In passing: I normally dispose of the Travel section in Saturday's Guardian without so much as a second look; holidays bearing no relation to my limited budget were & still are often heavily featured. Moreover, the credit crunch means that those who could afford such breaks are now tightening their belts. However, yesterday's section carried a fascinating story of a 73 year old British man, Simon Gandoldini, who travelled from Mexico to the tip of southern Chile on a Honda CG125. As a lapsed biker, it's the sort of thing I've always dreamed of (http://www.guardian.co.uk/travel/2009/jan/10/south-america-road-trips-bike ).
Gandolfini's tale, which reads like a superficial version of Che Guevara's Motor Cycle Diaries in reverse, is coloured with Palinesque (Michael, not Sarah) anecdotes about ordinary acts of kindness along the way.
However, the conclusion of his journey & recollections contains an obsevation which brought me up jarringly: "And, riding alone along those vast spaces, uncovered within myself an unfashionable admiration for those scant bands of Spaniards, the Conquistadors. They were small men of minimal education and many superstitions. Judge them how you wish, but never doubt their extraordinary courage and imagination."
Gandolfini would have done well to reflect upon the courage & imagination of the Native Americans who built entire civilisations which were the match of anything Europe had to offer at the same time before their subjugation at the hands of the European colonial powers.
That aside, an interesting read. More details at http://www.simongandolfini.com .