A Travellerspoint blog






Our last day driving in Iceland, and we woke to still overcast but non raining skies. We started the day with a surprise included breakfast, did not show on the booking, so an added bonus.

We are making our way back to the beginning today via the Golden Circle. These are the only few sights that most visitors to Iceland manage to see in their 2-3 day stopover. Where we have included them in our Ring Road lap of the country.

Of course our last day we again saw magnificent scenery. Doesn't seem to matter where you look in this country it's all pretty magnificent. That is why I have not written much of a commentary for any of the days as the country really does speak for itself. Only a few photos in these blogs but please go to my facebook photo albums for many, many more pictures.


Our first stop on the Golden Circle was Gullfoss - the biggest waterfall we have seen in Iceland.

Gullfoss is a waterfall located in the canyon of the Hvítá river in southwest Iceland. Gullfoss is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Iceland. The wide Hvítá rushes southward, and about a kilometre above the falls it turns sharply to the right and flows down into a wide curved three-step "staircase" and then abruptly plunges in two stages into a crevice 32 metres deep. The crevice, about 20 metres wide and 2.5 kilometres in length, extends perpendicular to the flow of the river. The average amount of water running down the waterfall is 140 cubic metres per second in the summer and 80 cubic metres per second in the winter. The highest flood measured was 2,000 cubic metres per second.


Our next stop was in Geysir, and here is a bit of trivia for you all:
Geysir, sometimes known as The Great Geysir, is a geyser in southwestern Iceland. It was the first geyser described in a printed source and the first known to modern Europeans. The English word geyser derives from Geysir. The name Geysir itself is derived from the Icelandic verb geysa, "to gush", the verb from Old Norse. Geysir lies in the Haukadalur valley on the slopes of Laugarfjall hill, which is also the home to Strokkur geyser about 50 metres south.

We did not see The Great Geysir erupt, but we did see the Stokkur geyser a few times. Also hot steam vents all over the place.



Our last stop was Almannagia.
Canyon Almannagja in Iceland - the seam between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates.


Today we drove 290km.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 12:20 Archived in Iceland Comments (0)






A clear morning. After breakfast we drove back into town for a stop at the supermarket and to fill up with petrol.


Drove passed lots of glaciers all the way up to Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon- this is definitely the highlight of Iceland for me. Did not leave there until after 1pm. Saw a seal in the ocean. It was an amazing place. The giant blocks of ice that have broken off the glacier float around in the lake and as they break up and melt they drift out the river into the sea. Some of the icebergs are washed up on the beach where they continue to melt or get rolled around in the surf. Just incredible!

JOKULSARLON ; literally "glacial river lagoon" is a large glacial lake in southeast Iceland, on the edge of Vatnajökull National Park. Situated at the head of the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier, it developed into a lake after the glacier started receding from the edge of the Atlantic Ocean. The lake has grown since then at varying rates because of melting of the glaciers. It is now 1.5 kilometres (0.93 mi) away from the ocean's edge and covers an area of about 18 km2 (6.9 sq mi). It recently became the deepest lake in Iceland, at over 248 metres (814 ft), as glacial retreat extended its boundaries. The size of the lake has increased fourfold since the 1970s. It is considered as one of the natural wonders of Iceland.
The lake can be seen from Route 1 between Höfn and Skaftafell. It appears as "a ghostly procession of luminous blue icebergs".
Jökulsárlón has been a setting for four Hollywood movies: A View to a Kill, Die Another Day, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and Batman Begins, as well as the "reality TV" series Amazing Race. In 1991 Iceland issued a postage stamp, with a face value of 26 kronur, depicting Jökulsárlón.
The tongue of the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier is a major attraction for tourists.


Not long back on the road when the rain started that stayed with us all the way to Steiner, so did not see much else during the drive.

We ate lunch sitting in the car due to the rain in the carpark of a café where we used the toilet. A few minutes break in the rain gave us enough time to have a quick look at Kirkjugólfið.

Kirkjugólfið (The Church Floor) is in the field just east of Kirkjubæjarklaustur. It's an approx. 80 m² expanse of columnar basalt, eroded and shaped by glaciers and waves. There has never been a church there but the plane looks as though it's man made. Columnar basalt is formed when lava flow gets cooled and contraction forces build up. Cracks then form horizontally and the extensive fracture network that develops results in the six sided formation of the columns. Kirkjugólf is a protected natural

Just before we reached our accommodation we stopped at Skogafoss to view the waterfall in the rain. Lyn & I climbed the 500 odd steps to the top where the outlook would have been magnificent had it been a fine day. By the time we returned to the car we were both drenched.

Skógafoss is a waterfall situated on the Skógá River in the south of Iceland at the cliffs of the former coastline. After the coastline had receded seaward, the former sea cliffs remained, parallel to the coast over hundreds of kilometres, creating together with some mountains a clear border between the coastal lowlands and the Highlands of Iceland..


Today we drove 316km.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 12:01 Archived in Iceland Comments (1)



all seasons in one day



This mornings exit over the switchback road was much easier than yesterday as the sky was much clearer and there was no low clouds.

Today was again another day of amazing scenery (how many times can I say this?), sorry but it's true.

We continue on the Ring Road heading south, for most of the day hugging the east coastline which gave us a different awesome perspective to awe at.

More waterfalls, more sheep, more winding roads, more mountains, more amazing vistas. We stopped and had a walk on the beach, too cold for a swim!
And we spotted a reindeer!


Today we drove 281km.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 10:53 Archived in Iceland Comments (1)






We managed to get up a little earlier, there is a lot to see today and a bit of a drive to our next nights accommodation.
Before leaving Akureyri we filled the car up with petrol and headed out.


Our first stop was Godafoss. Although we have seen lots and lots of waterfalls in the distance falling off lots of mountains, this was the first big one up close. Although it was not a real high waterfall it was pretty impressive. Lucky for us the day is clear, ok it's overcast and a little cold, but it was still nice enough to spend a hour or so walking around looking at the falls.

The Goðafoss (Icelandic: "waterfall of the gods" or "waterfall of the goði") is one of the most spectacular waterfalls in Iceland. It is located in the Bárðardalur district of Northeastern Region at the beginning of the Sprengisandur highland road. The water of the river Skjálfandafljót falls from a height of 12 meters over a width of 30 meters. The river has its origin deep in the Icelandic highland and runs from the highland through the Bárðardalur valley, all the way from Sprengisandur in the Highlands. The rock formations in and around the waterfall make it one of the greatest natural wonders in Iceland.


Next stop was at the Skutustadagigar pseudocraters around Lake Myvatn.

A pseudocrater looks like a true volcanic crater, but is not. These distinctive landforms are created when flowing hot lava crosses over a wet surface, such as a swamp, a lake, or a pond causing an explosion of steam through the lava. The explosive gases break through the lava surface in a manner similar to a phreatic eruption, and flying debris builds up crater-like feature which can appear very similar to real volcanic craters. Pseudocraters are also known as rootless cones, since they are characterized by the absence of any magma conduit which connects below the surface of the earth.

A classic locality for pseudocraters is the Lake Myvatn area of northern Iceland that was formed 2,300 years ago by basaltic lava eruption. The lava flowed down the Laxárdalur Valley to the lowland plain of Aðaldalur where it entered the Arctic Ocean about 50 km away from Mývatn. There was a large lake in the area at the time, a precursor of the present-day Mývatn. When the glowing lava encountered the lake some of the water-logged lake sediment was trapped underneath it. The ensuing steam explosions tore the lava into small pieces which were thrown up into the air, together with some of the lake.


A little further around Lake Myvatn and we stopped to look at some lava pillars. One looked like a troll to me - especially the face part.


And continuing further we came to the Dimmuborgir lava field. Apparently Game of Thrones (never seen it) was filmed here.

The Dimmuborgir area consist of a massive, collapsed lava tube formed by a lava lake flowing in from a large eruption in the Þrengslaborgir and Lúdentsborgir crater row to the East, about 2300 years ago.[3] At Dimmuborgir, the lava pooled over a small lake. As the lava flowed across the wet sod, the water of the marsh started to boil, the vapour rising through the lava forming lava pillars from drainpipe size up to several meters in diameter.[4] As the lava continued flowing towards lower ground in the Mývatn area, the top crust collapsed, but the hollow pillars of solidified lava remained. The lava lake must have been at least 10 meters deep, as estimated by the tallest structures still standing.

The lava flow surface remains partly intact around the Dimmuborgir area, so that the Dimmuborgir itself sits below the surrounding surface area. The area is characterised by large hollow cell- or chamber-like structures formed around bubbles of vapour, and some dramatically standing lava pillars. Several of the chambers and pillar bases are large enough to house humans, giving rise to the term "castles" (borgir).


In the distance we could see Hverfell crater - it was massive. We could see little ant like movement on the rim of the crater and worked out that was people up there walking around.

