Riding a wind-up toy

Trip Start Apr 17, 2006
Trip End Jun 14, 2006

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Flag of Argentina  ,
Thursday, May 4, 2006

Today I came to understand what my guidebook meant by "undulating terrain". Rather than the mile after mile of blissful downhill that I fully believed I deserved after yesterdayīs steep, rocky and winding climb, I was treated to the following: short uphill, short downhill, ford, short uphill, short downhill, ford. After a while I came to tire of the wet feet, and even devising jokes around the co-incidence of "fords" in the "sierras" wore thin after a while ("itīs not just a bunch of 80s family hatchbacks, you know!" That was the best I came up with. Sorry). It was like riding a wind-up toy: wind it up, let it go, wind it up, let it go.

The landscape had an eerie whiff of the Yorkshire countryside about it, and I donīt just mean the smell. Iīm talking spiky tall grass and rustic, yellow hue, and, more pertinently, drystone walls!

I eventually rolled into the next town, some 50 miles or so later, with the intention of asking some of that never-to-be-underestimated local advice in a shop. Said town was every so neat and tidy, with beautiful wooden signs labelling everything ("town hall, police station, square" etc), but lacked one crucial element: people. Had there been a bomb scare? In these days of global terrorism, not even a small rural Argentinian village is immune, I suppose. The shop was shut, so I tried the police station. A man wearing jeans and a sweater sat within behind a computer, but he had a moustache, which is uniform enough for me, and evidently was for him, too. When I suggested camping he said itīd be too cold and he knew of a man in the town who had a room I could use for the night. Uh-oh, here we go again. He took me in the police car but the man was out so we returned to the police station and I sat and watched him type up expenses for an hour. Then we tried again, and this time, the man with the room was in. He was a tall, fat man with a strange, pigeonlike gait like he couldnīt quite get anywhere fast enough, and he stood very close to the policeman as they talked. I sat in the police car while the policeman struck a deal for me, and as I sat there, another strange man stared at me from within the house like I was some sort of green, slimy, betentacled alien species from the smelly nether regions of outer space. I waved (what else could I do?), but no response was forthcoming. I had a bad feeling, but it was far too late to back out now.

The policeman returned to report that the man would have me for 10 pesos. Fabulous. I was introduced and the bedenimmed policeman left us to it. When I mentioned that I was English to my esteemed host, he eyed me suspiciously. Here we go, I thought: heīs going to mention the Falklands. But, to my amazement, he didnīt, he just carried on talking. He walked me over to the room, in a separate building to his home (thank goodness), and let me in. It was a big room, with three beds, whose sheets, on later inspection, smelt like that hadnīt been cleaned in quite some time. Fabulous. Then, just as the man looked about to leave, he waggled a big finger in my face and said, "Ingles, ŋhm? ĄLas Malvinas!" STRIKE ONE! Although it seemed miraculous that I had managed to get this far without someone mentioning the bloody falklands. I reeled off my prefab response, that it was before I was born and did anybody actually think Maggie Thatcher was sane anyway, and he left me alone.

Beard status: Iīm not sure I like having a beard. A man in a passing car today had a beard and I instantly mistrusted him - perhaps he would deliberately run me off the road! They say people with beards have something to hide, and Iīm sure theyīre not just talking about dimpled chins. A woman with a beard certainly has something to hide. In my case, I am hiding my complete ineptness at handling a conversation in Spanish.
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