Papeete, Tahiti- out and about

Just to be clear, Tahiti is used interchangeably to mean either the island of Tahiti, which the city of Papeete is on, or, in many cases, the entire destination chain of 118 islands and atolls that make up French Polynesia. This posting concerns the island of Tahiti and the city of Papeete, the capital. Now that it is all cleared up...

The port area at Papeeti is very urban and very busy: lots of traffic of the ferryboats, vehicles, and foot varieties.  It was also a typical hot, humid tropical day, so a quick urban walk...

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The urban setting cannot hide the grandeur of the extinct volcano mountains in the background


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An outdoor craft brewery


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a famous hotel


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Tahitian beer. The most popular beer in French Polynesia
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Papeeti is not immune to the after-effects of COVID and the cessation of tourism for an extended period.

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So much for the morning. The afternoon was a bus trip to the Western side of the island...

First stop: Society Islands Marae, "a space reserved for ceremonial  social, and religious activities of ancient Polynesians."

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Tti mouldings (anthropomorphic sculptures)


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Why does she look so unhappy? Is it because he is in front?

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A big fallen breadfruit tree leaf


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A small marae with one upright stone


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Several images of the paved terrace, steps, and Marae Arahurahu. The stones are dry-stone constructions. No mortar was used.  

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Tourists and guides cannot set foot on the Marae or terraces


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A tourist photographing a wannabe Tahitian deity

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A burbling creek next to the Marae

Second stop: a Waterfall and Gardens in Tahiti Iti, the smaller southeastern peninsula area of Tahiti.

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Third stop: the Ana-Vai-poiri grotto at Mara'a

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Local embellishments by unnamed artists


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Yes, there is a swimmer in the grotto, despite many No Swimming signs


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Inside looking out past the dripping water from the ceiling

Pictures through a Bus Window
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Rangiroa, French Polynesia: a walk across an island and back

Rangiroa is actually an atoll, the largest in French Polynesia and the second largest globally. Other than tourism, its primary sources of revenue are being one of the greatest dive destinations and the breeding of pearl oysters, including legendary black pearls. 

Since we do not dive and the only Black Pearl we are interested in is already owned by a certain Captain J. Sparrow, that left being tourists and doing a walk across the atoll. A note about walking and French Polynesia: it's tropical and the weather is WARM. We found out later the area was experiencing an unusual heat wave. So even the locals claim it is HOT and HUMID. Being the intrepid travelers we are, a little heat wasn't going to stop us. Once again, common sense was not top of the list.  

The port is a single long concrete dock that we tendered to.

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We shared the lagoon with another ship.


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The Aranui 5, the other ship in the lagoon, is an interesting vessel. Built as a hybrid in 2015, it is half cruise ship, half freighter. It does 12-day cruises around French Polynesia and other islands while also delivering freight to a number of local ports.

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Off we went, hiking across the atoll. Good News: hiking all the way across the atoll involved about a 25-minute stroll down a paved street. Bad News: did I mention it was very HOT and HUMID?

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Not exactly sure what the sign is about...


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The minivan looks in need of some massaging

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Coca-Cola has made some serious inroads on the islands. Their strip signs are everywhere.


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Another sign that I have no idea what it means...


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Shadows on the road

The beach and waterfront "on the other side."
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Across the road from the beach


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The entrance sign has seen better days


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A classic

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Fisherdog... he was definitely after something in the water

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Later in the day, a storm coming in...

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Crossing the Equator: going from Pollywogs to Shellbacks

We crossed the Equator at approximately 10 pm on 1/26. In anticipation, the ship held a crossing ceremony in the morning known as the "Order of the Shellback" commemorating a first crossing of the equator.  While its origins are quite elaborate and, at times, rough on the participants, the Oceania version was tame and nicely sanitized.

First-time crossers, known as Pollywogs, are initiated into the Order and become Trusty Shellbacks, or sons of Neptune. It all begins with a pledge and a parade...

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Waiting for the start, with banners flying


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The opening pledge basically promising to be good Trusty Shellbacks (never get off the elevator on the wrong floor, never wear black socks with sandals, learn to properly pronounce the names of all ports, etc.)

