You pass through the town at the peak of the mountain and the road ahead is suddenly blanketed in cloud and a recent rockfall forces all traffic on to the muddy shoulder which overhangs a hundred metre drop.
You look to the left as your driver makes the sign of the crucifix on his chest.
This may bring peace to the driver but to you it says “we’re going to need divine intervention to get through this alive.”
Inside your head you’re screaming at the driver “mas despacio, por favor” but outwardly you’re attempting to remain calm while the speedo creeps past 80 and he overtakes a ute in the pouring rain on the edge of a cliff again making the sign of the cross.
You reason that he has probably done this drive hundreds of times before and he’s still here to do it for you and your fellow passengers, but the creeping pessimist in your conscience speaks up at this point.
“That just means he hasn’t killed himself yet, doesn’t mean he hasn’t killed anyone else…”
The pessimism doesn’t trail off because it’s finished detailing the reality of this mortal test you paid good money for, but because the blind corner you are now navigating is suddenly occupied by a very much sideways travelling truck and, and much like a computer still running Windows XP when it attempts to do too many things at once, your brain has simply shut off.
You emerge from your lucid blackout somewhere on down the mountain road, and you wonder if the hangover you are nursing through this experience may be your last.
Aside from the time I made a public announcement to inform my mother I had had a goat tattooed on my ribcage in San Diego, this was the first time I had legitimately (sarcastically) feared for my life during my travels through North and South America.
I hadn’t entered in to a shady cocaine deal and ended up being held up at gun point.
I hadn’t wandered off in to the wilderness unprepared and come across the local wildlife.
I hadn’t even attempted to surf the gnarly northern Peruvian coastline.
(In defense of my mortality, I had been hit by a car while skateboarding through traffic in Lima, but only my ego was damaged in that exchange.)
My only crime was to get raucously drunk losing at beer pong against a girl I had met on Tinder and clamber on to a bus hungover and sleep deprived for a seven hour journey to see my first of the Seven Wonders of the World.
Yeah, that second week in October was a week of firsts.
So it was not a punishment; it was not a torturous journey I had entered into unwillingly, it was simply a part of a journey which I had not so much planned as fallen into, hoping it would culminate in an experience worth having, or at least worth sharing.
But it was that 12 hour microcosm of my travels throughout North and South America that, for me at least, would act as a metaphor for the entire journey: entering willingly, and unpreparedly, into the unknown in the hope that I could come away with an experience worth sharing.
I envy those who can travel for self-exploration alone, feasting on the experiences as nutrition for their own soul.
But I have to share these experiences; arrogantly, self-deprecatingly and honestly, as validation that they are experiences worth having.
I see that as a weakness, but if I use skills I know I have, can that attitude in itself not become something from which I can draw strength?
Am I really going to end this post with a rhetorical question?
Would it not be more interesting to finish on a hypothetical situation?