The man looks to be in his 50s, with a tan face and well-groomed mustache. But at this moment his mustache seems to be coming undone.
“You rode your bicycle across Mexico??” He fidgets uncomfortably.
“Yeah, I got to Playa del Carmen and then realized I was pregnant and needed to come home.”
“Well….” he seems to be searching for words. “Well you know what I would say about it if you hadn’t gone already… you know I wouldn’t advise doing that! Alone… on a bicycle…” He trails off.
I smile and squeeze his arm. “No harm came to me!” I head into the kitchen to find the others.
Dick’s kitchen is brimming with chattering, smiling, laughing people, arms laden with potluck goodies… pasta dishes, giant chocolate cakes, guacamole dip that is “actually made out of asparagus!”, chips, loaves of bread, soup and numerous bottles of wine.
They’ve all come to see The Love Sprockets perform tonight, and to visit with old friends, break bread and drink wine… and whiskey… and banana daiquiris…
A lovely lady with long blonde hair and a wreath of green leaves and purple flowers on her head rushes to greet me. “Jahnavi! You made it!” Golden exclaims over my pregnant belly, and Lloyd looks at me in shock.
“I didn’t know you were pregnant!” he says, with what looks to be something like reproach on his face.
I’m wearing a slinky, form-fitting dress so that all of my old Baton Rouge friends can get a really good look at my big belly. I only see them once or twice a year, so this is their chance to see me in full baby-bloom.
“Well,” he concedes. “You make being pregnant look good!”
I sit down next to Golden to catch up.
“I was reading your blog the whole time,” she’s saying, “And I was scared for you when you were getting so tired, and than you found out you were pregnant, and…. oh…. But it was so funny when you did the whole pregnancy test in Mexico and your friend was there…” She laughs like tinkling bells.
I see Phil, our first Baton Rouge host from three years ago. He and his wife, Goldie, had taken Addison, Nic and I in on New Years Eve, on a cold, blustery day during our cross-country bicycle trip. We had been instructed to draw up a menu for that evening’s dinner and describe the dishes enticingly. He had taken close up shots of everyone’s mugs that night, even Zoso’s. We all look windburned, bedraggled, and Zoso’s mustache was the color of a hundred snacks, meals and drinks of water that had dried into it. But Phil loved Zoso. He fed him special, handcrafted meals alongside his own two dogs, and lovingly referred to him as ‘Yo-so.’
When I step in to give Phil a hug, his eyes widen with surprise. “I didn’t even recognize you!”
I eat spoonfuls of his spicy bok choy, ginger soup, while he tells me about his idea for the nights events.
“I would really like to hear the development of your music,” he tells me. “A song picked for each stage of your career together.”
“Like, a chronological set list!” I say.
“Yeah, okay, something like that.”
After I’m done with my soup I find Addison unloading instruments from our car and tell him Phil’s idea.
“Cool,” he says, “That sounds like a good idea!”
And then he discovers the missing space that his set of 10 harmonicas, which he carries in a black case, should have been filling.
“Oh no….” he groans. “I think I left them in New Orleans!”
“Oh no….” I commiserate.
We had been on tour since Tuesday, and tonight it was Friday. Thursday we had driven to New Orleans and performed at a quaint, co-op of a cafe called The Neutral Ground. Perhaps because the venue is so covered in artifacts collected over the years, and only lit with soft, glowing lamps and christmas lights, it was hard to see that he had left his black case on the piano bench off in the corner.
“Well at least I have one harmonica,” he whips one out from his pocket. “And it’s in the right key to play Wade in the Water and Soul of a Man.”
That night we all go on a journey together, sitting cozily in Dick’s living room, people cuddled together on couches, smiling and clapping from rocking chairs, or peering from the perch of a wooden kitchen chair to see over the heads of the others.
We tell the story of our meeting, starting the band, bicycling across the United States, and finally arriving in Austin. Each song we play fits into the story, and has its own story behind it. When we get to the part of the night’s journey where we talk about me leaving Addison and biking across Mexico, people sigh, laugh and make commiserating noises. We each play a couple of solo songs to show what music we were playing while we were apart.
Even though we let people get up and take a break halfway through, I am still so impressed and touched by how some of them sit and listen the entire time, following the story and the songs, with no complaint of boredom.
This is music as I feel it must have been in ‘the old days’, before TV, wifi and YouTube. The traveling musician arrives at your doorstep and the village gathers to feed them and gather stories from them about the lands they’ve visited, and to hear the songs they’ve carried with them from other places that perhaps the villagers will never see themselves.
It’s not about the musician, not about how they look or idolizing them as some kind of sex symbol. It’s about the music and the story and the community that’s come together to listen and discuss love, life and death with one another.
Here are some more pictures from our Houston, Baton Rouge and New Orleans tour:
It was 10:30 in the morning, and the sun was hot enough to make me feel as though my brains were gently steaming inside my head.
My bicycle was loaded down with enough gear to allow me to ride as long as their was land to keep pedaling across.
I had just arrived in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, and I was looking for an apartment number on Calle 20 North. As I rolled down the one way street, an older, extremely tanned American couple overtook me on their city bikes.
“Where are you coming from?” the man asked me, smiling happily at my alien appearance.
I smiled back. “Well, today I just rode down from Chemuyil. But I started in Austin, Texas.”
The man’s mouth dropped open appreciatively. “No kidding! Well, welcome to Playa del Carmen!”
We chatted for a few more minutes, than it was time for them to turn right and for me to re-assess my directions. I was pretty sure I had already passed the apartment I was looking for.
I pulled up a map on my iPhone and saw that it was back a few hundred yards from where I had just come.
Another American man was standing on the sidewalk, watching me. I hadn’t seen so many white people in months.
“Where’re you headed darlin’?” he asked, swaying slightly, a paper bag-clad bottle clutched in his left hand.
“I think I know where it is, I just passed it,” I began.
“Let me help you,” he said, waving me towards him. “Just show me where you’re trying to go. I’ve lived here for 11 years.”
I sighed, but humored him. Chances are giving directions to a cycle tourist would make this guy’s day, and I didn’t want to deprive him of the opportunity.
I pulled up to where he was standing and showed him the map. “Here’s where we are, and here’s where the apartment is.”
“Oh man…” he shook his head. “I’m sorry to say, but that’s all the way across town.”
“What? But the directions say it’s a 2 minute walk from here!”
He turned the map sideways, than upside down. “Oh ok…” he squinted his eyes. “Okay, it’s just down the street, back that way, on your left.” He gestured and pointed importantly, assuring me it was very close and easy to find.
I smiled wanly and took my phone back from him. “Thanks.”
