Saturday, May 21, 2005

Cricket and wine spilt over the carpet.

While sirian diplomats processed our passports and stamped nice marks with appealing arabic scriptures (even a dental paste advertisment in arabic evoques charming tales of cruzaders and deserts) Verónica and I were hitch-hiking to Lewes, a small town in County Sussex, to the South of London. We had to go back to collect our passports the following week. Small town, but relevant: we are 40 kms from Hastings, where in 1066 the normans of William the Conqueror hit, only record in history of a succesful invasion to England. Not only the normans succeded in what Napoleon and Hitler were to fail, but defeating the saxon tribes they set the base for the modern English state. The name Great Britain is a synthom: Britain is the name of a french province west of Normandy. Time passed and the conquerors started to speak the language of the defeated. But they let their mark, and thus so many english words with latin base.
Getting to the outskirts of London to hitch-hike took 4 hours. Once in the motorway we started a fragmentated and uninteresting trip, and three drivers later we were in Lewes in the Lanesdown’s Arms, our friends local pub. We had to wait for them. We sat an our language called the attention of Brian, a very particular local. The south of Britain is famed for been a pocket of old hippies as wells as for having the strange combination of rocketed prices and people living from social security. Some of the old timers fell in this category. Brian had hitch hiked trough Europe in the early 80s. It seems that when in Crete, in a crowded house where 20 people of 15 different nationalities were living, he met an argentinian traveler. It was april 1982. The guy said: “Fuck Galtieri!”. He replied: “Fuck Tatcher!” and they went on well since then. Brian thanked us many times for being in his time. It was clear we reminded him of his past and he was glad to see that some people still wander around the planet with the thumb out. He had even offered him his house for the night when our friends Una and Duncan turned up.
Duncan assured he was the best criquet player in his town, and to demostrate this he invited us to a match the following day in which two traditional pubs of town were playing each other. For those of us used to the speed of soccer criquet is something of a cultural shock. Not only for being slow, but also for the rituals added to the sport. When I asked Duncan when was the match to start he replied: “When the beer is finished”. So it didn’t seem we were to see a parade of british accuracy. We got there, and it was the image of an updated victorian picnic. The players friends were opening bottles most of which were downed by the players themselves. Half an hour later we realized the match had already started. At moments people were clapping, but for those ignorant of criquet rules it was impossible to know why they did so. There were no obvious scores and players run without clear directions. Criquet is even more popular in India and Pakistan, product of course of british colonization. I asked Duncan (who is teacher of history) if didn’t think of it as a tsample of genuine british trade, taking all natural resources and leaving in exchange a sport or two. “yes, -he answered- and as I see it, we are still waiting for the change”. Sorprise came when one of the teams was a player short and they invited Veronica to play (naturaly, the team was wining for enormous difference). Thay clapped each time she failed.
We can’t complain about the hospitality in Duncan’s parents house, altough the coronation-jubilee tea cups decorating the kitchen made it clear they were gonna be upset when the sicilian wine spilt on the carpet, hand made and winnner of I don’t know what exhibition. They day after the incident we set off hitch hiking with Demian, a friend of us, towards Arundel, where we camped for 2 days. Then we continued to Wales, or so we believed. First a Volkswagen van took us to Southampton. There we hitchhiked in the motorway, Vero had the peace flag rolled as a skirt. Within 5 minutes a police car showed us the way to a service station… There it was another Volks van. The driver, Sam, was an official of the Royal Navy who had bought the van 2 hours before and was going home in Plymouth, not far from Cornwall, so we made Cornwall our goal. Sam had been to the Gulf War and also in Afganistan. He is yet another member of armed forces in giving us lifts. They all seem to be able to separate their consciusness from their professional duties. Sam told us that in Plymouth there was a protest against the war. According to him they were all lawyers from London, smart people who don’t know what to do in their free time, so they cause trouble. So, in that delivery of destiny we arrived to Ivybridge, a small town in the border of Dartmoor National Park.

