All About Jamaica

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As the third largest island in the Caribbean, it is 234km in length and up to 80km in width. Situated in the Caribbean Sea, it is situated approximately 145km south of Cuba and about 191km west of Hispaniola (Haiti and Dominican Republic). The word Jamaica comes from the indigenous Arawakan speaking Taino peoples that named the island “Xaymaca” which means: “Land of Wood and Water,” or “Land of Springs.”

With approximately 2.7 million people, it is the third most populous Anglophone country in the Americas; after the United States and Canada. It remains a Commonwealth realm with Queen Elizabeth II as head of state. Kingston is the country’s largest city and the capital.

When Christopher Columbus arrived at the island in 1494, he claimed the land for Spain. Yet the island remained largely uninhabited aside from the native population until a few decades after Columbus’s death.

The island was a long time pirate haven and was a base of operations for enterprising buccaneers like the infamous Captain Morgan. These pirates keep the colonial forces from attacking and landing on the island to take control.

During the Spanish possession, the island was known as Santiago. The Spanish held the island from many pirate raids at the main port city of Spanish Town. In 1655 it became an English colony and later a British colony known as “Jamaica”. Spain finally rescinded their claim on the island in 1670. Jamaica achieved full independence in 1962.

When sugarcane became an important export from the island, many slaves were brought over from Africa to work the plantations on the island. Many slaves arrived in Jamaica via the Atlantic slave trade during the same time enslaved Africans arrived in North America. Due to the many racial tensions of the period, Jamaica had a very high rate of slave uprisings of any of the Caribbean Islands. After the British crown abolished slavery, the Jamaicans began a long a bitter journey towards independence.

The country’s main exports are from the mining of bauxite and alumina, which are raw materials used in the production of aluminum. The manufacturing sector is an important, though declining contributor portion of the Jamaican economy.

Beginning in the 1960s, economic prosperity in the major Western countries and declining international air fares helped make Jamaica a major tourist destination. Featuring some of the most beautiful waters and stunning white sand beaches, tourism makes up for a substantial portion of the economy Jamaica has become a tropical paradise for tourists from around the world.

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Sandestin Topsail Hill Preserve State Park

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Topsail Hill Preserve is a secluded beach area in Santa Rosa Beach area of Sandestin, Florida. With over three miles of beaches, sand dunes, lakes, plants, animal life, wetlands and more, this state-owned parcel in the Florida Panhandle is one of the few remaining areas that offers a glimpse into the past to what Florida’s coastline used to be like. As one of the most-intact dune ecosystems in Florida, the unique features of the environment include a proliferation of wild plant communities, pine Flatwoods, coastal dune lakes, wet prairies, and maritime hammocks. The preserve offers lakes, pristine beaches, old-growth long leaf pines, sand pine scrub, and a variety of wetlands that offer bird-watching and a hiker’s paradise.

Topsail Hill offers a plethora of natural resources to be enjoyed. The park offers both freshwater fishing in numerous lakes and saltwater fishing in the gulf. Secluded, white sand beaches with majestic dunes rise over twenty-five feet tall and offer five rare coastal dune lakes to provide excellent freshwater fishing. Even though boats are not allowed, fishermen try for redfish, pompano, bream, panfish, catfish and bass in the dune lakes, or they can fish at the edge of the Gulf for a variety of saltwater fish.

The Topsail preserve is the home of the endangered Choctawhatchee beach mouse along seasonal migratory visitors such as sea turtles, which begin crawling ashore in late May to lay eggs. Topsail State Park also offers swimming, bicycling, rollerblading, fishing, nature hiking, bird-watching, and picnicking.

Visitors that come to enjoy the park can spend many hours swimming, going on long walks or lazing in the sun. At the Preserve camping area, guests can enjoy activities such as tennis, shuffleboard and hiking trails. There is a two and a half mile trail around Morris Lake which offers the opportunity to walk deep within the ancient dune system. A five mile hike around the Campbell Lake Nature trail offers an interpretational walk with many plaques and displays regarding the parks animals and ecosystems. Informative park ranger programs and campfire discussions provide a huge source of insight in to the park and its adjoining ecosystems.

The Sandestin Topsail Hill Preserve State Park offers a wide range of activities for a variety of age groups and activity levels. Nature trails, hiking, swimming, fishing and camping in this preserve all offer something for everyone. The ancient dunes and secluded landscape give a distinct impression of how the land was before it was settled, making it an ideal vacation destination for everyone.

