Thursday, January 29, 2004

Damn I don't wanna leave! I've had such a crazy day!

After writing my last entry, I went into a travel agent and finally worked out some kind of plan as to how I get to my flight in time. 30 mins and $100 later, I had a flight from Cusco to Lima, and a bus ticket from here to Cusco, via Copacabana. But my new plan means I have to leave at 7:30 tomorrow morning. I figured better to have an extra day to make sure I can see Machu Pichu... but now I'm not so sure! La Paz has been surprising me all day! First I went for a random stroll and came across a street has about 50% sports shops and 50% witchcraft stalls. The sports shops sell football jerseys, bats, balls etc, while the witchcraft stalls sell llama foetuses, dead birds (big ones), dead armadillos, magic potions for every ailment (particularly lack of love or sex), magical talismans... and much, much more. Each stall had an old lady sat beside it wearing the full traditional bolivian costume, which is just what most of them wear here, not just a tourist gimmick like in many countries I've been to. I went and spoke to one of the ladies to try and figure out what the dried llama foetuses were for. As far as I could gather they were for health and luck. In fact, from what i understood, pretty much everything on the stall was for health and luck!

After wandering around this area a while more, i stumbled into the main plaza, and saw a big crowd of people apparantly watching something of great interest. Camcorder in hand, I walked over to the crowd and climbed up to the top of the wall to see what was happening. No sooner had I poked my big white nose over the rim of the crowd than the comedian who was performing in the previously concealed arena saw me and took full advantage of my appearance. He came straight over and pulled me down into the middle of the crowd and began asking me questions, which I answered as best I could with my limited spanish. After each couple of question he would fire off a quick punchline in spanish which I couldn't understand but which every one else found hysterical! There must have been a good 400 people there, all laughing at me! Then he added a bit of physical comedy to the act by trying to kiss me and afterwards coming back to try and grab my dick. Eventually he moved on and I sat down on the step to enjoy the show. It was classic slapstick humour and the crowd loved it. I was pulled back in to be laughed at about 5 more times during the show, but it was all in good humour... I think... :) Then near the end of the show they went around asking for money... then five minutes later selling snack bars... then five mins after that selling photocopied 4 page joke books with their photos on the front. Needless to say I bought one.

When the show finished, the girl who was sat next to me asked me my name, and we got chatting (if you can call my spanish conversations "chatting"). Her name was Pamela and she is a student here in La Paz. She started telling me about something to do with miniatures... my other little friend, an 8 year old shoeshine boy who I'd bought a joke book, was confirming everything she said with enthusiastic nods, so I figured she must be telling me something interesting. She offered to take me tomorrow, but I told her I was leaving early in the morning. The she said she could take me right that second if I liked. Feeling that familar butterflies in the stomach feeling of stepping into the unknown, I said hell yeah, why not, and we headed off towards the main road. It had been so long since I'd been in this situation.... I think the last time must have been in Indonesia.... it's such a cool feeling, putting yourself in the hands of a complete stranger in a supposedly "dangerous" country just because you have a good feeling about them and want to trust them. Invariably these encounters end up leading to adventures you never would have expected, and at the worst end up with you politely explaining that you already have a carpet and don't want to buy another one thankyou very much....

So Pamela led me into a minibus and we set off into the unknown. She asked me what language we spoke in england. Ummm, english. She asked me how to say "No me molesta" in english, which seemed like a fairly odd thing to ask in the first 5 mins of meeting someone. As far as I can guess it means "Don't molest me", or "leave me alone". Surely she didn't think I was about to start groping her? I stumbled over a few attempts to explain the english version of "molest" before managing to change the subject to something a little more appropriate.

We soon arraived at our destination and after a couple of minutes walked into the entrance of a huge open air market. All of the stalls were selling, just as she had described, miniature things. The first stall I came across was selling money. Dollars, Euros, Bolivianos, all carefully photocopied and printed out in a variety of sizes. You could buy huge bundles of dollars for 1 boliviano (10 cents). Then there were stalls selling mini packets of cereal, mini tools, mini telephones, mini just about everything you could possibly want, which as I later discovered is the whole point. After many confusing attempted explanations, I finally manged to ascertain that this market is part of a yearly festival in which people buy miniature versions of everything that they want a real one of, and hopefully next year they'll actually get the real thing. Understanding this made some of the mini items seem a bit perplexing. Like for instance the mini dish scourer, and the mini toothpaste, and the mini chicken to name but a few....

Then we came across the fun-fair. It had all the games we have at home, but simplified. Simple gambling games where you spin a wheel, ball throwing games, pop guns, pop bazookas (never seen them at home!), and one cool game where you have a fishing rod with a metal ring at the end of the string, and you have to try to hook it around the the top of a bottle of soft drink and lift it up. I tried it, it's bloody impossible.

