Welcome a Tijuana

Cordoba i Pampa (10)

Have you ever noticed this peculiarity some people have? It is either the sign of an evil nature or of a profound and lasting sorrow. Mikhail Lermontov

It all started with Marcos. A friendly-looking man came up to me at the gas station where I stopped to rest in a soothing shade. After five minutes of conversation, Marcos offered me accommodation in his house. I did not ask. It happened itself. As soon as we got home I met two girls, Sophie and Amelia and their older brother, who gave me his room for a night.

Firstly, I took an awfully long shower, then I ate even more awfully, exceptionally big steak, and finally, I repaired two small bikes, although the whole “repair” boiled down to adjusting of wheels and brakes and lubricating of the chain. The ominous outcome of fraternization with Sophie and Amelia was already looming on the horizon, although mutual familiarity and stalking were being prolonged almost till midnight. The girls – usually very shy and distrustful of strangers – came on my head (alas, literally again) during an oddly sounding game called Papa Francisco. It’s hard to say what the game was about, and its rules to this day remain to me a mystery. Anyway, the whole mess, noise, and loud running through the rooms ended up very late at night, to mum’s consternation, who did not know whether she could already go to bed, or had to wait patiently until the girls calmed down enough to replace their incessant hiccup with sleepiness and fatigue. In the end, mother was first to resign, then dad, Amelia and the youngest Sophie next, and finally – Peter, myself. Brother had enough much earlier and left the house to see his friend.

I would love to stay longer, but not that time, Moomins do not have wings, they do not take me back to Poland, so I am going further, to the airport, to which I still have a long way to go, but even without closing my eyes, I can see it in front of me, although I try not to think about it. I try not to think about returning home yet.

It’s better to look at the blue sky, to enjoy the sunshine, being happy on the road. I pull the sun behind me. I nearly forgot it. I do not remember the last time when I thought that way. That I pull the sun behind me, that it clung to me ages ago and still does not want to leave. And that I will draw it with me wherever I will get. And that maybe someone sees that sun, or even feels it and that somebody has something from it for themselves. It must be so. That writing and that trip must have some weird, unconscious sense, perceivable even for me, because without any warning, even more unexpectedly than an invitation from Marcos – I suddenly got dough for Argentinean chops.

Neither I wrote anything nor I asked about it. Maybe it is bad that I did not, because it is not fun to walk at the back of supermarkets and pick up (still tasty) stale food. It is not fun to go to a restaurant and ask if you can take some leftovers from the table. When I was a teenager and wanted to be a punk – there was some charm in it. Now, it is not so cool as it used to be. Although you may still ride that way, now I think that’s not the point of getting through the world.

Lukasz Supergan, my Polish friend, following suggestion of Przemek (another Polish buddy) launched the campaign on facebook and now, I am able to buy several pounds of pork chops. With a few exceptions, those people who helped me with their money, were complete strangers. Or maybe not entirely strangers, cause they know me a little, by reading my words, and looking at the photos. Anyway, now I can afford to buy a decent dinner every day till the end of the trip, and finally I am able to change some parts in the bike.

Someone sent me an email in which he said that I write a lot about loneliness, but I’m not cycling alone. That there is power of many people who send warm thoughts in my direction, and that they are that wind themselves. The wind that pushes me forward. I read this email through my wept eyes, because I thought to myself that so many times I already wanted to stop writing. Certainly to stop as soon as I return. To write two, three more entries and that will do. To get rid of that feeling that I write to the wall. That I go in silence. In silence, beyond which there is nothing more than emptiness. And if there is something, it is only the echo of my own thoughts, filled with sorrow and longing, still crossing my mind in my dreams.

I smile. And I am grateful. I smile to everyone. How much grateful I am for that unexpected support, for that wind from the north, for blowing in my back, for all warm thoughts and good words in emails, thanks to all of you. I watch the sunset and weep with joy, because I know that I will bring the sun to Poland. I do not know from where exactly, from Patagonia, or maybe from Mexico. Because if the north wind changes, I will not torture myself. I will get up in the morning, turn my bike and will go to the north. I will go back to Mexico even if I had to go to Tijuana. What’s the difference? Ushuaya, or Tijuana – both sound as if they did not really exist. Just to feel this joy as long as I can, just to feel that wind, which does not want to stop blowing, just to feel the sunshine, and, all in all, fuck it that I will not get where I wanted. It could not materialize anyway. So be it.

