The Stolen Happiness of a Cyclist

Sometimes I curse my own honesty. It is no one’s business how I spend my time with whom. Yet I have written a little story about it. It says a few things but in general it is remarkable empty at the same time. Read for yourself.

I meet with Seth, whom I met for the first time 14 years ago. While I was using the computer in a Nicaraguan internet-cafe he sat next to me and said: ‘Shall we chitchat later?’ I was struck by his eyes, and the words ‘chitchat’. We were young backpackers, in our late twenties, traveled on and off together between Nicaragua and Costa Rica on a bus. I thought I could do that again. I was wrong.

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Twenty-four hours together and traveling by bus? I must have been kissed too much by lama’s. Of course I was wrong!

Back then we made unforgettable memories, Seth driving his pick-up truck through the USA, though we had a lot of clashes too. We both didn’t know what was the exact reason. Now, 14 years later, big discoveries are uncovered. Seth now knows what makes him difficult. I have to become a forensic scientist to find out what is and has been happening.

Seth has a mind that runs too fast and wide. He doesn’t see the intensity of it, but I feel it may be a major issue for him, for the person born with this genetic error. After a few inclusive discussions with him to understand why his mood is liable is a piece of how I try to adjust in all possible ways, but that’s ultimately hopeless.

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In fact, the Seth from 14 years ago is not the same anymore. Neither am I. All I know from Seth is that he needs a holiday and has two Schnauzer’s. That are dogs. Who will be on their own, because Seth is going to spend a marvelous time in Peru. Where he will rediscover the nectar of life, and perhaps some ancient origins of things?

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The thing is, Seth and I have a common interest: wanting to life in a self-sustainable manner. There comes a time I want to stop cycling and live a camping-alike lifestyle. We both have tons of ideas, but once together to talk about, we don’t. I am too busy adjusting to Seth and he is too busy exploring Peru.

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Experience the unexpected

I was fed up with the Ruta 40 in Argentina -much planning, high passes, wrong turns and touristy alternatives- and rather wanted to be in the Atacama desert. Switching parallel roads was something I wouldn’t easily do, if not I am going to meet with an old friend.

I spend 3 full days and 2 full nights in a bus. When I see a chance I free myself from this torture and assemble the bicycle to speed off into the desert of Chile, straight to Peru.

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With enough food to make me happy for long I set off to Peru, only 25 kilometer further on. But I can’t enter the country unless I surrender all the agricultural food I just bought. I think I already surrender a lot, so I decide to camp right before the border as I am not going to trow away food I just bought.

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Soon after, from camping in bushes, desert, washes and fields and trusting on my inner feelings I am spit onto the pavement of a mega big city. The beating heart of Peru. The slowness stops being part of me at once and I race through the city.

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Lima, the city I feared. The first day already has me completely in a spell. I love the city and its spontaneous people. The parks where I am reminded of California. The relative quietness. The assortment of little restaurants with excellent food for prices which makes me wonder. I am in complete awe in the supermarkets and upon entering I stand still to take in the enormity of it. I must look like a bewildered cave-women.

I can’t fathom where the richness comes from and who keeps it alive and who makes it grow. I see Ferrari’s and Porsche’s and girls with surfboards on the sidewalk. Young men with black beards and hip skater stores. Cats are taken care for in parks and old man sit there to splash compliments on a bedazzled younger woman, me.

I meet with an artist who’s having a gallery. Peruvians are a flirtatious folks.

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To me it seems Lima is an incredible magic city. Lima just has it all and I still am on the lookout for camp spots in inaccessible Spanish style buildings, ‘that would be a good spot,’ I see myself thinking.

Seth arrives. I pick him up from the airport, far out of town, late at night. Which only becomes later as Seth wants to explore Lima by morning light, in search for food. I took care for a fridge full of it though.

After two weeks I am sick of Lima. The energies of the city causing headache, sleepless nights and stomach ache. And since I can’t spend the accumulated energies I would normally do while cycling, I reach a very unbalanced state.

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I try to adjust to it all: Seth coming from a sedentary indoor lifestyle, void of impulses, adventure and meeting unknown people versus me. I surrender again when Seth asks an expat in a computer-mall where we can eat. By taxi we go to the recommended restaurant trice the price I like to pay for a meal.

When we do it my style, we walk to the central market where Seth nearly throws up from the smell of fresh fish. Now he has to adjust.

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I miss camping and the simple lifestyle. We move from hostal to hostal and where one smells of piss, which is fine for me, the other has cocaine using youth talking in a maniacal manner just below the floor we sleep. We are constantly reminded of cars with blaring alarms, hammers knocking down walls, and tools drilling new holes. I am surrounded by all sorts of travelers with backpacks, knocking me over.

The travelers I am now surrounded with are young, remarkable so. Tattooed in the weirdest of places. Seemingly void of contact making abilities. Or am I just getting too old for this stuff?

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The people of Lima surprise me with their calm manners, their friendliness and patience to explain and help us. Old men keep being charming when I’m out alone, to such an extend it surprises me wildly, and it also annoys me.

Where I have been cycling with guys who were of a very different mental balance than I am, I could manage for some time. Now however I am with such a different mental energy and not cycling that I quickly get stuck in a situation I don’t want to be in. My body reacts with diarrhea and severe dehydration, and I am sure it’s not the food, although I eat raw fish every day and drink water from the tap, which no local does. I hardly have time to be sick as I can’t make up my mind about which direction to go: Seth’s or my own?

