Sun beats blue sky heart, sun beats not a cloud, not a distant night; heart beats fast below the mountain pass, below the crater made of paz (peace). Quiero sufrir. I re-realised it, today, cycling my legs around and around, wind in face, growing red under the sun. Becoming dark-skinned; just red now, like them injuns up north. Heart and soul feeds my prayers through the music box in the lounge—people smile as they go by, a deeply-coloured smile. Subtle, but like it tells a whole bunch of stories. Through and over hills, up and down (ariba y bajo), and back again. Can they see me breathing deeper now? Do they smile because they are amused, or because they know something? People of the mountains have different souls; or maybe their souls are just fed different food. Seems more satisfying to me. I scoot up and back growing siredder and redder, return the bike and wish I’d rented it for hours—maybe I will. A senorita was singing in the street as I went by, walking with a friend and I smiled so loudly instead of saying hola! because her beautiful voice was resonating throughout this quiet town, singing aloud to no one in particular, to everyone, to me even and I thought about back home and people don’t do that much, if at all, certainly not in the same way and I keep realising again and again that I am quite enchanted with this holy place. Walking this morning with two inglaterras (Ruth from the north, Jocelyn from the south) up a mountain, like the desert sort of, burning more and more and talking and seeing the valley from way up high, rural properties and a guy from the night before, a little worse for wear, who invited us to look at his place which was a beautifully, simply constructed mud-house (you get the gist) with wine bottles cemented into the walls and chimes everywhere—there are chimes everywhere here and they echo the beauty around them, of the little wind that blows below the often empty skies; and in his home he was growing some meriwana in little hot-house which was sort of impressive. Up there we stopped and looked around and breathed and went back down again. The day before I met Rodrigo, a Chilean who ran a little café out of a caravan-type thing (it was on wheels); I’d just arrived and was wondering the town in search of food and there he was, a simple menu, so I went in and worked my Spanish as best I could. He made me a quiche with fresh tomatoes that tasted better than any I’ve had, some pumpkin soup out of this world and a fresh, cold orange juice, nice and sour just like I like it, though of course he didn’t know that (he probably did actually). After a while we figured out that English would be easier: I hadn’t known and he had apparently been talking to an English family for a while that morning and had switched back to Spanish without thinking, though there I was impressed with myself for having such a fluent and believable Spanish accent. Lovely man, interesting man; a journalist-turned-wanderer, in his forties with a very deep and resonant voice, like it should be on a revoilutionary radio channel. And he looked like Che Guavara so much it was uncanny, big dark beard, a little militant-looking cap. Amazing. Leant to the left too. He sang along to Broadway-sounding songs beautifully (I don’t really know exactly what Broadway is, es verdad) and had some great songs going around on his stereo. Chilean folk, which keeps drawing me nearer; full of complex political emotions to do with a history of great complexity and hardship. Later that night he would explain to me that when Pinochet was in power, they hunted down anyone with any literature about the art movement Cubism. This was, he said, because “Cubism” sounds a lot like “Cuba”, and Cuba was a communist country and thus said literature could not be tolerated. I thought this was funny, but it gets better. Ironically, the people who tended to own books on Cubism were quite arty and generally leant to the left anyway, so the government was killing the right people in its eyes after all! Fantastic, yet horrifying. These countries have seen a few things. Back at the café I thanked him for the meal and he recommended me a bar where he and his friends hung out, sometimes played guitar and sang, as well as some other tips on what to see. But before we finish with Rodrigo, there’s a little piece of our chat that almost slipped me by, well salient…! A town near here called Cochiguaz is quite isolated and known for weirdness: UFOs, strange folk that have come here for spiritual reasons, or to find aliens, or to feel the magnetic power of the earth here. Lots of whacky stuff. So I asked him about it and up to this point—and even after, really—he had been quite ‘rational’ (a tough word to use, but I hope you get the gist). Spoke very well, was well-informed, but didn’t say anything too off-the-wall. So I asked him about the town and he kind of shrugged and said it was a strange place where things might happen to me, if I go; kind of “psychological” he says, because it’s isolated there and there’s nothing much to do but wait for yourself to pop up, or for someone else to find you; something bad might happen to you there, he says, and I look at him kind of eyebrow-raised like okay…and he goes on and says, or something good like he genuinely couldn’t say. The specificity of the whole thing was pretty notable. So I guess, well I’m pretty sure (positive actually) that Cochiguaz is my next stop, because I’m pretty sure I’m after either of the things he mentioned. Quiero sufrir. I forgot, but it’s a little true because I mean to suffer is to grow and to grow is to be, be being, be onwards and upwards mi amigos back home. I swear the vine keeps tugging me from way up north too, but I have a few things to do, especialidid si mi espanol va a esta fluido (especially if my Spanish is going to be fluent). God knows. Under and up.