Solo le pido a dios

Argentina (10)

Everybody in the world is seeking happiness—and there is one sure way to find it. That is by controlling your thoughts. Happiness doesn’t depend on outward conditions. It depends on inner conditions. D. Carnegie

I sit in a clean, well-kept park, in a town to which I got actually by accident, because I did not mark it on my hand-drawn map. I spread an oddly tasting pate on a slice of bread, eating a slightly rotten tomato, which I found just a minute ago on the street. It somehow happened that I can not afford at the moment to gorge myself with delicacy, but the truth is, that from time to time a human being is forced to eat something. So, I treat a skeletal dog to some bread, and, remaining in an odd symbiosis, we both masticate a chewy slice.

The dog lies down next to me, almost under my feet. It is aware that the feast is over, because I myself have nothing else to eat whatsoever. I feel pleasantly, downright lazy, I want a little nap. My overpowered by fatigue body finally gives up – I do not even try to fight with this engulfing sensation of inertia, with an approaching half-dream. The head falls slowly as a shriveled leaf and freezes on my shoulder, I fall asleep for a while.

An uncomfortable biting wakes me up. Ants are creeping all over me. How on earth are there so many of them in here? I look around if everything is in its place. I can see the bike and the dog. Neither of them had moved an inch. The dog only raised its head when I slowly stood up from a foam pad to shake out the running ants. Small, black creatures collected crumbs of bread. Large lumps, irregular flourish shapes were roaming in one direction on insects’ bodies, forming a gigantic queue to the center of the square. They were being carried high and proudly as they were the spoils of war, or some desirable, deserved trophies. It was evident how herculean effort it costs to raise even one crumb, how much perseverance, stubbornness and strength it entails to drag it over the heads, while falling down upon the smallest obstacles, only to try again and again, laboriously moving forward, regardless of the circumstances, not noticing all those ants, which are left-behind, being trampled to death by some idle passers-by.

And when you sit and look at the ants in the city, which is not even marked on your self-drawn map, the world begins to unfold itself. When surviving ants reach finally their destination, and when some remnants of the siesta are blown away by a light breeze, then the park comes to life, or otherwise – you just start to see that life around. The dogs come first – they sniff, search, sometimes bark offensively, but not too aggressively, ending up playing with some horny representatives of another sex.

Then, a few children come up. Firstly, pretending that you’re not in there – they just play on the side, casting slightly furtive glances, but imperceptibly, step by step, they somehow approach you more and more. They seem to be playing with a ball, throwing it to each other, but it falls too close to you, and always ends up on your head. You just smile, it’s enough, and then, in an instant, the kids inevitably come on your head, literally. Maybe one could behave differently, but I am not capable of it, or maybe I just do not want to change it.

Finally, the parents arrive. They spoil the fun, stare suspiciously. Who is that dirty gringo who takes pictures of their offspring? What intension does he have? He is sure to be a pervert, no doubt about that. Parents rarely come up closer, they rather shout something from a distance, something not quite comprehensible to emphasize that I am different, I am not from here, that I’m just a stray, vagabond creature and nothing else.

Children whine, but finally they go away with their parents. Sometimes it happens that the older kids stay with me. If it does, we sit, slurping some juice from a plastic carton, and for the umpteenth time I tell how, where or why I came there, but eventually even the older children have enough and leave me alone, without dogs, without ants, in silence, to which I am slowly getting used to, even if I would prefer the sounds, even though en tu silencio habita mío, my silence dwelt in your calmness.

It got more civilized around, more clean and green. For days I have cycled with a very strong wind, which allowed me to cover long daily distances. So, who blows, if I cycle in silence? Where is the wind coming from? Why does the sudden thought appear that maybe for the first time in my life I will get somewhere? But yet, I do not want to get anywhere. I keep going not to get anywhere. I just want to see another day. To feel the sunshine. To have something to eat and to find a quiet, safe place to sleep. And to change the world, just for a moment, to change it for the better, simply by having some warm thoughts. Or simply not to worsen it.

Maybe I will pray tonight. Just for a change. I do not know yet to whom, but it is quite irrelevant. Maybe I will not use any words at all, I will use only my thoughts. Maybe it’s enough to pray with your thoughts. Or with your dreams. It might be that the dream will do, and I will be able to keep silence. An unexpected understanding often comes in dreams. That understanding that is lost when you wake up.

