Carribean Vacation

A typical vacation to Caribbean islands conveys a stereo typed idea of an exotic land remembered by images of blue sunny skies, Havana Cigars, carnivals, voodoo magic and palm trees! But there is more to this group of islands than just a conventional picture of booze and fun! Or those classical pictures of James Bond and Dr.No; The Three Blind Men and the seductive Honey Rider! It is just only one of many that make up the real Caribbean. One of the most striking and amazing things about the Caribbean region is its diversity and cultural speciality. Every island is unique and every region is special with contrasting landscapes, ecosystems, ethnicities, and foods.

Every Caribbean island has some thing of its own to offer to travelers! If you’re looking for that special, erotic swinging nightlife, peaceful tranquility, golfing, diving, sailing, gambling or camping, some are found on a few islands while in others you do not find them. In total, the Caribbean islands are about 90,000 square miles of landmass of small islets, half of it hilly or mountainous and the other half flat land. Most of them are a great scenic combination of the water and earth, circled by sandy beaches, blue lagoons and pristine coves.
With more than 20 Island nations to choose and visit, one needs to be very wise and prudent in identifying. What ever the choice, this is a magnificent region overall, has a lazy paced life style, numbers of activities and recreation options to choose from and a year round tropical ambience. The more one knows about these finer details, the more one becomes infatuated with the islands! Caribbean vacation has thousands things to offer and million things to learn!

Caribbean vacation displays a benevolent Mother Nature who is extraordinarily diverse and a great artist. It is perfect picture post card sceneries all over the region, almost on the verge of the work of a Renaissance master! Back drop of cool mountains, like a drapery screen with tall palm trees to give company. Clear blue skies with occasional cotton like white clouds! Crystal clear seas with numerous bays, lagoons and shallow beaches with palm tress dotted all over!Which ever the region one chooses, get stunned by what is seen –from volcanic mountains to stretches of tropical forests, clear streams to wild ocean, mangrove swamps to sand dunes, huge rock formations to colorful coral reefs. Get excited by limestone hillocks and caves, rivers both over ground and subterranean, waterfalls, rainforests, lakes and teeming wild life. And always there is the ubiquitous sea. Spectacular is the metaphor for all encompassing seas and beaches!

Caribbean vacation can bring the other darker side of life too! Rare earth quakes and violent spewing volcanoes can make one tremble with fear up their spine, while gusty winds and torrential rains of a destructive hurricane can be a sight in fury! Look out for all those tiny sand islets created and destructed at the mercy of Mother Nature. The amazingly panoramic grandeur of the Caribbean defies one’s imagination. One needs to be a true spectator to get immersed in the glory of the Caribbean vacation. The radiating beauty of the natural Caribbean is practically inescapable and beyond comprehension. No one is far from the panoramic sight of undulating hills, lovely gardens and clear blue seas. Just take a peep out of the window and take a look at the eternal sea. Or gaze beyond the wide expanse of lovely mountains! Most of the visitors get immersed in the splendor of these chains of exotic islands even before they know it.

A well earned Caribbean vacation is dream come true for nature buffs! Providence bestows its favor to all these lovely islands with what seems to be an endless number of species of plants and animals, many of them indigenous and more endangered! Myriads of varieties of plants and animals dot from high hills to low seas. Islands full of strange creatures; some exotic like butterflies and humming birds and others captivating like Sharks and turtles! Besides more well-known species like flamingoes, terns, and pelicans, bird watchers will have all the luck to have a glimpse of a Barrancoli, a Flautero, or a Bananaquit. Garden buffs might well recognize and relish Bougainvilleas, Hibiscus and Orchids, while food buffs will taste exotic tropical fruits and sea dishes. Due to paucity of information on the flora and fauna, it is best left to a traveler to do his own research and compilation and get ready for an experience of a life time.

Intriguing people, rich and diverse culture, exotic and delicious cuisine, and intoxicating reggae music; there’s plenty to see and experience on the islands. While Grenada can be quiet and somber, lively San Juan can be too boisterous and active. The tiny islets of Barbuda and Barbados are full of sports while the sugar fields of Cuba can be a nostalgic colonial experience. The Caribbean vacation also offers a wide variety of physical landscapes; if one wants to relax on some of the prettiest beaches in the world, Aruba is an automatic choice, but if one wants to explore and trek the rain forests, Puerto Rico is the natural selection. The whole region has its own menu to offer! There are high mountains to climb and lush rain forests to explore. There are sandy deserts too sprinkled with scrub-trees, cacti, and boulders and that unbearable heat! Gently undulating hills covered with brilliantly colored grass and sugarcane fields surrounding those majestic 19th-century plantation mansions are like fresh whiff of wind.

A Caribbean vacation can be a visit to an unspoiled paradise full of vibrancy and life! Enchanting spots, lovely beaches, risky trekking trails, exotic food and gyrating reggae are all part of a heaven begging to be visited and explored! Lovely faces and cute braids are always high points of attraction. Home cottages, cold beer and delicious sea food are words of hospitality. The islands of Caribbean always remain the jewels in the crown of world tourism.

