Sunday, November 3, 2013

How do you choose? Part 2.

Over a year ago in our blog entry "How do you choose?", we sat down to explain our path of personal growth and adventurous travel in a world more than 200 countries strong. In our initial blog postings, we had addressed why we were seeking the adventure of a lifetime by selling our possessions, our home, and traveling like post AARP gypsies with small backpacks and young hearts.  Simply put, we saw an opportunity, a window in time, to answer the question of "how do we continue to grow together?"  We knew that our most significant growth had always been realized when we challenged ourselves. We could imagine no better teachers to challenge us than the 7 billion people belonging to cultures we knew little about and who lived in places with exotic names such as Machu Picchu, Patagonia, Java, Siquijor, Bali, Borneo and Kathmandu.  The window of two years emerged as a reasonable period of time to envision our journey financially and physically.  We feared that Sally's rheumatoid arthritis might not grant us even that window to travel the way locals in third world countries do......packed like human sardines, balanced on hard surfaces or bags of goods, bounced along broken roads, or swirled on dangerous river or oceanic currents.

We have learned so much about ourselves and about the complicated, beautiful, and often environmentally, politically, and culturally endangered planet we call Mother Earth.  We had not anticipated that during these two years, marriage, then shoulder and wrist surgery, would send us back to the USA and nestle us in the warm arms of our Gunnison, Colorado community.  Yet, like every other place we visited, these past two months in Gunnison have been educational beyond our wildest imaginations.

As we venture into the final 8 months or so of our two year "walk-about", we face, again, a choice for our future.  How do we choose where to go for the next 8 months and what should we do afterwards?  We choose as we did before, by listening to others, by listening to each other, and by understanding our values and principles.  We value international travel and can no longer imagine a life devoid of its lessons and adventures.  We value our families and our Gunnison community and understand the importance of nurturing our souls by being present with family and friends.  We want to continue to grow with humility and feel a more stronger need to give, where possible, with grace.  We understand the importance of achieving balance in a world that overwhelms us with tears for its beauty, and at times, it's cruelty.  And we value growing with each other, being humbled each day, and learning every hour.

We "choose" to live these values and principles by continuing, for the next 8 months, our travels, first within the warmer regions of our wonderful country while Sally fully recovers from her surgeries, and then by returning to Asia and visiting Nepal, hopefully Tibet, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and other places we have yet to consider.  As we complete our initial two year walkabout, we plan to spend more time giving to those who want to address some of the environmental, political, or cultural ills of our planet.  There are many people who have put their hearts and souls into projects, places, and ideas that can make a real difference in the world.  They exist in the US and in every country we have traveled.  We have come to understand that our "window" of two years of accelerated personal growth needs to evolve into a physically, emotionally, mentally, and financially sustainable life.  What does that mean to us?  Stay tuned for a blog entry during the next 8 months that illuminates our choices!  As before, we invite our friends to join us along the way.  Below is our tentative, and always changing, itinerary for the next 8 months.


2013/2014 Tentative Itinerary
Early till mid November, front range of Colorado
Mid November till end December, camping in AZ, NV and visiting friends and family
January till end of February, exploring the warmer places in the US
March and April - Nepal, possibly Tibet
May - Cambodia
June - Elsewhere in SE Asia, possibly Laos, Myanmar
July - the beginning of our next adventure

Images are of Sally and Barb Klingman, our hostess extraordinaire in Gunnison, Colorado; a volcano in the Lake District of Chile; and a Pygmy Elephant in Borneo, Malaysia.  Posted in Gunnison, Colorado.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Shutdown

The world continues to be our teacher even while we are back in the United States.  Yesterday, the Philippines were struck with a destructive and devastating 7.2 earthquake.  The epicenter was on a small island we visited last June.  Bohol Island is a place well known for its cute Yoda like tarsier primates and “Chocolate Hills” landscapes.  While we appreciated the natural diversity and the landscapes, it was the people who moved our hearts and won our affection.  We stayed for almost a week at the family owned, small Loboc River Resort.  Some of our favorite experiences with locals emerged from that time.  Rather than adhere to all of the normal tourist trails, we spent time walking through small villages along the gorgeous green river and attending the local band and choir practices.  As we walked, locals would come out of houses to wave at us, greet us, and laugh with us, not at us, at the sight of two tourists walking the back roads rarely traveled.

The people there were generous beyond our greatest hopes, welcoming us into their lives.  We learned how prominent community members mortgaged their businesses to send the choir kids to international competitions and buy instruments for the now internationally recognized youth band.  Filipinos like Zynn and her family believed in investing in the youth of their community as well as opening an ecotourist resort and providing jobs for local villagers.  They were thoughtful about sustainability as they carefully negotiated the challenges and benefits of tourism.  The place was so special we suggested it to our favorite Canadian traveling family, and they arrived there yesterday……just in time for the earthquake.

The resort was heavily damaged.  The heart of the small town was ripped out as their incredible 400 year old Catholic church constructed of local fossilized coral blocks came tumbling down.  People died as structures, including hospitals, crumbled.  The roads buckled and bridges shattered.  The island is so isolated that ferries and planes could not initially reach those in need due to the catastrophic damage.  Fortunately, our Canadian friends and the people we met survived.  But everything is forever changed.  The very businesses put up for collateral to fund the opportunities for their local youth are those no longer standing.  We have no idea what happens next.  The entire island was “shutdown.”

Disasters are always more personal when we are familiar with a place and the people who are in the middle of the event.  For us, not only is that true, but we are abashed as we consider critical needs in the world while observing the current political insanity of our own countrymen and women.  We watch our political leaders reenact the high school game of “chicken” on a global scale.  They are oblivious, or so it seems, to the danger and devastation of “shutdown.”    In a world trying to stabilize its economic future, where individuals such as those on the IslSand of Bohol are trying to realize small gains in the quality of life for their children, our political immaturity is frightening.  Travel is enriching, but it is also sobering.   If one message was driven home every day, it was the reality of how disparate opportunities for advancement and an improved life are based on the one simple fact of where a person is born.  We have so much individual and collective potential in this nation, yet we cannot help wonder how historians will view the fall 2013.  We suspect that historians will recognize that the humility, resilience, and generosity of the Filipino people helped them recover from a tragic and unavoidable natural disaster as they sought to “re-open” their community and economy.  We cannot help but wonder what historians will say about what the people of the United States wrought upon themselves despite our enormous privilege and potential. 
 
