All countries have a common kerbside text, with the possible exception of Singapore; it's a litterfree city-state anyway. The subject matter is discarded rubbish. A theme that fascinates me, because it sets a signature on an area, one that can tell so much about a place. It posses questions and sometimes even answers them. On the Bolivian altiplanic plain it was the glitter of CDs and the confusion of a hail-clogged drain on a warm day. On the Atacama it's the dull alumina soda can, burnished Cola paintless and shattering plastic juice bottles. In West Central Scotland it might be the green glazed shards, or a greasy chip wrapper. These answers are easy to deduce; pirated reproduction and nappy water retaining granules. Sand blasting and cheating on a centennial life expectancy. Bucky and a poor diet. But how to answer the question posed by the discards on the Pacific coast: Steering wheel covers?
It's fun to speculate, to propose scenarios as you loose yourself pedalling along on the inside verge. None in this instance come to mind that might remotely answer the query. The Dakar Rally was in the vicinity last year; maybe there's a residue of wanna-be racers left behind? Yet that doesn't sit nicely with the road courtesy we've been experiencing. Cars that give way to pedestrians, taxis that stop in the middle of a roundabout to let me through.They're almost Nederlandish in their insistence. Those faux leather covers with their broken laces will just have to remain question marks, residing in the gutter. Leaving me to tell the tales of advertising hoardings and official roadside signs.
"No burning tyres on the road". Futile instruction. They're an utterly essential component to a protest. Be it governmental incompetence, corporate theft or plain boredom. Some routes are more prone to the evidence. The rusting rings of tyre wire, the scorched blistered asphalt, the proximity to the conflict zone. The El Alto/La Paz front line.
"No ditching stones on the road", not an instruction to gravity or nature, who are the greatest perpetrators, not even the dogs who had tried to pelt the Navigator from a high cliff with disturbed boulders. The reminder is to those who have broken down and need to chock their wheels in the absence of an adequate handbrake. It will come as no surprise to learn that this request is also ignored. It's one of the main hazards as we freewheel with abandon down the long descents.
Bolivian billboards are only about how the hard-hatted 'Evo' built the next section of road, the commercial advertising is restricted to painting household walls in the colours of the respective telecoms companies or the local cement factory. Whilst over the hill in Chile the hoardings parade across the landscape, more as slumber busters than advertising opportunities. Still they reflect the local story. Heavy trucks and giant tyres, earth shifters and a 'Wendy House'. Mining's the major economic primer. The flat-pack house, the locally recognised homemaker and hardware store, that goes by a title ripe for a piece of Scottic inuendo; "Sodimac".