The Bucket List

I finally found my travel bucket list. It was the list that was supposed to remind me to keep living. It consisted of the exotic, the dangerous, and the far off places. It embodied my traveller past and beckoned for me to dust it off, or more to the point to put it to use and get it dusty again.

I shuffled through the list of destinations and experiences. Dive sites. Monuments. Villages. Drawing a line through those I had conquered. Pondering the next secretly, never to be shared. Worried to some a list of this type would seem boastful and privileged, and to others unsophisticated and pedestrian.

To me it was a plan. A purpose. A structured approach to whimsy and spontaneity. An insurance policy to assure myself I wouldn’t lie in my grave wondering if I gave myself completely to using my days on earth well. I lay back, remembering. Perhaps the memory is still an important part of the journey.

But I shouldn’t confuse travelling with the journey. The journey lingers. As I grow from a combination of experiences. The journey lingers through reflection, through a change in perspective. As the past settles and cements, the journey continues. Travelling however can only exist in the today.

I hope my travel bucket list inspires a journey in you and I look forward to your comments and any helpful additions to my journey.

Taj Mahal, India

Everest Base Camp, Nepal

Three Games of Man, Mongolia

Blue Hole, Belize

Chichen Itza, Mexico

Humpback Whales, Niue

Great Wall, China

Machu Picchu, Peru

Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Stonehenge, United Kingdom

Petra, Jordan

Qin Terracotta Soldiers, China

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Whitewater Rafting on the Zambezi Rapids, Zimbabwe

Deer Cave, Borneo

Foz Du Iguazu, Brazil

Arora Borealis in Tromso, Norway

Tulum, Mexico

Cinque Terra, Italy

Wildebeest Migration, Tanzania

Island Hop in the Caribbean

Captain a sailboat through the South Pacific

Amazon, Bolivia

Galapogas Islands, Equador

Madagascar

Pyramids of Giza, Egypt

Parthenon, Greece

Over Water Bungalow, Bora Bora

Havana, Cuba

Full Moon Party, Thailand

Hogmanay, Scotland

Dive with Great White Sharks, South Africa

Gorilla Trek, Democratic Republic of Congo

Antarctica

Anzac Day, Turkey

Whale Sharks, Ningaloo Reef, Australia

Munich Beer Fest, Germany

Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

Cruise Route 66, United States

Dive Sipidan, Borneo

Angel Falls, Venezuela

Sky Dive over the Namib, Namibia

Bungee Jump Bloukraans, South Africa

Running of the Bulls in Pampelona, Spain 

Grand Canyon, United States

Sistine Chapel, Vatican City

Masaii Mara, Kenya

La Tomatina Festival in Bunol, Spain

Easter Island

Okavango Delta, Botswana

Dive the Yucatan Cenotes, Mexico

Wailing Wall, Jerusalem

Milford Sound, New Zealand

Moments that take your breath away

It took the briefest of moments for the excitement to build. The distractions of working life distant. Her back arched and then down below the cresting waves she dove, her tail seemingly beckoning we follow as it glided into the water. I looked at my dive master. “Robbo, jump in and tell us where she goes.” I nodded and I was in.

I didn’t think and I didn’t have time to hesitate. I was on the verge of something truly remarkable. A moment that embodied the word wonderful and I was seizing it.

The water off Niue, a small rock island in the middle of the South Pacific between Tonga and Samoa is warm and clear. There is little dirt or sand on the island to reduce visibility off its shores.  Its soft embrace rushed my skin as my mask plunged into the water searching frantically. Sunlight streaming in shards through crystal clarity adding a further tranquillity to the whale song in the sub terrain.

Then I spotted her in the distance. I called out to my eagerly awaiting comrades on the boat and I swam. I swam for all I was worth until I caught up to her. I swam until she was directly below. I swam, keeping my eyes fixed on her. Twelve metres of grace and power. Her knobbly head looking up at me. Dorsal protrusion, bumpy pectoral fins and greyish skin shimmering in the water.

She slowed. Watching me curiously. Almost not moving she floats next to me. I imagine she is as inquisitive as I. Maybe I was the first human she had seen. Closer to the surface she rises until she is about 10 metres below me. She rolls slightly to one side, eying me off. This is when her calf makes its first appearance peeking out from below his mother’s belly. She guides her calf to view this strange looking creature on the surface before tucking him away.

