Category Archives: Not-so-happy trails

Smell with your eyes open

Getting directions from a Bajan is similar to listening to someone explain a story in a different language or maybe like having a toddler tell you about their new toy. They know exactly what they are saying and look at you as if you should too.  “I’m speaking clearly, why don’t you understand”? Now looking back, his instructions made sense only if you’ve walked the path before or possibly were born and raised here. Oh well… off to the market we go!

Last year I can remember arriving around 9am and having slim pickins, so this time I’m on it bright and early.

“So go out the back gate and turn right”. (Back gate of the yard? the neighborhood, the round-about?) 
Since I didn’t see a gate in his yard (turns out there is one… oops), I walked out of the front door and headed in the direction he had pointed.  So far so good!  

  His street started to bend so I looked left and behold, a gate! I think. The rickety linked fence stared back at me with a locked, rusted, jagged prison gaurded resemblance. Hmmm… I don’t know about this.  Eh, lets go for it!

Side note, probably not the most brilliant idea to hop this trap wearing flowing pants during a windy island day. No need to worry, I survived.   

 “Follow de road”  Got it. “Walk till you see the fountain and turn left”. 
 Ok, easy enough (there was even a cute little arrow confirming for me). Step two, success! 

 

No thanks, I’ll keep walking. 

 
I’m not sure if it was the euphoric state of mind I developed while walking in silence or simply the view that was before me (probably a combination of both), but at this moment, all was in alignment. This is a small piece of what I believe people mean when they suggest to “stop and smell the roses”.  

Getting to the market was my goal, but this… this was just as magical. 

 
Back to the directions.  “Once you get to the golf course, don’t follow the road, take the pedestrian path over the hill”. Well this looks very “pedestrian” welcome.  Not much of a hill as I was expecting, but off the main road is what he said, so here I go! 

 
He didn’t mention a split in the path.  Uh-oh.   

 
As I continued along the foot path, things just weren’t feeling right. So what do I do?  Keep walking. 

  

Not looking good my friends…  
A sign! Can you see it?  If that says “Hope st.”, I’m on the right track!  

 
Wrong. I now have the confidence that I shouldn’t have confidence in my current route. I did a 180 degree turn and headed back towards the main road. As I approached the first split, my eyes zoomed in on the hill” he must of been speaking of. Yep, according to my burning thighs, this was definitley more of an incline than the golf course! 

 
Here’s a quick shot of the view once I reached the top.  

When was the last time you stopped to smell the roses with your eyes open? 

 
It may not seem like I’ve been gone for long, but I should have been to market by now. Early bird gets the worm… or in this case, early girl gets to pick the best veggies before they’re gone!

Although I don’t mind  getting a bit turned around (in fact most of the time, I love it!) today I was eager to be there on time for the broad selection of organic tropical goodies! Awh, look at this. Help was literally parked at the top of the hill. Thank you Universe! 

These two kind gentlmen not only helped me along the way, but drove me a stretch in order to show me the next turn on my journey! If you look at the bottom photo, you can see that he stood and watched until I was on the clear path.  Angels. 

 
Once I stepped foot on the broken dirt path, things started to look familiar. What’s this? I’m finally here! 

  
With fingers crossed, I held my breath rounding the corner like it was the first day of school and I was the last one to class. Am I too late? Did I miss out on the very thing I came for? 

 
Turns out everone was on Bajan time this morning which means,”It’ll start when we’re ready”.  All righty, so my hour late arrival was actually an hour too soon. Lovin the island vibe! What to do while I watch everyone set up their booth… have a seat at the cafe and absorb it all! 

 
SIDE NOTE: The currency is about half the dollar, so the iced coffee below would be around $4 USD.

  
Slowly but surely, stands arose and the market was in full swing!  You may recognize some of the produts and people if you’ve been following years past. The Holders Market was a part of the post, The rest of Barbados in a coconut shell!    

