This is the second story of a four part Petra series. Although this story is independent, it might make sense to read part I first. You can find part I by scrolling down to last week’s story.
Pat’s Petra Pilgrimage; Part II.
Wadi Musa, Jordan; February 2013
On my second day at Petra my plan is to make the long hike. In addition to the ancient Nabatean structures that the Petra complex is famous for, it is also possible to follow a trail that leads from the center of Petra to the tomb or Haroun. I’m a little fuzzy on who exactly Haroun was. I think he was Moses’ brother or something like that; some kind of famous prophet who is holy to all the monotheists (Christians, Jews, and Muslims). I’m not exactly a monotheist but I am a big fan of long walks to holy and sacred places. A tomb? On top of a mountain seven or eight miles away? Sure, that sounds like fun. How do I get there?
That’s the problem really. I don’t know how to get there. The entrance brochure has only a very rough non-topographical map. I don’t really want to dish out extra money for a guide or a camel. I’m hoping to just head in the right general direction and ask people along the way. It is, you might say, a quest. I’m trying to find the holy place… searching for the sacred.
Imagine, if you will, two Middle Eastern men sitting around a smoldering fire drinking tea and chatting. One looks at the other and says, “How about that mountainside there? Isn’t it nice. Maybe we should carve it into a great big temple.”
“Yeah,” says the other as he sips his tea and scratches his beard, “let’s do that. Let’s carve a big beautiful building out of that side of a mountain.”
It’s hard to say for sure because I slept most of the way but it was, I think, a three or four hour bus journey from Wadi Rum to Wadi Musa and I arrive there in the early afternoon. I go immediately to a previously recommended hostel called Valentine’s where I find a very nice cheap room. Perched on a steep hillside, my balcony overlooks the small town and the entire valley. I can almost make out Petra itself across the way.
Petra. That’s what I’m here for; the world famous archeological site. I am, by vocation, a stone-crazy man and for people of such a persuasion there is no place on the entire planet earth more appropriate for a pilgrimage. Indeed, I have wanted to come here since I first caught a glimpse of it in the Indiana Jones movie. I have seen hundreds of photos and read countless articles. My God, my Buddha, my Allah, my Shiva… my Petra! I’m finally going to go. Stone Heaven! Can it possibly live up to my expectations? Continue reading →
I never had a guru or spiritual leader or specific teacher whose message I follow. Instead, many different humans have played that temporary role for me for brief periods of time. This is the story of one of those people… and one of those brief periods of time.
I met Sunny at an outdoor café in Pushkar, India sometime around the turn of the century. He was, perhaps, the wisest man I ever met. I’m not sure if holy is the right word but he had that way about him… a sacred sort of presence. I only knew him for about five days and I only talked with him at the café. But we had several lengthy conversations over tchai and bhang lassis as we watched the crazy corner street traffic from our outdoor tables. Truthfully, at the time, I didn’t put much importance on the conversations because I was distracted by a delightful little romance with a pretty young German woman. But now, 15 years later, I’ve mostly forgotten the romance but I still think frequently about those conversations with Sunny. I wonder why that is?
When I first saw him, it was kind of a mind twister. I’d been traveling for several months around India but had only just arrived in Pushkar in the early morning. As per my usual routine, I dropped my backpack in a cheap room and went looking for a centrally located café. I found one on the corner of the main square and took a seat at an outdoor table. That’s when I noticed two blonde haired backpacker guys sitting at the table across the aisle from me. They were having a very animated discussion with an older local man. The older man had long greasy grey hair, dark skin and shabby Indian clothes; he looked like he belonged in Pushkar. He might even be a Sadhu except a real Sadhu would not be sitting in a café. The strange thing was that the older guy answered the young guys back in their European language (Swedish, Dutch, or German?). Not just a word or two, but full, complete and apparently complex sentences. I remember even now how my brain was slightly confused by the situation because the language coming forth did not match the character speaking.
Later in the afternoon, on that same first day in Pushkar, I return to the centrally located café. The house is packed this time and the server points me to the one empty seat. I’ll be sharing a table with the strange older guy I saw in the morning. He speaks to me in English. It is one of the six languages he speaks. He says his name is Sunny.
This is another supplemental essay. A full story will be posted later in the week.
Change the Metaphor.
How do you change the controlling metaphor? That right there is the first and foremost challenge? Maybe it’s impossible. The metaphor is in the government, the metaphor is in the economic system, the metaphor is in the media and the metaphor is in the education system. The metaphor is so ingrained in our life that we hardly even know it’s there. What I mean by metaphor is the made up story that serves as the foundation for our day to day lives. The metaphor isn’t true but if you stop believing it a large part of what you do will be a complete waste of time.
It’s easy enough to change the metaphor for me. I simply don’t believe it. I have traveled a good part of the world and lived among people who believe different metaphors. Thus, it is easy for me to step back and look at my society’s metaphor critically. And when I do so, the metaphor seems kind or ridiculous. Most people who live here, however, believe the metaphor to be true without ever really thinking about it. Indeed, the mass media here is so powerful, that if I just watch it for a little while, I will start to believe the metaphor again. But no, not really, a quick trip to a nearby forest and I am back to reality. Continue reading →
All that love and romance is just wonderful, but now it’s time to return to my non-traditional adventure traveling roots. In that regard, I have been editing and organizing a number of stories from my extensive collection of hand written notebooks. If I don’t get too overwhelmed with stonework, I will continue posting these new old stories in the coming weeks. Additionally, it occurs to me that many of these stories vaguely refer to my radical theories on international politics and economic systems. As such, it might be helpful to occassionally spell out these theories more clearly so that the vague references of my main character (me) have some substance behind them. Accordingly, I am going to start adding short essays “explaining” some of my various theories. The long winded traveling tales will continue, these shorter blogish things are going to be an added feature. This is the first one.