I stop still, giving her the respect of distance from her and her baby. She gave a flick of her tail and shot ahead about twenty metres. Again she arched her large back. I stopped to watch her, expecting her to disappear into the blue when she turned and swam back towards me. Maybe wondering why our encounter had ended, maybe she thought I was too close. I floated still. Rotating in the water she hovered, vertical, opposite me. Her white underbelly and large white fins outstretched. We watched each other. Silently she scanned. I looked away only to grab a quick breath and returning to gaze deep into her eyes.

Then in one swift move, her tail beat and fins pushed in a downward motion. Up towards the surface she rushed. Her magnificent body effortless through the water in front of me. Her head breeching the water as I raise my head from ocean to air. Up she climbed, so close I could barely take in the whole of her frame. Further until her whole body was now out of the water. Almost pausing as if trapped in suspended animation in the sky a metre or so above the water.

And then down, her splash causing waves of wash over my head. Breaking through the wave I choke for air and frantically return my mask to the water.

Looking down I could make out the distant figure of her disappearing with her calf into the blue. I say a silent goodbye and thank you, watching on ‘til the eyes could no longer determine her and my lungs panged for air. I surfaced, breathing in a deep gasp, eyes wide, staring to nothing, treading water in some kind of amazed state right on the edge of where language fails.

House of Cards

I leave the crew at the coffee shop and venture into the square. The market is a buzz, I look around and absorb the vibrancy. An old man is standing near me, his old wrinkled face, worn by the years was inviting and warm looking. He looked at me with a magnetism so I try on my best Italian to ask this lovely old guy if he knew where I can find a good calzone. I refer again to my phrase book, practice a couple of times in my head. Ok, lets give this a go. “Mi scusi signore” I walk over towards him and his expression opens up in reception. “Dove posso trovare un negozio di calzone.”

He looks at me and smiles. “Sorry no” he responds

“Do you… parla… English?”

“Little bit” he holds his hand up with his forefinger and thumb a centimetre or so apart. We stand there for a moment, I look at my phrasebook to attempt to make small talk with this old guy. He turns and looks at a table where a short man was dealing out three card monte. I look over and then nudge the old man, “You know this game?” I ask him. He shakes his head and starts to move towards the makeshift table. He looks at me and says “See this one” pointing at the game.

I walk up beside him, “No I don’t think you want to play this one…. This game is a trick”

He looks back at me a little confused. As we are talking a tall scandanavian looking backpacker approaches the table. “Ello” he says in a cliché sing song manner. The dealer shows the scando three cards on the table, all slightly bent in the middle, one card with a big red star on the underside. I nudge the old guy and whisper “watch this”.

The dealer shows the card with the star on it, turns it face down with the other two cards and then continues to swap the position of each card swiftly. He again shows the red star to the scando, places it face down and again swiftly moves their position. A third time he shows the red star to the scando and shuffles the positions of the cards, this time letting them lie. The dealer looks up, “sceglierlo” telling the scando to choose a card. The old man and I watch as the scando points to the middle card. We both nod to each other in agreement that he has chosen correctly.

The dealer says something to the scando and he looks down to his bum bag strapped to his hip and unzips it. He turns away from the table and the two men looking on and looks down at his bum bag as he rifles through euro notes.

While the scando is looking away, the dealer stealthily switches the middle card with one on the outside. “Hey, he can’t do that?” I say to the old man.

The scando turns around with 50 euro in his hand and places it on the table. ‘Hold on mate” I reach over and grab my fellow traveller on the arm. “He swapped it mate. It’s not the middle one, it’s this one.” I point to the card on the left.

“No, no, this one” the scando points to the middle card.

“Nah mate, this bloke swapped the card on you when you were looking away. The one with the star is this one” I replied in ernest.

“No” he says “Not that one, this one” the scando again points to the middle card.

I point to the card on the left “This….” But it was too late, the dealer turned the card on the left over and as I tried to tell the scando, there was the card with the star.

“Winner” the dealer declares and picks up the 50 euros.

“Told you mate” I shake my head and turn back towards the old man.

“Winner” The dealer says again.

“Nice to meet you” I say to the old man and scan the square for a calzone vendor.

The old man pats my arm “You win” he says.

“What?”

