A Travellerspoint blog

August 2011

Bonaire Day 3: The Quest for the Yellow Rock

We decided to sleep a little bit late today but were awakened by the receptionist pounding on the door. Apparently there was an island-wide power outage and she wanted to make sure our emergency standby lights were working. Oh, you mean the one that's busted? Sure. Then we got a lecture about how we should turn off the air conditioning when we're not in the room. Whatever. We're paying for full a/c so after getting hot and sweaty down on the pier I want to come back to a sub-zero room.

We wanted to expand our diving horizons and dive a different reef today. Based on a recommendation from our newfound NY friends, we loaded up the dive gear in the truck and headed north to a site called Tolo. Unfortunately, the wind was coming from the south pretty strong and it had churned up the water to the point of white capping. I was not diving in that! At this point on the coastal road, it becomes one way and requires a drive completely around the island to return to town. By the time we returned, it was lunchtime so we stopped at the condo for a sammy and to come up with Plan B. We decided to head to a site called Windsock, aptly named because of its location at the end of the airport runway. I apparently did a little too much bragging about my navigational skills and what with all the Dutch road names and one way streets, we got lost. It didn't help that some jerk in a truck parked in front of the yellow rock designating the dive site. Finally we made it.

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It was after 3 p.m. by the time we were suited up and in the water. Since this was an unfamiliar dive site, we stayed together, maxing out at about 50 feet.

Stoplight Parrotfish initial phase

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Graysby

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Four-eye Butterflyfish

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Striped Parrotfish

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Trumpetfish hiding

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White-spotted Filefish orange phase

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School of Blue Tang

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Christmas Tree Worms on coral

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Scorpionfish

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Purple Tube Sponge

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Trumpetfish

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Threespot Damselfish Juvenile

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Yellowtail Snapper with Brain Coral

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Various fish in the shallows

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By the time we finished diving, got back to the condo, and got cleaned up, it was time for dinner. We chose a small, Peruvian place called Plazita Limena. We started out with a pisco sour for Mike (a Peruvian specialty) and a sangria with fresh apple chips for me.

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Mike ordered the spicy shrimp in a cream sauce with chilies.

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I ordered the fish which came in the same sauce but also had shrimp, scallops, and mussels.

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This meal ended up being our favorite meal of the trip even though it took about 30 minutes for them to fill our drink orders. We actually tried to go back again on the last night of our trip but the restaurant was closed for vacation.

After dinner, we wanted to try out the one and only casino on the island. It was only about as big as our house but we still managed to lose about $100 in 30 minutes. Oh well...at least the drinks were free.

Posted by zihuatcat 19:25 Archived in Netherlands Antilles Comments (2)

Bonaire Day 2: Happy Birthday to Me!

Our first full day on Bonaire dawned and Mike was up early getting the dive gear set up for our first dives. BDA has a very convenient process for diving. Each diver is assigned a number and there is a gear room where you can hang all your dive gear and wetsuits to dry on assigned pegs. Down at the dock, there are stations built in where you can set up your gear then sit down and slide ride into it. Tanks are available 24/7 down on the dock and you only need to check the pressure, analyze the nitrox, and sign them out.

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If you want to dive off site, another room of tanks is located up by the parking lot so you can just back your truck up and load them up.

Our first dive on Bari, our house reef, started about 10 a.m. Since I was getting acclimated to ocean diving, we decided not to take the underwater camera down this first day. We geared up and jumped off the pier then went down to head to the reef. The reef itself is about 50 yards out from shore. Right off the dock, it's about 15 feet deep and the bottom is strewn with broken coral and rocks. There is lots of marine life in this area so it makes an interesting swim back and forth to the reef. There is an old aquarium pipe on the ocean floor that you can follow out to where the reef starts at about 30 feet. At the point where the reef starts, you then assess the direction of the current (usually from the north), and head into the current. When you've used about 1/2 your tank of air, you turn around and ride the current back to the pipe. Almost immediately upon hitting the reef, we saw two large squid swim right by us. For the remainder of the dive, I stayed around 35 feet. Mike did a bounce down to 111 feet to the bottom of the reef and another bounce down to about 80 feet to see what was down there then joined me again as we came back up to the shallows. The visibility was so clear that even when he was at the bottom, he was still able to see me at the top of the reef. After completing our first dives successfully, we went back to to the condo for our surface interval and some lunch.

Looking south from our balcony towards town and Eden Beach Hotel.

