An excerpt from about 6 months ago: sitting on the back of a motorbike is like… not being able to make decisions, to stretch limbs, to anticipate where you are, to feel the ground below you or to wake up your hibernating bum. I can go on for a bit but I think you get my point: motorbike is not my preferred way of transport. It is out of touch with nature. This is not to say that I disliked the adventurous ride with my man. In fact, I did like it.
I loved being in the high altitude of Chile and Bolivia, but less so in the jungle. There, at times travel could become dull, the senses might be overloaded and thus they have no desire to process anymore. Motorbike travel can have that effect since it all goes so fast. Besides that, I was not overly interested in the jungle of Peru to begin with and that led me to have myself made a vow: to come up with a creative pattern for embroidering inspired by where I was that very day.
We had lunch in Segunda Jerusalén, a town unlike many of these in the former jungle of Peru. Here people were dressed rather conservative and leggings, bare arms and tattoos were not shown. There was not a television blarring with ridiculous shows where men acted like women and women like living Barbie dolls. It was a sort of fresh air and perhaps therefor my eyes were freshened. As soon as we continued the ride, it was more pleasant. More flowery too.
The lady below applied for a job at this gas station, and she obviously got it (but perhaps an employee of a nail salon would be more suitable? Though I do not want to judge her). It was her first day and she did not quite know how to do this sort of work. She sweetly excused herself.
This flower Heliconia rostrata (also known as hanging lobster claw or false bird of paradise) was one which had me yell out to Geo: ‘Can you please stop, I want to make a photo?’ Many years back this flower caught my attention on one of my travels and it did so again. Its such a big, bold flower brimming with abundance, as a visiting card for a promising company. This flower shows you what the jungle is like. Rich, moist, lush, thick, impenetrable, dense, colorful, green, fertile.
Or uncomfortable, sticky, sweaty, closed, obstructed, mosquito infested, unpleasant.
When I went as a youngster to the rain forest and jungle I knew very quickly that was not my cup of tea. I prefer desert, dry forest, pampas and high altitudes. Geo wanted to explore the jungle and here we are: on that one road where all traffic plies back and forth with goods, passengers, travelers and village folk. Locals live along the road, dry their beans, coffee, corn and laundry. When the locals do not work, they watch the traffic pass by.
Geo and I could not enjoy many camp spots as there was either too much noise of people, traffic or both at the same time. The jungle for a motor biker means the very edge one balances on where ‘civilization’ and ‘indigenous’ meet. That road means everything for the commerce, business, the world and the escape, all at the same time.
To be here is to be in a sort of nonsensical part of Peru. It is neither the jungle nor the Amazon nor typical village life. So, we began to wish to be out of the Peruvian jungle states. We drove and drove, Geo looking forward to Ecuador, his hopes filled with expectations soaring higher than the Andes I was longing for, missing out on and wanting to be in. Nevertheless, some time afterwards, we looked back with fond memories of this part of the world. Isn’t it so that one only experiences his own inner reflection…
Yet, I had come up with a design. I could choose: to be bored on the back of a motorbike and only looking at a dense green of hill after hill, never a vista in view. Or to focus on the details within this locked up beauty surrounding us. Now, not that my embroidered little flower is of any great significance but it pleased me. I started to draw my new design between mosquitoes biting their way over my pestered body, sweat and itch always present. With only a pen and some diary paper, without carbon paper and no decent material the flower was nonetheless a good simplified copy of the original and located on to the fabric I had brought with me.
From here, this patch in the jungle, really a pathetic small part where digging of stones and washing of cars in the bordering river was order of the day, we camped two nights. To get deeper into the jungle, we found out, meant to bump, stutter and be catapulted on to the big river pebbles, boulders or soft beach alike sand. Either way, driving deeper into the bush was not an easy task. Usually dead-end and almost always land was cultivated or private. Also, people were always everywhere. We rested a bit, washed in the river and continued the, by now, tiresome journey.
