Wednesday, March 12, 2014

I Owe You

… and I cannot tell a lie.  These past few months (December – March) have been very difficult for me.  It has been an emotional roller coaster.  When I reflect on all I have done since Ron’s passing, I am pleased.  When I reflect on where I think I should be since Ron’s passing, I am disappointed.  I have realized that I had high expectations for myself – expectations I did not realize I had.  The disappointment I have had for myself has been reflected in the time I have put into my blog.  Reguardless, this is where I am at; this is where I am meant to be.

I owe you the bridge from the project in Ecuador to now.

November to December

After the eye care project was finished, I and a few other volunteers
Flying into San Cristobal
carried on to the Galapagos.  This is a destination that Ron and I had wanted to sail to.  Since I was in Ecuador, I could not pass up the opportunity to fulfill a dream and to honour Ron, even though it meant flying there.  

I have to admit, I did not know much about the Galapagos; I only knew it was a unique place and Charles Darwin thought so too.

Note:  If any of you want an amazing travel agent, I highly recommend Robyn Bently of PTM – Personal Travel Management.  Robyn is a Worldwide and Adventure Travel Specialist.  You can reach her toll free at 1-800-872-9080 or email Tell her Janice sent you and please say hello to her from me.

If you are planning to go to the Galapogos, I highly, highly recommend that you plan weeks in advance.  If you expect to land there and make it all happen, you will be extremely disappointed. 

We landed in San Cristobal and were immediately whisked away to our cruise boat, the Monssorat.  Aboard the Monsorrat there were 19 passengers, two English-speaking guides and the crew.  The ship was clean yet old.  It served its purpose for us.  My room was below, near the engine room.  For me, it was noisy and stuffy so each night I took my bedding up to the top deck (the sun deck by day, moon deck by night) and slept on a lounger.  I enjoyed the fresh air immensely but enjoyed being lulled to sleep on the open ocean. 
Nazca Boobies in mating season.
One night we had some unsettled seas. I awoke with my lounger skidding from one side of the ship to the other.  I had to laugh.  I found a mat and parked my lounger on it and settled back into a blissful sleep.  The next morning, one of the other guests was complaining of a scraping noise.  It was me, sliding back and forth above her cabin sliding.

While aboard the Monssorat we ate well and had little time for lounging.  We swam with sharks and turtles, walked beaches, witnessed stunning sunsets, and roamed the parks with boobies and condors.  Hey, did I mention lizards and walrus galore?  There was never a lack of objects or scenery to photograph.

Funny, for all the dogs I saw on mainland Ecuador, I saw nary a dog in the Galapagos.  I think there are very strict rules on the islands for fear of the indigenous breeds being diluted. 
Tortoise at the Charles Darwin Centre.

After the Galapagos, the last of the TWECS volunteers flew home and I headed to Otovalo, Ecuador for a few days.  Otovalo is home of a first-class market featuring food, jewellery, and textiles.  Again, Robyn set me up in a great little hotel where I felt very comfortable as a woman travelling on my own. 

I would like to add here that I had expected restaurant food prices to
Piggies at the farmers market.
be lower than they were.  Also, alcohol was quite expensive.  Being on a budget, I had to choose wisely.

Otovalo was a two-hour drive from the Quito airport.  I had taken a cab there and decided to take a cab back.  Surprisingly, cabs are inexpensive.  While it cost me $50 it was peace of mind since the busses are unpredictable.  To compound matters, the day I left Otavalo and had to be back at the airport, there was a weekend celebration to honour a saint.  I was not sure (and rumour had it) if I would even make it to the airport on time. This is a very big deal in many South American cities.  Thankfully I made it with plenty of time to spare.

City of Cusco.
I flew to Lima for a night.  There I met up with a few of the people coming together to hike the Camino Trail to Machu Picchu.  We flew to Cusco (or Cuzco).  Here the whole gang met at the hotel for a meeting with our guide. 

When I booked my trek to Machu Picchu, I had no hesitation that I could handle it.  After the meeting with the guide I was literally questioning my aspirations.  Also, during the entire trip I was lugging all my camera equipment in one backpack and my personal belongings in another.  To hike the Camino Trail to Machu
That's me!  Working on the loom.
Picchu, I was allowed only 6 lbs for the porters to carry, the rest was up to me.  Needless to say, I was the smallest on the trek carrying the heaviest load. 