Solo le pido a Dios, que el dolor no me sea indiferente, que la reseca muerte no me encuentre, vacio y solo sin haber hecho lo suficiente.

Zoon politikon

salar

All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone. Pascal

Although I would like to stay longer at the rectory, after a few days of recovery, I finally said good-bye to padre Jacinto and his charming Polish and Bolivian friends. Unfortunately, I refused to accept the offer to become the second padre in the Bolivian parish at (almost) dried lake Poopó. The next opportunity will probably not happen again, but I think that offer was not seriously submitted anyway, and, moreover, I’m sure I would not be a good priest at all.

Those few days with a group of Poles had a salutary effect on my nut. I can not remember the last time when I felt so well in the company of, after all, strangers. I took a liking to Jacek so much, that  I nearly suggested him accompanying me on my way. Unfortunately, for that moment our priorities are mutually exclusive, so my proposal of holding an office of a travelling colleague was also rejected, and undoubtedly – taken as a joke.

Regarding health, I feel far less dizzy, even my nosebleed almost ceased, although one morning I caused panic, leaving the bathroom with dried blood on my face. In fact, the whole morning was poor and my body also released another kind of matter, not just from the nose. So I went again to the hospital, but the examination did not reveal anything alarming. I thanked for the drip, and, as usual, I got another set of colored pills on the road.

I greeted familiar emptiness of the salar but I couldn’t find myself in its space. Maybe it happened because of the contrast of that empty landscape with those lively, warm reminiscences of the evenings at the rectory, still disconsolately wandering somewhere among my thoughts. Suddenly I began to get lonely even more. And what can I do with all that autonomy in the desert, what with all that self-sufficiency, liberation from unfamiliar ways of thinking, from measurements and assessments of other people? Suddenly I felt like a typical zoon politikon – a stranger in his own world, who breaks for the presence of another human being.

Man is by nature a social animal; an individual who is unsocial naturally and not accidentally is either beneath our notice or more than human. Society is something that precedes the individual. Anyone who either cannot lead the common life or is so self-sufficient as not to need to, and therefore does not partake of society, is either a beast or a god.” Aristotle, Politics

People are afraid of loneliness and isolation. This fear of becoming with themselves, without a rhythm of the music, without the sounds of any noise, is a characteristic feature of the present. Peace and silence cause immediate sense of emptiness, boredom, anxiety. Because the most of contemporaries have nothing to say to themselves. Jan Szczepanski

Maybe I also have nothing to say to myself? Recently it occurred to me that I write on this site the same things, still using similar words. Over and over again I repeat myself, I don’t create anything new. As if I tried to find an answer to a question, when in fact, it’s impossible, because how can I find the answer, since I can not even properly formulate that question?

Even wandering around an impossible to decipher phenomenon, impossible to understand, but a  sort of wandering which could be describe as approximating, sensing and guessing – has its deep meaning. B. Pociej

I’m cycling on the salty lake. On the same salar, on which I cycled nearly seven years ago. I remember that at noon I met a couple of Austrians, who were already one and a half years on the road. They started in Alaska and they were heading towards Patagonia. It was August, and the day was very windy and far too cold. We spoke just a moment, but I still remember their faces. And their sparkling eyes. They were looking at me with a sight, in which the wind was blowing, the sun was beating down, in which the months of the trip engraved a sort of slight madness, mingled with the merest joy of being on the road. I looked longingly at the vanishing silhouettes until they turned into small, dark dots. Their shapes swelled in the hot air, seemed to float lightly on the lake, and eventually dissolved and disappeared, seized by waving, white emptiness of the horizon.

In the gathering dusk, the lights of the stars twinkle in the sky. The wind calms down, the air is filled with music. The sounds here never stop. Emptiness and cold sat down beside the tent. I put the kettle on and take some warmer clothes. I look at the horizon, with invariable impression that only thickening darkness gives to the sounds their proper timbre and intensity.

Padre Pedro

salar

I must stop writing for today. It excites me too much. I’m getting confused. And the letters are flickering and dancing in front of my eyes S. Mrożek

It turned out that this year I had two Christmas Eve Suppers. I didn’t wait for the third, because according to the local customs, the Bolivian supper began after midnight, but I was so exhaused that I collapsed in a heap and fell asleep. I was invited for the first feast by Jacek (a priest, called here Padre Jacinto). Despite being only in his thirties, padre holds a honorable position of the rector and has his parish in a small Bolivian village, called Challapata.

