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Monday, July 12, 2010

Lessons learned: sick of it.

I'm sick of learning lessons when I travel. I don't mean lessons like, every now and then, the school children of Cusco stage environmental demonstrations that shut the whole city down for ten minutes at a time. That's fun learning, like the mating habits of blue-footed boobies.

The kind of lessons I'm sick of is that boats in the Galapagos don't carry marine toilet paper, and you apparently can't fix a damaged railroad track in four months, and you get charged out the ass for every airport you fly through. Or that catamarans are not more stable after all, or that there are no benches in any museum in South America. I could go on, but if you've been reading, you have learned these lessons, too. I hope they help.

We don't have any immediate plans to return to South America. We would like to try an Amazon cruise, but we wonder what lessons we might learn there that we couldn't discern while still at home, sometime before making a down payment.

Here's a big, important lesson: get a good in-country travel agent with a private guide. I can't say too much about Galasam.

From now on, I will be a lot more aware of and prepared for airport departure taxes. We want to leave, so we pay. Like luggage fees on US domestic carriers.

From now on, if a boat is involved, I will ask how high all the steps are, and if they use marine toilet paper. In my own defense, I DID ask if they had laundry, and they said yes, but they didn't. Likewise computer facilities. So sometimes knowing what to ask, and actually asking, don't help at all. For one thing, actual lying may be going on, and by that I mean, the Millenium people TO the Galasam people. The Galasam people did their level best, but they can't go out and ride every boat every year. Sometimes they may be hoping, but they don't know. Sometimes they are telling the truth, and the truth changes. The washing machine breaks. The engine quits. They don't have what they once did. Or they have something new: silverfish and waterbugs.

From now on, I will ask how many animals we can expect to see, and how hard or easy it is to see them. As we learned in Africa, seeing a white rhinoceros doesn't mean up close, or frequently, or even "white."

I did know to ask what kind of people go on a given kind of trip. But there is no control over which people go on YOUR trip. We knew we'd be on a small boat with 14 total strangers for eight days and no means of escape. That's the chance you take. Again, adult Eurotrash beats kids hands down. It could have been so much worse. It could also have been better.

We did pack right. We didn't starve, although there were times we didn't eat very well. We didn't get very sick. We didn't sustain permanent injuries. It didn't kill us. If the steps on an Amazon river boat aren't too high, I might go. But not if there's no marine toilet paper. That's too much even for me.

Some final thoughts next time.

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