Monday, August 21, 2017

The Solar Eclipse From St. Lucia

Imagine NOT being in the United States when one of the biggest Natural Events of the decade occurred!  

Well duh... It's not like the US is the only place you can see the SUN!!  A little Googling found me this website - Time & Date - that would tell me what time to view the eclipse from here in St. Lucia!  It's pretty cool... you just enter in your location and it gives you the scoop!

I found out that our eclipse would begin at about 2:30 in the afternoon and end at around 5 o'clock!  What a coincidence... that's about the time we'll all be at the swimming pool!  I passed the word around that we would gather any tie before 3:45, when the maximum amount of sun would be eclipsed... and I turned my attention to figuring out how NOT to burn my eyes while still being able to "see" the eclipse!

Lots of information out there and I remember making a viewing box for an eclipse as a child...  But I'm not going to go to that much trouble.  A Google search showed me how to make an easy viewer using a piece of paper and a pair of binoculars!

I also saw an idea that was simple enough to do... Use a colander to view the crescent.  Just hold the colander to between the sun and the paper and the holes will make little moons!  Too cool!

I had to raise and lower the colander to sort of "focus" the holes to achieve a sharper image.  It wasn't great, but it was entertaining for a while...

Hurry!  Clouds are coming!!!
I was already losing interest in this marvel by the time the rest of the group showed up.  Jesse from Pyxis brought out his sextant.  He showed Bruce and I how to find the sun and see an image inside... It was pretty sharp but I had a difficult time keeping the sun in the right spot.

And.... then the clouds covered the sun!!!

Pool time!

Why YES... I would LOVE to have a cocktail!
The clouds passed eventually...
Wendy from Kailani
Then the clouds passed and everybody got to try the sextant!  

You have to point it in the direction of the sun but not AT the sun... point it level so that the sun is reflected down into the mirror and projected to the lens so that you can see the darkened image without hurting your eyes!

Drinks arrived!  Back to the pool party!

All over the US people were driving miles... HOURS to be in a place they could witness the Total Solar Eclipse.  It's a big deal!

Traffic was backed up and hotels were booked to capacity... people were sleeping in cars!  

Fields were crowded with people setting up chairs and making little nests so that they could hang out and wait for the big event.  

My daughter and her husband in Florida were two of thousands who drove to another STATE to see it!  And when I talked to her after she got home... she said she would do it again.  It was that awesome!

People across the US turned their faces to the sun as the eclipse made it's moved from West to East...  Millions were in position to take the perfect eclipse photo.  A movie was made from a compilation of 46 thousand photos taken by over twelve thousand participants... The photos were compiled into a MEGA MOVIE!  It's cool!

That's ALL!
Oh one last thing... When I looked at the Time and Date Website again today... it shows another eclipse!  Poke around on the website.  You can go backward and forward in time and see ALL of the eclipses in all parts of the world!  There's Total Lunar Eclipse coming to Castries in January, 2019!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Rainforrest Adventure

As members of the St. Lucia National Trust, we get invitations to events sponsored by the organization.  Soon after we joined, we got an email offering an opportunity to visit the Rainforest Adventure Park for a Sky Tram or Ziplining tour of St. Lucia's Rainforest!  Sign me up!!!

The regular price for these Sky Tram rides is like $80 pp.  The SLNT group got in for $20 US per person, our friends Sally and Jesse got in for the non-member price of $30 each... WOW!

We had to take a taxi to a particular bus stop in a town called Cul-de-Sac, where a bus would pick our group up and take us on to the Park.

We were pleased to see that there was a grocery store just across the street from the bus station where we could combine a provisioning run to offset the cost of the taxi ride...

Tram landing
The Park is very nice... restrooms, a gift shop full of reasonably priced treasures, and even a snack bar were on site near the tram landing.  After a short orientation, we all picked up our rain gear ($2 each but our tour guide Melissa got us all raincoats for free!

We had a chance to get suited up just before our tram arrived for boarding. Why do we need such a preposterous get-up?  Well.... it is a Rainforest after all...

No helmets for us trimmers... Helmets are for zipliners!
The trams are spaced on the lines and when ours arrived, the men secured it and opened the gate...

Who's first?

You didn't have to ask me twice... I jumped right on and got Bruce and I the front seats!  I was so excited!  Like VACATION excited!

Sally and Jesse were right behind us and the tram holds eight passengers and a guide in the back...