Being able to physically pack my gear was one fear; altitude was the other.  In less than two days we would be climbing from 2,900 metres to 4,212 metres!  Did I mention that I was the oldest in the group?  The others were between 25 and 35.  Within the first few steps, I had decided that I was not going to try to keep ahead of the pack; I was going to hike at my pace. Needless to say, I was constantly bringing up the rear.  Being last introduced a major benefit!  We had two guides, one at the front and the other at the rear.  The rear guide, Elias became my walking
At the beginning of the trek.
buddy. I was never alone and often Elias and I had conversations about the flora, fauna and Incas.  It was like being on a private hike.  He was supportive, encouraging, and complimentary the whole four days.

Hmmmm, just sitting here causes tears to well up.  There were many tears on this trek.  It was more of a journey than a trek.  Ron should have been there with me.  He would have been spellbound at the history and the scenery. I often thought about him and cried.  He would have been so proud of me.  At the end of the day when I reached camp, weary with exhaustion, I cried out of glory for making it.  Often, the “kids” would applaud as I reached a milestone in our journey. 

Washing up after a day of hiking.
The Machu Picchu trek was in November.  The higher we climbed, the colder it got and especially at night.  I slept with as many clothes on as it took to sleep warm.

Reaching Machu Picchu was an exhilarating and emotional experience — I, me, Janice had just hiked the trail that the Incas travelled on a daily basis.  I will admit the time at Machu Picchu was too short.  I would have liked to stay another day but being on an organized excursion you have to stick with the plan. 

Machu Picchu - we have arrived!
If you plan to hike to Machu Picchu I highly recommend training before hand.  Find altitude, climb as many stairs as you can find, and put some weight on your back.  Thankfully, I was fit enough to make it.  I did witness one woman that was being led off the trail, on horseback.  She looked like she belonged in the hospital.  I did not want to be that woman.  One Inca step at a time…

Back in Cusco, we celebrated a successful hike by eating cuy (pronounced coo ee).  It is guinea pig.  I was surprised that I ate it
Celebration dinner.
and more surprised that I liked it. 

My trek mates left Cusco and I stayed on three extra days to enjoy the quaint but busy city.  I even found a Starbucks!  Starbucks in Cusco just seemed wrong. And, with Starbucks in Cusco, it didn’t mean the internet in Peru was any better. 

I enjoyed walking tours and walking about the city observing and taking photos.

When time was up in Cusco, I boarded the two-hour-late plane for Lima.  I had sent an email to my friends, Reg and Vicky, hoping they were not waiting in Lima when I was going to be late.  They were smart to check on my flight.  I was smart to give them all the details.

Me and the Palace guards.  
I spent 5 days with Reg and Vicky. We were busy each day: exploring downtown Lima, wine tasting, strolling about Mira Flores, markets, Chorillios and Vicky’s delicious cooking.  We had an adventurous time but relaxing.  I can see why they love Lima.  It has not rained there in 20 years.  It is warm and dry. 

On our wine tasting day we caught the busses to Santa Cruz des Flores.  The bus system in Lima is crazy with a capital C!  Even Vicky, who is Peruvian and from Lima, had to ask for help to figure the busses out.  We had to the option of a long bus trip standing up or waiting for the next bus.  We waited.  Thank goodness, we got to sit down.  The highway followed the coast south of Lima.  It was beautiful and very different than our coast.

Once on Santa Cruz de Flores we were dumbfounded.  The little town
Pelicans and boats in Chorillio
was dead.  We learned that most places were closed but if we wanted to do tastings we just had to knock on the door.  That was too funny.  The first door we knocked on was the most memorable tasting.  I admittedly tasted too much pisco.  Pisco is the main ingredient for the famous Pisco Sour.  Pisco ranges from 60 – 100% proof.  We had been tasting the good stuff.  As I hadn’t eaten since breakfast, I was a bit light headed and a little giddy. That didn’t stop us from going to door two, three and four. Reg and Vicky
Tasting wine and pisco at Santa Cruz des Flores
purchased six bottles of wine.  I purchased one for dinner when we got home.  Lunch was next and very needed.

After we ate, we agreed it was time to ensure we were on a bus back to Lima.  This was not where we wanted to unexpectedly be stranded for a night.

The next morning, Dec 1, I awoke as usual and was struck by the thought that I have to leave the next day.  What I failed to realize before this moment was that the next day was just a few hours away.  My flight was scheduled to leave at 0050 Dec 2, which means 12:50 AM.  Doing the math meant that I would have to leave Reg and Vicky’s at 9 PM tonight.  Holy crap.  I couldn’t believe we were down to our last few hours when we thought we had a whole extra day.  Reg, Vicky, and I had a good laugh about the whole scenario.  We soon ate breakfast
Reg and Vicky with one of the few signs of Christmas.
and headed out for the day exploring Mira Flores by bus and on foot.  We especially enjoyed the art show in the park.  I purchased a couple very small watercolours.  I was not sure where I would hang them on the boat but I fell in love with them.

