(2000 was before the digital revolution and thus not all of the 50 some rolls of film have I taken to making digital yet)

Let's begin with some introductions here. My name is Erin.  While

I've lived in Colorado my whole life, since I was 5 I have always

considered myself a citizen of the world. Coming from a multi-cultural

family, I guess that's not too surprising. But for the early part of my

life, our family was primarily contained in Colorado. With Dad still

working through years 10-20(?) of medical school, many family trips

were taken in the Blue Whale (an old 12 passenger Ford van) to see

family in California. Later the Blue Whale was traded in for the Isuzu

Pooper that drove the whole family down to the Yucatan Peninsula (when

I was 4) and to the tip of the Baja Peninsula (when I was 12).

Costa Rica

Now

I still consider ourselves fortunate to have so many wonderfully crazed

memories of family car trips (don't we all), but it wasn't until 2000

that we were truly blessed. Taiga, my sister, did an Outward Bound trip

to Costa Rica that June and we met up with her in San Jose after her

course finished. Based out of one of the many cute B&B's of the

city we drove up to Volcan Poas National Park. I was instantly reminded

of Lassen Volcanic National Park in California, only Poas is even more

grand. Amid the largest jungle leaves I have ever seen, sprouts this

vast crater with the most turquoise blue lake filling its center.

No

trip to Costa Rica is complete without a tour of a coffee plantation

and if you're fortunate enough, you must check out Tabacon Resort at

the base of the Arenal Volcano. A river flows from the base of the

volcano, through thick jungle canopy with Spider monkeys playing in the

branches. It is this setting that Tabacon has set up a hot springs

resort following the natural curves, bends, and falls of the river. On

a clear night, you can either soak or eat while watching the volcano

throw glowing, magma covered boulders down its slopes.

After

meeting up with Tai, we headed up north to the Monte Verde Cloud

Forest. Covered in fog, Monte Verde is a very mysterious place... as

were the odors coming from Tai's clothes after her stint with Outward

Bound. We found some unfortunate lavandaria to wash her clothes for

her, but to no avail. Most had to be thrown out. But after that was

settled it was decided that when you're in Costa Rica, you zip line.

Yep Mom, you zip line. Flying above a jungle canopy with mariposas

floating beside you just reminds you that the material things, like

clothes, really don't matter and that there still are islands of

tranquility left in this world.

Following the cloud forest we

caught a small flight from San Jose to the Osa Peninsula. Flying small

planes are always a treat ('though not for Mom as she loaths small

planes) because someone usually gets to sit in the co-pilots seat. That

seat was reserved for Dad this trip and as he's watching the trip

reader which says we're at our location, he looked down to see nothing

but a green field and a shack. Yep, that was the air strip. After a

remarkably smooth landing, we traversed by Jeep across rivers and death

potholes to a pebbly beach. From there, a bumpy boat ride brought us to

Bajia Drake (Drakes Bay), a peaceful, green outcrop on the Osa

Peninsula bordering Corcovado National Park.

What is there not

to do on the Osa Peninsula? Early morning bird watching hikes? Check.

Hiking around the park looking for Tapirs? Check. Going out with a

dolphin researcher and swimming with wild dolphins? Check. Relaxing in

hammocks while watching lightening storms off the coast? Check.

Drakes

Bay provided great guides to take us around the extensive forests and

point out the wonderful things gringos would otherwise miss. Did you

see that sloth up there in the trees? Watch out! There's a very

poisonous snake there. Got a bad cut? Get an ant to bite around the cut

then pitch its head off. Voowahla... Stiches. But it was the random

dolphin researcher who was staying at the ranch who really offered the

opportunity of a life time. The researcher was studying the social

behavior of the Pacific Spotted Nose Dolphin and what better way to

study than see how they interact with humans. About 30 miles off the

coast we encountered a pod of about 300 dolphins. Horizon to horizon

was spotted with dolphins leaping into the air and surfing with the

boat. Not even my sea sickness would stop me from getting in the water

with them and snorkel around watching their unique interactions. Of

course that sea sickness would stop me from eating my pita peanut

butter and jelly sandwich for lunch.

Costa Rica had touched the

family so much that it was almost symbolic when Mom almost bought a

butterfly farm and nearly cried when we had to head back north to the

states. But as my other blogs will tell, it wouldn't be our last time

to Costa Rica.

South Africa

In

2000, Durban was the host of the International AIDS Conference. Dad was

going to Africa and when would be the next time that any of us would be

able to have such an opportunity. So, we all packed our bags and 50

rolls of film (pre-digital camera revolution) and hoped a British Air

flight to London then to Johannesburg. And a note to the not-so-wise.

