Saturday, 9 November 2013

Just Another Day.

Pushing bikes uphill, up an unlit tunnel, through a slime of wet dust, up over 11,000ft, in Southern Bolivia. The inverted horseshoe of daylight behind is blotted out by the advancing growl of an articulated lorry that swells, saturating all audible space. Our single rear red lights creating a consternation, he slows right down and craws past. I should be grateful. Eventually the two blots of daylight equalise and it's then that we both dissolve into a fit of the giggles. The absurdity of location in relation to date. Slip-sliding in the middle of a South American tunnel on your 34th wedding anniversary. It's almost Freudian.

Sometimes it seems but yesterday, but then you consider the world changes between these two dates. The ultimate in technology was a Sinclair pocket calculator, Britain still built motor cars and a bicycle's smallest cog had forty-two teeth. It was no wonder that we pushed up so many Norwegian roads. Nobody within your ken travelled further than Spain. Now....this iPad warms up and drops a blue arrow precisely where we are. My Mini Cooper, with it's turned out seams and ubiquitous corroding sills, is now a German import. That smallest toothed cog is now the biggest on these new-dangled mountain bikes. Now I can pedal up a Bolivian one in eight. A long week-end in New York. No problem.

We've left Tarija in the eary stillness of a Sunday morning, our two dimensional map suggesting an easy distance to the next village. Only reality and geography disagree. The road starts to snake it's way uphill, climbing ever upwards. Up through the bio-climes.The green lushness of the irrigated plain giving way to a dry winterness of withered tussock grasses, flowering cacti and bare red rock. The hoped for roadside restaurant non-existent. The village but a road junction. Up to a damp cold mist and that tunnel.

The romanticism. No bunches of flowers. The locals have bought them all to garnish the roadside shrines; it's two days since the 'Day of The Dead'. Even in death their colours reflect their political alliegences. Actually there's never been flowers - I didn't want to suggest a guilty conscience. Or a candle-lit meal. Tonight it will be egg noodle hash outside the tent, under a thorn bush, the dying sun warm on the rock as a herd of goats wander home.

Could we ever have imagined where we would be tonight, as we stood in an innocence in front of our friends and relations all those years ago?