After wandering for ages, Pamela and I headed into a food stall to have a drink. There we started having a very strange conversation about pubs. Pamela was telling me that it was very difficult to either go to or run a pub here, as people only made them in the winter. I couldn't figure out why this was, so pamela explained that in the summer they were making milk and cheese from cows. Mmmmmm. Getting more confused by the second I tried to backtrack through the conversation to try and find anything that made any sense, and eventually figued out that we weren't talking about pubs at all, but papas, which means potatoes! Okaaaaay. By now neither of us could remember how we had got onto the subject of pubs/potatoes in the first place so both agreed to just let it go....

Then Pamela gave me her necklace as souvenier, put me in taxi, and went to meet her 4 brothers (younger... phew!). What a lovely story hey? Bolivians rule! :)

So there you go, that's my groovy day in La Paz, and tomorrow I have to head off again at 7:30am. I so wanna just hang out in the same place for a few days... oh well, I guess I'll get to do that in Madley! (My home village, 7 miles from my home town, 100's of miles from civilisation...)

ok, hasta luego

Wednesday, January 28, 2004


How can it be that the longer I travel the closer I get to England?! Who's idea was it to make the world round anyway? If it was flat I could keep on travelling until I reached the edge, and I rekon that would be a spectacle to rival even the mighty Iguazu Falls in Argentina. I suppose I could do a spiral, always just missing Northern Europe, which let's face it, sucks. I guess Africa's in that direction... maybe get off the plane in Madrid and hitch to Morroco.... Mmmm, nah, I need a job. Not just for the money. I need a purpose. One whole year of directionless wandering is more than enough thank you. Don't get me wrong, I've loved every second of it, but now I need to stay in one place for more than a week and do something that earns me money and maybe even some respect. I'm still planning on becoming famous, even in the smallest possible capacity, for playing guitar and singing and improvising shit. But Hereford doesn't really seem like the ideal place to do it.... anyway, any suggestions are welcome.

So, I'm not home yet. I'm currently in La Paz, the world's highest capital city. After Uyuni I got the bus to Potosi, which is a mining town. All the gringos go there to pay money to be taken down a hole in the ground and blow up dynamite. It's really quite an eye opening experience. Here's some of what I learned:

Back in those fabulous days of discovery when Britain, Spain, France etc were busy introducing the newly discovered continents of Africa and South America to the concepts of slavery and exploitation, Potosi was the most populated city in the world. The reason? Silver. Potosi has a big mountain sat next to it, which was discovered to contain the biggest silver deposits ever recorded. So all the "developed" nations of the world went running out there to grab a piece of the action. But how to extract all that lovely shiny metal? I mean obviously we couldn't do it ourselves! We tried using those animal people we had discovered in Africa, bringing them over by the 1000´s, but they proved to be pretty useless, dying far to quickly due to the cold and the altitude, neither of which they were used to. The solution was found in the form of the local Indians, who had been annoyingly inhabiting all these great new countries we had dicovered. So the Spanish Administration decreed that all Indians had to serve at least one year down the mines, for which they were rarely paid, and invariably suffered enourmously.

So what about today? Well Bolivia is it's own country now, so the western nations have no say in the matter. Or do they? The silver is long gone, and now the miners work for themselves, extracting rock which contains a mixture of Zinc, Silver etc. They work about 9 hours or so a day, without a break, and without food. Their only sustenance is chewing coca leaves, which apparently supress your appetite and give you energy in the high altitude. They work like animals, using basic primitive equipment, namely shovels, dynamite, trolleys, and their hands. And how much do they earn? On average about US$100 a month, depending on how much they extract and how good the quality is. The average life expectancy of a miner is about 45. And what happens to all this raw material they extract? We buy it of course, at amazing bargain prices! Hooray for world economics!

Potosi is a really nice town, and I wish I could have stayed longer, but my flight from Lima is literally days away.... I'm currently trying to figure out how best to get there on time and see as many things as possible on the way. I hate it. I hate this speedy travelling! I want to just kick back in each place until the guy in the corner shop knows my name and I actually want to leave and see something new!!

By the way, have u seen this?

Wake up people. You were being lied to, you still are. But hey, at least we're gonna go to mars! Woo Hoo! U...S..A...U..S..A!!!!!

By the way, does anyone actually live in Hereford anymore? And all those who live in London... can i come visit you? I'm flying in on 6th Feb.... Jess, I'm looking in your direction... :)

ok, laters brus.

Monday, January 26, 2004


Well, it´s been a long long time eh? Sorry, but I´ve been travelling so fast that I haven´t had time to write! So here´s a bit of a run down of what´s been happening.....

I had a great time in Santiago, hooking up with my good friend Paula. I also met her cousins, and spent my last day with her cousin Benjamin doing touristy stuff before heading off for my bus to San Pedro de Atacama. The bus journey was pretty harsh, partly because i´d only just recovered from my previous 36 hour journey from argentina, but also because the kid sat behind me felt obliged to kick me in the back and poke my head repeatedly with his sticky fingers. Anyway, 24 hours later I arrived in San Pedro and went away with the first lady who offered me accomodation when I got off the bus. It turned out to be a really nice little family run hostel, and I settled myself in. After washing off the accumulated grime of a 24 hour journey, I headed off into town to book my trip to Bolivia and see what I could do in san pedro. I ended up signing myself up for a trip to El Tatio geysers which left at 3am the following morning!! Why??! So I went to bed as early as possible and woke at 3 feeling like I hadn´t slept in days. After waiting outside and staring at the stars for 20 mins, my bus finally arrived, and the "english speaking" guide, who didn´t speak any english, showed me where to squeeze myself into the back of the van.