.. Do not eat a street vendor British hot dog with sauteed onions

before boarding a 13 hour flight. And check to make sure your puke bag

is in the seat back in front of you. Flight attendants do not like a 14

year old handing them a puke filled blanket.

Landing in

Johannesburg at some odd hour has made some odd memories for me. Did we

really get KFC there? Regardless, immediately the next day we meet with

our tour group and start the drive east to Kruger National Park. For

any kid whose watched The Lion King, getting the chance to go on safari

is a dream come true. I was going to get to see Simba, Timon, and the

hyenas!

Well it took a long day drive to even get to the gates

of the park, so my safari animals would temporarily have to be replaced

by the hilarity of the ten 20something-year-old British rugby players.

By the way, "bonked" and "stuffed" have very different meanings in

British English and American English.

When one spends the night

in Kruger, the Park locks you into the camp at night surrounded by 15'

chainlink fence... not to keep you in, but to keep the lions out. Lions

roar loud. Very loud. And you can literally feel the ground vibrate

underneath you as a pack of lions sit outside the fence, frustrated

that such easy prey is locked away. And a note for camping in South

Africa in July... nights are cold. This is their winter after all.

Bring a warm sweater.

Although the next few days would be a

direct challenge for our jet lag, it is hard to not stay awake when

there are so many unique things to see.

To

finish the Safari we spent the night at Pondoro Nature Reserve and to

this day it is a place I DREAM about going back to. From the beautiful

architecture, amazing service, and its LOCATION, it was paradise. The

reserve even has private game guides who will take you on a night time

drive and an early morning drive and there is never a moment that you

don't see something amazing.

But

if Kruger hadn't fully amazed us yet there was still Cape Town to go

to. While Dad went to the Conference in Durban, Mom, Tai, and I carried

on south to the tip of Africa where yes, there are penguins.

They

are called Jack Ass Penguins and for good reason. They beigh like

donkeys and just as loud too. They're mean little suckers too that like

to hide under your car, under stairs, and behind rocks and will come

out to peck and hiss at you. They may seem cute as they're looking up

at you, cocking their heads sideways, but really they're just sizing

you up for battle.

We drove out to the Cape of Good Hope one

evening and there is such a feeling of smallness when you do this.

You're sitting on the end of a continent, staring out in to an endless

stretch of ocean where the closest land is the most remote place on

earth, Antarctica.

On the drive back I saw my first wild

ostrich. Little did I know that later that night I would be eating

ostrich. A yummy dark meat. But my mind could accept just ostrich as

new foods, because in but a moment we would be on our way to Paris.

France/Germany/back to France/Switzerland/back to France/back to Switzerland/Italy/back to France

Following

South Africa, Dad had a meeting in Paris, France. This time the flight

went without a puking incident. But landing at Charles De Gaulle

airport is an experience all of its own, especially renting a car and

trying to drive out. We landed in Paris with all of our gear and

souvineers picked up in South Africa and thus had more weight in bags

than we did in people. Good thing this all happened before airlines

started charging for luggage. But the rental car company sets us up

with a tiny Renault Clio. Dad had already been in Paris for a couple of

days and still had a few more left in meetings, so

we carried on out of Paris (easier to go out than back in), and drove

to Cologne, Germany. I wish I could remember what it was like to drive

through Belgium, but all I can remember is rain.

Mom has good

friends who live in Cologne, working for the Sports College in town. A

sports college, now this was a new idea for me. We were able to see in

on their gymnastics practices and strange performing art performances.

But the memorable parts of Cologne, at least for a 14 year old, were

the old Gothic cathedrals, 200m. wood velodrome, and of course, the

chocolate museum. I know that in my Czech blog I said I had the best

chocolate of my life, but at 14, I made up my mind that German

chocolate was better than Swiss and that German black bread is far

superior to anything the French came up with.

After just a few

days we had to drive the little Clio back to France and back into

Paris. This when I discovered that my mother could string together

series of curses that would make a prison blush. The roads in and

around Paris kind of resemble a bicycle wheel, with one big highway

around the outside and all the spokes going to the Arc de Triomphe. In

between the spokes is a webbing of smaller roads. Now, we just dove

straight into the mess hoping to find where the luxurious Four Seasons:

George V hotel, but the problem was that we were looking at the main

name of the street, rather than the type of street. Let me elaborate.

