Cliff Jumping 101

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I was recently in Zadar, Croatia, a coastal city in which a lack of sand – give the stones a few more million years of erosion – has given way to an impressive concrete beach scene. I´m aware that the term “concrete beach” might bring about a dissonance, let alone a desire to go anywhere near the place, but I must say I found the place to be in good fashion. I think that, when designing the place, the project planners recognized that they were already playing with a significant handicap, so they stockpiled the place with a surfeit of enjoyable services. The beach is brimming with basketball, volleyball and tennis courts, water polo arenas, restaurants, shops, swimming lanes, wading pools, and my personal favourite, a series of diving towers.

I hadn´t seen many people venturing to the highest of the three towers, and if they did, they inched their way to the edge, had a cautious peek, then hastily returned to the ladder. The tower was high enough where someone’s presence would bring about the curious gaze of onlookers. You see, people love the possibility of someone injuring themselves, or even more so, killing themselves.  So upon summiting the behemoth tower, you had a few seconds to yourself, before rapturous shouts would indicate that there was a fool atop planning to jump. Within seconds you would have yourself an audience of hundreds of people, all of whom are hoping for an impalement.

So when I reached the windy summit of the top tower I was surprised to be greeted by another being. He was roughly my age, and build, but his demeanor didn’t indicate much in regards to his intentions. I quickly joined him on the far side of the tower which concealed us from the sight lines of the spectators.

Instantly we started chatting, because if we´re chatting, we can´t be jumping, so the banter benefited the both of us. Eventually, the conversation turned to the jump, as was inevitable. He asked if I´d jumped off yet and I said that I had, rather proudly too.

A little while earlier I had climbed up and jumped off without so much as a concern towards the consequences. You see I was trying to impress a girl. This is one of the sure-fire ways to get me to do things I would by no means be doing under normal circumstances.

So when the fellow up there with me told me that he had previously performed a back flip off where we were standing, I became concerned. Not that he was lying, hell no, people don´t lie about doing flips off a tower they´re still suspended on. What worried me was that the girl I was trying to impress might see this acrobatic display of athleticism and thus recognize this fellow for the superior being he was. We couldn’t have that.  But at the same time, I wanted to see a backflip, or better yet an impaling.

You see this fellow was the last type of personality in my list of cliff jumpers, he was fearless.

You can learn everything you need to know about a person by placing them on an elevated perch above water and telling them to jump. You really can. If there were ever a place that exposes the discrepancies in human personality and thought processing, it´s a dive tower.

For simplicity´s sake let´s narrow the wide variety of jumpers into five distinct categories.

  • Number One won´t even consider jumping, but will gladly encourage you to do so.
  • Number Two wanders up to the tower or cliff in question, takes a peak, and instantly decides against it.
  • Number Three spends a great deal of time planning to jump and eventually does.
  • Number Four recognizes the presence of discomfort and fear but pride reigns over so he jumps.
  • Number Five is not subject to fear, he jumps without question.

Most people fall into category Number Three. They will in fact jump, but only after a period of time spent agonizing and playing out every possible mishap in their heads. Number Three, is actually, ironically, the most irrational. You see person Number One has his priorities straight from the get go. Number Two is curious but still sensible. He won´t let peer pressure dictate his actions. Number Four may have faulty motives but he spends a fraction of the time agonizing. Number Five is just born with an inherent lack of concern for his wellbeing. You can´t punish him for it no more so than you could punish him for his blood type, it´s intrinsic.

The trouble with Number Three is that they will end up jumping, and they know that. So why not omit all the suffering and agonizing and jump right from the get go. The hardest part of jumping off a peak is the time spent before jumping. Once you´re in the air, the suffering ceases, the adrenaline kicks in, and time passes slightly slower while you descend through the air, and plunge into the water. Upon surfacing, you are happy, and you admonish yourself for all that time spent scrutinizing. This is a fact. This will happen. I am just as confident in saying this as I am in stating that the sky is blue.

Unfortunately, the following is a fact as well – This isn’t news to people. Everyone knows they will jump and everyone knows they will suffer for longer than they should beforehand. It just can´t be avoided. It´s just of humanity´s quizzical quirks.

