The Road Is
The road is my wedded companion.
she speaks to me under my feet all day, she sings to my dreams all night.
My meeting with her had no beginning, it begins endlessly at each daybreak,
renewing its summer in fresh flowers and song,
and her every kiss is the first kiss to me.
The road and I are lovers, I change my dress for her night after night,
leaving the tattered of the old in the wayside inns when the day dawns.
We took the road at our ease on our first day of ascent towards the frontier with Chile. We were not as the Loica, in haste to complete our journey. The failing light on the dirt road brought our first day to a somewhat premature end. We had crossed the Manso the first of 3 times we were to do so and were walking through meadows passing farmhouses and stray cows, under the faint evening shadows of ancient trees.
For the first time in almost two months we were to resume sleeping out of doors, and we relished the thought. Sure, we were to miss certain comforts of the Crux. But the road would accommodate us with those other comforts with which we were familiar. A chorus of crickets singing in unison with the river frogs. Stars, countless numbers stretching across the night sky and our old companion the moon with her many moods. The early morning light turning the sky through its various tones of blue. From a pre dawn Arapawa dearc cloak when most of us are still sleeping, gradually turning pale with silver shadows, nothing it’s true colour, until the sun rises and gives us an honest reflection of the things that are. For me it’s the most wonderful thing about life on the road.
That early morning expectation, before the sun heaves its mass above the horizon, when you can often feel as Beckett once put it "that the earth might be uninhabited". The arcadian dawn, so different from that of the city which displays its insouciance to the nocturnal splendour through its incessant motion. Waking on the heath before the coming aurora you witness its magic. When darkness relinquishes a firm grip on the world, slowly, untwining, like two lovers locked in an embrace, waking from post coital slumber to let one another go and greet the day anew with vigour. Dreams become lucid thoughts. shadows and phantoms become definitive objects.
This expectation brings on hunger in earnest. We break our fast daily with porridge and wild honey, washed down with mugs of coffee and take again to the road, west, with the rising sun on our backs, joy in our hearts and the approval of the morning songbirds. Ed and I began to take pleasure in the novelty of bathing as we were born, naked, usually in the evening at the end of our day’s walking. I had just opened a fresh bar of soap and quickly, proceeded to loose it to the rapids. Ed could not control his laughter at the sight of a naked Irishman, desperately, hopelessly, duck-diving in the frigid waters, trying in vain to part the water with his hands as Moses did the Red Sea, and peer down through the abyss which had stolen his one luxury. But it was gone.
By the third day we had reached the boarder crossing. A baby-faced guard of about 20 dutifully stamped us out of Argentina at the remote outpost but not before having one last jibe at Ed over las Islas Malvinas, something which he had got accustomed to over the past three months, and he took it with typical national indifference, Ed never once let them get the better of him, which incensed some even more. From there it was about another kilometre to the physical frontier. The river itself had to be crossed, then we would be in Chile. Imagine our despair on reaching the rope bridge which separates the two nations, only to find it submersed in the river. We met two elderly Chilenos after an hour of looking for another crossing who informed us to wait by the languishing skeleton and a two o’ clock a boat would arrive to ferry us across.
We rested in the shade and looked across the Manso at the vacant vessel lying idle on the other bank. At two a boy came with four Chilean hikers doing the same trek as us but in the opposite direction. Their baggage was replaced by ours and a minute later we were in Chile. During the crossing the boy explained the bridge had collapsed eight months previous due to heavy snow, and neither Chile nor Argentina would accept responsibility in replacing it. Instead preferring to pay the boy for the services of his old boat. Which of the two nations paid him he did not say. But we were in Chile nonetheless and glad of it. With a road less travelled ahead of us...................
Rabindranath Tagore is a Nobel prize winning author and poet.