“You win”

“I didn’t win. I wasn’t playing” I look across at the scando, he is standing there all confused trying to ask what happened to one of the men on looking. They were giving him nothing back and were probably both friends of the dealer. The old man was still patting me on the arm. I look at him.

The old man says “You win, your money” and he points back at the table.

“I don’t want anything to do with it, its not my money, I don’t want it” I respond

The dealer calls to me in Italian and holds the 50 euro up in his hand. “What is he saying?” I ask my old friend.

“He say this money is yours, you win, take it” the old man replies. I look at the dejected scando as he turns and walks past me. Shit. “Hey buddy hold on” I grab a bit of the scando’s shirt and capture his attention. “I might be able to get you your money back” He looks at me with eyebrows raised. “Come with me” I turn on my heel as he follows me the 10 feet back to the table.

“This is my money yes?” I reach out for the 50 euro

“You win” the dealer says, he then pulls the note away and says something in Italian rapid fire at me. I look at the scando he raises his shoulders in a shrug, I scan the two Italian men looking on, they were no help, I turn back to my old mate. “My friend, can you help me? What does he say?”

“He says that you need to show you had the 50 euro to bet with before you take the money”

Now I had seen this game of three card monte before in a square in Barcelona. There the hoods let you win and see which pocket you put your winnings and then they rob you as soon as you get around the corner. I look at the men standing next to the pint sized dealer, they were not much bigger, I figured if these guys try and rob me around the corner they will find me in a pack of my 10 travel companions. I look back at the dealer, he stands there shuffling the cards and laying them back down on the table, presumably for the next game. “Ok” I said, I reached into my pocket and pulled out a 50 euro note. The dealer holds his note up and motions it towards me, in one move he has my 50 euro, he puts the two notes together and looks down, with the other hand he flicks the outside left card over. “Your card, you lose”

“What?” the dealer folds the two 50 euro notes and puts them into his shirt pocket.
“Hold up fella” I say to the dealer “I already won that money”

He points back at the overturned card, “You lose” he says again, this time more urgently.

“Back me up scando” He takes a couple of steps back. I furrow and turn back to the dealer “You said I won, I wasn’t playing again, I already won”

“No you lose”

“Look, you listen to me, give me my 50 bucks back” The dealer started to raise his voice at me in Italian. I look at the old man, “Can you please tell this guy to give me my money back”

The old man and the dealer exchange some words, he walks beside me and I turn to look at him. “What did he say?”
“He say, your money is gone”

“No, its not gone, he has it right there” I look over my shoulder at the dealer and point at him in a manner that was as intimidating as I could muster. I turn back to the old man

“My friend, your money is gone”

“Its not gone, this guy has it, tell him I am going to get fucking mad if he doesn’t give me my money back” I glance back over my shoulder and scowl at the dealer.

The old man looks up at me, places a hand on each shoulder and looks me deep in the eyes. He says it slow, deep and clear. “Your money… is … gone”

“You don’t understand, I am getting angry and if this guy doesn’t…” I turn to point to the dealer. He was gone. Where the fuck did he go? The fold up table was gone, the dealer was gone, the dealers two mates were gone.

“Did you see…” I turn to the scando, he was gone too. What the fuck was happening. I scan the crowd.

“where the fuck…” I turn back to the old man. He was gone too. I turn around and turn again. The crowded square was spinning around me. It was movie like. I was in one of the most crowded places on earth and I had never felt more alone. I had been duped, scammed, fooled, swindled.

“Faaark” I stomp my foot like a scorned child and bewildered I make my way back towards the coffee house a mere twenty metres away.

Still seething, I recoil to the coffee shop and explain to my travel buddies how I was totally suckered in the square. I was quite quickly convinced that I did not want to mess with the locals and whilst losing 50 euro was not ideal I could have been hurt or worse if I had have got into a fight with the street swindlers. It looks like I may have literally dodged a bullet. I was so annoyed still though. We finish up in the coffee shop and we walk back into the square. And then I see it, through the crowd. The dealer. He had his stand set up again. Cards out, waiting for his next victim. Around him, his two skiffs. I felt angry. Then I see him, the Scando, backpack on, walking innocently through the crowd up to the card table “Ello”. I feel stupid now. He was a part of it all along. What an idiot I was.
“Oh no” The old man was standing ten feet away, flashing his friendly smile to passing tourists. “Bugger”

Well, that was surreal!