Let’s not kid ourselves with weasel words like globalization and neo-liberalism, the name of the game is world conquest, and USA inc. thinks it’s going to win. There are, however, several other big players at the table. China inc. and Russia, inc. still have strong positions, and you can’t forget the Euro, inc. or India inc. or Brazil, inc. either. South Africa, inc. is rising fast while Great Britain inc., Canada inc., and Australia inc., still like to pretend they are independent of USA, inc.. A good part of the world consists of subsidiary corporations who operate with a veneer of independence but are mostly managed by USA inc..
Realistically speaking, neither China, Russia, nor anyone else is going to “win” the game. Indeed, some would suggest that they are not trying to “win” but are merely trying to stop USA inc. from doing so. It is, you might say, the ultimate question on the international stage for the 21st century. Are we going to live in a unipolar world with USA inc. as the big bossman with their currency involved in every asset transaction and their military on the scene to provide protection for assets. Or are we going to live in a multi polar world with many smaller governments, decentralized power and localized control of the environment and natural resources?
An honorable man does not go galavanting around South America or Africa for the winter when his lady is home pregnant in freezing cold upstate New York.
Yes, it’s true, Ms. B. and I will be having our first child in early July.
And that explains why I am not on the road wandering for the first winter in 15 years. Instead, I have been posting old stories from my notebooks. I have been concentrating lately on stories from the first trip that Ms. B. and I took together in 2011. It’s interesting to see the parallels between the present and the past. I’m thinking about combining them all into a book. This week’s story would be the finale of that book.
After the Apocalypse…
Canoa, Ecuador, March 15, 2011
It’s a classic moment in the history of the Universe. Nature’s wrath has just reduced a complex human civilization to ashes and mud but many humans survive to start over and continue on. Civilization builds itself again until nature’s wrath reduces it to rubble again. The cycle repeats itself; over and over. Civilizations collapse… they always do… but humanity continues. In this particular story or myth, the catastrophe has only just passed and but a few survivors remain. A man and a woman are standing together on a beach in the aftermath. Their world has been destroyed. Everything they knew and believed is no more.
“We have nothing,” says the man, “what shall we do?”
“We shall begin again…” says the woman.
It takes us about an hour to walk down the beach from the Coco Hut in Canoa to the remote location of the Sundowner Inn. With all our belongings on our back and the hot sun bearing down, it’s not exactly a pleasant stroll. But I do my best to embrace the struggle and I try to think of it as an important element of the overall experience. The excitement from yesterday’s Tsunamai warning still lingers giving the world an exaggerated intensity. I feel a little like a character in an epic adventure story. The empty barren beach all around us adds background atmosphere. Me and my woman are slowly making our way in a post apocalyptic world…
Nothing quite like the end of the world to put things in perspective. This was a crazy day. Not only because of the horror that hit Japan but because we thought the horror was headed our way. My thoughts and prayers and condolences are, of course, with the Japanese people who truly suffered the consequences of this Tsunami and this story is not intended to make light of their tragedy. But it’s interesting to read this old notebook and witness my own self responding to apocalyptic possibilities. Me and Ms. B.; riding the storm out…
Canoa, Ecuador; March 2011
It’s early morning but after sunrise. I have a hangover and a headache. I awake groggily to the sound of sirens and loudspeakers. The words are in Spanish; I’m half asleep; I can’t understand. I get out of bed and go to the window. We are staying in a beach front hotel. Only a dirt road and about 100 feet of sand beach separate us from the ocean. We can watch the waves wash on shore from our bed. But we closed the window last night because of bugs. Now I open it and look outside. There are several police vehicles driving up and down the dirt road and on the beach. Sirens blaring, loudspeakers blasting. Evacuation!! Evacuation!! We are under a Tsunami Alert. Evacuation Evacuation. The hostel erupts into chaos. People run around in a panic; shove things into backpacks and scurry about as they talk excitedly. An earthquake has hit Japan. A tsunami is coming here. Evacuate. Evacuate. Holy Shit, we have to evacuate… Hmmm…. I guess that means I should probably wake up Ms. B…
After four days of fun but difficult hiking in the cold high mountains of Quilatoa, Ms. B. and I are ready for the beach. Ecuadoran Carnaval is now over so the beaches shouldn’t be crowded. I oh so badly want to kick back and relax. But not quite yet; first we have to get there. And transport between Latacunga in the mountains and Canoa on the beach is not exactly straightforward. As a matter of fact, it’s a regular odyssey. We leave the hotel at 7:00 am and go directly to the bus station. From Latacunga, we take a bus to a place called Aloag which is basically just an intersection on the Pan American highway. We cross the busy highway, dodging traffic in full packs, and climb aboard a bus parked on the opposite side of the road facing perpendicular towards the crossing road. This bus goes downhill through a steep canyon until it comes to the traffic mishap. A water bottle truck flipped over and plastic water bottles are everywhere. We are held up for a long time. Jean Claude Van Dam on the video monitor entertains us while we wait. Eventually, they allow us through the water bottles and we arrive at the crowded bus station in the city of Santo Domingo. We negotiate the chaos to find our way to another bus. No time to eat, just chips and snacks as we are rushed aboard. Another long, hot, crowded bus journey terminates at a town called Pedernales on the coast. Again we have to switch buses. We shout out the name of our destination and we are led through the sandy streets of a beach town from one bus company office to another. Eventually, we find the correct bus, load up our bags and head south along the coast for a few more hours. Finally, we arrive in Canoa at just about sunset.