The Puesteros – Day 69 (4th January)

An amazing turn of events has materialised throughout the hours of today, as I find myself writing this blog with some very different and unusual emotions towards the thousands of lambs that are now situated a matter of metres away from my bed. This may sound weird to some people, or disturbing to those with dirty minds, but there is a very reasonable explanation behind my feelings, and a pretty decent story to. So, without further or do…

It was beautiful sunrise in Patagonia this morning, which comes with an aura of peace and tranquility, and stunning views that no artist could re-create. Unfortunately, this morning I was prevented from enjoying the first few moments of the day, as I was tasked with attempting to get out of my rooftop bed, and dismount from the bunk in reasonable and acceptable fashion. Inevitably, I only partly succeeded, as although I got down to the ground safely, I did manage to ruin the peace and tranquility of the morning, and replace it with multiple painful noises of bangs, crashes and screams. I was soon back on my feet though, and order was restored, so we prepared the mate calabasa (gourd) and waited for Kevin to arrive and pick us up. This wait lasted a little longer than anticipated, so long that the mate had gone weak, we had eaten our second breakfast of the day, and I was already on my fifth piss of the morning. Once he did eventually arrive, we sorted out the dog food for our new guard dog Nina, gave her a quick kiss and a cuddle, and left in the truck for the main farm.

When we arrived at the farm, we got out the truck and stood to attention, waiting for the orders of captain Maclean and his numerous other Sergeants. The first mission we were set was a fun one, as we got we were given the extreme power and authority to pick out ten of the fattest and most annoying looking lambs we could find, and catch them to be taken to a special little pen for sheep that were going to be eaten in within the next few days. This unsurprisingly felt very satisfying, and I was pumped up to chose some more to be turned into delicious meat, however a new job was soon put in front of us, requiring a short drive over to another field with a big ewe in the back. This wasn’t quite as fun, as couldn’t get the aux cable to work with my phone, and when we tried to get the sheep over the fence, my little stick of an arm got firmly sandwiched between barbed wire and wool. The rest of the morning was spent playing some sort of puzzle game with the lambs, searching out various colours of sheep, chasing them for a while, and then eventually grabbing them and putting them into a different pen. This got the appetite juices gushing around my stomach, but unfortunately before we had a chance to go and sniff out some more fresh food, the 2338 lambs were freed from the corral, commencing the long walk over to our campervan and the paddock they were being sent to to be fattened up.

This process was certainly less fun when not on a horse, however it did give me a lot of time to practice my whistle in a real life experience, and also allowed the three of us to acceptably release our anger towards the lambs by gently throwing a number of sticks in the direction of the animals and sometimes accidentally making contact with them with reasonable vigour. The sheep of course retaliated by running off behind us and causing absolute mayhem in the marching formation, but our stern and firm hands get the group mostly in check, and kept them trundling on over the fields. It made me think back to the days of school, however in this case the three of us were the teachers and the little lambs were the little shits like us that are known as students. Similarly to a large group of lower school pupils, most of the lambs obeyed our orders and stuck closely together, with the front runners acting as the teacher’s pets or the cocky know-it-all’s. Next came the kids that attempted to act cool in front of the popular ones by at first causing problems in the class and pissing off the teacher, in this case stopping at the back of the group momentarily, to the extent that they shout threats towards the child which result in an immediate shit of the pants and sudden obedience of the rules. And last and defiantly least, came the students known as the ‘rebels’ who had parents that didn’t really give a shit, and attitudes that allowed for a serious amount of screaming and shouting before any shit was given by the child, and only the threat of expulsion could make them return to class and do the same thing all over again. These were the lambs that stopped very frequently to munch grass until we were literally sat on top of them and kicking them, until eventually they decided to move forward to their next feeding spot. I reckon I used to think of myself as one of the last lambs, however my parents would have locked me in my room for all eternity if I had been expelled, and I also distinctly remember being afraid of any level of senior staff, so I was probably a wannabe rebel.

As the metres ticked by, the terrain got dramatically worse, and soon we were forced to completely turn into sheep dog and crawl through the dense bushes in order to chase out the stray lambs. It was a Herculean effort, but the thankfully the real sheep dogs were there to help us out, and mercifully, the caravan eventually came into sight. Before we made it back though, I was gifted a great photo opportunity by a hill and the thousands of lambs, as well as the beautiful scenery in the background.

Once we had the lambs in the paddock, we were given our job list for the ten days, which pretty much only included patching up a fence, walking around the woods a couple times a day, and retrieving any stray sheep attempting to escape and avoid their inevitable doom. This sounded like a doddle compared to Baguales, however just as we were beginning to enjoy our new position as the sole protectors of the cuederos, we noticed a large group of rebels had already snuck past the barriers and were settling down for a life outside of the paddock. We couldn’t have any of this, so we herded them back to the gate and got them back inside. This was easy enough, but we soon came to the conclusion we may have to do this a lot, especially because the fence was designed for decent sized ewes, and not little lambs. Let’s hope they fatten up quickly!

The rest of the afternoon was spent exploring our territory and carrying out our first patrol. In doing so, we came across the Chilean and Argentinian border, which Benj felt inclined to cross, and the metal post that reminded us which country we were in. We also discovered the paddock wasn’t quite as small as Kevin had made out, as it took us a good hour to walk around it, although this did include numerous tree bridges and intrepid exploring through waist length grass. I think we’ve all become quite jealous of the lambs, as they now have unlimited food supplies, and a gigantic playground that could entertain any child or young adult for eternity.

Evening time hosted the usual event that is dinner, but also gave us time to fall further in love with Nina, one of our three Italian guard dogs. Although she is an absolute lamb (metaphorical), and one of the most cuddly and adorable dogs I’ve ever met, the thought that if I was a puma or a poacher she would chase me into the river or bite my ear off, gives her an extremely cool image in the eyes of three teenagers. I want her.

The last moment of the day came when we heard Nina and the other dogs barking, so we whacked on a coat, shoved on our shoes, and pegged it into the woods in strict formation in search of the danger. It came to nothing sadly, as we came across Nina just lying down and soaking up the attention, but this did mark our first mission as the Puesteros, and firmly cemented us in our places as the protectors of the lambs. This pretty much ended the day, currently allowing me some to reflect on the day and what it means for Los Tres Amigos. As I mentioned earlier, my views towards this group of lambs has changed dramatically, and this solely down to the huge responsibility Kevin has given us in putting us at the foot of the paddock, with no one else anywhere near us. Whether its a paternal instinct appearing for the first time, I don’t know, however I definitely feel much less hatred towards the lambs, and I am loving the job we have to carry out in trying to protect the livestock and the livelihood they provide. It’s safe to say we are relishing our new position as the Puesteros.

The shoutout of today’s antics has to be awarded to Nina. I’m fairly certain she’s going to become my new favourite living thing over the coming week, however I can’t resist her amazing charm any longer, so she may have to get the shoutout more than once. Her sheer beauty, combined with her potential animosity and danger, makes her the perfect pet or best friend, and means she can only be described as a fucking weapon! She’s also Italian, so she probably likes all the same food as me, and she’s pretty mental so I know she’s not boring. I think I’m in love.

Return of the Corderos – Day 68 – (3rd February)

Day 68 – 3rd February- Return of the sheep?

I’m extremely disgruntled as I type away the evening, as I’m writing to you after having possibly the worst reunion a person could possibly face in their lifetime. This means it was worse than the first awkward meeting between me and my old primary school buddies, which was basically an assemble of gangs that were made up of the various secondary schools in the area, and was pretty much a competition to see who had blossomed into the most mature and cool ‘big school’ students. It will also probably be worse than the weird reunion with my real parents, if sometime in the future I discover I’m actually adopted or were kidnapped as a baby, however judging my horrific nose that is identical to my padre’s, I don’t think I will have to deal with that meeting. You may have guessed that today we happened to bump into our old lamb friends that we had been physically abused by a few weeks ago, however as we soon worked out, this was no accident, and our time in Natales had been cut short because of the thousands of little, shitty white/brown buggers. As I previously stated, I am quite disgruntled, however I’m also feeling rather optimistic about the what the next ten days has to offer in our new home.

The alarm sounding at 4:30 was as depressing and painful as I predicted last night, and unlike the early starts as a child before a flight towards a hot holiday destination with only a week of relaxing in the sun ahead of me, we had very little to look forward to in the near future, with only a day’s work motivating us to get up and out of bed. Furthermore, we still had to walk the short distance over to the Bluegreen office in the crisp Patagonian morning, which in the pitch black, felt like miles. Despite our sluggish and hesitant motions, we arrived at Bluegreen with time to spare, meaning the next mission could be carried out in relative comfort, and inside the warmth of the office. This challenge included letting ourselves into the building, collecting all our hidden goods that were dotted around the place, opening the garage door to retrieve the rest of our stuff, and get back out again, all without making a sound capable of waking up Claudia, Panchi, Lian or the sleep alarm that is Emilia. This sounded easy enough to a veteran sneaker with infinite experience in the field, and my successful trips around Kingham under the moonlight are evidence of my skill. However, creaky floorboards and dodgy stairs are the least of one’s problems in Patagonia, as the ferocious winds coupled with the traditional structures and materials of the buildings, means houses here are extremely fragile and could explode into amplified noise every time you attempt to open a door. Luckily, we only had two doors to break through, and despite our phone torches proving more difficult to control than they should have, we made it back out with all our food, tents and equipment, and zero screams from a tired child. Mission accomplished.

Rodrigo arrived soon after, and took us the short distance to Estancia Cerro Negro, and left us in the car, whilst he rode off on a horse, so we could relax and watch the beautiful sunrise from a beautiful location. However, our youth soon let us down, and we could no longer resist the temptation to get in a few hours sleep before we were required for working purposes. It certainly wasn’t comfortable, but I can say in hindsight, that little nap was a godsend! I was awoke by some horrific cramp in my legs and arse, and seeing as the child lock was on, there was no escape for me and my body, but thankfully Rodrigo soon returned and summoned us to the paddocks to begin our days work.

It was at this point that the three of us realised we were highly unprepared for any kind of work, let alone sheeping operations, evident by my joggers, Benj’s boat shoes and a complete lack of breakfast on all three of our accounts. Unfortunately, as we approached the dreaded corrals and the beasts that live within them, we worked out we had no time at all to change our attire, and were forced to start rounding up, shouting at, and whacking the sheep, all whilst still half asleep. To make things worse, the lambs had got significantly larger than when we last encounter them at La Peninsula, making the job of forcing them forward into a confined space and keeping them there a hell of a lot harder. Being the solid tres amigos we are, we mucked in and soldiered on through the shit shower of sheep. El’s American football body slams and my soccer kicks were the perfect combination of power and intimidation, and despite some minor blips and escapees,which were mainly the huge wool sheeps that simply barged us to the ground, we had all of the lambs and ewes split up once again, so we hoped that this was job done and we could find our new accommodation and settle in for a morning nap.

