Jamaica’s Blue Lagoon

Jamaica’s Blue Lagoon is a small inlet off San San Bay in the northeast part of the island, a little east of Port Antonio in Portland Parish.

The turquoise waters of the Blue Lagoon

The turquoise waters of the Blue Lagoon

Legend has it that the Blue Hole is bottomless, but a more scientific approach puts it at about 210 feet deep. Whichever you want to believe, the lagoon’s depth is responsible for its amazing turquoise colour.

Now-abandoned bar at the Blue Lagoon, which once featured in a movie starring Robin Williams... or was it Tom Cruise?

Now-abandoned bar at the Blue Lagoon, which once featured in a movie starring Robin Williams… or was it Tom Cruise?

The water in the lagoon is brackish, since it is partially fed by a fresh water spring.

Just outside the entrance to the Blue Lagoon, in San San Bay

Just outside the entrance to the Blue Lagoon, in San San Bay

There are all sorts of stories about the Blue Lagoon. One is that the actor Errol Flynn would dive to the bottom of it using only a snorkel. Not sure if that one is true!

A chilled-out way to see the Blue Lagoon and San San Bay

A chilled-out way to see the Blue Lagoon and San San Bay

The inlet was traditionally called the Blue Hole, but the popularity of the 1980s movie The Blue Lagoon starring Brooke Shields (I’m still unclear as to whether any of it was actually filmed here) resulted in its name being changed. In my opinion, this actually helps save some confusion, since there’s a second Blue Hole in Jamaica, a land-locked pool up in the Blue Mountains.

Island opposite the entrance to the Blue Lagoon

Island opposite the entrance to the Blue Lagoon

This post was inspired by Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge, which this week is Teal or Turquoise.

The Blue Lagoon

The Blue Lagoon

If Caribbean islands are about more than just the beaches for you, why not sign up and follow my continuing Journeys here at Jaspa’s Journal (on WordPress or Bloglovin’), or through my website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr?

And if that’s not enough for you, the first three Jaspa’s Journey novels will soon be available to enjoy, both as ebooks and in paperback! Perfect for Kids 8 – 80!

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Cozumel Sunset

I wasn’t sure I was going to have time for my blog this weekend. Then the photo themes of Perfect Sky from Nancy (of Nancy Merrill Photography) and Half and Half from Ben (of the Daily Post) reminded me of a particularly beautiful sunset I once enjoyed from a catamaran off the island of Cozumel in Mexico.

I hope you enjoy it, too.

Half sea, half sky, with just a sliver of land: floating off Cozumel is spectacular, whatever the time of day

Half sea, half sky, with just a sliver of land: floating off Cozumel is spectacular, whatever the time of day

Late afternoon and the sea and sky turn from blue to silver...

Late afternoon and the sea and sky turn from blue to silver…

...And then to gold

…And then to gold

IMG_4500IMG_4504IMG_4510

Not quite half and half, but I just couldn't crop off those wonderful clouds at the top of the frame

Not quite half and half, but I just couldn’t crop off those wonderful clouds at the top of the frame

Waiting for the sizzle, as the Sun approaches the sea

Waiting for the sizzle, as the Sun approaches the sea

Half and half... and half: Sea, Sky and Sun

Half and half… and half: Sea, Sky and Sun

Almost gone

Almost gone

Another day is done

Another day is done

If you take pleasure in the beauty of this wonderful planet we call home, why not sign up and follow my continuing Journeys here at Jaspa’s Journal (on WordPress or Bloglovin’), or through my website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr?

And if that’s not enough for you, the first three Jaspa’s Journey novels will soon be available to enjoy, both as ebooks and in paperback! Perfect for Kids 8 – 80!

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The 2500-Year-Old Reed Boats of Huanchaco, Peru

There has been a settlement at Huanchaco since prehistoric times. When the colossal UNESCO World Heritage Site of Chan Chan was a thriving city, Huanchaco was its port. Colonial era buildings indicate it remained important to the Spanish conquistadores. Some experts claim Huanchaco is the original home of the raw fish dish, ceviche. And in 2012, it was designated a World Surfing Reserve.

Huanchaco beach, were the land meets the water

Huanchaco beach, were the land meets the water

Huanchaco pier

Huanchaco pier

Yet the thing that attracts most visitors to Huanchaco are the traditional reed boats used by its fishermen.

Reed boats along Huanchaco beach

Reed boats along Huanchaco beach

Today, the characteristic reed boats go by the name caballitos de totora, which translates as reed horses. This is despite the fact they predate the introduction of modern horses to South America by over 2000 years. In fact, they were first made by the Moche People around 2500 years ago.

