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Not quite Che Guevara

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Well, the tooth pain got the best of me last night, I was nearly delirious with it, so we started asking questions and found out that the thriving metropolis of Chaiten does in fact have a hospitale, complete with a dentisto.  The dentisto doesn’t happen to be available at 8pm on a Monday night when we show up, but the friendly nurse informs us (through Mark, the translator) that he is well equipped with pain killer shots and asks if I want to get stuck with one of them.  I hesitate for a bit considering the surroundings, then decide it would be a wise decision to go for it since I’m basically delirious with pain.  We double check that he unwraps a sterile needle, I bare a cheek and take the plunge. 

I’ve never been big on shots (who is), but this one has an interesting effect, probably from the slight case of shock I have from the pain and the third world medical surroundings I am in. (again, more like second world really, but it sure ain’t Children’s Hospital.) I immediately get a little light headed and decide to lay down to see what the rest of the reaction will be.  I finally stagger up, then work my way back to the car (the nice hotel lady drove us down) and crawl into the front seat.  Then I begin to have small little convulsions in first the left leg, then the right leg, then my stomach and finally my teeth begin to chatter, which is not such a great thing when I went in for a tooth problem in the first place.  So that is weird, but I hang with it for a bit and go back to the hotel and walk around a bit, rubbing my sore butt to get the knot out of it.  Finally it’s back to the bar and some food and drink and within about 20 minutes I’m back to normal, pain free and loving life.  Whew, that is nice to have that little episode over with, for now.

That night, I slept like a log, thanks to the pain stuff and great food, waking up at about 9am, ready to go.  I popped another couple of Neil’s milder Ibuprofen when the pain resurfaced and packed for a day trip to the southern half of Pumalin Park, an incredible park funded entirely by an American philanthropist.  The park is a massive lush extravaganza and is actually the world’s largest private nature reserve.  It also happens to be empty today and bright and sunny, so we are considering ourselves very fortunate.  The ride up is stunning and I try to capture as many moments on film as I can.  Unfortunately, Will goes down yet again, right in front of me this time, like a slow motion car crash scene in a B movie.  I saw the whole thing, which was not pretty, but I was at least able to stop before I hit him, barely laying my 650 down sideways, without actually hitting the ground. This trip is taking its toll on Wilbur, as he cuts the exact same foot in the exact same spot for the third time.  I scramble off my bike, turn his bike off and quickly pull his crusty, smoking tennis shoe out from under the tail pipe of the still sputtering BMW.

The older I get, the less I concern myself about clothing, but I still pay attention to functionality.  I have a great pair of thick hiking boots, a motorcycle jacket with some padding and a very good full face helmet that I ride in.  Wilbur missed that class at motorcycle school and is still riding in his street clothes and flimsy down jacket.  I can’t help but think how a $100 pair of motocross boots on E-Bay would come in handy right now.  Oh well, on we go.

We ride to the end of the park, have some killer peach pie and coffee then we head out from the park and stop at a beach right on the Pacific coast to see a group of dolphins playing and fishing right off the rocky coastline.  Once again, I’ve run out of adjectives to describe how pretty it is here, so I hope the photos all turn out to assist me with that illustration.

So, back in town now, toothache is throbbing and it’s time to hit the dentisto again; they said he’d be in the hospitale at around 2pm and it is now about 5pm.   We casually stroll into the back office, where I try not to notice the lack of lighting and the faded, East German décor.  We ask for the man then wait for a couple of minutes and a guy comes in to help us.  He is either the gardener or the dentist, my first guess is the gardener.  He informs us that he is also the dentist and asks what we need.  His English is passable, so I jump in the chair and he looks me over, brushing his hands on his shirt briefly before he grabs a tooth mirror to look around.  I’m assuming the mirror was sterilized sometime this year, and pretty much just go with it. 

After a quick x-ray, where I hold the film and he stands behind a sliding room divider, he suggests that I have a good infection in the rear molar and will need a root canal when I get home, but he offers to drill a hole in the top of the filling to let the infection out.  I hesitate for a few minutes, ask Will his advice, then flash back to last night’s severe pain at the bar, rub my still sore butt, then I cave in and tell him to give it a go.  He washes his hands this time, then, without any anesthetic, he quickly drills a small hole in the top surface of the filling, rinses it out with some little tools that look like they came from the 50’s, then turns me loose.  Will inquires about who to pay and he says the hospitale, then he kind of waves us off and just says we’re good to go.  Not sure about the service just yet, but you can’t beat the price.  I figure I’ll know in a couple of hours if I completely hosed myself or not, but so far so good.  (the next day, the dentist drives by while we are buying supplies at the local store and hollers out the window to check on my tooth; I give him the thumbs up and he drives off.  Great guy)

I’m feeling somewhat relieved now, so Neil and I head back out of town for a quick spin, looking for the hot springs, which we never find, but we do experience an incredible sunset ride, one of those unexpected pleasures that makes the whole trip worth it, then we are back at the hotel, waiting to cook Mark’s trout he caught while we were out biking.  Should be a fine meal if we can get Neil on it, he’s a damn good chef.