Hverfjall (also known as Hverfell) is a tephra cone or tuff ring volcano in northern Iceland, to the east of Mývatn.
It erupted in 2500 BP in the southern part of the Krafla fissure swarm. The crater is approximately 1 km in diameter.


We stopped near a church to have lunch in the car as it was too cold to sit outside and we could not find a picnic table anyway. The church was built on the site of a wooden church that was miraculously saved from a lava flow many years ago. The harden, now cracked, molten lava flow still surrounds the church yard.


After lunch we had quite a long drive to reach the east coast and our nights accommodation. Dolly again did a marvellous job of driving even though she is not so comfortable with the distances, narrow roads and mountain ranges. All this on top of driving on the opposite side of the road to what she is accustomed to.

Along the roadside we came across a wonderful waterfall. These are in no short supply here in Iceland, but when we get the chance it's always worth a walk up closer.


The last stretch of the road that led us into Seydisfjordur, and our bed for the night, was in fact in the clouds. Followed by a very steep, switchback road down to the small harbour village. This was just amazing scenery, but a bit hair raising for our apprehensive driver.


This was the view from our guesthouse.


Total distance driven today 300km.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 16:39 Archived in Iceland Comments (1)






The plan was to get up at about 8 and be on the road at about 9ish, but that didn't happen. No-one set an alarm, so we had a late breakfast and left Hvammstangi at about 10.30am.


We again drove through some magnificent scenery again today. The sun was out all day, but the temp was lower than yesterday and each time we exited the warmth of the car we needed to put on a jacket, and hat, and scarf.

A banana break stop.

We only had about 200km to travel today, so a side trip detour off Highway One was taken to visit some turf houses in Glaumbaer.


Icelandic turf houses (Icelandic: torfbæir) were the product of a difficult climate, offering superior insulation compared to buildings solely made of wood or stone, and the relative difficulty in obtaining other construction materials in sufficient quantities.
30% of Iceland was forested when it was settled, mostly with birch. Oak was the preferred timber for building Norse halls in Scandinavia, but native birch had to serve as the primary framing material on the remote island. However, Iceland did have a large amount of turf that was suitable for construction. Some structures in Norway had turf roofs, so the notion of using this as a building material was not alien to many settlers.
The common Icelandic turf house would have a large foundation made of flat stones; upon this was built a wooden frame which would hold the load of the turf. The turf would then be fitted around the frame in blocks often with a second layer, or in the more fashionable herringbone style. The only external wood would be the doorway which would often be decorative; the doorway would lead into the hall which would commonly have a great fire. Another interesting aspect of the Icelandic turf house was the introduction of attached toilets, which were communal, and the act of going to the attached toilet was often done in large groups. The floor of a turf house could be covered with wood, stone or earth depending on the purpose of the building. They also contain grass on their roofs.

We took the long way back to re-join Highway One, stopping for a sandwich picnic lunch with a view.


The rest of the afternoon we drove north and again, still witnessed some magical scenery.


A quick visit to the supermarket for some dinner supplies before checking into our accommodation at about 4.30pm. We just relaxed for the rest of the afternoon/evening. Lyn cooked spag bol for dinner, thank god for share kitchens.


I went for a quick walk around outside before dinner and discovered we were surrounded by snow capped mountains.


Another great day in Iceland.

Today we drove 261km.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 17:18 Archived in Iceland Comments (0)



all seasons in one day



Somehow we managed to be down at breakfast by 8.30am. It was a help yourself buffet with cereal, toast, cold meats and cheese. We ate up a storm as this is the only free feed we would be getting on this whole trip.


We hung around in our rooms until it was time to check out at 12 noon, which was the time I had arranged with the car hire company to come and pick us up to collect the hire car. Orange Car Hire was late and at 12.15 we asked the B & B receptionist to give them a call and they advised they would be with us in 15 minutes.

30 minutes later the van arrived and we loaded our luggage and drove back to the Orange office. By the time the paperwork was completed and we had stored luggage we were leaving and loaded luggage into the car that we were taking it was 1pm. Dolly actually booked this car months ago when we were still at home and she agreed to drive. It was a bit of a nervy shaky start but we all survived the day and driving on the opposite side of the road to what we are all used to.

Our first stop was at Bonus supermarket for some dinner supplies as tonight we have accommodation with kitchen facilities. We tried really hard not to be shocked by the inflated prices as we knew they would be, but it was still hard not to be horrified by the price of some groceries. We ended up with a handful of vegetables and some chicken as it was the only meat we could afford. The shock of these items was enough for the first shop.


Next stop about half an hour up the road was IKEA. We always like to visit IKEA in different countries and I read that IKEA is where you can get the cheapest meal in all of Iceland. Not necessarily the best meal, but the cheapest. So we stopped took a photo and had meatballs and chips for lunch.
It tasted like it does everywhere, but the bill is still burning a hole in our wallets. ISK3955 = aud$49.90 - wow and this is the cheapest meal in Iceland? I think we will be taking full advantage of the kitchens on offer at our accomodations.


After lunch we continued north along the west coast heading to our accommodation for the night. We came to a tunnel that went under the water and realizing we did not have any local currency to pay the toll we decided to take the 80km detour around the bay instead. Dolly was a little horrified that it added so much mileage to her drive but we assured her it would be fine. And wow, the drive showed us some magnificent scenery which we would have missed had we taken the 5.7km toll tunnel.


It was about 8pm when we arrived at Hvammstangi Cottages - our home for the night. Our cabin is surrounded by magnificent scenery at the back of Hvammstangi village. The wooden structure is cosy and warm as we sat down for a cuppa and some of Robyn home made cake (which she brought with her from Australia).


What a great day, good driving Miss Dolly, we all made it in one piece. The weather was a little touch and go today, we had a few spots of rain, and the sky was mostly grey with patches of blue. Sitting in the car is warm, but getting out for photos is definitely chilly, but the wind was not too bad in the places we stopped so a light jumper was enough. After we arrived at the cabin, Lyn started dinner and I went out for a little walk to take some more photos and wished I had rugged up a little more as it was now 9pm and the temp had dropped. But I felt much warmer once I walked through the campground next to us and saw that some crazy people are actually camping on the ground in little dome tents. BRRRRR.

As I finish typing this the ladies are all in bed, I look out the window of our little wooden cabin and the surrounding hills are covered in low cloud or mist. I can see some close by houses have their lights on but it's still quite light outside. Its now 12.15am, there was no sunset today due to cloud cover, but it still does not look like its going to get very dark.

This place is amazing.

Distance driven 281km.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 14:03 Archived in Iceland Tagged keflavik hvammstangi Comments (1)






After a lot of creative packing last night we managed to get everything into our bags for the next leg of our journey.

Both Ian and Nanette drove us to the airport. Thank you again for having us stay with you , we had an amazing time.

Check in at the Icelandair desk went all smoothly, much to my relief, as this is still the most stressful part of travel for me. My bag weighed in at the heaviest at 22.8kg - but we were allowed 2 checked bags at 23kg each so all was fine. Baggage allowance to and from the USA is always very generous. Our flight out of Iceland is only 1 checked bag at 23kg, so lets hope I don't gain too much.

We are meeting up with our friend Robyn at the Keflavik airport in Iceland. Robyn is travelling from Australia and has been enroute since yesterday. Obviously Australia is a lot further away from Iceland than the East Coast of USA as we only have a 5-6 hour flight. Flight timings are good though as we all arrive within 30 minutes of each other - just before midnight - in Iceland. And by all accounts it will still be daylight.

Flight was ok, no food service on Icelandair, only softies and coffee/tea so I was happy we had a snack of Teresa's cutlets at the airport before we boarded the plane. Managed to watch a few movies, lucky we had brought our own earphones on with us otherwise would have had to pay 8 euros to buy a headset.


I watched the sun set from the plane as I caught my first glimpses of Iceland!

It was still very light when we exited the plane.


Collecting luggage and entry through immigration all went smoothly. Robyn was waiting for us as the meeting point which was a relief as she had a close connection in London. We waited about an hour for our shuttle bus to take us to the airport, all the while it was still light outside. Not as light as daytime, but like a late afternoon dimness.

I took a photo of the full moon outside our hotel window at about 2am and another photo at 2.15am when it seemed like it was starting to get lighter already. So strange, but cool at the same time. Speaking of cool, it was not too bad outside at the airport, about 10C, with no wind so bearable.


I had booked a quad room at Bed & Breakfast Keflavik Airport but when we checked in they advised there was a mistake and were we ok with 2 twin rooms. Hell yeah, at the same price. 200 euro = aud$300 for the 2 rooms, expensive as hell I know, but this is Iceland.


Although it was still early in US time we all decided to try and get to sleep as we needed to get up in local time in the morning, and poor Robyn who had been travelling for 30+ hours was well and truly shattered.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 03:32 Archived in Iceland Tagged icelandair Comments (0)





We catch an UBER to the airport, as today we are flying to Dulles Airport in Virginia. We will be spending time with more of Dolly's family which are very kindly putting us up for a few weeks.




