Mountain of Magic

-by Mira

For our good friend Nikolay Tzanevski

 

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In august of 1976 there were indications that La Grande Soufrière volcano in Guadeloupe will erupt with an expected explosion the size of 6 atomic bombs.

In August 1976 all inhabitants of the island’s capital and biggest city Basse-Terre situated right at the foot of the western slope of the mountain were evacuated, for, the scientists agreed, a catastrophe of great magnitude was inevitable.

 

La Grande Soufrière, Guadeloupe

La Grande Soufrière, Guadeloupe

A filmmaker and his crew were allowed to fly to Guadeloupe and film the final moments of its deserted capital. That filmmaker was Werner Herzog who found an eerie ghost town full of starving dogs, a bay full of dead snakes who have fled the mountain only to drown in the sea, and a homeless person who has refused to leave.

There were tremors and shock waves, 1257 earthquakes recorded, dense poisonous sulfuric clouds gushing from the mountain craters, yet, magically, nothing happened. Never before seismologists had measured signs of eruption of such magnitude, yet an eruption never occurred. The people who thought they would never again see their homes in Basse-Terre returned. La Grande Soufrière went back to slumber.

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In August 1976, back in Bulgaria, my mother gave birth to a baby-girl. That baby was me. I am a Leo.

This year, to celebrate my 38th birthday and the 38th anniversary of the active volcano’s failed eruption, we climb La Grande Soufrière in Guadeloupe.

The Life Nomadik family at La Grande Soufrière volcano, Guadeloupe

The Life Nomadik family at La Grande Soufrière volcano, Guadeloupe

The top of the volcano is also the highest point on the island rising 1,467 m (4,813 ft) above the sea.

The hike starts from a road east of Basse-Terre. There are no entry fees to the park and tons of visitors swarm the mountain slopes, especially on sunny cloudless days.

We start early in the morning sharing a car from Deshaies with our Australian mates Mel and Caryn. We have a long steep walk ahead of us.

Our volcano-climbing shoes. We are ready!

Our volcano-climbing shoes. We are ready!

The climb to the top is about two hours starting with an easy walk in the rainforest on almost flat terrain. The path is paved and shady. We pass by a small stone pool with hot volcanic spring water. Many people come here just for the hot springs and don’t go hiking further.

Hot volcanic springs in the forest.

Hot volcanic springs in the forest.

As soon as we are out of the forest we see the volcano, heavy and silent, standing before us, with a mantle of thin grey cloud. It’s all very strange and mysterious. It’s also a lot colder.

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The nature here is out of this world: low vegetation, damp orange moss over huge boulders adorned with small purple flowers.

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From the slopes, when the clouds clear, we can see Basse-Terre, the sea and Iles des Saintes in the distance.

 

Free Million Dollar View

Free Million Dollar View

But most of the time it’s foggy and the landscape is mysterious. Giant rocks are sticking out of the ground vertically, like teeth in the the low clouds, the result of some terrific Jurassic event millions of years ago.

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The walk up is now steep and narrow, at places difficult, but pleasant all the way to the top.

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We pass by deep shafts, ancient cracks on the slopes of the mountain, the result of seismic tremors and earthquakes.

Lava shafts

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We reach the summit, the highest point in Guadeloupe. We are now standing on top of a volcano.

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The smell of sulfur near the craters is so strong it burns the eyes and sticks to the throat.

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There are a few craters and a maize of small paths among jagged boulders, and in the mist of the fog we become disoriented and restless.

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Evo heads for one of the craters gushing dense yellow steam of sulfur with horrific industrial noise. The sound is deep and muffled coming from the underearth, like suffering. I start after Evo but Maya is left behind, she doesn’t want to breathe the intense poisonous gas.

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She is worried and I hear her voice calling us. Evo cannot hear her anymore, so I go back. We lose each other for a moment, each one of us looking for the others in a dense cloud of sulfuric smoke and mist, on an unfamiliar strange, unstable volcano.

Crater

Crater

I find Maya, Evo finds us, everything is OK. We are just a bit cold and bit scared.

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We are also awe-stricken like never before. The place, the entire experience is sublime, beyond explanation.

Picture A Volcano: La Grande Soufrière

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Maya

Maya

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Volcano Paintings

 

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Better Than Any Award. Liebster Award

The Nomination

A few weeks ago we got another sweet nomination for the Liebster Award by our fellow travelors, sailors, and bloggers the Homeschool Ahoy family. They have two beautiful blond little girls and a handsome lagoon 40, as well as the most awesome blog where you can read about their adventures on the seas.

We are deeply touched and grateful for this nomination. It means a lot to us, a gesture of appreciation for our way of life and efforts to share our journey through images and words. Thank you, guys, it is a great honor.

The Liebster Award

Someone had the genius idea to start this Liebster Award-thing which is nothing else but a way to discover, connect, and promote bloggers and blogs. We love it! This is the second time we have been nominated and I think soon we are about to win the prize!

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The Rules

1. Answer 10 questions

2. Nominate 5-10 blogs

3. Ask them 10 questions

 

 

 

 The Answers

    1. Introduce us to your live aboard family, how many in your crew and how old are they?

Hello everyone! We are another one of those crazy families living aboard a boat instead in a house, constantly traveling.

Evo, born in 1976 in Varna Bulgaria is the dad, skipper, fishing expert, and boat-fixer.

