A Big MAC Attack when Traveling Abroad

In the States we rarely eat at fast food joints.  So for us to have a craving for fast food while on our voyage  was a surprise.  I wonder if it was really a craving or just the need to be in a familiar setting…even in a corporate chain of greasy eats like a McDonalds.

The exterior of the franchise with it’s infamous yellow arches, look the same as in the States but some of the menu options do vary from country to country.

  • In Bali they offered a side of white rice in place of fries.
  • In Italy you could have red wine with your Big Mac.

Sometimes there were slight differences in the ambiance

  • Tahiti’s Micky Ds was next to a shore-line park with a beach that had a few topless sun bathers.  Looking past the distracting pink nipples, the island Moorea (pronounced in the local dialect as Mo-Oh-Ray-A) was our backdrop.  The mighty land mass supports powerful peaks and holds an aura of tranquility.
  • Thailand had a life-sized, plastic Ronald McDonald in a traditional Thai greeting posture.  It’s obvious that Ronald is a happy international traveler.

I agree with most travelers that look down at visiting American Fast-Food chains while traveling abroad.  Try the local cuisine and break out from what you are comfortable with.  Yet as a traveler that was away for many years, sometimes the urge for the taste of home takes over…plus it’s a good way to get free WI-Fi.

Before The Boat –

I had been thinking about a way out.  Even after tossing around the idea for a while, neither of us would commit.

 Finally it was the candle party I hosted that became the catalyst, and put us in motion to pursue our dreams.

It was the kind of candle party a woman feels obligated to attend, because the host had gone to her party.  The problem is, once you begin the hosting circuit, it turns into a reciprocating suffocating cycle of cooking and lingerie parties that eventually evolve into innocently organized money gift-giving parties.

 

Only a good friend would pay $25 for a two-inch forest-scented candle when they could get a generic pine-scented candle for a buck at the drug store.  When you reach this point of throwing money away, the reality of a Ponzi scheme eventually comes next, under the guise of women who are re-circulating $500 amongst themselves.  When I finally came to my senses and said no, I was admonished for not participating.

 

My husband and I started to seriously question what we were we working for.  Looking at our car payment, cable package, high mortgage, new clothes, and a lifestyle that focused on the material goods we acquired, was no longer satisfying to us.  We wanted something more, like a real challenge and yet it was more than having a challenge.  It was also understanding our mortality because our life experiences taught us how fragile humanity really is.  We have no guarantee of walking this earth tomorrow.

 

 

So we sold our house to live on a boat.  It seems like a simple act but it took us over a year to do it.  We paid down our credit card debt by cutting back on our small luxuries of HBO, DSL internet package, avoided buying cell phones, and dined out less, basically becoming socially inept by our peers’ standards.  The signs were evident that we were on a course for change.   Once we left the house, it caused a bit of commotion among our family, friends and some casual observers.

Why would you want to live on a boat? was the question we were frequently asked.  My husband was vague with his answers because he didn’t want to go into any specifics, but I would say proudly, “Because we want to sail the world!”   At that moment there would be a puzzled look on the questioner’s face, and a response of, “What?”

 

Before we could leave on our sailboat, we had to save money for cruising.  That meant living on our boat for a couple of years.  This allowed us to get to know our vessel.  She was a big boat for us.   So we had to learn how to sail her, especially me.

The following pages (in Sailing The Waterhouse-Swapping Surf for Turf) reveal the odd challenges we faced with this new dock-dwelling lifestyle.  But the many peculiar experiences we encountered as Live-Aboards—people who live on boats full-time in a marina—helped prepare us for our adventure.

 

Eventually we had a proper bon voyage party and left the Strait of Juan de Fuca with our wanderlust dreams for a pleasure-seeking life.  Unfortunately those dreams were tested with unexpected foul weather off the West Coast, also known as the Graveyard of the Pacific.

 

Sailing The Waterhouse-Swapping Surf for Turf:   Read about Kelly & Kelly Girl’s challenges of transitioning from a land-based life to living on a vessel for two years in order to save their money for a world bound voyage.  When it was time to cut their dock line,  people thought they were a bit reckless since they never sailed beyond the site of land.   

Available at Amazon  & Smashwords $4.99


 


 

 

Explore the Remote Makemo Atoll – If you can

Makemo is a part of the Tuamotus Archipelago is located in French Polynesia.  

This is a very remote place with few places to stay.  But if you will be in French Polynesia, make Makemo a place to stop.

The Tuamotus  are a chain of  72 atolls.  An atoll consists of low lying, coral islands that surround a lagoon.  Normally we can see an island in the Marquesas with it’s mountainous range 30-40 miles before reaching it.  With the Tuamotus, on a clear day, the atoll is visible within 8-10 miles.

 

   

This is a quiet destination made for lovers of the sea.  It’s best asset is crisp-clear blue water to snorkel through the vibrant colors of coral and fish.  We anchored in 40 feet and could see our anchor on the floor bed.

For the more athletic.  There are a few breaking waves to surf and bring your gear for kite-surfing.