Me with some 'reed horses'

Me with some ‘reed horses’

Caballitos de totora are actually found all along the northern Peruvian coast, but are particularly associated with Huanchaco.

The boats are temporary things - eventually the reeds become waterlogged and the boats are taken apart

The boats are temporary things – eventually the reeds become waterlogged and the boats are taken apart

The ‘boats’ get their name from the way the fishermen ride them. Unlike a canoe, which you sit inside, you ‘ride’ a caballitos de totora as you would a horse, with one leg either side.

A 'reed horse' -  spot the fun being had in the background, by the water's edge

A ‘reed horse’ – spot the fun being had in the background, by the water’s edge

The hollowed-out portion in the centre is used to carry fishing nets and other necessities.

A modern twist... these days polystyrene is used to make the boats more buoyant

A modern twist… these days polystyrene is used to make the boats more buoyant

In many ways, caballitos de totora are more like rafts than true boats. But whatever you want to call them, seeing them lined up along the sea’s edge in Huanchaco is like stepping back in time.

Huanchaco beach and its caballitos de totora

Huanchaco beach and its caballitos de totora

Thanks to Lina of TrujilloDelPeru.Com for showing us Huanchaco and its wonderful reed boats.

A local girl saying 'hi' to a pair of Peruvian Pelicans

A local girl saying ‘hi’ to a pair of Peruvian Pelicans

The pelicans don't take much notice as the waves roll in and out

The pelicans don’t take much notice as the waves roll in and out

This post was inspired by Ailsa (of Where’s My Backpack?) travel theme of Land Meets Water and Cee’s Which Way Challenge.

Do you consider the caballitos de totora to be more boats or rafts? In either case, why not sign up and follow my continuing Journeys here at Jaspa’s Journal (on WordPress or Bloglovin’), or through my website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr?

And if that’s not enough for you, the first three Jaspa’s Journey novels will soon be available to enjoy, both as ebooks and in paperback! Perfect for Kids 8 – 80!

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Three Rivers Petroglyphs, New Mexico

Petroglyphs are basically rock art; images carved or drawn onto rocks or cave walls, usually during prehistoric times. I’ve been to several petroglyph sites over the years, spread across Europe and North America, including several in Hawaii and the Caribbean.

IMG_0783One of the most impressive, and certainly the most extensive, collection of petroglyphs I’ve seen so far is at the Three Rivers Petroglyph Site in New Mexico, between Tularosa and Carrizozo. Across this 50 acre expanse of desert literally thousands of petroglyphs are preserved.

View across the desert from the ridge at Three Rivers Petroglyph Site

View across the desert from the ridge at Three Rivers Petroglyph Site

In 2012, we spent a wonderful couple of hours hiking around a small ridge within the area protected by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. The hillsides are strewn with rocks and boulders, most of which are covered with petroglyphs.

With some friends at Three Rivers

With some friends at Three Rivers

The artwork at Three Rivers belongs to the Jornada Mogollon people. The drawings were created over a 400-500 year period, between 900 and 1400 AD.

IMG_0793The harsh desert conditions coat any exposed rocks with a dark-coloured ‘patina’, which the artists scraped off to produce lighter-coloured designs.

Many of the carvings are geometric patterns, some of which are quite intricate.

IMG_0780IMG_0782IMG_0791IMG_0810In addition, there are over 21,000 petroglyphs (yes, that should say twenty-one thousand!) depicting insects, plants, fish…

Fish-shaped design filled with geometric patterns

Fish-shaped design filled with geometric patterns

…Birds…

Is it a bird? Yes, I think it is!

Is it a bird? Yes, I think it is!

…Mammals…

A sheep

A sheep

Another sheep, this one stuck with what look like arrows

Another sheep, this one stuck with what look like arrows

Yet another sheep

Yet another sheep

A second skewered critter, probably another sheep

A second skewered critter, probably another sheep

A square, chequered animal with baubles?

A square, chequered animal with baubles?

…And even humans.

A human face (on the left)

A human face (on the left)

A whole human figure

A whole human figure

This image of a head uses a natural nodule in the rock as the eye

This image of a head uses a natural nodule in the rock as the eye

This image is particularly lifelike

This image is particularly lifelike

Stick figures

Stick figures

But this was my favourite:

Who knew that herds of giraffes roamed the deserts of North America a thousand years ago?!

Who knew that herds of giraffes roamed the deserts of North America a thousand years ago?!

This post was inspired by the photo themes Symbol from Jen (Daily Post), Pattern from Paula (Lost in Translation) and, of course, Jo’s Monday Walk.

If like me, you’re captivated by the beauty and mystery of petroglyphs like these, why not sign up and follow my continuing Journeys here at Jaspa’s Journal (on WordPress or Bloglovin’), or through my website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr?

