Friday, December 31, 2010

A great anniversary adventure

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It was a gift anniversary gift from Elaine but she didn't go with me share it. (She's currently looking for more hammock time, not more adrenalin.) But I had a great time with friends (although I missed Elaine; I love sharing adventures with her).

Batey Zipline Adventures is way up in the mountains about an hour and a half from us. Over the past seven years Jorge and his family and friends have built an amazing nature adventure park in some of the most beautiful property I've ever seen.

Like rural mountain areas everywhere, things are different here. The adventure begins on the road in. The road is (mostly) a solid one-lane wide, flanked on one side by the vertical stone side of the mountain and on the other by a steep, several hundred-foot drop. I've been in the Smokie Mountains and in the Rockies and I don't think I've ever seen such steeply pitched roads. There are four things your vehicle needs: good brakes, a strong transmission, lots of low-end torque and a good horn. You drive up a steep incline. As you reach the top. it's like a good roller-coaster: you literally cannot see what is over the crest. Does it go down in a steep drop? Is there a curve? Is there another car coming? (This is where the good horn comes in to play.)


Once we got to the office, we looked across a spectacular karst valley to Jorge's house. We didn't know it yet but that's where the Zipline Adventure begins. We piled into the back of a 4x4 pickup for a short ride down a dirt track that was just like the road we came in on - without the pavement. We stopped above a ford across the river (Rio Tanamá) and piled out of the truck. Rather than ford the river we crossed on a suspended swinging bridge then climbed up to Jorge's house.

At the house we put on climbing harnesses, climbing helmets and gloves then a short climb/walk to the first zipline start platform. Jorge - and seven-year-old Alyssa - were the first off. Jorge zipped to the other side to be the "catcher" for the rest of us. Paulo stayed on our side to make sure we were hooked up properly.

All the zip lines are double. That is, there are two cables and two wheel rigs each time you zip. Before he took off, Jorge showed us how to "steer" using the caribiner at the top of our harness. "But", he said, "you don't have to steer or even hang on. Whether you're sideways or backwards, I'll be on the other side to catch you."

Zipping is awesome! With each successive zip, we got more comfortable, letting go, even hanging upside down (well, some people did).

After the third zip, we got to rappel down a 70-foot cliff. I've never rappelled before and this was something I was really looking forward to. Hmmm - I was much more nervous about it than I thought I would be. I let myself down slowly and it was only when I reached the bottom that I realized how tense I was. But I loved it. I want to that again. I'll be a lot more comfortable next time. (And there will be a next time!)

The last two zips were across the river. Wow - just amazingly beautiful. Once we "zipped" to the river level, we got in two small boats and paddled up river and through the river's cave. All along the route, Jorge gave us information about the land, folklore of the area, and a bit of geology. In the cave, in addition to bats nesting high above us, we saw plastic bottles and bamboo jammed into crevices, left there by the last flood. This cave, more than 20 feet high in places, completely fills with water when the river floods.

On the up-river side of the cave, Jorge showed us a spring with clear drinking water pouring from the hillside. Jorge caught water in a cup made of a leaf to share.

We drifted back through the cave to just below the swinging bridge. Another ride it the back of a four-wheel drive pickup brought us back to the starting point. but the adventure wasn't completely over yet. There was still that drive back out to the main road.

If you can't tell, I am completely taken with this adventure. It's definitely in my top five fun things. I am really impressed with the way Jorge has built this playground into a spectacular natural setting. Thank you, guys, for a great adventure. And thank you, mi querida, for making it possible. Next time, you're going along.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Happy Anniversary, Mi Querida

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Six years ago on beach in Barbados, we said "I do." Thank you, mi querida, my amor. You are the love of my life.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Merry Christmas!


and Happy Boxing Day! (For those who don't know what Boxing Day is, more on that in a minute.)

Ola Lola's was open Christmas Eve and what a night it was! We set a new record for number of food orders. One of our regular guests told us it was a great Christmas party. We're really glad. Frankly, we were too busy to notice.

We spent Christmas Day with our daughter Amy's family. It was so much fun being with two of our grandkids on Christmas Day. (We hope the other two grand kids had a great day as well. We missed them.) We had dinner with Amy's family and some of our extended Puerto Rican family. Totally awesome Christmas! No snow though. Oh, yeah. We live on a tropical island.

Boxing Day: "Despite its name, Boxing Day, which is celebrated on December 26 in Great Britain, has nothing to do with pugilistic competition. Nor is it a day for people to return unwanted Christmas presents. While the exact origins of the holiday are obscure, it is likely that Boxing Day began in England during the Middle Ages.

Some historians say the holiday developed because servants were required to work on Christmas Day, but took the following day off. As servants prepared to leave to visit their families, their employers would present them with gift boxes.

Church Alms Boxes

Another theory is that the boxes placed in churches where parishioners deposited coins for the poor were opened and the contents distributed on December 26, which is also the Feast of St. Stephen.