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Six Natural Wonders of Mexico

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Mexico has many diverse geographical areas and is home to some of the world’s most spectacular natural wonders. It perhaps the best place on the planet to discover the diversity of flora and fauna that the can be created by such amazing geology.

1. Barranca del Cobre in the State of Chihuahua:

This is a system of giant ravines carved from the living rock by the Fuerte, Mayo and Yaqui Rivers creating the country’s most important hydrological systems. The ravines create giant waterfalls like the Piedra Volada and the Basaseachi Falls at 453 and 246 meters The ravines cover many hundreds of square kilometers and cross through the borders of the Sierra Tarahumara, Urique, Sinforosa, Batopilas, Candamena, Ro Mayo and Oteros, among others.

2. Crystal Cave of Giants in Mexico:

The Naica Mine of Chihuahua, Mexico, is a working mine that is known for its giant crystal cave with megalithic crystals that have laid hidden deep beneath the surface of the Earth for millennia. It is one of the greatest natural marvels on the planet. This cave contains some of the largest natural crystals ever found: translucent gypsum beams measuring up to 50 feet long, 5 feet in diameter and weighing up to 55 tons.

3. Cuatro Cienegas Biosphere Reserve:

Located in the state of Coahuila this ecosystems has unique flora and fauna that are highly protected by government authorities. Meaning “Four Marshes,” the adaptability of bio forms in this region is unique in the world. There are some 150 different plants and animals endemic to the valley and its surrounding mountains including some 30 aquatic species in the Reserve, eight of which are fish. These unique species live in the middle of a desert climate.

4. The Canon del Sumidero en Chiapas:

A few miles east of Tuxtla Gutierrez is the spectacular Canon Sumidero, (Sumidero Canyon) created by the mighty Rio Grijalva which runs northwards through it. Some of the canyon walls are estimated to reach heights around 2500 feet (762 meters). Recently, a new ecological park has been opened in the canyon. The area is known best for its spectacular views of the “Arbol de Navidad” (Christmas Tree) waterfall, owing its name to its exuberance and appearance. The area is accessible from four specific viewpoints, Los Chiapa, El Tepehuaje, El Roblar, La Coyota and La Ceiba, from Tuxtla Gutierrez.

5. El Pinacate, Sonora:

The Pinacate region is part of the Gran Desierto, one of the driest deserts in North America and is a protected reserve due to its beautiful landscape and biological wealth. The presence and absence of perennial plant species, together with soil and land form characteristics within this region. Hundreds of animals and plants survive there despite the extreme climate conditions.

The Pinacate volcanic field is a roughly 55 x 60 km area containing numerous maars, tuff rings, and cinder cones. The major craters are El Badillo, El Molino, El Cerro Colorado, El Volcan Grande, El Crater McGougal and El Carvalajal. They offer an almost alien landscape that is inhabited by bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelopes and diverse vegetable species like the saguaro.

6. The Sotano de las Golondrinas

Also known as the Cave of the Swallows in San Luis Potosi, this natural wonder is an open air pit cave that is approximately 376 meters deep making it longer than the New York Chrysler building. It is the second deepest pit in Mexico and estimated to be the 11th deepest in the world. It is inhabited by diverse species of birds like common swifts and parakeets leaving every day at dawn and returning at dusk.

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Prestigious Universities of the Eastern United States

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These days having a good education from a reputable school goes a long way towards winning that first job after completing a degree. Many families with pre-college-aged children are now making the investment in a university or college education for their children, simply to help ensure they will not remain dependent. Very often the summer vacation before the last year of high school is dedicated to touring colleges and universities the student wishes to gain entry to. Let’s take a look at some of the most prestigious post-secondary schools in the Eastern states.

New England has the most dense collection of the some of the world’s most famous and reputable universities – all within a four state radius. Beginning with Massachusetts, there is Amherst College which is a liberal arts college and has produced Nobel Prize winners, a US President, three speakers of the US House of Representatives and Pulitzer Prize winners. Also there have been many Academy, Tony, Grammy and Emmy Award winners who graduated from Amherst. Williamstown Massachusetts is also home to a liberal arts college: Williams College. Williams is most noted for producing 37 Rhodes Scholars in its 90 year history.