Ecuador was what Geo hoped for. Bordering Peru yet so different in many things, the most obvious one was that the hideous shows in a loud mode on television had gone. I loved it too. We noted it down on our list of ‘places we could live’.
Ecuador was also where we changed the speed of travel, as we were both tired of commuting from A to B. Neither the start nor the end was of any significant beauty, interest nor desire to be. Peru had absolutely some highlights for me but the jungle was not part of it. In fact, traveling by motorbike had become senseless. It had picked up the same feeling as when I cycled the world: for what do I do this? Packing the motorbike was a tough task, not to mention the overloaded ride with a relative weak capacity. We were not able to overtake trucks and barely made it over 4200 meter passes. There was always a dark cloud of worry hanging over Geo’s head.
Where with the bicycle I was saturated with ‘beautiful surroundings’ because that meant very hard work. It meant such hardship that the ratio satisfaction/enjoyment against preparation/bodily power could not cope. It would have been different when a strong, powerful, energized body and mind go for a relative short ride in the Andes but when there is too much dullness (agriculture), discomfort (cold and rain), dragging (sugared tomato sauce and fences) and annoyance (no quietness) on end, the ride simply does not give you any power. Now the motorbike itself robbed us from that very same. We decided to enjoy prolonged stays in simple yet enchanting places.
It was not until we got stuck in the USA that I unearthed this piece of fabric with its flower penned on it. Geo and I exchanged the motorbike for 2 kickscooters, a sort of vehicle that preferable need some practice to get accustomed to. If only the way of packing and finding a suitable set-up. Things that failed from the beginning. By now Geo was rather done with the constancy of erecting a tent and packing it the next morning. I was soon discovering that traveling together on a motorbike is easy compared to having two very different energies at work alongside each other. In trying to keep up with Geo I kicked both tendons in my ankles to a swelling bump filled with pain, twitches and a burning sensation.
So here we were in Florida. We had done some decent preparations to get with fully outfitted kickbikes into the Appalachians. Geo envisioned hilly routes along old-fashioned, simple and heartwarming folks who’d invited us and where we would in exchange do some patch-up work. I’d prepared a route in forests, along creeks and over Appalachian peaks, through perhaps typical American culture of the South East, meeting the Amish in the East and maybe even some Floridian prairies as well.
From Guayaquil airport in Ecuador I would have gone straight to the deserts and badlands but it might have been a good thing Geo’s hearts desire lay in the Southeast. By now my total immobility needed rest. In trying to avoid doctor visits and long stays in American hotels, and Geo’s desire to not set up camp each evening but simply stay put somewhere longer, we had a good combo going.
Here we were, in another pathetic piece of woods in Florida (of all places?!) but which turned out to be a heavenly experience where we were actually saved from a lot of hassle. Trouble and more nonsensical stuff the Corona virus brought along while we kept in a bubble of contentment, wonderment and best of all: nature. We were out, having fires, meeting with incredible beautiful creatures, coming together with nocturnal dwellers, stand eye to eye with an armadillo and enjoying luxurious meals prepared on a tiny hobo stove.
A month stealth camping in the woods of Florida meant we had to keep a very low profile. We better not be seen. Perhaps an effect, some might call it a safety measure, of the Corona, was that we felt utterly unsafe in the United States of America. Here were sounds going on, here was cultural behavior at play and here was a surrounding more close to resembling a science fiction stage, that Geo and I wished to be at European soil. Somehow that felt closer to home, to family and to what meant normality to us.
Embroidery is serious contemplation, to ease the mind. I red that brain activity takes up 42% of the total energy of the body. I red it in a fiction but if it is true it makes sense why we were tired each evening.
And so I sat, 4 weeks on end, to have my tendons healed. A tree as backrest. A tree as leg rest. I was wedged between trees for 4 weeks. I red books. I embroidered. I got healed.
Pouch Segunda Jerusalén. Price: € 30 price includes shipping