It had supposed to have been straightforward.
Clutching the photocopied leaflet that the kind Consulate woman had given me, I had ambled across the highway to the shopping mall opposite.
“No ID?” the leaflet beckoned, “No problem!”
Bereft of passport, driving license and bankcards, I was ID-less. Passing a TGI Fridays, Tommy Hilfiger and Mango, I was in Americanised-Quito – perhaps the only type that the diplomats and political dignitaries staying in the Sheraton Hotel opposite actually get to see – headed for the leaflet brand's nearest branch.
“All you need to know” continued the leaflet, “is who sent you how much, when and from where.”
I knew Bankboy had wired me $1,000 from London almost exactly an hour before.
“Visit any Western Union today!” it finished, calling me to action.
And so it came to be that I was indeed visiting Western Union, that very day.
“No ID?” replied the assistant, “No money!” and became the consistent response at several branches, that and the next day, despite waving their sorry leaflet in futile.
And so it came to be that only on the third day, on finding a larger ‘express’ branch, that I eventually managed to get my hands on Bankboy’s cash.
“I shouldn’t really do this without ID” complained the manager, “But will do it just this once.”
I was too tired to argue. I had my money. And with this money, could relax from the previous few days’ bureaucracy with a small indulgence in a daytrip to the mountain lakes.
“It’s OK” assured my Israeli fellow traveller at our first stopoff at a market halfway to our destination. “The driver’s promised to stay with the minibus, so it’s safer to leave our bags here for half-hour.”
After the previous week’s shenanigans, leaving our bags onboard indeed seemed sensible advice.
Twenty-five minutes later, Israeli Assurer is back at the minibus going out of his mind. “He’s gone!” he exclaims, “And all our bags are gone!”. The reassembling group stared forlornly at the empty, unlocked and deserted minibus, whilst I simply shrugged having become by then somewhat immune to such happenings. The short, middle-aged minibus driver returns with his son to slightly-too-plausible surprise and enlists the help of local police in a fruitless search for the thieves.
Fastforwarding another couple of hours in this much abridged but, let’s be honest, now somewhat stale tale, and the also-Israeli owner of the tour operator pulls up in his own minibus and makes straight for the minibus driver – but what followed was unbelievable.
(“You know,” later divulged Essex tourman at the mock-English pub, “He used to be an assassin for the national army.”)
The Israeli Assassin is shaking the Short, Middle-Aged Busdriver, as market visitors look on.
This, naturally enough, upsets Short, Middle-Aged Busdriver’s son, as the two men continue to exchange their differing versions of events.
“Muy mal!” shouts Israeli Assassin, choosing this already delicate moment to slap Short, Middle-Aged Busdriver’s face, sending his NHS-style specs crashing to the market floor.
By this time, quite a crowd is gathering, and the growing crowd growing increasingly angry.
Short, Middle-Aged Busdriver’s son, seeing the shock on his father’s face, instinctively launches himself at Israeli Assassin.
Israeli Assassin instinctively raises his foot, the resulting farce giving the distinct impression of a fit, grown man kicking a defenceless young boy to the ground.
“Chico!” shouts an onlooking old man in disgust, encouraging those around him to also sound their disgust.
But Israeli Assassin is beckoning us to his minibus with some degree of urgency.
Grey dust erupts from the rocky street as we speed from the market, followed by the chasing trail of angry Ecuadorians threatening to lynch us.
I lifted the receiver by the security desk, just as the Consulate had advised me from the protected side of the bullet-proof window, as a male and a female guard played cards in an otherwise deserted embassy reception.
"What the fuck has happened?" exclaimed the familiar tones of Bankboy from my London flat several thousand miles away.
I explained to him, as I am explaining to you now, how on just my third day in the country, overcoming jetlag, I had courageously ventured out a couple of hours by bus to explore the traditional Saturday market of Otavalo.
I explained how, perhaps overexcited by this sudden immersion into indigenous culture, I'd enthusiastically unravelled my map to follow up a recommendation from a local passenger to take a further trip from the bus station to some unmissable nearby sights and villages.
