Mostly white

Veracruz was one of the first municipality to be established after the Spanish conquest. As with all of Mexico, its customs are rooted in the intermarrying of cultures: the Spanish, the African culture, the “half bloods” and the indigenous. Specifically in Veracruz, there is the additional mix of Caribbean influence due to the marine commerce during the Colonization; especially in the music.

To the mix of instruments and tunes, nowadays, traditional dancing is performed using an outfit that for women is inspired in the union of three “huastecas”: potosina, tamaulipeca and veracruzana; and for men, wearing the typical “guayabera”. The outfit is easily identified as from Veracruz for the dominance of the colour white.

It is not uncommon to see performers in restaurants often dancing “zapateado” and making bows with their feet during the spectacle.

For celebration or for love?

It is said that when the Mexican Independence finished, the nuns of the Convent of Santa Monica prepared a dish for the celebration banquet of Agustin de Iturbide that would last for centuries to come. Others contend that the dishes origins was the product of the love of three damsels waiting their three respective soldiers returning from the battles of independence who jointly created this dish for their return. Whatever the true origins of this dish, the fact is that during September, the patriotic month, many Mexican tables see the chefs colourful works of art called: chiles en nogada.

This dish consists of poblano peppers filled with a mixture containing mince meat, fruits, and spices topped with a walnut-based cream sauce know as nogada, pomegranate seeds and parsley. The colours of the dish make it representative of Mexico with the green of the pepper and parsley, the white of the sauce and the red of the pomegranate. Being such a laborious dish, anyone who is able to taste it homemade is sure to be grateful for their luck.

The suburb, not the country

Just an hour north of Sydney, is a quirky island with 650 residents, a prime destination for those of us who seek random stays for our weekends.

Scotland island, since 1974 runs an annual dog race in Christmas Eve, in which dogs must swim the 450 meters that separate Scotland island from Church Point. The entry is a longneck and a tin of dog food still to this day.

This little island is approximately 1 km in diameter and has around 350 houses in the perimeter foreshore, all of which have the right to roam in their decks to walk the 2.5-kilometre circumference of the island. Though be prepared to have to climb over any number of random obstacles.

A holiday favourite

Half way between Jervis Bay and Mollymook , a favourite holiday destination attracts families, fans of watersports and fishermen and women alike for the varied activities in the small area: great swimming, fishing, prawning, worming, wildlife and water sports. A beautiful area in the Shoalhaven region that has been described as “an aquatic playground, with crystal clear waters”.

Lake Conjola stretches about six kilometres back from the tidal entrance at Cunjorong Point, on the South Coast of NSW, just north of Ulladulla. The lake is home for many fish species that originally attracted fishermen. Amongst the fish that once upon a time could be caught are bream, whiting, tailor, flathead, black fish, leatherjackets and jewfish. Nowadays there are fishing platforms and small jettys that run along the park’s lake-side. Ideal for weekend tourists and opportunist cormorants.

Working or worming

Three hours South of Sydney, Conjola Beach is within the Narrawallee Creek Nature Reserve. Golden sand beaches with striking blue waters that are backed by 10-20 m high foredunes; and nearby, a small community of Lake Conjola (population 350). The perfect setting and location for a holiday, or for a home if you are a beach worm.

Beach worming is one of the least known fishing activities yet one that can only be described as an art, or hard work. It takes the patience of a turtle and the speed, laser vision of Cyclops, and lightning hands of a ninja to snatch the worm from the sand. Pliers in one hand and a smelly fish in the other, the worms poke their heads up to feed, concealing the rest of their bodies. One must creep behind the V-shaped pattern in the wash the worm creates when it sticks its head above the sand for the smelly fish. Then, with another piece of stink bait held close to its head one must lure the worm out on the bait. Once the worm is biting the fish, one must close the pliers around its head and draw its thrashing form from the sand. That’s the idea, anyway. Surprisingly, some beach worms grow to be up to 2½ metres long, beneath the sand.

Selling for $1 to $1.50 each worm, it makes for an attractive business when there is no limit on bag sizes for licensed wormers and one might harvest up to 1000 a day. However, over-harvesting has caused the destruction of the pipi industry. And some fishermen say to have witnessed a depletion of worms on the mid-north coast of NSW. Hopefully the industry will be regulated so that this skillful hobby can be done in the years to come.

Meet the locals

Bendalong is the ideal south coast seaside weekend village. Just a few hours drive south from Sydney, Boat Harbour Beach, is one of several beaches in Bendalong. This is an area with awesome beaches and whilst many little Aussie coastal villages can boast a great beach or maybe two, Bendalong has seven of them.

“Boat Harbour” is a 320 m long beach with waves averaging 0.5 m right next to Washerwomans Beach. The beach faces north and is pretty sheltered meaning it’s a good place to stand-up paddle board, kayak, swim or snorkel.

Additionally, Boat Harbour beach boasts a boat ramp located toward the eastern end. Thanks to this ramp, the beach has become famous for the large local sting rays that come in close to shore to feed on the scraps thrown to them by the fishermen. You can stand in the shore and let the rays come near to gently pat them or venture for a snorkel with these magnificent creatures on a weekend away.

A honeymoon island

Located in Bacuit Bay, Miniloc is one of four properties of El Nido Resorts, and part of a group of sustainable resorts in Palawan. This 40 year old resort attempts to resemble a coastal Filipino village with a magnificent setting. The holiday paradise only occupies 1% of the island and is at the edge of a plentiful house reef. Snorkellers and divers alike can have close encounters with huge jack fish and a variety of marine species just at its house reef. Even a black tip reef shark if they rise early!

The Bacuit bay is said to have been discovered by Japanese divers in the 1970s when they had to anchor due to a fishing line getting caught up in their engine. Since then it has been popular amongst divers, snorkellers and tourists as in these islands marine life is abundant. In specific, Miniloc Island is also popular among tourists because of its Lagoons.

Snorkelling with sharks

The blacktip reef shark lives in warm, shallow, tropical waters. It has a small territory it usually stays within which is why it is an easy target for avid snorkellers if one knows their favorite spots and is able to get an “off-menu” tour.

The black tips on its fins, in particular on the dorsal and caudal fins, gives it its name.Though it has a white belly and dark back that helps them camouflage with the dim seafloor and the brighter ocean surface which means one must be very alert to spot them.

These sharks grow up to 1.5 meters and is a species that cannot stop swimming, or they will simply sink. However, as a means of preserving the species, females are able to reproduce asexually if no males are available.

Beware of the macaque

This near-threatened crab-eating macaque is a ferocious creature. It lives around Southeast Asia and spotted in a coastal lowland forests in Miniloc, Palawan. This monkey lives in troops and whilst their social composition is a matriarchy, the males are pretty aggressive. They look even more so when showing their teeth beneath their moustaches and cheek whiskers. And even more so when a second one behind you does the same.

Local transportation

Filipino ingenuity and necessity for a mode of transportation gave birth to these tricycles. They originated from military trycicles left behind by the US military during WWII. This popular mode of transport is a motorbike with a roofed sidecar bolted to it to transport passengers and anything else through the narrow streets and small towns in the Philippines. The engines of the tricycles range from around 50-125cc which means they never go too fast; but the rides sure are bumpy!