Insert note: Turns out it was easily the best meal of the trip.  I’ve got to send one of the kids to a cooking school.  What a gift.

Thursday, April 5, 2007 – (2 days later)

As I pop off my boots, watching little puffs of dust explode off the laces like mini firecrackers, I begin to reflect on this strange trip to S. America.  It’s been wonderful, but very, very strange.  We are now in a little hamlet called Hornopiren, Chile, right near the northern section of Pumalin Park again;  We left Chaiten on Wed morning by ferry, a five hour long ferry by the way, and crossed the channel west bound to the island of Chiloe, one of the larger islands on the far west coast of Chile.  I slept well on the ferry, so it wasn’t too bad of a trip.  All of my faithful comrades seem to be on the same page again and everyone is happy.

We landed in Quellon, then we rode the length of the island, spending the night in Ancud.  From there it was on to another, shorter ferry to the mainland, did the bank thing in Puerto Montt, then headed back south again to Hornopiren, after a third ferry ride.  That’s where the trip finally ended for the four horsemen, as Will dropped the bike for the fourth time (or was it the fifth?), this time at a dead stop, but this time with a severe gash into his already gashed right foot.  He was on Mark’s 1150GS and that big BMW is very heavy, and it tore up his foot in a nasty way.  I came around the corner looking for Will and Neil while Mark scouted for lodging and I immediately knew that this time it was bad; I saw Will on the ground, blood everywhere and Neil standing nearby, looking a bit dazed.  Fortunately, several Chilean men were watching, and immediately came to the rescue, then called the local ambulance guys to take him off to the medical building.  This facility was even tinier than the one I went to in Chaiten, but they were all super nice and helpful. They patched him up a little, but decided to send him off to Puerto Montt for expert sewing, so off he went in the 1940’s style ambulance, for yet another ferry ride and another dirt road. Will was wired up to a pain killer drip in the ambulance, said he felt good and sounded fine too. He insisted he would be OK and that we should continue riding without him.  Those words would come back to haunt everyone later.

Will calls back to the hotel twice that night and, speaking to Mark, tells us that he is doing fine and we should continue on without him; he will just get a hotel and check in with us later.  He calls back a third time, early the next morning, and leaves a message with the hotel people: The message is given to Mark, saying that he is alright and gives them the number of the hotel where he is staying.  They write the number on the wall of the kitchen.  Small problem:  The message was translated from Will (in English) to the person placing the call on his end (Spanish), to the person receiving the call at the hotel (Spanish), then finally translated back into English for Mark.  The potential for screwing up the message is obvious and that’s exactly what happened.  The actual message from Will was:  “Help! I’m in trouble, I can’t get out of the hospital without someone to check me out, come quick.”  Oh, and they wrote down his number on the wall of the kitchen with ONE digit missing, so we couldn’t confirm what was actually happening when we tried to call back to check on Will.

So the morning after, we decide to go for a short ride and proceed down another dead end dirt road, just the three of us, looking for more sites and things to do. It’s another pretty drive, but very uneventful and a bit boring.  We stop back at the hotel to see if Will had called, then the trip officially comes to an end for the gang.  Neil, after stewing over the previous days events, confronts Mark about not being very helpful in attempting to phone Will, then decides to go off to Puerto Montt to find Will on his own, which it turns out was the exact right thing to do, as Will was pretty much in need of help.

Once again, problems really bring out the personalities of the group, with all of their quirks and dysfunction.  Mark is very straight forward and to the point about it all, very structured, while Neil is very emotional and trying to figure out what it all “means” to him and to the rest of us.  That creates interesting dynamics, which are fun to write about, but not much fun to referee, which I always get to do.  Are adults just taller children after all?  I’m now convinced that is true.

April 8, 2007- three days later – flight to Buenos Aires

I still love airplanes, even after the lost luggage and missed flights.  Nothing beats a viewpoint from 30,000 feet to set you straight on the world and what is important.  I just arrived to Buenos Aires, Argentina for the night via Osorno – Concepcion – Santiago.  Nice flights all.  I’m just happy to get the hell out of Dodge at this point, before fireworks erupt again.  Where to begin, where to begin?  I guess with the weird stuff, then we’ll move into the good stuff.

