February 09, 2009 GMT
We Are The Dead

9 Jan 09. Punta Arenas, Chile


"The second-best cemetery in South America", says the guidebook, so off I trot in search of mortality kicks. It's cool, but a definite second to the "best" one - Recoleta in Buenos Aires, a mini-city of 20 foot tall death-pyramids and granite stiff-houses. After a while I find an unprepossessing little slab commemorating the dead of the HMS Doterel, "blown up" off Punta Arenas in 1881.


It's, well, affecting to see so many Jenkins', Smiths and Wilkins' so far from home. I take a pic in case any of their great-grandchildren happen to Google it up in the future. Then I forget about it. It's one gravestone among 10,000.

A few days later I nip into the Chilean Navy museum, thinking there might be a few funny little model boats and a torpedo or two to stare at. I wander round slowly - it's quite good - and almost miss a lump of gnarled wood stuck in a corner. It turns out to be the only remaining piece of the HMS Doterel. So here it is...


From this...


To this...


in 30 scratchy, blood-soaked minutes. Not really! It's a sheepskin of course. (Sorry if you have a pet sheep. For you, that is. Ha!) Get ready for La Fluffita...

The cat, who may be called Lucy, is the nicest, prettiest cat ever. No need for cosmetics there. Sadly, Hostal La Luna is also home to the most horrible, ugly little bastard you ever did see. So fabulously unsympathetic is its horrid little mug that I cannot photograph it for fear of lens damage. Its scratchy croak - more vulture than cuddly pussy - is like a phone call from Death himself. The very idea of stroking it! I'd rather stroke a maggoty rattlesnake. I'd rather plunge my fingers into a pus-bloated rat corpse. Cosmetics? Too little too late I'm afraid. It's beyond reconstructive surgery. A lumphammer and a bin bag would be closer to the mark.


Ah, Olde Englande! How I miss you, with your tam o'shanters, sporrans, and, er, "neeps".


"Whorehouse!" shouts Chip as we fall into a taxi at 3am on January 3rd. And that's exactly where we end up. Nothing particularly unsavoury happens. It's just funny, and perhaps a tiny bit sad. But mostly funny. It's also, I guess, semi-inevitable, given that, by 5.30pm, me and Chris (in bed by this point after someone apparently slipped something in his drink) were doing Angus Young moves up and down the aisle of The Colonial, PA's top lager house.


These boys - Chip, 24, and Chris, 27 are specially mad. They're cycling from TDF to Alaska with so little money that, when I meet them on the ferry, they're eating dry spaghetti from the packet and trying to convince me it's "nice".


They really, really like beer, fags and Motorhead so we're destined to spend the next few days on the lash. I have a plan, boys - when we meet again, I'll introduce you to ladies as my sons, Remington and Ronson. It might help us get a "bonk". Or indeed, prevent any such thing from ever happening again.

Things I've always wanted to do, and have achieved in PA:
1/ Operate a ship's "steering wheel". *
2/ Operate, to a reasonable standard of competency, a Mr Whippy machine.

Things that the MOD and the British government have recently hushed up:
1/ The evacuation of HMS Endurance, after, on 16/12/08, somewhere in the South Atlantic, she started taking on "thousands of gallons of water an hour", according to my Royal Navy sources in The Colonial. I'm told it's irreparably knackered.

How far do you think you'd get (because I think - nowhere) if, having had five pints of lager, you went into a properly fancy restaurant in London in a stinky, inexplicably** grass-stained pair of jeans, a Sonny Barger t-shirt and a grubby white Honda baseball cap, carrying a large sheepskin-covered motorcycle saddle under your arm, sat down, and started ordering King Crab starters and fancy wine? Well, that's why I love Chile!

25/1/09. Gobernador Gregores, Argentina.


I am stuck, like a stuck pig, in this town, and therefore feel inclined to behave in a piggish manner. There are two kinds of weather here - wind so strong you can't stand up, and rain that turns all the dirt roads out of town into sticky, slippery clay. Both are beyond my motorbikin' skills. My new plan is to wait for two consecutive days of sunshine to allow the mud to bake, beseech Christ for gentle breezes rather than hurricanes, and scarper. In the meanwhile, I shall continue to "practice my Spanish" (i.e. neck litres of Schneider) in Copetin El Paso, a shabby, empty, beautiful bar run by Juan, a big ol' bear with no English and a heart the size of a Scammell engine.


On my first night here, after falling off several times in the mud, he feeds me the finest lamb in Patagonia for - as far as I can tell - no money, and drives me the 0.5 km home. I literally love him.


If you're ever in GG, head straight here, mention my name, and kick back. It wouldn't hurt if your Spanish was better than mine (barely adequate would qualify as "better").

So - the road here. Gawd 'elp us. Ruta 40 is ok, really, until either the wind picks up or it's been raining for 12 hours. On Thursday, after 100 kms of do-able gravel, Im literally blown off the bike into a pile of rocks. I'm rescued by Eckhard and Maria, lovely Germans in a monster truck. We leave the bike partially hidden behind another pile of rocks and they drop me in GG.


The next day it rains. I pay a man to take me the 100 kms back to pick up La Fluffita. The first 70 kms are ok, then the road turns to slime, I fall off several times and, well, enough is enough. Some Argentinian holidaymakers take me, without Fluffita, back to GG. I find a morbidly obese gentleman with a truck and go back for her again. Money changes hands again.

Filth-caked Fluffita is delivered at the 3rd attempt to GG. Thank Arse. Now I have no plan other than to sit in El Copetin until the elements allow me to carry on. S'ok with me!


The Perito Moreno glacier, a few hundred kms south of here, is the most freakishly awesome thing I've ever seen. They could charge $500 US a look and I'd pay (after I'd seen it). Even the 30km concrete road from the entrance to the park to the Big Ice Bastard is (on an unladen, urgent motorcycle) worth the entance fee. Icebergs are constantly shearing*** off from the front, and - the noise! Hell's Bloody, Bruised Bollocks! That must be what neck hairs evolved for.

Check out the very big boat on the right




Working backwards, as is sometimes the way, I found myself previously in Puerto Natales, Chile, and El Bar de Ruperto. It's owned by a bloke from Leeds who's become known as "Slowly" because that's what he says when Chileans chatter at him. I am honoured to know his actual name, but I mayn't tell. OK - it's to do with having a pile of leaves on your head.

Harty laughter all round!

Good, basic lager


It's a great, warm, dark, rockin' place. Try the chilli vodka (homemade). Don't try and beat the chilli vodka consumption record (5).

Chilli vodka and horse flavour (we think) Bols. Do not combine.

Lager update:
Escudo (Chile) is fairly unpleasant, although I'm told the version that's brewed in the North is much better. Schneider (Argentina) is really very good. It actually tastes of lager!

Bad lager


*not attached to an actual ship.
** explication - I fell over on the way out of the whorehouse.
***or "calving", accuracy fans!

Posted by Simon Fitzpatrick at February 09, 2009 04:52 PM GMT

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