Latest Update (as at 30/1/11):

Location: London. Back.

Total Distance Cycled: 10,325km
Days Biking: 140
Longest Day: 174km (2/12/10)

Thursday 1 April 2010

All things bright and beautiful..

All creatures that do crawl
All those flies so plentiful
I´d like to crush them all...

Never trust a creature that is in segments. Never. Anything that looks as though it has been assembled by a six year old using their Lego Technik kit, and has a number of articulating parts, should be greeted on the offensive. To all those who said there was ´nada, nada, nada´in the desert, I robustly say ´yada, yada, yada´. Those sun baked plains bedecked with ´nowt but thorn bushes are positively alive with life.
Now, I love nature. I just adored watching it on TV to the soothing sounds of David Attenborough. He is not a man you ever imagine has a six foot creepy crawly ascending his leg whilst he sagely discusses the charms of Planet Earth. They wouldn´t dare. We however were another matter. In the desert, they were all out of the box and generally marching or winging their way in our direction.

The problem with creatures like this is that evolution has not blessed them with looks or glamour. There is very little to love. It has designed them to do a job. To robot like go about their day, munching, crunching, lunching on anything in their path. They are machines. No fluff, curves or appealing waggy bits, they are all exoskeleton, ever twiddling antennae and legs. So many legs. And they make rather threatening buzzing and humming sounds. We´d be cycling along and the chorus ranged from spluttering garden sprinkler to dental instruments of torture. On and on and on they go, like The Invertebrate Philharmonic.

Then you try camping somewhere and suddenly you really come face to face with them. They are huge. On our wild camp night Phil wisely decided to keep to himself the number of outsized monsters he was standing on in order that I would actually get in the tent at all. I was already fractionally hysterical having put my headtorch on and become a beacon of glowing stupidity to be thumped into by red eyed super moths and clouds of mini flying death squads. The following morning though, in the daylight, I could see the floor level mega beasties for myself. Being a friend to nature I tried just to bury them in sand so that they were deflected from their path and ceased to freak me out, but seconds later up they´d come unfazed and unrelenting, pursuing their mission with excrutiating zeal. I tell you, when the world is ending this lot will be marching straight into any apocalyptic fires utterly undeterred.

Not all the critters we are encountering are so disagreeable. In the domestic arena we have covered a number of bog standard, family friendly types. Lots of delightful dogs of course, mostly well fed and agreeably drunk and therefore utterly useless at defensive activity. They can be tamed with the smallest of strokes and then they stand there looking at you lovingly. We camped at one Estancia where the deliciously bouncy ´Box´was so keen to play with us that he burst under the flap of our tent at daybreak and scratched energetically to join us in our sleeping bags. Gorgeous. Dogs have been supplemented by cats and canaries and one extremely cute tortoise. Nothing to fear here.

Then there are those semi domesticated types. Again mainly dogs but with the occasional cat thrown in. These are animals kept by owners in a state of sad semi starvation in order to wet their appetite for attacking unwanted guests, seeking out rats and mice for tea and fulfilling a proper function as a reward for smatterings of love. Usually flea ridden they bound towards one in packs when one arrives somewhere, keen to display ferocity, but as soon as they realise that you might be a source of food this generally gives way to skulking. Skulking, hovering, all round general attempts at being appealing and looks of ever hopeful slavering. One cat we met took this to extraordinary extremes, trying to climb into our still boiling pot of food, shamelessly pawing at our persons and making dinner enjoyment so tricky that we had to eat standing up. In the end we relented and watched it consume with gusto the dregs of our porridge and attempt to actually eat the non -stick pan as well.

The roamers come next. Dogs, mostly, of no fixed abode. Hunting about for any grub they can come across. Loners who mooch under cafe tables and occassionally, bravely, launch themselves into the interiors. They scrap on street corners over territory and have the capacity to follow a potential food source for several blocks at a time. These are dogs that you tend to see time and time again in the small towns and we become so acquainted with them that we have taken to giving them names. Here in Alvear we have met the finest of them all. ´Small Thing´is clearly very young and boundy and rushes about, all velvety dark browness, loose limbed newness and audaciously cute hopefulness all day long. Delicious.

Fisher Price farmyard animals have also been in plentiful supply. Whenever and wherever we camp there is always one. Chickens, sheep, goats, deer, horses and most recently a completely huge cow tend to loom over the horizon and come and take a jolly good look at us, our tent and of course our food. One step more surreal are those amazing creatures that heretofore I have only conceived of as being in aviaries, zoos or the extraordinary taxidermy shop near where I live in London. We´ve seen penguins, dolphins, otters, nandus, guanacos, desert foxes, screeching parrots, bright winged butterflies, flamingos, snakes (only dead ones mind, but you know they´re out there!) and huge wing spanned birds of prey. Heart stopping, amazing, soul inflaming. I just cannot believe they are real.

Because reality bites. I have reserved a final chapter for a creature so molesting, miserable, marauding and minging that I have to discuss it all by itself. M is for Mosquito. Why, oh why, oh why were they EVER invented? What possible purpose can a high pitched whining, blood sucking, alien landing craft have upon this earth? They swarm in their millions, they move in for the kill with the speed of light, (ladies, imagine the perils now of a quick roadside comfort stop! The minute any item of clothing slithers down, exposed areas are in great, great danger), and they gift you welts, swollen areas, excrutiating itchiness and if you are particularly lucky Malaria! Every morning I, (whom they seem inexorably drawn to) have to slather on the repellent from head to toe. My poor skin is completely confused because this concoction has to fight it out with the sun cream. What to do? To avoid burn or beat off monsters. I have a really unusual whiff about me. Coconut and poison. It's like a signature fragrance of Jordan's. We carry a can of Raid wherever we go and we are becoming very adept at Murder. M is for Murder. I´m rubbing my hands in glee.

And what will come next? We are leaving today for a bit more emptiness and then the green glades and watering holes of San Luis province and the outskirts of Cordoba. Our wonderful hosts last night (my physio and her husband who had us over for a great dinner) excitedly told us about its rich fauna, giant lizard like Iguanas (how kind) and super cat Pumas (even kinder) are amongst those who roam its verdant pastures. Brilliant.

David Attenborough eat your heart out.

1 comment:

  1. Happy Easter to both of you - keep safe and keep away from those creepy crawlies! M x