Passport to The Past

I remember my first BIG trip out of the USA… back in September of 1985. I was an impetuous youth and felt invincible. I saw a NATGEO show that was exploring ancient castles of the UK. I remember that every castle and little hamlet they visited I saw young “hippie types” with huge backpacks milling about.

My life at the time was in a bit of unrest.  I was looking for something… but wasn’t sure what.  I made some trips to the library… no the internet wasn’t as available as it is now… I figured out how to get a passport, sold a few more bracelets and tie-dyes, saved my pennies, and bought a Euro-rail ticket for western Europe. I went to the army surplus store and bought a down sleeping bag, canteen and a few other items, and practiced packing until everything was just right.  I bought a Fodders traveler book for Europe, plane ticket and a week later I was off.

I arrived at Heathrow Airport and was welcome with a strip search by immigration agent… welcome to the UK.

Unfortunately my memory of the trip is limited to a few “highlights”.  I spent about a week in the UK and wandered through the streets of London, explored Glasgow castles and cathedrals, Aberdeene’s gardens, museums, and castles.  The highlight was the hike and hitch hiking to Stonehenge, and the drumming circle I joined one night.

I had to go to France, but unfortunately they didn’t like Americans back then and the visit was brief and I was off to Switzerland by train with the next stop Germany!

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I had to see the Berlin Wall of course, and I can tell you the history was everywhere in the old world cities. The people were friendly, the countrysides were gorgeous, it rained a lot and they have a lot of potato farms. I remember getting off the train on late afternoon, heading for a little B&B in a little old world town. There was a path through a potato farm I was told by another backpacker at the station.  It was about dusk when I could see the lights from the little town but the fog started rolling in.  It blanketed the ground about up to my knees and my mind began to race… American Werewolf in London!  I began to pick up the pace and arrived just as it got dark.  I was offered a warm, dark beer by the Inn keeper and calmed my frazzled nerves and had a laugh with some other guests about my :close encounter… in my mind and imagination… with the werewolf…

The next day I took stock of my dwindling supplies… including my last $20! I had three days to go and was gonna STARVE!!  I spent the morning and most of the afternoon wandering around the countryside, trying to devise a plan to make some money FAST!  I knew it wasn’t gonna happen in this little farming town so I hiked to the next train station and headed for Frankfurt.

I arrived in Frankfurt and after some good advice received from a fellow traveler… I proceeded to a popular bar for my last meal of Bangers and Mash.  I sat at the bar and asked the bar keep for some advice on getting a short term temporary job.  I explained my situation and he said he’d see if he could help. A finely dressed gentleman came up and sat next to me at the bar and ordered me a stein of beer and proceeded to “interview” me. He said he was the manager of a huge, expensive hotel in town and they had a few employees call in sick. He told me he’d give me $500 USD if I would do what ever he needed for 12 hours… the evening and night shift. We shook and I told him he had a deal… short of sex!  We laughed and he took me to the hotel, got me a uniform and a shower… I washed dishes, took people luggage to their rooms, room service and more dishes.  It was a long 12 hours with a guy who had a thick accent and didn’t speak very good English but could point very well.  I finished my shift, thanked the manager and was off to the train station again.

I spent the next two days visiting Belgium and The Netherlands and then back to London.

This was a once in a lifetime trip and it was the one that whet my whistle for travel.

 

 

Daily Prompt:Passport

 

When I Grow Old… I Shall Wear Purple

The older I get the more I find I revert back to different time lines in my life.  Some of my life was all tie-dyed and hippy… other has been wild child adventure traveler… and now I am entering my hippy wild child adventurer older chika… gotta relax and settle in a healthy lifestyle.  Just the release of stress from home and business owner is going to be a huge weight off the health meter.

When I Am An Old Woman… I shall Wear Purple was a favorite book of mine. Having never been one to live, dress or act “in the box” my subtle idiosyncrasies will no longer be stifled. I will be free to be me. To act my age … or not.  To see the world through rose colored glasses or wide eyed and bushy tailed. I will not heed when someone says you shouldn’t or can’t do that.

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From years and years of travel, I don’t consider myself a novice. I am much older and wiser than when I first started following The Grateful Dead, backpacking Europe or flitting up and down the east coast and then west my child… I have been to more countries than not in Central and South Americas.  I love the exploration and wealth of knowledge in a culture I don’t know but enjoy immersing myself in. There’s a whole lot more outside my box!

