When you stay in Cancun, it seems almost mandatory to check out some ancient ruins while you’re there. The most popular is Chichen Itza which is 200 kilometres inland. But also popular though not as well known is the coastal Mayan city of Tulum. It is right along the coast 128 kilometres from Cancun.
Tulum was a walled city and a seaport, a major trading hub for the Mayan civilization with a population of around 1000-1600 people. It thrived between the 13th and 15th centuries but was decimated by diseases brought in by the Spanish. By the end of the 16th century it was completely abandoned.
Major restoration work began in and continued throughout the 20th century. It is one of the best-preserved Mayan excavations, though considerably smaller than Chichen Itza.
Tour buses leave Cancun daily for Tulum and we took one of these excursions. Onsite, a guide gives you a running commentary on the various different structures. While you can explore in your own, we found our guide very knowledgable and helpful.
There are many structures on the site. The major ones include El Castillo, the castle, as well as several temples. The Temple of the Wind commands an excellent view of the sparkling blue Caribbean waters.
The Temple of the Frescoes stands in front of El Castillo, a modest structure by comparison.
One of the things that sets Tulum apart from Chichen Itza is its location. It sits on a 12 meter limestone bluff overlooking the sea. Near El Castillo are steps leading down to a beautiful beach. If you’re planning a visit, be sure to bring your swimsuit!
We did not bring swimsuits as we did not know about the beach. But we did take off our shoes and socks and waded through the surf. There is also good snorkeling in the area.
Tulum is a site steeped in history with a majestic setting. Definitely worth checking out on your Cancun vacation.
How many oceans are there and can you name them? Most people can come up with three – the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans. They are, in fact, the largest. But there are two more – the Arctic Ocean and the Southern Ocean.
The Southern Ocean is sometimes called the Antarctic Ocean. It is so-called because it blankets the southern hemisphere, encircling the continent of Antarctic. The boundaries, however, have shifted over time.
The first map published by the International Hydrographic Association in 1928 had the northern boundaries touch Cape Horn, the southern end of Africa and the entire southern portion of Australia. That’s the area marked as the Great Australian Bight on the map. Since then the boundaries have been progressively moved south. Australia, however, still considers the body of water to their immediate south as the Southern Ocean.
In any event, the last place we visited on our Margaret River road trip in March 2016 was to the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse near Augusta. This hstorical beacon was opened in 1985. Today it is a fully automated lighthouse. While the tower itself is closed to the public, the grounds are not. For a nominal fee you can get headphones for a guided audio tour.
The colorful history of the site is related on the audio tour as well as on signs along the way. The numerous outbuildings are explained. They include the lighthouse keeper’s cottage.
But what is of particular interest is that Cape Leeuwin is the most south-westerly point in Australia. It marks the point where the Indian Ocean and the Southern Ocean meet. Like the folks who denounced the deplanetification of Pluto, the Australians will tell those who deny the Southern Ocean borders their country, “Bight me!”
Although you can walk around the lighthouse, you cannot go up the tower. But there are walkways all around. And signage describes the history and the landmarks to note.
We took the steps down to the rocks below. Access is blocked but it is easy to get through the fence. The wind and the waves are a beautiful sight.
On our walk back we once more passed an interesting piece of pop art – a cow with a telescope. It’s called Moorine Marauder. A nearby sign tells the story: From March to June 2010, 85 cows were positioned across the Margaret River Region as part of the world’s largest public art event “Cow Parade”. In July 2010 the cows were auctioned off with the proceeds going to regional beneficiaries and charities.
Similar pop art festivals have been held in Vancouver and other cities. Of the 85 cows, a great many ended up in the town of….. Cowaramup, of course. Pictures will show up in a future post.
And always with an eye out for the weird and whacky, it seems their were some hippy wannabes visiting the lighthouse. At least if their van is anything to go by!
The lighthouse marked the end of our road trip we headed back to our rented house for the night and back to Perth in the morning. But we encountered one more interesting sight on the drive back. Tree huggers! Literally! We were driving through a heavily forested area and came across several dozen people standing in the woods hugging trees.
We didn’t stop to chat, just snapped a couple of quick pics as we passed, so I don’t know what this was all about. There was a parking lot with some cars and a bus. A school outing perhaps? Some eccentric back-to-nature group? We don’t know.
We’ll close off with a few more photos. We enjoyed the drive out to Augusta. It’s only about 50 kilometres from the town of Margaret River but much of it is windy road. And there are other stops along the way. On the way out we stopped for lunch at a berry farm that sells home-made jams. More on that with pics in a later post.
