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Highway 1 – Monterey to Morro Bay

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The part of Highway 1 stretching from Monterey to Morro Bay is absolutely stunning. On the map this part is not so far in distance but due to all the beauty which will make you want to stop all the time, two full days is really to recommend. Part of this stretch is called the “Big Sur”, a very dramatic drive along open ocean. I had read in a couple of forums that the Big Sur was so scary that if you drove from north to south (meaning having only ocean on your right) you would sometimes, as passenger, have to close your eyes out of anxiety. Now, this is really not true at all 😉

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As we were approaching Cambria, where we were going to spend the night before continuing to Morro Bay, we suddenly saw lots and lots of car parked further ahead and immediately understood there must be something of big interest. And yes it was! A whole beach packed with lazy, chubby Elephant Seals resting close together. Was I in love! They are so funny and charming to watch and I had a hard time leaving them…

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The next day we continued towards Morro Bay. Before going there we visited the lovely little town San Luis Obispo (also called simply SLO). Somehow I hardly got any pictures from there but it was a cosy town highly recommended to stroll around a few hours. However if we would have know just how wonderful Morro Bay was I think we would have rushed a bit more. Our hotel for the night was really funky and overlooking the picturesque harbor where we strolled around in the evening. There we also had the possibility to share a bottle of wine, that we had bought in Napa Valley, since everything was withing walking distance. The lady running this cute little place gave us whine glasses and together with some complimentary snacks and a big bunch of yellow ducks we finally had a moment to reflect.

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Morro Bay has a big population of sea otters. Really charming creatures. We had decided to find them the next morning before setting of. Unfortunately they were rather far from shore that morning so it was hard to catch them on picture. But I got a few and also a girl on her way to find a good surf sport  🙂

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Some splurging in spiritual Mandrem

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Maybe I am about to reveal a little secret now. Yab Yum on the beautiful northern Goa beach Mandrem is supposed to host quite a lot of Indian and foreign celebrities of the more spiritual kind. We learned this first when trying to find the place. No signs what so ever and no sight of a hotel where it was supposed to be. Finally we managed and learnt from the owner that this is how it should be to keep unwanted people away. People who knows about us finds us anyway was his statement.

Our little bungalow was sweet with lounge area outside and breakfast served on our own veranda every morning. But why were there fences in the way to let us gaze over the ocean? Aha…to keep all the wanted people safe and hidden…Yes, we paid a bit more than we usually do for those 4 last nights but so we usually add a little splurging at the end so not very outrageous at all. This was a paradise for chic bohemians and in fact the conversations people had over the mobile were quite often something like “OK, send me the script and I´ll read it through”. There we were, completely protected and taken care of, surrounded by funny cottages and disco balls dangling among palms. The coctails were great and close by our place we had the famous french restaurant La Plage. A true little gem where we went loose one nights and had a three course meal and a bottle of wine while thinking on how  privileged we are. Although the size of my chocolate dessert gave me a sleepless night the evening was for sure very memorable. And the price no more than a beer and a pizza would cost me here in Sweden.

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One late afternoon we left our little Yab Yum gem and its quiet surroundings to head a bit more north, to Arambol, to discover yet another ambiance. Arambol has a mix of spiritual backpackers looking to yoga and explore themself in different kind of ways, as well as Indian tourists looking to discover them 😉 The beach was not particular beautiful but very interesting for people and cow watching and for ordering the most ugly and bad tasting coctail on our entire trip.

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This was it from India for the moment. I made a trip to India a few years ago which I still haven´t blogged about. I think I have to stop travelling for a while to actually catch up with the past 😉 But that travel break will have to wait a little because mine and Louise´s plane to Los Angeles departs tomorrow. A 30 day long Rd Trip are waiting. As I don´t like computers on my vacation I take a blog break and wish all of you out there a great summer or what ever season you have right now.

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Come along and party in Palolem

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Palolem! We are very glad we did not stay at this exploited beach but we are more than happy we paid a visit this very special Saturday night! Saturday nights in Palolem means headphone party night! The famous Silent Noise of Palolem. I cannot describe with words how great this was. It was way above my expectations! Below you will find a serie of photos from this fantastic experience! Don’t forget to watch the video at the bottom to get “the feeling” 😉

We arrived to Palolem late afternoon, just an hour before sun set. Had a stroll and did some people watching followed by candle light dinner at the beach. A whole grilled fish and lots of four legged furry friends hanging out with us got us just in to the right mood. After this great meal and some local Honey Bee brandy to warm us up for the night, we started to walk along the beach towards THE place.