In the Village…

There is a restaurants, small store and bakery.  Check out the small church decorated in shell chandeliers with plain wooden benches and bright cloth panels.

You may be able to buy or trade for black pearls, the main industry on this island.

In the evenings the locals play bocce ball and the children play tag in the town square.

A visit here will allow you to slow your pace and relax in one of the most untouched tourist locations in French Polynesia. 

 Plan Your French Polynesia Visit

Click Here for more pictures of Makemo

The Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary

A good cause in the Grenadines…Make sure to go to Bequia Island and visit-

The Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary

 

Riding our bikes through the tropical countryside of Bequia, we had one goal in mind.  To visit a sea-side shelter that houses Hawksbill turtles.  An effort to keep the endangered species alive, Orton King, a retired skin diving fisherman takes care of these creatures until the age of five.

 

He gathers hatch-lings and provides pools, sheltering them from predators.  He has about 200 turtles to care for and charges a small fee to visit his sanctuary.  He also will accept donations and sells t-shirts to help support his efforts.

 

Normally we see turtles floating by as we sail past them or watch them swim while snorkeling.  Having the chance to see at them up close, to touch them and look into their large glasslike eyes makes us appreciate the creatures more.

 

Turtle Photo Gallery

 

To arrange a visit or make donations, go to  http://turtles.bequia.net/

Land Reality Check – Car vs Boat Maintenance

This week we are taking our van in for an alignment and to fix our A/C.    A necessary and expensive task and one I wish we could put off.  I think of how different our lives are now that we live on land.

Just a couple of years ago, we didn’t have a car.  We relied soley on our 35 foot sailboat and 5 foot dinghy to get us around. Once we were on shore, our legs did most of the work.

But no one really told us how much maintenance was needed to keep a boat shipshape.  During our four year voyage, I thought there would be more time  spent drinking margaritas at sunset and taking naps during the heat of the day.  I couldn’t be more wrong.

Around noon, you would find us decked out in our scuba gear.  Once a week the task of scraping the bottom of the hull was mandatory.  Seagrass, barnacles and thumbnail-sized shrimp would attach to our boat’s bottom.  Get a breath of air, dive, scrape and go up for air.  The two of us would repeat this for an hour until the hull was clean.

Once the job was done we would itch all over.  The shrimp would wiggle in our swimsuits and our knuckles bled.  They would be cut up from the sharp barnacle edges.

This wasn’t an easy part of cruising.  Nor is the bi-annual boat painting.

Every two years, we would haul out, Moorea onto land.  She would need a new paint job.  It was expensive and to save money we would do the labor.  This dirty and hard work.

So knowing what I know about the cruising life, would I do it again?  Without hesitation!

 

 

 

 

 

Cheers,

Kelly Girl

 

 

 

 

Consider Visiting the Sinai Peninsula- It has Mysteries in the Desert

Still want to visit Egypt but afraid of the political situation?  Then consider visiting the Sinai Peninsula.  There are many resorts and upscale accommodations in the seaside town of Sharm El Sheikh that cater to westerners.  But the main reason I would recommend the Sinai is the chance to visit St. Catherine’s Monastery.

It is said that this is where Moses received the Ten Commandments.  It is also where all three religions (Judaism, Islam & Christianity)are recognized and is at least represented within the monastery.  Besides the history and beautiful artifacts, you can also stay there.  The accommodations are simple and clean and are available for $15 per night.

One favorite pastime for guests is to climb Mt. Sinai in the early morning hours to where Moses received the 10 commandments and watch the sun rise.  This is a great destination even for those of us not especially religious…but for those that appreciate history and the accomplishments of man.

When visiting this region, do your homework before hand regarding the best way to reach the monastery.   Keep in mind, in this region tipping is expected for simple services and conservative dress, outside of the resort areas, is highly recommended. 

 Here are more photos of the monastery and Sinai.

Making it to Male

We sailed eleven days in our thirty-five foot sloop from Thailand to reach our destination, the Maldives.  Discreetly nestled in the Indian Ocean, this island nation is roughly 450 miles Southwest of Sri Lanka.  This archipelago has over 1,100 flat, coral-crushed islands with only 200 of the atolls inhabited.

As we approached Male, the capital and only bustling city of the Maldives, we noticed tall pastel colored buildings stacked side by side like dominos.  We didn’t know what we would find in Male but I had read that most of the Maldives’ population resides here–about 75,000 people.  I knew the city’s citizens were 100% Muslim and to walk the circumference of this small atoll would take a little over an hour.

With its buildings and narrow streets, a satellite image of Male gives it the appearance of a Mini-Manhattan.  There are very little natural resources here.  Most of the items to buy here are imported in.  With the lack of raw materials, the main revenue generated is from its healthy tourism industry.

Most of the visitors to the Maldives escape to one of the atolls where high-end hotels spoil guests with every hedonistic pleasure available to man.  Sadly the resorts attract many tourists that rarely get the chance to interact with the locals in their environment.  An opportunity is lost on many tourists but for the culture seeking traveler go to the heart of the Maldives.  Go to Male to get the true vibe of its people.

