In the Frying Pan between San Rafael and San Luis, Argentina

[start] We’re lying in a pool of our own sweat in a cattle pen. It was all that we could find. It was 1200 noon; too late. The thermometer read nearly 100 deg F. or 38 deg C. We have run our daily 20 mile fight and even though we woke up at 0500, we had to stop at a school for water, which wasted 30 precious minutes. We had planned this; we’d carried our full quota of water; 23 litres for the last two days and needed the next “injection” of fluid. The notice on the school bathroom read: “When washing your hands, teeth and hair- use as little water as possible. Water is life”. Argentina is teaching us the full meaning of this statement. We’re dreaming scenarios of motorists stopping and passing us ice cold fizzy drinks; “fanta-asising” about what we would do for a cold drink. Which drink we would go for? For me a mango, strawberry, orange smoothie or a minty concoction. For Dave freezing water or a lager. He’s talking about rolling in the snow and I’m dreaming of sleeping with cold water lapping over me. The heat is changing everything. We now have an idea of what the “Marathon de Saab” might be like that winds its way through the Sahara Desert. But there is no cool tent or drink at the end of our day in the oven. Instead we haul or stuff piece by piece back and forward from the trailer to the bush we’ve selected, impaling ourselves on spines and sticking a million little spiky seeds to our legs and into our feet. Then Dave carries the trailer over. Then we rifle about and find the tarp and lie in the dust with all our things around us and muster the energy to cook. Then we flop like two beached wales pouring with sweat which sticks to the dust and sticks and spines and pretend to sleep on another bumpy miserable surface. Insects crawl all over us. On the plus side, the insects are extraordinary! The wasps are blood red and black and huge (but Dave is somewhat sceptical that they are really not trying to sting him); the grasshoppers a kaleidoscope of colours; the ants massive with grey bottoms(one is fast-footing his way across the computer screen now); the preying mantises are funky turquoise shades; the stick insects are huge and jump! Wherever we look they are there. We lie surrounded by an orchestra of munching, buzzing, trilling insects. And the amazing thing is that nothing is really bothered about us. There are no mosquitoes because it’s so dry. The wasps are more interested in the blooming herbs we’re sitting in. The preying mantis just wants our shade and after being launched into the air unceremoniously scuttled straight back to us.The white-bottomed ants are on a completely different mission, jostling over us on their way to slice off a piece of leaf. The tiny red ants hoover up our scraps; nothing wants to attack these to non-native sweaty beasts. Instead they’re providing us with a mini 24 hour show and their efficiency at: tidying, chomping, sweeping, rolling, pollinating- is reminding us of just how important the world’s largest and most focused workforce is to us all! [end]

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