I won't take the easy road (written in Príncipe)
(pictures to be uploaded when I figure out why I can't?)
I hear a voice calling, calling out for me
Day 806 within the Saga after leaving home, while traveling to every country in the world without flying, or spending less than 24 hours in each country before I return, promoting the best it has to offer.
Last week I told you about a former Danish ferry arriving to the port of São Tomé. Back then I pondered if it might have been a sign? Well, it left port the same day we left São Tomé onboard the "Amfitriti". And had I only been on the ferry, which I so easily could have been, then I would have been telling you a different story today. A story about arriving to Libreville in Gabon. A story of applying for visa to Cameroon for the second time and perhaps even a story of traveling overland to Douala in Cameroon.
But I chose something else. And I find myself looking at the sky...searching for my silver lining. And with that I have now left you with 3 clear references to a song performed by the Swedish band 'First Aid Kit'. Because they have written a song which I recently heard for the very first time. And much of it speaks directly to my heart.
What does paradise look like to you? Is it a tropical island with pristine beaches? If so then I find myself in your paradise. And what is prison? Is prison a place you cannot leave or is it a state of mind? I once heard of a French term for a prison without walls. I do not recall the name. But the concept is, that something else than physical walls are keeping you from leaving. It could be an oasis surrounded by a wast desert - or a plateau on a mountain top with nothing but a steep drop all around it. Or it could be an island surrounded by water...
I'm not in prison of course. I have my papers and my funds and could at any time I chose go to the nearest airport and fly home. So what is all this prison talk? Well there is certainly also the prison of the mind. There are a range of things none of us would do even though we have both the liberty and capability to do so. What is it that stops us? Is it nothing more than what we believe in? What is moral in the end? Is my morality, what I believe to be right and wrong, simply a result of my combined experiences and thoughts? And if so then how can I share my morality with someone else?
So maybe it's about rules. And if you believe strongly in rules then they become law. And if you are the only believer then it is your personal code. And what is the value of that to others? Perhaps to set an example if nothing else? And how arrogant is that...
I'm free but tired. I've been out here updating all of you for more than 800 days now. If a child was born the day I left then it would be able to speak and walk by now. When I hear music coming from a house I'm no longer drawn towards to it out of curiosity from who I might meet. I rather stay away thinking that if I enter then I will see something I have seen a hundred times before.
The "Amfitriti" is now at anchor. The sunsets are beautiful and the water is warm. But how much time can you spend swimming? And beauty fades over time. Perhaps this is why we have vacations in our lives? We go away and enjoy something else for some time and then we return to what we know. 14 days in this environment away from home would certainly be a dream!! So what is wrong...I am away from home...I am here for 14 days...even more than that...
It is the prison of my mind! Within my mind, and you will never fully understand this without being me, there is only one way home. And that is through another 104 countries without flying and without spending any less than 24 hours in each. At the end of that I will be truly free again.
Back to the story...what has happened since last week? Well, the "Amfitriti" finally left port and took to the open sea. It was night and I went to bed knowing that we would arrive to Príncipe early next morning. My friend Christoph was also onboard and woke me up with a lot of energy around 03:00am: "DO YOU WANT TO SEE SOMETHING FUN?!? COME ON!!" I followed outside into the darkness of the night over the swell. However it wasn't completely dark. There was another vessel. The "Moscavide" had called us as she was taking water into her engine room. She was now floating around and perhaps at the mercy of us? There is a term for certain ships which are completely overloaded and in poor condition: "soul sellers". The Danish ferry heading to Gabon has in her old days fallen into that category. The "Moscavide" was certainly also a soul seller. Around this part of the world you cannot feel certain that a distress call would be heard or responded to. But in this case the captains knew each other. And things in this part of the world, not always but often, have a tendency to work out. Nevertheless there was a tension in the air with a strong sensation of action and doom. The seamen of the "Amfitriti" managed to toss a line across to the "Moscavide". And somehow the seamen managed to send a pump across using the line without loosing it into the dark sea below. More luck than anything else if there ever was such a thing as luck! And what is luck if not a word we use to describe something out of our control which by chance went in a favorable direction.