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The Parade

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The Musicians


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Pollywog crewmembers


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King Neptune and his "wife" Highness Amphitrite

The Proclamation

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Presenting the Fish

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First, Pollywogs must Kiss the Fish

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Pollywog crewmembers went first. Enthusiasm about kissing a big (real) fish varied.

Then the ceremonial Dunking

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Dunking has been replaced with a large ladle of ice water


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Pollywag Passengers followed the crewmembers. Some were better at kissing the fish than others.


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Lined up

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At sea


Nawiliwili, Kauai (Hawaii): a cautionary tale

Kauai is the fourth largest and northernmost in the Hawaiian chain of islands. It is called the "Garden Island" for its lush greenery and, according to our driver, is home to the second heaviest rainfall spot in the world. The harbor entrance was outstanding.

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Another ship was already docked by the cruise terminal, so we were relegated to a temporary dock in the adjacent freight yard. The walk to the terminal and to a nice park at the edge of the port was lengthy. We decided Uber was the way to get to our first destination, the famous Wailua Falls. Rides were plentiful, and Angelo arrived in a few minutes. The twenty-minute drive to the Falls was pleasant, and Angelo assured us there were a lot of Uber drivers in the area, so we would have no problems catching another ride.  The Falls were off the beaten path: the road off the main highway was lengthy and winding as we climbed to the dead-end at the Falls. Emphasis on "off the beaten path", "lengthy", "winding", and "climbed" become important.

The  Falls themselves were dramatic, falling a hundred or so feet to the rocks below. A lot of signs warned about the dangers of hiking to the Falls and told everyone not to go past the signs; we abided by the signs.

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Our initial view of the Falls was degraded by the presence of an entitled citizen who chose to ignore all the warnings and other signs to go down to the top of the Falls. He proceeded to stand there for an extended period with his cell phone and stick extension taking pictures of himself. There were a number of comments from those looking at the Falls about how nice it would be to have a sniper available. We concurred.


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No visitor, courtesy of good software.

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I bought a bracelet hand woven from a Ki or Ti plant. In ancient Hawaii, the Ki plant was thought to have great spiritual power to ward off negative energy. The vendor and Wilson became great friends.


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Why did the chicken cross the cliff....

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After we saw all that was to be seen and did all that was to be done, it was time to get a return Uber.

Thus begins the cautionary tale.

While there may be a lot of Uber drivers in the area, they are only as useful as your capability to book one. In our eagerness to view the Falls, we forgot one small, but very important, detail: always check your cell phones for the reception. It turned out that our Spectrum cell phones, which connect off Verizon towers, didn't have enough signal strength (the dreaded One Bar) to sustain a connection with the Uber app. 

Being experienced travelers, we quickly realized we had three options:

1. Ask some of the hoard of other tourists if they had a signal and if we could borrow their phone
2. See if one of the street vendors would call us a cab
3. Walk down the road from the dead-end until we get a signal.

For reasons only attributable to either the altitude or a Brain Cloud, we decided on option three and took off down the road. Because we were smart and sophisticated Americans, we avoided the temptation to run screaming in a panic as we went. Initially, there was Good News and Bad News. The Good News was the scenics were very nice. The Bad News was signal strength went from One Bar to SOS (no signal) the further we walked. 

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After days of stumbling through the jungle, fighting off wild beasts.... Actually, after about 1/2 hour, we came to a wide spot in the road and decided to take a break, sitting on the railing beside the road. There was nothing in either direction.

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While I bemoaned our fate, my wife, the smart one in the crowd, looked at her phone and saw two bars. My contribution was to tell her not to move a muscle regardless of how uncomfortable the railing was until she got us a ride. A Happy Ending followed: Ganny rescued us about twenty minutes later and took us to the Harbor Mall.

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Side notes: While we were waiting, one of the passing vehicles actually stopped and asked us if we needed a ride; thank you, unknown good samaritans! In route, Ganny told us that what he normally did was ask riders if they wanted him to wait and take them back down for an additional mere penance.  It turns out that AT&T cell phones have good signal reception at the Falls.