Images are of a talented young man playing for us from the Loboc Youth Band, the now destroyed Loboc River Resort, and the 17 Century Loboc church before and after the quake.  Posted in Gunnison, Colorado.

For those wanting to assist the Filipinos as they recover from this tragedy, we encourage three things.  First, consider  donation to the Red Cross in the Philippines.  Second, consider going to the  Visayas Islands, including a visit to Bohol Island, on a future vacation.  Tourism is their life blood and they will need your resources to recover.  Finally, when they rebuild the Loboc River Resort, and they will, consider staying with the special family described in the post.  You can read about their progress at http://www.lobocriverresort.com/

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Community

As we traveled the world for the past 16 months, we have found ourselves immersed in a variety of new and interesting communities.  If one describes community as a group of individuals with shared interests, values, and goals, then the geographic boundaries of place become less important than time.    The community of long term travelers is very different than the community of vacationers.  Those who choose to couchsurf or stay in hostels and homestays are unlike people who stay primarily in resorts.   Each country and region within countries had communities of people to teach us lessons about their lives and dreams, aspirations and fears.  While we were often engaging with individuals who supported tourism, we ventured into other elements of distant societies.  We attended church with people, sat down and shared food with natives willing to tell us about their lives, celebrated holidays with families and new friends.  We also, tentatively at first, entered into the global social media community of blogs, Facebook, Pinterest , Thorntree and Tripadvisor. 

So imagine our surprise to find that the most profound lessons we were to learn about community would be back where we started, in Gunnison, Colorado.  In our previous blog posting, “Push Pause”, we mentioned how humbled we were by the offers of assistance that emerged when people learned that we were going to stay while Sally had surgery.  The degree to which individuals opened not only their homes, but their hearts to us, provided the elixir of healing we needed for both Sally’s recovery from surgery and for the weariness that emerges from living from a backpack for a year.  

We realize that coming back to Gunnison reminds us of the first decade of our 23 year relationship.  During much of that decade, we faced the challenge of distance.  It was not uncommon for more than 1,500 miles to separate us for weeks or months at a time.  For us, the distance aspect of our emerging partnership strengthened our bonds.  We experienced the intense joy reunification brought every month or so.  We reveled in the excitement of being present with the person we loved. We had stories of growth, painful and adventurous, to share with each other. And we were keenly aware of the significance of each precious second of time together, knowing that our trajectories would again separate us in the next few days or weeks. 
 Our past few weeks in Gunnison have taken us back to the pleasure and challenge of those distant relationship years.  We are keenly present with friends with whom we often had insufficient time when we worked within our community.  There is a hunger to learn about their growth, painful or adventurous, as well as their hopes, dreams and aspirations.  We have come to recognize the enormous number of individuals living in one place for almost 20 years brings into lives.  We knew, in some abstract way, that we loved this place and people; however, returning from a long journey with the intent of leaving again, has demonstrated the bonds that we share with this community now and forever.  Much like our reunification with each other during our first decade, we know with increasing certainty the community of this special high mountain valley has our hearts.   It is the type of place that comes together in challenging times, as we witnessed when a group of special teens put on a benefit concert raising funds for families requiring assistance from our local hospital’s oncology department.  While we have seen markets in every corner of the globe, none are as sweet as the dozen or so booths of our Saturday farmers’ market where we have been greeted like long lost friends.   We will enjoy exploring new communities and places during the next months of our lives, but it will be Gunnison that we look toward as the place to become rejuvenated as we continue to learn with humility and to give with grace.

Images are of two of our favorite Gunnison community members, Kathleen Kinkema and Rogene McKiernan, Raphael Tomany playing at a benefit for Gunnison's Oncology Department, and Matt from Thistle Whistle Farm at the Gunnison Farmers' Market.  Posted in Gunnison, CO.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Push Pause

The pause button.  We have all had moments in which we "push pause."  It might be because something more important than what we were listening to or watching has entered into the room or our lives.  It can be an opportunity to rewind and reflect on the images or sounds we have just experienced.  We are now "pushing pause" on our travels for both of those reasons.

Sally had been worried for the last several months that her rheumatoid arthritis was worsening.  First came the pain in her left shoulder and wrist joints that she described in a previous posting "Carpe Diem."  Then came the weakness, as each day she could do less with that arm and hand.  We know that the RA is a degenerative, painful disease.  It is a major reason we have chosen to travel now while we can still travel the harder days in public buses, cramped boats, and simple sleeping arrangements.  But we were hoping for at least two years.

We are ecstatic to be pushing pause now because Sally has learned that, rather than the degenerative RA weakening her joints in her left arm, years of hard physical labor and a few falls have caused a couple of repairable issues.  Few people hug their orthopaedic surgeon when told the tough news that they are facing a couple of surgeries.  Sally gratefully gave Dr. Chamberland one!  When one has a life long chronic disease good news comes in strange forms.

We are happy to be spending six months in the states as Sally undergoes the surgeries and the physical therapy she will need to prepare us for Nepal in March. We are also completely humbled at the response of our community and family in Gunnison and elsewhere. People have offered us rooms, houses, cars, trucks, bikes, clothing and places to watch the Broncos. When we left the Gunnison Basin fifteen months ago, we knew we would return to visit, but we were uncertain if it would ever be "home" again.  As we crossed the Colorado border and were swept up in the hugs and warmth of our community, we knew that we were travelers who had returned home.  We now look forward to exploring our community in the way we have tried to explore the world; learning with humility, and, where possible, giving with grace.

Images are of Sally massaging her shoulder and a hike in the Gunnison Basin.  Posted from Gunnison, Colorado

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Culture Shock

It is a real surprise when, after almost 14 months of international travel in about a dozen countries, there is a confrontation with culture shock.  We have been fascinated, intrigued, curious, and confused by cultural practices and daily life.  But until Thailand, we had not really felt the disorientation that comes with being a flopping fish out of water.  Culture shock.

It surprised us.  We have learned to quickly adapt to novel and sometimes even bizarre situations without so much as an eye blink.  However, things were about to get a bit more complicated.  Thank goodness we had a little bit of a warning from a fellow traveler and friend, Juraj, who kindly went out of his way to reunite with us in Bali.  We had last seen Juraj on a mountain in Malaysia.  He typifies a young, gracious, independent world backpacker as he travels from his native Eastern Europe through the world.  He has given us excellent travel advice, but mentioned that Thailand was hard for an independent traveler.



