The word of the day is foss

We wake without sleep, surround sound snoring  disturbed our slumber. I nudge John repeatedly throughout the night only to discover in the morning he did not participate in the melody.  I eagerly pack to leave this place certain that the next place will be better.

We begin the familiar queuing for the bathroom then pack our belongings. I remember to keep my charging cord available. We board a new bus, our bus taken in the night for another group, this one appears to be a downgrade, lacking both the latte button and the USB ports.  My charging cord is rendered useless and my phone desperately needs a charge from last nights white noise serenade. I take a deep breath determined to have a great day, then chuckle.  My goodness I’m in Iceland seeing things few people will ever see, I am with great friends and my wonderful husband.  The day seems brighter with my attitude shift.

Eric tells us the word of the day is foss and it means waterfall. We traverse the path covered just a few days before. We find a young couple with a standard car trapped in the water and sinking with each spin of the tires. We implore Eric to stop and help. He does though there is nothing he can do, help is on the way.  The car is destroyed and the couple face thousands of dollars in costs for abusing their rental car with the hubris of youth. We are thankful for our transport and wisdom of our years though recall similar instances where we had to learn the difficult way.

We arrive at a place where it seems we have left the waterfalls behind.  I’m not sure what the highlight is though we scamper off the bus to find out.  We are directed to a tiny cave.  It is small at first, though enlarges as we move through. The smell of moss permeates. The sound of water running is deafening.   It is a tricky trek, the slippery rock has us concentrating.   The first waterfall comes into view and we exclaim at the beauty.  Just beyond, another waterfall demands our attention, though this one will require work and courage.  Eric and Kommi let us know that we can return back if we do not feel up to the second waterfall.  John and I look at each other, no words are needed as we take this as a dare and move forward.  There are chains embedded into the rock to hang onto, though more haphazard than a Disney experience. I’m scared, not of hurting myself though that weighs heavily on my mind, but more worried about taking someone with me.  I hopscotch across and soon am helped up to the upper ledge where a beautiful waterfall waits.  We snap pictures, pose, take more pictures and  too soon it is time to leave.  Eric advises that the trip back is harder.  I wonder to myself why he felt a need to say that as my nerves kick to higher level.  I am too careful with my footing and fall, sliding until the sharp stone scrapes my knee, slowing me down until I stop.  I shake off the pain admit I’m fine, no wounded gazelle here and keep moving.  I have a little chat with myself reminding myself to plant my feet for the uncertainty of footfall is far more dangerous.  Like a goat I cross the remainder of the rocks to safety.

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Our next waterfall is hidden, though more accessible than the one with chains.  A few steps into a cave, we are treated to a beautiful foss cascading down from the cliffs above.  The power of the mist soaks our fancy waterproof jackets their first chance to prove their promise.   We remain dry, money well spent, though still look like Smurfs.IMG_3316.jpeg

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Our next foss is a quick walk out of the vehicle.  It is unusual and is called helper falls.  The name is perfect as it looks like one waterfall is helping the other. I think about healthcare and how we help people in our daily work.  How important to make certain that we also help ourselves, I think as I watch the larger foss with help from above.  I also notice how the smaller falls contributes and how much we learn from the patients we serve.

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Our final foss is at the site of a Viking homestead. The waterfall is not impressive when compared with the other waterfalls we saw today, though I can imagine how important it was to provide water for the family and livestock that once called this spot home.  We marvel at the workmanship and how the structure complements and blends with the earth.  I think about how far removed we are from this building sense as the majority of our homes are built for their size without a care for the land they will occupy.  We seem to care more for what is inside than what is outside.

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A rainbow rounds out the day as we travel to our lodging for the night.   I silently hope that the accommodations are at least half as wonderful as the day.

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Amsterdam

We arrive in Amsterdam after a long night and day of travel. We are greeted at the airport by John’s cousin, Nelda and Aunt, Emmy. Such a welcome pleasure and so very different from other trips where we arrive without knowing a soul.

