Saturday, 22 December 2012

Dreaming in Spanish

One of my retirement projects is trying to learn to speak Spanish. With significant emphasis on the word "trying"!!!

While driving down to Mexico in September, Andrew and I listened to the Michel Thomas Spanish course. You can learn Spanish in 10 hours! You'll listen, absorb, then speak. It simply works like magic! 

Ha, ha! Call me a skeptic but I knew it couldn't be that easy. And it's not! Although the Michel Thomas method is easy to listen to and probably the best course we've come across . . . it's still not easy (at least not for me!) and requires lots of repetition.

Andrew came across Duolingo recently which also gets good reviews and which I'm finding quite fun. Even though I've apparently "mastered" the lessons on food, animals, plurals and possessives, I still have trouble sometimes remembering when to use la, el, las, los, and when verbs end in o, e, en, es, or mos, and so on.

Yes, I know there are "rules" but as Mr. Thomas will tell you, "In Spanish it is always this way . . . except when there is an exception!"  Sigh . . .

Yesterday I spent more time than usual at my Spanish studies going over and over the Duolingo plurals and possessives lessons, which comes after the food and animal lessons.

Los gatos beben leche.

El oso come pescado.

Mi perro come pan.

I hope that dreaming about it last night means that it's finally sinking into my brain!

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Happy Anniversary!


2012 - the dress still fits!
1995 was a big year for Andrew & I. We spent July & August in Pakistan and just a few days after summiting Broad Peak (12th highest mountain in the world, first Canadians to summit) and having an epic descent, we celebrated my birthday at base camp. Chocolate cake cooked over a camp stove, cards, balloons, and Andrew asking me to marry him. A most excellent day!

Three months later (December 9 -- an even more excellent day) we got married at my dad's place with a huge crowd of 10 people in attendance.

Me & my sister, Bev
Andrew, his Mom, & sister Clare

Me & my Dad

Ken (Andrew's business partner) and Royane
Ken, Andrew, me, Bev
With the proud parents.
With Reverend John Middleton, Saskatoon Police Service Chaplain and McKinlay family friend.
My nephew, Andrew
With my niece, Nicole
My niece Julie and brother-in-law Ross. Julie making sure the chef makes dessert properly! 
Signed and sealed!
We've had an incredible 17 years and are looking forward to many, many more! I couldn't have asked for a better climbing partner, adventure partner and life partner. Even if, on occasion, he still claims the lack of oxygen at altitude was affecting his thinking when he proposed!  :-)

The happy couple -- 1995
The happy couple -- 2012

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Snorkelling Photos

Andrew is usually the one taking all the underwater photos. But with having time to snorkel on our kayak trip, I was able to use my little Lumix good-to-10-meters camera and got a few reasonable shots.

Chocolate Chip Sea Star
The rare Andrew fish 
Tan Sea Star
Sergeant Majors
Usually you  just see the head of an eel peeking out from a crevice in the rock.  But snorkelling we saw several out swimming. This one is a Green Moray. 
Jewel Moray Eel.  We also saw a Zebra Moray Eel but unfortunately didn't get a photo of it. 
Stinging Hydroid (maybe??)
Sea Urchin
I love the electric blue spots on this little black fish. It's a Juvenile Damselfish.

See also links to my posts on the kayak trip itself, the salt mine, and Andrew's post on the kayak trip with the best photos.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Salt Mining and Bighorn Sheep

While on our kayak tour we stopped at Salinas Bay, the location of the old salt mine. It’s an interesting place with both history and renewed life. Unfortunately, I can’t agree that it’s all good!
Approaching Salinas Bay & the old salt mine.
Isla Carmen lies within the Parque Nacional Bahia de Loreto but it’s privately owned by a subsidiary of a large company called Grupo Vitro which specializes in glass products. The island has been used since the middle of the 19th century to produce salt for a variety of purposes and Grupo Vitro bought the island in 1944 for the salt it needed to produce glass.
The salt mines closed in 1984 due to declining extraction rates and salt quality. But, have no fear, Grupo Vitro found a more lucrative use for the island!
In 1995 and 1996, bighorn sheep were introduced to the island and corporate executives now pay $58,000 - $74,000 (depending on the size of the sheep) for a permit to kill a bighorn. There are now about 500 sheep on the island.
On one of our diving days we stopped at a beach between dives. Someone spotted this bighorn on a nearby ridge. Luckily, Andrew had his camera out and managed to get this one shot.
Because the island is private property, and because of the hunting, public access to the island is limited to the beaches and camping areas. Joel asked permission for us to have our lunch at Salinas Bay and wander around a bit – which was granted.
Lunch under a shady tree.
The church is still in usable condition.  

