Early start. Over the Andes. Skip breakfast to get moving. Touristy San Pedro de Atacama has the last gas station in Chile. I ask around for the distance to the next fuel. It is either 200 km, 400 km, or “Far. Very far”. Best carry some spare. Spend my lunch hour failing to find gerrycans. Thankfully, the improvising overlander alternative is all around. Big plastic pop bottles. Where are these useful empty containers Simon? Why they are in the rubbish bins.
I tour the skips all over town. One of my finest hours. How do you explain to the well-healed blond North American families that climbing through the stinking midday rubbish for coke bottles in full biking gear is part of a great adventure? Much better than being a common tourist. “No, no, it is a great way to travel”.MORE...
Every tale needs an ending. Mine is biological.
I am having aluminium boxes made (again) in Viedma, southern Argentina, when an email arrives from Europe. Rachel has just got back after a tough trip down the pan-American highway - weeks of gravel roads, camping rough and being blown off her bike. There’s some big news.
Photo by Lois
Unknown to us, cells had been dividing all the way down the left side of the continent, and back up the right. Spliting, multiplying, making something new. Supposedly one-up on that jaunt, it looks like we had underestimated the KLR’s carrying capacity.
She’d just seen a doctor she says, and nothing now can stop her (or she would if she followed 1970s English pop music closely enough). You make your bed, you have to lie in it. We’d been tucking in northern Mexico a bed of mountain highs, and deep damp valleys.
So tra la la. Fatherhood.
It seemed right for me. Four years of road is quite enough. Too many “yes, all the way”; “six hundred cc” and “about the same as a small car”. Too many random menu meals. Too much black snot and fear around the corner. The life of a rootless rep, only without the expense account. I was pleased to have a reason to end. A good one. Africa will wait.
The night before my home flight saw me up on a Uruguay border selling the Kawasaki and riding wide-open back to Buenos Aires through the freezing autumn night. Bed at one a.m. shivering, making lists that will be forgotten by morning.
Start up again at six to wash the motorcycle ready for transit. Ride to the port. Get lost in the barrios. The street kids intrigued. Friendly. But I don’t stop for directions. Late at the exporter’s office. Smiles and paperwork. Part-dismantle the bike for the crate. Taxi back across the city. Pack. Pay the rent. Taxi to the airport. Get on the plane at midday sweaty and smelly, looking forwards to a gentle month in England of anticipation and tiny purchases. Exhausted.
After a breathless Argentine morning and twelve hours over the Atlantic, London has only reached mid-afternoon. Warm and welcoming, the city is relaxing into spring, its untended corners blooming and fecund. Sometimes lovely things come along without planning.
Rachel is well. We chat the day away. I feel the bump. It wriggles. I make pasta for the evening and am happily bellyful by bedtime. I am the only one. Pacing: ”This is it. He is coming”. A true traveller abides by no schedule - although they are invariably late, not a month early.
His hardest journey to date. Due south.
Newham maternity is a suitably international environment for the long 15cm trip. I lose track of time among the white-coated strangers and souless neon. A long grey body is pulled out early on May 21st. Relief: tears.
Foxes are playing tag outside, gleefully chasing tails and calling names. The morning light gives its permission, pale and full of promise. It is a new day. And a new journey.
His name is Patrick. He has a lust for life and a ready laugh. Favourite pastimes: reading the atlas and listening to the hoover. The small motor seems to give him comfort.
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