Mira, born same year same place, is the mom, cook, “teacher”, photographer, and blogger.

Viktor, born in 1997 in Varna, Bulgaria is the Big Brother, dish-washer, computer geek, and boat-keeper.

Maya, born in 2003 in Montreal, Canada, is the Little Sister, snorkeling and diving expert.

Maya, Viktor, Evo and Mira. The Nomadik Family

Maya, Viktor, Evo and Mira. The Nomadik Family

 

 

    2 .What sort of boat do you have and would you recommend it for other families hoping to live aboard?

Fata Morgana is a 38-foot catamaran Robertson & Caine Leopard built 12 years ago in South Africa, made heavy and sturdy, able to take some heavy weather and she did. She has enough space for the four of us and is very comfortable boat. I think a catamaran is a perfect choice for a family with kids and would strongly recommend it. Fata is our first boat ever and we feel lucky to have chosen her. (If you are curious about the name read more here). We bought the boat in Florida about one year ago and fixed and up-dated a bunch of things transforming her into our unique off-grid vessel. On the hardtop we built we installed 5 humongous solar panels producing 1,500 watts pure solar energy. It is enough to have our fridge, the biggest electricity consumer, turned on 24/7, and to produce as much freshwater as we need with our watermaker. Thus we don’t have to turn on the engines to make electricity (and we don’t have a generator), and we never have to buy freashwater. We are also strictly sailing, even when we enter and exit anchorages and drop and lift anchor, so we rarely fuel, about once or twice a year.  Thus, we are completely off-grid and independent and we hardly spend any many.

 

Fata Morgana from above

Fata Morgana from above

 

 3. How did you come to the decision to live aboard?

We had a friend whose dream was to live on a boat and sail around the world, he „infected“ us. But we have been nomads even before the boat. We used to work as long distance truck drivers, both Evo and me in a team, driving all over Canada and USA for about 7 years, with the kids in the bunk. Back then we were paid to travel and saved up enough to buy a boat and not work for a while. To live aboard a boat and sail around the world is the best decision we ever made.

Fata Morgana

Fata Morgana

 

    4. Where are you now and what are your sailing plans, if you have any, for the future?

Right now we are in St Kitts&Nevis (a small independent Caribbean island-country) after we covered over 3,700 nautical miles in our first year of sailing visiting Cuba, Mexico, Guatemala, The Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, The Virgin islands, and, so far, half of the Caribbean islands. We will keep sailing south visiting the rest of the Windward Islands to Tobago. Then we are planning to stop in Columbia for a few months and travel inland there. From Columbia we will sail to Panama, the San Blas islands, and maybe visit Costa Rica and some other Central American countries by land. Next year, if all is well, we will be crossing the Pacific heading to French Polynesia and then Australia. But our plans are not too fixed and may change depending on circumstances.

Beach at Smugglers Cove, Tortola

Beach at Smugglers Cove, Tortola

 

 

5. What’s the best learning experience your kids have had since living aboard that you could pass on to other sailing families for them and their children?

The kids learned to appreciate the little we have and spend less. Less water, less electricity, less everything. They have become conscious about conserving the available resources (because they had no other choice). Now watching a film where someone is slowly washing dishes under running water sends them screaming Turn off the water!

Ivo and Vick taking a rain shower.

Ivo and Vick taking a rain shower.

 

 

6. What style of education do you prefer for your littlest crew members, are you homeschooling/world schooling/unschooling… or eclectic like me? Have they ever been or will they ever go to a traditional school?

Viktor is now almost 17. He has been in a public school in Canada up to his second year of high school. In the beginning of this trip we got all the books for his third high school year and he tried reading and studying alone and with my help. But it didn’t work; he is neither disciplined nor ambitious enough to do this, even though I tried pushing him a lot. Maybe I shouldn’t have. Anyway, he decided he will go back to Canada and complete his high school education within the school system there as soon as he turns 18, and maybe go to college after that.

Maya, almost 11 now, completed second grade in a primary school in Canada and since we have been traveling she has been studying and learning math, science, language, arts using a software for i-pad, as well as a children’s encyclopedia and other books. For example, in science she learned about Ecosystems, Food Chains, Habitats, Weather and Weather Prediction, Gravity and Motion, Light Energy etc. using the i-pad app. Every day she decides what she wants to study and how much and it is all fun for her. I don’t have to push her, just help her from time to time. She also had the great opportunity to study for a few months in a local school with local kids while visiting Guatemala last year and learned a bit of Spanish.

But I believe both Viktor and Maya have learned and will learn a lot just by traveling and visiting so many new places and cultures, acquiring knowledge and experience kids in conventional schools will never have.

Noial, Kaila, Sofia, and Maya in front of El Relleno Primary School, Guatemala

Noial, Kaila, Sofia, and Maya in front of El Relleno Primary School, Guatemala

 

 

7. What’s your best memory from the last year?

Let me ask the crew.

Maya’s best memories are from Guatemala, because she had a best friend the entire time there, Noial.Viktor and Evo both loved the most climbing Pico Duarte in the Dominican Republic, a two-day very challenging journey with a guide and mules to the top of the highest Caribbean mountain and back. Mine was hiking to a hidden cave full with human skulls in Sierra de las Minas in Guatemala guided by four local Queqchi Indians.

