Writing of the last century, one of the trips I took was to the Galapagos Islands. A solo trip for me, I left the pets and husband at home and flew from Chicago to Miami Airport. I arrived there at 2:00 a.m. their time, with plans to meet the US trip guide, and four fellow travellers. We were to join three more in Ecuador. It all worked. We gathered in Guayaquil at the airport, flew back up to Quito, loaded ourselves onto a bus and drove on the edge of the mountain for hours and hours. It took us two days to get back to Guayaquil. We spent the night in a gorgeous retreat, stopped to get red bananas from trees, stopped on the mountain side while the road was re-constructed after a mudslide. The natives got their hibachis down and cooked lunch. The Americans stayed on the inside of the bus, mountainside. The chickens, laundry, appliances, etc. stayed roped to the bus. There was no reason for us to get out. We'd read all that was painted on the bus when it pulled up to carry us away. OK, I got out. I admit it. But it was just me.
The trip was terrific, of course. It could not have been a better getaway. There was absolutely no way to reach any of us. The group consisted of 8 touristas and the company guide but once we touched ground in Guayaquil again our whole group was led by an Ecuadorian Park Tour Guide, Ramon. I remember him well.
We were on a comparatively small boat, not a cruise ship, although while we were "out to sea" we were able to connect with one and climb up into and take a tour. What was I thinking? I don't remember how we actually got from the teensy PT boat (more about it in a minute) into the ship. That may be a good thing. I'd hope I'd recall if I dangled from a rope ladder or something equally as challenging.
The boat we were on was no ordinary boat. It was the one Princess Grace Kelly had commissioned to take her family on when they travelled the area. So it was well-manicured. I doubt it was the same crew; some time had passed between the royal family trip and ours. But the boat was subtly but richly done. And, our crew, although they spoke only Spanish so we couldn't converse with them much, was delightful and happy.
At the time I still smoked cigarettes. One evening I was up on the deck have a late evening cigarette. (There's no sleeping on the islands without a special permit so we slept in our cabins on the boat and travelled.) Ramon joined me, having a smoke of his own. He spoke English. He had led groups from this travel agency before and been on journeys to the islands with them and this same crew. It seemed there had been discussions about "who I was with". I explained no one. You see, I'd booked a trip with a firm that usually had clients living an alternative lifestyle. Yet, there also was a family of 3 on board this time. I straightened it all out, no pun intended. I wasn't with any of the other guests. Well, it was good news to them and some of them suddenly learned to speak English overnight as I was addressed very differently the next day. Nice, friendly and in English.
The young daughter of the couple from Ann Arbor was named Anna. That's ah-nna in case you cannot tell. She's the artist here. Gets it from her mom. At the time we took the trip she was 3 1/2 or 4, probably 4. For some reason towards the end of the trip we were each asked to draw a picture of the person whose name we were given; not a likeness of them but how we saw them. It was to be our name card for dinner that night.
The name card for dinner had the same transition. It too is a bookmark.
When I use either of these I think of so many sweet memories. Many back stateside thought I was taking a peculiar risk going to Ecuador alone and travelling with strangers. It was the best thing for me.
I had no idea about who anyone was until we got going and it didn't matter anyway. We shared so much and had a fantastic time.
Out of this trip came more than 10 days on my own. My husband and I visited Anna and her folks. For years I corresponded with Brian, the trip organizer, who lived in Key West. I should have visited him and talked about it endlessly. I got a precious tee shirt that last 25 years from one of the guys, also a Key West resident who grew up out in Montana not far from the ranch where we visited for several years. His name was Dan. He died too young, of AIDS. His mother, whom we did not know, sent his obituary. I cried for days. I still do. We visited his parents in Montana. His dad and the man who owned the ranch we were at grew up together. The whole family came to town on Sunday so we could go to church together. We had more great friends. The ranch couple and Dan's parents are all with him now.
We can't go back forever. Times change, mostly for the better. But it is a wonderful trip to go through the memories and hug on the people you've known over the years. There are so many, aren't there? And each is special, how amazing! Each person we meet offers us something if we'll only accept it.
I am so glad I accepted the suggestion from the receptionist/trip question answer guy at the travel agency for it was this unknown young man who brought me many wonderful friends. Thanks to him I did not climb Mt. Kilamanjaro (I probably would have opted out anyway) and went someplace I'd never heard of that sounded appealing. I had two cameras, little luggage, no expectations, and a ready heart, eyes, and mind. The cameras got a workout, the luggage did too. Having no expectations was as it should be. My heart, my eyes and my mind were filled and renewed. The last century had its moments.
Oh, the natives thought I was doing a magazine article because I had two cameras. I came home with 900 slides (hope you know what those are), many of boobies. Those are birds, in case you need clarification.