By prevailing over all obstacles and distractions, one may unfailingly arrive at his chosen goal or destination.
– Christopher Columbus (who never arrived at his “chosen” destination, which was India, as we all know…)
About a week ago, after visiting the Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, we found a peculiar beach! We discovered it, like Columbuses, and we conquered it!
Turtle Beach, where log-head turtles the size of a car crawl out of the sea at night to bury their eggs in the sand and hope for the best, is not far from the more famous and crowded white-sanded Siesta Key Beach (our initially chosen destination, which we somehow diverted from) . Not many people come here, as there are not many hotels around. Instead, there is a campground next to a City Park, and the beach is occupied mostly by the few camp visitors, which makes it very homy and friendly place.
There, we park Baba Ghanoushe in the huge free parking area near the beach, and as we do not see any signs forbidding overnight parking, we decide to stay. A week later, we are still here, on the other side of the campground’s fence.
Sometimes it makes me sad thinking how our old Baba is all alone, like an unpopular outsider, and all other campers are huddling cosily in the campground. But then, she is different, isn’t she, and this is the whole point, being different, living alternatively, outside main stream society, literally outside. It is not an easy thing to do because outside of the campground we don’t get the “full hook-up” that the others pay for: electricity, water, showers and laundry, but hey, we are saving $50 per night, spending quality time in a resort spot for free!
Our first day on the beach, Tuesday, January 15, is fantastic. We sunbathe, we play in the waves, we fish among languorous herons and pelicans, and we (mostly Viktor) catch ten flounder, which is one of the best tasting fish we ever had.
First, we see other people fishing from the shore and they tell us how it’s done.
They show us how to catch first our bait: tricky tiny mole crabs, scooping sand with hands from the edge of the water as the waves retreat. With a shy mole crab on the hook, we start pulling out fish after fish after fish, every time celebrating with a frantic cheer and dance, which quickly earn us fame among everyone on the beach.
Thanks to the flounders we are catching, we meet Nancy and Pierre who come to inspect our catch.
Nancy and Pierre are “our people,” from the frozen land up in Canada, where French language is spoken, and this is of course the base for new friendship in a foreign country.
These guys are incredible, unique people, and you won’t know what I mean unless you have met them. But you probably have. Remember that skinny 15-year-old guy with long curly hair hitchhiking dressed as a boy-scout from Montreal to Miami in 1967?-it’s Pierre! Or maybe you’ve met him on the road between Canada and Peru in 1975, when he was driving a Westwalia all over Central American like a true hippy. Or if you happened to be somewhere between Sidney and Pakistan in the 1980s, you will certainly remember him driving around in his car. Or maybe a motorcycle passed you on the roads of Guatemala and Costa Rica?-It’s him for sure! And if you are not much of a hippy-type traveller, maybe you have met Nancy, working on a cruise ship in some far away sea? Yes, if you are a politician from New Mexico, and, incrustrated on a tooth (upper second incisor) you have a diamond which for many years shined on the belly button of a belly dancer who fell in love with you and gave you the diamond as a souvenir, you’ve met Nancy on the cruise ship, mister Diamond Tooth Miller…
Such are Nancy and Pierre, travelers and story-tellers. Plus, they know exactly what we need, as they’ve already done what we are doing, and that same evening after the beach, as we are stuffing ourselves with pan-fried flounder, Pierre showes up on a bicycle with a flashlight on the head and smuggles us in the campground, the four of us, to the after-dark hot-water showers, the best showers we had since we left Canada in November.
The next day, Wednesday, we spend together on our beach, fishing, sharing stories, cutting hair… Yes, Maya gets a haircut on the beach, again, this time by a professional hairdresser and a first-grade nomad. Nancy, thank you! You are amazing!
And I get a story which goes something like this:
There was a 37 feet sailboat, ketch-rigged, named Chinook 2 traveling from Portugal to Pakistan in 1981. There was nobody on the boat but the captain and Pierre. And a huge grotesque albino rat. The rat, elusive enigmatic creature, who was creeping about all dark corners of the vessel at night, was slowly but surely gobbling up the food supplies, even the cork of the wine bottles. Every morning, for three months, the captain would declare with certainty: “Today, I’ll catch the rat.”
The two sailors tried every possible and impossible method known to man to catch the creature, but in vain. They bought special traps from Tunisia. They tried to lure him with cheese in a cage, only to find the cage burglarized and the cheese stolen. Finally, Pierre adopted a stray cat in Crete, choosing a good sized one from the thousands roaming the streets of the island, a fierce ambitious-looking black-and-white cat, and bestowed upon him the difficult task: catch the rat, dead or alive.
For one entire month, the rat was nowhere to be seen. But evidence of his existence could be found each morning on Pierre’s sleeping bag, in his very bed: rat droppings. What was happening at night, nobody knew but the cat.
A month later, as they were approaching Port Said in Egypt, the cat, possessed with insanity, jumped off the boat, almost falling into the sea, and disappeared forever, running without rest all the way to Al Qababt.
Thus, the albino rat remained forever deep down in the boat’s belly, emitting feeble ominous noises at night like a melancholic ghost, or a very delicate somnambulist.