Wednesday, 10 November 2010


The tyres were drumming some relentless beat and the white line was running under the car like a conveyor belt. As the landscape on the other side of the glass grew into a grey desert I had a sense of the road and it’s welcome smoothness was coming to an end. Despite my expectation it was a shock when it eventually did. It ran into an small town but stayed their, refusing to leave on the west side and allowing only a poor imitation of itself to struggle against the rising ground that led into the mountain foothills. At that point I stopped whist Ernesto reminded himself of the local geography by folding and unfolding a map and thumbing across the road atlas. “We are here”, he pointed and grinned. I was tired and looking for a soft clean bed somewhere.

The clean bed was in a trekkers boarding house. Dirt brown and slightly shambolic, boots and walking sticks in racks outside, no obvious threat of anything being stolen. Chalk boards advertising cheap meals, continuous soup and stew options, local guides, buses to places and woollen hats help onto wooden racks by paperclips. The bed was two dollars, the soup was one and a bottle of beer was two fifty, a hunk of stale bread was free or buried in a simple but confused pricing structure. We did the eating and drinking and regardless of time or the sun’s errant behaviour slept.

Dreams are far more interesting than reality and reality is far less real than dream. I stayed in the dream for what seemed like a long time and then left it, showered and walked out in circles around the straight streets of the anonymous village. Rucksacked students sat smoking outside the one and only café, desperately growing beards if they were male, desperately pleating hair if they were girls. Each one sucked coffee and blew blue smoke and sprouted more wool garments. The car had been parked at an odd abandoned angle next to a waiting donkey and a bicycle. The primitive line up was completed by some straw bales, a clump of battered beer barrels and a pile of rubble. From a certain viewpoint this band of items and materials formed into a linear composition that was pleasing to the eye. I took numerous photographs and joined the students for banter and caffeine in no particular order.

Ernesto joined us as we discussed the mountains and routes, walking strategies as opposed to driven ones and alternate travel plans built precariously around irregular brightly coloured buses and their parrot passengers (we never did see any despite an intensive search). We then speculated about a journey in which we stumbled upon a witches coven (or was it oven) and Indian burial grounds blown over by great sandstorms. I ordered two fried eggs and they duly arrived, Ernesto was hungrier than me and breakfasted on a large steak of an unknown origin. I couldn’t help but notice the donkey was missing.

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