I noticed the lights of the town a long time before nightfall, but, although I tried hard to get to them as soon as possible, it was impossible due to the strong winds, fatigue and frequent breaks to stop my nose bleeding. The town seemed to remain in its place and it did not want to come near any closer.

I got to the first buildings until late at night. I saw an open shop, and two young women talking. I came closer to ask them if I could use a cell phone. Maybe padre answers, and I would be able to stay for the night, rest a little, and hopefully this time I would not have to put up my tent being literally blown out of the ground by gusty wind.

– Good evening, padre! – said one of the women. – How can I help you?

A very bizarre way of greeting a stranger, I thought, and then, in a few sentences, I introduced myself and presented the situation. In a moment, a nice, quiet, man’s voice on the phone explained me how to get to the parish. A description seemed to be quite complicated, so in order not to prolong the conversation, I decided to get to the center and then to ask how I could find the way forward. I gave back a great Nokia to a smiling woman and asked how much I should pay.

Padre, there is no need to give anything, a little pray for both of us will do, that’s enough.

I looked suspiciously at the woman – she seemed to be perfectly normal. I wanted to say something, but finally, I only smiled. I was too tired to explain that I am a very far cry from a missionary, so I said farewell and went to the city center. I got to the market and approached two men.

– Good evening! – I said. – Does this street lead to the parish?

– Good evening, padre, yes, go two hundred meters straight ahead and you will see the parish.

– Oh, that’s good, thank you – and I was about to move on, but looking at the faces which seemed to be waiting for something, I added – I am not a padre. I came here to visit padre Jacinto.

– So, padre is not a padre?

– No, of course not, I’m not a padre. Do I really look like a priest? – I asked and looked at the men whose faces were more puzzled that mine.

– Well, you certainly do – said one of them. – So, you are probably a member of the family, Jacinto’s brother? You both look like two peas in a pod. Does padre know what time the parish opens tomorrow? I have a child to be baptized, but I did not enroll him yet. Oh, I won’t feel like standing in a queue in the morning, but, the child must be baptized, no doubt about it.

I wanted to say that I had just explained that I am not a missionary and that, frankly speaking, I came here just an hour ago, but the man cut me short and said:

– I was thinking… maybe padre could baptize, huh? Let’s make a deal, padre will have nothing to lose, there is no need to be afraid of. And I will not have to stand in a queue, I will not tell anyone, and surely, it definitely does not matter to God whether I’ll write my son’s name in the notebook or not. So, what padre thinks, could we make a deal?

I sighed and said that we would not make a deal today, maybe tomorrow, but rather not today, then I got to the bike, I did not listen to what those men were saying, I approached the corner of the church and met padre Jacek. I did like him in an instant. Maybe because he was very different from the stereotypical image of a priest, or maybe because of something else. Anyway, I stayed on the Christmas Eve, in fact on two. The second I spent in the company of three Albertine nuns. There was fish on the table and wafer, borscht with dumplings, and there was even the cake with plums.

One of the nuns, sister Clara, said that I looked pale and that I should be rubbed with hot urine. I look surprised, but the sister went on, talking:

– Start with your chest, then your back, and at the end – feet and hands. It could even help you get rid of your sinusitis. Just remember that men should use feminine urine, and vice versa, women need men’s urine, preferably from young stuff.

I thought, why not, and in fact, I never put urine on my chest. What’s more, it turned out that I could take the occasion at the parish, not necessarily from the nuns, because it somehow happened that two girls came to visit the padre. They both volunteered in an orphanage in Cochabamba. Unfortunately, they did not share my enthusiasm regarding alternative medicine and refused to cooperate. They suggested doing poo instead, and take it to the lab to see if I have any nasty bacteria or, Heaven forbid!, parasites, which may be even nastiest.

During the following days, I was walking around the town, greeted as Padre Pedro, who could baptize on the side, or do something else, or simply bless, in exchange for two bananas or a kilo of beans.

One day I climbed above the village to visit a small chapel, in the vicinity of which, four figures were walking around on their knees, holding small, smoldering torches in their hands. From the center of the chapel I heard a muffled sound of a song, singing in a foreign language. The crimson glow of the declining sun emerged from darkening clouds, dramatizing the sky, as if it wanted to balance those dull, pale colours of Bolivian villages. A ritual took place just beside me, from which I understood only a little, or rather, I did not understand anything. After returning to the parish I found out that natives prayed for the rain.

