Monday, 9 December 2013

Chilean Joke

At last, our first commercial campground, one that has the requisite components. Open for custom, alleged hot showers, non shoogly seating, shaded pitch sites and obvious security. So much for the positives, the stated intentions. If this were Argentina it would also have night long music and early morning dogs. This one has yet to deliver on the former, but does come with an adequate substitute....barking seals and their bleating pups. As for the dogs, they spend their time howling over the water, despite the fact that the seals are hauled out on an island. Two of them are Labradors, the third is an equally stupid cross.

Tent pitched on the north Chilean shore, the Atacaman sand mountains brooding to our rear, the ocean's long horizon stretched across our front. Just south of the resort of Iquique, a town of highrise holiday apartments and 'Nitrate era' wooden buildings, a port that has cormorants for pigeons and vultures for rats. Both perch, wing warming on billboards, the former nest in the plaza palm trees, the latter shred beached carcasses, all poop on the swimming pool's bleachers. Roosting up lighting columns where they guano cars and the street. A wide spread spatter that gives testament to either their projectile ability or the power of the wind. Either way, I ride quickly underneath. Memories of climbing club songs about the seagulls of Mobile who use a lighthouse as a 'toilet', come to mind. But that's not the Chilean joke.

Missed by and missing, the historical significance. Poop, skat, splat and it's constituent chemical; ammonium nitrate, it's what made the early Republica de Chile.

The Spanish conquistadores never did find that fabled gold the Inca's nation had told them of. So it all started with guano deposits and the mining of the centuries old bird waste. A finite resource that lasted a few short decades. Then it was the turn of the 'desert gold', the nitrate ore that could be shoveled and bagged from the surface of the Atacama. Any man could set up as a miner with only his pick and spade, many did, coming goldless from the Canadian Klondike. Then German science invented artificial nitro-fertiliser and it all died out over night. Instant ghost towns and a lasting architectural legacy. However the nation had already gained vast wealth, deprived Bolivia of a seaboard and created an historic tragic hero. Arturo Pratt captained a wooden gun boat that took on a Peruvian iron clad, he died but his name lives on a thousand street names. And his unfotunate moniker still isn't the Chilean joke.

The Chilean joke..... When la duena, the inn keeper, introduces you to her establishment, to her many blandishments of facilities, she'll mention the tariff, the toilet, even the WiFi, but that's not the joke although it is, no, she'll utter the inevitable 'Bon motte', her punch line....Ducha aguas caliente..... Hot shower....Haha....