The Amazon Jungle is a long ways from the Middle East. Indeed, it would be difficult to find a location more geographically re-moved from the Islamic World. Nevertheless, it is all connected by the international news media and all the victims may yet unite against the common aggressor. This week’s story re-examines last week’s fear of travel theme from a different perspective. It is a mirror in the fun house to last week’s story. Same author, different time… different reality. If you read the two stories together, it is almost like passing through a time/space portal.
“But is it real?” says Ms. B. from the front of the camper van, “or are you making stuff up again?”
The story is fiction but it is based on a real experience. In 2002-2003, I went on a 5 month journey that began in Rio De Janiero, Brazil and ended in Lima, Peru. I found the overall experience so intense that I wrote a novel about it. The novel is not exactly auto-biographical though. The main character is a young and naive American on his first ever traveling adventure. He is also carrying a big bag of cocaine. When I traveled all the way up the Amazon River in 2003, I was a fairly experienced traveler with many overseas journeys under my belt and I wasn’t carrying any cocaine. But I did go to all the same places at more or less the same times as the young hero(David) in the novel and we did have several similar experiences. The incident in the restaurant at the center of this week’s story really did happen to me but it happened in a different small town. What is truth? What is fiction? You tell me because I don’t know anymore.
This story is also one chapter in the long novel.
A Restaurant in the Middle of Nowhere
David awakes in his hammock in the early morning and the area around him is a bustle of activity. People are scurrying about, taking down hammocks, packing up suitcases and backpacks. They are all getting ready to get off the ship. He rubs the sleep from his eyes, climbs from the hammock, walks to the rail and looks at the river. Sure enough, a rather large town is up ahead. By the time he takes down his own hammock, packs up his pack and organizes his stuff, the boat has just about pulled into dock. The final photos and goodbye hugs are being exchanged among the passengers. A few people shake his hand, say goodbye in Spanish or Portuguese and even ask him to join in group photos. The spontaneous short term community is breaking up. The old guy, “Bobo”, is not around and neither are Catherine and Giroux, but the three Colombian amigos are there taking part in the fond farewells. They approach David and offer to escort him to a hotel on shore.
A line has formed by the gangplank and passengers are now filing off the boat. David and his three amigos join the line and are soon on the dock, solid ground; land again after seven days. It feels kind of funny to walk around. The legs need time to adjust. They wait by the dock until they find Catherine and Giroux. They lingered in their cabin before exiting so as to avoid the crush of the crowds. When they see David, they wave and rush over to him. Their mood is extremely optimistic.
“Feels great to finally be on shore again,” says Catherine. “Do you know where you are going to stay?”
“Bobo recommended the Garcia Guesthouse,” says David, “but I have no idea where it is. These guys offered to show me the way.”
“Residencia Garcia? That place is recommended in the guidebook,” says Giroux. “We looked it up last night. It’s in Leticia, not Tabatinga.”
“Leticia is supposed to be a better place to stay,” says Catherine.
“Where are we now?” asks David.