I hate the misuse of the word surreal. I hear people say things like “I bumped into my friend at the train station the other day, it was so surreal.”

It wasn’t. Unless you friend was a pink elephant with your undies on his head telling time from a melting clock, it wasn’t surreal.

I look around me though and there is no other word that can really describe what I’m seeing. I’m dressed in lederhosen, so are five of my closest mates. Our drinks are oversized one litre plastic cups filled with Vodka and Redbull. Around us monks, hillbillies, centurions, minions, Donald Trumps, flamingos, creepy baby heads, a wardrobe with legs (presumably from the lion, witch and the wardrobe), Nick “Honey Badger” Cummins, Muy Thai fighters, pirates, jockeys, unicorns, T-rexs, leprechauns carrying blokes, pregnant cheerleaders, fighter pilots, snipers, lifeguards, policewomen, dictators, the Chinese army, a clergy of nuns priests and bishops, a couple of Harry Potters, numerous Where’s Wallys, a handful of broadcasters, some tinder screens, Oompah Loompas, prisoners, geishas, pharaohs , TMNTs, Tetris pieces, the odd Mother of Dragons, a trace of rabbits, bathers from the 1940s, guys with dressing gowns and shaving cream, Shrek, Asterix and Oblisk, Storm Troopers, Budgie Smugglers and the Super Mario Bros.

David Hasselhoff is singing in front of me surrounded by Baywatch babes and bizarrely accompanied by a Chinese midget also dressed as a lifeguard sitting on a tower.

South Stand at the Hong Kong Sevens. Where have you been all my life. Oh and some rugby was played too – Fiji won. I think.

Napoli

Naples.

Slummy suburbs, nonnas hanging out washing strewn between shabby buildings above vespas weaving through crowds of people shouting at each other, arms waving. I was looking forward to finding the best Napoli pizza, a quest that sparked great arguments, I assumed, though I couldn’t understand the words, it guessed it to be the conflict amongst the locals.

Ten pm and a rail delay means I had just arrived in at the central train station, Napoli Centrali. The city now had a cavernous threat about it. I somehow felt excited though, as if sometimes through a frightening experience that travelling provides perspective.

Knowing little but following idioms around the city like aeroporto and estacion de tren. I hadn’t the foresight or the inclination really to arrive with accommodation pre-planned and on the advice of a fellow backpacker who did, I wound up on a linea taking me well out of the city. I found a seat across from two Spanish girls who after trying out my newly acquired Spanish phrases informed me they were also heading out to the hostel.

Off the train we head up the platform, I turn and notice another backpacker behind us. He looked Spanish so I call to him “hola hombre, ostel?”

Si” he said

Ven con migo” and he caught up. My event Spanish was working well, if only I could find someone to wipe a table I could use all my words.

This was the first time I laid eyes on Ivan Villanueva. He was tall, slender, dark skin with piercing deep brown eyes and a confident friendly smile. I liked him immediately.

The four of us headed up the hill in the dark, not knowing if the reference in the girls’ dated lonely planet was already redundant. We get to the afterhours counter of the hostel, the man there informing us that there were only two single beds left but given the time of night he was ok if the two couples didn’t mind sharing a single bed.

There we were, four strangers, stranded. I think for the briefest of moments everyone thought about how that might work but it was quickly dismissed. “Well Ivan I guess the only gentlemanly thing to do is let the girls have the beds and we will go and find another hostel.” Ivan agreed and to the gratuous thanks of the girls we walked back out into the warm night air.

It began to seem to me there was a fine line between ignorance and being sufficiently prepared for a city like Naples.

Back in the city and under the guidance of Ivans lonely planet we walked until we arrived at the santa maria plaza.

“Hey Ivan, what does you book there say about this plaza?”

“It say don’t be here after midnight”
“Hey Ivan, what time is it?”
He looked back at me and then around, scanning the same predatory eyes of some locals across the street. “Its after midnight…. We should go”

We walk, quickly up the street, not in any particular direction, just to be away from where we were, but unfortunately the trouble was following us. I turned to see two of the men trailing.

Around the next corner we darted and then hastily up the street but there they were, a block behind us.

“Ivan” I said “I need to know something”

“Yes?”
“If those guys catch up to us are you fighting or running?”