In 2 minutes I was pulled up in front of the apartment building. I sent a Whatsapp message to my friend Watson: Hey dude, I’m outside your door.
Within minutes the broken, plastic door at the entrance of the apartment building opened, and Watson stepped out into the bright sunshine, his hair sticking up in gravity-defying directions.
“You got here fast! I just rolled out of bed like a half hour ago!” he laughed, and we embraced.
“I told you I was going to leave early this morning. Didn’t want to get caught in the heat. I was out the door by like 7:30 am. Rode like a bat out of hell.”
He was gazing at my bicycle and gear, smiling appreciatively. “Well, here it is! Your bicycle!” He looked at me again. “And you have a GoPro!”
“Duh,” I laughed. “How do you think I’ve been making all of those videos?”
“Watson,” I said, taking off my helmet. “I rode my bicycle across Mexico.”
“Yeah you did,” he laughed.
“And now I never have to do it again.”
We unloaded my gear and rolled my bike inside. Watson lived with three other housemates in a downstairs apartment. We shoved all of my belongings into a corner in his room.
“Well, this is where we’ll be sleeping,” he gestured to a rumpled, full-sized bed in the corner. “I get really hot in here at night–there’s no AC–so just stay on your side!”
That afternoon we walked to the beach. There were white people EVERYWHERE. Tourist shops, people jabbering in english, and the beach was packed. Every 30-40 steps we were invited to receive a massage by a guy or girl in a little uniform. They would wave and gesture us over to the massage tables under a tent or on a deck area, and we would politely decline. “No gracias.”
We eventually found a less crowded area, and dropped our stuff down in the sand. The ocean was a shocking blue.
I stripped down to the my bikini, and Watson, ever the faithful observer of women’s bodies, said: “Wow, your boobs are huge. Definitely bigger than last time I saw you.”
“Dammit!” I cried.
“Well jeez, usually most women are happy to hear that!” he laughed.
I had been traveling alone and there had been no one else who knew me well to stand back and look at me and say, ‘Jahnavi, your boobs look bigger than usual.’
Ever since I had arrived in Villahermosa (after taking the bus from Mexico City to there), I had noticed that I was having really intense PMS symptoms; but even after being a week late, my period still didn’t not happen. Every day I was sure that ‘THIS is the day’ I start my period and I would have to either ride all day bleeding or hole up in a shabby, Mexican hotel and wait for the storm to pass.
Finally, after weeks of ‘I’ll be starting my period any day now’, I gave up. I had officially missed my period, for the first time in my adult life.
I told my sister this over the phone. “Well that’s not a big surprise,” she said. “You’ve been exercising like mad. Your body just doesn’t have TIME to have a period.”
But why am I still having PMS symptoms? I wondered. I had been crying everyday, and had even begun to feel nauseous and tired over the past week.
I explained all of this to Watson.
“Oh!” he crowed. “Are you pregnant??”
“All the signs seem to be pointing to that, yes…” I sighed miserably.
We waded out into the blue ocean waters and I dove under a wave. Being in the salty water was incredibly rejuvenating. Watson continued to make ridiculous comments about my boobs, and I laughed for the sheer joy of laughing.
“I haven’t laughed in so long Watson,” I told him, jigging and splashing in the water, and laughing some more.
Afterwards we stopped at a beachside bar and jammed with a local musician:
That night, during dinner, we discussed my theoretical pregnancy. Watson gazed around the restaurant, resting his eyes on a chubby, curly haired toddler at the next table over. “That could be yours,” he whispered to me, smirking mischievously.
I widened my eyes at him threateningly. “STOP it. We have no idea if I’m pregnant.”
“What is Addison going to think?” Watson went on, staring at me earnestly.
“Addison would not be happy,” I admitted sadly.
“WHAT? Why not??”
“He just told me recently that he doesn’t even know if he wants to have kids. He seems to be reassessing everything right now. He doesn’t even seem to know if he wants to be with me at all. Well… okay, he says he does… just in the way that works for him, which doesn’t really work for me.”
Watson wanted to take me to his favorite bar after dinner, but I was suddenly reticent to consume alcohol. I had lost interest in drinking alcohol in the last month, and with how nauseous I had started to feel, it seemed even less appealing. And what if I WAS pregnant??
“Watson…” I began. “What if I AM pregnant? I shouldn’t drink alcohol if I am! Maybe I should take a pregnancy test first…”
We were both tickled by the idea of strolling down the street, buying a pregnancy test, and then sending me into the bathroom of the bar to check if I could drink or not.
“Ok, let’s do it.”
We walked across the street to a pharmacy. “I don’t even know how to say ‘pregnancy test’ in spanish!” I told Watson.
“Ha ha, neither do I.”
We approached the pharmacist at the counter. “Um…” I began. “No se el palabra, pero neccessito un… ‘pregnancy test’… para embarazada.”
She nodded, and mimed a big pregnant belly on herself.
“Everyone probably thinks I’m the dad,” Watson muttered, suddenly embarrassed.
“Maybe I should hold your hand,” he suggested.
After the pregnancy test was purchased, we headed to the bar. Watson got us a table and wished me luck. I clutched the pregnancy test close to me and found the bathroom.
I can’t believe I’m taking my first pregnancy test in a bathroom in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, I thought, looking at my reflection in the mirror in disbelief.
I read the directions in spanish, and looked at the pictures. I think I got this.
After peeing on the test stick, I waited.
Immediately, one line formed, and than a second, very faint line.
Hmmm… it says that if there are 2 lines, it means I’m pregnant. But the second line isn’t really a line… it’s so much fainter than the other.
To my surprise, I felt disappointment wash over me.
I’ve been fighting off baby fever for almost 10 years, and I suppose the idea that I was finally pregnant (and with Addison’s baby, someone I was truly in love with) had apparently been a small hope I had carried with me for the past few weeks.
I waited another 5 minutes, hoping the second line would darken and tell me that I was pregnant.
It stayed very faint.
I rinsed off the stick and tossed everything in the garbage. Sighing, I opened the bathroom door and saw Watson watching me furtively from his table. I walked up to him, smiling at the look on his face.
I shook my head. “Negative. I’m not pregant.”
Watson broke into a relieved chuckle. “Ha ha, alright!” He held up his glass of whiskey. “Here’s to you not being pregnant!”
I wasn’t feeling celebratory, but I appreciated his enthusiasm, and took a sip from his glass. Watson went to get us more drinks.
I looked around the bar at all of the tourists, imagining what their different stories might be, and why they had ended up in that bar.
I thought about why I was disappointed to not be pregnant…
I felt like my relationship with Addison could have been saved by a baby… but now… I didn’t know. Besides, having a baby as a way to save a relationship does not seem like a good idea. And I still need to get to Brazil. So this is for the better.