Harbor Mall

Only about a half dozen stores were open. The BIG excitement was a chicken shepherding her chicks through the food court, not at all bothered by the stupid tourists. The best store was what looked like a tourist trap from the entrance. But in two additional closed-from-outside storefronts accessible from behind the touristy stuff was an amazing collection of high-end model cars, trains, and airplanes. There was a section of vintage Lionel train sets, locomotives, and railcars all set up in display cases.    

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Mall entertainment


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"Where the sun rises on the past"

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A free- shuttle returned us to the port terminal for the <long> walk back to the ship.

End of day
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Hilo, Hawaii: departures and a traveling companion

Exit stage right scenics, with a traveler accompanying us. 

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Final view

No excursions today; stayed on board to watch football. The wrong team won, but it was entertaining to see a team win their first NFL Divisional title since... well, let's just say the players were wearing leather helmets and the transportation to the game was powered by oats and hay (congrats to the Lions). 

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Kailua-Kona, Hawaii

After five days at sea, land is finally in sight...

Kona Town

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Looking out into the harbor


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A busy area- people swimming, going about on various boards, some small boats, and one of our tenders


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Yes, the waves do splash up onto the sidewalk


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Mokuaikaua Church


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Entrance to the Hulihee Palace, home of Hawaiian royalty and where King Kamehameha spent his final days

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Playing with perspective: first, the image is unaltered


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Second, realigned


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Window gazing

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Miscellaneous door, with white flowers


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More backyard


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A shop for all the mystics


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Waves breaking up as they hit the rocks, reimagined as a painting


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Ruth considering whether it would be easier to take a straight line to the ship rather than walking around the harbor to the tender


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Final view of the old church and the palace


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Evening starting to fall on Kona Town


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End of day

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Los Angeles, California

Most of the day in LA was taken up with disembarking, going through Customs, reembarking (I don't know why the US is the only country that makes us go through this colossal waste of time), attending an 11 am cocktail party for the ATW travelers, and visiting friends for a late lunch in Long Beach. Our friends were nice enough to receive some Amazon packages of things we forgot and meet us halfway (thanks, Derek & Jimmy).

We were the only ship at the LA port, but we did see another cruise ship from a distance in the Long Beach Port. Rumor has it that it has been docked there for a little while.

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Now off to four ports in Hawaii after five days of crossing the pond.

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Ensenada, Mexico

Streetwalking, Ensenada version

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A number of "questionable" hotels were to be seen


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Release the...

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"When thinking about a name for our new JAPANESE restaurant, it should be one that people will identify with the theme."


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d' Baldo has seen better days.


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My kinda bar! (inside joke)


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'Vegas, baby!


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The painting in the lower right sort of clashes with the decor theme.

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Balcony View

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Night Departure

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A wave goodbye after picking up the Harbor Pilot

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Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

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Coming into port...
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Hill with a flag

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We did not dock, instead rode tenders to shore. A tender being launched.


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How to make Tequila

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Abandoned construction


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Happy Endings, start to finish: clothing, food, booze

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Two tourists and a local.

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Established in 1683??

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Boats, Boats, and YACHTS
The boats in the Yacht Basin are ordered from small to huge.

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Transparent boats in the foreground. In case Wonder Woman's plane isn't available?

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Another False Fact proved untrue: the Titanic did not sink; it is ported in Cabo San Lucas. The Big Screen really does make everything look bigger.

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End of day

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Puerto Vallarta, Mexico and a commentary

Puerto Vallarta is second only to Cancun as Mexico's most visited tourist resort destination. The port area is very built up with a lot of traffic on busy streets. The area caters to tourists and is "Americanized." One of the first things you see when docking is a Walmart and a Sam's Club, adjacent to a large shopping mall (see first picture below). NEWS FLASH: except for different labels and language, a Walmart in Puerto Vallarta could be mistaken for any giant Walmart in the US.

As with most of the other places we visited, Security is heavy, including heavily armed military patrolling the port area and nearby streets (there is a military base next to the cruise port).  