So with that setting in let us return to the top of the dive tower in Zadar.

We were still standing about, I was hyping up my newfound friend to attempt another flip when I heard a shouting from the water below.

“Hurrrrrrrrrry uuuuuuuup.” It was my friend Tijana, or more appropriately, the girl I was trying to impress.

I followed the love-stricken urge all the way off the end of the tower and soared through the air with limbs flailing and a smile on my face. When I surfaced I didn’t have time to savor the moment, rather I was more concerned with maneuvering Tijana back towards our towels and away from the tower. Not for safety´s sake, rather to steer her away from my friend the badass. All was going well until she caught glimpse of a bystander pointing towards the tower. She turned around just in time to witness the miraculous display of acrobatics from my newfound friend. With grace and refined skill, he entered the water flawlessly. It really was quite a feat.

“Wow, he´s crazy” she pronounced.

“Yeah, yeah he is…”

Hermit Crabs Pt. II

As I sat in the sand that night, accompanied by my head torch, watching the large crustaceans roam around the sand like Zamboni’s, I encountered one who was significantly larger than the rest. I took him to be the alpha and monitored his movements for longer than I should have. His status as alpha, I assumed was costly. Won through glorious battles in which limbs were carelessly discarded and permanent scars were welcomed. This crab was a tyrant, a primitive scavenger not subject to the helpless pleas for mercy coming from his prey. I watched as a cricket crossed his path. Poor oblivious bastard. I feared for his fate, and for his sake prayed that the massacre would be quick. The cricket then wandered away without much, actually without any resistance coming from the crab. ¨Smart¨ I thought. Conserve your energy in case you need to fend off a howler monkey. No sense wasting reserves on the likes of a helpless cricket.

After watching the crab for a little while longer I discovered that he wasn’t the tyrant his stature made him out to be, so I set off to find a new subject of interest. I happened upon a hermit crab fight club which proved to be good for a few minutes of diversion. Eight or ten smaller crabs had encircled two behemoths (by relative standards) engaging in some gladiatorial style combat. I monitored the fracas with intense scrutiny, playing the role of commissioner, case anything get out of hand in this heavyweight bout. Unfortunately, when I tried to get closer to the action, I frightened the lot and they scurried off into the cacti.

A little later on, I encountered a dinner sized crab who reminded me of Halloween. He was black and orange so I felt it was rather fitting. In fact, upon further research, I discovered that they are suitably called Halloween crabs. I had witnessed a smaller version of this exact species, vertically suspended on my bathroom wall, and since this particular fellow was much larger, I surmised that his skills were worthy of praise. I figured I was about to give witness to something of similar magnitude to witnessing Jerry Rice in his prime.

He started to crab-walk horizontally across the beach plane so I eagerly followed with my head torch. He was in the midst of passing a pair of hermit crabs who, stoically observed their neighbours gawky gait, when suddenly, unprovokingly the smaller of the two crabs kicked into a fifth-gear dash forward. Whether it was intentional or whether his reality subjects him to the occasional unprovoked burst of movement, I´m not too sure. What I am sure of is that his timing was absolutely perfect. He intercepted the lateral moving, and much larger crab, by ramming into his rear. The Halloween crab threw his claws up in defense or surrender, but it looked more like the latter. He probably assumed he was done in by some jungle dwelling mammal, hungry for tasty crab meat, but rather it was a very audacious or very stupid hermit crab, an eighth of his size. It would be the human equivalent of fighting off a toddler, but this guy was paralyzed with fear, waving his pincers frantically above his head. The whole thing was better than TV.

After escaping the situation, the grateful crab retreated to the safety of the cacti. So after losing faith in what I thought were ninjas of the beach, I turned my attention back to the hermit crabs. Whereas the smaller day dwellers, used their shells as a portable house, the shells of the larger night crawlers was a piece of armour at best. The shells, although larger than the ones found on the backs of the day crabs, were not big enough to house the entire crab. Their initial defense mechanism was to retreat cautiously, then, if the situation worsened, they would do their best to retreat into their shell. I experimented with one fellow in an attempt to further my understanding. If I placed a finger in his vicinity he would casually start to back off, but if I laid a hand on him he did his best in trying to retreat into his shell. He wasn’t exactly efficient in the matter, if I wanted to I could still pick at his meaty flesh, but he had an aesthetically appealing curvature to his technique, which I´m assuming he had spent a lifetime honing.

