martes, 28 de septiembre de 2010

The Austrian attitude to wine: "full-bodied and 14yrs'll keep"

Sitting in the sun, drinking coffee, watching little Cafayateans squirrel around us, we planned our next steps. ‘Twas time to visit a vineyard or two and lay pillage to their “tasting” cellars. I asked some hippy artist, deep in his painting, whether there was a closing time. He informed me nothing closed untill around ten at night. I was later to find out that, on top of being shit at art, he was also lying. Only two remained open to some good quaffing:

“Good evening sirs,” a cork sized woman with fairly dark skin and brilliantly white teeth greeted us. (For your future reference: maybe it is best that you assume all people greeted or engaged in spoken words, from this point on, are of the aforementioned description).

“, may I say, good evening to you to, suspiciously small wine harvesting woman. I will be frank with you Pablita, I haven’t done this before (or can’t remember.lad), could you possibly talk me through it please?” I asked her...a request that rang bells of other first times...but, alas, without recording equipment.

Off we trotted on a little tour of their museum. The museum functioned, in our eyes, as a polite pausing stop before we laid pillage to their tasting show, as you will, that we possibly gave a shit about a bunch of copper barrels and some dusty corkscrews. I even asked Pablita what significance a bottle, on display, from 1960 had. She told me “none” and that the winery wasn’t even in action then. "Why did you even place it there then Pablita? To make us aware that wine was in existance at that time?" A truly vintage shite museum in conclusion. We were not there to act as culture vultures though; sponges we would be. (I will add that nothing of great interest followed: we tasted a little, drunk a lot and bought a little-due to post drink guilt and small, shiny-teethed cork women mesmerization. Oh, and we were stalked by a league of very French French girls. "Have you heard of effervescence? No? ...Malbec or Cabernet Sauvignon?").

Although this bears little importance to our trip, I have to add that whilst writing this I spent the afternoon passing so much wind that someone was forced to spray the whole office with its finest loo freshener. The Pablobian work force assumed it was the trainees, who had been thick in a day of training (as trainees do), but ney ‘twasn’t, ‘twas I. Fools.
I joined in on the complaining....
“Bloody nuisance they are Pablo...faffing around our office, filling it with there unemployed odour.” I remarked contemptuously.
It is the small victories in life that will accumulate, the larger ones only compete.

Overall morals of these particular stories: vineyard museums and Saltean vagrant artists.No. Phantom office-based flatulence.Yes.

martes, 21 de septiembre de 2010

"The Game": a beginners guide to picking up hitchhikers

Try as I might to scrape my mind of any residual memories from the crusade, which have recently been evading my pen, I am still missing pieces of the jigsaw puzzle. These pieces are undoubtedly fragile; you try desperately to file them away safely from any proceeding chemical that might try and wipe the slate clean. Incidentally, it this latter aspect that has engraved itself rather clearly in my conscience/fading conscience:

We had driven from Cachi (small village at the foot of large mountains and edge of large desert) to Cafayate (village in centre of valley filled with wine/the means to make it) for what seemed like six hours (because it had been) on what cannot be described as roads or even tracks for that matter. Yet, the Don ate them up and we flew past the chameleon views and diligently working saltanas who would rest down their sticks, had they been hitting a goat or cow, their hoes, had they been doing what ever it is you’d want to do with a hoe (the tool that is), and wave at us. Naturally, we would wave back in a regal fashion ‘n’ all: one doesn’t bend the wrist but merely rotate the whole hand.

I have just become aware that my intentions were set on describing the “latter aspect”, but something has cropped up quite unexpectedly and so I think I’ll put ink to this memory instead:

We were not all that far from Cafayate, cruising along, leaving a wake of dust and, consequently, very dusty locals, when, low and behold, we approached some more hitchhikers (they tended to be people from the middle of nowhere looking to get somewhere). We had past a few already and had decided that were we to reach some more, we ought to give them a lift....only to make ourselves feel good, that’s what charity is all about (based on this, it doesn’t take a genius to work out what “charity starting at home” is all about then). Therefore, I pulled the Don to a stop and wound up my window so that they could hear but not touch me.

“Bonjour my little family of coco-pops, what be your destination? I am assuming you are looking for a lift?” I chirped brightly.
(Might I add at this point that my face was glowing with good-will and I wore a smile that said “hey little boys, don’t be a afraid, you can get in my car and we’ll go to never(have.I.)everland” but my mind and my compatriate’s both said, “Oh fuck, we’ve stopped the Don next to a mother and her three young children. One is a baby, the other two appear to be no more than five but, being in the country and a tad malnutritioned, are probably closer to twenty-four years old (mystery solved). Furthermore, they all seem to have avoided a shower/river for the past week and one of the kids has a nose that is functioning as a tap.”)
The family said nothing following my line of questions.

“Ummmm, ok. In which case, I will have a Quarter Pounder with fries and my co-pilot will have a Big Mac. Any drinks? Yes, thank you for asking, we’ll have two Coke’s please. Large.” I said to them. I was fairly pleased with myself. Too right, it was an amusing line, utterly lost, unfortunately, on are friends....the South American version of ‘Snap, Crackle and Pop’.
“We go to San Carlos please sir,” she eventually asked of us. She may not have added the “sir” but the narcissistic part of my mind (most of it, the section not focused on looking for a reflective surface) tends to translate and filter what comes in and out.
“Well, of course, by all means, hop aboard. To San Carlos then....I assume that’s on the way to Cafayate? If not, you WILL all have to evacuate the car and resume your places under that tree to our right.”I replied.
She then told me that it was.