It wasn’t just my relationship with Addison I was feeling like saving… it was also the life I had left behind in Austin. Our band, our awesome pets, yoga, capoeira, meditation. I could still live in Austin and play music without Addison, could still have pets and do yoga and capoeira and meditate… but I liked doing those things WITH him. I liked our lives when they were combined. We were always scheming and coming up with new projects and ideas, and we loved going on adventures together, whether by bicycle or hitting the road on tour with a car full of musical instruments.
Addison was going to be in Playa del Carmen in just 2 more days.
…to be continued 😉
P.S. Here’s a bonus video of some of the inner-goings-ons of Watson and I’s time together:
I am sitting in an air bnb apartment on Avenida 15 Nte. in Playa del Carmen. Outside our balcony window is Avenida 15, a busy street with tortillerias and cheap Mexican food. The ocean is a 10 minute walk away. Inside this one room apartment there are towels,clothing and musical instruments strewn around.
I am slathered in sunblock–a morning and afternoon ritual I have been adhering to since I arrived–and my skin is salty from swimming in the ocean today.
Addison is sitting on the couch trying to get his work done on the computer, though he’s really just fighting the urge to go take another nap.
I have ridden my bicycle across Mexico (and taken rides in a few buses and cars), and now I sit back to contemplate the last two weeks.
During these last 14 or so days, I’ve ridden my bicycle almost everyday, spent the majority of my hours alone, slept in random hotels or at couchsurfer/warmshowers hosts’ houses, and have eaten everything from cold tortillas stuffed with refried beans from a bag in my hotel room to huevos rancheros floating in red sauce at a fine restaurant in Champoton. I’ve consumed roadside coconuts, oranges that are peeled and sliced in half and sold for 10 pesos a bag, and the stray coca-cola when I’ve still got 30 km to my final destination and I feel like I just can’t take it anymore.
With my chapter of alone time coming to a close for this trip (at least for the moment), I feel truly grateful for this rite of passage, and also relieved that nothing ever stays the same.
My friend Watson (also former upright bass player for my band, The Love Sprockets) lives in Playa del Carmen and had been expecting me to show up any day. He had also mentioned if shit really hit the fan, he’d be open to borrowing a truck from the brewery he works at to come and save me.
Traveling from Villahermosa to Merida I had been heading due east along the Gulf Coast. Then from Merida (about 300 km from Playa–so basically 4-5 days of riding) I was turning due south for the last leg of my ride. While leaving Merida, I was hit with such an incredibly strong headwind, that it felt like my purpose in pedaling was mostly to avoid being blown backwards. It was also intensely hot all of a sudden.
In addition, my iPod had died, never to return to the land of the living, during the fateful rainstorm I wrote about in my last blog post. This meant long hours of lonely silence, only broken up by the passing of trucks and cars, and the occasional Mexican man who decided to yell or whistle at me.
I felt a wave of complete and utter discouragement, and suddenly didn’t care about finishing the final 321 km by bicycle. I wanted out. I wanted Watson to come and get me, and to just lay around Playa until Addison arrived on the 18th. I didn’t want to be fighting a headwind for the next 4-5 days, staying in hotels, eating shitty food from roadside restaurants, and being out in the full sun day in and day out, with no shade to speak of.
But when I tried to make the emergency rescue call, Watson was not available. He had work/the truck wasn’t available. Eventually, over the next couple of days, I tried to convince him to just ride his motorcycle out to see me, and I could take the day off, hang out with a friend and go swim at a cenote in good company.
However, his lady friend was visiting, and he didn’t want to drag her out on the motorcycle for a 4 hour ride to come and meet me.
So I found myself pushing through a wall that I had really hoped to just walk around and avoid altogether.
Yes, there was quite of bit of crying involved and a tad too much sun exposure, but nothing that was going to kill me. At the urging of Radha (my sister), I began to make my rides a bit shorter, tackling 60 km a day rather than 80-100 km as I had been doing for the first half of my trip. This certainly helped my moral.
This seems like a good time to talk about the wildlife I’ve seen, most of which has been roadkill, but some of which has been the real, living animals themselves.
Here is some of the Mexican roadkill I can recall (I’ve researched photos of the real thing online so you can get a visual of the magnificent, though sadly dead, creature):
Beautiful blue and green birds (maybe the blue-crowned motmot?)
Small, brown bats
Snakes of all sizes
Some of the live animals I’ve seen have been:
-a gray fox who crossed the road in front of me so close that I had to stop so I didn’t run into her
-lots of bats at the cenotes here in the Yucatan
-many varieties of birds including herons, orioles, parrots, doves, grackles, warblers, woodpeckers, hawks, eagles, pelicans and ones whose names I do not know.
-I was able to hang out with a bush-full of coatis one day, much to my (and their) surprise.
-I never pass up the chance to watch one of the enormous, cat-sized lizards sunbathing or doing it’s strange ‘push-up’ dance, where it bobs up and down and sometimes arches its head back rhythmically. Oddly, I feel no desire to try and catch one and hold it, like I used to with the little fence lizards in California. Dinosaurs are best observed at a small distance in my opinion. 🙂
Here in Playa del Carmen I saw a giant rodent like creature rummaging around the trash near the beach… an agouti seems to be what I saw:
I was able to camp one of the days I was on the road near a cenote, in a small Mayan village town called Yokdznot (please don’t ask me how to pronounce that). I was psyched to see an official campground in Mexico.
Yes, I was the only person camping, and the Mexicans who passed by my camp spot seemed to be highly perplexed as to what exactly I was doing…
I didn’t sleep all that well in my little tent–what with the village dogs raising the alarm every hour or so when a leaf rustled in the distance–but I was so happy to hear the wind in the trees and to be awoken by birdsong that it was fine.
Actually, in the middle of the night at that campground, I had to go to the bathroom, and had a cool little experience.
The bathroom was a good distance away, so I followed the path that led to it, stomping my feet every now and then to scare off snakes. I saw a strange, white beast off to the side under a tree. It seemed to stock still, gazing at me with mute concentration. I stopped, feeling a little uneasy, and had to look at it for a while before I could discern that it was a goat. And no, it wasn’t staring at me with it’s head erect–that was, in fact, it’s butthole and it’s little tail sticking up in the air. It’s back was turned to me and I suppose it was just sleeping standing up or something.
When I reached the bathrooms, I saw two men sleeping in hammocks hanging from the trees nearby.
There was something so fascinating about seeing them dangling there, like two overgrown babies, snoring softly. No blankets, sheets, pillows or mosquito netting. Just a hammock swaying beneath the trees in the breeze.