As we drove up towards the ridculously high geysers, the road became increasingly bad, and after a while it became so bumpy that I actually had the hold my bollocks to prevent the from smacking painfully into the seat every couple of seconds! We reached El Tatio just before the sun came up, and man was it cold!!! We were at about 4800 metres or so, and the air was like ice. Then the sun came up and revealed a landscape that was something like a cross between a sci-fi planet-scape and and post battle scene from a war movie. Plumes of steam billowed from craters in the ground, which on closer inspection revealed themselves to be filled with boiling water which was bubbling and hissing furiously. Later we went for a dip in a thermal pool, which was far from comfortable. There were two streams of water leading into the pool, one boiling hot, the other freezing cold. The idea was that these would mix and make nice hot water, but in reality there were so many people squashed into he warm end of the pool that they created a human wall that prevented the water from mixing, meaning that some people had scalding water burning their backs while the rest of us froze! Up until this point I hadn´t really felt the effects of altitude, but then I tried to do up my shoelaces and when I stood up again I thought I was going to pass out and I was breathing like I´d just run a marathon!

After this we went to a small Llama farming village, and all got the chance to take photos of llamas. After excitedly taking a few photos of these beautiful creatures i suddenly had a vision of japanese tourists taking photos of cows in england and realised how stupid i must look.

The next morning i left at 8am on my 3 day trip thru the Bolivian Altiplano to Uyuni in Bolivia. I was on a bus full of gringos, which was quite strange as i hadn´t really spoken to any gringos for quite a while. First we cleared the chilean customs, which were just outside san pedro, then we drove for an hour through the desert, gradually climbing all the way. Eventually we reached a turning onto a small dirt track. The guide pointed to the paved road that continued off into the distance: "That way Argentina" he said. Then he pointed off down the dirt track we had just turned onto. "This way Bolivia" he said. About 100 metres later we came to a small ramshackle little stone building with the rusting reamains of a rainbow coloured bus chassis sitting out front. This turned out to be the Bolivian Immigration post. It was surrounded by huge volcanoes and desert landscape, and was the only building in sight. We got our stamps and continued on to the laguna Blanca, where we stopped for breakfast. By now we were all starting to feel the altitude. Trying to move at anything faster than a slow walk would result in a fit of heavy breathing and a splitting headache.

I ended up in a 4x4 with two kiwi couples who turned out to be really lovely. I was the only one who spoke spanish and the guide, Teo, didn´t speak any english, so I became the official interpreter. I can´t really describe the trip much as it was all basically just absolutely stunning lanscapes, lakes, deserts, volcanoes, all at the ridiculous altitude of around 4500 metres. Sleeping at this altitude proved more or less impossible, because it was so hard to breathe slowly and the air dried out your mouth and nose, which was bleeding, and caused you to have crazy dreams. I dreamed I was thrown in a spanish jail for smoking weed and had to constantly defend myself against the other psycho inmates who kept trying to kill me and steal my stuff. All in all not a very restful night.

Eventually, today, we arrived at the Salar De Uyuni, the largest salt lake in the world. 2000 square km´s of salt, 10 metres deep, blindingly white, with a 1 inch layer of water covering most of it, turning it into an enormous mirror. The weather was perfect; blue skys with little fluffy clouds. The photos will tell the rest.

So now i´m in Uyuni. It feels so great being in bolivia!!! I can´t belive I´m going home in less than two weeks! I finally feel like i´m travelling again! For some reason Oz, NZ, Chile, Argentina, and Southern brasil just didn´t feel like travelling to me, as they are all basically european in culture. But this! This is nothing like europe (apart from all the european tourists of course...) The women here look like they´ve been messing about in the dressing up box. And they all have cool hats. In fact everyone has a cool hat. Hats are defintely the in thing here. Hats and wrinkly faces. And HUGE butts. Huge butts are defintely the desirable figure for women, as no woman could achive quite such a butt without considerable effort. Especially when they also have breasts to match. And I dont mean saggy flabby butt/boob like westerners have. These look rock hard. I wouldn´t be surprised if you could crack a coconut on some of the buttocks I´ve seen today.

Anyway, I think that´s more than enough for one day. I´ll just finish by saying I DON´T WANNA GO HOME!!!! I wanna see my family and everything, but other than that.... it´s february, it´s england, more precisely it´s hereford, and well, let´s face it, it´s a bit shit. But no, i will not be a pessemist, i will go home, record a smash hit album, take it down my local pub, and try to get a gig playing to all the local drunks on a tuesday night or something.....

wish me luck...

Sunday, January 18, 2004

Battle of the Planets...