I proceeded to try and make some conversation but we were white, wearing red and blue was all too much for them right now; the following ten minutes were spent in relative silence while the children stared at us in disbelief....we must have seemed like gods to them. I was absolutely fine with that. So, when they finally left, after filling the Don with the smell of poverty, I told them:

“Go forth in peace my little brown brothers and may the sun shine down on you whilst you labour diligently in a field.”
It wasn’t meant to be inspiring....we didn’t want them to get ideas about education, god forbid.

The next 10km were driven with halo’s of smugness...and windows of wide-openness.

Moral of the story: “charity”.

jueves, 16 de septiembre de 2010

"Two young men turn on Don McLean and enjoy the ride"

Having made our prayers, slept enough, and with caffeine pulsing irrationally through our our veins, we rented a gloriously white Chevrolet Corsa fuelled by “Super Nafta”, which incidentally lived up to its title by carrying out 500 km on half a tank (cue applause), costing us 20 pounds. The car was to be named “The Don”, for a number of reasons. Not because it was so white and M...cLean? or that the radio didn’t work or the music.had.died? Or that the man who rented us "The Don" looked either like Marlon Brando in ‘The Godfather’ or suspiciously like a chipmunk in Autumn?...

With Don filled up, we set off into the wild for three days to the beat of our own drum...passing desert, mountains, vineyards, rivers and a lot of very small, squat looking Saltean moutain people. T’was as if god had taken a raisin or saltana, pinched it between his thumb and forefinger and created the Saltean mountain people in this very image. Combined with arrid desert, mountains and a range of flora and fauna, it was not unlike driving through a large box of muesli.

Amid all this healthy stereotyping, one thing struck us quite firmly: a generation of Saltanas was and I assume still are missing, generally those between the ages of 18 and 25.

I posed this observation to someone recently, to be told that a likely explanation was education. I full heartedly believe this to be a fabrication. Saltanas appear to have little need for education, everyone participates in team-building farm work or tourist exploitation. Yes, by all means browse over the “beginners guide to getting the most out of the white man” but honestly, I fail to see the need to dedicate seven years of one’s life to the carefull price manipulation of a scarf made from the wool of an anorexic mountain goat.*

Another mystery, also to be found in many parts of Asia, is the mystery of the “expanding 29 year old woman”:

On reaching 30 a saltana will duly grow laterally. Again, I was offered another mundane explanation for this. It too balanced on a foundation of lies. This was....”childbirth”. My parry to the ill-informed suggestion: “the majority tend to reproduce at around the age of 18 or 20 (please refer back to paragraph dedicated to religion). For this reason, any attractive Saltana is likely to be holding the hand of a small child. Why? Because it’s HERS. Thus the chances of finding an educated, attractive, child-free Saltana are fractional, the men just won’t allow it. Fact."

Expect proceding chapter to follow in the week to come, addressing why it is that holiday 4x4s are used soley to transport grandparents sandwiched between children (like church) and vinyards will be sure to expell you from their premises at half 6 in the evening.

* I have recently been alerted to an update on the missing generation story: Apparently they all tend to find girl/boyfriends and focus “all” their energies on the relationship. So, in short, I had “love” or “infactuation” to blame for nearly going to jail.... What?...I don’t check driving licences.

miércoles, 15 de septiembre de 2010

"Avoid God's door & you'll be met by a boy selling the only thing he has"

Having told the company’s head of finances that she, naturally, was, frankly, “fucking useless”, I calmly set off to join forces with my compatriot and brother on a Tuesday night (this position is by no means limited to Tuesdays).

The time had come to dabble in a bit of light exploration, far from the magnetic pull of Buenos Aires; Salta would be our destination.

Twenty hours we were to spend cooped up in a bus, like a Jamie Oliver advert, had we been poor and Pablobian but alas, we were rich, British and would be damned if we’d travel with or like the masses. Thus we purchased what was and is known as a “coche cama”, which translates loosely as “reclining bed on large slow-moving vehicle”. A number of films were played, one of which involved Robert Redford getting to know his daughter-in-law (Jennifer Lopez) whilst Morgan Freeman (who had been attacked by a bear) watched and made wise, rhetorical comments.

What’s more, a small cafeteria was present and so we took a lot of excitement from this addition. Our favourite game happened to be: “make yourself a cup of coffee and then precariously walk the stretch of the bus alleyway back to your throne of leather and belittle passing bus passengers lacking coffee, leather thrones and Morgan Freeman”. Another game one could participate in was known as “be stared at by Bolivian families because you are tall and white”.

The bus fuelled fun and games finished, we settled in the city of Salta, marched into the centre, bought a bag of nuts, some beer and boldly seated ourselves in the main plaza.

The plaza, beautiful as as it was, happened to be filled with people, and furthermore, they appeared to be in the process of praying. The vast majority of Pablobians were facing the cathedral, which obviously had been filled up...or people were denied access on account of not being a boy between the ages of 6 and 10 years old.

In my honesty, I won’t say we felt out of place, after all, we were in the process of making our own silent prayers (to the god of gloriously cheap alcohol...lads.on.tour), yet one had the constant feeling that we might burst into brilliant red flames. I reeked of sin. The city stank of dogmatism. We kept our distant from the entrance.

However, our actions would not put a stop to the swarm of religious paraphernalia little Pablo's would force on us...

“No, Pablo, I would not like to purchase a calendar with a picture of Jesus being crucified on run along.”

(Pablo in question then begins to stare at us, point at the picture of Jesus and then at the list of days of the was as if he was trying to inflict some sort of Christ fuelled guilt on in short, suggesting we become members of the Catholic church.)

“Thank you Pablo, we are both more than aware of who the malnutritioned figure you direct your finger at is...and, quelle surprise,what the calendar below is. Now, off you go and spread the word.” (Which he did, selling one immediately after our brief encounter. Well done, religion sells).

Part II from of the recordings of our noble crusade is to follow promptly.