I was truly impressed by this scene.
I snuck by quietly so as not to awaken them.
All of this alone time has given me plenty of space for meditation and just ‘being’ with myself.
Sometimes I don’t really want to hang out with myself.
Sometimes I’d MUCH rather hang out with anyone else but me.
But that’s usually when I’m feeling some kind of pain–fear, loneliness, despair–and I don’t want to feel bad anymore.
So I’ve simply taken the time to hang out with these unpleasant feelings, and it’s amazing how much quicker they seem to dissipate when I give them all of my attention.
It gets tiresome when these unhappy feelings arise every morning, or every 5 minutes. Especially when I need to pack up all my gear and hit the road in a timely manner, and need to have the strength of mind to cycle 7-8 hours everyday and find a place to sleep at night before it gets dark.
But now I’m beginning to regard these painful feelings simply as little crying babies with poopy diapers. As long as I’m willing to hold them, let them cry, and even change their diapers occasionally, they can’t carry on forever. They finally seem to be satisfied at some point, and give me a break.
It’s during these respites that I regain my sense of humor, and actually want to talk to other people, even if it’s only in spanish. I feel a resurgence of inspiration around my trip. I feel space inside of me, and can take some easy breaths, maybe even smile.
What I like about being alone is that I get to decide exactly what I do when. I can leave the hotel in the morning as early (or as late) as I feel like, I can go to sleep when I decide it’s time to turn off the light, and I don’t have consult anyone about any decision I’m trying to make.
That being said, sometimes I choose to consult other people. Like Watson, for instance–when I’m getting ready to ride 100 km with a broken spoke and my wheel is rubbing the brakes off to one side even thought they’re released.
Or I’ll call Radha and Erik (my sister and her husband), when I’ve had a rough start to my morning and my insides feeling all junky and sad. I just chat with them for a few minutes to hear how their day went (they’re getting ready for bed when I’m waking up, because they’re in Thailand), and Radha will patiently remind me that feeling sad does not mean the end of the world.
I made it to the small town of Chemuyil (near Tulum) on Monday, and spent two nights at a friend of Rohn Baye’s (Rohn is one of my Patreon backers who I met in San Antonio on my way through to Brazil). His name is Pepe, and on Tuesday we spent some time walking around Tulum while he got his car repaired at the mechanics, and then he drove me to his friend’s place out in the jungle where I was taken through a series of underground caverns and swam in an underground cenote. Truly amazing.
On Wednesday I awoke at 5:30 am, so that I could rolling out to Playa del Carmen by 7 am, and be able to beat the heat. I arrived at Watson’s apartment complex around 10:45 am.
“Watson,” I said, after he’d stepped outside to meet me and was marveling at my loaded bicycle. “I rode my bicycle across Mexico. Now I never have to do it again, ever.”
“God is the love that moves the sun and the other stars.”
I sit at a table on a restaurant patio overlooking the ocean this morning.
I have been dreaming about eggs for days now, imagining them gliding around deliciously in a handmade tortilla, dripping with salsa.
And now, here they are with me, huevos rancheros, gazing solemnly up from my plate in their warm bath of red salsa and fresh, crumbled cheese.
The tortillas that my waiter presents me in a basket wrapped in cloth are, indeed, handmade and very hot.
Before diving into my breakfast, I sip my cafe ollo (coffee brewed with cinnamon) and look out at the three cormorants (badass birds that can swim underwater) who have set themselves up on the three available wooden posts that stick out above the ocean tide.
These three birds are facing the sun, which rose about an hour earlier, and are sitting silent and still, in worshipful reverence of the source of warmth and light for the entire Earth.
I stare at them, appreciation swelling in my heart.
Without water, I would die, I think, looking out at the vast body of lapping waves in front of me, and so would these three birds.
Without the sun, I would die, I continue in my head, looking at their peaceful, beaked faces pointed at the sun, and so would these three birds.
I feel my connection to the water, the sun, the birds and… without food, I would die. I gaze down at my breakfast.
I imagine the man or woman inside the kitchen who has carefully prepared my tortillas and huevos rancheros for me.
I feel gratitude filling my chest for this stranger who is making sure I have a delicious meal to give me energy for my day.
And I think about the chicken who has laid the eggs I am about to eat, and wonder where she is right now. Most likely she is scratching around in the dirt next door, chasing bugs with that vacant look in her eye that all chickens seem to have.
I take a sip of the freshly squeezed orange juice waiting in a tall glass in front of me, and imagine the orange tree reaching towards the sun, drinking in his rays and fattening up her crop of bright, sweet orbs of fruit.
After these contemplations, I promptly begin eating.
The waiter approaches a little while later, smiling at me good naturedly with his haggard teeth, and I thank him as he takes away my used napkins.
“Donde vienes?” he asks me (meaning, ‘where do you come from?’).
“Austin,” I reply.
“Austin Texas,” I clarify, silencing the ‘x’ in Texas so he can be sure where it is I’m talking about. “Voy a Brazil con mi bici,” I explain with a smile.
His eyes widen. “Con su bici?”
He wanders away, clearly needing some time to digest this information before his next question.
I have been traveling from Austin, TX by bicycle, bus and car for 2 months now, and in the last week it has now been solely by bicycle.
When I left Austin, headed for Mexico, I didn’t really have a way to prepare myself for the endless highways running through the endless desert, broken up only by cities that are barely navigable by bicycle.
I soon found that my comfort level allowed me only some short stints by bicycle, and then many more by bus and car.
The waiter returned, this time with a new question:
“No tienes miedo a viajar sola?” (‘aren’t you afraid to travel alone?’)
It took me a minute to decipher this question, because I wasn’t familiar with the word ‘miedo’ (‘fear’). But after repeating the unknown word aloud a few times, I understood.
I shrugged. “Un poco. Pero, esta bien.” (‘a little, but it’s okay’)
He laughed and walked away again.
I have come to know Fear over these past 2 months, more intimately than I had ever hoped.
Rarely have I actually been in any ‘real danger’. The fear I have been experiencing is mostly hand-made. 😉
After arriving in Mexico City in the car of a friend, I met Mestre Acordeon for the first time, practiced capoeira with Profesor Nao Veio, spent 5 days with Addison who came to visit me, got a new tattoo, and then finally got on a bus to a town in Tabasco called Villahermosa.
In Villahermosa I spent my first night sleeping in a hammock, something I’ve never done before. It was very hot and muggy, but after being bitten by mosquitoes I eventually pulled out my sleeping bag and somehow managed to wrap it around myself while not falling sideways out of the hammock.