Saturday, May 14, 2005


On the second week of our trip we hitch-hiked from the Highlands to the Scottish frontier, where Hadrian’s wall raises obsoletly, the ancient northern border of the Roman Empire, and from there trough the heart of Britain to London, undoubtedly one of the capitals of the world.Are there any bars in London ? - I wondered, quite anxious to taste a good Pale Ale.

It is a long way, rich en stories. Each driver has something to tell us. After a week we have understood that this trip wouldn’t be the same without the unvoluntary punctuation that hitchhiking allows, without the driver’s local knowledge that brings us closer to their culture.

From Oban to Edinburgh we traveled in the Mondeo of a Lighting Designer who had been contracted for the Scottish Parliament lighr design. At 40 or so he was thinking of retirement and buying a forest, a transitory one, so he could enjoy a good pension by selling the wood in 20 years time. Patrick – so his name- took us to Edinburgh. We had a tea in his house while Adam, the organic farmer we had met on the way up, came to collect us. In this way, Adam and Patrick met, two people who had been living in Edinburgh for years but were suddnely connected when giving us a lift. It’s rewarding to see the road connecting people. In fact Patrick was very interested in coverting his Mondeo to vegetable oil, following what Adam had done with his Sprinter.

Adam explained that there was a dinner with his family going on that evening and that we were invited. On the way we collected another friend of him, a french student who was also invited to the party. Just off from the road, we were treated to a carefully prepeared meal, all organic food, variety of beers and liquors….The conversation started about how happy europeans are. We all agreed that the excess of choices produces constant unsatisfaction. It is impossible to have everything, even when you have a decent salary, but specially in this case people are set in the pursue of the end of a neverending chain of desires that extends and extends…with each new mobile phone or car. We examined closely a photograph taken this january while we were hitch hiking in Payogasta (Argentinian NoerthWest), where kids were playing with supermarket bags as if they were kites. They have nothing, yet the smile in their face is broad. Adams parents told us about a cambodian man who visited their 5-bed house and was surprised at how poor they were, since they had animals or land… The french friend of Adam said that most of his fellow students considered themselves impoverished because they had student loans…(But the possibility of studying was taken for granted). At night we slept in a bed and were able to wash our clothes. That was happiness for us.

And that unpredictable pace of closed eyes snooker continued when Adam gave us the address of a friend, Luquitas, who was from our same town in Argentina. We met him at his appartment while he was decorating it for a fancy dress party where everybody was to dress as things starting with letter “L”. While he thought in the way to dress as lobster, Luquitas, who does a master in economy, told us how in Edinburgh, of similar population of Mar del Plata, people know more each other because of the circular plan of the city that forces everybody to walk troguh the same park and avenues. Luquitas made us benefit from an exquisit hospitality. We had a nice dinner and he allowed us to phone our families in Argentina. We stayed overnight and the following morning we hit the road, bound for the Hadrian’s Wall. We were also abbandoning Scotland for England.

Looking at the map is enough to see the influence this really tiny country has had in the daily life of the rest of the world. The names are well known, we pronnounce them daily even if we don’t know they are english cities. Hereford, a breed of cattle; Winchester, a riffle; Bedford, a truck that sometimes works; Chesterfield, a cigarette. At down we arrived to Haltwhistle. From there it ‘s a mille walk to the Wall, which is not far from the scottish border, which means that the scottish were never brought to heels by the romans. Let’s imagine the shame of the roman general who turned home with the news that he had lost to a legion of soldiers with skirt…Today Rome and Scotland are part of the same Empire that doesn’t need walls, but just passport checkpoints… In a traditional pub near by we sold some of our photographs, so we were able to buy a nice wine and some cheese and bread, which we took to our camping spot in a near by forest.

We arrived to London easily. Just three lifts. First, a DAF truck towing a long-since-out-of-service doble deck London bus to the car cemetary. The driver was of the kind that The Sun newspaper has brought to think that asylum seekers are responsible for the global warming… But he took us to Doncaster, wher ein 5 minutes we got a second lift with a guy who was just back from a year a and ahalf hitch-hiking trip from South Africa to Egypt. He had never heard of web based hitch hiking clubs, so he was pleased and surprised to hear about and Altough he was originally going to Nottingham within 5 minutes he said he was taking us all the way to London. It was already dark, we wouldn’t have made it without him.

