Monday, February 26, 2007

Desolate Jones On Line Three

Gobernador Gregores, Argentina
Collector of clay leprechauns. Accomplished jazz harpsichordist. Designer of the arcade game ¨Streetfighter¨. Ruthless dictator. Augusto ¨Clap Your Hands Say Yeah¨ Pinochet was all of these things and more. During his time at the helm of the Chilean state, Pinochet always seemed to be on the make - or, before his recent death, on the run...from the persistent hands of justice. But among his many achievements - or at least one of the things achieved while he was in power that he signed his name to - was the construction of the ¨Carretera Austral¨, or Austral Highway.
Now before your mind conjures an image of cruising down a plush four-lane highway with your arm out the window, some classic rock on the radio, and your blinker signalling your impending exit to stop in at a PDQ because you´re jonesing for a lemon slushee, let me assure you that the Carreterra Austral is a highway in only the loosest sense of the word. It´s more like the long, rocky driveway of that weird neighbor of yours that never bothered to have it know, the guy that hands out pencil erasers for Halloween and sometimes sits on his roof in the morning drinking Mellow Yellow out of a rubber glove. No?
What the Carretera Austral did accomplish was to bring some semblance of infrastructure to a portion of the most distant and uninhabited sections of Chilean Patagonia. It is an area rich in rugged natural beauty and vexing contrasts. Indeed, for those willing to endure the poor condition of its roads, careless driving methods of its users, and lack of creature comforts, it can be quite an unexpected treasure trove.
The Carretera officially starts outside of the fishing city of Puerto Montt and winds some 700 miles south - connected at points only by ferries - until it dead ends near a group of huge, impassable ice fields at a dusty little town called Villa O´Higgins. I entered the route after my rafting escapades in Futaleufú, though I was sapped of any inclination of riding it through to the end by each rut and stone in the road. El Jugoso was calling for sweet mercy, too, having surrendered one of two bolts from the seat, one of two from the gas tank, two of two from the exhaust pipe, and almost one of four from the subframe (which, as you remember, was what caused Neubz´s bike to literally break in half in Bolivia) to the merciless hammering of the road. After eight days of being jolted around my body started to feel like it had been put in a rock tumbler, so I shimmied back east by way of Chile Chico to Argentina, which is where I am now.
Early in the voyage down the Carretera I had the sterling fortune to encounter a couple of hilarious motorcyclists, Camilo and Paul (on a Suzuki 650 and Honda XR250) from Santiago, who were heading in the same direction. We stuck together for a week, taking in the sights, meeting a string of interesting locals, and partaking of some of the deluxe accomodations afforded the budget traveller along the way. One such ¨hospedaje¨ (essentially someone renting out a portion of his or her house) was run by a cantankerous, portly hag that reminded me of one of the wicked sisters in the book, ¨James and the Giant Peach¨, except that she had liberally applied some sort of silver rock star makeup around her eyes and hated Israelis. Drama was consequently always in the air. We also encountered some kindly backwoods folks that made their own tasty cheese in old paint cans and who apparently were not in short supply of sweat pants and other leisure wear. The list goes on, but suffice it to say that remote areas of the world are seemingly always disproportionately flush in odd characters, and that the back roads of the Carretera Austral possess remoteness in spades.
The road was typically flanked on both sides by either thick coniferous forest or - somehow - lush rainforest. Given, if it wasn´t raining, it at least looked like it would rain, so precipitation was not the issue. But it was windy and none too warm, so I don´t know how some of the vegetation could survive. Consfusing but delightful, too, was how every little town was lined with flourishing rose trees exploding in a whole spectrum of colors. In addition to the to flora, the road was nearly always shadowed by the mountains of the southern Cordillera, including at one point the impossibly spindly towers of the Cerro Castillo.
And, if you haven`t guessed, I`m getting pretty far south now. This means ice, and lots of it. Several of the mountains had hulking glaciers draped over their crests like quilt racks, and the compactness of the ice gave it a deep blue like I had never seen before. At one point we had the opportunity to hire a guide to take us out onto the sprawling mass of the titanic Glacier Exploradores for a day. Exploring its luminescently cerulean caverns, walking along its bottomless and echo-friendly crevasses, and simply running up its steep ridges with a pair of rusty crimpons was one of the highlights of the trip, and I struggle to describe its vastness and majesty in words.
