Face-off with an armadillo

Remember how I said that this would not turn into some god-awful travel blog? Remember how I promised that if I went all grubby fingernails and guitars on you I would relieve you of your agony and go and blog somewhere far away?

I lied. I’m sorry, friends, but I need to tell you about my weekend. I spent five days being, like, a TRAVELLER.

It involves sex, if that helps at all? Although it wasn’t me who got laid; I don’t want to mislead you. It was a seal. (Even bloody Elephant Seals, which have to be the laziest slugs I’ve ever seen, get more nookie than me.)
So, I took myself off down to the Valdes Peninsula this weekend. It’s a blob of land hanging on to the Eastern coast of Argentina and people go there to see wildlife and generally be at one with nature. Yah?
I’ve been working very hard recently so decided I deserved it. Buenos Aires is awesome but Jesus, it’s noisy. And mad. I needed some peace. Shoot me up with your best slice of tranquillity, Argentina! I yelled. I checked in for my 20 hour coach journey, cracked open a can of diet coke and began to smile.

(Don’t wince. Coach travel here is all the rage and it’s effing brilliant; for a mere 50 squid you can travel something like three times the length of the UK with a flat-bed seat, meals, snacks and champagne. That kind of shit works for me. They even play arty farty films and the toilet doesn’t make you want to commit suicide.)

On arrival at our hostel my friend and I encountered a wildlife species that I have always feared greatly: The Greater Dreadlocked Traveller. They were sitting coolly on deckchairs in the late afternoon sun, just smoking biftas casually and watching in silence as I tried to force our hire car up a gravel hill. (I succeeded only in spraying gravel all over the front of the hostel and sliding backwards amidst terrible roaring noises from the engine.)

Fortunately, we didn’t come across these folk again. I can only presume that they live in eco-tents out in the wilderness and subsist on organic penguin dung.

Anyway, we dumped our meagre belongings on our bunkbeds (I love a good bunk, me) and went straight off exploring with a lovely chap from the hostel. Within an hour I was shouting hoarsely in amazement as a whole load of ginormous whales splashed around before my very eyes amidst a sunset the like of which I haven’t seen since… actually, I’ve never seen a sunset like that.

I’m really sorry to say this – I wince as I write – but I stood on this deserted beach watching it all and felt completely at peace. There’s no other way of describing it; I felt blissful. In a way I haven’t done in years. I had a sudden sense of how enormous and infinite and beautiful the earth is and how me and my hopes and fears were really just tiny, unimportant blobs. It’s good to be a tiny unimportant blob. My problems, really, are luxury problems. In comparison to those of others, they’re laughable.

I’m just a little blob with a blog.

That night I was very pleased to find that Keanu Reeves was serving me dinner. I hadn’t expected to see him in a little wooden shack restaurant, even less so telling me what today’s seafood specials were, but there he was. A little shorter and slimmer than usual, but definitely Keanu. I embarrassed my friend enormously by trying to flirt with him in my fledgling Spanish. It went badly; she had to jump in and translate several times. These are not ideal conditions for flirting as I’m sure you’ll agree. He didn’t sneak his phone number on to the back of the bill.

The next day we went out in a boat to watch whales at first hand. It started amazingly – we were about five metres from this great big MOFO – and then suddenly sea-sickness set in and I spent the rest of the trip with my head in a bag. Few things in life feel more wretched than sea- or car-sickness when you have no hope of escaping said vehicle. I actually prayed. Quite a few times in fact. A man was filming a little DVD for people on the boat and periodically he would point the camera at my green and heaving form with a look of light derision on his face. I didn’t make the final cut.

On our return, we drove off to a remote beach where we saw no whales but did some class-A rockpooling. Is it just me or is rockpooling AWESOME? That salty smell! All those mad little crabs scuttling around! Amenenmomenenmonies! Mussels that won’t open for love nor money! It was beautiful and windswept and romantic and I found myself full of happy childhood memories; rockpooling away like mad with my little sister on the beaches of Cardigan Bay. We spent literally hours doing that shit.

As I poked around in a rockpool twenty-three years later, part of me mourned – in a fond sort of way – the loss of my youth. That time when a six-hour stint on the rockpools was an absolutely acceptable way to spend the afternoon. No fannying around on facebook or working for five companies at once or sorting out your council tax or meeting strangers from off of the internet. No silly handbags or online tesco orders or fights with your landlord. Just proper, solid rockpooling. I want more rockpooling in my life. Less being-a-grownup.

“Let’s walk up to the sea lion colony!” I said when we returned to our hostel. It was a beautiful evening; calm and warm and showing the beginnings of another spectacular sunset. We packed some mate and a flask and set off, ready for some serious cliffside bliss. Rather unfortunately, an out-and-out hurricane broke out as we arrived. As we tried to pour mate into its little gourd, a gust of hurricane-like proportions threw about 300g of the bloody stuff into my eye. We ended up throwing ourselves on a ranger’s Jeep and literally begging him to take us back to our village. I am now red-eyed and crashing into things, awaiting an appointment with the doctor tomorrow for the removal of excessive herbs to the eye. Who in the hell suffers herbal injuries?

But never mind. On our return I had a seafood stew so good I nearly wept. It was so delicious I found myself popping whole octopuses into my mouth as if they were M&S minibites. (In part I was showing off to an extremely handsome and manly chap sitting opposite me at the next table whose rugged sexiness had me in a state of disgraceful lust. He definitely watched me eat at least one octopus, with a slightly naughty look on his face, but unfortunately he then roared off on a motorbike and I never saw him again. I do rather wonder if I disgusted him.)

The next day we set off looking for more wildlife and, er, beauty. We found it in cartloads. At times it blew me away. On one particularly stunning beach, I was watching some seals through a telescope. They were truly amazing. Big, fat, silly slugs, lying face down in the sand, dead to the world apart from the odd lazy flipper throwing some sand on their backs. “Oh, how LOVELY!” I cried excitedly. “Look at the big one! He’s just gone and put his arm round his girlfriend, isn’t that sweet! Look, he’s kissing her! He’s giving her a massage… He’s… oh my GOD. Guys. SHIT! HE’S HUMPING HER! LOOK!”
No grown-up David Attenborough procreation talk here; we all giggled like children and took pictures of the rude bits. At the moment when I shouted”Quick, look in the telescope now, you can see its ****!) the ranger of the colony turned up and talked us through the mating ritual. In perfect English. Clearly, he’d heard everything we said.
We prayed for death.

I saw penguins who made me roar with laughter (I damned nearly took one home, I tell you), I saw the mysterious and elusive killer whale diving around like a dolphin, I saw some lovely big-eyed llamas (I had to look the other way; I ate llama stew last week) and I saw all sorts of big funny birds. But my hands down favourite was an armadillo. An actual, real-life full-on armadillo. I was sitting in the car doorway, trying to text someone, when this massive great big woodlouse-type affair stormed up to me and stared at me. I put my phone down. “Hello,” I said. It ran off in a circle and then came back to eyeball me some more. “Hello again,” I said, entranced. It looked non-plussed and stormed off towards a group of far more responsive people. Friends, I am basically in love with that armadillo. That dude had style. He was afraid of nothing and no-one. I’d like to roll the way he does, let me tell you. Armadillo Robinson. I’d be legendary.

Obviously I dropped my camera on the floor and smashed it to smithereens just as we departed the peninsula but I shall be updating this blog with pictures as soon as my friend sends them to me.

Sigh. Flora and fauna. So much better than internet dating.

 

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