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.
30/12/08. Porvenir, Chile
I have, for the first time ever, done myself up with a Lemmy beard and left the house without removing it. Now that it's here, much like a newborn infant, I don't quite know what to do with it, and I sort of want it to go away. If you are inclined to make personal remarks, you have my email address. I really like Kraftwerk as well you know. And Curtis Mayfield and Meg Baird and Uncle Tupelo* and Barry White and Buffalo Tom and Nick Drake and Midlake. It's not all about the UFO b-sides (not that I've ever even heard a UFO b-side).
Better than Quilmes but bottles too small
*"Still Be Around"; today, no better song exists.
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...
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, I´m 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.
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!
*not attached to an actual ship.
** explication - I fell over on the way out of the whorehouse.
***or "calving", accuracy fans!
4.2.09. Coyhaique, Chile.
Before attempting to ride the Carretera Austral, do make sure you don't want to go to the lavatory even a little bit. The frantic shuddering produced by the washboard road surface will loosen anything you might have been saving for later, and if you have any kind of travel-related upset in the back body, the consequences could be biblical in their ghastliness.
I was thinking just this morning -
"Yipes! I don't think these motorcycle trousers, unwashed in 8000 kilometers, could smell any more loathsome; leastways, not unless I actually did a shit in them".
Calm yourself - I didn't. But I nearly might have.
Spot the horse. At least, I think that was his name.
What sort of pub, do you imagine, would play an entire Roxette CD, hitting repeat on one or two of the more listless, dead-eyed hit singles?
Do you suppose it might be the Dolt And Fishwife in Coyhaique?
Or The Old Bag, just up the road, where an entire Sheena Easton CD is a regular offering.
Never mind that. An hour afterwards, H.* saunters up, and an hour after that, some playful arm-touching suggests that a snog - or worse - might be in the offing.
And by 2am we're up a dark alley fiddling about with things that really shouldn't concern us. As is frequently the way with the modern woman, however, she wrinkles her nose at the idea of being rogered in a hedge.
"Leave orf!" she squeals. "What sort of a gel d'you tike me for?"
I rather thought we had established what sort of a girl she was, but never mind. Huzzah for Coyhaique, and the ladies of Chile in general!
For several examples of taxidermy at its most divertingly ham-fisted, visit Coyhaique's Municipal Museum. There's a condor tied to a stick, which is OK, but it's next to a duck, detracting a little bit from the majesty. Don't miss the owl, which was clearly stuffed by an angry, hungry, randy chimpanzee.
My other favourite thing about Britain - and, for smokers, it's international, so stick with me as long as you can bear - is the distinction, in terms of cigarette packaging, between the knickers - the lower, bigger section of cellophane on the outside of a new cig packet, and the bra - the top bit, separated from the knickers by a thin pull-off strip. With a soft-pack, one would remove the bra but generally leave the knickers on, for safety, whereas with a hard-pack or box, knickers-off is (for my money) the way to go.
These days, however, smokers are faced with a new issue - how to ignore the disgusting Health Ministry photo on the front of the packet.
So just today, I have come up with a solution.
1) Remove the bra, keeping the knickers firmly in place.
2) Fold the silver foil piece (inside the pack, covering up the cigs) in half.
3) Tuck into the knickers as shown.
4) Smoke away!
*No, not H from Steps
15.2.09. Castro, Chiloe, Chile.
English people over the age of about 35 (at least the ones I like) learnt the hard way that they had to drink the required number of pints by 11pm, during the dark but character-building days of 5.30pm opening times. Peer pressure, reinforced by the "round" system ("Come on you big lady! It's your turn to go to the bra!") means that all worthwhile adults will finish a pint in no more than 25 minutes; and that, once you have decided that tonight is pub night, you want to go at 6pm.