We enjoy a coffee and beer at the airport and collect our thoughts before continuing our journey. We find the lighthouse marker where we find Nelda’s car and relax while she expertly navigates the car to her home. I reflect on other trips where we frantically search for the rental agency and then twirl our way out of the airport, brows furrowed as we find our accommodation sleep deprived. I decide I like this experience much more.

We arrive at our destination, a beautiful, spacious apartment with a view of the Amstel river. We set our bags down in our room and visit for a few moments before exhaustion settles in and our eyes’ blink rate slows. We crawl into bed for a nap with a planned wake up call a few hours later to break the jet lag.

The knock on the door arrives and we peel ourselves away from the comfortable bed to the dining room where we meet Marieke, Nelda and Emmy for coffee. Soon dinner arrives without our effort and we indulge.

Satiated we decide on a walk around the neighbourhood. The light dims, the river shimmers as we admire architecture, each building unique and beautiful, all favourites its too difficult to choose. Nelda points out important landmarks, the train station, trolley and bridges. We get our bearings.

We arrive back, drink wine and learn about each other. Soon we are talking and laughing, like we have always known each other, deep belly laughs and tears run down our faces to round out our first night in Amsterdam.

Monkeys, Sloths, Canopy Tour and Hot Springs

The Howler monkeys wake us early with their screams. We are happy for the wake up call, though a volume control would be nice.

Our lodging at the Ceiba tree resort includes breakfast and happily we make our way to the dining room.

We opt to eat al fresco, enjoy the morning breeze, view of Lake Arenal and the amazing Ceiba Tree. The tree is over 500 years old. I sip my coffee and imagine what it has seen. I can imagine people in various attire marching through the timeline enjoying its shelter and all the animals that have called it home.


We speak to fellow Canadians at breakfast. One man asks what we thought of the drive, it’s clear his opinion as we detect a twitch. His wife is not ashamed to say she was car sick. We sit a little straighter, perhaps we are doing okay. We learn the mountain traverse last night was not necessary and that the roads are smooth. The map app cost us an extra tortuous 60km. We hate her and are happy to ignore her for part of the way back.

John is interested in a Canopy tour, a chance to zip through the jungle like Tarzan. Wanting to be his Jane, I nervously agree. We begin our drive and stop at a shop to inquire about the tour. We learn it is mere meters away.

We arrive, park in an impossibly large parking lot, pay for the tour and browse the over priced gift store chock full of tchotchkes. No knickknacks needed, we browse our way through. We find a beautiful lodge and enjoy a leisurely coffee. It is a beautiful place with its manicured plants and sanitized experience. How different from the more authentic experience we have been enjoying, less North American, more Costa Rican. I’m ashamed at the excess that seems to be required in places like this one and happy for our rental in the mountains.

We complete the paperwork for the tour supplying our passport information and blood type. We agree we understand emergency services may take time. We are then fitted with our gear for the Canopy adventure and my heart beats a little faster. A young family arrives with a young girl of 4 years. She declares it is her first time, I admit it is mine too. We both resolve to not be afraid.

We receive an in service and soon just like Tarzan and Jane, John and I are zipping from tree to tree through the jungle. The perspective unique as we see the trees from our perch then fly over with a birds eye view.

Eleven trees later we arrive at the terminus. Our ride back is an open air affair pulled by a tractor up steep inclines and impossibly narrow roads, equally exciting it is our bonus tour.

We change gear and soak our tired muscles in a series of natural hot springs rich in minerals. Each spring progressively cooler as we descend. The view of Volcan Arenal breathtaking with its frame of lacy palm fronds. A worker directs our sight to a Sloth in the tree. We watch him for a time, he scratches and like fireworks we ooh and ahh at the movement.


We have enjoyed our time at this resort and reluctantly begin the long trek back to our lodging. We comfort ourself with the knowledge that without the unnecessary extra mountain we have only 110km to travel. We allow 4 hours for the journey.