How I'd dawdled from the relative sanctuary of the market-laden streets into the hectic, bustling, sprawling mass consisting of many animal and fruit traders, a dozen or so knackered buses, each with a handwritten sign apparently obvious to the many Ecuadorian folk seeking to board them but totally disorienting to me, probably the sole tourist there.
And how, as the door was opened the hitherto orderly queue disintegrated into a mad scramble with passengers jumping off, stepping on, and generally barging around with wild abandon. How it was as I made my way down the aisle that I found myself distracted by a mere slip of a boy, perhaps ten or eleven years old, who bent down, apparently to pick up dropped coins. How this had struck me as odd, because I could clearly see that no coins had been dropped, and yet how I stopped in my tracks to watch this young man pretend to look for these coins which clearly did not exist: under the seats, then along the aisle, then finally on my shoe and around my sock. How this sudden change in behaviour had struck me as odder, but how I had remembered that due to the travellers' habit of stashing money by their feet, I had assumed the little tike was probably just after a quick buck. How after a quick tut, this minor ordeal had been over, and I had moved past to sit back into a seat bemused at how anyone could even deign to think I could be fooled by a scam so pathetic.
Then how, as the bus pulled away, I had prudently checked both sealable pockets of my travel trousers. To find my digital camera safe in my left pocket. But to find my right pocket completely bereft of the wallet I'd bought just the day before to house my passport, driving license and bank cards had not been the best I had ever made. (It was, after all, not so long since I'd last lost my passport.)
Finally how I had managed to spent the next couple of hours in various mainly Spanish-speaking police establishments, and managed to resist the urge in describing the suspect's similarity to Cristiano Ronaldo, for fear of offending most officers in the room.
Bankboy listened attentively. "I'll get some money to you", he reassured.
“So has it spoilt your time in Ecuador?” my fellow Essex man from the tour agency had enquired of me, that final night in the mock-English pub in Quito.
“Not really” I shrugged, “though it’s prolonged my stay here by a week or two”.
I knew exactly what the ‘it’ was he was referring to, as it had occupied much of our previous conversation.
The Embassy Consulate had been a very nice lady, the Ecuadorian Police had exhibited a helpfulness belying their invariably corrupt reputation, and Bankboy had proved himself extremely swift at funnelling emergency funds across the Atlantic from the relative comfort of my flat.
Because I knew the ‘it’ Essex Tourman was referring to were the two robberies I’d experienced within my first week in the country – reporting of which I had hitherto self-embargoed for fear of alarming the many friends, family and stalkers I was acutely aware were closely following every step of my adventures via this meagre blog.
Two robberies which, when added to the theft of my mobile phone in Barcelona just prior to this trip, equated to three robberies in as many weeks.
Two robberies which I am only free to tell you about now, exclusively here on Unluckyman.
“Unlucky!” hailed the familiar voice as I walked into arrivals at Cork airport.
I hadn’t planned to meet him there. I thought he’d be busy.
“Over here!” he bellowed.
The groom stood before me, waving furiously.
It turned out he had received my panic-stricken messages. So knew I wouldn’t be on the afternoon flight. And happened to be looking out for me whilst picking up friends on the evening flight.
Following the previous day’s pretty frantic travelling, a lift was welcome.
The wedding went without a hitch, apart from the bride arriving a plain rude 40 minutes late, and my jetlag forcing an early retirement to bed.
“Didn’t you hear about the priest?” asked the groom the day after, driving me to the scenic coastal town of Cobh before my flight back.
I shook my head. I hadn’t noticed the priest since he was apparently single-handedly clearing the top-table’s wine.
“He got a bit amorous with the more mature ladies.” he explained, “A bit gropy, some might say. Then he gradually became obviously and violently pissed. Before we had to get a couple of lads to lift him out of his car which he was about to drive home.”
And all this on a school-night for him, I pondered.
Change of plan
My flight cancelled, I hailed a cab: "Marriot, please."
I crossed my fingers hoping the airline would pay the exorbitant claim that would soon be coming their way.