The world is in a terrible state. Everyone hates everyone else, the environment hates us all, and every day the polarisation of the planet's population increases. So what's the solution? Discussion? Compassion? Aggression? No, it's none of the above. It is, as my favourite dictator, George Dubbya, has just pointed out: to land on Mars. Thank god someone has been thinking! It's so simple! By flying to Mars and landing on it, we can collect samples of red rock, which we can then use to feed the millions of starving people all over the.... mmm, hang on..... they do eat rock in africa don't they? Anyway, as Bush so eloquently read off of his autoque,

"...We've undertaken space travel because the desire to explore and understand is part of our character. And that quest has brought tangible benefits that improve our lives in countless ways."

You see? I mean if we hadn't landed on the moon then we wouldn't have bought back moon rock would we?! and where would we be without moon rock!!?

I think Mr Bush has far more sinister and paranoid reason for wanting to land on mars though. Some say it's because he wants to win the election, but I know it's far more than that. In his speech he said:

"The environment of space is hostile to human beings. Radiation and weightlessness pose dangers to human health. And we have much to learn about their long-term effects before human crews can venture through the vast voids of space for months at a time....

....Since the beginning of our space programme, America has lost 23 astronauts and one astronaut from an allied nation - men and women who believed in their mission and accepted dangers."

This isn't about exploration is it George? This is about REVENGE! You want to blow up space beacuse it killed american citizens. First it'll be the moon, then mars, then who knows what else! And do you know how much this new "War On Space" is going to cost? Bush does...

"Achieving these goals requires a long-term commitment. Nasa's current five-year budget is $86bn. Most of the funding we need for the new endeavours will come from re-allocating $11bn from within that budget.
...We need some new resources, however. I will call upon Congress to increase Nasa's budget by roughly $1bn spread over the next five years."

I'm sorry, but anything measured in billions just confuses me. I mean Bob Geldof does live aid and makes however many millions, and that manages to change the lives of millions of dying people in the third world, and now you tell me you've been spending $86,000,000,000 every five years on THINKING about exploring space??!!!! You make me sick!!! I hope you get hit by a piece of falling fueselage and die a slow and painful death, you heartless bastard.

ok. enough about that.

I am now in Santiago. Again. I've done a huge circle of exploration and finally landed safely at my point of departure. After saying farewell to Joanna in El Bolson (Hi Joanna! Sorry Joanna's dad, you'll have to devise new means of following her life!), I've spent the last 2 days on buses. The first bus was really something! They served me HOT FOOD!! The first meal was a roasted pepper stuffed with beef and rice and tomatoes, accompanied by new potatoes.... the second meal was pork chop with mashed potatoes!!! On a bus!!!! Amazing.

So now I'm in santiago again, but this time I'm no longer a gringo fresh of the plane. No, this time I'm a gringo knackered off the bus. But I can speak some spanish and I know the score man. No longer am I scared to venture out of my room. I have ventured all the way out into the hall to use the internet!! Mind you, this hostel is full of English people! Oh well, as long as they're house trained.

ok, nothing more of importance to say...

To infinity... and beyond!

Friday, January 16, 2004

Goddamn Greedy Hippies....

After a few days in El Bolsen, the initial impression of a charming enclave of aging hippies has begun to subside, and I now see it for its true self: A centre for hippy capitalism. The focus of this money making enterprise is the thrice weekly market, at which all the hippies gather to push their goods on you. So there I am, peacefully going about my business, content in myself and my surroundings, when all of a sudden, stalls left right and centre are tempting me to spend on their freshly baked brown bread and hand knitted woolen socks. "Come!" they cry, "Try my fresh rasberries! Here, listen to this cd, it´s an ambient soundscape made using only natural materials! You hear that? That´s a mouse being squeezed! Over here! Look, I´ve chopped down trees and made them into ashtrays! I´m going to be rich I tell you! RICH!!! AHAHAHAAHAHAAAA!!!!!!!" and so on......

Just because you have a feather attatched to you hair with knotted string, you don´t fool me for a second young man! Don´t touch me with your grubby money grabbing fingers! No I don´t want you to make my hair messier than it already is! You can´t tempt me with your waffles with strawberries and cream! Mmmm, well maybe just one.....

So anyway, tomorrow I say goodbye to Joanna, who is flying back to the States from Buenas Aires, and heading back to Santiago on a 3o+ hour bus ride. Godamn. Last night was kind of cool. We wandered out into the campground at about 12pm and sat on our own in the middle, away from all the people having fun, in the hope that they would come and join us and save us the embaressment of having to approach them. So I started doing my pied piper of hamlin routine on the guitar, and sure enough after about 5 mins 4 lads came over and started giving the usual Beatles requests. After a very rousing rendition of "Let it be" (the only beatles song i know) we were invited to join some other guys who were playing guitar. 30 mins later there was a huge crowd formed around our little group as we blasted out spanish and english songs. At one point, after a particularly heart rending chorus of No Woman No Cry, the managment came out to say that the police had called and could we possibly keep it down a bit. Of course not! Anyway, it was pretty fun.

