Trip Start Sep 2005
Trip End Sep 2006

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Flag of Argentina  ,
Thursday, December 15, 2005

Today was one of those days when I realize how limited my spanish still is. I thought I'd been making progress, as I was able to chat away with the fishermen I've been meeting at the campsites and tackleshops. But that's about all I can talk about, I've discovered.

After travelling along the road to hell yesterday I ended up in a very, very remote spot. The rule of thumb is:- really bad roads = very remote lakes = really good fishing. I fished one lake where the only other set of footprints on the shore was that of a deer. Casting a fly was like offering sweets to a spoilt child. It was very good sport. It didn't take long to get a nice one for the plate, and so off I set for to get some wood for my Barby. The nearest town was San Martin de Los Andes. My first stop was the bus station to get a tourist office.

Unusually, there was no tourist office in the bus station. I was absolutely bursting for a jimmy riddle so I nipped into the bogs. I was lost in relief, when the bloke at the basin washing his hands beside me asked the time. He didn't seem to understand me, and asked to see my watch. He was on my left hand so I lifted my lefthand to my left ear for him to check it. My spanish isn't that bad. And it was six oclock after all, so I decided to maintain eye-contact. "Eet's beeg"(in english). His eyes were focused well below my left ear. My watch isn't at all big.

I didn't need this. We hadn't covered "F/&k off mate" in my night class and was fairly confident it wasn't in my handy Collins pocket dictionary. "Ken I seee?" "No". "Pleeez?" "No". His english was very polite, I'll give him that much, but he wasn't taking no for an answer. Meanwhile, there was no way I could cut the toiletries short. It was one of those occasions when I could have tackled a forest fire, and I'd only just starterd. So I grappled for some sort or phrase that would let me take authority of the situation. "Stop it. You are a bad man!". It was all wrong. The words, the wrong tone. I sounded like I was scolding a puppy for peeing on the carpet. I tried to block his view with my hands and shoulders, but he just kept adjusting his viewing position. Saying "Pleeez" all the time. Smiling his pervy smile. In the end, when I was washing my hands he offered to shake hands to show there was no hard feelings, if you pardon the pun. I declined.

I figured that I might be able to report it at the tourist office. Though how do you say "Willy-watcher". The closest I could get to with my spanish was "a gentleman who likes likes looking at other gentlemen". Usually it was young girls who worked in the tourist offices. Maybe they'd think I was some sort of perv who gets a kick out of saying to girls that someone said it was big.

Forutnately it was 2 blokes in the tourist office, one of whom had very good english. I was able to relax a bit and tell the story a bit better. Maybe I'd relaxed a little too much as the first bloke killed himself laughing and then told his mate in spanish, who also found it very funny. I know it was only a willy watcher, but I'd expected them to do a bit more about it than just laugh. Nothing "serious" had happened, and I didn't feel "violated", but it did leave a bad taste in my mouth. Obviously I didn't want to say that in case it caused further confusion. So I mentioned that apart form it not being great for tourism this guy could be there looking at young boys too. That seemed to do the trick. Then they wanted a full description.

After sorting out the willy-watcher I told the tourism guy that I was finding the driving hard going, and that I wanted to camp at Lago Lolog. To my relief, he said that the road I'd been on yesterday was one of the worst in Argentina, and that there was camping along the shores of the lake near a river at Puerto Arturo.

So off I set. The spot where he showed me on the map was down a single lane side road. I'd only gone done about 200m when the road split into two. I'm not talking about a Y-junction here, I mean it looked like there'd been an earth quake recently and I was supposed to drive along the fault line. There wasn't enough space for a U-ey so on I chugged. After another while I came to a really nasty section. There was a large pipe running 3/4 of the way across the road into to a muddy pool. The pipe was like Beechers brook with a big drop on the other side. I got down ok, and turned at the first spot I could find. Tackling the pipe from the other side I took the wrong approach, travelled too slowly, and felt the car slide into the mud and the undercarriage impale on the end of the pipe. I got out and inspected. It didn't look good. Still I decided to slip her into reverse and see what happened. There was a bit of a bang and a definite change in the noise from the engine. When I got out and checked the oil was pissing out from under the car into the little stream running across the road.

It was only 50m from the lake shore in a National Park. I felt genuinely bad about this but there more important things. The nearest town was 25km away, but I had last seen civilization about 12km back the road. So I abandoned my car, blocking the lane, packed my rucksack with anything that seemed worth nicking and hiked off as quick as I could. It was 8:30, and I didn't want to be walking the road in the dark, as I'd seen a seriously mad looking dog on it earlier on.

As I was stomping along reflecting on my mixed fortunes, I wondered how this day could get worse. The only car that passed me by was a tourist who was definitely not stopping for my mad arm-flapping. The icing on the cake would be if the willy watcher came along in a jeep aking me if i wanted a ride. Just as it was getting dark I heard the mad dog, and spotted him diving into some bushes.

In the end I got to the Gendarmerie, which are the local police out it the country. They owned the mad dog, who was going really crazy as I tramped up to the doorway. They came out all pissed off and gave me the treatment they usually give gringos who disturb them from their card game. Needless to say I didn't know any of the essential words to explain that I'd damaged my undercarriage, and my car was blocking the road. Fortunatley there was another guy there who had a little english. A park warden, whose english was very strange, but between us we had enough to explain the whole situation. The cops softened up a bit, we talked a little about fishing, and headed off in the 4WD to check how the car was. Someone had come along and towed the car to the side of the road so you could see properly underneath it. The two guys got their torches out looked underneath and let out really long whistles. It didn't sound good.

Eventually, after the 3 of us driving around the countryside, spending an hour sorting out a drunken domestic, David the Park Warden said he'd run me into town. As we were driving along he explained that he'd never been taught english and that he'd picked it all up from movies. I was impressed and told him so. It was 1 oclock in the morning, I'd been up since 6:30, I'd had a hard old day: my conversational skills weren't great at this stage. I was starting to drift, dreaming of getting into a nice.....warm.....bed ....."I'm a Dirty F%&king Nigger!!" he shouts. I woke up as he was starting doing his movie quotes. "Ah yes, very good." "Me Tarzan, you Jane.....you see, we don't need much", I didn't like where this was going. But turned out he was sound, just a bit wired. A good man. Insisted that he was just doing his job and wouldn't take a penny.

The next day I made an excruciatinly painful phone call to the insurance company, which lasted almost an hour. Fair play to the girl on the other end, I'd have hung up if I was her. Then the mechanics arrived and we went off to see how the car was. When they looked underneath they both let out long, long whistles. We towed her to the garage and the guy there did the same. It just must be the Argentinian way because all I'd done was burst the oil sump. He was able to solder it up, fill her up with oil, and the whole lot only cost 30 quid. I left town as soon as I could. Vowing to learn more spanish.
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