   
    
 Can you feel me smiling yet?! The music fired up as I headed on my way back home. 
 
The walk back was just as entertaining as the adventure to get there.  Easier on the mind, but not so much on the body.  Who knew after years of breaking them in, blisters would appear from my favorite sandals! I got these beauty’s in Vietnam from the post Lady lady, where you from? Good thing I love to feel the earth under my feet!

 
Look who it is! Greeted with a smile, I walked over to give them the requested update on my Holders experience.  I couldn’t tell if the smirks I was receiving were from a joyful reconnection, or simply being entertained by this crazy girl! Either way, they didn’t hesitate for a photo and certainly didn’t decline my offer of toasted coconut chips that I had brought from the market.

 

I’ll leave you with my final stretch in which I came across a little cheeky friend.  Tourists think they’re cute (because they are) and locals think they’re theives (because they are).

   

   

It went all over my shoes

In 3 years of traveling, I’ve only gotten what some would consider “sick” just a handful of times. No more than if I were at home living a day to day routine. With that said, here’s a short story that sent my happy trails on a little detour.

It was the beginning year of my backpacking and my first trip to Peru. I had met a sweet young Dutch couple while studying in Argentina that decided to link up with me for a Machu Picchu adventure.

If you’d like an entertaining read with several pictures check out the entire 3 day journey here.

Here are a few photos from that memorable experience.

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2015/01/img_3241.jpg We had completed out trek with an amazing day exploring the grounds of the ancient Incas. Making it back to the main city of Aguascalientes, I was beginning to feel a little uneasy. Nothing major, but just enough ache in my tummy to want to lay down as my friends left to grab dinner. Food was the last of my desires. The hostel we had slept at allowed me to bundle up in the employees room to recoup before our long train ride home to Cusco. Simon and Ashgan (the two kind smiles at the bottom of the page) said we had three hours before our train departed and they’d come wake me up when it was time to go.

I closed my eyes for what seemed like a minute before the door swung open to reveal both of my friends frantically picking up our bags. “We read the tickets wrong and we have to go now or we’ll miss the train!”

Imagine, you can barely move your head without the feeling of Mr.Nasuea knocking at your door and now it’s time to sprint through unevenly paved streets while lugging a 50lb backpack over your hunched shoulders that are protecting your cramping stomach. Oh joy.

I only made it a few steps before Simon (my Dutch Superhero of the day) clearly read my agony and lifted the bag from my back. I was now able to keep up with the two of them as we hustled down the steep hills and tight turns. You’d think that a sense of relief would come over me as I saw the station, but at this point I knew that poor Peru was going to see what I had for breakfast.

I hollered at them to keep going in order to check us in as I took a hard right into a lonely ally. Plug your ears as you read on to find that this type of vomit was far from what I would describe as danty or sickly. Words that come to mind are violent, uncontrollable and…. All over my shoes.

I gathered myself knowing that the train wouldn’t wait for the extra pale-faced chica to catch up. I spotted my buddies who now had our boarding passes, all of our bags and the look of two concerned parents. I actually felt better, so with high hopes I assumed it was a one-time kind of deal and that the train would be more restful than anything. I was wrong.

We snagged a table booth next to the window and got settled in.

Let’s pause for a moment and talk about this “train”. Please do not imagine a high speed European railway or the popular US Amtrak, oh no no no. This was an ancient line of connecting boxes that reminded me of a daunting Disney ride. Looking back, it was actually really neat, but at the moment it seemed like a legal form of torture. This tiny beast rocked back and forth as if to struggle finding balance between one side of the tracks to the other. Clickity clack, clickity clack, clickity clack…

So the “train”, now in full motion, did nothing to my body except create a movement that encouraged another round of losing whatever may have been left in my guts. I excused myself from the table to find the nearest toilet.

“Pardone, ¿dónde está el baño? Pronto por favor!”

