Orion’s Cartwheel          In the summer of 1980, a          maverick young doctor gave it all          up, to hitchhike a...
Prelaunch      Sam and Millie sat at the picnic bench above       the shack, on a hill overlooking Otama beach.       It w...
Iguana Nights         I crossed the Sea of Cortez to        the Land of Cortez on August        20, 1980. Dolphins jumped ...
Panama Pirate        The next five days and nights aboard        the Rina II are now remote fond        memories. I worked...
Fire in the Valley of the Idols                  His name was, in fact, Fuego, and he was                 determined to li...
Shining Path       He was already gone when Coco       arrived, with the custard dawn       suffusion of yellow flan on Li...
Journey to the Sun Gate             Two poor buskers, with no socks, sat             on the cobbles against a twelve-sided...
Journey to the Sun Gate             We descended to a citadel of             honeycombed stones, the cloud             cat...
Beyond the Sacred Valley             The gravity-fed Incan             storehouses, high on the             mountain, stil...
Floating Islands         A little girl and her smaller         brother brought Magda and I to         three bowler-hatted ...
Laundry Night in Rio           I got the room in the courtyard           with the double bunkbed, and           she let it...
Ubuntu    We drove through the    rain to see the Bushman    rock paintings the next    day on the way home,    and fell a...
Uhuru   “This is Harold. He is not   registered, and you will tell no   one. Do you understand this?”   He said. I told hi...
Uhuru   “Harold…Uhuru. Twende.”   Let’s go. And we went. Faster   than we should have, slower   than we wanted. One step f...
Injera Wat      The little holes in the spongy      pungent millet flatbread soaked      up the paprika and spiced sauce, ...
Next Year in Jerusalem            There are some who maintain            that the angles between the            three main...
Next Year in Jerusalem            “Shalom Aleichem.” I said            “Aleichem Shalom.” She said. And             stampe...
Orion’s Cartwheel          “Is that the whole story?”           Asked Sam.          “No, Sammy, not the whole           st...
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Orion's Cartwheel

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In the summer of 1980, a maverick young doctor gave it all up, to hitchhike around the world.

The first arc he carved with his thumb stopped a little red pickup that took him over the horizon. Like his mythical hunter companion, Orion, he was on a vision quest, propelled toward the dawn to have his sight restored.

This is the story of that five-year odyssey to discover his Destiny.