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We had no expectations on how this would work but we pretty soon found out. The club was held outside. We were basically the first guests 🙂 After paying the entrance we were  provided headphones and instructed how to use them. This night three different international DJ´s were playing. Depending on preference one could switch “channel” on the headphone to get ones favourite sound right into your ears at your own volume. House fantastics as we are, we loved all the DJ´s. The funny part was that you could watch which DJ your fellow partygoers were listening to by looking at the colors.

After getting used to the headphones, and filming & photographing ourselves for this peculiar night, we hit the stage. More and more people arrived until the place was filled. The atmosphere was wonderful. Everyone smiling and dancing on their spot. When removing the headset all you could hear was just some distant low volume music from the bar and the sound of a big bunch of happy people. This concept clearly makes people loving and open minded 😀

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There was also a big VJ screen in place and Dancing Queen as I am I had to take the challenge to dance behind it. First I was accompanied by another guy but soon I had the screen for my self and my inner diva could come out 😉 This evening was one of my best party evenings ever. Unfortunately only held Saturdays during high season. To read more about why this concept, check out the Silent Noise webpage.

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Kind of funny noises appears when a bunch of people are dancing in the silence 😉

Agonda Agonda Agonda!!!

After two cold but awesome weeks in Rajasthan we had landed in paradise – Agonda beach, Goa! Look no further!

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I did a lot of research on Goa before our trip since I had understood that each beach has its own ambiance. The ambiance we were looking for was a quiet, beautiful and clean beach, inviting for long peaceful beach walks, great dining by the beach at night and a relaxing atmosphere. We found all we searched for in Agonda.

We spoke to a guy that had been to almost every single beach in Goa who said this was the best! Before the popular beach Palolem, close by, used to be like this to. But that had changed. I wonder how long Agonda will stay as it is. It is true gem.

Louise & me had four beautiful days here, before we moved on to North Goa. One afternoon and night we went to Palolem for some action. (I will blog about that separate ;-)) However, most of our time was spent simply like this….

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And another day with same rythm….I want to go back!

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Appendix 😉 Thank´s Louise for not giving up on getting that perfect “jump” shot.

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A summary of Rajasthan & Goa

Me and my friend Louise are just back from an absolutely amazing holiday in India! I have brought back so much material that it is going to take rather some time to compile and structure it all. But below follows a serie of pictures that for me summarizes our four magic weeks in India. This is for sure a trip that is growing in my mind for each day that passes by. Wonderful India, I miss you!

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The two first weeks were spent in Rajasthan, “the land of kings”. We were taken care of by the superb small travel agency called Diana Tours & Travel. I heard about this company about 1 1/2 year ago through an ex colleauge who had used them to tailor make their tour through Rajasthan.

From the first moment I got in touch with them I felt I was in the right hands. They were so helpful and cheerful that upon arrival it felt like I already knew them. Ishrar and Harriethe (an Indian/Dutch couple) treated us as friends and invited us to have dinner in their home both on the first and last evening of the tour.

Ishrar and Harriethes business is going better and better. Mouth to mouth the reputation about their excellent service is spreading. Before Ishrar used to do all the tours himself (Harriether is the administrator) but since it is going so well and he had some Italian guests arriving at the same time, he had arranged his brothers son Tanzeem as a guide for us. Tanzeem had been following his uncle on many tours around Rajasthan but since it was his first tour alone they also arranged an extra driver called Raja.

Together the four of us, Tanzeem, Raja, Louise and me, spend many cheerful hours on the road. And many moments viewing the extraordinary landscapes, forts, temples and colorful surroundings of this part of India. It was a very safe and fun trip which has given us so many new beautiful memories.

After those two weeks we headed down to Goa to finish of with 9 days sun and sea. After so many new impressions in Rajasthan it was the perfect way to end this vacation.

Enjoy below glimpse and hope to see you back for more 🙂

Below, the golden city Jaisalmer

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On the road…

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Below, the blue city Jodhpur

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Below, Ranakpur & Kumbalgarh. First image; our driver Raja and second image; our guide Tanzeem

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Below, the romantic lake city Udaipur

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Below, the holy town Pushkar

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Below, the pink city Jaipur

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Below, Taj Mahal Agra, Uttar Pradesh

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Below, Agonda beach Goa

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Beachlife in green, hip and relaxed Sopot

Back to Poland again! Still 2012 🙂 This year we took the boat from Sweden to Gdynia in July. Gdynia, Gdansk and the little beachtown Sopot are sometimes called “3 cities” because it is three cities very close by eachother. But three very different places. Gdynia is the more modern city where the boat hub is located whereas Gdansk is an old medieval city with rich history. Inbetween those two cities you find the town Sopot which is completely different. That is one of the most popular beach resorts along the baltic coast in Poland. It is a very touristic, yet a chilled place. The nightlife is supposed to be very good as well with a few clubs located along the beach stretch. The town center is more or less one pedestrian road with lot´s of eateries, small shops and bars.

