Between Extremes: A Journey Beyond Imagination
John McCarthy, Brian Keenan
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
Publish Year note: First published in 1999
In 1986 Brian Keenan and John McCarthy were forced to take a journey without maps. For the next four years they were incarcerated in a Lebanese dungeon. From the blank outlook of a tiny cell, with only each other and a few volumes of an ancient American encyclopaedia to sustain them, they could only wander the wide open spaces of their imagination. To displace the ugly confines of their existence, they envisaged walking in the High Andes and across the wastes of Patagonia.
Five years after their return Brian and John chose to travel together again to see how the reality of Chile matched their imagination and to revisit their past experiences. They journeyed by every means available through vast empty deserts, verdant plains and barren tundra. Between Extremes is the story of that journey which once more found them far from home, in an unfamiliar landscape, but which for the first time allowed them to live by their own rules.
that evening I slept fitfully as I usually do in strange bedrooms. The noise of those infernal fishing boats toing-and-froing across the ocean outside the window, combined with the ever-present odour of fish, did not help. The next morning I was too tired to do anything but sit and consider the journey in front of us. We were headed into the Altiplano towards Lago Chungara, one of the highest lakes in the world, some 5,000 metres above sea level. The thought of this place encouraged me. At least
reflection was faded, and the looking-glass revealed only the woodwormed boards that held it in place. This was Miss Havisham’s house and I was a naive Pip Pirrip entranced by its otherworldliness. While John chatted to our hosts, my thoughts wandered out of the room. History had been rubbed out or reordered to fit the atrocious machinations of the Pinochet regime and its ghoulish backers in the White House in Washington. It was absurd for Isabel to state that Bernardo was not a democrat,
replied. We returned to the jeep and climbed aboard. As we drove on further into the hills we were both silently contemplating the fact that we had to cross 600 miles of the most utter wilderness in the days to come. I was about to comment on this to John when my eyes were attracted to something far out towards the horizon of this great salt plain, something shimmering and fluid. Could it be lights in the distance? Or perhaps light glancing off the bodywork of a car or truck travelling towards
hillside beyond. I wondered how many of the occupants of those adobe cabins were themselves fatherless sons and daughters of the ‘disappeared’. It was as if the earth had subsumed the confusion, grief, anger and sense of loss which were the emotional foundations of my spirit guides. This orphaned nation had never known a natural father to give it confidence and assurance through which its own personality could flower. In desperation, it had floundered under colonial taskmasters and economic
Within seconds of surpassing the various hurdles, I hear Brian bellowing. As the bus pulled out, I jumped up. John, John . . . he’s not here! Tell them to stop, I kept telling myself. Where is the stupid bollox? ‘Stop the bus!’ I tried to squeeze past a very elderly lady fussing in the aisle. ‘Mes amigo,’ I said, panicked by the bus’s apparently imminent departure. ‘Mes amigo,’ I said again, pointing to the bus shelter. Everyone looked perplexed at the demonstrative gringo shouting,