30/12/08. Porvenir, TDF, Chile.
The smell of freedom, on the glorious morning I finally get out of Rio Grande, is the smell of somebody else's B.O., thanks to the rarely-laundered towel I'm provided with at the hotel. It's not until I've showered and dried off with this hellish cloth that I notice a foreign pungency rising directly from my beard into my nose. I sniff the towel: regret is immediate and lasting.
Luckily there's the customary stiff breeze at play, and by the time Ruta 3 suddenly gets exciting (around Kilometre 3000) the wickedness of earlier is but a sour-gutted memory. Freezing and laughing, I squirt into Ushuaia, and the warmest hotel in the world, in the early afternoon. I suppose if you'd arrived here from the Andes rather than the east coast, the snowy, pointy mountains that surround End-Of-The-World-Town might not cause you to drool in wonder, but to me, they're - oh - like, rilly, rilly amaaaazing.
So it's Xmas Eve, I'm in The Galway and I'm literally starving. I ask about the menu and it turns out it's fleecin' time. 150 pesos (30 GBP) for a set menu featuring an assortment of things you don't want, and it's the same in every other restaurant in town. Price-fixing cartel ahoy! I ain't paying, so - weak with hunger - I chance upon a newsagent with foot-long hot dogs at a pound a pop. I swallow two of them whole.
Christmas Day! The sun's out, a bit, and that ever-faithful standby, the YPF petrol station has hot pies for breakfast. Full of cheer and pie, I scoot down to the TDF National Park. It's merry, joyous and wild. As I park up to take the traditional pic of the end of the road sign, a whole bunch of USA-ers gaggle up. Oh-ho-ho! The broads wanna sit on the motorsickle! Can do, gals!
Faint with Christmas glee, I trickle back to the hotel for a garage ham-n-cheese and a lie-down. Christmas night, and, having decided the Galway is A Bastard, I'm thrilled to find The Dublin open.
It's a proper pub, and draught Beagle - blond, red or black - is Argentina's finest. Two pints in, I overhear Jeff from Cheshunt, Herts - home of the biggest Tesco in the world - order a Beagle in an English accent. Hours later, we're still yammering on about how "Xanadu" is Rush's best song (or is it "Red Barchetta"?), and, in a joint act of seasonal goodwill exceeding the Anglo-German WW1 footer-in-the-trenches match, still ignoring the fact that one of us supports Arsenal and the other is A Bastard.
Events unfold in a similar manner for the next few days and shortly it's time to get the fook outta town. The Galway has decided to charge - for a cold buffet! - One Hundred United States Greenbacks on New Year's Eve. Exit me, laughing.
A spirited, gusty ride back to San Sebastian on the Chilean side of TDF, and I'm back at Hotel De La Frontera, the island's cosiest joint, and halfway to Porvenir and the ferry back to Mainland America. It's really fantastically breezy today. I meet several motorcycle people and we're all soiling ourselves over the wind and the gravel roads. Lamb chops and brilliant, brilliant Chilean red wine soothe the worries, and today, one day before New Year's Eve, I make the 90 gusty gravel miles to Porvenir, hopefully enabling my plan to be among the bright lights of Punta Arenas for the 31st. So! Those are the bald facts leading up to my current ensconcement in Club Croatia. If I can think of any lavatory jokes to ease the mood, you'll be top of my call-back list.
Posted by Simon Fitzpatrick at January 06, 2009 07:58 PM GMT
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