The beach itself is a long soft sand beach. Some parts of it is really crowded but the further away you walk from the town center the more space you will find. A nice green stretch runs along the beach, nice for walking or biking. In fact whole Sopot is very green and it is nice to take a detour from the main pedestrian street and walk past nice residences in the shade of the trees. On the beach the beer tents are visible here and there and are a great place for refreshing your self, with a Polish quality beer, on a hot day. I stayed in Sopot a few years ago but this time the base was Gdansk and Sopot just a day trip.

One day in Montenegro, the other in Bosnia & Herzegovina

My last post was about a wonderful relaxing week in Croatia. Since Croatia is so close to both Montenegro and Bosnia & Herzegovina we (me and my travel mate Louise) decided to take two different day tours to visit those neighbour countries. A very good choice! The first tour was a trip around the beautiful fjord landscapes along Montenegro´s coast, including a few hours visit to the cute city of Kotor. A relaxed day with stunning views.

The second tour we did was to the famous multicultural town Mostar in Bosnia & Herzegovina. The first picture below however is taken on the way when we stopped in the town Počitelj, where we had a short stop on our way to Mostar.

As much as this tour was a beautiful leasure trip it was also an opportunity to learn more about the terrible war history of former Jugoslavia. The tourguide in the bus was very knowledgeable and told us about the cruelties during this war in the in the 90’s. Walking around in Mostar was very touching and as we passed by a cementary where all gravestones held names of males that passed away very young in this war, I felt tears behind my eyes. It is hard to understand war. Especially when you walk around in such a pretty city as Mostar.

I learnt that before the war, and still today, Christians and Muslims are living in peace on one side each of the river Neretva. The most famous characteristic of Mostar is the bridge “Stari Most”. This bridge is the link between the two sides, between the two religions.

The original bridge was built mid 1500’s. When the bridge was first bombed the people of the city tried to protect it together. But later in the war they fought against each other and unfortunately the bridge was also eventually destroyed in the war but later rebuilt again afer the war ended.

Young men are diving from the bridge in to the cold river for money. This was also what my grandmother remembered the most from her trip to Mostar as a young woman. Kind of bizarre to realize that my almost 90 year old grandmother has walked over the original bridge many many years ago watching young men diving in the the same river as they still do.

A relaxing package tour to beautiful Croatia

In June 2010 I took a package tour with my friend Louise to Croatia. We spent a week in a simple but gorgeous hotel called Villas Plat. Both the small and peaceful pebble stone beach a short walk away and the stunning infinity pool was to die for. This was the optimal relaxation place. That this hotel is not a very child friendly place was a positve surprise. Just me, Louise and some retired. And a few love couples. Peace for the soul.

Plat Villas is just a short bus ride away from magical Dubrovnik. And also close to the picturesque village Cavtat. I had been to Croatia before (island hopping, will be a later post) so Dubrovnik was actually the second time for me. And I hope there will come a third visit because Croatia is one of my absolute favourites in Europe. A small minus, you will not have your most culinary experiences in this country, but there is allways Karlovačko 😉

Dubrovnik’s old town is touristic but beautiful, a walk on the wall is a must.

An afternoon and evening in Cavtat

On our last day the dramatic weather gave us a last photo opportunity for our favourite object, the pool 😀 Including the author in a pose on the last picture 😉

A short re-union with Costa Rica

After a 14 hour long day of traveling from Ometepe island in Nicaragua I finally arrived in San Jose. But just for one short night. The following day it was once more time to raise before the sun to hop on a bus to the Osa peninsula. The bus took 6 hours followed by a nightmare-like boat ride over big waves. My back is not the best and after this ride it sure didn’t feel better since the speed of this small boat caused the boat to hit very hard.

Bahia Drake, a sleepy town with pretty deserted beaches on walking distance, is just on the edge to the Corcovado national park in the Osa Peninsula. The park promises the most diverse fauna and flora in Costa Rica, well in whole Central America. I decided to do a tour the next day. My clock rang at 05:00 but I was already awake from the roosters. At the breakfast table I met the Swedish family Andersson plus one friend of theirs. They were also going to do the tour. Family Andersson, mum, dad and 16 year old twin girls were doing a Costa Rica road trip with a friend for two weeks. They actually have there home in Vancouver in Canada since 1994 and had a lot of interesting stories to share about wales, dolphins, cougars and bears. I must say they woke my interest in going to Canada, especially Brittish Colombia.