Departing the Carretera Austral took me along Lake Carrera, whose bright azul waters looked to have been Photoshopped in from an Acapulco postcard. The road was full of ¨twisties¨ with constantly changing views of the mountains and water - without question one of the best roads of the past seven months.
But not everything has been empanadas and roses. The teeth on my rear sprocket have worn about as thin as the lead singer of The Black Crowes, and I drive each day wondering when it will finally give up the ghost. I had hoped that getting back to Argentina would be the harbinger of civilization, but if anything it is even more desolate and disconnected from the world than was the other side of the Andes. Rainforests and mountains have given way to endless desert dotted with sparse patches of scrub brush. Towns - if there are any - are more like depressed little settlements with a gas station. In the case of Bajo Carracoles (population 37), the last town I passed before arriving here, the service station didn´t even have any gas. Thank Roy Rogers for my six gallon tank, which on the past leg was tested to its last drop.
I would be bored out of my mind were I not constantly fighting to stay on the road. A gale-force wind constantly blows across the desert from the west. Leaning into it and battling its periodic gusts is exhausting and, at times, terrifying. Route 40 is the main road south through central Argentina, but it is not paved. For whatever reason, the engineers that built it dumped on copious amounts of gravel and loose stones. The passing convoys of semis and lonely cars have left ridges down the length of the road, piling the gravel into lines between four and twelve inches tall in between. It would be easy to hoist the mizzenmast and give it the gas while blowing along in the tire tracks, but the wind (so fierce and cold that it gusts in under my helmet, makes my nose run, and then slingshots the snot onto my sunglasses or - when it gets dark and I have to take them off - into my left eye) mercilessly pushes the motorcycle towards the pile of loose gravel. If you hit it, your wheels basically become the legs of the cartoon villain that tries to run on a pile of marbles, except that if you fall it will hurt - really bad. I´ve done the dance about 20-30 times, and it is not pleasant. So far, I have kept El Jugoso on both wheels. But driving this road has been my least favorite drive of the trip. For the first time in a long time, I can say that I would have preferred being on a bus with everybody else.
Not wanting to get back on that windy road is probably why this E-mail is getting long, but I´ll bow out with a description of a crazy old man whose yard I set my tent up in two days ago.
Rolling into the town of Perito Moreno, I looked at my trusty map and saw that there was not much of anything for a while. The gas station attendant confirmed this. So I decided to set up camp. Municipal Camping costed only $2.50, but the people there were shady and there were no other tents - just guys who were sleeping in their trucks. I decided to follow the signs for Camping Raul to have a comparator.
I knew I had found it when an old man bolted into the street in front of me, waving his arms frantically and shouting, ¨Aleman! Aleman! Spreken zie deutsch?!¨ Nice. A madman that thinks I´m German.
This was the eponymous Raul. He was about 60, bald, with darting eyes, and an incoherently rapid cadence of speech. Everything he did and said was spastic and ridiculous, and I couldn´t help but imagine all the inhabitants of the surrounding houses checking their sugar bowls and finding them empty. He was obviously excited to show me his house/shack/what he later described as ¨bomb shelter¨ and camping area. The latter ended up being a section of the yard next to a garden and a large circular metal structure that I later saw two gauchos filling up with horse saddles and miscellaneous pieces of metal piping. Like a true salesman, he refused to tell me the cost before showing me all of his place´s amenities. The shower and bathroom were clean, he explained, and the toilet paper was not ¨the cheap stuff¨ - something he had to demonstrate by ripping it from the dispenser (breaking it in the process) and thrusting the roll in my face. ¨Feel it!¨
But the toilet paper was not all he had to offer. Next on display was a collection of testimonials from past visitors written in any of a stack of little books on the shelf in his personal chamber. He splayed the booklets out on the table, wildly thrashing through the pages. ¨Look! He was on a motorcycle, too!¨ I took the booklet from his shaking hand, and as I saw the passage he was referring to it was clear that the small drawing was actually that of a bicycle and that the person was from Belgium. ¨I don´t speak Fren-¨, I tried to say, but he screamed, ¨The garden!¨ I followed him outside.
