Coral reefs and planting trees

Jaspa – What a difference a week makes. We spent last weekend soaking up the sun in the Caribbean and this weekend dodging snow storms in Ontario. I know which I prefer!

For our last few days in Mexico we decided to get away from hustle and bustle of Cancun and the Mayan Riviera and escape to the island of Cozumel. We took the ferry over from Playa del Carmen on Saturday morning, spent a couple of hours exploring San Miguel de Cozumel (the only real town on the island), before jumping in a taxi for the perfect-sounding Paradise Beach. We got there to discover it’s yet another party beach, so I for one was glad we weren’t staying. We were picked-up from the pier at Paradise Beach by a large catamaran, which made a couple more quick stops before cruising down to the south-western tip of the island, to the Columbia and Palancar Reefs.

While we were in Mexico I heard tell that the coral reefs off the Yucatan Peninsula are part of the biggest reef system in the Americas, and second only to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Unsurprisingly, divers and snorkelers flock here. Bisckits was very excited to give it a try, and even after Gravee pointed out that they don’t make snorkels to fit Ses, he still sulked for ages when we wouldn’t let him go in the water. Rich and Sue on the other hand had a fantastic time splashing after their guide, as he towed his big white buoy and repeatedly called, “Snorkelers this way!” They told me afterwards that they saw all sorts of fish, including a shark and a stingray (those were the only ones they could recognise!), and a couple of turtles… one on each reef. Although I’m not too keen on the water, I have to admit to being a bit jealous. That said, we did get to watch the sunset over the Caribbean Sea before heading back to shore.

On Sunday we hired an old, yellow Volkswagen Bug (or Beetle, depending on where you come from) convertible to explore the rest of Cozumel. On our 70 kilometre loop around the island, following its one major road, we visited the Mayan ruins of San Gervasio and drove down the more rugged east coast of Cozumel, picking the odd geocache or dozen along the way.

Next day, our last in Mexico, we headed back to Cancun, but couldn’t resist one last detour in the form of an afternoon on Isla Mujeres. Fittingly, the boat that took us to the island left from the same dock that’s home to both the pirate ship and the BOBs, where our Mexican adventures began.

The flight home was uneventful – there wasn’t even any turbulence or badly behaved children to spice it up – and the rest of the week was spent doing the usual post-holiday chores,  like unpacking the suitcases and doing the laundry (both of which I’m luckily much to small to help with!).

Rich – The observant among you will have noticed the terms ‘geocache’ or ‘geocaching’ regularly crop up in our blogs. For those that don’t know, geocaching is like a hi-tech treasure hunt using handheld GPS devices. Basically, someone hides a geocache (which can be just about anything), makes a note of the latitude and longitude, and then publishes the coordinates online. Other players then download the information and set out to try to find the cache. The best way I’ve heard it described is, ‘using multi-billion dollar military satellites to find Tupperware hidden in the woods.’ There are no prizes and no real ‘point’, beyond the fun of finding the cache and, occasionally, discovering places you’d never otherwise know about. Anyone interested can learn more about geocaching on Jaspa’s website (www.jaspasjourney.com). Jaspa caches under the name Jaspa the Journeyer, and Sue and I go by the name UBtastic. Look us up on the official geocaching website, www.geocaching.com.

Geocaches are hidden in every imaginable type of location, both rural and urban. Sadly, sometimes these places are not at their best, and so geocachers have come up with a way to give back to the community. At CITO events (which stands for Cache In, Trash Out) cachers get together to clean up a local area, such as a city park or a rural conservation area. This weekend we took part in two such events.

Over the seven years I’ve lived in Canada, I’ve come to learn that going from shorts one day to winter jackets the next is pretty typical for this time of year in Ontario. Since we got back from Mexico, it’s been cold at night but during the day it’s mostly been pleasant and sunny… until the weekend arrived, of course! Saturday morning dawned (sort of) with cold, horizontal rain. Still, we hauled ourselves out of bed and drove out to Snyder’s Flats on the east side of Kitchener for a CITO event organised by Ed and Shiloh (otherwise known as Treknschmidt).

As you’ve probably guessed, most CITO events involve people going out and picking up all the trash, garbage, rubbish, whatever you want to call it, at the chosen location. Treknschmidt’s event was a little different. Instead of taking things away, we were leaving things behind, in the form of newly planted trees. 450 of them, to be precise! Fortunately, the rain stopped during the actual planting, for which we were all very grateful.

Now, some people get too fixated on the word ‘trash’ and so think that planting trees isn’t appropriate for a CITO event. I for one, however, think it’s just BRILLIANT! For me, anything that improves the areas where we live and relax is a worthy candidate for a CITO event. In fact, I think the more ways we can come up with to broaden the scope of CITO events, the better.

Sunday saw us out at another CITO event (today organised by Colin, The Blue Quasar), this time joined by Jamie and Lori (a.k.a. Muddy Mae and Max Power). We headed out to the Kelso-Glen Eden skiing and conservation area on the Niagara Escarpment, to help pick up the garbage left behind by a winter’s worth of skiers. In a strange twist of fate, the weather turned to something appropriate for a skiing area, as a blizzard blew up while we were there.

I’m always baffled by the mentality of people who litter. Where do they think all their garbage goes? Do they like going to places that are strewn with trash? The amount and range of rubbish we collected was mind-boggling, from the expected bottles and wrappers, to whole skis and poles. We even dragged seven truck tyres and an asbestos roof out of the woods, although I don’t think we can blame the skiers for those.

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About Jaspa

Star of my own award-winning adventure novels, Jaspa's Journey. Geocaching addict & F1 fan. Adventure Journeyer & blogger extraordinaire. Check out my website: www.jaspasjourney.com And don’t forget to download the books and see what the buzz is all about!
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