In Paris a street can be named, le Rue de Napoleon, le Avenue de

Napoleon, or le Boulevard de Napoleon, and they will all be miles apart

from each other. So you can guess that when you're only looking at

Napoleon on the street sign, you could very well not be anywhere near

where you want to be... Remember, this is all before the glorious age

of GPS in rental cars... Eventually we realized to get on the outer

highway, aim for the Arc, navigate the giant traffic circle and, only

going around once, make it safely to the George V.

The

George V is a beautiful hotel from the 1920s and represents all the

ritz and clam of the Champs Elysees. There are vases bigger than me,

full of roses, and elegant ball rooms with too many forks to know what

to do with. For a teenager, out of Colorado who was used to rock

climbing and playing in the mud, this was quite a new scene.

Of

course you cannot go to Paris without at least seeing the Eiffel Tower

or Notre Dame, where apparently a distant relative of mine is entombed

after being beheaded during the revolution.

While

I wish we could have lingered longer in Paris, at least to see the

Louvre, Dad finished his meeting and was determined to catch up to Le

Tour De France, which was just entering Switzerland.

Crossing

borders pre-European union was not quite as easy as it is now, mostly

because there were entry and exit taxes that had to be paid in the

proper currency. As we reached the Swiss border, we managed to pay the

exit tax from France, but didn't yet have Swiss francs. Confused, the

Swiss sent us back to France (pay French entry tax), go to the near by

ATM, pull out Swiss fancs, exit France again (pay French exit tax), and

finally make it into Switzerland (pay Swiss entry tax). I distinctly

remember the Swiss border official saying "Go back to France" in a

harsh accent while pointing his finger in the direction behind us.

Once

we were in Switzerland, it became that calm, beautiful, serene vista

that everyone imagines, except for more traffic circles. After driving

for a week in Paris, Mom eventually got so sick of the little ones in

Switzerland that she just started driving over them. Good thing we got

that insurance on that Clio. We stayed with some friends in Bern, who

were able to inform us on some fun Swiss laws. For example, if you live

in an apartment building, you cannot flush the toilets after 10pm. And

at stop lights, they go green, yellow, red, yellow, green. This is

because they require you to turn your car off at stop lights. The

yellow before the green is your chance to start your car again. There

was something else odd about the grocery store, but I can't seem to

remember that one.

Our friends joined us to view the Tour as it

passed through the mountains. Going to see the tour is such a different

experience than you would ever think on TV. But if you go, I suggest

catching it in the mountains as you will have more time to see the

riders pass. The biggest hoop-la when watching the tour in person is

the caravan of sponsors vehicles. For hours before the riders even pass

you, car after car representing the team sponsors drive past at parade

speed, hucking all sort of shwag and souvenirs out the windows, or in

some cases, giant fake cheese wheel attached to the car. The hardest

part though is watching out for the little kids, who will nearly beat

you up at the chance to grab anything being thrown during the caravan.

In 2000, Lance Armstrong was on his way to winning his second Tour De France. I can happily say I saw him ride.

After

the hullabaloo of the stage finished, we drove back down the pass, but

not before horrifying out Swiss friends and stealing a marker sign...

still hanging in my parents basement to this day.

On the way to Italy, it was necessary to stop off in the beautiful Swiss alps. Mandatory stops were the Eiger and the Jungfrau.

We

brought the tiny Clio down into the beautiful Lago Maggiore. There is

something about the northern lake district of Italy that is so pristine

and beautiful that you cannot help but imagine all of the fairy tales

and legends that surround it... if your a Star Wars fan, imagine the

planet Naboo from Episode 1...

And if you're in northern Italy

and do not stop for galletas and gelato then you're a fool. I think Mom

lived off those cookies from Italy to France.

At some point we

had to leave the beautiful Italy and head back to France again to

finally start the journey back home.... But not before stopping off to

see the majestic atterhonrn.

Oh, but to drive back into Paris and then to the maze of Charles De

Gaulle. Again more swearing, couple of times in and out of the airport,

then good by trusty little Clio... May we never meet again.

We

flew out of Paris on July 25, 2000. Before we checked in, we tried to

see if there was any availability on more direct flights home. We were

offered a flight on a Concorde that would leave a couple hours after

our scheduled departure, but we'd arrive home far sooner. Since the

price difference just didn't justify it four a family of four, we opted

to stay with our original flights. And a good thing too. Because when

we landed we found that that Concorde had crashed on takeoff, killing

everyone on board and four on the ground.

Relieved to be home

and glad to have made it safe, the Summer of 2000 sparked a serious

travel bug for the Young family that has yet, and will probably never,

stop.


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