The tour was great. First an hour boat ride where we saw small dolphins jumping aside the boat. Then into the dense jungle to look for animals. I must admit I expected more wildlife than we saw. The two new animals to me was the Tapir and the Anteather which made the tour well worth. Now there was only one thing missing. I still had not seen a red eyed tree frog despite this being the second time in Costa Rica. As I am a big frog fan I hoped that signing up for a three hour nightwalk the following day would make my trip complete. Family Andersson and their friend came along and off we went in our rented boots (spider & snake protection). After 2 1/2 hour of walking in a creepy area the only thing we had spotted was loads of dangerous, huge banana spiders and two small red/green poision dart frogs.

As we were promised to see the red eyed three frog the guide had a backup solution. In his friends garden there lived some he said and picked up the phone to call them and tell we were on our way and also if they could sprinkled the garden to lure the frogs out out. Once in the garden the guide walked straight up to a place where on a big leafs a male and female Red eyd tree frog were sitting. It was a moment of pure love. Then the male jumped away into a pond where a huge toad looked like he was chewing on something. The guide was terrified until he found the male a gently placed him back on the leaf. Later while discussing our nightly adventures we realised that “sprinkel the garden, we are on our way” meant “please place the two pets on the leaf, I need my back up solution”. Any how, I have seen them and I have seen them on a leaf in Costa Rica.

After three days I decided to move on. The boatride back wasnt as bad and Anderssons were kind to give me a lift to nearest bus station where I got the last seat back to San Jose. An idea had hit my mind when in Corcovado. I suddenly felt like staying a little longer in Costa Rica and travel back to La Fortuna, wher I visited last year, and soak in hotsprings. But then I realized the grumpy immigration officer on the boarder between Nicaragua and Costa Rica had given me only 10 days in Costa Rica. It was either that or to purchase a ticket to Panama directly. Why he gave me only 10 days is a big questionmark and I need to find out later on since Swedish citizens normaly get 90 days.

At the moment of writing I am in the little village Cahuita on the Caribbean coast, close to the boarder with Panama. A friend was here a few years ago and I am glad I took her advice to pay a visit here because the national park that runs along the beach is absolutely gorgeous. And in a two hour walk I spotted more wildlife than down in Corcovado. Lots of curious White faced capuccino monkeys, a bunch of Howler monkeys, a Racoon and lots of other small creauters. At the place where I stay, “Secret Garden” I bumped in to some people I met in Corcovado and toghether with the other guests we have had a great time togheter. Unfortunately it has been raining a lot. Seems like a well known theme for this trip. To activate myself I rented a bike yesterday and went to an animal rescue center. There I got stuck longer than planned since I became very good friend with the cutest Sloth I have ever seen (not that I have seen that many but this guy sure was special). He has been in the center for about a year. Found alone as a baby he had to be taken care of but soon he is ready for release.

Now to the bad news. Last year in Turkey I had my first experience with bed bugs. I have been travelling for 15 years and never had had it before. It was not a pleasant story at all and now I did not only get a re-union with Costa Rica but also with those bugs. I have a routine after my last experience to allways check the mattresses when I arrive to a new bed. I have read a lot and know what to look for. But this time I only checked one side of the bed. The problem with bed bugs bites is that at first they just look like small mosquito bites. Since there a lots of mosquitos here I kept spraying my bug spray but still got bitten. Now I understand why!

After about two days the bites gets bigger and red and it is a uggly sight. Bed bugs bites in a cluster or in a long row and as one was walking on me when I got up this morning it suddenly hit me that I am a victim again. I have now moved into another room where I will spend the last night. Once back in Sweden I will have to do the sanitary routine (hot wash and freeze) but for now I can only wait for my monster bites to get smaller. In one way I am relieved it is not mozzie bites because I have around 40-50 bites. The Dengue mosquito is very active here and the risk of malaria is present around here even if low. On the other hand I feel annoyed that it happened so soon again. From now on my bed check will be an even bigger routine.

This was all for now, my last destination, Panama, is waiting around the corner. I hope for some sun and bed bugs free beds.

Sunsets, dolphins and a bit of rain in Honduras

So, it is time again for some blogging. I am more than convinced now that I do need to get my self a small lap top for next trip. Internet cafes are more or less non existing nowadays (in this part of the world) and if they are to be found they are slow and full of viruses.