Argentines keep telling me that I could earn lots of money playing in Bars in Buenas Aires. It´s tempting, but the thing is they´d want me to play loads of covers, and my improvisational stuff wouldn´t exactly be appreciated by a spanish speaking crowd.... mind you, they were very impressed with my "Bastardo Mochila" Song. It´s my only song in spanish. I´ll give you a quick rendition....

(flamenco style, very dramatic guitar chords)

Bastarrrrrdo! Bastardo Mochila!!!! (bastard, bastard backpack)
Mi Mochila, es mui pesada (my backpack is very heavy).
Bastarrrrrdo! Bastardo Mochila!!!! (bastard, bastard backpack)
Mi Mochila, es como mi esposa (my backpack, is like my wife)
La Odio, pero la neciseto! (I hate her, but I need her!)
etc etc....

ok, I´d better go. Hope all is well in the real world. :)

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

It´s been too long! I´ve forgotten what I´ve been doing! Ok, I´ll do my best....

We set off for El Chalten on a rickety old bus with the imaginatively named "El Chalten Travel", and after 6 hours of driving through the wilderness we arrived in strange little settlement itself. The first thing we noticed as we got off the bus were the 80 mile and hour winds, the second was the dust blowing in your face, and the third was that we had overshot our hostel by a good 30 minute walk. Well, 30 mins is taking into account us completely misinterpreting all directions given to us by the proudly mulleted locals, and walking in a huge circle to reach our destination. It didn´t help that whenever you wanted to ask for directions, you were confronted with a long wide dust road completely devoid of human life and a few small buildings shuttered up against the wind.

The town was kind of like what I would imagine a frontier town in the US would have been like back when the pioneers were busy settling on the unclaimed (except for those pesky indians) land of central North America. Just a few small streets surrounded by the most enormous and magestic pieces of natural artwork mother nature has ever produced. Huge red cliffs tower threateningly over the town on one side, while on the other side, the mighty fitzroy massive stakes it claim over the entire area. The Fitzroy Massive, probably spelled Fitzroy Massif, is indeed, Massive. And pointy. In fact it has lots of pointy bits. Sorry, that doesn{t sound very impressive... Ok, it has huge towering needle-like structures of rock that tower a gazillion metres into the sky, dwarfing the otherwise mighty mountains that hem it in from all sides.... better? :)

So, on out first day there we were so tired we just ate a hugely overpriced pizza and went to bed. It had been days since we had slept properly and quite frankly we were both feeling very grumpy and in need of some serious sleep. The next morning we were reborn, and leapt out of bed at about midday, ready to really make the mosty of the day. Well, the half that was left anyway. So off we set on a day trek to see the mighty Mount Doo Da and a lake or something. It was really something! The hills were alive with the sound of music. really! anyway, trekking is not really great anecdotal material. We walked, we looked up, we took a phote, we walked more, we got there, we ate lunch, we walked back. But yeah, it was pretty cool. :)

Next day we woke up in the middle of a twister. It was frantically ripping the roof off of our room in an almost succesful attempt to take us to Oz. At least that´s what it sounded like. An almost continous series of crashes, wails, sounds of loose things flapping, heavy things crashing, and all the time the wind screaming through it all. It was far too windy to get up early. Honestly!! It really was! Well, believe what you like, it makes no difference to me. So we got up at about midday again, and found out that everyone in the hostel had felt the same and decided to stay inside for the day. But by the now the sun had come out and we decided that seeing as it was our last day there, we´d better make the most of it.

We headed off on the second walk. It was amazing.

The next day, we were up bright and early to catch our ridculously over priced bus through the middle of nowhere. what a journey! It was like being rolled over hot coals in a tin box on wheels. You couldn´t open the windows because of the dust and it was baking in there. The view was amazing... for the first 10 minutes. Then it was the same for the next 12 hours. I mean EXACTLY the same.

"If you´ll look out on your left ladies and gentlemen, you´ll see what we locally refer to as the "middle of fucking nowhere". And if you´ll turn to your right now, you can get a clear view of what we like to call the "side of fucking nowhere". I know what your thinking. It looks the same right? Not so! The first has a road to it´s right, and the second has a road to it´s left, giving each a distinct character....."

I´m being unfair. Of course it´s pretty amazing, I mean it´s patagonian wilderness after all. Maybe it was spoiled slightly by the fact that your body was being so violently shaken about by the bus that your head couldn´t stay still enough for your eyes to focus....

Well after 12 or so hours driving through the middle of nowhere, we finally arrived in the middle of nowhere. But it had a name. Perito Moreno. Just like the glacier only slightly less imressive. So we finally got to go to sleep, before getting up again at 8am and getting back on an even smaller, even more fucked bus to do the final 14 hours to El Bolson! And to top it all off it wopuld have been the same price to fly!!!

Anyhow, now I´m in El Bolson, and staying on a really cool campsite, enjoying all the joys of camping whilst staying in a bed inside with a bathroom and a big kitchen... :) We´ve met some really cool argentinians and are having a lovely time, thanks for asking! :) I´m heading back to Santiago, Chile, on the 17th Jan, and from there gonna work my way up to Lima in peru, via bolivia. This in fact is my orinal plan for my 3 months in S America, and I{m about to attempt to do it in under 3 weeks!!!! Wish me luck!