We have just spent the most wonderful 16 days staying with Dolly's cousins in Woodbridge, Virginia, USA.

A giant thankyou and hug to Nanette and Ian. We invaded their home and have been spoilt rotten by their hospitality and generosity. We have had such a good time, lots of laughs, lots of drinks and they drove us hundreds of miles around the countryside to visit Virginia Beach and the never to be forgotten Intercourse.

Also a big thankyou and hug to Barney, Rehan and kids, Noreen, Lindsay and Nino for also sharing your time and hospitality with us. Dolly is lucky to have such amazing extended family who were generous also to welcome in Lyn and I. We had a great afternoon out with Lindsay to Great Falls, where I was able to test out my new camera and a monumental day (visiting the monuments) in Washington DC with Barney and Kyra.

Big hug to Teresa (for making the best cutlets in the world) & Uncle Don (who made the best shrimp dish I have ever eaten).

Thank you to Prudence and to Mandy & Andre, Farah & Angelo, who included us in their birthday celebrations, Jacinta & Patrick.

Everybody made us feel every welcomed, you are all such lovely people and we had a great time with you all.
(My apologies if I spelt anybody's name incorrectly or if I left anyone out).

Below are some photos of the highlights.



We spent the weekend at Virginia Beach, which is obviously a huge summertime/beach destination. The traffic was a nightmare and the drive took the good part of 4 hours. We booked a really nice hotel for the night to sleep the 5 of us, this is probably the nicest hotel we have stayed in this whole trip!



Lindsay took us for a afternoon drive to nearby Great Falls Park. It was late afternoon and a great opportunity for me to test out my newly purchased camera.

Great Falls Park is a small National Park Service site in Virginia, United States. Situated on 800 acres along the banks of the Potomac River in northern Fairfax County, the park is a disconnected but integral part of the George Washington Memorial Parkway. The Great Falls of the Potomac River are near the northern boundary of the park, as are the remains of the Patowmack Canal, the first canal in the United States that used locks to raise and lower boats.



We caught the train into Washington DC with Barney and Kyra for a hot day out visiting the main monuments.




Today we drove with Ian & Nanette from Virginia, through Maryland, into Pennsylvania to the Amish town of Intercourse.


Posted by Cindy Bruin 06:33 Archived in USA Tagged beach falls great virginia woodbridge intercourse Comments (1)





We collect a car from Lansing airport and spend the day driving down to Indianapolis to stay with Dolly's niece Michelle, who is originally from England but now has a family and lives in the USA. Hiring a car for the journey works out to be cheaper and a lot faster than paying for the 3 of us to go on a bus.



We spend the whole week doing absolutely nothing! and it was wonderful. We racked up hours and hours and hours of time watching Netflix and recharging our batteries.

Actually we did have a half day out when we walked along the Canal in the city.



A very big thank you to Michelle and Andy, Caleb & Oliver for allowing us to sloth around in your house for a week. This has recharged our batteries to continue our travels.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 20:42 Archived in USA Tagged indianapolis Comments (1)






We use the hire car as our transport to Miami Airport, where we are able to drop it off.

Flying from Miami to Detroit on Spirit Airlines, its a short 2 1/2 hour flight.


As usual there is a delay in collecting our luggage, but we finally get it and hop on the shuttle bus to take us to the city centre. The airport is quite a distance from the city and it takes almost as long in the bus as it did on our flight. We are deposited at the end of the line which thankfully is only a 10 minute walk to our hotel.


After check into our hotel Downtown Suites and Inn (sounds much more posh than it really is!) we head out to find dinner. Greektown is just a few blocks from where we got off the bus and we find a street full of Greek restaurants & bars. We choose one at random named Golden Fleece, and are pleasantly surprised by the list of food and the prices which are more favourable than our last two stops ie Miami & New Orleans. We enjoy a very tasty and reasonably priced dinner, Lyn & I share a quail meal and Dolly has fish & chips.

Old reflected in the new:



A free day in Detroit. Our main reason for this stop over is for Dolly to visit the Motown Museum so she googles how to get there on the bus and heads off on her own. She did manage to get to the museum with the assistance of a few friendly strangers and bus drivers. She thoroughly enjoyed her visit.

Lyn & I headed out in the afternoon for a walk along the river walk, where we could see Canada on the other side of the river. We also did a couple of laps on the Detroit People Mover which is a Raised Railway. This gave a birds eye view of the inner city.


Early evening we met up with Dolly and returned to the same Greek restaurant in Greektown. We enjoyed it so much last night rather than try somewhere else we just tried something else at the same place.

Flaming cheese:






Today we caught a Greyhound bus (US$11 each) from Detroit to Lansing. By car this would take 1 1/2 hours, the bus should have taken 3 hours but it took us just over 4 hours!

Waiting at the Greyhound bus terminal:



We are spending the weekend with our friends Renee (American) & Paul (Australian - trying to become an American) whom we met in 2009 when we were all travelling in Vietnam. Coincidentally, this is the same year we met Dolly in Cambodia! Anyway, we had not met up with Renee & Paul since the 2 days we shared a tour 8 years ago. Thank goodness for Facebook otherwise we would probably never stayed in touch all these years and we would not have been able to spend this weekend with them.

We had a great time catching up, eating and shopping. As much as Paul hopes so, I hope it will not be another 8 years before we see them again.

Paul & Renee: (sorry guys this was the only photos I had of you guys)


Paul cooked us some mean ribs - first smoked for hours then on the grill - TO. DIE. FOR.


I also ate GRITS for the first time ever and they were really good, but I think they may have had something to do with Paul's secret ingredient.


We stopped at a antiques yard sale where Lyn, Dolly & I had to stay behind while Renee & Paul ferried home their purchases. Although we are antiques, we were unsellable and they collected us on the way back.


R & P took us to a store where you could purchase just about any sort of gun you desire. Wow I was gob smacked at what was available in like a sports store. It was incredible.
There were huge displays in the store of a assortment of taxidermy animals that I guess were hunted at some stage. You could get all the equipment in this store if this was the pastime you wanted to pursue.


And we were taken to another amazing store called Horrocks Farm Market. Well this store is just indescribable. Suffice to say, if I ever return to Lansing I will be checking into the hotel that I spied across the road from this store as you can live off all the free tastings.


We even saw the Ghostbusters vehicle.


Big thanks to Renee and Paul for sharing their hospitality.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 20:19 Archived in USA Tagged detroit greektown lansing horrocks Comments (0)






Today we departed Miami and did the short flight to New Orleans. Although this is just a 2 hour flight it still seemed to take the whole day to travel the distance.

We had to drag our luggage a couple of blocks from the hotel to the airport bus stop and waited about 30 minutes for a bus to come. Although it takes a little longer its the cheapest way to get to the airport at less than US$2 each.


We had a feed of KFC at the Miami airport which was enough to feed us a few more meals during the following days (servings are huge in the USA) and then it was just waiting time for our flight.



The New Orleans airport shuttle bus took us to the beginning of the French Quarter where we thought we would be able to get another bus closer to where our hostel was. It was a hot day and by the time we walked a few blocks with our luggage trying to work out where to get the next bus, I suggested we just get a taxi and be done with it. It was not far so surely could not cost very much. It cost US$15 for a 3 minute ride and although we complained about the cost - it was actually worth it, being dropped right outside the door of Madame Isabella House Hostel. This is going to be our home for the next week. And quite an expensive home it is at US$156 per night for a triple private room. But hey, this is New Orleans and we are one block from the French Quarter. I had investigated extensively back at home and this was our best/cheapest option. Free breakfast included, and as we learned throughout the week there were a few other freebee's too that eased the price a little.

We were shown to our room which was rather small with one double bed and one single bed and the room had its own ensuite. It was Lyn's turn for the single bed so Dolly and I had to share the double bed and unfortunately it turned out to be the worst bed I have slept in all trip. Just crap!

Our first bonus was delivered to us straight away when we were advised there was free dinner at the hostel tonight - just because. This we welcomed as no one felt like going outside in search of food after a full days travel. The jambalaya (which consists of meat and vegetables mixed with rice) was hot & yummy and tasted even better cause it was a free meal.

Tomorrow we will go out and explore.


After our free breakfast of cereal, toast, tea & coffee we headed out into a sunny day to take a walk around the French Quarter.
This is our hostel:

The Esplande was the street that we had to cross to enter the French Quarter. New Orleans was full of these magnificent huge trees covered in Spanish Moss, just beautiful.


New Orleans is of course a tourist town which is evident by all the touristy souvenir shops.


I remembered a movie I had seen a little while ago that made mention of a famous café in New Orleans which served a famous French pastry, so the main objective today was to find this place. And find it we did, as did 100's of others. Café Du Monde.