Until this point in our journey, one of us either somewhat understood the language (with perhaps the exception of southern New Zealand and certain ranchers in Australia) and we both could read signs.  Until now, we had traveled in areas where letters are written with the Roman alphabet (see map of the Roman alphabet global distribution).  We were also in countries where English is typically taught in primary and/or secondary school.  While many people we met had forgotten much of the English or had not been able to attend much school, most used and/or understood some words or there was generally a person nearby who was relatively fluent.

None of this was true in Thailand.  In the areas we first visited, we quickly learned the word "farang" for foreigner, but we were in a place in which not a single road sign, menu, or posted paper made sense.  The words were long, ornate, and created by completely unrecognizable scribbles that could have been a lost ancient language to our Roman alphabet trained brains.   Few spoke English and our Thai was limited to "good morning" and "thank you."  Even our reliable "Google Map App" had mysterious scribblings as street names.  We were lucky as we began the trip staying with two wonderful guys, Ben and Yom.  Yom is a native Thai and his help in the first week greatly reduced the dual challenges of a new culture and written language.  Ben is a recovering Southern Californian who has made Thailand his home for the past 8 years and graciously invited us to it when we met in the Philippines.  Both have been excellent hosts, helping us ease past the initial confusion and overwhelming sense of "different".

Despite Ben's and Yom's help, we are still experiencing some of our first real taste of culture shock as we crossed our newest frontier into mainland Asia.  We are thankful for the year of travel leading us now to visit places with people of good will but no common oral or written language.  Our first year gave us the confidence to move through large cities and countrysides in new places with different currencies, logistics, and cultures.  We can now apply these lessons to our future destinations in Asia and beyond.  We will have to change some of how, and possibly where, we travel as we work out new logistic challenges.  However, it is these very challenges that we love.  While they can tire and test us at times and make us appreciate how easy it can be back at home, they inspire us and, most importantly, drive us to learn.

Posted in Angsila, Thailand.  Images are of a country map of where the Roman alphabet is in use, a typical Thai language plaque at a national park, and Ben and Yom, our hosts extraordinaire!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

We're coming home!

The last thing we anticipated over a year ago at the start of our journey is that by the thinnest margin of one vote, a Supreme Court decision would bring us home.   Our life is similar to so many of our friends because we met almost 25 years ago, knew within a year that we had found the person we wanted to live with "till death do us part", and made a personal commitment to a lifetime partnership.

Unfortunately, our commitment has never been recognized by the Federal Government as valid so we were unable to get Jess insurance, tax, or annuity benefits through Sally's federal job.  These would have been financially helpful in the past, but are even more important now as we travel.  If Jess was a man, we would have saved almost $4,000 dollars in health insurance last year, $6,800 this coming year and almost $70,000 over the next decade, and she would have received better coverage with lower deductibles.  If male, Jess would also receive half of Sally's annuity and all of her social security survivor benefits if Sally passed first.  Our current life expectancy calculations result in projected benefits for Social Security being worth an additional $159,264 and annuity benefits being $62,784.

None of those tangible economic benefits were possible while the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) defined, for the purpose of thousands of federal laws and rules, that marriage was only legitimate between a man and a woman.  DOMA barred same-sex married couples from being recognized as "spouses" for the purpose of receiving federal benefits such as health insurance, social security survivors' benefits, inheritances, annuities, and the filing of joint tax returns.

Things changed dramatically on June 26, 2013, when the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, struck down parts of DOMA as unconstitutional, agreeing with the president who said "This was discrimination enshrined in law. It treated loving, committed gay and lesbian couples as a separate and lesser class of people."  We don't perceive that we are particularly political or extreme in our views; however, it does sadden us and grind us down a bit when we are not allowed the same benefits because of the simple choice of who, and what gender, we love.  We have always been well treated by our friends, colleagues, families and employers, but have been prohibited some tangible benefits at every stage of our lives routinely provided to our heterosexual friends.

For us, it is a simple financial decision to fly to California, stand with our witnesses who have supported us for over two decades, and tie the knot.  It is also an incredibly symbolic decision that slowly, in our country, we will be treated with more equality than when we left a year ago.  Same-sex marriage is allowed in 13 states and prohibited in 29.  At least now, if married in one of those 13 states, we can receive the same federal benefits as our heterosexual friends.  So we are coming home.  And getting married.

We hope to see family and friends for the few short weeks we plan on being home before we head to Nepal.  We miss you, and we will have much to celebrate with you!

Images are of a much younger couple on an ATV doing research in 1990 in the Gunnison Basin, a Galapagos class trip in 2004, and a quiet moment in Bolivia last year on the salt flats.  Posted in Yogjakarta, Java, Indonesia.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Here be Dragons


Komodo Dragons are fierce, dangerous, 300 pound predators that frequently attack not only water buffaloes and local deer, but people.  Their red saliva can be seen along trails where they regurgitate undigested pieces of the previous week's meal.  The creatures are faster than one would think, and will even attempt to chase a fleeing person up a tree.  You can imagine our friends' surprise when we posted on Facebook that we had finally seen them and found the journey to them much more dangerous than the dragons.

We had come back to Indonesia after our previous April visit, in part, to find Komodo Dragons in the wild.  We also wanted to see more of the 17,000+ islands than what Bali alone could offer.  As we hopped down the island chain in eastern Indonesia, we were well rewarded by the incredibly diverse cultures we visited.  One island would have predominately Hindu natives, the next Muslim, and the third Catholic, all of whom also believe in magic.  Most of our travel was the moderately risky type we have described in previous posts, until we decided to take a two night "cruise" to bring us the last miles to the dragons.

For us, it was a pricey choice.  It cost $300 each for a "private" cabin and $200 for no cabin and a mat on the deck among several other people.  This is in a place that nice accommodations can be obtained for $30 a night and $5 buys a meal fit for a king.  We asked about the cabins, found one was available, and ascertained there was secure room storage for our bags, two beds (no bathroom), and a fan.  We decided to go "deluxe" and get a cabin.  The Perama Company representatives had been accurate.......there were two beds, although the slightly wider bottom consisted of a mattress on the floor and required a person to roll into it as the top bunk was claustrophobically close.  The "secure storage" was a 6 or 8 inch strip of floor between the mattress and the wall, and the fan was tiny and offered little relief in the tropics even for the top bunk where it was pointed.  All of that would have been workable except for a few additional surprises.  The first is that while Perama had been correct in telling us there were two bunks, they neglected to mention they had sold one to our roommate, a sweet girl from France.  When we realized that three of us needed to cram into a room built for two hobbit-sized beings, we talked to the company rep and guide before we left the first night.  They assured us that one of us could have a mat on the deck if the room was too packed.

