Thursday, May 27, 2010

Getting from Florida to Alaska the long way!


The Coral Princess - 30days at sea from Ft. Lauderdale to Whitter Alaska!

Aruba: Beautiful little dutch colony. Went snorkeling here, diving under the mast of an old war wreck and scaring the scuba divers down deeper was the highlight. Plenty of fishy stuff also!



Cartargena (Columbia): Old Spanish fort and walled city were the attractions to see. Alet having her photo taken with Columbian lady, so much colour but to much clothing for that heat! Had a feed of fish and banana fritters and back to the ship (and air-con).

Panama Canal: The size of the Coral Princess leaves 6 inches space each side and 1 foot short of the maximum length...this is how to fit a VERY large ship into an elevator (lock)...in your life you must see at least 1 transit of the lock system, incredible how the ship is manoeuvred and raised, hard to believe created 100+years ago!

Puerto Amador (Panama): A taxi driver played tour guide and showed us the city and Old City (another Spanish fort) Seafood curry in a pineapple was lunch and back to the ship (and air-con).


Puntarenas(Costa Rica): 'Pura Vida' - Spanish for 'all is good'...yep love the life in Costa Rica...and the Zip Line's. Great tour through jungle, a fauna/flora talk with the downhill rush of Zip Lines!

Huatulco (Mexico): For a few hours we could escape the ship to enjoy a beer on shore. I explored the town first trying to find a pair of cobra cowboy boots (no luck) and also mango (the ONE food not available on the ship).




Acapulco (Mexico): Here I refused to go along with the geriatrics and wanted to feel the pulse of the place. I hailed a local taxi bus and had a flamboyant ride along the coast, went to the aquarium and was amazed at the human sardines on the beaches (public holiday in Mexico brings everyone out). The city is famous for its cliff divers...yeah they had bigger balls than I do...its a big jump off and you have to time it perfectly so that you land in the top of the swell or your going to hit the rocks under the water!


Cabo
San Lucas (Mexico):
The end of the Baja Peninsula is a mecca for American tourists and deservedly. Its close to the USA, beautiful (deserts and dramatic ocean) and things are cheap (Mexico). I spent the day snorkeling where the oceanic currents swirl and create a fiesta of fish. Pity about the sunburn but beautiful location.
Los Angeles (California): Here I rung Adrian and we went for Taco-Van taco's...just as good again. Big ship but still doesn't compare to the feeling of riding in Adrian's monster truck!
Victoria (Canada): Until this stage I had been filling time on the ship reading, eating, going to the gym, eating, talking to the old folks, eating...it was nice to be able to go for a run on terra firma! Although I had been in Victoria before it was a totally different city...it was sunny and the British buildings and manicured gardens were fantastic to walk around.
Vancouver (Canada): Did a complementary tram tour of the city...nice way to catchup on some sleep before re-joining the ship.



Juneau (Alaska): I went Zip Lining again...totally different to Costa Rica. The spruce and hemlock (pine trees) held the cables and you went whizzing over snow and creeks...very different to the tropical jungle of Costa Rica. Then a visit to Mendenhall Glacier...the first of many glaciers I would/will see in Alaska!



Ketchikan
(Alaska
): Snorkeling...yep another snorkeling experience and probably the best and most memorable. The water may have only been 8deg Celsius but nothing that a wet suit couldn't keep out! Gloves and booties but stunningly beautiful. The sea felt thick and soupy with life and to dive between the kelp was amazing. So many starfish, sea cucumbers and hermit crabs. FANTASTIC
Vancouver (Canada): Caught up with Matt who has a very enviable job-holiday working between Canada and Hawaii. I made it back to the ship with plenty of time to spare yet held it up...apparently $10,000 USD per hour to dock at the port and I held it up...caused some tension obviously. I had been waved onto the ship with a valid Visa stamp that needed to be re-validated...bugger!





Ketchikan (Alaska): I had come a long way to go hiking in Alaska...it was only small day hike but enough to want more...strange to find solitude after 5 min outside the town...tourists madly buying "crap" and salmon 'this and that'...nice to escape humanity before re-joining the 3000+ people on the ship after a few hours of solitude!




Juneau (Alaska): I went for a walk up around the hills behind the capital city. Great to get outside and walk again and then the added bonus of being in the right place at the right time get a free Glacier flight.



Skagway
(Alaska
): More day walks...this time followed by a beer sampler...a sign of things to come in Alaska. Wild-west appearance to Skagway, looking forward to getting back later in the summer and making it to the top of the trails that I couldn't get to because of so much snow.





Glacier Bay National Park &
College Fjord are where those cruise ship advertisement photos are taken of the Alaskan cruise experience. However most tourist don't get to see the glacier because of rain, clouds, mist and the other examples of fine Alaskan weather (even in summer). The days we were there were perfect - sunshine, clear skies and the captain was able to take us right up to the glaciers where we could watch them calve (break off) into the water. The cruise ship experience wouldn't be complete without a smorgasbord of Alaskan salmon and a buffet to feed on whilst viewing the glaciers!



Whittier (Alaska): Time to leave...at long last I was getting off the ship! What a fantastic month, I don't know how I will ever be able to repay Alet for inviting me on the ship. Amazing memories and a different way of travelling. Not going to mention the cost because you wont believe it anyway!
If I make it to a ripe old age book me onto a Cruise boat...apparently it is cheaper than a retirement home and much more fun and I can eat myself to death!





