24.2.09. Puerto Varas, Chile.
There's a gigantic volcano just over the lake from my bed. Easy on the eye, sure, but given that the one just down the road in Chaiten went absolutely apeshit a week ago, I'm inclined to cross my stubby little fingers and my weird, fat little toes.
Five miles from the Honda shop at lunchtime today, and all is well. Four miles from the Honda shop and the misfiring ghastliness returns, bringing me out in sympathy hives. At least I can demonstrate the fault to el mecanico. He explains to me that it's a carb problem; good, I say, easy to fix then, and cheaper than knackered piston rings. Up to a point, he says, as we can't actually do carburettors here. I develop septicaemia on the spot, complicated by hysteria of the sweetbreads, trench-foot, flop-bot, black wilt, nose-whistle, marsh gas fever and the vapours.
I had to leave Puerto Montt a little earlier than planned as the hotel was just too grimy and full of parasitic bugs, and not cheap enough to overlook both. The new one's wee but nice, like an 18th century ship's cabin. For a bloody pygmy. No - it's fine.
To call Pims in PV an Irish pub is stretching the concept to not-being-accurate point.
1. It's in Chile - fair enough.
2. The bar staff only speak Spanish. OK.
3. It sells German style Altbier, brewed in Valdivia. Not Guinness. Um.
4. And Mexican and Dutch imports.
5. It's decorated with US license plates. Hang on.
As Pim O'Grady once said, "Begorrah, dude! Ein volk, ein reich!"
A perceptive man - and damn me to heck 'n' back if it wasn't Somerset Maugham - once said that the chief enemy of creativity is the pram in the hall. Tickle me bandy if the same is not also true of the baby in the pub, particularly when I may already have contracted Dropsy due to carburettor problems. *
Budweiser! King Of Beers!
Duncan Norvelle! King Of Stand-Up Comedians!
Egg! King Of Smells!
*does not apply to 4-year-old Scoob freaks in The Bishop
27.2.09. Valdivia, Chile.
I wake up in Puerto Varas at 8.30, so full of beans that a bit of bean-sick almost comes out. It's misty and chillsome, and I've a feeling La Fluffita is only going to give me one cylinder; but I know how to bodge it. I'm right, so I do it, and she runs perfectly out of the 25 mile fog bank and into a 15 degree temperature hike. I'm heading for the bike shop in Valdivia; having communicated with el mecanico (in English) I'm certain he can sort 'er out once and for all.
By 6.30pm the problem that has haunted my dreams and stuck two fingers up at my aspirations has gone away for ever. A stuck choke! That's all it was. The shop is bloody marvellous, but get this - two of them do 3 hours work, and they don't charge me a penny for it! Oh boy. A perfect, shiny (they washed it as well), eager, fast-again, halo-toting, red-white-and-blue dream machine with new Honda oil in it. Honda oil, the colour of a lovely biscuit, or a really nice cup of tea; the colour of a shimmering popsy from a 1970's Ambre Solaire advert. These are the sacred moments! I've also got a massive spotless bathroom in my hotel, and it's a hot Friday night in a bar-encrusted University town. Man Alive! What a crazy scene.
Superb things about Chile, currently #1 in my list of magnificent places (apart from Tokyo, which is, of course, in a special super-league with Zanzibar and Ramsgate Harbour *cough*);
1. The grub. Ceviche Marino is probably the tastiest thing I've ever had in me gob, and I've had some pretty odd things in there. All the seafood is incredible. But how about a huge plate of roast pork (King Of Meats!), mash and gravy in the fireman's cafe for two quid?*
2. The actual, er, land. Endless breath-removing, jaw-unhinging stuff, natch, but the variety is the key. Chile stretches from a cake-slice of Antarctica, via lush, cool green stuff and spooky old Easter Island, to the cactus-throttled Atacama desert. And let's not overlook those kooky mountains!
3. The dames. Skinny blonde ice-maidens they ain't, and all the better for it. Sultry, cow-eyed rumpstrels with a decent heft to 'em - good workers, both out in the field and up in the hayloft.
4. The lack of bitterness towards British citizens engendered by a relatively recent war. To be fair, the same can be said of both Germany and Argentina. (Note to French readers - Agincourt was, like, a hundred years ago.) It helps that - from memory - we haven't had one.
5. There's a man in Chile called Daffodil Frederick. He was on the news!
Imagine if money had pictures of nudie ladies on it. That's how good my bike is now. This week's premier (if slightly antisocial) larf - setting off innumerable car alarms with the rather, ehm, throaty exhaust.
