The boys: Juan-Pi, Matt and Jason enjoyed a ‘Lads day out’ (synonymous to No ‘Captain Slows’ allowed) up in Mendoza’s finest mountains.“No problema chicos, by all means venture out; I will chat and chill the day away”, I managed between a big grin, ushering them out of the door. With the freedom granted by an off-roading prowess of similar abilities, they chose a pretty technical route through the foothills of Mendoza. They rode hard. Tackled some steep inclines, pushed the bravado-fuelled envelope and go figure, dropped their bikes more than once – fun-filled hours after which the afternoon saw them sweat-soaked, bushed and does-my-belly-think-my-throat’s-been-cut ravenous! Juan-Pi admirably stepped up and treated the trio to an impressively large beef asado, prepared on an open fire in a rural spot, al fresco style. I heard it was tantalisingly good, yet another taste bud sensation.
During the asado, the guys spotted a herdsman shepherding his goats down the
valley, waved him through with a friendly gesture and thought nothing more of it. An unexpected turn of events unravelled by a nearly infinite margin when moments after their mighty lunch, they heard the bleating of a newborn baby goat. Smeared by the fluid from the amniotic sac, the coated kid still had part of the umbilical cord attached. Whimpering its tiny, terrified head off, the newborn’s mother had clearly absconded. Abandoned, the guys had no option but to house the helplessly sticky creature inside Juan-Pi’s backpack, head popping out in between the bag’s two zips and wrapped in his sweater – gloop and all. Looking down at the plucky little goat, they were unanimous in a decision to affectionately call him ‘Toto’.
There was small chance of catching up with the herdsman astride his horse, he could have gone in any direction away from where they’d lunched. As a timely stroke of luck would have it, the guys managed to arrive on the same scene as the goat-herding gaucho. He clocked the newborn peeking nervously out of Juan-Pi’s backpack and without prompt, produced a sack. The logical choice was to hand over newly acquired said goat and that was that.
Having Mendoza as a base meant we could scoot across 225 miles to Santiago to pick up some niceties and necessities. Taking just one bike largely to save on fuel and thus being Jason’s pillion was novel to say the least. I tried my utmost to refrain from becoming an inveterate ‘backseat driver’, which was challenging but instead focused on all the benefits bestowed on a motorcycle passenger. I read once that you’d never invite a thief into your house; so why then would you allow thoughts that steal your joy to make themselves at home in your mind? Besides, Jason is a highly experienced rider. I immediately allowed myself to be governed by the spirit of implicit trust and an unconditional letting go. I got carried away though, let my mind all but explode in a frenzy of fireworks and remarked about an element of romance to riding ‘two up’ with your partner. “Okay”, Jason replied obliviously. Something I could get used to.
Revisiting Chile, I experienced a familiar sensation grooved into my memory by countless repetition from recent months. The prominent difference this time was riding in 29 degrees Celsius; a delectable start to the sortie compared to the previous jaw-chatteringly brisk occasions in the height of Chile’s winter.
Matt, Jason and I all harboured a personal agenda to procure this and that, we got to work and managed to successfully source what we needed if not wanted. By the second night our practically private dormitory: accommodating the three of us and a rather quiet, non-snoring German; lost the Germanic guy and acquired a happy-in-her-own-skin French-speaking Chilean girl; a sour-faced French girl with salon-straight strawberry blonde locks; her seemingly more miserable French mother and a preposterously-loud-when-slumbering chap. Nationality unknown. Bienvenidos – Welcome to communal sleeping folks!
Returning from a refreshing shower, I noticed one of the dorm’s new residents had accidentally chosen my bed as their own. My bed was exactly as I’d left it having enjoyed a good night’s kip in it the night prior, and apart from Jason’s and Matt’s beds, all the others were yet to be made up with a roll of fresh sheets and pillow case atop of each. Yep, I was fairly confident from the indicative evidence that the bed was still mine. I casually scooped up her things and carefully placed them on the above bunk. Jason stayed put and I toddled off elsewhere. In my absence, the French mother, lets call her ‘Mrs Dynamite’ re-entered and at once spotted the change in her sleeping arrangements.
Her base level of anger was instantly fired up by a brand new level of infuriation. Enraged, her fury-bright eyes bored into Jason’s, face contorted, the black hole of her mouth aghast. Before giving Jason a moment’s notice to blink, she dived into her native tongue; the alien words hammering on Jason’s ears like hail. Irritation tugged at the corners of her mouth, she ripped my things from the aforementioned bed and proceeded to put them on the floor. For Mrs Dynamite, the task was as insufferable as the scenario intolerable. Jason piped in with an explanation without further ado, which proved as fruitless as it did a waste of energy; this lady understood not a word of English. Instead, I understand she worked her mouth and wrinkled her nose as though smelling something foul.
A tournament of indecipherable language-tennis between both parties went on for a minute or two, underscoring one side’s growing frustration more than the other. Each of their inflection however was crystal clear to the other. Bed now reclaimed free of anyone else’s pesky possessions and enemies vanquished, Mrs Dynamite – eyes still swimming with rage – reflected on her situation. Despite herself. Or not. In less than half a heartbeat her brash being was sparked by an impulse to consequently rip off the sheets and blanket I’d slept in and under, only to make up an unoccupied bed on the opposite side of the dormitory. Points for logic? Nil. Unlikeability factor? Oozed out of the woman’s pores.
Mrs Dynamite reappeared as quickly as she had momentarily departed the room. Without taking the time to contemplate her emotions, she gestured in exacerbation that she’d lost something – in what from Jason’s perspective – could only be described as a moment of departed madness. Temporary insanity sustained, she began rummaging through my things in a mindless frenzy, still chaotically splayed on the floor rooting for some misplaced item. I guess at this point her pain was mixed not just with anger but seething, burning, all-consuming her.
The spectacle I’m told was comical. One might even surmise comedy gold. And I don’t think Jason, incredulous as he was, really had any blazing desire to interrupt Mrs Dynamite’s somewhat misguided misfortune; resulting in the making of a somewhat veritable racket. I would have given anything to soothe her frail soul, tormenting itself like a small bird beating about the cruel wires of a cage. Or not. The world thereafter went revolving around its sun at the constant speed and with the inconstant temper it always had.
The last night of our four day Chilean road trip was positively buoyed up by the saviour of a private room. We’d met a fun Irish couple Mike and Orla who were waiting most patiently for their F650GS to be air freighted from Sydney to Santiago. Their two wheeled adventure was just beginning, motorcycle suits pristine and they were brimming with the same excited anticipation we were eight months back. The five of us got on famously, there were stacks of stories, tips and tales on the road to be exchanged and imparted.
Orla pointed out the similarity of her name to ‘hola’, which you’ll know is the word for hello in Spanish; consequently the immediate and recurring confusion that ensued, which was causing Latin Americans to respond with ‘hola’ repeatedly upon first introductions with her. She had been in South America for less than a week. Good luck with that my darl. Orla herself admitted to double checking a few times if she’d heard her name or just some stranger close by saying hola. “Hola..?!” I couldn’t help but giggle, she was a hoot. Thank goodness for the non-crazies of this world.