I awoke somewhere around three or four in the morning to the whispering sound of rain. It was demure and polite, barely making a sound as it tiptoed across the ground and over my sleeping bag, and I liked the thought of drifting back to sleep on this misty river bank.
I changed my mind a few minutes later when the rain turned from Romantic to Biblical, fat drops falling like bullets and flashes of lightning detonating on the horizon. My poor loyal sleeping bag was hastily stuffed away, dejected and sopping, and I made an idiot dash across the rugby field, jumping through waterfalls and praying there wasn’t a thunderbolt up there with my name on it. I sprinted into the first shelter I could find, a little concrete tunnel shot straight through a hill for pedestrians, cyclists and sopping morons who think tents are for sissies.
It wasn’t exactly the most auspicious way to start my trip, but I had plenty of momentum in me. I changed into a dry set of clothes, confident that I was the only one stupid enough to be outside at four in the morning in a lightning storm. Like most spring storms it had the demeanor of a two year old, screaming hysterically for half an hour then fading into whimpers and forgetting about what the big deal was. So by five we were back where we started, in a transparent drizzle that instead of getting you wet was merely decorative.
The night before
I had planned to hitchhike out of
We slid through a craggy volcanic landscape, through mountain passes, in and out of tunnels and into misty valleys that plunged straight down, then disappeared before you could spot the bottom. The ghostly sleek train sliced through the landscape so cleanly it scarcely seemed real. Sharp cliffs and raging spring rivers that had swallowed centuries of travelers flicked by in bursts and flashes as petite women in suits and scarfs pushed carts of beer and coffee down the center aisle.
“In the old days when the people grew too old to work they would run them out of the villages and into the wilderness, because there wasn’t enough food for everyone.” The little girl nodded, fully satisfied and apparently undisturbed by this answer. “But,” he added, watching her nervously, “That was a long time ago.” She nodded, unconcerned.
“A long time ago…” he repeated, just to make sure.