Kayaking Colombia

Colombia is a mix of mountains and jungles which creates a rich area of bio-diversity. An invitation to a wedding gave me the opportunity to visit this South American country in February of 2016. The photos are from around Cartagena (wedding site), Tayrona National Park on the Caribbean coast, and kayaking in the Antioquia region east of Medellin.

I didn’t have a contact for kayaking in Columbia but guidebooks suggested visiting the town of San Gil, as it is a major outdoor sports area. Later, I came across Expedition Colombia’s website and contacted Jules Domine based out of Medellin. I asked him if he could pick us up at the Medellin airport (with boating gear) and go boating for three days in the Antioquia region east of Medellin. After a warmup run on Rio Cocorna, we boated a two day run on the Rio Samana.  Jules is an excellent boater and guide. I highly recommend his services including his fluent Spanish, English, and French. He has done the Samana many times and knows the locals who live and gold mine along the river.

Rio Samana (Norte) is a 28 mile, big water, pool drop run. It was first boated about 4 years ago (2012) and can be rafted as well. The trip usually requires two days and overnight gear. There are about 30 class 3-4 pool drop rapids and another 5 drops that would be more like class 4-4+. Beware that the Rio Samana can rise very quickly from upstream rain. At the end of the run marked by hydro release tubes, there is a class 5 gorge with an additional 5km of whitewater down to the Puerto Garzo bridge. If the hydro tubes are releasing there could be quite a bit of additional water going down the gorge. The putin is a bridge on Highway 60. There are no facilities at the putin but further down the highway at Rio Claro, there is a rafting-canyoneering resort that has a hotel and dining facilities. The take out is at bridge at a small town of Puerto Garzo with a restaurant. In the near future the Rio Samana will be damned by a hydro project.

After years of civil war and kidnapping, traveling in Columbia has improved. The interior regions and major cities of the country seem quite safe. There are some border areas that the government doesn’t seem to have total control over various groups that are still unhappy with the Bogota government. During our visit one remote region had protestors handing out propaganda literature but no violence. There are also issues along the Venezuela border with Columbian refugees being kicked out of a deteriorating Venezuela. Expect military presence in tourist locations, highway roadblocks, and at all major bridges. We found the Columbian people to be very courteous and accomodating.

Dengue, Zika, and Chikungunya are all found in Columbia. Sleep in screened rooms or hammocks with screened tops. We had RAID electric mosquito repellent dispensers which you can buy at grocery stores or pharmacies. You plug the dispenser into an electric outlet in your hotel room. Fewer mosquitoes are found in cities located in the mountains.

We did have GI problems in Colombia probably because we ate too much greasy street food. If you’re not too adventuresome, you will probably be fine. Bottled water is found everywhere.

Redux Homepage Theme Options

Your site’s homepage is the most important page of your site. It is where your visitors land and the homepage needs to be interesting to keep your visitors at your site. This is an introduction to creating a WordPress homepage with the Redux options framework installed within the WordPress theme. The framework allows non-technical content providers to create and modify the layout of the homepage without ever losing its professional design. The framework allows WordPress developers to create Dashboard theme options to further enhance the look and functionality of a great homepage.

The Redux framework can integrate with any part of a WordPress website but this post only covers using the theme options to configure the homepage. WordPress’ post editor is fine for creating a post or a simple webpage. But in many cases, content providers don’t have the time or knowledge to create a quality homepage. Not only does the homepage need to look good, but it needs to be a fully responsive page that displays properly with all internet devices. The Redux framework allows content providers to quickly refresh their home pages; resulting in a homepage that is never stale.

Homepage constructed with Redux theme options.

How does all this work? A nice homepage has blocks of content that make up the page’s design. The homepage highlights various content within the website. One block of homepage content might highlight a featured post known as a Jumbotron content block. Redux calls these blocks of content modules. Inside the theme’s options panel is the Homepage Layout Manager, where homepage modules are organized. Only enabled modules are displayed on the homepage. These draggable modules can also be reorder, which changes their positions on the homepage. The content provider never writes the homepage content, they configure the modules to create a homepage design.

My WordPress theme has ten homepage modules to choose from. Below are some module descriptions and their settings.

 
  1. Hero Content
  2. Jumbotron
  3. Page Content
  4. Portfolio
  5. Divisor 1
  6. Services
  7. Hero Post
  8. Widgets (3 column)
  9. Divisor 2
  10. Two Columns
  11. Slider
  12. Wide Slider
  13. Google Map
  14. Tabbed Panels
  15. Video Player
  16. Fullscreen Video Background
  17. Parallax
  • The Hero Content is simply a header title and header image for the top of the homepage. The content provider can easily change the title and header image in a minute.
  • The Hero Post module if enabled displays the content of the latest post published.
  • The Jumbotron allows you to highlight any other web page or post with a bit of text, an image, and a connecting link.
  • Page Content brings in content that is on your designated front page.
  • The Two Columns module displays a title followed by two blocks of text. The content provider provides the title and two blocks of text in the module’s settings.
  • The Divisor modules are used to visually separate other modules. The overlay text and text color can be changed,  and the background image can easily be changed; its height and image opacity can be adjusted within the module settings.
  • The Portfolio module displays a thumbnail image (and link) to your latest three projects. The module’s settings allows you to change the number of displayed portfolio projects on the homepage.
  • If you like to work with WordPress widgets (Appearance>Widgets), you can enable the Widgets module to display widget content in a three column layout on the homepage.
  • The Services module displays text blocks of each service you offer. You decide how many to display and if you want to include an icon image from Font Awesome’s icon library.
  • The Slider module allows you create a Media Library gallery which slides each selected gallery image across the homepage. The Wide Slider gives you a full page width gallery.
  • With the Google Map module, you just enter your latitude and longitude values in the homepage theme options, then, drag the map module to its homepage position. This seems incredibly easy for clients to insert fully responsive Google maps into their WordPress site. You can also embed Google My Maps if you want customized maps with an advanced map editor.
  • The tabbed panel module is very similar to the standard tabbed panels you find on many sites.
  • The video player module embeds videos from Vimeo or uTube. Just enter the URL to your movie.
  • This where you use a looping video (no video player) as a background to some text content.
  • The parallax module creates a fluid scrolling effect over a number of images and inserted text.

Configuring the homepage is easy with the Layout Manager in the Theme Options. Just enable the modules you want, order the module layout, and set any module settings that may exist. Content providers can quickly create a perfect responsive homepage layout without any coding or even messing with the WordPress editor.

modules
Homepage Layout Manager. Each button is a draggable homepage module

Creating a WordPress Retina Photo Gallery

WordPress tiled gallery

Recently I decided to improve my WordPress photo gallery. The goal was to improve my pictures when viewed with the new high-end retina or 4K displays. This post covers some of the challenges I encountered and image technology improvements that WordPress now offers.

A 4K screen means 4000 pixels across and now there are even 5K displays available. Apple’s retina iMac display has 5220 pixels. The upper end of TVs now boast 4K as the new hi-def plateau in picture resolution. If you have professional photography or artwork that you want to present visually at the highest quality, then, you may need to upload higher resolution images to display optimally on these new retina/4K/5K displays. Retina images (so called 2x images) double the amount of pixels that your image will be displayed at (e.g 200 x 200 pixels), and inserting the 2x image into half of that space (100 x 100 pixels). In many ways using web images has become more complex and having the optimal images delivered to the many different types of internet devices has become tricky. Internet devices come in many sizes now, some displays are retina quality and others are not. So what size of image is going to work with such a wide range of internet devices/displays? The answer is no image size will work effectively for all the possible devices and display resolutions.

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