Christoff mountain Curacao

We decide to climb to the highest point on Curacao, Christoff Mountain. We are clearly in vacation mode and arrive at noon ready to climb. We are turned away as there is no climbing after 1100 am. We plan to try again tomorrow and content ourselves with information on the area.

We arrive early for us at 0900, pay the nominal fee to enter the park, peruse the map and drive to the base of the mountain. It is an interesting looking mountain with its pointy part at the top. We are informed it should take two hours to complete the climb one hour up and one hour down. This makes no sense to me as climbing down generally takes less time.  Still we are not on a schedule and we begin.

The trail starts gentle, clearly marked with sweet little rocks flanking the sides, it’s obvious. Too soon the sweet little rocks are absent replaced by large boulders that we step and sidestep on our ascent. Unseasonably, it has rained a great deal in the last few days and the trail is washed out in places, slippery in other places. Every few minutes we stop to determine our route. There are no gentle switchbacks just a relentless up. We walk out of the shade and clearly understand in this moment why no hiking is permitted after eleven. The sun beats down, taxing our sunscreen and sucking the moisture from our skin. I taste salt on my lips. We continue and stop frequently to catch our breath, take photos, check the time. Despite our vacation mode, our pride is at stake,  it’s important to complete the trek in the time suggested.SONY DSCSONY DSCSONY DSCimg_5430

The trail takes a turn for worse as we near the top. We meet others heading down who advise us the worst is yet to come. We are told to take the gentler left path at the top as the right is more challenging  I look around as I crawl on the boulders trying to find a safe ascent and think they must be exaggerating as it really couldn’t get much worse.  I do like the idea of a gentle path and push onward and upward, thinking of the moment when it becomes gentle.

I catch myself at times, as I reach out to hang on, luckily noticing at the last moment that I am reaching for a cactus.  I withdraw my hand quickly, saving certain pain.

SONY DSCWe arrive at the fork close to the top. The gentle path promised is really not a path but rather a series of boulders with sharp drop offs into oblivion. Perhaps this is where we make up the time lost by falling down the mountain to the bottom?  The other “path” seems a bit of a stretch to call it thus, is a collection of boulders with no navigational route, save for the fast route to the bottom of the mountain. We stand for seemingly forever, collecting our breath, thoughts, and courage before scrambling the last 50 feet to the top.

We arrive and are treated to a birds eye view of the island.  The Caribbean sea beckons in the far distance. There are few places to rest so we perch and rotate to take in the beauty. We are not alone. Young girls have brought music adding to the festivities. A man makes a phone call, speaking rapidly in foreign tongue, though his excitement transcends barriers. Another man sits quietly, serene and seemingly contemplates life. We take selfies, then proper photos, then just chill, taking in the moment and recording it in our minds. I think about Kilimanjaro just a few years ago and compare. This trek just a few hours, Kilimanjaro was days. This time altitude is not an issue as we are just 1220 feet above sea level,  not 19, 340 feet.  Kilimanjaro was cold, this is hot.  The path to Kili was gentler overall, this trek is much like the boulder area just before Gilmans. I decide that they really can’t be compared except for two commonalities, the view and sense of accomplishment. I think of this as I marvel at what we have just accomplished, snapping off more pictures in my mind to keep and reminisce when I’m too old to climb.

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We begin the trek down, barely stopping though mindful of every step. We arrive at our car and look back at the mountain. It looks different to me from just a few short hours ago. I shield my eyes from the sun and look to the top marvelling that we stood there just a short hour ago. No, the mountain is the same, it is me that has changed.

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Klein Curacao

We set our alarm and wake in the dark for our long journey to the other side of the island. We leave ourselves extra time for getting lost and found. Soon we are in a snarl of traffic,inch  worming our way as locals dart in and out jumping the queue aggressively jockeying for position. The clock tocks, our extra time bitten away as we stand still. We worry we will miss our sailing time, though there is nothing to do but inch along. 

We arrive at the dock, frazzled and late, though have forgotten to factor in “island time,” as we chill waiting for our departure. Our boat is a catamaran, the crew personable. We see flying fish, they are startled by the boat as it jumps the waves and they fly several meters before crashing into the waves 
Klein Curacao or little Curacao, an island some 30 nautical miles from Curacao. It is uninhabited though a few structures exist for fisherman and day trippers from Curacao. The water is calm where we dock though the other side of the island the water beats aggressively against the rocks, its shores littered with boats who lost the battle against the sea. There are locals, Joe the turtle who swims around the catamaran, his daily work and a dog named bikini who unties string bikinis adding an aerobic factor for tourists. 


The Island, historically was part of the slave trade, where sick slaves were quarantined before coming to Curacao proper. I think of this time and imagine the horror of their travel to arrive at this 1.7 km island. What must they have thought? There are many that are buried on the island, their final stop. It is a dark history. 

We have a choice of snorkelling to the beach or arriving in style in a boat. We opt for the latter.  The boat ride is quick We disembark into the sea and cross the coral to arrive, our feet sinking into the thick sand. The water is beautiful, every colour of blue represented. We snorkel lazily in our search for fish, our efforts rewarded immediately. 


We set out to explore the island. We walk to an abandoned lighthouse and marvel that the dilapidated structure can be explored further. There are no signs, no fences, though we are sharper for the lack. We cross on a narrow board suspended between two sections, and carefully make our way. The drop wouldn’t kill us, though it would hurt a great deal. We climb to the top of the lighthouse and view the island, spying shipwrecks in the distance. 