Running through my new itinerary in my head, the challenge ahead became clear:
I would fly from Curacao 6:50pm Thursday, nine hours overnight to Amsterdam landing mid-morning Friday. Before a couple of hours wait and my transfer flight arriving at Heathrow 1:50pm. Which would now allow me just over one hour before I am due to fly from Stansted, landing at Cork early evening. Not to mention the need to pick up my wedding suit from my London flat. Or in fact the need to pick up my flat keys, having lost my original set in my second robbery within my first week in Ecuador.
Realising the impossibility, I surfed back at the hotel to book a later flight. Of which I could only find one, flying from Gatwick mid-evening.
Twenty hours, five airports, three cabs, two trains and a maximum fifteen minutes repacking would just about get me to the wedding on time.
Nothing could go wrong, I thought, as I tucked into the most expensive meal I could find on the hotel menu.
In retrospect, it did seem slightly odd.
Coming, like all good things, to an end, it was time for me to leave the country. I had been sitting atop my precision-packed rucksack in the sweltering heat generated by sun streaming in to the check-in area of Curacao airport for at least twenty minutes, arriving the requested three hours prior to departure. Under which context, the complete absence of any airline staff or even other passengers, might have struck me as slightly odd.
But it was not until the arrival of some Dutch fellow backpackers questioning me about this very absence did it occur to me that things were indeed slightly odd.
"I'm not really sure" I shrugged, "I just figured it was typical Carribbean laid-backness and check-in would open later".
Speculation abounded and minutes later, our worst fears were confirmed at the nearby office.
"Cancelled?!" we exclaimed in unison.
"Not enough passengers to fly today" came the reply, "so you fly tomorrow".
Lugging my bags back outside to the mid-afternoon sun, I thought, there were worse places to be delayed for a day.
Until I realised I would miss my flight to my old friend's wedding in Ireland that weekend.
Much as I abhor the sheer concept of the "master-and-servant" relationship, it had
after all been a rather long flight.
Maintaining my deluded illusion that travelling from Buenos Aires to Curacao would be a mere detour en route for home, this "internal flight" transpired to be a 6-hour hop to Bogota, Colombia where I'd have to complain about my lost ticket for a couple of hours before taking the final, shamefaced and embarrassed 90-minute leg of the journey.
But all this was behind me as I lay on as good a beach as I'd ever seen. Curacao is a fascinating island: still Dutch-owned, with Spanish influences, but its tourism encouraging English-speaking, yet its inhabitants preferring the Netherland Antilles language of Papiamentu. And I'd had enough of hostels to feel treating myself to take a room at the Hilton overlooking the ocean.
So I relax back in my lounger to indulge myself in the Caribbean sun as the barman fetches my cocktail.
Things don't get much better than this, I think.
Then, out the corner of my eye, I spot the bikini photoshoot beginning.
Ticket to ride
"Without your onward ticket voucher" explains the Colombian airline clerk in perfect English, "we simply can't let you board, Sir."Sir
always takes on a patronising tone when you're being told something you really, really don't want to hear, no matter how politely or sincerely it is actually being voiced.
"But they already gave me the boarding pass at Buenos Aires!" I exclaim (without succumbing to the temptation of cheaply exaggerating this exclamation through unnecessarily excessive use of exclamation marks, as lesser writers do).
Exasperatedly perspiring in my layers of Argentinian T-shirts, casual tops and brand new leather jacket, I plead "They must have taken the voucher there."
The clerk makes some calls, whilst I sigh at this irritating South American incompetence.
"Can I ask you Sir
just to check everywhere again?" she asks, "They don't have your voucher in Buenos Aires."
"Well, I've already checked everywhere twice
!" I reply hoitily, "But can check again, I suppose
I fumble round my bags, wallets and pockets again whilst a fellow passenger empathises that exactly the same thing had happened to her.
"I've checked again
like you asked" I advise the clerk ever-so-slightly condescendingly, "and I just don't have your voucher."
At that moment I detect her detecting the slightest doubtful expression creep onto my face, as I reach into my brand new leather jacket's zippable inside pocket to retrieve my crumpled voucher.
"Sorry" I mumble.
