THE journey of a thousand miles, said ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu (cheers Google), begins with one step.
Not sure he foresaw that step at a bus stop next to a petrol station in a Gloucester suburb, particularly by someone sweltering in a hoodie that was never going to fit into overstretched bags and wearing the wrong trousers due to a bit of a packing cock-up.
But that is how my South American adventure of considerably more than a thousand miles started in rising temperatures completely unsuited to wearing or carrying the hoodie and a fleece-lined jacket.
Both will have a part to play – even if only as a handy pillow when camping – in the seven months ahead as we meander our way around the continent
As will the unintended jeans.
A few days ago, they had been confined to a bag in a rapidly filling storage unit before being rescued from their fate – at least temporarily – after my best jeans had been set aside to travel in and the spare pair pulled from the storage pile had proved to be far too big after my weight loss and spent half their time soaking up puddles.
Thought they had been part of the last trip to the storage unit – right up until getting changed before heading off to catch the 444 National Express to Heathrow and realising the intended pair were starting their hibernation alongside most of my earthly possessions in that storage unit.
But if that’s the biggest packing nightmare, so be it – being very careful on that, given the strain being shown by my shoulder bag until a trip to a Quito market to get a lightweight extra bag to ease some of the congestion (a life changer in Africa) and a total repack before climbing on board the truck.
These jeans will do. They are smart enough (if you don’t look at the frayed bits at the bottom that have been constantly trod on), comfortable enough and not too big to be totally out of sync with my current waist size.
There are shorts aplenty crammed in the rucksack, just might be worth holding off on them until some of the bruises decorating my legs in a range of colours have had time to fade.
No idea how most of them got there and, bar one right on my left knee, they do not hurt if you touch them and are the legacy of several days clearing and cleaning my flat and transporting its contents to storage.
Sliding the final wardrobe through the door and into the almost ideal remaining space was like the finale to the perfect game of Tetris, rewriting the top score and crossing off the final major item on my to-do list before the off.
Which is not far off. This is being written in a rather swish lounge, courtesy of my bank, with refreshments which may help the jeans fit a bit more snugly. The boarding gate is due to appear in the next few minutes for what appears to be one of the last two flights out of Heathrow this evening.
The to-do list is all but empty, one late issue about an onward travel document at the airport sorted – will elaborate on that and a possible amendment to the route in later posts – and it is time for the off.
Next stop Quito. Well Bogota, for a few hours, but you get my drift.