Friday, August 20, 2021

Swim in a Mexican cenote

Among the most enticing natural wonders of Mexico’sYucatan peninsula are cenotes. These underground pools are fed by subterranean rivers.
 While cenotes can be found all over the world, the Yucatan Peninsula. and especially the Riviera Maya where we were last summer, has an unusually high number. 

A cenote is actually a deep sinkhole that occurs naturally in limestone rock when an underground cave collapses in on itself and exposes water underneath.

During ancient times, cenotes were regarded as entrances to the mythical underworld, which gave them sacred status among the Mayans. In those days a number of the cenotes were used for sacrificial purposes and objects such as gold, pottery and even human and animal remains have been found at the bottom of some cenotes. Because they provided a source of fresh water in the jungle environment, they were important in the Mayans daily lives.

Larry and I enjoyed a refreshing swim in the deep pool of Cenote Siete Bocas, located about half an hour’s drive, partially on a bumpy, jiggly dirt path, from Puerto Morelos. The name comes from seven entrances to the cenote.

The cool water provided a perfect interlude as we travelled from Puerto Morelos to tiny Isla Holbox for our adventure swimming with whale sharks (more on that later!)

The main entrance of Cenote Siete Bocas leads to an open pool that is exposed to the sun. Other entrances have smaller steps or stairs that lead down to the water and the underground cave of the cenote. At some entrances, you can jump right into the water, or you can exit at any. Cenote Seven Bocas is approximately thirty to forty meters deep making it a good dive site—but only for advanced divers since the water can be murky in certain locations.


Although there are thousands of cenotes in the region, the one we swam in has comparatively few visitors. That means you can have a peaceful time enjoying the natural beauty and scenery. Life jackets are required which helped as we meandered through dark passages and under low-hanging eaves of limestone. The walls provided a prime example of erosion by outlining the path of water through the cave for thousands of years.


There are showers, bathrooms, and changing rooms, and you can even bring a picnic if you want to stay awhile. Cost is around $16 per person.


Photos by Larry and Beverly  Burmeier

Saturday, August 14, 2021

A photo journey through Zion National Park

Arriving in Zion National Park for our second long visit, my husband Larry and I and our friend Deb couldn’t take our eyes off the massive sandstone cliffs that soared into a brilliant blue sky. Shades of pink, red, cream, and tan gleamed in the sunlight as we began a day of hiking on several easily accessed trails.

15-mile long Zion Canyon is the most prominent feature, 
so look up to see the most amazing formations.

This followed our previous day of hiking The Narrows, a spectacular trek in the Virgin River through deep chasms. After the excitement and challenge of that water hike, we were ready to admire the beauty of Zion from dry land. There are trails for every skill level, including accessible trails.

That’s the beauty of Zion—there’s something for everyone in this national park.

What follows is a selection of photos that showcase a few of the trails in this magnificent national park. 

Reflections on an early morning hike.

Walking the accessible Pa'rus trail, also good for biking.

These mountains make a gorgeous backdrop
for the bridge that crosses the Virgin River.

Rock strata visible on the Emerald Pool Trail,
great for families.

Reflections along the Lower Emerald Pool trail

The Virgin River flows through the park.

Along the River Road trail that leads to
The Narrows

                                     Beverly and Deb tackle the slippery Narrows Trail. 

                                    Walter's Wiggles switchbacks on the trail to Angel's Landing.

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Is help on the way for air travelers?

If you had a flight that was cancelled or significantly changed by an airline during the pandemic, you probably know that the airline was required to provide a “prompt refund,” according to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). Hopefully, you received a refund without much hoopla.

However, many Americans proactively cancelled flights at the urging of health officials or because of conditions that made them feel unsafe. Refunds were not required in those situations.

In June Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg noted that Americans who canceled flights themselves were ineligible for refunds that would have been available had they waited for airlines to cancel their flights for them. 

Instead of a refund, many passengers were offered future travel credits with expiration dates. Lawmakers are now asking the DOT to take action to eliminate expiration dates on pandemic-related travel credits entirely and to urge airlines to provide refunds.

In mid-July, the president stepped up that request. He signed an executive order that requests a report from the DOT within 45 days regarding the airlines’ failure to provide timely refunds for flights canceled due to the pandemic.

Airlines have been urged to reimburse travelers for flights that were canceled, either by the airlines or by passengers, during the COVID-19 health crisis. That applies to flights to, within, or from the United States. At this point, the order is only a request for the DOT to investigate further, not law.

Charlie Leocha of traveler advocacy non-profit Travelers United thinks that’s not enough. “Consumers do not need another study,” he says. “They need a simple statement from the president that all flight credits should not expire. That is the consumers’ money not the airlines.”

And then there’s the issue of lost or delayed baggage. The new executive order requests a proposed rule that would require airlines to refund baggage fees when a passenger’s luggage is delayed or lost. And any other added fees should also be refunded if the service paid for is not provided.

Additionally, there’s a push to prohibit hidden fees. The DOT is asked to implement rules that make sure passengers are aware of all possible charges, including baggage, seat selection, upgrades, change, and cancellation fees at the time a flight is booked.

All this sounds good and would provide enhanced protections for travelers—if and when the requests are approved and mandated. Paul Hudson, president of consumer advocacy group FlyersRights, says the order “could be a game changer.”

Having this executive order is a start, but the requests will require further action to become law. Let’s hope that happens sooner rather than later.