In foreign-land, of course, it's sometimes necessary to adjust your lager clock. Very few actual pubs in these parts are open before 7pm. Ruperto's in Puerto Natales was locked up tight every night until a panic-inducing 9pm (open until 4am though, gutter-dwellers). Some places, like the otherwise-perfect Piel Roja in Coyhaique, don't open at all on Sunday. *tremble*
Grins ahoy, then, in fabulous Castro, on the rainy/sunny/rainy island of Chiloe, where Ottoschop is open by 5.30 on a Sunday, and one may be pretty damn sure that one is not going to be ejected at 10.30pm.
I *heart* Castro. The whole island is a wee bit like Cornwall (fishing villages, brightly-hued boats etc) and a lot like nowhere else (Curanto is a steaming bowl of shellfish, fish, pork, beef, chicken and lamb, all smoked*).
Arriving here yesterday and pootling around town in search of a hotel, a dusty old BMW R100 with UK plates pulls up next to me. It's Richard, last seen in Viedma 9 weeks ago. Tea and smokes at his riverside cabin are in order, and, later, fine wines and seafood at the harbour. Brilliant.
My physical and mental well-being are now directly linked to the mechanical health of La Fluffita. A misfire gives me a mild cardiac spasm; losing one cylinder genuinely gave me earache. For the last 2 days she's been perfect, and I'm as happy as a pig called Larry floating in a stinking ocean of faeces.
You may well never have suffered from a dried-out uvula. You don't look the type.
It's a shocker. It's caused by falling asleep, mouth agape, with big headphones on, (preventing you from turning onto your side) and snoring like an ox. The squishy bit in question swells up and dries out, and when you wake up you think "Oh my! I've shitted my throat up! I'm not swallowing right; I may die imminently."
It's never happened to me before, and after 15 minutes of body horror I grab the bull by the ring and go back to sleep. When I wake it's all fine. A wet uvula is a good uvula. I gaze upwards at the Sunday morning rain clattering off the skylight and spark up a Lucky in celebration.
If you don't know what a(n) uvula is, be sure to spell it right when you do a Google images search. Or, you know, don't.
We've established,I hope you'll agree, that Chiloe is an island, and therefore that a ferry trip or similar is required. The options from Coyhaique are;
1. 250 miles of rocky gravel and roadworks (involving dynamite) to volcano-stricken Chaiten, and then a 3 hour ferry.
2. 50 miles of tarmac to Chacabuco and a 23 hour ferry.
The bike's on-and-off problem rules out option one, so I spend a night in a wobbly hotel in Chacabuco, badly, painfully smitten by the most bang-on, blue-black-haired, big-eyed Betty I think I've ever seen. I believe I had a dream about her, during which we got married, when I was 13. She's so head-bendingly fabulous that even to think about her now, in this bar, constitutes a Venial Sin in the eyes of Our Lord. Oh! My trousers! I must do penance. I will offer my Chum-smeared hands to the local devil dogs, having spatchcocked myself over a municipal waste-basket. Just as soon as I've finished my Cristal.
So anyway, the promised 23 hours becomes 40. It stops everywhere in the world and it only serves machine Nescafe and ham and cheese buns, of which I eat 13. By hour 29, one could cut the boredom with a spoon. Dismay crackles through the stale air of the "dining" room like tired, seasick electricity.
36 hours in, and 13 hours late, we arrive. Oh joy! Except those of us with vehicles are told to wait another 4 hours before we can de-boat the fuckers. And the bun shop is shut, meaning no water to drink. (Did I mention there were no alcohol or fags on sale on the boat?) It's a slight kick in the teeth, then, when I finally make it to the hotel at 3am, ask hoarsely for a glass of water, and am refused. Did I mention that the toilets didn't flush 85% of the time? Must get that in.
Not all good then. But in fact most of the actual boating is fantastic. We chug past misty mountains, islands, villages that are linked to the rest of the country only by ferry (Gawd 'elp 'em), and gradually the brain-splattering size of Chile becomes clear.
