Archive for category Travel
…when everything else around seemed to slowly drown in the sea of ordinary, and there I was, lifted above, catching a glimpse of an emotion so pure that it’s hard to put in words.
On a hot sunny afternoon we (eight of us) take a stroll on the Brooklyn Bridge. While K leads the way, I keep to the back of the line to make sure no one gets lost. Everyone takes their time to absorb the views of the city from different spots, marveling at its grandiose, to click photos here and there, freezing those moments over and over again.
Me? I am lost in a world of my own as is the case most of the times.
The surrounding crowd of tourists stopped at every foot to capture their dazed expressions with the city in the background makes me smile. The surrounding crowd of locals, walking or cycling along, infuriated to some extent by the sightseers’ antics makes me smile. The surrounding crowd of vehicles moving inch by inch, playing music so loud, at times, making the conversations of the person next to one inaudible makes me smile.
Happy faces, tired faces; English speaking minority, non-English speaking majority; excited voices, exasperated voices; calm river underneath, frantic drivers to the side; colors aplenty. Walking amidst this chaos brings me peace, so undefinable.
Suddenly, I hear someone calling out my name. I know exactly what it is that I am being invited to do – pose for a photo with everyone except K as he more than gladly
hides takes the spot behind the camera. And what do I do? Well, shockingly, not the usual. I don’t pretend never to have heard my name being hollered across the bridge; I don’t turn around to grin and then protest vehemently the need for a photo with me in it; I don’t roll my eyes or grit my teeth or cringe before walking over unwillingly to stand in front of the camera.
To my disbelief (and, possibly, the others’ too), I hop over, as if there’s a spring under my feet, without any inhibitions and take my place next to Mum (K‘s mom). I am not over thinking these two seconds, making it a trice of refreshing change. But before I can pat myself on my back for being such a good team player for once something of more importance happens.
Mum puts her hand around my shoulders and pulls me closer to her. Readily, my feet move an inch or two. She then places her palm on my cheek and draws my head close enough to have it lie on her shoulder; I gladly follow her lead. She lovingly pinches my cheek, as a mother would her child’s; my eyes – they are both beaming and tearful.
The tenderness and purity of emotions of these few seconds makes my day. This raw display of affection in the most unexpected time and way makes my smile wide. This gentleness of it all screaming of motherly love clouds my eyes. My heart skips a beat.
The photo is taken.
I wear my goggles to make sure my misty eyes go unnoticed and try to move over, but I feel a hand tightly holding mine. Mum, again. I hold hers back, savoring every bit of what is being showered on me. My mind wanders to whether it was my immediate acceptance of the invitation to be in a photograph that has made her communicate with me in this way, out of the blue. But then I quickly come back to the present – why / how does that matter? I cherish the time, for then and for ever, and move on with a heart overflowing with deep sentiments.
To anyone noticing the two of us those few seconds it may have seemed like a simple, random, insignificant, ordinary act. But to me that flash in time is / will always be monumental. I can’t put a pin on exactly why, but why should there be a need for that? I know what will stay with me indefinitely when I look back at this trip anytime in the future, near or far; I know precisely what has made an eternal mark in my mind’s eye. It’s not the reason why there’s so much love, but the fact that there is abundance of love in my life. And for that I am infinitely grateful.
This past weekend was pretty awesome. And it was mostly because of what happened Saturday evening. After a tiring drive, which later felt like was for a lost cause, that morning, and after merely resting all afternoon, with a little bit of reading, discussing next steps, etc., we decided to go to a nearby State Park to make sure our weekend didn’t feel squandered. And the little time that we spent there made up for all the seemingly futile hours of the day.
We met two gentlemen in the park who said that they were there to sky gaze. They had two huge telescopes pointing to some specific spot up above, and when asked what they were observing, they were kind enough to let us see through the scopes.
One of the scopes was to look at Jupiter. Where do I even begin to say how mesmerizing that whole sight was, to be able to view Jupiter and two of its Moons (one of which was IO, they mentioned) so closely? The first time I saw through the scope, I thought I was seeing the Moon, but K asked me to go back and peer in carefully, and that is when I noticed the rings of Jupiter and also the great red spot. It was beyond beautiful, to say the least. All those things that the mind occupied itself with until then vanished at that moment when I looked at that hypnotic sight. Mind had to be blank to fully fathom this monumental flash in time, there was no other way around it.
And only when I thought there was nothing more spellbinding than the sight that I’d just seen, I hopped over to where the second telescope stood and glanced at what it had to offer. Oh my, oh my. This one was facing the Moon. Our Moon. And I gasped at the first sight. The Moon was flawless. With all its dips and dark spots, the Moon was still nothing but perfect. If I could have, I would have sat there all evening without letting anyone else have a chance to get a sneak peek at that splendor.
After witnessing all that, I would’ve assumed that there was nothing much else that can make my heart skip a beat at that tick in time. And, again, I would’ve been wrong. Standing there, we’d been hearing a lot of noise of birds chirping incessantly. Only when we walked towards the lake shore did we realize what that hubbub was all about.