I was at a Warmshowers host’s house. His name is Juan, and he was expecting two more cyclists the next day.
My first morning in Villahermosa I was awoken at 7:30 am by the sound of someone bashing a wall in across the street with a sledgehammer. I shifted around in my hammock, and then eventually sat up to greet my host and his friend.
They both left to work for the day, and I greeted my fear, who was waiting for my undivided attention. I meditated, journaled, cried, called friends, and cried some more.
During my walking meditation, I saw a little statue of Jesus Christ in Juan’s hallway. And I began to say to myself, over and over, “The Kingdom of Heaven is inside of me.”
Finally, I heard a knock during mid-afternoon and opened the door for the two cyclists Juan had been expecting.
Their names are Charles and Denise, and they are retired french canadians who have been cycling in South and Central America now for a year. They started in Peru, cycled down to the tip of South America (Chile), than back up into Peru where they spent four months, after which they continued north and eventually ended up at Juan’s house with me, in Villahermosa.
I was glad for their company, and Denise and I walked together to a nearby supermarket to buy food. I had a strange sense of feeling like a child again, wanting her to be my mommy, not wanting to lose her in the huge supermarket.
This kind of fear I experience is the strongest when I am transitioning into a new, unknown situation. This time it was the transition from Mexico City to now actually cycle touring again, and not knowing what it would be like to spend days on my own, sleeping at hotels in towns I knew nothing about.
But at the moment, I was safe, and I had a wonderful couple to spend the evening with. They made a pasta dinner for all of us, and drew me a route through the Yucatan on my map of Mexico, since they had just come from the area I was headed. This brought me some relief, as the unknown began to feel less ‘un’ and more ‘known’.
That night we pulled the hammock out of the way, and the three of us lined up on the tile floor and slept side by side with our sleeping bags and earplugs.
Sleeping with strangers has never felt so comforting.
The next morning we all packed up and made our procession out to the sidewalk. Juan was chatting with us amiably and helping us out the door.
Charles, Denise and I navigated through the city, and then, after a few blocks of riding together, they turned left and I went straight.
I took a deep breath. Here I go… I thought, watching the highway take shape out in front of me. I would be on Highway 180 for the next week or so.
After sitting and gazing out over the ocean some more, the waiter arrived to take my plate away. I was left with my coffee and orange juice (probably not the best combo for my digestion, but who cares), which I took as long as I wanted to sip and savor.
In Mexico they NEVER rush you in a restaurant. You can sit at your table for hours, maybe even days, and they’ll just smile and offer you more coffee.
But eventually I did raise my hand for the waiter. “La cuenta por favor.”
He bustled away to count up my order.
I’m doing it, I thought, watching a large, blue-black grackle making a ruckus in the tree next to me. I’m enjoying being alone.
It’s so hard for me to go to a nice restaurant, or hang out in a beautiful place and not be filled with the desire to share it with someone.
It’s not that I don’t feel like I deserve it, but I love sharing the world with other people. And maybe I’m afraid it’s as if none of this actually happened, if there wasn’t someone to witness it.
‘If Jahnavi hangs out in a fancy hotel and meditates by the gurgling pool in the garden out back and no one else witnesses it, did it really happen?’ 😛
I say good bye to the waiter, who wishes me luck and ‘cuidado’ (‘be careful’), and make my way back to my hotel room.
I’m taking a day off at this hotel, because since I left Villahermosa that morning with the french cyclists, I have been pulling 7-8 hour days, fighting a headwind as I travel alongside the Gulf of Mexico. My body wants a bicycle, wind and sun free day.
My first day back on the bicycle, from Villahermosa to Frontera, was 82 km and so easy, I was confused. It only took me 4 ½ hours, and there I was, in Frontera, booking a room at a cheap hotel at 2 pm.
I figured the next day, 99 km, shouldn’t be so bad.
But that’s when I hit the waterfront, and was reminded about the joys of a nice, healthy, headwind. At first I was more focused on the fact that I was being rained on pretty thoroughly for a couple of hours, but once that cleared, I began to feel concerned.
I was traveling so SLOWLY.
After 5 hours, I had only gotten halfway to Cidudad del Carmen, the town I was intent on reaching, where a Couchsurfer named Victor Hugo was awaiting my arrival.
It was like moving in slow motion for 9 hours straight.
When I finally reached the city–after crossing a mile long bridge and weeping copiously as my speed slowed to a crawl due to the even greater wind exposure–I had to cross through the entire city to the other end, where Hugo lives.
At one point I pulled over to look at my cellphone map, and a very excited, older Mexican man approached me, eager to practice his english and find out what in the hell I was up to.
I was so tired I could barely conjure up my good manners, though I appreciated his interest in my trip. Most people just regard me as an alien here in Mexico, so when someone actually treats me like a human being and asks me about my life I feel glad.
After chatting with him and explaining that I was riding my bicycle to Brazil and yes, I am crazy, I continued on to Hugo’s apartment.
Hugo was amazed to see me and my bicycle pull up to his place, and helped me inside.
The beer I drank before we ate dinner was like an elixir of life, and we talked about travel, my sister and her husband’s 6 month excursion across half the world, my mom and my brother living in India, and his part in his family’s business.
I had been planning on continuing on to the next place in the morning, but I had already arrived at Hugo’s much later than expected and was feeling rather knackered.
I awoke early the next morning, looked at some maps, and finally decided I would take the day off.
After a morning meditation session with Addison over the phone, I wrote this down from Thich Nhat Hanh’s book called ‘Fear’:
“If you are capable of living deeply one moment of your life, you can learn to live the same way all the other moments of your life.” -Thay
Sometimes I do need to live life moment to moment–any more than that can feel overwhelming when I am in a certain state of mind. And now I can just consider it a meditation practice, this one moment where I choose to live deeply.
“If you can dwell in one moment, you will discover eternity.” -Rene Char
Hugo took me to Walmart so I could buy supplies for my trip (and where, coincidentally, they were blasting capoeira music), and then we ate lunch under an oceanside tent restaurant.
We discussed jealousy (something Hugo struggles with, as do I and most people) and he asked me how I deal with it.
“Meditation!” I said. “It’s the only way!” I laughed.
He was intrigued, so we talked more about meditation and discussed the best way for him to get started on his own, since he’d never done it before.
That evening, my right hip and leg began to hurt so badly, that I was having trouble walking. I tried to brush it away, assuming I would feel fine in the morning and be able to ride.
I stretched, massaged the area, slathered myself with biofreeze (thanks again Diane!), drank a glass of water with arnica drops in it, drank magnesium, and then finally lay myself out to sleep. It took a while to fall asleep, because the only comfortable position for my leg was straight, so that didn’t give me many options for how I could lay down (and boy do I like to shift positions every 5 minutes).
