Tigre, Argentina: Where the River is Always at Your Door


“But just as the river is always at the door, so is the world always outside. And it is in the world that we have to live.”
― Lian Hearn, Across the Nightingale Floor

It is a rainy day in Buenos Aires, Argentina, which gives me an opportunity to relax from the tourist mode and write about one of our recent adventures, the Delta of Tigre.

Getting to Tigre from Buenos Aires was an adventure itself. Transferring from the green line subway to the blue line subway to the train during rush hour was an experience in which we not only survived, but thrived! With over one million commuters daily, we were jammed and packed like sardines into the subways and train. It reminded us of the chicken buses in Nicaragua, except the train had air conditioning! Good thing we went heavy on the deodorant. All I could see above me were armpits!

An hour and a half later, we arrived in Tigre ready to board the vintage mahogany commuter boat bus to explore miles and miles of interconnecting streams, rivers, and channels through the delta.

Tigre is the starting point to the Paraná Delta. Once home to jaguars, or tigers, the charming waterways are lined with spas, hotels, restaurants, mansions, and thriving water communities. The river is always at the door.

We have always preferred to explore on our own, and found the local Interisleña boat buses, which truly function like buses, dropping off and picking up people along the numerous waterways in the Delta. For $15 rt for both, we could hop on and off to our wandering delight. It sure beat the crowded and expensive tourist ferries and catamarans that only travel on the large rivers and drop off tourists at the most expensive restaurants on the river.

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Touring Ometepe Island


Travel makes one modest, you see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.~Gustave Flaubert

We’ve had company most of the month of February. I love when friends come to visit because it gives us an opportunity to tour them around the island and visit places we haven’t explored thoroughly. It also makes me appreciate what a tiny, yet beautiful place we occupy in the world.

We usually hire one of our neighbors to take us around the island. Luis just bought a new Suzuki 4 door vehicle. He will take us anywhere we want to go and his cost is $60 for the day. He says the more tours we take the sooner he will own the car instead of the bank.

Since we’ve lived on the island for over a decade, we know the places tourists like to visit. This February, we toured familiar places and one new-to-us place. Join me for a tour of Ometepe Island.

First Stop, El Ceibo Museo

It has been years since we visited the Pre-Colombian pottery museum. Named for a giant Ceibo tree at the entrance to the long dusty road that leads to two museums, the Pre-Colombian pottery and the coin museum, this is the place to learn all about the pottery excavated on Ometepe Island.

Along with the museums, they have added a hotel, pool, and a new restaurant/bar, where we were treated to shots of cojoyo: a potent fusion of corn, rice, pineapple, and sugar, made on the farm. The indigenous people of Ometepe had consumed it for generations. Our guide poured the syrupy liquid into shot glasses made from black bull horns. We drank it like tequila, with a lick of salt and a bite of mimbro, a very sour fruit resembling a small pickle. Strong, but rico! The other drink he poured reminded me of chicha, a potent fermented corn drink that I sampled in Peru.

The museum had been remodeled since the last time we were there. The guides told the same intriguing stories about the pottery and its uses. There were scalpels made from sharpened obsidian, volcanic tools and arrowheads, burial urns of all sizes called zapatos, and an intact burial site with gifts for the deceased for his/her onward travels.

 

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Rancho Santana in Nicaragua


“You’re on the planet too. Why should James Bond have all the action, fun, money, and resort hotel living.”
― Paul Kyriazi, How to Live the James Bond Lifestyle: The Complete Seminar

When my best friend from high school came to visit us last week, they asked us to go to Rancho Santana with them. What a treat for us! We are country people at heart and usually choose inexpensive and funky places to stay, but we live on this planet, too! Honestly, why should James Bond have all the action, money, fun, and resort living?
Rancho Santana is a world-class resort and residential community on the Pacific Coast of Nicaragua. It was developed in 1997 and continues to provide first-class services to tourists and residents. 

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Weathered Somoto Canyon


The Weekly Photo Challenge is Weathered. 

Somoto Canyon National Monument is one of the oldest rock formations in Central America. The canyon is believed to have been formed 5 to 13 million years ago during the Miocene period. It weathered earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, and other natural occurrences  like volcanic eruptions.
“Canyon” comes from the Spanish word cañon, which means tube or pipe. It is a deep and narrow battle-scarred valley with steep sides.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Textures of Tzintzuntzan


The Weekly Photo Challenge is Texture.

Tzintzuntzan was the capital of the Purépecha Empire when the Spanish arrived in 1522. Situated on Lake Pátzcuaro, Mexico the character of the indigenous people is clear in every archeological remnant and rock of this fascinating archeological site.

