January 4, 2016

Cubarathon - Day 4

Miles for the day : 0
Total miles : 31

I woke up today feeling a little sore for the first time. Is it the amazingly crappy mattress, the higher mileage, the noisy nights, the less-than-optimal food? It doesn't matter. I'm on vacation after all, so screw it. Let's have a zero day!

It's often like this when I travel south during wintertime. The first few days are super exciting, I bounce all over in the unbridled happiness of being under the sun again. Then, a couple days go by and my body gets a little bit of a backlash. After all, I've been spending months in low light, freezing temperatures and 9-to-5 life. Jumping right out of it is exhilarating, but I also need to take things in stride if I don't want to overdo it and end up with a bad sunburn, an injury or a mix of both.

So I simply went downstairs and found a comfy lounger by the poolside, soaking in the early morning rays then switching to the shade of a bunch of palm trees under which funny little lizards with spiral tails play around. I spent several hours finishing an amazing book I started last summer; it traces back the steps of the first real explorers of North America; my French-Canadian ancestors. It's a very little-known fact, but my great grand-dads were pretty badass. Upon their arrival in their boats, many of them figured out their European ways would not cut it in this wilderness and headed straight for the bush, where they met and shared their life with the Natives Peoples of the area. Most of them never returned to “settled” life and preferred traveling around wih their brothers and sisters, learning the ways of hunting, gathering, pathfinding and long-distance travelling with the best of the best.

These people (they were mostly men, but there were women, too) were quickly judged and called the “ensavaged ones”. Most were dissed and History wasn't kind to them. They were often only referred to as “boys” or “mountainmen” by other travelers like Lewis and Clark (Surprise! A good portion of their crew were French Canadians) and the other stars of the great American expeditions. But the truth is, it was French-Canadians, accompanied by their new families (mostly natives, but also some freed or runaway slaves and the Metis of the Canadian Prairies as well) who were the first non-natives to see and travel the bulk of North America.

Reconnecting with this part of History made me realize that I am not as estranged as I think about my own culture; I am simply kindred with the ones “the civilized world” overlooked and dismissed, even though they were the true backbone of the early days of the white man in this new continent.

Important sidenote; I learned that the very vast majority of the Ensavaged Ones were welcomed with open arms by our Native brothers and sisters, who were impressed with their openness and honored by the respect and interest these wild men showed them. My ancestors lived by the hundreds (if not thousands) peacefully with many different tribes, embracing their way of life and thriving with them, often refusing to go anywhere without their clan, much less settle back into the white villages that were developing everywhere. They relentlessly defended the rights of the First Nations, often to their great disadvantage, and they married and had families inside their clan which also brought a lot of judgement and racism upon them. But they didn't care. They had discovered an amazing, wild, challenging way of life that respected Nature and brought them exaltation and many adventures. I'm extremely proud of how they approached their new life, acknowledging and respecting the First Nations and blending with them completely, as equals, as should be. If History had given the Ensavaged Ones the role they deserved, we would live in a much different world today.

My book left me yearning for more and motivated me to keep reading about these brave men and women who ended up merely a sidenote of North American history. It helped me understand that I, as an apple, have finally ended up not falling so far from the tree. I share the values, curiosity, sense of kinship and taste for adventure of the Ensavaged Ones. If I had lived in that era, I would've done the exact same thing as they have.

I daydreamed the rest of my afternoon, imagining the crazy untold adventures of Étienne Brûlé, Guillaume Couture, John McLaughlin, Louis Jolliet, Jean-Baptiste Charbonneau and all the others. I got plenty of rest, ate three good meals and enjoyed the gorgeous Cuban weather.

Before long, I started to feel the urge of going for a run again. I love this feeling; it means my body wants it as much as my spirit. I'm rested, I'm happy and I'm ready for more.

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