I awoke at 6:30 am, eager to find out if my leg had magically healed overnight.
But when I stood up to walk to the bathroom, I was filled with dismay. It hurt just as badly… maybe worse.
I called Radha and Erik (who are in Thailand) and discussed the situation with them.
Finally, I decided I would have to take the day off. Even if I could manage to get on my bicycle and ride 80 km that day, getting off to walk around was agony, and probably not the safest situation to put myself in considering I’d be traveling out in the middle of nowhere, alone.
So I stayed, and spend some quality time with Fear.
I’ve been meditating so much on this trip that I told Addison, “I’m beginning to feel like a monk, like I’m in a monastery… but I’m on an epic journey at the same time… so it’s like I’m a warrior monk.”
The day off didn’t kill me, and I even got some practical things done, including making music with my mandolin.
“Art is the essence of life, and the substance of art is mindfulness.” -Thay
The following two days would be a blur of oceanside cycling, granola bars, sunburn, Harry Potter audiobook, hotels, limping around, whistling Mexican men, semi trucks, gray foxes, coatis, iguanas the size of cats, swamps, mangroves, beaches, albatrosses, eagles, hawks, fish, exhaustion, alone-ness, and more meditation.
Having spent so much time gazing at the ocean, I gleaned this thought from my reflections: “The ocean is not afraid of change. She never stops moving, never stops shifting, and changing the sands at her edges and the ocean floor beneath her.”
At another point, as I was riding past miles of mangroves and swamps and listening to Danny Malone’s album, ‘Balloons’, this question he asks stuck with me:
“They say the way to know yourself, is by yourself
But what if you’re someone you don’t really wanna know…?”
When I pulled into Champoton yesterday and saw the Hotel Posada la Regia on my right side, I didn’t care if it was cheap, expensive, new, old, had internet, or hot water… I just wanted to stop, and sleep.
But after being shown to my room and realizing it’s actually a nice place and a reasonably nice town, and taking consideration of my very unhappy right leg, I decided I was staying an extra night and that was that.
“The past is not me. I am not limited by the past.
The present is not me. I am not limited by the present.
The future is not me. I am not limited by the future.”
My goal right now is to rest, write, read, and (yes, you guessed it) meditate. Than it’s another three days to Merida, where a warmshowers host is awaiting my arrival on Saturday.
I’m learning to relish this alone-ness, to let it sink into my skin.
Because once I get to Playa del Carmen, I may be traveling with a whole lotta people, and potentially looking back on this sweet, quiet time wistfully–and then turning back to my large group of humans and reveling in their company all the same.
Sometimes, when you have writer’s block, the best solution is just to set out to ride your bicycle 250 km across a desert landscape through towns where no-one speaks English.
Works every time.
I haven’t felt like writing much these past two weeks, but day 2 on the road, and inspiration has kicked in!
For the past couple of weeks I have been struggling with ups and downs, sadness, depression, what-have-you.
Most days, at some point, I would decide I couldn’t do it anymore. ‘I can’t do it,’ I’d tell myself, ‘I’m not riding my bicycle to Brazil. And now I have to go back to Austin and face all of the people who have been rooting me on.’
I failed… this is what failure feels like, I would think to myself. I thought I could be like those cool, brave, girls in the travel blogs, or the ones who wrote books and had movies made about them.
But maybe all I want to do is plant a garden and bounce a baby on my knee… and do capoeira everyday… and ride my bicycle. Maybe I don’t have to be special or brave or amazing. Maybe it’s okay to just be ordinary.
Honestly, it was kind of cool to experience what if would feel like to give up on a dream I’ve had for so long.
It’s crazy… it felt like… like suddenly I had no idea who I was anymore, and there was just all of this open space.
But then I would remember that I can’t actually go back to Austin.
Addison is having a blast with me gone, going to bed early, waking up early, skyrocketing his career, working out to his heart’s content, having lots of ‘bro time’ with affluent-entrepreneur-copy-writer-types.
He’s rearranged our entire apartment, and his creativity has exploded within.
“The apartment feels too small for both of us now,” he told me.
Even if Addison had welcomed me home, I knew I couldn’t give it up. I want to so often, but I just can’t.
I have to try a little longer, I would tell myself. Just ride to the next town. If it’s awful, you don’t have to do it anymore. But maybe you’ll have a breakthrough.
I hadn’t actually traveled by bicycle in two weeks by this point, because of getting the ride back to Saltillo and then taking a bus to San Luis.
I suspected part of my hesitation was simply the lack of momentum, and my fear of cycling alone in Mexico.
I’ve been staying in San Luis Potosi with Gaby and co., and then I traveled to Chical. I got back to San Luis last weekend.
As I made plans to cycle to Queretaro, Gaby begged me to just take a bus or get a ride.
“It’s so dangerous!” she would wail, her mascara heavy lashes fluttering in consternation. “It’s a big highway, so many… how you say… semi-trucks!”
But Pancho, a cyclist who took me on a day ride with his group in San Luis Potosi, said, “Hey, do what you have to do. It’s not a bad road, just a lot of traffic. It’s okay. Anything could happen to you anywhere. And you need to ride your bicycle, so do it.”
It’s about 250 km from San Luis to Queretaro, so I knew I needed three days at least.
I mapped out my route, making sure I would end up in some kind of town each night that would hopefully have a hotel, or a church, or a ‘bombero’ (fire-station).
The night before I was planning to leave, Alejandra and her son Daniel came over, and Alejandra asked me:
“Did you look at the weather for tomorrow?”
It had been sunny and between 60-70 degrees everyday I’d been in San Luis, so no, I had not thought to.
When I admitted this, she said, “Well, it’s supposed to be very cold and raining for the next two days.. and maybe even snow!”
I quickly looked at the weather app on my phone and discovered she was correct.
What?? I thought. I’m already having trouble motivating myself, why this?
Gaby smiled happily. “It’s okay, you stay here, we go to the movies… you can live here if you want!”
Alejandra and I made plans for the next day, but it was hard for me to hide my disappointment.
It’s not that I wouldn’t love to spend more time with Gaby and Alejandra, but I was stuck and I needed to unstick myself, and the way I could see how to do that was to ride my bicycle to Queretaro.
Well the next morning when I opened my sleepy eyes, I saw immediately that the sky was a little cloudy, but the sun was peeking through. And when I stepped outside, although the temperature had indeed dropped, it was as dry as a desert ought to be.
I gathered up my bags and began to do the final stages of packing where I had left off of yesterday.
Gaby came home from her morning spin class and observed that I was leaving after all.
