Celebrating 50 years of Adventure Travel

My Irrepressible Curiosity of Place

March 29, 2019 by Kay McMahon

While I can easily name a favorite employer, town, even car, an old Audi TT, I can’t pull out a favorite MTS trip. The memories won’t allow it. And so, I pull remembrances from several wonderful MTS trips that for me weave together a story of travel, of how it stretches the mind, feeds the spirit, celebrates the sheer exuberance of nature, bridges cultures, and invites us to appreciate each step along a journey.

Galapagos Islands, July 2003
To ease heartache as the door closed on a relationship, I replaced a practical Subaru with the aforementioned used sports car and booked a trip to the Galapagos Islands. Nothing can quite prepare you for the mind-boggling experience of navigating a path around extremely large sunbathing land iguanas, to then find yourself within inches of an unflinching blue-footed booby.

Encountering this seemingly oblivious fear of humans was a jolting moment of liberation. I felt giddy, as if I was four years old again, my belief in magic and that frogs talked if adults weren’t around, momentarily restored.

Mount Everest, Lower Khumbu Trek, December 1999
It was absolutely cold where we set-up camp on the expanse of ground near the Tengboche Monastery, in the shadow of Everest. It was there that we celebrated the dawn of the millennium, on the year the world did not, after all, come to an end.

Hundreds of people, Sherpas and travelers, yaks and horses, tents adorned with flags and banners, shared what appeared to be every available inch of space. The night pulsed against the black sky, one year rolling into the next, with prayers, chanting, singing, and dancing while staying warm by joyfully jumping about in our sleeping bags.

Antarctic Peninsula, Weddell Sea, December 2004
At its unruly brouhaha best, the weather demanded full attention. The exposed skin of my hands and face was slapped by the elements, the air was wet, and the sound of wind and waves crashing against and over the lower deck of the ship was deafening.

Stepping outside to an open-air passageway, the minute-before warmth of my cabin was immediately lost. Clutching the door handle, my first impulse was to get back inside quick. Instead, I held on tighter, laughing at the sheer exuberance of Nature. And of Drakes Passage, as I had hoped it might be.

Over six hundred wet miles separated our departure point on the Beagle Channel from the Antarctic Sound. Heading from the Atlantic toward the cold, dense, Southern Ocean, the fewer than 200 crew and passengers turned their attention from land to crossing Drake’s Passage, a section of sea notorious for wild weather. Secretly I hoped for nature at her liveliest, for winds and waves big enough to put the size of the ship and all stuff human into perspective.

When we entered the Antarctic Sound, the world we had known eclipsed into a land and seascape void of excess. As the elongated days with their seamless views of water and ice rolled on, the journey took on a dimension of time travel, making a brief winter trip feel timeless.

Morocco, December 2006
As the rest of our group disappeared from sight on the walk up a remote valley, local women and girls doing laundry by the river ran up to me and another woman traveler who had stayed behind. We had done so in the hope of meeting them.

Suddenly, as if a team in a huddle at a football game, we were a small community of women in very close proximity, communicating with gesture, expression, curiosity. We admired the intricate henna artwork on their hands, arms, they ruffled my companion’s cropped boyish hair. Invited to join them with their washing, then teased a bit about our naivety of the task, we spent an afternoon with our new acquaintances by the river, the stark red Moroccan landscape offset by a clear blue sky.

Salkantay Trail to Machu Picchu, December 2009
Thrilled at last to be going to Machu Picchu, hiking there via The Salkantay Trail led me to almost forget where it was I was going. With each full day of hiking we were pulled into the immediacy of one lush valley after the next, of the push to cross the Salkantay pass, and of the realization that down pours over several nights had turned creeks into small rivers that required ingenuity to maneuver. When at last we did reach our destination, it came as if it were a brilliant surprise.

Patagonia, December 2014
As the road rolled endlessly on through Patagonia, on our way to start a hike through Torres del Paine National Park, lyrics from a song played and replayed in my thoughts. “Here’s to now.”

Kay McMahon, MT Sobek Guest

MT Sobek Trips from 1999 to 2014

About the Author Kay McMahon

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