As time went by, Boxing Day gift giving expanded to include those who had rendered a service during the previous year. This tradition survives today as people give presents to tradesmen, mail carriers, doormen, porters, and others who have helped them." --from Factmonster.com

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Happy birthday, George

Last night we joined a bunch of friends to celebrate George's birthday. We won't tell you how old he is - we'll let Mary have the pleasure.

Happy birthday, George! And many many happy returns. May all of them be celebrated in Puerto Rico!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Solstice

Happy Winter Solstice!

We didn't get to see the eclipse last night because of cloud cover, and so no picture. A bit disappointing but I've seen eclipses before.

Today is one of a series anniversaries in Puerto Rico. Four years ago we started our own adventure in paradise. We landed on the island on December 19th. On this date, the 21st, we sat in an attorney's office and closed the deal and took over Ola Lola's. We spent another week getting things ready and reopened Ola Lola's (which had been closed since August) on the 29th.

The 29th is not only Ola Lola's anniversary, it's also our wedding anniversary. You could say that that was really the beginning of our adventure but that's another story for another day.

Enjoy the lengthening days.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The copper-colored sky

The light this morning at sunrise was the most amazing beautiful copper color. The sky and the whole land- and seascape had this amazing color. There are no filters or Photoshop trickery here. Both the photo above and below were taken with the camera's white balance set for "daylight." the bottom photo, taken just seconds later, was taken with the white balance set for "tungsten." Eerie, eerie light. But, to repeat myself, amazing and beautiful.

Speaking of sky, I hope it clears up so we can see the eclipse tonight.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Today

Ah, must be winter. The trade winds are blowing and the kitesurfers are out at Shacks and Jobos and Montones.

The front that gave us cloudy chilly (okay, chilly be our standards) weather the last few days seems to have moved on. Today was beautiful - warm, sunny, breezy. Just the way it should be this time of year.

The big waves of the last few days have calmed down as well. Waves were big but not particularly surfable. I went out yesterday to look for surfers but nobody was out anywhere. Today I did catch some kite surfers at Shacks but only with a point-and-shoot camera. Maybe tomorrow I'll the DSLR out. Of course, since our desktop computer is in the shop until at least Monday, I won't have anyway to process them but what the heck. At least I'll have photos. Something to work on when we get the desktop back.

Hmmm... I wonder what tomorrow's photo will be.

Friday, December 17, 2010

New photo of the day


When I first got to PR, I used to post a "photo of the day." It was a way to keep in touch with with people back in the States - especially Elaine who was still in Michigan - and a way to keep exploring our new home. It also was a way to keep writing and posting something just about everyday.

I've obviously gotten out of that habit and I want to get back into it. So here's the first of the new photos of the day.

This from a portrait session Sirah and I did before she left. We were shooting at the lighthouse ruins near Wilderness Beach. The sun was setting and the light was just about gone. We hurried down to the rocks below the ruins to get the last of the sunlight behind her. Using a single flash we created this dramatic portrait.

Sirah is an wonderful young lady. She's smart and beautiful and a joy to work with. I wish we'd started making pictures before just a couple of days before she left. Hopefully, we'll get to shoot some more when she comes back to the island. We will miss her presence as a friend and at Ola Lola's.

You can see more from this portrait session on our Flickr page.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Long time no see

Hmmm. So where have we been this time?

It's been a bit of an emotional and physical rollercoaster. Some of it has been hard to write about so I haven't.

We had our car broken into, right in our driveway. We don't keep much in it so there was much except the registration and all the receipts for repairs to steal. Worse, at the same time, a friend who was staying with us had her rental car broken into. She had just arrived at about 3:00 am. The thieves smashed the car window, broke into the trunk and took her suitcase which had her laptop and camera as well her clothes. Then they stole the car we have been "car-sitting" for some friends in the States. The stolen vehicle was reportedly seen hauling ass out of Bajuras at about 6:00 am.

While we were dealing with the fallout from the break-ins and car theft, Elaine had to make a family trip to Ohio to help with her ailing father. He's not out of the woods yet but her two weeks there really helped her sister who has been dealing with the issues for over a year.

She did get to experience real winter for the first time in almost four years. Cold, icy winds, snow, blizzard and white-out conditions. Her response? "I don't miss it!"

To top it off, we have to find replacements for both of our Ola Lola helpers. Lisa is spending more time at her other job and our amazing young friend Sirah is going back to the States to go back to school. Hopefully, Elaine will get to spend more time riding with Lisa. And Sirah? We wish her nothing but the absolute best. Go fly, girl! Soar on those amazing wings of yours. We hope we'll see you back here much sooner rather than later. We will miss you.

Has anything good happened? Of course. Elaine is back safely. We have several excellent possibilities for help at Ola Lola's. Our granddaughter Kennedy spent the night with us the night before last and then spent the day with us yesterday. (We definitely need more Kai time though.) Last night we had a wonderful dinner of grilled mahi-mahi with Sirah and her mother and three sisters (who are here to escort her home).

Today it's windy, blustery, spitting rain. But it's 72 degrees. It's rain, not snow. There's a high surf advisory for today. Surfing doesn't look too good today but forecasts show the surf cleaning up and good for the weekend.

Life ain't all bad.