Gamely, Jess prepared for her first night in the hot, dark, stifling space and rolled toward the wall only to find that the mattress was soaking wet.  After a few minutes something crawled over her.  She made the mistake of asking Sally to get a headlamp.  Imagine our "dismay" when we discovered a myriad of spider webs and cockroaches!  One giant roach was twitching its antennae and staring, appraising us carefully.  After the third heavy strike with a sandal it was stunned, not dead.  We gave it a burial at sea.  We can take a lot, but this space was too much for either of us, even after we fumigated it with our roommate's insecticide.  (We were to find that several people travel with insecticide in Indonesia and they thought we were crazy to travel without.)  Jess went in search of our guide to find out that the ship designed for 30-40 people had an all time high of 52,  and despite assuring us less than two hours earlier there was room on the deck, they stated there was none.

A fairly frustrated Jess then elected to sleep in the open air garbage bay at the back of the boat near the motors, preferring the smell of rotten fish and the sticky goo of spilled beer and pop to the comforts of the "deluxe cabin".  The benevolent Company did supply her with a thin mat on which to sleep..... Her new "bedroom" was between those sleeping on the upper deck and the bathrooms on the lower so she had lots of visitors stumbling by.  Sally "slept" on the the very outside edge of the lower mattress and our roommate on the top bunk.

The 52 passengers and 10 crew turned out to be about 20 more than the number of available life jackets.  While that may not matter much in most countries, in Indonesia, boats disappear frequently. The currents around Komodo Island are especially dangerous and a Perama Company craft had shipwrecked there two years ago.  On the second night, as we approached the notorious Komodo waters, our roommate woke us both up, afraid.  The seas were rough and we had just hit something in the water.  We tried to alleviate her fears by promising we would stick with her and getting headlamps and the two life jackets in our three person cabin ready.  One was virtually unusable and took 20 minutes with a Swiss Army knife to get it to the point where one of us might be able to wear it.  So much for reassuring our roommate.  Eventually dawn did come.  However, as we cued up for breakfast, the strong currents would hit the ship so hard, that 52 people would run to the "high side" on orders from the crew trying to help us avert disaster.  We have done similar maneuvers on a white water raft, but were surprised to be doing so on the cruise ship as it tilted toward the sea.

Ahhh... Indonesia.  Here be dragons.  Here, each mile traveled often has to be earned, so this was the journey to help us appreciate the destination.  The Komodo Dragons were fearsome and majestic. The beaches on the national park were pink and the coral reefs the healthiest we have encountered.  The people on the boat were fun and well traveled.  We would come back again... Just not on one of these boats!

Images are
of our new favorite land reptile; of our "cruise ship"; and of Sally in the breakfast line about 5 seconds before we needed to "high side"!  Posted in Bali, Indonesia.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Carpe Diem "Sieze the Day"


Traveling with a fairly severe disease is a bit of a challenge occasionally.  Rheumatoid Arthritis, an auto immune disease with which I was diagnosed about four years ago, is a disease for which there is no cure, and it can result in unbelievably painful, disfigured, and swollen joints.  It can worsen, even though there are a myriad of drugs, some with severe side-effects, for controlling the symptoms.  For some victims, drugs do not work, and they are relegated to painfully twisted joints and/or life in a wheelchair.  I have seen patients at a clinic with limbs (fingers, hands, knees) so bent and deformed that they cannot move let alone heft a pack down a trail.

My RA is currently fairly well under control with a somewhat mild drug.  The drug causes me to be pretty susceptible to sunburn, have an iron deficiency, and reduces calcium intake, but most other side effects are minimized because of the low dosage I am taking.  Other, more potent drugs, would have more severe side effects, such as possible liver problems, sight problems and intestinal problems. Along with the prescription I take, I must supplement it with calcium and vitamin D3 and be much more cognizant that a fall is likely to lead to bones breaking.  Occasionally, a few prescription steroid pills or an Aleve are necessary to calm my occasional, intensely painful, "flare-ups".  To coin a phrase from our friend, John Hausdoerffer, I am a "walking pharmacy," and carrying a couple years' worth of prescriptions around on my back is not one of the aspects of traveling I enjoy.

But traveling with a disease like this has been interesting.  There are days my shoulder and/or wrist are so painful I cannot move them.  Other days, the pain is "in the background" all day. Still other days, I have no pain at all.  Most days, the pain is minor and I go about the "business" of hiking, kayaking, snorkeling, etc. with no problems.  Occasionally, I must rest or take it easy for a couple of days.  The pain I experience has led to a major loss of strength in both my hands and especially my left arm.  The pain in my hips and legs has resulted in lower body stiffness and a real detriment to my balance because I cannot make my legs and feet move fast enough to compensate for the movement of my upper body.  Traveling in countries where sidewalks, if present, are broken, cracked and full of sewage holes and bathrooms are nothing but a place to squat is challenging given my balance issues.  The common "handicap accessible" infrastructure of the States is a "foreign" concept in most of the world and makes me appreciate the standards for such things in the US.

Each flare-up brings forth the inevitable thought of whether we can continue our great adventure. One of the reasons Jess and I decided to take this journey at this point in our lives and her career is because we did not know how my disease would progress.  So far, it has not affected me much.  If it eventually does, I will be tied very tightly to somewhere that I can be regularly tested and monitored and can receive medicine that would not "travel" well!  For us, it is important to grow and learn from the rest of the world.  To miss this opportunity is not an option to us.  We feel it is important to see and do while we still can, and we have not been disappointed.  What will we do if my disease worsens (or, for that matter, if Jess gets really sick)?

As they say, we will cross that bridge if we come to it.  Until then, we wake up each day ready for our new adventure, looking forward to meeting those we don't know yet, ready to be overwhelmed and humbled.  Carpe Diem.

Sally looking through part of her "pharmacy" on a boat near Maumere, Flores; Staving off the Komodo Dragons on Rica Island, Indonesia; A quiet moment of reflection at LaBuan Bajo, Flores, Indonesia.  Posted in Bali, Indonesia.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Fear and Fascination



The first time we heard the call for prayer from a local mosque was in Kuching, Malaysia.  The Arabic chanting was exotic, beautiful, and new to our middle-class, Christian ears.  Then came the images of fear......two towers burning, falling to the ground in plumes of dust and ashes.

