It was one of these places that I had ambitious plans for. One of these places that at the end, I was leaving empty-handed. I felt like this place could be my haven for months and at the same time I didn’t want to stay there a day longer. Each subsequent day spent there was rooting me even deeper, giving me more and more dangerous illusions that this Place was not just a stop for two nights. I have encountered alarmingly too many such places during my travels. Each time with a great need to dwell for longer and but eventually collecting scattered socks on the run and lacing shoes standing on one leg, slipping away under the cover of night or without saying goodbye. In the end, I understood at least how much I hate being just for a while.
When leaving this Place, I was running away again.
Traveling alone has the advantage of unlimited independence and flexibility. I woke up one day, sat down on the bed, looked out the window and said “this is the day”. I had to move on. In a hurry I gathered my things scattered around the room, thanked kindly for hospitality and put my inseparable 20 kilo companion on my back. I felt uncomfortable, strange. As if by my own free will, I was about to leave my shelter and a little prison at the same time. The thoughts were coming in at a terrifying speed and I tried my best to resist them. But I felt as if I was standing at the goal, ready to defend the penalty kick, suddenly realizing that the whole stadium heading towards me (including the audience of several thousand people). I could do nothing other than run away from the pitch.
Over my shoulder, I looked back at the deserted room and left.
There was only one goal. Make it to the last departing ship with which I was supposed to cross the fjord and continue the journey to the destination – if time permits. But one step at a time. Get to the ferry first. I arrived at the exit road. I looked right, left, right. Again. No cars. So it was one of those days when I was privileged to wait for the ride from a sitting position. Fantastic.
I sat down on the road and was fascinated to admire how something so populated can be so static. Houses, shops, gas stations in my eyesight seemed almost deserted. Sometimes a car appeared somewhere in the distance just to turn around halfway or turn into town. I wanted to shout at him and warn him that there was nothing there. That these houses are just a dummy. But I gave up on it, realizing that I would not be heard anyway. So I left these cars alone. After some time, as if they understood their mistake and slowly left in the same direction from which they came, making sure that there was no living soul around.
When doubts and an irresistible desire to go back to bed began to appear in my head, a convoy of three trucks appeared out of nowhere. Oh, fate smiled at me. Or just gave me a sign that I will be on the road today, whether I want it or not. Good news awaited me in the truck: we’re going straight to the destination. So without unnecessary stops and catching another hitchhiking in a place where there is even less than nothing. My maps showed me 230 kilometers to my destination, but knowing Patagonian roads and truck driving style I didn’t expect to reach my destination before the sunset.
It doesn’t matter.
I was not in a hurry.
Although I was not in the mood for any interactions, I knew that I would have to force myself anyway.
I had to cut off Julia, who was still in the previous Place, and welcome Julia, who was to be in a completely different place at the end of the day. It might not look like it but they were two completely different persons. These transitions were always the most demanding stages of my journeys. They were stages of saying goodbye to places that I managed to get used to. And also stages of accepting the fact that I am everywhere only for a moment. That I am a fleeting memory that in a better case scenario will last a little longer than until the end of the day. But no matter what, eventually will be forgotten. I contemplated this throughout the entire route.
Mauro, because that was my driver’s name, was the type of man who restores a faith in lorry drivers. Usually these drivers are simple, hungry for conversations but harmless. However that’s not a perspective of most of the people.
The irony of this post is beginning to reach me. My thought was to write a story-telling record of the journey. Suddenly I begun to realize how little of my detailed memories remained in my head. Memory deceives us so often. It seems to us that we remember something extremely precisely, to understand after a moment that these memories break off or skip threads. Recently, I came across a fragment of a book that perfectly characterizes this transience of our memories.
Our memory is not a passive registration, but a record that matches the facts to our assumption. We change the past so that the memories fit the entire remembered image.
So I am facing the challenge of presenting you 100% of real events and at the same time I’m welcoming my old friend, i.e. literary fiction. However, do not blame me for a choice that I’m about to make, because blogs like this never exist as a reflection of all facts, and are not a complete literary fiction. Blogs like this one benefit from the perfect mix of both approaches, with the right proportions of every one.
However, there is something that I remember very clearly. It was not a moment or an event – it was a feeling. One of the simplest, and also the most intense moments of exultation I have experienced in my life. My happiness lasted all 10 hours of journey and there was no specific reason for it. So often we demand so much from the life that we forget to catch those small and simple moments. It is these moments that give our life a taste. Not the ones to which we devote months and years to planning.
My trip to Patagonia was a huge undertaking. I dreamed about it for years, I spent all my free hours planning every little detail. When I left, I couldn’t even be in touch with my expectations. They disappeared from the horizon a few days after I saw them circling under the ceiling. To say that these expectations were excessive is like saying nothing. Why?
Because excessive expectations can still be met, but expectations that surpass even our own perception remain forever unfulfilled.
So it was now. I dreamed about it days and nights. I dreamed so much that everything that didn’t fall under the specifications and expectations I built became unsatisfactory. For this reason, the last source of hope remained aspects that I had no expectations for. Therefore traveling by hitchhiking, which served only as a cheap mean of transport, turned out to be a medicine for a heart broken by excessive expectations. Most often, the moments from which we expect the least, give us the most.
Whenever I think about this day, I think of the flashes of moments that made me smile.
I remember, for example, how Mauro turned on old school English songs and started dancing to them as if he were at his first wedding. Then he asked me about the meaning of individual words and put the lyrics together. He radiated with great peace and infinite positive energy at the same time. Sometimes, when I stared into the window too long and when I immersed myself in contemplation, he accosted me and asked what I was thinking about. And as he was starting to pull my teeth, he also began to learn about all the problems that troubled me. But he also made space for silence when needed. Sometimes I admired the landscapes we were passing by or sank into thinking – not feeling any discomfort on this occasion. There was room for both: fooling around and silence.
