I have mentioned before how lucky I feel to have traveled to so many foreign lands and seen so many things I never expected to see. I tell you, it is one thing to read about the world, or to even see wonderfully accurate images of it, but there is nothing like the feeling of standing beside something like — say — the Taj Mahal as it soars skyward beside you. I will never forget the day I stood beside that magnificent tomb, contemplating how much love went into its creation for Mumtaz Mahal, the wife of emperor Shah Jahan, who later chose to lie there beside his beloved.

From that day to this I have believed that there is nothing more wonderful in this world than the true love shared by some men and women.

However, it wasn’t only magnificent structures or high flown thoughts, no matter how great they may be, that my travels brought to me. I once stood in absolute wonder as I saw a simple creature living out a life that was so different from ours that given a lifetime of imagination I could never have glimpsed a thousandth of what it was like.

Handling American aircraft at a foreign airbase in Pakistan took me past three beautiful beaches that lay on the rim of the Arabian Sea. One of them was named Sandspit, and it was onto that beach that I drove my open sided military Jeep one night, with nothing more in mind than spending an hour or so enjoying the cool sea breeze on a warm August night while I awaited the arrival time of an aircraft.

The moon that night, as I drove carefully onto the wide, slightly sloping beach in search of a place to park and relax, was hardly more than a thin crescent, so I relied on my headlights to show me the way along the sandy beach. Imagine my surprise when 200 feet ahead I spotted the dark, hulking shape of some kind of large, rounded monster crawling up the sand from the edge of the sea.

Whatever the thing was, it was very dark colored, as dark in my headlights as a piece of polished ebony, and quite unlike anything of its size that I’ve ever seen on a beach. I slowed to a crawl as I approached it, estimating its size as about five-feet-long and three-feet-high, and wondering what kind of sea monster I had stumbled upon.

Imagine how much more amazed I was when I caught sight of what looked like more of the same monsters farther ahead, most of them near the upper edge of the beach where it ended against the road. Slowly — and very carefully — I drove toward the dark, slow moving creatures until I was about 20 feet from the first one. I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw that it was an immense turtle that was slowly — very slowly — struggling up the loose sand, swinging its thick front and rear legs back and forth to painfully eke its way up the sloping beach.

Thinking that it might be there to feed upon something, I glanced up toward the edge of the road. There wasn’t a speck of anything to eat. But then I spotted one of the giant turtles, which was already up at the edge, and was now turned and faced the sea, so I drove around the first one and got nearer to that one.

Next week — My sea turtle education.

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