The Original Cafe Du Monde Coffee Stand was established in 1862 in the New Orleans French Market. The Cafe is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It closes only on Christmas Day and on the day an occasional Hurricane passes too close to New Orleans.
The Original Cafe Du Monde is a traditional coffee shop. Its menu consists of dark roasted Coffee and Chicory, Beignets, White and Chocolate Milk, and fresh squeezed Orange Juice. The coffee is served Black or Au Lait. Au Lait means that it is mixed half and half with hot milk. Beignets are square French -style doughnuts, lavishly covered with powdered sugar. In 1988 Iced Coffee was introduced to the cafe. Soft drinks also made their debut that year.

Of course we had to try the famous Beignets - which were heavenly - and are very similar to a Dutch treat Olie Bollen (Oily Balls) that we were already familiar with.

Beignets were also brought to Louisiana by the Acadians. These were fried fritters, sometimes filled with fruit. Today, the beignet is a square piece of dough, fried and covered with powdered sugar. They are served in orders of three.


Having enjoyed our delicious indulgence we found a supermarket to purchase supplies for dinner back at the hostel.

Weather is beautiful here is New Orleans. You may all be surprised these blogs are not full of colourful drink photos from the streets of New Orleans. To tell the truth we are still in shock by the prices of bar/pub drinks and cannot bring ourselves to pay the price as such.


Today we did a free (tips only) walking tour. These walking tours are great and we have done them in many places, this one was no exception, it was lead by a lovely lady who was born and bred in New Orleans and was very knowledgeable. During the 2-3 hour walk she gave us many facts and figures regarding history etc which of course is very interesting at the time but is never retained.


By pure coincidence, (yeah right!) after the walking tour we managed to find ourselves outside the Café Du Monde, so when in Rome/New Orleans ...



Rained all day, so we had a total chill out day in the hostel doing absolutely nothing.


Sun came out again today so we headed out to ride the cable cars. We purchased a day pass that would let us hop on and off as we liked.


We walked down by the Mississippi River, just as a paddle boat cruised past. We had intentions of going for a cruise sometime this week, but just ran out of time.


In the park down by the river there was an Oyster Festival and we arrived just in time to watch the World Oyster Eating Competition. The tiny lady who won it ate 33 dozen oysters in allowed 5 minutes. OMG! that was incredible.



We rode another cable car that took us to a shopping centre where low and behold there was another Café Du Monde.


Fountain at Plaza de Espana.


We decided to hire a car for a couple of days so we could get around outside of New Orleans. The intention was to visit the Plantation Houses but we never actually made it to any of them due to bad weather and running out of time.

Today we (Lyn drove) went to Avery Island to the Tabasco Sauce factory.



Unfortunately, it poured down with rain for almost all of the drive out there. Not just a spatter, but heavy drenching rain. Luckily when we finally arrived at the Tabasco place the rain had eased a little so we could walk around the complex with our rain gear, but we were not able to tour the gardens or the rest of the island which is a wildlife/bird reserve.

Tabasco sauce is a brand of hot sauce made exclusively from tabasco peppers, vinegar, and salt. It is produced by McIlhenny Company of Avery Island, Louisiana. Although the name comes from the Mexican state of Tabasco, the sauce is an American product produced by McIlhenny Company.

There was a walk through museum telling the history of the famous sauce, which by the way is still owned and operated by the original family. Also this is the only place in the world where it is produced and bottled.


Very stylish in our Ikea rain gear. We then did a self guided tour that explained the growing of the chillies and the mixing processes etc. We got to peek inside one of the hold sheds where there were 100's of barrels stacked to the rafters. The recipe requires the mixture to sit and age for 3 years in these barrels.


Barrels of Tabasco aging for 3 years before bottling.



Another magnificent tree.

At the end there was a tasting room where we were able to taste all of the sauces they produce. There was also chillie dish (with minced meat) that we were able to taste test and it was so yummy we headed over to the restaurant to buy a bowl to have for our late lunch. But, alas, we were too late and the kitchen was closed so we missed out. At the tasting we were also able to try chilly ice cream and chilly soda. Honestly, these guys will add there product to anything so there is a product to please everyone.


Lifetime supply of sauces.

There was even a free gift at the end - a jar of chilly green beans - which we donated to Benny a guy working at the hostel.



We had the hire car for another day but the weather was crap so we decided not to go to the Plantation houses in the shit weather, instead just a drive down the peninsula to kill time. Fuel is so cheap here in the USA that it doesn't matter if you just drive around. Just as well as that is what ended up happening, I think we probably went the longest way around to get to where we intended to go. But like I said it didn't matter and the weather was pretty shitty so we would have just spent another day sitting in the hostel.

During the drive we happened across a Goodwill shop (op shop/charity shop) and we were able to pick up a few items that we wanted to get for our trip to Iceland later in our travels. ie Warmer clothing.

We also stopped at a supermarket to buy some picnic lunch supplies. I found some crawfish (aka yabbies/redclaw) for us to try. These were just US$2 for a small tray which was way cheaper than the restaurants in New Orleans were offering them for.

Lunch stop ended up just on the side of the road as we could not find any picnic / rest stop places.


With still hours of daylight and lots of fuel left we decided to take a drive over the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway.

The Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, sometimes only the Causeway, is a causeway composed of two parallel bridges crossing Lake Pontchartrain in southern Louisiana, United States. The longer of the two bridges is 23.83 miles (38.35 km) long. The southern terminus of the Causeway is in Metairie, Louisiana, a suburb of New Orleans. The northern terminus is at Mandeville, Louisiana.

Since 1969, it was listed by Guinness World Records as the longest bridge over water in the world; in 2011 in response to the opening of the allegedly longer Jiaozhou Bay Bridge in China, Guinness created two categories for bridges over water: continuous and aggregate lengths over water. Lake Pontchartrain Causeway then became the longest bridge over water (continuous)[3] while Jiaozhou Bay Bridge the longest bridge over water (aggregate).



Funny part was the causeway is a toll road from the North to the South only and as we had travelled from the South to the North we did not have to pay a toll. However, when we wanted to go back we realized between the 3 of us we did not have enough cash for the US$5 toll to return on the causeway. We had to drive back to New Orleans by the road around the lake.

Over the 2 days that we had the hire car we covered 612miles = 985 km for US$26.08 total for fuel.

We must have broken some record somewhere as being the only tourists ever to have visited New Orleans for a full week and never bought a drink in any of the bars!

Posted by Cindy Bruin 12:30 Archived in USA Tagged new orleans tabasco Comments (2)

2017 MAY & JUNE - U.S.A. MIAMI



I have been a little slack with the blogs since we arrived in the USA, due to many reasons which I'm sure you are not really interested in.
I am going to try and do a bit of a catch up now that I have some free time while spending time with Dolly's rellies and our travelling has slowed down a little.




WOW, how much of a culture shock was it arriving in Miami after being in the quite conservative Central America & Cuba. We are in Miami for Memorial long weekend and the freaks have come out to play. The sights on the streets of South Beach are boggling to say the very least. It doesn't matter what size you are, as it seems totally acceptable to walk the streets in your string bikini anytime day or night. And when I say size doesn't matter, I mean it. If you are a size 26 (XXXXXXXXL) and are happy to wear a size 12 bikini then you will blend in quite well with the pedestrian traffic. Although, I must say we only witnessed females in this state of undress. The men by their sides were fully clothed, except they all do like to wear their jeans with the belt sitting just under their arse cheeks, revealing full view of their designer underwear - not a good look. But hey good on them, and they strutted around the place like they were beauty queens, if you have the guts why not! Unfortunately, I did not get any photos of these sights as we were too gob smacked.

Not only were the fashions a culture shock for us, but after travelling through CM, the prices of food and drink in the US seem to be over the top. We were used to paying US$1-1.50 maybe up to US$2 for a beer and now the price of a beer was like US$6-7 & 8! Cocktails ran from US$15 to $60, yes, I'm serious US$60 for one drink. Considering the price of alcohol is pretty cheap here in the US there was just no rhyme or reason why the price of cocktails is sooo over the top. But this is Miami!

So, our hotel was much nicer than I expected. We had 3 single beds so that was a bit of treat also. Again the price is a shock of the room compared to what we have been paying the last 4 months is a little hard to get used to, but it will get easier the longer we stay in the US and get used to the prices here.

We have just 3 days / 4 nights here in Miami and I have pre-booked some day tours to do while we are here.

Today we did a 90 minute open top bus tour and 90 minute boat tour. Although these were only actually 3 hours in total, it took the whole day to do them. We were collected at the hotel at 9.45am and it was after 4pm when we finally walked back in the front door of the hotel.


Due to road closures in South Beach because of the long weekend the bus tour was changed slightly and we were driven through Winwood - a suburb where graffiti is legal and most of the building walls are covered with beautiful pictures.


We had a stop in Little Havana which because we had just come from Cuba knew it was nothing like the real Havana. We did learn however that 75% of residents in Miami are Cuban, and going by the neighbour hoods we drove through the Cubans that live here are the rich ones who managed to get out of their home country.

Lunch stop before we continued on the second half of the tour, which was a boat tour of the rich and famous. I tell you there is a LOT of money in Miami!


The weather was beautiful, hot and sunny.