There are many times during our trip that we have felt these mixtures of emotion----fear and fascination.   One such moment came as we snorkeled over our first great coral cliff far from the safety of land on the nearby island in Indonesia.  We hung in the water, half over the multicolored fish just 30 feet below staring into the dark, deep abyss over the cliff's edge where a lone shark patrolled.

Another time was when we realized that the clouds on a nearby volcano in Costa Rica were smoke and steam, a sight which was to repeat itself on other islands and continents with active volcanoes.  We were used to the "whooff" sound snow makes before the avalanche starts or the shaking of the land during earthquakes, but active volcanoes were a novel and titillating experience.

We were well aware of the vast number of deadly and poisonous invertebrates and vertebrates as we crossed through Australia.  Whether brushing through a spider web, gazing at the mildly poisonous spine on the duck-billed platypus, or watching out for one of the many deadly snakes, we knew there were risks in our daytime and night walks.

But the fear of a religious people who dominate much of the world we now travel surprised us.  Our first experience with somewhat conservative Islamic beliefs led us to quickly change our dress and hesitate to walk at night in the towns within the state of Sabah, Borneo in Malaysia.  We loved the food, peeked curiously at the tight and constraining costumes of the women, but felt as foreign as we had anywhere in the world.

As we listen each night to calls for prayers and walk past some of the over 100 mosques on the small island of Lombok during Ramadan, we are curious.  We overcome the images of the towers and engage locals in discussions of their faith as we have all over the world while visiting cathedrals and temples.  Yet, so far, we have not entered a mosque.  We know we will soon.   The actions of extremists in any religion should not have a profound impact on how we engage each other.  There are over two billion followers of the teachings of Islam and more than 60% are found in South Asia, a place we have come to love and which continues to fascinate us.  We just have to replace the images of those towers with new images of people and beautiful places as we travel through Muslim dominated countries.

But for now, we are headed for Komodo Dragons.  These 10 feet long, 300 pound venomous beasts will eat anything, even water buffaloes and the occasional person.  We can't wait to see them in the wild.

Images are of a woman selling smoked fish in Kuta, Indonesia, the Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica, and a Muslim Sasak massage specialist in Lombok, Indonesia.  Posted in Lombok. Indonesia.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

May I Be Excused?

  
A common question we both remember from our childhood at the dinner table was "May I be excused?"   If there was much on your plate, the answer was typically "no," as parents raised during the depression knew the importance of food in a way that our generation had not experienced.  This nightly reality led to a few "adaptive" behaviors.  For example, Sally became expert at hiding peas and Jess's family dog often lay close to her seat.  The reality of needing to finish every bite did not promote experimentation, despite both of our mothers insisting we try "just a little bit" of everything on the table.

Despite the programming to be cautiously risk averse to new foods, we have loved the opportunity to try new foods as we have traveled this year.  Of course, not every attempt has resulted in new favorites, but all have been interesting and our parents are no longer around to make us finish our plates if we choose poorly.

Overall, we have, much to our chagrin, loved bakeries. We have found tasty treats whether savory or sweet in bakeries all over the world.  We enjoyed them so much that after two months on the road in Alaska and Canada, we weighed ourselves and realized the need for a lot more moderation and hiking.  While we have had some incredible treats in Canada, New Zealand and much of South America, it will be the Filipino bakeries that we will best remember.  Whether simple or fancy, at a bus station or on a promenade, the treats have been delectable.  For all those who are adding ideas to their bucket lists, we contend that we did not truly understand gastric bliss until the meringue cashew filling of a perfect silvana melted in our mouths.

Not all new foraging adventures have ended in moans of culinary rapture.  We have come to recognize that many sea creatures are better left in the ocean than served on our plates.  We have dined on jellyfish, abalone, conch, octopus, squid, and sea cucumbers and found that generally (but not always), the textures overcome the taste.  Yet, raw sea urchin gonads really were tasty, and they mixed nicely with spicy vinegar rice.  While satay sticks are a passion for Jess, even she gave up on the third attempt in Malaysia where the typical satay is chicken tails.  Charred tough skin stretched over globules of yellow fat and soft bones is obviously not for everyone, regardless of the sauces added to them.  Whitebait is a delicacy all over New Zealand.  Yet, when we gazed into the small black eyes of the tiny fish we were to eat whole in our fritter, we paused, blinked, and turned away.

As we prepare to venture deeper into Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia and Nepal, we know we will continue to pursue our love of sampling local cuisines.  Just don't tell any parents if we leave something on our plates!

Images are of Jess in yet another Filipino bakery; sea cucumber delight; and a white bait fritter from New Zealand.  Posted in Cebu, Philippines

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Gringo Trail


One of the best pieces of advice for our journey came from our friend, Phil Crossley.  Unfortunately, we have found it very difficult to follow.  Phil urged us to get off "The Gringo Trail" whenever possible, to explore the corners of the earth that see few tourists and which just might be representative of the people and place in that area.


Such is challenging for two novice world travelers. These are the places with little or infrequent public transport where walking and motorbikes may be the norms but buses and taxis are rare or non-existent.  People are less likely to speak any English in these corners of the world.  Food may be less likely to be prepared in a hygienic way that helps keep us moving fluidly rather than moving fluids.

The Gringo Trail also tends to exist because there are terrific sights and sites to behold.  Think Grand Canyon, Rome's Coliseum, Swiss Alps, the Great Wall of China, etc.  So for much of our first year, we have tread firmly in the footsteps of others on the often slightly polluted, always full, and clearly described tourist tracks in Lonely Planet.  We have tried to ask locals for ideas of things to see that most tourists rush by, but such has been limited to a few hours in a few places...until recently...

In the last couple of weeks, we have begun to find special sites and sights off the beaten track.  On the small island of Bohol in the Philippines, we walked a road for miles where locals
emerged to grin and wave, many asking us "where you going?"  We have taken the time to listen to a local children's choir practice to find to our astonishment it was the world famous, internationally traveled, Loboc's Children Choir.  We stayed a few extra nights to catch the performance of the Loboc Youth Ambassador Band.  Both groups are the inspired vision of music loving locals who mortgaged their business and sacrificed their time to give these children a future.  On Siquijor, we are practicing our motorbike skills (Jess for the first time) and touring smaller, only locally known roads.  We have not seen another non-Filipino tourist in a week.
And soon, we plan on returning to Indonesia.  We loved Bali. However, 80% of Indonesian bound foreign tourists visit only Bali.  There are 17,507 other islands in the fourth most populous country on earth.  These are the islands that helped Alfred Russell Wallace co-develop the theory of evolution as his contemporary colleague, Darwin, pondered his findings from the Galapagos archipelago.  They are the islands where Komodo Dragons roam, living "Hobbits" exist, and the birthplace of spices gracing our kitchen counters.  And...places far from the normal tourist trail.


