungle Jeannie and Tiger Tom and the time spent at their eco-jungle lodge in the southern mountains near Dangriga in the late 80s where Contras heading to Nicaragua would visit. And what a melting pot! All the different cultures. Mexican, Mayan, Mestizo, Chinese, Caribbe, Garifuna.

November 12, 2019

Spending the day boating and swimming in the “Listerine” colored waters of Laguna Bacalar. The lake, fresh water with a white sand bottom, is famed for the various blue hues that spring from the lake’s limestone bottom. They have a centuries old fort with cannons to protect against pirates on the western shore. Since this lake is 60 miles inland and fresh water, methinks this story is “muy loco”. But, hey, if it keeps the tourists coming, what’s the harm, right?

November 14, 2019

Sailed into Key West on our way back to Miami. Teresa and I, being the thrill seekers that we are, rented jet skis and jetted around the island of Key West, and like a ride in a one horse open sleigh, we were laughing all the way if you replace laughing with screaming. In terror. A 30 mile route took us from the calm waters of the Gulf of Mexico to the rough seas of the Atlantic, passing under Highway 1. Reaching a top speed of 45 miles per hour, the jet skis launched into the air, much to our undelighted surprise, as they rocketed up the 4 foot waves of the Atlantic. Slamming back down (it probably looked great to the tourists watching from the Southernmost Point of the Continental US), I realized that this sort of thing is where the phrase “ridden hard and put up wet” was derived. After surviving the “adventure”, we headed back to the ship for a much needed nap, ummm, I mean drink.

November 15, 2019

Friday morning rush hour. In South Beach. Not a bad drive if you can get it. Back in the US.

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Home sweet home. Or in this case, cave sweet cave. Recent squatters, Kurt and Cheryl, aka California Raisinette #12, are settling in for a nice snack while hoping the long term occupants, water buffaloes, decide to “stay gone”. Seeking shelter from the storm often requires squatting over. This picture was snapped on the trail to the curiously and coincidentally named Buffalo Camp.

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View from the Bristol Cottages in Moshi. That’s a church across the street and they are playing some sort of music non-stop. Must be competing against the mosque nearby. I don’t think there are any noise ordinances in town.

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The local Vodacom Cell Phone store. This is the place to get your M-Pesa enabled cell phone sim card/scratch-off lottery ticket. Goodluck, the hotel manager at the Lake Duluti Hotel seen in the orange shirt on the left, was kind enough to help me with the purchase since my Swahili skills are limited to “Mjinga!” that presumably would prove to be not productive.