Just after dark we went for a short walk to South Beach, and obviously the crowds had gone home.



Happy Birthday O!

Today our tour was a bus ride down the Florida Keys where we spent a very hot day in Key West. We were collected at 7.45am and returned after 8.50pm so it was a full and exhausting day, even though most of it was spent sitting in a coach.

I was all excited about tasting a key lime pie, but when we saw them in a bakery and were advised the price was US$36 I quickly lost my appetite for the overpriced dessert.

It was very hot as we walked around, but the town beach still did not look good enough to entice us in. After photos at the most southern point where if we looked hard enough we would be able to see Cuba which was just 90 miles across the water.



Our tour today was a trip to a gator park and a short ride on an airboat through the everglades. It was a bit disappointing as the boat was much larger than I imaged and the ride was only about 20 minutes. However, we did see an alligator in the wild and the boat pilot was a bit of a hoon and did spin the airboat out sideways a couple of times.

After the short everglades experience there was a short gator show with a very enthusiastic ranger, who was very paranoid about anyone coming within 3 feet of the fenced off gators.

For a couple of extra dollars we got to hold a baby gator, with it's mouth taped up. It was not a snake but still a bit cool.


Later in the day we went for a walk along the famous Ocean Drive, which is lined with overpriced restaurants and bars, which are in Art Deco Style buildings. This street reminded me of Napier in New Zealand which is also full of art deco buildings, but I must say Napier is not so tacky as Ocean Drive.
Along here the drinks were way over our price range so we just walked the length of the street, saw a few 'beautiful people' and a couple of fancy cars and then headed back to our hotel stopping at Subway for dinner. Anyone who knows me well enough would know I would usually boycott Subway at all costs, but it seems this is the only place we can afford to eat at in South Beach, so a crappy sandwich is a crappy sandwich.


So that was our few days in Miami. Weather was hot and sunny. Tomorrow we fly to New Orleans.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 16:43 Archived in USA Tagged new orleans miami Comments (1)







This morning we decided not to have breakfast at the casa, instead we wanted to have brunch at the Taverna across the road. The food there has been so good we wanted one last splurge. We waited until about 10.30 to head out only to be told that they were closed! What the??? Supposed to be 24 hours, but some guy was giving the tables a good cleaning so unfortunately, we could not have our planned brunch. Still hungry we went looking for somewhere else to have breakfast. Of course, we could find nothing open but were lucky enough to spot a guy on the street selling ham rolls. He had a leg of pork that he was cutting ham straight off the bone. 1 cuc each was our price, although I know for a fact the locals only pay a fraction of this price, but that’s how it is. It was still good value for us at 1cuc.

We ate them while slowly walking back to the casa. A taxi was due to pick us up at 12 so we wanted to be ready in time for that. We were actually ready ahead of schedule for a change and when the car showed at just before 12 we were set to go. Iris had come up to say goodbye and to collect our payment for the last 4 nights & breaky.

It’s only about 88km from Trinidad to Santa Clara (60 cuc private car) and I had read this is the nicest drive anywhere in Cuba. The sky was overcast when as we left Trinidad and we drove through just a sprinkling of rain on the way. The roads were through the hills which were green and lush looking, yes this was the nicest scenery we had driven through so far.


The driver was kind enough to stop just a little way outside Trinidad so I could get out and take a photo of the slave tower, before we continued on our way.


Almost instantly as we entered Santa Clara Provence the lush green rolling hills turned into, brown dry barren hills. It was uncanny the instant change in landscape.

Santa Clara looks like no other town in Cuba that we have been to. Hardly any tourists here, it’s a University town. Main reason for us being here is that we are flying out of the Santa Clara airport in few days, so no other plans really.

Our Hostal Vista Park (35cuc per night) is right on the central park, so a good location and we have 3 separate beds! It’s very hot here, not a skerrick of a sea breeze being so far inland. Perhaps that is why the landscape looked so dry and barren. After checking we stayed indoors and relaxed in our room until about 5.30 pm when it was a little cooler and we went out for stroll around. Like I said not much to see here, and we noticed everything is quoted in CUP (which is the local currency, which we don’t have) this is much different to the other towns we have visited.

Earlier on when I went up to the roof top to check out the view, I spied a hotel next door with a big inground pool. We might be paying a visit to this hotel tomorrow to see how much they charge to use the pool, we have a whole 2 days to kill.

We ate dinner in the casa, for 10 cuc each. I had pork and L & D both had chicken. The soup we had here is by far the best tasting soup we have had all trip! As usual there was too much food served to us, but we managed to force down the 3 scoops of ice cream they served us to finish the meal.




We had breakfast at the casa and quite frankly I am so over fruit & eggs and crappy coffee! But there is even less choice in this town than we have had in others. Not any tourists here, suppose it’s because there is not much to see or do here.

And it’s hot, very hot. We spent most of the day sitting in our air con room just biding time really. Only reason we are in Santa Clara is because our flight it out of here, could have easily just done one night or even just come from somewhere else as out flight is not until 6.24pm tomorrow night. But I guess this gives us some relaxing time before we hit Miami where we have a full 4-day itinerary already booked.

We did venture out of our room late afternoon when it was a little cooler. We walked to the only sight of note in Santa Clara the Che memorial. It was about 2km up a busy road, but we needed to give our legs a stretch and breath in some unfiltered air.

The monument is a giant statue of the man himself Che Guevara, and I’m afraid to say the artist commissioned to make the statue, did not, in my opinion do a very good job. A statue of a man with one of the most famous faces in the world would be a big challenge I guess, but this looks more like a statue of one of the characters in the Plant of the Apes. You know the old blonde one; Julius I think his name was. But, yes, just my opinion, but take a look at the photos below and decide for yourself.


Just a block from the memorial was a local roadside bar, so we rewarded ourselves with a cold beer before walking the 2km back to our aircon room.

Dinner again at the casa, food was good but again a change is needed.




Our last day in Cuba! Our last breakfast in the casa was of course the same, same fruit and eggs and crappy coffee.


Kids in the square were having rides in the back of carts being towed by goats.


Our flight is not until 6.24pm but when we asked the casa host to phone and check the time he advised us check-in was at 2pm at the airport. No idea if the flight time has changed or if we have to check in 4 hours in advance, either way waiting at the airport or waiting here at the casa makes no difference to us.

We went to the ATM for the last time to withdraw enough Cuban cash to pay the casa and for a taxi to the airport. We have just 10 cuc left to buy a drink or something at the airport.


Our host booked the taxi and advised it was an old American car – grande! And yes a big old bomb turned up and drove us the 30 minutes to the airport. Quite an apt way to exit Cuba!


We arrived at the airport very early and had to wait an hour before we could check in, turns out the flight time had not changed. Finally we were able to get rid of our luggage, get a stamp out of Cuba from immigration who checked our visa for the USA and we went to the departure lounge to wait our flight.

We had 10 cuc left over which was not enough for a drink for the 3 of us at the airport so we decided to blow the money on 3 hip flask size bottles of rum which was more than double the price of what we could have paid for them in a shop outside the airport, but here they were a 'special' duty free price. Don't understand how the duty free price is more than the shop price, but there it is.

It was still hot as hell as when we walked across the tarmac to board the plane. Thanks Cuba, we had an awesome time!


Firstly, I want to say I am looking forward to travelling in a country where the first language is English. Not that language or lack of local language is usually a problem for us when travelling, but after so many months it will be nice to just be able to ask for something without having to do some kind of mime or sign language to describe what we want.

I must admit I have enjoyed the last 3 weeks in Cuba, much more that the 3 months we travelled in Central America. Not that our experience in Central America was bad (except for a few unfortunate events) but it just did not have the ‘WOW’ factor that I thought it might. No way do I regret any of our travel through Latin America, but I’m also not quick to add it to my list of places to return to.

Besides a few extraordinary places that stood out ie starfish beach in Bocas, seeing a sloth on the side of the road & our jungle experience in Nicaragua, I’d say the whole adventure lacked something.

Food was for the most boring and monotonous, although we never went hungry. And I have to admit we enjoyed many a beer and rum along the way. Scenery was fabulous in some places and nothing in a lot of others. Beaches were mostly crap, but the rest of the world has a lot to live up to as we spoilt by Australian beaches. One thing, beside the arseholes who mugged me, the people in all these countries overall where really lovely and generous with their patience. Most going out of their way to help and assist us when most of the time they had no idea what we were saying or wanted. Who comes to Latin America with absolutely no Spanish at all? Sure, we were probably ripped off on heaps of occasions, but such is life. I detest the 2-tiered payment system, where there is one price for locals and triple the price for tourists but what can we do? Live with it or not come, or learn the local language enough to be able to pay the local prices.

Cuba has been a lot of fun. I’m not quite sure what I was expecting here, but it sure as hell makes you realize how lucky we are at home. Next time I walk into a simple supermarket with selves packed to the rafters I hope I take a second to remember what the people here in Cuba don’t have. And the fact we have such a variety of food and everything on hand, a real eye opener.