We were one the same wavelengths. Not only with Mauro, but also with the two other drivers of our convoy. We took breaks at least once every half hour. Each time we stopped, I walked around all the trucks at least three times, absorbing their construction, structure and majesty. Trucks have always been one of my boyish dreams – it is the part of me that I had to renounce and bury deep underground at some stage of my life. However, this part never left me and reminded me of its existence at such moments with revived energy. I seemed to be a dangerous mixture of daddy’s girl with forever unfulfilled boyish dreams of becoming a speedway driver and doing a professional football career.
The years went by, I gave up my dreams just to switch to walking in heels, regular visits to the beautician, cultural behavior and not burping at the table. Whether I wanted to or not, I became a lady. But a lady with a hidden weakness for trucks. Not to mention the issue of the forbidden fruit (for some reason truck drivers appeared to everyone as sexual harrassers). From the moment I began to confront these simplifications with reality, I realized that trucks are my hidden love that I can finally consummate. After all, nobody was saying that it is not allowed or that it was dangerous.
Sometimes I get the impression that people just want to deprive me of the best moments of my life.
Remember when I wrote about how I was trying to get to the ship? Well yes. I tried to design in your mind the same image with which I began my journey. The image of the ship appearing in our heads during the first paragraph, however, was completely different from reality. And the confrontation of expectations and reality was painful. The ship was able to fit 6 cars or 2 trucks on a board. Fiord’s crossing lasted an hour. There were two ships. Waiting cars around 10, trucks 4 – I leave you the math.
Although we got to the other side quite efficiently (just one hour of waiting), we cannot forget that we were traveling in a convoy. Waiting for the third truck was a matter of three hours. It’s worth mentioning that there was literally nothing around but a roofed booth to serve as a shelter for cyclists.
At one point I felt unpleasant sucking in my stomach. The setting sun made me understand that time passes quickly, but breakfast will not leave my stomach full indefinitely. In all this rush, I forgot the most important thing. And you have to keep in mind that when I get hungry, I get quite unbearable. Mauro came to the rescue and pulled rolls and ham from the box. The memory of school sandwiches with which my mum used to send me to primary school returned. Rolls with butter and ham seemed to be the worst possible evil of the time. How could you eat something like this of your own free will? I didn’t understand it at the time. There were so many more delicious things (like ketchup cheetos in a school shop).
So where did my enthusiasm for roll with ham came from? Hunger certainly played a big role. But sometimes it also happens that if everything appears in our heads as perfect, even if we were to enter the horse’s dung, we would still consider it a sign from God and we would bless this shoe forever. And offering me a ham sandwich, although it a gesture really usual, was also a dot over an i. It was acceptance of this day as a successful one, no matter what would have happened. It was a defense against everything that could in any way destroy my childish joy. I felt like I was on a school trip to the museum. The place that used to appear to be the most boring in the world was also an escape from school monotony. Indeed, this ham sandwich was a symbol of children’s joy and hope. Times when so little was enough for us to be happy.
Waiting for the remaining truck passed by learning Polish, looking for treasures thrown out by the sea, sipping yerba mate, discussions about life, looking out for the ship from beyond the horizon, and discovering truck equipment (to this day my favorite is a hose with compressed air, which can provide an amazing amount of entertainment).
Finally, we were reunited. Ready to move on. It wasn’t until I sat comfortably in the passenger seat that I noticed a picture of a little boy on the dashboard. I looked at Mauro curiously. As if reading my mind, he explained to me that he was his son, who was impatiently waiting for his every return home. His photo was glued in such a way that at 70km/h it cut off the right part of the speedometer.
“If I want to go back to it, I have to be careful. I could exceed this speed, but for what? Why would I arrive faster if it wasn’t to be in one piece?”
It wasn’t until the end of the day that I realized how underestimated these drivers are. From perspective of a passenger, it seems like a damn difficult and exhausting task. I can’t imagine driving a truck in such conditions. On routes where the average speed of passenger cars don’t exceed 40km/h, where serpentine roads linger on for dozens, if not hundreds of kilometers, where a driver of a 20-meter truck can take as long as 15 minutes to overcome a sharp turn. Add to the equation steep cliffs by the window and you get one of the most underrated and dangerous jobs.
I remember that this discovery shocked me so much that I had to share it with someone. The choice fell on my mother. I tried to spare her such stories, at least until I got home safe and sound, but I couldn’t resist. After a solid dose of reprimand, I realized that if I could go back in time until I got on this truck, I wouldn’t hesitate a second. I would have done the same. And it’s not because I do not like my life or I have an insufficient dose of adrenaline. I just think that overcoming such a route with experienced drivers who travel this route dozens of times a year is one of the smartest and most logical decisions that can be made. I wouldn’t want to risk getting an inexperienced driver who, God forbid, would make this route for the first time in my life.
We were driving slowly. The trucks waited for each other after each sharp turn and communicated on the radio about every potential danger on the road. I felt safe and calm. Mauro was completely focused on the route and I fought with drooping eyelids. The sun was long gone but the night has not yet come. This is my favorite time of day. This is the moment when the day ends and you either bless it or curse it. However, I was still trying to suppress the thought that this day was coming to an end. I tried to drag it as long as possible. I wanted the moment of beautiful sky and the mountains hidden in the shade to last and not end. I fought it until I was overcome by somnolence. I closed my eyes slowly, but the smile didn’t leave my face even in my sleep.
Video from travel here!