Explore To Survive – Cuba
The second week in Cuba I stayed in Havana on my own, the idea being initially to do salsa dancing but this wasn’t possible as I had fractured my clavicle.
I stayed in a Casa particular, which is a family home. The lady of the house was called Maria and she was lovely. She lived with her partner Raphael and son Ricardo and there was Louis who worked there. They were very friendly and made me welcome.
The house was on Malecom which is a legendary promenade in Havana. It was by the sea but there was no beach, but a wall and rocks and the raging sea sometimes crashed over the wall to catch the fishermen with huge frothy white waves. At the end of the promenade were many hotels.
Near where I was staying was a restaurant and a bit further down a small bar. The buildings along the promenade were colonial and beautiful but were crumbling.
Behind where I was staying it looked like slums with broken building, rubbish in the road and many people walking about. My first thoughts were I’m not walking down there it looks real rough.
Anyway, a few days into where I was staying I realised I couldn’t keep going to the same restaurant, I need to get more food. I had a fridge in my room. So I had no choice but to venture into the slums but I was very reluctant.
I walked down the roads and everyone would look at me, I smiled and they would smile back, I thought this isn’t so bad. I found a guy selling fruit by the roadside and I bought loads of exotic fruit from him for next to nothing money. A man I spoke to was very helpful and showed me more shops.
Louis the housekeeper in the casa showed me a supermarket, he was very nice and was helping little old ladies with sticks up the steps. I got all that I needed from the supermarket.
From that day on I went down into the ‘slums’ and felt safe. In fact I looked forward to it the people were lovely. If I asked for a picture they would be more than willing to pose. On one occasion I met a group of men playing drafts, we chatted for a while and had a laugh.
I came to the conclusion that just because the backstreets of Havana looked rough didn’t mean that the people were too, in fact they were quite the opposite, they were friendly, obliging, helpful and funny and I felt I had learned a lot by meeting them.
Which just goes to show appearances can be deceiving, people are people wherever you go and confirms the fact that we are all one.
Meeting Jesus Along The Path – Camino de Santiago Compostella
I knew there would be miracles whilst walking ‘The Way’ but to what extent I wasn’t sure.
In Logrono I was having a rest and I had discovered a company that would transport my rucksack to my next destination, this thrilled me because even though at 5kgs it was quite light compared to others it was quite a burden to carry in the heat.
So I set off from Logrono with just my Nike draw string bag with the day’s essentials such as water, lippy and sun hat, the lightness felt good and I was feeling pleased with myself.
As I was walking along and enjoying the scenery I thought this bag is weighing heavy and low on my back I could do with some string to tie it at the front to support, no big deal it wasn’t too heavy just a bit awkward, and in the meantime I tied it with a couple of long leaves that I picked along the way, this will do until I get some string I thought.
Half hour later, as I was walking along in high spirits I came across this wooden shed that had a notice on the top called Marcelino, I thought this looks interesting and went to see what he was selling.
I thought he looks like Jesus siting there with his long beard and hair. He had fruit, biscuits, sweets and Camino shells on display, I asked him how much the shells were, he said it was by donacion, meaning donation only. So I picked some fruit and biscuits for my journey.
Without me asking he pointed to my leaves that were tying my draw string bag together, he produced a piece of string from a row of them near to where he was sitting and offered to tie it onto my bag, in a special knot that wouldn’t slip, I thought wow I only asked for string half hour earlier.
I thanked Marcelino and gave him a good donation, the string solved my little problem perfectly, it was a case of Ask and it is Given.
It felt like a miracle and it was, because in my non-resistant state the universe granted my request with an enchanting encounter with a kind Jesus like man.
Because when we ask it is given every time, no exceptions, but in ways that will surprise and delight you and I’m looking forward to many more miracles on this very special path.
Poon Hill was the highlight towards the end of my trekking adventure in the Himalayas in October 2012.
My fellow adventurers and I awoke at 4 am to climb up Poon Hill, which really wasn’t a hill but a small mountain at 3100 metres.
We were clad in woolly hats, gloves and arctic four seasons Himalayan bomber jackets, it was very cold.
A lot of people were heading on the same route. Everyone was walking in single file up the steep steps, being very quiet, organised and methodical, armed with head or hand torches, as it was very dark.
There was a thrilling atmosphere of anticipation in the air.
When we arrived at the top it was still very dark and icily cold.
The area was packed with people, all at the ready with their cameras.
There was a watch tower which was crammed with people of all nationalities, everyone was really excited and friendly.
The darkness started to fade, the sky began to lighten with the yellow golden rays of the sun, and there in the distance our reward was nigh, with the outline of the majestic towering 8000 metres peaks of The Himalayan
Annapurna Mountain Range.
I will never forget it, there are almost no words to describe the beauty that was before us, as a self confessed mountain groupie, I was in my element.
The sun eventually emerged in it’s full powerful glowing glory, set amongst the highest peaks in the world.
Fishtail Mountain (machhapuchhre 6998m) could be seen on the faint horizon in all it’s unique splendour. The peak being the shape of a fishtail, and is considered a sacred mountain because of that, and no one is allowed to climb it, to preserve it’s unique shape. It’s the 4th most beautiful mountain in the world.
Dhaulagiri (8167m) the 7th highest mountain in the world, and Annapurna 1 were also there, towering before us like huge giants.
Everyone clapped and cheered, the cameras were clicking with frenzy. It was a wonderful moment.
It was now light and we had the privilege of witnessing one if the most spectacular mountain spots in the world.
Su our tour leader had lost his friend a few days earlier in a plane crash, we had a one minute silence with a prayer flag, standing in a circle. It was quite emotional we all had tears in our eyes.
Fiona was a keen photographer with her zoom lens camera. She suggested getting some pictures of us all doing star jumps with the huge mountain peaks in the background. It was a lot of fun and she got some amazing shots.
I wanted to meet an Everest summiteer and Su and some of the other Sherpas tried to find one for me, but it was not to be, but there’s another story regarding this subject, so watch this space.
The whole adventure up Poon Hill will go down in my memory bank as one of the best. The day encapsulated everything – excitement, anticipation, wonder, sadness, fun, friendship, beauty.
For me appreciation to the highest degree of the beauty of this wonderful world.