This journey will be our territory of mortal adventures, an imaginary straight line, carried by the will, by the wind, by envy, by all our forces. The one that leaves our home, passes by the end of the world and which will bring us back home. The one that one does not leave, the one that remains; beyond and through everything. This continuity will be many times cut off.
What is this miracle that separates this geographical space?
Deep inside us, traveler, migrant or dreamer, the next country, the Beyond a Border carries hope. The hope of finding what is not here, does not matter here. Between Between Villazon and La Quiaca, between south Bolivia and north Argentina, we hope for the border. As a man, we ask it to promise us a happy future. And for this happiness, we have to wait, just a little bit.
Little Caroline and I hope to find, in order: paved roads, wind in the back, restaurants without gastroenteritis, giant and cheap barbecues, meetings. In short, hope is free, so choose a la carte. Finally, the first thing we found in Argentina is dust … Everyone says that ruta cuarenta is mythical. I did not know it was shabby.
What we immediately discovered is the far-west atmosphere. We found ourselves in the world of Lucky Luke. The yellow desert, the purple mountains, the white churches and houses made of clay bricks and the century-old and dilapidated railway that accompanies us for all these kilometers. But above all, absence, silence, emptiness, the desert and a simple road.
After crossing the border we stay one day in La Quiaca to clean the Salar salt which is still stuck to our bikes. Caroline does the laundry and takes the opportunity to work on the new recipes of Cuisin’situ. The following day, on this straight and silent road for about thirty kilometers we enter this abandoned city hoping to fill our gourds and our reserve of provisions: Pumahuasi. Dusty streets, rusty cars, nobody, no noise. The only thing that denotes is this big white church in the middle of the village. By rolling, we landed on the moon, or in a village after an atomic disaster.
We were fed up with chicken, rice and Coca Cola from Peru and Bolivia. But in Pumahuasi, with empty saddlebags and stomach, we will eat what we will find.
Transpering the silence, we hear noise, we get closer, we look, we hope someone, we hope a man. Lost, it’s an alpaca behind a portal that looks at us. I imagine him lying on a barbecue, knife and plate in his hand, but then, behind the gate, we see a sketch of groceries. Half collapsed, not well defined, but we see the packages of biscuits and eggs on a counter simulacrum. No doubt. We approach, we tap the tile. Nobody, nothing, silence. We insist, the bikes placed on the earth wall and the wheels in the dust. Not to know what to do, we wait, we let ourselves a little more burn by the sun of noon. We say to ourselves we will eat the last pieces of dried bread but the reflection stops on the problem of water : our gourds are empty. I look up at the disturbing horizon. But it’s always the silence that answers us when I come back to the tile a little stronger. Then finally, the latch opens, a little girl with burnt skin opens the door of the smallest grocery store in the world. The smallest yes, but not the least well-stocked, almost fresh bread, sardines, eggs and even carrots. Wow, a slippery omelet with carrots and onions, it changes from chicken-rice-coca !! We even gift ourselves 2 boxes of sardines for snack.
Argentina. We imagined in all its entirety, from the desert to Tierra del fuego, from Aconcagua to Buenos Aires, from the Altiplano to the glacier. But the bike is on a human scale. We discover Argentina at the regular rhythm of the wheel and it begins with the atmosphere of virgin land.
Sometimes, at the edge of the road, we see small chapels to remember those who died on the road. It’s a bit like our road safety posters, but in 3D. From the simple niche, to real mausoleums of dictators with photos and testimonials version graffiti. These relics of plastic flowers bleached by the altitude sun are always accompanied by dozens of empty beer bottles, sometimes even tables, chairs and barbecues. Death is a holiday. This is perhaps why the trucks that pass us are so close. In spite of Caroline’s distance-guard, they do not move a millimeter down the road to save us. Their straps slam a few inches from your ears. It is only much later that we will understand why.
In this desert, the road is not alone, it is followed by the Rio Grande and this ghostly railway. Dilapidated, mysterious and dreamlike. All three are seen at a few tens of meters without overlapping. We follow them for more than 150 km. We are in the wild west of Argentina. By driving next to them, they are our new companions. They too, like the border, I humanize them where there is no one; allegory of adventure.
And then, in a desert, by dint of silence and solitude, lost of bearings in the middle of immensity, driven by the infinite movement of the wheel, between hypnosis and hyper fatigue, my mind wanders and I begin to explore my personal history.
Meeting in the desert
When I was student, I used to go out a lot, so I was really tired the next day during resistance of the materials lessons, I was dozing a little, a pen in one hand, my head resting on my arm in the opposite direction to the teacher, a little sleep easy and discreet. Never more than 15 min in a row, otherwise, no time to copy the table.