I am so glad we did Cuba after Central America and not before as I would have been even more disappointed in the other countries.

So that is the end of this phase of our travels. Fingers crossed I have no problems getting into the USA with my temporary passport and very expensive US visa.


Posted by Cindy Bruin 22:37 Archived in Cuba Comments (0)







Our last breakfast on the back patio, it was a little windy today and the water was choppy. Still a great way to start the day and we finished packing our bags after breakfast.
A blue car arrived just before 11am and there again was the initial panic that we had in Havana worried that the luggage would not fit in the boot. Again, after a little manipulation and lots of pushing and shoving the driver did manage to get the 5 big bags in the back. Hugs farewell to our hosts and we piled into the big blue Chevvy (see am getting better at car identification) with the remainder of our luggage jammed between our legs.
Our drive to Trinidad today was only 80km and took just under 1.5 hours and costs 50cuc for the 5 of us. We were on back roads today, not the main highway, with the second half of the journey hugging the coast which gave us periodically glimpses of the sea and a few beaches along the way. Entering Trinidad, we were immediately taken back to Antigua in Guatemala, with the coloured houses and cobbled streets. But here is a little rougher and not as well restored as Antigua, but still a nice feel immediately.
Our Hostel de Tayaba is probably the oldest casa we have stayed in. We have a couple of small rooms in the back of a big old house full of old niknaks @ 35cuc per night. Our host Iris was there to meet us with her 2-month-old baby. She spoke good English and took our passports to register us and then explained a few tours that were available. The meals on offer at this casa are the most expensive we have been offered so we decided to look around to see what the food outside was like. L, D & I did however say we would take the 5 cuc breakfast in the morning as it is always the same and pretty good value.
It was another hot sunny day and as we exited the casa for a look around it was suggested we find a place to have a cold beer. Unfortunately, the places closest to our casa only sold Crystal beer, which we decided is yuk so we continued to walk until we found a place that sold the much-preferred Presidente beer (from Guatemala). It was a nice bar and we had not asked the price of the beers so got a little shock when we went to pay the bill and found they were 2.50 each! Most expensive we have paid in Cuba. But, it was very hot, the beer was cold and we did desperately want a drink so we justified the price but vowed never to go there again!
A little refreshed we continued our walk around the town. This is a touristy place, so lots of shops and stalls selling tourist junk and good stuff. And we discovered there were lots of restaurants offering meals cheaper than our casa so we will probably be eating out rather than in. We looked at a couple of places to have lunch then came to the Plaza Major Restaurant that was offering an all you can eat buffet. We had not seen this anywhere in Cuba so decided to go inside and have a look. The food looked ok, and the price was only 10.50 cuc per person. The sight of roast pork, potatoes and ice cream was enough to win us all over, and then we were advised the price included a beer and yes, they had Presidente!
For the next hour or so we all pretty much sat stuffing ourselves with pork, potatoes, chicken and ice cream – it was almost like heaven.
After our huge middle of the day meal we needed to rest. It was still so hot and we managed the short walk back to our rooms and all passed out for a few hours. Not used to eating so much in the middle of the day.
Around 6.30pm we stirred again, the blue sky had turned to a dark cloudy threatening rain colour. We headed out in search of a supermarket to get some rum supplies (mixer). On the way, we found a bar (hole in the wall) offering cocktails for 1 cuc each. Pina coladas all round for us girls. Must admit the drinks were very light on the rum, but the icy mixer part was yummy. From what I could see when I watched the barman it was a mixture of condensed milk and pineapple juice, lots of ice and water, and a quick wave of the rum bottle over the top. Like I said not real strong on the rum, but nice enough that we had a second one on the way back.
We found the supermarket but it was closed and the one next to it did not sell cola, so will try tomorrow. We saw a guy selling pulled pork rolls on the street for 1 cuc, which we will keep in mind for another day, as we had some pork that Lyn stole from the lunch buffet to have for a dinner picnic. We just needed to find the guy with the white sack selling bread rolls door to door. Luckily enough we managed to run into him on our way back to the square and we purchased 2 rolls from him for 25c each. Dinner sorted.
Our plans to have a picnic on the church steps was kyboshed when the temperature dropped and the sky turned black. Best to head back to our casa and have our picnic there so we can dash inside when it starts to rain. We made it to about 5 minutes before finishing when the rain started. It wasn’t very hard and we managed to scramble under the roof overhang to finish dinner. So no going out to party for us tonight, not in the rain.
Our shower was cold, it does have a heater attached but did not seem to work. Been a while since we had a cold shower, but it was not too bad as the air was still pretty hot.
Hope the weather clears for tomorrow as the plan is to go to the beach.



Woke up to a brilliant blue sky so looks like our plans to go to the beach will be safe. L, D & I had breakfast on the terrace at the casa. Same, same breakfast is getting a bit monotonous now! Although the fruit is still delicious, the strong coffee I can almost live without. Stale bread and deep fried eggs are all that is still on offer and frankly I’m only eating it because there is nothing else on offer. The fresh juice is still ok, today was tamarind, a flavour we have not yet been offered, and it was quite nice.
Shawn has decided to give the beach a miss and stay behind and read his book, so it’s just us ladies off to the seaside. We walk down to the main street outside the old quarter of Trinidad and its only seconds before we are asked for a taxi. Yes, please. Wait here I get my taxi. No worries. We were advised by our casa host that the fare is 2cuc per person each way to the beach and the driver does not request any more.
Playa Ancon is only 12km away so it’s a short drive and thank goodness as we are squashed into a modern car – by modern I mean a Russian born Lada sedan.
At least the beach is not disappointing, with white sand and clear waters. Must admit it’s not as pristine as the first one we went to near Vinales but this is still nice. After we commandeer a palm leaf shelter to stash out belongings, L, D & I head straight to the water while Toni lazed in the shade watching out stuff, preferring not to enter the water.
The sea temperature is warm enough to get straight in, yet cool enough to be refreshing. There was a slight ripple as we lol in the salty water. After little while Dolly claims one of the sunbeds that dot the beach, there does not seem to be anyone collecting money for the use of these and there are many that are not being used. Lyn, Toni & I take a long walk up the beach, beyond the flash Hotel Ancon where the sand stays white but the weed in the water grows thicker. A local on the beach tries to sell Lyn a giant shell, which he quickly snatches off her and hides in the sand when it looks like someone official is coming up the beach. He is also hiding a bag of lobsters that he has caught. I’m not sure if this surrounding area is a marine park where perhaps he was not supposed to be taking anything from the water, but he sure looks cagey. He is gone by the time we return to this part of the beach – yep definitely dodgy.
Playa Ancon is a huge sand spit peninsula and beyond the flash hotels there seems to be nothing so we just walk for another 20 minutes and then turn back and walk back to where Dolly is waiting for us laid out on the sunbed like the queen of Sheba!
Another swim to cool off after our walk, Toni again passes on going in the water. Then Lyn & I procure a couple of beds too, as no one has come to Dolly requesting payment. It’s hot and I can only lay in the sun for 15 minutes before again needing a swim.
It’s just after 2pm now and we don’t want to push our luck with trying to get a taxi to return to Trinidad, there is one waiting so we decide to hear back into town. Again, a short ride back and the few hours on the beach have totally exhausted us. L, D & I stop at a café for a sandwich and some chips and Toni returns to take Shawn for some lunch. After we had eaten we return to our room for a shower and then we all crash – this short excursion and the heat has taken it out of us. At about 4ish we met in the courtyard of our casa and had a few farewell drinks. Dolly & I managed to polish of ½ bottle of rum – well done!
It’s our last night together with the Lemons so we agreed to meet up for dinner. They head off back to Havana tomorrow morning for their early flight to Mexico and home the next day. The bar across the road was the plan, Lemons had been there for lunch and recommended it, but so had the latest Lonely Bastard (you could tell by the book carrying tourists waiting outside) and the place was packed. We then just about did a lap of the town looking for a dinner alternative. The place we settled for still had a 15-minute wait but the salad bar that came with the meals which were 7-8 cuc seemed like a bargain. It was the ice cream that sealed the deal, only for there to be none left by the time we finished our meal. While in line I got chatting with a couple from Namibia (white) – interesting first Namibians I have met outside of Namibia. They were impressed that I’d been to their country. And, stood chatting with two English sisters who I invited to share our table for dinner. Dolly was in heaven as usual when meeting fellow countrymen/women and it was nice for them to have others to chat with. The food was good, but I was disappointed when the ice cream ran dry. Only 2 containers per seating was the response when I complained. Ah well, this is Cuba, you soon learn to live with food restrictions.
It was after 10pm when we returned to our room, a late night for us.



