As you can see, a whole lot of happy faces here. This was a 5 kilometre fun run for charity. No time limits, just start in white and end up as multi-coloured happiness. I ran the race last year for time, this year just for the fun of it, stopping for the in-run pics. I didn't have a Nikon body to use this year, so I used my emergency backup, a Canon 10d. It held up well and was reasonably accurate in focus. A lot colder this time around than last one, but the results were well worth it.
Sunday, April 21, 2013
Monday, April 15, 2013
Friday, April 12, 2013
Sorry for the lack of updates, the new house, spring, yard work, etc have kept me away. But I am still alive and kicking.Here is my new friend, Argo.
Argo is a Roughneck Monitor (Varanus rudicollis) a wonderful species of Monitor lizards. He's shy, yet friendly, and highly intelligent (for a lizard anyway) and doesn't get too big. Currently he's about 1 foot snout to vent, and another foot for tail, and will reach (with tail) perhaps 5-6 feet.
Once the house is settled, and all the moving and unpacking (and sorting and and and...) is done, I'll get back to my vacation. Sufficed to say Belize was a blast and I look forward to going back again.
Thursday, March 21, 2013
Saturday, March 9, 2013
Well, yes I did survive the zip line. Once off the edge, I couldn't slow down, lest I get stalled somewhere in the middle, and I dare not look down, so I just kept my eyes on the rapidly approaching landing pad. I'd estimate I was going about 30 miles an hour across 1/4 mile zip line. About half-way through the experience, I could feel my body start to twist, and only then did real panic set it, last thing I wanted was not to see where I was going, that would be almost as bad as seeing where I was going. But I remembered the training on how to twist back, and ever so slowly I righted myself.
And all too quickly, it was over. I was caught on the other side, inches from a tree, and unhooked from the line, to make way for the others. Lots of screaming going on from the other tourists (or at least I think it was them, might have been me still screaming, not sure) but soon enough we were trekking to our next zip line platform, Shorter and more inclined, but I was ready for that one. By our last zip line I was able to look down and see the trees, people and pool beneath me.
After we landed, it was a quick change from the zip line gear into the cave tubing gear (well, we carried an inner tube with us.) Along the path to the cave, there were many others heading in the opposite direction, completely soaked and grinning from ear to ear.
"How's the water?" I asked.
"Refreshing!" or "Brisk!"
Translation: Freezing cold.
No matter, I'd ensure I was on top of the tube, and not get that wet.
Wrong. By the time the adventure was over, I'd be completely soaked, head to toe in crystal clear water that I"m certain was pumped in from the Arctic Ocean. Brisk and Refreshing were an understatements. I'm pretty sure I saw the Titanic hit yet another iceberg throughout the journey underground. The cave has been there for tens of millions of years, slowly gathering water that filtered in from the ceiling, forming stalagmites and stalactites in all kinds of fascinating shapes. Small bats hung from the ceiling, fast asleep, waiting for the tourists to leave before taking flight to feast off the insects that fluttered about at dusk.
We wore small mining helmets with feeble headlamps while we floated in this alien world, the weak rays only serving to enhance the shadows that were omnipresent. The sense of claustrophobia was enormous. Fortunately I love tight enclosed spaces so it allowed me a chance to explore with my hands and eyes.
Tiny currents moved us gently toward the end, aided by our flailing about (seriously, ever tried to steer an inner tube while you are sitting on your back? It's a heck of a lot harder than it sounds, and you look ridiculous in the process.)
Just as I'm managed to thaw my extremities, the tour guide brought us on land to show us around and guide us to the next lake. By the time we'd reached the lake, I'd warmed up again and hitting that water froze me solid. Fortunately the lake was smaller, and we could free swim in it is we wanted to.
I was never so glad to get the sun's rays on my body as I had after that experience. I think by now I'm finally warm enough to dump all the layers of clothing I've been wearing since then!
Sunday, March 3, 2013
So on the third day of my vacation in Belize, I wanted to go zip lining and swim/explore an underground cave. I debated taking my camera along (it's pretty sturdy) but in the end, I opted against it. And of course, it's the one thing I really should have brought. Oh well, I'll do my level best to describe the day.
The day starts, as usual, at 6am. I love Belize because they get almost 12 solid hours of daylight and nighttime. At 6am, the weather is warm and sunny, and will stay that way until nightfall, when it will be slightly less warm, and dark. So when I step out of my hotel room, I know just how the day will be.