It was a tense wait whilst Kevin and the other senior gaucho officials mulled over something or other, during which I attempted to learn the amazing whistling technique of Lucho and most of the other farmers, and annoying the hell out of the El and Benj while I did it. As my whistle gradually got louder and less pathetic, El began to translate the evil words of ‘weighing’ and ‘drenching’, sending us into a swirl of depression, anger and hunger, and left us with the prospect of yet more time and effort without precious food. To the gratitude of my stomach though, Kevin heard it rumbling and sent us all over the tourist section of the farm to have some lunch. We were hesitant to walk into the pristine dining area and contaminate the area with our sheepy odours, but the attractive sight of the lamb on the assadores was too hard to resist, and so we chucked off as many smelly clothes as we could without being indecent, and took our seat to wait to be brought whatever scraps we were allowed. To our surprise, an expert looking empanada was put on everyone’s plate along with two bowls of top quality bread to go with the snack. We devoured them in seconds, and although we were nowhere near full, we were well and truly satisfied by the empanadas that had certainly beaten any expectations of what we were going to given. I was just about to get up and head back to the paddock when a huge plate full of assado’d lamb began heading towards our table, and was eventually dropped down between everyone and left to be fought over. The three of us sat and stared at the heavenous a matter of centimetres away from our mouths, but just about managed to resist for a polite amount of time before we left out of the traps and filled our plates. We dug in thinking this lunch couldn’t get any better, but then a waiter came around and filled our glasses with some Chilean red wine, and then was ordered by Kevin to retrieve another plate full of lamb. The lamb lived up to our sky high expectations, and in the end I easily gave into peer pressure and had another two plates fulls of lamb to fill me to the brim. This definitely covered the missed breakfast, lunch and maybe even dinner, but it wasn’t over yet as we were then offered a bowl of the Chilean pudding dish that is technically a drink, called a Mote con huesillo. This was a serious challenge to finish, but the motivation of Kevin sat beside me propelled my jaw on and we were soon all finished and ready for a long afternoon nap to let the food go down and our bellies to reduce.

If you think I’m about to say after lunch we were then invited into a lounge area to pass out on a sofa each and soak up the attention of numerous waiters who could bring anything varying from a hot chocolate to a massage service, you would be nothing short of a retard. However, I somehow got it into my head that this was going to be the case, but of course I couldn’t have been more wrong. I guess I’ve lost a few marbles over the past few weeks, but I think I can pass it off as just a lack of sleep. Nevertheless, we were dragged back out to the lambs in order to aid the weighing and worming process of ,what appeared to be, 2000 odd lambs. Once again this was a tedious task that involved a lot of manhandling of the little sheep and even more anger management which has actually taught me a few things about being a disruptive and disobedient little shit. However, as the lambs had grown significantly from our last weighing session, they found it much harder to turn around and cause chaos, so we were soon racking up the sheep count, and reached 500 in no time at all. We also didn’t have to take part in the messy mission of squirting the white liquid into the mouths of the soon to be meat, which really made my day. Moreover, it turned out only around 500 sheep needed to be weighed, so in the end we did 575 and then were whisked off to our new home before we even had time to take the equipment down. The day was really picking up.

The half an hour drive to the other side of the farm took us fairly far from other humans, and only revealed a small caravan, a generator, and a rather large and weird looking tree, which was to be our new home for the last ten days of our work. Once again we had been located in a completely different environment, as we were now housed completely on our own, and surrounded by beautiful and mind blowing blades of long, long grass! It was incredible. Ther horizon wasn’t bad either, with a series of huge black hills, including Cerro Negro, in the foreground, and a stunning mountain range deep into the distance. It almost resembles an African national park or safari, but with the alps in the background. As for the caravan, it’s certainly very cosy, but I can speak for all three of us in saying we love that we have our own little pad, complete with a cooker, sink and toilet! We’re easily pleased. However, although the camper is small, the tour of the place took surprisingly long, mainly because Bezna (Kevin’s mum) had to explain to El all of the instructions for the various complicated components in spanish, without really knowing the ins and outs herself. In the end, we decided to let her go and we would report back tomorrow if something didn’t work, we didn’t have something, or if we had fucked something up. My bet was on the gas exploding or leaking into the van in the night and killing us all. It was a bit of a lose or lose situation for me.

The next and last real challenge of the day was trying to fit all of our mountain of food into the small camper. I decided to take charge of the non-refrigerated stuff and felt it would be easier to erect one of the tents so we store the food in it. This worked wonders, however we were still left with a lot of cold food that needed to be squeezed into a tiny freezer and fridge that’s not much bigger. Fearing for my stress levels, I left the boys to it and started putting up the other tent, which was perfect for storing my gigantic rucksack. This filled up the time perfectly, and also brought dinner ever closer, so we thought of the easiest meal we could cook, and took into consideration the size it takes up and how quickly it might go off, and reached the decision we should do burgers and eggs. This couldn’t go too wrong, despite Benj’s best efforts by cracking the egg on the grill, and so soon we were filled up and starting to feel at home in our new house, of sorts.

As it was still light, we went for an evening stroll to check out our nearby surroundings, reaching the nearby Rio Rubens and circling part of the gigantic flat plains that stretch out from our van, all the way to the distant mountains. It certainly another incredible place, however the three of us are genuinely on our own now, and despite being fairly close to civilisation, we feel nearly as far away from life as we did in Baguales, but we now have to fend for ourselves. Annoyingly, the other two have a phone deal that means they can use internet for not that much money, but the way I look at it is that I’m doing this properly, with no connection to the outside world. I’d still rather be in their position though. Anyway, there was still the little task of getting into bed, which involved El scavenging for any soft materials that could be used as a mattress, and me desperately trying to work out how much I weigh to see if I could safely sleep on the fold out bunk bed on top of the table. It was a risky option, but it’s definitely the coolest bedroom I’ll ever have, unless my wish of a sleeping in midair comes true, so I willingly clambered up on into the half a metre gap and made myself comfy. I think it’s safe to say we love our new home meaning Los Tres Amigos have arrived, and we’re here to stay.

The shoutout of today has to go to poor old Rodrigo, and I say ‘poor’ and ‘old’ not because he’s an ancient hobo, but because he was roped into to retrieving us at a horrific hour in the morning, and was then chucked onto a horse to carry out a mission that I still have no idea what it was. He was also forced to do the hardest job in the weighing process, which is catching the lambs in the scales before they squirm their ways free, and if you miss them, which he inevitably did, you have to run after them in amongst hundreds of other lambs that all look the same, which he did with remarkable calmness and amazing skill and determination. I have no idea what he did when we left for the caravan, but he didn’t look like he was heading home. He must have been fucking spent! Top bloke.

Home at last – Day 66 and 67 – (1st-2nd February)

I find myself in a similar situation this evening, as I did at about this time ten or so days ago, as we are fast approaching the end of another few days off in Natales in order to recover, relax and recharge, all in preparation for the next and last part of our ultimate work experience, and all in a precious 48 hours. Unlike last time however, I think I have enough points of interest and enough motivation to actually write about the days. Unfortunately for both of us though, I have to be up at 4:30 to get picked up and start work, and that is now only five hours away, so the clock is well and truly ticking through my mind. So, without further ado…
Yesterday morning held the usual early routine of a hostel breakfast, and although we had this time chosen to stay at Erratic Rock in a desperate attempt to salvage any abilities we have to socialise with other human beings, we were greeted in the kitchen with the expected omelette, coffee and tedious small talk that is excruciatingly painful in the context of an early start after a late night. However, the corn flakes and egg soon got rapidly more entertaining, as after a few awkward utterances were passed back and forth between the deathly trio and the very lively and English hostel worker, we discovered she was a friend of Ian Maclean (our boss) and had therefore been visiting Los Estancia Baguales a few days ago whilst we were there, and had in fact seen us in our prime whilst walking past Los Tres Amigos, our handsome tools, and our very proud looking fence. She stated she thought we were extremely odd for not being Chilean and still fixing a fence, but we felt little insult seeing as we had judged her and her friends to be measly tourists. The honours were even. It was after this interaction and once she had refereed to Ian as ‘the prince of Patagonia that we started to consider and evaluate the Maclean family that we were working for, and came to the conclusion they were basically famous, hugely wealthy and powerful, and far too intimidating to speak to, let alone work for. It was probably a good thing we didn’t discover this before we had entered into a binding contract of amigos. Of course, I’m doing my usual habit of exaggerating far too much, and in fact they family might be royalty in Patagonia, but they are all extremely modest, generous, and laugh at everything.

After a morning of blogging, washing and eating, as well as catching up on all necessary and possible uses of internet known to humanity, it was time for the eagerly anticipated haircut of El’s shelf, as it was known, and once we had located the best and only hairdressers in Natales, El sat in his throne ready to be shaved, and me, Benj and Lian took out positions on the nearest sofa ready to witness the magic that was going to be required in order to save El’s appearance and change the direction of his ever changing reputation. The razer, and the lovely lady that was wielding the weapon, soon got to work and began what turned out to be an extraordinary turnaround. In fact, it was so successful that Benj eventually decided to get a trim as well, and asked Lian to grab slate his precise instructions whilst El received a complimentary hair wash from the trainee stylist, who was unfortunately a man. Despite the awkward moments of miscommunication between him and the hairdresser, Benj came out with a solid cut as well, meaning I felt inclined to si in the hot seat, despite previously making a sweeping declaration that I was not going to have my hair cut until I got home in four months time. Being the reasonable guy I am, and being the weak boy I am under peer pressure, I compromised and asked for the sides and back to be cut short but to leave the top as it is. I had never asked for such a radical trim, but I felt an odd wave of confidence and enthusiasm as I looked in the mirror at my shaggy head of hair and the razor that was fast approaching. For comic content, I would probably have preferred my haircut to go badly, and I was pretty sure it would as I witnessed the hair tumble down my neck, however I was extremely relieved to find out, once I had opened my eyes, that the cut had been pretty successful and had bred a new style for me and my mushroom. Obviously I gratefully accepted the offer of a hair wash, and once I had just about stayed awake throughout the pleasant ordeal, the three of us burst out of the door as three completely new men.

The rest of the day was pretty chilled out, so I carried out my usual Natales routine of watching a Harry Potter followed by a nap, and it was soon fairly deep into the evening, meaning food was required. Unlike most meal times though, El was not present, as he had other matters to attend to, so the dynamic duo was back, and we only new one place that could cater for our needs after a week of home cooked food and no social interactions at the Baguales farm… Baguales bar. We sat down, ordered the only beer they had left, asked for two of the fattest burgers, and began to settle in for a romantic meal for two. However, it turned out El couldn’t be away from us for any longer, and was now very quickly sneaking into the bar to join our table, despite being told very insistently, not to move the precious stools. The night went on far too long, mainly because I insisted on having the manliest drink on the menu, a tequila sunrise, and because El’s late order was forgotten, reordered and then late, which took us dangerously close to 12 o’clock. Eventually we could get the bill and head back to the hostel and bed, which ended a much needed day in Natales, but it did feature a little too much action for my liking, meaning I was left determined to lock myself away in my bed and not leave until the sun had risen in a couple of days.