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Looking north from our balcony towards the national park and Buddy Dive Hotel.

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Looking west from our balcony towards the small, uninhabited island of Klein Bonaire.

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Looking directly down from our balcony to the restaurant and beach.

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Around 1:30 we got back in the water for the second dive of the day. For this dive, I asked Mike to stay pretty close to me so that I would feel more comfortable going deeper. I did a gradual descent down to about 66 feet. He did an initial bounce to about 85 feet then came back up to my level to hang with me for a while. As we were swimming along the reef, out of the blue came a huge tarpon that must have weighed about 100 pounds. He was completely unconcerned with us and had obviously just been feeding because he let out a big burp and large bubbles floated up. Then he disappeared from sight again. We continued on and finished another successful dive.

Before dinner, we made a beer run to the local store within walking distance of our condo.

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Now the cost of most things in Bonaire is pretty on par with the U.S. It's not cheap like Mexico but it's not ridiculous expensive either. Except for beer. The "local" beer is Dutch-made Amstel Bright or Heineken and both are sold for about $12-$13 per six pack. Needless to say, this was a big expense of the trip.

Since it was my birthday and we wanted to do something special, we had dinner reservations at a restaurant downtown called Appetite.

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Appetite has a regular menu, of course, but they also do a short course menu. You choose whether you want four or five courses and tell the chef what you're allergic to or absolutely don't like. The chef then surprises you with whatever he decides to prepare for each of your courses. We started off with the cocktail of the day, a tequila sunrise, and an amuse-bouche of fish pâté with pickled vegetables and fresh bread with herb mayonnaise, herb oil, and Bonaire sea salt.

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The first course was a salad of tiger shrimp with shrimp pâté, avocado, and orange marmalade dressing. This was my favorite course.

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The second course was roasted duck breast with red onion compote, apple slices, potato cake, and asparagus. Mike was not a fan of the duck but I loved this course.

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The third course was cheek of veal, grilled zucchini and tomatoes, and potatoes au gratin. This was Mike's favorite course.

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Finally, the fourth course was a dessert of homemade raspberry ice cream, blackberry mousse, and fresh strawberries in phyllo.

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We were very full and happy diners when dinner was done and it was an incredible birthday experience.

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Posted by zihuatcat 12:22 Archived in Netherlands Antilles Comments (1)

Bonaire Day 1: Red Eyes from the Red Eye

"Where the hell is Bonaire?" That was the response that Mike and I received most often when we told people where we were going on vacation this year. Bonaire makes up the "B" in the ABC islands which, along with its sister islands of Aruba and Curacao, is located about 50 miles north of Venezuela in the southern Caribbean Sea. Its a Dutch municipality and the local currency is, conveniently for us, the U.S. dollar.

Our long journey there actually began the night before arrival when we left Dallas on a Continental flight bound for Houston. After a four hour layover and some strong airport margaritas from Pappasito's, we boarded our midnight flight for Bonaire with a plane full of American divers. Now the plan was to sleep on the plane since our arrival time was scheduled for 6 a.m. Bonaire time. This proved not to be much of a problem for Mike. For me, it was a little more difficult. I had the mask. I had the ear plugs. I was ready. What I didn't count on was being elbowed all night long by the guy next to me who didn't seem to understand that if he took both arm rests on the aisle seat, there was no arm rest left for me. Just as the sun rose, we swooped down from the sky and landed at the Flamingo International Airport where there is apparently only one baggage handler and one truck to unload everyone's luggage.

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We finally got our bags and headed through the maze we assumed would lead to customs only to end up outside the airport. Okay. Bonaire doesn't care what we bring in to the country. I can live with that. We loaded up our four door Mitsubishi pootie truck, got out our multiple island maps, and blazed our way to our temporary island home for the week.

We had reserved a one bedroom, oceanfront condo at Den Laman with early check-in so that we could immediately go to our room and not have to wait around all day until normal check-in time.

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We were assigned the Barracuda room on the third floor.

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We had an unlimited shore diving package with Bonaire Dive and Adventure, the on-site dive shop at Den Laman. Because most of Bonaire's waters are protected marine park, there is an island-wide mandatory orientation to attend and a check out dive to be performed before shore diving freedom begins.

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This shore diving freedom is the reason we chose Bonaire as a vacation destination. No meeting a dive boat at any certain time. No dealing with other divers and their demands. Just load up your gear and tanks in a truck and visit one of the approximately 70 dive sites scattered about the island. Orientation lasted about an hour or so and by this time, we were hungry and exhausted. We decided to grab some lunch at Sunset Grill, the restaurant located on the ground floor of our condo. I ordered the fried wahoo sandwich.

