The epilogue is an attempt to appreciate the physical and psychological long-term effects of my sola camping trip, especially my decision making processes. "On this trip nobody penetrated the space between me and my agency, so every mistake or misstep were clearly mine and owned, as well as every decision well taken."
Shifting the Grounds
At the Edge of the Earth
It was Turkish Airlines again. Just recently a combined terrorist attack took place at that airport. Even more recently, there was a failed attempt at a coup d’état against Erdogan, followed by a series of arrests across Turkish society. Despite all that, and my fear of getting stuck at Ataturk airport (happened before, low on the fun scale…), I was still flying through Istanbul! The price and the benefits of TA trumped all other considerations.
The company allows two large suitcases, 23 kg a piece as checkout luggage, the traditional overhead compartment 55X40X23- wheeler and a handbag (or two). That was important for me, being a maximalist packer.
Additionally, the food has always been delicious and plentiful at no additional costs. The service is cordial and professional if a bit cool, and the entertainment system offers varied and interesting stimuli. Last time I flew the airline I listened to a variety of Turkish music, some of it very good. I even watched some Sufi dancing. I like to use my time out of home to be acquainted with new and diverse experiences, otherwise what’s the point…
My preference is to use the services of a travel agent, rather than book anonymously through the Net. There might be a generational element in this, but frankly, I like the personal touch and the bit of flexibility and versatility that comes with the service. There are stipulations for cancellations or last minute changes, and I can be guaranteed my vegetarian meal and, hopefully, the desired window seat. Also. I must admit, I hate exposing my credit card to the vast dangerous universe of hackers and Internet predators. To me, it’s worth the little extra time and effort.
For both me and the travel agent, being Israelis, a month-old terrorist attack is old news. Our brains are programmed to statistically opt out the likelihood of another such attack at the same exact location in the proximal future. We assume that, just like Israel, other countries will up their security at the crime scene. Unfortunately, the terrorists have better imaginations than the institutionalized authorities in charge of defending us, but you can usually count on them in the short run.
So, here I was, eventually, at the edge of Earth, that is, at Ben Gurion airport, with my two heavy suitcases. This is the precarious moment when apartment, car and loved ones are left behind. Nothing more could be done if I forgot some vegetables in the fridge, or neglected to tell the renters to water the lemon tree. At this moment one puts one’s faith in the forces that be, surrendering to the unknown.
After an uneventful flight to Istanbul, I had to spend several hours at Ataturk airport. As usual, there was no place to sit. I perched myself on a low wall separating a restaurant lounge from the commons space that was universally chairless. I “shared” this wall with some nice young people from India, with whom I exchanged comments on the airport “services”. Using quick people evaluation skills, I even asked one of them to watch over my “spot” (and the bags), as I went to the bathroom to fill my water bottle. Despite having some lira leftovers from a previous visit to Istanbul, I preferred not to buy a new one as a matter of principle. Plus I could then buy a candy instead.
Istanbul airport is the best people-watching location on earth. You sit on the wall, and the world parades in front of thee.
Being the international hub that it is, Africans, Asians and Europeans mingle and bump into each other. You can see devout Muslims in long white robes probably coming to or from their Haj in Mecca, Indian businessmen in suits and briefcases, little African girls doing cartwheels on the moving travelators, Scandinavian blondes and darker-than-night tall Sudanese, tiny old Pakistani women fussing with their lady bags as they chatter in Urdu with their husbands and children, the ubiquitous Chinese/Korean/Japanese picture-clickers, Americans out of their comfort zone, apprehensive secular Israelis minimizing their presence and praying quietly to get out of there un-harassed, side by side with their traditionally dressed ultra-orthodox counterparts who apparently trust God enough to believe everything will go smoothly.
In short, everybody’s here, including those you don’t normally meet or you’d rather never meet, but great material for the people observer and for those who want to get a balanced overview of our planet’s population.