We walk to the nearby shipwrecks and wonder of the day when they docked here permanently. There is much garbage strewn, likely from the wrecks, though the volume added by tourists. It is a shame.


We return,the remainder of the day has a routine. Snorkel,dry off and repeat.


Our trip back is under sail, the ride gentle rocking us to rest.  As we near Curacao, the sky opens up and we are soaked arriving on the dock like drowned sewer rats. Shivering we get back in our car, turn the heat on and begin our long crawl back. Rush hour traffic has waited for our return. 

Beach hopping in Curacao

We walk a few steps from our resort to a secluded lagoon. The approach is steep, marred with potholes though it matters little. We did not come to Curaçao or this place for paved roads. The lagoon is flanked by steep cliffs on either side with a jewel of water in between. The beach is sandy though at waters entrance there is coral hard on our tender feet. We are forced down to stop the pain and float into the sea. We lazily snorkel,  the sun on our back and search for fish. Our efforts are rewarded as colourful fish swim into our view.  We are reluctant to leave the lagoon, dreading the pain from the coral. We scan the beach, find a sandy approach and walk erect out of the lagoon.

We are informed of a beach where it is possible to see turtles. The roads are a haphazard affair, the signage arrives at nearly the last minute.  The beach inviting, the sea beckons.  We stand on the pier and everywhere we see turtles large and small.  A burly man next to me shouts excitedly to his friend, “look baby turtles,” then catches himself and tries to play it cool. A young family shows the turtles for the first time to their son and immediately I think of our grandsons at home and imagine their excitement. There is no playing it cool for me as I climb into the sea for a chance to swim with them. The water is silty, the after effects of a storm many miles away. We see no turtles through our snorkel masks. It matters little, we are swimming with the turtles sight unseen. 

We travel further and discover another beach complete with thick white sand. The waves gently touch the shore and then retreat to gain power for the next. It is mesmerizing and soothing. There is no particular place to be, just this experience and then the next to enjoy. 

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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My Sister

I remember the day that you were born.  Dad came into the room where we were playing and told us that we had a baby sister.  There was a sadness to Dad’s words, that only with the clarity of time I understand.  You were born early, 28 weeks,  at a time when babies did not survive.  You were kept warm, fed. You were born in a remote area of Northern Alberta and the physician that cared for you had just completed his training at the Royal Alexandra hospital in Edmonton, his expertise and knowledge saved you.   There was no ventilatory support, no oxygen, still you thrived and survived.  You were a miracle.

They let me see you, sneaking me into the hospital, as siblings were not allowed to come into the hospital, unless they were at least twelve years old.   I screamed that there was a pin in your stomach.  It was the umbilical cord tied off and my six year old self without a frame of reference did not understand.  They ushered me out of the room quickly, telling me to be quiet, to stop screaming, that you were all right.  I didn’t believe their words of reassurance.

We moved away from Northern Alberta to Edmonton and I thought you had died and no one wanted to tell me.  I didn’t ask, too afraid to hear the words.  Joyfully, you came home to us three months later and I would sit beside your crib,  reading to you   I wanted you to be a professional reader.  I wanted to help in the only way that I knew.  You love reading, so perhaps

I grew up and worked in a world of babies born too early.  I don’t think that there is an accident to my career choice.  I wanted to make a difference, to help.  I wanted to understand more and move beyond the screaming six year old that I was.   The world of premature infants has changed drastically since you were born.  I like to think that babies like you paved the way for all the babies to come. We learned more and saved even more babies born too soon.

Six years apart seems like nothing now, though as children, it was a gulf impossible to bridge.  I left home when you were nine.  We went our separate ways and yet there was a link to each other through the years.  We both struggled with our children, trying to find the answers to questions that never seemed to have answers.  We are more alike than different, our experiences link us greater than our family connection.

Today you came to my office and we chatted about life, marriage, children and family. You will always be the link to the past, the road to the future.

 

Becoming Wiser


There are so many things that I wish I knew sooner. With the passing years, wisdom is not guaranteed with the accumulation of birthdays.

These are the things that I know now and wish I knew sooner.

Delaying gratification

My 3 year old grandson has learned this lesson, as he holds his new mashem in his hand and carries it around for hours before finally opening it to discover the character within. I marvel at his ability to wait. It is the anticipation that is sweeter than the reward. It is the dreaming, the planning greater than the last moment of discovery. It is the saving for a home, the work done to achieve a goal, the imagining of the gift before its opened.
Time
How many years I wasted, how many moments hurrying from one thing to another. Like the rabbit in Alice in Wonderland I always felt late for a very important date. I robbed myself of the present while pushing the clock further into the future. Too soon it passed, the girls grew up with families of their own, my parents died, friends moved away. How I wish to have just one hour back from that time, though am careful to stay in the present, building new memories rather than reliving the past.

Weight
How I wish to be the weight that I was when first I thought I had a problem. How important to opt  for health over a pant or shirt size. The time spent trying every fad and mainstream diet, fighting for a body not possible to maintain. Years spent looking into the future of the day when the scale told me my worth and giving the scale the right.
Possessions
How I wish to have understood sooner that less is more. I spent my younger years filling my home and space with things. Each larger home and space filled to capacity. In my downsizing years, I have liberated so many items that seemed necessary when purchased. My load is lighter now, as I am surrounded by items that I truly love. We don’t really own anything, as we all know we can’t take it with us.

These are just a few things that I’ve figured out over the years.

How about you?