It's a great journey - just don't swallow everything you're told by Naviera Austral before you clamber aboard. Luckily the northern ferry off the island is only 20 minutes. Or is it? Perhaps it is. Or is it?**
John and Dermot: 75 year old Dubliners, in Chile on a "fishing" (read: swigging) trip. My Ghod you're good lads. Viable candidates for the position of grandfathers to Remington and Ronson, should that unlikely situation ever arise.
Ooooh ahhhgghh *snort* nnngh *cluck* mmmfff.
Alicia Keys/Jack White:
Bloody great, utterly appropriate and sexy as owt, apart from the crap bit in the middle. What gives?
*slightly more unpleasant than it sounds
**"Or is it?" gag courtesy of A Bit Of Fry And Laurie, BBC, 1992-ish
Sorry, sorry, sorry about the title... but last night I'm sitting all on me lonesome in Ottoschop, and around the nine-ish mark two lovelies bowl in and order a 2.5 litre tower-jug of Kunstmann. They're already tight-ish from an afternoon at the cider festival, and - heavens be praised - one of 'em beckons. I come at a running crouch, panting like a happy, soppy puppy. Anyway, the "blonde" one (it's actually quite tricky to dye jet-black hair blonde) to whom I have no option but to refer as H2, gets all silly, which is great because I'm already quite silly, and a while later there's lovely, lovely kissing in the car park. Nnnngghh.
(I toyed with the idea of calling this bit "Fiddle Castro" so think y'self lucky.)
So, as I write;
1. Arsenal are 2-0 up;
2. My new tenants are moving in tomorrow;
3. I've just got an email from C, telling me to meet her in her mum's pub in Valdivia, for, I suspect, more kissing;
4. I'm in a pub.
I am a Golden God! Kneel before me and tremble, lest I smite you! Cos if I smite you, you'll know you've been smoten to.
My personal Arsenal results text-message service - Geoff from Champs in Ghana - tells me it's 4-0 Arsenal at full time. So yeah, it was "only" Cardiff, but get this - a year ago, Eduardo, our new golden boy, had his ankle smashed in the most sickening, career-ending fashion. Today was his first day back at work. He scored twice. There is a God. OK - there isn't, but you get what I mean, isn't it.
If you're reading this Geoff, mines a Star! And gerruz a packet of 555's while you're up there!
What's the worst song in the world? I invite your suggestions, but I'm going to tell you what it is anyway. It's Dire Straits' "Walk Of Life".
-It sucks the final, gritty dump out of a roadkill hedgehog's flattened ringpiece.
-It smears itself in its own hot waste and runs up and down Guildford high street shouting "Look at me! I am a total, total cunt!"
-It is Hitler, naked, aroused, and waiting for you in bed.
-It is a plate of fried aubergines (shudder) drizzled in seal piss.
-It can, quite literally, fuck off and die, today, tomorrow, next week.
-It is the most helpless, love-starved masturbator in Christendom.
-It is the Dalek in the bathroom.
-It is the moment in 1789 when you realize you're looking up from a gore-soaked basket in Paris at your own squirting neck.
-It is closing time on Sunday night, and Monday morning's bleeping sod of an alarm clock, squashed into three asinine minutes.
-It is Glen Quagmire rummaging around in your new girlfriend.
-It is fried bastards with grated carrot.
-It is a cheque for £0.00 from British Gas, stapled to a bill for £872.25.
-It is five years of nun glares.
It is on every jukebox in every pub in every country in the world, and you will never, ever, be free of it.
19/2/09. Puerto Montt, Chile.
Claws and so on. Do you see? And *slaver* they're dizzyingly good. I imagine I could eat just crab, three times a day, for - let's see - two months. The "starter" shown is three quid, comes with a great potato salad and turns the main course into a dreadfully base and uncivilized exercise in ramming excess food into an unwilling pouch. Luckily, I never eat pudding, believing it to be a wholly amoral course created for milksops and cowards; the weak-willed billions that choke the planet like duckweed on the village pond. People like you, Naz. Only jokin' mate!
