Our Current Trip

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Saturday, July 2, 2011

Walking for Peace

We ran into Guillermo Vega Cortez at a little roadside restaurant while we were cycling in the mountains of Colombia, south of Cali. We just stopped to get out of the rain for a minute and we saw this man, totally dressed in white, with a large and well-used backpack, a Colombian flag, a hat that read “Paz” ('peace' in Spanish) and a big banner with a map of South America on it. Intrigued we got to chatting to him and found out that he had been on the road for four years. He started at his home in Medellin and had walked south, through Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, across to Brazil and then down to Argentina to Chile. From Santiago he headed north again, back to Colombia. He was walking for peace, for “peace without borders”.
Jules and I had just been thinking what a big trip we were on, nearing the one year mark of our cycling trip and having done just over 16000 kms. However, cycling is easy, compared to walking with a backpack, and we felt quite humbled to have met Guillermo. In his four years of walking through South America he has travelled almost 19000 kms, through nine countries and he is up to his 25th pair of shoes!
It makes Jules and I, on our cycling adventure, feel a little less alone and a little less crazy. We are travelling slowly in a world filled with people rushing past in cars and buses. We have quit our jobs and thrown everything in to go off moseying through the Americas. It's always good to know that there are other people out there that have stopped what they were doing and gone off a-wandering. There are many different reasons for people to head off into the world, for adventure, as an escape or for a good cause, such as raising awareness on the need for peace.
The human quest for adventure, or for escape, hasn't changed that much over the years. We may now live in much more complicated societies of large cities, and internet technology and globalisation but really there is still the urge deep down to go and live in a cave, grow our hair long and eat berries naked.
Years ago when I was cycling through northern Australia I would often chat to the 'grey nomads', the retired caravaners. They always had stories of other people that they had met that were cycling, walking, crawling their way through the outback. There was the Japanese man that was pushing a cart and playing a didgeridoo across central Australia, the cross-dressing cyclist who had a small dog and a road-train of three trailers and of course lots of other people whose stories were retold and embellished around a cup-of-tea on the side of the road.
Jules and I are now on our little adventure, cycling Alaska to Argentina, but pretty soon we will be back home sitting in an office with only our memories of our wanderings. We'll be thinking of all those people out there grabbing the world in one hand and following the urges that only they can feel. Guillermo is almost home, his walk for peace almost at an end. He believes only two more months of walking, maybe one more pair of shoes and his four-year quest will be over. What an accomplishment. Here's to peace without borders, here's to all those people out there off on adventures big and small.

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