The year 2015 is coming to its end. I`m already on the road for more than a year now. Time flies when you`re having fun. What a time it has been, especially the last two weeks on Galapagos. Absolutely unforgettable. I never wiped away so many tears of joy in my life. What a richness in wildlife. Young sea lions, curiously gazing at our camera`s. The nights we spent sitting on a bench in the harbor, enjoying the clumsy movements of the sea lions coming to shore after a hard day of work at sea. We biked along a dozen giant tortoises on island Isabella. Drank wine on the beach together with other backpacker on Christmas Eve. We`ve seen massive sea turtles swimming past, elegantly, almost ballerina like, pushing themselves forward with their flippers through the water.
Unfortunately, all good things come to an end, also our Galapagos adventure. We fly to Quito, the capital of Ecuador. To catch up with the exceeded expenses on the Galapagos, we decide to take a bus to the hostel instead of a taxi. Once arrived on the final destination, Grant grabs into his pocket, noticing the wallet is no longer there. “It must have felt out of my pocket. I still had it on the airport when we were buying a sandwich.” I remain calm. “It`s just money babe, shit happens. Just be a bit more careful next time.” We check in the hostel, while I start up a conversation with a girl at the bar. “Ow wow your pictures must be out of this world!” She cheerfully shouts, once I told her we just came from the Galapagos. “Ow yes, for sizzle……” and then all of a sudden it strikes into my mind… the day we came back from a snorkeling trip and the guide offered us to put his pictures on our memory card. The one on my camera appeared to be full and I replaced it for an empty one. To keep the old one safe, I put it in… the wallet…..I turn to Grant and pull his shoulder. “Grant, the card, the SD-card with our pictures, it was still in the wallet!” and I burst into tears. “Calm down baby.” Pulling my teary head into his hands. “Hey... we still got lots of pictures, from your phone, on your laptop, on the other memory card. Not everything is lost. We still have the memories. Don`t forget the amazing time we had babe.” His words pass through my ears, but my mind is somewhere else. I simply can`t stop crying. Ever since I was a little girl I had been dreaming away reading about the adventures of Charles Darwin and his ship the `Beagle`. At university I finished almost every book I could find about genetics and evolution. Immersed with fascination I wanted nothing more to see this magical place with my own eyes. There were the word of the church had to take a little step back to make place for a scientific addition into God`s creation. …… “ Come Sanne, you go and make yourself comfy in the bed with your laptop to see and admire all the beautiful pictures we still have. In the meantime, I`ll make us some tea.” Luckily quite some pictures appeared to be saved, as I was so smart to make a back-up on my computer after the first 3 days. All the pictures of island Isabel however, appeared to be lost. I give myself some time to be sad and cry it all out. Luckily the Israeli couple, whom we share a dorm with, don`t really seem to care. With the sheets I dry my tears and go to all the amazing pictures I still have. “Come on Sanne, there are so many amazing ones left.” I say to myself. I decide to put a post on Facebook. A tremendous amount of responses come in. Most pictures are now replaced by beautiful shots from friends. I might lost my pictures, but I got some amazing presents in return.
It`s new year’s eve, time to say goodbye to 2015 and give a warm welcome to 2016. It`s been a year filled with travels and adventures. A full year abroad. And all this now in the beautiful city Quito. An amazing historical city, filled with just astonishing historical churches. One of the churches is filled with copper and cold, sky high paintings, and beautifully dressed statues. To keep the family tradition high I decided to burn candles for my love ones. I buy three, a pink one and a blue one for the persons I said goodbye to during my travels and a green one for everyone who is with them. Grant does the same for his grandparents. We grab each other`s hands and look at each other. I give one last gaze to the candles, lift up my head and give a little knot and smile to Virgin Marry, who lifelessly stares back at me, comforting me with her marvel smile. Softly Grant squeezes my hand. It`s time to hit the road again.
On every corner of the street a `widow’ is dancing on of the frequently played beats like ‘Bailando’ or `El Taxi`. All of them are men dressed up as women, trying to collect money for charity (read: beer for party). Some of them are so fanatic that they dance on the middle of the street, forcing every car to stop by giving the bonnet a lap dance.
