Category Archives: Travel

Mushroom Years

Today, November 17 of 2017, I’m in Minnesota, finally, with nieces and nephews—not much time before my nephew goes back to Iowa tomorrow, and I can hear them talking downstairs, so I’ll avail myself of this piece written three years ago about my “Mushroom Years.”  It was 1973, a much different space and time when I definitely had much more energy as I back packed from Australia to Africa.  This was near the beginning of that journey:

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Bali-Bound, 1973

Germans, Aussies, Kiwi, Brit, Dutch, Canadians, Swiss.
I was the lone American who was pulled into this
adventure—just thirteen of us, including them and me
in a tank barge left from WWII, across the Timor Sea.
We did not know that Bugis pirates still set sail out there,
for we were young and reckless, and we didn’t care.
We still felt invulnerable. We would never die.
We all sought our giant chunk of the adventure pie.
We sailed all day and through the night and part of a new day.
Most of the cash that we had left was what we had to pay
to reach the west shore of an Island lashed by monsoon rain.
All bridges and all roads washed out, we searched for rides in vain.
A lonely store stocked not with much—some cans of cheese, two Cokes.
Not adequate provender for such starving, thirsty folks.
We crossed from Portugese Timor onto Indonesian ground.
Although we all had traveler’s checks, there was not much cash found
within our empty pockets, yet to Bali we were bound.
Still an unspoiled paradise—a haven with few cars
or partying Australians or honeymooning stars.

We stopped at one last little hut where I took off my sandals
to ease my feet, and thus were they made off with by some vandals.
And so it was that we set out through jungles vined and rooted,
fording rivers filled with leeches. I, alas, barefooted!
But chivalry was still in vogue and one or two or three
of my fellow travelers shared their boots with me
taking turns at walking barefooted for awhile
as we walked through the jungle, mile after mile.
Till late in the afternoon we came across an inn
(By then my resolution grown dangerously thin!)
Alas, we had no money for dinners and our room,
and here was where the two Swiss guys dispelled our sense of gloom.
They traded the two ten-speed bikes they’d carried or they’d ridden
most of their way around world—and they did it unbidden
by any of us, for we knew those bikes were like their kin;
and yet they gave up both of them for one night in this inn
for all of us, plus dinner—a repast full and rich,
and furthermore, our breakfast and the promise of a hitch
on a truck loaded with grain bags that was headed out tomorrow.
They did this for all of us and did not show their sorrow.
After showers poured from pails, (I noticed, I’d grown thinner)
some of us had a little nap and then a welcome dinner.
And when the Germans both pulled out their guitars for a song,
the sons of our innkeeper brought out theirs and sang along!
We all chipped in to teach the lyrics to Bobby McGee.
Our beds and food cost dearly, but the music was all free.

Next morning, we climbed high upon the grain bags for our ride
while Indonesians hung onto the rear and either side.
That truck looked like a peddler with his wagon piled high,
not with the usual notions, but with humans far and nigh.
We rode along uncomfortably, hour after hour.
No songs for us this long, long day, our mood was turning dour.
When it was nearing dusk, that truck gave one tremendous lurch
that very nearly threw us all from our precarious perch.
The Indonesians climbed on down and vanished all but one,
while the drivers told to us this next stage in our fun.
The axle cleanly broken, they would start out to get aid.
They’d come for us tomorrow—but they wanted to be paid!
We waved them off with promises—just one more awful bungle
and looked around for sleeping spots in this dense, darkening jungle.

We settled on a little hillock clear of trees and vine.
Rolled out all our sleeping bags. On what were we to dine?
One tiny little can of cheese and sardines in a tin
and those two Cokes we’d purchased—our provisions were most thin.
Hans had pellets with him meant for purifying water.
Guys headed out in search of it like lambs led to the slaughter.
The sky was darkening, but I knew I had to go to pee.
I headed down to where the trees afforded privacy,
pulled down my pants and put my hand, to balance, on a tree
when a sudden piercing pain shot from my hand through all of me!
I screamed and all my traveling friends came running down the hill.
I think of all my crises they were soon to have their fill.
I felt as though a burning dart had pierced through my right hand.
Toppled and now hobbled, I was unable to stand.

They helped me pull my pants up, sadly with a still-full bladder
as I heard the Timorese man say that it had been an adder.
I’d die within the hour, there was nothing we could do.
They emptied all their pills out and decided I’d take two
of everything we carried in our pockets and our packs,
for all of us were traveling with a drugstore on our backs.
To wash them down they offered up the ultimate in gifts:
the Cokes that we were hoarding, then they sat with me in shifts.