He walked faster than me...probably because he was not walking but sprinting. When I got to the garden he was down on all fours in the dirt, tearing up green leaves. ¨Lettuce!¨, he proclaimed in his Helen Keller-esque manner. And with that, he stabbed about four leaves into his mouth and started munching. Needless to say, he talked with his mouth open. And with green jutting from all corners of his mouth, he explained, ¨Lettuce! All fresh! It´s for you! All of it! And the onions! Fresh!¨ He slowed down only to tell me, ¨My mother just died Buenos Aires...16 children...¨, before grabbing an onion and adding, ¨Do you want some mint tea!?¨
His price was three times that of the municipal site, but obviously I had to stay there. It was an unforgettably unusual experience, from the hardboiled eggs he layed on the seat of my motorcycle with a note saying ¨For the road¨ to the scratching on my tent zipper which I opened to him standing with a plate of freshly grilled chicken, sausage, and beef that he invited me to eat with him. Insane? Yes. But generous and well-meaning? Now I know why all those books were filled with notes of thanks.
From here it is another painstaking run through the desert to El Calafate, base for some of the best trekking in the world. And from there, it is a paved road south to Ushuaia, that ever-dangling prize.
- Tom
Quote: ¨We are the music makers. And we are the dreamers of the dreams.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Under the Watchful Gaze of the Diginied Sheep

Futaleufú, Chile
This is the first update that I have written whose length will be determined not by available time or how long I can tolerate sitting in an uncomfortable chair. It is rather dictated by the winds of finance, currently blowing over my shoulder to the tune of one dollar and sixty cents. It´s not that I don´t have more money available; I just can´t get at it. Futaleufú is a town of approximately 500 people, so certainly they have no need for more than one bank, but as luck would have it the ATM at said bank accepts all cards (including, I suspect, Diner´s Club) except Visa. The list includes Mastercard and Cirrus, both of which are owned by the same company that issues Visa, but that fact grants me little solace, nor does it change the fact that all I could afford to eat today were a couple of flaky pastries and an empanada. There is also a little ramshackle building nearby with a cardboard sign out front informing me that its proprietor buys Argentinian pesos (in which I am flush), but the door has been locked since the first of ten or so times I have checked on it beginning at 9AM. The running computer and half-consumed bottle of Fanta on the table I can see through the window have not moved, and no one in town knows where the lady is. The bank changes dollars (not pesos...despite the fact that the border is about 5 miles from here), but by the time that I remembered that I had emergency dollars duct taped to the gas tank of the KLR, the bank had closed. Even here, in the most modern and industrious of all countries in Latin America, ¨banker´s hours¨ don´t mean 9-5. They mean 9-2 - with a break for lunch.
Obviously the inconveniences of Latin America are many. But once you get used to the fact that nothing is efficient or predictable, you start to derive a sort of casual amusement from witnessing the laughable idiosyncrasies that comprise its societal workings. In this sense, it´s not hard to have a good time and spend little or no money. This is especially fortuitous for me this week, as cold, incessant rain has kept me here in Futaleufú long enough to dry out my coffers. So I´d be lying to say that I have wanted for entertainment or stimulation while I have been here, even on limited funds.
First off, the only cheap accommodation I could dig up was at a place called Residencial Coyhaique. It is not so much a hotel as it is some sort of halfway house or dormitory for a motley bunch of itinerant grunts brought in to help with the busy work of putting a cellular tower on a nearby mountain. Presently my motorcycle is leaned against a pile of wood in a sad, leaky excuse for a shed in back of the house. I was given a large room on the top floor with three beds and five wool blankets, all of which are necessary since it gets quite brisk at night, my window does not close, and there is no heat in the house. The door does not lock, but it does close if you give it the mustard. How, then, I came home yesterday to find two cats sleeping on my bed and the door still closed is a matter still unresolved, though I am not certain that I can write off the possibility of Patagonian cats possessing the necessary motor skills and guile to shimmy the handle on my door open and then close it with due force behind them. Perhaps a better explanation is the presence of the little girl down the hall. One of the workers brought his daughter, who is about six, and she apparently just hangs out with the stout, elderly cook downstairs all day (as an aside, that lady is always cooking enormous amounts of food, but seems confused and insulted when I ask if I can buy some, me being the only tennant not partaking). And puts stuff in the toilet. Each day when I get up to take a leak, I find something new in the shared toilet. First, pieces of bread and some gumdrops or something. The next day, a little plastic boat. And this morning, a stick of lipstick. Maybe it´s not her, but then the theories get even stranger.
Walking around town today, I made eye contact with a sheep grazing on a front lawn next to one of those colorful pedal cars for kids. From that point on, the sheep kept a watchful eye on me. Six blocks later he was still behind me on the sidewalk, although he would stop and bow his head every time I looked over my shoulder. Eventually he tired of the surveillance, or we simply reached his place. He went up a short set of stairs and went through the open door to a house. Odd, but classic rural Latin America.