The universe rewarded me for my risk taking. The flight from Istanbul took us over breathtaking Greenland, perhaps my only chance in a lifetime of seeing this wondrous wilderness.
The first signs were the isolated icebergs showing out in the middle of nowhere ocean. As we got closer to land they multiplied, until eventually we could see the source – the white mass of glaciers streaming downwards, spewing the iceberg children into the ocean. The generous pilot, probably a nature admirer himself, flew us right above the magical landscape, seemingly only a few hundred meters above. I’ve never seen anything comparable with these views of Greenland from the air.
My first icebergs:
Following suit was mainland Greenland, an interesting misnomer. Green land? It’s pretty white down there – mountain ranges coevered in ice, snow.
This is “the real thing” – here come the glaciers!!!
All elements blur
The glaciers merge as they flow downhill into a zero-degree sea creating ice slush.
In the photo above one can easily see how the gliding glacier turns into a slow- moving river. At the point where ice turns into water, clouds already reflect.
Gravitation is king here (and other physical laws too, of course…)
It’s all coming together in the above take.
One can get an idea of continental drift from watching those glaciers. What we consider solid, simply isn’t “set in stone”. Gravity works its way slowly depending on the medium. Relative to one another, some solids are harder than others, or conversely, more “fluid” than others. It is all the same material, endlessly transforming. Granites in the Negev erode, breakdown, turn to sand.
Entering Canadian skies, molten summer lakes glimmered as the sun was setting to create these breathking beautiful vistas.
I never understood how people can just sit and read or watch TV when such natural marvels present themselves for their luxurious viewing. This is true for traveling down on land, too, but up in the heavens there is that additional element of depth and perspective lacking in our earthbound (or more often city-bound) existence. Flying is still special for most of us, an occasion to let wonder in, to be a child.
Even the cloud formations transfix my consciousness. There are clouds that are plain boring, I admit, but more often than not, clouds are fascinating boundless beings, hard to define and “put in a box”. Where does a cloud start, or end? Can “it” be “seen” only from a distance, but fail to be observed while you are actually immersed in “it”? And then there are those clouds that drip some thin golden drops up in the thin air to never reach any ground, seemingly talking among themselves.
How to define a cloud? The cloudscape was the atmospheric counterpart of the Greenland landscape – the various elements were simply playing with each other, pushing against each other, trying their limits. Then with a slight change of energy, everything transforms. And in all that, we breathe, observe and take in that which is so beyond us.
Into the Woods - Homecoming
Boston Logan Aairport – Terminal E. I collect my luggage and easily go through the green line for returning Americans. Equipped with a pre-purchased ticket, I follow instructions on “how-to-get” to the C&J shuttle. This was a luxury bus, complete with a courteous driver, small water bottles and newspapers, located on and in a large container right at the front. All that came free with the fare. Ah, America…
Dear friend was expecting me at Portsmouth, NH, an unfamiliar name in an unfamiliar state. To be truthful, all of New England was mixed up in my brain, tucked in a drawer to figure out later. When I disembarked from the bus, I did not spot anybody familiar and thought, “Oh, well”, only to get a long and warm embrace from a man I haven’t seen in many years and needed a moment to make sure I recognized.
I landed at 18:15, so it was already dusk by the time we met. Light lingers in these latitudes, so we could still see things as he drove us down a major highway. Now I know we were on U.S. 95, also called “The Maine Turnpike”. A small toll booth was located in the midst of the rumbling traffic, and Jim stopped to pay. He used some specialized device for the payment, but the explanation was too much information for me at that moment.
It got darker and darker as we moved on, driving into smaller and less crowded roads, and then on to comfortable country roads. Finally he veered the vehicle into a small nondescript lane, stopped the car, turned off the engine. I found myself in the total darkness and absolute quietude of a tall conifer forest. Nothing, but nothing, made sound. Stars sparkled between the treetops. I knew I reached my new home…