Day 15 – Private tour in Cartagena, Columbia

Another alarm start to the day (which I am definitely not used to). Again we watched our arrival in Cartagena, Columbia from our balcony.

Then headed to breakfast, once again in Windjammers. It was busy today so we ended up sharing a table with a nice couple, before having to race off to meet todays private tour guide – John from Tours By Locals. His daughter met us on the pier and walked us through the cruise terminal area to his car. Turns out his wife was our driver for the day. We didn’t really understand why until we saw the crazy drivers. There don’t seem to be any lanes – people just go wherever they want. And there are lots of motorbikes as well. Makes Panama drivers seem not so bad (except for he red racer buses which fly along with people hanging out the doors).

Anyway, first stop was to visit La Popa Hill for a panaramic view over to the old city and a visit to the Monastery. I very beautiful place. There are so many beautiful flowers everywhere in Cartagena. John told us the history and myths of the Monastery and we had a good look around (stopping in the shade where possible because it was SO HOT !!

From here we drove to the fortress of San Felipe to take some photos of the exterior and try to avoid the very determined sellers that were everywhere.

It was always nice to get back into the air conditioned car after being out in the heat. Next stop was the old Walled City for a walking tour. We started by heading up onto the walls – where I promptly tripped over the same thing on the ground – TWICE !!!!

This part of the city was lovely – beautiful old colourful colonial buildings with verandahs covered in flowers. Narrow street built for horse carriages and many plazas. But the pretty town was ruled by the Spanish who branded and sold slaves in those lovely plazas and expelled anyone who wasn’t Catholic.

We looked through some market shops, though we didn’t buy anything (being a minimalist means I’m super picky with what I do buy). We did buy some chocolate from a chocolate shop (after seeing it was fair trade) and I got some beautiful earrings with an emerald in them (I mean we are in Columbia).

We had a lunch stop at a cute little restaurant that only had about 6 tables. There was nothing vegan on the menu but John talked to the waitress and the chef offered to make me a vegetable fried rice. It was quite nice, but the flavour was a little smokey for me. Kevin had mushrooms in a cheese sauce which he really enjoyed.

We enjoyed our tour (despite the heat) and took loads of photos and video.

There was a stop on the way back to the cruise ship for a panoramic view around the peninsula.

And then one last stop at a restaurant on the harbour (where could have to chosen to have a drink and relax – but we opted skip this.

After getting dropped off we walked though the Port eco park to see the animals we hadn’t been able to visit on the way through this morning. The parrots were stunning (and noisy). They are free and able to fly – which was nice to see.

Couldn’t believe this Giant Ant Eater – didn’t even know such a creature existed.

And of course, I loved seeing the flamingoes. I got all excited when I saw them on our way through to meet wit John.

Back on board we were VERY happy to be in the air-conditioning again and just cooled down in our room for quite some time. Once again we did sail away from our balcony and got to enjoy another lovely sunset.

Dinner at 5.30pm seems to be a little too early for us and we debated getting room service, but instead Kevin went to Windjammers to get dinner for us to eat in our room. I had a very delicious Veggie Burgers. As we ate we watched the Love & Marriage Game Show which was repeated on the ships TV channel. Was a good laugh. Then we watched a Disneyworld Vlog on youtube before reading and going to sleep. Looking forward to NOT having the alarm wake us up in the morning.

Day 14 -Private tour in Colon, Panama

The day started with the alarm going off, luckily we could still take it a bit easy and see us coming into port from our balcony as the sun rose.

After we docked and got ourselves ready for the day, we headed up to Windjammers for breakfast. Today I discovered a really lovely “raisen loaf”, which becomes a daily standard. Breakfast complete and drink bottles full of water, we disembarked just before 8am – thankfully not in the rain this time. There was a little bit on confusion trying to find out guide Mario as all the other guides were trying to help us – some even trying to get us to take their tour (even though we had already booked and paid). Turns out the confusion was due to their being a few Marios. But we eventually spoke to someone who worked with our Mario (from Tours By Locals ) and he called him – he was just running a little late. It was kind of funny cause we were a bit early and weren’t worried at all about him being 5mins late, but everyone else seemed to be. Finally Mario met us and we headed to his car to begin our tour. I have to say the drivers are pretty crazy in this country. No-one bothers to stop at stop signs and blinkers seem to be optional. Everyone just drives wherever they want to !! Not surprisingly we saw two little accidents within the first 1.5 hours of being in the country.

First was a quick picture stop at the “new”bridge then to the Canal Expansion at Agua Clara’s Locks on the Atlantic entrance of the Canal.

We arrive JUST time to see the biggest ship of the day passing through the the expansion lock. I didn’t even know there was a new one – made wider and deeper to accomodate the newer ships.

After watching as it slowly made it’s way through, we went to watch a movie about the making of the expansion. I loved that a referendum was held to decide whether Panama would undertake the expansion locks. And there was a lot of environmental work done to accomodate the locks. After the movie we went to watch another boat making it’s way through and we got to see the gates closing (which happens in 5 mins) after the big ship passing through into the lake. Such a fascinating project.

We then drove over the fancy new bridge so we could see a “bit” of the original canals and overlook Gatun Lake.

And also the cars that are used to pull the boats through (originally it was mules). The expansion locks use tugboats to pull and push the boats through.

Next on the agenda was Fort San Lorenzo, completed in 1601. In 1670, buccaneer Henry Morgan ordered an attack that left Fort San Lorenzo in ruins.

It was a cool place to walk around and we pretty much had to ourselves. Having a guide really made all the difference to our visit here.

