Sunday, March 21, 2010

Chapter 15 in the continuing saga of an unfittie's travels


You’re right if you’re thinking I wouldn’t be writing this if I had never found anything fun to do during one of Dick’s adventure tours. I found two things, and I go on, in hope of finding them again.

Everyone knows hydrotherapy means movement in water, providing exercise without impact, thereby strengthening the muscles without causing them any pain.
If you’re an unfittie who can swim, I’ve got the hydrotherapy idea of a lifetime for you. Snorkeling. It’s so easy!
The most difficult part is putting the swim fins on without getting them full of sand. A spouse or friend might help you with this. My spouse didn’t, so I swam without fins, but I wore my water shoes in case of coral, and a shirt to avoid a sunburnt back. A long-sleeved shirt is best, I discovered. Photosensitivity, you know.
You don’t even have to put a lot of effort into swimming. In order to find the greatest number of colorful fish per gallon of snorkel-worthy water, you’ll probably practice this therapeutic pastime in a warm ocean, and anyone can float in salt water. Even my husband can float, although his bones are so strong and so dense he has to keep moving in order to remain afloat in fresh water.
I didn’t get up much speed, but that didn’t matter. All I had to do was hang effortlessly on the top of the water, watching exotically-colored tropical fish swim beneath me, while sea lions swam beside me, and everyone else in our group swam past me.
Snorkeling, by definition, includes a snorkel: a tube that fits into your mouth at one end and is open to the air (one hopes) at the other end. It can be a little disconcerting if waves wash over the open end of the tube. Swallowing salt water involves gagging and coughing and other unpleasantries, all of which interfere with smooth swimming, and interfere even more with enjoyment.
Eventually, one either learns how to blow the mouthful of seawater back up the tube before swallowing, or gives up snorkeling entirely.
Don’t give up.
If I could learn to do it, so can you.
I loved snorkeling in the Galapagos Islands but I understand less remote locations can offer equally exotic underwater wonderlands.

My husband, however, loves remote locations. Therefore, somewhere in Costa Rica, in a location requiring us to leave the bus for a few days (yay!) and travel by boat to an extremely rickety dock some distance away, I discovered sea kayaking.
Gone were all my previous notions of kayaking – notions involving solitary sealskin boats in seas full of ice floes – the moment I saw two-person sea kayaks on the silky soft sand of a warm-water south sea beach.
Sigh. Very happy sigh.
I, of course, was a passenger in this enterprise. I happily let one of the local guides do all the work while I watched Dick and all those other energetic souls paddling their own lone selves to yet another area of soft sand and warm water. There, we (and I use the pronoun loosely, because I was no help whatsoever) beached the kayaks and ran back into the water to swim and cavort like a busload of children. As we laughed, and swam, and splashed, and laughed some more, our guides waded out to offer us freshly-cut pineapple, sweeter than honey, as much of it as we could eat.
I wholeheartedly recommend passenging in a sea kayak for all water-loving unfitties. The inning and the outing of the craft may be a problem and, again, a helpful husband, solicitous spouse or (in my case) a good-natured guide can make the process easier.
My husband can’t help it, I’ve decided (no pun intended). He may have voluntarily married an unfit female, but he really doesn’t know what to do with one once he’s got her, just like a small child receiving a Christmas puppy from well-meaning but uninformed friends or relations.
Still, to return evangelically to the moral of my story, it is better to go than not go.
It really is.
Dick will help when he can, if he happens to notice I’m in distress; if he isn’t 20 feet ahead of me looking at some guy’s hat; or if he knows what I want him to do. This means I have to tell him, in point form, step form, or alphabetically. He can’t intuit solutions to problems outside the grade 5 or 6 curriculum, which he taught for almost 30 years. I tell him he spent entirely too long in elementary school, and I try to remember not to yell at him. Sometimes I succeed in not yelling, and sometimes I don’t, but we’re working on it.
In the meantime, instead of staying home alone, playing computer solitaire (another solitary sport) and doing laundry (also a lonesome pursuit), I get to see bits and pieces of places I’ve never seen before and, if I’m lucky, I get to spend some time in warm salt water.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Chapters 12, 13 and 14 of An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel


