Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Tale of the Guide from the Chilcoutin wherein is revealed the name of the homeless gringo in Catavina

(in explanation of the seemingly long-winded blog post title: we have been reading The Adventures of Don Quixote de la Mancha, Quixote a constant traveling companion on our respective voyages)

Somehow we ended up at a wine tasting.  Karen had just wanted to check out the selection at the small wine shop in Todos Santos that specialized in Baja wines.  But there was a wine tasting event happening and the quick talking gringo owner had convinced us to stay and spend too much to sample some wines.

Between glasses we hovered around the food table and that was were we met Sam.

When he found out we were from BC he said that he was also from BC but from a place we had never heard of.  I was preparing for him to say something like Vanderhoof or Kispiox to which I would respond with a detailed account of my family's connection to those remote corners of BC. 

But he was from somewhere I had never heard of.  A small community south of highway 20, half way between Bella Coola and Williams Lake.  Sam has been wintering in Baja for many years and owns two pieces of property here.  He seems to have a varied background - he has worked on ranches, built log homes and guided skiers.  His experiences in Baja were also diversified.  He has spent time with the Mexican cowboys on Rancheros, built homes from ship wrecks and negotiated complicated real estate purchases with several families in Todos Santos.  He also possesses some knowledge of astronomy and as we were to learn later - an interest in writing.

He offered us some philosophical insights on Baja ("this isn't really Mexico you know") and Todos Santos ("if you are not careful you might get enlightened just walking down the street").  Somehow the conversation turned to small towns along highway one and he learned that we had spent time in Catavinia.

"Did you meet Peso?" he asked.

Although we had not heard that name before we both instantly knew who he meant - the homeless gringo that we had been surprised to encounter living in the middle of the desert.

Sam gave us some background on the character gleaned from his trips over the years.  Peso's real name was not known but this was overcome by the assignment of a sobrenombre (nickname) given to him by the local Mexicans  "Mexicans are great with nicknames," Sam said.  This nickname is particularly apt because Peso always asks for "just one peso."  Strangely he had not asked us for any money.  Perhaps cyclists fall into a special category that doesn't require alms-giving.

Sam had not been able to determine when Peso arrived in Catavina but says Peso has been there for at least six years.  Peso had told Sam many of the same tall tales he had told us as well as a few different ones.  Being that we were all from Canada we had all been told the story of how Peso started the Royal Bank.

The next day Sam emailed us an essay he had written about Peso and we were able to discuss it when we visited his house for drinks a few days later.  Hopefully Peso's story will be published one day, it's an enjoyable read.  And in the event that Peso's trust fund comes through maybe his published story would help Peso's trust fund managers track him down.

That night we watched the lunar eclipse outside our hotel room and thought about the interesting connections and coincidences, the lining up of elements for rare events, that occur when traveling.

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