Tuesday, May 19, 2009

And now, our main stories again...

I'm off to the airport in about 2 hours. I'm sitting here trying to think how to do this next bit, wondering if the slight sniffle I seem to have developed is the on-set of swine flu or just second hand germs from the pungent dutch teenagers that have been coughing and hacking around the hostal in their unwashed feet since yesterday afternoon, and whether the slight nausea I'm feeling is due to the reheated chinese noodles I've just eaten, or a physical response to the confused feelings I have about leaving.

Part of me is longing to get home (both to the UK and NZ) and back to some kind of normality, but equally I know that it will be most likely years before I get to do a trip like this again, if ever, and I'm not sure how I feel about that. I can't imagine never coming back to South America, that's for sure, but how and when are baffling me at the moment. I think I will probably shed a tear as the plane takes off. A tough, macho tear, obviously, but a tear nonetheless.

Maybe I should start by remembering the things I won't miss. For example, buttock cramps caused by 11 hours in the saddle; wind so cold in my face that my eyeballs stop working properly and seeing things clearly becomes nigh impossible; the smell of pee in the streets, thanks to the locals' indifference to public urination at any time of the day or night: when you gotta go, you gotta go is their philosophy; suicidal / kamikaze bus drivers - it amounts to the same thing; the moment of complete certainty that I am about to fall off again, and the accompanying knowledge that it is really going to hurt, but the uncertainty of just how much; the anxiousness I always felt in the days leading up to a "new country" and the unknown (although discovering the anxiousness was unfounded was always a plus); and now I'm struggling to think of more. Which is surely a good thing.

On a more positive note, I have so many good memories, many of which I have already shared, and trying to re-cap them all here, whether for my benefit or yours, would be impossible. I guess they fall in to different categories (not sure how many yet), including places, people, activities, and so on. So, in an effort to get things moving and in roughly the order they occured, but certainly not in any order of preference, some of the most memorable moments would have to include the following:

The first crossing of the Andes, in the snow; running out of road and in to the construction crew trying to get to San Agustín; meeting Juan Manuel and his family in Chepes on account of my bent handle bars; Camping at Capilla del Montt; the ride into and then the walk across the river to Salta de Moconá; the waterfalls at Iguacú; the mountain top in Parque Naçional Marumbí; a surreal night out on our way up the coast in Brasil; Rio; Sandro and Ximena in Buenos Aires; Jorje in Azul; General la Madrid and the motorbike rally; Peninsula Valdez and the whales; crossing in to Ushuaia with Rich, and reaching the southern most point of our trip; setting off up Ruta 40 for my first solo mission; the ride from Puerto Ibañez to Coihaique and then on to Puerto Chacabucco; El Bolsón; the ride north from Bariloche to Mendoza; crossing our first high altitude pass; camping on the volcano on the Salar de Uyuni; the mines in Potosi; 2 weeks in the jungle, even with the mozzies; Cusco and Bruce Peru and the kids I got to know there; the solo mission through the Cordillera Blancas; the Galapagos Islands.

What this woefully incomplete list fails to mention, apart from a couple of notable exceptions, are the people I met on the way, tourists and locals alike. Despite my own misgivings, coupled with numerous warnings (largely from people who had never been here, it has to be said), all my fears about the dishonest, dangerous folk who roam the countries of South America robbing and beating foreigners have been proved to be false. Of course, we didn't get into every nook and cranny, but we did pretty well, and in all that time never met a corrupt cop or dicey customs official, were welcomed with smiles and help wherever we went, and I for one have been left with the idea that South America has a reputation it does not deserve. I suspect the victims of all this alledged crime and violence would, in another place, be up for a Darwin award. Common sense keeps you safe, and without that you will fall foul of criminal mindermasts in any place on earth. I have felt far more unsafe in parts of NZ than I did in the vast majority of South America, and that includes Rio!

So, coming back on task a little, a huge thank you to everyone I met here who helped us in some way, with with directions, mechanical assistance, food, beer or fun. If we never meet again, it will be a shame, but if (when) I come back, I will be in touch. And, of course, there is a standing invitation to you, should you make it to NZ at any point.

2 days later...

I'm back in the UK now, and have just re-read the above. I think I'll publish this one now to keep the poor folks happy, and pick up the thread later when I have adjusted back into the real world a bit. In the mean time, I may try and add a few photos to some of the blogs, so feel free to take a look at the back-catalogue. And just in case we don't talk again, its been a pleasure, and thanks for keeping me company along the way.


James H said...

It was a great read! Thanks for putting the time into writing about the trip in so much detail :-)

ed said...

...I'm welling-up here. What the heck am I gonna read to fill the afternoon slot now??

Delighted you've been there done that, and got away with it. Great work, bro.

See you soon then!