The petite Peruvian woman, dressed in professional attire with a gentle smile pointed to an occupied closet. It was locked. I returned to meet eyes with her and clarified why I needed it… Now! Not understanding my broken sickly Spanish she just kept pointing to the door behind me.

Have you ever drawn a blank while trying to remember a certain word? Especially in another language? I could not think of “bag” or “bucket” or anything for that matter, so I proceeded to take the charades route and made motions of puking while gripping my stomach.

Seriously friends, visualize that one for a minute.

I continued to signal for any type of container and with sympathy, she just shrugged her shoulders. Swallowing (literally) with all of my strength to keep it down, I rushed back to my seat and dug through my backpack to find the stash of plastic bags I always keep on the road. Not wanting to provide a show for the fellow passengers, I swayed back and forth to the end of the car and kneeled down. I opened the bag and at that very moment, my body could no longer keep it in.

So there I was, curled in the corner for all the train to endure as this poor girl emptied her insides into a plastic bag with “Muchas Gracias” printed on the side.

I finally reached a point in which I felt settled enough to go back to my seat. I stood up slowly looking down at my bag full of, ummm substance…. What was I ever going to do with this? After unsuccessfully looking for an employee that could point me to a bin, I had nowhere else to turn except a cart that carried all of the snacks and drinks. That’s it! I saw a symbol that appeared to be for “trash” on top of what resembled a waste compartment. Weak and tired, I still had the right mind to look inside first to confirm that it wasn’t where they stored the complimentary cookies. It was empty. I placed my bag inside with an internal (guilt driven) apology to the poor person who had to find it.

I proceeded to drag myself back to the booth, plop down and fall asleep.

I’d love to finish this story in great detail, but the only thing next in my memory was slowly opening my eyes. Relieved to not feel my stomach at my throat, I looked around placing myself in the bottom bunk bed, in the room of our original Cusco hostel. Next to my bed was a box of saltine crackers, a ginger soda and a pack of gum. My dear friends had carried my belongings back, tucked me in and provided just what I needed upon awakening. I’m so grateful for Simon and Ashgan for their selfless act in nourishing me to health and safety. Much love to you my friends!

2015/01/img_3235.jpg Side note update: Since that journey, I’ve traveled to Holland and have been able to reconnect with these two and their families! What a grand, beautiful world we live in.

Getting shot in Peru

This story will forever be embedded in my book of memories. It was my buddy Hayden’s first time backpacking and I say this because he put full faith in me and all of my experiences. I had planned the trip, reserved and booked all of our transfers and even sent him a “must bring” and “leave at home” list. With that said, picture this…

After hiking Machu Picchu and spending a week exploring the beautiful city of Cusco, we arrived at the airport to make our way North to Costa Rica. Walking with confidence and speaking in my advanced (broken) spanish we approached the ticket counter to check in. Passports, yep. Tickets, yep. Yellow fever card? Hmm….
“I choose not to get shots, but thanks for asking”. I said politely.
“Lo siento señorita, su necesaria para viajar” (sorry miss, it’s necessary to travel).
“No sir, I’ve been to Costa Rica before and I didn’t need a yellow fever card then, why now?”
Turns out coming from the north you don’t need it, but coming from the south you’re at a higher risk, so the shot is required before entering Costa Rica.
At this point, I’m still relaxed regardless of Hayden’s face expressing the “we’re doomed” look. “Where is the nearest doctor? We’ll go get the shot right now and return for the flight”.

Fun but not helpful fact: the shot must be in your system for 10 days prior to travel. This was unacceptable due to the fact that Hayden had his flight back to the states out of Costa Rica in just 8.

The man at the desk replied with a “best we can do” scenario and puts us on a flight to Lima which is the capital of Peru. He suggested that we might have more options there. So here we go, boarding a plane with no guarantee that we can connect to our final destination.