And if that’s not enough for you, the first three Jaspa’s Journey novels will soon be available to enjoy, both as ebooks and in paperback! Perfect for Kids 8 – 80!

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The Ballestas Islands – Peru’s Galapagos

Often billed as Peru’s answer to Ecuador’s Galapagos, the Ballestas Islands are a little easier to get to (assuming you’re already in Peru of course).

The Ballestas Islands at dawn

The Ballestas Islands at dawn

From the small town of Paracas, a boat ride of about 20 minutes takes visitors out to this cluster of small islands, roughly 5 miles off the Paracas Peninsula, on which the Reserva Nacional de Paracas (Paracas National Reserve) is centred.

On the way out to the islands, we passed one the main sights of the Paracas reserve. Experts still argue over the origins of the enigmatic El Candelabro (the Candelabra) geoglyph, carved into a hillside facing the sea at the northern end of the peninsula.

Pelican patrol over El Candelabro - the Candelabra

Pelican patrol over El Candelabro – the Candelabra

Is it an ancient symbol etched by the Paracas people, who inhibited this area between 600 BD and 200 AD? Or is it a navigation aid created by more recent sailors? The experts can’t seem to agree, so what do you think?

(Coincidentally, that afternoon we went on a flight-seeing trip over more mysterious geoglyphs… the World Famous Nazca Lines.)

It's the boat's motion is making me blurry, honest!

It’s the boat’s motion making me blurry, honest!

As we approached, the Ballestas Islands glowed brilliant white in the bright morning sun.

Speeding towards the radiant white Ballestas Islands

Speeding towards the radiant white Ballestas Islands

The reason for this is less poetic than it sounds, since the white shimmer came from sunlight being reflected off thousands (if not millions) of tons of guano. In other words, the islands get their white appearance because they’re literally covered in bird poop!

Who knew guano could look so pretty... from a distance!

Who knew guano could look so pretty… from a distance!

But don’t scoff, because it’s valuable stuff. In fact, the guano was once mined as a fertilizer. Today though, only researchers are allowed on the islands, which now form a wildlife reserve: Reserva Nacional Islas Ballestas.

Old mining buildings

Old mining buildings

This is part of an old dock, I think... the birds don't seem to care

This is part of an old dock, I think… the birds don’t seem to care

According to what I’ve read, the Ballestas Islands are home to over 160 species of marine bird. Thousands upon thousands of individuals cluster on every possible ledge, crag and piece of old mining equipment.

Peruvian boobies line the cliff top

Peruvian boobies line the cliff top

And here are some Peruvian pelicans (that's about the limit of my ornithological skills!)

And here are some Peruvian pelicans (that’s about the limit of my ornithological skills!)

Another part of the old mining equipment

Another part of the old mining equipment

Or fill the air with their wings and cries.

There are thousands of birds everywhere... easily more than 5

There are thousands of birds everywhere… easily more than 5

There are several caves and arches on the islands

There are several caves and arches on the islands

Although I would have been happy with just two of them: a pair of Humbolt penguins… the first time I’ve ever seen penguins in the wild! I think of the whole trip, that was the moment Rich most grieved for his DSLR and telephoto lens, which had been stolen a few days earlier in Valparaiso.

Penguins!

Penguins!

Just the two of them, but we were thrilled! What would must be like when the whole colony is in town!!

Just the two of them, but we were thrilled! What would must be like when the whole colony is in town!!

The Ballestas Islands aren’t just a reserve for birds. They’re also a haven for marine mammals, such as sea lions.

Sea lions (or are they fur seals?) hanging out with the birds

Sea lions (or are they fur seals?) hanging out with the birds

This guy has a flair for the dramatic!

This guy has a flair for the dramatic!

Approaching the sea lion colony

Approaching the sea lion colony

What a kick we got out of watching sea lion pups playing in the surf on a rocky beach.

The pups seemed to enjoy playing in the surf as it rolled up onto the beach

The pups seemed to enjoy playing in the surf as it rolled up onto the beach

In between waves

In between waves

Sea lion pups and some fast moving Inca Turns

Sea lion pups and some fast moving Inca Turns

I defy you not to say,

I defy you not to say, “Aw!”
(And if you look in the crevice in the background, there appears to be another penguin hiding in it! – I only noticed this going through the photos for this post)

In some ways, our excursion to the Ballestas Islands was all the more special, because we hadn’t originally planned to do it. We’re so glad our guides for the day, Adios Adventure Travel, suggested adding it to our itinerary.

