To travel to discover a destination is one thing.
To travel to fulfill a quiet dream is quite another.
We all have our little lists of ‘must see‘s in the world – places near and far where we would one day love to dance, to dine, to take that oh-so-local adventure, find that oh-so-beautiful artwork, to do the daring, and to share ‘I was there’. And then there are those places that quietly whisper in our spirit an enduring wish of ‘how incredible it would be….’ – a place where one’s imagination of what might, just might be, becomes real.
To have these moments come to life, these quiet dreams fulfilled, is to discover true awe. It is an enduring quest of travellers.
Yet pure awe in travel can be so hard to find…..because all too often we are looking so hard to find it.
When one does find it and feel it, however, it is unmistakable – there are no words, there are only tears.
And soon, very soon, the secret to its discovery is revealed: being still, being quiet, and being grateful.
This is where awe is found. This is how travel dreams are fulfilled. Time slows, seconds stretching out to be able to squeeze in as much as possible. Senses seem heightened, sounds and scents dialed up, peripheral vision closes in, the eyes taking in all that is seen as though with a magnifying lens, not a detail overlooked.
How best are these moments preserved? Which device does the best job? Filtered or unfiltered? For sharing on which platform? Friends or all Followers?
None of the above. None will truly do the moments justice.
The only, only essentials of the experience:
Such was recently the discovery when finally, finally, a dream to see the sea turtles came to life.
The place: Tortuguero, Costa Rica.
The species: Tortuga Verde (Green Turtle)
The timing: October – end of turtle season, under an almost-full moon.
The encounter: a magnificent est. 30 year old grand lady returning from a journey of thousands of miles to the safe shores of the national park, setting in motion a next generation of ancient life.
The echoes and images: intense.
The photos/videos: none – these great creatures are nocturnal. No photography is permitted. Absolutely none. No exceptions.
Reflecting on the experience, while at first there was sadness to learn from the guides that no cameras, mobile phone or otherwise, were permitted on the beach during the night visit to the turtle nests, in the end it was this absence of devices that made the moments magic. Suddenly, responsibility for the richness of the time shifted from what was in one’s hand to what was in one’s heart. From what one saw in front of them, to what one felt within.
The rules of Mother Nature, and her appointed guardians, are non-negotiable. The park guides strictly yet sensitively trained to protect the giant sea turtles who have, as a result of man’s hunger for exotic food and souvenirs, put these ancient sources of life that spend their lives migrating across the world’s waterways, into a state of global endangerment. The shame of the situation, and the innate truth that it is us, we who feel entitled to roam and often ruin the world around us, has lit a fire in the turtle guides who reinforce that an encounter with these incredible creatures is a gift, never an expectation. Respect for the great turtle, in one of her most private moments, must, must come first, for as long or short as one’s encounter may last.
Tractor-like tracks on the beach from the night before seed hope that maybe, just maybe, the night ahead will see green turtle return once more. Ledges of sand pressed down along the shoreline, and then pulled almost 100m inland, start the quiet conversation with oneself – inaudible prayers take flight.
But again, there is no guarantee. Mother Nature decides, and quite honestly, does not care about the travel plans of tourists. Her only concern is her precious green turtles.
At last the long-awaited time came: time for a walk to designated stretch of beach, and then a wait……waiting, waiting, and hoping that a silhouette emerges from the water and slowly, cautiously shuffles to a safe nesting spot…..as guides carefully look out for what only their naked eyes would be able to detect, while travellers looked up at a magnificent moon-rise scattering gold-dust on the waters of the Caribbean.
And then a firm whisper breaks the silence: it is time to go see her. No talking. And absolutely no cameras. Seconds tick by slowly, so slowly, nearing the still unseeable beautiful beast. Suddenly all is blurry – the overwhelming intensity of anticipation causing tears to fall.
In the darkness of night with only the glow of the rising moon over our shoulders, and a faint red light over the turtle’s shell as a guide for our vision, tiny movements were evident in a giant dugout of sand. Enormous, yet so vulnerable, she has safely nested in the sand and was ready to lay her eggs. In silence, with only the sound of her legs slowly shifting sand filling the air, guides whisper her entering into a trance – the pain of the process of laying her eggs had begun. One by one, times an estimated 120, her soft-shelled eggs, glowing white like little moons themselves, began to fall from the safety of her protecting body to their sandy, exposed, dangerous new world.
Gathered in a small, tight, limited crowd, onlookers were able to close in to see a cycle of life unfolding. One by one by one, the eggs continued to drop, mooshily stacking one on top of the other, rebuilding their new home until time for their little lives to break through their individual shells.
Unexpectedly, undeniably, the extreme intimacy of the moment – her moment – caused a deep, urgent need to look away…..to shift the soft red light from her tail to her face, to absorb the beauty of her, as she shared this incredible moment with us. Seeing her so closely, her head heavy, her aged eyes teary, her nostrils buried in the sand, she had evolved from being ‘a sea turtle’ to a gentle, graceful sight, her raw, rugged presence making a softly touching connection, unmistakably, to the storybook of, in this case, my life.
Something in those moments, on that beach, with only the sound of the sea gently lapping on the shore in the near-distance, caused a penetration of spirit beyond anything imagined, anything which could be analysed. Any attempt to find words caused child-like tears to flow. The darkness of the night allowed for a safe mask from the eyes of others. ‘Alone’ was desperately needed to be able to take it all in, to not let the emotion run out.
It was a feeling of pure awe.
While no more than 180 seconds were spent in each of the two rounds of viewing over the 80 minutes of the experience, the time was timeless. Priceless. With images and emotions of the encounter still so vivid, so real, there is no question about it: the quest to find the perfect photo would have resulted in a complete loss of the perfect memory.
It was a profound learning. And its truth still lingers. Sometimes the best way, the absolute best way, to capture a moment in time is to simply take it in, slowly, deeply, unfiltered, in the moment, allowing each and every single second, each emotion, to embed itself in one’s memory, in one’s personal storybook. These so often simple, subtle occurrences carve lifelong impressions…
A tropical moon rising.
A slow walk into sandy darkness.
A stumble into night nests from nights before.
A teary approach towards an ancient creature creating life.
A fixed stare on the power of Mother Nature.
A whisper of thanks for the blessing of the here & now,
Quickly followed by echoes of appreciation for those who made the dream come to life, more perfectly and profoundly than could ever have been imagined.
Gracias con todo mi corazón, Señor Ministro Ventura y Alejandro. Muchas gracias. x
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2017