The Dominican Republic The Real Truth

A carribean paradise or a haven for corruption.

White sandy shore lines and beautiful reasonably priced all-inclusive beach resorts.The Dominican Republic can offer you the best vacation of your life.

If you plan to get outside of your hotel room a good tour guide can be worth the money.

For a retirement destination it can be risky because the economy is very unstable and the dollars yo yo has left American products at about 10 times the their prices in the United States.When the dollar started going up from about 19 to 1 to 57 to 1 you could see the merchants in the stores and supermarkets raising there prices every five minutes. But when the dollar dropped from 57 back to 27 to 1 the stores owners didn’t notice and just sat in there offices and forgot to lower the prices. The Dominican people are close to starving to death because of the prices of food in the stores. Which also equates to extremely high prices for a person vacationing in dollars or living in dollars in the Dominican Republic. The tourist can get around the gastly prices by simply staying in an all-inclusive resourt. I had a stomach ache after eating my favorite peanut butter and fried banana sandwich and went to buy a bottle of Pepto Bismol that cost $1.98 back home and I had to pay $15 dollars. That gives you an idea of how prices are set.

For a bachelor looking for a girlfriend or wife, there is no place better. The Dominican Republic has many available beautiful women. And I don’t say beautiful lightly. The Dominican Republic holds the crown for Miss Universe. Amelia Vega was crowned Miss Universe in 2003. To avoid the wrong girl again the bachelor looking for that special girl needs that special tour guide who is also a professional matchmaker. These beautiful girls are readily available but you have to know how and where to look for them. Again you have to have the right professional guide for the job. See the resource box listed below.

Getting around . You will need the military version of the Humvee. I couldn’t imagine any worse roads in the world. You can go into the most exquisite areas in the Dominican Republic where their wealthy live and you will find mud roads with deep holes in the roads. The wealthy have no respect for their communities. Trash , Dominicans aren’t happy if they don’t have some trash in the street. Even in the most exclusive areas.

The people. The nicest people in the world. They are kind, friendly and beautiful people. They seem to love Americans.They have an American raised and educated President. He was born in the Dominican Republic but raised and educated in New York.

Safety, In my opinion one of the safest countries on earth. Less violence against their own people and tourists than most places you might want to vacation or retire.

Theft issues. They will steal your shirt off your back if your not looking. However, very little armed robbery. Again it’s a very safe country if you use common sense as to where you go.

Bank safety. The government seems to be more honorable than most countries. When A local banker stole 2.5 billion dollars from a local bank the government stood behind the bank and paid back the money, but in pesos. You wouldn’t get your money back if a U.S or Western Country banker stole that much money.

Corruption. The banker stole 2.5 billion and walked away as free as a bird. He is flying around in his helicopters and cruising in one of his private yahts in the French Riviera right now. While the poor people can’t even buy a green banana to eat. Why? That’s the Dominican system. If your going to steal… steal big. You can walk away as free as a bird. Steal a Papaya and you could be gunned down in the street. Both events actually happened in the Dominican Republic. Moral of the story. Steal 2.5 billion dallars and you walk. Steal a papaya and you can be shot dead. You can buy your way out of anything in the Dominican Republic with 2.5 billion dollars. But if you don’t have 100 pesos for the papaya you could be in trouble.

But let’s look at the over all picture. Would I recommend the Dominican Republic for retirement or a vacation . You bet your life I would. I love it. I am a 56 year old bachelor and the young women think I am Elvis Presley come back to life. Admittedly I have a strong resemblance and my name is Elvis and I was born in Mississippi and I later lived in Menphis. However, if you bachelors don’t know how and where to look for the nice girls you can and will go home empty handed without your Miss Universe. I couldn’t possibly pick one wife out of all these beautiful women so I decicided to keep just keep them all for myself. But one day my vacation will come to an end and I will take my Miss Universe bride home to live in Graceland. I’m coming home. The King. Elvis King. Since I can’t write songs any more I decided to write articles. Elvis.

Drakensberg Getaway

The drive towards the Drakensberg Mountains swept over the undulating foothills down side-roads that snake along meandering countryside to our first destination Cleopatra Mountain Farmhouse. Cleopatra is tucked away in the beautiful Kamberg valley in the Drakensberg Mountains, it is a gourmet getaway where attention to detail is evident everywhere. The dining room and lounge are extended over a trout-filled dam that looks out across the water to the stunning mountains of the Southern Berg. It is a magical place – a secluded luxury hideaway where the most important factor is not to come here if you are on a diet!

