Some of our travel friends have paws, whiskers or snouts. Some have pointy ears, some humps, some tails. They will never read these words. Or send us a letter or use a phone. They do not speak English, Hindi, Chinese or Burmese, they don’t know much about movies and have certainly never read our favourite books. But they can see in the dark, and hear us from far. Some of our travel friends roam the world with no luggage. Searching shelter when rain approaches, enjoying the sun when it shines and warms up their fur. With light feet they trot the same paths that we walk. They provide for themselves every day, whatever comes. And drink water from ponds. Most of them, we know, we will never meet again, but each and every one has a place in our travel memory.
Street friends, stray travellers
[2013. Nov] Many times, at night, we sneak into places, and that evening was a special one. We had arrived to the ruins way after the tourist crowds had gone, when the night was getting cold and the sea breeze was turning into strong wind. In silence, listening to the cracking sound of our steps on the sand, we passed by an arch leading into the dark, up some dubious steps and into a roofless room that must have been the backstage of a Roman theatre in better times. In between thick stone walls, we felt safely guarded by the survivors of time. With all our clothes on, and warm sleeping bags, we watched the fast moving clouds, crawling into ourselves for the night. And then some steps, silent ones, and a shadow that smoothly moves in between. It could have been a ghost, a tiny one, if it wasn’t for his purring sound, soundtrack for a night under the stars. Three squatters in the ruins, two humans and one cat.
[2013. Dec] We met her in Batumi. And we didn’t ask her name, but will never forget her amber eyes, even after more than a year has passed. Every evening she would wait us in a turn of the road, just before crossing an old broken bridge, and walk us to the nearest shop for some sausages and treats. During the day, if she saw us walking around, lost in between the surreal wonders of Batumi, she would silently come by to say “hi”, then dissapear at a light pace, just to return to the meeting place in the evening time. We will never forget her eyes.
[2014. Aug] Walking around Issyk Kul, in Kyrgyzstan, we felt that with every step we took the world was ours. Not that we owned it, but that we were walking that road, and every road, without even thinking we were in a foreign land. And every path felt like it was there for us to walk, and every garden and yard was our home, and every Kyrgyz kitchen the welcoming den of a temporary (travel) friend. Then a scruffy dog joined us trotting along, and he was also ours, and we were his, his friends for that day, or that hour. We would never pull his leash, he would never wait for us to come back home and fill his bowl, we just happened to be walking the same path. Stray travellers, the three of us.
Caged and wild
[2014. Jul] Two baby camels had lost their mum. It was an accident, they said. But we still wondered in silence what was the filling of the dumplings served for dinner. We would not dare to ask. Every dawn and every dusk, a bottle of watered milk would give us the chance to share with the humpy babies the time that it takes to down one. In the part of the world, where veganism is a notion from outer space, humans and camels share the place. There was rough care, and rude affection, the smooth touch of their fur called for a hug, and there was infant play and a will to run. In just a few months they would join the herd wandering the steppe, free to roam in the day time, free to follow the marked path on the way home for the evening call and their daily meal. Free to live in between streams of freedom until the masters claim their debts and call them for one last time.
Life and death by the roadside
Two birds and one tiny mouse, stayed with us for too little to get human names, to know who we are. Broken wings, shortened lives.
[2014. Dec] Bobby stretches as far as she can behind the bars of the gate, looking left, towards the path where everything disappears, the road that everyone takes to go away. Some come back. Maria, for example, goes and comes every day in her scooter, Chris in his pick-up from time to time. But now, that none of them is around, the house feels empty despite the foreigners that take over the kitchen as if they have come to stay for a while. And Bobby looks left towards the path for a few days, unsure whether to like the newcomers or kick them away. Mickey follows her steps from the corner, with a lazy gaze.
In a paradise corner of Samui, Bobby and Mickey take us into their canine world of walks, sand, water and doggy love, which is of a special kind, told with growls and scratches and something that almost resembles words. They let us into their unmarked territory, into their neighbourhood gang, where Kitty, Lek and the fat dog from the corner join us on the beach each morning and sunset, as soon as we pronounce the magic sillabe “Bah!”. They all shake their tails when we cook them chicken as a treat.
If we had dared to wonder why our company was needed, why Chris and Maria would gift three weeks of seaside holiday, of unbound comfort and swims in the pool, to the couple of rasta and turbans that claimed to have endured a year of tramping, if we had dared to wonder why we were there, we would only need to wait a day. The moment we leave the house, to go shopping or to do the laundry, behind the mosquito net and the glass of the door we leave two pairs of eyes that wonder why they have been left behind. Sorry guys, there is no place in the scooter for the four of us. Upon coming back a whole show would unleash, barking, jumping, hugging, crying. Bobby and Mickey really knew how to make us feel missed, even if only an hour had passed, even if we just came back in three minutes to pick up the helmet we forgot.
Pet-sitting was a gift, the present of friends with paws. Bobby and Mickey told us that a home is far more than a roof over your head, is the place when someone waits for you by the doorstep. And we only wish they had a facebook account, to see how pretty they look in the pictures we took.
I have no pet, but a travel friend
[2015. Feb] She just needed food and warmth. She needed a mother that she did not have, and we were poor substitutes of one. But she had a will to live, to explore and, we would like to think, to travel, although we are not sure of that. She ate anything we gave her, searched for the heat in all the folds of our clothes, travelled in a bag and in a box until she was old enough to walk and climb.
She lived because she wanted to, we do not own her life. She is entertainment as much as she is wild, always ready to remind us that it can be a dangerous game to play with a cat.
The friends of our friends, are our travel friends as well
[2015. Jun] It was Burma who pulled the door open and invited the little dog to roll around the floor. It was her who did not mind him sniffing through her food, walking her room, stealing a bit of attention and affection from us. She had found a friend in the enemy’s ranks.
He had a home, and human friends, and food in his plate, but he came to visit daily nevertheless. For days and weeks they fought in play, they shared time, love and chicken rice. More than one night the little dog would wait for her by the door, or cry till she would pull it open with a trick of her paw. She had brought a friend home for the first time and hopefully not the last.
And now that we are far away, too far for smells and sounds to reach, we wonder if Burma misses Kuchence, the way we think of all our travel friends who accompanied us along the way.
Veo Veo is “I spy with my little eye” in Spanish language. It is, above all, a game, an excuse to get to know places seen by others, to tell each other stories, to travel even when we do not have the chance, and to find ourselves along the way. It takes place once a month and the subject of the post is chosen colectively in the Veo veo group in Facebook or through the hashtag #VeoVeo in Twitter and other social media. Would you like to play? “I spy with my little eye…”
Here are other posts written by the participants this month under the topic “travel companions” (compañeros de viaje), so we are gonna get Boris to read them all and practice, muahahaha! Here you go!