The next day downpour drew near. The streets were covered with streams of muddy water. After an hour it all dried up. The sun was burning. The wind was blowing. The road was calling. Although I would love to stay longer in the village, and I quite liked my new identity of a peccant priest, tomorrow I will be heading south. To welcome the new year. The spring will be here soon. Moomins will wake up even sooner. The leaves of the trees will turn green. And again, everything will be exactly as it was, as if nothing changed, nothing happened. With us or without us, the spring does not give a shit about our dilemmas. And it will come, as every year, waking the world up from its hibernation.

The centre of the world

Titicaca (3)

– You asked me about my plans, said Moomin, but, what about you, do you have any? – Yes, said Snufkin, I have a plan, but you know, one of those solitary. Moomin looked at him for a long time. – You are about to leave, he said finally. Snufkin nodded in an affirmative gesture. – When are you setting off?, asked Moomin. – Now, in a while, said Snufkin. – And when will you return? – The first day of the spring I will be here again and whistle under your window, time passes so quickly. Tove Jansson

I got to Bolivia. As I thought, the road from Cuzco to the border was far more easier in comparison with that I had been cycling for the previous two weeks. Almost every day I would meet the other cyclists. Like all the natives, with whom I spoke in Cuzco, those foreigners also asked me how I liked Machu Picchu. As if it was perfectly obvious that being in Peru, I had yet to visit the main tourist attraction of the country. That actually, it might have been the main purpose of my journey. To see a pile of stones protruding from the neatly trimmed lawns.

But the problem is that I don’t give a fuck about Machu Picchu. Unfortunately, I do not know how to translate it exactly as to be clear and blunt, so I usually euphemistically replied that I was not interested in it, and it usually closed the topic. Nevertheless, there were some people, who really wanted to know why then I came to Peru. Unfortunately, I could not, and perhaps never will be able to answer that question. Why did I come to Peru, and not to Paris, or Perth, why here and not there. This question could have been expanded and one could ask: Why did I set off from home at all? Unfortunately, in this regard I will not make it more clear, either. Many years of wandering around the world do not help in better understanding, on the contrary. With each journey, more questions and doubts appear, space shrinks and narrows, all those visited places become similar to each other, and even people, despite their anthropological and cultural differences, seem to behave in a predictable way, even if the mutual meeting takes place only at the level of conjecture and not always clear and fully understood gestures.

So, what I was looking for in Peru? Well, I think, I tried to find the same things as in any other places. Warmth. Meetings. Glances. Smiles. Closeness. One day, on a busy street, in a curious coincidence, two hands meet, touch their fingers, and they can not get over their surprises how beautifully they match to each other. In a place, where all straight lines meet together. And for a while, because nothing lasts forever, this place becomes the center of the universe.

I’m going to the bazaar. It is noisy and crowded, people rub against me all the time, push slightly, nudge. I sit on the wall and listen to some chattering women. I like listening to conversations in the languages I do not know. The meaningless sounds paint in my head the colorful pictures, which are manifestation of those sounds.

I was listening, not understanding anything. They were using scraps of old, well-known sentences. They were talking about old, well-known events that had been recurring for hundreds of years. Life, death, people, weather, work. They spoke with a singsong accent. I guessed rather than understood anything. The sounds were enough. A. Stasiuk

From time to time, someone comes up to me, asking about my family. Don’t you have a wife? What about children? You don’t have any? Man, what’s wrong with you? I blend slowly into the bazaar and do not feel so out of space. A woman, who sold me a chicken leg with fries, throws a piece of meat to a dog. I look surprised, because it’s the first time I’ve seen anyone here giving the food to the dogs. I ask if this is her dog and get closer to pet him, but the woman says it’s not the meat she had tossed, but poison, so the dog wouldn’t steal the food from the table. He will die in an hour, she said, and kicked the animal in the ribs.

I finish eating, the sun is scorching, the dog is out of sight, disappearing behind the next stall. The woman gives me the nicest smile imaginable, wishing a nice day. I go back to the road, I meet a Korean boy, we begin talking, he complains about Bolivia, I complain about Peru, then we say goodbye to each other and when I finally fall asleep in my tent in the evening, I’m starting to wonder if I’m really here, or if only I think so. Is any of that reality actually reaches me, if I see anything beyond what I think, beyond what I want to see.