As you would expect though, I wasn’t granted my one and only wish for the day, and in fact I couldn’t have been gifted with a more different and horrifically tiring day than I wanted and desperately needed. It’s safe to say it’s been an emotional rollercoaster, one that reminds of England at any major football tournament, with faint times of hope and excitement in between painful periods of rage and despair and ending with extreme disappointment. Unlike the last World Cup though, I still managed to enjoy the day and make the most of civilisation.

Day two in the small little town…

As soon the sun had rose and began beaming through our bedroom window with all its might and roasting us alive as a result, we were never going to be having the relaxed day we deserved, as Kevin had left us to wake up with the message kindly ordering us to start work tomorrow instead of in a few days as we had wished for. This wouldn’t have been a problem if we had got even a few more hours of precious sleep last night, and if we didn’t now have the daunting task of raiding the Superfruit store for the next ten days supply of food and pretty much their entire stock. However, Los Tres Amigos will never be defeated, so we headed over to Blue Green and began drafting up a list of the food we would need to account for ten breakfasts, ten lunches and ten dinners, as well as snacks for in between. With the help of Lian and her expert cooking knowledge, we soon had the list ready, but just as we were about to leave the building we were politely reminded we had promised to cook for Claudia and Panchi and had not yet thought what we had the ability to make that wouldn’t trigger violent vomiting and hatred towards all three of us, and the ingredients that go with it. Sensibly, but to El’s disgust, we went for a very English dish of cottage pie, so with that sorted and written down on a separate piece of paper for me, we hesitantly strolled over to Superfruit to start our monster shop.

I’ve actually been scarred after the two hours we spent scouring the small store for every kind of source of carbs, protein and sugar, and I genuinely feel quite disturbed even now, so much so that I’m pretty much guaranteed to have nightmares tonight that will probably feature some kind of alien pasta invasion and a prison constructed solely out of fruit and cereal. I’m quite scared. However, the 290 pounds we managed to spend in there has taught me not only the value of money, but the value of mothers, fathers and trolleys that do this kind of shop once, twice, thrice, or in the trolley case, thousands a month. We could have done with some bigger modes of carrying the food, but at least all of our goods were in the small space equivalent to a petrol station, and it was siesta time so we were pretty much the only people in there, whereas my mum has to navigate her way round numerous rows of multiple brands of every slightly different variation of a food, as well as working out all of the deals that claim to make the shopping cheaper, not to mention dodging the hundreds of other manic people trying to get their shopping done before the evening’s television begins with some kind of talent contest or soap. If you’re reading Mum and Dad (mainly Mum), I thank you with as much sincerity as I can manage for leaving me out of this horrific ordeal and sparing me the pain of packing the thousands of bags we have taken home over the years.

Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on which way you look at it, the shops in Natales don’t dish out plastic bags like they do in England, so we were forced to pack up numerous cardboard boxes and sit on the side of the road and call in the services of superhero Lian once again. We may have received some odd looks as we blocked up the whole pavement with our shopping, but at least we got a free lift back, and so were soon back at Claudia’s to begin the process of making dinner fit for royalty. As El sieved through his bank statements, me and Benj began making the mince and mash for the pie, and with the help of the internet, Lian, Panchi, the stove, a big dish, and a fork, the Cottage pie with a sweet potato mash, and peas on the side, was ready to be served to our Chilean family.

Judging on the empty plates, and my expert conclusion that the food was perfect, we think we succeeded in satisfying the taste buds of three amazing cooks, or four if you include me, but as the panel of judges were two extremely polite Chileans and a mother of one of the cooks, and sewing as my view counts for nothing as I would enjoy any food in any state as long as it’s not fish, who knows whether the positive reviews were sincere. I think we genuinely did well though. We were rewarded for our efforts with beer, wine and more food to add to our collection, and so after El had left to attend his second attempt at a date, the rest of us enjoyed a pleasant evening watching the record player and listening to Emilia make Claudia and Panchi’s lives as difficult as possible. The conversation of Children and parenthood was just hitting it’s stride when El texted me from the toilet of Baguales where he had taken Maddie, telling us that Rodrigo was coming at 5:30 in the morning to pick us up. This soon silenced the room, and was followed by the quick decision we should head bank to the hostel to accumulate as much sleep as we possibly could. I chugged my last glass of Vino, Benj polished off his beer, and Lian reminded us we needed a tent, meaning we were all set for tomorrow and could scuttle off to bed.

There was no time to clean our teeth or have a shower, so I finished off my chocolate, quickly packed my bag and then leapt into bed and prayed I would get to sleep nice and quickly. And that brings us to now; El has just back in, and I have recently remembered I have a blog to write. On the plus side, I am basically finished at it has only just turned 12 o’clock, which means I have a good four and a half hours until my alarm is going to explode in my ear and wake me up in the process. Yay.

Shoutout to Superfruit and it’s staff, as we managed to get every single thing on our ingredients list, with the exception of Rosemary for the Cottage pie. This included fajita mix, noodles, thyme, and everything that you might see on a usual ‘big shop’ list of a Brit. We even found proper Lea and Perrins Worcester sauce in the traditional wrapper! And this was all found in a shop that is no bigger than a tennis court, and that hires what appeared to be about five members of staff to man three tills without any of that electronic conveyer belt bullshit. As you can imagine it was a very difficult process, but with the help of all of the staff and many boxes, we came out of that shop with everything you could possibly need. Tesco, take note. It was rather pricy though. Nevertheless, I now have huge respect for Superfruit.

Estancia Los Baguales – Day 55 to 65 (21st January – 31st)

Day 55 – 21st January – 65 – 31st

I think you’ll be glad to hear that normal service has now resumed, as I am sat in a bunk bed, desperately trying to distract myself from writing and procrastinating my arse off, whilst attempting to find a clever and witty way of summarising the last day or two for your benefit, aiding to you to read my blog without wanting to gouge your eyeballs out as you hear about how great a time Los Tres Amigos have been having whilst you are back home in the rain and witnessing the destruction of world politics. However, today’s entry is a little different as I have tasked myself with summarising the last ten days in under two hours so I can rejoin my friends and make the most of having civilisation within a few hundred miles and the wifi that comes with it. At this point you are probably wondering what the fuck we have been up to that doesn’t involve hostels, phones, or other people, so I had better explain.

An Idiot’s guide to a gaucho and the house he lives in!

The last week or so has been spent at Los Estancia Baguales, another farm of the Scottish/Patagonian family of the Macleans (our bosses), and has made up the second part of our voluntary work experience around Chile. However, this estancia turned out to be a little different to the last farm, La Peninsula. This became apparent very quickly, about three hours to be precise, as last Sunday we were picked up weary and not very early by a man named Rodrigo, and driven into the wilderness for a good three hours, and in fact up the whole of route nine that runs from Punta Arenas to Baguales. As we supposedly neared our destination and our home, which looked liked it would just be one of the several mountains around, we increasingly became aware we were not going to be living in a modern house with a power shower and leather sofas, but strangely our excitement grew, probably because we wouldn’t have to worry about all the bullshit about Mr Trump and ginger hair that would almost certainly be flooding in just as we had left connectivity, and if world war three happened to break out we would have no idea and could carry on with our lives as if nothing had happened. It was perfect timing. Anyway, back to the story, once we had eventually arrived at the nearest sign of life for a scary amount of miles, we were taken over to our new home and met our new roommate. His name was Lucho, and he is the Guacho that solely looks after and resides in this farm. In fact, I have so much to say about where we were living and who we were living with, that I think I need a new paragraph.
The small house, which included two bedrooms and bathroom and a living room/kitchen/dining room, was situated precisely in the middle and the end of the gigantic valley that we had driven up, with two bouncing rivers flowing to either side, and towering dark mountains encircling the building, ultimately creating a unbelievably stunning piece of traditional artwork that we were going to be sleeping, shitting and eating in. Alternatively, I had previously likened it to the most incredible looking baguette available on the market, with the house as the meat, the rivers as the filler and the butter, and the clings as the bread. I think I may have just ruined my brilliant descriptive piece of literature. Nevertheless, it was an incredible place, and we hadn’t even left the car yet. Our exploration of the house was carried out with the usual excitement of a new place, which can be likened to a energetically mental child at six o’clock on Christmas morning, or me at six o’clock on Christmas morning (2015). I hope this gives you some sort of impression of the place, as this is needed to truly appreciate the significance of where the three of us have been working and going about our daily routines.

As for Lucho, I can tell you now he is an incredible guy, but I don’t think even my highest quality of my version of english will be able to give the living legend the justice he deserves. On first meeting, similar to when a young girl meets her teenage boyband hero, the 70 year old farmer looked like your average bachiano, standing proudly with his mighty beard, funky boots and sporting a traditional boina in true Gaucho fashion. However, as the days went by we began to find out more and more about the El Gaucho Viejo, as he is known. He has worked for the Maclean family for thirty years, guarding over the 10,000 hectare farm with the help of only his pony, Tordo, and his six dogs, including his trusted favourite companion, Martine (He gets the first pick at the left over lamb). We bonded with Lucho through a combination of El’s translations and many a mate session, and I know I speak for all three of us when I say we were made really welcome by the gaucho, and felt perfectly at home. We even cooked him a few meals, and although he would have been too polite to tell us our attempt to replicate his amazing rice dish was a disastrous failure, we think our new improvised feast of chicken, teriyaki sauce, peppers, onions and chorizo, all mixed together, was a huge success, even in his mouth. Despite the huge amount of time we enjoyed together, we were left with several unanswered questions about his past and his present, mainly about how he became such an infamous guacho, and what he would do if he were to get battered by one of the 40 bulls on the farm (he already has), however some things are best left unanswered, and the mystery that surrounds the gaucho left untouched.

Now we are into the meat and muscle of the adventure, and I’m feeling relatively refreshed after another night that didn’t involve my suffocating and painfully thin sleeping bin bag, I feel it is the right time to offload all of the horrifically frustrating and mind-numbing work we were tasked with at Baguales, in order to entertain my audience and detox my troubled mind. I promise I’ll brighten it up with some light imagery and factual material, to calm me down, and save you from eternal depression.

Working life in the middle of nowhere.

Upon arrival at the farm, and meeting Kevin, he informed us of the work we would be doing in the most beautiful way possible by saying there isn’t much to do here, and he wanted us instead to explore the miles of jaw dropping scenery of the estancia. However, we soon learned he was slyly dampening the bad news that a few fences needed fixing over the ten days, but he offered to show us exactly what to do, and frankly we were over the moon to be simply patching up a few week fence posts here and there, as the digging of the great hole back in week one had set the bar extremely low for the kind of bitch work that these people had the power to bestow on us. How hard could it be?

So fucking hard! What you have probably worked out by now what we should have anticipated whilst looking into the distance at the monstrous cliffs and mountains around, the fences were obviously going to be equal in characteristics, as this is Patagonia, not the bloody Cotswolds where farms are the size of gardens and the biggest wild animals get that appear on farms are the pesky caterpillars that munch o the crop, and they certainly don’t go breaking down fences that people have shed blood, sweat and tears over, unlike the devils incarnate, or as you know them, guanacos. However, I must digress from my raging rant before I explode, and try and highlight and describe to you our work in a calm and collected manner. It’s going to be a struggle.

