So, on the morning of december the 18th, I get back on the road. Don’t ask me why but it seems like the best, the only thing I can do. As I pull out of Campo Grande, I can feel a great deal of pain as I am tearing away from my previous life. Until this point France was a part of my life. Now, no more. There is heavy rain outside and my face also is wet. But the taste is salty. And it’s not sweat…
I knew this was not going to be easy but it is even tougher than I thought. Not even an hour into the day, I ask France if she will help me go thru this.
Maybe an hour and a half later, this couple on a big motorcycle passes me (happens all the time). They slow down to take a photo or two (happens all the time) and then fly off. About 15 minutes later, I decide to pull off at a roadside restaurant as I’m hungry and I think Minnie needs to go.
Guess who’s there waiting to take one more pic?
You guessed it, the motorcycle couple.
I pull right up to them and we start chatting. Of course many questions come. And everything is going OK until THE question is asked:
“And you travel alone?”
I answer honestly but can’t refrain the tears. I turn around to recompose myself, catch my breath and when I turn back to face the couple again, I am deeply touched to see tears rolling down the lady’s face.
“Listen, why don’t you come and meet us at hotel Nacional in Corumba tonight?”
“But my car is very slow, I don’t know when I can make it there.”
“We’ll be there all night! And listen, here’s our adress, we’d love to have you with us for Christmas! It’s no big deal just a simple family reunion. Please.”
“But…euh… I don’t know…euh…let me think about it.”
“Oh, and what did you say your name was?”
“I’m Monina.” ”And I’m French.”
“Euhhh s’cuze me? Did you say your name was…French? As in…French from…France?”
I had asked France for help. And I got it.
We’re in hot water now
I spend the next couple of days touring places Monina and French had recommended. Like Aguas Calientes.
Where I witness something I had never seen before.
Here, the waters from underground hot springs flow into a shallow river, where you can walk on the soft sand bottom or find a deeper hole and just bathe and relax. In 35* weather, a bath is always welcome, even a hot one. But, as I put my bathing suit on, I wonder what should I do with Minnie? There’s no way she will come in the hot river with me. She is not going to be very happy if I leach her to the truck and no more happy to be tied to a tree near the river. But, being the weekend, there is all kinds of poeple here and I don’t want her to go roaming near other peoples tents or whatever.
So what do you do when you don’t know what to do? Nothing!
I just walk into the river and, to my absolute surprise, Minnie jumps right in! She runs and jumps in the shallow waters, chasing imaginary animals or whatever. She goes back to the edge of the river and then comes right back running for more! She goes into a deeper spot and swims and even drinks some of that water. And we are talking about 30*C water ! That is something I have never seen before! Normally, she even refuses to drink water from the tanks of the camper if it’s not cool..
I am stunned. Tears fill my eyes again as I wish France could see her enjoying this moment so much.
A man walks by with his dog in his arms.
Me: “Your dog doesn’t swim?”
Him: “He doesn’t like the hot waters. I see yours is accustomed.”
Me: “Absolutely not! It’s the first time she does that!”
On december 21st I pulled up to French and Moninas place in Santa-Cruz, Bolivia, the same town where I had last seen France alive more than two and a half months ago already.
And so, instead of spending Christmas alone with Minnie, I was hosted by this lovely family who went out of their way to make me feel at home. It was about five minutes that I was there when they handed me the keys to their apartment. They let me have my own room (with A/C please), I was fed, cared for, pampered. I got to meet the whole family. Their two daughter, Cynthia and Tatiana, their son-in-laws and their two grankids.
I also got to meet some of their biker friends who knew the area really well and could feed me great infos about which way to go from Santa-Cruz. French even took me on a tour of the sand dunes close to town where they used to do a lot of ATVing. Yes, they too were big ATV fans a few years back.
On Christmas eve, I met about twelve members of the family and we were treated to a dinner of turkey, just like I would have back home. Everybody was so nice to me even though…some had no clue who I was…
I even got presents of wine, chocolate and gingerbread cookies!
On december 26th we parted ways, Monina, French and their family headed for the area of Torotoro while I went my way towards Sucre.
I will never forget you guys. You were placed on my path definitely not by accident. You represent what the spirit of Christmas is all about.
Thank you. Sincerely.