Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Across the World Tour: Kirsten Hubbard's Almost Adventure

What Is All This?

To celebrate the launch of Across the Universe on 1-11-11, we're going Across the World with guest posts of adventures from all over the world! This is all a part of the Across the World Tour. First, read the world adventure below. Then, click through to the adventurer's blog to find a letter.

Why a letter? Because the letters--when unscrambled--form a password. And the password opens up the secret page (LOOK for it above). And on the secret page is lots of goodies--secret information about the origins of the book, hidden Easter eggs, and...a entry form to win a prize of a signed ARC of Across the Universe, star swag, and MORE.

Today's Adventurer

I want to be Kirsten Hubbard when I grow up. The fact that Kirsten's 2 years younger than me is not to be mentioned. Y'all know that I love travel. Heck, this Across the World tour is evidence of that. But I'm a casual traveler compared to the awesome Kirsten. She has "hiked ancient ruins in Cambodia, dived with wild dolphins in Belize, slept in a Slovenian jail cell, and navigated the Wyoming badlands" (read more). Not only that, but Kirsten has also written a beautiful contemporary YA, LIKE MANDARIAN, coming March 8, 2011 from Random House. LIKE MANDARIN is about a girl who wants to be beautiful like the dangerous girl from the wrong side of the tracks, Mandarin. Her next book, WANDERLOVE, (Delacorte, Spring 2012), in which a girl rides a motorboat through a Central American rainstorm and is also not struck by lightning, is already on my shortlist.

My Almost Adventure
Over the course of my travels, I've had a lot of almost adventures. We're talking, Wow! That would have been really insane and scary if THAT had happened! Like the bed tarantula, or the scary men in the café, or every time my chicken bus swerves away from a herd of cattle (happens more often than you'd imagine). Typically, "that" never happens -- I've been lucky. Especially during the trip on which I discovered that Yes, Kirsten, lightning can strike a boat.

I mean, of course it can! Why couldn't it? But when Michelle, Jenny and I boarded the tiny motorboat in the rainstorm, we convinced ourselves otherwise. We were trying to get to Belize from the funky Guatemalan village of Livingston, and unless we wanted to backtrack up the rainforest river, the only practical way was by sea.

We wrapped our backpacks in a tarp, and ourselves in another. As the boat driver steered us into the solid, endless waterfall pouring over that corner of the Caribbean, we had no choice but to endure. Oh, it was miserable. The rain poured through breaches in the tarp. Our speed was reduced to land sloth. Thunder and lightning crashed right overhead, the flash and boom simultaneous. I didn't peek out to check, so as not to risk lightning bolt in the eye, except lightning doesn't strike boats, right?

It went on so wretchedly long I started questioning reality. "Is this a dream?" "Have I always been here?" "Am I even alive?"

At long long last, the boat bumped against the dock in Punta Gorda Town. We climbed out and ushered ourselves through the customs shack, then headed to the bus station for the all-day journey that would deposit us on the island of Caye Caulker, soaked but not really that freaked out, because it's not like lightning strikes boats anyway, right?

So here's where the story gets extra crazy. Michelle and I had been planning on diving Belize's Blue Hole, which is exactly what it sounds like: an insanely deep sinkhole way out in the Caribbean, swarming with things like hammerheads and mermaids. We visited a dive shop and discussed it, and discussed it, and finally, mournfully, decided against it – the excursion was $200 and we were on a backpacker budget, the boat ride was hours long, the dive was a little too deep for us, and mermaids are really sort of freaky, you know? We signed up for a humble reef dive instead.

All night, we heard the storm roaring from our hostel beds. The next morning, sun gleamed in the puddles as we headed to the dive shop for our dive. It was closed. Confusedly, we stopped by another dive shop and found the divers milling around, spooked beyond belief. Turns out, the dive boat to the Blue Hole had been struck by lightning before it even reached the reef. And the Divemaster had been gripping a metal pole when it hit.

By the end of the day, we found out he died at the hospital in Belize City. His death rocked the tiny, close-knit island, and hit us pretty hard. I mean, I can't even call it a near-miss, exactly. But it was still way too close for comfort, considering the dive boat we were almost on, and the motorboat we rode through the storm.

It definitely makes me thankful most of my adventures have been almost, instead of otherwise.

Go Across the Blogosphere!
The adventure's not over yet! Go to Kirsten's site to find another letter in the password to the secret page. Collect all the letters in the first two weeks of November for a chance to win a signed ARC, star-swag, and pin-buttons!

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