The first fence that we went into battle with was situated at the bottom of one of the numerous mountains, and of course headed in an upwards direction towards the mesmerising cliffs at the top. This made for a very nervy, painful, but also absolutely incredible commute to work, which proved to be just as excruciating as the one between my village and London that I have experienced and resented a fair few times, however I shouldn’t complain, as I don’t remember passing any spectacular mountain ranges between Oxford and Reading. Thankfully, our three person train soon arrived at the station named ‘start of the fence and bottom of the mountain’, so at precisely nine o’clock, and a few minutes, we began working our way up the fence, fixing any posts that either had loose staples (curved nails), missing staples, or no staples at all, which really wasn’t too hard, especially for the third person involved in the exclusively two person job, as this worker (me) only had to carry the tool bag and pass over two different sizes of staples when necessary. As you would expect, I NAILED my role to perfection, and only got the wrong type of staple half the time, which in my view was an excellent success, however I think Sir Quevedo would have only rated me as satisfactory at best. The whole operation closely resembled a game of golf, as it featured one person repeatedly hitting something towards a target, whilst another pointlessly carries around the numerous pieces of apparatus necessary to fulfil the task at hand. I would also associate the two with my hatred towards them and the extreme boredom that they create. Anyway, this fence took two days to complete, featuring many carcasses of guanacos attached the wire (which made me very happy), a few rain storms, and a very weird snack break, in which the three of us munched on a pack of trail mix on the side of the mountain with some spectacular views, and began to think deeply about where we were huddled and how far away we were from any other people. It was one hell of a picnic.

Due to our relative success on the first fence, and Kevin’s reassurance that this one would only take a day or two more, we began hammering with reasonable enthusiasm, despite witnessing, with our own eyes, the unbelievable length of the job at hand. I think we must have been on another planet to think this job would be quick and easy, although I did admire our optimistic approach when concluding that this fence must be in brilliant condition as it is mostly on a cliff so guanacos probably won’t feel the need to attempt to jump over it and piss me off. Sounds desperate, and it was because we were.

Despite a shaky start on day one which resulted in a debate whether to restart our work on the fence due to a few missing nails (13), we made decent progress day in day out, with only a few shorter days and a couple mental breakdowns. It was extremely tough mentally, and for me physically as I was given the job of running up and down with spare poles to replace broken ones, and even had to go right back to the house to saw up and retrieve one of the big battons that take the weight of the fence, however it turned out this wasn’t needed as Lucho didn’t have the right tools to put it into the ground. I chose to see this disaster as a light gym session or cross country training in order to avoid a tantrum.

By day three we had come up with numerous coping mechanisms to make our lives less depressing, which included learning to siesta outside on the disgustingly painful pampas of the wilderness, putting music on through Benj’s speaker, and playing games when the speaker ran out of battery. The best was definitely ‘shag, marry, kill’. The days still passed on though without insanity being fully achieved, however the sacred end didn’t seem to be coming into sight, and in fact never did. For my piece of mind, and to satisfy my mild OCD, I roughly measured the distance of the fence and how far we had got by the end, with the results pretty reasonable in the circumstances. The whole fence was about six km in distance, and we fixed around four and half of these many metres, which seeing as we were volunteers getting paid in pasta and sauce, and sweaty salami, and given the extreme incapabilities and idiocy of the guanacos that felt it necessary to cross over to get to the edge of a cliff, I think we did well just to stay out in the boiling heat and battering hail.

The negatives of this job are obvious, especially when the nature of the work means the more productive you are in the day,the more you have to walk home and back again in the morning. However, it did take us deep into the unknown and unexplored areas of Patagonia and the Baguales mountain range. Furthermore, the views from the office were utterly incomprehensible, and certainly beats looking out an office window at the measly London skyline. We should also remember, how many people can say they have done what we have been doing where we have been doing it?. Not many is the answer. On the other hand, not many people are employed as armpit sniffers or Mosquito bait, and they are genuinely real jobs (I looked them up) and jobs that are horrific, pointless and nothing to be proud of. We should count ourselves lucky.

I’m quite aware that for the past five paragraphs I have insinuated that the three of us had a utterly torrid time at the Baguales fences, and that’s because for a lot of it we significantly hated our lives and reached dangerous levels of depression that matched even the most middle aged of men in their traditional mid life crisis. However, we came away from the adventure with absolutely no regrets and negativity, and that was mostly due to Lucho, but also partly down to what we got up to on the rare days off that we awarded ourselves. We could have easily buried ourselves alive in our bedrooms and hibernated until tea was ready, and that would have been a day of dreams, however we bravely decided to force ourselves outside the door on both occasions and explore the realms of the estancia.

Days Off

We first decided to do something other than bashing posts after we had finished the first evil fence, and decided to follow Panchies infamously shocking directions and head down the river in search of a mysterious lake, plunging ourselves into the heart of Patagonian desert. The main aim of this journey was to catch some fish, and despite stopping and setting up camp numerous times along the river, as well as casting in the lake itself, Benj had no luck with the sea creatures, therefore the trip was pretty much rendered pointless, however we did stumble upon and into some extraordinary places on the way. The highlight of the day was certainly finding and exploring a secluded puesto (little hut), and even though we later discovered the last Gaucho died in that very place, we felt very at home in the three bed and one room house, complete with its own cooker and outdoor toilet shack. We enjoyed our stay at La Hotel El Dead Gauchos so much so that we decided to revisit the five star accommodation on our second day off, accompanied by the visiting Lian, and filled the duration of the trip by napping and feasting on the goodies that El’s mum had brought with her to delay our inevitable doom. In fact, we stayed for so many minutes that two selfie-taking tourists and their hilariously unfunny guide turned up on the doorstep to say ‘hola’ and ‘chao’.

On both tours of the pampas, we were forced to conquer some serious terrain and overcome many a wet obstacle, however every inch of treacherous land we stepped upon was overwhelmingly worth it, just to witness the insane and dramatic geography on show in the desertous area. The most astonishing area was the gigantic and vast flat plain at the foot of the Sierra Baguales and its neighbouring mountains. We desperately attempted to take in our 360 degree panoramic view with merely our eyes and our cameras but the sheer size of space, that we were stood smack bang in the middle of, became increasingly apparent, and rapidly more scary. The cliff edges around us looked a matter of metres away, but yet wherever we walked we found ourselves no nearer to anything but dry ground and spiky grass. The illusion was absolutely incredible and completely took my breath away, but I won’t lie to you, it scared the shit out of me. This became a constant theme throughout our time at the estancia, and the whole concept of space and time, and distance and speed, became completely usual. Take the fences for example, at one point on the second and biggest fence we genuinely thought we were going to finish it with time to spare, especially when we could see the mountain that marked the end of the fence right in front of us. However, our hope and dreams were soon blown to smithereens when we reached the small peak of the nearest hill, revealing the countless other little hills between us and the finish line. It was cruel.

As for the lake, it wasn’t really anything special, but obviously when I say that, I mean it didn’t stand out compared to the rest of the incredible scenery around the farm and in Patagonia, but if the location is question was plonked smack bang in the middle of the Cotswolds, I would have to compare it to the exact replica of heaven. Nevertheless, we felt inclined to make the most of it, and on so on both occasions we indulged in a lovely session of sunbathing and consuming luscious fruit. I couldn’t complain, but the floor could have been softer and my apple could have been less mouldy, but they were minor problems in the grand scheme of things.

Extended version.

As a last little extra to finish off this Los Tres Amigos special, I would like to mention a few things that I have concluded you may like to know, based on the fact I have no idea who might be reading this and that I want to tell people anyway. I would firstly like to insist to you with all my powers of persuasion, that grass is the most underrated thing in the whole universe! After spending ten days attempting to nestle my delicate body into the evil little needles whilst desperately trying to not to cry, I will treasure the soft, smooth, painless and green grass that we have in Britain until the day I die, and I would advise you to do the same, or you might just end up in the Pampas. Secondly, I would highly advise anyone under the age of 50 to partake in what some people are calling a technology detox, and join the three of us in having a week or so without your phone buzzing in the pockets of your garments 24/7, without the notifications on the screen rapidly ticking over in the back of your mind until you give in and join the group chat, and without the horrible thought that someone could ring you at anytime of the day wanting something or other out of you, and although you may try and ignore the call, after the third hang up you are forced to get out of bed and attend to the social emergency. Honestly, I’ve never felt so refreshed and calm as I did during our time away from civilisation, until we got back and all three of our phones almost blew up under the intense scrutiny of the group chat. Seriously though, you should try it. And last but definitely not least, I feel inclined to tell you about the spirit that haunts and surrounds Los Estancia Baguales, and that has freed but excited the three of us out of our comfort zones. The area definitely has an ora and a mood that affects anyone that strays into its heart, and its sounds ridiculous, but even me as a relative sceptical, felt a weird but wonderful sensation when trekking around the mountains. I even think I was beginning to have an epiphany, especially when I began to go deep into my thinking capabilities, and contemplated how I had lived my life so far, and how it may turn out in the future, which has urged me to make the most of every opportunity I have and enjoy every minute that I’m lucky enough to have, even if this means never getting a job and travelling for the rest of eternity. I sound like a knob, I know, but El also believes that his mind has been changed, and we’re pretty sure a broken fence pole fixed itself. That bit I think is far fetched, but there is certainly something weirdly amazing within that place, I would highly suggest going to experience it for yourself. You can come with me if you like.

Time for a conclusion?

I am going to conclude the blog with what is possibly the biggest shoutout yet, and of course it goes to Lucho, but also Kevin and his family, and planet Earth. All these factors made the last ten days absolutely incredible. Lucho, his mate, and his family of animals made us feel so at home, despite neither the gaucho or the dogs speaking english. Kevin was the legend that chose to send us the estancia so we could experience the whole new world and the famous gaucho that resides in it, and I think the hellish job of fixing fences was just about worth it in order to earn our beds and live like Lucho. And the wonderful planet that we live on has yet again left me ALMOST speechless and truly astonished at what other parts of the world are capable of looking like. I will never forget anything that we have done since we left Heathrow airport, and I’m guessing that trend will continue, however I am in no doubt that this experience will stick out like the most beautiful sore thumb.

