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an impromptu interview

The sun has already dissolved into the hazy humid air and vanished in a red haze below the horizon. The air is still, hot and damp. Three men standing by a sleek black car with darkly tinted windows don’t initially inspire confidence in me or predispose me to stop but one of them waves a camera, the other a recorder and the third brandishes a note-book. “Press! Press!” they shriek, in Spanish, as I ride up the hill towards them. I decide that they are probably harmless.

As soon as I stop, insects start, instantly, to feast on my bare legs. It is hard to concentrate but the questions are not challenging – they are the same ones that I am asked every day: How far? How long? Why? Where from? Where to? There is nothing new here. I answer as best I can while slapping at my legs. The three men also flap at the blood suckers but they have far less exposed skin.

It is rapidly getting darker and I try to escape but the men are reluctant to let me go. I write the interviewer’s notes for him in his notebook while the guy with the camera circles my bike uncertainly in the gathering gloom. The interview ends with a brief comparative analysis of violence in Mexico and Brazil based on nothing other than my personal impressions. They question my about my age but I unrelenting on this matter and leave them guessing.

Once this impromptu interview is terminated, I continue to ride in the damp grey evening. Stealth camping opportunities are thin in this area and I stop to ask a group of woman sitting at tables in a thatched shelter set in an expansive lawn if I could use a patch of it for my tent. One woman wanders towards me, resolves exactly what my intentions are, and then goes seek higher approval. Approval is not, however, forthcoming and I find myself on the road again – hopes for any extra comforts for the night dashed – but I haven’t ridden far before I spy a track leading to the left past a stand of trees that promises a little shelter and so I turn into the gloomy forest.

The blood suckers are waiting for me here, too, and attack again while I struggle to put up my tent as quickly as I can. The zip of my tent, which have been unreliable for some time, chooses this moment to fail completely and I spend at least 15 minutes trying to get the structure sealed.

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