Images are of our first motorbike ride on Siquijor Island, three young ladies from the Loboc Children's Choir, and typical river transport in the Philippines.  Posted in Larena, Siquijor Island, Philippines

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Hon, My Hat is Mildewing

One morning this week Jess exclaimed "My hat is mildewing!" as she looked in dismay at her relatively new hat purchased a month ago in Malaysia.  While many things differ between our native Gunnison, Colorado and places during our travels abroad, humidity is one of the most significant.  In Gunnison, new arrivals generally have a nosebleed before their first night has passed given the arid and often frigid environment.  Ever since we were in Northern Australia, we have endured a swampy, hot environment in which clothes (and people) never fully dry out.  Add to the mix our penchant to hang out on the beach in these environments, and our non-synthetic clothes begin to rot!

One such place has been the Philippines.  The Philippines are comprised of over 7,000 islands with a varied people speaking over 70 languages.  The primarily Catholic Southeastern Asian country had an interesting mix of first Spanish then US rule during the past four centuries and the smiling, welcoming, resilient people have elements of those as well as other Asian cultures in their everyday life.

As we have described in earlier posts about other places, our time in the Philippines is a series of contrasting experiences.  We may have days in which we are lounging in a resort environment, drinking fruity, happy-hour concoctions and nursing sunburns from too many hours of glorious, snorkeling adventures.  Then there are days like yesterday....

We began the day as we had the previous ones on Malapascua Island without Internet as a storm had knocked it out almost a week earlier.  We walked across the island following young men gracious enough to carry old ladies' backpacks to a small port.  Really, it was a place on the beach where a half dozen sea captains of local bangkas designed to ferry passengers across the sea lounged about waiting for passengers.  Our captain squeezed two dozen of us onto the wood platforms of his trusty banga and set off for the distant shore just under an hour away.  Nowhere were the common sights of fluorescent life jackets on this boat, perhaps attesting to the unique skills of the teen- and preteen- age boys assisting our captain by pumping out water almost, but not quite, as fast as it entered the engine compartment.  The captain and his crew chain-smoked their way across the Philippine Sea with indifference to either the gasoline fumes or hastily tossed propane tanks piled behind them.  Across from us we watched as two young girls picked lice out of each other's hair, a frequent sight on the island with two thousand residents but no doctor or real health care.  A young tourist joined in the grooming, and as they all flung their invertebrate finds into the air we could only hope we were not directly downwind in our nearby seats.  We arrived on land to clamber aboard a local, non-air-conditioned "chicken bus" as we like to call the busses on different continents that transport people and other assorted goods and farm animals.  These busses stop frequently as drivers compete to see which can get the most people squeezed into a small, humid, hot space.  Sharing seats with several others is common.  As we eyed the girls from our boat ride in their nearby seats, we could not help but check the heads of the variety of children placed adjacent or within our laps.  We almost burst out laughing when we heard from the back of the bus a rooster crowing as dusk approached.

Around seven hours after we set out, we arrived in Cebu City to air conditioning, hot water and a nearby mall.  Somehow the easy access to electricity and water was disappointing after days of rationing each and paying for each kilowatt used after the first one at our lodging on Malapascua. Health care and resources are challenging to acquire on most of the inhabited islands in the Philippines and it is so easy to forget that when we arrive at a place where they are at our fingertips.

Whether we are wet or dry, it is the incredible contrasts of our daily lives that educate us on this global journey.  While we could pay more and travel in relative luxury, we often choose the more local route for the experiences and conversations it affords us.  Our stated goal is to learn with humility (and give with grace) and such is hard to do from a fancy, air-conditioned, tourist transport.

Images are from the Philippines and include our most recent "porch" on Malapascua Island, a typical bangka ferry, and the luxurious Sea Dream resort in Dauin, Negros Island.

Posted in Tagbiliran, Bohol Island, Philippines

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Anniversary


We cannot believe a year has passed.  Each day has begun with a prayer.....not generally FROM us, but FOR us and other passengers in the myriad of transports we use.  Whether the drivers are male or female, Buddhist, Muslim, Catholic or Hindu, they pray for a safe journey for themselves as well as for all of their passengers.  And Allah, Buddha, Jesus and Mary must be listening!  We have traveled by banga, jeepney, tricycle, ferry, raft, tube, kayak, canoe, bus, motorbike, and the more conventional planes and autos.  Travel is one of our greatest risks.  The Association for Safe International Travel calculates that we are more than 50 times likely to die of a motor vehicle accident abroad than in the United States.  Walking is not so safe either.  Almost a fifth of all global auto related deaths are pedestrians.  We appreciate all of those prayers and have flung a few skyward ourselves as we teeter on the precipices of roads or wonder why our driver likes to play chicken with large buses and trucks.

The memories from the year are rich beyond our greatest hopes or aspirations.  We have never felt more intensely alive and filled with daily wonder.  Traveling for us has been like a child's first trip to Disneyland.  The characters are bigger than on the little screen and the adventure more divine.  Like Disneyland, there is a wait for the ride, but once it starts, the rules of everyday life are suspended and wonders beyond belief appear at the next turn.

People often ask us what our favorite place has been.  The question is complicated as it is often the people who make the place.  Mate would never have tasted so good unless we were downing a gourdful with Lisbeth, an old acquaintance and new friend.  The spicy, pungent taste of fiery Balinese sauce would have been flatter and less delicious without the company of Wayan and his family; the quiet glory of the dawn kayak less splendid without Irene's face glowing calmly in the early sunrise.