Every minute is required as we discover rush hour has waited for us. I’m toughening up as I no longer feel the need to cry, bite my nails or grip the dash. We crawl through the final hour. The map app throws up her hands once more as she directs us in a marionette circle. We are on to her though, allowing her to yip out directions in the background while we use our memory and find our way to our lodging in the dark.

It occurs to us that the GPS signal is likely being lost in the mountains and that perhaps the map app is not out to get us as we feared.

In any case, today we have enjoyed the journey, the car ride part of the adventure though not the entire story. 

Together

via Daily Prompt: Together

Together, it is a warm word, inclusive.  In this big world it really is better if we hold hands and face it together.

We learn as children to hold hands when we cross the street to keep us safe.  We practice the buddy system and know that there is strength in numbers.  We are a social being and life is sweeter when shared with someone else.

I’ve relished my time alone and enjoy my own company.  I have loved travelling solo and experiencing the world with my own agenda.  These pursuits taught me to push myself further, that there was no limit.   A nagging thought pestered,  something was conspicuously missing.  It was the witness to the beauty or horror that I saw.  Someone that saw what I saw, or perhaps saw something different and in this manner added to the tapestry of the experience.  It was lonely at the end of the day, as I dined alone and wrote about the day.

I’ve enjoyed travelling with my husband, children and grandchildren and each adds to the experience.  It is never lonely.  There is negotiation of how the day will be spent and I don’t always get exactly what I want, nor do they. I do know that all the places that I travelled alone are now different with another person to share the experience.  Together is so much sweeter.

Canmore

Its just after Christmas and we are on our way to Canmore for a week long trip.  We spend the first few days by ourselves and then our daughter,  son in law and our two young grandsons join us in this winter wonderland.

During the off holiday times, my husband and I spend very little time together.  He works nights, I work days and there are many days when we do not see one another.  Technology bridges the gap somewhat, though we are from a different world where conversation was face to face and somehow the emoticons fall short.  This week we spend an entire week together, relaxing and catching up with each other.

The condo we have rented is beautiful, though the blinds are curiously lowered at the top,  We unpack and settle into watching cable television, a treat for us as we have cancelled our satellite service several years previous in favour of Apple TV and Netflix.  The home improvement and real estate shows play a continuous loop for the duration of our stay until we are saturated and long for a break.  Commercials initially are a novelty, though very quickly become annoying as a 20 minute show stretches out to accommodate all the things that we should want or desire.

The bed is very comfortable and a television adorns the wall, a novelty for us as we fall asleep watching.  We wake in the morning and quickly understand why the blinds cover only the bottom half of the window.  The top reveals that we are surrounded by mountains and in my cozy socks and pyjamas I marvel at the view.  My heart beats just a little slower in the mountains.

Our destination is the townsite.  Canmore is a town outside of the National Park and as such land can be owned. The town has had a boom in recent years and its real estate is out of reach for most people.  Still, Canmore has retained its small town charm.  There are no big box stores on main street, opting instead for Mom and Pop shops, local artists and coffee shops.  Its a busy time, and we find crowds of people jockeying for position to park.  We find a spot off the main drag and set out to walk the shops.  The streets are bustling and the shops are doing a brisk business.

We find in one store chalk candy, a treat from Holland that is impossible to buy at home.  I have ordered from the internet previous, though the shipping charges and wait time are onerous.  We buy the majority of what is for sale, leaving a few bags for people that might follow.

It is a lazy time, where we have no particular place to be.  We walk the street, peruse the shops, find something to eat when we are hungry and then retreat to our rented home for the night.  We play scrabble, build lego and play card games.  We enjoy our family.  The boys are busy, happily playing with their lego.  It is a relaxing time after much hurrying prior to Christmas.

After several days of doing nothing, we decide to snow shoe at Lake Louise.  We book a tour and meet our group in Banff townsite.  We are the only people from Alberta, the remainder from around the world.  The drive is beautiful and off the beaten path.  We are treated to fir trees dripping with snow, Elk and at every turn a photo that demands to be taken.