 

Puerto Natales – Day 53 and 54 (19th and 20th January)

I’m going to do things slightly different for the next two days, as over the last 48 hours we have had the most wonderful time whilst doing absolutely nothing. This has made for a very boring two days, and as much as I like to enjoy watching others suffer as a result of my fortune, I’m strongly relying on you readers to give this whole blog any meaning whatsoever. Therefore, instead of describing in detail to you about our numerous naps, hideous smells, and several hours of luxurious laziness, I’m going to attempt to paint a more complete picture of our new second home, Puerto Natales.
Although the Patagonian settlement is in fact classed as a city, in comparison to what most modernised countries label this, Natales appears as a more of a town, and certainly has the characteristics of a smaller residential area to match the size and space it takes up. However, to compare this amazing town to anything else anywhere else in the world would be physically impossible, as from what Los Tres Amigos have experienced in towns such as El Chalten, Calafate, Dorothea, Rio Turbio and of course Natales, Patagonian settlements all have very similar aspects that are completely different to any others around the world. The tin walls that make up most the buildings in all different colours, make extremely loud but really authentic houses, as well as the overhanging roofs and huge gutters that battle against the four seasons that Patagonia is capable of producing in one day. We’ve also been lucky enough to experience the inside of some of these infamous buildings, which means I can safely say heat is a very crucial element of life for these family’s. All homes have at least three different sources of warmth in the form of wood burners and the traditional stove that is similar to a British aga or Rayburn, and all homes usually resemble the conditions explorers face when attempting to conquer the Sahara desert. Thankfully for the bank accounts of Patagonians, gas is subsidised by the government, but this unfortunately means if you want a cup of tea, you are encouraged to fire up the whole cooker and raise the roof. Although most the Patagonian towns we have visited have been fairly similar, Natales has stuck out as being by far the most untouched and authentic settlement of them all, and made for a unbelievably real experience of this beautiful area.
The centre of town came as a huge surprise to me, as when we first arrived off the bus with our oversized rucksacks and wearily appearances, and began trekking into town to finds our first hostel, I remember thinking this tiny looking place couldn’t possible entertain a small playgroup, let alone three youths with gigantic appetites and an eagerness sink a few drinks and make some friends. Of course, you very much know this was not to be the case, as the town has provided us with countless days browsing the latest in fake brands, numerous heavy nights out including New Year’s Eve, and multiple locations to eat and drink until our hearts were content and our wallets rinsed. The best bars have undoubtedly been Baguales and Base Camp and the top restaurants could only be Don Gorge and La Guanaca, whilst the two hostels that have stood out for their solid wifi, good service, and resident techno DJ’s, are Shikana and Erratic Rock. Food has certainly been the highlight though, but for the times when we have been sensible and decided to severely harm ourselves with our own cooking, the three supermarkets of Unimarc, Superfruit and Don Bosco have satisfied our complex requirements superbly. I would only suggest facing the disgusting queues of Unimarc if you’re desperate for three bottles of wine and you only have the equivalent of five pounds, but Superfruit handles a big shop just as well as any other despite specialising in fruit. In fact, a matter of hours ago we managed to spent about 150 pounds in there whilst gathering key elements for survival for the next ten days. A special mention has to go La Guachita, the hilariously small empanada shop that can not only fill up a ravenous youth for the cost of two scratch cards (two pounds), but can allow said youth to do it whilst admiring himself in the mirror. It was literally designed for me. There is also a red light district that we haven’t and probably won’t check out, and there is also several small football pitches, a gym, a marijuana grow shop, and a hospital, all places that we haven’t and probably and hopefully won’t be checking out. Nevertheless, we’ve certainly been entertained.
Last of all, I would like to comment on the Natales’ astonishing surroundings that take my breath away every time I set foot out of a particular hot box. To one side, the town is surrounded by the dramatic fjords of the Pacific Ocean and the mountain ranges of Las Torres National park, but turn around and you can usually see the desertous miles of nothing that spreads into the horizon to meet the towering cliff edges of Dorothea that provided the amazing views of Puerto Natales from above. We’ve been incredibly lucky to see even more incredible views this trip, and have got a whole lot closer to the scenery in question, but for an epicentre of Patagonian trade, tourism and life itself, it’s truly astonishing the location that this town is sat in.
I genuinely believe I’ve done my best to summarise my time in Natales, and collect all of my thoughts and feelings towards the town in the most effective way possible, however I also think this won’t give you nearly enough of an impression of the place to fall in love with it as much as I have. I know it’s called travelling for a reason, but I could stay here forever, and I think I speak for the other two when I say Puerto Natales is an incredible city that everyone should come to if they are lucky enough the opportunity. Please believe me when I say, it’s the only way possible to know what I mean, and get your arses over here!

Lots of sheep and not much sleep – Day 50,51 and 51 (16th-18th January)

One could say it has been a bit of a blast from the past recently, but although it is now in the past, I don’t think I’m going to as I would struggle to describe what we’ve been doing as a blast. This could only mean one thing… the return of the sheep and all the excruciating work they demand. As you have hopefully realised from the way I have phrased my opening statement, I’m writing to you from the future of Thursday as the cheeky shits have dragged me back behind my blogging schedule, however seeing as they have required a huge three (two and a half) day job, it makes sense to write about the last three days all together to minimise both effort and waffle. It’s been a colossal three days of Herculean work!
Before we could start fighting the war against the sheep they had to be gathered together in one place by the gaucho Ramires, but once we had realised we had awoken very prematurely, it was already too late and we had been summoned by Marco and dragged into yet another shit hole, except this one really was a pit for the waste of all living things, and it needed to be filled in by us. Thankfully, this was a very quick job due to our new skills in the art of digging, and the fact the dirt pretty much fell into the hole with only a little dude from our spades. Less thankfully, Los Tres Amigos have now been witnessed standing in an actual cesspit. The job may not have been nice but we were done within the hour, meaning we had finished before the lambs were ready, so obviously we took a deserved break and made the most of it with some mate.
After Ramires had finished the job and joined us for a sit down, we headed out with him to split up the sheep into lambs and ewes, a job that we felt we could complete fairly comfortably, and surprisingly, I can proudly say we actually did succeed for once. After Ramires had scared away the wolf dogs away from our frightened little faces, we quickly and very efficiently had all of the lambs trapped in numerous pens with only a few minor mishaps and escapees that were all dealt with significant dignity. I wasn’t even covered in much sheep shit, but I had a horrible feeling that was going to change after lunch.
Lunch was a bit of a shambles as we had returned back to a house with no logs, which meant no fire, which meant no coffee, which meant no me as it fell on myself to chop up some wood due to my ability to use my eyes and find the axe. I soon resented my sight though, as although I very much enjoyed destroying some logs with a weapon, I came away from the activity with several little splinters and one massive one. As much as I would have liked to wallow in my misfortune, there was no time for feeling sorry for my paws, so I picked as many out as I could with a safety pin and whacked my boina back on, and the three of us enjoyed another mate circle with the gaucho, meaning we were ready to get back to work.
The next part of the day was spent worming the sheep, which sounds very disturbing if you have never had to fuck around with sheep, and it very much freaked me out when Benj said that’s what we going to be doing with the equipment that could easily be mistaken for some kind of anal device. However, I was soon informed the equipment was in fact very different and we were not going to be using it to do any horrible things, but instead had to forcibly squirt a white liquid into their mouths. It wasn’t weird I promise. The challenge involved trapping a group of lambs in a separate pen and picking up a mental sheep in anyway possible whist someone else shoved the squirter deep into its mouth and released the liquid. At first, this made for a pretty fun job, mainly due to the fact the equipment resembled the devices used by the ghostbusters themselves, however the novelty soon wore off after the third or fourth sheep at spat the medicine straight back in my face to show me how I liked it. It was a tedious and long process, and the hundreds of sheep nervously waiting to be shot at with some cream suggested we were going to be here all night, despite having the help of two other members of the Maclean family. As we battled through the lambs very slowly, we got more and more fatigued and therefore slower, until the point Ian eventually came to the rescue and sent us to have a break. This didn’t really help, as there was no fire on or any break stashed away, so we chugged down some precious juice and vacated the building one last time to well and truly defeat the lambs.
By some miracle, and the help of the warrior that is Ian, we were finished by tea, which we wolfed down in seconds, leaving us with a solid ten hours of time that could be sensibly filled with sleep. As you can probably guess, that is exactly what we didn’t do, or couldn’t do I should say, as the Chilean students dragged us into another night of pointless chatting using their powers of generosity that came in the form of beautiful snacks and a revolutionary box of English AFTERNOON Tea that I had never seen, let alone consumed, in my life! It wasn’t until one o’clock that I crashed into bed with an aching left arm, disgustingly smelly feet, and the prospect of only six hours sleep until I had to beginning touching those evils animals once again. Yay.
Tuesday – 17th
The rising of the early morning sun marked the beginning of another day of sheep, only this time we wouldn’t be catching them, picking them up, squirting anything in their mouths, or even touching them, as the role of Los Tres Amigos for today was to help create an unbreakable wall capable of withstanding the penetration of several tiny lambs. Thankfully we were given horses to aid us in our mission as we helped move over a few hundred sheep from one farm to another. It SHOULD have been easy.
As we were fairly excited by our near future, we were up extremely promptly, expecting the rest of the farm to be doing the same, however, when we stumbled out of our pit into the freezing kitchen area and then out into the slightly warmer outside world, we were left stunned by the silence of the extremely dead estancia with only the resident calves in sight. It’s was obvious we had time for a coffee, so we lit the fires and began the slow process of readying ourselves for work, but without bread this was an extremely hard mission that would require some serious ingenuity and imagination, of which we have plenty when it comes to the crucial role of food. Our genius culminated in a huge pan of scrambled egg. Perfect.
An hour later I was about to retire back to our quarters, when Ian and the rest of civilisation all appeared at once, meaning the only left to do was select a horse, tack it up and pray I had done the previous two challenges well as otherwise I was going be in for a very slow and painful day. I naturally went for the biggest looking horse as I assumed it would be the opposite of me and therefore be fast, powerful and not at all lazy. I did my best to saddle number eight as well as I could, and after a quick test run, I was confident I was going to be in for an easy ride. Hindsight is a wonderful thing (I was wrong). Not knowing I would be kicking and screaming all afternoon, I set off in high spirits with the rest of the squad and the herd of sheep, heading along the beach towards the next farm.
The initial few hundred metres were a piece of cake, so much so that could have happily eaten some cake, made a phone call, and done a handstand, all while the sheepdogs did all the work. However, life soon got less comfortable as an extremely steep, rocky and dangerous incline in front us began to appear with no apparent way around it. I didn’t think this was possible to be overcome by our horses, let alone the poor little shits, and I assumed Ian would press a button on his phone and a secret tunnel would open up and let us through nice and easily. Understandably, he hadn’t thought of this solution yet, so we required to motivate the lambs up the hill, but as more and more began to decide it was nap time, or believe their lives weren’t worth living and heading towards the edge of the cliff, we had to start using the Chilean scare tactics. This meant the volume levels immediately increased significantly, as the numerous humans in the group were now barking at full capacity along with all the dogs, combining with the whining noises of the lambs to create a noise that could either be described as a primary school choir with a few post-pubescent weirdos and some teachers chucked in there, or an ancient torture method used to extract information from anyone with normal ears capable of appreciating the opposite of good sound. I think I’ve portrayed to you quite hope bad the sound of herding sheep is, but I’ll just reinforce it by saying IT IS HORRIFIC!
Nevertheless, the technique worked wonders and we were soon at the top of the hill and we could now sit back and enjoy the amazing views of the Chilean fjords. Or so I thought. The hill had obviously taken its toll on the little sheep and so they were dropping like flies, meaning El had to pick one up and take it with him on the horse, and the rest were either shoved in a forward direction or left behind to be put in the rescue truck for knackered lambs. The path also managed to get even worse, as we now had to go down the hill we had just climbed, and the path went right along the side of the cliff, so we soon had to dismount and I had to use my strong powers of persuasive english language to convince my horse to come down with me. Sadly, horses apparently don’t understand swear words, so I had to attempt to use my less strong power, muscle, to force her down the hill.
Despite quickly coming to the conclusion my horse was a lazy shit and my legs didn’t have nearly enough capacity to continuously kick the shit into the shit, the entourage of sheep, horse, man and dog continued motoring on slowly with no losses, deaths or mishaps, and the hours trickled on by as the metres slowly passed. My daily drama of today came when I attempted to hunt down some cocky lambs that were playing around in what looked like a normal patch of grass. As you would expect, this didn’t go to plan as the wooded area I had taken my horse into turned out to be a huge boggy marsh, and although the sheep could run off back to the herd, me and my caballo could not. My poor pony was on stuck in the mud, desperately trying to break free but instead getting itself deeper into the bog. As it began to collapse, Ramires came to my rescue and instructed me with gestures to get off the horse and let it get itself out, which was surprisingly easy as the horse was so deep I simply step off onto the ground. This allowed my poor number eight to pull itself free and after I had calmed it down by staying well away, normal service resumed and I could join back with the group with a now very muddy horse.
After we had stopped for a Chilean packed lunch of sopaipillas, ham and beer, we were back on the move and nearing our destination, so I sat back, whacked my headphones in, and enjoyed the ride. The feeling of being part of a gigantic army of marauding sheep, huge horses, and numerous skilled sheep dogs, whilst taking part in a huge and crucial operation of Chilean farming, all whilst listening to Abba and Whitney Houston, was indescribable, and something I couldn’t possibly forget, even if I wanted to.
Once we had arrived at the farm, and some tourists had taken a photo of people they thought were real life Chilean gauchos but actually two white English boys and a slightly American Brit all wearing boinas and probably Next boxers, we were ready to dismount and help sort the sheep for the umteenth time, which painfully involved catching some sheep once again, and yet more shouting, screaming, and chucking rocks at dogs. However, we the job was on completed, and me, El and Benj, as well as Marian (Huesito’s assistant) , were relieved from our duties and sent back to the estancia.