2.3.09. Entre Lagos, Chile.
Me - Hey! Brain! BRAIN! What shall we do this afternoon?
My Brain - Huh?
Me - S'afternoon? Do? What?
My Brain - Uhmmmm. Howzabout we ride a motorbike up a volcano we believe to be active?
Me - Well, you're the brains of the operation, so let's do exactly that.
So off we trundle. Or zip, thanks to La Fluffita's utter gloriousness and perfection. 12 miles of uphill gravel hairpins later, we arrive at a vast, empty ski-lodge with one lonely, mad-eyed staff member. He makes me a decent cup of coffee and lets me smoke where I shouldn't.
Back down the hill and I make a schoolboy error. I say - out loud - the phrase "Mmm. You are the most beautiful, trouble-free moto in Creation. This is all going extremely well". Then the clutch cable snaps. I've got a spare - two in fact - but I'm a bit hazy on how to fit it. 90 minutes of poking, thrusting, screwing and swearing later, it's on, and it works! My choice of routing for the cable is a tadge unorthodox (i.e. wrong and stupid), but it works! Never mind that three-quarters of the old one is still in there and is now zip-tied to my left front indicator. It bloody works!
*-What about the vegetables?
-How about the whoables?
Hot, blue days roll by, spiced by saucy rides along the very, very bike-friendly road to Los Molinos for more piles of seafood and quite a lot of staring at the sea and grinning. Cool black nights fizz away in jazz-sodden El Legado, where the Heineken is frosty and the service isn't.
There's something about Los Molinos... I go there six times in four days. Can't help meself. I've had a few bowls of Paila Marina but the one I have in Los Molinos is beyond language, so here's a picture.
Maicolpue, with it's $8 a night cabin 300 feet above the waves, is far from horrible as well...
16.3.09. Temuco, Chile.
It all starts to seem like a spectacular dream at the moment that C (21 and saucy - remember?) whips out her "Family Guy" downloads, including the one where Peter gets a prostate exam ("He took my innocence..."). I've managed to keep a slippery grip on reality up until then; hey, it's just sexy stuff in a pub with free drinks and BBQ action, right? And secure parking for La Fluffita? What's the big deal? But "Family Guy" in bed, with Trenchtown Lamberts to smooth out the rough edges?
One couldn't hurt.
My mind snaps like a hen's fibula. My eyeballs swivel backwards - I can see my own brain-surface, and it looks like a map of Wyoming. All the bendy bits have straightened out. My hands unfurl from their customary claw-like stance and begin to resemble pink rubber gloves full of warm water. I crap out my skeleton and become a hot pool of flesh and hair. I decide to leave before I trickle down a storm drain. The fact that C is currently applying for a job as a cocktail waitress, and has to learn how to make 50 drinks, and lives in an excellent pub, doesn't make the leaving easier.
Forty easy miles thunder under my last-legs tyres and I'm in Pucon. Probably a month too late for raucous nightlife, but there's some classy motorbikin' to be done in the hinterlands. Waterfalls! Volcanos! Yes, I know - YAWN! - volcanos again. But this one has its own warning system and an evacuation plan. Yipe!
On the road from Pucon to Temuco I spot an unlikely looking sign:
So I nip in for a peek. Erwin's shop is a grotto of rusty pleasures. Enfields old and new, Nortons, Ariels. He's a Brit bike buff, an enthusiast/nerd, and clearly thrilled that someone's stopped just to take photos and stare at his projects.
He says I am "not a proper British man" for choosing a Honda. I can't bring myself to point out that, had I chosen an Enfield, I wouldn't have made it to his shop. Not by March anyway.
20.3.09. Rancagua, Chile.
BLAAAAAAM! Up the Panamericana like a crate of scaffold joints strapped to a goddamn jet engine. However much crap I rope onto this bike, it'll still sit at 80mph all day (traffic conditions permitting). These days I look at the map and think - Oh! Is it only 65 miles to the next place? I want more. Take off all the luggage and it's embarrassingly keen - more, faster, now, overtake everything. Out of my way you pox-caked hag, you tree-wit, you milk-swigging bucket of dog scurf. GET THE SHIT OUT OF MY WAY, YOU PIG-LEGGED PUDDING-MUNCHER!