The build up to dinner was an event in itself with all the guests meeting at 7pm for drinks and given an entertaining, detailed account of the gourmet meal that was to follow by Richard the chef and owner. Everything is hand prepared on the premises, some of the sauces (the highlight of most plates) take up to three days in creation. It’s three fabulous starters each, in our case a plate of meltingly succulent scallops, then a rich, baked butternut soup with a dollop of creamy pesto and a plate of Mozambican king prawns. A small freshening sorbet provided Richard the time for final preparations of the main course, an elaborate plate of choice lamb cuts on rosti with three different chutneys, and rounded off with a rich chocolate concoction, perfectly offset by homemade orange-infused vanilla ice cream.

Breakfast the next morning followed in a similar style and although difficult to leave we knew that we had to walk some of this food off or we would never make the next meal. That food was possibly the best I have ever eaten but seriously doubt having survived 2 days of this non stop eating.

Kamberg hosts a site of Bushman rock art with relative easy access, a stunning walk including a waterfall, and particularly well preserved examples of Bushman paintings. It is here that the “Rosetta Stone” of San art first provided archaeologists with the key to interpreting the symbolism of the paintings as spiritual in content – showing how hunters gained power from the animals that they killed. Its all professionally explained by guides and although I had seen these paintings before I was again moved.

The road to our next stop the Antbear turned out to be just a little hop away mainly because Richard had guided us via the back roads. The Antbear Guest House is one of those seldom found gems hidden away in a network of rural roads in the Drakensberg foothills. The little white washed farmhouse has been converted into a place of artistic elegance. It is full of hand sculptured wooden furniture, a labor of Conny and Andrews love. Andrew greeted us dressed in very flamboyantly African dress and welcomed us with a cup of tea. He is a humorous character with a passion for entertaining, conversation and alternative living.

Andrew is a dab hand in the kitchen too. The food is very different to that of Cleopatra definitely not as rich but no less of an experience. Supper was the best Indian food I have ever eaten with a selection of curries, papdams, onion badjis, sambals and naan bread to boot. Andrew quite likes the company in the kitchen and its really different watching this kind of cooking. Its like a circus as he casually juggles the egg turner or adds a handfull of spice to some frying onions. The hosts eat with the guests at a single table with candle chandeliers and a fireplace. Its very welcoming indeed. For desert Andrew whipped up caramelized cape gooseberries in whiskey with hint of time. Why the Antbear is so affordable is a bit of a mystery me and till today the Antbear is my favourite guesthouse anywhere.
Armed with Conny’s picnic lunch setoff to Giants Castle Nature Reserve. Giants Castle is a spectacular part of the Drakensberg and one of my favorite regions. Its has less tourism than most other parts and I have always wondered why as it is about as beautiful as it comes. We wanted an easy walk so opted for Worlds View a 14 km trail with a spectacular 360° view at its end.

We had lunch and soaked in the views and got back to Giants Castle Camp in time for a well-earned cappuccino and piece of cheesecake.Dinner back at the Antbear turned out to be a Moroccan evening. Again the food was excellent. Andrews advice and enthusiasm inspires confidence and we reorganised some of our plans The following day was supposed to be a visit to the battlefields but I had forgotten about the Drakensberg Boys Choir. Andrew arranged tickets for us and this is really something not to be missed under any circumstances. The day was spent in the Champagne Valley another beautiful part of the Drakensberg.

For dinner Andrew had taken the Zulu line. An interesting stew with a type of dumpling bread baked in the same pot. Butternut and maize meal and some wild spinach added a touch of colour. What I have never seen before was the wild asparagus sautéed in lemon and butter with a hint of sesame oil. I start to drool even thinking about that now.

The next morning was a guided horse trail through the Drakensberg foothills. I am not a horse enthusiast normally but with such relaxed horses I would not have missed it for anything. It was just before lunch we headed of to Montusi Montusi a bit like a hotel with a personal country cottage feeling about it. The lodge is perfectly positioned to catch the surrounding view, fields of galloping horses and lakes to fish in. The food here too is excellent perhaps not as unexpectly different as the Antbear but our lamb with chargrilled lemon and mint was perfect.

Our last day in these mountains was spent walking the Tugela Gorge Walk below the Amphitheatre in the Royal Natal National Park. It took us to the base of the Tugela Falls, where the Tugela River plunges 948m (3,109 ft.) from the plateau, its combined drop making it the second highest falls in the world, and afforded us marvelous views of the Amphitheatre.

Our trip back to Durban guided us through the Midlands Meander a place I find to be over rated unless you make the effort to pick out the gems that it does offer. We stopped at Marakesh Israeli Goats Cheese for a glass of wine and some cheese tasting. A perfect light snack after that lovely drive to get here. Our next stop took us passed the Karkloof Falls to the Karkloof Canopy tour.a unique eco-experience that takes people on a 3-hr adventure through the magnificent Karkloof indigenous forest. The canopy tour involves traversing from one platform to another along a steel cable suspended up to 30m above the forest floor.

It was five thirty when we arrived back at my flat in Durban. We were all tired but satisfied with our week in the Drakensberg Mountains. I know that this region offers much more and far greater extremes but for us it was a perfect balance of natural beauty, good living and just a little excitement.