Viktor with the mules. Hiking to Pico Duarte

Viktor with the mules. Hiking to Pico Duarte

 

 

8. Name the most challenging experience you have had whilst living aboard and what did you do to overcome it?

We all had our personal challenges and we still have to overcome a lot of them. As a family, we need to respect and trust each other more and admit that we are different individuals with different needs and preferences. We need to learn to give each other more space and freedom at the same time working as a team. This is a challenge we still need to face and work on.

If I have to name one experience that was extremely challenging and life-changing, I will go with the storm in the Yucatán Chanel. To overcome it we had to accept the situation, face it, and ride the storm until the end, no other choice.

Our nomadik family with helmets and life jackets ready for action, Damajaqua Cascades

Our nomadik family with helmets and life jackets ready for action, Damajaqua Cascades

 

 

9. Will you always live aboard or is this just one of the many adventures you hope to share with your family?

We don’t know how long this living-aboard adventure will go on. We will keep going wherever the wind blows us for as long as we can or as long as we want to, whichever comes first. But it is not just 1-2 sabbatical years

kind of think. It is our new way of life and we hope we can keep going like this for many years.

Maya

Maya

 

 

10. What motivates you to blog and what tips can you offer fellow yachty bloggers?

Our blog is like a photo album and an adventure journal where I post pictures and stories chronologically as we go. It helps us remember. I love doing it even though it is very hard to update as we don’t have internet on the boat. Sometimes I have to sit on a bench in front of a bar with free Wi-Fi to do it. What motivates me? I need this blog; right now it is my only outlet where I can share my creativity. I don’t have blogging tips for fellow bloggers, just do what makes you happy and be yourself.

Viktor, Maya, Mira

Viktor, Maya, Mira

 

 

Our 10 Nominees

I have chosen 8 blogs based on the following criteria: They are all sailing families (like us) with kids at a school age.

s/v SeaChange

Smith Family Sailing

Diving Into Cruising

Our Life with Ceol Mor

The Excellent Adventure

Ghostsailors

s/v Perry

s/v Baccalieu

 

 

The 10 Questions

I really loved Homeschool Ahoy’s questions, so, with permission, I will just copy-paste most of them and add a few.

  1. Introduce us to your liveaboard family, how many in your crew and how old are they?

  2. What sort of boat do you have and would you recommend it for other families hoping to live aboard?

  3. Where are you now and what are your sailing plans, if you have any, for the future?

  4. How do you support yourself and your family while sailing and cruising? How do you pay for the whole thing?

  5. What’s the best learning experience your kids have had since living aboard that you could pass on to other sailing families for them and their children?

  6. What style of education do you prefer for your littlest crew members, are you homeschooling/world schooling/unschooling…? Have they ever been or will they ever go to a traditional school?

  7. Is living aboard and sailing an alternative way of life for you and your family, an escape form the system, or is it just a temporary adventure?

  8. Name the most challenging experience you have had whilst living aboard and what did you do to overcome it?

  9. Any big mistakes you have learned from that others may learn from too?

  10. What motivates you to blog and what tips can you offer fellow yachty bloggers?

 

 

 

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Marooned In Burger Paradise. Part One

Thank you, Brian and Joyce, for bringing us to this place!

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Remember the Swimming Pigs and how we envied them? Living on a beautiful tropical island in the Bahamas, right on the beach, doing nothing all day long but chill and swim gracefully in the turquoise waters of the Caribbean, nobody bothering them with grills or machetes, boats bringing them free food right up to the beach? Well, careful what you wish for, they say. All this happened to us too: the perfect island, the beach paradise, free food floating right up to us. We now know exactly how those pigs feel (this has nothing to do with Miyazaki’s films) and it is so good that we began envying ourselves. But let me explain.

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Food in the Bahamas is a problem.

In the settlements on the little islands there are small grocery stores with very limited selection of foods which are up to 4 times more expensive than the same products in the U.S. because everything is imported from the U.S. with an added transportation cost. Moreover, the stuff comes once a week by the mailboat and often we have to wait till Wednesday, when the boat usually brings supplies, if we want to buy fresh tomatoes or apples (if we are near a settlement at all).

We knew this and so, before leaving USA, we stocked up the boat with canned and dried foods, pasta, flour, and rice and we hoped to be catching lots of fish. Still, after about a month and a half we finished most of our supplies, and rice became our main meal, with or without fish depending on luck.

A few weeks ago Brian and Joyce, our friends and ex-neighbors (great people!) from back in Canada, sent us a message: “Guys, we will be coming to the Bahamas on a cruise ship. We’ll be spending a day in Half Moon Cay. Let’s meet up!”

Sure thing! At that time we were just about 30 miles away from Half Moon Cay. And so, we check the weather, wait for a few days for the best winds to cross from Great Guana Cay to Little San Salvador, and after a day of slow uneventful sailing we get to the anchorage in front of the small private island owned by Holland-America and Carnival cruise lines, Little San Salvador.

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We arrive in the evening exactly one week before Brian and Joyce’s ship, no rush. We are the only sailboat in the anchorage. The beach is perfect: white sand and palm trees, little colorful cabanas, a wooden pirate ship. The island is private and everything is set up for the cruise ships’ crowd. There is no settlement here, no houses, no school, no shops. We drop anchor on the far north side, trying to stay away from the resort facilities; we are not even sure if we are allowed to be here at all. But we kayak to shore and we meet the manager of the island, Anthony, and he is happy to have us around, no problem, man, enjoy!

