'Get out of the waves.... Go back to the valley man' These words came back to haunt me when I was Jonny Utah for the day. George Evans where are you now? George was a young man I used to work with and who, during long night shifts. used to bring in films to watch. (and no, not the ones with Ron Jeremy, mores the pity). One film we all loved was Point Break with Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves, who played FBI agent Jonny Utah. A classic from the 1980's set around the surfing community. who happen also to be bank robbers. Dressed in masks of former presidents of the USA, Jonny had to learn to surf to infiltrate the gang.And so it was, whilst trying to keep stable whilst I floated on a piece of wood in the South Pacific Ocean dressed in a wetsuit, that the quote came back to haunt me.
To be fair I had an amazing day trying to surf. (and I use
that term very loosely). There is a professional surfer dude of sorts loosely attached to the hostel by the name of Yoyo. We met him last night and he spoke about giving surfing lessons today. He is a Chilean man with the surfer outlook to life. Dreadlocks, clown pants etc. The hostel owner confirmed he was not some sort of scammer and so last night Rich, Stacey, Carmen (from Holland and in our dorm) and I agreed to give it a go. Rich has snowboarded before, the rest of us are novices.
So at 10.45 this morning a beat up old Mitsubishi space wagon with SURFSCHOOL rocked up to the hostel. Inside the van was falling apart, no inside door panels and the back door would not open. A clown car to go with the clown trousers, and the clown name. Things then not looking good. Hostel owner gives thumbs up from her window trying to reassure us.
So we get to the beach, about 500 meters away and Yoyo comes good. Surf board, wetsuits the whole nine yards.
"But before we put the wetsuit on, some Yoga." says Yoyo. Are you kidding me? "Yoga? I thought we were here to surf" "for the energy and muscles" said Yoyo. Now I am not the most flexible of guys as was proved today. Placed a beach towel on the sand and sat looking at the sea. There then followed a series of exercises of stretch and balance. Except me who kept falling over. I tried to keep an open mind about it all as Yoyo was stood on one leg with the other bent around his head. I stood one one leg and fell over, only then my other leg wrapping around my head, much to the amusement of my other trainee surfers.
First we learnt to body surf without a board and then came the moment of first contact.
Handed a board about 8 feet in length and it seemed about 4 foot wide.
"seems a bit big" I said. "it´s for stability in the ocean", replied Yoyo. Looking at the others they seemed to have boards
just about their own height. Mine towered above me. But it guess he is the surfing guru and knows what he is doing.
So into the water with this huge plank of wood and the results were predictable. Me all arms and legs.The rest all wood and ocean. After much falling off this plank of wood I eventually managed to paddle out to sea. "if you need a rest just sit on the board" shouts Yoyo. So I did. The trouble is my groin would not stretch the almost four feet around the board, balancing on the high seas was tricky and the inevitable happened. Either I fell to the side of fell off the back. It was all getting a little tiresome and maybe I was just not cut out for this surfing lark. The others seems to be doing fine. I was just drifting further and further away on the current, fighting a losing battle to paddle towards them, constantly upended and wondering if this was money well spent.
Then it all came together and as a wave approached I remembered my training and ...........woosh. Riding along on the crest of a wave. Well it was
bit of a filler. (no bbq pics as laughing so much)
body boarding to be precise but none the less the first time I had ridden the crest of a wave on a surf board. I was an amazing and exilerating experience, and now I understand what all the fuss is about. The energy from the wave just picking you up taking you along for the ride. Jonny Utah finally cracks it.
The trouble is Jonny Utah and his surfing chums make it seem so easy. There is an awful lot of paddling required to get to the next wave, which requires a lot of energy and muscle power, some of which have never been used before. So despite excellent coaching on how to stand up, whenever I caught a wave I was so exhausted I could not pick myself up.
So I decided to become the king of body boarding for the day and had the most fantasic time. Might try it again soon.
Yoyo is a fantastic surfer and an excellent coach (despite the silly name). I highly recommend him if you are in Arica and reading this blog.
"Let´s have a barbeque at the hostel" says Yoyo after surfing, "we can
not sure how this happened.
get the whole hostel involved".
In the corner of the hostel yard is a rickety old barbeque set. The kind you buy from Argos for around a tenner. Flimsy, unstable and a grill with tiny handles that slot into even smaller holes. All made from the thinnest sheet metal. You know the type I mean and probably have one shoved in your shed or festering at the bottom of your garden. Used once and never used again, it sits there all charred and greasy, a memorial to a disateraous barbequing experience in the recent past.
" I am not doing the food but I am in charge of the fire" says Duncan, the stranded motorcyclist with a broad ´top mad for it´Manchester accent. " I was trained in the art of starting a fire when I learnt Argentinian barbeques in Argentina. Just leave the fire to me".
Looking at his efforts so far, I wondered if he had actaully been trained, of just signed up for the course and not bothered to attend. Not much happening on our ten pounds Argos device at all, but if he has put himself in charge who am I to argue. I pulled out a can of cold beer, sat back and enjoyed the spectacle as our fully trained operative tried in vien to get the fire going. Finally, some flame and heat. Our fully trained Duncan then poured a ton on charcoal on it. "now we are cooking" says Duncan. However he has put on so much coal that it suffocates the fire and it goes out. "oh dear" says Duncan "this never happened in Argentina". "I think the charcoal is wet" he added. I am now having to bit my lip to stop laughing at this northern bafoon.
