Back to travel tales for a little while …..
I have already described a few of the ‘Tiny Perfect Moments’ I have been blessed enough to experience during my little adventures to date. Magical little episodes that can neither be planned nor recreated, but just somehow work on every level to make your heart full up.
It would be wrong, however, to give the impression that travelling is always like this. It really, really isn’t. And, if it were, these special little sparkling moments wouldn’t be so special. Travelling can be utterly exhausting, it can be lonely, it can be dirty and painful and on occasion all you want to do is click your red heels together (like Dorothy from the ‘Wizard of Oz’) and be transported home immediately – to eat pizza and cosy up under a blanket in front of the TV.
For the sake of balance, I would also like to share with you over the course of my blog some of the ‘Tiny Ridiculous Moments’ I have experienced. Some more ridiculous than others. I swear to you, these are the stories your friends really want to hear when you get home. Not the ‘Perfect’ stuff, which may make them green with envy (even if you could adequately put words to how beautiful these moments were for you). Your friends want to hear about the disasters, the unfortunate encounters, the near arrests, the ambulance rides, etc, etc.
These stories are the good stuff, the meaty mouthfuls that cause inhalations of breath when you recount them, much laughter, occasional tears, and no short measure of “What the hell were you thinking?!” These are the moments you are going to tell over and over, because the perfect moments are really just perfect for you. Falling over is something everyone can enjoy.
And so, on to the first of many ridiculous moments – On Falling Over …..
My first ever big trip abroad was to Canada to work for the summer when I was a student (I plan to write much more about this experience in upcoming posts). But for now I am going to confine myself to a memorable and ridiculous thing that happened during this trip.
My friend and I had hitchhiked from Banff to Lake Louise (I do not recommend hitchhiking as a safe mode of travel incidentally – but I was young, and impressionable, and she said “Let’s do this”. So I, like the people-pleasing fool I was, said “Okay”)
Lake Louise is breathtakingly beautiful, but my friend had heard about another lake not so far away called Lake Moraine. So, after we had paddled about in a kayak on Lake Louise for a while, we hitchhiked on to Lake Moraine. From there, my friend suggested we hike to another lesser known lake called Lake Consolation, about an hour’s walk away from where we were. Over excited and up for anything I agreed to all of this, without any thought given to what time of the day it was, how we were going to get back to Banff etc, etc.
So, we walked to Lake Consolation. And this too (like pretty much everything in the Canadian Rockies) was stunning. On this day the lake was as still as glass. Every mountain surrounding it was perfectly reflected in the water. The snow on their summits glistened on the sheer surface in a most spectacular way. I had to get a picture of this.
I clambered up onto a rocky overhang in order to get a good angle and enough height to take a really good picture. Standing on the edge of the rocks, camera in hand, looking through the view finder, I saw the perfect shot – “This is going to look amazing!”. And then, as I went to depress the button and capture this extraordinary vista, my weight took me slightly too far forward and I fell, right off the rocks I was standing on, face first onto …. well …. rocks. Really jagged, stabby, mean rocks, about 12 feet below.
This hurt like hell. I didn’t move for a moment or two, because I was really scared to. I was terrified that one of my legs may have snapped or something similarly unpleasant. My friend, who had watched all of this unfold from slightly further around the lake, came rushing toward me, also very scared. She helped me sit upright and we had to see if I could stand. Thank the Lord I could! But my legs were a bloody mess, my chest felt like it had caved in, and the realisation of our position was starting to emerge.
We were about an hour’s hike from anywhere, it was getting fairly late in the day, it was starting to turn cold (as it had snowed the night before), and here I was covered in blood, in bear country. Hmmm, far from ideal. This was way back in 1994, long before mobile phones existed (though I’m sure they wouldn’t have worked in this wilderness in any case). We thanked our lucky stars that it appeared I hadn’t broken anything, and then, with the shock I guess, started to laugh at our predicament and the possibility of bears. Now the laughing was a problem on two levels. Firstly, it was weird (given the scenario), and secondly it really bloody hurt to breath, never mind laugh.
We decided we had better get out of there as fast as my mushed-up legs would carry me, because we didn’t know if there was any further damage inside me we didn’t yet know about, and didn’t want to wait around in the back of nowhere to find out.
When we finally neared the car-park at Lake Moraine we were rather dismayed to see there were only three cars still parked there and it looked like these were on the move. How would we get back?
As we had hitchhiked there, and really had no clue what other transportation options were available in the vicinity (really people, make a Plan B, we were idiots), we decided we would have to try and flag one of these cars down. And so this is what we did. Cars 1 and 2 took one look at my bloodied limbs and opted to save their upholstery. Can’t really blame them. Thankfully, Car 3, perhaps aware there were none behind them, took pity on us and allowed us admittance (once some plastic bags had been placed over the back seats). They very kindly drove us to the nearest Ranger’s Station. Though there was no Ranger present, there was a phone, and the Ranger said he would be there as soon as he could. I heard the car driver say something about an ambulance. This is when the hyperventilation kicked in.
The very lovely ambulance men came and did their thing. They checked me over, they cleaned me up, they asked me if I had insurance (thankfully yes) and, because they liked this answer, they gave me a rather exciting ride back to Mineral Springs Hospital in Banff, with blue lights revolving and siren wailing. We were in shock, everything was a bit exciting at this point.
Thankfully the cuts and grazes were no more serious than they looked on the surface. The worst of my injuries was a bunch of cracked ribs, which hurt like buggery. It was a huge relief to my father when the doctor called him and told him all of this. But he still had to swallow hard on the $800 he had to cough up on his credit card (a lot of money back then), just to cover the ambulance ride until the insurance could be claimed back (that was recouped surprisingly smoothly once I was home – given how much insurance companies hate to be parted from your money once it is in their hands and not yours).
The cracked ribs put pay to my part in our grand plan of backpacking across America before we flew home a month later. But there was one consolation to my Lake Consolation plummet, which was I got to spend my last month in Canada with the beautiful Canadians I had befriended in the previous two months.
But that is for the next time ….
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