June 11, 2018
                   No. 221
Force Majeure
“Do we have a force majeure clause in our Terms and Conditions?” Becky asked, “because the situation in Nicaragua is deteriorating. Some other companies have already pulled out.”
Nicaragua, Becky had informed us earlier, was safe, the safest of the Central American countries into which we were taking travellers.

But nothing is certain in this world. Protests were building, cities were being trashed, highway road-blocks were everywhere. A coup was likely. 

We had a tour scheduled to enter the country in a week. “Please don’t come!” our transportation and activity suppliers were advising us, even though their livelihood depends on trips like ours.

A force majeure clause means that if circumstances completely out of your control interfere, making it inadvisable, illegal or impossible to perform your contractual obligations, you have the right to cancel them. 

We didn’t want to cancel the whole trip just because a part of it was in Nicaragua. Our clients agreed, instead, to fly over the country and spend six days in Costa Rica instead. Becky scrambled to plan a quick Costa Rican itinerary, secure hotels and transportation, etc. Other companies were doing the same. Becky’s long-standing relationships in the region served us well; she was able to make the alternative arrangements on incredibly short notice and provide the guests with a great experience!

“This is the first time in my eight years of guiding here in Central America that I’ve had to resort to the force majeure clause,” she said.

After the trip ended, May 31, she flew back to her home in Guatemala City, next door to the World Heritage city of Antigua where this trip had started, and which serves as a major hub for us and most other travel companies. This idyllic city is surrounded by three volcanoes: Fuego, Acatenango and Pacaya. Fuego stands sentinel over the grand scene. We hike up Pacaya on one of our trips.

June 3, just three days after her arrival home, Fuego blew its top. Many were killed in villages at its base, though Antigua, itself, was safe. Yet, the devastation affects everyone.

This Wednesday she informed us that Pacaya had also begun erupting.

June 13 we have another trip leaving Antigua, bound for San Jose, Costa Rica. They’ll also spend six days in CR instead of Nicaragua.

But that doesn’t happen only in Central America. Last year, on short notice, we had to adjust the first three days of a scheduled trip here in BC when fires closed the Cariboo region. Fortunately, we found an equally good alternative; it even lead to a permanent change to that itinerary.

Events like this make us ponder how prepared we are for circumstances that are out of our control. We may not need to worry about a coup or a volcanic eruption (though Mt. Baker is still considered active). But are we prepared for an earthquake? What about flood or fire?

Authorities remind us all the time to be prepared for such. But do we, individually, always take that seriously? 

I’m sure glad Becky had nurtured all those connections in Central America in advance, to provide a smooth adjustment and a good outcome.

It’s a lesson to all of us.

At least that’s how I see it . . . 

. . . and on another note,

Vegas’ Cinderella run to the Stanley Cup ended last night (as I write this). The expansion team with the dream inaugural season finally ran out of golden slippers, even in Las Vegas.

But Washington, after more than forty years of frustration, and their star player Ovechkin, who’s done everything but win the big one, finally got their due. And I was happy for them both.

Now if only the Canucks, Jets and Senators could do the same one of these years!