A few pictures around the port, and then a bit of commentary.

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Early morning arrival (note Walmart in the center)


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Another morning arrival. What the picture doesn't show is the ship is backing into the port.


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A view of the city from a different angle


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Harbor entrance with two birds exiting.


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One of the many party boats, that include loud music as they pass by.

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Storm's edge

A commentary.

Across the busy street from the cruise port, and adjacent to a huge modern shopping mall and Walmart in a dirt parking lot, is a part of Mexican and Spanish tradition: an Honest-To-God small traditional Bullring. A little internet digging reveals it is a family-owned business going back several generations. Bullfighting occurs once a week during the winter months. Four fights lasting about 20 minutes each occur in an evening.

Everyone is familiar with the pomp, spectacle, and pageantry of a "Corrida de Toros." Parades, loud music, fans yelling "Ole", brave matadors with their bright elaborate costumes and red capes. What you don't see or hear much about is the brutality of Mexican bullfighting. Unlike Spain, Portugal and other countries, the bull does not survive in Mexico. Instead, it is killed in the ring. A match consists of three stages: 

  • An opening parade where the bull enters the ring. Two picadors on horseback thrust lances into the bull's shoulders to weaken it.
  • Bandalleras then stick darts with long streamers into the bull to further slow it. 
  • Finally, the trumpets introduce the matador. He does the traditional dance and taunts we are familiar with, further aggravating the angry and dying bull with his cape work. Traditionally, fans yell "Ole" with each charge of the angry bull. It ends with the matador maneuvering the bull to a spot in front of judges (and pretty senoritas), where he delivers the "estocada" (killing sword thrust) into the neck of the bull. A violent and bloody end.

    Most review posts note that a majority of the people attending are tourists, but many leave after the first fight and stands are virtually empty by the time of the last event.

    Regardless of what you think of the brutality, the contrast of this small piece of violent history with the sanitized, modern urban tourist environment surrounding it is dramatic. Animals are ritualistically killed within a short walking distance of a Walmart, modern shopping mall, and high-technology cruise ships.

    Personal note: I neither condone nor look down on the sport of bullfighting. It is a part of the rich Hispanic and Spanish cultural tradition and should be accepted as such. I can, however, appreciate the clash of the contrast between a violent sport surrounded by our oh-so-civilized lifestyles. Bill 
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View from our ship across the street

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Past the entrance gates looks eerily like the entrance to a lot of minor league baseball stadiums.

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Antigua, Guatemala

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Antigua is a city in the central highlands of Guatemala, about an hour and a half from our port. It was the capital of Guatemala slightly before our visit, from 1543 through 1773. The city fell victim to numerous earthquakes in the 16th century, and a quake in 1773 destroyed much of the town. The Spanish Crown, being all-wise, was fed up and moved the capital to what is now Guatemala City, the modern capital. Antigua was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979 because of its Spanish Baroque-influenced architecture, layout, churches, and ruins.

On the road to Antiqua

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Our driver called this Stump Face Mountain. A woman in profile?

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A lot of watermelons on the side of the road. So close to the pavement that orange cones were put out to push traffic to one lane to get by.


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Entrance to a village destroyed by lava flow from an erupting volcano in 2018.


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Village beside a volcano. The hillside is terraced to about half way up.

A stop on the way at Carolina's handwoven fabrics

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Beautiful work. A family-owned and run business.

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Family heritage


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The owner and namesake preparing lunch outdoors

Antigua walkabout

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Cerro de la Cruz


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San Juan de Dios


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A book and other sale in front of the church


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Watching over the items for sale

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Behind the gates


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Behind the gates 2

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One of the old churches damaged in the 1773 earthquake. Structurally unsound but still standing.


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Another baroque-inspired church damaged in the earthquake. It is undergoing restoration.


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Great place. Combination of Mayan museum, workshop, and high-end Jade store. Jade was valued by the Mayans for its religious and spiritual importance. Factoid: Jade is not just green, but includes blue and black, with recently discovered orange jade.


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Recreation of the Mayan calendar lit in the floor. Factoid: The use of the Mayan calendar dates back to at least the 5th century BC.

