Friday, January 15, 2016

Argentina Part 2– The Long Stretch

After taking a not so restful rest day (since we tried to last until bar time), we spent one more night before rolling out of town. Not realizing that Saturday is even more of a party night than Friday, I slept with my earbuds in to mask the noise of singing, yelling, and even a steady box drum. Overall, I think it's safe to say none of us had our best night's sleep but were still ready to hit the road.

Once everyone had left the hostal, it turns out the internet starts working better so I delayed my start the next morning to update the map of Argentina on my phone. While I was letting it load, a Norwegian man staying in our hostal came out and started getting his bike ready as well. After chatting a bit, we ended up riding together until his turnoff. It was super fun getting to know a different rider and their style, even if only for a bit, and once we caught up to the other four guys we shared sandwich makings in a bus stop on the side of the road and wished each other luck. I gotta say, his beard was inspiring.

As lush and magical as our first couple days in Argentina were, the next section was less lively. We found ourselves surrounded by desert and small shrubs, complete with dusty mountains following the side as far as the eye can see. We still had flat roads, but turning became an exciting event much like crossing Nebraska on the interstate on the way to Colorado. After one day of riding in the heat and the dust, we were happy to come to a town with a campsite and even happier to learn it had a pool. Not minding that the water was brown, had a bunch of insects floating on the surface, and the average age was probably 14, we fully embraced our inner gringo and showed off some white skin. Well that is except for Cody who had some impressive farmers tan burn lines from his first taste of a South American sun.


The next morning was Ryson's birthday and for the ride out of town we all got to feel like celebrities. For some reason, people were lining both sides of the street and looking like they were waiting for a parade. Frequently phones came out to snap pictures as we rolled by and I sincerely believe Ryson gave every group of people a wave and a friendly "hola." This is no small feat, mind you, since people lined the road all day in every little town we passed. Rather than a parade, we learned that we happened to be in Argentina during an off-road desert race called Dakar that I believe runs from Bolivia into Argentina. Someone with quality internet should look up the specs of this thing but I can confidently say it's a big deal.

 All day, besides the people waiting in cities, we passed tents and stations set up to watch when riders cross the road. Big name teams representing both products such as Red Bull or companies like Honda had support vehicles zooming down the road that looked like dump trucks converted into high carrying capacity desert vehicles. A surprising number of people crowded at the checkpoints under the relentless 100 degree dry heat and sun for a glimse of the riders and ambulances waited to be called into action (apparently a couple people die on this course every year). We decided to stop at the final checkpoint for the day and learned it is a multiple day ride, similar to the Tour de France in that your times are accumulated over the course of the race.

Perhaps staying a bit too long, we continued down the road and realized we had drank most of our water while watching the finish line. Unsure of the next water source since almost every stream we crossed that day was entirely filled with sand and no water, we were excited to see a water tower with two hoses leading into big black barrels. Since it wasn't sealed well, we were able to rig a pipe with our hand and trickle a small stream through it in order to fill up. Plus one for desert survival. Confident we could make it as far as necessary, we found a great campsite for Ryson's birthday down by a stream that actually had water. Playing a round of cards, "baking" a very soupy surprise cake over our camp stove, and looking up at a fantastic night of stars ended our night and got us ready for more desert in the morning.

For the first time in a while, the next day's ride finally transitioned into some greener scenery. After two days of following the same mountains, we finally weaved through a pass that followed the river and came out the other side. Riding into the town of Belen, we were hoping to stock up on groceries but instead were limited by one of our most infamous opponents yet: siesta.

Everything you ever knew about business reliability from back in the states is out the window in Argentina. This wasn't our first encounter with the rest period of the day known as siesta but it was one of the first times we got an answer for its duration. Apparently every grocery store (and most other stores) close every afternoon from 1-6 pm. This is a loose estimate by the way since sometimes it can be earlier or later. If you are like us, you frequently wonder how they can make enough money to stay open since so many hours are spent locked up. You might also wonder why all the pizza places are closed up until 8 pm. For all the benefits Argentina has in terms of scenery and easy terrain, their social schedule are not designed with bike touring in mind.

Settling for basic supplies at a small convenience store, we made our way to another campground. For the first time in our travels, campgrounds have been a viable option. More like for the first time camping itself hasn't been a foreign concept. But either way, we can frequently make a campground our destination since it is relatively safe, has water, usually has a functioning bathroom (although any level of cleanliness can be expected), and they are cheap. Partially because they cost less per night and partially because of their policy to walk around and collect payment instead of having an administrative building, and the people in charge of collecting only seem to perform their duty about half the time. Fine by us, we set up tents, played in a nearby stream, and took the trolls for a couple laps on a dirtbike course they had set up out back.

Biking two more full days through continually flat and easy terrain, we were crushing miles but the heat was taking its toll. After 5 solid days, we figured we were due for another rest day and made Chilecito our goal. Getting one of the best nights sleep on the entire trip in an insanely comfortable bed, we woke up ready for an uneventful day. Sampling the homemade jam of our feisty hostal owner lady's own making (I think it was rhubarb or the Argentinian equivalent) we ran early morning errands of haircuts, bike shops, and food so we could truly appreciate what a siesta from 1-6 pm feels like. 4 hours in, I gotta admit it is pretty great. It is also good to know the ice cream stores don't believe in siesta hours. Thank goodness.

So far biking has been same as usual, just with more people to talk to. The level and seemingly endless roads have been a bit more monotonous but with five people we have filled the time with assigning rolls to various characters in books, movies, or even situations. Perhaps the best part of Ryson and Cody coming is we cook a bit too much food a lot of the time, so extra portions come to us hungry guys. For the first time in months, I can confidently say after a meal I have felt full. Up next we have another solid stretch to get to San Juan. Supposedly we have a bit of a climb coming up. Kai, Jon, and I are all not so secretly wishing it is a giant one so the other two can understand more of what we had to go through earlier instead of this heat but otherwise biking paradise. We will find out soon! Thanks again for following along!

-Ben

3 comments:

  1. Hey Rockcop1,
    Things still going well, Presidents week I will be in Hawaii for 2 weeks. You will be nearing the finish line around then but still I will check in to whereyou are at. Also for now increasing time of V.N.S. see how that goes.takecare now it it an increase group.Not far left!! My whole family say hi, and rooting for you as as well, me the most of course!! Rockcop2

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hey Rockcop1,
    Things still going well, Presidents week I will be in Hawaii for 2 weeks. You will be nearing the finish line around then but still I will check in to whereyou are at. Also for now increasing time of V.N.S. see how that goes.takecare now it it an increase group.Not far left!! My whole family say hi, and rooting for you as as well, me the most of course!! Rockcop2

    ReplyDelete
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