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Motorcycle Diaries

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Nothing really matters when you’re straddling a motorcycle while it speeds down a traffic-laden four-lane freeway in South America … (that actually has five, no, six cars across … not including the hundreds of weaving motorcycles.) Sure, you may be tempted to think “Sweet Jesus, I hope none of these cars hit us” or “Did the label on my helmet really say Preskool?” But you mustn’t let your mind go there.

No, you should focus on the beautiful green mountains, brilliant pastures of fuchsia flowers, the colorful birds flying overhead, and the naked couple having sex over by the sewer.

Now, in the city of Bogota, it’s quite hard to lose your sense of direction (find Monserrate on the mountaintop and you’ve found east.) But it is quite easy to lose your way on all the spaghetti-like streets. This is a city where the streets have no names … they go by numbers, and there are certainly no signs to help.

When you’ve ended up on an unfamiliar and unwelcoming side street full of enormous potholes, more stray dogs than stray humans, three packed bars that are busting at the seams with rowdies, and the sun has just made its final descent to the other side of the world … don’t stop and ask for directions from the guy who’s surrounded by a cart of lemons and avocadoes. He has no idea even where HE is and when the dogs approach your slow-moving motorcycle with incessant barks and bites to your ankles, this should be the time when you desperately try to shake your fleas onto them. Even if this means you’re shimmying and shaking frantically on the back of the bike, eliciting hoots and hollers from passersby, and making the dogs’ mouths foam white with excitement … you still must give it a valiant effort.

In this situation, it’s okay to go the wrong way down a one-way street. It’s also okay to ride up on the narrow sidewalks, or through someone’s house and terrace in order to get to the desired street.

Once you’ve found your way, and you know you’re going to make it home unscathed, you can let your arms spread out to the sides, close your eyes, take a deep breath of sweet air, and really feel freedom.


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