There were tens of thousands of birds along the opposite shore, some of them flying around, some of them basking in the glory of the evening sky from atop the trees, some of them taking a dip in the lake, but all of them tweeting unceasingly. I’ve never before seen so many birds together. Like I said, there were tens of thousands of them there. K mentioned they may be migratory birds, flying towards their final destination through here. If when standing on the other side we could hear that uproar so distinctly, I wonder what the case would have been with people who were living nearby where the birds decided to halt. As much as I love hearing birds squeak, I don’t think I would’ve welcomed all of them together to sing me a song oh so loudly. Nevertheless, it was indeed an amusing sight to see and a blast to hear from this far.
Now, with all that happening within an hour or two of Saturday evening, it still was enough to make this past weekend extra-ordinary, no matter how idly we spent the rest of the time. Don’t you agree?
Our trips, almost all of them, happen spontaneously. We took off to Florida one evening in the same way we usually do for all our trips – bags were packed last minute, no bookings were made except for that night so we could break the journey after an eight or nine hour drive, and off we went without any clear plans about what we were going to do in the next ten days. We had a vague idea about certain things we wanted to do, specific places we wanted to see, but that was about it.
Once in Florida, the partner and I decided to make the Keys our first destination. It wasn’t or first choice, what we had in mind did not take shape; we had to tweak things up a little and that’s how we settled on heading towards the Keys. We had it in our minds to find a campground, but to our dismay everything was booked and we couldn’t get ourselves a walk-in site. After a lot of driving around to see where we can find a place for the night, we finally found a friendly little place that suited our budget and needs. There went our first day of the trip. It was mostly spent driving and looking for accommodation for the next few days. Our primary wish while we were in the Keys was to go snorkeling. The partner has been snorkeling a few times before, but it would have been my first snorkeling experience had it materialized. Alas, it didn’t. Snorkeling is something that has been escaping my chase time and again. The weather is never on my side whenever we plan to go snorkeling. For the whole time that we were there it was windy, and all the snorkeling tours were pretty much canceled. Although that was a big disappointment, we pretty much kept ourselves busy all the time that we were there.
Our next destination was Everglades National Park. We headed straight to the park after we left the Keys. We found ourselves a camping site in one of the campgrounds near the park’s visitor center. And we spent the next few days discovering everything this area had to offer. We hiked, took a tour of a Native American Reservation, went on the Swamp Walk, saw alligator after alligator and drove around some really scenic roads stopping every now and then to take all the tranquil beauty in. It was all such a joyful experience on the whole. Time flew by and before we realized it, it was time for our next destination. And off we went to the Gulf Coast.
Beaches on the Gulf Coast were something that we wanted to be sure to explore during the trip. We had one particular place in mind, which came as a recommendation from a friend, but during our speedy research we found something else that caught our eyes – a state park on an island off the coast that was offering camping opportunity. We were excited by that idea and, this time around, made reservations a day or two prior both with the park and the ferry company that would be taking us to the island. We were all set. Since the island had no restaurants and we were going to be staying there for three nights we had to make prior arrangements for all the food and water we had to carry with us. Buying anything perishable was ruled out since it sure wasn’t going to stand the test of heat. So, while shopping a small grocery store in Everglades, we came across some ready to eat packs that we’d immediately picked up. With those, few loaves of bread and a couple bottles of jam, some pasta and sauce, and a lot of water bottles, we were all set to embark on the journey.
We drove to the place where we were to take the ferry from early in the morning. It was Christmas day, so we were spared of any traffic. We got there way before time. And within hours we were there in our destination island. White sandy shore and blue green waters – we promptly feel in love.
The next three days were spent in glee (Oh well, except one thing that I did to almost ruin it all. What was that, you ask? Well, I cried buckets worth one evening when I spotted a cockroach close to me. Drama – that’s the word that would cross most people’s mind when I say this, but no, it wasn’t even a bit of drama. It was all real. I became a scared little girl at that moment, just as usual whenever I see a roach. They are disgusting, scary creatures. Enough said.) While here, day after day, we walked miles and miles of the shores, collected various seashells, lay on the beach and read for as long as the hearts desired, chased birds, caught a glimpse (more than once!) of dolphins that were dancing oh so gracefully, woke and slept with the sun. It was beautiful, everything about those days on the island.
And about the trip itself – well, what can I say… except that as soon as we returned home, I was immediately ready to plan our next getaway.
The partner and I visited parts of Florida in December. While there, the partner was excited when he came across a guided Swamp Walk tour in one of the parks. And obviously he wanted to give it a try. His enthusiasm brims over for anything that even whispers the word adventure. I, on the other hand, am always overly cautious, extremely scared and anxious about venturing into anything new. This activity though didn’t seem so bad after I read the description. So, there I was, actually looking forward to it, albeit being a tiny bit apprehensive too.
