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 yesterday´s 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 ("it´s 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 don´t just mean the smell. I´m 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 it´d 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 couldn´t 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: he´s going to mention the Falklands. But, to my amazement, he didn´t, 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 hadn´t 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, ¿hm? ¡Las 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: I´m 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 I´m sure they´re 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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