Places speak to our hearts as well, whether we are alone or surrounded by others.  Who can forget the feelings inspired at the first sighting of Machu Pichu?  The tears of emotion were enough to make us realize the place had touched us deeply.  The sheer "hugeness" of the Perito Moreno Glacier, even after having seen magnificent and breath taking glaciers in Canada and Alaska, has stayed with us throughout our travels.  The fact that the glacier is so accessible, talks to the visitors, and frequently calves football field sized chunks of ice all contribute to its special place in our memories.  As a vast, primitive, alpine arctic landscape that makes one feel remote and alone with nature, nothing can top the Dempster Highway in the Canadian Northern Territories.  It teems with wildlife, though viewing any of the creatures is a combination of weather, season, and luck.  The opportunity to swim with creatures as large as three or four trucks lined up end to end has been a highlight of our Philippines travel.  Images of snorkeling with these whale sharks, often referred to as the "gentle giants," will be etched in our memories for the rest of our lives. Whether large as an elephant's, tiny as a baby gecko's, or glowing golden like those of the platypus, it is the eyes of animals that captivate us.  And of course, it is Tamar's eyes, our hitchhiker, that we remember best.


As we extend our visa for a longer stay in the Philippines, we look to the west.  Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam are nearby and the call of Everest strengthens each day.  Summer is hot in Southeast Asia.  We will seek the cool nooks and crannies full of new experiences, unmet friends, and opportunities to learn and grow.

Posted in Moalboal, Philippines.  Images are of our tricycle driver who blessed our trip in Dugamente, our friend Irene Grave, and the two of us moments before we jumped in with whale sharks in the Philippines.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep...

Most of our friends and family know where they are sleeping tomorrow night; however, we rarely do.  And we almost never know where we are sleeping next week!  One of the time consuming challenges of our "homeless" journey is providing for a roof over our heads each night.

Some worldly travelers simply arrive at a new destination, wander around sporting large  backpacks, avoiding touts who might take them to seedier, expensive properties, and check likely hostels as they walk.  We have avoided that method for several reasons.  The first and foremost is carrying heavy backpacks up and down broken pavement and slippery boardwalks in temperatures in the 90's with sweat gluing clothes firmly to body parts is not our idea of fun.  Doing so at night creates an aromatic opportunity for various domestic animal feces to embed in one's only pair of hiking shoes.

We also would miss the valued social networking aspect of accommodation reviews.  We have relied heavily on sites such as www.hostelworld.com, www.hostels.com, (both of which have review, availability and bookings) www.tripadvisor.com (reviews), www.wotif.com (Australia's best site), www.airbnb.com (the most eclectic offering), www.lastminutedeals.com, and www.couchsurfing.com (cultural exchange in a home for a few nights).  In all of these, it is interesting to read reviews of previous lodgers who have posted thoughts on their hosts, digs, local color, food, etc.  We don't use guide book recommendations much as they are often out of date and woefully incomplete.

We seek phrases about the warmth, helpfulness, and welcoming vibe of owners and staff.  We are often interested in meeting other travelers so mention of nice common use areas (kitchens, TV rooms, pool areas) that promote such interactions is valuable.  We are mindful of our budget so price is a significant variable as well.  We prefer homestays, hostels and b&b's to most lodges, resorts or hotels.  We appreciate the honest reviews that mention what a "swell party place" it is, the presence of bedbugs, or have titles like "Never Again" or "I would rather sleep on the street".  If there is a pattern of such reviews, we move onward.  We also take advice from other travelers and find places with no web presence, but which have all we need for a night or two.
The culture that develops around lodging within each country is fascinating.  In South America, most hostels ask for payment and passport before the room has been seen by the visitor, yet bed and breakfasts never do.  In South America and Southeast Asia, some form of breakfast is included even at the least expensive and simplest places.  In both New Zealand and Australia, brekkie is typically provided only for an additional charge, yet Australians always provide powdered coffee/tea with cold, fresh milk, and a hot water kettle is ubiquitous in every room.  Checkout time in New Zealand and Australia never varies; it is always 10 am.  In the rest of the world it varies by place and the whims of local management.

The included breakfasts can vary, but each area develops some standards by which the budget places abide.  Sugary, orange flavored drinks are a global morning fixture as are black tea and instant coffee.  Toast or rolls are common as are butter and jam.  In Asia, many places offer a variation of rice or noodles with a fried egg on top.  In slightly more upscale habitations a home cooked breakfast of pancakes or eggs is common and many places in South America added their own touches of fresh fruit, fresh juice and homemade breads.  In Bali, pineapple and banana pancakes were the norm.  Real coffee is rare most of the places we have traveled, and when Jess spies a place that travelers claim provides it, she usually leans toward booking that space over almost any other criteria.

We have been surprised at other local norms as well.  In Southeast Asia, even nicer lodgings typically combine a toilet with a shower in a space too small for either alone.  Bugs are ubiquitous roommates in almost every place within 20 degrees of the equator while air conditioning is a valued treat and fans an absolute necessity.  Some places have widescreen TV with awesome collections of pirated movies and TV shows while others have a simple book exchange.  In third world countries, exposed wires and stairwells which require four limbs and a rope to climb are the norm.  Most places have little sound proofing but the temptation to wear earplugs is supplanted by the desire to hear the cries of "fire," an inevitable companion to the lack of building codes as plug-in devices strain limited electrical systems.

There is something intrinsically thrilling about entering a place that is surprisingly nice and the explorers in us enjoy finding out what we have "bought into" as we move to each new residence. We have quickly learned to exclaim in delight at a bathroom counter, a rarity even in first world countries.  We have learned to never judge a hostel by the exterior.  Occasionally, we choose poorly which makes a particularly wonderful place so much sweeter.  As is true so much in life, it is the trials that lead to the quiet joy of comfort.

Posted in Singapore, Singapore.  Images are of a typical steep hostel staircase, wonderful banana pancakes in Bali, and the common combination of shower and toilet in small spaces in Asia.  

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Would You Swap?

The structure was slowly taking shape as the workers used leaf fiber to secure the bamboo and wood planking to the skeleton already in place.  We stood on the rough sidewalk and watched and were approached by a young man about a taxi ride.  We declined the offer, but struck up a conversation with him about the structure across the narrow street.  Wayan (yes, one of the many) explained that the structure was a cremation tower being built for a member of the royal family.  While no one knew exactly which member of the Royal family had died, the tower construction was the responsibility of a group of families in the town of Ubud, in Bali, Indonesia.  The body will be brought to the tower and placed on top.  The tower will then be carried through town in a procession ceremony, and finally the tower will be set on fire.  As we discussed the cremation ceremony, politics and life with Wayan, we eventually told him how much we were enjoying Bali and what a good time we were having.  We mentioned the people and how friendly they were.  We told him we thought it was one of the best places we had visited on the planet.  A telling moment for both of us came when Wayan asked "Would you swap your life for mine?"  It stopped us dead in our tracks.  As we paused, tongue-tied and silent, he said "I am nothing."