Papier-mâché dolls are being sold in every shop. A café owner gives us some explanations of this old tradition. In the old days the dolls were representing people who had a bad influence on someone’s life. Think certain politians, policemen, a bad neighbor or –family member. By lilting them into flames with New Years people latterly burned away the bad luck from the old year, making space for good luck in the new one. Nowadays the burnings have somewhat lost their meaning. Famous cartoon- or movie heroes are now the ones facing the flames.
We buy a bottle of wine and some snacks for the night and set foot towards the main square. It`s oddly quite on the streets. Apart from dozens of police cars, there is nothing or nobody. We quicken up the pace, the sooner we get to the square, the better. There the atmosphere seems much better. Many dolls are being burned with huge circles of people dancing around it. Some daredevils run out of the circle to jump through the house high flames (yes guys, in Ecuador you need to put some effort in getting good luck). We bump into some other guests from the hostel and give everybody a sip of wine. After some drinking, dancing and laughing, the new year has arrived! Only a shawarma is missing to close it down as a good party and after wiping of the last bit of garlic sauce from the corners of my lips it`s time to go back to the hostel. It`s not far, just a 15 minute walk. Still enjoying the good vibes, Grant and I bring up the good memories of that day and night. Suddenly, out of the dark, 3 guys come towards us. A strange feeling of mistrust, fills up my stomach and I start to walk on the right side of the road. As far away as possible from the boys. Grant doesn`t seem to notice anything and cheerfully continues talking. Then all of a sudden everything seems to be entering a time-lapse video. One of the guys grabs Grant by the arm and before I`m able to do anything, another grabs me by my hair. I look in to his eyes, which clearly drowned with drugs and alcohol. I try to free myself, but then a see a shiny big kitchen knife in his hand. I scream, I scream as loud as I can. The boy drags me by my hair into the direction of the park. The point of the knife softly pushes through my shirt into my stomach. “What the hell is trying to do? What is he going to do? What does he want? Ow please don`t let him want to do that…” I`m terrified, not knowing what is going to happen next…..Out of the blue, the guy let`s go. Finally I`m able to stand up and see what is going on. All three boys are running away. Grant runs towards me and puts his arms around me. “Are you ok?” he asks. With my hands I stroke over my belly. Fortunately I don`t feel any wounds. My fingertips examine my head. Apart from descent amount of lost hairs, there is not too much damage there either. “I`m ok, and you?” “I`m fine. I gave them the wallet. Your phone is still safe in the moneybelt.” A wave of panic strikes me. “I want to go Grant. I want to get off the street now!” A police car crosses our way. Wildly waving my arms I tell them to pull over. Quickly I tell them the story and point out the three guys who are still running in our sight. With burning tires they set off, leaving us in despair on the street. “What do we do now?” Grant asks. “I want to get off the street now, Grant!” and tears roll down my cheeks. We stop a taxi and drive the last part back to the hostel. I can`t sleep. Every time I close my eyes the imagines spurt through my mind. “Come let`s watch a movie, that will give a bit of distraction.” Grant suggests. We take the blankets down to the tv-room and make it a covey activity with tea and some snack leftovers. I put ‘A brief history of time’ in the DVD-player, a movie about Steve Hawking. One of world`s best known scientists, who did not allow his paralyzing disease stand in the way of his career. A great inspiration. I think back about my sessions with Corine in the Netherlands (see my first blog `In a country far, far away.’). She had given me a book which stated; `Fear does not result from what you experience, but the thoughts your form about it.’ I decide to see it as a lesson. They might have taken my money, but they will not take away my joy in traveling. That`s soaked into my bones, nobody will ever take that away from me, it`s part of who I am.
After a burn-out it was time for a change. I quit my job, sold my stuff and bought a one-way ticket to the Dominican Republic. What was supposed to be a 4 month adventure turned into 2,5 years and counting......
Photo by: Vanessa Marques Barreto