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Man, am I tired....

So, it´s been a while I know, and I´m sorry ok, but just chill alright! Jeez! ;) Anyway, here´s a brief rundown of events so far:

Woke up on Tues morning feeling like crap after about 5 hours of sleep. Said goodbye to our lovely hotel room and got a cab to the airport. The flight was fairly uneventful, except for me finishing "Lif of Pi" and suddenly discovering that I believed in God. After a safe landing (safe in the hands of God) we walked out into the terminal and went to claim our baggage. It was at about this time that we started thinking maybe we should have booked a hostel after all, and that the advice in the guidebook saying "book at least a month in advance" wasn´t bullshit after all. The place was packed. As everyone else went off to their repsective hostels or was picked up by reps from hotels, we set about phoning every hostel in El Calafate, only to be told that they were all full until judgement day, and even after that they only had overpriced doubles. So, fearing the worst we got a cab into town, and the cab driver told us that he knew a hostel that might have beds. It didn´t. However, the hostel next door did. Unfortunately, it was still being built. But the dorms were ready, it was just the kitchen and showers and toilets that were still under construction. Greatful for a bed, we moved in. We were in a six bed dorm with an ancient german guy called Walter. Walter didn´t speak, but he was reading "In Patagonia" by Bruce Chatwin (surprise surprise!) and it was in german.

So, having dropped off out bags we set out to get dinner as we were absolutely starving, having eaten nothing all day. On the way, I stopped at an ATM to get some cash, and discovered I had lost my ATM card!! Nooooo!!!! The source of all my power was gone, and was most likely at that very moment being used to buy a ferrari on the internet by some spotty little argentinian geek in Buenas Aires!!! I had to act fast! But I was soooo hungry! What was it to be: security or snacks? Snacks of course. By now the lack of food and stress from losing my source of power had reduced me to a zombified state, and when the waitress in the restaurant we finally chose (after looking at about 7) bought some bread in a basket, we wolfed it down in about 2 mins!

After eating I felt a bit better, and headed back to the hostel to check that I hadn´t just left my card in my bag. I hadn´t. Back in town I tried to cancel my card on the internet. I couldn´t. (Barclays Bank, if your reading this, you suck). So in the end I had no choice but to pay 3 pesos a min and call my "CardGuard Hotline" that I am paying 10 pounds a year for. The phone rang twice, then... "Thankyou for calling cardguard emergency hotline. Your call is important to us. You have been placed in a queue where you will remain...." I nearly hung up. But then, thank god, somwone answered.

"Hello, card Guard Hotline" said the 15 year old boy at the end of line.

"Hi, I´m calling from argentina so I have to be really quick my policy number is 639576238G and I´ve lost my card and I want to cancel it it´s the barclays debit card" I gushed without breathing.

"Ok sir, hang on a moment" said the boy, who I shall christen Barry.

"I´m just going to ask you a few security questions..." he said

"Ok, be quick!" I said, watching the pesos pile up on the little screen in front of me.

"Whats your full name?"


"Whats your full adress?"


"Whats your mother´s maiden name?"


"Whats the account number and sort code of your card?"

"Huh? I just told you, I´ve lost the card!! that´s why i´m calling!!! How can I tell you the numbers on the card if I don´t have it?? Anyway, who fraudulently CANCELS an ATM card??! Can you please hurry up?!"

"Ok, I´ll try and find another question..... ummmmm......ok, how many years have you had the coverage with us?"

"What?? Ummmm, don´t know! hang on.....ummmmmm.... about 5 years?"

"Mmmmmmm.... wellllllllll...... ok, that´ll do. Ok, so you want to cancel your barclays debit card?"


"Did you lose it or was it stolen?"

"I lost it!!!"

"When did you last use it?"

"On the 3rd of Jan in Buenas Aires"

"Where did you last use it?"

"In Buenas aires!!!!"

"In a shop?"

"No an ATM"

"Ok sir, so you want to cancel this card?"

(wearily) "yes"

"You realise that after you cancel this card you won´t be able to use it anymore"


"If you find it you will have to cut it up"


"Ok sir, I´m going to need a contact telephone number from you..."

"I´m in a phone booth in the middle of bloody argentina!!!!!! Look, heres my mothers phone number!!! If you want to call someone you can call her!!!"

"Ok sir, a replacement card will be sent out to you in the next few working days. Is there anything else I can help you with sir?"

"Yes, please kill yourself".

