Monday, March 23, 2009

Nobody's Fault But Mine

After graduating from my Masters program, I delayed joining my full time job for a month since I wanted to travel a bit. The initial plan was to hit up a few states while backpacking and living in cheap motels. I even had this fairytale notion that I'd be able to find the infamous crossroads. Lack of time and money made me scrap that plan, but I did go camp out in the rockies for a month.

It was a month that gave me lots of solitude and peace, a chance to restart reading, and near endless memories. I broke my camera, nearly blinded myself with the tentpole and caught a fever. Still, one of the best vacations ever.

Initially, I was reluctant to go "into the wild" since I'd never camped alone. Camping with my buddies, ze Germans, meant that they took care of everything with obsessive attention to detail. So for the first week, I stayed in a campsite under a mile short of Rocky Mountain National Park. It had showers, electric and sewage hookups and was 20 mins away from a small town - supermarkets, laundry and even starbucks. The idea was that I'd use the cradle of civilization to see how thorough my planning had been, and once all corrections had been applied I'd move into the national park and come out as infrequently as possible.

I was into a routine soon. I'd wake up at 7:30, get ready and have 2 sandwiches for B'fast. Fill up my camelback with gatorade (the powder is very useful - kept me going for weeks), and set off for a hike. I'd eat a granola bar midway into the hike to get some sugar into the blood and reach the summit/mid point of the trail by noon. Have another sandwich and head back. I'd be back in my camp by 4 pm. I'd read for a few hours, followed by dinner - which was random stuff well done on the crackling fire.

In the earlier days of acclimatizing, I got dinner at McDs - they had free wifi. While cursing myself at slipping up, I stood among a bunch of people waiting for their orders. I noticed a toddler playing in the arms of her grandmother. The kid was black, and was in great spirits and in absolute love with the lady holding her - who was white. There isn't a whole lot of American diversity in the few places I've lived in, and this was the first time I'd seen something like this. My mind went on this trip where I tried imagining what the kid's mother looked like, and thought of fanciful stories of why the kid was abandoned and then adopted by the white lady. I'm pretty ashamed of the thoughts I had then, but the process is like poking a painful wound. It gets worse, but you just can't stop. As I wound my way out of this reverie, I noticed that the mother/grandmother had been looking at me all this while. I'm sure my face reflected the puzzles and conjecture in my mind, and I probably only got away because I don't look and sound American.

The stark contrast of their skin colors and facial features, the unrequited love they shared in their eyes and lips make for some vivid images in my mind. You hear about change and equality a lot, but never realize how a $5 dinner can prove a clergyman's dream wasn't futile.


Purely Narcotic said...

Did you have run-ins with any random insects animals birds etc?

And this random stuff well done on the crackling fire makes me curious. A whole month out there, what meats were present to cater to thy hunting instincts, Sir?

Psst. will ask you more retarded questions as I read over and over again and remember :)

Cynic in Wonderland said...

..this is nice. taking off into the yonder.

and yes. life's little nuggets come when one least expects it isnt it? the multi-hued family, i once saw a woman in a figure hugging burkha ( completely covered face mind you) randomly passing on some street.

Thanatos said...

@ Narcotic

I saw a couple of rattlers and some elk. A squirrel tried to run away with a packet of my beef jerky. That was about it :D
Like I said, I lived pretty close to civilization. I'd get whatever supermarket stuff I wanted once a week and store it in me icebox. I went through a lot of variety...

@ Cynic
Thanks! Figure hugging burkha is a first. And I find it hard not to laugh.

Jagjit said...

Camping alone. Solitude. Interesting. I am thinking of doing such stuff. Himalayas calling :)

Liked the observations about color too.


Thanatos said...

@ Jagjit

Hello! Himalayas? Sounds demanding and challenging. Best of luck!