Tuesday, 17 July 2007

I've been told that this is the coldest year in Latin America since records began

I think records began five minutes before I arrived, though, with meteorologists saying "One of the Lawrence clan is on his way over, get the hurricane shelters ready".

One day I'm going to go somewhere and be told that it's the hottest, dryest weather they've ever had. It'll be a desert, let's face it, or I'll have gone there to go kayaking in the now dried up rivers, but it's going to happen.

On the plus side I have made it as far south as Bariloche in Patagonia, and it's gorgeous. Really, truly stunning, even in the snow. I have modest hopes of making it further south in the time remaining, so I'll be making regular sacrifices to the Latin weather gods from here on in. Where's that bl00dy goat gone?

On Sunday I watched the Copa America final in a bar in town. I'd eschewed the offer of watching it in the living room of the guy who runs the hostel, with the crate of beer he'd prepared especially, in order to soak up a bit of the atmosphere for such a big game. I got there nice and early and secured a great spot, and all was looking good until a crowd of Brazilian girls arrived five minutes after kick-off, stood right in front of me and promptly started comparing earrings. They weren't very tall, but they were all wearing three inch heels, and they didn't look particularly interested in the game - though from their animated gestures and exaggerated movements I got the impression that their jewellery was fascinating. Before too long a crowd of body builders snaked up and stood around them. They didn't look like they had the mental capacity to look rugged and follow the match at the same time, but from the backs of their shoulders they seemed quite interested in the girls' accessories.

Unable to see too much, I spent most of the second half mentally inventing a scanner that rates a person's interest in the match as they walk into a bar, with 100 being a genuine fan of one of the teams involved, and 0 being 'ooh, is there a game on?'. Anyone scoring less than 10 (willing to push past to go the toilet at the exact moment a free kick is being taken) would be refused admittance, and anyone scoring under 5 ('I thought it would be a good place to pick up') would be immediately electrocuted, dissolved into their component atoms and recycled as Man United shirts.

I think it'll catch on.

Anyway, from what I could see it was a thoroughly one sided drubbing as Brazil beat Argentina 3-0. It takes a lot to make me feel sorry for an Argentinian football fan (must ... stop ... mentioning the hand of God - oh no, I did it again!) but I very nearly managed it as their local rivals were lording it over them in huge style. Imagine, only ever having won two world cups, the very shame. As well, in all the games I've seen Argentina have looked every inch the part, whereas Brazil spluttered and stuttered their way through and were lucky to make the final at all, so to see them outclass the opposition was something of a surprise. Poor old Argentina.

I'll soon be off to Chile, the last country I'll be visiting this trip, so I'll send you my usual balanced and fact-based reportage when I get there.

All the best


Some of you may remember that a few months ago I sent an email complaining thus:
"The other day I got caught in the Cusco rain (I'm here during the rainy season, the clue's in the title), slipped over on a wet cobblestone and hurt my back."

I recently raised this little mishap in a conversation about silly and embarrassing accidents and a Canadian medical student I'd just met took a keen interest in the case. After I'd explained my symptoms (difficulty sitting down and standing up, sheer agony every time I laughed, coughed or sneezed, and the inability to get out of bed without rolling sideways and crawling on all fours) plus the duration they lasted (I was still feeling twinges a couple of months later) he was adamant that I must have fractured a rib, without actually breaking it.

Now I want you to forget for a moment that I did this falling on my backside in a public street, during the early afternoon, and concentrate instead on the fact that I mountain biked down the Death Road, went whitewater rafting, did the Inca Trail and even used The Clash lyrics* to teach English to the future tour guides of Latin America, all with a fractured rib. Probably.

* 'Should I Stay Or Should I Go?', demonstrating 'should' and 'if ... then ...' conditional statements.

All's healed up nicely now, and I know it's not exactly Bertie Trautmann finishing the FA Cup Final with a broken neck, or Suart 'Psycho' Pearce trying to run off a factured leg, but believe me, if I'd known this at the time I would have complained a lot more loudly, and considerably more often, than I actually did. Which was, to be honest, quite a bit.

Sorry about the last mail, which prompted a couple of "I was eating at the time ..." complaints, and was rejected by quite a few Questionable content filters. All clean, wholesome and above board from now on.

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