When I was 15 I bought a book about the Galapagos Islands, a large volume on the wildlife and Darwin’s research there. It had a bold red cover with a photo of an iguana that looked like a dinosaur, something so prehistoric that it couldn’t actually be still living today. The Islands were an exotic place impossibly far away, but I immediately wanted to go there. It was the very first place I put on my mental list of destinations I would eventually travel to. As a teenager I’m not sure if I could have predicted the rest of it, that I would go there with my two sons Griffin and Oakley, my ex-wife Fawn and her father Gary. We’re an unlikely team of travellers taking this journey together almost 30 years after I had first decided on it.
Getting ready to go the evening before our flight, I had a bad start with a rough night of packing. What I thought would take 2 hours, took 6. I realized there were some things I had forgotten, many things I still needed to gather, and everything took more time than I thought it would. Worst was realizing I had left the travel medication I needed at work. At work! At 1:30am I was riding back in to get it. Frustrating, and a good lesson learned.
Fawn and the boys arrived in a mini van at 7am, and we headed to pick up Gary on our way to the airport. Continuing on, Oakley was feeling car sick. We made it to the airport, but as we were pulling up to the terminal he threw up, just 20 feet shy of getting out of the car. Poor guy.
After passing through security, Fawn and I had a small argument about the straps on a backpack, something that didn’t matter at all. We were both being defensive and I’m pretty sure I started it, but here we were 30 minutes into the trip, both feeling negative. Fawn and I rarely argue, so I realized very quickly that we better put the brakes on this one. Usually we talk about what matters and avoid what doesn’t, and here, travelling together 24/7, I thought that was more important than ever. I’m not sure if that went through her head too, but it was our first and last disagreement of the trip. Well, about everything else I was right and she was wrong, she just didn’t know it.
I always find airports a little surreal. Thousands of travellers headed to hundreds of different places, some vacationing, some on business, all of them happily climbing aboard a metal fuselage with wings that should clearly be too heavy to get off the ground. I do love to fly though – LOVE it – and we had a good trip down.
Of course I’m shooting everything I see. My phone has already been surprisingly good for snapping shots of things as we go; our group, the planes, a sense of travelling that has already begun. I think all Canadian travellers look for the palm trees to let them know they have officially landed in a Warm Place, and our first sign of this was a lunch time stop-over in Miami.
Before long we took off again, Ecuador-bound. 5 hours later we were on another continent, 5000kms (3100mi) away from home. Quito, the capital city of Ecuador, is packed with crowded housing, crazy drivers, and a sense of urgency. The street our hotel is on is like every other street in this neighbourhood: narrow, cobblestone, steep, and a one way. And, of course, very cool. One thing I love best about travelling is that often nothing is familiar, everything is new. Looking around, taking things in, you feel your mind crack open a bit.
The city itself is situated on a slope of an active volcano in the Andes Mountains. At 9,300 feet (940m), it’s the highest capital city in the world. At that altitude, the air is relatively cool, and there is less oxygen than in sea level cities. Carrying the luggage up the hotel stairs was surprisingly challenging; we were all breathing heavily and feeling light headed by the second floor. The rooms of the hotel are simple and clean, and the view includes a juliet balcony-lined street, and in the distance, an enormous statue, 150 feet (45m) tall, at the top of a huge hill. We’ve learned it’s the somewhat intimidating Woman of the Apocalypse from the book of Revelations. The hill itself is named El Panecillo, which translates roughly to ‘small piece of bread’, so we just call her The Bread Roll Lady instead.
(March 6, 2012)