One of our ports of call on our January 2015 Caribbean cruise was St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. As with most cruises, various excursions were offered and while the ladies opted for an island tour, my brother-in-law Don and I decided to check out something called the BOSS adventure.
BOSS stands for Breathing Observation Submersible Scooter. It’s sort of a mini-submarine that you can use to check out marine life and the ocean floor in relatively shallow water.
We boarded a cabin cruiser called The Prince of Tides and headed out for a sheltered cove. Once there the submersibles were lowered by crane into the water – fourteen of them.
There were thirty or forty of us on this excursion so the little subs went out in three alternating groups. Each craft was tethered to a float. To mount it, a person would duck down under the water and poke his head up into a plastic bubble as he straddled the saddle of the scooter. The bubble was connected to a scuba tank which provided the rider with air.
Once in the saddle, the BOSS unit was lowered down into the water. For those of us remaining on the Prince of Tides, we watched as a group of floats moved off like a school of surface fish. The craft are powered by electric motors and are steerable.
Each pod of scooters was accompanied by a scuba diver. Those remaining on the ship snacked, enjoyed the music playing or jumped over to do some snorkeling while waiting their turn.
The waters here were swarming with yellowtail snappers. The captain gave one young lady a bag of food pellets to toss out them. The fish jumped and swarmed like ravenous wolves.
When our turn came, Don and I went down to explore on our BOSS craft. I had brought an underwater camera and filmed our little adventure, including being lowered down, roving along and exploring and later being hoisted up and exiting the craft.
The snorkeling was also fun. I’d only snorkeled once before and didn’t like it. That was in Puerto Vallarta and we were our in the open bay. Large swells and waves had me swallowing water repeatedly and I cut that experience short quickly. Here we were in a sheltered cove. The water was calm, smooth as glass, and the snorkeling was a lot of fun. So much to see underwater.
After everyone had taken their turn with the submersibles, they were hauled back onto the deck. The video below shows them being hauled out and also gives you a good look at what these submersibles look like.
As we headed back to St. Thomas we passed a variety of resorts.
And we passed the three cruise ships in port. St. Thomas is a popular port-of-call. Although we were on the Ruby Princess and have never cruised with Norwegian Cruise Lines, their ships are among the most colorful, with huge murals on their bows.
Don and I had a boss time in St. Thomas.
I’ll leave you with a few additional photos from the trip.
Rowena’s Inn on the River is a delightful trip back in time. It’s an old homestead built by a pioneer logger in the area for his family.
Charles Nelson Pretty was a businessman and entrepreneur. In the 1920s he had an opportunity to buy a 160 acre parcel of land in Harrison Mills. That land became, among other things, a dairy farm, a silvertip fox farm and a logging operation. At one time, Pretty’s operation was the largest privately owned logging company in all of British Columbia.
When the home was built, there was no road. The Pretty family took the train to Harrison Mills and paddled by canoe to their estate. Later he had a yacht built and sailed up the river, mooring in front of his home.
While Charles and his wife Rowena spent much of their time in Vancouver, they also spent time in Harrison Mills. Betty-Anne, the youngest of their four children was actually born at the home.
There was no electricity, so Pretty built a dam and produced his own electricity. The home still runs off the power from this generator.
In 1968, two of the children died tragically within six months of each other. Charles Pretty passed away in 1992 at the ripe old age of 102. The two surviving siblings, Ivan and Betty-Anne decided to convert the old manor into a Bed and Breakfast in 1995. They named the inn Rowena’s after their mother and late sister. There are five bedrooms available.
Four cozy cabins were added and the gatehouse which has two bedrooms is also available.
Ivan thought the location was ideal for a gold course and the 18 hole Sandpiper Golf Course soon became a reality. A restaurant was built adjacent to the old homestead. It was called the River’s Edge Restaurant but was renamed as the Clubhouse Restaurant to tie it in with the golf course. (I like the old name better!)
After Ivan passed away, Betty-Anne bought out his share and became sole owner of the property. Though Betty-Anne sold the estate in 2016, she and her husband Doug still live in the house, though Doug is currently in a convalescent home.
The house is filled with antique furniture and old photos of the family’s history. As a home from the 1920s, it seemed an ideal place to hold an annual themed party costume party. And so the annual Great Gatsby Party came about.