Being the good sport that she is, instead of trying to stop me, she began making phone calls to her friends.
What blows my mind here in Mexico, is that friends seem to be available to eachother at the drop of a hat, anytime, any day.
People would come by to visit Gaby and spend hours at her house, with little more than a half hour of heads up.
Or we would go to a restaurant and slowly, over 4-5 hours, a whole retinue of friends would cycle in and out, sitting at the table together and talking talking talking.
The communality of Mexicans is amazing to me. I would like to see more of this in the States, at my own home and with my friends.
All of that is to say that Juan Ramone appeared at the door with his pick-up truck 15 minutes after Gaby called him.
“Leaving San Luis, 57 (the highway I was planning on taking) is very very dangerous,” Gaby explained. “Juan Ramone is going to drive you just outside of the city. It’s not so good even after this, but it’s better.”
Juan Ramone is in his late 40s and is very deliberate and thoughtful. He can’t speak much english, but I could understood most of what he said because he actually spoke nice and slowly.
We transferred my gear and bicycle into his truck, and then I said good-bye to Gaby.
Gaby has a busy, full life, and even so she took the time to make sure I was safe and that I had a good route planned out, and made me feel welcome to stay as long as I needed. I appreciate her so much!
I’m looking forward to seeing her in Austin when she visits, or to taking vacations with her in Alejandra to the beaches of Mexico.
Juan Ramone (well, his full name is actually Juan Ramone Grande Primero, he instructed me, when I was adding him to my contacts) drove me 20 km out of San Luis.
Indeed, Gaby’s concerns had been legit.
The highway leaving the city was god awful.
I was so grateful for the ride.
We stopped 30 km away from Santa Maria del Rio (the town I was planning on cycling to first) and I assembled my gear onto my bicycle while the semi-trucks and other traffic screamed past (and while Juan Ramone reminded me repeatedly to not step in the dog shit that was lying just near my front wheel).
I was rather nervous.
I said good-bye to Juan Ramone and then heaved myself onto my bicycle and wobbled away.
I’m doing this, goddammit, I thought to myself. I’m doing this!
I caught a ride from San Luis Potosi to Tanchachin in La Huasteca so I could visit Ismael’s family (they live near to Tanchachin in a small village called Chical). I met them 5 years ago when my dad was living in Tanchachin, and I had loved the area so much that I had to go back!
I left my bicycle in San Luis, and that is where I will be traveling from next. The road from San Luis to Tanchachin is terrifying from the perspective of a cyclist, unfortunately, so that’s why I decided to take a different way.
“I was in San Luis Saturday night, Sunday (staying with a friend of my friend Fernando–her name is Gaby) and then on Monday I discovered that Alejandra’s friend (Alejandra is a friend of Gaby’s here in San Luis), Oliverio, was driving to Ciudad Valles on Tuesday morning.
(talk about a friend of a friend of a friend once removed!)
I had been warned against cycling directly to Chical, and advised, instead to go a different route that would take me through Queretaro.
With that in mind, I figured it was time to go visit Ismael’s family in Chical and then I could return to San Luis and cycle from there via a different road.
As I write, I notice how a myriad of new, spanish words are trying to creep in to replace some of my english words. If I let this happen, my next sentence in the story might look like this…
Entonces, en la manana de martes, Oliverio picked me up a la casa de Gaby en el carro de el.
Monday night I stayed up past midnight trying to get some last minute writing done for my client. Whatever I could finish, Addison would have to cover for me, as I would be gone until Friday and wouldn’t have much or anything in the way of internet.
I finally went to bed around 12:30 am with my alarm set for 6 am.
I hadn’t put my phone on airplane mode because I wanted Oliverio to be able to reach me early in the AM if necessary.
So when Addison sent me a voice message at 4:30 am, I picked up my phone almost on auto-pilot and listened to it.
Addison wakes up every morning around 4 am to get the bulk of his writing done in the early hours of the day, than he usually takes a nap around 10 am.
In his voice message, he told me that around 4 am he had heard noises outside our apartment door, where his bicycle was locked up.
He went out to the living room and peeked through the peephole in our door and saw someone walking down the stairs from the landing. Since we share a landing with another apartment, he figured it was just the neighbor walking down there.
But when he heard noises again, and looked through the peephole, this time he could see that there was a guy out there, clearly cutting through his bike lock with bolt cutters.
Addison was ass naked, but did swing the door open and yell, ‘yo!’
Without turning to look at Addison, the guy quickly walked down the stairs and left the premises silently.
Given his lack of clothes and the impressively large bolt cutters in the guy’s hands, Addison did not pursue him.
All of this information coming to me in my sleepy state creeped me out. There’s something about bicycle thievery that seems almost evil to me. And the thought of some guy eye-balling our apt. for who-knows-how-long made me concerned for Addison’s safety.
Apparently our dog (Zoso) is not doing his job.
Maybe Addison should get a chihuahua. They make great alarm systems here in Mexico. 😉
Anyways, all of that is to say that I had trouble falling back to sleep again. When 6 am rolled around I was very tired but excited to hit the road.
Gaby’s housekeeper, Rosa, helped me navigate breakfast, and when Oliverio arrived I popped outside with my borrowed, pink backpack, my mandolin and a bottle of water.
Oliverio does not speak any english, nor did his two companions who joined us for the 3 hour drive.
Add that to the equation that none of Ismael’s family in Chical speak english, or anyone else in Chical for that matter, and you get ‘Jahnavi’s Spanish Immersion Week 101’!”
We are at a Couchsurfer’s house named Sarmach, in Allende. As usual he (and his sister), are ridiculously kind and generous. They brought us to a restaurant immediately after we arrived at their house. They took us to a store so we could get some warmer supplies [we’ve been pretty darn cold these past few days!]. They let Dagan buy a blanket, but insisted on giving me a sweater from their house, as well as a ‘tuk’ [a warm hat] for Dagan.
The houses and restaurants were all cold (again, no central heating), so by the late afternoon I was cold through and through. But I finally warmed up once we took a nap in the evening, under piles of thick, warm covers.
I dreamt I looked into my own eyes. I was afraid to hold eye contact with myself, but I finally did. Than I embraced myself. I felt what it was like to hug me. The “other” me started crying. I could feel my back move as I cried. And I realized I was crying too.
I look to this dream as some progress on my path of self love.
I am in Rayones today. The sun is shining brightly on the faces of the enormous mountains that surround me on all sides. Tufted titmouses are singing in their Southern, mountain accents. The fronts of their little mohawks are black, and around the base of their beaks is white. [Different than Austin titmouses]
Yesterday Sarmach and Co. drove us up the long, winding mountain road to this town. They brought us to a small restaurant, which also turned out to have two rooms, one of which we stayed in last night.