As much as we are enjoying our travels, would we swap our lives with any of the dozens of people we have met along the way?  Many of the people we have met make far, far less than even those considered below the poverty level in the United States.  Infrastructures in many of the countries are extremely inadequate for the masses they are expected to serve.  Even people in first world countries like New Zealand and Australia experience floods, typhoons, earthquakes, and enormous fires and have to deal with the aftermath of those disasters.

This taxi driver is far from "nothing." He was articulate, knew two languages well, was technologically versed, and was thoughtful.  However, his chances of improving his life in a society with a strong caste system and in a country with such poverty are very limited. We like to believe that despite poverty, people are happy.This "Wayan" was not. No, we would not swap our lives....and somehow, that hurts.





Images are of the cremation tower, an egg artist, and rice workers all from Bali, Indonesia

Posted from Sandakan, Malaysia

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Many Faces of Wayan



As we got ready to travel to Indonesia, we experienced a wonderful feeling of excitement tinged with uncertainty.  During our last 10 months of travel, we were able to relate to the cultures and people of the Americas and of New Zealand and Australia.  We either shared aspects of history (English colonies, world war allies), religion or language (or at least some of the language).  But Indonesia, Malaysia and Southeast Asia were big steps into the unknowns of language, religion, and other elements of culture.

Imagine our surprise, then, to learn that it would be much easier to learn names in Bali, Indonesia than in Australia or New Zealand. There are only four names:  Wayan, Made, Nyoman, and Kedut.  The names are in birth order from the firstborn (Wayan) to the forth child (Kedut).  If families are larger, they begin again at Wayan.  The first two names have possible gender derivatives (Gede for a first born male and Ilu for a female; Kadek for a second born male and Nendah for a female.  One of our many Wayans shared with us that having at least four children was common in the past.  He explained as family planning and birth control became accessible in the last decade or so, most
families are choosing to have two children.  The challenge for some families with only girl children is that it is the sons who stay home, building their own home in traditional Balinese compounds, and caring for the family temple.  Girl children move into the compound of their in-laws.  In a culture that centers each day on their spirituality, ceremonies and rituals in temples, it is vital that the family have sons for the daily activity and care of the temple.

We have been awestruck at the central role that Hindu spirituality plays in the lives of  the people we meet.  We have been humbled by their willingness to share in their ceremonies and their activities.  Their religious life is open, constantly prevalent, and rich.  Most people spend up to 20% of an average annual salary of $1,000 to $1,500 on their ceremonies of names, births, deaths, full moons, calendar days, anniversaries, etc.  Everywhere we walk, food and flowers, and the gods that receive them, are omnipresent.

Just when we thought we were beginning to understand Balinese names, we met Agus and Norman today.   So much to learn, so little time till we move on to Borneo and Malaysia.


Images are of three wonderful Wayans we met.  Our most excellent driver and new friend, a young woman at the restaurant of an Ecolodge where we stayed, and the boat captain who took us out fishing near Amed.

Posted in Lovina, Bali, Indonesia

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Dusk to Dawn


One wonders what pattern of living you might enjoy if completely free to choose.  We have learned to savor dusk and dawn.  We plan trips, outings, and places to stay around opportunities to enjoy twilight times.  Both dusk and dawn are magical transition times in which one world quiets down while the other awakens.   And as you will see below, all species, including our own, are influenced by these special moments of change as the earth fades from or faces the sun each day.
The best example of such transitions might just come from a tiny mining town, Pine Creek, Australia.  Pine Creek has a few hundred people but thousands of birds and bats.  At dusk, for reasons no one really understands, thousands of birds from dozens of species pour into a few trees in a small park.  The glint of the old dying light shines off the crimson bellies of rainbow lorikeets and transforms the metallic aquamarine color of rainbow honeyeaters to an ocean blue in the last rays of sunlight.  The bird chorus rises to deafening proportions as they cry out their final songs into the night and ghostly bats fill the blood orange colored horizon flying in from daytime roosts.  At dawn, the bats ease away and the birds begin their raucous calls an hour before the first glint of sun fills the morning sky.

It is in places like Pine Creek that we have found a passion that causes us to walk into the forest in the dusk, lights turned off unless necessary.  We have held still for the better part of a night listening for the crackling footsteps of one of the kiwi species to emerge on a moonlit trail in New Zealand.  At dawn on a beach in Australia, we searched for and followed tiny flipper prints of hatchling sea turtles emerging at midnight from a nest and racing toward the sea.  In Costa Rica we walked behind a guide and found three- and two-toed sloths moving slowly through the trees.  We observed vipers poised to strike, waiting for the heat signature of a smaller mammalian prey.  In Australia we snuck out onto a canopy bridge and trail walk and found, to our night adjusted eyes' delight, a glen of Gloworms.  Gloworms are fungal larvae that spin single strand webs dangling their attractive nighttime offer of light to unsuspecting moth prey.  The musky smell of decaying Eucalyptus will be imprinted in our memories along with the sight of their blue green lights glowing softly like a tiny field of stars in the forest.

And it is not only the other animal species that attract our attention from dusk to dawn.  Human patterns of vibrant life differ across the world as well.  In Argentina, we cruise the street at 5 am in a taxi heading for the airport to watch the first customers begin to emerge from clubs and tango joints.  We found out, much to our dismay, that even 9 pm was too early for dinner in many places including a restaurant we loved in Buenos Aires.  Yet in New Zealand, hostels close their doors by 6 or 7 pm and in Australia, even on a Saturday night, the miners in Pine Creek call 10 pm a late night.

We have purchased a strong light to aid us in our nighttime hunts for koalas, spiders, honey gliders and wallabies.  We have spent many early predawn mornings slipping out of hostels or campgrounds quietly and heading somewhere in the dark to watch one world lie down and another awaken, reborn again. As we prepare for Indonesia and Malaysia, we wonder what will emerge in those distant locales at dusk and dawn.

Images are of a sign near Nimbin, Australia; Sally communing with a wallaby in Katherine Gorge National Park, Australia; and of our first Costa Rica nighttime tour guide at Pasion tours, Marcus, who was training a your apprentice on the arts of insect ID.

Posted in Darwin, Australia