And so I stayed on the beach a little longer than the average person would, and since I was quiet, more and more of these mysterious creatures started to come out and join the festivities. What I noticed too, is that they would communicate with each other in passing. The meetings would always be brief, and it appeared as if they were always on the brink of a violent altercation, but nothing ever panned out. Two would cross paths, square up face to face, go through one full second of pre fight mentality then return to utter indifference. One second and it was decided, just like dogs. Imagine if humans could be that efficient in their interactions. Upon being introduced to a stranger, both of you would take a second to explore each other´s scent and make your corresponding decision. A ¨hi there¨ would be followed by a quick smell, then further conversation or a violent fist fight. I think it would save some time with some of our relationships.

But the crabs appeared to be rather peaceful in their interactions. It never escalated to anything more than the occasional grab and release, which was entertaining but by no means malicious. Once I saw an albino looking crab, attack another from behind. He had pounced on his prey in a way that suggested sexual activity. ¨He was mounting her¨, I thought. Then I made the discovery that there was a shell impeding his crab penis. So I sat on the beach pondering the logistics of crab sex for longer than any human should before gathering my things and wandering back towards the resort.

On my walk back I pondered my newfound appreciation for the hermit crab. I loved their helplessness, their ability to carry their homes on their backs, I loved the fact that they engaged in ¨vacany chains¨ in which, if finding an abandoned shell, crabs will begin to congregate and organize themselves in a line according to size. When finally a crab arrives who fits the proportions of the new shell he discards his old one and the crab first in line takes his abandoned shell, while the second in line takes his. This continues down the line until everyone has upgraded and all that remains is the tiniest crabs previous shell. Furthermore, I love how the crabs come together and feast over a piece of fallen beach fruit. And, in terms of crabs, which is a D-League of a category if there ever was one, the hermit might even be considered cute. With his beady black, cartoon eyes and his ineptitude at retreating to his undersized shell. In fact, I was on verge of titling the hermit crab my favourite crustacean when something caught my eye.

Further up the beach, I noticed some iridescent scatterings that caught the attention of my headlamp. As curiosity gave way I wandered up to find something very disturbing. A banquet was taking place, that much was evident. Hermit crabs and Halloween crabs alike appeared to be the distinguished guests. I found the whole thing to be in good fashion. In fact, I was actually quite glad that there existed no prejudice in crab world that prevented these two species from coming together and feasting convivially on…what exactly were they eating? The comic sight of the feast distracted me from the food upon which they feasted, which looked like cracked eggshells. Oh no. Turtle eggs. Sea turtle eggs. These sons of bitches were feasting on the tender flesh of baby sea turtles. I could even start to make out some of their exoskeletons. This wasn’t a feast, it was a pillaging.

I had seen enough nature documentaries to know that baby sea turtles were practically helpless. 90% of hatchlings fail to make it to the ocean, and even the ones that do aren’t guaranteed to live. If the powerful ocean tide doesn’t claim victim to them, then one of the many predators of the ocean will. Turtle eggs are a tasty treat for seabirds, fish, raccoons, dogs, snakes and now as just became evident, crabs. When you think of something as majestic as a sea-turtle, who has the capacity to outlive a human, it seems unfair that they should suffer this fate to a few dozen punk crustaceans. There were still a few eggs intact, buried in the sand, so I thought about playing the hero, picking up and tossing the crabs into different directions, when I decided against it. What held me back was the realization that sea turtles have been around for about 65 million years, and have done so without the help of man. In fact, since man´s recent arrival on earth, we have managed to endanger every single species of sea turtle due to our selfish exploits. So instead of playing God, I retired to my room. Only now with a hatred that was stronger than ever towards those bastard hermit crabs.

As tribute, here is a photo of the magnificent sea turtle. Those punk crabs don’t deserve the recognition.

