Treking in Peru: The Deuce – Part 3

The interloper was Gael, a sometime blond from Queensland, with her husband Garry in tow.

They were an interesting couple. Apparently, after having dated for the best part of a decade, they decided, on a whim as it were, to hitch themselves properly. And, if you can believe it, neither one of them was knocked up.

They did the deed on the sly, keeping the ceremony unknown to almost all of their friends, and promptly left the country on a South American trekking holiday with a group of strangers.

They were a lovely couple, my only reservation being that Garry looked for all the world like a Bruce. That is not a perjorative term. He just looked like his name was Bruce. To take this little aside further down the rabbit hole, the fact was that I have known very few Bruces in my time, so I’m not sure how I came to this conclusion. In fact, the sum of my Bruces[1] was two. Firstly, there was “Uncle Bruce”, one of my father’s[2] best friends when I was growing up. It was a heady era, when one’s parent’s school mates somehow became avuncular.

I don’t know too much about Uncle Bruce, apart from the fact that he owned an opal mine in an outback slum called Lightening Ridge, and therefore was probably on the run from the law. Other than that, I somehow came into the knowledge that he had once made a pass at my mum. I don’t know where I learnt that, but I suppose it could only have come from my mother herself. I found the whole idea grossly offensive, as I suppose it should be.

The other Bruce was one of my first flatmates. At the tender age of twenty or so, I moved into a house in Sydney with a friend and some random strangers, one of whom was the enigmatic Bruce.

Bruce had just been discharged from the army, where he was a cook. Lucky us! Rather than noodles, rice, or oranges, we were treated to sumptuous gourmet delicacies every night.

“Delicacies” may be pitching the story too high. Bruce cooked in bulk, and had the army cookbook to prove it, with portions fit for an entire (very hungry) platoon. He would boil up 20 litres of stew at a time, and lasagnes big enough to play pool on.

His other claim to fame was the gentlemanly act of covering my girlfriend (now wife) with a blanket late at night as she froze on the lounge-room brown couch, while I slumbered negligently in my milk-crate and mattress bed.

I can’t explain it, but something about those two gentlemen merged in my brain, and said “that guy is a Bruce” whenever I looked at Garry.

Once during the trip, poor Garry left his sunglasses behind, and one of the crew was searching out the owner. I had noted previously that Garry was partial to this particular brand of eyewear, and, doing the nobel deed, told the crew that “I think those belong to Bruce.”

The look I received was one of abject confusion. “Who?” they asked, at which point Garry’s real name flew from my brain like cash on a Saturday night.

My mouth flapped open and closed like a beached fish, and they looked at me with confusion, like I was having a stroke. I think I changed the subject.

*

To return to the present, it was this couple that were rounding the mountain as I fumbled to return my strides to the top of the mast. At my feet was a steaming, stinking mound, capped like a mountain with a dirty snow of wet wipes. I had but a few seconds to spare, and I was fortunate enough to be able to locate some large regular-shaped stones, and I placed them neatly over the toxic dump.

Standing back, it appeared to me that the stone was well hewn, with ruler-straight edges: for all the world an Inca remnant of centuries past, now marking the place of my bowel evacuation for millennia to come. I can picture some enterprising archaeologist of the future gently moving it for her thesis, and discovering a damp file of wet wipes underneath, stubbornly resisting fossilisation.

I added a few more, smaller rocks to the pile, and had just dropped the final one on the pile, when my travelling companions hove into sight. They noticed me looking down at my little cairn and thought me in a pensive, perhaps spiritual mood.

I imagine they gave each other a silent signal, and they remained quiet for a moment, before giving a respectful warning cough.

“Oh, hello,” I said. “I was just looking at this little cairn. Marvellous stonework.”

“Yes, quite amazing,” said Garry, snapping off a photo or two.

Gael screwed up her nose. “It stinks here,” she said, getting to the point swiftly.

“Yes,” I said. “I think there’s quite a few llamas around. A small price to pay for such solitude and peace,” I went on, playing up the metaphysical aspect.

She gagged a little. “Well, maybe. But I’m going back to camp. Come on Garry.”

They left together, and I stayed a few minutes longer, and gave my lunch the send-off it deserved.

[1] Producers take note: Fabulous name for a movie.

[2] God rest his soul

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