To describe the entire Peru/Galapagos trip as a vacation would be like describing a trip to the moon as a few days away. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that until a few months ago, I thought would never happen. People keep asking if this was on my bucket list. First of all, I do not have a bucket list. I have things I would like to do and places I would like to go but I don't go about crossing things off a list because I feel that it diminishes the experiences before, during and after they are done. This was so much more than making a check mark on a list and if that's how you experience something, then you are missing a whole lot.
It's like people who kept asking me when I'd be done my PhD and what I was planning to do after I was done. They really missed the whole point. It's not what you are going to do after, it's what your life is in the present. Don't stop living now because you're waiting for something better to come along. The present is all you have - good or bad so experience it. This year has been incredible for my in many ways and this trip was one of those blessings I have to count.
From start to finish, it was good. My cousin Eddie asked me if I could pick out the one best moment. But if you were reading my blog, you'd see that there was no one best moment. All of it was special. I spent many, many hours planning and I mean many hours but as with anything, you can plan all you like but you can never account for all eventualities. With this trip, I anticipated that we might have some challenges along the way but truly, there were no bad days and the ease with which we got through each day made us think that the next day could not be as good but incredibly, it was. There were times when I could feel Dad's presence - as if he was looking out for me and making sure that everything worked out well. And it did.
I found the people in Peru and Ecuador extremely friendly and even with my less than adequate Spanish, they were gracious when I spoke to them in Spanish. I think they appreciated that I attempted to speak to them in their language. That respect goes a far way. I recall when I was in Botswana and each day I would walk to the training centre passing a woman selling food at a stand near one of the parks. The first morning I greeted her in Setswana, she greeted me back but by the next morning when I repeated the greeting, she had a smile for me and every morning after that. I learned a few words while I was there but it was their appreciation that I was trying that made me feel that it was worth the effort to treat them respectfully by at least trying.
Now for Peru - that was an appreciation for an ancient culture that was not very old but made great contributions to civilization. The Galapagos trip was a back-to-nature experience - one which I have not ever had. I have gone on an African safari (see blog posts from 2006) where the animals are wild and living in their natural habitat but on Galapagos, they are not afraid of humans because they do not feel threatened by us. It must be one of the few places left on this earth that humans have not completely destroyed and with any luck, we'll be able to preserve such places for future generations.
After Peru and Galapagos, what else is there? I am still savouring all of it.
Mount Kilimanjaro is calling but am I listening? I need to catch my breath first.