The hotel has a tour van waiting for me, with a few other tourists from Taiwan, who turned out to be very nice. The ride was about 90 minutes, or 1 hour in Belize time (every long ride in Belize is said to take 1 hour), way out to the countryside. Plenty of typical Belize-esque houses, and quite a few abandoned in mid-build.
The roads typically have "sleeping policemen" every mile or so, which is a Belize term for a speed bump. And a serious speed bump at that. Something that would tear off the suspension of a car if you hit it doing more than, say, 10mph. It's cheaper than running speed traps, and allows the police to do more important things. Beside every sleeping poliemen are people and small stalls selling things, typically fresh fruits. But once we got out well past any towns, the sleeping policemen went away.
Belize, as you have seen from my other pics, is very flat, and the mountains jut up rather suddenly, and then go flat again, unlike places like the Blue Ridge mountains, which gradually creep up on you. It was a set of the pop-up mountains that our tour group was going to.
The zip lining area was really nicely set up, tons of tourists there so they had an efficient assembly line process down pretty well. I was pleased to see the equipment was both reasonably new and in good condition. Our group was led by two nice guides, up some very steep stairs. Higher and higher we climbed, all the while the guides were running a detailed conversation on the local flora and fauna, history of the area, and what to expect on the zip line event itself.
Somehow I found myself in the front of the tour group, which meant that I was going to be the first on the zip line.
Did I mention I'm afraid of both heights? Well, no turning back now. I get a solid instruction on how to brake, and twist should I get turned around, and how to land (hint, it wasn't into a tree) and pointed off the edge of a cliff, towards the great beyond on the other side.
So, taking a deep breath and trying not to look down, I step off the edge.
Did I survive? Tune in later to find out!
Thursday, February 28, 2013
First off, forgive the terrible quality of the pics. They were taken from the bus, through tinted smudged windows, at 70 mph (there isn't technically a speed limit in Belize)
On the way back from the docks, I grabbed a window seat in the tour bus and wanted to get some real estate shots. What you see in picture 1 is a typical house available to live in (and for sale) in Belize. They are on stilts because a lot of Belize floods during the rainy season.
Pic 2 shows some of the outlandish colours the houses are painted. This is commonplace to use whatever seems to be at hand, whether or not they go well together.
Pic 3 here is an unfinished mansion. There were more than one that I saw during my stay in Belize. My guess is some rich couple started building it, and then lost their fortune in the stock market.
Once we were done being in total awe of Lamanai, we still had the return trip by boat down the New River, back to the tour bus, and the ride back to the hotel. Most of my tour folks were worn out from the hike, climb, and heat, as evidenced here.
The shot was a little too close, as I had my 80-200mm lens on, and didn't want to disturb them by changing lenses.
Our tour guide was kind enough on the way back to let them sleep all the way back to the docks.
Monday, February 25, 2013
So after lunch, it's a brisk walk to and through the ruins and surrounding areas. The original city of Lamanai has only been excavated to about 8 percent of original. It's difficult to explain the sense of age and permanence of the structures. When near them, and climbing their stairs to the top, you get a sense that they were built to last forever, and will be here long after mankind is gone. There is also the reminder that at some point in their past, they were used for sacrifices, and enough blood was shed to permanently stain the stonework.
The stairs were steep and built for the ruling caste, who were clearly much taller than my 6' frame, going up the stairs to the top was tiring, and heading back down was only accomplished with the utmost care, and usually in the squatting and scooting motions.
In the next to the last picture here, taken from the top of one of the ziggurats, you can just barely make out a few people in the middle left of the picture. It was a long way down and I didn't mind one bit taking my time scooting down to get to the ground again. As a possible point of reference the palm trees were about 60 feet tall. We were up over 100 feet in the air, and I could plainly see just how flat most of Belize is, see the last picture for example, we were well above even the tallest trees, looking out past the New River and into the countryside beyond. Nearly as flat as Texas, but much more interesting (sorry Texas.)
Saturday, February 23, 2013
After lunch, the trek to Lamanai (Mayan Ruins) began. Along the way we ran across this little fellow high up in the trees, a Coatimundi. Sort of a raccoon fellow with a bit of monkey thrown in. He teased us by peeking in and out of the light that filtered through the jungle canopy. Nearby was a family of howler monkeys, but they stayed in the shadows, and being dark by design, were impossible to photograph clearly.