As my sandy departure date looms nearer – less than three months and counting – my feet get itchier and I've been scanning the skies a lot of late. In fact I should have left already but through some sad and sorry quirk of fate my contract had an extra three months tacked onto it and so I now feel like a vehicle stuck in the sand, back wheels revving and roaring, going nowhere, spewing dust into the atmosphere, impatient to escape yet unable to move.
Somehow avenues keep getting blocked. Pavements - my bike lanes - roped in by plastic fencing, have suddenly and randomly been dug up leaving a sandy underbed and A flower festival has rendered much of the corniche out of bounds while my most favoured cycling route out on a curved peninsular, where the sea is so shallow that huge sand banks appear at low tide, is a spot to chain my bike to the post of a No Swimming sign, walking/wading a good mile into the sea, like Moses, where a tiny sandy island allows me to perch my butt and sit and contemplate in perfect peace, free from traffic and people and camels, gentle waves lapping my hot feet.
But workmen with bulldozers and trucks have now moved in and fenced the area off, thus almost obliterating pleasant afternoons from memory. It was there that I once saw a thick black snake, two metres long, slick and slithering across a car park, probably looking for some peace from man and traffic too. The work, whatever it might be, is being carried out by the China Construction Company so that snake no doubt ended up in the dinner pot, blood and bile toasted in shot glasses before hunks of flesh were set upon by gnashing Oriental incisors.
Many moons ago that same place was also the scene of a near death experience when on a steaming evening, on bike, I was crossing the road and a deranged youth came tearing round the bend like a driver on a chicane at Silverstone race track, putting his foot down further when he saw the infidel, missing him by inches, swerving to avoid an oncoming car, skidding and spinning out of control for 100 metres before the trunk of a solid full grown palm put an end to his homicidal tendencies. I went to check if he was dead but when he showed signs of life by staggering from the wreckage, brushing shards of glass from his clothes, I didn’t give him a hand, instead I gave him the finger and went home, shaking slightly. Someone later told me that he would have had to pay for damages, not only to his car but the tree too. That was undoubtedly poetic justice, and I like to think there was some divine intervention too.
So five years on I find myself day-dreaming, pouring over maps, plotting routes, staring at the sky, and making decisions on how to use the flight voucher that KLM gave me to compensate for the flight from hell last September. The original intention had been a three month trip through the USA but that has been scuppered for a variety of reasons, chief of them being the strength of the US dollar which would add quite a few thousand dollars just in the exchange of currencies. It’s also an increasingly dodgy and lawless land where guns are wielded like toys and money scavenged from innocent passers-by with a hint of manic violence behind the “gotta dollar” plea. And besides, they are almost as big anti-smoking Nazis as the Canadians and British.
The second option was India but that’s gone on the back burner because I can’t be bothered with the bureaucratic hassle that comes with getting an expensive visa – petty annoyances before you've even got on a plane or run into 1.2 billion people - although I do hear this may change in the near future. So I smacked my gift voucher down on an Amsterdam to Buenos Aires flight in October and will see how it goes from there. The pampas (and weed!) of Uruguay, the beaches of Brazil, the unknowns of Paraguay and the alpine lakes of the Andes are calling and I’m in just the mood to communicate with them.