I thought it impossible to find a place with more mullets than Argentina. Then again, I had never been to Chile. Here the mullet has assumed forms with which I was previously familiar - my favorite being the ¨Fractional Mullet¨ that I saw in the central plaza this morning. Not finding the traditional mullet adequately laughable, one fine lad today sheared off two thirds of his Kentucky Waterfall to leave but a small wispy portion wavering from his rear right quarterpanel. I bet he´s an ace with the ladies.
I have little to write about this last week. Aside from some hiking up in the Valley of the Moon, nearly all my time was spent touring wineries. The Valley of the Moon was like being on the moon, or so they say. While on a guided tour through one part of the park, the khaki-clad guide quipped that ¨Your Neil Armstrong might have actually been walking here, hey?¨. He had probably told this pseudo-joke 500 times, and he took note of the ¨I got it¨ nods from the other visitors - mostly Japanese and Germans. I was the only American, and since I didn´t laugh he approached me and nudged me in the belly, ¨You know, your astronaut...who walked on the moon?¨ Hee. Hee.
In contrast to Napa Valley, only a handful of wineries in the gorgeous valleys around Mendoza charge a tasting fee. And since the harvest season here is not until March, I was often the only person at each vineyard. The majority wanted prior reservations, but the security guard at each winery´s respective gate found the pleadings of a stammering foreign moron sitting on an extremely dirty motorcycle sufficient for entry. Ohhhh, and the wine flowed...like wine.
The flagship of the Argentinian wine industry is the Malbec grape, and it is a tasty varietal indeed. My teeth were stained purple all week. And despite the fact that it was clearly a bad idea, I started to buy a few bottles. I scarcely had room on the bike for anything else. So why did I buy 60 bottles of wine? Because it was delicious and because it was cheap. 48 bottles are now on a boat bound for the States, 10 I somehow lashed to the motorcycle, and two I drank the night before I left with Antonio, the night clerk at my ratty hotel, and his friend Armando with the broken foot.
The drive to Chile was without the greatest border crossing of my life, as it winds and whirls through the Andes at dizzying heights. Had the wind not nearly blown me over on several occasions and thrown sand into my eyes (the visor on my helmet was lashed off my helmet by a monstrous gust provided by a semi that zipped by in the other direction), it would have been even more enjoyable. Near the road´s apex it passed just south of Aconcagua, which at 22,831 feet did not seem real. Then it was an incredibly long tunnel through a mountain and into Chile.
Chile is all business when it comes to customs. It took about two hours to complete the border formalities. Thankfully I asked if there would be a problem if I left the motorcycle in Santiago for a few weeks while I went home for the holidays. ¨Yes, it is a problem!¨
I needed to find someone to ¨take responsibility for the motorcycle¨ while I was out of the country. This invariably involved lots of stamps and ate up the better part of an afternoon. My savior was a man known as ¨The Bear¨, a friend of my brother-in-law who worked in the embassy here in Chile for two years. The Bear now has my bike and stinky sandals at his apartment, and I won´t be surprised to find the sandals outside with the motorcycle when I return on account of the foul stench.
Other than that, I´m just waiting for my plane. I´ve got two cheap Chinese suitcases (one of them pink) full of motorcycle parts, clothes, and wine that I want to get rid of. I haven´t seen my family, my friends, or my girlfriend since July, so this will be a welcome break.
Merry Christmas and Yuletide Cheer to you all.
Bonus quote: ¨Stansfield?¨ ¨At your service.¨ ¨This is from...Mathilda.¨