Fake Pirate Ship

Fake Pirate Ship

The next morning a cruise ship like a huge white ice-cream cone arrives and unloads about 3 000 (that is three thousand) pink, fat, drunk, loud, hungry tourists, mostly Americans. We think: horror, how are we to survive here for a week? Until we discover the Island Grill Buffet.

Is this the same beach?

Is this the same beach?

It’s lunch time and the cruise ship people lying on the beach, starving, are being directed to an enormous buffet set up behind the fake pirate ship. We casually follow the hungry crowd pretending we are passengers from the big ship. And there it is: haven on earth (food heaven, that is).

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Burgers, hotdogs, grilled chicken, ribs with barbeque sauce, grilled fish fillet; five or six salads and side dishes (I am talking about green salad, cabbage salad, macaroni salad, shrimp salad, potatoes with Dijon mustard, baked zucchini, steamed broccoli, corn, beans, couscous with curry…); little cakes for dessert; and mountains of cut and whole fruits: watermelon, honeydew melon, pineapple, mango, grapes, apples, oranges, pears, kiwi, papaya, strawberries…

 

Ivo loading up his fifteenth plate.

Ivo loading up his fifteenth plate.

We stuff ourselves until our bellies cannot take it no more, we pause for a few minutes, and then we stuff ourselves some more until we are about to explode, and we even stuff the small camera backpack with a bunch of fruits and burgers for later. But we now feel not only stuffed but also guilty for steeling food from the cruise ship. Until we observe with horror how they deal with the leftover food after everyone is done eating. The trash: half-eaten burgers and whatever the three thousand people had in their plates and didn’t eat, goes in garbage bags and is being burned on the island. And the leftovers from the buffet: food left uneaten: perfectly good burgers, chicken, ribs, salads, side dishes, cut fruit, desserts, is being dumped in huge 20 gallon red buckets with lids, to be brought back on the ship and thrown overboard when they pull away from the anchorage. Because, they say, they cannot serve lunch food for supper, nor can they give it to the local staff on the island, about 40 permanent Bahamian workers. Company policy.

It is a great waste, if you ask me, so much good food dumped in the sea for the sharks to feast on, while people everywhere are starving or paying a dollar for an apple. And there are so many more issues besides wasting food that are wrong with those cruise ships corporate giants… Pollution, tax evasion, exploitation of workers from third-world countries, etc…

At least we felt better; not as if we are steeling food, but rather saving it from the dumpster.

 

Maya and Viktor (Ivo behind them) with burgers.

Maya and Viktor (Ivo behind them) with burgers.

The ship leaves in the early afternoon, and the island is only ours now; not a single soul on the beach, silence restored. We swim, we go for a walk exploring the interior, the fields and pastures where a few dozen horses, some goats, and a donkey named Ted are being kept.

Baby goat

Baby goat

 

We visit the little camp where the 40 permanent island workers employed by Holland-America live in trailers, away from the tourist facilities, and they invite us to the community kitchen for supper. It’s wonderful: local Bahamian food: fish in tomato sauce, rice and beans, freshly baked cookies. They have a community cook who prepares food for everyone. These are the workers who clean the beach after the cruise ship is gone, who maintain the private beach-cabanas painting and cleaning them, who guide the horseback-riding and swimming-with-stingrays tours. I ask them what they think of the wasting of food from the buffet and they too don’t understand it but don’t want to say much, as they don’t want to jeopardize their employment. How about pigs, I suggest. You could raise pigs for free with so much leftovers. But the pigs will stink and the tourists will not like it, they say sadly. Even the goats and the horses we keep all the way on the other side of the island. No, the leftovers go to the sharks. Company policy.

The following night Ivo cannot sleep.

The memory of the buffet and the uncertainty of tomorrow keep him wide awake. Will a cruise ship come again? Will it bring us food? He spends the night sitting on deck, awaiting with anxiety the arrival of a big white ship.

Sure enough, the next morning, another cruise ship drops the hook in our anchorage and the buffet scene repeats. Every day a cruise ship arrives and every day we join the tourists for lunch. And in the afternoon we enjoy the silence; and in the evening we make a small fire on the sand to heat up some leftover burgers.

Vick and Maya building a small fire.

Vick and Maya building a small fire.

 

Mira heating up buffet-grilled-chicken and cruise-boat-buns.

Mira heating up buffet-grilled-chicken and cruise-boat-buns.

 

Maya by the fire.

Maya by the fire.

 

Thus, a week passes.

We now feel like this is our private island and when Brian and Joyce finally arrive, we welcome them and show them around. It is such a joy to meet old friends away from home, in such a beautiful setting!

Mira, Joyce and Brian in the pirate Ship Bar.

Mira, Joyce and Brian in the pirate Ship Bar.

 

Their ship, Carnival Fantasy, is the one with the craziest crowd. Mostly young people, everyone drunk, dancing in the sea. (Holland-America ships are like floating senior’s homes, less people, quiet well-behaved crowd.)

Drunk cruiseship people dancing Macarena in the sea.

Drunk cruiseship people dancing Macarena in the sea.

 

When Brian and Joyce leave that day, we are sad. We have no more reason to stay here… But a series of fortunate events cause us to stay one more memorable week.

