Nov 26, 2015

French Polynesia to Mexico via North Pole

My voyage was never a well-conceived plan, nor will it ever be.
I have made it up as I went along.
Jimmy Buffet
Shrimp boat
The ever colorful Mexico
From 23 degrees South to 70 degrees North then back to Mexico which covers 15 to 32 degrees North.

From -55 to +122 degrees F, facing extremes at both ends of the spectrum.

From the bright colors of Mexico and French Polynesia to the grayness and darkness of the North Slopes of Alaska. The journey making us ever more aware of the luck we have which allows us to see other parts of the world.

What you drive in the far reaches of Alaska

Arctic Ocean 70 degrees North
On a very rare blueish sky day..
The sky is the darkest it can possibly become during day-time; one pm to be exact.

We are driving the exceptionally parched desert of northern Mexico. Many descriptions of the desert make it sound like a place experienced as very lonesome by most. To me it is rather the contrary. I feel lonelier in a crowded city than I do in the midst of nature, whether it is the desert, the beach or the lush rain forest.

Looming around us are various shades of massive charcoal gray clouds, low and heavy with rain and electric energy. In the distance they look like they are mischievously kissing and teasing the no longer dehydrated ground, inviting it to slowly come alive after a very long hot summer.

Are we going to dodge the lightening? Are we going to avoid the deluge? From our current vantage point, it seems very unlikely. We are enclosed in near darkness occasionally punctuated with intensely bright flashes from all directions.

For hours we are surrounded by lightning. Knowing that their sparks near 20,000° Celsius, hot enough to create shock waves you can hear from miles away, is awe inspiring and downright humbling.

Winds dance from complete calm to strong bursts when we near the edge of the next cell, typical of these types of storms. When in the open, Mother Nature delivers much more than what most of us experience from the safety of a good shelter protecting us from her full force. In these conditions, we are, to some extent, happy to be driving rather than sailing.

Animals suddenly seem non-existent headed for whatever safety fits their needs. It is eerily empty yet so full of liveliness. Our bodies are tingling from the static electricity running through the ether. I hold my breath, unconsciously, awaiting the next strike of light or roar of thunder. The air smells so clean and refreshing, it is rejuvenating.

I expected to feel diminutive by this strong show of nature but quite the contrary. My ‘fear’ is transformed in elation and delight, my ‘doubts’ in better insight and perception. I feel fully aware and in the present, almost expecting a ‘Nahual’ or shape-shifter to show up anytime soon, as in the Teachings of Don Juan.

Rain is seen falling on the adjacent mountains. Once nearer the observed downpour, the road is wet but we are not hit with precipitations, only the smell of creosote bushes lingers on and puddles perfectly reflects what is going on around us.

This goes on for hours. We had hoped for a little drizzle to wash our filthy car but it didn’t materialize. We feared flash floods would stop our progress but were spared.

Sun rays peek through now and then and when they do a mountain we have seen dozens of time, usually in tones of dark pinks and browns, suddenly seems covered in pale limestone against the somber background.

The saguaro and cholla cacti appear ghostly white after the intense rain cleaned their dust encrusted waxy spines. The same spines that help collect the precious water that is then stored in the main trunk or branches of these sturdy desert plants. So white indeed they seem much bigger and taller as if floating. The chollas are laden with ripe red ‘chain-fruits’ we weren’t able to discern before the cleansing rain.

Maybe this year’s El Niño is having some positive influence in this otherwise near waterless area…

While we are spared, we hear of Hurricane Patricia with powerful winds hitting the Mexican coast much further south. We can only hope all is well for everyone. This storm seems different in perspective…

A giant double rainbow finally makes its appearance just as we are nearing home; a beautiful and peaceful sight against the threatening roiling masses in the sky. It forms outside of the first and in the opposite order of colors as the primary rainbow, great natural splendor.

Travelling is a little like how you choose to experience a storm or nature. One can see places or be in places. (Some would say tourist vs. traveler). To see places, one acts more like an outsider taking in the sights but not putting much of his or her self out there. To be in places, one has to experience, participate or feel what is happening around them.
You can watch the storm from the window (see) of your home or walk (be) in it smelling the rain, facing the wind, feeling the hair on your body rise up just before the electricity of lightning strikes anew. Sense the breathtaking trepidation of where the storm is unexpectedly going to veer off next.

We choose to travel by exposing ourselves to the discomforts of not knowing the language, the culture or the foods but come out spellbound by the imperfections, the beauty or the novelties we constantly discover. It is one of the best teachers in the world. We learn as much about ourselves or our surroundings.
Our best days are the ones where we are dead tired at the end knowing we have used every spare inch of energy we have to experience what is offered to us. Not feeling like we have wasted an ounce of our precious day. Weariness of body makes us know that our day was lived right.
Feeling the moment, not running away from it.
We are back in Mexico before the infamous shopping season…escaping that madness and rejoining the little haven Déjàlà has been for us over the last few years.

A Chinese fortune cookie I got when visiting Spokane says it best: “You find beauty in ordinary things. Do not lose this ability.”
Happy Thanksgiving – whatever that may mean to you…

Mike and Marie-France
Nikki testing new sheets
Little girl cushioned between parents.
Couldn't see her when they passed us on the right,
only when they passed us on the left!

Nearing the end of the storm and our trip

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