Considering my famed appetite and the amazing buffet selection I came out weighing just the same...perhaps slightly fitter though as I spent those long hours at sea not only eating but watching movies from the treadmill or bike seat...lol
Thank Alet and thankyou Princess Cruises!
Tim

Texas & Florida




Texas

Why not visit America’s most iconic state and catchup with a friend whilst heading to Florida to join a cruise.

I arrived without my luggage which was a good start but managed not to let it get the better of my blood pressure by worrying about it. Easiest way to forget about complications of replacing everything in my bag…go eat! This became a Texas theme…not something that most people go to Texas for I sure.

I met Lacie whilst on the African Safari tour in 2008, she has kept in contact and offered to put me up for the weeks adventure whilst showing me the best Texas had to offer. Lacie is studying to be a pharmacist with UT (University of Texas) and hence I also spent a week talking shop...boring for most but I/we? enjoyed it.

Pharmacy in the USofA…a good reason for Australia not follow the USA in every aspect! We are often referred to as glorified label stickers in Australia however one can truly appreciate the extended services offered to patients/customers when you compare to the USA model of community pharmacy. They don’t counsel! How can you responsibly give out a medication without talking to the patient about it? Anyway…one last point showing a great difference between Aust/USA pharmacies was the day I decided to try and purchase dry cough liquid…lets say 6 bottles at the same time…I gave them every possible chance by even going to the pharmacy counter in the SUPERMARKET and asking the pharmacist where the cough liquids were…he just pointed to the shelf/isle! I then got to the front of the supermarket where I had also picked up some BBQ brickets to bulk out my sale. The checkout chick was pleasant enough and asked me to say "G’day" again for her then scanned the 6 bottles (dextromethorphan) and BBQ brickets. The total came up and I noticed they we already in the bag ready for me to go when I “realised” I had forgotten my wallet…after I really didn’t need BBQ brickets or x6 bottles! Yep I could have brought them without a single question being asked!

Austin Texas is a city which has a visible pulse, the large university crowd, the alternate crowd, the network of bar’s and cafe's make it a very vibrant city. We spent the first day kayaking on the lake, perfect weather made for some very sleepy sailing but plenty of turtles and crystal clear water to play in. The next day I locked Lacie inside her apartment to make sure she spent some time studying for her exam. I went walkabout across the city, through the capital building and the numerous parks, found a brewery and went back to the park to sleep off the taste testing…yep I am on holidays!

One of the highlights of the week was going back to pharmacy school…I am a nerd! on holidays and choosing to go to school again. The 2nd year pharmacy class was as detailed as we covered in our 4th year! How then do these over qualified university students go from the stimulation of university to working in a community pharmacy that wants them just to be able to push through a 1000Rx per day? Hopefully they end up in hospital pharmacy which apparently has far to many applicants, is paid at the same rate as community with better hours, overtime and holidays. Yep hospital pharmacy in the USof A sounds better than at home and they have broad discretionary powers such as therapeutic substitution within a class without having to even getting the doctor to write the order again i.e. re-write perindopril for accupril if it is the ACEI on the formulary! (Enough nerd speak)

For my last 2 days in Texas I was taken to Fort Worth/Dallas area where Lacie's parents live. Poor Lacie loves to travel, wants to travel but her family are scared about the dangers of the world outside Texas/USA. Yep just like traditional conservative family’s anywhere in the world, why would you want to leave home soil when you have everything you need right there and at Walmart! I was shown around her grandfathers farm which now makes more money off having companies put natural-gas wells on his property than from cattle.

My last evening in Texas was spent at Billy Bob’s...the ‘Largest Honkey Tonk in the World’. This took my favorite things from a country bar and increased its size by about 20 times…it was huge, once a department store, now a huge area of bars, boot scooting-dance floors, stages and more bar areas…WOW…

The drive to the airport couldn’t be just normal…this is a big state and things have to be better then elsewhere…yep I was blown away by the fields of wildflowers…blue bottles, Indian paintbrush, yellow ones, pink ones…hence if you plan a trip to Texas you must go during the second week of April…perfect weather and beautiful flowers.

Florida

4 Days in southern Florida (pre-gulf oil leak) and x2 things must be seen.


Everglades National Park - This rivals Arnhem Land/Kakadu, not better or worse, different. Just like any huge wetland it offers a stunning variety of wildlife, flora and picturesque views. The opening credits to CSI Miami are the obvious Everglades image...whizzing across the swamps in a airboat! Once I relaxed to the idea that you can't brake (there is no brakes) and that I realised my captain/pilot knew what he was doing it was extremely fun. Wind, spray, a big block V8 and the propeller noise added to the fun and sights of the mangroves whooshing past, skimming across the grass, gators and python tracks.


video


The sunset and sunrise across such a vast expanse of flat water and sculptured miniature pine trees is beautiful. See the photos to understand why!

Flroida Keys - This is a long long drive down and back but very scenic. The road simply goes hopping from one out crop of coral/rock to the next for 100 miles. Each Key (island) could be as big as small town or not much wider than the double lane highway running through it. The white rock, the blue water and the copious sunshine make this a paradise that in turn has become a economic power house for Florida. The cars and mansions ooze wealth but in all it has been tastefully developed and still ranks high as one of the best drives I have done. It was a long day down to Key West allowing me a total of 30min before I had to turn around and head back (piss poor planning) so not to get the hire car back late.
An extremely stunning part of the world and hopefully it remains that way with the oil leak happening so close.
My parting memory of the Florida Keys would have to be driving across the 7 mile bridge...the same bridge filmed so well in "True Lies"...hard to believe you can still be driving on the same bridge 15min later with stunning blue waters still lapping at the pylons.

:)

Tim