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Hermit Crabs Pt. I

The beach where I work in the Osa Peninsula, in Costa Rica inhabits a large number of hermit crabs, and I must say I have become quite fascinated with them. With the stature of an acorn, these crustaceans have shown themselves to be joyously incompetent and surprisingly resilient. They spend the majority of their day trying to negotiate the cumbersome slope of the beach, while the rest of their time is spent clumsily tumbling back down it. Their defense mechanism of retreating to their shell appears to be a viable tactic, lest they be placed on a surface that isn’t flawlessly level (And to my knowledge, the tide has ensured that most beaches aren’t).

When a threat appears, they hastily retreat to the safety of their shell, which, at that point has started its descent down the hill. Gradually picking up momentum, the crab shell tumbles down the entire beach until it comes into contact with a fortuitously placed twig, footprint or, for the less fortunate, incoming tide. The whole process is quite amusing on account of the large radius which they consider to be their danger zone. So while strolling along the beach I will be greeted by a constant number of crabs tumbling through my path. Like hail rolling off a tin roof. It is all quite comical as they appear so hopelessly incompetent. But here´s the thing, these creatures are thriving. They populate the beach in proportion to the way Caucasians populate Sweden. I guess you don’t need to worry about real estate costs when you carry your home on your back.

One night though, I went for a stroll along the beach, accompanied by my head torch – an ambitiously priced, but invaluable piece of equipment – when I made a shocking discovery in the field of my new hobby. The beach was roaming with hermit crabs, as per usual, but these ones were of a significant stature, compared to the daytime dwellers. In terms of size equivalence, it was as if, by night, someone removed all cars from the streets and replaced them with monster trucks. These were the hermit crabs I was more familiar with, actually was introduced at a young age to, because my neighbour Shawn Vice stole two of them from his kindergarten class. He had assured me that they weren’t the crabs from his classroom – which had coincidentally gone missing – and proved so by showing me a birthmark that the two crabs shared on their shells, a birthmark that looked and smelled as if it had recently been applied with a marker. As far as lies go, it may not have been the most convincing, in fact, I remember having some doubts and I was six. I can´t imagine what his teacher thought. But Shawn was a convincing liar and my friend so I believed him.

These were the size of hermit crabs that I distinctly remember seeing for sale at tourist shops along the Carolina coast. The proprietors had painted each crab´s shell quite scrupulously with logos, faces, and patterns so to entice people like me to associate said crab with the design of his shell. It was really quite ingenious marketing as I remember feeling a distinct urge to purchase one who had a Nike Swoosh painted on his shell. It wasn’t until my Dad pointed out that I didn’t actually want a crab and in fact held an emotional attachment to the swoosh brand. That was my first lesson in marketing 101. No one wants a pet hermit crab but of course people, people with less cruel dads, are duped by the advertising. Thus, each crab´s fate is decided by what is painted on his shell. So some crabs are sold to children who like Batman, or Hello Kitty, and some go to the types of kids who prefer bloody skulls.

Now I need to talk to you about something that has nothing to do with hermit crabs but furthers on what I´ve been saying. A few years back, I was at the drugstore, and while my Mom was in line I was casually browsing through the calendars. It was here that I came across a calendar entitled ¨Disney´s Vile Villains¨. Can we stop for one second and scrutinize this a little bit. What type of child has the urge to look at the malevolent villains of Disney twelve months of the year? Out of curiosity, I ran a quick Google search. Just to ensure this wasn’t a branding mistake that failed miserably, like the new Coke. It was not. The first two links that pop up are the 2017 and 2018 versions of the calendar. That means demand is high. So much so that people can order their evil villains calendar six months before the year even starts. What the hell is going through the minds of our youth? If my child asked me for a ¨Vile Villains of Disney¨ calendar, I would consent and buy it for him to hang next to his new bed at the orphanage. I mean come on. Why don’t we have a moment of silence for the parents of these children, as well as one for the crabs who go to the homes of kids who like ¨666¨painted on their shells (that´s not a joke, I really saw that).

Okay, let us return to the hermit crabs of the beach.

