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"If you want to be happy in life, keep all of your commitments and don't expect other people to keep any of theirs." -- John-Roger & Peter McWilliams

Episode 16: Camel Toe
@ Where`s Cherie?     Aug 05 2002 - 16:16 PST
Cherie on a camel.  Camel not shown.

Cherie on a camel. Camel not shown.

cherie writes: Checking in: Jean, Kristi, Cherie & Miguan

Like little blots of volcanic chocolate, the Canary Islands rest on a clear wax paper sea. The first island we savored was Tenerife. The volcano on Tenerife is the highest point in all of Europe.

Looking below, the clouds hoover beneath you like a bath of cotton candy. The crisp air is laced with the musky smell of mint. It was here that we stumbled upon an old fort. (Is there such thing as a new modern fort?) Inside the old fort we found an old composer. We listened in silence as the choreographed melodies of the grand piano collided off the haphazard stone walls. Who fort concert?

The island roads of Tenerife are lined with baby daisies. They look like chaotic lines of little girls twirling their white skirt petals as you drive past. The daisies are rooted in a coarse bed of uprooting itself at all costs. The cars (enlarged Tonka Toys) race around the tiny twisting paths as if there were a finish line at the end. (Of course this allows everyone the benefit of enjoying their last meal again.) The roads have no names, so we are perpetually lost. But then, we have no urgent need to be found.

Tenerife is off the coast of the Sahara Desert. So, when there is a sand storm, a thin haze covers the sky and makes the sun appear like the moon. The horizon becomes blurred and you feel as if you are in a light blue abyss. Then the island seems to transform into a piece of art; its once vibrant colors bleeding into each other and looking like smudges from an impressionist painting.

Being an American here is tantamount to being from Mars. We guessed this when we went to an "international bar" and the USA flag was hung upside down. We informed the owner and he gave us the "thanks-for-the-info-but-I`m-not-going-to-fix-it" shrug. People here don`t seem to like Americans much. We have this reputation for being loud and obnoxious. (Unfortunately I perpetuate that stereotype more than I destroy it.) This has been the nicest thing someone has said about the USA. "I`ve been to The States once and I got sunburned behind me knees."

On Gran Canaria, the next island, there are completely nude beaches. On most beaches about half the women go topless. (Usually it is the half that you would prefer to see clothed.) The best thing about nude beaches is watching naked people jiggling about trying to shake sand out of the folds and crevices the sand was never invited to.

We have added Miguan to our travel group. Miguan is our new friend, guide, photographer, musician, sherpa, and self-proclaimed chef. He has a little money, but a lot of personality. His thoughts are wise beyond his years, but he drives like a 14-year-old with his first stick shift. He was born on the island of Gran Canaria and his father is the artist who painted us. Gran Canaria is where waves of sand dunes crash into a glass turquoise sea.

Sand dunes means desert, and desert means camels. (Note: Jean won the camel imitation contest. Special mention for Kristi´s whale sounds and Miguan´s version of a blender.) We road the camels with scarfs around our heads so we would blend in with our desert background. We ended up looking like the silly tourists we are. When you see a camel a childish urge comes that you can´t deny. "Ride it." So we did. Camels are awkward, but funny. (Until they charge at you, and then they are scary.) I couldn`t resist taking pictures of their feet since they are so famous: Camel Toe.

Did you know that a blue circle with a red line through it means "No Parking"? We learned this after we tried to get off our camels and into our car. It was towed. Irony: Four of us squashed into a subcompact rental car to save money only to fork over a hundred bucks in towing fees. Morale: Ignorance is expensive.

Eager to hear more warnings, a local advised us not to swim beyond the reef because of sharks. He then continued with a long monologue of other reasons not to go past the reef. I stopped listening (what a shock, I`ve never done that before) I didn't`t need any more convincing after I heard the word "shark". Jean had a good follow up question: "When the tide rises, don`t the sharks just swim over the reef?" No one has yet given us an acceptable answer to this, so I have made it a point to wade next to chubby people--so I´ll be a less desirable lunch choice.

It was on Gran Canaria that we saw a beach prettier than any postcard. A cove of Bouganvilla enveloped a bay of sand so white a virgin`s wedding dress would have blended in. The flowers were the vibrant colors of Otter Pops...almost too colorful to be natural. They looked like a necklace of cheap scrunched up tissues, or bad origami discarded on the sand. The ocean beckoned us to become a part of it. The sea infected us with its ripples until we felt its hypnotic push and pull in every capillary. Mesmerized, we dropped lifelessly into a perfectly matched chair-umbrella combination. This is the type of place where they serve their home-made ice-cream in a Martini glass. Call it what you will: paradise, heaven, nirvana, utopia. They call it, the Canary Islands.

We extended our island stay a week...(what a shock!!!) The next stop is Barcelona.


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