eastwind memoirs 06 – THE 25,000-KM 3-YEAR TREK

THE 25,000-KILOMETER 3-YEAR TREK eastwind
SEE PREVIOUS eastwind memoirs –
06 – THE 25,000-KM 3-YEAR TREK eastwind overview
04 – THE BEDOUIN GIRL Tetouan, Morocco
03 – PILGRIMATE TO FATIMA the 7-day 80-km hike, Portugal
02 – BRAWL IN A PORTUGUESE BAR Vila Franca de Santo Antonio
THE 25,000-KILOMETER 3-YEAR TREK eastwind
eastwind memoirs 06
By Bernie Lopez, eastwind@replyctr@gmail.com


This is an overview of the entire 25,000-kilometer 3-year journey through 18 countries of Europe and North Africa (see 4 maps below), excerpts from the upcoming book Wings and Wanderlust. Although the book will be released in a few weeks, I am accepting orders by email early.
between reality and imagination
between relevance and absurdity
between joy and sorrow
between pleasure and pain
between euphoria and depression
between stratospheric highs and subterranean
is a lonely dangerous exciting road called freedom
I asked a PhD classmate, Dr. Manny Dy, who was teaching Eastern Philosophy at my alma mater, the Ateneo de Manila University, if he could have my manuscript for reading in his class. He agreed. Some of their comments are in the book’s back cover below. More comments at the end in Appendix One. Click photo to see entire book cover. This is not a trick shot but an acrobatic feat.


On the road drifting, I likened myself to an albatross, a fantastic global drifter, a primordial loner. It is the ugliest bird on the planet, but its stark beauty is spiritual.  It is the only migratory bird that can fly from the north to the south Polar Regions without stop, gliding with ease, not flapping a wing for days, sleeping for hours in flight below the stratosphere. It rides warm desert updrafts on a circular motion to gain a thousand meters of altitude within minutes. The albatross is the epitome of effortless wanderlust, seeing the sunset from above the clouds.


Satellite View of eastwind.


The extent of eastwind is best explained by four maps shown below. I wanted to go to Karthoum from Athens, but I was warned of danger in taking a free 12-day ride on the roof of a train from Cairo to Khartoum. I wanted to go to Tel Aviv, but I was warned there might be border problems. I wanted to take a 30-day camel caravan in the Sahara from Marrakesh in Morocco to Dakar in Senegal, but again I was warned that even men were raped in the desert. I loved danger but not that kind. I wanted to take the Trans-Siberian train from Munich to Vladivostok, but I could not afford it. No matter how bold and adventurous you are, money and a sixth sense for grave danger had a way of clipping wings.


Map No. 1. Brussels to Andorra

From New York, I flew to Brussels on a super-promo ticket of $220 round trip. I was apprehensive. It was fear of the unknown. But I was lucky. It took a lovely French Belgian stewardess on a rickety Citroen to break the ice in my hitching caper, my very first ride. From then on, I became the albatross, fearless and with the stratosphere as my domain.


Map No. 2. Andorra to Marseille

I worked as a construction hand in Andorra, the tiny freeport nation in the Pyrenees between France and Spain, a tourism destination. It was colder than Baguio City. I wanted to feel how it was to be a laborer, at the same time augment my money. Seeing how frail I was, the Catalan workers made sure I did not carry 50-kilo cement bags. They were extremely warm people.


In Spanish Sahara, when I crossed the border from Morocco, the border guards looked down on drifters as nothing but dirty bums. We were 14 backpackers at that time, French, American, Swedes, Canadian, Japanese, Australian, etc., and me, the lone Filipino. They searched our bags, and asked for proof of travel money. My American friend, a former NASA ballistic missile engineer (so he said), did not have money because his remittance was delayed. He could not pass through. When they saw from my passport that I was a Filipino, they got excited. I had a chance to use my pig Spanish. They let me through without inspection. I pointed at the American as my friend, so they let him through. It is nice to feel like a messiah. They became very friendly because the Philippines was once a Spanish colony. I told them without flinching, “Me voy para Islas Canarias, amigos.”


Map No. 3. Marseille to Amsterdam



Skopje in Yugoslavia, and Athens were highpoints. In a decade or so, the serene landscape I hitched through in this first-ever Eastern European country would become a bloodbath in the Serbian Wars. I stayed in the home of a Yugoslav girl, classmate in art school of my friend in Rome, Jimmy Hidalgo Resurrection, the artist. I had a violent argument with her dad who said religion was the opium of the people. He did not kick me out. Athens was my berth for the cold winter, singing in subways with an American flute player, more for fun than for money. I was extremely lonely on Christmas day without a family.


