Saturday, January 30, 2010

Welcome to my blog

Hi -- I hope you're enjoying the chapters of An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel that I post every two weeks (more or less), and also the photos I post in between (often at random).
If you're new to my blog, take a look at the list in the sidebar. It can take you back to my first post. Click on 2009, when I was new to this, too.
If you have a Google account, LiveJournal, WordPress, TypePad, AIM, Name/URL, please feel free to leave comments on my blog. You can also use 'Anonymous' on the "Comment as" list (click on comment number below to find the list.) If you're in a hurry, you can check one of the boxes at the bottom of each blog section. Otherwise, blog comments are very welcome at
Thanks for visiting. And thanks to Clint and Maria Davies for this photo of the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of the Mexican state of Quintana Roo.
-- Kay

Friday, January 29, 2010

Something else I didn't do

My husband went with a group from the yacht Flamingo I to crawl through a lava tunnel on the Galapagos island of Santa Cruz. Another of my weaknesses is claustrophobia, so I went along for the ride but stayed in the bus, watching birds land on the side mirrors to peek in at me. Beautiful day, beautiful birds, no symptoms to speak of.
-- photos by Richard Schear

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Don't you know how fierce I am, post?

My favorite blue-foot is this guy, glaring at one of the posts that outline the trail for tourists. He's probably telling it not to interfere with his mate, who is sitting on an egg in the background (right).

A field full of blue-footed boobies

All I had to do was sit on my cane/chair, under my big umbrella, and snap photo after photo of blue-footed boobies. A number of blue-foots are camouflaged among the rocks in the upper picture, and the tourists to the left are taking pictures of some we can't see here. Meanwhile, the male in the bottom picture is sky-pointing, either to impress his chosen mate or to frighten off other males. Blue-footed boobies are seldom very frightening, however, not even to one another.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Chapter 6 from 'An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel'


There is a lot of talk these days about closing the Galapagos Islands to tourism because of the great sensitivity of their unique eco-systems. In the meantime, we’re only allowed to be there if we stay within the path outlined for that purpose. Therefore, on the smaller islands, Orlando, one of the guides from our yacht Flamingo I, would take his group clockwise around the island, while his colleague Karina took our group counterclockwise. This system worked fine until the day I got left behind.

One of the best days of my life!

Karina speaks excellent English and is a wonderful guide with a tremendous depth of knowledge about the Galapagos. Nevertheless, when she said we would see lots of blue-footed boobies one day, I was thrilled to find she hadn’t exaggerated. Just as my feet were getting sore, we came to a huge field covered with sand, rocks, twigs, a few shrubs, and a flock of elaborately-courting and minimally-nesting blue-footed boobies. With the exception of one booby protecting an egg, they paid no attention to us.

I was in heaven. “I’d love to stay here,” I sighed.

“Okay,” said Karina, “you sit here until… (I missed this part) …pick you up on the way to the beach.”

Another rule: Pay attention, or request repetition for verification. I’m not always good at this, either.

When I heard Karina say “Okay, you sit here,” I immediately unfolded my cane/chair thingie, and sat down in that wonderful field full of blue-footed boobies, without actually hearing all of her instructions.

Another communication problem existed, but I didn’t know about it until later. There I sat, with my giant collapsible beige golf umbrella shading me from the sun, and watched boobies sky-pointing in their courtship dance; looked at the ocean in the near distance; watched a group of male boobies trying unsuccessfully to intimidate one another; and looked at the ocean again in case dolphins or whales came by. They didn’t, but I enjoyed myself immensely anyway.

After a few hours, Orlando came along with the second group from Flamingo I. They all greeted me.

“Hi, Kay, how are you?”

“Oh, I’m having a wonderful time.”

“So you’re alright here?”

“Never better,” I said as I waved goodbye.

I didn’t know Karina had asked Orlando to take me back to the beach with them. I thought our group, including my husband, would be coming back for me.

Eventually, when I was beginning to get just a teensy bit tired of sitting, but not the least bit tired of booby-watching, Orlando and a man from his group came up behind me.

“We’ve come to take you to the beach.”

“Oh?” I asked, “where’s Dick?”

“He and the others are out on the Flamingo already.”

So off we went to the beach, where one of the pangas (boats) from our yacht was waiting.

Oh, yes, getting in and out of a panga. That’s another story.

But first, my giant umbrella: I searched and searched online until I found a large, collapsible, light-beige golf umbrella. For a sunny climate, a light color is best, because dark colors absorb the sun’s heat, as we all know but often forget when buying everything from clothes to cars – and then we’re sorry later, as I have learned the hard way.

My umbrella, along with my portable chair/cane, provided me with shelter and seating. My face got red from exertion, but never from sunburn, for which I was grateful because I’m photosensitive, among other awful things.

However, when we got home from that trip, I discovered some sand had found its way into the workings, so I could no longer open my wonderful umbrella. Did I order a new one? No, I forgot that, too.