Without the sheep, we could charge all the way back, and so I psyched myself up, put on my best electro house music I had, and begged my horse to be faster on the way back. Thankfully, number eight felt obliged just to follow Marian, so we set off down the beach at full tilt, galloping into the wind and the rain along the magnificent fjords. The unbelievable day Los Tres Amigos had been a part of continued as we raced up into the woodland and over the cliffs, and I was now being forced to listen to ‘Winter Wonderland’ by the piercing rain and my unbalanced posture. I’m not quite sure how I didn’t fall off, but all four of us got back safe, soaking wet, and absolutely buzzing after an hour and a half of the most amazing ride yet!
After Eliot had used up all the hot water, I decided it would be best to have a nap and so curled up under a tiny blanket and settled in for a short and sharp sleep. After dinner, I had the most amazing shower of my life, and then readied myself for the most amazing sleep of my life. However, someone obviously wanted the three of us to suffer even more and used the three students to subject us to more pain by asking us to watch a movie with them. Eliot blindly refused and went to bed first, Benj made it over half way, but I soldiered on a made it to the end of ‘Spotlight’, which, to be fair, I have wanted to watch for a long time, but I just knew I would be regretting the decision to stay up past one o’clock more than I regret the many stupid decisions I’ve made over my short lifetime.
Wednesday – 18th
Our last day of ‘sheeping’, which also happened to be our last moments at the Estancia La Peninsula, wasn’t a particularly hard days work, nor was it very long, but has certainly well and truly wiped me out, despite most of the day being spent in Natales. I’m still extremely fragile as I’m writing this, and it is now Thursday and lunchtime. On the plus side we have finished the work with the evil lambs, and have finally got a few days off!
My day began with a desperate bit of packing as, unlike the others, I hadn’t been sensible and found all my stray items of clothing the night before, leaving me with half an hour to find 2 missing socks of different pairs and my sleeping bag bag, all in a room with numerous places that my things would just love to hide in. To my surprise, I managed to find everything just in time for our lift to arrive, and we soon were vacating the farm back the way we rode yesterday. We may have been in a truck, but that route is both horrifically uncomfortable and horrifically long, and with an already painful ass it’s just generally horrific, but I count myself lucky as I was in the middle so didn’t have the tedious job of getting out the vehicle and into the rain to do the gates.
Our arrival at the next farm was met with huge gratitude from my body parts, but the next mission soon revealed itself in the form of numerous fat beasts they call ‘vacas’, but we knew them as cows. Benj managed to get himself a horse, leaving me and El with merely our feet to carry us whilst we attempted to scare away the animals to make way for the sheep. We had this done in no time, at which point Ian turned up and drove them all back the way they way they came with his erratic driving style and general idiocy, but he also gave us his truck to take over to the next checkpoint so we couldn’t really be resentful.
Somehow Benj got lucky again and hopped straight into the driver’s seat, and we then followed the other truck over to the other farm where the sheep were going to be picked up by a lorry. We met Ramires there, who had stayed at the farm over night to look after the sheep, and whilst Ian and his mum were herding the sheep over, we enjoyed some mate with the gaucho in his temporary puesto. It was at this point that I had something of an epiphany, as whilst the three of us passed around the gourd I thought to myself just how different my life was this time last year, and what I would have been doing on a Wednesday at eleven o’clock. I probably would have been sat in the common room drinking tea and playing on my phone or staring at my laptop. Instead, I was sat in a traditional gaucho shelter of a puesto drinking a Patagonian speciality with a native Chilean bachiano, about to take hundreds of lambs across the Pacific fjords. All I had to look forward to on a Wednesday last year would have been lunchtime. After I had enjoyed my epiphany, and mistaken salt for sugar when attempting to make a coffee, we left the puesto to help herd the sheep over the last obstacle between them and their destination, a river. Once they were safely across, with only a few attempting to swim in a desperate effort to escape their impending doom, we helped to load them onto a big lorry, however it soon became apparent only about twenty sheep could fit without creating a massive lamb mountain. However, my limited farm knowledge was soon corrected by the lorry driver, who began pressing a button that created a very loud and annoying sound, but also levitated the lambs up towards the top of the vehicle, and then, as if by magic, he opened the doors and revealed there was no sheep in the lorry at all. I was truly astonished, but Benj insisted this was the normal procedure, so I assumed they were being sent by portal to the destination, which would make sense as it would have limited time and effort in taking them by truck and boat just to be eaten. Thankfully, I avoided any embarrassment as I soon looked up and saw hundreds of grinning lambs having the time of their lives many metres above the ground. With the help of one worker who found it was effective to make lamb impressions in order to convince them to get on the lorry, we finished the first load of sheep, signifying the end of the last bit of work we had to do for a few precious days. We had actually made it through the other side in three pieces.
Ian then raced us over to the boat, where we had a brief reunion with Chef and the carpenters involving a warm embrace with the Sergeant himself and a very awkward handshake with one of the carpenters who unfortunately had lost most of his fingers at some point. With that over, we got onto the ship with the lorry and were soon nearing the beautiful sight of Natales and civilisation. However, as we were walking into the town after getting off the boat, we soon wished we were back on the farm, mainly because we began noticing our horrific smell, and also hating all other people, of which there were far too many in the town. In a desperate attempt to get off the street, we considered getting some lunch, but we soon came to the conclusion our stench would probably result in at least a dozen complaints and probably a few incidents involving violent regurgitation (not including ourselves). We therefore decided to get a cab to the Shikana hostel where we had agreed we should stay due to the peace and quiet of the place and the lack of socialising that is required. However, this was much harder than anticipated, firstly due to the ridiculous amount of cabs that weren’t on our street, and by the fact that El was clearly on another planet when this discussion was going on, as once we had hailed the first taxi we saw, he directed the cab to the complete opposite of Shikana, the American hostel Erratic Rock where the Russian techno Dj’s of New Year’s eve tended to hide out. After we decided we would rather stay in the park with the stray dogs than sleep in a lovely hostel that contained several lovely people that just love talking and making noise, we jumped into another cab and went over to Shikana.
According to El, who was voted the best candidate to speak on the trio’s behalf, no one that could offer us a room was in the building so, once again, we found ourselves stood on the street pondering how bad our lives currently were, how bad we smelt, and how we could solve our predicament without using any energy whatsoever. Me and Benj eventually decided to take action and stormed into Shikana and demanded to see the man himself and get ourselves a roof over our heads and a pillow to put our weary heads on. Surprisingly we succeeded, despite Shikana not recognising us even after two previous visits, so we retrieved El and came back to settle in. Of course, as soon as we were with the Hispanic Eliot, Shikana recognised the three of us and got us a room at last, so we could finally get some well deserved sleep. However, before we could dump our stuff our beds had to be made, and I soon found myself trapped between Shikana and a bed, meaning I was stood in my disgusting clothes, rapidly stinking out the room with me trapped in there with the owner and his new pretty American volunteer. I’ve never felt so claustrophobic in my life, and my nightmare was made worse by my knowledge that the two workers had to suffer in the hot box of my sweat and sheep shit. I’ll forever be in their debt. Once they had finished, and I had buried my dirty clothes under the bed and chucked my boots out into the garden, the three of us tucked down for the most highly anticipated nap of all time.
I was awoke a many hours later by the sound of someone’s voice that strangely resembled El’s, but I couldn’t quite comprehend that he could have found the levels of effort required to speak to strangers after anything less that a 24 hour nap. However, I was proved wrong by my eyes as he wasn’t in his bed, but I couldn’t quite muster up enough energy to care, and so put on an episode of ‘The Man In The High Castle’, and then went back to sleep. When I eventually got out of bed, Benj and El were nowhere to be seen, so I psyched myself up and began carefully edging my way down the stairs. I eventually found Benj and El with the American volunteer who turned out to be 19, and a bloke from London in his early twentie. I reluctantly introduced myself whilst desperately trying not to look quite as homeless as I felt, and then suggested we whacked out the mate so try and fix me up. This worked wonders, and soon I was able to construct a sentence together and even laugh. This was followed by a few life lessons in mate from the three of us, and the exchanging of a few stories, until we inevitably got hungry, so we all headed over to baguales to eat some extremely American fodder.