We attended the party in 2014, dressed up in costume, and stayed overnight with our friends Chris and Sheila. The Pretty family and their staff do it up in grand style. They bring in several old period cars and park them on the lawn of the estate. They bring in a few large tents in case it rains (which it occasionally does) and they brought in a swing band, the Jen Hodge All Stars, to provide some atmospheric music. They rocked the place. Band leader Hodge is the bass player in the video below.
There were also professional dancers to get people into the swing of things.
It did rain for a while during the day and the party was moved under the tents and indoors. Tea and refreshments were served, including 1920s era drinks like mint juleps.
Of course, one of the main attractions is the attendees. Some go all out to create the 1920s look. Flapper dresses, vests, suspenders and pocket watches. My wife sewed her own dress for the occasion.
We thought that the party might just attract older folks like ourselves but we were surprised by how many young people got into the spirit of the occasion.
Outside under a tent, the Baz Luhman version of The Great Gatsby was playing on a screen, but not many people were watching. It was backdrop.
The Gatsby Party skipped a year in 2016 but is back for 2017. A limited number of rooms and cabins are also available if you want to stay overnight.
Below is a short promotional video the estate produced for the Great Gatsby Party. My wife and I just happen to have a cameo appearance.
And while the Gatsby Party is a fun reason to visit Rowena’s, there are other reasons and seasons to visit. The inn is at the base of the road that leads to the Hemlock Ski Resort. The same road leads to the Weaver Creek Spawning Channel where you can watch salmon spawn. It’s open for visits from Oct. 6 to Nov. 1 every year.
And the Harrison River attracts one of the largest gatherings of bald eagles in North America every year in November. November 18-19 this year kicks off the annual Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival. Pretty Estates is a great place for eagle watching.
And this year the estate is having a special Valentine’s dinner in both the Clubhouse Restaurant and in the dining room at the inn. My wife and I have booked a two day stay and are looking forward to it.
Rowena’s is a thoroughly charming trip back in time with many activities to choose from. It’s only 21.9 kilometres from Harrison Hot Springs and 108 kilometres from Vancouver, about an hour and a half drive.
Below are two photo galleries and some links of interest. If you’re on the front page of this blog, just scroll on down, otherwise click on the links. I will be taking more photos and adding them after Valentine’s Day.
Here are some additional photos of the inn and surrounding area. I will be adding some more after Valentine’s Day when I will be taking some interior shots. The view at the top of the page is of the Harrison River as seen from beside the swimming pool.
You may recall the New Testament book called Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians. The Ephesians were the people of an ancient city called Ephesus. Today its ruins have been well excavated though new excavation continues to this day. This archaeological site is about twenty kilometres from the Turkish port city of Kusadasi.
Built in the 10th Century BC, Ephesus was a flourishing Greek city for almost a thousand years. The Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, (around 550 BC) was near here. Little of the temple remains today.
In 129 B.C. the city fell into Roman hands. In 88 BC a short-lived revolt brought self-rule to Ephesus but two years later it was back under Roman control. There was also some Egyptian influence in the city. King Ptolemy XII Auletes retired there in 57 BC. And Mark Antony visited there with Cleopatra in 33 BC.
Ephesus was made the capital of Proconsular Asia under Caesar Augustus around 27 BC as it entered a new age of prosperity. “It was second in importance and size only to Rome,” notes Wikipedia.
In the 50s AD Christianity made a profound influence on the city as the apostle Paul lived there from 52-54 AD. The city is referenced in Paul’s epistle, the Acts of the Apostles and in the Book of Revelations.
Sacked by the Goths in 263 AD, the city was rebuilt by Constantine the Great who built the new public baths. It remained the most important city of the Byzantine Empire after Constantine. But the city declined after an earthquake in 614 and conquests by the Arabs and later the Turks. By the 15th Century the city was completely abandoned.
Much of the archaeological site is Roman, one of the largest Roman archaeological digs in the world.
When we arrived in Kusadasi, there were lines of buses to take everyone on their excursions. Most were going to Ephesus. Our guide was a genial fellow who told us a bit about the history of modern Turkey as our bus wended its way on the twenty kilometre trek to the site.
Our guide was very proud of Turkey. He explained that Turkey does not have many of the troubles so common in other areas of the middle east. The reason, he explained, was because the father of modern Turkey, Kemal Ataturk, set out to recreate Turkey as a secular state, a modern, western state. He served as the first President from 1923 until his death in 1938. His reforms included recognizing the equal civil and political rights of women, taking them out from under the yoke of Islam. He abolished the caliphate and sharia courts. He reformed education introducing mandatory secular schooling. He encouraged Turks to adopt western style clothing.
