By Lentus Ambulandus, inspired by a brief encounter with an ultra-vagabond
We were out cycling yesterday, near a place called Curarrehue, to the east of Pucón, Chile. It was an out-and-back ride, and as we approached our turnaround point, we came across a young man walking in the opposite direction. He was pulling a two-wheeled trailer, the type you might see someone towing behind a bicycle. Actually, I wasn’t sure whether he was pulling it or pushing it…there was a bar that came across his waist, so I suppose he could pull or push, as he wished.
The Walker and I made eye contact and nodded to each other as I rode past. He was extremely fit, had long hair and a healthy beard, and generally looked like a wild man. Gotta talk to him on the way back.
We hit the turnaround point, started riding back, and soon caught up with The Walker. I pulled up beside him. He had a rucksack and a few dry-bags under a loose-fitting tarp, and there was a reflective vest strapped to the back of the trailer for safety.
Me: Hey, where are you walking to?
Me: Hablas español?
The Walker: No. Japón!
I pointed behind him, and in front of him, and raised my hand in the universal “what’s the story?” gesture.
The Walker: Ushuaia [pointing behind]. Ecuador [pointing in front].
See map image above. All in favour of calling this guy a hero of Escapology, please raise your hand and say “aye”. Ushuaia (the southern tip of Argentina) to Ecuador is around 9,000 km. 1,900 hours of walking, if you didn’t stop, according to Google. Averaging 30 km a day, with a few rest days, give yourself a year. Oh, and by the way, now that he’s through Patagonia, he still has to go up through the Atacama Desert and Peru. He’ll probably go through Cusco, which means he’ll cover some high elevation along the way.
There wasn’t much more to say. I shook his hand, saluted him, and rode off.
As I rode, I contemplated what it must be like to just take off and walk across a foreign continent, pulling a trailer. Lonely, for sure. A very healthy dose of Stoic voluntary discomfort. “Freedom” comes to mind.
What will The Walker do once he gets to Ecuador? Go back to Japan and get a day job? How does one fit back into “regular life” after such a feat? Or does the experience so change you that regular life is no longer a viable option? Mind you, if I ever find myself in the (very unlikely) position of interviewing people for a job, and there are two equally-qualified candidates, but one has just dragged a trailer across South America, I know which person I’ll hire.
The whole event makes me want to walk out the front door, pick a direction, and start walking.