|Here at last, on the shores of the sea, comes the end of our Fellowship. I will not say, do not weep, for not all tears are an evil.
-Gandalf, Lord of the Rings
And so we reach the end of our journey, and although it is not an ending nearly as dramatic as the one referred to above, it is certainly one that brings mixed emotions. So much we have seen. So many we have met. It's sometimes difficult to sort out all of the wonderful things we now carry with us. What can be said in the final analysis? What have we learned? More importantly, what have we un-learned? Have we become better people? What will the future hold?
The beauty of it all is that it never really ends because the end of one journey is simply the beginning of another. And so life will be. As we find the next adventure...
It is difficult to imagine a more beautiful place to end this trip than in the Galapagos. Whatever the notions you may have on the way in, you are sure to be impressed as the jaw dropping scenery and marvellously approachable wildlife renew your faith in the planet. Some of you have said that my endless analyses and mixed musings have left an impression of cynicism - well - perhaps there is some truth to that - there have been many times when my overly analytical presentation of things is not always on the mark. But chalk that up to the feeling of the day I think. Remember, the impressions are always a combination of what is real and what is subjectively interpreted through the mind and eyes of the viewer. In this case, perhaps it is a tired mind, a weary mind, and maybe even a homesick mind. Still, I appreciate that there is any commentary at all. That makes it all worth it. And as I have noted before in these pages, don't let my impressions get you down, because that is all they are, impressions.
But the Galapagos are something different. Very young islands stranded on the edge of the Nazca plate and slowly drifting south eastward in geological terms, this collection of volcanic islands amazes at every turn. Our ten day trip took us to nearly the same number of islands, each with it's own unique ecosystem; each with it's own unique collection of wildlife. The operators are quite good, making sure that all traces of dirt are washed off before moving to the next island so as to avoid any further contamination. There have been so many introduced species on the islands over the years, that there are many problems to tackle. However, the management of the islands today is not too bad, and is probably the reason why the wildlife continues to be so stunningly approachable.
That is not to say there are no problems. The tourist industry and all the dollars involved has attracted a lot of immigration to the islands from the Ecuadorian mainland (this is now restricted by the government), and during our stay in the islands, an illegal fishing boat was discovered with over 200,000 shark fins on board. (That's not a typo, 200 grand!!!) So things are not perfect. But conservation efforts are certainly underway, if not properly enforced quite yet.
Geologically, because the islands are so young, volcanic activity is quite regular, especially in the western islands which are now over the hot spot. All the islands display amazing volcanic geology and the interesting features of that geology are eclipsed only by the fascinating variety of unique wildlife. Every turn presents something strange from the blue-footed boobies, to the giant albatross that have to take off from a cliff because they are so heavy. The world's only equatorial penguins swim alongside green sea turtles, hammerhead sharks, and the playful Galapagos sea lions. The snorkelling was spectacular! We even had a few encounters with white tipped sharks!
But admittedly, even with all this beauty surrounding us, it was difficult to fully appreciate things as we realized that this was the last part of our journey. Sure, Montreal is going to fun; especially seeing people we know again. But the truth will always be that this place is where we ended our journey. It would be the last place that we had not seen before.
But what is the world? Where has it been? Where is it going? Owen said to me once in response to one of my pages "I think we humans have done alright for ourselves in the final analysis." I'm still not sure... It still just looks like a collection of chance occurrences to me.
The world is hot. The world is poor. We have pushed the poorest to the least hospitable countries where they sometimes eek out the simplest of lives. Inequity abounds. Religions throughout the world seem to yield nothing but control and conflict. And the questions still remain.
Why are we here?
Where did we come from?
Where are we going?
No one has the answers.
And I think that perhaps the answers to the questions above are contained within our hearts, and not outside in the things we have seen and done. Together. 24/7/365. Experiencing everything from extreme elation at conquering high mountain passes to near death in the ditch on the side of the road on an African highway. A newborn baby nephew...
Sometimes, it may have felt like things would tear us apart. But the reality is that all of these challenges, whether positive or negative, have only served to pull us closer together - to strengthen our bond, and know and trust each other's every specific feature and thought. Sure there were battles. Who doesn't argue? But deep down, there is the intimate knowledge of the respect we have earned for one and other in the victories we have achieved, in the vulnerabilities that we have exposed, and in the challenges we have surmounted. We have conquered our world, in a manner of speaking. We have honeymoon planeted.
And in these pages have been the words of but one, when all along it was two. It has always been two. It will always be two. Forever. And so we reach the end of our journey.
The last pages are for you Sam.