Argentina By Bicycle Part 1
All the images and productions are mine to answer an enquiry made.
Buenos Aires is where we arrived December 1st 2012. We did get a van cab from the airport for 270 pesos of which there are now 7.8 to the pound so say £34.00. Aaah yes, this is not a cheap country like our lovely India but overrall cheaper than our western world providing you drink spirits and smoke as there appears to be little excise duty on these products and petrol is only 95p per litre. Food however is about 20% more expensive than the UK for example as there is VAT of 10.5% on staples and 21% on everything else.
We stayed at Paul Harper's apartment in the suburbs, for 3 days. We met him via the warmshowers.org website which is for touring cyclists to have a start to get set up and also valuable ideas which Paul was full of along with interesting tit bits about his experience of living in Argentina being married to Mariana who is Argentinian and a writer. Paul is from Perth Australia and has been here for four years.
After the three days we were all set for the road so headed into the city taking bike routes as much as possible but it was not long before we had our old confidence back again so minced it with the traffic which was not as bad as it looked. We arrived at Hostel Plaza in downtown Beunos Aires and stayed there for seven nights. It was a bit crummy but at least it had a kitchen and lounge and some young guys living there who were friendly and helpful. Still cost £20 per night however. What shocked us was how enormous the city is. The population is about 20 million if you include surrounding connected areas but some say 11-14 million in the main part. It feels massive even more so than Mexico City, Tokyo or London but this observation would no doubt change as one became familiar with the place.
So after eleven days it was time to hit the road and head south as we cannot afford to miss the peak of summer way down south as it is freezing cold for most of the year we believe. Freezing to us is anything below 15 degrees. We made good progress as there were only light winds and the roads were pretty good but the majority of traffic are very large trucks and semi trailers as the railway system has almost crumbled with lack of funding and strong unions preventing improvements to date. We have been told that the unions are so strong here such that a rubbish collector or truck driver earns more than professionals such as a doctor.
The country side to date is almost dead flat and for the whole 650kms so far it has comprised of vast fields of wheat, scrub and some cattle and horticulture. The towns are spaced about 60 to 100kms from each other and so far there was no where to camp wild off road as both sides of the road have trenches which are creeks or swamps probably because they used that soil to build up the height of the road itself. We did find a lovely campsite in Azul however, so we stayed two days. On one occasion with no where to stay we set up camp behind a petrol station which was OK as the larger ones have good food and services without costing too much. There were a few nights in dodgy hotels at various prices from £20 to £28 which is over our budget. On one occasion we arrived at a crossroads of two major roads and it was late in the day so with no where to stay we visited the highway police and asked them if we could stay out the back on their lovely lawn. They were so obliging and offered us water and the use of their showers and hot water for coffee, all luxury for us. on another occasion, entering Azul we met lots of people interested in what we were doing and one guy called Sebastion invited us back to his ranch 30kms down a dirt road. We accepted and we placed the bikes and gear in the back of his Chevy Ute and had a great night at his lovely place and the family cooked up a lovely chicken dinner and the next morning after staying in a luxury bedroom, he dropped us back to the town square. Talking of towns, they are all in a grid pattern block by block and all appear to have the same street names as each other like 25 De Mayo and Belgrano etc
We have now arrived in Bahia Blanca which is the largest city we have encountered since leaving BA. It is nice in the centre but the further into the suburbs the more run down it gets and they are dirt roads, not sealed. We are presently at the Municipal Camping place which is Ok but very Eastern Europe in the way that no money is being spent on it so things are a bit rusty to say the least. It does have the largest swimming pool we have ever seen however, It is the size of a rugby field. The biggest problem we now face is the incredible winds and gusts of up to 70kms per hour. Storms are on their way tomorrow and Monday so we will just have to hold on here until it fines up again. We are just hoping this is not the norm in this region and south. The days are in the low 30's however but the nights get cold. It has a strange weather pattern here because there tends to be three days of really hot days and then it pours like crazy for a day or two and as said, the winds are ferrocious.
The impressions so far of the little bit of Argentina we have experienced, is, that the people do not seem very happy with their lot but they have been generally very helpful to us. The country does remind me very much of the eastern eastern european countries in that it looks like the money has run out hence although there are your new McDonalds and Fuel stations and some very nice houses and buildings, there are also some terribly run down areas with very poor people. The Spanish world to us seems like a another planet with very few people speaking English and that does not help when we have about twenty words of Spanish between us and even when we do speak they struggle to understand our pronunciation but we have travelled many countries without knowing the language and have always survived so this country should be no different.
It is always interesting to compare the cost of living with other countries and to date if you smoke (£1 a packet) and drink (£3 for a local 1 litre Gin, whisky or vodka) then you will live cheaper than the west but food like a pot of yogurt is an average of 80p and sliced bread is £1.50 for a small loaf. Restaurants are typically £6 per person for a main course of not so lovely basic pasta or chips and a burger but there are very expensive ones as well. We could live very well in India for £15 per day for the two of us and in the UK for £36 and so far here for £26 so so far of all the 86 countries travelled to date, India is by far the cheapest but all this is without taking quality of life into the equation.
Description of the Photos below (Clockwise from Top Left)
1. Discussing the world with Paul as he cooks the massive piece of meat on the BBQ
2. The old docks of Beunos Aires have been reinvented and look fantastic
3. Camping on the riverbank with our new downsized tent due to high winds over here. This is our forth tent in 15 years. Our first one was the best but we wore it out but this one is strong and being green we can hide away easier.
4. It was lovely to spend a couple of days at the riverside in Azul.
5. We set off one morning and the heavens opened up but alas we sheltered in this strange shrine on the side of the road that people were popping in whilst driving past.
6. The Argentine and local flag flying opposite a town square in Azul.
7. Time to rest and get out of the sun and have some lunch, all before the bus shelter collapses
8. A typical scene on the roads which feel endless. Sometimes we almost get excited if there is a bend in the road or maybe a road sign. A roundabout is positively riveting. The bloody trucks aren't however.