 

Know the List of Don’ts  

This was our first country where the official religion is Islam and practice of any other religion is against the law.  Even bringing religious icons, symbols or books to shore was forbidden.  We were informed of these laws as we checked into the country.  No alcohol, pork products or live pigs (we left ours in Thailand) were allowed on shore.  But keeping these items on our boat was okay.  I was grateful the customs agents didn’t confiscate our wine.

If we wanted to purchase these items from a supplier on shore we could.  But an expensive permit is required.  That is how the resorts are allowed to have these items.  It seems like the resorts on all the other atolls have more freedom and choices than the locals on Male.  After reading these laws, I wasn’t sure what to expect when we ventured on land.  I wondered what the people were like.

 

Walking Around Male

 We dressed in conservative clothing.  My husband wore kaki pants and a buttoned up short-sleeved shirt.  I wore pants, a short sleeved shirt and brought along a long sleeve linen shirt just in case I needed to cover my arms.  I chose not to bring a head scarf since I do not practice Islam and I did not read in any laws of this land that I required to do so.

When encountering a new culture, we are careful observers.  Getting to know our surroundings and trying to read people.  Maldivians are reserved but respectfully pleasant.

The women vary in their dress.  Some wore the burqa, completely covered with their faces exposed; the younger females either wore a hijab which only covers the head, or nothing to cover their hair.

Young women promoting their company

It was on a Friday that we first walked the streets of Male.  Friday is the equivalent of a Sunday in the States.  Not many shops were open.  As we walked past the mosques, hundreds of shoes lined the entrance.

When we returned the next day, the streets were alive with commerce.

 

What to Do

The oldest mosque is called the Friday Mosque or Hukur Miskiiy.  It was built in 1656 and is still used on special ceremonies to this day.  The minaret is white with blue Arabic print.  Gray aged headstones within the grounds are protected by a shoulder height wall.  If you want a visit the inside of this mosque, you will need a permit.

To experience the inside of a mosque, visit the Islamic Center.  It can hold up to 5000 worshipers and is open to all visitors, but not photography allowed.

If you like museums, the National Museum of Maldives contains a collection of pre-Islamic artifacts.  The grounds of the museum were known as the Sultan’s Palace which dated back to the 17th century.

A strip of sandy beach for swimming in aqua waters
A strip of sandy beach for swimming in aqua waters

For the adventurous type, there is a surf break.  If you have a surfboard or prefer body surfing, the local “artificial” beach is for you.  Located just north of the airport ferry pier, you will find fully clothed swimmers and surfers enjoying the aqua blue waves–a perfect place to meet locals.

There are plenty of restaurants and coffee shops for dinning.  My favorite was Jade Bistro, near the ferry piers.  It had wireless available and decent pastries to complement coffee.

The Local Commute

Getting around on the atoll, most people walk or use scooters.  There are cars and trucks here too, but don’t seem to dominate the roads.

There are ferries to get around from atoll to atoll.  The atoll next to Male, about a mile in distance, is Hulhumale which is a twenty minute ferry ride and costs around $1 (USD).  The airport is here along with a new community of sky-high apartment buildings.  There is a restaurant above the ferry terminal and other services are sprouting up so it might be worth a quick visit.

                     Male Ferry

A Pleasant Surprise

After spending a couple of days around Male and Hulhumale, we felt at ease with the people yet kept in mind the restrictions placed on us. The restrictions were to only visit atolls that were approved by the government and adhere to their curfews to be off the atolls (not Male) by 6:00PM.

The pleasant surprise came from the locals.  They were reserved but pleasant people…even generous.  At seeing the price of imported water, we inquired where the locals obtained their drinking water.  Finding out that the Mosques provided desalinated drinking water, we went to the Hulhumale Mosque to check it out.

On the grounds was a white tiled structure with a water spigot.  With our empty jerry cans, we started filling up our containers.  As a local came up with his empty water containers, we were a bit nervous.  What would he think of us taking water from the Mosque?  We stopped filling our jerry container and let him take water.  When he was finished, he took our container and started to fill it up.

There were no words exchanged, just an act of kindness.  Those are the things we travelers leave with when visiting a country.  The local landmarks and national treasures fade overtime, but the one guy that helped us fill our water tanks will always remain in our memories and hearts.

 

 

Carnival in Curacao, ABC Islands

The music’s beat at Carnival helps keep the rhythm in the street as dancers jiggle their way to towards the end of a three mile parade route.  The float carried the music, food and beverages (beer and cocktail drinks).  The dancers glistening faces wore exhausted smiles as they swayed past.

We arrived in Curacao two days prior and almost missed the party.  Carnival was in the last few days of a two month celebration of spectacular parades and parties.

Instead of being a spectator, next time I want to  join the party on the street and wear one of those colorful costumes. I now have it on my bucket list.  

If this is something you would like to try, check out Curacao’s Carnival website for more information on being a participant.     http://www.curacaocarnival.info/eng/index.php