I hadn’t really prepared before embarking on my South American expedition. Nor had I had my informative trip to the Paracas National Reserve yet. So I didn’t yet realize just how barren a coastline could be. A desert next to the ocean… WTF!?
Any road up, that’s pretty much what I observed, on the way from Lima. Lots of dust and not too many signs of life. Save for a fair amount of fencing, which served no apparent purpose I could fathom. Who are they keeping out? (Whoever they might be). And what are the other theys being denied access to? We’re in the middle of nowhere.
The thought of no grass by the sea, just gave the landscape an unfinished look. Like someone hadn’t got around to rolling out a carpet of green yet. Tho’ who was gonna maintain it? I’d yet to be informed that, the PNR mentioned above, only got 2cm of rain a year. Mother Nature certainly wasn’t gonna water any lawns. I’d already passed a few dried up river beds. Again unfinished; as if someone, who’s job it was, had forgotten to turn the tap on and fill ’em up. Nob!
Even when there were clusters of buildings approximating a community, they invariably had an air of unfinished-ness about them too. Cobbled together shacks or more often: brick boxes with no rendering or even window frames… and metal rods protruding skyward from the walls. I guess such stalled projects could progress step-wise, as the owners got more funds to spare… or perhaps the families grew enough to warrant a 2nd storey.
Made me smile, as I suddenly flashed back to the DIY projects of my youth. Back in the days when electricity and gas meters were inside the house in the UK. With a young family to support, minimal finances and very little clue about a lot of things in life. Most of all DI-fuckin-Y… ;o)
I built a cupboard to hide the meters & provide a shelf of sorts on which to stand a few nicnacs. My wife, at the time, nicknamed me: “Chip“. Short for Chippendale. (A reference to the furniture-makers you understand. Not the muscle bound eye candy the ladies lusted after). She was teasing me for my tendency to quip: “don’t rush me”, whilst sitting there… thinking… for long periods at a time. Like maybe I’d figure it all out over a cuppa. (Don’t all workers deserve one)? Perhaps the secret art of cabinet-making would suddenly pop into my melon… in a kind of eureka moment of clarity. I was a smart guy… plus this was the pre-internet age. (I couldn’t afford a book ;o)
Back to the Peruvian coastline, I imagined unfinished cars up on blocks. (Nasca was on my list. As in: nasca lines… not nascar racing. But that’s just the kinda tangents my brain goes off on). Perhaps the owners of such vehicles would be labeled Chip too? (Nah… Bubba, I decided. Such cars belonged in Alabama, not Peru). Other projects awaiting more thought… more inspiration… or just more funds? Are such vee-hickles closer to a state of repair… or disrepair? Are the communities I pass, rising from the dust… or returning to it?
I’m traveling from A to B and there is stuff in between. But it’s like it doesn’t really count somehow. Who’s there to observe it? To live it? Tho’ it’s not like the highway is a dirt road? Lots of people passing by I suppose. But passing. They just keep on going. Why would they ever stop here?
I picture major cities and the trails that link them. The towns: as brain neurons. Roads: the synapses that connect them. Over the years perhaps a city will crumble to dust, the synapses will re-route and one of these small communities will grow and flourish to replace it? (Seems unlikely). Maybe there are places where things have existed. But they’re long gone now… reduced to granules. Perhaps that’s what I’m observing? Ghost towns? Cheery thought.
Landscapes… Brain-scapes. My mind switches to the geography teacher I’d met the day before I left Lima. 60 years old and never owned a passport. No funds. A geography buff, who’s never travelled. I’m suddenly reminded of something I’d read recently: “the world is a book. If you don’t travel, it’s like you’ve only read 1 page”. But if you can’t travel, I guess you can sometimes share a coffee with a tourist such as I & ask about his culture. (Or lack of according to some of my exes ;o)
Fernando hadn’t travelled, but he had collected several currencies. Low denomination bank notes, from friends who’d been to far flung places he’d never get to see. His favorite notes were obviously the ones that had gone out of circulation. Makes them more precious, I guess. If you posses something that few others will get to own or even hold.
I’d told him my eldest sister was a primary school teacher too. He then insisted on giving me a few older Peruvian bank notes for my sister; even when I tried to explain that she’d recently retired. He’d been showing his collection to his pupils that day; so pulled them from his briefcase to show me. Perhaps my sister could show her pupils too.
I told Fernando that most of Europe was euros these days; but I’m pretty sure I had some French Francs, Deutschmarks and samples of various other currencies from my travels. I promised to post them when I return to Switzerland in December. His collection of currencies was obviously incomplete too… perhaps we could pad it out a little.
We talked about climate. (Why does polite conversation always drift to the weather)? He asked about the seasons in Switzerland. The mountains. The snow. The skiing. Asked if I could send him some pictures. A thought occurred to me and I asked if he had a computer. His brow wrinkled as he told me “no”. I explained that: actually I meant at school of course. But the answer was still “no”.
“No computer at school? Not even one”?… I thought. How can a child’s education be complete without access to such a tool? If they couldn’t pop on a plane and travel, perhaps they could surf to far-flung places, via the Internet. Have unlimited pictures of their own to peruse.
My only comforting thought then: perhaps they’d read more books… or get some fresh air. Instead of getting sucked into the Facebook vortex or being bombarded by kitten videos on YouTube.
As the bus finally pulled into Paracas, I was jolted from my day-dreaming. I guess we’re all works in progress, I thought. Whether on a personal or community-based level. Some whacky thoughts on my journey I know. On a cheery note, however: I did see my 1st llama since I arrived. A mere spec in the distance… for the briefest moment, granted. But it made me smile nonetheless. (Sometimes it’s the simple things ;o)