So when I am old… I shall wear purple… just because I want to and I can.

WALL-E… Our Future?

This has been another week that has made me embarrassed to be a United States citizen. It’s all over the news how our new commander and chief acts like a stupid child when he doesn’t get his way. From here on out I am Canadian if anyone asks.

It is beyond me how a group of elected officials can’t do what’s “right” for their constituents. I do realize there are many facets to this issue. I do understand that no matter what happens someone is not going to be justly served. It is difficult to put everyone into one box and find a health plan that fits all needs. What I don’t understand is how some countries can do it and have excellent healthcare. I have experienced this care myself while traveling as a tourist and gotten hurt.

A major contributing factor to us moving out of the US… as we move into the next phase of our lives… is a direct result of our broken healthcare system/government. There will be no way for the two of us to retire here and afford healthcare… or protect our accumulated nest egg. As a result we have chosen to leave everything behind. Cash out and travel. I have serious concerns that some or most of money we have paid into the Federal government for our “retirement” will be sucked up by said government.

Another issue is the lack of concern for our global wellness. Our symbiotic relationship with Mother Earth hangs in the balance. There are SO many documented symptoms to the ever changing climate of the earth. So many that it can no longer be ignored! Yet again our commander and chief has the audacity to look these in the face and still choose to ignore them stating it’s all “fake news”.

This is not something we can run away from… no matter where we travel to. This is a global problem and all nations must participate or it will be like lighting a bonfire in the middle of a dry field of grass… without serious intervention and planning, eventually everything will be consumed. The world will be plunged further and further into catastrophic disasters that will always be linked back to our lack of caring.

I am deeply saddened and feel utterly helpless. What kind of world do our elders want to leave for their children? Just because it won’t effect the earth in their lifetime… doesn’t make it a non-issue. We can’t wait for them to die off or be removed from “power positions”. We must somehow convince them the symptoms such as melting glaciers, rising ocean levels, catastrophic storms and droughts are a direct result of our choices to continue to rely on fossil fuels, forcing poison into the earth to make her yield minerals and fuels. The next generation will be handed a broken and poisoned world to try to repair so their children will have a beautiful planet to explore and enjoy. The Earth and the human race depend deeply on each other. Heavy sigh… WALL-E here we come…

 

 

Daily Rant

Inka Trail… In Review

A Final Note: The Things You Need to Know But Probably Don’t Want To

  • Whenever you travel in another country you must be prepared for the differences in culture and available creature comforts. Not just the trail, but the majority of the small towns and villages we visited had items not too pleasant for the pampered Gringo traveler.
  • Of course drinking water from the tap is always a no no.
  • TP in the toilets, also a no no.
  • Running water in sinks to wash your hands, optional.
  • Toilet seats, optional. TP, optional.
  • This hike was challenging to say the least. The facilities on the trail were unpleasant but it is amazing that in the middle of nowhere there can be flush toilets and running water at all. Amazing ingenuity.
  • Each camp had a few areas of sorta flat pads for the tents. The tents themselves were mostly waterproof.
  • The altitude will kick your ass no matter how tough you think you are, or how hard you trained.
  • The toilets were keyhole squat type that were the most disgusting things you can imagine. Getting up and down from a freestanding squat on wobbly trail legs and bad knees was a feat in itself.
  • Personal hygiene is high priority or you will find yourselves getting something you totally don’t want on a skinny trail in the middle of nowhere.
  • The only exit off the trail IS the trail.

The Camino Inka was both rewarding and absolutely took every ounce of every fiber of my being to succeed. I knew when we set out to do this hike it would be challenging, but I really had no idea what I was in for. There were times when you just would give up because it was just too damn hard and you had nothing left. There were times of triumph when after you gave up… something inside pushed you onto the next goal, even if that goal was just 5 more steps… the next bush or landmark. Bottom line… you only have two choices from the moment you set foot on the trail… move forward, no matter how hard it was…or turn back and face the same path as continuing forward… only on your own. Either way it was going to be hard as hell so suck it up sissy!

Would I do it again… at my age… HELL NO! I accept now my body is not it’s 20 year old self… but I had to try. What I saw can’t really be captured in pictures. What I went through can’t really be put into words. Let’s just say if you ask me about seeing Machu Picchu, if that’s really what you want to do…take the damn train.

