i missed the ferry. perhaps i got too cocky- i was hoping to hitchhike onto a big truck for the passage and thus avoid paying the extortionate price of a foot passenger, and rode around the waiting semis asking if they would take me. unfortunately this particular company charge per passenger, not per car, so none of the very friendly drivers could help me. this was after i had seen 4 trucks parked by a beach, with their drivers passing the time underneath a coconut-palm umbrella, and had sat and kicked it with them for a while, hoping to use their CB radio to ask other trucks if they could pick me up. they were all set up with a little barbeque, a fat tray of beef and chicken and a big box of 'ballenas'- bottles of beer the size of whales. they were chilling. by the time i had finished the meat they presented me with and chewed over the usual subjects of england, the price of cigarettes, how beautiful mexico was and the various assets of mexican chicas, it was past my time to get to the ferry... and when i eventually decided to capitulate and buy a ticket there were none left. so, terrible though it is, i now have to pitch my tent on yet another stunning beach and eat fresh fish until i can eat no more. a hard life.
this is the second bit of 'bad' luck after a huge run of amazing days. after i last wrote i became more and more esconced in la paz ('the peace') life... the group of musicians and lovely people with their gypsy ship that i mentioned before invited me to move onto the boat they had just bought for parts. for the first time in my life i could (but didn't) say 'do you want to come back to my 27 tonne yacht?'. and simultaneously the vague sailboat-hitchiking i had been doing, hanging around on a marina full of american retirees asking people if any of them were sailing to the mainland, had paid off, i think partly to the following poem that i read out on the morning 'net', a participatory broadcast that all the boats in the marina listen to:
a very good morning to you
my name is ben; i'm looking to crew
east or south east to my friend in yelapa
la paz is amazing but i miss her palapa
in exchange you should know
i can cook, clean and sow
or hop on my bike
and give you a tow
just like john steinbeck i don't have a phone
but i'll be sat drinking tea in your club cruseros home
or, if you write with suitable aplomb
my email's email@example.com
people dug that shit. eventually a man from san fransisco, intelligent, solitary and somewhat faecitous, though i couldn't put my finger on why, told me that if the wind held he would sail me all the way to yelapa (some 350 miles in a boat that sails at 5mph) the following monday. BINGO. so to pass the days in the most beautiful way possible i decided to hitch with one of the Karaka (the gypsy boat) crew, an aussie named jamie who has been travelling for no less than 4 years, 150 miles south to a national park that contains the only coral reef in north america. we made it there in a day, hitching with more retired gringos who had escaped america for their own slice of cheap paradise south of the border, and in the back of farmers' trucks with hay and bits of wood. cue two nights of building fires and sharing ideas, knowledge and, at times robust, debate about the process of becoming self-aware and facing who we are and becoming what we want to be.
in a whole mash of amazing travelling people such as there was in la paz, it is sometimes hard to pick the individual personalities out of the group and really get deep down into things. it was brilliant to get away from that melee and have good, long campfire conversations with someone. i think jamie and i are really very similar and have trodden similar paths in a way, so we could go into the finer details of things. i am enough into the travelling zone now to see myself do this (travelling about just for kicks) again and again, perhaps indefinitely for a while, and i could ask questions to her like 'are you running away from something or searching for something?' and 'what do you do when you crave a home?' and 'how do you get money?'... she was couchsurfing south on a similar route to me when she met the guys on the boat, and through a serious of turns is now gearing up to sail to australia with them! never doubt the power of couchsurfing (there was a party last night in a house where 15 couchsurfers were staying!)... the boat itself, named karaka, was bought for 1 US dollar by a frenchman who was my age at the time, in hong kong. he repaired it and created a beautiful ship, with a full wooden interior, space for 5 people to live easily, a fat barbeque, a fatter sound system and a collection of instruments gathered from the ship's slow trip around the coasts of the world. it is a magical thing. then he met kim, a young australian full of ideas and recipes who exudes strength but, if you look at her out of the corner of your eye, seems super fragile at the same time. together they began playing music in each of the ports they went into (she violin, he accordion) and told of some amazing moments- 20 haitians jammed in the boat singing and drumming 3 days after the earthquake. 20 more madagascan djembe makers crammed into the boat at the end of a djembe festival. being tied up and robbed down to the last morsel as they entered port in colombia. ever heard the phrase 'worse things happen at sea'? but after their Australian trip they said they wanted to go from port to port doing music workshops and sharing music and food and ideas. they invited me to join them and, well, something like that isn't far off a dream for me, so we shall see.
back in the coral reef we saw fish of all colours and attitudes- blue with yellow rims, black fish with crazy white tessalations on them, rainbow fish... and a solitary, old turtle swimming slowly and deliberately below me. gorgeous.
and then we came back and this morning i went and found out that there is no wind and my captain didn't think we would be able to get where we were going. he said that sailing was all about accepting that things were out of your hands, and added 'and you will sure as hell understand your powerlessness when you find out you have cancer'... and thus his aloof solitude was explained.