Anther perfect blue sky dawned, we were up early to see the Lemons off in their collective taxi. I don’t envy them in that little car all the way to Havana, but it must be done and they will be fine.
We hugged and then waved them goodbye as the little car took them down the cobbled stone road – and then there was 3 again!
We had no plans for today, so had a leisurely breakfast before heading out in the heat to explore some more of Trinidad. I am surprised we lasted out on the streets as long as we did as it was very hot out there again today. As luck would have it we stumbled across the Cadeca money change place, which we needed but were not really looking for. We purchased from the Lemons their extra Canadian currency as we have used up all of ours and still have a couple of days in Cuba where we obviously need cash. We had a street ice cream on the way and when Lyn suggested we stop at the bar across from our casa for a cold beer that the Lemons had recommended our radar zoned in on the right direction and we were soon waiting in line for a table. Yes, this place is always crowded with everyone having to wait for a table, and yes it was worth the wait. The beer was cold and served in cold pottery cups and the meals were reasonably priced. Dolly & I had a pizza and Lyn had a vegie salad with pork which she managed to scoff down before I had a chance to take a photo. With a couple of beers each this come to just over 21 cuc which is good.
After lunch, we retired to our casa across the road and we all crashed. It’s just too hot to go outside so an afternoon nap was just what was needed obviously as we all had a little sleep.
We had a date to meet with Jac & Trish across the road for dinner at 7pm, so there was still time this afternoon for Dolly and I to polish of ½ a bottle of rum to get the ball rolling. Lyn had a beer.
I went and stood in line at about 6.30 and it was around 7 when we were seated, the English ladies did not show until 7.30 but that was ok, we had a table big enough for them. The food at was good, I had a serrano ham tapa for 5 cuc which was a bargain. Dolly went for a soup, and Lyn did a repeat on the pork vegie salad. We all had a cold beer served in the pottery cups. There was a guitarist and singer to entertain us and just after our food was served the 2 ladies showed up. They got a little lost finding the place again. They ordered food which came quick and we had another beer, outstaying everyone else at the surrounding tables.
After dinner we went for a little walk into the centre just to get a bit of exercise after eating then meandered back to our room. It was about 11pm when we hit the sack with was very late for us.



It was a lazy day today. Plan was to go to the beach again, but after the downpour of rain I heard last night and the cloudy sky that we woke up to we decided against it.
When travelling for so long it’s nice to have a luxury of having a very lazy day, doing nothing and not feeling guilty.
We trundled up the steps to the terrace around 11am to have breakfast, which did not seem to be a problem.
We forced ourselves to go out to find some cola to drink with the remaining rum later and sus out the transport for our next destination.
Returning to our casa we had lunch of left over pizza from lunch yesterday and we finished off the last half of the bottle of rum.
Our last night in Trinidad and we were back at Taberna La Botija across the road for dinner. Jac and Trish met us there for their last dinner in Trinidad also. This place has served us the best food (maybe it’s the best because it has been different from the usual food on offer in Cuba) we have had all trip. Although I will go so far as to say the best food as the serrano ham dish was magnificent (mainly because it contained serrano ham which I thought I would have to wait until we got to Spain to enjoy).
We had a pleasant evening, bidding the English ladies goodbye and promising (threatening) to visit them next time we were in their neighbourhood. Jac lives in Aspen, Colorado, USA and Trish lives in Sidcup, Kent, England.
Before heading back to our room I walked down the road to see Iris our host and ordered a car for tomorrow, to take us to Santa Clara our last stop in Cuba.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 08:20 Archived in Cuba Comments (1)







Breakfast – will be missed, the food, the view, and the lovely host Osmara. We all had breakfast together enjoying our last morning in Playa Larga. Our transfer car arrived just before 9am – a bright yellow station wagon of some descript, with an extra row of seating in the back, back. Enough room for us and all our luggage to travel to Cienfuegos in comfort.
It was a short highway drive, passing a lot of sugar cane fields. As always, the highway was deserted and we made the trip in just on one & a half hours. Our casa is in Punta Gorda, which is a thin spit peninsular just 3 km out of Cienfuegos town centre. There was a little mix up at our arrival at Hostal Sunset as they only expected 4 of us, so we had to wait for another bed to be put in the triple room. The hosts here are wonderful too, serving us the most delicious coffee and fresh mango juice on the back patio as we waited for the rooms to be ready. Rooms here are 35cuc per night.
We are on the thin part of the peninsular, with the water lapping the back patio and water in the front on the other side of the road. Double water frontage – very nice. It was very hot so we all decided to have a bit of a time out and go for a walk with it cooled off a bit.
At about 4 L, D & I headed out to have a bit of a look around our local neighbourhood. There are a lot of Grand old mansions here that are now converted to hotels and casas, lots of French influence here in the buildings. Some also look rather art deco – retro. The buildings here really do match the old American cars that are parked in front of them.
In our travels, we found a water side bar that was selling beer for 1.50cuc, good price for us so stopped to have a cold one. Dolly was feeling a little off, she has somehow thrown her back so she headed back to the room for a rest. Lyn & I continued and ran into the Lemons who had found a supermarket for home beer supplies. We grabbed a six pack and some cola to mix with our rum and walked home the long way, arriving back at the casa just a little before our 7pm dinner was ready.
This was another very good meal. Borchetta for starter, then vegie soup, mains, fruit and ice cream. Toni & I had the lobster, which was the best I had eaten so far, Lyn had turkey (which she thinks was chicken), Shawn & Dolly had chicken (although Dolly had ordered beef). Meals are just 12cuc here so very good value. We ate outside on the back patio and managed to dodge the rain even though the sky was fairly dark. There was a nice breeze there also.
Tomorrow we shall explore some more.



L, D & I had breakfast at the casa on the back patio. There was a little bit of a breeze but the day looked like it would be another good one. Breakfast was the same as we got at the other casas: fruit (to die for), coffee and they had black tea, toast and eggs. Fresh fruit juice, today was mango, yum and a little sweet crepe to finish off. Again, a great deal for just 5cuc each. So nice not having to go looking for our meal first up.
We need to go into town to change money, so we decided today we would do that and have a look around the centre, maybe do a little shopping then catch the ferry to Castillo de Jagua, which is a small village across the lake with a fort/castle. We walked a couple of blocks to the main road and waited for the local bus to take us into the centre. Taxi and bici taxi drivers stopped to hassle us to take a ride but we were determined to take the local bus, which was going to cost us just 5 cents each, and we still pay more than double what the locals do. We did not have to wait too long for a bus to collect us and 30 minutes later when we reached the centre, which was just 4 km away, we were glad we were at the beginning of the line and had a seat as the bus was full to overflowing by the time we wanted to get off. Today is all about getting up close and personal with the Cuban people.
We found the pedestrian shopping street and discovered this had the most shops we had seen anywhere in Cuba to date. There were still a few scantily stocked supermarkets, but other shops seemed to have a good amount of stock. We saw souvenir shops, lots of shoe shops, clothing stores and electrical goods outlets. We browsed a few of the shops dodging a light shower of rain which did not really amount to much. Heading in the general direction of the ferry, another pedestrian street had market kiosks lined down it where we managed to make a couple of purchases.
At the local ferry, we thought we were getting in early having arrived 25 minutes before the departure time of 1pm, but the locals knew better already occupying all the seats on the ferry long before we arrived. Toni & Dolly managed to wangle a pozzie on the steps, but the rest of us had to stand with the crowd for the 20 minutes before departure and the 1 hour boat ride to Castillo de Jagua. This really was up close and personal with the locals. There were a couple of other stops on the way which helped with a thinning out of the crowd.
At 2pm we arrived at our destination and was met by a restaurant tout who tried to coax us into her establishment for a refreshment. First, we look at the castle then we come for a drink we advised her. The castle/fort was just a 3-minute walk up hill from where we got off the ferry and it took all of 3 minutes to have a look around it. There was a 5cuc entrance fee for the museum which we decided not to take up, instead heading back down the hill in search of a cool drink. Our tout was waving us in the right direction and we took up seats in a nice place overlooking the water where we were able to watch a cruise ship navigate its way out of the bay.
The beer was cold and only 1.50cuc – it was Mexican SOL. After eyeing the food that was being served and eaten at the table next to us we ordered food as well. Dolly ordered a banana sandwich much to the waitress’s disbelief and the rest of us shared a seafood paella, which was divine. With another beer, we managed to gobble down the food just in time to walk down to the ferry dock to wait for the soon due 3pm ferry back to town.
A small boat was picking up the family that was sitting next to us in the restaurant and due to a little misunderstanding about our destination we found ourselves aboard and being taken just 100m across the water. When it was worked out where we actually wanted to go the boat owner said it was not possible so they took us back to the next village where the ferry was due to stop. It was a funny little trip, where in the 12 minutes we were all in the little boat we managed to do a round of swigging out of a rum bottle. Like I said, up close and personal with the locals.
The ferry ride back to town seemed to go much quicker, perhaps due to the fact we all had seats this time as there was only a small number of passengers on the return journey.
Back on dry land we walked the few blocks to Jose Marti square and while Toni & Shawn returned to the market for some more money spending, L, D & I headed for the nearest café to have a cold beer. We had to hang around for a few moments for a table to vacate and pounced as soon as one became available. Halfway through our first beer 2 ladies stood looking just as we had for a spare table and I invited them to join us as there were a few spare chairs. Funnily enough they were Australians! We enjoyed an hour or so chatting and comparing travel experiences.
Time to head back to the casa as we had ordered dinner for 7pm and it was now after 6. We stood at the bus stop for ages and the bus did not come. Our new friends, who were staying just a few doors down from us decided to take a taxi which was only 2cuc, they took Dolly in the car with them. The rest of us started to walk in the direction of home and then of course the bus came, so Toni just about threw herself in front of it to make it stop at a non-bus stop spot. I paid the drive 25c for the 4 of us!
Dinner on the back patio, it was not as windy as yesterday, so most enjoyable. I had the chicken, Dolly had a very well done & thin steak, Lyn & the Lemons going for the lobster. Nice meal finished off with fruit and ice cream.
Showered and just about ready for bed, our new friends from us the road came down and we had a beer with them out the front of the casa.
Another great day in Cuba!