Futaleufú is currently celebrating its anniversary, so the town is awash with a number of activities, the majority being competitions of some kind or another. So far they have included soccer matches in the corrugated metal covered gymnasium between teams comprised of people of all ages and hailing from the northern and southern halves of town, each side with its own mascot and cheer squads. There was also the contest today to see who could stay balanced on a bicycle for the longest period of time without pedaling out of a small area denoted by cracks in the pavement in front of the police station. Typical anniversary fare, really.
But most people, including me, do not come to Futaleufú for hot bicycle balancing action. They come to raft the Futaleufú River, considered in the rafting community to be one of the three best in the world. My rafting resumé is thin, but I decided to hit the river anyway. As expected, I was the only guy in the raft that wasn´t a fanatic that customizes his vacations around the sport. But I fared well enough. It was as intense as the guide painted it out to be, and we whistled through about four hours worth of rapids with scary names that translated into ¨The Terminator¨, ¨Moondaka¨, ¨Rock House¨, and...¨Meat and Potato Stew¨. I loved every minute, aside from the presence of a New Zealander seated on the ridge of the raft in front of me. Mind you, he wasn´t affiliated with the company, but he still felt it his duty to scream commands at the other six of us, like he was leading us into an attack on Guadalcanal. I had the misfortune of sitting behind him, and moreover, being the only other English speaker in the boat. When things got wild (and they often do on a Class V river, Class VI meaning unnavigable), he would get tossed into me as he took the brunt of the force of the water. I regret not having the wherewithal to move away from him at these times so that he´d be thrown from the raft, but I was usually otherwise engaged drinking deeply from the wall of water that came over on my own side.
So that´s Futaleufú.
The other two weeks were spent in Argentina. Having been summarily discouraged that I could not learn how to fly fish in a couple of days (Brad Pitt made it look so easy in ¨A River Runs Through It¨), I resigned myself to using spinner bait in the rich rivers around Junin de los Andes. Not wanting to pay the exorbitant $150/day that the fishing outfits around town were charging for a guide and gear, I asked some people I met if they knew a local fisherman, who then made a call to someone, who in turn called someone else. The next morning a 25 year-old chap named Guillermo showed up at the house I was renting a room in, and we fished all day. How did we do? I hit more fish on the head with the spinner than I caught. This is probably why everybody else was fly fishing. Still, it only cost me a few beers, and it was a relaxing day. Guillermo was a funny guy, and his current employment was just another jolting reminder of how good we have it back home. He essentially works 12 hours a day six days on/three days off at an oil refinery of some sort, where he is constantly in contact with harsh chemicals because the protective gear is lacking. The skin on his arms showed it. Salary: $2.50/hour. Nevertheless, he was upbeat and positive, and he claimed that if he worked for three more years that he and his brother would have enough cashed socked away to build a couple of modest cabins to rent out to fishermen. He wouldn´t let me contribute to the fund, instead only letting me buy him a cheap dinner of empanadas (dough around beef, chicken, cheese, etc.). On the whole, I´d venture to say that empanadas constitute somewhere in the vicinity of 40% of my total caloric intake in Argentina because of their tastiness/cost quotient - perhaps 60% in more expensive Chile.
The other time was spent in and around Bariloche, the Argentinian Patagonia tourist haven. Is it touristy? Yes. But is it as beautiful as a pirate´s breath is offensive? That, too. I hung out with Pete (motorcyclist from New Zealand) and his hilarious London wingman for a few days before meeting a couple of inseperable brothers (Matt and Keegan) from Michigan and staying at their place they had just built outside town for about a week. The friendship with the latter was forged in the manner of all good comradeship among men: over a fart. Thinking that no one was around while he was brushing his teeth one morning while camping, Matt let out a solid toot. I happened to be walking by, and simply commented, ¨Nice gasser¨, and kept walking. They turned out to be great guys, and we spent a lot of time hanging out around town at its many brew pubs before I did some hiking up into the mountains on my own. Both have degrees from Michigan State, but have made a living starting their own company as kiteboarding instructors ( in Michigan, Puerto Rico, and Argentina - spreading their time around their houses they built in each place while in pursuit of good weather. I could write a book about these guys and their comical mannerisms, their success in avoiding the corporate world, and their commendable and fresh philosophies on life, but this E-mail is getting long. Besides, I´m not sure I have enough money to pay for the time I´ve used thus far.
I remain...
