The Great Train Robbery

The morning started well, weaving down from the Uspallata Pass which divides the Andes from the South Atlantic side and the Pacific facing slopes and I cross from Argentina into neighbouring Chile. It is the third time that I have crossed this mountain range in the past two months. The climb up there is a winding dirt road occasionally dissected by the remnants of a recent landslide or expanse of snow. Above the fern line the snow is crunchy on top, but a foot then plunges through wet unstable snow beneath. To reach the pass I have to traverse a rather precarious stretch of this stuff to reach Chile.

Fortunately for me someone has beat me to it and has trodden stepping stone like foot prints across the steep incline giving me a sure footing. But its off the bike, I have to decant each bag over one by one and then finally the bike. I better not slip or drop the bike for that matter as its a bloody long way down. At first it might be a fun slide albeit a wet one with cold snow getting down your underpants but once the snow runs out it is a near sheer slope of bone breaking jagged looking rocks.

A few hours later and there I was sat in the sun enjoying a good coffee all in one piece when things to a slip for the worse. I’m stood at my bike having a good rummage through a bag as I’m about to get back to it, when a women approaches me and mumbles something, my go to phrase “pardon no Espanola” is repeated a few times (I’m really mastering the language at this stage); I reside to ignore her and the long tanned legs, so I avert my eyes from her somewhat exposed cleavage and take my seat. God she is stunning, one more look wont hurt but she’s gone, I didn’t even blink. Time to pay the bill and get going.

The next minute I am running round the corner in pursuit of this mystery women and accomplice. Whilst she fluttered her eyes at me her partner in crime snatched my wallet from the table and casually strolled off. So now I am knocking shoulders with disgruntled by standers as I make chase. A head of me they split up, the women left down an alley and the man clambers over a fence. Decision made, I go for the man. The last thing I need is to detain a women down a back alley and for her to cry wolf a the top of her voice, “help……rape..” before you know it an angary Spanish mob could form and pleas of “pardon no Espanola” would do little to quell the discord directed at the gringo. “I’m not a sex offender” hasn’t made it into my Spanish vocab yet.

So its over the fence. As the 1 o’clock from La Calera to Valparaiso rhythmically trundles along the tracks picking up speed the train sounds its horn, if the passengers happened to be looking out of the window they would have seen myself and a man locked in the clutches of a fight. I had tackled the man to the ground, we both clattered down a rocky slope off the tracks but as the train rolls passed with its deafening din the passengers would have then witnessed the thief making off along fence line with his bounty secure; I myself was left lying on my back, catching my breath and putting a hand to my head. As we tumbled down the slope he had clasped his fingers around a rock and before I knew it I was lying back slightly dazed with a trickle of blood at my temple after my attempted heroics failed in their execution.

….. what in fact happened was that a distinctly average looking women with her dark her in a ponytail high up on the crown of her head pulling her forehead taught, exposing her large gold hooped earrings and wearing an all in one red tracksuit, distracted me whilst her partner pinched my wallet which I had carelessly placed on the table when waiting for the bill to come. I sat down to finish the dregs of my coffee when it finally dawned on me that the buggers had done one on me I did dash round the corner but nearly knocking an elderly gentleman to the floor, it was to late. They had seen an opportunity and pinched the wallet carelessly placed there and disappeared into the streets of La Calera with my wallet and my dignity. What a stupid way to get robbed. On the up side I did get a free coffee out of it for I had no money to pay my bill.

A poor start to my Chilean leg, to add salt to the wound I had just been to the bank and had not had the opportunity to split my funds between the various places I keep cash so that it cant all be stolen at once. Ah well such is life, looks like I will be on an even tighter budget for the foreseeable. I doubt Chile is a land of criminals, the generosity I’ve been shown still far out ways this one instance of criminality though last night in the early hours someone was shot and killed just 20m up from my hostel.

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