Unless you’re plagued by back pain, it is, I feel, absolutely impossible to hate hammocks. Sure you might dislike getting tangled during your dismount – but in the meantime you’re probably making this uncoordinated attempt at a beach while slurping on a cocktail, so who cares?
My life was woefully lacking in contact with hammocks before coming to South America. Happily, I have enthusiastically made up for it since and am pleased to announce that in my Hammock Studies 101 I have made two major conclusions:
One (rather obviously):
Hammocks are the epitome of all that is relaxation and spoiling one’s self stupid.
They can and do save the day, thus turning shitty situations into perfectly lovely ones.
Here are two such moments, when a hammock turned a frown upside down…
THE JAPANESE CONTINUE TO PAVE THE WAY
Pablo and I met the endlessly entertaining Kazuya in Colombia and travelled on and off with him for several weeks. The two boys had not one language common to both but managed to connect in that way which makes actual words unnecessary: It was the sort of connection usually only seen between true friends or a human and an excellent piece of dark chocolate.
Kazuya possesses the sort of inner-calm that I find wholly incredible given that my default setting is a jittery sort of buzzing inability to smell the damn roses. Kazuya’s meditative state of being had already suggested him as a grand candidate for Buddha’s own apprentice but it was proved beyond reproach one night when the three of us were stuck at a bus station, unable to leave until early the next morning.
Alongside a couple of other transients we drank a very bad cup of coffee and sorted out a patch of floor to camp out on. There, we got ready for an uncomfortable night of sleeping on tiles. Or, truth be told, Pablo and I did. We curled up on a poncho and tried to pretend it wasn’t letting the cold night air straight through.
But Kazuya had a hammock.
The jealousy in our eyes and those of all the other stuck travellers must have been ferocious to behold. While we huddled on a flimsy poncho, our Japanese friend silently took out his hammock, strung it up between a handrail and a closed shop front’s security grill and proceeded to sleep a couple of sound hours above the cold floor. Winner.
STUCK ON A HIGHWAY SOMEWHERE IN THE ANDES
Much later, we were stuck again, this time on the highway between Santiago and Mendoza courtesy of a nice big rockfall. Alongside the occupants of hundreds of other cars and buses, our group of five were beside ourselves after spending a cold and sardines-in-a-can type night trying to sleep in a Toyota Yaris and hoping that as the sun rose we’d be told that the rubble had been cleared.
Morning did come at last, bringing with it not good news of clear highways, but an icy wind and another eight hours to wait before the road would open again.
With hundreds of people stranded on that no man’s land Andean highway (with nowhere to buy food or phone reception to hear any news) the mood in the air was tetchy to say the least. People stood around aimlessly squinting into the sun or crouched in their forgotten cars.
But we had two hammocks.
Strung up using gaffa tape between the only trees available (we hadn’t bought any rope yet), those hammocks were a true portal of sanity and window of light. A sleeping bag became a picnic blanket and a couple of books as well as Pablo’s guitar skills gave us all the entertainment we needed to no longer want to gnaw out each others’ eyes from traffic jam/rockfall frustration.
As we knew it might, the gaffa tape did finally give up the ghost. But as we’d expected this moment and had strung it low to the ground, the piddly 20 centimetre drop wasn’t too backbreaking.
God bless hammocks.