My finger swelled to such a size that the one ring I wore
cut off circulation until Peter cussed and swore,
“We’ll have to cut it off, so Trevor come here with your knife.
We have to cut if off of her to try to save her life.”
They put my hand upon a rock, I was delirious.
Trevor was looking rather green. Could they be serious?
He brought the knife down to my finger, but his wrist went limp.
The Germans gave a severe look, as though he were a wimp.
They told him to get on with it, but still he chose to linger.
“I just can’t do it,” Trevor said, “I can’t cut off her finger!”
“Not the finger, fool,” they said, “Just cut the ring away!”
And Trevor used the saw blade, for he had no more to say.
All night they held my arm aloft and manned the tourniquet,
It’s clear to me that I will be forever in their debt.
When I hadn’t died after an hour, the old man rubbed his eyes
and said it was another snake and I’d be paralyzed
on my right side but wouldn’t die—somewhat of a relief,
and still, I must admit I viewed paralysis with grief.

Eight hours later, still awake, I heard a distinct pop
and the swelling went down, but the throbbing did not stop.
Years later when I read “The Pearl” by Steinbeck just for fun,
when the baby nearly died, stung by the scorpion,
in just eight hours the swelling went down. That’s how I came to see
that it was probably a scorpion that had stung me.
They came with a new axle and we were on our way
and made it to our destination later that next day.
We caught a plane to Bali, but I got there in a haze,
to fall in bed where I was passed out cold for three more days.
Covered with red rashes from the rivers that we’d forded,
we were treated by the women in the houses were we boarded,
who tended to our wounds from leeches and our dysentery.
Yes, Bali then was paradise, but entrance wasn’t free.

Still, we’d paid the price and we were there right at the start,
before the rush of travelers destroyed some of its heart.
We rented bikes and rode the island, town to town to town
without meeting any traffic to try to mow us down.
A quarter for our rooms each night, a quarter for our lunch.
A lobster dinner for fifty cents—we were a happy bunch.
Processions down the streets at night, where gamelans abounded.
and temple ceremonies—all-in-all, we were astounded.
Magic mushrooms by the grocery bag cooked into omelets for us,
everywhere we went, the people just seemed to adore us.

Kuta beach was lazy then, and as we strolled along,
the most commercial thing we faced to buy was a sarong.
No beggars and no hawkers and no motorbikes to meet.
No half-an-hour to stand and wait to try to cross the street.
You might have guessed from hints I’ve given that there’s been a change.
Everything has altered now and become very strange.
Poppies restaurant—a tiny place in ‘73,
has grown into a restaurant chain with dishes gluten-free.
Hotels abound and hawkers flog their watches on each street.
Young Australians in each bar must drink to beat the heat.
We lived on just one dollar a day, in homes on Kuta Beach,
for there were no hotels yet anywhere within our reach.
There are more stories I could tell, and might, another day.
This tale has gone on for too long, so I must fade away.
But first I must apologize for this long-winded view
and say if you’re in Bali, we were there ahead of you!

Note: I should explain that the reason we had no cash is because we were traveling with travelers checks in this era before money machines and credit cards, and in these isolated regions of the island  there were no banks or other places to cash the checks. I’m sure we all later recompensed the two guys who sacrificed their beloved bikes for our room, board and transportation. The prompt today was mushroom.

Glamor Travel

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Glamor Travel

My carry-on’s too heavy to lift above my seat;
so I had to put it under, now there’s no room for my feet.
I request some water (though I’ve been twice rebuffed,)
to take an antihistamine, for my eyes are puffed
from the perfume of my seatmate, which also made me cough.
So I’m already hurting long before lift off.
I’ve squeeze marks from the narrow seats, I’m shivering from the draft,
and when this ride is over, I must board another craft!

Two hours later, two states up, I face another battle
trying to find a decent airport meal here in Seattle.
On my muffuletta sandwich (priced $15.93),
I look in vain for olives, which there don’t seem to be.
My Tim’s potato chips are stale, the sodas are all flat.
The Wifi that they advertise does not know where I’m at.
Air travel’s an adventure but not the one I sought.
I forget this lesson once again, refusing to be taught.