 

Parks and ReCroatian

Plitvice Lakes National Park sits very well with me due to the confluence of two interdependent entities: nature and people. The park´s arresting vistas seem to attract the sort of people who would bode well on television, and oh do they come in numbers. You wouldn’t think that an area, with almost three hundred square kilometers of space, free from buildings and cars, could feel crowded, but it was almost unpleasantly so. I was forever bumping, nudging, and full on smacking people with my oversized pack while trying to maneuver through the masses.

This problem became evident almost instantly, and for two reasons. The first being that the park’s infrastructure was by no means conducive to the type of tourism it promoted. Venerable docks, no longer than a meter wide, traverse and weave over the lakes so the average tourist can experience all the joys of being in the water without actually coming into contact with it. The insufficient width of the docks is hardly ample enough for two lanes of traffic, but that´s what is so. Those who are coming, and those moving in the opposite direction, who are going. In theory, the system parallels your standard two-lane road. The problems arise due to the variance in demographics of the tourists who frequent the lovely park. This ranges from Johnny-Backpack to has-to-be holding hands at all times couple, and from instant stop and selfie girl to Chinese retirement home field trip group. The dynamics are similar to throwing bikers, cars, and formula one racers all heedlessly into one lane of traffic, without guardrails, and saying ¨make it work¨.

I wasn’t exactly sauntering through, as I respected that path etiquette dictate a leisurely stroll. Everyone´s end goal, of course, was to enjoy the surrounding environment, and you didn’t get points for speed, but I have to say, the group of fifty plus from the retirement home didn’t exactly have a bounce in their step. It was similar to driving behind a mother duck and her chicks, who waddle along absentmindedly, stoically, and all the while oblivious to the surrounding world. Oh, and who also hold the right of way.

Eventually, a brief but temperamental opening would arise and I would hastily, deftly maneuver my way through. Or as we say in football, ¨hit the hole¨.  Because I had – with many attempts at dissuasion mind you – decided to spend the night in the park, I had my tent and sleeping pad attached to my bag. This gave my already large pack, an awkward and cumbersome girth. It also proved to be a bit of a hindrance in moments where speed and deftness were encouraged, if not required. With a cautious prance that would quickly turn into a reckless, head-down sprint, I would dart forward praying that I wouldn’t hear a large splash, followed by exasperated shouts. Unfortunately, what would often, if not always happen, is I would be greeted by some other frustrated individual, with similar intentions, coming from the opposite direction. Before we could go through the traditional song and dance of the stalemate, bobbing the same way simultaneously a few times, before sharing sympathetic glances at our own incompetence, the rest of the tour groups would arrive, creating a bottleneck of people within a space evidently too small. The whole process was anarchy.

Fortunately, the surrounding environment more than compensated for the hopeless ineptitude of humanity. The verdant nature of the mountains suggested that the trees were in the midst of a century-long attempt to vanquish anything that wasn’t green. They rolled over from the apexes of the surrounding mountains and inundated the area with an impenetrable density in a manner similar to their vegetative relative, moss. Never had I seen so much foliage in one place, it was marvelous. The only evident interludes in the plethora of trees were the lakes. The beautiful, big, blue lakes. I must have uttered the phrase ¨look how blue the water is¨ two dozen times in those two days, and each time I was taken aback as if I was experiencing such a radiant display of colour for the first time.

I didn’t care if the water was subzero, shark infested or artificially coloured with a poisonous dye, I was getting in. Those lakes weren’t put on this earth strictly to be enjoyed from an ocular sense. So, despite scrupulously placed signs, averted glances, and disapproving ¨tsk tsk´s¨ from passersby, I dove in, head first, so the water could penetrate all five senses simultaneously. Bliss.