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We travel to Paracas. This coastal town would be a heavens gift if I would be on my bicycle as the town is small and the desert surrounding it vast and of a tremendous beauty. My friend wants to get on a tour with me to the nearby islands and on a buggy tour, or on any kind of tour for that matter.

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I can’t. I just don’t want to be in a group on an organized tour. I don’t even want to see anything as for me it’s not about seeing things but feeling where I am and being where I want to be. Now I am surrounded by hawkers who feel the need to sell me a tour first thing I am out on the streets at 7.00 am. But not before the lone male social reformer-alike traveler overly eager want to know whether I have been to Macchu Picchu, where I am from, where I am going to, where I have been to, that the weather is good, and more of this questionnaires.

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 I spend my time unfocused and in cafe’s with terrible loud music where both Seth and I wear earplugs to block the harsh sounds.

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Seth is so sparkled, he talks about aliens, and things I really don’t understand. He is hyperactive and highly advanced in his thinking. I am listening to a genius. Except when he asks me to join him in clearing the beach of plastic bottles. I rather photograph the pelicans.

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My friend acknowledges I am a sort of shepherd and advise me to see a boat full of tourists as my flock of sheep who I am leading. I find his thoughts often beautiful and truthful and this is one I see wisdom in, but all I long for is being in the desert, out of view. Am I too rigid, too single focused? I thought I was flexible but it has its limits, obviously.

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Or have I so quickly adapted to silence and loneliness, connection and reason that once off that path it becomes visible at once?

When my friend takes me out to go parasailing I feel that excitement and curiosity again. I feel alive and once we enter the desert I feel the heaviness abandoning my chest immediately. Upon seeing the desert I feel connected at once. Being in the vastness of nature is being embraced by security. The heavy stone laid upon my heart is blown away like a tiny sand particle.

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Even if that is in a car, with a former Peruvian pilot, with a Venezuelan free-spirited guy and a Russian paragliding champion who recently broke her back. To be in this national park and on a sacred mountain feels where I belong. Though the few cars and a number of people around me, the big volume of parachutes and to be high above the ground is a bit weird…

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Anastacia seems a cool woman, she’s coached by the Peruvian pilot, who’s taking me on a tandem flight.

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A tandem parapente flight is a heavenly feeling. It’s liberating at once. To hear nothing but the sound of clinking carabiner’s with which I hang to the sail above me. It surpasses the feeling of a warm, long and speedy downhill by bicycle.

It is as I thought it would be, like a bird. Now we are flying above them.

To simply walk from a hill, a sacred one that is, is magical. It is a sport for the rich though.

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And that is where we are: in a rich men’s company. Canadian Little John, close to measuring two meter, is the only one with whom I have a very connected talk. In the cafe with loud music we philosophize, and my earplugs need to be popped out a bit.

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Seth and I do have engaging connected talks too. Often in the nighttime, when I am sleepy. I suffer not only dehydration, diarrhea, tiredness but also lack of sleep. The only thing which is good is my appetite.

In order to feel sane and be healthy again, I need to fetch my bicycle from Lima. But yet seems not the right time…

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It is funny, Seth, who is out of the USA since a very long time is seeing where we are as a magnificent, glittering, shiny, vibrating world. As if it is dazzling with unknown treasures gripping him tightly. I see where we are as a prison, equally grabbing me, throwing me in a corner, each day incarnated a day too much.

Empathy is a strong emotion and so I travel once again on a bus. To Nazca, another 4 hour through desert landscapes and a million places to set up camp. I can’t stand to see the landscape from behind a glass window so I ignore it. Only to suppress the sadness in me. Seth is going for a tour but I again decline, I don’t see reason in being a watcher of nature when I am not actively participating in the greater whole. I do enjoy the museums as the history of coastal Peru is enormous interesting.

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Peruvian people are still a fine folk who are helpful, friendly and easy-going but I want to get away from it all. From all these very people, from all these cars and horns, from the buses and noise, from the exhaust fumes and madness in general.

It seems hard for us to get ourselves into action. I don’t want to travel by bus and wish to go back to Lima. Seth wants to move forward but something is holding him back. Maybe me. Maybe not. It is hard to deal with Seth’s intensities. So we stay endlessly boring times in the same town, changing hostels about every day.

Our evolved characters are not standing in the way of a friendship but they do block a 24/7 public transport trip where my backpack is an Ortlieb. Seth drugged by life’s euphoria, I by longing for my bicycle and the lifestyle belonging to it. A very good reason to cycle to the USA and meet under balanced conditions.

I count 19 days when the fortunate chance arrive that I set the travel back to Lima in motion. Holding my bicycle is having my blood flowing back to all excitement vessels in my brain…

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How to stay afloat in the currents of life while growing your future and cultivating your soul? Seth

Seth, who perceives the world where he is now as a giant, diamond cut mirror will be on his own. Coming from a safe, protected, not overly exciting and ultra soft comfortable lifestyle he is now without someone who has difficulties with the unbalanced, unfocused and unpredictable effects of his inate challenges.

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He did well, traveled all over Peru and on to Colombia, left his Schnauzer’s and comfort zone while I found mine in the desert of Peru.

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