" she replies, ushering me on to the plane.
Due to my "broken boat", back through the palmtree-lined Uruguayan highways it was for me. To be followed by a short delay caused by an over-zealous customs official to catch the hydrofoil from Colonia del Sacramento. Then being driven by a trademark nutnut cab driver back to the same hostel from which I'd inadvertently stolen my keys a couple of days before. All in all, the perfect reverse of my outward journey which I'd sought so hard to avoid.
So after a quick slap on the wrists from the receptionist I am heading out again, aligning myself with elderly people to navigate through the city's rush-hour streets. Rush! Rush! Rush! Like I am truly one of the locals.
I'd already exceeded the maximum 6-inches of my rucksack my precision-packing had allowed for new purchases. By at least threefold, I calculated, from the horde of spontaneous bargains procured earlier in the week which were at this point sitting forlornly on my hostel bed. Even the Reebok sports bag I had bought to carry my excessive indulgences instead, perhaps the sole genuine brand among them, would be hard-stretched to fit all my Argentinian T-shirts and casual tops in already.
But I'd decided on my last day what I still need most in the world was a black leather jacket. I'd neither owned a leather jacket since my mottled brown one from Carnaby Street in the late 80s, nor wanted one since then, perhaps due to its abject failure to allure any female interest, which as we all know is the sole point of expensive clothes. Yet in this real 'Land of Leather' the plentiful stores, pushy vendors and ridiculously discounted price promotions had overcome my scepticism to persuade me that this was exactly what I really needed now. Which means I'm on a mission: elbowing my way past strangers, zig-zagging between cars, even occasionally breaking into a uncharacteristically moderately paced stroll.
Downtown, I head into the first leather shop I reach, where I find a classic black design, protective from the elements, and - best of all - complete with a zippable
pocket (inside) for my stuff. Purchase made, proudly stepping out of the store with my fancy padded cardboard bag, I realise I might as well have stamped 'TOURIST' on my forehead.
So, eschewing the risk of walking through crowded streets and the inherent dangers of Buenos Airean cabbies in rush-hour traffic, I head underground instead. Let a couple of crowded metro trains pass. Then ascend a half-full one. Only, at the next station, to be greeted by at least as many passengers trying to get on.
I have never felt as crushed (literally) as I do right now. My fancy padded cardboard bag is no longer padded nor fancy. My new jacket already a mere shadow of the grandeur it exhibited in the shop. Sardine-packed as the train pulls away, I hold on to a short bald man's head to maintain some semblance of balance, poise and hence dignity.
Three stops on, I prise myself an exit, and rise aboveground to sadly pack my crumpled jacket into my last hailed bashed-up taxi.Rubbish Stalker - Update
Rubbish Stalker emailed thanking me for the information.
He had visited London but yet to meet his intended Stalkee.
I was slightly disappointed at owning up, sometimes lying promises more fun.
Away in Uruguay
Colonia was all the more rewarding for its spontaneous choice.
Perhaps because of this, perhaps because of its short walk from the port providing a welcome contrast to the vastness of Buenos Aires, perhaps because of its few hundred metres bordered by the Rio Plate housing narrow cobbled streets meandering from one pristine old building to the next, perhaps because of my copious amounts of lunchtime wine, I loved it.
A place unpretentiously stuck in time, proudly boasting vintage vehicles which locals actually drive including sweetly minute Noddy cars. Where the sun shines, and everyone seems relaxed. Where even the local police ride mopeds so dainty as to quash any authority they might otherwise have commanded. A sort of Spanish Rye, smack bang in South America.
“La quanta, per favor” I asked the standing man who had been looking towards my table at the inevitable evening bar.
He pointed at the waitress, and left.
A disturbing looking short hobbit man remained sipping his beer.
Next morning, slightly hungover, I board the bus to Montevideo. Coincidentally, the odd Hobbitman joins. The palm-tree lined streets soon giving way to repetitive, flat countryside, the journey reminds me of home, but three hours is enough.