I had toweled off, gotten dressed, proceeded up the mountain, and stopped at a grassy knoll to enjoy my book when I saw a group of six or seven park rangers barrelling down the path with remarkable haste. Had one of them taken the time to look in my direction and taken note of my soaking wet hair and bathing suit, they might have actually surmised me as the culprit. But instead, they were far too concerned with the matter of finding the rapscallion who had the audacity to swim in the lake and enjoy himself. If you´re not familiar with park rangers, censoring any sort of fun seems to be the top priority in their employee handbook. But no matter, one of the benefits of traveling in foreign countries is you get to exploit being a dumb foreigner. ¨The foreign card¨ as I like to call it, usually permits me to a stern lecture and a look of hopeless pity, one that you might give a bird who has just flown into your window. Actually, it´s probably a good thing they didn’t see me, because, like most other European countries, Croatians speak incredible English. But the story of Europeans and their ability to learn a second, if not third language, while we struggle to learn one, is a subject for another day, right now, I have some swimming to attend to.

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Sierra Nevada

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Below is a passage I had written during my four night stay on Volcano Sierra Nevada in the South of Chile.

I recently decided to spend some time in the mountains as I have long been intrigued by the idea of living alone in the wilderness (a long time fantasy since reading books such as Thoreau’s Walden and Krakauer’s Into the Wild). The vastness and unmethodical beauty of Southern Chile’s terrain left me in awe, despite having, quite possibly the worst sleep of my entire life. Apparently the people who deemed my tent to be “one-person” forgot to include that this person must be a small child who enjoys cramped spaces. Cramped spaces can become almost tolerable though by bending your knees and lying on your side. That is of course, as long as you don’t have hipbones. No matter how sleep-deprived you are or how many horse tranquilizer pills you have ingested, I can assure you that as long as you are a human being, you are not lying comfortably on your side on the mountain ground. Luckily though, I solved this little endeavour about halfway through the night. I placed my blowup travel pillow under my hip and used a spare pair of socks as my pillow. Due to my sheer lack of comfort this was a sacrifice I was more than willing to make. The aftermath of this clever maneuver might actually have included seven or eight minutes of a light sleep. I’m not too sure. What I am sure of is that I woke up (a short time) later to find my lower body in an excruciating amount of pain and the pillow nowhere in sight. After a frantic search I finally found my pillow under my hip where I had left it. It of course now was popped on the account of the many thorny burrs clinging to the outside of my pants. After questioning the man upstairs about what possible misdeed could’ve been so severe that he saw it necessary to impose the thorn catastrophe on me, I tried my luck at sleep once again. In a state this uncomfortable your only true chances of sleep lie in between the two minutes of switching positions, and becoming uncomfortable and switching again. Also remember though, that every switch brings about a severe jolt of pain from rolling onto one of your many sunburns. Now fortunately the pain from the sunburn is only temporary because by shifting you’ve then managed to allow any sort of warmth you’ve collected in your sleeping bag, to escape. The nights are as cold as the days are hot. I wore (and this is not an exaggeration) every single article of clothing I packed, including a winter jacket. Usually I would use one of my sweaters as a pillow but in these circumstances I couldn’t even spare a T-shirt. Well at least I only have three more nights of this…

