Planet Hiker
2005-04-04 Playing in the wind, Chile

The cows were shuffling around in the containers. They weren't sleeping last night and this morning they were still highly agitated and restless. With hardly an inch of free space to move, they would push and ram each other when wanting to change positions. The optimal configuration would be for all to stand shoulder to shoulder, throughout the length of the container, and every once in a while, they really would arrange themselves in this pattern. But sooner or later, there would always be one rebel cow who would want to face in the other direction. So it would grumble and twist itself in such a way that the next cow would also have to move. This ripple effect would spread radially till the bounds of the container.

While intensely observing this ever changing mosaic, I noticed that there is someone else on the deck. It was long ago that I became accustomed to being fascinated by absurd oddities, like shuffling cows, but it was strange to think that there might be someone else with the same kind of curiosity. "May be, she knows if cows are able to sleep while standing" I though to myself. So I turned to inquire her opinion on the matter, but before I could open my mouth she cheerfully asked "Are you becoming a vegetarian having now seen what the cows go through?"

It turned out that, among other things, she was an active public figure, a judo master, and an internationally renown attorney, providing services to "human trafficking" victims (these are people who were brought into a country illegally and forced to work in slave like conditions. By the way, check out the article in SF Chronicle about her involvement in law, and here is a link to "Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women" web page that published some of her work). With these qualifications, I am sure she could have also helped out the cows, had they not been so grouchy.

The thing about ferry rides is that, you are placed in a tiny universe where you don't have to struggle to find food or shelter. Granted that your bunk may be close to the machine room that produces random, disturbing noises throughout the night, while the feeding times are fixed in a way that is totally out of sink with your body cravings. Never the less, you get used to all of that and what you are left with is the challenge of finding entertainment. Fortunately, Mie, my partner in crime if I were to commit one, was fun to hang with. So we did just that, especially when the seas got ruff. There was a pull-up bar over the entrance to the navigation room. To counter interact the sea sickness, we would hang off of it like pendulums, and watch how the captain pretended to be busy doing his job (the boat was on a GPS controlled autopilot).

One night, when the wind was particularly strong, Mie and I went to the top deck which had a giant, 16x16ft painted chess board. We would stand on the edge of a square and then jump vertically into the air to see how far the wind would carry us. I was kind of hoping to fly across the board, following the rules of chess. Unfortunately, even though it was blowing hard enough to make the satellite dish whistle, we would land no more than a few inches away. Never the less, I still had a lot of fun standing in the middle of the chess board, its own kind of a perfect universe, and watching Mie skip around on the peripheral squares. All of that while discussing international politics.

On the forth day the ferry ride, like all good things, came abruptly to an end, parking in Puerto Monnt. For the first time, having been completely exhausted by the journey, the cows were asleep. They were in fact lying on their stomachs, curled like Danish croissants, with their feet tucked underneath. They reminded me of blind kittens in a box, bunched together to keep themselves worm and comfortable.

Fun way of looking at the world:

Here we are eating Curanto - national dish with all sorts of meats and fishes cooked all together:

Animated conversations on the whindy deck of the ship (photo by Mie Lewis):