After a few beers, a pisco sour, and a couple of pitchers of the local ale, we were all firmly awake and alive and having a lovely evening talking about food, drugs, sport and politics just like any group of teenagers ever do when they’ve just met and consumed a little alcohol. However, the night was dramatically spiced up by the entrance of Ian into the equation, who was clearly well into his umteenth pisco and coke and in no mood to stop. I offered to buy him a beer, but he replied ‘you can’t go onto the weak stuff once you’ve gone to the strong stuff’, to which I replied ‘fairplay’ and carried on with sipping my ‘weak stuff’. This was the first of many high class Ian quotes of the night, with most of his unique banter centering around little Huesito and his love life,  as well as his rich scottish heritage that means  a road in Natales is named after his Great Grandad,  with all utterances being followed by his usual legendary laugh.
We soon realised the hostel doors would be locked in a matter of minutes, so we raced back to Shikana, and of course popped open the wine and began to slowly fall asleep at the table. Benj’s head dropped first, and shortly after he woke up and realised he wasn’t in bed, El followed him to the room, at which point my memory basically stops, so I assume I followed suit pretty soon after. I don’t know how I managed to stay up so late, or eventually get to bed, but all I know is the last three days as a whole have finally come to a merciful end, relieving the three of us from our pain and fatigue and hopefully leaving us a changed, but fairly normal humans once again.
It may have been a tough three days for Los Tres Amigos as we are not used to having so little sleep in between doing such hard work for so long, and I’m really proud of us for making it through the other side with our sanities and body’s intact, as we can now look back on this experience as literally a once in a lifetime opportunity that we will probably and hopefully never have to do again.

However, the whole operation of ‘simply’ moving some livestock is so unbelievable due to the numerous cogs that all have to work in harmony to make the machine run successfully and get delicious lamb and incredible wool to consumers. Therefore, my shoutout has to go to the whole set up of the last three days, which includes: the sheepdogs, the horses and the sheep themselves that are all put under extreme pressure that demands enormous amounts of effort; Kevin, Ian, the gauchos, and the numerous other people that helped coordinate and manage the herding and other jobs that needed careful planning; and finally the boat, the lorry and the trucks that were all required to transport equipment, people and animals that were needed to complete the task. Fairplay, that is a hell of an operation, and I feel quite honoured to be a part of it. Respect.

Illusional Day – Day 49 (15th January)

It’s been a very short day today, but as it is a federal crime to partake in such a thing in Chile, we have felt obliged to stretch it out for as long as humanly possible, something I know I’m going to regret tomorrow. Predictably, all three of us are fairly grateful for a fairly easy day, but as I’m painfully working my way through the letters that will hopefully construct some english that is both funny and interesting, I’m strangely starting to resent having not much work to do! At least in means I might get to bed a bit earlier.
The first job of the day was described by Marco as a ‘quick job’, so when we arrived at the numerous wooden crates that we needed to break apart with minimal breakages as possible, we were filled with optimism and assuming the wood would just break apart in the way a flake crumbles in your hands before you’ve even taken a bite. Obviously, this didn’t turn out to be the case, so as we desperately tried to hack the planks apart without completed fucking them up, we began to realise the noob may take longer than Marco had implied. He is firmly out of my good books and beginning to be scribed into my bad one. On the plus side, we managed to make up an excuse for using the truck by insisting we had to move the crates in one go, instead of carrying them the extremely short distance to where we were dumping them. Not that anyone really gives a shit when we use dog meat. This also gave us a chance to show off our farming skills to the new shed inmates who were only just beginning to arise from the hut, so of course I felt it necessary to get on top of the crates in the bag of the truck and pretend as if I wasn’t in excruciating pain due to the rapid increase of splinters stabbing themselves into my behind. I thought I pulled off a look of complete peace and tranquility, but sadly the targets of my prowess were nowhere to be seen as we crawled past the house. After a quick break, I successfully managed to start the car, but I was also extremely unsuccessful in trying to keep the crates in less than a few hundred pieces. Nevertheless, we were finished by lunch and so could enjoy our food without the task looming over us.
The finishing of our second mate session of the day brought about the end of our siesta allowance, so we were forced to begin a new job with approximately zero minutes and zero seconds of sleep. However, it wouldn’t have mattered if we were doing the job in hand after a season long hibernation, as we were tasked with breaking open a dozen bin bags full of Chilean waste (mainly beer and wine) and sort it out into different materials too go in different places. Thankfully, all food waste goes to the legendary pegs, but the large amounts of mate that are used up and put in the bins made for a very smelly, dirty and ugly job that made the three of us look like absolute odourless angels! The pile of old alcoholic beverages made for a very interesting sight, but that was certainly the only plus side of rummaging through waste to earn our beds and food. Like the tough men we are, we battled through the rubbish and soon all that was left was to bury the new bags in the old hole to the point no dogs could could possibly get at the waste. Marco certainly got himself back onto my good side by helping us fill the hole, as well as giving me some intriguing lessons in the art of scooping and throwing. This made the job fairly quick, and we were rewarded for our efforts with a deliciously cold beverage of the lager kind, which almost made the job worthwhile.
After we had begrudgingly eaten another meatless meal, and prayed for the healthy return of Chef, we headed back to the shed with a heads ready to hit the hay, and two huge fish that Benj had stolen from the sea before tea. Despite our high levels of fatigue, we felt obligated to stay up with our new housemates and indulge in a Chilean game involving numerous die and three cups. After an extremely pointless demonstration, the three of us felt cocky enough to challenge the others, but I’m guessing we were annihilated due to our stupidity, but I can’t be sure. Once we had rearranged the teams so that each of us had a Chilean partner who knew what they were doing, the tables turned dramatically, and my dream team of me and Francisca dominated the table and came away worthy winners, I think. After the game, far too much talking took place, so much so that I couldn’t tell you for the life of me what we actually spoke about, but in the end we finally retreated into our room to crash and die. I haven’t quite died as yet but I’m fast approaching that heavenous moment.
Shoutout to my new friend Francisca, who can speak a bit of english, dominate at ‘Cachos’, as they call it, and lie through her teeth even better than I can. Together, our minds were too powerful for even the most professional of ‘cachos’ players. She’s also pretty hot. I should add, all three of our guests have been really nice and sociable like a Chilean should be, despite being from ‘en el norte’ as Claudia and Panchi would say. Furthermore, our travelling friends list is rapidly increasing, which can’t only be a good thing for my ego.

Make a house a home – Day 48 (14th January)

You’ll be pleased to know, life on the farm has changed fairly dramatically throughout the course of today, however you’ll probably be less pleased to find out it has mainly changed in pretty good ways. Nevertheless, I have plenty of top quality material to share with you, but very little time to do it, as my eyelids appear to be gaining weight extremely rapidly and my body has already started to shut down. I’m already three fingers and one arm down, so I better hurry up before I start losing eyes as well!

The alarm that’s disrupted my peaceful sleep this this morning initially seemed to be very different, but as I slowly regained consciousness, I soon realised the horrific noise that woke me up was in fact the bellowing voice of Marco partnered with his iron fist smacking the door. This meant there was to be no traditional post-alarm nap, but worse still, it implied we had been summoned for a job even before a coffee had touched my infamous lips. At this point I was already resenting the job in hand, as well as any people that had conspired to create it, however my anger reached a very high level once we had found out the track involved carrying lots of very large and heavy objects for a significant amount of time. Annoyingly, I couldn’t really blame anyone for needing supplies taken off a boat as the three of us will probably benefit from this at some point in the near future, especially seeing as the boat was carrying food, beer and new people that were actually below the age of 30.

Once I felt my muscles had reached maximum size, I declared the job was over and headed into the house to go back to sleep, and was soon joined by El and Benj. Predictably, I was denied any further shut eye by the congregation of all people in a several mile radius that obviously had to take place in our house. Once I had made a coffee and fought for my seat at the table, the new youths introduced themselves as three 20 something year olds that were here as part of their university degree, or so El tells me. Thankfully, I could zone out for many precious minutes whilst the Chileans chucked around many spanish words, and once this was over, we finally had some peace and quiet. It was at this point we all realised the house felt strangely empty and was unerringly silent, however we soon came to the conclusion it was because the carpenters had left, leaving us as sole inmates of the tin hut. This was a very significant moment, but felt very odd as we had previously had what could only be described as a house full. On the plus side, we were now the bosses of the building, and could do whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted. This called for a celebration to mark the moment, so we whacked out there mate gourd and sipped away until our hearts were content.

Normal service soon resumed once we decided we should go and get some more logs to pass the disgusting amount of time we had until lunch. It was then that we finally fought against our sleep deprivation, or me and El did anyway, resulting in the two of us flopped over the sofas in the main house in a way that I’m guessing resembled something like a seal or my dad. The rest of the afternoon was spent facetiming Mum, testing out new songs for my sleep playlist, and enjoying the unlimited supply of wifi. I personally was enjoying this lovely moment of peace very much, but of course it had to come to an end at some point, and this point came in the form of Marco once again. He might like football, but his reign as the favourite gaucho is certainly at risk after today! It turned out his job for us was a pretty good one, mainly for the change of scenery that we gained by going with him to the next area of civilisation along from our house. The long and weirdly treacherous journey took us to a two buildings, one that was a brilliant looking cabin equipped with everything one would need to survive whilst also enjoying their life, including a guanaco rug. The other wasn’t in such great condition, but thankfully no one still lived in it, otherwise there would almost certainly be a pedophile or mass murderer on the loose somewhere on the estancia. Our job was easy enough as it relied on the very unfit Marco chopping enough logs to keep all three of us working, but our pile was soon complete so we made the journey back towards our hovel.

The evening was fairly uninteresting, but did confirm the new status of our living arrangements, as it turned out the three new residents were in fact joining us in the shed to live in perfect harmony. This gave us a good chance to get to know the two girls and a boy, and me and Benj genuinely could join in as one of them spoke english. I’m hoping it’s going to be good to have some females in the house as it might get a little cleaner, and not because they are naturally good at washing up and I’m a sexist prick, but because the three of us might actually make more of an effort to not treat the place like our personal toilet, and also the absence of the carpenters might help. The ending was very enjoyable, but my bed was calling extremely, so I watched a few more minutes of a spanish-dubbed version of ‘The 40 Year Old Virgin’, and headed into the comfort of our nest.

Shoutout to our little tin hut that we can now well and truly call home! I may take the piss, but I speak for all three of us when I say we really have become quite attached the little hovel, as it’s our hovel. It doesn’t matter who has come and gone and who will come and go in the future, that shelter will be ours forever. Adding on to the that, I must mention the shitty truck they call ‘dog meat’. It may have no starter motor, smell of fags and accelerate at a rate of nothing, but we absolutely love it! Collecting logs has never been so fun, so good in fact that we might make an offer to Kevin to buy it. Two quid should do it.