I am, quite literally, walking on sunshine, as Katrina And Her Waves put it so conclusively in the otherwise-forgettable 1980's. There are enough superb things about Chile to keep a typical human amused, astounded and agog for hours on end. I seem to recall that we've touched on the seafood. The landscapes are OK as well, if you like mountains and water and that. The people are polite, like English people,* and friendly like Japanese people, but even more, well, smiley. I bought a crappy ham roll in a tatty little supermarket in Ancud this morning, and the wattage of the checkout lady's grin nearly took my bloody eyelids off.
The ferry ride from (near) Ancud to (near) Puerto Montt restored some of my faith in that most glamourless of boats as a viable means of getting about. The sun shone for the first time in three days (not enough to dry my helmet out though; a wet uvula is lovely, a damp helmet rarely so); seals - actual bloody seals! - gambolled in the bin-bag-dark sea below us, and the whole thing was over in 30 beautiful minutes, from queue-jump to super-quick offload.
So here we are in the OK Corral in PM, and so far so good. It's a triple-height lager barn serving up 1GBP pints of Cristal and 80´s greats on the video jukebox. Unless it's between 7 and 9pm, in which case the Crissies are... 50p!
A fellow could wander astray under such provocation. Thank heavens for the gift of willpower. I do hope it's not open all day, every day. Eh? What's that? It is? Well, we'll just have to see what happens, won't we?
The sunshine-ness of my present walking, as noted briefly above, has quite a lot to do with La Fluffita's current mechanical faultlessness. I see on my globe that Puerto Varas, and the Honda shop, are a pathetic 12 miles away. At this rate I'm going to arrive there with a bike that's in perfect working order, which will mean having to explain, in Spanish, what the problem was. Like, dilemma city!
(Since the velcro was torn off me sheepskin by the wind on Ruta 40, the name "Fluffita" has become inaccurate as well as gruesomely twee. Still, press on regardless.)
Talking of gruesome tweeness, Kylie and Jason's "Especially For You" is a great song, isn't it? And isn't Kylie gawjuss? Then and now?
*fuck off are we!
21.2.09. Puerto Montt, Chile
This is how it begins...
And this, more often than not, is how it ends...
James here is a marvellous cove from somewhere called California. On our second night at the OK Corral I'm impressed and delighted to note that he's adopted the "foil in the knickers" trick. Look!
Left - my fags. At right - James's fags.
It's the new sensation that's sweeping the nation, a bit.
After a couple of hours we're joined by two members of Chile's drunk community. James declines their somewhat untempting opening offer of "a fight", and, shortly, with a degree of predictability, they become our Besht Matesh.
Presently we tire of their company, fascinating though it is to listen to someone saying "er..." hundreds of times, and we escape to a spot that turns out to be a shade more tawdry than either of us are used to.
We're charged six pounds for two impudently small cans of Cristal, and almost immediately sat on by two podgy, glum-faced bawds, who suggest we might like to buy them some drinks. It visibly bemuses them to discover that we wouldn't. It is, in all probability, time the four of us went home to our respective beds, to reflect upon the events of the day.
Earlier in the afternoon, I decide to help an old lady across the street, having watched her standing at the kerb for fully five minutes. As I take her arm, she begins to shriek at me and point at taxis, so I hail one for her. The ferocity of her yelling intensifies. The cab driver takes fright and scoots.
I inspect the old lady a little more closely. Her face resembles a number of root vegetables or tubers, but none so much as a King Edward potato; a phenomenon accented by the soil which adheres to its surface. It dawns on me that she is actually both tramp and textbook loon. I leg it. Good deeds? Stuff 'em!
I don't know about you, but I'd love to see Penelope Cruz's Volver. Eh? Hmm? Dooble top to finish! Do you see?
Here, in the absence of anything funny, is a list of my current favourite words, with a brief explanation where necessary.