The main attraction is the five yácatas or semi-circular pyramids that are well organized and face out over the lake area.
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Travel Can Be Exhausting


We have been traveling since March…three countries…eleven airplanes…two hotels…four Airbnbs…two casa particulars…one train…too many buses and taxis to count…one boat…one rental car…and stayed in two houses ( our house and our son’s house). We still have seven airplanes booked…one eye operation…two hotels…one rental car…a taxi…a ferry…and one tuk tuk before we arrive home on Ometepe Island.

Travel.Is.Exhausting.

We are in Yosemite National Park visiting our son, who is an interpretive naturalist. No matter how many times we visit, the beauty of this park awes and inspires me. Also, it is a perfect place to hike and enjoy the amazing scenery.

The waterfalls gush with the icy snow melt. I have never seen so much water in Yosemite before. Booming…thunderous water crashes and sprays all around us.

Wildflowers bloom…vivid spring green transforms the valley…there is no better place to be than with my two favorite men.

We will be busy for the next two weeks. I plan on going to all of Cory’s programs like the astronomy program called Starry Skies, the nature stroll, the historical Ahwahnee Hotel, and the night prowl to look for Yosemite’s night creatures. Then I want to take the photography and watercolor classes, as well as hike everyday.

I wont be posting much until we return to Ometepe Island in June, and then it will depend on how my eye surgery goes. Wish me luck. I have many beautiful sights yet to see in this incredible world of ours.

Lasting Impressions of Cuba


“Anarchy is like custard cooking over a flame; it has to be constantly stirred or it sticks and gets heavy, like government.” ― Tom Robbins, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues

Anarchism as a social movement in Cuba held much promise for the working class during the 19th and 20th centuries. I won’t go into the sordid details, you can read the history here Anarchism in Cuba.

Yet, what I would like to discuss are my lasting impressions of Cuba. First, Che is everywhere. Forty-five years after the death of Ernesto “Che” Guevara — the Argentine doctor who led the 1959 Cuban Revolution alongside Fidel Castro — his portrait is the most reproduced image in Cuba.

His face appears repeatedly on murals, water tanks, billboards, and even plates, t-shirts, coffee mugs, beach towels, and bikinis. While extraordinarily popular as a figure of revolution where children are taught to see him as a hero from a very young age, his image is used to promote commercialism in Cuba. My impression is that he has become a pattern and a design to sell to tourists, and I think they have gone too far and misrepresented Che. Would you buy a bikini with Che’s face on the butt of a bikini bottom?

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The History of Airbnbs in Cuba


When President Obama’s administration opened the door to improve relationships with Cuba, Airbnb announced that it would offer accommodations to guests from around the world. Airbnb started by licensing U.S. travelers’ accommodations in April 2015, and last April 2016 the U.S. Department of Treasury granted special authorization to allow the company to advertise accommodations in Cuba to non-U.S. travelers. Today, Cuba is the fastest growing market in Airbnb history.

Since we are U.S. citizens it is difficult, if not impossible, to use our U.S. based credit and debit cards in Cuba. We knew we would have to exchange our dollars for Euros before we arrived in Cuba because U.S. dollars are not accepted and we would be charged a hefty 13% commission if we exchanged dollars for CUCs.

Overlooking Havana from our Airbnb balcony on the malacon.

Cuba is predominantly a cash society. Even though Cuba is one of the safest countries we have visited, mainly because the people are petrified of the government if any tourists are harmed, we didn’t like the idea of carrying around large wads of cash.

Therefore, Airbnb was a great option because we could pay online in full with our U.S. credit cards. We stayed in two Airbnbs, one in Havana and the other in Trinidad. Now, we’ve stayed in Airbnbs all over the world, and Cuba’s Airbnbs are a little different.

Reading some of the reviews, I noticed that some people were surprised when they rented an Airbnb in Cuba because the water was not reliable, toilet paper was scarce, the internet was advertised but not available in the house, and the owners lived in the house with the guests.

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Part I: A Day with a Cuban Family in the Barrio


“An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics.”
― Plutarch

When Sandy took us to meet her large extended family in Marianao, Cuba, I had no idea what to expect. We had only been in Cuba for one day and I had no understanding of life in a communist country. My understanding of communism was that everyone in the Cuban society received equal benefits derived from their labor. I thought that it was a classless society where the government controlled everything and where wealth was redistributed so that all are of the same social and financial status.

NOT. SO. 

We arrived in Marianao surprising Sandy’s family because she had told them that she would visit the following Monday. The matriarch of the family, wrapped in her worn cotton dress, limped to the door and showered hugs and kisses on Sandy. Then, she showered us with hugs and kisses, too!

She is 97 years young and still going strong thanks to socialized medicine in Cuba. She lost a leg many years ago, but she received a plastic leg that enables her to walk. All medical care is free in Cuba…or so we thought. The matriarch’s daughter showed us a plastic bag filled with medicines for her and her mother. She said that she has to pay for them, and that medicine is dispensed on a sliding scale depending on the finances of the family. Since she is a teacher, she has to pay for the medicines.

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