All posts by dragojac

The idea of moving to another country was first muted over a bottle of retsina in a taverna on the Greek Island of Samos. The fires were flamed by numerous other local, and sometimes disgusting, concoctions in far flung places around the globe until we decided it was time to stop talking and do something completely out of character-throw caution to the wind. Three years ago we swapped Manchester for an island that at one time we wouldn’t have thought exotic or different enough to have made it onto our holiday list, Tenerife. Yet the island we have spent the last three years learning to love and to live in, isn’t the same one that we used to read about and turn our noses up at. So now we’re on a mission; to spread the word that Tenerife is far more than a sun, sand and sea resort for weather weary Europeans. Although most of my work is writing travel pieces, I enjoy the freedom of creative writing far more, so this blog gives me the opportunity to indulge these impulses and have a bit of fun. Despite being born and brought up on a Scottish island, I spent most of my adult life living near Manchester, England and during that time developed a passion for Man Utd. Ironically, living here has meant that I've been able to watch nearly every match they've played over the last three years. The down side of this unexpected pleasure has been that most of it has been in the company of ABUs (anyone but United).

The hitchhiker with a gun

Carretera Austral, Chile

With a wave of his hand a policeman in khakis at the side of the road indicates we should stop.

One minute we’re happily rolling along in our shiny Mitsubishi pick-up, relaxing into the pleasure of driving Chile’s Carretera Austral, which is beautiful, narrow and not always paved but at least it’s empty. With that wave of the hand our mood changes and we both nervously shift in our seats as though we’re guilty of transporting a huge stash of mari-ju-ana.

“Where have you come from?” The policeman asks in thick Chilean Spanish. We can just about manage to translate his words, but with a two second delay to unscramble them.

“Quelat,” we both answer sheepishly, wondering why we’ve been stopped.

“Where are you going?”

“Chile Chico.” Another duet of sheepishness.

“Hmm, on holiday?”

“Oh yes, we’re tourists.” None of that backpacking or savvy traveller nonsense. We want him to know we’re temporary guests just here to enjoy his lovely country.

He says something we can’t translate and points to a man standing to one side wearing mirror shades and a leather jacket.

“Lo siento, no entiendo… sorry, I don’t understand.” Maybe because of the nerves.

He repeats himself and the penny drops.

Mirror sunglasses man is an off duty policeman who needs a lift to the next town.

“Sure,” we’re not keen on the idea of sharing a car with a policeman on a road where we’ve not been sure whether we’ve been sticking to the speed limit or not. But it probably isn’t a good idea to refuse. We point to our luggage and supplies which fill the back seat of the pick-up. “But he’ll have to sit in the rear of the truck.”

The policeman shouts to his amigo who looks at the pick-up’s open-to-the-elements rear bed for a couple of seconds. He shakes his head. He fancies more comfortable transport.

We’ve dodged the bullet.

A lift-seeking policemen. That’s a first for us.

Seeing Big Bird in Patagonia

I was drugged. A potent pill caused by a combo of jet-lag and pre-dawn rising in order to see condors with 3m wingspans rising on the early morning air currents on an estancia (ranch) just outside of Coyhaique.

I was drugged and probably dribbling… till a huge bird languidly strolled across the tundra in front of us. When I say huge I mean ostrich-sized proportions.

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“What is that?”

It looked like a throwback to prehistoric times. With the wild Patagonian backdrop adding to the drama I could actually have been in a real Jurassic Park.

“Ñandú… Darwin’s Rhea,” answered Alejandro.

I knew we were hoping to see big condors in this part of Chile, but I’d no idea there were ancient looking birds like this.

Jet-lag and a lack of sleep were suddenly not a problem.

The Kardashians in Santiago

Sunday morning downtown Santiago, a couple of hours before we have to catch a flight south to rural Chile. The city’s streets are closed due to a mini marathon. I start to worry how the taxi will get to us.

To pass the time we wander streets which are empty apart from a few runners and groups of boys and girls who break into impromptu dance routines every so often. I feel like I’ve wondered into a musical.

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There’s some sort of colourful sporting event taking place in a park near our hotel. I’ve no idea what’s going on. All I know is one of the teams call themselves The Kardashians.

It’s diverting, but not enough to stop me worrying about how that taxi is going to get through.

A Fable for a Generation

“Did you see that? We just passed a topless woman!”

After A picked her jaw from the floor she confirmed she had indeed seen a rather well-endowed topless woman standing at the side of the road holding the boot of her car open.

“Did you see that L?”

Twenty-seven year old L was in the back of the car, head down concentrating.

“What? What did you say?” L replied, distractedly, before adding happily. “I’ve just caught a squirtle.”

Why do you write?

“Why do you write?”

I ask the question aloud. I just don’t understand.

“What is your motivation?”

The text is cut and pasted from elsewhere, the photographs belong to somebody else. None of it is theirs, so where is the satisfaction?

I understand why copywriters ‘borrow’ information/experiences from others. They’re earning from doing so, for themselves and the companies they write for. And I have the utmost respect for copywriters who are able to sit at a desk, research places and create something which comes across as insightful, original and real.

There aren’t many of those about though.

But bloggers? People writing for themselves and their ‘followers’, that I don’t understand. How can they feel good about palming off something that isn’t theirs?

There is another group of writers I don’t quite understand. Those who use their own words but don’t make any attempt to say anything new. I’m not suggesting I come up with something original every time I put pen to paper. I wish. But I strive to have a different voice, to say something that belongs to me and me alone, to observe from a slightly different angle. It is never, ever good enough.

So when I start to read a travel blog about a location which could have been cut and pasted straight from Wikipedia, I want to ask the author ‘what was your purpose in writing this? You must know it could equally well have been written by a copywriter sitting in a room a thousand miles away.’

They are writing as an obligation. Possibly to maintain a sham of a façade they have created in order to… well, travel in the cases I’m specifically thinking about.

But there is no joy, curiosity, emotion of any kind in what they write. It is not a calling, not an addiction where if you’re prevented for any length of time from banging away at the keyboard trying to create something, you get twitchy.

Their work has me staring, bemused, at a screen of bland nothingness wondering time and time again.

Why do you write?