A turn in the weather whistled a bolt of cold over my body, goose-fleshing as we journeyed towards Jasper and Banff in Canada’s Alberta province. Cold inquires at first investigated the tips of my fingers, chin and nose, feeling their sharp little claws sink in when my gums were no longer warm. What did I expect from alpine towns—amid the snow-capped Canadian Rockies—revelling in their own microclimates.
Wheeling up to the US border at Tecate was more of a ‘Triple Whopper with fries but better make that a diet coke’ drive-thru experience than the usual cacophony of queues—left, right and centre—about the Latin American customs and immigration offices. The familiarity of my old, comforting Latin American life was about to leave me for a strange and first world new one. A civilised US border official greeted us formally at the barrier. Plenty of pleases and thank yous but no warm pleasantries to which I’d become deeply accustomed.
Intense light fell from a vaulted powder-blue sky that offered here and there a cloud so fat and dense-looking, it might have been full of milk. A monied seafront gleamed as much as the ocean. The coastline was lined with an assortment of majestic marine figurines, spotless sidewalks and restaurants with menus on which we couldn’t afford to dine. La Paz reeked of money but didn’t seem unwelcoming although to be fair, there was hardly a soul about. “Oh my gawd, Lisa!” Jason uttered, disbelievingly. “What?” I barked eagerly back. “There’s an osprey! Up there, sat on top of that lamp post.” And so it was, a yellow-eyed raptor known as the sea hawk ready to hunt over the water. Welcome to off-peak Baja California.
The morning after the night before Mexico Independence Day was akin to Boxing Day in a rural corner of England. The highways were deliciously quiet, deserted even and the streets had become all but bare. Riding down the empty roads gave rise to revelling in a deep quietness. For a moment, I imagined what it would be like to be a ghost—to walk forever through a silence deeper than silence. There was something agreeably frightening about it all. The sun was a fiery orange ball in a smooth blue sky where not a single cloud blemished or blotted it.
How soft the jungle air at Las Pozas was, after the molten lava of Mexico City, as soft as dusting powder, the coat of a puppy. The night sky was a sapphire blue and strewn with stars, a shower of gold dust. The pristine purity of the rambunctious, wild place that was Edward James’ secret garden was a vaccine against harm, the urban nasties coating the lungs with god knows what. May be the locals here were more clear-headed than the rest of us about what’s important: natural beauty, safe streets, clean air, the wild wood—not the wide world beyond it. Not to hustle and hassle with life.
The snaking road was silver in the morning sun. It was a perfect day for riding a motorcycle. And the moment we got going, the miles ticked away under the wheels. “Feels good to be back on the bikes, eh Jase?” I uttered down the helmet’s intercom enjoying the normalcy of a moving life. And in my mind’s eye agreeing with Robyn Yong who said, “We travel not to escape life but for life not to escape us”. “Yahp,” came Jason’s response.
Striding with a hopped-up buzz back to the US Embassy to collect our visa-stickered passports, what were the odds of bumping into the clerk who’d approved the travel permits just four days previous—within five minutes of stumbling across the Romanian chef whose restaurant we’d breakfasted in that same morning—along the same street? Too uncanny! Continue reading