the true stories
It was the early eighties. Peace and love had been shelved for maximum profit. Many people went to work for banks. I was in my early twenties and though I had done many things I hadn't traveled nearly enough for my own satisfaction. I had a friend, a Dane who was always coming or going from one epic trip after another. Once, while sipping beers in his parents basement, I made the comment that I sure wished I could take one of those treks. My friend, Sten looked at me me and with just the right expression and inflection told me all I had to do was get up and go.
The magic worked, and all my responsibilities real and imagined took a back seat to my life. I am forever in deep gratitude for that one simple statement. Sten talked of his last trip to Africa. He had penetrated as far as Cameroon. The best part was that he had crossed Canada for about $37.00. That was it! The Swede in me knew I could outdo a mere Dane. Without much property and of no fixed address, I was staying with my mother and sister at their apartment.
I had about $2000.00 saved up from working as a bank manager trainee. The training year was over and I was to be given a small branch somewhere up north. I was in love with a lady I had met at the bank, who later became my second wife and the mother of my eldest son. She was away traveling, so I quit the suit and tie job and got ready to hit the road.
I converted my money into English pounds, Canadian and American dollars, French francs and the balance into US Travelers Cheques. I made a money holder out of a metal film canister with a guitar string fixed to it so it couldn't be cut from my neck as I slept. I got a six pound two man pup-tent and polished up my old Boy Scout camping cookware and dusted off my rucksack. I bought a pair of Scarpa boots.
I practiced sleeping lightly for a week before my departure. My baby sister eagerly helped with this. I would sleep on the floor with my boot-laces tied together and safe in my closed fist. The other hand was under my head with my camping knife sheath standing in for a knife. April would sneak up on me from many different angles and try to take the shoes or the money after I was asleep. The rest was a gumbo of Pa Kua, Karate, Shing-i and Savate. It resembled Peter Sellers and Cato somewhat, but it honed my reactions. April, I miss those days. (smile)
While hitch-hiking and walking across Canada, I ate whatever I could gather and I slept outdoors. The Okanagan was good to me. I made mats of cat-tails to sleep on and built Dakota-hole fires. The object was to stay safe by staying undetected, even when near the highway or to people. A Dakota-hole fire is a circular pit, dug small and deep. Some distance away another smaller hole is dug. A tunnel is then bored at an angle connecting the two. A small fire of dry smokeless wood is kindled and a pot is placed over the opening of the larger hole. The fire draws air from the tunnel and the flames are completely hidden. I remember cooking a nice soup forty yards away from two drunk cowboys who were waiting for a bus in Alberta.
I veered south at Sarnia and descended over the Blue Water Bridge to Detroit. As I walked across the span, I came upon a young man, a monk from a monastery in Canada. He was walking around the Great Lakes. He carried a carved stick that had been given to him by his brother monks. It was inscribed, “Michael – We go with you.” I took that as a good sign. After a three day wait, I was on a cheap flight across the Atlantic to England. My expenses for crossing Canada totaled $43.00.
Tio-tusend små svart lång kukkura djävulen! Six dollars over. Thus began my trip from North Vancouver to Tangiers and back on two thousand dollars.
Copyright © 2015 by Michael A. Hawes. All Rights Reserved.
Michael Hawes was born in Texas, raised in Louisiana and lives in British Columbia.