To be continued…

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Bitter Guana Cay

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The 700 Bahamian islands and cays are all low-lying flat tablelands of sand, coral, and limestone on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, averaging not more than 30 meters/100 feet in elevation. Most of the smaller cays are uninhabited, covered with low tropical vegetation, small spiky palm trees and cedars. 

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One such cay is Bitter Guana Cay in the Exumas where we stop for a few days for a total do-nothing relaxation period away from everything and everyone. The island looks like a chocolate-covered puff-cream pastry. The white sand is the vanilla cream filling and the limestone is the chocolate on top, which is now all cracked-up and melting away as a result of some glorious roaring Jurassic convulsion of the earth’s crust.

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On the west side, the side of the shallow Bahama Bank, the anchorage in front of the small beach is completely protected from east, north and south winds and big ocean waves.

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We spend a few days here alone, with no other boats around, swimming, fishing, climbing the crumbling sandy ridges, exploring the small cave, feeding the population of hungry but friendly iguanas with whatever leftover food, which is not much, sorry, iguana-buddies.

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Only once a dinghy stopped by our iguana-island and a young couple spent the afternoon on our beach, completely naked and happy, their white butts shining like vanilla ice cream under the mighty all-seeing ever-smiling tropical sun. We forgive them the trespassing, just because they were naked and therefore totally free and defiant, and because they too shared some food with our iguanas.

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On the other side of the island, the Bahama Sound, the sea is not so kind. It is scary and menacing, deep blue-purple color, east winds and huge waves pounding the rock. Here the ocean dropoff plunges to depths our depth founder will never record, some of the deepest ocean water in the hemisphere. We stay away from there. For now.

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Men With Machetes, Bones With Souls, Mountains With Secrets

“Not even anthropologists or intellectuals, no matter how many books they have, can find out all our secrets.”
-Rigoberta Menchu Tum

Lake Izabal

Lake Izabal

„Are you afraid of death?” he asks me with the same intonation as if he is asking Do you like yellow flowers. I don’t know how to answer. My mouth becomes dry. „When you go to the graveyard, are you scared?” he clarifies.

„When I was a little girl, yes, I was scared of death and to go in graveyards, but now no. Now I am more afraid of the living than of the death.“ We both lough at the joke.

 

Hiking through the jungle

Hiking through the jungle

 

We are walking on a dirt road through a vast plantation of palm trees, the guy and me, past a palm-oil treatment plant, across a wide shallow river, and into the shadow of a jungle-covered mountain. Ivo, Joni, and the two other guys are walking ahead of us. We met them this morning. We don’t know their names. We don’t know if they are good guys or bad guys. All we know is that they are young indigenous Q’eqchi men who agreed to take us to a cave in the mountain above their village. They are wearing jeans, t-shirts and black rubber boots, carrying small backpacks and machetes.

 

Cutting a nut-like fruit called Monok from a spiky tree

Cutting a nut-like fruit called Monok from a spiky tree

 

The whole thing happened spontaneously. We were sailing along the remote edge of Lake Izabal, Guatemala’s biggest lake. It was getting late; we had to find a place to anchor overnight. We approached the shore where a big column of grey smoke was coming out of the forest: a village, we thought, and that’s where we stopped. From the boats we saw a few houses on the banks of the lake. Tiny, made of thin logs and roofs of dry palm leaves. Behind them, the heavy humid mountains of Sierra de las Minas: white limestone covered with thick intensely green jungle. The night fell.

In the morning the entire village gathered on the shore to meet our kayak. Caxclampon Pataxte is a small community of a few hundred indigenous Q’eqchi, mostly children. Tourists don’t stop here often, and so our visit is a huge event.

 

The people from the village greeting us

The people from the village greeting us

 

“Are there caves near-by?” I ask. Only a few speak Spanish.

„Yes, there is a cave not too far; we can take you there if you like.“ Thus begun our journey.

Once we enter the jungle and start climbing the mountain there is no road anymore. Our progress is slow and difficult. The guides use their machetes to cut a path through tangled vegetation and dig holes in the steep slopes making steps for us. The terrain is extremely harsh, at places seems impossible to pass.

 

Hiking

Ivo with one of the guides, hiking through the jungle

 

By the time we reach the cave, our guides tell us all about their struggles against the Colombian palm-oil company which, since over a decade now, is exploiting and polluting their land. The vast plantations of palm trees we have seen on our way, the smoke of the palm-oil treatment plant, the channels dumping chemical waste in the lake, are all killing the trees, poisoning the water, and bringing disease to their children. They have been robbed of their ancestral land by a corporate giant and are now fighting to get it back.

 

Road through the plantation

Road through the plantation

 

By the time we come back from the cave, we have become friends. The kind of friends who look out for each other and can count on each other. We could count on them for protection against the village crooks and the company people who saw us taking pictures and filming around the palm-oil treatment plant; they could count on us to tell their story of struggle against injustice.

 

Taking a break, sharing stories

Taking a break, sharing stories

 

We get to the cave’s entrance after about three hours of extreme hiking through the jungle. It is a small hole in the grey rocks leading down. The three guys stop at the edge of the hole to say a muffled prayer in Q’eqchi before going in. We follow. It is a place they rarely visit, they say, a sacred site for prayers and rituals; for secrets and secret knowledge. We are the first white people to ever enter this cave.

