Weighed down by heavy backpacks, we run as fast as our retired legs can to Gate 2 in the Athens airport. “Hurry! Hurry!” calls my husband as I scurry behind him.
We’ve just seen the flashing ‘final call’ on the departure screen for our flight to Crete. A late arrival from Munich results in this mad dash.
As we breathlessly arrive at secondary security the attendant shakes his head sympathetically and says, “Sorry, they’ve just closed the doors to the plane.” Breathing hard, our shoulders slumped and aching, we look at each other. Exhausted. Can’t believe our bad luck.
I have just insisted—no---demanded my husband turn around the rental car (when safely possible). Head back to flat ground. Driving along Cretan mountain roads is not for the faint-hearted.
Our one lane veered much too close to a death-defying drop. No guard rail protection from open space.
Just as we were about to turn the hairpin curve, a group of maddeningly stupid sheep ambled around the bend in front of us.
Where the devil were we supposed to go? Over the edge?
Still shiver thinking about it.
Dressed in black, wearing black sunglasses, black gloves, highly polished black boots, the Mexican federale cocks his finger at our car, pulls us over on the Isla del Carmen causeway. He motions to my husband: open the car window. Leans uncomfortably in too far. Says in fractured English, “you have committed an infracteeon”.
Sweat pours from my pores. Am drowning in my own perspiration. Hair wet. Stringy. Breathing laboured. Burning lungs. Thankful we sit in blackness so our guide can’t see me struggle to maintain equilibrium. Want to curl into the fetal position on the floor. Maybe air is cooler and not so fire-hot there. Steady beat of the drum is a rhythmic thump.... thump... thump. How much longer in this temazcal? Can we last this session of 45 minutes?
In the morning, following a hard travel day and restless sleep, we had just stepped from our small hotel onto the uneven, narrow sidewalk. Turned to our right. Out of thin air, he appeared on my left. A boy about eight with large brown eyes. He said nothing. But he raised his hand, waving fingers frantically in his mouth. I stopped. Stared. Then he vanished. Took mere seconds to process his gesture. The child was hungry. Asking for food. Quickly I looked around for him. He was gone.
Too many insectos in these tropical countries. Suddenly my husband beckons me to the baño. “Spider,” he whispers, “big one.” Points to an open drawer.
I gasp. Tarantula! Two of its black hairy legs dangle over the edge, poised as if ready to jump.
Oh, what to do? Although a whiz at defeating bugs, he is not sure how to tackle a 10 cm tarantula. Is it fast? Poisonous? Aggressive?
He runs for help from our Nica neighbour. While he’s gone, I nervously eye the tarantula in case it decides to scurry somewhere. Like towards ME.
My husband returns pronto with our Nica neighbour who sees the tarantula. Reaching into his back pocket, he brings out a metal tape measure. While we both watch in awe, he extends the tape to a desired length. Deftly, quickly, he places the end of the tape under the tarantula. Flips it out of the drawer. Immediately steps on it.
We stare at the scattered remains of the large black hairy intruder.
Then I think about all the other dark hiding places in our rented casa.
It was Valentine’s Day. Treated ourselves to a French restaurant. Little Paris, a small bistro---ten-minute walk from our condo---may be French in name and menu but its staff is Thai.
Sipping fine French wine, we dined on tender filet of beef, finishing with an ice cream dessert laced generously with a vodka sauce. With spirits high, appetites satiated, we began to thread our way back.
As usual, the street was choked with traffic: open back taxis, motorcycles, cars, bicycles, vendors, people, dogs, children, even horses. All vying for space along the route.
Halfway home, my husband stopped. Gasped.
“My backpack! Left it at the restaurant! Have to go back!”
Just as we turned to return, a motorbike left the road and stopped in front of us.
“You forgot your backpack,” our waitress said. Hands it over with a smile.
Barely had time to utter thank you before she was back on her motorbike. Returning to the restaurant to serve more customers.
As soon as our guide dropped us off at the Souk (a smaller version of The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul) in Sousse, Ali appeared by our side.
I recognize you from the hotel, he said. I work there. My name is Ali. What are you looking for? Let me help you. You are very lucky. This is the final day of a three-day fair and prices are very good...I can take you to a special place for leather…
Hard to believe…
…that in this time of coronavirus, we will not travel. We will not have the privilege to experience new experiences.
Until we start again, what haunts me is this famous quote by Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho: If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine. It's lethal.