Ataturk’s attitude can be summarized in this excerpt from a 1925 speech: “In the face of knowledge, science, and of the whole extent of radiant civilization, I cannot accept the presence in Turkey’s civilized community of people primitive enough to seek material and spiritual benefits in the guidance of sheiks. The Turkish republic cannot be a country of sheiks, dervishes, and disciples. The best, the truest order is the order of civilization. To be a man it is enough to carry out the requirements of civilization.”
Turkey remains a democratic, westernized country though its majority religion remains Islam. Wikipedia notes that according to a Gallup poll on Religiousity, 73 percent of of Turkey’s Islam adherents are “irreligious Muslims” and only 7 to 13 percent think religion should have any influence on the law. Unfortunately, religious fundamentalists and radicals have engaged in the occasional act of terrorism in Turkey trying to swing it to an Islamic state.
In any event, our guide was most informative and very proud of Turkey’s secularism and western traditions. He also got off the bus and was our guide through the ruins of Ephesus.
Along the road to the landmark Celsus Library, we passed a number of other landmarks including the Temple of Hadrian. Hadrian was the Roman Emporer best known for building Hadrian’s Wall in Britain.
Another landmark were the baths built by Constantine the Great. Ephesus was a large and modern city and had running water. The baths were surrounded by public toilets which opened onto a channel of running water to carry the effluent away.
Further along we came to wide plaza in front of the famous Celsus Library. This library was built between 100 and 110 AD for the senator Tiberius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus. Destroyed by an earthquake in 270 AD, some remnants of the facade remained and it was rebuilt between 1970 and 1978.
Our guide delighted in telling us that the city’s brothel was located near the library and many a Roman would tell his wife he was going to the library when he was really pursuing less intellectual endeavours.
We passed through the Gate of Augustus beside the library and emerged onto a wide thoroughfare where we watched a recreation of the visit of Antony and Cleopatra to Ephesus in 33 BC. Here we also came to a large amphitheatre.
Ephesus is an ongoing archaeological dig and there was a huge crane near the amphitheatre when we were there, part of a continuing excavation project.
Soon we were finished our tour and arrived at a market where you could get camel rides and souvenirs. We laughed when we saw a shop labeled Genuine Fake Watches. But apparently the shop is so renowned it shows up on Google maps of Ephesus.
Our bus ride took us back to town where we were taken on a tour of a carpet warehouse. A woman demonstrated the ancient art of carpet weaving on a loom for us. Each row of the carpet is made by tying individual knots, then tamping them down and trimming them with a scissors.
The carpet folks brought out many magnificent carpets and spread them out before us, inviting us to touch and examine them. Some were quite pricey, especially the silk carpets. We ended up buying a small 15 inch by 26 inch decorative piece as a wall hanging for $200.
The Turks are superb salesmen. After the carpet place we had time to walk around the market stalls near the pier. We didn’t get past the first shop. A fellow standing at the entrance greeted us and invited us to come see his shop. We declined but he went into a spiel about Turkish hospitality and how his feelings would be hurt if we didn’t at least look around. We relented.
He then took us through a maze of aisles and displays to a back room where there was a coffee table and some comfortable sofas. He invited us to sit down and we were brought some wine. Then he talked about his product – leather coats. Now neither of us had a leather coat. We always thought them to be a bit pricey and extravagant. But man, this guy was a smooth talker. He kept bringing out coat after coat, asking me if I didn’t think my wife would look lovely in this coat or that? Didn’t she deserve the best? And so on. He finally brought one my wife rather liked.
One down, he then said I also deserved a fine coat. Well I did and he found one I liked. We then dickered on price. He gave us a price. We countered with a lowball offer. He countered. We negotiated and finally came up with an agreement. And we went back two leather coats richer and around $600-$700 poorer. Benny’s Shop if you’re looking for a nice leather coat while in Kusadasi. We still have those coats and still use them today, six years later. We spent more money in Turkey than any other port we ever visited but consider it money well spent.
We very much enjoyed our visit to Turkey and to Ephesus. The Turks are a friendly people and the country is beautiful. The ruins at Ephesus were amazing.
I’ve added two photo galleries of additional pictures linked below. If you are on the front page, just scroll on down. If you are not, just click on the links.