The capital city’s okay, but has a grittiness to it which I hadn’t expected. I locate the strip of city bars where I see a group of friends laugh raucously in a manner which I realized I hadn’t witnessed since leaving London. I manage to grab a free breakfast before reaching the port for the return ferry, where I am suddenly disturbed to see the mysterious Hobbit man drive past.
“Your boat” explains the clerk as I attempt to book in, “is broke.”
“We have a bus” he continues, “to take you via a place called Colonia.”
Don't pay the ferryman
One hour, he confidently told me, would suffice.
One hour, the hostel receptionist said, would be enough – in fact, more
that enough, I got the distinct impression – to travel by cab to the port, buy my ticket, go through customs and board my ferry to Uruguay.
Spontaneously deciding to visit Uruguay, you understand, is not quite as grand as it sounds. Chosen first stop Colonia del Sacramento is just over an hour by hydrofoil from Buenos Aires. Then Montevideo less than three hours from there by bus. And Montevideo another couple of hours or so hydrofoil back to Argentina. Which I’d decided was the optimum sea/road combination to avoid repeating journeys. And for which he’d told me one hour would be enough.
But, stuck in traffic less than fifteen minutes before departure, I was less confident.
Not that he hadn’t tried. The cabbie had arrived early, so I’d rushed out. Hitting the snarl early, he turned down alternative backstreets, but found them clogged. And hit every red light going.
Unfortunately I had the slowest-moving cab in the city.
Less than ten minutes before departure, we reach the port so I dart inside where I get pointed from passport booth to ticket desk to check-in.
Five minutes to go, I am rushing through security, my mind too frazzled to remember to remove all metallic objects as diligently as I normally would.
The X-Ray machine bleeps, and I am searched.
I remove a large key from my pocket, marked ‘HOSTEL’.
As the ferry departs, I ring them to apologise.
They have a spare, and trust me not to break in until I am booked to return.
I rapidly motion my right hand up and down frantically in front of my gob, simulate the swishing around of liquid, and pretend to spit the contents towards my left.
It’s a virtuoso performance.
“Ahah!” replies my Argentinian pharmacist, recognition clearly covering his face as he bends down and retrieves my desired purchase from behind the counter.
I smile smugly, content that despite my temporary memory loss of the brandname and complete linguistic loss of the correct Spanish I had just successfully bought some mouthwash solely through the medium of mime.
I wander proudly through this good city.
Like cities before, I manage to fill my days in Buenos Aires doing nothing in particular, yet a bit of everything – in between sleeping, eating and washing my mouth:
I visit the main downtown sights. I ride the Metro, its underground TV playing contemporary rock in contrast to Santiago’s inexplicable continuous loop of Eric Clapton and Phil Collins circa 1989. I view an Andy Warhol exhibition, which I understand and appreciate some of. I pay tribute at Evita’s grave by joining the other tourists in cheaply photographing it. I walk through parks. I walk through a Japanese garden, about as oriental as I am, at which I manage to inadvertently get my ticket upsold to an indoor petcar exhibition. I walk through city squares populated by baton-wielding police, and others with no police. I turn down the kind invite from some Chilean psychologists to a late-night bar, which makes me feel proud and grown-up. I peruse an antiques market, watching tango-dancing and wolf down parilla. I get caught in rain again.
Navigating round the city, I have found, is perilous on foot. “Never assume” advised my guidebook, “that the pedestrian ever has right of way”. Evidence of this is the city’s traffic lights’ absence of a green man. Instead, they have a beige man. And beige carries little currency in the primary colour-dominated world of symbols. Beige seems to denote that you may
cross, when safely distant from psychotic motorists. My simple solution to this is to locate the nearest crossing old person, strategically chosen to look frail enough to cause even the most hard-nosed driver to slow a little, yet with bones brittle enough to sufficiently delay any impending impact away from me.
Selfish, maybe, but this tactic seemed to work.
I snap my eyelids closed from a sudden surge of utter disbelief combined with overwhelming fear.
I just don’t see how he’s going to do it.
Two cars ahead jostling for position amid one of Buenos Aires’ frantic highways, wingmirrors locking horns, my cab driver’s hurtling forward in a futile attempt to overtake.