When we were driving here, just at the base of the first mountain, a new road had been put in. But you couldn’t drive on it yet. There was a big pile of dirt blocking the entrance, with construction signs perched on top. But the side dirt road that would take you around was blocked by a huge semi truck that got stuck in the mud.
Cars and pick ups were turning around at various points on the dirt road, or they had just given up and parked somewhere. We turned around as well, and parked in front of the dirt pile.
Without hesitation, Sarmach got out and grabbed his archaeological pick [he likes to dig for dinosaur bones, of which there are many to be found in these mountains, he told us]. He began to attack the dirt pile with his small pick. This spurred the other Mexican guys who had been standing around into action. They seized the constructions signs and wielded them like alien shovels. The girls (and me and Dagan) grabbed at random stones or clumps and tossed them aside.
When enough dirt had been cleared, we got back into Sarmach’s Explorer and drove through, creating a path for the smaller cars.
There was another dirt blockade on the other end of the section of new pavement, but Sarmach dropped down the side of it and around.
I hope the semi-truck will be gone when they return, because I wasn’t sure how they would climb back up onto the road on their way back, without having to dig through another dirt pile.
Last night, while I was journaling in my tent with my light on, I heard the sound of a car coming up the mountain road.
“Do you hear that?” Dagan asked.
It was the only car we’d heard since the one pick up that passed us at the beginning of our ride from Rayones to Galeana.
“Yeah,” I said, quickly switching off my light. “I turned my light off.”
We’d left Rayones around 1:30 pm that day, knowing that maybe we couldn’t make it all the way to Galeana before dark, but that camping would be an option.
The only road between Rayones and Galeana cuts through the mountains, and is rutted dirt. Some places large boulders lay across the path, other parts there are steep drop offs along one side, and then there’s even the occasional cow. We didn’t see any houses once we left Rayones. Just mountains, some distant caves, and enormous cactuses of many varieties.
At around 3:30, my back rack started making funny noises. I kept stopping to investigate, when I finally discovered the bolt holding my rack on the frame (and, consequently, all my sh**) had snapped in half. One side of the rack was dangling, so to speak.
Dagan had pulled over to wait for me, and was feeding us oranges.
“My bolt broke,” I told him. “And I don’t have another one.” I swore. “Watson, the bass player for our band, is also a cycle tourist, and he told me I should have a bag of extra bolts, screws, etc. But I didn’t have any bolts at my house, so I just brought screws.”
“I’m eating another orange,” Dagan replied. “You want one?”
“I’ll eat one after I fix this.”
I dug into my panniers and found my bag with lube, screws and a spoke wrench.
“I guess I’ll just have to use a screw to hold this on,” I announced.
Dagan didn’t say anything, so I drew the conclusion that this meant he had no bolts as well.
He held my rack up while I lined up the fender attachments with the rack opening. I turned the screw in, and watched tiny shards of metal fall from the hole.
“Well,” I said, “it’s a screw, but I think it will hold.”
As if awakening from a dream, Dagan peered down at what I was doing and then said, “I have a bolt you could have used.”
“What??” I stared at him, laughing. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I didn’t know you needed one.”
“I said 2 or 3 times I needed one!” I told him. “I took your lack of response to mean you didn’t have any either.”
We laughed and I swore some more. When he did produce a bolt for me, I discovered it wouldn’t work in the hole anymore.
“I think I stripped out the opening with the screw.”
Afterwards, when I tried to put the screw back in, it didn’t really work as well either. Eventually I ended up holding it all together with zipties.
“Great, just great,” I sighed, feeling how wobbly the rack was. “I ruined my bolt hole.” Where the rack attaches to my bicycle is a part of the actual frame, so it’s not just a piece I can replace.
It was an hour later when we decided we should find a place to camp before it got dark.
After some exploration of a relatively flat area, I insisted we push our bicycles up an old horse track (at least it appeared to be a path beaten down by horse hooves), where we would be out of sight of the road.
“Is this really necessary?” Dagan had asked. “It’s not like any cars have driven passed us all day.”
“Even if one car drives up through here tonight,” I said, “if we’re camped right next to the road where they can see us, I’ll feel really paranoid and probably won’t be able to sleep. I’d rather be out of sight and have the upper hand on any situation that might come up.”
Well, lying in my tent right then, listening to a truck driving up the road and then stopping at a spot that sounded like it was just below us, had definitely gotten my adrenaline pumping.
I held absolutely still.
Dagan, on the other hand, rustled around on his sleeping pad (which, for some reason, sounds like a herd of gastronomically challenged giraffes when he moves around on it), unzipped his tent, and looked out.
“I don’t see anything,” he told me.
“I heard an engine die just a minute ago,” I whispered. “And now I hear voices.”
We both fell silent. So did the two men’s voices I had heard.
“I don’t hear voices,” Dagan said.
Just then, I heard them again, and the car door open and slam. The vehicle began to drive again. The way the sound carried, it seemed like they had turned onto the dirt track and were driving up to our site.
They must have seen my light, I thought, adrenaline squirting into my blood stream at a rapid rate. Why are they trying to find us?
The car drove past. I lay still, shaking.
“Good call on choosing a camp spot on higher ground.” Dagan rustled around some more.
“I think they were looking for us,” I said weakly.
“I don’t think so,” Dagan insisted. “I saw where the car had stopped. It wasn’t anywhere near where we’re camped. We’re in the mountains, so sound carries really far.”
It took a while for me to calm down, especially when I heard a car coming back the other way. It also sounded as though it were up to our camp spot, but it eventually passed us by.
Trembling, I went out and got my pepper spray and gave Dagan his dog mace. We lay in our tents, discussing the possibility–or lack thereof–of our likely demise.
“I don’t feel any fear, whatsoever,” Dagan assured me.
I was relieved to hear this. It’s easier for me to calm down when my adventure partner is calm.
“I don’t believe in random acts of evil,” he said. “If someone was desperate enough to find us and steal our stuff, they probably could really use the money.”
“I’m not afraid of my stuff being stolen,” I told him. “It’s just the thought of unknown people rolling up here while I”m exposed and vulnerable. Not knowing who they are and what their intentions are.”
And I don’t relish the idea of being raped, I added silently.
I thought about what the shaman/seer/medium, Elena, had said to me.
“You have an intrinsic belief that the world is not a safe place, because of a past life experience.”
The world is a safe place, I told myself. I am safe.
I eventually drifted to sleep, only awakening occasionally when Dagan’s herd-of-gastronomically-challenged-giraffes-sleeping-mat sounded.