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Antigua Town Hall


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Central Square
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Cathedral of Santago. Beautiful old church at Central Square. Nineteen statues were built into the entrance wall.

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Full view or...


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... closer up?


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Under construction

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(on the drive back)

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Lava from a volcanic eruption in 2018 wiped out the road. A new bridge was built over the lava flow.


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Steps to the lava


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Volcano erupting


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Volcano erupting


Click here to see the full-size images.


Puntarenas, Costa Rica

No fancy tour or excursion today. Instead, a walk down the street adjacent to where we docked. It was a sweltering day, so even the stroll was abbreviated. As with most tourist ports, the area next to the ships is a tourist trap: lots of stalls selling a myriad of souvenirs and a lot of local food places, some of questionable quality. 

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Buildings of interest
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Originally built as the port customs building, it is now part of the University system.


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Murals at an abandoned outdoor theater.


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Speaking of rifles and such, Costa Rica is very proud that they abolished their army in 1949.


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Even the old electrical panel has an attractive look.
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Many small restaurants push the local cuisine, including some happy oysters.


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Another example of the local food styles.


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What we thought was a prison because of the guards, serious fencing, and guard towers is a hospital.


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Grocery/ Casino

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Gnarly trees
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Harbor escorts

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Our Ride


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Traditional Beach scene

Click here for full-size Puntarena images.

Click here for all the Around the World images, by location



Images of Costa Rica and Guatemala are coming soon, but first, I want to share one of the more amazing things I have ever seen.

First, the backstory:
On the road to Antigua, Guatemala is a bridge that spans the lava flow from the infamous 2018 Volcano eruption that devastated the area. I had our driver stop so I could photograph it.  What we didn't know is that a volcano above and behind the site was erupting at the same time. The two images below are the awe-inspiring result. To fully appreciate what we saw, you need to look at the pictures in full-size on a computer. Click the link below the pictures to see fully what we saw.

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Click here to go to the full-size images. It will take you to the first picture, and then click the right arrow to go to the second one. 


The Panama Canal

Passage through the Panama Canal was, as advertised, a Bucket List item. The visual experience is enhanced by the history and technology behind the canal. There is a lot of material about The Canal available for review. Here is a visual trip, with, of course, comments.

Starting out at just after sunlight with the actual entry into the Canal at about 7 am, ending a bit after 4 pm.

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Early morning with ships waiting to go through the canal. The heaviest traffic is East to West, and the canal runs 24/7.


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Bridge of the Americas

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Looking at the entrance to one of the two sets of locks (we are headed to the other one)


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Entering a lock


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The first of several lighthouses


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A ship entering the other side of the lock... not a lot of room to spare


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Looking back at the lock as we go in


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Two of the electric tugs. They do not pull ships through, they guide them. Ships use their own power.


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1/2 way into a lock. Look at the age of the concrete.


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Temporary neighbors.


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Ship leaving the lock

From on deck...

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Entering a lock. Very narrow! Some ships are built to fit in the locks.


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Another lighthouse. It is black because white blocks signals. I don't know what kind of signals... that is what The Guy told us.


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The philosophical question is, "Who is looking at whom?"


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Entering a lock


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Exiting the lock with another ship coming in and a cruiseship waiting in the wings.


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Last of the lighthouses. This one appears to be covered in graffiti


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Scenic. An amazing factoid; the <huge> lake between the sets of locks is manmade. The manpower, and loss of life, to make it back in the day were staggering


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Famous Panama Canal El Renacer Prison housed Manuel Noriega after the American invasion of Panama.

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After the Canal... Panama City

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Ships in the background waiting to go through the canal


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Getting things from here to there: a container yard with five big ships loading


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Things were not so affluent a short distance away.


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A Yacht Club.


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Panama City


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An estuary leading to an island with a grand hotel


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Ships moored off Panama City. Several looked abandoned, including what appeared to be a small cruise ship.


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Final look at Panama City

January 3, 2024

The images in this post were reduced in size because the shipboard internet is sooooo slow. Go here for full-size images at