That’s because one wall of the shower is open to the tropical garden outside, and tropical gardens mean…tropical insects!
Picture a luxurious mountain lodge in the jungle of Costa Rica, with a view that just doesn’t quit. You open the door to your picturesque jungle hut and see an expansive room containing two beds with mosquito nets hanging above them. Let’s hope you aren’t traveling alone, because getting into a bed and then having to drape a mosquito net above yourself to keep out flying (or even crawling) wildlife, can be a trifle difficult.
Therefore, be sure to have your spouse or traveling partner arrange your net carefully over you with no cracks, visible or invisible, so as to allow no insects, visible or invisible, into your bed or into the air above you. That leaves your spouse or traveling companion free to arrange him- or herself under the mosquito net on the other bed in whatever way he or she can. Every woman for herself, and every man for his spouse!
As Dick was arranging himself into his bed and net, I only screamed at him once, and I still say it was a fair call. There was a cucaracha on the wall near the door, so I insisted Dick get up to escort it out. On his way back to bed, he pointed out to me, ever so nicely, the fact that none of the walls reached the thatched roof/ceiling, and declared himself unwilling to rise up to meet the challenge of whatever other insects might climb or fly over the walls.
All was well and, when my terror of creepy-crawly critters finally subsided enough to let me sleep, all remained well, until a herd of howling banshees set me to howling as well. I almost ripped the mosquito netting right off the ceiling in my terror. “Rich-arrrrrrrrrrrrrddd! Wake UP! Those are the loudest mosquitos I've ever heard!”
“What? Mmm? Huh? Oh, those. Those are howler monkeys. Go to sleep.”
Easy for him to say. He’d been tromping through the bushes with our guide for almost two weeks, and had learned all about jungle warfare, while I, reading novels in hotel lobbies while watching brightly-colored birds eat bananas outside the windows, knew nothing at all.
Which brings me to the next question…


Now, supposing all my infirmities descend upon me at once, and I find myself unable to do anything without screaming pain.
Supposing I have survived the ignominy of a 9-hour flight in the center seat of a cigar tube, only to find afterward I can’t leave the hotel, or the ship, train or whatever (I should be so lucky, a train) because of said screaming pain.
What, really, is the worst that could happen?
At the worst, I might have to spend my vacation in a hotel room with room service, or in a ship’s cabin with a balcony (and room service), reading a book.
Poor me.
I stop at my local library before a holiday, to buy what I call airplane books: lightweight (in every sense of the word) paperback books someone else has donated to the library, and which the librarian sells for a pittance. I might buy one book for every day of the trip but, as I finish one, I leave it behind for the next guest or passenger.
It sure beats staying at home, reading books while other people travel.


Oh, okay, if you insist…being in that same screaming pain for two weeks in a bus in Costa Rica might be worse.
The problem on our trip was neither the driver, who was great, nor the bus, which was a brand new, bright orange, made-in-China-with-insect-ear-mirrors kind of bus, but the roads in Costa Rica, which are are unimaginably bumpy, with several huge potholes for every ten or twelve feet of narrow unpaved road. That’s Costa Rica’s back country, and sometimes even its towns.
Fortunately, we never had to sleep in the bus, so my evening and night-time survival training was mostly of the hotel-with-room-service variety, as no tents were pitched during the making of our adventure vacation.
Speaking of ‘worse’ – do you remember slide projectors and color slides? And neighbors who invited you over to watch ‘our summer vacation pictures’ in grim and gleaming color? And how many times did the neighbors say, “And this is us in front of the bus…” while showing you completely unidentifiable, completely interchangeable pictures of their two selves grinning happily (and interchangeably) in front of a tour bus?

Saturday, March 6, 2010

New chapters coming soon

Did you enjoy having three chapters posted at once? Well, I did, so I'm going to do it again. Coming very soon, three more short chapters of An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel. (Note re this picture: I got to ride in the front seat, and it wasn't exactly luxurious, but it was a lot better than the ride my husband and friends had in the back of this truck at Puerto Jiminez, Costa Rica.)

Monday, March 1, 2010

I'm not humble, I'm a Canadian!

Canadians traveling to foreign lands don't have to be so humble any more. We're winners: record-setting gold medal winners at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. Now it's time to get out there into the world and proclaim, "I am a CANADIAN!"
Congratulations to the Canadian athletes, and to all athletes from all countries, who participated in the recent Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver. Thanks to all the volunteers who kept the wheels of the olympiad running as smoothly, for the most part, as possible. Condolences to the people of the beautiful country of Georgia who lost one of their own just as the games were about to begin, and to Quebec's Joannie Rochette who lost her beloved mother at such a moment in her life, and in so public a way. I understand, because I still carry the grief from recently losing my own parents.
I also understand the people of Vancouver, and the people visiting Vancouver, who gathered in the streets, particularly at Robson Square and on Granville Street, whose joy in the hope and promise of the Games gave voice to the joy of the people all across the country. My heart was there with you, because I lived in Vancouver for several years and worked there for many more years as a commuter from the suburbs. I'm a third generation British Columbian and grateful I'm able to proclaim, "O Canada, our home and native land."