Our guide, Chrissy was a hoot!  She made sure everyone was listening by encouraging participation and maybe I was too loud... but I was having a great time!  Yes, I'm that fat kid in the front row who raises her hand at all the questions...  Whatever...

Here comes another tram down the hill
With a dip and a lurch, our tram took off on the impossibly thin cable that stretched up, up, up the hill... Now of course I took about a thousand photos... and they probably won't be as interesting to you as they will be to me... They are kind of all pictures of the forrest... But I want to keep them so that I can look back in my old age and remember...

There are 12 towers holding the cables
We went over the top of a zipline platform 
It was cool and dark in the forest
The park is set up for Ziplining through the forrest, or the Sky Tram tour.  You can choose one or the other or a combo... I've been ziplinging before... I feel no need whatsoever to do it again.  We could sometimes hear them zipping through the trees but never saw them... just the platforms here and there.  Who says there are no monkeys on St. Lucia?

A small stream ran beneath my feet!
Some sunshine makes its way down into the rainforest
Vanilla DOES grow on trees... well the vine does anyway!

Strangler Fig - a form of Ficus

Near the top of the mountain, our guide told us that there had once been a Rastafarian community that lived up here in the wild.  They lived simply and practiced their religion through cultivation of marijuana for religious use.  Ganja is illegal on the island, but the Rastas have a longstanding history. When the rainforest was designated as a protected area, the Rastas were relocated.  Supposedly there is nothing left of their crops up here today...
Fun being eye-level with tree ferns!
Tree Fern up close and personal!

Palm tree from above

As mentioned before, there are 12 towers holding the cables that convey the trams up into the forrest and back down again.

The last two before the uppermost tram station are a signal that our ride is coming to an end and we are near the top of the mountain...

The Tram turnaround at the top of the mountain
Our gondola hurdles at this tree then turns left with a jerk as we round the end of the line

Half over, back the way we cane... It IS wet up here!

Heading back down again
Now we're on the top level

Looking out over the treetops!
Clouds shroud the mountaintop

I SEE you down there!

Now we're actually gliding amongst the tree tops!

The call of the indigenous Parrot could be heard but we never saw them...

Glimpses of the valley below over the tree tops!

It's over...
I was sad because it was over... We exited the tram and wandered toward the pathway to the exit...

But wait!  Chrissy asked if any of us would like to do a short Rainforest hike!  Well sure we would!

So we followed her off down a pathway where she stopped periodically to point out this and that... She is a veritable fount of knowledge!

More rainforest facts here:

That little spring-fed stream

Really nicely done rainforest path

As close as I need to get to a zipline

A scrap of citronella 

A lizard

This.  THIS tree!  This tree is amazing!

Along the pathway Chrissy pointed out the white powdery substance on some of the trees.

Turns out that it's on one particular tree... the Lansan tree!

She showed us one up close and explained the process of harvesting the white substance.

Certified harvesters only are allowed to do the work and the trees are watched closely as renegades have been known to remove the powder for sale on the black market.

The traditional tapping method has been studied and found to be detrimental to the tree by introducing rot and disease.

New studies are ongoing to develop a more safe method and they are being performed right here in the St. Lucian Rainforest!

The sap runs out of the tree and dries to form the white powdery substance which, several days later, is then collected from the bark.

Ready for harvest

What is the product made from this white powder?

Incense.  The incense made from the trees here in the St. Lucian Rainforest is used throughout the Caribbean in religious ceremonies and is exported to other countries as well.


Corkscrew Ginger!  So many types of Ginger!

This concludes our Rainforest walk and we were directed down the pathway to the patio off the Giftshop.

They have complementary local juices available for everyone.  We enjoyed our juice while we waited for the zipliners to return!

We watched the little birds come looking for crumbs as we ate the lunches we packed for ourselves.

I must have misread the tour information sheet and was surprised when Melissa, our group guide, waived us all over to a table set up with local goodies for us to eat.

What a spread!
Included for free in the tour was a special lunch just for the SLNT group.  I nibbled a few of the things and took a banana and muffin for later...

When everyone was done we all loaded back onto our air conditioned bus for the ride back to the meeting point.

Luck was on our side once again as the bus let us all off at that grocery store I mentioned...  We wouldn't even have to walk to get our groceries!

Melissa called our taxi driver and advised him where to pick us up and to give us an hour for shopping!  We loaded that taxi up with heavy stuff we can't carry on walking grocery runs!

What an awesome experience today has been!  The Rainforest tour is an easy and fun way to see and learn about conservation efforts to protect the Rainforests of the world, while still providing a way for us to enjoy them!