Anniversary Vacation Trip to Freeport, Grand Bahama Island

For our 2 year anniversary, we decided to take another trip to the Caribbean.  This time we went to Freeport, Bahamas.  It’s located in Grand Bahama Island.  We chose this destination for two reasons:  its secluded beaches (since most tourists’ destination is Nassau) and its diving activities.  Getting here sucked, we had to take 3 planes!  Three!  With a baby.  We brought Seanna along because we just didn’t have the heart to leave her behind.  And besides, we want her to love the water, so what better place to start her love for the sea than this paradise?  The trip was more than worth it.  This place was absolutely beautiful!  Absolutely. Beautiful.

We stayed at the Our Lucaya Reef Village which is adjacent to its sister resort, The Radisson Our Lucaya, which has the really cool shape of a cruise ship.  The resort was nice with very friendly staff, except for the “Concierge/Tour Information” lady that had a face like she had few friends and was mad at the world — with an attitude to match.  We enjoyed our stay here and would come back again.

Anyways, on to the good stuff.  Here’s what we did:

Day 1 — 7.3.2010:

We arrived and did nothing but just hang out.  No pictures or videos.  We literally just hung out by the beach all day and did absolutely nothing, not even eat.  By the time dinner got here, we were starved.  We went to the plaza where all the touristy restaurants and shops are, which is a rock throw distance away.  Man, the food here is super pricey.  Actually make that mad pricey.  A burger runs you about $12-15 bucks, plus a can of soda ($2.50 — no refills), times 2 people, plus tip (15%) — per serving (breakfast, lunch, dinner) = Ca-ching!  If you wanted something better than a burger, you were looking to pay $17 to $32 for an entree plus the extras.   That really adds up.  So, if you’re thinking to visit this area, the all inclusive package should be considered.  We didn’t go that route because we weren’t planning on staying at the resort.

Day 2 — 7.4.2010:

We again stayed at the resort.  There was not much to do but lay at the beach and relax.  Mariana was anxious to do some water activities so Monica went on the Banana boat ride with her.  When they came back I noticed that Mariana was walking very awkward.  Something seemed off about her.  One glimpse at her butt and she had to tell me about the unfortunate events that took place: As she found out, it’s not a good idea to go on the Banana boat ride when you are wet and only wearing a bikini.  At first she thought it was funny that the motion of the rubber boat and the sand rubbing her butt gave her a funny feeling.  “I feel like my butt is exfoliating,” she exclaimed to Monica, laughing, almost with a private joy.  Soon though, as the boat picked up speed, the “exfoliating” turned into “OUCH! My butt feels like it’s being rubbed with sandpaper!”  Which then turned into “AAAaaah!!! It feels like someone is chainsawing my butt!!!”  From the boat you could hear screams of joy, of pain, and what sounded like someone was being gutted by the Texas chainsaw murderer — that was Mari.  Poor Mari.  Her butt was on fire.  It was glowing red — almost.  She had a mad rash.  She needed Neosporin, but we had none.  I tried to convince her to take a picture of it, so I can post it on this blog, but since she said it was “up deep in there”, she declined.  Here at thedownsclan.com we like to be detailed and provide you, our readers, with as much information as possible, sooo… since Mariana did not want a picture of her butt on this post,  in an effort to provide you with a glimpse of what she looked like, here’s an accurate portrayal (except she wasn’t wearing a bow):

After some snorkeling, taking pictures and just laying out doing nothing, we went to plaza to have dinner.  We went back to the hotel and waited for the firework show to start at 10PM.  At 10PM we heard the fireworks go off and so we immediately left our room, got on the elevator, sped down the hall, to the lobby and exited the building.  By this time, the fireworks show was over.  The “Show” lasted approximately 1 minute 30 seconds.  Bummer.  The “Mariana fireworks curse” continues.  If you ever want to see fireworks for the 4th of July, make sure you don’t spend it with Mariana.  She never gets to see them and neither those who are around her.

