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November 09, 2011
A few good friends
I grew up in a small community, seemingly, in the woods. I played sports, broke bones, got in trouble, got kicked off the bus and generally did most of the things that other kids did. Of course I went through the stages of life that everybody else goes through, though some challenges make you grow faster than others. Regardless, I was a bit of a loner and had very few friends as a kid. Friends were never something that I needed or sought after, I never liked crowds or attention and the truth be told my growth was consumed with a disappointment in the human race. Very little value did I hold for those things I saw that were not worthy of a higher intelligence and people through my youth, for the most part, seemed more like simple animals than anything else.
Leaving Asia and our good pals was a breeze for me but as I mentioned Deya didn’t want to go, she wasn’t ready. I’m always ready though and one of my great pleasures is to get on my bike and ride off into the distance. It’s where I belong, as an individual or a loner maybe; happiness can be found in the uninterrupted drone of the helmet.
We headed South from our friends’ place riding with Kai and Annette to the highway to see them off. I did this because I thought it would help Deya break the cord a little easier, because it’s a nice gesture, but mostly because I love to watch the ‘Duck’ move; it’s a cool machine. As we approached the road Kai said he had to go into town to get fuel, oops, so we had to head North anyways, the problem was the road we were on was one way only and the traffic does not slow down much. The highway was divided, separated by a sandy trench about 3 metres across, maybe a half metre deep. Deya and I turned around to go back the way we had come and I laughed as I saw the Duck burst across the road and enter the ditch emerging on the other side like a soldier advancing out of a trench during a charge. I opened my helmet up and said to Deya, “That’s why they’re the veteran travellers here!” We passed them at the gas station two minutes later and shared a good-bye wave.
I wonder sometimes about media, I know the media is notorious for its promotion of foul news. We blame the media for this and so we should but how much are we to blame and is blame really necessary? My years as a teenager only strengthened my resolve that the only real sin is having faith in the words and writings of men; the same weak creatures who speak from the side of their mouths about righteousness but behave with less honour than street dogs. There were good people in my life but I couldn’t recognize them, I was consumed. The world became a dangerous place that needed defeating and with so much foul news and the impressions of a few dummies this ideology was for me confirmed.
Our first challenge of the day would be to successfully get passed Lima, a city of millions and that means a multitude of bad drivers, we failed. Of course as we entered the city we missed the poorly signed turn for the bypass and were taken into the heart of the city. We’ve been in worse cities and this wasn’t so bad just frustrating that we were going to spend an hour an a half extra to navigate our way out. The streets narrowed and we were following the GPS to twist our way through this labyrinth of streets, cars, people and dogs. We drove against traffic a couple of times on one way streets, too much confusion, confident only in that we were following local drivers doing the same.
In the heart of a sketchy looking neighbourhood with a cop on every other corner I was contacted by a cab. The street narrowed to one lane but that didn’t prevent two cars in the same lane. The traffic was not moving and as we waited for the intersection to clear, Deya in the lead, a white cab pulled up on my left. The cab had three occupants and the driver was an older looking character in about as good condition as his beat up car. The driver was trying to make a right turn so the reason why he had chosen to come up on my left was a mystery soon to be resolved. He pulled himself up on top of the steering wheel for a better look and began inching his way right. I had nowhere to go so as the traffic began to advance I did too. The weird part was that instead of following Deya I was now going right, the old bastard was pushing me, his bumper against my pannier. I accelerated ahead and off the front right bumper leaving a mark, he continued right and up the street. Cops turned their heads, passengers shrugged and I raged silently. I like to remind myself that discretion is the better part of valour but the cabby played a dangerous game that could have resulted in a violent shaking or a quick bitch slapping. I’m glad now that didn’t happen.
We made it out of town and were exhausted by the effort. It’s hard to describe the mental effort required to manage chaos in an organized mind and I laugh to think of Carmelo’s advice, “Be like the fish, they never bump into each other.” I can’t do it but it’s funny as anything to think of me like that. As we travelled North our plan was to visit a little place just off our path on the beach that Carmelo had recommended. Unfortunately the extra time in Lima had eaten up both our schedule and our will, so we got to our turn off and headed East to Huaraz.
The road was good and it was nice to get off the Panamerican. I was happy to be off the Panamerican and into the mountains again but in my mind I was wishing to skip the sightseeing and carry onto our objective of getting North. Despite the feelings we enjoyed the route stopping for a break in a little community along the way. We parked the bikes across the street from a small shop and went over for a coffee.
The shop served a really good coffee and afforded a street view. People walked up and down the street, there were only a few and it was the same people strolling but that’s a small town, a guy laid under his truck seemingly working on something underneath. As we chatted with the shop’s owner a motorbike went slowly by. I told Deya he had plates from British Columbia and the whistling started. First, Deya yelled at the guy, then the shop’s owner started whistling and the chorus of whistling carried on down the street and out of sight. I couldn’t imagine a radio being as effective and it was only a matter of moments that the rider returned after being directed back. We invited him to sit with us for a coffee and he obliged.
Ben came from England and bought the bike, a KLR 650, in Abbotsford B.C. and had learned to ride at that time. Now he had made it to Peru, what a champ! We swapped a few stories, knew some of the same people and places and generally had a nice time. It’s moments like these that remind you that you’re not alone in your crazy ways. By the way Ben thanks for the heads up on the oil slick 20 kilometres ahead, it was as bad as it looked and would have been a real shocker if we didn’t know it was coming.
As we were about to leave a couple local fellows pulled up on KTM adventures, out for an afternoon ride. We parted ways and headed into Huaraz.
Neither Deya nor I liked the city when we entered. At our very first stop, while Deya was inside checking prices, I was approached by a drunk. Despite my lack of Spanish he blithered on trying to get us to go with him somewhere for food or something. Then he tried to get his drunken buddies to come out of a nearby pub to look at our bikes. The guy seemed friendly enough but the situation was getting tenuous and needed to change. As always the best way to defeat 47 ninjas in a dark alley is to not go into the dark alley. I stepped inside to tell Deya that we needed to depart immediately because of the danger outside. The guy was trying to collect his friends. He came back out running when he saw us trying to leave and approached Deya, I signalled to the guy and when he turned to me Deya took off. I started to go and he jumped out grabbing my right arm and handle bars. The effect was startling as I realized just how easily it would be to throw a rider off his bike as the bike nearly came down on both of us. He was rambling, apparently unaware of his own violent stupidity and I shouted, “No, No, No!” and gave him a five finger poke into the left pectoral. The effect was that he stepped back, letting go of the bike and my arm as the pain from the pressure point seized him into a moment of confusion. I took my chance to leave; as I looked back he walked up the hill behind us with an odd mixture of emotions on his face: confusion, angst, regret, maybe others. I’m not sure what his final message was but that’s not for me to figure out. Our first experience in Huaraz, not good.
It’s not that I assumed people to be bad; I just had a very low tolerance for those that just follow the carrot in front of their noses because that’s just what simple animals do. We’re all guilty of it on occasion but are we all accountable for it? It was this thought process that led me to joining the Army. I wanted to do my part, reduce the numbers so to speak and if I should be one of those numbers then, that too would be okay. It became an experience that would not change my life but it would change the way I looked at things, at people. It would eventually lead me here and teach me that most people are actually really good, to which we now have countless examples to refer to, with no end in sight. I have learned something that I only hope the carrot in front of my nose doesn’t blind or distract me from, something that I can silently share.