The saying goes “that one picture is worth 1000 words” but I’m here to say that I don’t entirely agree with that. I believe that the quality and the quantity of the words can describe thoughts and feelings that a picture does not evoke as it lacks context.
People have asked me why I have chosen to blog for year. There are several reasons and one of them is as a record of my thoughts and feelings. The picture returns you to sense of place but the words do a better job of reminding you of where your headspace was.
I have three examples of this from my personal life. I have a friend and colleague who recently returned from a work trip to the Mercy ships in Africa. I’m helping her prepare a PowerPoint presentation for our educational in-service. It is not the pictures of the ship or the people that have struck a chord in my heart. It’s her commitment and zest for what this experience has brought her. Not just how her actions helped shape the lives of others but how they had an impact on her.
I have another friend whose words I’ve shared before in the blog. She has put pen to paper many times to chronicle her travels. Most of her writing has been humorous but with a keen perception of place and self. Since the death of her daughter in single vehicle rollover or she has often turn towards words as a channel for her grief and thoughts. She and her teenage son are on a trip in South America. Her words far away the beauty of the pictures and with her permission I am posting an example of both here. Many of her friends have encouraged her to write a book and I suspect that someday she will do just that.
Once again, 6 am came early with biting frigidity and an altitude headache. Life can be about detours and we are definitely on a tangent. It was Eidan that inspired this diversion. “Mom”, he said… “We just have to go to Bolivia.”
This city is crawling with rip off taxi drivers, people slumbering the night away in cardboard boxes and stuffed like sardines within doorways.
Horns are blaring within every given moment as tasseled busses and minivans crowd narrow streets. We walk within the twinkle of an early morning light. I was happy that most of La Paz was still sleeping.
With heavy backpacks, we labour up the stairs to Oliver’s pub, tucked somewhere within some crumbling buildings. A bearded Australian smokes a cigarette in a dusty corner. The billowing of blue smoke lingers, oppressive on the air, almost curdling the scrambled eggs.
The place feels damp, musty and smells of a party gone stale. A chalkboard sign on the wall says… “We don’t serve women… Bring your own”.
At 7 am, wearing an orange and red cycling jersey… Our guide from Nelson, British Columbia strolls into the pub. “You nervous?”, he asks . I couldn’t bare to tell him about my anxiety driven dreams. Guilt ridden too, I thought. What other mother allows her 13 year old son to direct the course of travel to a country somewhat off the beaten track to cycle a road considered to be the most dangerous in the World? Lewis from Australia said it’s the best thing he’s done in South America and Eidan liked Lewis. If the kid had even a sliver of fear, life could somehow be more predictable.
The truth is… The 64 km road from La Cumbre at 4765 m to the sleepy town of Coroico (1200 m) has claimed thousands of lives. 300 people per year would plummet off the 650 meter cliff into a jungle enshrouded abyss. From the Paraguayan prisoners of war who constructed it to the car that would tumble off every two weeks, the statistics are astounding. The automobile fatalities have diminished with an alternative route that has been constructed in recent years.
The road attracts cyclists now from around the world lured by the addictive rush of adrenalin and stories from the road. But even despite the specific education and inherent knowledge that when driving…one must keep eyes on the road, since 1998, 23 cyclists have perished. For some, it was riding beyond limits. For others, it was failing to heed specific instructions. Marcos from Australia tells a story…”One woman on a bike”, he said just drove over the edge while filming her boyfriend”. Another reminder of the extreme price of distraction.
Our guides from Gravity were good though and took our safety seriously. “Those butterflies”, Marcos said…” They will kill you”. “Keep your eyes on the road and listen to my instruction and we will get you safely down this road . A grey fog rolled in so thick it looked like a gigantic, pillowy duvet where one might run, take a flying leap and land upon the back. “Just because you can’t see the cliff”, Marcos said, “doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist”.
A lonely cross carpeted with green moss is baptized by a cascading waterfall. I have the need to stop and ponder life lost and a life yet to be lived… Constant reminders of human fragility and earthly significance.
Darren from the United States admitted that he’s had ample time to consider the tragic circumstances upon this road and how at times it makes it difficult to guide. “But”, he said, “amidst it all is pure and simple beauty”. “Like life”, I said. We agreed it’s where we are best. Out there amidst nature and stunning vistas. Two feet or two tires intimately connected with the earth. We are fortunate that we are motivated to discover our planet in this way.
Was it dangerous? I know you are wondering how a mother could tempt fate with the life of her 13 year old son.
Every road is dangerous if you are not looking at it. Next time your eyes divert off the road or you are filming yourselves or your boyfriend…remember the girls that drove off the road into a jungle enshrouded and forever abyss. Even with the specific guidance, information and stories of the road…one must ask who it is that tempts fate every single day?
We spend the night in a treehouse at an animal refuge centre called La Sende Verde. I watch the strange pairing of a blue and yellow and red macaws. A white faced monkey appears to be on a mission. The sounds of the jungle are soothing and in direct contrast to the urban sprawl of La Paz. I can’t but help to reflect upon the road. It’s nothing short of ironic that we find ourselves here in Bolivia pondering that amidst the deepest tragedies still exist unparalleled and breathtaking beauty.
Eidan said he expected more from the animal refuge centre. What he wouldn’t know is that in the morning, two spider monkeys would be swinging in our hammock. One would be pondering the use of my glasses (which I no longer have) and one would be climbing upon us with his furry little head tucked into our necks just looking for a little affection.
Aaahhh…. The surprising gifts of a life that is lived.
My third friend has used words to create a time, place and story all her own. She has gone back to university to get a master’s degree in fine arts writing during her midlife. The words within her heart and head have spoken so intensely that she’s been compelled to make a change. She has spent time over the years writing but has taken this to a whole another level. Words within a book give us the power to experience without fear and failure by transporting only our minds. This is why books rock compared to movies because the visual is exactly how we see it within our minds.
There are far too many of us that leave dreams in drawers rather than pushing through the fear and unknown to reach them.