My two week trip back to the UK is coming to an end. This evening I shall fly back to Buenos Aires, where I shall stay for a couple of days before travelling onwards to Mendoza and my moto.
Mendoza, the Andes, the sun, the travellers life… It is almost impossible to connect with life in South America from the cold and deeply familiar surroundings of Gloucestershire. Within hours of arriving back in the UK, it felt like I had never been away – literally. It is a very disconcerting phenomenon. The preceding six months had been so rich in new experiences, yet it can feel as if those experiences have simply been wiped from the hard drive.
There has, however, been one tangible link back to my life in South America – the Tenere’s stable mate, my Triumph Tiger 800. Swapping an agricultural single cylinder for a beautifully smooth and punchy triple and dusting down weather-proof riding gear, I travelled the south of England visiting friends and family along motorway and country lane. It’s been cold, sometimes wet and dark by 4.30pm, but even in these conditions I wouldn’t trade my bike for a car. After a year in the saddle almost every day and 25,000km on the road, being on two wheels and in direct contact with the elements now seems entirely natural. Reflecting on this, I realised I have driven a car (well, a large pick-up, actually) only once in the last year.
It goes without saying that it has been wonderful to see family and friends. However, from the perspective of my South American wanderings, the most valuable aspect of my trip home has been the chance to restock on kit and equipment. I came home with virtually nothing and I am returning with two full bags and a depleted bank account. Over the last six months some things had been lost, others worn out, and a few pieces of kit just weren’t quite right. I have a new set of panniers to replace those I sold to Martyn; new lightweight riding trousers in anticipation of the South American summer; a bag of variously sized nuts and bolts to replace those that have been gradually lost every time someone works on the bike; new merino wool t-shirts and underwear (you can wear merino wool for weeks without it becoming smelly); maps of Central America; duplicate copies of my motorcycle logbook (I have read that dodgy border officials in Central America are prone to holding on to vital documents in order to extract bribes); and five boxes of top quality herbal tea – an impossible find in Argentina, Peru and Bolivia.
Some may think that re-stocking t-shirts, socks and the like is a straight forward process. It is not. I have adopted the philosophy of multi-coloured packing, where as many items as possible, including the bags I pack various items in, are different colours. This has numerous benefits: it makes finding the required item easier inside a full bag; it helps you calculate if you have everything when you pack (my brain seems better able to remember a catalogue of colours); and it makes things more visible when left in long grass or under a bed and thus less likely to be left behind. When I started the trip, so much of my stuff was black. So imagine my delight when I discovered the merino wool pants I wanted came in bright orange.
All that is left to do now is extend my travel insurance. Six or seven months should do it. Winter in UK feels like it is just round the corner and I have no intention of coming back again before Spring is well and truly underway. Mind you, I may feel differently about things when I’m back in Northern Argentina – the internet tells me to expect temperatures well into the 30s.