Maybe I should have visited Machu Pichu, I should have visited the Nazca plateau, I should have gone on a trip on Lake Titicaca in the super sail boat called Mercedes. Because, unfortunately, this so-called Latin American phenomenon, does not reach me at all. I do not understand why on the bazaar someone tries to sell me one banana for a dollar, I’m tired of horning cars, the chaos bothers me, the stench of decaying garbage makes me puke, and I’ve had enough of commonly used here, idiotic sounding diminutives (sopita, horita, cervezita).

Perhaps I’m just too close to anything. Maybe the change of perspective could alter the perception. Maybe, when I return home I will start missing all these places ? As Dariusz Czaja wrote: During the trip, we are too close to everything. Too close to the world, which lies ahead, and too close to ourselves. And understanding is always a function of distance.

But it may happen in the future, now it is today and there is the way ahead. And it is calling me. Tomorrow I’m heading on, getting closer to the point where this journey will loop. I think often about what I will find there. I’m afraid of these thoughts.

Once I chose movement, and later I realized that within this movement I can find some peace needed for writing. That movement and silence, creating the unity of the opposites, mutually persist in the equilibrium, that the world with all its drama, funny beauty and the stunning diversity of differrent countries, people and history, is a passenger itself, in the constantly traveling universe; it is the traveler on his way to his new destination. C. Noteboom

Drama with a happy ending

faces (8)

Old age. The world seen from such a high mountain is specific. It doesn’t not want to be holistic in any way, consists of many unfulfilled expectations, a couple of friends, many meetings. And lots of illusions. R. Kalicki Dziennik Patagonski

You could say I finally got my comeuppance. Cleverly, professionally, in broad daylight. It was nearly noon. I was going to leave the city, but, even though I was not too hungry, I thought I would go for a bowl of soup. I went into a restaurant, and left the bike outside, leaning it against the metal door. As I usually did, I unbuckled my notebook from the rack and took it with me, and I buckled the frame with the front wheel.

I sat down at the table, maybe two meters from the bicycle. More specifically, in fact, I only saw half of it: rear panniers and a part of the frame, while the front part was exposed to the street – fairly busy at this time of the day. It would never occurr to me that someone could rummage in panniers, not being seen by passing people. Anyway…

I ate soup, and gladly went outside, and then, leaning over the bike to release the clip, I saw an unfastened pouch. Literally, at the same time, I raised my head and looked at the bag attached to the steering wheel. One Velcro was unfastened. I put a hand inside. Empty. Somebody took the camera with the lenses. I didn’t even have to look into panniers. I knew they were empty. I sat on a high curb, next to the bicycle. I do not know how long I sat there. I felt a strange inertia, I was completely indifferent, I sat and I could not move at all. I even did not want to move anywhere from there, I wanted to be there, to sit, and to dissolve in the stillness. I wanted to convince myself that despite what I just saw, in fact, nothing happened, it was not true, I just invented something, or someone made a stupid joke and soon will approach me with a smile, handing stolen stuff.

And, when I was sitting there, becoming to be more and more aware what really had happened, I saw a strange looking man, definitely a Peruvian one, stopped next to me. I raised my head. Our eyes met. A man smiled. He said something, but his voice was coming to me as if through a closed glass door – I was able to see his mouth moving, but in no way I could distinguish particular words. Only after a while I realized that the man spoke to me in Russian. I answered his questions, heard hundreds of times, how, where, what, why, and I said that I had been robbed.

Everything what happened over the next few hours, I remember as a sort of action movie. The man, who introduced himself as Neil, immediately rang somewhere, and after no more than three minutes, a police car came in. Three armed men appeared, whose behavior towards Neil was rather odd, or at least unusual. I do not know who he was, but the police behaved in a manner as if they were his subordinates, who additionally did something wrong and now have to explain themselves. The men asked me a few questions and then asking me to wait a moment, went along with Neil on the other side of the street.

I sat on the bike, watching them as they were approaching some people, talking to them and recording. They returned after about ten minutes, threw my bike on the back of the police car, and then drove to the police station, where I could make a statement. The whole bureaucracy lasted a few moments. The policeman wrote a few succinct sentences and asked me to put my fingerprints on the recorded piece. I was doing everything like an automaton, still with emptiness in my head, with lots of gloomy thoughts, slowly reconciling myself with the thought that perhaps someone Above decided for me to finish my trip.

