Friends, it is all over between Me and Travelling. Our previously cordial relations have been severed. I’m done! (NB The picture to the left was taken before me and Travelling fell out)
It began on Wednesday when I was staring out of the window of a bus at an extraordinary range of mountains. I realised I couldn’t give a flying f*ck about said mountains.
Shocked, I slapped myself round the face. What sort of a traveller gets bored of mountains?
Nothing changed. I just looked around to check no-one was watching me and gave a discreet v-sign to the mountains. “F*ck you,” I muttered at them. “I’ve had it with you! I hate your tiny little villages! I hate your ancient customs and rubbly roads! I want a change of scenery! In fact, I want to go home! Dammit! I want England’s green and pleasant land! You can take your breath-taking multi-coloured world-renowned rock formations and shove them up your arse!”
Because I am a foreigner; a blonde one at that, everyone on the bus was looking at me and thus my v-sign and muttered curses were about as private as if I’d thrown off my clothes and started singing Britney classics at the front of the bus. But I didn’t care. Did you hear me? I DIDN’T CARE.
“Er, Robinson,” I remonstrated with myself. “Calm down my friend! This village you’re going to is stunning! It’s just what you wanted, a nice little taste of off-the-beaten track!”
“F*CK YOU,” the other side of my brain roared. “I AM SICK AND TIRED OF BEING OFF THE BEATEN TRACK! I AM SICK AND TIRED OF POWER CUTS AND GOING TO THE LOO IN A SHACK AND FREEZING MY TITS OFF AT NIGHT AND PEOPLE LOOKING AT ME LIKE I’M SPEAKING URDU WHENEVER I TRY TO SPEAK SPANISH. I AM THROUGH, DO YOU HEAR ME? THROUGH. TAKE ME SOMEWHERE DIFFERENT, POPULATED AND NORMAL PLEASE, OR ELSE.”
I’m afraid I did not listen to this warning. I’m afraid I pressed on to the tiny village I was heading for, convinced that I was just experiencing momentary madness. I’m afraid that I did my best to get into the swing of village life, setting up shop in a mud shack and trusting the locals when they told me the tap water was drinkable.
At 3am on Thursday morning, my blatant rejection of these warnings was avenged. I awoke from my uncomfortable shivery sleep (there isn’t much by way of heating in your average mud shack and, to make matters worse, there was a power cut going on and the blackness was so complete I couldn’t sleep for fear that I was actually in a small black box) to find that the world was about to depart from my rear and.
I ran, doubled over, to an even more freezing cold pitch-black shack and spent the next few hours in there. It wasn’t pleasant. As the sun rose over the village Lucy Robinson rubbed her buttocks to prevent them from becoming frostbitten and rather wished the grim reaper would come for her right now.
Later, I hauled my weary ass to the ‘bus’ to the nearest town. Let me explain the ‘bus.’ You sit in the middle of the road until some bloke in a shit car turns up and says “you want to go to the town?”
“Yes,” you tell him, and get in. He sits there and waits until the car fills up. For a five-seater car this normally means there are ten people piled in with a few babies on the roof. I clenched my fists as more and more villages piled in on top of me.
“I’VE GOT F*CKING DIARRHOEA, YOU BASTARDS” screamed my inner mentalist. “HOW DARE YOU SIT ON MY LAP AS IF NOTHING IS OUT OF THE ORDINARY??? This would not happen on the National Express, let me tell you. I HATE YOU ALL!”
Obviously I sat there smiling as if I was totally cool with everything.
We arrived at the town. I won’t go into the next few hours because they were unspeakably awful but I cried quite a lot and swore openly at a lot of people. That’s the only advantage to being off the beaten track. When you start acting like a complete prick, people can’t understand you. For the best, obviously, given how unbelievably odious my behaviour was.
Finally, I managed to get a bus down to the south. There were, shall we say, ‘complications’ with my illness which had prompted The Man to tell me, via text message, that it would be a good idea to get to a doctor as soon as possible; possibly the sort of doctor where blood tests and suchlike could be performed.
This sort of doctor was eight hours away.