First thing that amazed us of London was the prize of the tube: £2.80 one way. The second thing at surprising being that didn’t accept our scottish notes. The man on the other side was convinced I was trying to give him euros. How United is that Kingdom where the english look suspicious at the scottish and northern irish notes? While you can walk trough Europe using euros from Greece to Portugal…

In London we stayed in Werner Kraft’s place, a cherfully decorated appartment. Since Werner is so meticolous in his studies, each of the books that crowd the shelves are carefully labeled and classified... I really admire Werner's capacity of being down-to-earth in everything and, at the same time, keeping his adventorous dreams of travels intact. Werner studies sport science, but he is equally curious about the mathematic principles of chess and the logic of modern business development. We knew each other from yahoo hitchhikers mailing list, but this was the first time we met. We are in Bermonsey area. All South London is black majority area. It’s ironic that you have to go London to relax your sight from the english faces.

It was the romans to found the city in the north side of the Thames. The City, the finnancial district, occupies the site of the original roman citadelle. Who could ‘ve foreseen that that little hamlet would became the world capital for half the human population, under Queen Victoria? But power has always a boomerang effect. The sons of the conquered today come to London in the hope of a better future. At the bus stop, we asked directions to a girld who resulted to be from Santa Cruz de la Sierra, in Bolivia. Already in the center, it was a street cleaner from Ecuador to point us a cheap supermarket. This human diversity makes London a city full of options, that stresses most of the people we talked to. Too many things to do, to little time.

Each day in London we spent three times the money we were due to. Then, our diet was supermarket food. London was also our first encounter with the visas. We left our passports in the Syrian Embassy. We had to collect them four days afterwards. On the while , we left London for Cornwall. But that’s part of another chapter!!!

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

The Forth Bridge, the biodiesel powered van, and Kinghorn´s organic farm

The Forth Bridge, that grants passage to the County of Fife. Just before the bridge we found Adam's Mercedes van. Adam was a artesian, a bohemian didjeridoo player, and was just back from six months away in India. Acordingly, hi van was powered by biodiesel.

Inn his humble house Adam performs his favourite instrument. He toured Scotland as a nomad with it, appearing even in newspapers! When he feels like, he climbs to his own tree house and plays for the birds....

Adam and James watch their plants with motherly care.

Dining with Kat and James, a couple of organic farmers who were Adam's neighbors. They dreamt of living in a yurt.... Truly, two rainbow warriors.

The farm`s headquarters and the Mercedes van.

So the both the farm and the van were organic... I was obliged to telll my new friends that despite I find a van fueled by vegetable oil a great idea, the desertification caused by soya massive cropping in Argentina is definitely not a superb "organic" outcome...

Monday, May 09, 2005

A particular density of aged stone and mist results in Edimburgh

Edimburgh is characterized by a particular grey colour of the stones that complete its architecture, the misty atmosphere of its autumns, the condensed arrangement of its historical houses, and its castle.

Edimburgh's Castle perched up in the rocks.

Verónica next to an "archetypical Scottish" guy on kilt. The guy said he was actualy American, but since his surname was McDonallds he chose to wear the kilt with the specific pattern that for centuries has belonged to his clan.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

A tipically Scottish driver

Isn´t he a tipically Scottish driver? He picked us up in Cairnryan and took us to Turnberry ...on the way to Edimburgo.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

May 1st, 2005. From Belfast to Scotland in a yacht...

Hi! In the last week we hitched a ride in a boat from Northern Ireland to Scotland, we expirienced three days of urban survival in Edinburg, the scotish capital, and we lived a day in an organic farm in the coast village of Kinghorn.

