01 home | 02 news | 03 biography | 04 discography | 05 tour dates | 06 lyrics | 07 reviews | 08 road stories | 09 gallery | 10 media

To Coroico by Carl Cleves

Page 2

We crossed the Atacama desert, 1600 kilometres of rocks and sand, and arrived in the seaside town of Arica near the Peruvian border, where we had to wait five days for the weekly train that would carry us up into the Altiplano to La Paz, capital of Bolivia. We found a hotel room in a sleepy backstreet. On arrival Tashi befriended some kids and the place livened up at once. Tashi had blossomed since we'd departed: inquisitive, open, disarming as only a three-year old can be. He always checked out everyone, but especially other children, and was quick at making friends on buses, trains, in waiting rooms and public parks. Soon the kids were raging like wind-up toys, up and down the stairs and through the courtyard. It wasn't long before Tashi had a bad fall. He howled with pain, his face was very swollen and I feared that he might have broken his nose.

The Chilean social welfare system had fallen in dire straits under the Pinochet regime, and public hospitals were unable to cope with the demand. For two agonising days we waited in endless queues to see a doctor. 150 people lined up to register, as many to see a nurse, then again as many to get x-rayed and finally, at the end of day two, to meet the medical student who told me my son's nose was broken and that time should heal it. All this while a child sobbed with pain, his face badly deformed. Many other parents, some helpless, others enraged, waited in line with hurt and sick children. Old people sat slumped against the walls and peasants, who had travelled from afar with their belongings tied in a blanket, had camped near the doorstep. Shabby children in rags sold soft drinks and empanadas to the sick.

The following days I took Tashi for walks along the beach, telling stories to divert his attention from the pain. Over the previous six months of travelling across the Pacific Ocean our world of stories had expanded into a universe of characters and places. We ourselves had become heroes in these stories. In them we travelled oceans, deserts and jungles, stars and planets. We encountered dragons, demons, apparitions, treasures, giants, pirates, robbers. We flew through the air on flying horses, made use of marvellous devices that could shrink us, heal us, transport us across time and space. We were two princes and a prince had certain privileges. A prince also had duties and had to be of service to others. From our simple home, a hut beside a river deep in the forest, we ventured out into a world that was magical & inexplicable, enormous, with immense possibilities, dangerous & exciting. We followed a code of conduct, there were specific routes to take, we had allies and friends such as the giant turtle that carried us from our house across the mountain stream on each new departure, a talking goanna or the Professor with his wonderful inventions such as "El Rayo Verde", "the Green Ray", whose beam made us small enough to sail in Tashi's toy-boat in a backyard brook buzzing with giant dragonflies, wasps armed with spears of steel, ants the size of tanks. The tales never really ended. Catastrophic episodes were followed by new beginnings. Favourite serials were repeated on request. Reality and imagination blended into one. These stories would be of great help during our long trek to Coroico. .


(To be continued)