The next morning we arrived later to Príncipe than anticipated. Príncipe is the island of your dreams. It is also in most parts protected by UNESCO as a unique biosphere. Parrots, palm trees, monkeys, beaches...naked children playing in the sand at the seaside. Without much imagination you could easily picture how the worlds brave explorers might have arrived to isolated islands in their wooden ships hundreds of years ago. How they cast anchor and traded with the locals. This place is full of turquoise waters and white sand beaches. So much of it looks untouched. So much of it is.
On my birthday I went ashore and found a local man by the name of Jose. For a small fee Jose transported me across the small island on his small motorcycle to a place called Praia Banana. "The banana beach" because the road down to the beach slopes through a banana tree plantation.
Never before have I seen such a perfect beach! Jose sat down in the sand and started playing with his smartphone. I went into the calm water, which was as clear as air, and started floating on my back in perfect buoyancy. Floating in these spectacular surroundings while looking through the blue sky and into eternity. How old will I one day become? Will it all have an end or will I live forever? There is, as famously quoted, no reason to fear death. Because death is not an event in life. When you are here - death is not. And when death is here - you are not.
Your birthday is a bit of a silly thing to celebrate. It makes sense to me while your mother still bakes you a cake and your friends come over with presents and to play and to see you blow out the candles while you make a wish. But then you turn 18...or 21...and then age no longer has any real appliance in your life until you turn 65 or whenever you are eligible for pension. All your birthday really marks is another trip around the sun where you were not able to escape the planet. You did not need to lift a finger in order to make that trip. You just needed to stay on planet earth without falling off while the big blue ball made another trip around the sun. Happy birthday ;)
Offloading cargo at Príncipe took longer than estimated. Then the weekend came which was followed by an additional holiday. Then we received notice that there was congestion at the port of Douala in Cameroon due to Christmas. So we couldn't get berth until long after Christmas. Then there were talks about going back to São Tomé for another load at which point my head was spinning. My visa for São Tomé & Príncipe had expired while on this voyage, which wouldn't be a problem if we continued to Cameroon since I would then be leaving the country. But going back? And what about all the time I had then lost on this endeavor? Ah the time? My personal prison sentience of my fragile little mind. More time...
The days would go by, it would rain a little, I would read a book, most people onboard would sleep or do minor repairs to the ship. Sleep became very attractive. No internet and no television. Sounds like a dream? Well, what is there to do? Read, look at the palm trees, look at the water, look at the sky, swim a little...think, think some more, overthink... What is really the difference between dreaming while being asleep and watching a movie? Think about it for a second. If you sleep for a few hours or you watched a movie. Which of the 2 pass time events did you acquire most from? Especially if you are watching a movie which you have already seen before. Watching a movie with someone is of course different. You can share a movie experience but not a dream. But if you are alone..?
I'm often alone. Imagine that. Alone on a planet with more than 7 billion people. That's quite remarkable. Introverts do not mind being alone as much as extroverts. On most test I'm neither. When tested I usually fall right in the middle which is referred to as an ambivert. Ambiverts, according to some, get the best from both worlds. The kind of loneliness I feel is however mostly the kind where you feel alone in a room full of people.
What am I really trying to do with this project? If the project was famous then people would see that this world is so much more than what the mass media preaches. People would see that wherever you go strangers are as people are most. Which country out of nearly a hundred have I been to where people do not take selfies, where people do not care about their family, where people do not enjoy food, music, sports and talking about the weather? People get stuck in traffic, they watch movies, laugh at jokes, study to learn and become better, do fitness, dress smart and try to be happy. On that note: what really brings happiness? If we only knew... ;)
Christmas is another one of those events. Do you spend it with your loved ones or do you spend it on a boat near the equator far from snow and Christmas carols? Not too bad though...Christoph acquired a huge piece of pork which we baked in the oven. Yum yum!! And we managed to look pretty deep into a bottle of gin while watching pixars "Rio" on his laptop (in Portuguese though).
I try to keep on keeping on :)
"Silver lining" performed by "First Aid Kit":
I actually arrived to a Cameroonian military port called Tiko on December 25th. But I couldn't disembark the boat until December 27th due to the Christmas holidays. I reached nearby Douala the same day I had my 5 day transit visa in my passport. A late Christmas miracle took place in Douala on the 28th. But more about that in the new year ;)
Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - not stoping anytime soon.
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
Once Upon A Saga
Find out more: onceuponasaga.dk/