So, that dealt with, I headed home to the hostel feeling more physically and emotionally drained than I had felt in along time. And then God smiled on us. Walter was gone. No one seemed to know where, but his stuff was missing from the dorm!! Hooray! We had the whole dorm to ourselves!! It was about midnight by now and we set about getting ready for bed. Then God Pulled down his pants and shat on us. 4 Israelis, each carrying 100 litre backpacks, came into the room and threw their bags on the beds. They were nice guys, but the dorm was tiny and it suddenly seemed a lot smaller. They had just been on a 10 hour trek, so I figured oh well, at least they´ll be going to bed. Not so. They just left their bags unopened and went out drinking. I wont bother to explain the rest of the night cos it´s just too painful. It involved packing my bag, moving to another room, finding that room full, moving back, getting to bed, getting woken up when the israelis came in at 3am, getting woken up when they left again at 5am, anf finally having to get up at 6:30am to go on our tour we had booked to the glacier.

So, whinging over. The glacier was AMAZING! I´m sorry New Zealand, but your glaciers are like ice pops compared to this mother. It´s so big it makes your eyes water. Every 10 mins or so, huges pieces of ice break off and fall into the water, making a noise like a bomb going off. I took about 100 photos, so look out for them. Right, as usual, I´ve spent an hour talking about the bad stuff and left no tie for the good stuff, but hey, I know that´s the way like it. Who wants to hear about me having a GOOD time??! Boring!!!!

bye! :)

Monday, January 05, 2004

Go Frodo! Go Frodo!

So, I finally got to see LOTR... all 3.5 hours of it! Well, I enjoyed it enourmously. My only critisism is that after it finished, i.e. after Frodo had destroyed the ring, recovered, seen all his friends, and Aragorn had been crowned, the movie then continued for another 30 mins!!!! What was that all about??? They´d reached the climax, and tied up the loose ends; it was over! I mean let me ask you: you´ve just had sex, you´ve climaxed, you´ve given the post-coital cuddle and stroke, do you then start poking away again like a randy spaniel? No! You roll over and fall asleep!!! Which is exactly what I started to do during the last 10 mins of the movie. I would have much prefered it if they had just left me with that warm glow of satisfaction and let me make up my own epilouge..... Yeah yeah, it´s based on a book, I know, but hey, the book sucks, so no need to follow it word for word eh!

Moving swiftly on. I am flying tomorrow to El Calafate in The far south of argentina, in Patagonia. There I hope to see a large lump of ice and some mountains. I may even attempt to walk on some of the mountains, knees permitting. I know I am supposed to be going to bolivia, and I am, just in a slightly roundabout way..... in fact, the flight is 5 hours!! What kind of a country takes 5 hours to fly across only half of it?! You could fly from UK to Greece in less time!

I saw a protest march today. It was lead by a line of young men wielding sticks, and followed up by 100´s of old age pensioners carrying banners. I think they were complaining about their pensions or something....

They´re very political these argentinians. Almost every monument in Buenas Aires is covered in graffiti, but instead of the usual "Fuck Off" or "Sharon is a slapper" that you would find in england, the graffiti here is all political, ranging from critisism of government policy to opinions on abortion laws. I think it´s about time british louts caught up with the times. Maybe they could start slowly with things like "Toni Blare Sux Cox!", or "Bush is Gay!".....

So, they landed on Mars. I thought they did that already? Well, anyway, wow. What an achievment! And guess what they discovered? It´s a big rocky plain covered in rocks. And to top it off they only equipped the robot with a black and white camera!! Helllooo!!!! The "Red" Planet!! Surely with that 300 million dollars they could have bought a colour camera??! Oh well, as the head of the team said, it was a moment that all americans could be proud of. I´m quite sure that all those millions of americans living below the poverty line were overjoyed to discover their country had landed a robot on a big rock in space....

ok, enough bitching about the U.S.

Did you know that the average man spits out 70 gallons of flem in his lifetime? Amazing isn´t it?! Admitedly it´s not true, but I think it´s amazing nonetheless.....

ok, as you can tell I´m running out of things to say, so until next time...

Sunday, January 04, 2004

Back in BA......

I just had a really crap meal. It was basically spagetti with ketchup on but it had been given a fancy italian name to try and fool me. And to add insult to injury, the meal didn´t cost 10 pesos as the sign outside had stated, it cost 12, because of course we had forgotten to take into account the "cutlery charge". "The what??!" I hear you cry, and well you might, for it truly is one of the most ridiculous things I´ve ever encountered. A nice posh restaurant that charges you 2 pesos for the use of cutlery! And don´t think this is an isolated incident! This is common practice in Argentina. I´m almost tempted to go into the poshest restaurant in town and just eat the whole meal with my fingers to see what they say....

Anyway, I´m sure you´re all just dying to know what happened to Papiku. Well, to be honest, we thought we´d seen the last of him, but no, on the evening of New Years day, there came a familar knocking on the door. Papiku was there, looking very different, with clothes on. He came in and sat down, and proceeded to tell us that he hadn´t slept yet as he´d been up all night on LSD. He then said he´d been dying for a smoke all day and the reason for his visit became apparant. We gave him a spliff butt, which was all we had, and after that he left, never to be seen again. I miss him already... :)

So the next day we had to catch our bus to buenos aires. It turned out it wasn´t a bus at all, it was actually a mobile earthquake disguised as a bus! As soon as the bus started moving it became apparant that this was going to be a journey from hell. The whole bus vibrated and shook so violently that reading or sleeping were impossible. On the other hand, it was so empty that other things were more possible than they may usually have been....... ;) so yeah, 29 hours later and I´m here, in Jerusalem.... Oh no, sorry, I mean Buenos Aires.... God Damn there´s a lot of Israelis here! Hey, I love you guys, but can´t you just spread yourselves out a bit? :)

I´m finally going to see Lord Of The Rings now! Woo Hoo!!!! Will give you my highly valuable and important verdict later....

