I wish it hadn't taken me slamming into a prickly pear cactus to make a great point about traveling solo, but it did. Here's the sad tale.
In heavy hiking boots, on a trail marked "difficult," I tripped and pitched forward. Under normal circumstances I think I would have been able to right myself. But with boulders planted on the trail, I kept misstepping, never getting my feet under me, until I took the header into the big green vertical bed of needles. A "sider" actually. I finished the spill with my back leaning on the cactus.
Ouch, ouch ouch ouch ouch...and a hundred more ouches. That's the sound of someone having many, many hair-brush sized needles pulled out one at a time from arms, legs, back and other more interesting places. By me, and both my hiking companions.
Stupid accident. But here's the thing...I had two sympathetic people helping me. The guide had tweezers and alcohol swabs with her. When I left the two of them to finish their hike, I went back to the trail head, and a second guide took me back to the hotel.
She set me up with ice and anti-inflammatories. When I told her about the assistance of the two needle pluckers, who'd gone beyond the call of duty in terms of the places they were pulling from, she said, "That's what friends are for."
Friends, indeed. Even though I've only known them for five days. All the others have been asking after me and when each saw me, she or he said something nice and sympathetic. It's quite the supportive group. I didn't need to bring people from home. I've got all the friends I could want here.
Photo: Ellen Perlman. Sabino Canyon, Tucson. "Before the fall."