 

Daily Word Prompt: Acceptance

Inka Trail Day Three: The Gringo Killer

Unfortunately the older members of our group, Chris and I included, had to wake up an hour before the rest to hit the trail. This was a 10.8 mile hike which started with another two hour hike straight up.

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It had rained all night and continued into the morning with only a slight break that allowed us to get a drier start. As with the day before this pass was at over 12,000 feet and done at 5:30am with little to no breakfast, my altitude sick stomach, and cement legs. We arrived at the top, a 1500 foot gain, in just under the two hours allotted.

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I was the first to summit and therefore the first to begin the ascent down the other side. This day was different. We started out before any of the porters so we had the trail to ourselves, the four of us the only ones on the trail for two hours. Soon I was passed by the first, second, tenth and and more porters… one finally stopped and told me I was the first gringo on this part of the mountain. I smiled.

The rain was relentless. It was steady and the mountain engulfed in clouds and mist. Every plant was saturated, the stone path wet and glistening. I watched each porter as they danced across the rocks to see which were safe to step on and which to avoid. A fall could mean a broken ankle, leg or even tailbone. Ouch.

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I made it to the bottom of the mountain in good time, this was called the Gringo Killer. I came upon a ruin that I thought was a break area, waited over a half hour before the younger members of our group, and finally Alejandro showed up. I was sopping wet and beginning to feel a chill. No break here I was told, not for another twenty minutes.

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Hiking the trail this day in the cloud forest high above the valley below was like hiking in an unfinished painting. The left side was brilliant greens speckled with fauna, the stone path in the middle and the right was trees and vines, to the far right was a blank white space, devoid of any color, shadow or shape. You could hear the birds and river running deep below but the sound came out of a void in space.

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By lunch, almost 1pm, the relentless rain had stopped. We were all soaked through to the bone. We arrived and the porters were all moving around feverishly to assure we could warm up, dry out and get a well deserved meal. I of course was still feeling the nausea of early mornings and lack of a good night sleep and probably a bit of altitude sickness… so no food for me. The porters made us a cake that took a whole day to cook on the trail. It read “Congratulations YOHO!” It was so special to know that each of them was pulling for us.

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After lunch the clouds parted and by the time we reached our next break, Winayaywayna, another step filled ruin. The view revealed where we had been hiking all day in the stark nothingness. Another history lesson, picture session, and off to our last night camp. P.S., this was a 13 hour hike for Chris and I, but it was by far the easiest day!

Starlings in Flight

Out of the corner of my eye

Flying in black waves against the sky

Like an intricate dance

A troop of ballerinas by chance?

Carefully timed in motion

As they fly closer the commotion

Of a thousand starlings

Flitting this way and that

Soaring higher and higher

Swooping back towards the ground

A big black wave… round and round

Acrobatics in flight

Oh what a sight

Starlings on wing

 

 

 

The Daily Word Prompt : Murmuration

 

Spring… The Awakening

It has been a long winter this year. The bleak grays and sparkling white snow clash on the skyline in a fight for the short burst of sun. The outline of the barren trees etch patterns against the heavy clouds clinging to the mountain peaks. A cold wind blows and sends a chill through my body.  I awake each morning and pull on layer after layer… like a knight donning his armor for battle… only my battle is against the cold.

Like waking up from a long dream, I look outside one day and I see a hint of color… a green tinge to the mountain sides. I see birds flying overhead, landing in flocks on the wetlands. The small tender spring flowers are beginning to push through the once frozen ground. The snow clinging to the craggy peaks slowly retreats as the sun begins to march north… higher and higher each day…warming me to my very core.

The days begin to get longer and longer, warmer and warmer. The trees push small hard buds that crack open and expose their tiny leaves. The sun climbs higher and higher in the deep blue skies, pushing away the last cold gray clouds of winter. The ice on the lakes begin to retreat, releasing the stillness to the flow of creeks and streams.  Ripples of feeding fish awaken as they are released from the winters icy grasp.

Only a short time passes. The awakening of all life burst into beauty.  The trees, once stark lifeless patterns against the cold winter sky, now fill the skyline with lively colors dancing in the warm breezes of spring. The air fills with the sound of children playing, birds singing, and the clapping of leaves in the wind. The flowers burst into brilliant blooms as they stretch to be caressed by the warm sun. Spring is here.