Seems that everyone in Salta thinks that Mr Fox and I are gay. This isn’t an entirely unfair assumption. For starters he had to take me underwear shopping for the second time in as many weeks, due to my tendency to lose the scant few belongings I have. You would have thought that with only a 20-litre shoulder bag, I’d have so little stuff as to be able to keep track of it. But to date I’ve lost, separately, five articles of clothing and a USB drive. We prowled the markets with Mr Fox advising me on size, fit, and colour. Then there’s the fact that the Doctor took a single room while we got a double. See, Mr Fox is a the kind of sleeper who destroys beds, thrashing about until the sheets are removed, mattress bared, and everything clawed into a kind of rat’s nest. On this night it was warm enough and I was drunk enough to fall asleep on top of the covers. Thus in the morning one bed was utterly ravaged, and the other apparently hadn’t been slept in. The maid has been giving us some very strange looks. Lastly, we were delighted to learn from our Inca Trail guide that the Spanish word for fox is ‘zorro’. Stylish, no? So on passing the communal bathroom and seeing a glimpse through the venetians of someone stepping out of the shower, I call out loudly “Hola, Señor Zorro!” The wet and startled face that peers round the doorframe belongs not to Mr Fox, but to our next door neighbour. I’m not sure if ‘fox’ has the same connotations in Spanish as in English, but his reaction suggests that perhaps it does.
I wonder if Americans (with some honourable exceptions) realise that, en masse, they have the most excruciating accent in the English-speaking world? I’d rather hear English from Bloemfontein or Broken Hill. The ones boarding the Bolivian train at two a.m. were pretty awful, gnashing on in their metallic drone like a swarm of robot bees being fed through a blender. The mountain bikers back in Cuzco were worse, as they crawled through a five hour briefing of jaw-dropping inanity. Americans. They’re just so fucking earnest about everything. I mean, if the idea of going to foreign countries solely for the purpose of wearing full-body Lycra and thrashing obscenely expensive bikes downhill wasn’t absurd enough, the clincher is the idea of actually taking yourself seriously while doing it. And then going home to tell people you “did” the Andes. Here’s an example of their leader’s genius, spoken baby-slow, with emphasis on every other word, while the others all nod and grunt, holding manly strong eye contact, as though receiving the Koran direct from Gabriel himself. “If you have a headache, this could actually be a symptom, that you’re de-hy-drated. The colour of your urine, is actually a really good indicator of de-hy-dration. A lot of people, if they have a headache, they just take a Tylenol, or a pain reliever, but you shouldn’t do that. What you should do is, drink some water. But you have to remember that your body can only absorb one litre of water an hour. So if you come into camp and you drink like, a litre in like, five minutes, you’re actually going to make the problem worse. Because you’re going to lose more electrolytes in your urine.”
Professor Science will be lecturing at Science University all this semester.