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Orion's Cartwheel

  1. 1. Orion’s Cartwheel In the summer of 1980, a maverick young doctor gave it all up, to hitchhike around the world. The first arc he carved with his thumb stopped a little red pickup that took him over the horizon. Like his mythical hunter companion, Orion, he was on a vision quest, propelled toward the dawn to have his sight restored. This is the story of that five-year odyssey to discover his Destiny.
  2. 2. Prelaunch Sam and Millie sat at the picnic bench above the shack, on a hill overlooking Otama beach. It was long after their New Zealand bedtime, and they were gazing up at the southern constellations. The Milky Way threw a sash of light across the firmament. A little morepork owl hooted in the tree ferns beside them. “What’s that one, Uncle Wink?” Asked Millie. “Oh, that one. You call it ‘The Pot’.” He said. “What do you call it Uncle Wink?” Asked Sam. “It has several names, depending where you live in the world.” He said. The ancient Greeks called him ‘Orion’.” “Does he have a story?” Millie asked. “Oh yes, Millie. He has a story.” For once, his niece and nephew sat still.
  3. 3. Iguana Nights I crossed the Sea of Cortez to the Land of Cortez on August 20, 1980. Dolphins jumped alongside my frijoles, rice and res beef dinner. I tried to sleep on deck but, between the heat, the fluorescent lights, and the dancing gay Mexican girls, it was not my Destiny. Joel and Manuel, two new friends, tried to help by working us up through the rehydration food chain, from leche to gaseosas to cervezas to Seagrams. I ended up drinking the boat water.
  4. 4. Panama Pirate The next five days and nights aboard the Rina II are now remote fond memories. I worked hard, loading the ship with televisions under the watchful gaze of the mafia owners, but there was also plenty of hammock time, for reading, crossword puzzles, and playing magnetic chess with the crew. These men were true coconuts- hard as nails, sweet inside. Milton and I went out for a beer one night, and met Gloria of the Vibrating Hips. On another afternoon, I got a fishbone stuck in my throat, and I wasn’t even trying to emulate Eduardo. Every morning we were leaving tomorrow. Mañana.
  5. 5. Fire in the Valley of the Idols His name was, in fact, Fuego, and he was determined to live up to his appellation. Fuego was mostly the colour of my new boots, except for his mane, which was as jet black as Lucia’s. The horses had saddles and woven bridles, and we had food and bedrolls. Lucia gave me a bracelet she had made. We set off for El Tablon, Bordones waterfalls, Altos de Los Idolos, and beyond. As our horses climbed the narrow tracks through the clouds, the sheer vertigo-inducing walls of the gorge dropped from under us. The river receded into a ribbon of rocky rapids. The white noise of the water gradually became silent. Fuego would buck and sputter, and I knew it wouldn’t break his Colombian heart, if he could find a way to pitch this gringo into the void below, and make it look like an accident. But he also knew that Lucia would eat him for trying.
  6. 6. Shining Path He was already gone when Coco arrived, with the custard dawn suffusion of yellow flan on Lima’s damp grey matter. His younger brother, Luis, had tagged along, and we headed southeast to Pachacamac, the ‘One who animates the world.’ On a rocky promontory overlooking the Pacific, the original red and yellow paint on the walls of the Temple of the Sun was well preserved. The Hotel Europa’s interior had likely come out of the same can. The desert expanse, outside the trapezoid doorways of the Temple of Virgins, was a sand reliquary of half buried pottery shards, human bones, and pre-Incan textiles, all the way to the horizon. It was as if history had just given up and gone home.
  7. 7. Journey to the Sun Gate Two poor buskers, with no socks, sat on the cobbles against a twelve-sided stone, singing mournfully in front of a small green plastic cup. An old Quechua woman and her white llama paused to listen. In the corner behind the swinging doors, as I entered the poorly lit bar, were four young altiplano boys in ponchos. They had a set of pan flutes, a harp, churrango, and drum. It looked like that was all they had. There was thunder on the drum and lightning up my spine. The whole essence of Peru soared in volume and syncopation – the despair, the sad resignation, the condors, and the cold. If the Andes could whistle blood, it would have sounded like this.
  8. 8. Journey to the Sun Gate We descended to a citadel of honeycombed stones, the cloud cathedral of Eden, well earned. The Urubamba slithered a thousand feet beneath us. An Amazon of buried jaguars. The sunrise parted the mist, on the way down. We changed, from Andean icemen to reanimated discoverers, in minutes. I reclined, with my boots up beside the Hitching Post of the Sun, and waited for the light and heat among the llamas. That’s why they named their money after it. When it turned itself on, I heard Neruda’s poem. Rise to be born with me, brother.
  9. 9. Beyond the Sacred Valley The gravity-fed Incan storehouses, high on the mountain, still looked like some Far Horizon lamasery. The fifty- ton panels of the six mysterious monoliths weren’t going anywhere. Each of dozen words to describe the sound of flowing water in Quechua carried me through central channeled pathways, to the Bath of the Princess, and further down the temple hill. A young boy sang a sad Quechua song and did a shuffle dance for coins, his feet protruding through torn sneakers.
  10. 10. Floating Islands A little girl and her smaller brother brought Magda and I to three bowler-hatted women, seated in front of their reed huts. The doors were simple reed mats, sagging at an angle. They had quickly laid out their handstiched handicraft recuerdos, on a blanket in front of them. Magda bought me a crude tapis. I paddled her around on a reed boat raft and she started to sing again. Clouds rolled over us. The wake of the Heraldo rippled the reed island shore as we left.
  11. 11. Laundry Night in Rio I got the room in the courtyard with the double bunkbed, and she let it be known that no one would be sharing my space. For three dollars a day, I had a private room with an interior window patio view of potted ferns, red tiled roofs and distant bamboo, two blocks from the most famous beach in the world. I could get a great steak dinner around the corner for a buck, and a short black coffee for a dime. I asked myself how long I could play volleyball on the sand, on less than five dollars a day.
  12. 12. Ubuntu We drove through the rain to see the Bushman rock paintings the next day on the way home, and fell asleep in the wooden bed back at the Doctor’s bungalow in the afternoon.
  13. 13. Uhuru “This is Harold. He is not registered, and you will tell no one. Do you understand this?” He said. I told him I didn’t understand this. “I have taken off your zero. Harold will be your guide. You leave tomorrow morning for Uhuru.” I was speechless. I asked him why he was doing this. “Because it’s there and you’re here.” He said. “And because I am a great admirer of Hemingway.”
  14. 14. Uhuru “Harold…Uhuru. Twende.” Let’s go. And we went. Faster than we should have, slower than we wanted. One step for every four heartbeats, up the steep stairway to the House of God. And then, finally, there was no place to go. The cloud cushion, so far below, merged with our snowfields. We stood on top of Africa, Mount Nel in the background, the curvature of the Earth vertigo-inducing, the reaches of outer space within arm’s reach.
  15. 15. Injera Wat The little holes in the spongy pungent millet flatbread soaked up the paprika and spiced sauce, and wrapped around the tender lamb like it was rocking it to sleep. With a glass of honey mead teitch, it was one of the finest meals in my life. When I told her that, her eyes looked down, and she nodded slowly. Later, I looked at her leg and her chronic osteomyelitis. I left her with all my antibiotics, and my gratitude. I hugged her and Zewde goodbye, and never saw them again. But the exotic dreams I had on those spices that night were in Ahmaric.
  16. 16. Next Year in Jerusalem There are some who maintain that the angles between the three main pyramids and Orion’s belt at the horizon were an exact match when Orion rose due East of the Sphinx at the vernal equinox, in the astrological Age of Leo, 10,500 years ago. If this was true, then I was standing in the largest and oldest terrestrial replication of Orion’s celestial pattern. Here, on Earth, it smelled like the namesake ox hide he was conceived in.
  17. 17. Next Year in Jerusalem “Shalom Aleichem.” I said “Aleichem Shalom.” She said. And stamped my passport. Welcome in peace. She was wearing a little yellow flower in her lapel. “What’s that?” I asked. “Nurit.” She said. “It’s my name.” I asked her what kind of flower it was. “Jerusalem buttercup.” She said. After four thousand years, I was retracing the steps to, and returning to the land of, my forefathers. There were rams’ horns blaring.
  18. 18. Orion’s Cartwheel “Is that the whole story?” Asked Sam. “No, Sammy, not the whole story.” Said Uncle Wink. “But it is the end of the first part. And way past your bedtime.” “When can we hear the rest?” Asked Millie. “Soon.” Said Uncle Wink. “Hopefully, soon.”
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