Thursday, 31 March 2011

The last cyclist,

The last cyclist,

A Belgian girl told me I was the last cyclist; she was cycling with her boyfriend to Ushuaia. They hadn't seen anyone going the other way for days, I had set off late I was going to experience winter in the Andes. Well I was going to have to experience it at some point! But I liked that term 'the last cyclist'. I was still thinking about it when a dog started running alongside me.

It’s not uncommon to have stray dogs running alongside with you, this one kept it up for about 20/25 miles all I did was look at her and occasionally speak to her, yeah I know I've been on my own for 50 days I'm happy talking to a dog. I arrived at the Chilean border I pointed out to the guard that a stray dog was following me, he just shrugged and motioned me to go on. In Argentina it was different, the guard came out and roared with laughter "ha ha ha HA HA HA Dog follow Dog follow ha ha ha" he even called his mates out to see. I cycled on, I got about 15km up the road when there was a crunch and the rear derailleur came round from the back. The rear hanger had snapped, I stopped and tried to do a fix. I took a spare chain out and tried to make it into a single speed but I couldn't get the chain tight enough, I pushed the bike for a few km. I was running out of daylight so I just found a somewhere out of sight to pitch my tent. I got the stove going my new companion sat a few feet away looking at me. Ok, I know I shouldn't, but I fed her some pasta.

I got In my tent that evening the wind was terrible it was raining as well, I hardly slept, the noise of the tent flapping was too much. In the morning I unzipped the tent to find a soaked shivering dog curled up by the entrance. It wasn't much above freezing, snow in the hills, she licked my hand. Ahh crap I felt bad, but what could do? I packed up and set off, she ran with me. She would run after dark people carriers it didn't take much to figure she had been dumped, how someone could do that I don't know. I sent a picture to my friend Matt, his girlfriend, Liz, named her Dixie.

As I got near to Rio Turbio Dixie ran out into the road to chase a car, there was a big crump as she was hit at about 50mph by a car in the other direction. The car just carried on, I couldn't go back if she was still alive what could I do? Put her out of her misery like Will Smith in I am legend? Nah I couldn't do that. I just went on, it had been 24 hours and she had been fed, she died happy I hoped.

I got to Rio Turbio, a strange town I don't know if the mine is still working but the town is dead even if the mine isn't. It’s mostly closed down businesses, empty buildings and peeling paint. Only one hotel, tried to charge me 300 Argentina dollars I poorly haggled to 250, Eric idle would have shaken his head and said "one born every minute". I went into the supermarket and bought some bottles of Stella, I spent evening chatting to my mate John and drinking a few beers.

The next morning I got up and set off to find a bike shop I walked round the corner and felt a familiar poking of a small nose against my leg. I looked down to see Dixie, limping badly, how she survived and crawled into town I’ll never know. After a while it became apparent that there were no bike shops here, I was going to have to go back to Chile. I stayed in the hotel another night and got up early, no sign of Dixie. I went and had breakfast, came back, and there she was waiting outside. I pushed my bike for 9 and a half hours back to the border. I went across the Argentina border post and as I got to Chile the guard said you can't come into Chile with a dog, “it’s not mine” I said. “Nothing to do with me, It follows you it’s your problem, take it back to Argentina" he said, I tried to explain even if I did that my bike is broken so I couldn't out run the dog. I went back into no man’s land and screamed at Dixie to go away she just put her tail between her legs and cowered down, I felt bad but she couldn't come with me. She stayed long enough for me to walk back and then ran to me just as I was about to go through the guards said try that again and they picked up stones and pieces of wood to throw at her. I went back and did the same again 4 guards stood in a line throwing stones and bits of wood at her. It was the strangest way I have ever entered a country. It didn't work she ran straight into Chile, an Argentinian family who were going the other way back to Argentina agreed to take her and chuck her out of the car the other side of the border I felt bad but what could I do? I hoped they took pity and kept her.

In the end I couldn't get the bit from the bike shop and will have to wait for a new one to arrive from England. That means I will also go back across the border were Dixie was left, I have a funny feeling this might not be over.

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