Map No. 4 Amsterdam to Amsterdam



Running out of money, I settled in Amsterdam and, after a short bout as a janitor in a restaurant, I had to endure in my old profession as a systems analyst, earning big bucks. I was doing FORTRAN programs crunching brain-wave arrays using a mathematical formula called Fourier Transform. Sorry for name dropping. It was a research on effects of new drugs on the brain. There were no PCs or laptops then, only IBM S/360s whose 100kb memory is a huge cabinet. I hated the job and lasted only about six months of torture, in spite of the good pay. My albatross wings grew back instantly. Sweden was memorable for hitching in sub-zero winter in the blinding snow, not to mention the lovely Swedish women who took care of me.


The Immigration Landscape
In the 70s, when I roamed Europe and North Africa, Filipino drifters were rare. Filipinos were and are still essentially hard working OFWs, not decadent drifters. I met only two Filipino hitchhiking adventurers in my three years on the road – a Paris-based artist I met in Amsterdam, and a drifter-turned-banker in Zurich. The latter said he hitchhiked with his brother who ended up in Sweden. Perhaps Filipino drifters who read this can email me so I can be proven wrong, and who have their own stories to tell.


Even the OFWs were relatively few compared to the millions today. During my time, if I remember right, for Portugal and Austria, Filipinos did not need a visa as long as they stayed only up to two weeks. For Switzerland and England, Filipinos needed a visa. For the rest, no visa was needed – Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Greece, Yugoslavia, Andorra, Belgium, Netherlands, even Morocco, and Spanish Sahara. Because of the notoriety today of Filipinos being TNTs (illegal immigrants), one needs a visa everywhere today, as far as I know.


During the 70s, most of the OFWs I met were nurses or merchant marines or sailors. At that time, Filipino sailors had a reputation for having fake passports, that was why the police launched regular raids of hotels in Rotterdam and Hamburg, looking for ‘jump-ship’ Filipino sailors. The Filipino sailors were a fantastic breed of extremely colourful adventurers, risk-takers, danger-lovers, carefree and reckless. But I was different. They were working their ass off and they had money. I was the albatross soaring in the clouds, but I was frugal because my money was limited. But we were all first-class adventurers, and we all loved danger, that was the common denominator. After all, our nomadic roots were from the Austronesians from Burma who roamed the vast Pacific on makeshift boats long before the pioneer Phoenicians roamed the limited Mediterranean.


It took me two weeks of sleepless nights to write the book from memory and edited it for six months. eastwindreplyctr@gmail.com amdg


More comments from Ateneo philosophy students.
Manny and your students, wherever you are, thanks again for this valuable remarks. If you read this and recognize your comments, please email me.
“Each page has aroused various thoughts and ideas in my mind. It has been very effective in challenging the things and ideals that I have been holding on for so long.”

“(The book) serves as an inspiration for people who have somehow lost their way and are trying to find meaning in their lives.”

Sa isang pananaw, masasabing we are doing him (the author) a favor (by giving pre-publi­cation comments on his book). Ngunit pagkaraang mabasa ang librong ito, tila baligtad. (but after reading, it seems the opposite) Mr. Lopez has done me a fa­vor.”
“As I went through the pages of the book, I realized that I can always find something to do and be able to renew it and reinvent myself, that I am full of possibilities.”

Lalong napatibay o napalilinaw ng mga tula sa isang kakaibang paraan ang mga isinasalaysay … Minsan nga gusto kong bilisan ang pagbabasa dahil gusto ko nang mabasa ang susunod pa niyang tula.” (The poetry has strengthened and clarified the stories. Once, I wanted to read fast in anticipation of the next poem.)

“The author has presented another perspective in life, that one should learn to simplify and live with what one really needs.”
“The book is something you can read over and over again.”
“He (the author) makes me feel like I was part of the Eastwind experience, and he makes me want to try it myself.”
Napakalawak ng nasasaklawan niyang mga ideya’t konsepto, mga payo at mga opinyon at mga pangaral.” (His ideas and concepts are so broad, advice and  opinions and lessons.)
Madalang lang naman kasi ang mga librong nagbibigay ng pangaral sa isang paraang na tila hindi nag-“sesermon” o nang-uutos and dating. Sa Eastwind, simple lang ang mga salitang ginamit at conversational ang tono, talagang nagkukuwento lamang siya.” (Books are rare that give lessons without giving an impression of a ‘sermon’ or a command. In Eastwind, the language is simple and conversational. The tone is straightforward story-telling, that’s all.)
Marahil ang pinakamahalagang katangian ng tao na naipa­kita sa libro ay ang pagiging solitude being and a being for others.” (Perhaps the most valuable trait of Man as shown in the book is being alone and for others all at once.)
“The task of reading the book has come in an opportune time when I have been contemplating on what to do after college.”
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