I am a lion, part 2
Plunge to Sangallo: hope, despair and rescue
Then, with some difficulty, I am getting back in time, I decided to go to the Mirador (a viewing point) near the shabby Plaza de Toros to look to the path plunging to Sangalle and weight my odds. It shocked me mightily that such a miserable village is spending its last pennies by indulging itself in four days of bullfighting. Human are so vain. The worst is still to come. Hesitantly I made my way to the top of the hill to realize that the paths, barely trodden on the mountain wide curves, are extremely narrow and so sharply bent downwards that they seemed to lead directly to hell. I will be never able to tackle that I said to myself. So while I was considering (again) the infinite beauty of the mountains in front of me, a hyperbolized image of the Painter’s Palette, I have admired years ago in the Death Valley, Nevada, now enriched with scores of majestic peaks covered with immaculate snow and piercing milky clouds I remarked that I am in a middle of a giant open-air defecation camp, a kind of outdoors collective loo. This depressed me deeply. I was in a rare pantheistic mood ready to get enormously lyrical in a boundless rapture in front of the peerless splendour of a grandiose act of creation, or better said of what remained of it! Should I have to come down to earth and consider the misery of the biological man? Not that I had, with that minor lapses of the Creator (nectar and ambrosia wouldn’t be better?) any particular problem. I worked in my remote youth in hospitals and took complete care of people sunk into a sound coma. But the prospective, let’s face it was utterly different. I am going to leave this hole (again) and I will pick the first train for anywhere, even for Yuma…Crestfallen I was drugging me feet towards the miserable orange hostel when I heard behind me a croaky voice: “Hey, hey, caballero, if you want to go to Sangalle and even return alive you can take the path that starts at the Plaza de Armas and leads for a while through the maize fields; you cannot miss it”. I returned at once like bitten by a snake to see a little toothless old women who preserved under the wrinkles some features of once a very distinguished beauty!! Fairy or witch? that it is the question! Here in Cabanaconde and how did she knew? There was not time for more enquiry. I blessed her for ever, wished her in petto a free and useful prosthetic device and launched myself on the way of glory. More wisely than expected i decided to take a test. It was tough but not terrible. The path itself was ragged with stone blocks, pebbles of exaggerate sizes and vicious steps, but the slope was moderate and a little stone wall was separating one from an ungracious, eventually ultimate, fall. Bushes and scrubs were displaying vividly coloured flowers, insects were humming while unconsciously fertilizing around and birds were dashing just to look for a meal. I heard some tunes in my head, begun making plans, launched myself in an animated trot, gazed enthusiastically around and mostly in front of my feet and did some reasonable estimations of my strength and will. Good I am going to have this 45 minutes take to see how I will react and down we went, me and my decision. The odds were heavy: I am 77 years old, taking medication for the last forty years, with some fine varicose on legs that had the bad tendency to swollen the last year, a drinking habit, when I have alcohol I mean, without alpinist background and quite slim ankles, and ten years ago, still a smoker. It does not sound good……More, I am Mr. Bones…That means bones wrapped with thin chair masses and lots of skin…And also, I do not like cliffs and crags and drops…I hate precipices…I can go over abysses but I do not fancy it…During the time I was thinking of that I remarked that I am advancing full speed, that my steps are firm, my balance good, my breath, problematical from the time that I hit Andes, quite regular…I begun to fell a wave of power rising from the ground into my soles and from there express to heart and head. IN NO TIME I BECAME A LION…I got into a a shamanistic metamorphose. Gone were my shaking skinny feet, I was advancing on well padded muscular paws, balancing my tail, keeping the flies away and raising my mighty head to the stars (there were not too many visible at that moment of the day!). Notwithstanding the lack of mane I was ready to roar. I didn’t. I continued into this frenetic mood till I reached a platform marked with a freshly cut and clumsy mounted large cross, jutting into the sky, on the edge of the chasm. It looked good enough…and convincing. Cross could be a good omen too despite of its original connotations; it depends of its location, so to say, at the entrance of a village, fine, in a churchyard, much less. I hope that here does not signify a jumper. Let’s think positively, tomorrow morning I will go into the real thing. To tell you that on the way back I have seen for the second time and also photographed for the first time the biggest humming bird on earth, Patagona Giga. I do. I took this as an excellent augury. Only to think of humming birds made me of excellent mood. They know to fly backward, you know?
