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Lisa's journey outside Mauritius

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Any real traveller knows that comes a time when one has to leave. Paulo Coelho forged this maxim to say that wandering is also a journey towards the essence of oneself that was once left behind...

One does not always know why one leaves. If you’re a traveler, you know this to be true. You only know that leaving is necessary – necessary in that it would be impossible for you to imagine a different life for yourself for the year, months or days that the journey will be made of. What’s interesting is that you would be just as hard put to imagine the journey itself, what it is you are reaching for, what you’ll eventually come to find, to see. At the core of every departure lies this paradox: an overflow of imagination. A shortfall of imagination.
 

On the roads of Patagonia, Chile. A road over 1240km, called the Carretera Austral, crosses over most of Chilean Patagonia and some of its national parks.

 

Volcano Osorno, seen from the Petrohué Falls National Park, Chile.

 

Departure

In September of the year I turned twenty, I left for an eight month-long backpacking trip across Brazil, Chile and Bolivia. Back when I lived in Mauritius, I spent a lot of time dreaming of one day exploring the South American continent in this way. It was one of those eccentric projects that end up progressively waning away with time and through the limits imposed by the predetermined paths we will ourselves to follow. But sometimes, thankfully, the dream takes shape, the moment is right, the wish very much alive, and the heart simultaneously confident enough of its roots and willing to surpass them – it is time to leave, with the conviction that only the trip itself can really answer the question of “why”.

Now, I remember the landscapes of Patagonia, so beautiful they led to a rethinking of the world, of its size and all it held, led me to wonder, at the end of a day spent exploring: “if this was the beginning, I can’t wait to see what life will be made of next”. So beautiful I’d find myself inventing colors in my dreams.

I remember the three days spent on the Amazon in a regular transport boat, its decks filled with hammocks hung topsy-turvy, a mirror-image of the surrounding forest, and in which each of the passengers was getting ready to live, eat, sleep, hold lengthy conversations and watch the world’s largest river flow by while slowly adopting its drawn-out pace for themselves, for the length of the trip.

I remember a procession of Bolivian women wearing long, colorful skirts and round black hats walking in a line between the rows of coca plantations, along roads that didn’t deserve the name and that went zigzagging across the steep hills of the Sun Island – because on this island populated merely by men, donkeys and llamas, this was the only way to reach the shores of Lake Titicaca, and that the Lake had to be reached for the women to wash the clothes of one of their elders in, for she had gone the previous night, in her sleep, to a place that the tapestries woven in this region evoke as one where horses will, occasionally, give birth to birds.
 

Child looking out the window of a building in La Paz, Bolivia’s capital and highest city in the world, located at an altitude of 3700m.

 

I remember the faces of children in various cities. Those, enthralled, of samba players in the bars of Sao Paulo. Those hanging out of windows. Those of the street-sellers in the Samaipata market. Those painted on the walls of Valparaiso. Those, infinite reflections of my own, of other travelers, shells of fabric on their backs, in hostels all over the continent. I remember Bolivia, Chile, Brazil, and then, without the shadow of a doubt, I know “why”.

 

A few kilometres from Valparaiso, the Concón dune stands out from the rest of the coastal line and urban zone that surround it (Chile).

 

Capillas de Marmol, Chilean Patagonia. These caves of stratified marble are located on the shore of Lake General Carrera, and can be explored by boat or kayak.


At the rainbow's end

Sun Island, Bolivia. The inhabitants of the Sun Island are all of native descent and identify with a cultural heritage that is still very much alive in most of the country.

 

I don’t yet have the words to talk about what it feels like to return. So I will borrow those of Nicolas Bouvier in The Way of the World: “Like water, the world runs through you and for a time lends you its colors. Then draws back, and leaves you once more facing the emptiness within, this kind of central sense of lack within the soul that one must learn to live with, to fight and that, paradoxically, might constitute our surest drive.”
 

Funeral procession, Sun Island, Bolivia.

 

Cementario general, La Paz, Bolivia. The avenues of Bolovian cemeteries are so many windows onto the lives of the dead, and the witnesses to colourful annual celebrations.

 

Woman on her balcony, Salvador, Brazil. The state of Bahia and its capital city are well known for the boisterousness and nonchalance of its inhabitants.

 

Mother and child at a popular dance, Recife, Brazil.

The journey taught me why I left. But more valuable still, it’s taught me that one day, soon, I will know how to leave again. 

 



Self-portrait, Salvador, Brazil. Writing to bring back bouquets of burgeoning projects.

 

 

By Lisa Ducasse