Virgin Mary, Dreamer of the day, possibility

I am sitting on the covered upstairs porch of my hotel. It is hot out, but high  up here I can feel the cooler breeze and I am out of the sun. This makes the weather about perfect. I brought my keyboard for my ipad and use it regularly for my blog writing. Ive been writing and thinking since 0600, when I awoke and had my first cup of tinto, the local word for black coffee here. It’s a good drug to start my mind working. 

My view is above Barichara, rooftops, streets and green but dry mountains beyond. I hear the sounds of the grade school next door. Kids screaming with pleasure at their outdoor recess. The deep voice of the teacher, a male louder voice complementing  the screaming. He seems to not be trying to squelch those screams, but almost like a sheepdog herding sheep, to corral the enthusiasm. 

Barichara is reputed to be the “prettiest town in Colombia” by several sources I came across. It could be. The architecture has been protected for 40 odd years, so no high rises or obnoxious signs. Town center is around the brown stone church. Yesterday I stood next to the door of the full church (Sunday) while the choir sang during mass. The stone reflected the sound beautifully, making for a very robust result. Mesmerizing even.

According to local legend, the town was formed after the image of the Virgin Mary appeared on a limestone rock in 1702. To honor this perceived divine apparition, a chapel was built and soon the first houses were constructed near the site. The village was officially founded in 1705, and I am told, hasn’t changed much since. Seems like the best we can do these days, is find Mary on toast to sell on EBay. 

It’s even popular with foreign tourists. I’ve met people from Germany, Holland and France and Belgium. I’ve seen over two dozen foreign looking tourists in town. Really. Only. The remainder are Colombians. And this is maybe the biggest tourist town in the country because of the “prettiest” label. It does take  a certain amount of effort to get here, even if not traveling on a bicycle. 

I imagined that I would find a place like this. A now quiet (school must have restarted) place with a great view. I could stay here for awhile. So far I’ve extended my stay for two extra days. Each day the price goes down. A discount for long stay maybe? Now its $25 USD per night, so very affordable. 

I’m the only one up here, doing my writing, in a foreign country and culture, now getting quite comfortable. A place to write, to think and to dream.

DH Lawrence said: ‘All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible.”

I picture myself in fifth grade in sister Mary-some-saint’s class. It is sunny and windy outside and so is my attention. I am long lost in a daydream of adventure in the Himalayan mountains. I was physically trapped in that classroom. My mind wasn’t.

I feel the thwack of the eraser as it hits my head. It’s a fairly soft material, but thrown with force still stings. I don’t completely return my attention to her plea, for fear of giving up the pleasure.

Could have been math that was being taught. Shoot, why would I ever want to learn more math? I’d probably never use it anyway🙂 I had more important things to think about. 

I’ve been thinking about where and how these dreams started. Certainly with my parents’ wanderlust for travel. Picture me in the back seat of the family station wagon, facing backwards, as we traversed all fifty states (flew to Alaska and Hawaii). What wonderful sights, if only to get out and get deeply into those places.  No backpacking, hiking, or camping during those days, but lots of exposure to new places.

Then it was books. I love books. You can learn things and be transported to different countries and experiences. The idea that someone could take their experience and share it with a stranger for practically no money, wow!

Maybe I shouldn’t say “ practically no money” as I once got a hand written thank you note from Amazon early on, but you get the idea.

There were two books that I recollect influenced me and my ideas about adventure: Annapurna, and Kon-Tiki. Both were written before I was born, but once I got hold of them and digested them, my teenage mind was filled with possibilities. Not yet room for all the reasons why not to adventure like this, only the idea of doing. 

Annapurna is the story of the French team of climbers making the summit of the first 8000 meter mountain in the Himalaya in 1950. An all time classic of mountaineering literature. 

The Kon-Tiki story should be obvious to anyone, if not, look it up. 

Looking back now I notice that I’ve spent a good portion of my life passionately pursuing mountaineering and sailing. 