Here's the "skinny" re sunglasses as of late March 2009. Mirrored Aviators are cool - except when paired with a moustache and/or a sleeveless t-shirt. Yes, muchacho, I'm talking about you.
How often do you get sauced up on booze drinks by accident? Sunday lunchtime, cobalt skies, pavement cafe; I order chicken and chips and nothing to drink. The waiter returns, quick-smart and beaming, with a 2 litre jug of Escudo and no food. What to do? This was supposed to be day 2 of a 2-day water-bender.
But it is a very nice pavement... Oh God, and now look! I've finished that one and ordered another. WILL. I. NEVER. LEARN. ("No" - God).
Exactly how infallible is the Pope? I'm unsure, so let's take a gander at some clues;
1. He was in the Hitler Youth. Well chosen, you Cardinals!
2. A nine-year old girl was recently raped by her uncle. Pope says - no abortion. Abortion happens. Mum - a strict Catholic - is excommunicated, meaning (in fantasy world) that she will spend eternity in Hell.
3. Pope visits Africa. It's a firm "Nope" to condoms as AIDS prevention measure. I'm sure Jesus is applauding that one. And how thrillingly unusual to be told how to have sex, and with whom, and under what circumstances one may have it, by someone who isn't allowed any.
27.3.09. Santiago, Chile.
Having timed my arrival in Santiago to coincide precisely with my birthday - and been out by only a day, idiocy buffs - I sense raucous behaviour on the horizon. The fact that my good pals Drew (who lives here), C (here for a job interview) and John (here photographing Iron Maiden) are all in town increases my disquiet.
Birthday-eve is a fairly simple matter of an ocean of booze and so on.
The day itself ends (at 9am the next day) in an unattractive assault on a NAME OF INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS HOTEL DELETED minibar and a rather coarse disregard for house rules. Rock And Roll Bastards!
I curl my fingers at the very thought, but C takes the bus to Valparaiso as there's no room on my bike. No room at the Inn for the baby Jesus, no room in 1939 Germany for the Jews, no room on Saturday Night Live in 2009 for an actual joke.
Er, anyway, she gets there and we "hook" up with my German pals, Oli and Silke, to watch World Cup qualifiers in La Playa, a tear-wringingly beautiful old-time bar in El Centro. I'd love to watch the England game, but I'm outnumbered by Jerry, and happy to support them as they topple a weak-kneed Wales. I gave up supporting the "home nations" years ago. If you're Scottish, you'll support any team against England. The same goes, to a slightly less fanatical extent, for Wales. If you're from N.I. and you're supporting England, you are weird.
So I find myself supporting Germany for the first time ever. Why not? I like Germany, I like Germans, I like Deutsch, and they play their (somewhat machine- like) football fairly and, er, squarely. My favourite WC Final scenario is England v. Germany and I don't suppose I'm alone. But no, of course I wouldn't support them against, say, Holland!
It's ta-ra to C again - and this time it's for real - and off to Vina Del Mar for a clutch-tweak at the Honda shop and a 72 hour water binge. I hit the tracks on Sunday morning feeling fresher than Miley Cyrus's armpits, and blam the 270 miles to La Serena like a pig corpse off a Dark Ages catapult.
8.4.09. Copiapo, Chile.
You know that song, "Flying Without Wings"? Awful, isn't it? Yet it may, one day, prove to have inspired a motorcycling revolution. I'm talking - as if you haven't guessed - about Riding Without Pants. As a rule, I prefer a loose boxer short, but a long day in the saddle inevitably causes ride-up, pod-snatch and crevice-chafe; so, pondering the implications of a 350 mile ride to Antofagasta tomorrow, it occurs to me that to dispense with a layer of of cotton might yield bum-benefits. I'll keep you informed.
Maintenance news, and I've just been to my 5th Honda garage in Chile in almost as many weeks. Carmona in Copiapo, is, like all the others, friendly and helpful. They correctly spot that I have horribly buggered rear wheel bearings. Tonino in La Serena supplies a new Pirelli MT60 for the rear (not ideal but Continental TKC80's are thin on the ground). Aldante in Vina del Mar sorts out my ludicrously bodged and pathetically adjusted clutch cable, and the Valdivia shop fixed my stuck choke. The other one, in, I think, Puerto Varas, didn't do anything but were very nice about not doing it.
The Atacama Desert! Hot, dry and wild. Except there's a splendid 80mph road running through it. And it's not actually that hot, if you take your jumper off. Dry though!
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