When I did the fingerprints, Neil came into the room. He said he would have to go somewhere, to do the other things, and that he was very sorry for what had happened, but I should not worry, the police will do everything to get my stolen things. If not today, then tomorrow I’ll have them back at the latest. I looked at his benevolent face, but instead of a smile, my eyes flowed with tears.

– Do not be sad – said Neil – come on, do not worry, brigade B will find everything, they will take care of it, right, Jorge?

– Of course, we will find everything, anyway, we have descriptions of the suspects, a shoemaker’s wife saw those who had taken your stuff. There were three of them, one was keeping an eye on you, while the other took the things. She said she did not know them, but it was clear she was afraid, we’ll go there again, we’ll talk with her husband, he will convince her.

Having said that, he patted me on the shoulder paternally and asked me to accompany him and three other men. First, we went to the shoemaker. I saw from the inside of the car, as they entered the shop, and then, after about five minutes later, they returned back, clearly satisfied. We went off with a squeal of tires. Nobody said anything. We drove through the narrow streets, routinely breaking the rules to stop finally at a small bar. I heard the clink of unlocked weapons. The policemen went outside. One stood at the entrance, and two others went inside the bar. After a while, they went out into the street in the company of deathly-pale, slightly tipsy man. I watched as he firmly shook his head and gestured, all in the attitude of a reprimanded boy who tries to explain that he’s got nothing to do with anything he is accused of.

Everything took no more than two minutes. Police officers returned to the patrol car, then we drove to another bar, where the situation repeated, except that this time all the men went inside and came back after a good ten minutes. After this visit we drove through town slowly, cautiously, and after a quarter of an hour we went back to the police station again. There, I was led to a room where, next to a small desk, there were two other men.

– Here you are the entire brigade B – said one of the men, and introduced all of them: – Loly Reyes, Jose Valencia, Alan Gomez and Jean Cruz, and I, Jorge – Grupo B, Divincri Ayacucho.

I looked at all these smiling faces and wondered why there is actually such a festive mood here. Why do all these men have such happy faces, and why we they stand unnaturally, as if waiting for something?

– What would you say to a little surprise? – said Jorge, pointing at a young lady entering the room. She was holding a black bag. – Look inside and see if anything is missing – he added.

The woman put the bag on the table, then bowed and left. I looked at grinning men, still standing in a semicircle. I walked over to the table, touched the material, and looked inside. There was a camera, lens, and all. I looked again at the standing men. I could not believe that these things came back to me so quickly. Just like that. I held the camera in my hand, and shaking my head in disbelief, thanked perhaps the twentieth time for such quick and effective action.

– We are very happy that you’re happy, for us it’s the best reward. We would like you to have good memories of Peru. You’ll want to make a complaint and sue the men?

– No, of course not, I’m glad that I have these things back, but actually, how on earth you found it so quickly?

– We have our ways – replied Jorge and winked. – Well, in that case, put your fingerprints here, and you can leave. Just remember to be a little more careful now, not everywhere there are good and honest people, especially in the cities. Here it is not so bad, but if you went to Arequipa and there, God forbid, never leave your bike, even for a moment.

I’m in Cuzco. These few hundred kilometers from Ayacucho were one of the most difficult I have had the opportunity to pass in my entire life. There are eight major mountain passes along the way, five of which are more than 4,000 meters above sea level. My sinuses again strongly rebelled. The last hundred miles I took the bus to Cuzco. I had no strength. I’m resting for two days in the city. I visited the doctor again, I got another shot in the ass and another antibiotic (but only for five days), plus a handful of another colorful pills. The road from Cuzco to the south, in the direction of Bolivia, seems to be easier. It leads through the Altiplano and there are no big uphills.

Leaving aside the difficulties of the road from Ayacucho, I would like to thank all these friendly people I met along the way. How much warmth and kind words I received from them. And how much it means. On the way more and more unbearably lonely, walked in a constant state of fatigue, concealed under the guise of a wide, fake smile on my face.

And although I do not know what all is it about where it will lead, I go further, with a strange and incomprehensible obstinacy, that still does not allow me to stop, and keep pushing me away, slowly and inexorably closer to the end of this trip.