 

Saying a prayer in front of the cave entrance

Saying a prayer in front of the cave entrance

 

They lead us into a narrow dark corridor, humid and cool. We get to a chamber. The light of a small flashlight illuminates scattered objects on the floor: yellow bones, human skulls, lower jaws with crooked teeth. Some are calcified to the cave’s walls; others lay loose on the ground. It is a Tomba Maya, they explain, a Mayan burial ground. The skeletons must be hundreds of years old, they say, from the times before the Conquista.

 

Inside the cave

Inside the cave

 

Being in the presence of ancient Mayan remains is something both strange and beautiful. In the dark, my mind begins to wander. The cave with its breath of a carnivorous flower becomes a temple; I become a ghost from a faraway land.

“I am honored and deeply grateful, I whisper, to be here with you: men with machetes, bones with souls, mountains with secrets.”

 

Mayan remains inside the cave

Mayan remains inside the cave

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The Gulf of Honduras Bridge Is Not On The Charts!

 

 Sailing south along the coast of Belize

 

Sailing south non stop for over twenty hours along the Caribbean coast of Belize between the mainland and the Belize Barrier Reef where the seas are low; winds over twenty knots, the boat doing eight, at times nine knots. The miles go fast. Small mangrove islands to port, tall mountains to starboard, dark and mysterious, a huge river delta poring its brown waters in the sea.

At night, we try to take turns steering the boat, Ivo, Viktor, and I, but most of the time Ivo is at the helm, enjoying the speed. As we enter the Gulf of Honduras, the wind dies and the sea becomes flat as a lake. Staying awake is a challenge. Humongous cargo ships criss-cross the gulf, passing just next to our tiny boat. One even alters her course avoiding us. Good thing she saw us.

 

The Gulf of Honduras bridge

 

Around 3 in the morning Ivo wakes me up after a sharp tack, worried.

„There is a bridge in front of us and it looks low, we almost crashed into the bridge!“

„What bridge are you talking about, I don’t see a bridge.“ All I see is city lights in the distance. I take the spotlight and gaze into the darkness.

„The bridge, there, don’t you see it? Shit, it’s not on the chart! And that’s exactly where we have to go, it’s on our way!“

 

Ivo

Ivo

 

He really sees a bridge. Viktor and I try hard, staring into the darkness to see it too. Ivo has convinced us the bridge is right there, only, we cannot detect it…

We spend an hour circling in front of the bridge, altering our course in order not to collide with it, checking another chart to see if they maybe indicated it there. They didn’t. Sometimes the charts are way off, but omitting to mark a creepy low bridge in the middle of the Gulf of Honduras is preposterous!

„Wait a minute, this isn’t a bridge, I say, this is a road on land far away in the distance and you are hallucinating! Go get some sleep,“ I take over the wheel for the rest of the night and turn the boat directly towards the imaginary bridge.

Ivo goes below to get some sleep thinking to himself, „Man I hope she doesn’t hit the bridge…“

 

 

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Boat Punk Mash-Up

The following is a collage of recorded conversations and personal written reflections, and an attempt to reveal (maybe this is not the right word) who, what, why, when, and how of the relatively recent Boat Punk phenomenon. These are the stories and thoughts of Rebecca, Cherri, Ryan, Tyler, Tony, and Stacie: the Boat Punks in Key West, mashed up in one piece. I collected their written and oral accounts and took the liberty and huge responsibility to slice the individual stories and collage them in a way to create a collective piece that would pertain to the entire gang, a piece all can relate to. Even though I have been very careful, individual passages have been taken out of context to produce a somewhat universal but nevertheless altered meaning. 

–Mira

BOAT PUNK MASH UP

by Rebecca, Cherri, Ryan, Stacie, Tony, and Tyler

 

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Met up with friends Sunday and hatched those rafting plans I mentioned with a couple close friends over drinks that very night. Yesterday we visited some places and found beginning flotation and building supplies, and today I found a place next to a boat ramp where we can build and launch the framework for free!

You can call me a boat punk and I can tell you what I’m thinking right now.  

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As I write this, I’m sitting in the cockpit of my private yacht, my own personal ship, floating in a sea of turquoise, beneath a sky of stars. 

The process of transferring our hopes and dreams, our whispered fantasies, from the realm of the imagined and intangible to the concrete and lickable world of truth is one of the most fascinating processes available to the human experience, in my perception. The amount of roadblocks, obstacles and governors we place between our dreams and our realities is another concept I have been masticating for months. From what I can see, from my frontal lobe experience, it is possible to achieve your dreams. I just did it.

I have an oven to bake bread in; I have a cooler to keep beer cold, a liquor shelf, and a toilet. I have a bed (10 of them in fact). I have the table I’m sitting at with a computer plugged in and hot coffee at my side.  I have a fishing pole and a small BBQ that I can use at the same time while listening to my favorite music.  I have a library and a bike shop, and a backyard fenced in by over a million miles of coast line where my neighbors are interesting and the crime rate is almost nonexistent.  I have a wall to hang art and another to hang my hat.  And all this for the arguable sum of nothing.

I realized I didn’t want to live like normal people when I was a little kid.