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Mike ordered the smoked salmon sandwich.

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Even though this was our view,

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we narrowly made it through lunch without falling asleep so we retired to our room for a while for an afternoon nap.

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Notice the five hour energy drink on the coffee table. Luckily, I brought this from home and it was my way of waking the dead for our afternoon snorkel. Our condo's house reef was Bari Reef which is rated #1 for diversity of species in the entire Caribbean. The reef itself is a bit deep for snorkeling but many fish have made a home out of several old cement slabs in the shallows. We did a quick snorkel just to check things out then headed into town to the Cultimara grocery store to stock up on some breakfast and lunch items for the week. Food selection on an island can be sketchy as it depends on what shipments came in that week. We were able to find lunch meats, cheeses, unrefrigerated eggs (yes, they do not refrigerate eggs on Bonaire), some local hooch, and my personal favorite of the week, Lay's Barbecue Ham chips. By the time we returned and carted everything up three flights of stairs, it was time for dinner.

Our first dinner on Bonaire was at La Barca, an Italian restaurant on the waterfront. I know...who eats Italian on a Caribbean island? But that's the beauty of Bonaire and the many cultures represented in the restaurants there. This was no Olive Garden, trust me. We shared a bottle of pinot grigio and snacked on fresh bread with olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette while we waited for our meal. Both entrees turned out to be fabulous. Mike had barracuda in a cream sauce with grilled shrimp while I had Mediterranean-style barracuda with tomatoes, onions, capers, and olives along with grilled vegetables.

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The relaxed, candlelit setting on the waterfront was the perfect beginning to the week ahead.

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After dinner, we drove back to the condo and enjoyed the sounds and smells of the sea from our balcony before heading off to bed.

Posted by zihuatcat 21:33 Archived in Netherlands Antilles Comments (2)

Indianapolis: The Roundy-Round Tour

This was my second trip to Indianapolis for business. On the first trip, I never left downtown. So this time, I decided to fly in a little early on Sunday afternoon and visit the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

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I grew up going to drag races with my dad and then later in life, to tractor pulls and car shows with my ex-husband so I'm no stranger to the car scene. Even as a little girl, Shirley Muldowney (the first female licensed by the NHRA) was one of my heroes. Despite all of that, I could really care less about the roundy-rounds (as my dad calls them). But visiting the Indy Speedway seems to be the thing to do while in Indianapolis and I have to say, it's a pretty interesting tour. It's also a monumental year for the track because it's the 100th year of the first Indianapolis 500.

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The tour starts with everyone piling on a bus to make a full lap around the track. Of course, the speed of the bus is just "slightly" below the 160 mph average speed of the last Indy winner. The first stop was the finish line.

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Just across the finish line is a row of bricks that make up what's left of the infamous brickyard. The original track consisted of 3.2 million paving bricks. Most of these bricks are still there today but are underneath the asphalt. This remaining row of bricks is traditionally kissed by each of the race winners.

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Also at the finish line on the inside of the track is the winners' circle.

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After the lap around the track, we made our way to the official press room.

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Next door, the current Pagoda building has nine tiers and houses the media room, broadcast booths, and timing and scoring centers. The view from the Pagoda is directly across the finish line. Each race car is represented by a person in the Pagoda and as the racers change position on the track, these persons also change seating positions in the Pagoda. It's a bit like a game of musical chairs.

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The final portion of the grounds tour was a drive through the Gasoline Alley garage area. Most of the more famous racers have permanent garages at the track.

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After the tour, I had a few minutes to spend walking through the museum. The main part of the museum showcases the Borgwarner Trophy and the winning race cars from a majority of the Indy 500 races.

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The car below was the winning car in 1947, the year my mother was born.

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The winning cars in the years Mike and I were born (1970 and 1974) are not in the museum for some reason so below are the winning cars in 1969 and 1973 instead.

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Hanging on the museum wall is this quilt which contains a patch for every Indy 500 winner along with the year of the win and the driver's signature.

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This is where the tour ends as the museum was closing so I made my way to the gift shop to pick up a few souvenirs for those who care a bit more about the roundy-rounds than I do but who unfortunately couldn't be there to enjoy the tour.

Posted by zihuatcat 07:56 Archived in USA Tagged indy Comments (0)

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