Cambridge, Massachusetts is home to the infamous Harvard University, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Most people are aware of the great impact Harvard graduates have had on the world. President Obama graduated from Harvard, as did Canadian political leader Michael Ignatieff and Chilean President Sebastian Pinera. The vast and beautiful campus attracts visitors from all over the world, even if they are not in the market for a university. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology or MIT as it is commonly referred to, is just two metro stops from Harvard. MIT’s campus is equally picturesque, a fine accompaniment to its world class curriculum. Famous graduates of MIT included former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, astronaut Buzz Aldrin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Three other great schools in the New England area are Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire and Yale University in New Haven Connecticut. Yale has a wonderful campus, and obviously a very prestigious list of alumni, as does Brown and Dartmouth.

Let’s move slightly north to the state of New York. Columbia University is located in New York City, right down on Broadway. Founded in 1754 under the name of King’s College, Columbia has produced hundreds of notable graduates. Three US Presidents have come out of Columbia, 40 Nobel Prize winners and over 100 Pulitzer Prize winners. Despite the fact that the campus has moved three times in its history, the current location has some beautiful historic elements that will surely please every student or guest that visits. Cornell University is not far away from Columbia, in Ithaca. Cornell was established in 1865 as a school for all fields from the classics, to sciences to theoretical to applied applications. The university has produced a respectable number of Rhodes Scholars (28) and more Nobel Laureates than Columbia (41).

New York University is located in Greenwich Village and even despite its historic success NYU is still looked down upon by those attending Columbia or Cornell. NYU has 18 schools, colleges and institutes all over the world. Many Academy, Emmy and Grammy award winners have emerged from the school, as well as Nobel Prize winners. Since it’s founding in 1831 NYU has operated as one of the largest and most notable non-profit post-secondary institutions in the US. A definite accomplishment.

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Odd Attractions of the US

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The United States is home to many amazing things like the Grand Canyon, Walt Disney World and Yosemite National Park. Simply because of the country’s history, there are people of all different ethnicities, nationalities, lifestyles, tastes, beliefs and occupations in the US. The diversity of landscape and livelihood alone would be reasons for unusual things to appear along the highways, but the mix of cultures and beliefs has added a whole no level of weirdness. There definitely a higher than average accumulation of odd attractions in the United States, so if you are planning a road trip it might be fun to include a few on your itinerary.

The Oxen Statues

In Three Forks, Montana there is a restaurant in a building that is fashioned to look like a covered wagon. The Prairie Schooner diner is popular with locals for its home style cooking, but the two massive oxen statues that appear to be pulling the covered wagon restaurant are what attracts those driving by. Each time the cashier inside the establishment sees people looking at the oxen, she pulls a lever that releases fluid in such a way that the oxen look as though they are relieving themselves.

Precious Moments Chapel

In case you are not familiar, Precious Moments are a series of small porcelain figurines depicting children with angel wings doing various activities. The figurines are most famous for the stylized eyes on the faces, as they are tear-drop shaped and very sweet looking. The owners of the Precious Moments Chapel in Carthage, Missouri have painted scenes from the bible on the walls and ceiling of the chapel in the Michelangelo style of the Sistine Chapel. The kicker here is every character from the bible is depicted as a Precious Moments child.

Prehistoric Forest

In Marblehead, Ohio there is the opportunity to visit a dinosaur park. No doubt there are many so-called dinosaur parks in North America, let along the United States, however at this one there is the added pleasure of pretending to ‘kill the monsters’. When guests visit the park they can take a tram ride to view the dinosaur statues and are given a toy rifle and instructions on ‘killing the monsters’.

Marfa Prada Store

If you happen to be driving through Texas, just 150 miles south of El Paso is the Marfa Prada Store. Now, before getting your Prada buying hope too high let us tell you the store is closed permanently and even if it were open, none of the contents are for sale. Additionally, the 20 genuine Prada shoes inside are just that – shoes, not pairs of shoes. They are all single left foot shoes, which accompany six genuine Prada handbags. The Marfa Prada is proclaimed by a nearby sign, as a permanent art project that is specific to the site in which it sits.

These are just four of the hundreds of odd, weird, unusual, unique, even interesting attractions along the back-roads and highways of the United States. Visiting these places is a great way to catch a glimpse of the odd hobbies people have. What may be mundane or outrageous to use, may be wonderful and exciting to someone else. To each their own.

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