In the morning of the 1st of may, we woke up anxious and started walking towards Bangor, the Marina near Belfast. We couldn’t believe it, after two years of planning, we were on the road. We arrived to the Marina and started conversations with all yatch owners. Hitch hiking across the sea has its peculiarities. The maps we look at don’t have roads, but dotted lines that God knows what they alert of. People here don’t say “that the road is bad” as many times we have heard from argentinian farmers trying to mark out their way with prediluvian pick ups across unpaved roads. Here it’s the weather forecast the one that encourages or not the crossing to Scotland. More than once we would end up having some tea on board. The idea of wandering around the harbours and marinas of the world confraternizing with nautic aristocracies was enticing, however, we had to think of embarking!!

We weren’t lucky that afternoon, while we were actually on our to way to the road, in the hope of finding some other harbour , my mobile rang. Verónica could see my face distorted by happiness as a voice asked me wheter we were still interested in crossing to Scotland. We had succeeded! One hour later we were sailing away from Bangor with Nick, chief of special tasks at Londonderry Fire Brigade and his two nephews, to whom he was teaching sailing. The vessel was small but comfortable, with one mast, and place enouch inside to seat for people around a dinner. We introduced ourselves… that we are from argentina, that…. No point. “All the marina knows that” he interrupted.

One hour later Ireland had become an fuzzy line on the horizon. Without terra firma references, my stomach started to manifest… Minutes later I was in the most intimate communion with the Irish Sea. Something poetic had to be said to turn the unprintable incident into something poetic. “Let these be my honours to Ireland”. Nick and family laughed out loudly. Before reaching scottish shores, twice I felt a terrible need of showing my gratitude to Ireland in the way of digestive anomalies, the last of these with an unnecesary chorus from Ben. After the incident Ben and I started to talk in confidence, amazing how this undesirable activity can brother people beyond cultural barriers…. Verónica, instead, was enjoying as a celebrity. She may have inherited something from my father in law, who is a public person in Mar del Plata’s Harbour.

Scotland finally appeared in the horizon, in the guise of a jade colour row of houses and a ruined castle, barely recognizable behind dense mist. We had dinner in the boat that night. It was interesting how Nick, who had just crossed the Irish Sea, needed to check the cooking guidelines on the rice pack. Dinner was so perfect that we even thinkef of rising the argentinian flag on the boat. Being only a few miles away from a Royal Navy submarine excersice area, it wouldn’ have been long before having notices from the gunners, happy to change from boring practice routines to the real stuff.

The following day we hitched to Edinburgh, Scottish capital, medieval and cosmopolitan, with its famed castle that overlooks a mile of old constructions known as the Royal Mile, a dense macize od gothic needles, burgheese houses and walls. Spliting this saturation one finds the house of philosofer David Hume or the print house where the first edition of Encyclopedia Britannica was printed. Our camping spot, on a hill called Arthur’s Seat, next to a ruined XVth century abbey, had a privileged sight of the old town.

While hitching north, towards the Highlands we couldn’t resist the invitation of one of our drivers. Adam, from Edinburgh, 24 years old, was just back from a RTW trip, where he had been hitch hiking in different places, from Fiji to Tailand. We stayd a day and a half in his organic farm in the Est coast of Scotland. We lanscape looked as Teletubbiland, extremely green. Adam’s neighbours were a couple who dedicated to perma-culture, a branch of organic agriculture, and in their free time the would help to regenerate the caledonian forests (scottish woods ended in ebglish galeons or in the stomaches of generations of sheeps) Adam’s philosophy was thought provoking. The idea that descentralized agriculture can break the chain of capitalist alientaion by avoiding explotation by consuming and allowing self sufficiency through production had always crossed my mind. In one moment Adam told us that her ex was from Argentina, and she happened to be from our same town. Coincidences…. We had dinner and accompanied this thoughts with an argentinian wine, brought to a small shop of the village of Kinghorn by the miracolous tides of globalization.

Our march to the Highlands marked the end of the first week of travel. The town was called Oban, and there we camped next to a lilghthouse. Ahead, the land peacefully fragmenting into small islands as it gives way to the Hebride’s Sea.