The next day I went out in high spirits early in the morning after that I got from Rosiria, the maid, the fried eggs I asked for. They were supposed to beef me up. They did. The stretch was estimated to three to four hours of vigorous walk. I begun very confident with my walking stick stuck under my right pit hole. After some hesitation the sun made his appearance in whole glory. I aimed to do the length in less than three hours and very wisely I decided to take some five minutes rest after each good stage. There is not need and I even doubt that I have the skills to depict the amazing view of the northern rim of the canyon rising near thousand meters above the place I was so eager to quit. The chromatic play had some dream quality; the plans were fading smoothly one within the other, the colours were mat, the light was coming mostly from within. There were large surfaces of dark violet, deep yellow, rich brown, red-brick, saturated greens sewn together like precious patches of a wondrous cape thrown upon the beautiful shoulders of the mountain goddess.. The imperial collar was of white ermine with streaks of whitish gray coming from the clouds. The beautiful head was to be guessed. It should be Aphrodite for sure who took a day off from Olympus. ! Add to that, that the sun rays were modifying the picture every minute and you will be as far from reality as at the beginning. You should look to the photographs, and still be miles beneath the splendour that I have seen, felt, experienced. I was looking at this ultimate diorama only when I took pictures or rest. The path was far of being a joke. Soon I have to stick in my knap bag the padded vest I took. It was a mistake to take it altogether. Fresh mule droppings, strange enough had a tranquilising effect upon the highly strung lion going down and secretly trying to make a statement. What a mule does a feline should be able to do too if not better. What about to reach the village in two hours or two hours and a half?…
The sun was increasing its presence, but I did not feared it…being well provided with water and protective crème Well? It was after less than one hour that I begun to note new occurrences which without to modify the general self-assured mood became important enough to pay attention to their apparition The path became tougher, more abrupt, more threatening that at the beginning. I commence to look less and less to the colourful mountainous festival surrounding me. The walking stick status changed from a highly decorative artefact to a totally necessary support. I was congratulating me for taking it…then I realized that the stretch I covered yesterday was not more than one tenth or less of the whole run…I put away all these little worries automatically connected to any performing attempt and I still continued to feel feline…but not for long…I realized that I am not respecting the rhythm and not resting the regular five minutes after each stage…that it was not very clear what the length of the stage should be…Then like a worm creeping to the surface came the doubt that I am trying to finish the whole scenario quicker, that I begun to have enough…the lion was fading intro extremely hot air…this air that seems made of oily sheets, a little bit less transparent that it should be…I tried to calm down and to temperate the march…little by little especially because my steps slowed down by themselves, I couldn’t go quicker…From time to time I was crossing young people mounting the zigzag slope A HUGE BAG ON THEIR SHOULDERS! Twenty years old, the bag is new..we were politely saying hello and moved over…breath was a too precious commodity to spend it socially. I would like to stop to rest somewhere, but there was not shade and I begun to wonder if I will be able to continue after a rest …A voice begun to growl in my ears: keep going!…It was you Danarel? Also, I was taking less and less photos…not that I did not try, but I am not getting the light or the sharpness I like and a certain feeling of hate towards the stupid camera became obvious…Finally a young Brazilian guy, there is not necessary to mention young, kindly makes contact and we exchanged some more personal greetings. His red painted hair eighteen years old girl friend caught with us and they demand me do a photo of them. Glad to satisfy. After he wants a photo of me to send it to his father. I accepted flattered and felt bolstered.The effect of the encounter unfortunately was short and I start to find that the knap bag is revoltingly heavy and the trail disgustingly difficult. I do not lot lack resources however and I decided to cut the rest of the way by stretches of twenty bends. Order before anything else it was one of my oldest dream. It remained till today a dream. After each stretch I looked down in the direction of the village. The damned village is in sight, but believe it or not, MORE I ADVANCE FURTHER IT GOES. Fata Morgana in a mountainous mode. I will not speak about bewitchment, but it looked very close. I was already three hours on the road. My steps became very small, the feline that never was is gone, and I am not very steady in spite of the stick.
I became very much afraid to fall and actually I begun to slide and once I fell and landed on my hands without to hurt myself. The balls of the feet became nasty too and I feel like going on eggs. I don’t know, eggs of dinosaur maybe, because I do not see a normal bloke, me, getting dirty on the white and yellow mixture of any volatile. The village is near, it came back, but I cannot bent the legs anymore …they became stiff suddenly at hips and knee jointures…the idea that from profile I look like a partially open pocket knife amuses me for a moment, Mock the Knife…I reached the village, crossed a canal with running water…One step more and I will fall…Here is a building, Eden they call themselves, got inside, sit on a bank and roared or croaked, something like this: CERVEZA!