And in the evening, in my little studio, I tried to understand these three-line long equations and how they articulated with the other branch, on the other side of the “equal” sign. Always lacking sleep, I often drove a little on this pillow of misery: my chemistry notebook. And I remember the last feeling before falling asleep. It took me a while to see its nature, its meaning. But, as I look for how these variables have been transformed on both sides of the equality, while I repeat the same transformations twenty times under different filters in order to understand the mechanics, the sleep invades me and my eyes are only half open. And just before sinking into a nap that probably will not last more than a second, the time that the fall of my head wakes me up, my brain has time to find the solution to the problem, all alone, but not the way I had envisioned it, no. While I was looking for how, when sleep has removed the filters of reason and logic, at the threshold of consciousness, these terms of the equation are no longer articulated around mathematics but by human mechanics, in less ‘a second I forget the search for how to find the why.
The sleep lasted only a second, but the dream, this tenacious, hermetic impression, which reveals that when I am ready, reminds me that at the root of everything, at the origin of all knowledge, the elements of our life are arranged in 2 types of boxes: good and bad, benevolent and malicious. And it is this nature that asserts itself, beyond all my efforts to make mine become the mechanics of continuous environments. We will always build our interpretation of the real on this binary but so human basis of the nice / wicked.
It seems that Sartre wrote a book on it: nausea, I think. I do not like Jean-Sol Partre since I read L’écume des jours book, but it seems to me that he explains that it is when we lose consciousness, that all the bases of our conditioning collapses and for a second we perceive the real world as it is and not as we imagine it. The world without the filter of our fears, our desires. Too bad it only lasts a second, too bad we have either great desire to sleep or we are super sick and hit the floor.
Lost in the middle of this Argentine desert, wandering, in fact, even if I do not know it, I’m still always always always thinking. The mill of thought is constantly turning. So, slowly, I see this roughness in my understanding of the world. In the middle of this big nothing, my mind is slowly focusing on my existence and what I perceive: the asperities of my conscience that opposes the world.
For this, the background noise must be diminished, I must forgive my past, pacify my childhood, as a secretary of the United Nations, blue helmet on the head, shake hands to the actors of my inner discord. To have forgiven my friend who has vexed me but above all, forgave myself for all that I regret. My everlasting thought has found the gap to explore and has shattered all my anger and resentment. Once the desire to think of that will be satisfied, I find silence, fullness.
There is a radiation in the universe, a kind of background noise, a big boom that was emitted when the universe was young, the fossil radiation of the cosmos that we still hear today. This radiation is proof that the Big Bang exists. It must be reduced to be able to hear the other radiations. It must be considered in the calculations. The same goes for my personal background noise. I must know him, force me to listen to him to be able to hear the reality, not truncated by this diffuse background, unbiased by the topography of my resentments.
The silence when one has forgiven, the serenity when I led all the paths of reflection at the end of themselves, either at the impasse or at the revelation. This accomplished work, I only listen to the beats of my inner world, they define the perfect surface of myself.
Not so perfect, to observe closely, or even very far, I start to see micro-variations on its surface, it is the granulation of my inner mechanics. It is me. A benevolent shadow that sits above me.
We must observe it as we observe a black hole, we must see it act, see how the experiments bounce on it, to discreetly observe its presence, its existence. Behind this hermetic curtain, this eternal horizon, almost dreamlike, I touch my own nature and it is the most beautiful meeting of the journey, so deep and long awaited. For me it was between Humahuaca and Abra pampa. It is here, here and now. So many beautiful stories that I was hoping for and yet it is of a disproportionate simplicity. Thousands of kilometers to realize the existence of myself; share the saddle with the one we are looking for everywhere. And simple tears of joy run on my cheeks. So difficult to understand, impossible to explain, between modesty and incomprehension I wipe my tears for fear of not knowing how to explain them.
It took me 6552 km to see it; it must be indexed to the age and level of complexity of one’s personality.
To know the number of kilometers to find silence, based on my experience, we must have an equation like this:
D: distance in km
ic: complexity index (1 if you are Forrest Gump, 10 if you are Sigmund Freud)
ip: Index of pardonability (1 if you are very resentful, 10 if you are Jesus)
a: age at the time of departure
273: Constant of the personal meeting
D = (a * ic * 273) / ip
In the various articles, I have always tried to censor myself about what I think, how I have evolved in my different experiences, my inner story. And yet last night, we went to see a guy talking to the public; a conference, yes. Well, what I liked most, Caroline too, is when he described the birth of his questions, his principles and how it had defined him as a human being. It was fascinating because by understanding its history, the mechanism of its development and its explanations. He gave us tracks to dig deeper into our personal understanding.