An innovative use for an old rail car that once carried salt from the mine to the dock. 
Joel providing a lesson in types of cactus. Luckily there was no exam at the end!
Another unique cactus planter.
Accommodation for hunters and other tourists.
This warehouse as seen better days!
Anyone else remember what this is?  :-) 

Abandoned rail line and dock.
Here are two of the internet articles I used as reference for this article. The first is a tourist's blog and the second is an academic dissertation on protecting natural environments in Mexico. The part about Salinas Bay is on page 209. 

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Paddling the South Islands

Warm (hot!) weather, calm seas, good food, great company, amazing wildlife and absolutely stunning scenery. That pretty much sums up our 6-day kayak trip to Carmen and Danzante Islands, just south of Loreto (Baja California Sur, Mexico).

Joel from Baja Kayak Adventures was our guide for the trip. We’d been on a 4-day trip near Gabriola Island with him and another guide, Hilary, a few years ago with the Canadian side of the company, Silva Bay Kayak Adventures, and really enjoyed their company and relaxed personalities.

Different from many adventure tour companies, rather than full service, their philosophy around meals and food is a shared task with setting out a meal plan a couple days ahead and each participant or guide being responsible for particular meals. This cuts down on costs for the participants and, personally, I think it’s more fun! But with only three of us, we shared responsibility for all the meals albeit with Joel doing most of the actual cooking. And we ate what we felt like eating at the time rather than sticking to a strict meal plan, which you couldn't do with a larger group. 

Coming from a mountaineering background where everything you take with you is usually carried on your back, the weight of every item is of critical importance and everything is packaged as small as possible to fit in your backpack, buying food for a kayak trip was a humorous experience for Andrew and I. Joel was clearly experienced at this! As he raced around the little grocery store piling food into a basket, Andrew and I tried to help. My first task was peppers. I picked one of each color – green, red, yellow.  “More,” said Joel. I went and got a couple more and showed him. “No, we need more.” I went and got more. “Some poblano as well,” he said the third time.  A large bag full of peppers and a couple packages of cookies later from me, a few items from Andrew, and Joel had us set to go.  No repacking or drying of food required! We wondered what was going to happen with the huge bag full of little limes but between squeezing it in our beer (yes, beer!) and on other things, we came close to using them all.
Big bag of peppers and carrots!
The next day a taxi van with three kayaks secured on top took us to the drop off point, just south of Puerto Escondido. Only a couple weeks after a tropical storm and a couple days after a hurricane, washed out roads were still being made passable but the day and the forecast for the next week was sunny skies and calm seas.
Trying not to get sun burned!
Most of our days were quite relaxed, a few hours of kayaking, an hour for so for snorkeling (and to cool off!), and even time for a short hike in some locations. Again, the advantage of a small group to meander, or not, as you wish. 

One longer paddling day took us to the old salt mine closer to the north end of Carmen Island. (This deserves, and will get, a separate blog post!)

Wildlife sightings included dolphins casually swimming by while we were standing on the beach, a couple turtles sticking their heads up to check us out (Andrew saw another one under water), sting rays, a preying mantis and lots of sea gulls, pelicans, blue footed boobies, frigate birds, and turkey vultures. And more mosquitoes and annoying little bugs than you can shake a stick at! We really do not like using mosquito spray but this time we were thankful to have a good supply with us!

These guys actually cooperated for a photo shoot!
Sea life was also good and my little camera, for the most part, performed well while snorkeling. (This too will require another blog post!)

Sunsets and sunrises were colourful!
 Rugged coastline! 
A little spit of land on the north end of Danzante Island.
East side of Carmen Island
East side of Carmen Island
Looking out from a large cave.
A natural arch in the rock.
Joel celebrated his 29th birthday during the trip. He baked the cake himself in the outback oven and Andrew & I secretly brought candles to put on it. I think he was pleasantly surprised! We had to put the cake on the ground and shield it to try to keep the candle flames alive til he could blow them out.

At our first campsite, on the south end of Carmen Island, these two lone palm trees provided shade. Unfortunately they didn't keep the bugs and mosquitoes away! We escaped to our tents the minute supper was done! 
While Andrew and I went snorkelling, Joel set up the sun shade. 
Campsite on the west side of Carmen Island.
Andrew & Joel on summit of a small peak near our campsite on the east side of Carmen Island.  From the pass you could see over the west side of the Island.
View from hiking peak.
As a result of the hurricane, one of our campsite had a freshwater stream coming down the valley. We all rinsed our hair in the tiny waterfall you can see just to the left of Joel. 
We had a great six days! If you're ever looking for a kayak excursion either in Baja or near Vancouver Island we would highly recommend Baja/Silva Bay Kayak Adventures!