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I had so many questions. I went to Sunday School. I had to read the bible, but I didn’t understand. I wanted to ask questions. How did this happen? How did that happen? They couldn’t answer my questions! Like the Noah’s Ark thing, that was a huge deal. They were teaching me Lord of the Rings type of stuff and I wanted to know like how the fuck this magic shit happen? They couldn’t answer me! They couldn’t answer me! And even when I was 6 years old I could still put two and two together. You got two animals of each on the arch. Forty days and forty nights, all you gonna have left at the end is lions and tigers. And also there is like you know one hundred thousand different kinds of ants and they live communally… That just doesn’t work! It’s fake, it’s thought to kids, it’s fucking…you know…and don’t bring up dinosaurs. So I got kicked out of Sunday school for not asking the right questions. And my parents were very, very upset.

There is an unrest forming, a casually brewing system of frustration, present amongst many of the finest people I have the joy of being connected to in my life. It is a storm of confusion, of anger and resentment, for the prevailing public standard in America. For the way many people raise their children, for the fog that exists in the minds and the eyes of the tourists we see bumbling through the streets on a daily basis, for the midwesterners drowning in our seas because, at the age of forty, they have never swam in the ocean, for the boy scouts who come to our schooner’s to learn of the sea who’s hands are lilly soft, for the mothers in the parks who warn their children of the inherent dangers of the sand beneath their child’s feet at the playground, frantically dressing them with fresh, thick socks, a filter for the evils of dirt and potential pain, for the war veterans we take into our homes to avoid their slow death on the sidewalks of our finest cities and the dreamy teenagers who volunteer on our properties, lacking the taught skills or motivation to wield a hammer or drive a plow, entrenched in their personal sagas, lost in a dreamland of television, nutritionally defunct meals, apathy, fear and misplaced ideals. 

It’s all very interesting.

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When I was in high school I said I wanted to be an ex-patriot as I grow up. I got suspended for three days.

When I was in high school I was an outcast. My neighbors were my only friends. They were much older than me and they were Punks. They were the only friends I had. They would take me to Punk shows. It was the only time I felt cool, it was the only time I felt accepted. I was fortunate enough to have this outlet because I didn’t fit in the school at all. So I started going to Punk shows. And I realized: Punk music caries a message. I got the message. 

It’s so strange…even some of my earliest memories were listening to music. I remember sitting in the driveway, someone working on their car, listening to music. And I was listening to the lyrics of the music realizing that they are saying something. And just like that, the whole discovery. Wow! Tripped me out, dude. This one memory I’m saying, the song was I can see for miles and miles by The Who, an old classic rock. Then I kind of looked out and I was sort of like, Wait, I could see for miles and miles too! It was like a weird revelation.

In my personal realm, I am on the reaping end of a dream I have been sowing for months. Post the „completion“ of a nearly eight month long, filth infested restoration of the boat on which I now rest, write and create art, I’m reflecting on a process that reminded me of the values I intend to place upon my own life and instilled in me a brand of astonishment that is reserved for the people who have a vision and possess the fortitude, both mentally and physically, to apply the strength, dedication and patience necessary to reap fruition in a tangible sense.

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I got a skateboard as a kid. That was really sort of cutting edge back then. Now every kid has a skateboard but back then not a lot of people had a skateboard. And, you know, getting into skateboarding writing graffiti, hanging out with punk kids and stuff, I started getting into Punk Rock. And I started listening to this old Sex Pistols type of Punk Rock and stuff. It was cool ‘cause you could say SEX pistols without getting in trouble. I was about 9 or 10.

Then there was this alternative college radio station It was on the Fridays nights and it would go till like 4 in the morning and it was called the bottom 40. They would play mostly Punk music and shit like hat. I remember staying up listening to songs and I would record some things. I always wanted shit that was fast, I needed something Punk but fast and they played this Bad Brain song and that fucking changed my life, it was fast as fuck, the fastest music I ever heard, dude. That was my influence right there.

At that point I kind of knew what anarchy was just being a skater, there were anarchy signs on everything. And when you research the bands and learn where they come from really influences you.

Ryan

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I suppose though I’m unsure whether I fit into the [Boat Punk] piece, as I’m at most a fringe-boat punker–there because of the situation. Many would never consider me ‘punk’. I never wore the right studded pants or collected the right audio cassettes. For me punk meant screwing the normal assumptions, roles, and attitudes pushed upon us by society. It meant doing something different and working, in whatever small way, for a world that could be something different. The people I think of as punk are radically different from what most might visually and aesthetically think of as punk. While part of me was on Rocksteady because of Tyler, another part was there because I believed in a boat that offered inspiration and a website (www.boatpunk.com) that offered collaboration.

Punk is no more an expression of freedom as claiming a national or spiritual identity.  It’s common to point out all the black cloths and tattoos and the shinny things in the face.  It may be true that we all look the same, which is a two way street that, in my mind, is just a wash at best. Probably like cowboys, businessmen and gangsta’s, the dress and hangout spots filter out people with strongly opposing characteristic values.  I’v never been to prison but I don’t imagine on the first day you walk around introducing yourself to every single person you see and discuss the potential benefits of acquaintanceship. If I had a swastika on my face I think I would try to get to that side of the room as quickly as I could.  On one hand a marked punk can walk into any city in the world, find the other punks and be in good hands, on the other hand I’ve been cornered by some jock who has me totally confused with some other black shirt tattooed kid that threw a bottle at him the night before. Or upon walking into a store for the first time in my life only to have some manager escort me out reminding me that just last week I had been banished for life.  And I know there are people out there who have paid heavily for my own shenanigans. Like I said the looks part is a wash.  Below and within that, however, exists camaraderie in a community that is strong and free.  Though widely varying philosophies and practices surface, networking and moral support persevere in creating a bond of unity where d.i.y. (do-it-yourself) becomes d.i.t. (do-it-together).   