Yours in the Brotherhood of the Travelling Pants,
- Tom
Note: The Chileans have been the first to begin to ask with any sort of frequency if I had a name for the bike. As neither ¨Aqua Sips¨ nor ¨Kentucky Gentleman¨ translate very well, I went with a Spanish name. ¨Che¨ Guevara and Alberto Granado called their bike ¨El Poderoso¨, or ¨The Powerful One¨. I have thus dubbed mine ¨El Jugoso¨, or ¨The Juicy One¨. I do not explain that it is related to all the juicy ripplers I´ve buried in the seat in the past seven months.
Quote: ¨Now...where is Mr. Takagi? Joseph Yashinobo Takagi...born Kyoto, 1937. Family emigrated to San Pedro, California, 1939...interned at Manzanar, 1942 to '43...scholarship student, University of California...1955. Law degree, Stanford, 1962. MBA, Harvard, 1970. President, Nakatomi Trading. Vice Chairman, Nakatomi Investment Group...and father...of five.¨

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Chickens At the Outpost

San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina
Why Latin American Internet cafes go so heavy on bad pop/dance music is a matter that will eludes me. That said, if any of this becomes incoherent or stops abruptly, you can blame it on current bass attack with only three words repeated throughout: ¨Keep...the...BEAT!!!¨
February brings me back to Argentinian soil, and with it, reasonable prices. Gas has fallen from $5/gallon to $2.50, disgusting motels have been traded for fantastic campsites, and menus are more wide open to a man on a budget. Getting here meant crossing a poorly chosen pass not well suited for vehicular travel, but that I shall deal with that in a minute.
Over the past couple of weeks I have spent a good portion of my time in Chile´s very well maintained and naturally incredible natural parks. Starting out in Laguna del Laja (That´s ¨Lagoon¨ del Laja for you that don´t habla Español...and ¨Laja¨ you ask?...clearly it translates into ¨smooth stone¨...come on, people, I´m not going to hold your hand through the obvious cognates!), I was befriended by the disgruntled park administrator, who allowed me to stay in an unused room of the park headquarters since the sites were for large groups. ¨My room¨ was then cordoned off with a ratty red blanket, which didn´t stop an old woman from walking in on me in my underwear, which must have startled her considerably - at least sufficiently to cause her to drop her bread and utter ¨¡Permiso!¨. She probably thought she saw a ghost, but it was only my chest, still so white that you could watch a movie on it.
The park encompassed a number of remote mountain lagoons surrounding Volcano Antuco and its surrounding range. I spent the next couple of days exploring the place - first by motorcycle and then on foot. During the former, I came upon what seemed to be a funny sort of monument to the Chilean army, comprised of a statue made from a camouflage-painted metal garbage can with pieces of metal welded to it so that it resembled a soldier with a ridiculous face. I found out later by talking to the locals that it commemorated 45 soldiers that died during a training exercise in 2005 when they got lost nearby in a blizzard, which in turn took away a good portion of the humor derived from the goofy statue.
In terms of the hike, I teamed up with a group of seven Chileans about my age from Santiago. It was good to roll with a posse again. The hike was a steep one, eventually leveling off onto a high valley covered with dark volcanic rock from when Antuco blew its top about a 100 years back. Despite the lack of sure footing and the fact that it shredded the lighter footwear of my comrades, it goes without saying that I love magma. Love the magma.
The Chileans were kind enough to share their food and wine with me, and I ended up staying there for a couple of days. Such generosity has been commonplace in Chile (with offers of food, drink, and conversation so frequent while camping that I have little need to bring or prepare my own food), despite the warnings from Argentinians who told me that the Chilean people were ¨very cold¨. Then again, Chileans and Argentinians are always cutting each other down, so it seems. In the ´90s they almost stepped into the ring together after a maritime incident in which a temporary guard near the straight of Magellan opened fire on a boat full of Argentines, but a war was allayed by virtue of intervention by El Papa (aka The Pope).
On a similar note, it has been fascinating how much that religiosity has waned the further I have headed south. Compared with countries in Central America, Bolivia, and Peru, Argentina and Chile are much more overtly secular. Catholicism is not even remotely as pervasive in everyday life. The buses do not have paintings of the Risen Christ on the hood. There are not as many American-based churches with evangelical headquarters in the countryside. Bumper stickers do not commonly express the driver´s belief that ¨The success I have I owe to the Father¨. And, as was the most striking example of living the faith, no one is dressed up as Jesus in a crown of thorns with a giant, wheeled, wooden cross braced against his shoulder rolling along in sort of pilgrimage across the country as in Peru and Bolivia. I do not intend here to offend or to draw conclusions, but it would make for an interesting sociological study to track the inverse and commensurate relationship between standard of living and religiosity across Latin America.