One more day to go in Honduras before it is time for the next destination which will be Nicaragua. After an absolutely amazing holiday in Costa Rica, Guatemala, Belize and Mexico (Tulum) last year, mine and Louise’s expectations on this trip were already set. Unfortunately I have to say that what we have seen in Honduras is not as good as we hoped. The ruins are not as spectacular, the animals not so visible, the smoothies not as good and the food not very exiting. And it is expensive! Don’t misunderstand me, it is beautiful everywhere over here! Just that we compare it too much with last years unbeatable experiences.

The first stop in Honduras was the cute cowboy town Copan, famous for the Copan ruins. The highlight was passing through the  green mountains on our way to a natural hot spring area and then enjoying the warm springs in a natural jungle setting, accompanied by a cute retired Japanese/American couple. On the way back we passed small villages and lot’s of drunk cowboys riding home from their Friday happy hour bar round. One day we visited a bird sanctuary wich was also a great experience. I liked having my arms full of Macaw birds but Louise´s did not since her bird destroyed her nice t-shirt.

What we wanted to experience on this trip was some real jungle. We had heard that the Cusuco national park could offer us that. To reach this park we had to spend two nights in the second largest city of Honduras, San Pedro Sula. The hostel was a bit creepy but the city actually was not that bad. We felt very safe surrounded by heavily armed guards in every corner.

We woke up the next day and got ready for jungle expedition. A young  Honduran guy called Juan, with a British look,  picked us up in his 4W car and off we went on our excursion. What could have been a muddy experience turned out to be a rather relaxed drive up the hilly cloud forest Cusuco. Juan was a really nice young man and we had a great time hiking though jungle and coffee plantation including having lunch at a local farmers house. He told us he had just started his own facility together with his girlfriend and invited us over for a beer in the evening to check his place out. Great day!

We cough another bus up north the following day to the city La Ceiba, famous for its surroundings Pico Bonito rain forest. We had booked a nice bungalow in the hotel Villa Pico Bonito. Finally time for relaxation. Except for a 4 hour hike up to a waterfall we laid lazy around the infinity pool overlooking the river Cangrejal and Pico Bonito. Of the 7 available bungalows we had reserved the most simple one. We noticed that a older lonely man was renting the most exclusive one alone, a huge place too nice to explain. Funny enough we came across this man on our hike. As with most encounters with North Americans we knew everything about him within 5 minutes and were on top of this invited to have dinner at his place. Beside being a cardiologist he was also a writer of hiking and cooking books.

The dinner at this Mr’s place was the end of our Pico Bonito stay and full of expectations we packed our backpacks to get ready for the 1 1/2 hour boat ride over to Roatan island. Since we had heard of this being a very bumpy experience we prepared our self with pills against motion sickness. The trip was one long claustrophobic ride. Safely locked up inside this small passengers boat puking bags were distributed to everyone. Despite the pill I felt ill and cold sweaty and stayed focus by thinking of the paradise ahead.

The “paradise” Roatan where we are now is getting more and more Americanized each day. We choose between Roatan and Utila which are the two most popular islands in the Bay Island group. It was a hard choice since the islands are so different but finally we choose the bigger “green islands with perfect beaches” in front of the small flat island Utila with “no beaches and 24/7 party”. Afterwards I must say splitting the time between the two would have been a better option but we wanted 6 days in one place so here we are.

We have now been on Roatan for 5 days. During my travels I have seen many paradises and are rather hard to please. I must say this island does not fit in to paradise however our lovely little hotel Landsend is a paradise on its own with a the great Austrian host Adi always ready to answer questions or tell more about the island that has been his home for 10 years now. The sunset from Landsend is spectacular as are the beautiful tame deers we share our breakfast with every morning. This is a great place to just unwind for a few days.  Also we have not seen the whole island since we found 175 USD for a day trip around Roatan way to expensive. Maybe paradise is around the corner 🙂

Our three first days in Roatan was nice and sunny. Two of those days we spent on the West Bay beach, considered the best on the islands. It is however a overcrowded commercial place and after feeling more stressed than relaxed after a day sunbathing there we decided to spend our last days on the sundeck of Landsend. Roatan has great snorkeling and it is supposed to be a nice snorkel spot just where we live. Unfortunately the rain has been poring down most of the time since we took this decision but as I am writing I see the sky clear up.

Yesterday I ticked of one of those “once in a life time must do” things. I went snorkeling with dolphins. Luckily the sun came out just in time for the photo session and even if a bit pricy I bought the pictures where I hug and kiss my dolphin. Louise was lucky enough to get to go with us to the dolphin island for free even though she chose not to take part of the dolphin snorkeling. I am however very happy I did it. Even though one decided to scare me when he came swimming up to me and just in front of me opened his whole jaw. I asked the instructor afterwards and he told me they like to scare tourists with this trick 😉

Well, sun is out and it is time to go. New adventures are waiting…

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