Here’s a little shameless self promotion, a piece I did with good friend and blogger Johnny Treadgold. His blog, Le Sunshine, is a commentary on life and travel and all things and is well worth your time. Here are the links.
There is an old treehouse perched above the town like some kind of self-proclaimed deity. Where lover’s lie. Where parents bring children to sit in the old swing that swings way out over the valley so it feels for a moment that you are suspended in nothingness, some hundred metres from the valley below. Suspended.
Behind the treehouse is the volcano, its icy peak ending somewhere up in the clouds. In it’s invisibility and my imagination it is rocky and jagged, leaking lava like through deformed black fingers. Fire and brimstone. Over developed sense of the epic. I laugh at myself. Lovers continue to lie. Families continue to sit. Children continue to swing. Normal.
Something between boom and crack and rumble, but more. Like a caricature of all three smashed together into one and alive. It is the sound of power and the sound of destruction. Of majesty and of terror. Of beauty and doom. The kind of sound you feel a second after you’ve heard it. Like those cracks of thunder directly overhead that shake your house but louder, harder, stronger so that it shakes not houses but mountains. Rolls and writhes down the valley so physically that you can watch it as it collides with the mountains and echoes back and hits you again and shakes the mountain again. Like the whole world had split apart and slammed unceremoniously back into itself. It trembles. It ripples.
And I almost run. Almost. Paused mid flight I see people cowering beneath the treehouse as though it would be some kind of shelter in the event of a rain of molten rock and boulders the size of hotels. I see a man reach for his phone and in my rampant imagination he calls loved ones. He evacuates the unsuspecting town below. He says goodbye.
And then he laughs.
Disarmed, just a little, just enough to look around and see that actually no one has moved. No panic. No frantic flight. Nothing. Normal. Children continue to swing. Parents continue to photograph. Lovers continue to lie.
By all appearances the world is not about to end. Nothing but the normal.
When you stop and take the time to look, really look, you will see that people are just a summation of their opinions and their opinions a summation of their experiences. This is not to say however, that the most opinionated people, or at least the most loudly opinionated, are the most experienced. Quite the contrary. Those who take strong opinions without the basis of experiences are fakes and know they are fakes but seem to feel the need to assure everyone around them that they are the real thing and by way of this attempted assurance somehow pronounce themselves impostors far more so than if they had kept their mouths shut.
Such impostors can often, however, make for interesting conversation. They may offer valuable insight into the world as it is and will almost certainly provide some insight, although inadvertently, into how it arrived at its current crises. Such people will preach such nonsense as a “New World Order,” the “Illuminati,” the puppet master theory, someone controlling all of the world’s leaders with a hidden and evil agenda; their lengthy and entirely ridiculous arguments always ending with the same rhetorical question,
“But who’s pulling the strings?”
They have no idea and neither does anyone else because there really isn’t anyone pulling the strings and if they thought about it for long enough or had some kind of real and meaningful experience they would surely come to the realisation that there are bad people in the world and that they as uneducated opinion holders are only perpetuating the cycle of incapable or exploitive leaders by giving them an excuse. They are their own “New World Order.” They are the string holders, the puppet masters, the facilitators. And for as long as such people remain uneducated and inexperienced the cycle will continue.
And that is my opinion.
Haven’t written for a while. Haven’t needed to.
Writing, like anything creative, is therapy. And, like all therapy, when the need for it ceases so too does its use. Spent the last two months content. Easy. Full. And so didn’t write. So to the people, who if they read this will know who they are, I say thank you. I say good luck. I say be well. I say be happy. I say be, as you made me, content.
I say see you soon.
Made to sound like nothing. The road is blocked, but that’s okay. Just walk around the blockade and into the bus that waits. Then onwards. Like nothing.
The driver switches the lights off before we stop. Halted in blackness. Bodies moving silently down the aisle. No light. No sound. We take our bags, directed up the road. Eyes searching the darkness for the waiting bus. None appears.