I prise one eye slightly open.
He steers to the left, accelerates to near bumper-nudging distance, in effort I assume to intimidate the first driver into submission. Thwarted, he veers to the right, repeatedly sounding his horn, in effort I assume to deafen the second driver into submission. Meanwhile, both drivers ahead are gravitating towards each other in an improvised interpretation of lane control, the already miniscule gap between them ever-diminishing. In comparison arriving in Quito now seems like an elderly couple's Sunday afternoon country drive.
Yet it’s through this non-existent gap that my driver’s attempting to overtake.
I just don’t see how he’s going to do it, so I snap my eyelids closed again.
He is an idiot.
As I close my eyes, my sense of sound appears to improve to compensate for my temporary self-imposed loss of vision. A cacophony of pounding engines, honking of horns, screeching of brakes and Spanish profanity encompasses me, surround-sound style.
Perspiration now dripping down my forehead, I force my eyes open.
By jove he’s only gone and done it.
Miraculously, he’s somehow managed to prise apart the two cars that were ahead but are now periliously close either side of us. Emulating the beaded Jesus that hangs from his cracked rear-view mirror, he has created a parting of the lanes, where no lane previously existed. Now surging forward in his victory, I check in both rear-view mirrors that I can indeed see the defeated drivers’ cars behind.
He is a genius after all.
The journey continues in similar fashion for some half-hour, until the driver suddenly pulls up outside my hostel, causing me to plunge forward, my sweated face leaving a Turin Shroud-like impression on the rear of his front passenger seat.
I get out, pay, and thank my lucky stars as I lug my luggage into the hostel.
Explaining it’s the wrong hostel, they kindly call me another cab.
“No!!!!!” I exclaimed, as I look round at the screen in disbelief.
“Si!!!!! Si!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” replied the exasperated receptionist at the hotel across town I´d decided to book a room at, the German Nymphomaniacs just having got a little too much for me.
Only half-hour into their World Cup qualifying match against Brazil, Chile were already trailing 4-0.
It had already been a football-filled weekend, Santiago rain having curtailed outdoor sightseeing on Saturday.
Chile´s dismal failure was all the more tragic as I´d have been willing to pledge my host country my utter support, if only the Italian restaurant waiters hadn’t told me kick-off was starting half hour later than it actually had.
The rest of the weekend was spent, well, not doing particularly much
, but really digging the city. Trundling, chilling, pottering. I love uncovering cities: finding that discreet doorway which holds a great bar, a treasure-trove of a shop, or an informative museum. Or just wandering round in my jacket with the hole-filled pockets, soaking up its vibe.
And Santiago was a welcome contrast to previous weeks. Student life is abundant. Roads get fixed before others get started on. Its Metro is clean and runs to time. Chileans are on the whole courteous and polite. And you can flush your bogroll down the bog, which incidentally still flushes anti-clockwise.
“Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!” I laughed, probably a little too much, during my wine vineyard tour.
Being the only non-Spanish speaking in our group, the guide was translating into English for my sole benefit afterwards.
Which was very kind of her, but put me under immense pressure to laugh at the same points the Spanish-speaking crowd had laughed at just two minutes before.
“Ha! Ha! Ha!” I would laugh some more, just to cover any potential jokes I may have missed.
Not content with this culture alone, I even visited a museum.
Clearly something needed to be done to redress the balance.
Santiago, I had grown to realise, is also a city full of snogging. Snogging on park benches. Snogging in the underground. Snogging down the street. Whichever way I twisted or turned, it seemed everyone was snogging, except me. Watching the football had made me miss my mates. Enjoying my first Indian meal after the football, I wanted to be at my local in Holly Court. And dining alone on an excellent Mexican meal at a romantic restaurant, I just yearned for a snog. (No, not with my mates.)
So I thanked my waitress as she brought my café-con-leche, impressed that her dexterity prevented her from both catching her death of cold or scolding herself stupid in her skimpy bikini.
Nice muffins, too.
I realised it was high time for me to leave Santiago.
I hadn’t noticed them before.
I hadn’t noticed them the first day, but was probably excusably tired from my flight.
