Sunday, May 29, 2011

18 to 30s (to 18)

After departing from Fay, I found myself fending for myself for a while. No longer being able to afford the luxury of double rooms, I had to make use of the only financially viable alternative, the hostel dorm room. I would arrive at these establishments and more often than not, find to my horror that the average age is 18, everybody was inflecting the ends of their sentenCES, and that the name of the game was to party. With trepidation I would choose my bed, carefully and strategically lay out my eye blankets and ear plugs on my bedside table, fearful of all night dorm room parties. Then 4am comes round, and the inevitable rattling of the wrong key in the lock, followed by the other wrong key, followed by slamming of door against wall, a drunken, shouted, giggly whisper of 'SHORRY', trying to get into the wrong bed, missing the toilet bowl, turning on the main light, eating crisps... Eventually though, through my drunken haze, I do usually identify my own bed and clamber into it and then annoy my 'roomies' all the more by getting up early doors and moaning about my poor head. Poor Ollie.

Mingle Bells

Xmas itself took place at a hostel in Valparaiso. A city full of life. Imagine Brighton, with a similar percentage of real hippies, but replace the Londoners and trustafarians with criminals (and obviously greatly improve the quality of the citizens), add in a whole lot of hills and replace the pebbles with sand.

Hostel life is strange. A convergence of all kinds of people from all parts of the world. The chances of all the people we spent Xmas with being in the same place at the same time were infinite, or definite, or somewhere in between depending on your take on things. We arrived at Lunar Sonrisa on Xmas Eve and were fortunate enough (whether it was  predestined or not) that the 10 or so people staying there got on magically well and we spent a very happy Xmas together drinking and eating and beaching and swimming in the very cold Pacific Ocean, my first dip in that not insubstantial pool of water.

Skip forward to New years Eve and to Mendoza, Argentina. At midnight you may well imagine fireworks, champagne and merriment. You'd be close, but not very. Replace all that with me stuck on the toilet, thunderstorms and torrential rain outside, a brief foray onto the empty streets accompanied by the obligatory stray dog, playing the 'Yani' card game, stuck in our hostel room as the bell struck 12, and in a state of mild hallucination me confusedly pouring our one bottle of champagne down the sink. Happy new year!

But not so happy as Fay and I parted ways for the next two months. Me to head off climbing in Argentina and Chile and Fay to travel down from Puerto Mont to Puerto Natales by boat. A boat which had such a bad track record that they renamed it, and it's apparently been much better since.

A long time ago, in a continent far far away...

Even before Xmas, THAT long ago. Fay and I went to an astronomical observatory in Mamaluca, Chile. We were introduced to the amazing Stellarium (google it). A free computer program which lets you pick any point on the globe, and look thousands of years into the past or future at the night's sky. Fascinating stuff. The stargazing itself was hampered by the sky being lit up by a full moon and it being the longest day of the year. But we did learn things. One of those things is that we are all stardust. All of us are made up of matter that has been there from the beginning of time. When the big bang happened, we were all there, with ringside seats. BOOOOOOOOOOOM. It's a difficult thought to contemplate, like trying to stop the room from spinning when you lie down to sleep after a night drinking Vermouth. Science can explain many things. There is a huge telescope in Chile, imaginatively named the 'Very Large Telescope' which is run by the European Space Agency. In order to keep up with the Jones', the USA are developng a new larger, 'Very Very Extraordinarily Large Telescope' that we were told will be able to see so far, and hence so far into the past, that we will be able to look at the dawn of the universe. But there remain many things science can't explain. Like frappucinos, goatee beards and Simon Cowell. That what is essentially stardust can evolve to be a goatee wearing, frappucino drinking, sentient being is, well, a bit nuts isn't it? Whilst I remain FIERCELY agnostic (?), if there is a god, then one thing is for certain, she's not normal.