Mario even managed to spot us some howler monkey’s in these trees (I think I caught them on video).

The canons were really cool. One even had the marking of King GeorgeII, which was obviously captured by the Spanish at some stage.

At the end of our visit here Mario cut us up a fresh pineapple that he had gotten from his neighbours farm. And oh my word, it would have to be the best pineapple I’ve ever eaten. How I’ll go back to normal pineapples now I’ll never know !!

We then drove back through the San Lorenzo National Park which Mario trying to look for animals AND avoid the MANY potholes at the same time.

I have no idea how Mario spotted these while driving but he did. And I mean how cute is that sleeping sloth ?

There was also some more howler monkeys – this group had at least 2 little ones amongst them.

Kevin used Mario’s spotting scope to zoom in on the baby. Love the tail wrapped around the tree branch. And it looks like he/she is looking right at Kevin.

We also saw some white faced monkeys. But they moved fast it was hard to record or photograph them, and this blury photo is the only one I have.

As we continued driving we could hear another group of Howler monkeys – wow, the noise they make is incredible. When they are up in the trees they sound like an aggressive dinosaur. You’d certainly be scared for your life if you didn’t know what it was.

Once we left the National Park Mario took us to a nearby Yacht Club for a light lunch. Which turned into not such a light lunch when he found out I don’t eat fish. We ended up with 3 big meals. Mine was veggie fajitas, which were so good. Kevin had one of mine. And Mario took home Kevin’s leftover fish and chips.

We then drove back to the harbour and were back onboard about 2.30pm. Since the boat was still a bit empty of people we decided to go and have a swim in the Solarium (indoor adult pool).

After our swim we relaxed in the room for a bit and watched us leave Costa Rica. Later we had dinner in Windjammers, and another early night since we have another big day tomorrow.

Day 13 – Sloths and other animals in Costa Rica

We gained an extra hours sleep last night but it was still hard getting up. Kevin had set the alarm – lucky since it was what woke us both us up, just as we were arriving into Port Limon in Costa Rica. We had room service for breakfast out on our balcony. Kevin had some cereal and I had a bagel.

Luckily we had taken wet weather gear with us as by the time we got some water from Windjammers and went down to deck 2 it had started pouring down. Hence the reason there are no photos of us on the dock. We walked as fast as we could, trying to stay as dry as we could (Kevin did vlog on his phone) to meet our guide for the day. Luckily he was there so it was straight onto the bus. And about 5mins later everyone (group of 11) was onboard and we were on our way. Of course, by now the rain had stopped.

On the way to our first stop our driver spotted some Howler Monkey’s and pulled over so we could get out to see them. It was so awesome to see monkey’s in the WILD.

Then it was on our way to our rainforest walk.

Amazingly it didn’t take long for our guide to spot our first Sloth. It was so exciting getting to see one. They are up pretty high in the trees but with my video camera I was able to zoom in and get up nice and close.

We ended up seeing a few sloths – both 2 toe and 3 toe. It was so incredible to watch them moving around and eating leaves.

We were also lucky enough to see quite a lot of other animals.

There were also amazing leaf cutter ants. And a spider.

The walk was along a boardwalk and track right beside the ocean in a super pretty location.

Our walk took about 45mins. It was hot out and I was a big sweaty mess, so though I had loved every minute I was happy to back in the air conditioned bus.

Our next stop was for some lunch of typical Costa Rican fare. The servings were huge so Kevin & I decided to share a plate. Rice and beans are standard fare here so I was happy. We sat with 2 other people from the cruise/tour and had a nice chat.

After lunch we went on a cruise on the canals.

We spotted more sloths….

And more monkeys….

Mum & Baby Howler Monkey

And quite a few birds and other animals.

After the cruise we were given some lovely cold fruit. Shame about the short use plastic but it was very appreciated in this hot, humid weather. I spend much of the day dripping sweat !!

From here it was back on the bus and back to the cruise terminal. Though we’d had a great day and I was so happy to have seen sloths, we were both pretty hot and tired. It was good to just put our feet up for a bit.

Unfortunately things haven’t gone well between Makayla and Christy – the result of which is Christy is flying home early so Kevin and myself spent quite a bit of time trying to sort out her new flights home. This meant we missed dinner in the dining room and had to go to Windjammers instead. Since Windjammers is just two floors above us we always take the stairs up and down.

My dinner tonight in Windjammers – not a lot of choice for a vegan but I manage.

After we headed back to room and Kevin took a couple of lovely night shot outside.

Day 11 – Fibro flare at sea

Today was the first full day of our cruise but unfortunately I woke up in a lot of pain and with a bad headache. Kevin was kind enough to go and get me some soy milk (and himself a coffee) so I could make cups of tea (with my travel kettle).

It tried to write up blog posts but my head was so sore that I just ended up reading in bed for much of the day.

We even ended up missing breakfast but at 11.30am I dragged myself from the room and we went up Windjammers for an early lunch. We were actually able to get a table outside at the back of the ship – it was nice and quiet and the fresh air was lovely.

After lunch I spent the afternoon on the bed reading on my kindle.

At 5.30pm I dressed for dinner at Windjammers, since I did not feel up the dining at the restaurant, esp. since it was formal night. The tonight was French Night, but there was nothing much French about the vegan options were available.

Back in our room we found a sloth towel animal and our room all ready for bed. Still felt poorly and with a very sore head but thinking wishful thoughts that I will wake in the morning feeling so much better.

Nighttime photo by Kevin
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