Here are some pics of our little lady being patriotic (4th of July):

Day 3 — 7.5.2010:

Monica and I got up very early because we had scheduled 2 reef dives and a shark dive.   I had researched for weeks where to best experience sharks in the Bahamas and all sites and reviews let us to UNEXSO.  These guys really run a professional diving organization.  They are well established.  My only complaint about them was that we got outvoted by some rookies that didn’t want to go on the 80-100ft dive to “Theo’s Wreck” (a shipwreck) so we ended up going to a 45 foot dive at a reef instead.  The way I see it, don’t pair up scared noobs with more experienced divers (or at least divers who are up for the challenge).  Scott and Jim were our captains/dive masters and they were very nice and took the time to show you all they had seen underwater.  Below is a quick clip of the first two dives:

After the reef dive, we did a shark dive… and it was awesome…!  I’ll write about this tomorrow…  Part II coming soon…

Valentine’s Day Getaway in Puerto Rico – Part I

For Valentine’s Day weekend, we went to the enchanted island once again.  We had previously visited back in 2005 when Monica and I had just started going out.  We now returned as a married couple.  On our first trip we visited Old San Juan, El Yunque and the beautiful island of Culebra where we did some serious snorkeling. This time, we went to visit our good friends Yazmine and JP (Juan Pablo) and visit the west side of the island. We were very happy to see them both again. We hadn’t seen them since our wedding, 7 months back. Yazmine and I have been friends for many years and when she moved back we promised her that we would go visit her. It took a few years, but we finally made it and we were very excited! When we arrived, the first thing we did was to go see her at her workplace after JP picked up us from the airport. We wanted to know about everything that went on when she audition for American Idol and made it to Hollywood. After a brief catching up, we went to get some typical Puerto Rican food, Chuleta Can-Can (Fried Pork Chop) but I was disappointed I didn’t see Arroz con Gandules, a typical Puerto Rican cuisine, on the menu. The pork chop was a vicious meal, I was stuffed to the core.  So after this serious meal, we went to the Yaz-JP Hotel and met the rest of the family, their four dogs.   When Yazmine got home from work she got ready for us to go to Old San Juan and have dinner. This is when I realized that while JP has been in PR for years, I, a native of Nicaragua, living in the US, had to introduce him to one of PR’s best liquors: Passoa! Passoa is a passion fruit drink that is very tropical and an exotic taste. Women love it because it doesn’t really taste like alcohol, men love it because women get drunk without knowing and then get wild. So after a drink, we went to DragonFly a chic restaurant to get some sushi. After dinner we returned home and passed out.

JP Yaz and Alex
JP Yaz and Alex

The next day we woke up early and made the hour trip to Crash Boat beach. We drove out early in morning, about 7 or so, to Crash Boat, a beach west of San Juan. First we searched for a bakery to eat some good typical Puerto Rican breakfast but we couldn’t find any. We drove on the expressway but got back on the local roads because Monica wanted to pass out from hunger, but nothing. After an hour, we decided to stop by a McDonalds and get some boring American breakfast platter. There we asked for directions to get to Crash Boat. It turns out that giving directions in Puerto Rico is just like they give directions in my native Nicaragua. No one knows the actual road names, instead the use landmarks and estimates of distance to make a turn. For example, the lady at the McDonald’s gave us the following directions: “You go the right at the corner, then you’re going to go for another 40 minutes and pass three McDonalds and then make a right, then you’ll go to a church and make a left, then when you see a big tree, you take the next left.” I am not exaggerating. When I asked what the name of the roads are, they didn’t know. When I used my iPhone and named the roads (302, 28, etc), they didn’t know even though it was the road in front of them. But, the directions worked.

We made it to the vicinity but got lost after the third Mickey Ds. So, I asked for directions yet again, but to my luck, the guy I asked was a mute. He was mumbling something but we didn’t understand. We felt bad for him because he was trying help, but we had to ask someone else right next to him. And what do you know, he gave us the following directions: “Make a U, go to the church, make a right, continue until you pass a big white house, make a left and continue until you see a small blue sign.” Perfect directions.