One hour left ‘til I lift off to wing my way on east,
I buy a drink and steel myself to board the winged beast.
I hope this time my seatmate fits in her own seat
so I don’t have to deal again with the impossible feat
of leaning out into the aisle, avoiding every ass
of passengers and stewards that brush me as they pass.
I bitch, I whine, I grouse, I cry, complain and moan and sigh.
‘Til by now I’m sure you wonder why I even fly.

I must admit I’ve asked myself the same as I’ve been talking.
The only reason I have found is that it sure beats walking.

The prompt word was passenger.

Travels with Two Ducks (The Continuing Saga of Little Duck, Episode 5)

(To see the commentary and photo details, you need to click on the first photo and on each photo as you follow the arrows.)

As promised yesterday, we brought Little Duck along with us in our northward journey to Des Moines to visit my nephew and then to St. Paul to visit my sister, niece, her husband and grand nieces. So far it has been quite a trip, as these photos will bear witness to:

Unfortunately, in our rush to get registered in the hotel and to get to my nephew’s house on time, Little Duck was forgotten in the car and so is regrettably spending a night in solitaire.  No doubt he’ll have plenty to relate to us in the morning.  In the meantime, we are having a peaceful rest all on our own!!

The prompt word today is “Pretend.”

Inelegant Obsession

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/elegant/

Inelegant Obsession

I’d love to be elegant while I’m obsessing,
but if I told you how, I’d only be guessing.
The man at the counter said yoga’s the answer
to two hour waits, and smart cars and cancer.

I told him that yoga’s more easily done
in my pool or on mats spread out in the sun––
Not two hours before midnight when you’re feeling sad
’cause the car you pre-rented is not to be had

and instead you’re confronted with a Jeep Cherokee
with all bells and whistles included for free!
Yet each feature they’ve added is cryptic and puzzling.
Screen like a space ship and gasoline-guzzling.

I can’t find the lighter to plug in my Nuvi.
The radio screen is showing a movie,
but I can’t find a plug to plug in my phone
and I’m out in this parking lot, stressed and alone.

After one hour of standing and waiting to rent it
and one more in the parking lot, how I repent it!
I go on the road in the inky black dark
with no place to stop and no place to park.

My GPS empty of power and knowledge,
to find the right route would take training in college.
No route numbers have I, I can’t see the map.
My phone out of power sits limp on my lap.

The screen gives me options for stations galore,
but no arrow to choose them, just one button more
for feature after feature that I cannot use.
I wish I had knowledge.  I wish I had booze!!!

When I try to turn on the overhead light,
the moonroof zips open and try as I might,
I can’t get it closed but just open it more,
so the wind whips my hair with a terrible roar.

I’ve always loved traveling wild and free,
but it now seems travel’s evolved beyond me.
Where is my confidence and my elan?
That air of achievement, that air of “I can?”

When I get to the motel two hours in arrears,
when the clerk asks how are you, I explode in tears.
I tell him my story, like a silly old fool––
but he doesn’t snicker and he isn’t cruel.

“See that?” he said, waving a hand at my phone.
He shook his gray head and gave a small moan.
“Don’t know how to use one–not me nor my wife.
It seems like technology’s plaguing our life.”

He dished out a Kleenex and almost at once,
I found I was feeling much less of a dunce.
I may be a fool and an old one at that,
but it’s so reassuring to share that coned hat!

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This control board of the plane I flew from Prince Edward Island to Nova Scotia on is slightly less daunting than the dashboard of the Jeep Cherokee they pawned off on me as a replacement for the simple economy car I requested. The flight took one half hour. Renting the car (even though I’d filled out all the paperwork on the internet) and figuring out how to operate the monstrosity they gave me took two hours!!!

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The beast!!! I still haven’t figured out how to turn on the radio and tremble at the thought of mistakenly turning on the four wheel drive.

I later snapped a photo that better illustrates the size of this car.  See that photo HERE.

The prompt word today was “Elegant.” This was stretching the prompt, but I had my own agenda.

Home Traveler

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Home Traveler

A journey’s long, a trip is short.
You trip on the stairs or tennis court,
but you journey into foreign places–
encounter unfamiliar faces.
So when I finally go to bed,
I journey far within my head,
those trips to town forgotten while
I journey mile after mile.
Eschewing trips to foreign places,
I journey into inner spaces.

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/a-journey/

Timely Tourism

How handy that the prompt for today is “tourist” just as I am starting out on three weeks of travel.  Do you think WordPress has spies? Here is what I see as I spin around on my stool at Johnny Rocket’s (Juan Pablo Hamburgers here) in the Guadalajara airport, right by my departure gate, where I’ve just tried to choke down 130 pesos worth of undercooked fries. (Two nights ago I spent 150 pesos for a gourmet meal and margarita at Viva Mexico in San Juan Cosala.)