2. Motorbike. Or, as my startlingly intelligent and unusually good-looking 4 year old nephew would have it, "Attabike! Attabike!", a phrase I use regularly while actually riding one. Try it today!
3. Wang. "Don't worry baby - it's just my wang." - Glenn Quagmire, 2008.
4. Clematis. As in "Ooh, my clematis looks awfully dry!"
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!
10.4.09 Antofagasta, Chile
The great thing about Chile - and Britain - is that you're never too far from the sea. I break my personal trail-bike distance record today and spurt 350 sun-soaked, but relatively cool miles through the Atacama. An eleven mile detour to the left takes me to the coast and Antofagasta.
(Sorry if you're one of those "Iron Butt" fellows, but 350 miles on an Africa Twin saddle is a good 75 more than I want to repeat in a hurry. I have done about 450 on a far more comfortable CB1000 seat, but you people that do 1000 miles in a day want your brains looking at. You really do.)
It's salty-humid, nice after the eye-drying aridity of the desert, and the hotel's a peach at 15GBP. Wally's Pub beckons. I grab a seat at the bar and am engaged in conversation by a person who would appear to be Penelope Cruz's younger, more ectomorphic sister. So you like the rock music? And playing poker? No, actually, I'm not married - and hey! I like to play the guitar as well! What's that now? Do I like Chilean "womans"? Yes indeedy! I surely do! You absolute Goddess. May I prostrate myself, that you may do with me as you see fit?
This sort of interplay goes on for a full 90 minutes, after which she bungs the phrase "my boyfriend" into the conversation. I grin bleakly and leave as soon as is polite, i.e. the second I've finished my Cristal. Women - 1. Me - 0 (aggregate). Perhaps the fact that she's a 20 year old student PE teacher, and I'm a 43 year old holiday-monkey should have alerted me to my imminent shooting-down-in-flames, but when she came back all sweaty from running up that hill to buy me some fags, something gave way in my brain-stem. Did I want to lurch over the bar and suck the salty beads from her golden forehead? Well, yes, I'm rather afraid I did. But now I'm glad I didn't.
I wake up the next morning and it's Friday; and due to the Pope's irritating insistence on changing the date of Easter every year, it's Good Friday. It's a scam of course to get four days off work. If it was Good Tuesday and Jesus hadn't risen from the grave until the following Monday, I doubt we'd get a full week off.
So, today, Antofagasta is a ghost town. Eventually I find an ice-cream/burger shop open for breakfast, but they're showing a sub-Robert Powell TV movie of the life of Christ, so no-one's going to hell. Except me - and even I'm not, because there isn't one! (Leave it now- Ed.)
Aimless afternoon wandering around the city... I like it! Even empty. And by 7pm things start lighting up. Hello Bundeschop, a stripped-down beer 'n' fag house on the main drag. A comfy booth in a place that sells only draught beer and cigs is not to be sniffed at. It's full by 7.30 - unusual in Chile - and the vibes are good.
No poncing about with wine, spirits, mixers or food - just tables, waitresses and beer! Delicious yellow love-water. And The Police and Bob Marley on the jukebox - until I locate the Cannibal Corpse CD. (Not really. I quite like CC but I don't ever really want to listen to them).
What do you think Joey Tempest (real name - Otto von Hottlebottle) is doing now? I think he's doing a poo and having a bit of a cry, in a horrid truck-stop lavatory on the Spitzbergen ring road, and reaching for his crumpled Cindy Crawford special edition of Wunder Femal . But he's probably in the Bahamas.
Ugliest band ever? There's only one contender, and it's the Bee Gees of course. Best hair ever? The number 2 spot goes to Ray Manzarek off of the Doors; but top billing belongs to the MC5's Rob Tyner. God hair!
I haven't been hugely taken with Latino pop music. I think the problem is that it tries to pretend it's your sensitive, borderline-gay friend (and it's assuming you're a lady); whereas African music waves its tallywhacker in your face and demands to see your bottom. And that's better.