L, D & I had breakfast again on the outside patio. It was very overcast this morning, not much sun around at all. We had planned on a trip to the beach but after Eduardo, our host, confirming it was going to rain today we decided to have a rest day instead.
By early mid-morning / early afternoon it was starting to clear and a bit of sun was starting to show through so it was then there was a change of plans and a taxi was organized to take us to the fauna reserve to go see the flamingos. An old yellow car showed up to take us but it had bucket seats in the front so was not able to take 5 passengers. There was a mistake made when ordering it, but not to worry, just one phone call and 5 minutes later we had a blue car big enough for all of us. The agreed price was 20 cuc to take 5 of us there and back, so 4 cuc each.
The reserve was only about a 15-minute drive away and we arrived around midday. There was 10 cuc entry fee, which seemed a bit steep in the scheme of things, but that what they asked for. A short 5-minute walk with a guide who pointed out a tree that grew maracas (or at least the fruit used to make them) and we saw a mocking bird flitter around too quick to photograph. Lots of termite nests all over the trees which she told us are a pest and kill a lot of the trees but because they are in the nature reserve they are not allowed to get rid of the termites, so they just keep replanting trees where the ravenous ants have killed them. Seemed a little silly to me, but she said everything is protected in the park including the termites. We were told about the land crabs and sea crabs that are apparently here in abundance and both species grow to a good eating size and can be eaten, unlike the last lot of crabs we saw at Playa Larga which were toxic. Interesting to note we only saw very small crabs here today, I guess even in a protected area the large ones magically disappear into someone’s crab dinner. The guide assured us they were very tasty so I have no doubt she protects the big crabs around here, protects them all the way to the dinner plate. Lol.
The short nature walk brought us to the lagoon where we were then transferred into little fibreglass dinghy’s. L, D & I in one, the Lemons in another and a French couple in a third. Each of us had a poor sucker who had to paddle us the 1 km across the lake to see the flock of pink flamingos. The lagoon was not very deep, with the oar sometimes churning up the dirty bottom it was that shallow.
The lovely flamingos where a sight to behold, probably a flock of about 30ish. We could not get too close as they would just fly away, but close enough to take zoomed in photos. And I did get a good video of them taking off and flying past us when our boat rower, Walter, moved a little closer. Money’s worth right there!
One the way back to the dock, Walter went in close to the mangroves and got out to find us a couple of oysters which were growing in/on the mangroves. He had told us earlier that he earned 10 cuc per month doing this job of rowing tourists out on the lake. 10 cuc per month is equivalent to US$10 per month!! Guess he lives off tips and this was a great way to remind punters to tip. Whether it was a hint or not, we were happy to give him a 5 cuc tip when he returned us safely to the shore. Any poor bastard who had to row us 3 lard arses around for an hour deserves to get have a month’s wage in tips we reckon.
The short walk back to the taxi was hindered by a downpour of rain. We all donned our IKEA rain capes, Lyn and I a similar colour to the flamingos we had just seen and the Lemons a boring shade of black. Dolly had decided against bringing a rain coat as I think she likes to be reminded of London every now and then and get caught in a rain shower. Ah yes, and Toni was limping back as she’d had a thong blowout!
We waited a few minutes under the shelter for the worst of the rain to fall and then piled back in the taxi. The beach we planned on visiting was only just a couple of km’s up the road so we asked the driver to take us there for a quick look. Even with the crappy weather the beach did not look so fantastic. The sea was a little rough due to the wind, but there was no inviting white sand like in the pictures so we were glad we did not miss out on much due to the bad weather. The taxi dropped us back at our casa where we had a little rest before heading out again about 4pm.
The Lemons were AWOL having headed back into town for more shopping? We were going to just go for a beer at a local bar, but ended up getting on the bus into town because the bus was there. The closer we got to the centre the heavier the rain got, so by the time our stop came up it was pissing down. To shelter from the rain, we headed into the nearest restaurant thinking we may as well eat and get out of the rain. The beer was cold but the food was rough. Dolly ordered chicken and was served a dinosaur sized drumstick and thigh which had been deep fried to within an inch of existence. Lyn and I ordered pork and I’m not sure what the hell we were given but I was tempted to check the waiter’s shoes for missing soles. This meat did not resemble anything, I broke a fork trying to cut it and a serrated knife did nothing after 8 minutes of sawing! I called the waiter and sent my back and he brought me another piece of cremated chicken with was at least possible to eat. Somehow Lyn managed to cut her ‘meat’ but I think she may still be trying to chew it into something that she can swallow. Like I said the beer was cold!
After we had eaten at least the rain had eased so we walked a couple of blocks down to the ice cream shop. This was another overpriced disappointment and the guy at the door looked at me with astonishment when I said it was not good on my way out. If we all survive todays meal without any repercussions we will be lucky.
It was after 6pm by now and although the sky was dark it was still daylight so we decided to walk the 3km home to try and get our bodies to start to digest the ‘food?’ we had just eaten.
Back in the comfort of our room at the casa we decided to have dinner in tomorrow night to avoid any duplication of this evenings little error.
We spend a little while playing UNO, the Lemons made an appearance, meaning they were found, and the sun set in a very overcast sky. Not sure what the weather forecast for tomorrow is but it is not looking too good.



Another nice breakfast, mango juice is divine. We tried for soft boiled eggs but they came out hard but never mind.
We had a fairly lazy day today. The Lemons headed out early but we lingered around and we were heading out into the heat when they came walking back to escape the heat. All the rain from yesterday was rained out and the sky today was blue with a couple of non-threatening fluffy white clouds overhead. And the temp was up somewhat.
We walked the couple of blocks to the bus stop just as the bus was arriving, so that was good timing. Paid our 5c each and stayed on the bus to the end of the line, just to see where it would go. It ended at a suburban estate the other side of town, where there were streets and streets of high rise government housing. The bus driver looked a little confused that we had stayed on the bus, however with sign language we managed to convey that we just wanted to have a look, he smiled and made a gesture that we need to pay again if we wanted to ride the bus back into town. I think we managed to scrape together another 15c and we stayed seated and enjoyed the 10 minutes back into the centre.
The walking street was deserted, due to the midday temperature I think. We shop hopped, browsing anything that had aircon. Stopped for a cold beer 2 cuc and a ham & cheese roll 2 cuc in a little arcade for lunch. It really was too hot to be out and about and we had just about seen everything in town anyway. Dolly purchased a new nighty in a sparsely stocked haberdashery store for a cool 5 cuc. We walked down the street with the market stalls and even the kiosk owners seemed to be happier to stay sitting in the shade rather than hassle us to buy anything. I did manage to find a Cuba hat for my flatmate at a price I was happy to pay. Have been looking since Havana, guess the shop owner here just couldn’t be bothered.
Down near the water at the end of the market street there was a bar where we had another cold beer 2cuc, must keep hydrated in this heat, then we decided to return to our casa where we could have a swim in the bay to cool off a little. Unlike yesterday, it was too hot to walk the 3km home so we started negotiations with any form of taxi that was on offer. The bici taxis can only carry 2 persons so that was out as there was 3 of us and to pay 2 is too much. The horse and cart guys wanted 2 cuc each, ha, not bloody likely sunshine. Some old guy in a beat up old red American car put his hand up and when I offered 2 cuc for the 3 of us he was keen. So, we climbed into his heap (big red Buick, I think it was) and he drove us to our casa. Happy to do so for 2cuc.
Within minutes of returning we had changed into our togs and were in the bay at the back of the casa. The water was lovely and warm, yet still refreshing. The Lemons joined us in the water as they had not yet cooled off from their earlier walk.
We all had dinner together at the casa tonight, our last night in Cienfuegos. It has been another great couple of days in another great place in Cuba. Tomorrow we move on to Trinidad, just 80km away.
After dinner, we all enjoyed a beer (me a Cuba Libre aka rum & coke) out the front enjoying the somewhat cloudy but colourful sunset.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 21:26 Archived in Cuba Comments (0)

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