“What do you want to do?” he replied

“I have a bad knee, I can’t run very fast”
“Ok, then we fight” He kept walking, he seemed quietly confident whilst I was hoping to god it didn’t come to that. But the thugs behind us were gaining; we were walking as fast as we could without breaking into a trot under the weight of our backpacks. They were not even half a block away when I called out to Ivan ahead of me. We had been fleeing in circles, my knee was aching and soon we would be too tired to fight off these guys. “Ivan I’m stopping.”

He stopped, turned at me and looked back to see our predators closing. He looks down at his lonely planet again and his eyes light up “pick your bag up Robo, come, ostel!” I grab my bag and we quickly jog across the street, the thugs less than 50 meters behind us. Within half a block we were up a conspicuous stairwell and to the door of a bed and breakfast called Seven Small Rooms to safety.

Under Fire

Night time, two kilometres south of the middle of the Amazon and we again set out to explore. We were about an hour and a half out of camp when I hear Herman howling profanities at the top of his voice. I turned and called out “what the fucks the matter Herman?”

“I’ve been fucking bitten by something”

I race back and inspect Herman in the torch light. He has a couple of marks on his chest and some on his arm. I get anyone with a head torch to start scouring the nearby jungle floor for the culprit as Herman and I attempt to diagnose his bite marks.

“Did you see a snake? A spider?”

“I didn’t see anything mate but it hurts like a bitch. I know one thing though, there are a lot of nasty fucking things out here in this jungle.”

I inspect the marks on Herman and could visibly see the venom from whatever bit him moving across his chest and up his arm.

“We have to get you back to camp, keep calm mate, I’ll hold your arm above your head to try and slow down the venom and lets move”

And so we did, for an hour and a half we walked, me holding Herman’s arm in the air, back to the campsite. Animal shrieks and the beating of insect wings keeping time with our dramatic march back. We sat Herman down next to the fire, he was a tough guy but was obviously in a lot of pain. The local guys gathered around, the first proclaiming the wounds were a snake bite which didn’t make sense since Herman hadn’t seen a snake and the bite marks while both in pairs were not the same distance apart. I didn’t know what a snake bite looked like but we weren’t buying the snake bite scenario. The next of the local Indians supported his mate and my stomach dropped. We were so far from anywhere and without knowing what snake it was my mate’s life held perilously in the balance.

“What kind of snake?” I asked urgently, but he couldn’t tell. Our situation seemed helpless given the broken English, mime and broken Spanish we were trying to communicate through. I look over at Herman, he was sweating and grimacing in pain.

“What’s he saying Robbo?” Herman asks with much more presence of mind than I would have.

“He doesn’t know” I said back, half lying. I turned back.

“Are you sure this is snake? Serpiente? Not spider?”

He was sure that it wasn’t a spider because if it was a spider he said then the fangs would be still in wound. I sat down with Herman.

“These guys don’t know what they are talking about, they say they are snake bites but I can’t see how they could be…… they don’t look like they could be. They say that if it was a spider the fangs would be stuck in you because spiders lose their fangs when they bite?”

“What? Well that’s bullshit” Herman grimaced

“I know right? Have you ever heard of that?”

“Never bru”

“Right, what do you want to do? The way I see it, we could put you into a boat and start making our way out of this jungle. That might be pretty dangerous at night and it might be morning before we get you to some sort of civilization?”

“No, I want someone to tell me what the fuck bit me.”

I get up again and send the local guys off to find a medicine man or witch doctor or someone that can help tell us what bit Herman. I sit back down with him and feel his pulse and forehead.
“What the fuck are you doing Robbo?” he shrugs me away
“Just checking your vital signs”
“What for? Do you even know what you are doing?”

“Well I know you feel hot”

“Well that’s because I’m sitting next to the fire dickhead”

Almost an hour later one of the guys came back with someone that knows what he is talking about apparently.

“Yes, this is ant”

“Herman recoils, “There is no way this was a fucking ant bite”

“Yes, fire ant” he responds going on to tell us that he has seen grown men crying from one bite on the hand. Each bite feeling like being shot. Juan speaks with him confirming the fire ant is also known as the bullet ant because its bite feels like a gunshot wound.

The medicine man nods his head matter-of-factly and stands up. “You ok tomorrow.”

I take one look at Herman and burst into hysterics, “an ant bite….. all this for an ant bite.”