Thursday, January 01, 2004

Happy New Year!!!

well, I dont know where to start really... Yesterday was a bit of a mad one. It all started at about 3pm.........

I was heading down to the beach with Joanna to try and breakfast after a typically long lie in. We made it over the wobbly bridge but just before we reached the restaurant we were called over by a big bald black brazilian beefcake called... Papiku. Papiku has a little stall selling jewlerry by the beach, and he was stood at his stall as usual, chatting up the customers. He wanted us to join him for some caipirinhas and a joint on the beach. How could we refuse? After all it was New years eve and it was already 3pm....

Papiku went and bought the neccesary ingredients for caipirinhas: a bag of limes; a bag of sugar; a bag of ice; and a bottle of cachaca. Cachaca is the local spirit. It tastes like shit but it costs 3 reals a litre ($1) and its very, very strong. The only way to make it slightly drinkable is to mask the flavour with a lot of crushed limes and a lot of sugar. Papiku had obviously done this before and had a large piece of bamboo for mixing it in. Once all the limes had been crushed in the bamboo flask he poured in a load of sugar and 3/4 of the bottle of cachaca. Then he stuck a long plastic tube into the flask and only then i noticed that it had a string strap for slinging it round your shoulder! It was like a primitive "Camelpac" but for alcohol!

After the caipirinha had been flowing for a while, we headed up the beach for a joint rolled using toilet paper... then, after we were really stoned, things started going a bit wierd....

Papiku didnt speak any english, and only joanna speaks portugese, so I ended up spending most of the time just grinning and playing guitar. Then Joanna told me what they had been talking about. Apparantly he had been telling her that liked her and he wanted her, to which she had replied that she was sorry, but she was with me. He said that didnt matter. She said that it probably did. He said how about a threesome? She said no, thanks all the same. Somewhere along the line this translated into "Yes, please grab my arse", which every time I was facing the other way is exactly what he did. This went on as we headed back into town, and by now he had become an unshakeable member of our new gang. He said he wanted to introduce us to a friend of his called charly. Ok, why not, we figured.

Later, we were back at our apartment, me, Joanna, Papiku, and Charly. Since Charly had arrived the mood had changed considerably. Papiku started displaying some rather strange behaviour. Each time he took a drag on a joint he would hold his breath, puff out his cheeks, and then emit a high pitched 'squeek' sound before blowing out. I asked him what he was doing, and he told me it got him more high..... Also, every time he did a line he would immediately walk into our bathroom and have a shower!! After he had done this about 3 times we asked him what was going on, and he replied that it was like doing heroin... okaaay.

By now he had made it clear that he intended to try and grope Joanna at every available opportunity, so I was unable to leave the two of them together, which was becoming a problem as I was dying for a piss. I tried to work out a way around the problem, and found it was rather like that problem they used to give you in tests at school with the chicken, the fox, and the bucket of grain. Maybe I could take Papiku into the toilet first, leave him there and come back for joanna, then bring papiku back.... Mmmmmm, maybe I would just hold it.

Eventually papiku left with charly, and we breathed a sigh of relief as a small amount of nornality returned to our kitchen. This lasted about 5 mins, and then he returned with charly and some spanish girl, and prceeded to rack up on our cooker. Eventually they left again. This time the peace lasted 10 mins. Then Papiku was at the door once more. "No more!" I said to him, and eventually got rid of him after explaining that i needed to shower and then i was going out.... he left in a huff.....

We finally headed out to find a new years party on a beach. We met up with Claire and Daniel, a nice young English/Australian couple. As lovely as they were, Claire reminded me of so much that I dislike about some english people. She basically judged every person she met in the first few seconds of meeting them, and put them in one of 2 categories: 'cool' and 'not cool'. So the people in the hostel she was staying in were awful because they were all "sad middle aged men"... it's such a shame when ppl come travelling and still dont managed to 'get it'. 'it' being the concept that actually people aren't all that diferent from each other at all, and you can find good things in all people. Oh well, I can't talk, I do it myself, but i shouldn't, so there a new years resolution for you.... :)

Ok anyway, the party. The only really interesting part was after midnight, when we found a group of people on the beach who were dancing the the music of once man hitting a triangle accompanied by another playing a primary school standard tune on the recorder. All the people dancing were pretending to be birds, and making bird noises to boot! It was a truly magical moment. The guy playing the triangle was prancing around like a fairy. In fact he looked quite like a fairy, with a funny hat and a wispy beard, so maybe he was one.

I dont remember the end of the night, but judging by the mess on the front porch this morning, I think it involved ice cream buffet....