Of course, the time eventually came when I needed sun protection desperately. Surrounded by tourists and locals who were carrying pastel umbrellas and parasols in the heat of a Beijing summer, I found myself holding a small black (yes, black) umbrella over my head. It might as well have been a portable oven.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Want to comment on my blog?

If you have a gmail account, you can leave comments on my blog. Otherwise, blog comments, cheerfully accepted at:
I particularly look forward to my readers' opinions of An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel. Does it make you want to get up and go, or do you still think your get up and go has got up and went? Aw, keep reading, it's ah-inspiring.

Chapter 5: Learning How

I’d love to be a tall, slim, elegant, rich person cutting an awe-inspiring swath through an expensive hotel lobby, carrying only my tiny purse and a pair of kid gloves, followed by a cadre of devoted bellboys hefting my dozens of pieces of perfectly matched luggage, met by a smiling hotel manager as he exclaims joyfully, “Oh, we’re so happy to see you again, Ms Davies. What can we do for you?”
Such people expect help to be offered, and appear to be born knowing how to accept it graciously.
But how many of us want to be plump, gray-haired grannies being pushed in wheelchairs at airports?
Mumble, grumble.
Nevertheless, I’ve been there, when my feet are so sore I can’t walk another inch lest I burst into tears of pain and frustration. Yes, I can get myself down the jet-way from the gate, onto the plane, and from there to my seat, but I now know I can’t handle the miles and endless miles of hallways and escalators eventually leading out of the airport.
In addition to the adventures engineered by my still-athletic husband, I've taken many trips alone to visit my parents, so I’m familiar with my usual airports. My Air Canada and Aeroplan online-profiles both say “assistance at terminal” but, when my plane lands in Calgary, I ask which gate we’re using before I leave the plane, so I know how much walking is involved. If I can get to the next stage of my journey by myself, I’ll do it.
YVR in Vancouver, BC, however, has been too big for years, and is much too big since they enlarged it to cope with the 2010 Olympics.
At the end of a day of travel, it can be tough to get from my plane to the baggage-claim area in time to meet the family member designated Auntie Kay’s driver du jour. So I happily accept a ride to the elevator on one of those cute golf-cart gizmos, beep-beeping through the crowds. But being pushed in a wheelchair? In Vancouver? Where someone—someone who knows me—might see me?
I dunno.
A wheelchair at London Heathrow is essential, though. I’ve seen entire cities smaller than LHR. But I was once very surprised to be among a group of disembarking passengers whisked off the plane and onto a large scissor-lift built for baggage. We reached the ground safe and sound, but very confused. From there, all of us, with our wheelchairs, were manhandled into a bus for a high-speed unguided tour through the bowels of Heathrow, after which I found myself on a slightly-less-speedy wheelchair ride through long corridors, past desks full of airport personnel. As we zipped by each desk, one of the airport employees would call out, “Are you Kay? Your husband has been looking for you.”
Really, the poor man had no idea where they’d taken me, plus no idea where he was going to catch our flight to Barcelona. He did manage to arrive at the departure gate ahead of us, but when the wheelchair attendant delivered me, Dick was the very picture of a man who didn’t know whether to be angry or relieved. Still, I suspect he was actually happy to see me after his long, worried walk through unknown territory.
In large but considerably less overwhelming airports, where he can walk right beside my wheelchair, he is particularly happy. My carry-on luggage gets piled on top of me, so Dick only has to worry about his own bags – and the people who push wheelchairs know all the airport shortcuts. We get to the next gate or to the baggage claim far faster than if we had slogged along on foot, having to stop in order for me to rest every 50 yards.

A major big deal, for unfitties who travel, is the frequency of pit-stops. Whether stops for the use of facilities, for resting poor aching legs and diabetic feet, or perhaps just for breathing, they’re of utmost importance to the unfit traveler.
However, they aren’t always located where we want them to be.
It’s hard to remedy the placement of facilities in airports or elsewhere, but feet can be refreshed momentarily when we just sit down.
But sit where? we wonder.
Good question. That’s why I have a chair thing, which folds down into a cane, or maybe you’d call it a cane that opens up into a chair. One or the other. Not exactly a push-button massaging recliner chair, but it’s something on which to sit when the only other choice is the floor or the ground, because if I get down there, I might never get up again.
I now have my second folding cane/chair gizmo, and I outfitted it with heavy-duty rubber feet—all three of them. Yep, only three legs. It isn’t elegant nor, to tell the truth, is it wildly comfortable, but it sure beats the alternative. Practice using one in the store before you buy it, and again at home before you embark on an adventure, but by all means get one.
Some stores offer a sling-style folding travel chair with a heavy fabric seat. It may not be quite as much use cane-wise, but it certainly looks more comfortable for sitting. I’ve seen one being used by a friend, and meant to ask if I could try it out, but I forgot. So try them both, if you can.
My chair/cane was a lifesaver in the Galapagos.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Watch for Chapter 5 coming soon

"Learning How" -- chapter 5 of my non-novel "An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel" will be posted this week. You don't have to be an unfittie to read it and enjoy it, as I hope you will.
This photo... Westin Hotel in Shanghai, part of our cruise tour with Viking River Cruises.