‘Errrr… Faye… what in the world is THAT?!’
I am stood outside my tent, midway through brushing my teeth, when a distant rumble distracts me from a love affair with Colgate Triple Stripe.
Around the mountain track in the distance, surrounded by plumes of dust and silhouetted against the early morning sun, come twenty horses. Atop those horses are people, and they are atop them in style – carrying flags, banners and all manner of brassy things which catch and deflect the suns rays. I’m rooted to the spot with my mouth is wide open (collecting its fair share of road dust) when all of a sudden two military trucks appear around the nearest bend, and three men hop out. They nod in our direction, as if finding two white chicks in their pyjamas at the side of the road in the middle of nowhere (mouths open, toothbrushes in hands) is perfectly normal, and they begin setting up a video camera.
Oh how I long to ask what the Dickens is going on. It’s a late January Tuesday morning and I wonder what kind of special occasion this could be?? Is it someone’s birthday? An Argentine Bah Mitzvah? I would venture some limited Spanish to one of the hardy looking men in military uniforms armed with a camera, but they look rather… hardy. Especially the man on the main camera – he has accessorised his outfit Trinny and Susanna style with a cigarette in mouth and one of those soft khaki military caps. And so we don’t ask, we just grab our own cameras, bid the three military men a good morning and sit on large boulders next to them at the side of the road.
It takes some five minutes for the horse parade to reach us. Five minutes during which I just about pee my pants with excitement! I cannot get over how freakin’ cool this is! Yesterday we passed wild horses grazing, and the odd cowboy on a horse with his dogs, but this – this is a whole other level of oh-my-goodness-ness.
At last the men on horseback reach us. We smile and wave, wish them a ‘buen dia’, and take photos and videos. Most of them seem to be in military uniform, but there are a few in civilian clothing. One of the civilians calls over to us: ‘Where are you from?’ Ooooooo!! we think, this is our chance. We tell him proudly that we’re from England, and then we pounce: ‘What is going on here??’ Faye shouts over.
Today, as it turns out, this Tuesday morning in January 2017 is the 200th anniversary of the ‘crossing of the Andes’. That is, when hundreds of years ago, Chilean exiles and Argentinian soldiers joined forces to invade Chile and liberate the country from Spanish rule. Led by a cool cat called José de San Martín, it was one of the most important moves in Chile regaining its independence from the Spaniards. Of course, I’ll admit that I didn’t get all of that from the civilian on the horse that morning, he gave me ‘crossing of the andes’, and Wikipedia delivered the rest.
And so, this Tuesday was the be a day of great history, and of great education. But this is not something only confined to the morning’s horsey events…
If I may, I would like to place you on the roadside next to Faye and I at one of our usual afternoon high brow educational discussions. We’re sat next to one another on rocks in the shade, and I am eating peanuts. I begin to study the peanuts more closely…
Me: ‘What part of the plant exactly am I eating here. Are peanuts a seed?’
Faye: ‘Err, I’m not sure. Yes actually – I think they are a seed.’
Me: ‘Oh right, so I’m eating the seed. I suppose it’s full of protein and stuff and that makes sense.’
Faye: ‘Why is it a nut and not a seed then??’
Me: ‘I have no idea. (pause) So what would happen if I stuck a walnut in the ground? Would a walnut tree grow?’
(Laughter, followed by silence and some deep thought)
Faye: ‘Did you know that peanuts grow in the ground?’
Me: ‘I Did! Did you know that pineapples grow in bushes?’
Faye: ‘I did not know that!’
Me: ‘I know. Mind boggling, saw the bushes in Hawaii. (pause) What part of the pineapple is the seed then?? I mean, that’s the purpose of fruit, right? To spread its seeds?’
Faye: ‘Yeah – pineapples have seeds, around the edges…’
Me: ‘Do they?! I’ve never seen them. In fact, where are the seeds in a banana? Or is the banana itself a seed?’
Faye: ‘There are black bits in the banana.’
Me: ‘Well, they (the bananas) could make it a bit more obvious, I mean apple seeds are obvious. Strawberry seeds are obvious too.’
Faye: ‘Yeah that’s so the birds eat the strawberry seeds and poop them out. That fertilises them.’
Me: ‘In that case, what the bloody hell is the point in a coconut?!’