Beyond the pail

Day 82 - Cuenca

Is it evolution that has given us the ability to internalise actions? That allows our conscious mind to leave the basic physics of any act to unconscious reflex while it wanders elsewhere? That sees the complexities of something like driving a car as nothing more than learned response? The subconscious takes over the familiar and rules routine. So it can be with travel. An autopilot takes control and the 'why?' of it slips almost as far back in the mind as the 'how?' Vision narrows and sees only the road. A whole country could be passed in this way and all memory will recount is "I was there". How quickly I forget the drudge of the past, how quickly our scale of what makes us happy and what makes us sad adapts to new realities. But then I believe there is no happiness without sadness, we need light as we need shade, we can detect only contrast. Sometimes life assumes the beauty of a symphony with its four movements of birth, youth, adulthood and death. Sometimes the notes strike a jarring clash, sometimes they transcend the mechanics of quaver and line and combine in resonating beauty, utter purity of being. Sometimes life is more and sometimes it is less than the sum of its parts. Sometimes life is beauty and sometimes it is grime. But for all that I tell myself now that senses must be shaken, look again at where you are and appreciate anew. Do not see only through the lens of a camera and do not feel only through the pages of a thesaurus. No moment ever comes twice be it fair or foul, open your eyes. 
We were about to begin a week's abstinence from alcohol, Michael's enforced, mine voluntary, and the bar could serve no booze. Sunday prohibition was far from ideal so we retreated to the hotel with a few cartons of wine served through a hole in the wall to toast our last night of insobriety. If Cuenca was a dry city on Sunday it was a wet city on Monday. Their version of Carnaval was less pageant and parade, more giant water fight. A fight we resoundingly lost, two ambling tourists were fodder indeed. You encountered people with water pistols (if you were lucky), people with water bombs (if you were unlucky) and people with buckets (if it really wasn't your day). It wasn't my day. The threat was everywhere, passersby, balconies above and drive-by soakings from the back of pickup trucks. It went a long way to explaining the unusually heavy police presence for such a sleepy town that we had noticed the night before. They certainly weren't there for the protection of unwitting foreigners though. I got hit again and again and how I burned inside at the feeling of victimisation. Oh how the curmudgeon grows within me! Michael's dry sympathy helped, or at least it would have done had there been any.
We spent a night in Macará on Ecuador's southern border, a place with all the utilitarian charm we had come to expect from these towns. The morning would see us cross into Peru, land of bizarre desert shapes and cities in the sky.

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