Film Review Section.
Pay It Forward, 2000
Beady-eyed cry-baby Hayley Joel Osment continues to disgust right up until the moment he gets stabbed to death.
Five Stars. For the bit where he gets stabbed.
Talladega Nights, 2006
What a load of sh... hang on! This is hilarious!
Blades Of Glory, 2007
God! This is bound to be fu... Oh! It's hilarious!
Sad news this week. Butterfield Harmer III, star of some of California's highest-grossing adult movies, has been found dead in a ditch outside San Diego at 41. It seems his brain had partially crystallized due to his insatiable appetite for recreational powders, and that one of his kidneys had migrated north into a lung out of fear, and that one of his toes had developed rudimentary lips, but hey! Butt Harmer! We salute you. *weeps openly*
16.4.09 Iquique, Chile.
San Pedro de Atacama is set in the sort of surroundings that the kind of people that describe things as "deeply spiritual" would describe as "like, rahlly rahlly spiritual". I don't want to upset anyone's moral apple-cart, or indeed cause you to wince in horrified embarrassment, but my abiding memory of the (justifiable) tourist-magnet that is SPDA will be the enactment, under a trillion twinkling stars and the misty majesty of the Milky Way, of several acts of gross indecency with a local hotel employee. Horse-frighteners all, leaving us both with sand in places sand should never venture. May God have mercy on our souls. And a big "sorry, pal" to the guy that lets us into my hotel room in his PJ's at 5am.
It's not my fault anyway - Alex (Canada to Buenos Aires on a 25 year old Suzuki) introduces me to a group of organized-tour-bikers, and it's Mike from that lot who invites the gals over to our table. Add multiple Cristals and some horrible tequila to the equation, and dreadfulness can't be far behind.
A warmth-free hug and a terse "bye then" at checkout time, and I'm running free (yeah), 60 badly hung-over miles across the desert to a horribly expensive 4 star hotel in Calama - what a treat! - just in time for the Arsenal-Villareal game, on my big telly, in my big-bathroomed big room, with a big bottle of icy water and quite a big grin on my lucky little chops.
26.4.09. Arica, Chile.
So! Bolivia tomorrow. It's a real thrill to be heading for a spangly, box-fresh country. The deal with Bolivia - I'm told - is that the traffic cops will stop you, invent an infraction, take your driving licence and send you off to the nearest cash machine so you can return with the "fine". To thwart this scheme, one enters Bolivia with several laminated colour copies of one's licence, allowing one to hand them over at the roadside and skedaddle, raising a mental middle finger to the corrupt officials in question, never to return. I've just had five copies made, and the price, including 40 Lucky Strikes, came to about 8 quid. If all Bolivian traffic cops are effectively Helen Keller with an IQ of 50, I should be OK.
All these corruption warnings remind me of going to Nigeria - which was about as corrupt as Norway - but I do feel slightly more prepared now. Arica is the Last Town in Chile: from here it's either Peru or Bolivia. I've had nothing but smiles from cops in Argentina and Chile but surely that can't go on, up north, indefinitely?
I'm not going to mention the European biker I met in Iquique who, having been to South Africa in the 80's*, now openly expresses his opinion that SA was "better off" under Apartheid. No sir! Not even going to allude to the nasty little fuck. Francisco (English/Chilean) and I were a marker pen away from daubing his bike with swastikas after a night on the Crissies, but we didn't, and so there's no need to bring the sickening, racist little turd up ever again.
Francisco (Jewish) was forced to share a room with the rotten, toxic, hate-filled little bastard for several nights, and well done him for not throttling the ghastly, bigoted, near-teetotal, short-shorts-sporting, emetic little goat's anus. I shall not be referring to him here or anywhere else. Good day to you sir! You grisly little freak.
*Never since then and never anywhere else in Africa
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