I arrived at the bus to discover a full riot in progress. Oh no, sorry, it wasn’t a riot, it was just a normal scene at a remote bus station near the border. I can barely describe the chaos that was ongoing. It took me fifteen minutes just to load my rucksack into the back of the bus and I had to pay two bribes just to make this happen. It then took a further fifteen minutes for me to climb to my seat. When I say this bus was packed I am wildly understating the situation. It was packed TO THE RAFTERS with stinking rubbish that my fellow passengers were transporting to even more remote towns to sell.
Remember that blog about the champagne bus with the bingo? I wept, thinking of that bus.
After a horrendous two hours, during which I had to make two toilet trips (the toilet was unimaginably awful and I’d already run out of bog roll) the bus rolled to a stop at a police check point. “Everyone off!” the bus man said cheerfully. “Bring all your stuff with you! They’re going to search everything!” It was like he was inviting us all to a lovely tea party with cupcakes and egg sandwiches. The cheery effing bastard.
I stared at the mountains of rubbish that my fellow passengers were carrying – in improvised bags made of plastic sheets tied together with whatever they could find – and began to howl. It would take at least two years for the police to search this lot. My doctor felt further away than ever.
A policeman looking for drugs asked if I was crying because I was concealing drugs. “In my bloody dreams,” I muttered. I explained that I was dying of a very serious tropical malady. He took pity on me and gave me a cracker.
At this point I decided I couldn’t take any more so extracted my rucksack from the chaos and limped off into the town we’d stopped in. I checked into some crappy place and passed out on the bed.
I awoke to find the owner prodding at me with a stick. “I got the price wrong,” he said. “It’s actually $*** for the night.”
I left, weeping again.
I found another place. And, god forbid, they had INTERNET! I was overjoyed. I’d look up my malady online, decide how soon it would be until I died, then find a nice-sounding medical clinic in the big city that was six hours away. I’d hobble to the bus station to get a ticket for tomorrow… and would then be able to look forward to the unimaginable luxury of a night on a toilet in an actual building rather than a shack! Seventh heaven, I tell you!
No. The internet wasn’t working. And then we had a blackout. And when I went out to get some food, the only option was a maggoty loaf of bread. Given that I was a size zero by this point, I was bitterly disappointed. Any longer without food and I’d actually disappear.
Anyway, after a sleepless night and a cold shower in a cupboard with a glass door so people could see me (why? why would you do that? why?) I left at the crack of dawn and got a bus to the city. I got a taxi to my lovely private clinic I’d read about. I was exhausted but quietly hopeful. Salvation was nigh!
The clinic no longer existed. At this point I went completely mad and screamed at the security guard. I nearly threw a right hook at him actually. Regrettable, obviously, and before you tell me to chill the hell out because I wasn’t caught in an earthquake and I wasn’t suffering a terminal disease, blah blah blah, let me tell you I was AT THE END OF MY TETHER. Doesn’t matter how you arrive at the end of your tether. If you’re there, you’re there.
Anyway. After several blood extractions and embarrassing moments when I presented labs with brown samples rather than yellow samples (forgive me for not being familiar with the Spanish medical terms for number ones and number twos) I was finally released into the outside world with drugs, dietary instructions and the name of an expensive gastroenterologist if things didn’t improve in two days.
Things did improve. Last night I slept for ten hours and today have eaten normally. I’m sitting in a lovely hostel full of day light and clean water and nice people, some of whom even speak English.
And the problem is, I want to stay here. My final two weeks in Argentina were meant to be jam-packed with places to see, things to do and people to meet. And I just want to stay in this lovely place and chill. Maybe potter to the shop for a packet of crisps every now and then, but, really whatever. The point is, I don’t want to leave. I have a real pillow, not a foam rectangle, there are no bedbugs, there is internet, there is nice food, there are nice people, there are actual shops rather than un-lit rooms in falling-down houses and there is sun. There is even a HEATER next to my bed. Last night was the first time in weeks that I didn’t go to bed wearing every piece of clothing in my rucksack (including, at times, my rucksack itself.)
I emailed The Man earlier to ask if he would think I’m a loser if I just stay here for my final two weeks. Try to make some progress with the novel, which is way behind the target my agent set for me the other week.
He hasn’t replied. I think he’s lost all respect for me.
So, friends, I appeal to you. What would you do? Man up and travel on? Or stay in this nice pleasant clean lovely friendly smiley safe place. That makes me feel warm and fuzzy and grateful to be alive.