A grubby looking man, with a good number of his front teeth missing, tells his story in a raspy whisper, of a life led feeding others. His own, though, were few as he never stopped long enough; sometimes enjoying the shifting sands, other times chasing the waves and for a few months every year living in this splendid valley of green giving company to the gushing river down below, where we met him.
For a land teeming with eateries of all kind, it was strange not to find, save one, that offered good food. Yet, his was the tastiest food we ever had, in a place where few would look and even fewer would eat. He told tales of stones he collected, the way he sold them; how he learned English and many other things, which the raspy whisper made it not at all easy to follow.
On a table shared with two ladies, one of them later spoke of hopping islands and countries, how they sought out solace in the unfamiliar and their lives on the road. With a couple next door, retired, greetings were exchanged every morning and queries were made about a party nobody looked keen on really attending. A connection is sometimes attempted over the most mundane of things.
The streets had a music of their own; rising up often, promising weary legs only the hope of an easier return in return. Between the gurgle of the omnipresent water channel, the roaring engine of a vehicle braving the uphill climb and the cacophony of the territorial disputes of the canines, common songs came up, private jokes were born and a journey of no interactions became a carnival of one.
That stretch which looked impossible to cover, was covered thrice, made possible the struggle to keep from falling off a trail nobody seemed to have taken in a while. The distance was nothing to write home about, but the accomplishment of having braved, trusted and having failed in a way, but to have won many times made it worthwhile.
The couple said they tried the same from the other side, but to the same end. A waterfall that was aimed for and missed, was reached another day on a cycle that slipped its chain at the first encounter with the day’s big uphill ride. Villages were crossed, a familiar face was narrowly missed as we crossed our paths unknowingly and left in a familiar cloud of dust.
A rain that was promised never came, the end of a long trek into the wild came, premature, by the threats of the same clouds that broke the promise of the rain. The path was steep and hard and it held a promise of a magical meadow in it. In the end, a compromise was reached, a part of the evening was spent watching anglers try their luck with a fly. The meadow was never reached.
Every journey is a collection of moments, of all this, gifted by the surroundings and by those who surround us. We may never have company, but we never travel alone; all we have to do is reach out and look, sometimes in the eyes of strangers and at times in the eyes of those who are not that unfamiliar.
Because all we have in the end, are just those moments.