So things got ugly when Mark and I returned to Osorno on the bikes, found Neil, then checked into the hotel.  The friendly owner of the Hostel Truyaca, informed me that Will was flying out at 5:50pm to Santiago.  I tried to ask where he was (at the airport?) and when exactly the flight was, but I couldn’t figure out what he was saying.  Finally, I got it:  Will was currently AT the hotel, leaving for the airport in 10 minutes, but did not want to talk to any of us except for Neil.  That’s when I started to put the final pieces of the strange puzzle together.

This was the first time I found out that Will, who was in the hospital in Puerto Montt, did in fact need our assistance, but never got the message clearly translated to Mark.  Will called twice himself and said all was well, then had someone else call the third time to say he needed help to get out of the hospital.  As I said before, the message never got through correctly, but Will and Neil are convinced that Mark simply ignored the plea for help because he wanted to go riding instead.  Not a likely scenario, given Mark’s track record of saving many different lives in many different places over the years.  He is the natural “come to the rescue” guy, so I just can’t believe that he would ignore a request for help.  I’m 100% convinced of that….not that Mark doesn’t have some issues between him and Will, but that is not one of them.

Regardless, Will and Neil have decided to not talk to Mark and have pretty much condemned him without trial, which rightly upsets Mark.  I got over the whole thing pretty quickly, just based on my observations of all of the strange happenings and imaginings of the various parties.  These guys, God love em, are just not all clear thinkers and it shows, painfully at times.  I got mixed into the accusations, just enough to confirm my suspicions that things were a little skewed, reality wise.  After that, I was cool.  Nothing I can do with that bag of chips, just as well move on and enjoy the scenery of Chile.

Speaking of that, Mark and I had a tremendous time the last day, riding up to the Osorno Volcano from our last little hideout, deep in the mountains in a little hamlet called Puelo.  We holed up there at a great little hotel the night before, with nothing much to do but play cards in the bar, which we did for something like four or five hours.  The next days ride was one of the best, much slower after I nearly went down in the dirt twice, right in front of Mark.  He rides real close in the dirt, to avoid the dust, which makes me hug the sides a little tighter than I normally would, which almost led to me getting one of those cute little memorial houses I saw everywhere by the side of the road in Chile and Argentina.  They use crosses in the US for the same thing, but little decorative houses in Chile.  It’s a nice touch, but still a little too sad for me to get into it.

The Osorno volcano was amazing, right out of the fairy tale books.  It looked like a volcano, which was fun.  Mark and I took the chairlift all the way to the top, right by the glacier.  We seemed to be way up in the clouds, above them actually, but I think we were only at 6000 feet or so, but coming from near sea level below so it seemed higher.  The best part was riding the Superman/zip line swings all the way down the mountain.  There were four stretches of cable that you could click into and ride a little wheel all the way down, at pretty fast speeds at times.

I’m now chowing down on a mystery omelet at the Hotel Concorde in downtown BA, writing my journal like a good little boring tourista.  All of my food is sort of a mystery when I don’t know the language very well.  Note to self:  learn Spanish, you weenie.  I have no idea what I just put on my dinner roll and now I know why they don’t ever cook eggs in this country, because they suck at it.  Happy Easter to me.

Wow, almost 13 pages of journal notes.  Either I had too much time on my hands or I’m just really into writing these days…. I’m pretty sure it is the former.  Could be the adventure too I suppose.

April 10, 2007 – 2 days later

 Back in Washington now, finally got a Business Class seat, so that was nice for that long flight.  I walked ALL OVER Buenos Aires yesterday, accomplishing pretty much nothing other than looking at sights.  Museums were closed or I couldn’t find them.  Had a helluva night at the hotel, it had no sound proofing and huge trucks stormed by the window every half hour or so.  No sleep at all.  I should have followed the Frommer’s guide book suggestions for hotels, lesson learned there.

In conclusion: most people would look at this journal and nominate this for the “Worst Vacation Ever” submission, and it might actually win.  But I really don’t have any major back lash or bad vibes from this trip; it was another great experience in this interesting game of life.  As much as I wrote about all the crazy stuff that happened, I really don’t remember a lot of it when I think of Chile, I just remember the fun things we did and saw along the way.  Even though this is likely the last motorcycle trip with these three guys, I would still do it all again, with some other travel partners though.  Actually, I’d even do it all again with these three guys, what the heck!

Reflections on Chile/Argentina in a nutshell:  Great people, cute, friendly children, lots of stray dogs, beautiful women with awesome eyes, good roads, (until they turn to dirt, which is often if you want to see the pretty stuff), not that great of an exchange rate (510 pesos to the dollar), looks like Alaska, courteous drivers, not many motorcycles, lots of friendly waves and flashing lights from oncoming drivers, not much English, (learn the language), pretty nice hotels, (usually), more stray dogs, dirt and dust on a lot of the gear.

Oh, and great chocolate.

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