The day arrived. We woke up, got ready and left the campground to get to our destination way before it was time for the walk to start. As soon as we reached the park the partner ran in, hoping and wishing as hard as he could that they would still let us register for the event. We couldn’t signup beforehand because we had no access to the Internet; neither of us owns a smartphone. We were at the mercy of the rangers at this point. And the good people that they are, they let us know that it won’t be an issue as long as they can find extra walking sticks for us. While they went around hunting walking sticks, we went around spotting alligators in the nearby stream. And we gathered near the parking lot alongside the others when it was time for the walk to start.
All of us were given a walking stick. We were told that we would tread in waist deep muddy water in most of our cases (it maybe deeper or less depending on our height). We won’t be able to see where we were stepping all through the two hours. We just needed to follow the ranger’s lead. We were asked to wear footwear that would hold firm to the feet, since there were many patches along the way where our feet could get stuck and our only chances to get our feet out with the shoe was if the shoe were to be tightly held. And that’s where the fun began for me.
I had no proper footwear. I had gone wearing my flats. And that is because I wasn’t expecting to do anything like this during the trip. I had taken with me my brand new pair of running/walking shoes in case we were to go hiking and for other instances I had carried my flats and my slippers. I didn’t want to wear my brand new pair of shoes for this given that I was told over and over that once used for this activity the shoe will pretty much be unusable after. So I was left with wearing my flats. Everyone in the group stared at me as the ranger pointed to my feet and skeptically queried if I would be able to manage. I have no other choice, I let them know. I got ready to bid my shoe goodbye as we began the walk for I may never see them again. The odds were against me… the most likely case was that I would lose them somewhere during the next two long hours.
Except, the two hours went by in a jiffy! We prodded along the muddy trail behind the ranger as she took her time to show and explain things here and there. I was petrified, from time to time. Not knowing where I am stepping, what I am stepping into was unnerving. For someone who is as frightened as I am, every bump on the way, every thick layer of mud that had the power to suck my feet deeper and deeper was daunting. And on top of that, I had to be doubly alert because of my footwear situation. The partner, oh yes, there he was behind me give me a push every now and then, letting me know that I didn’t have to be so conscious, that it wasn’t all that bad. He taught me a trick to hold on to my shoes in case my feet got caught in tricky spots. I followed what he explained every time I did get stuck. Even with all that, I may have overdone the whole I-am-afraid act a bit to the partner’s bother. But, oh well, that’s always bound to happen with me around.
Long story short, we were back at the parking lot before we knew it. Time flew by when we were there. I was left wishing it went on for a little longer. We couldn’t / wouldn’t stop talking about it as we hosed ourselves off. The experience was remarkable. And yes, my flats. They came back with me, safe and sound. There were many surprised / shocked faces that turned to me as I emerged out of the swamp and onto the road. I triumphed in my effort to make sure I brought them back home. And now, here we are, living happily ever after.
Cave. A place where every little sound echoes multifold. A place where the meaning of darkness really comes to life. A place where water has worked its marvel over a really long period of time… and still does, carving its way, marking its presence, with every passing second. There we were – in a cave.
We followed the park ranger, who was leading the group, carefully turning on the lights of the path ahead and switching off the artificial glow of the trail that has been crossed. He showed us fossils, explained all about the different ecological features – stalagmites, stalactites, columns, etc. – that we saw all around, he walked us through a little bit of the history, as all of us strolled behind him hundreds of feet into the ground.
The partner’s undying fascination the classical element that is water only grew as we paced around observing its breathtaking work. The way it had etched through the hardest of rocks all around was certain to make one wonder about and ponder over many a thing. The patterns on the walls and the ceilings, on every fallen rock, on every step the feet touched – nature’s creativity at its best, that’s what it was.
At one point, the park ranger had us all gather in one place. He requested that we not make any noise. And he turned off the lights. Darkness. Everywhere. On every nook. On every corner. It’s not the kind that envelops the neighborhood at night. It’s not like what you experience when you close your eyes. It’s not the same as what happens when you turn off all the lights in your room. This was different. This was unlike everything else. It was happening in a place where natural light hardly has never reached because it’s located hundreds of feet below the surface. Here, we experienced darkness… darkness of the purest kind. And to go with this was the eerie silence of the confines. It was mind-blowing, to say the least.
I held the partner’s hand. He pulled me close and I leaned in to rest on his shoulder. I could hear his heartbeat. Or was that mine? Or was it of the person standing next to me on the other side? Or perhaps it was of all of us… who knows?!? Just as I was musing over this, I heard the calming noise of droplets of water falling somewhere nearby. It wasn’t a flowing stream; it was merely drops of water, dripping one after another, mind you. But I could hear it, distinctly. And only seconds later, my mind was blank. It was clear of any thoughts. It had succumbed to the blackness of the surrounding. I wasn’t moving, my mind wasn’t racing, and my heart wasn’t beating any faster than necessary. Everything was still. And tranquil.
Had time stopped, the partner whispered later on. And with that, he had put into words what I’d felt and experienced. That darkness. That silence. That peacefulness. That’s definitely how I picture it would be if time were to stop.