Sat with Stacey I commented on this bafoonery and that we might be eating by midnight, using the oven in the kitchen to cook the food. "just watch and enjoy" I said to her. "Pride most definatley comes before a fall"
"you have put on too much coal" says an Australian accent from behind me. I turn to see an aging Aussie man walking out from the hostel. Standing a mighty 5´5", receding blonde hair and completey hairless legs in his very, very tight and short shorts. " you need to do it the Aussie way".
I could see Duncan look decidely pissed off by this remark. Afterall he had set himself up at the Argentinian barbeque specialist and was determined to prove his worth. We were in South America, not Australia and now an aging Aussie was critising his work.
The Aussie, who turned out to be called Alan steps up with a pair of tonges in his hand as if ready to joust Duncan for the bbq crown.
"You blithering idiot where did you learn this trick" he said, waving the tonges about like some sort of sword.
"Argentina?" I helpfully suggested.
"Right lets start again".
I could see the rage in Duncans eyes as he was pushed into the sidelines.
"We need to turn it into an oven if we are to get any food tonight" and with that, using the tonges he pushed all the coals about and tried to relight it. But this time placing a large piece of plywood over the top of the barbeque.
"This way the heat stays inside" he says.
Now I must profess I am not the best at bbq but I do know that once the coals are alight you need to leave it for about 30 minutes to allow all the smoke and shite to burn off leaving red hot coals to cook over.
It would appear the Aussie way to bbq is to put as much food as posible onto the grill and then put this inside the bbq oven whilst it is still pouring out smoke, in its early stages of ignition. On went peppers, chicken, sausages, meat. A ton of food covering the whole grill.
"That´s not how we did it in Argentina" muses a disgrunted Duncan. The two men were now clearly rubbing each other up the wrong way, and only one would be king.
Me? Just pulled another beer and enjoyed this bbq jousting match and deciding that, even though I had contributed to the food, I would definitely not not be eating it. I could see the chicken already starting the blacken from the smoke.
Then no smoke at all. The fire went out. "reckon the coal is wet" says Alan. "Aye, that is what I thought" said Duncan.
"no, there is just a flicker" says Alan and with that reaches for another piece of wood and starts to fan the bbq with the food still inside his makeshift oven. So now not only is the food all smokey but it is now covered in dust and ash from the breeze created by the vigarous fanning. The chicken pieces are looking decidedly sad.
By now it is dark, the sun setting hours ago. I am joined by Henny, a 32yr old Dutch woman. "did these animals really die for this?" she inquired of me. She has a bowl of grapes. Offering some to me I take them, as this could be the only thing I eat tonight.
"I am already thinking there is a decent restaurant round the corner. Fancy coming?"
So there we sat. Bruce standing proud, fanning dust, ash and shite all over the food, the aussie way to bbq, whilst Duncan sat next to him with a forlorn look of defeat on his face, the Argentinian way to bbq.
You recall that this is a ten pounds Argos bbq ( or if you are an American reading this a $15 walmart affair).
Question. What result can you expect when you place a ton of food on a flimsy grill with tiny handles over a barbeque with even smaller holes for the grill to rest in?
Well, you recall pride comes before a fall? And so it was Bruces turn. His new fangled smoker now destroying the food he decided he to check it. Pulling the grill with the tiny handle from the even smaller holes it rested in, he had not anticiated the handles would now be quite hot. The grill tips and all the food falls into the coals. I burst out luaghing, which I admit was not helpful. Duncans face on the other hand lit up. With a huge grin he sat next to me and lit a cigarette. I wish he hadn´t mind you, as he fucking stank of smoke and B.O. I know he has been sat around waiting for parts for his bike to come from Japan but please, use this time to have a shower will you.. It was a very pungent pong and if I has not been put of my food by watching it being cooked, I was certainly put off now.
Bruce rescues the food with his tonges and puts it on the grill. He tried to to this very furtively, looking around to see if anyone had notice. I had.
"I think these peppers are done" says Bruce, holding one up with his tonges. As black
as the night underneath and covered in ash. They are the cooking invention of Yoyo. Half a pepper with an egg inside.
"do you want one Dave?".
As it was dark the others in the hostel who maybe had not seen Alans furtive ´food back on the grill manoeveres´ tried one. Good luck I thought to myself.
Over the next hour or so Alan cooked to a cinder chicken, sausages, steak. Constantly dropping food from the grill into the fire, taking it out with his tonges, dropping it on the floor, dusting it off, holding it up and if it did not look too bad, putting it back on the grill, or if it looked done, on a plate.
Duncan retired to bed, his tail between his legs.
Alan had won, he was the king of the barbeque and was proud owner of the golden tonges.
Me? Grateful for the grapes, I decided against eating any of the food. Not sure what "Í have severe food poisoning" is in Spanish.
Argentinian barbeque?, Australian barbeque? Think I will stick to the good old fashioned British barbeque- pissing down with rain, grey and overcast, you cook everything in the kitchen and curse the English summer.
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