As soon as we go there, we parked and ordered some Pinchos from some street vendors. Here you could order pork, beef or chicken on a stick, lathered with BBQ, and topped with a Tostone with garlic. Yummy and cheap! I had been to Crash Boat back in 2003 with my boys (Pato, Bori, Daniel and some Chinese guy) and it was a great time. The beach back then was full of life, it had a diverse group of people, locals, tourists, couples, singles, etc. This time however, it was one HUGE sausage fest. It was like College Spring Break without the chicks. Ok, it had some chicks, but they were jailbait. Not that I was looking for chicks, but I couldn’t help but notice how there were 30 guys to every girl. And there were all young. I guess it must have been either High School skip day or some freshmen college hang out day.

Anyways, I decided to go and do some snorkeling. There was absolutely nothing but white sand. There was an occasional unremarkable fish that followed me around, but that was about it. I ran into some scuba divers that must have been some real amateurs because they were occupying themselves with some small fishes. I guess they were learning. The diving at Crash Boat is just terrible, anyone who thinks it’s great has obviously not fully experience anything other than snorkeling. After about 15 minutes, once I made it to the pier, I made my way back. My uneventful snorkeling was disrupted when two guys jumped from the pier into the water and then started making out next to me. Yeah, awkward. After I made it back to land, we took some pictures but had to move to a more obscure location because the guys were just foaming at the mouth and the young chicks were hating on the hot woman with the hot bikini. Below are some pictures:

The hot wife with the pier in the background
The hot wife with the pier in the background

monica-downs

The hot wife striking a pose

The hot wife striking a pose

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Little Corn Island: Paradise! (Honeymoon Day 3)


Day 3. Paradise at Last! I woke up around 5AM because we were told that the sunrise was between 430 and 5AM. I missed it. It was bright; the sun was already out, which was quite disappointing. I zombied my way back to the bed and fell back asleep. We got up later on around 7 and started packing. We put everything in zip lock bags of all sizes. We were preparing for the worst. If the boat that was carrying us to Little Corn Island capsized, at least our stuff was going to be dried. We grabbed a taxi and went to the municipal wharf, which didn’t really look like a wharf at all. I guess it did, since it had a very small pier. As soon as we got there, we met a group of American girls. These girls were hardcore! Some of them spoke very good Spanish, some had been up and down Central America experiencing the culture in its raw form, and I based that solely on the experienced traveler look they had and all the kinds of medicine they carried. I mean, they had medicine to outlast any outbreak of some mutating virus directly from the jungles of Africa. They even offered us some of their field tested Extra strength Immodium for the “just in case” scenario. After a while of waiting for the “Skipper” to load the shipment of vegetables and other items that were to be taken to Little Corn, we boarded the small boat. We were undecided as to which side of the boat we should take. Do we take the front, where you take most of the hits and are sure to bounce all over the place? Or do we take the rear where it’s more stable but will get wet? After Monica decided at the last minute to go to the local pharmacy, we had no choice but to go the front because when we got back to the boat, everyone had already taken the back. We rode into the surf. I must say that it wasn’t as bad as I expected. I expected everyone to be throwing up left and right, for women and children to be crying, for waves to be hitting us from all sides, and as a married man: at least one near widow experience. Nope, none of that. We had bumps here and there and when we did everyone would laugh because Monica would scream like she was falling 90ft off the King’s Dominion’s Drop Zone. We got a bit wet, but the crowd in the back got very wet. I felt bad for some old man through whose face you could see the anguish he was going through.

The American girls we met.  On the way to Little Corn Island.

The American girls we met. On the way to Little Corn Island.

As we got closer and closer to Little Corn Island, we were getting more and more excited as we saw the waters clear and become azure as we reached shallow waters . When we got there, we put our stuff on the pier. A scuba dive shop came along with many other business representatives asking us where we were staying and gave us a map of the island. Some guy was all over us. He kept saying the same thing over and over “Where are you going? I can take you. I’ll show you the way, follow me.” We told him we were going over to Derek’s Place, which we didn’t know was on the other side of Little Corn. So we did what goes against conventional wisdom. We decided to follow some unknown guy, in unfamiliar territory, into a jungle where there were no houses, no people, and nothing but a subtle fear that we were taking part of what could be one of those “based on actual events” horror films. No one would hear us scream if this guy would have been a machete-wielding psycho/entrepreneur who was in the business of selling tourist organs in the black market. All I could think about was the movie Turistas. If you haven’t seen it, it’s quite graphic and full of gore. Anyways, back to reality, we had all our gear in our backs which was about 50lbs a piece. We were very lucky to have new luggage that was very flexible and were the “Transformers of Luggage.” I am telling you, this luggage converted from a carry-on to a luggage on wheels with a pull out grip and finally to a backpack, a big backpack at that. (Thanks Dan and Carolina for this great gift! We wouldn’t have made it with any other!) We walked and walked and walked some more. The sun was beating us down and the heat of the jungle made us sweat. The 50 pounds on our back started to feel heavier and heavier.