Leaving the Ballestas Islands

Leaving the Ballestas Islands

Many fishing boats in Paracas harbour

Many fishing boats in Paracas harbour

We got some final, stunning views of the Ballestas Islands at sunset, as our ship cruised away from Paracas and north towards Lima.

Fishing boat and El Candelabro

Fishing boat and El Candelabro

The Ballestas Islands as the sun goes down

The Ballestas Islands as the sun goes down

Given this post is mainly about 160 species of seabird congregating in their hundreds of thousands, I think I might have overshot Cee’s Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge, which this week is More than 5 Items. I was additionally inspired by the themes Bird’s Eye (View) from Paula (Lost in Translation) and Motion from Dale (Spun With Tears).

Sunset over the Ballestas

Sunset over the Ballestas

Whether you’re still trying to wrap your head around the incredible number of birds that inhabit or visit the Ballestas Islands, of just thinking ‘aw!’ at the sea lion pups, why not sign up and follow my continuing Journeys here at Jaspa’s Journal (on WordPress or Bloglovin’), or through my website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr?

And if that’s not enough for you, the first three Jaspa’s Journey novels will soon be available to enjoy, both as ebooks and in paperback! Perfect for Kids 8 – 80!

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Arecibo Observatory, Puerto Rico: Doorway to the Universe

One of my must-see places when I visited Puerto Rico was the jaw-dropping Arecibo Observatory, the largest single-dish radio telescope in the World.

IMG_2398 A staggering 1000 feet in diameter, the enormous dish of the telescope is quite literally built into the mouth of a sink hole in Puerto Rico’s central mountains.

IMG_2409The dish focuses the electromagnetic waves it collects towards a series of antennas positioned above it.

IMG_2390The antennas are suspended high above the dish by a cat’s cradle of cables, which are in turn supported by three massive pillars.

IMG_2391The telescope is used to study all sorts of clever technical fields, including radio astronomy, planetary radar and atmospheric science. As such, the Arecibo Observatory provides a doorway to our better understanding of the Earth, the Solar system and the Universe in general.

IMG_2412The public observation area provides a great bird’s eye view of the dish.

IMG_2402In fact, if you squint and stand on one leg, the dish kind of looks like a giant bird’s eye.

IMG_2393This post was inspired by the photo themes Door from Cheri (Daily Post) and Bird’s Eye (View) from Paula (Lost in Translation).

If technical marvels like the Arecibo Observatory fascinate you too, why not sign up and follow my continuing Journeys here at Jaspa’s Journal (on WordPress or Bloglovin’), or through my website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr?

And if that’s not enough for you, the first three Jaspa’s Journey novels will soon be available to enjoy, both as ebooks and in paperback! Perfect for Kids 8 – 80!

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Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch

Despite what some might think, the title of this post was not created by me randomly wandering around my keyboard. It’s actually a real place in Britain.

Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch is a large village on the island of Anglesey in Northwest Wales. At 58 letters long, it boasts the longest single-word place name in Europe and the second longest in the World.

People have lived in the area since Neolithic times (4000 to 2000 BC). Yet the village’s mammoth moniker didn’t actually until the mid 19th Century. Until then it was simply (!) called Llanfair Pwllgwyngyll, which was already enough of a mouthful for most non-Welsh speakers.

Following the arrival of the railway in the 1850s, a committee was formed to try and get more people to stop and visit the village on the way past; like an early Tourism Bureau. One bright spark came up with the idea of changing the village’s name to make it stand out more. And Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch was born.

One from the Vault: Me and Sue on the platform of Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch station back in in 2002

One from the Vault: Me and Sue on the platform of Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch station back in in 2002

Over 150 years later, the plan continues to draw tourists, although the name has proven a bit cumbersome for daily use. Unsurprisingly, a number of short forms have developed over the years, including Llanfairpwllgwyngyll, Llanfairpwll and even Llanfair P.G.

Believe it or not, Rich can actually pronounce the full version, more-or-less. Although he does have the advantage of being born in Wales, even if he only knows a handful of Welsh words. I have to admit, it’s all Greek to me!

But if you want to know how to say it, try visiting the village’s website.

Oh! And in case you’re wondering, the translation of full name goes something like this: Saint Mary’s Church in the hollow of the white hazel near a rapid whirlpool and the Church of St. Tysilio of the red cave. Phew!

This post was inspired by Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge, which this week is Numbers and Letters, and Traces of the Past from Paula (Lost in Translation).

If you enjoyed this post, why not sign up and follow my continuing Journeys here at Jaspa’s Journal (on WordPress or Bloglovin’), or through my website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr?

And if that’s not enough for you, the first three Jaspa’s Journey novels will soon be available to enjoy, both as ebooks and in paperback! Perfect for Kids 8 – 80!

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