Wish I was a pig! – Day 47 (13th January)

As we are beginning to firmly settle into our new farm lives, the days are sadly getting more regular, making the amazing work we’re doing seem more menial. Although this may not be a bad thing for my stamina, I’m running out of interesting ways to describe my days to you that are entertaining and readable, but not too over the top that it sounds like I’m rubbing this amazing opportunity right in your faces. Nevertheless, I’m obliged to provide you with daily updates on how great life away from England is, so that’s exactly what I’m going to do.
The mornings here horribly resemble the British equivalent, only in winter, with a painful wind that chills your insides, and a thick fog capable of covering up even the greatest of scenery. This makes getting up for work extremely hard, especially when we’ve just emerged from an equally as cold tin house that we call home, despite having a prehistoric heating system and nothing that can be compared to insulation. This makes for a very horrid prospect when we are awoken at the crack of dawn, as we are faced with the challenge of vacating our beautifully self-heated sleeping bags, and swapping them with some kind of digging, lifting, dropping or falling. Despite the relief a warm coffee and numerous slices of bread provides, we couldn’t help but sleep in a little longer this morning and extend our stay in heaven. However, we soon came to the conclusion we were just delaying the inevitable, and then half an hour later remembered that once the morning broke past ten o’clock we would be working in the most beautiful place on earth. It was at this simultaneous moment of realisation that we rolled out of bed to start the day.
After consulting Marco, we came to the conclusion we should add to our mountain of firewood by cruising around in the truck with the driving tunes on full blast and collecting a few logs on the way. We pull our weight! We didn’t get off to the best start, and not because we had to break through the car doors or roll the truck into life, because they’re part of the normal procedure, but in fact it was the petrol situation that had disrupted our start. The petrol indicator had dropped down to the last quarter for the first time in our tenure due to yesterdays rinsing of the vehicle, so we went back to the local sensei who directed us to the nearest petrol station. This didn’t take quite as long as you would imagine, especially when considering we’re living on a farm that goes 90 miles one way and 90 the other (90 square miles), and the neighbours live on another farm that I’m guessing is of similar size. Surprisingly, the station was just round the corner, and surprisingly, I’m not exaggerating this situation to extent you’re probably expecting. Obviously when I say ‘station’ I don’t quite mean the estancia has it’s own BP garage complete with an M&S and Wild Bean Cafe that sells everything from fags to a complete Chinese feast, but they have genuinely created a fuel pump that tells you how much fuel you’ve put in. It was even automatic, AND you get your very own gaucho to fill it up for you! You don’t get that kind of service at Texaco. Pretty cool.
A few uneventful runs to the beach later, and every genre of music available played numerous times, I found myself eager to drive the truck again, however my two temporary parents were having none of it, so I resorted back to my roots and did what any little shit would do in this situation, and threw a strop. I’ve had plenty of practice of this in the past, but with very mixed results, depending on how many elders I was up against. Thankfully, I was only up against two adults which is absolute child’s play for a veteran whiner like me, so I was soon in the driver’s seat and loving life once again. My mood improved so much that when we got back to the beach for the umpteenth time, I helped to instigate a brief game of ‘gunsies’ with the boys, which was extremely realistic due to the wide variety of shapes and sizes that the driftwood here comes in. At one point I was dual-wielding two sawn-off shotguns, and had a sniper rifle in reserve if i needed it. I hope I’m not the only person to miss being a child.
This took us nicely into lunchtime, which ,in the absence of chef, tourists and the carpenters, now takes place in the main house with the esteemed members of the farm. I have to admit the food has continued to impress the three of us, and now sopaipillas have been introduced into the equation, and we get to browse the world wide web as we eat, I’m starting to believe we might actually survive without Chef. It’s early days but I’m confident we’re going to make it. Lunch was soon devoured, which left us with a large amount of siesta time to use up, but due to our lie in this morning, we thought it best to stay awake and couldn’t think of any better way to do that than going fishing. I counted a whole two casts until the wind got the better of me and I was scurrying back to the house, whilst the other two followed suit within minutes, but our lack of balls soon metaphorically cost themselves a whack in the form of another job described by El as an ‘adventure’. The task at hand was only truly revealed once we were parked in front of a mini house and Marco had begun assembling something that could resemble a trailer. The hut may have been small, but certainly too big to even dream of carrying, and so we had been assigned to magic up a method of pulling the house, made for the pigs, to where the animals actually were. I instantly came up with a brilliant idea of using the truck to pull it along, but apparently this was already the plan, but the real problem was how to attach it to the back of the vehicle without the whole thing crumbling into numerous little pieces. Why they didn’t think to assemble the hut in the right place I will never be able to understand, but we began deliberating with our hands on our chins and our eyes rolling around as if we were pondering what materials we could use to secure the cargo, but I know I’m not just speaking for myself when I say the thoughts going around my head were about food and bed. I did manage to consider the pig situation momentarily when I thought we could move them to the house, but I was soon distracted by the image of killing the poor beats and eating them then and there.
Marco was eventually saved from our incompetence by the reinforcement in the shape of Pepe, who suggested we put the shed on two rubber tubes and tie them to the truck. A few long minutes of admiring the Chileans knot skills and inventiveness passed by, and soon a prototype was ready to test, meaning it was our time to shine. We just about managed to get the shed onto the tubes and then hopped in the back of the truck to act as a rear view camera. The truck nervously kept forward and inched towards the destination that was a good half a kilometre away from us, so we settled in for what was going to be a very long, but hopefully relaxing, journey. Obviously this was never going to be the case, but our dream ended very prematurely when the whole system collapsed as we went over the first of many bumps. This was just the start of numerous collisions, breakages, pit stops and fixes, which all culminated in everyone but Marco, who was driving, pushing the shed along with truck and attempting to keep it balanced over the rough terrain. I would say the whole process probably took as long it takes me to get up in the morning, so I’ll leave you to interpret quite how long it took us to move the hut, but eventually we had it next to the two pigs, and at last we heard Marco utter the words we never thought we’d hear, ‘work over’.
The evening was no different to any other, as we just ate dinner, used the wifi, had our showers and then hit the hay, which has given me a good hour to write this blog before I pass out beyond return. I’ve only used 59 of those minutes, so I’m going to leave you with a quick life lesson… Always build anything in the place it needs to be, whether it’s a shed, a house or a lego tower. It’s just easier!
Shoutout to the pigs that starred in today’s story time. They typically sit around all day doing absolutely fuck all but dig holes,  generally just living the chill life, with their only real job being to eat our food waste,  and yet people have put blood, sweat and tears (literally) into giving them a house that could possibly rival ours, just without the sink. Fairplay to the geezers, they know how to live! And I bet they taste good.

Work, work, work, work, work – Day 46 (12th January)

Today has well and truly cemented our working day in place, giving us a daily routine that most people could only dream of. It certainly beats the average school day with only an hour to recover from the deadly boredom of english lessons, and definitely tops the typical day working in a pub, with only half an hour and the scraps of bread and butter to motivate you through to 11 o’clock when you can eventually finish and crash back down to earth with a bang. It has been slightly busier today, which I think all three of us were glad about, but with the absence of any tourists at the farm, and no boss, we’ve been fairly free to engineer our hours and factor in plenty of chill time. I’ve still got plenty to write about though.
The first job of the day involved the usual hunting and gathering in the truck, but this time our desired treasure was a rare Chilean object, usually spherical, and apparently very heavy. In spanish they call them rocks, but we only knew them as stones. High on excitement and anticipation, we set off in search of the elusive material. Our hunt didn’t last long, as we came across a huge pile of rocks a matter of metres away from where the truck was parked, so we loaded it up and drove to an undisclosed location where were told to drop off the rocks. This turned out to be yet another hole, but thankfully filling them doesn’t take quite as much effort as digging them, however it soon became apparent we were going to need a lot more rocks than were in the pile, so we whacked out the treasure map (asked Marco) and headed towards a mythical river that was said to have been capable of yielding the kind of rocks we required. The drive took us through the field of the endangered sheep, the already explored beaches that was home to the wood resources, and deep into the wilderness of the estancia. The truck kept battling through the rough terrain until we eventually stumbled upon the legendary river of rocks, and so we vacated the vehicle and began what we anticipated to be an intrepid treasure hunt for the rocks that would have the capabilities of filling the deep crater. We began scrawling through every inch of the ground, leaving no stone unturned, and we weren’t going to give up until the pickup was full. Unfortunately for the story, we found the first few boulders in a matter of seconds, and found the next load in the next few moments, mainly due to the surprising heavy supply of rocks big enough to fill the hole and crush my stick arms. Our activities are usually much harder I promise! Once we had a truck full, we returned to the hole to continue filling it. The expedition took until lunch time, by which point we were already knackered out for the day, so ate our dinner and took a well deserved nap.
Adhering to the true Chilean way of life, we awoke from our siesta to find an afternoon pastime, which on the farm only leaves one with a few options. Fishing, riding, driving or chilling, and as we had already mastered the latter three activities, we decided to have another attempt at catching some fish worthy of being eaten by the bachianos themselves. Disastrously, during what should have been a routine polite request to go fishing, Marco struck us down with a job worthy of being hated by even the bachianos themselves, and of course it involved shovels and more effort. We were tasked with filling up the back of the truck with excess dirt dug up from the hole we had filled earlier, and taking it down to the beach where we could dump it in a desperate attempt to soothe our pains and hatred towards mud and earth. After the first attempt at making it to the beach was foiled by our incompetence of leaving all equipment needed to take the dirt back off the truck, we eventually got into the routine and were shifting stones by the ton in no time at all. It was at the point of our peak levels of digging when Pepe, the head carpenter, burst out of nowhere on the motorbike to relieve us of our duties as he wanted the dirt for some unknown reason, but probably to make a gigantic ramp that he could fly off on his ped. This meant we could attempt to make it to the sea once again, and this time we succeeded, and took the expert Pepe with us.
After numerous attempts at flinging the line far enough without hooking any garments, body parts or, most importantly, Pepe, no fish had been captured from the water by any of us. This stalemate between human and fish carried on for far too long, until nothing short of a miracle happened right in front of my grinning face. Yes ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, weird man in the corner, I had caught a fish! It may have only been the size of a certain male sex organ, but it was mine. Let’s be clear, the fish, not the body part. I was told by Pepe the next step to catching a fish was to kill the poor lad, so I grabbed my knife, flicked it open, and began poking it in the hope the fish might run away. Unfortunately, this plan failed, so I was forced by social peer pressure to put the blade between its cute little eyes, through the brain and out the other side. This felt pretty satisfying, so I put my catch to the side, and cast my line again until guess what… I caught another! The scenes were unbelievable. However, my cockiness soon got the better of me, as Benj soon pulled out a monster of a fish, and with the help of the Don, got it onto the pear to pose for a picture. As a thank you to Pepe for recreating his line, Benj presented him with his prize, which meant after tea we needed to head back out to catch a fish we could actually eat. Benj lived up to his new gaucho image by fishing out yet another beast, so we quickly ushered it away and got it on the table to be prepared for cooking by someone that actually knows what they’re doing. This job obviously fell to Marco, who had the sea bass chopped up and filleted in seconds, and this being Chile, had the fish put on a skewer and in front of the fire to cook assado style.
The rest of the evening was a bit different to any other we’ve had since our arrival. Instead of carrying out the usual operation of hogging the wifi, drinking some tea and then retiring to bed by ten o’clock, we found ourselves involved in a mini asado with Ian, the rest of the workers here, and some temporary guests that claimed to be mountainbike riders. This ended an extremely long absence of alcoholic intake, as well as filling us well beyond the limit with yet more lamb. Nevertheless, it was a lovely evening of spanish conversation and beer drinking that ended at a ridiculous time of eleven o’clock! This means I’ve lost a precious hour of sleep before we’re awoken by our jobs and responsibilities. I better get to sleep. Night.
Shoutout to Pepe who well and truly earned his status as a Don today. His extreme skills with a fishing rod, a fishing line, and a fish, demonstrated his prowess in living, whilst his impressive ability on the motorbike cemented our respect for him into the history books. I bow down to Don Pepe.