The Four Chileans

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Since leaving Marchigue I have adopted a much more rugged means of existence. Perhaps it was an attempt to neutralize my overly-comfortable stay at the hotel or perhaps my intrinsic lust for a more primitive lifestyle finally prevailed. Whatever the motive was, I have come to appreciate the effect. On March 3rd I woke up in my tent on the beaches of Pichilemu. I had decided that I would familiarize myself with the Chilean coast and thus head North. A decision sparked on the account of my frugality and a desire to endure a bit of suffering, had lead me to decide to make the 80 km journey from Pichilemu to Matanzas on foot. After four hours of walking I realized that that might have been an unreasonable, maybe even stupid decision. I decided to hitchhike in an attempt to cover some ground.  Now seeing as this was my first time hitchhiking I had to be on my guard. In Canada the only people sketchier than hitchhikers are the people who pick up the hitchhikers. Thus I was a little skeptical when I stuck up my thumb and the very first car pulled over to offer me a ride. The car that had stopped was a sleek black van. I had to triple check to make sure this wasn’t some Chilean taxi service that was going to stick me with a 60 000 peso bill after dropping me off. It turns out it was just Pedro, a government worker who had become bored whilst driving home from a work meeting. Now people had warned me that it was dangerous to hitchhike and after three minutes of driving with Pedro I knew why. He wasn’t a threatening person by any means. Rather he wouldn’t keep his eyes on the road. Nowhere near to be exact. I think he felt that it was his obligation to be a polite Chilean ambassador and look me in the eye while I was talking. Although the thought of imminent death made time almost stand still, my time with Pedro was short lived. He dropped me off on the highway before taking a side road home. I thanked him for the lift and thanked the heavens that my feet were on pavement once again. After feeling refreshed and confident I began walking again before I got tired and put up my thumb a second time (this became sort of a routine for me). A young, surfer girl with a large Buddha on her dashboard gave me a ride and after that I was picked up by an electrician who had aspirations to be a musician. We talked about music and he asked me what my favourite genre was. I told him “I like rap and country and I really like J Cole”.  I gaged from his response that this was not the correct answer. He then listed off numerous American bands who I had never heard of with names like Dream Voltage, Electric Voltage and Voltage Express Avenue. Now after being dropped off by Jose Manuel, the electrician I noticed I was only 35 minutes away from Matanzas so I eagerly marched forward. After about two hours of walking and thinking “I’ll just do one more corner”, I finally became a bit skeptical and double-checked my map. As it turned out the map was correct. Matanzas was 35 minutes away. As long as you were travelling 90 km/h in a machine with four wheels and an engine. I cautiously changed the little car icon to the walking man and held my breath. 6 HOURS 47 MINUTES!! Nope. I immediately put up my thumb as I heard a car approach from behind me. The car stopped almost immediately. It was an old black truck with tinted windows, covered in dirt. “Well” I thought. “This was it. I got cocky and this was how I was going to meet my demise”. I cautiously walked towards the truck recognizing my options were a bit limited. Even if I didn’t have my 30 lb. backpack I knew my chances of out running a car on a desolate highway were slim. I got closer and noticed there were a bunch of tools in the bed of his truck. Probably for murdering hitchhikers. My whole body shook as I slowly opened the door. When I looked inside though all my fears were put to rest. There I saw a young, innocent looking man smiling with horse teeth. I liked him already. After talking for a while the man told me that his name was Fernando and that he was on his way to a meeting for the Jehovah’s Witnesses of La Boca, Chile. He invited me to come and I politely declined. Before dropping me off we made a quick stop at his house so he could change into his church clothes.  When he returned to the car he was carrying a bowl of melon because he thought I’d be hungry. I was. Amazed and almost inspired by the generosity of this man I decided the least I could do to repay him was to go with him to his meeting. I saw the horse teeth in full affect when I told him “I’d be happy to go to your meeting”. After the service we went back to his place where he lived with his father, brother and sister. We dined on mollusks and I talked philosophy and religion with his father late into the night. Had I asked I’m sure he would have invited me to stay the night but I was too excited to camp out again. As I lay in my tent on the same beach, 80 km North of where I woke up that morning I thought about the four Chileans I met that day. They were four people who lived four very different lives but shared one underlying characteristic. They were all genuinely good people. I had travelled over 80 km, eaten a full meal and learned a few things along the way. All of this hadn’t cost me a dime. March 3rd, 2016 – I lived solely off the kindness of strangers.

Returning to the road

Plagued once again with restless feet. It is time to hit the road. My time as a waiter has taught me many things. One of which is how to organize the 46 different pieces of cutlery required to eat a dinner roll. Beyond that, I have begun to recognize that the negative stigma associated with “work” arises from routine. Eliminate this aspect and work almost becomes therapeutic. Frequent changes in one’s environment will keep the brain constantly stimulated. I have made great friends and great memories here but finally I have become jaded with my work. A once novel and fascinating experience has now become a tedious and mundane chore. Thus my motive for leaving. Although this place has been nothing short of a palace for me I have ruefully grown to resent it. My living here is far too comfortable. I crave the raw experience that comes from instability and uncertainty. I yearn for a carefree existence free of obligation and commitment. I now leave Marchigue not knowing what I will encounter or where I will sleep tonight. True, raw experience. And if history has taught me anything it’s that when wandering, man always ventures Westward.

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