The Return

 

Traveling is sometimes easy and sometimes a complicated dance ranging in varied levels of difficulty. From the minor headaches to the challenges that leave you shaking your head while marching for the nearest beer to slug down, followed very quickly by another one.

Our return south was challenging, yet after a few cold ones and a night panting in front of the fan blowing an inch from our faces it feels as though we had never left!

In our latest stint away from our heart home of Nicaragua, we had been to Canmore Canada, Spokane WA, Cache creek BC, Pennsylvania, New York City, Washington DC, Holland, back to DC to pick up the dog we had left on her own short vacay, threw her on a plane to go south. Dragged ourselves onto our flights and in what felt like the blink of an eye we found ourselves enjoying a rum cocktail while floating on paddle boards on a lake. The setting sun leaving brilliant streaks of pink and gold across the sky, content in the company of lifelong friends.

I keep shaking my head at how time can seem so irrelevant, as well as how much a person can fit in a short period of time if motivated. I enjoy a peaceful morning at the keyboard, savoring the moments while others still sleep. The first few days in a new location have me way too excited to sleep for long. Picture the hyperactive and overexcited five year old that ate too much sugar, minus the meltdowns.

Morning in the historic city of Granada, is filled with tropical birdsong, the breeze off the lake rustles the leaves on the mango trees above. Roosters announce the new day, although I am curious where they actually live, now that I think about it. A massive iguana blinks at me from the roof above, as the dogs pant at me feet; tongues as wide as they can go, and bellies pressed into cool tiles.

Heat and humidity opens the pores wide, allowing a person to sweat profusely from strange places like ones scalp. I recommend a cloth handkerchief or in a pinch a folded piece of paper towel to dab the upper lip and occasionally make a full swipe of the forehead, under the breasts or the classic sternum or belly wipe catching the rivulets making their way to the belt line.

During the acclimation phase little is worn in the home, shirts are off and shade with a bit of a breeze is a coveted piece of real estate.

Time slows down, as it just seems too hot to complete anything at a fast pace. Already I have slid into the lazy flip-flop walking pace of the tropics. Time in town is fun, but the sea murmurs in the back of our minds.

We heed the surfer’s call for the salt on our skin and waves beneath our feet.

Our return to the beach is filled with warm smiles, and many days of bumping down the dusty back roads at 5 kms an hour to greet old friends after almost 9 months away.

For the first time we truly feel home. All errands that used to be arduous due to lack of translation, extreme heat, and figuring out the ropes, now are performed as old pros.

We know where to go, how to keep cool, how to negotiate the chaotic streets in the city filled with bike taxis, horse and cart, and a plethora of wild dogs and people.

We retrieve our stored car, that although has a coating of dust and bird droppings, needs air in the tires and new paperwork, runs like a dream, and has us mobile once more.

Coquita Muneca, our Nica dog/world traveller, has arrived safe and sound and has slotted into beach life with few hitches. She has quickly learned the ropes of how to guard the house, fit in with the other dog packs in the area and has become a swimming fiend; a fun way to cool off in the afternoons.

Our own adaptation is to the surfer’s life. Needing to drop Canadian winter weight and go through the beat up feeling of the first two weeks, groaning with exhausted shoulders, sore ribs and taking lots of siestas.

As I wander down the beach in the early morning light, Coco chasing pigs and horses, I am mesmerized by the artistic hand of the tide. The sea is a master at sculpting sand twice a day on the endless beach. The San Cristobal volcano commands the horizon, salt and pepper smells of the tropics mingle with the ever present smoke in the air of burning cane fields. We are home.

Poste Restante

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“Poste restante (French: post remaining) or general delivery is a service where the post office holds mail until the recipient calls for it. It is a common destination for mail for people who are visiting a particular location and have no need, or no way, of having mail delivered directly to their place of residence at that time.”

The traveler’s road can be a lonely one at times, yet one of the most romantic and interesting memories I have about staying connected is “Poste Restante.” Before the age of Internet and the technological birth of cyber cafes that now can be found in the most obscure places in the world, letters fluttered their way around the world. I love finding old journals with pages I wrote to my parents, filled with drawings and chicken scratches and stains from coffee shops or sand from attempting to write from a wind blown beach. Pressed flowers, and worn folds speaking of another untold tale.

In so many countries I have wandered to the nearest post office to collect a handful of gifts in those small packets of worn pages. Love and stories sent from family and friends that were written and mailed all over the world.

My most profound poste restante memory was from the isolated islands of “Les îles Marquises” in the South Pacific. I had embarked on yet another random journey, this one with a charismatic one armed captain, sailing from San Diego to French Polynesia. We had been at sea for twenty-four days, following the trade winds on one of the most classic crossings of the greatest seafarers in the world.

After weeks of living by the rhythms of the ocean, I remember beginning to see an increase of birds. Not just long distance flying albatross but great frigate birds and blue-footed boobies. When along the wind came the smell of soil, rich and pungent, salt and pepper smells of the tropics.

There is nothing quite comparable to the excitement of a sailor that has been to sea for weeks on end, quivering with the anticipation of setting eyes and feet on a new land.

Dark blue depths gave way to turquoise shoals, as the island of Fatu Hiva rose out of the horizon like the back of a giant sea turtle. Binoculars were pulled out, charts consulted and anticipation grew as we passed by Tahuata, to enter the main anchorage of Hiva Oa. With a surreal feeling enveloping our minds and giant grins upon our faces we pulled into a new port that harbored a rag tag congregation of seafarers. We maneuvered through the bay to eventually drop anchor with greetings and waves from other nut brown and wind blown souls.

From shore paddled smiling islanders with boats filled with exotic fruit, vying for a new sale, or the potential to trade goods with the newly arrived.

Our crew cleaned ourselves up, smiling with the novelty of putting on actual cloths and shoes to travel to shore, wobbly legs staggering upon the shore. After restocking our supplies, refueling, and water as well as the search for parts to complete repairs needed after a long crossing, we finally made the walk into the heart of town, and to the post office.

It was a small building of brick painted white and green, with simple windows and a carved wooden door. Inside at each booth were bundles of the most fragrant and tropical cluster I have ever smelled. It turned out to be a regular hair dressing of local Marquesian woman. A core of a pineapple rolled in sandalwood, and speared with small thin sticks were exotic local flowers of Tiare and Frangipani and pods of vanilla. The combined scent was like nothing I have ever smelled in my life.

In a daze I walked up to the smiling woman behind the counter, giving my name and requesting in rusty French for any letters addressed to me. To my utter amazement I was passed 3 worn letters. Two were from Canada and one from Australia. It blew my mind that these small pieces of paper had made their way so far, to such a remote spot for me to collect. It was like receiving a prize of jewels, the gift of communication from loved ones so far away.

When I think today of email, cell phones, and internet cafes, I am conflicted with feelings. The loss of a romantic age of communication, and the simplistic joy of a handwritten note, and the opposite sense of instant connection and ease of staying in touch. It inspires me to sit down and write a few letters to friends of old, scattered around the far reaches of the globe.

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