I’ve got something up my sleeve

Shit got weird today:At about 80 km/h and leaning heavily into a corner on a winding mountain road, a spider made an appearance inside my helmet.How did I know it was a spider? Because it ran across my face.As I said, shit got weird.

— Nicholas Moses
World traveller and international playboy
I wanted to start this post with this quote from my friend Nick because it reminded me of when shit got weird for me recently.
I was happily riding from Pichilemu to Chillán, my third stop in Chile, merrily, merrily on the Chilean N-S highway when a excruciating pain in my right arm made me release the throttle and drop down to zero speed on the hard shoulder. It felt like I had pulled a muscle and been sprinkled with acid and been injected something very thick, all at the same time. I pulled up my sleeve and couldn’t see any trace of any living creature that could have produced it but a swelling was starting to breakout so when I arrived to Chillán, the nice lady managing the rundown guesthouse where I was staying immediately sentenced: Mosquito! And proceded to rub some vinegar on my arm and even gave me the bottle to keep in my room.
The jacket slept on the floor while I slept on the bed and the next day I set off normally, with my pain considerably lessened. That was the day I met Benoit and Steph, thanks to the timely warning of Benoit’s sister, Hélène, and they advised me to take a detour through some dirt tracks to the East. They also treated me to their awesome coffee and crêpes. If you are ever in Los Angeles, Chile, drop by the Café Francés for a taste of France! I took that secondary road and camped for the night near Curacautín. The jacket slept inside the tent with me.
After that nice camp where I made a fire and grilled the awesome sandwich that Benoit and Steph had given me, I started on my way to Villarrica and while I was driving around town looking for the hostel that the Pichilemu hostel manager had recommended, BANG! Excruciating pain, pulled muscle, cut throttle, pull sleeve up. I can’t believe it! A second bite! There must be something up my sleeve, I decided, and rode the rest of the way with my jacket half on-half off. When I got to the hostel I pulled my sleeve inside out, removed the elbow pad and found absolutely nothing. I bet you can see the shit getting weirder. Anyway, the jacket slept two days hanging from the bunk bed.
And off to Antillanca after a rest day in beautiful Villarrica, I stopped at the side of the road when I met two Argentinean riders on their way to Chiloé. We had a nice chat and I told them about the weird things happening to my arm and pulled up my sleeve to show them. As soon as I did, a half-alive yellow jacket bee fell to the ground.
Yellow jacket bee
It’s actually a wasp but I don’t care, looks like a bee to me and I started cursing bees, insects in general, probably Chile and whatever came to my mind, pulled up my sleeve again to look at my arm when a second wasp fell to the ground. A SECOND WASP! Can you believe it? I lived for 5 days with one wasp up my sleeve and 3 days with two of them. It’s lucky I’m not allergic. And also lucky they didn’t bite me more than once each!
Sometimes, shit gets really weird.
— Wayfinder Hasturi  a.k.a. The Mad Perseid


In Puñihuil
In Puñihuil

My back hurts today. Only 25km from the hostel is Puñihuil where there’s supposed to be penguins. Let’s go hunting.

See it here: http://flic.kr/p/dZ34r4


Many years ago, while I was backpacking in Argentina, somewhere in Northern Patagonia we were restocking our food supplies at a small town supermarket when an old drunkard invited himself to our conversation. He had the discrete elegance that self-respecting old drunkards usually have, he wore a hat and a felt coat. His face was wrinkled by many years in the sun and he talked a lot. Unfortunately, something even the self-respecting variety of drunkards doesn’t have is articulate speech and even though he spoke Spanish, I couldn’t understand most of what he said. One phrase did get through and stuck to the walls of my mind. Whenever I remember the episode, it comes back: « And then the ‘huinca’ came ».

This is the land of the Mapuche. As I cross the Bio-Bio river, I remember that this was the last line of defence between the Chileans and the original Chileans. What else to call them if not that? Before that fort line was built, this was their land, all of it.

The Inca came and conquered, in name. A tax was agreed and a tax collector took residence here but in reality, the Mapuche were always left to their own devices.

Araucanos, the Spanish called them. The Mapuche always lived on both sides of the Andes and they still do. Araucanos is an unfortunate name, it robs them of their true nature. Perhaps that was the aim. Mapuche has ‘mapu’ in it: Earth (or land, or dirt) and « che » simply means people, they are the people of the land and I am but a visitor in their lands. Some say that our Argentinean custom of calling people « che » comes from them (yes, their land extended to what today is the province of Buenos Aires).

As I enter the Araucanía Andina region, an unofficial sign reminds me, in case I’ve forgotten, that I’m entering Mapuche territory and when I start seeing the beauty that surrounds me, I understand why they defended it so fiercely. The mighty Andes on the horizon, plentiful rivers teeming with fish every couple of kilometers, forests and grassland valleys with no end in sight. They lost, as history records, and today the descendants of the Spanish conquerors rule the land.

At the time of that episode, the word huinca didn’t make any sense to me. I had heard it somewhere but it wasn’t Spanish, I had to find out the meaning. Internet wasn’t that developed back then so I just waited and some time later, while perusing a Mapudungun glossary I found it. Huinca(1): White man. Hum… Wait a second, there’s a Huinca(2) definition under it. Huinca(2): cattle thief. Interesting.

So here I am, cattle thief by definition, visiting their land. I hope they won’t think too badly of me and let me through.

EDIT: This paper looks interesting but I haven’t read it.