Lake Louise is a jewel in the mountains.  The hotel sits on a perch with the lake stretching out in front.  Ice sculptures have been created and people enjoy skating on the lake.  There is an ice bar set up, sleigh rides and trails in every direction for those more ambitious.

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We don our snow shoes and set out to explore. It is a hard climb, though the shoes make it somewhat easier.  We travel what seems like a great distance, though are mindful of the time and turn back to have time for a lunch at the hotel.  Earlier, we staked out our lunch destination.  It is a beautiful open room with views of the lake and mountains.

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We arrive hungry at our preferred lunch destination and are denied service.  It is a busy time in Lake Louise and during these busy times, they will not serve people unless they are hotel guests.  This seems peculiar to us as the restaurant at 2 pm is nearly empty.  We are directly to a dark, dank restaurant on the lower level and for a tidy sum of over $40.00 we can have a hamburger, fries and a coffee, we decline.  We are then directed to a deli where the prices might be better, but alas the food is wrapped in plastic wrap and sits unappetizingly in the display cabinets.  We decide to not liberate it for its high price.  There is no place to sit, and we leave the hotel in search of something else.  We are directed to another hotel a short walk away.  We trudge through the snow, arrive and find it closed. We trudge back.  We are famished.  Considering our options, we decide to wait until we arrive in Banff for our sustenance.

We find a hotel employee at the Lake Louise hotel and register our displeasure.  A quick internet search shows that our complaint was not the first, though they are firm in their decision.  The response from the hotel is that their guests are paying for exclusivity and as a hotel they must comply.  Wow!  We may not be hotel guests, but we too have paid nearly $200.00 for the tour whose sole purpose was to take us to this hotel.  If you do have a chance to go to Lake Louise, leave your credit card behind, but don’t forget your granola bars.

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Grateful, Thankful and Satisfied in Zanzibar

We spend the day relaxing, lazing around our room, reading and relish in the option of stretching out on the bed or sitting on the couch, so many soft surfaces to consider. Such a change from the last few weeks where a cozy spot was not possible as we moved from one place to another, comfort just beyond our reach.

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We pop open a can of Pringles,our staple in this continent and nibble on the salty snack. We wash it down with ginger beer, a tasty refreshment that has kept nausea at bay these last few weeks as we climbed Kilimanjaro and bounced around in Safari vehicles.
Options abound for dinner, there are restaurants and choice that surround and its difficult to choose. Our group plans to dine together and we set out in our clean clothes to peruse the many options available.
The night is dark and stars sprinkle above us, lighting our way as we walk sandals in hand in the cool sand. We find a lovely spot just a short distance from our resort. A table is set on the sandy beach. We sit and our chairs sink into the sand as we hunker down for the duration. Candles abound and the soft lighting is magical. Menus arrive, we are bombarded with choice, drinks, entrees. We decide after considering all our options and I close my eyes and take in the moment. I can hear the waves lap the beach, coupled with a lively band that strums out its chords.

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The food and drinks arrive and we eat and drink relishing each sip and bite. After days of stews, Milo and unbuttered bread, our taste buds explode. It occurs to me how much we take for granted in life and only when its taken away do we realize how fortunate we are. I make a mental note to always be thankful though know that in time the memory will fade.
Satiated, we begin the walk back to our beach bungalow. How lovely to know that there is a permanent structure waiting for us, complete with a comfortable bed and the ability to sleep for as long as we choose.

We bid good night to our friends, making loose plans to meet up tomorrow. Perhaps we will snorkel, kayak, or wander the beach, its difficult to decide at this moment of relaxation. I am not interested in further adventure at this moment, liking that time has stood still for a time.
In many ways this part of the trip is a typical beach vacation and we could be anywhere in the world in our safe, gated community. As I watch the sun set over the Indian Ocean, I am in this moment and content to have the next unfold without plan.

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