The four slightly retarded beings found there hurried slowly to bring the beer, continued to eat, spoke with me and looked at the tv set, all in the same time. Yes. There is not any Sangalle village. There are hotels of various kinds, mostly open walls restaurants with bungalows around a piscine, a fine garden, and some pets…the customers are teenagers who come for two or three excursion days, eat, drink beer, swim, have sex and some mild local drugs…I left the morons and got into one of the spots. Pablo the fat owner receives me genially, I can use the pool, thank you, I will use a long chair to lay down forever, a pisco sour (that being the national Peruvian alcohol, OH YES) and one of the MULES coming from Cabanaconde with food. I knew about the mules, but in my hubris paranoia, the lion what? I was toying with the idea that I am going up by myself after some rest and a hefty meal. At the end of three hours that I spent to recuperate at the Pablo place I did a little walk to get accustomed with the surroundings and with some of Pablo’s pets among which the extremely ugly rooster and the beautiful murderous billy goat, aroused my attention and a certain enthusiasm. I was feeling better, but clearly unable to walk, the king of stiffs. I had to mount one of the four mules and pray for the best. Never in my life I got on the back of such an animal and the only attempt to ride a potential mule father, a giant grey donkey in Andalusia some fifty years ago,was a shameful failure. Their similarity to horse which I ride with delight is formal only. They are a totally different kind of animal, I am speaking about donkeys, mules I was on the way to discover. There was not alternative. My medicine and my toilet kit were upon the rim and I cannot live without any of them. There were four mules, I got the third one which was the bigger one and still smaller that any of the horses I mounted some hundred years ago. The first two, one behind the other trotted alone. I got the only saddle which was a bad one and not very well attached. My bag and my stick were loosely attached on the pack saddle of the second mule. The owner was riding behind me. Let’s face it, I was a little tense, not out of my wits, but resigned. I knew that a mule had sturdy legs, steel nerves, perfect balance, organic rhythm and a subatomic drive some where in the loins. It was a kind of academic knowledge. Also I knew that if you fell by yourself you can survive or disappear, but if you fell with the mule you are good for the All Day Saints. The continuation of this brilliant reflection was that my mule never fell, otherwise she wouldn’t be there. However this monument of calm and power can bolt and run wild. They did…My bag fell because the jerk ( the muleteer, otherwise a nice person) didn’t fixed it well and the second mule, the one in front of me begun to misbehave…The careless local professional run and fixed the package but my dear stick, that save me the life three times in this journey was broken. I smiled. In other situation I will pluck his heart out the chest, Aztec style, Inka sryle, I don’t know, just to stick with the cultural tradition and place a stone instead. Never mind. I am not going to argue with the mules’ captain in the middle of the road. And what a road, it was leading straight to hell notwithstanding the orographic location. The high steps of the descent became brutal barriers now in the ascent. The photos that I took of me at this moment show a strained face with some haggard look. However, little by little, I calmed down and I begun to pay attention to the mules’ festival. It was awesome. They go by themselves, advance on the road towards the precipice and then sharply turn the forequarters towards the wall, and even without to tighten their behind, mighty behind, they are projecting their forelegs to the upper level being this what it could be. Awesome display of force. A dancer and a goat will not do any better. There is not effort whatsoever notwithstanding the load they carry, everything is smooth, everything is cool. In deep ecstasy I get into the movement. My small riding experience rose to never expected heights. Automatically I help the mule twice, slightly hitting her with the knees when she is heading outwards to position herself, I cannot say itself, and then more strongly, sharply and shortly, a part of a second,while she is executing the bond with the forelegs. I accompany the movement with a sound: Ho or Ho Ho. I felt that the animal appreciate my contribution…In two and half hours we were back on the rim..alive..and there came the enlightenment!
LION was an illusion rooted in vanity and envy..MAYA! You can master your fears as much as you want, that does not make you a lion…lion distinctive qualities are power, pride and selfishness…and before anything else – power. And altogether cats, small or big, they have a fish smell. I was wrong but this trip was beneficial beyond expectation. I discovered who I am and what I can do. I got again a totemic identity. I am, modestly speaking, a great mule rider, there is little doubt about. And to be more precise dear Danarel, cross my heart, please recognize me for what I have always been, even without to know:
the ultimate muleteer!
I AM A LION 2