The older I get, the more I believe in the power of dreams turning into manifesting.

In 1968, our entire family took a trip to the South Pacific, stopping at Tahiti and Fiji on our way to visit New Zealand and Australia. 

In Papeete, the capital city of Tahiti, we walked along the quay to enjoy the waterfront. Tied up “stern to”, (which means that the bow is anchored out and the stern is tied to the quay) were several cruising sailboats. My memory seems to think they were wood boats. Drying laundry hung from the rigging, gear strewn across the decks, and children crawling around the boats and playing on the small park behind their shore lines. Long hair, big beards, worn out clothes. Sea gypsies.

Oh my lord, these people had crossed the Pacific Ocean by small boat and were repairing and recovering from the long journey. They sure didn’t seem rich or special. They had got themselves a boat, outfitted it for ocean travel and took off to cross an ocean. I never knew or even imagined that this was a possibility. 

This scene fixed itself in my mind. The exotic South Pacific, Tahiti, coconuts, grass skirts, small boats, adventure!!

Even now, when I think back on my first view of that scene, I can feel the electricity in my spine, how it somehow implanted itself in my psyche and has never been removed. 

How? Could I? Someday?

I had stumbled across possibility, not  limitations. 

Those sailors seemed like they could be me, granted,  a lot scruffier, with leathery skin from sun exposure and certainly showed a lot more fearlessness than my fifteen year old self could imagine. 

Fast forward to year 1990, twenty two years after that exposure. 

I had been sailing for four years already, full time, having crossed the Atlantic and sailed up and down the US East coast twice. Even survived a shipwreck. 

Some things were the same, some different. I had a steel boat vs the wood ones I saw earlier, but the navigation was still by sextant and pencil. After transiting the Panama Canal, stopping at the Galápagos Islands, we found the Marquesas Islands in the middle of the Pacific.  I chose to skip the “Dangerous Archipelago” of the Tuamotu island group because of the need for more exact navigation than I could summon from my sextant, so Tahiti was the next stop. (Maybe had I paid more attention to math earlier on, I could have been more exact:)

It was necessary upon arrival  in Tahiti to Papeete, the capital city, to clear into customs, as the customs clearance I had in the Marquesas was only temporary until arriving into Tahiti.

So, through the pass in the reef we came. In those twenty two years Papeete had grown up and  now had high rise buildings and a highway along the waterfront where I saw those cruisers tied up so long ago. Even though it was possible to anchor briefly, row in to clear customs and then leave the busy city and anchor further south, I chose to drop my anchor, back into the quay and tie a shore line, mimicking the exact spot of my mental picture from 1968. I had stepped into my vision. 

Sending love,


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8 thoughts on “Virgin Mary, Dreamer of the day, possibility”

  1. Hi Charley,
    Great recollections!
    I also recall reading Kon-Tiki at an early age and getting lost in the excitement and day by day discoveries of lives so completely attached to the ocean.
    While I never took it as far as you did, it certainly contributed to my love of the water and continuing desire to learn and explore the unknown.

    Enjoying your travels!

    1. Bill,
      Remember how much fun and tediousness it was making that baggywrinkle?
      By the time we got to Tahiti ours looked like dead things were hanging from the rigging.

  2. My favorite quote from this posting – “I can feel the electricity in my spine, how it somehow implanted itself in my psyche and has never been removed.” What a wonderful teenage memory Carlos! You’ve dreamed many things – and made them happen with that spine tingling energy – including I bet you had some dreams about that ice cream and fruit concoction after a long day in the bike saddle!



  3. I also remember Tahiti and Figi as being magical. We were so lucky to have had parents who exposed us to so much adventure. I read Kon Tiki and after the islands I also dreamed of sailing the oceans but ended up going in different directions. I love the pictures of your current stay, it’s the kind of place I would love to visit.

    1. Lynna,
      We sure were lucky!
      I highly recommend the last four towns in the mountains.
      I kept extending my stay so people I met said they expected to see me there next year if they came back

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