All the off-roading in the park loosened up the fork clamps on my bike and kind of threw the steering askew. Neubz had great foresight in assembling the tools (most of which he admitted were purchased in a late-night online buying frenzy facilitated by the comsumption of alcoholic beverages), and he didn´t skimp on quality. But in spite of having near every kind of equipment a man with a motorcycle could want, the socket set maxes out at 24mm, and the stem nut is a 27mm. I deemed the bike dangerous to drive, so I jettisoned the lion´s share of my gear at the park and slowly made my way down a gravel road toward civilization.
Civilization, as it turns out, was a generous word. At the outskirts of the little village, I was surprised to suddenly be surrounded by a group of perhaps a dozen horses who had bounded out from the wooded bank of the road on both sides. My only thought: ¨What in the name of Sidney Poitier is going on?¨ I was soon surrounded on all side by the horses, who ran along in the same direction as me like a cavalcade. I didn´t dare slow down, as there were three horses behind me that I could see in my side mirrors, so I just kept the same speed until they had enough of their hijinx and dispersed as quickly as they had come. The townspeople down the road were likely equally surprised by catching a glimpse of me, my protective riding gear reminiscent of something they had only seen in the Disney classic, ¨Tron¨.
As it went, it was classic Latin America. ¨Oh, you need to go see Pascualito.¨ Pascualito? ¨Go up to the third street and take a right.¨ Does the street have a name? ¨No, but his place is in between the butcher and the yellow house.¨
Pascualito was exactly what you´d expect in an elderly, small town mechanic - aside from the fact that he wasn´t a mechanic. He fixes tires, but that was about as close as I was going to get to what I was looking for. His tools were a mixture of homemade implements and Chinese wrenches that he had busted and since crudely welded back into approximate shape. But we were able to get things situated, and he even treated me to some sage advice as I was driving away: ¨Remember, don´t get married until you´re 50! I didn´t. And it´s the only reason I´m happy!¨ Wise words, Pascualito.
While buying some supplies in town, I was approached by a group of teenagers who told me that I had to go see Jonny. Jonny had seven motorcycles, knew everything about them, and he could make sure that everything was set.
Jonny lived outside of town, and to make a long story short, he did have seven motorcycles of varying quality...none good. He was friendly enough, and wanted to take the bike for a ride to see what the problem was. I never let him, as he was drunk out of his mind and did nothing for the bike except spill a warm beer he was trying to hand to me ¨for the journey ahead¨ all over the seat while trying unsuccessfully to throw a leg over it. He also offered to trade his sister for the bike, assuring me that she was ¨really hot¨. I´ll have to mull that one over.
The rest of the next two weeks were spent hiking in two other parks with a couple of Germans and a Swiss. Then there was camping with the Chilean family, the father of whom told me of the good days in Argentina in 1979 when meat was so cheap that while he was visiting a friend, his friend went out and bought pasta from a restaurant for the special occasion because dry spaghetti costed more than beef. Why my Dad - arguably the world´s champion of beef - didn´t live in Argentina in the ´70s is a mystery to me.
The pass that brought me into Argentina was represented by the rare purple line on the map, which should have tipped me off that it was slightly sub par. As this E-mail is getting long, let me say that it was a five-hour crucible done completely in first gear up a rocky one-lane road, across bridges so rickety that they wouldn´t even have served as visual props in ¨The Dukes of Hazzard¨, including a stop for fuel from a woman in a shack with a wine jug of gasoline, and ending up at a remote border post where the immigrations officer filled out paperwork among the clucking of chickens that walked in and out of his crowded office at will. I imagine that getting that prized post is akin to getting tapped by the President for an ambassadorship to Chad.
That doesn´t sum up the two weeks, but I´ll finish later. I need to meet someone for dinner - a guy from New Zealand also travelling by cycle.
I did, however, manage to toss a nice stack of pics over to Webmaster Alex, and I´m sure they´ll be up in short order. If not, he has to eat a bag of Whiska Lickin´s cat treats, as per our agreement.
- Tom
Quote: ¨Striker, listen, and you listen close: flying a plane is no different than riding a bicycle, just a lot harder to put baseball cards in the spokes.¨