So, after two weeks of exhausting preparations to get ready, here I am ready for a few weeks of leisure. Every year it takes me longer to get ready to leave, either because my life gets more complicated or because I get slower. My internet was out again today, so I’m availing myself of airport wifi to post this.  More to come if I can find wifi in any of the U.S. airports.  Denver bound!

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/tourist/

Forked!

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1967–Off  on the SS Ryndam on a four month around-the-world study adventure. Ga Ga Dowd was the oldest student aboard. She seemed ancient, but was actually one year older than I am now.  The other two girls, whom I had just met, were to be my best friends on the journey.  They are Susan (in polka dots), who was also a U. of Wyoming student whom I had never met before and Pamn, from Berkeley. I don’t know why the wind chose to blow only my hair.  Perhaps I had invested in less hairspray?

“The Zoad In The Road”
                                                          by Dr. Seuss 

Did I ever tell you about the young Zoad?
Who came to a sign at the fork of the road?
He looked one way and the other way too –
the Zoad had to make up his mind what to do.
Well, the Zoad scratched his head, and his chin, and his pants.
And he said to himself, “I’ll be taking a chance.
If I go to Place One, that place may be hot
So how will I know if I like it or not.
On the other hand, though, I’ll feel such a fool
If I go to Place Two and find it’s too cool
In that case I may catch a chill and turn blue.
So Place One may be best and not Place Two.
Play safe,” cried the Zoad, “I’ll play safe, I’m no dunce.
I’ll simply start off to both places at once.”
And that’s how the Zoad who would not take a chance
Went no place at all with a split in his pants.

Born in a time before television and the internet and even private telephone lines, (we shared ours with two other households), periodicals took on a special importance. We subscribed to three newspapers: The Murdo Coyote (my hometown rag), The Mitchell Daily Republic  and Grit–a newsy national weekly newspaper. My dad subscribed to Saga, Real West, True West, Argosy and probably a few others; and my Mom got Saturday Evening Post, Journal, McCall’s and Redbook.

One special feature of Redbook  over the years I was growing up was that they published the poetry of Dr.Seuss. I don’t know if the poem above was ever published anywhere else, but it was one of my family’s favorites, and I think I still have it out in a plastic storage case with other old letters and paper memorabilia. It is well-worn and wrinkled and yellowed, glued to a piece of cardboard to aid in its preservation.  I think I had used it as one of the poems I chose to memorize (along with “Out to Old Aunt  Mary’s,” ” The Wreck of the Hesperus” and “The Children’s Hour”) when I was in grade school.

I don’t know how much I actually listened to the messages of poems back then, but I do know that something prompted me not to just dream of those forks in the road but to make a decision and to take a chance.  Perhaps it was this poem.  Perhaps it was the fact that my parents rarely held me back when I had a chance to travel or experience something different.  Well, no, they didn’t let me take the Seventeen trip to Europe when I was eleven, but short of that, they encouraged me to reach out and experience life away from the town of 700 where I lived.

When I was a teenager, I traveled all over the state for district meetings for my MYF.  I attended church camps in the Black Hills and Lake Poinsett and traveled by bus to a U.N. Seminar when I was a junior in high school.

When it came time to go to college, I was quick to choose an out-of-state college and in my junior year again chose to travel–this time around the world on the U.S.S. Ryndaam as a student on World Camput Afloat––a university extension of Chapman College in Orange, CA.  We traveled for four months, stopping in countries around the world, studying their cultures, taking practicum side trips and in some cases taking off on our own.  The first country I did this in was in Kenya, where my newly met friend Pamn and I rented a little Fiat and took off on our own to have a few adventures.

My sister told me afterwards that she had been the one to encourage my folks to let me go, telling them it would get the travel bug out of my system, but if you’ve been following my blog for long, you know that just didn’t happen.  Immediatley after college, I emigrated to Australia and after a few years there, I traveled overland as much as possible to Africa, where I stayed for two years. After that travel was a summer and vacation experience until I moved to California thirty-five years ago and then Mexico fifteen years ago.  At each of these junctures, there was a fork in the road of my ife and each time, I made the decision and took it. Nine times, by my own counting, and in that time, although I’ve split a few pants seams, it was more due to local cuisine than to indecision.

 

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/fork/

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