Rocks on the road. Someone lights a torch, so not to stumble. Immediately a strained whisper, and the light goes out. No light. No sound. Not right. We pant up the road in the cold, and the altitude. Still no sign of the bus. But things are emerging from the night.
First is the sound of flares. Crack. Like gunshot. Then shouting. Or chanting, but angry. Aggressive. Fires light the hillside. Glowing like medieval war camps. Red against the black.
Breathing hard now, and not because of the altitude. We’re directed off the road onto a steep dirt path. Try to avoid the ruts, the holes, crevices, and the spotlight that shines from the blockade. Go. We can see the bus now. Barely lit. Hiding. At the top of the hill and we’re ushered inside. The sound of the voices and flares still audible. And inside, the bus dark, the fires aglow and reflected in black windows. We sit. We wait. Breathing slowly coming under control.
Everyone is in, and it’s still dark. The bus a nervous murmur. Then for a moment we are blinded by light, and a man yells from the front of the bus.
Anyone missing? Anyone missing? Anyone missing?
For the few seconds his face is illuminated by the light, I see sweat. I see urgency. I see fear. Then back to the blackness and I’m glad I can’t see him anymore.
The bus is moving. Engine roaring. Haste. It’s a good few kilometres before the driver turns the lights on. We’re out. Onwards.
Dreams die hard before sunrise. In the desert. We stand on the empty road by the truck stop. Toes, numb but painful, from the cold. No one has passed us yet, but the truckers are starting their engines and the flow of traffic on the main road is steadily increasing. Staying optimistic. Cold. The sky is lightening and mountains emerge from the dim, snow-capped. Bad sign.
And the trucks aren’t moving. Bad sign. But I’m not giving up. I didn’t wake up in the dark and walk three kilometres with my loaded pack, just to turn around. I want to hitch across The Andes. So we wait. Dom wants to leave, I make him stay. He points to the flashing lights on the hill, probably a road block, snowed in. But maybe not. So I make him wait.
The sun turns the desert blue then purple then red then brown. Still no one has passed us. The trucks are slipping into silence. The truckers are going back to sleep. I don’t want to ask for fear of the answer. I know they know. But I’m not sure I want to.
Cerrado. The way is shut. Dreams die hard before sunrise.
Almost there. We’ve been standing in the middle of the desert for an hour. We stood for 3 yesterday, baking in the heat. The last of our water gone, the last of our food eaten. A long couple of days. But we’re almost there. Waiting.
Another hitch-hiker appears further up the road. And is picked up immediately. We swear and shout abuse that we know he can’t hear. We lose a little hope. We don’t bother trying to hail the trucker down. And when he pulls over beside us, we are annoyed that he’s blocking possible rides. Move.
But when Michael leaps from the cab all ponytail and encouragement, our ill-will is forgotten and we’re climbing up and into the cab and shaking hands with the fellow hitcher who was just a few minutes ago our mortal enemy.
The hitcher is Christian. Lives in the desert. Christian is a singer. The trucker is Michael. Also lives in the desert. The youngest, skinniest, friendliest trucker there ever was. He drives for 6 days straight. Calama, Buenos Aires, Santiago, Calama. He crosses the desert once and the Andes twice on his journey. His smile is wide and welcoming and he talks and laughs easily, rare for a trucker. He is anti-stereotypical. He is an exception, he is exceptional.
We drive through alien landscape. Dry, dead, bare. Through a wind farm where the towering fans emerge from the deadness like giant, lifeless trees. But beautiful. Through the aptly named Moon Valley, where red and purple and blue hills blend into each other and the shadows stop last night’s snow from melting. Through the flattest, driest, most barren, dead and beautiful landscape we’ve ever seen. Or ever will.
By the time we roll into the small town at the base of the snow-capped Andes and in the middle of the desert, the sun has set and we are sad to say goodbye. An adventure over. Michael sleeps in his truck for the night. Christian goes home to his family. And we go on our way.