Community is: everybody takes care of each other. And it’s really important. It’s kind of like here, you know. If you guys need anything you call us, or we hail you guys. Like if we need a dinghy ride. Everybody working together to create a community.

I lived in the Slabs for 14 months and I made moccasins. I made a little community camp, and did little acoustic night and all this shit. And that’s what I did.

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I was dating a girl at a time and she lived in LA and she took me to Slab City. We just stayed for like a weekend. But I felt in love with the place. And I didn’t go back till 6 years later. I was touring with a Punk band and all this stuff, so…but in the back of my mind I knew the band wasn’t gonna last forever and I knew I didn’t want to work, pay rent: I didn’t want to do all that stuff, you know what I mean, it just didn’t feel right to me. So after the band broke off I went to Slab City. And Slab City is a giant community in the very essence of the word. In the Slabs there’s gardens, and there’s libraries, music and arts and everything, and you don’t get this anywhere else. There is for sure a dark side to it. The thing about the Slabs is, you either want to live there or you have to.  Because, you know, some people have no place else where to go. Whether they have a warrant or they are running from the law or whatever. So it’s like Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. All these crazy people. I’ve seen giant mansions made out of trash. I mean, nicer than any Hilton that you can stay in. Some of these people have been there for 40 years. Oh my god, I met so many cool people there: Builder Bill, New York Mike… I want to go back, I miss it right now…

And then I got this idea to buy a sailboat and I did that. I got the idea because of this documentary called Hold Fast. It was this punk guy and two girls, they bought this boat and filmed their experience. Kind of crappy filming but super awesome. Full inspiration. And I was in the Slabs. I was gonna stay there but I decided I still had some adventure left in me. So I watched this documentary and it just filled me with zeal. And I was just like Fuck this. I got out of the desert and I got me a sailboat. From the desert to the ocean.

I tried living on land and I hated it; it’s very expensive. So I ended up buying my own boat which was the most exciting day of my life. I know she doesn’t look much to anybody else but me but I think she is beautiful. So that’s how I ended up down here. It’s been quite the adventure for sure. A learning experience. I was really scared at first. Now I am completely comfortable.

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I always wanted a home for myself. But I am a traveler. A house, you always have to go back to. So, I figured a boat will be perfect. I am almost turning 40 and finally have a home of my own. A home I can travel with anywhere in the world. I really like the freedom of it, travelling, and self-sufficiency. Plus, it is free to travel using the elements. And that is amazing for me. Humans have been doing this for centuries and we lost it.

I believe it is important to live a life intimately connected to the rhythms of the natural world–one who’s daily processes are affected by earthbound realities like wind, rain and tide. The loss of connection to the natural world is destroying our humanity.

I like being immersed in science and facing the challenge of adapting to it by way of education and experiment.  I like being reminded that being human is nothing in comparison to nature as a whole and that an interest in self preservation is nothing more than that.  I like living almost off grid and only very near an overly structured society.  I like seeing the fruits of my labor very directly providing a sustainable freedom of travel.  I like the gleam of wanderlust in the eye’s of the dreamers.    

I think the most important thing we can continue to do is act on our wildest dreams. To stay true to ourselves and our intentions. To laugh loudly and create blindly. It is a fucked up global situation. We’ve made some pretty big mistakes, as a species, and I wouldn’t be surprised if momma Earth decides any moment now she’d like to wipe the slate clean and start again. I’m easily convinced of this potentiality every time I saunter down Duval Street and watch a fraternity boy in American flag print swimming trunks chuck a full can of beer across the street at noon on the 3rd of July, drunkenly screaming „YOLO!!“ and then pointing a series of gyrating pelvic thrusts in the direction of the guy he just creamed, who is now crying. Or many of the more subtle examples of mistreatment that you can see every day if you chose to seek them out. What, exactly, defines our culture’s definition of „crazy?“ 

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The other day, I got these worms, I call them burn worms. I thought they’d be great bait. Got them under the rocks. Giant worms! And I grabbed them and they burned the shit on my hands. So I looked them up online and they are called bearded fire worms. Here you go, there is the name!

I love critters, I love nature, I love checking all that shit out. I think it’s really important that everybody knows about how everything lives and its little spot in the environment, and how little it takes to destroy it…But people are ignoring that. I try not to get depressed about it…

Still, a lot of kids are getting around now, caring about the environment and all that stuff. I think that it’s really good for the kids to know ‘cus if they all band together can get pretty cool. When I was a kid I felt I could do more about it, but there is not much you can do as a single person, you can just do your part… As I get older I’m getting a little more bitter and angrier about it. I think animals are more important than people. But I think it’s up to people to protect them.

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Personally, I am reacting to my own disgust by concentrating on building a life for myself that I believe in, the type of life that, if more people chose, would generate a better world. I have only been back on the water for a week–a week that has rekindled truths I am, personally, consistently guilty of forgetting about. It has been a wild week–consistent high winds with numerous passing gales possessive of headwinds over 30 knots, some gusting upwards of fifty. She has not been a particularly gentle teacher, aside from when I float in her relatively still waters during a warm tropical rain, an hour of respite between the winds. These are the lessons the sea taught me this week:

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(the end)

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