Nor had I noticed them the second day, but was hungover. On only four beers. Until I remembered at least two of those beers being ‘grande’size, which I made a mental note means 1-litre in Chile.
But I noticed them the third day. Despite lack of sleep from the hostel kindly, in the absence of a Flat-Footed Receptionist, provided me with Late Night Singing Aussies, a Thrash Metal Rehearsal Studios next door and a couple of German Nymphmaniacs on the other side of the wafer-thin partition that separates our rooms, I noticed them.
Hangover-free, I had set out on a mission with a spring in my step. Got up early, though my will was in no small part influenced by the German Nymphomaniacs. Put the second wave of my ‘Shock and Awe’ laundry campaign into action, to a different launderette to that in which the mature pant-folding men work. And done some proper supermarket shopping, in Spanish.
And there they were: The Andean mountains – only the second
biggest range in the world – towering above the horizon in all their majestic splendour beyond the end of the same street I must have walked half-a-dozen times already.
“I'm just too scared” confessed the Amiable Manc as I munched on my self-prepared toasties “to get my hair cut in Spanish”.
I nodded in agreement, my mouth full of toasties.
“But...” he continued, as we watched the horrors of New Orleans unfold on CNN, “that’s about the biggest problem I have to contend with right now.”
I nodded some more, because he was right. Life is rich and easy for me right now. Back in the real world, I’ll probably regard how I managed to spend the rest of the day in a zoo, sitting in a cablecar, enjoying lunch in a ridiculously expensive restaurant, then knocking back more ‘grande’size beers with the Amiable Mancs in the hostel, as a selfish indulgence.
“They’re not strip coffee bars”, the Amiable Manc later corrected me, “they’re just ‘coffee with legs’. You should check it out.”
I nodded again, because right now, days like this seem pretty much perfect.
If only I could silence those German Nymphomaniacs.
A bearded stranger is chasing me down the street.
Which is odd, because he’d been perfectly pleasant to me just a few moments before. Moments so few, in fact, to provide insufficient time for me to become startled and break into a panicked run. But a moment enough for him to snatch back the card he had handed me but moments before.
This strikes me as perplexing behaviour, but I shrug my shoulders, remind myself I’m in Chile, and trundle on.
It starts to rain.
And none of this Galapaganian ‘guara’ nonsense, this is proper rain
and as such, I note, the first I’ve experienced in six weeks.
Rain feels good. Refreshing, energising and invigorating.
Until, that is, it starts to seep through my light ‘North Face’ microfleece. Then it just feels wet, and horrible, and cold. (And my brolly is far, far away in Tooting Bec.)
I trundle on, to buy myself a warmer top, and possibly a twattish hat, like I’ve seen the local students wear. But, amidst the banks, travel agents and coffee-stripbars, I can nary find a clothes shop. Rather like trying to find a proper sandwich shop in Chiswick.
The top has to meet three simple criteria: be warming, protect from rain, and offer inside pockets for my stuff. So I trundle on, and on, circling past the Bearded Stranger on a couple of cycles, who on recognising me declines to give another card.
Eventually, I trundle upon a department store where I successfully locate a studenty top. It’s perfect: warm, protective and with pockets.
The sun shines as I walk back to my hostel, it having stopped raining.
I proudly unwrap my new top, and place my stuff in it.
My stuff falls out, my having bought the only top in the world with hole-filled pockets.
Rubbish Stalker - update
In other news, realising it's the last day my Rubbish Star Wars Stalker was due to be in London, I plump for emailing him the awful truth (names changed to preserve anonymity):Hi Rubbish Stalker,
Apologies for the delay in replying to you.
The reason for my tardiness is my currently being in Chile, so your forwarded letter having travelled further than it needed.
Much as I would have liked to meet you I have to point out I am not the actor you are seeking. Unfortunately the highest my acting aspirations attained was playing "Second Class Postage Stamp" in a junior school assembly, so have not even made it near a Star Wars set.
I do wish you genuine luck on your continued quest however and
specifically on finding your man.
Best wishes - may the force be with you
I await his response.