Obvious questions

Posted by Ken Campbell October 17, 2011 0 Comment 1120 views

In the early 1970’s, British sailor Tristan Jones undertook a 3-year trip around the world, and then some. He left the US, sailed east across the Atlantic, through the Mediterranean, down the Red Sea and around the Horn of Africa and along the east coast of the African continent down to what was then apartheid South Africa. From there, he set out across the south Atlantic to Brazil and attempted to sail up the Amazon, but was turned back after a thousand miles or so. He then sailed back out to salt water, bounced along the east coast of South America, through the Panama Canal, and down south again to Peru, where he put his boat on a truck and had it moved up into the Andes to Lake Titicaca. He sailed the lake for a few months, then found another truck to take him to the Mato Grosso, from whence he sailed again through Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina, before ending his odyssey in Montevideo, Uruguay.
That’s as close to a synopsis as I can get in a paragraph. The book is The Incredible Voyage, and it’s an amazing read. There are a multitude of jaw-dropping passages in his account of the expedition, places where I stopped reading and tried to imagine myself in his position – being shot at by Egyptian soldiers, freezing in a Bolivian jail cell or battling the storms of the open sea – and he can turn a phrase in a way that makes the whole thing endlessly entertaining and, well, incredible.
There was one passage that caught my eye, near the end of the book, where he’s talking with his sailing companion, a Quechua Indian from high in the mountains of Bolivia, who was seeing speedboats for the first time near Buenos Aires. The high-powered pleasure boats were racing across the water, faster than anything the mountain native had ever seen or even imagined possible.
“‘Why does he go so fast?” asked Huanapaco.
‘He’s in a hurry. Wherever he’s going he wants to get there fast.’
His bronzed face furrowed deeply in thought.
‘Why does he want to go so fast?’ he asked me, half frowning.
‘To save time of course!’ I replied testily. The hot sunshine was not conducive to long discussions on the obvious.
After another pensive moment, he asked quietly, ‘What does he do with the time he saves?'”
That’s a question I need to ask myself more often.

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