Herman now in a mix of relief and dread that this event will be brought up in every backpackers we visit for decades. Every time I see an ant, every time a snake or a spider is referred to, every time South America is mentioned.

Tonight though I give the bloke a break, he was obviously still in a lot of pain and despite recent revelations I was still concerned the diagnosis given by our bush doctors was incorrect. Tonight we sit around the campfire until the pain starts to subside. Tomorrow is another story.

Searching for Giant Anaconda

Night time we negotiate through the jungle floor, the guidance of the dappled moonlight through the canopy the night before, now replaced by our makeshift ‘explorer torches’. In an act of manliness, Herman split some bamboo in quarters at one end and stretched them across an old tuna can which he tied and mounted with some twine. Dousing some oily torn cloth in fuel and placing it in the can, his explorer torch was assembled. Not to be outdone I hurried to make one of my own and this night, guided by the 10 foot light cast from the flames of our Indiana Jones style torch, we ventured into the Amazon. Our mission was simple, the local tribe had seen some large Anaconda and Herman and I hadn’t, so we were about to rectify that. We left the village in a line, one torch at the front and one at the back, the middle in almost complete darkness but for the sparing light from the moon and a couple of inadequate dimly lit head torches. It was romantic in a dangerous first explorer sort of way. The moist leafy floor crunches underfoot as we negotiate vines, fallen branches and the dense foliage, traversing intermittently onto what seemed to be a path from what certainly couldn’t have been. The vegetative smell of damp leaves and rotting wood.

The group walk silently, their footfall the only sound we add to the sounds of the jungle mammals, birds and insects. The jungle kneading me as we walked, habituating to us from an initial shyness, now insects and birds go about their business around us and sometime on us.

After an hour of trekking we encountered our first challenge. A cliff, maybe 15 to 20 metres above a rushing river. The foliage so dense that a small dirt path barely a foot wide from the cliff was the only route through. Some of the group voiced their opinions that this path was far too risky but our local seemed unperturbed and Herman and I urged us forward. The group left with no real option but to advance, we held hands, backs to the scrub, eyes diligently sizing our next step in the darkness and shuffled sideways along the ledge to the next clearing. The odd slipping of a foothold with the associated heart skip the only mishap that did more to add to the realness of the adventure. We make our way to a stream, our local “guide” commented that it was most likely we would see big anaconda here but we had to get to the other side. The nimble footed locals had walked across and back the log that stretched across the fifteen meters of water. I was to be the first gringo to attempt the crossing.

I have never been the most coordinated guy in the room and already had serious doubt I would make it across the precariously thin “bridge”. My first step, shaky, the mud caked on the sole of my shoes compromising the necessary traction required to balance. I place it down and immediately slip off the side of the log and into the mud.

“What are you doing?” Herman shouts from behind.

I pull my wet muddy leg from the muddy quagmire and attempt to place it on the log. Again it slips off. I step back deciding barefoot is the only way I am going to get across this log. I toss my shoes on the bank and call out to Herman to throw them to me when I get to the other side. Again I step onto the log, uncertain. My toes curled, gripping at the smooth cool wood. So far so good, I slowly move my way to the middle of the log, wobbling, arms out. I hold my position. Still myself and look down into the dark, possibly anaconda filled, waters a metre below. One more step, an overbalance and I was off the log and into the water. What usually would have been a hilarious scene now sent panic through the group. Except for Herman who battled his explorer torch and camera whilst heaving with laughter. My feet make the bottom and I stand in waist deep water, quickly assessing my options and for the first time thankful I could not see an anaconda. I push for the far bank quickly, sloshing through the water and clambering up the bank through the darkness and flashes from Herman’s camera. The group are relieved and I sit back in the dirt, panting, adrenaline pumping.

“Herman, can you make yourself useful and throw me my shoes” I ask quite amused he thought only to immortalise the moment rather than attempt to help me.

Herman throws my shoes but predicably they fall a metre short of the bank sending me scurrying back into the water after them, knowing Herman has a better arm than that.

Looking back across the water I see Herman’s hulking frame carrying the explorer torch pushing through the team and stepping onto the log to be next to cross. Within seconds he was across the log without so much as a sway. He jumps off near me, his grin evident in the flickering light. He didn’t say anything, he didn’t have to. He just patted my back and grinned as I put back on my muddy shoes, both of us knowing that we would probably have to come back this way and cross the bridge again.