It's my third day in the green tunnel and I'm exhausted, I see a big wall of entangled vegetation in front of me. I have no clock and mist has been hiding the sun since I've started walking but birds tell me the night will fall soon, so I decide to set up my tent.
I can see many dishes, the best dishes I ever ate during my life, the bread from my mum, the rice from my stepmother, vegetables, meat, fishes, olive oil, mediteranean dishes... I have a kaleidoscopic vision of it. All is for me! People bring it to my table. I've been told I'm close to a village called "El Negro", yes! I already listen to their dogs... Hold on, why is it called like that? El Negro... nero... noir! (black) STOP!!!
I wake up in my tent full of humidity and I feel terribly lonely. A pouring rain is falling, there is lightning every 5 seconds, water is running under the tent... inside also. I have to eat more, I'm rationing my food because I'm not sure I'll have enough. This trek was supposed to take only three days but I'm still in this green tunnel somewhere in those cloud mountains.
It used to be a road connecting Cochabamba with Chapare, going down hundred of meters. In the 60s, the road was abandoned and was slowly colonized by vegetation. Pieces of the road have been swallowed by streams, others have been covered by stones. The more you go down, the slower you walk.
I'm probably not that far from the end but I have no idea how long it's gonna take me to do it and I have only 2 days of food left. I don't want to rot there, I want to see my friends again, the situation is becoming too dangerous. I make the decision to go back, it's not an easy one, will have to climb back this bloody mountain, 3 days again.
When morning comes, it is still raining, have to hurry up because food is running off. So I start walking, I have to go under trunks, over rocks covered by inextricable plants, cross ravines, go into the water. I've done it already so it might be okay but I can't make any mistake. If I get hurt I'm fucked. Nobody knows I'm here, would take months to discover my skeleton.
I start thinking about the Vietnam war. This exuberant vegetation, rain, mud, stressful situation remind me that. But wait, why am I thinking about the US Vietnam war? Why not the French one? Probably because the French didn't make good movies about it so I don't have the images inside my subconscious. Probably one of the reasons anti-americanism is so widespread is because American are good movie makers. And also, who knows about Dutch crimes of war? Who knows about what this "peaceful" nation in the East Indies did? Who in the Netherlands even knows the name of Raymond Westerling?
I fall down in the water between two trunks. Have to stay focused on my way.
I'm quicker than on the way on because this time I just have to go back on the track I already made. After one day and a half I cross the last ravine. Now I know I'm SAFE. Will be painful but I'm sure I'll see again the ones I love. As I go up, there is less vegetation but it is still raining and I'm getting cold. Let start to sing stupid songs to go faster "Ho chi minh is a son..." No, another one!
I know I will soon reach a place where Bolivian workers are staying, close to network antennas. Will have to ask them for some food, otherwise I would have to walk another day before eating anything. Yes they are there, digging holes close to their shelter. I go to see them and explain the situation. ¿Hay pa' comer? ("Is there anything to eat?") Yes, they say, ¿Pero no quieres descansar aca un rato? ("But don't you want to have a rest?") They are not especially friendly but have enough humanity to read my face and help without asking stupid questions.
The housekeeper gives me a plate of chicken soup with bread. As soon as I finish it there comes another. Food is so good, I'm going back to life. After that, I wait for dinner, trying to dry my poor clothes. Totally focused on food, nothing is more important for me. I'm anxiously listening to the guy cooking. Workers come back from outside, they are laughing, telling jokes probably about me in quechua. I'm so glad to see humans laughing, whatever they say. We eat fried chicken with rice, potatoes and chilli sauce, typically Bolivian, drink tea and after a while go to sleep on the same big couch on the floor.
On the morning we drink api, a hot drink made of corn, sugar and cinnamon. I want to go, but the Bolivians convince me to wait for them. They are finishing setting up a lightning rod. Again, I wait for food, this time we'll eat boiled chicken with potatoes, lentils and rice. Wow! That's real worker food, perfect for me. After a while I am brought back to civilization on the back of their big pick-up, covered with a tarp. Under my plastic burka I'm smiling because I know I'll be able to tell this story.