Sadly, after dinner I had to pack to leave.  We were all a bit quiet and withdrawn.  Our good time was coming to an end.  We said our good-byes with promises to see each other in the Comox Valley in the summer. The cabbie picked me up precisely at 9.  It was a quiet and uneventful ride.  The cabbie did not speak English and frankly, I was too tired to make conversation with my limited Spanish.

Arriving at the airport I discovered my flight was delayed an hour.  I filled the four hours with positive thoughts, browsing shops, drinking Starbucks, reading, and spending the last few Solas in my pocket. I purchased Juliet and Ameilia a flute/whistle.  I really liked the sound they make.

Lunch menu.
I landed a window seat, which I did not get to enjoy much – it was very dark outside and no city lights were visible.  I found it difficult to get comfortable for a sleep.  This was unusual for me so I kept tossing and turning.  I am sure I was driving the elderly Asian man next to me crazy.

I flew Lima to Houston, Houston to Denver, Denver to Vancouver, Vancouver to Victoria.  Since I was late departing Lima, it left me very little time to clear customs and catch my flight to Denver.  The attendants assured me I had time to catch my flight.  And… wouldn’t you know it, I had to change terminals and the train between terminals crashed – technically speaking.  I was tapping my foot telling myself that everything would be fine.  And it was.  I made it in the nick of time.  It was a short flight to Denver but bumpy, very bumpy coming in for a landing.  The wind was so intense that I saw the wings flexing.  I had to suck it up and tell myself that everything was going to be OK. And it was.  Again I had to rush to my flight to Vancouver, or so I thought. Once I arrived at the gate, I found that our plane had a door that would not shut.  This is not a good thing.  It took quite some time for them to find a replacement.  I was thankful because now I had time to get food and water. 

Flying into Vancouver was beautiful.  The scenery is stunning with the mountains and water.  Of course, I craned my neck to look down to see the areas I have sailed on the Georgia Strait, also known as the Salish Sea.

Arriving in Vancouver, I had plenty of time to pick up my bags, clear customs and security before my flight to Victoria.  My neighbour, Tim, was waiting for me to drive me home to Ta Daa.  Once home, I opened a bottle of red wine and toasted my husband, Ron for teaching me and giving me the ability to dream and live with adventure.

December to March

Once home I was slapped in the face with Christmas everywhere. 
Juliet, Amelia and Aibhlin.
There was little evidence of it in South America.  I had always felt that we start Christmas much too soon and with too much commercialism.  Now I know it!

I had a great Christmas with my kids, grandkids, friends and other family.  I even managed to go kayaking in the amazing sunny and calm weather we had been experiencing. 

Once the magic of Christmas passed, I was overcome with an empty feeling.  I have heard that sometimes when people volunteer in third-world countries, they can experience a low.  It is almost as if you have to digest what you had seen and been through.  January was the first I slowed down since
Christmas Truck Parade in Victoria.
getting home; it was a time for me to view and review my photographs; it was a time for me to reflect of the poor, the children, the living conditions, and how much we have compared to the people TWECS helped.

I also had to face the fact that I failed a colon cancer test, which meant that I had to go for more testing.  At Christmas I was still waiting for the hospital to book me in for a colonoscopy.  Waiting, waiting, waiting can play games with your mind.  I had comfort in knowing that I did not feel any strange, odd, different or obvious symptoms. 

Comox Lake, a favourite swimming place.
Relieved I survived the preparation for the colonoscopy — which I might add is worse that the colonoscopy itself.  More relieved, I survived the procedure and passed with flying colours.  No repeats for a few years. 

With February came the third anniversary of Ron’s passing.  I found this year to be particularly difficult.  I cannot tell you in a word why but I think it is because I think I should be feeling less grief than I am, because I should have done more than I have, because I often feel I do not have a purpose, and/or because I just do not know where I fit in. 

Farm land in the Comox Valley.
I have now created a website which I am very proud of.  I have loaded it with favourite pictures and there are more to come.  You can view it at

I have had some great fun with Stewart and Meghan exploring and taking pictures around the Comox Valley in the snow.  

I am looking forward to spending time with my grandkids over Spring break.  I am looking forward to getting Ta Daa ready for another cruising season, and I am looking forward to more writing and photography.

Chihuly Glass Gallery, Seattle, WA.
Stay tuned, much more to come. I just have to let life unfold. I will take an active part in what is right for me, what feels good to me, what brings me joy, and to be a better person. As important, I want to encourage and inspire you to live your life to the fullest and to follow your dreams.

1 comment:

  1. I have been to the places you wrote about and also did a trip with TWECS to Nepal. The places were great but TWECS was strange.