Monica aka Rambo in the Jungles of Little Corn

Monica aka Rambo in the Jungles of Little Corn

We dragged deeper and deeper into the jungle. Monica was overwhelmed and I told the guide (and still suspected psycho killer) to take the luggage from her and to carry it. All these thoughts were crossing my mind. What if he’s making us walk to wear us down. What if he’s taking us somewhere where there will be others waiting to ambush us? What would be our plan in case anything went wrong? I said a quick prayer and kept walking. It made me feel a bit better that there was another couple following us. They were really struggling to keep up though. Our legs and arms got to meet the jungle’s mosquitoes on an intimate level as we walked for what felt like 40 minutes. But we kept walking. The suspected psychopath kept saying we were almost there, which we believed every time. We stopped at some plant that he claimed was a miracle plant. He said the locals used it for everything, from headaches, dehydration to even cancer. He picked up several big leaves and gave it to us. We continued on. Then the thick vegetation turned into palm trees as we heard the sweet symphony of waves crashing somewhere in the distance. We still couldn’t see the beach, but it was very exciting. We were getting closer and closer to paradise. We then saw the trees break open and the beautiful blue waters behind them. We walked towards the beach and were so excited, so happy, we were laughing. It was joy. It was relief. This guy wasn’t a killer! We were almost there! And paradise was upon us at last! We walked for a few minutes and then reached our destination.

Carrying a the luggage and a backpack... Whew!  It was tiring!

Carrying a the luggage and a backpack... Whew! It was tiring!

A sneek peak of the beautiful beach Little Corn Island has to offer!

A sneek peak of the beautiful beach Little Corn Island has to offer!

When we got there, we were greeted by Ana, the owner. She was very laid back. Verified who we were and told us to unpack and relax. Our guide, the former suspected organ dealer, stood waiting for his compensation. We asked him how much we owed him and he said 20. I was like wow, only 20 Pesos? That’s like $1. But then he was like, “No, 20 Dollars.” I gave the guy 100 pesos, equivalent to $5. I scoffed at his offer! $20 bucks! I would have understood $20 if he was carrying both our luggage, while providing some sort of transportation for us as well. Nicaragua is very cheap. This island was cheaper. He looked at me and thankfully took the dinero. Unfortunately for the couple that came with us, there were no huts available so they had to continue on with the guide (the would- have-been $20 hustler) onto a nearby place called Ensuenos, which we had only heard bad things about. We unpacked and let out a big sigh! We had reached paradise at last! Ana brought us some fresh opened coconuts with a straw. Who needs bottled water when you have fresh coconut water to quench the thirst? I laid on the hammock as Monica went inside our honeymoon love shack and unpacked. I was tired; exhausted, actually. But the trip was worth it. This place was amazing. It was a true paradise! The shade of the tall palm trees, the proximity to the beach, the cooling breeze of the ocean, even the way the ground felt with it’s mossy grass which felt like soft carpet, all added to the unique sensation that this was going to be unforgettable!

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After unpacking, we didn’t do anything. We took a few pictures and laid in the hammock listening to the perennial sound of the breaking waves at the shore. We didn’t even bother to go in the water. That could wait. For now, all we needed was to enjoy this moment. Enjoy peace on earth. Let our thoughts flow with the wind that rocked the trees smoothly back and forth. Laziness and deep relaxation had settled in.

Coconut at Derek's Place, Little Corn Island

Enjoying a fresh coconut in paradise!

Derek's Place, Little Corn Island Nicaragua - Amazing view!

Amazing view (Check!), Ocean Breeze (Check), Hammocks (Check), Relaxation (Check!)

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