While sitting on this little transfer, my mind is searching all options. We could ditch the final flight and just take a bus over the border to try and sneak our non-yellow fever card carrying selves to Ecuador. Maybe we could hitch hike north until another opportunity presented itself or why not just jump to Mexico? They have beautiful beaches!

Landing in Lima, we gathered our backpacks and decided to approach the ticket counter as if there was nothing was to be concerned of. As the story goes, the same conversation began with the employee confirming that we will not be flying out of the country without our yellow fever card.
Turing to walk away with several thoughts running through my mind, we were casually signaled over by a woman who appeared to be a apart of the airport security. “You need your yellow fever card?” She asked.
Eagerly I responded with a guilty nod, “Ci!”. She gazed away ever so slightly as to avoid eye contact as she suggested we find a man in a red vest and tell him we’re in need of “Air Sanity”.

No time for questions, we’re now on a hunt through the Lima airport desperately looking for a red vested jolly man with, what I imagine, having a stash of yellow cards we can buy off him and be merry on our way. Wrong.

In our search for this “hombre de rojo”, Hayden spots a symbol resembling a Red Cross. We had nothing to lose as we approached a counter that was clearly a medical center. “Hola, necesitamos que nuestros… uhhh… amarillo uhh…”. She cuts me off, “You need your yellow fever card?”
“Yes please!”
She asks us to wait before returning with an elderly woman that had to of been at least 85 years old or 110 and looking great for her age. We followed her into a small room with a tiny business desk covered in several binders and random knick-nacks.
She proceeded to ask if we had a doctor from the United States that could confirm we have received the shots. The entire conversation went something like this:
“You have note with shots?”
“No señora, we don’t have the shots or a note.”
“Some Americans have doctor send paper in machine with card. Do you have a doctor?”
“No señora, I don’t. I’m sorry.”
By this time she is giving me the look of “I know you’re young, but come on lady, get my drift!”
“…but you can have a doctor with note?” She implied.
“Ohhh, ci señora… I do have a doctor with a note!”
“Good then, go with her” she said while pointing to a kind looking woman wearing an outfit that was nothing resembling a nurses outfit.
As Hayden and I made eye contact, I giggled with a shoulder shrug and scooted along behind her with relief knowing we’ll make our flight. Expected to be given a yellow fever card with a wink, I had another thing coming.

We ended our short walk in a room containing a deep freezer, a desk and blank walls decorated with graphs and a few disturbing posters with images of tropical diseases. She rolled out a dusty chair and proceeded.
“Please sit down. Who’s first?”
“I’m sorry, excuse me… what?”
All things became clear as she started to lay out two needles with a substance that, to this day, I have no idea what it really was.

“I’ll go!” I took a seat, and looked at Hayden as she whipped out the syringe. With no hesitation, I was being punctured in the upper arm and injected
with the mystery liquid. Now it’s Hayden’s turn!

To the best of my memory, I believe his words were something along the lines of “Erika, I knew your travels were crazy… but this is insane!”

A needle poke and a few bandaids later, we were sent back to the ancient woman’s room where she had two yellow cards. I watched as she turned back the dial on the date stamp confirming that indeed, we were in the USA 15 days prior and yes, our doctor sent a fax to her. On the way out, our unofficially-official nurse suggested we remove the bandaids before landing in Costa Rica to ensure they wouldn’t be suspicious of a recent shot.

Forty American dollars later, we had cards, tender arms and a half hour till our flight departed. Hoping for a different person at the ticket counter to avoid any awkward moment, we were not so lucky as we approached the same man who had previously turned us away. I walked up as if we had never been there before and plopped up our Passports, tickets and 2 brand new shiny yellow cards.
He looked everything over and glanced up at us, then stamped a few papers and concluded with a “Have a nice flight”.
With sweaty palms and the heart rate of a race horse, I walked away in relief that I had not completely let my pal down. If anything, just given him another story to share back home. Sweet victory!

Here’s the only photo from that day.

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