Argentina By Bicycle Part 2
Hi Guys, Just a quick note to update you on life on the road in Argentina so far.
Bariloche is where we have now arrived on January 21st 2013. We decided not to cycle to the bottom of Argentina because of the stories we heard about the Mucho Biento meaning the strong winds in Spanish. We met some motorcylists who went down the east side and they were scared to death trying to keep their bikes on the road and said never again. Also getting up the west side from the bottom means a 200km stretch of gravel road which is no fun. So we turned to the right after leaving Bahia Blanca and headed west across the country but still encountered vicious winds and hot deserts for days and days. I was calling Argentina "The Bland Land" after days of no scenery and everywhere there are fences on each side of the road beyond the messy ditches. Why they fence off the desert and scrub lands we do not know. Hey we did see an Armadillo however.
The Argentine people have been very nice, generous and friendly and as such we have made many friends. Once they get into their vehicles they are not very nice in the way we do not get much respect whilst sharing the road with them but most people in trucks and cars do toot us and many wave and give us the thumbs up which is nice. We were in Villa Regina when a group of teenage girls approached us and were all excited. We learnt that they had seen us on the Discovery channel because we were filmed and interviewed at a previous town but did not know what program or channel that would be on. So we felt quite chuffed.
After being on the road for so many days and after cycling so many hills on this side of the country, our legs have turned to jelly such that we are so exhausted that we have rented a little house for a couple of weeks here in Bariloche. This town is very touristy and expensive but we are meeting lots of English speaking people for the first time. We get by with our little Spanish but we cannot have a conversation with the people so it is lovely to be able to talk easily to people we meet here. This area is very beautiful but it is a worn out town all set up for tourists who come here for trekking and skiing and as such there are many hotels and restaurants but as usual in Argentina, all the towns are a bit broken like many Eastern European towns. The Government has many financial problems and corruption is extreme and inflation runs at 35% we are lead to believe. There is 4G on most networks however unlike Britain and there are lots of new cars and commercial vehicles but there are also very old US vehicles along with many broken old Renaults and others. The income of most is only about $1000USD and food is so expensive but electricity and piped water is very cheap so it tends to even out and one can live cheaper than in Europe for example. Life here does seem so remote and disconnected from the rest of the world. It feels like South America is another world. The odd bit of TV we have seen appears to show a lot about this continent and not so much about the others. We have been surprised how so few people speak English at all. Even when we say "No Espanol" they still carry on and if we listen carefully we generally get the drift because we hear the same things over and over like where did you cycle from and where are you going and you must be mad (loco) to be on the roads and so on.
So after 52 days it actually feels like we have been here for many months but that is what is so good about travel in that you tend to get many more memories and action than living in one place and going to the same job every day. It is like gaining more time in one's life.
The plan now is after a while resting we head off to Chile. The road to Chile over the Andes, is about 20kms from here and although the road climbs another 1000 metres there are towns up there and many lovely lakes so it should be interesting. It is 339kms to Osorno in Chile so more on that mission next month. We have to come back to Argentina however because we will not be cycling the hottest and driest place on earth which is northern Chile so we will head east from Santiago, over the Andes again, to Mendoza then cycle up through northern Argentina to Bolivia.
We did get a bit worried here a few times as some towns were over 150kms apart and there are no houses or people between them so food and water was a problem such that on a few occasions we had to flag down motorists to give us some water and surprisingly that was successful. We just cannot carry enough water because we carry 3 litres each but we need over 5 litres each per cycling day because it has been so hot at over 37 degrees most days and of course with the wind thrown into the mix we get extremely thirsty. Of course, because there are so few towns on the route, we wild camp at such places like behind highway police stations, YPF petrol stations, Lakes and rivers, and one night we had to climb over the endless fences to set up camp in the desert. One German guy touring the country in a rental car stopped after we flagged traffic down for water and he gave us a 1.5L water bottle then he drove to the next town and bought three more and drove back many kms and gave them to us. 1.5L of water is typically 10 pesos which is £1.30. It is so weird that a 2.25L bottle of Coca Cola is more expensive than a litre of Vodka or Gin. How can water cost 10 pesos and the same size of spirits is 25 pesos and petrol is 7 pesos. Bottled water is more expensive than petrol! How come?
The traffic is a problem because the roads are so narrow. The other day Mary was knocked over by a car because they follow each other too closely and cannot see that there are cyclists on their right. They just cannot imagine that anyone would dare cycle out there. Fortunately Mary is OK but has bruises and a couple of cuts as she landed on the rocks beside the road. The driver and another car did stop and aided her. Of course Mary's biggest concern was, was the bike ok and yes it was. When there are two trucks passing on both sides of the road, we have to get off the road so we are constantly using our mirrors, in fact more than we ever have. The traffic will be much worse in the other South American countries so we just have to live with it because as far as the traffic pecking order goes, we are at the bottom.
It is now time to get cleaned up and go to a party we have been invited to at a lakeside backpackers hostel which we thought about staying at but it was 300 pesos for a private room and 180 for us to stay in a dormitory room but after I saw how messy the backpackers were within those rooms, We decided we couldn't handle that hence the little house on the hill which we love is 220 pesos per day. 7.9 pesos to £1 so it is expensive by our standards. By the way we do not have any guide books with us, like Lonely Planet.
Our route cycled to date at 23rd Jan 2013 is Buenos Aires to Bariloche and is here.
I will edit the movie and post it on our YouTube Channel asap: Morrisonlifedotcom
The Video Slideshow in 1080P on YouTube is here
Description of the Photos below (Clockwise from Top Left)
1. One of many lovely scenes as we start climbing in the Andes
2. Power lines do over power the skyline in places
3. Cycling by one of many lakes on the western side of Argentina.
4. Mary cycling by the lake.
5. One of a few decent downhill runs and this time to camp by the lake in the distance.
6. Watching a movie on Mary's Asus Transformer Pad inside the tent close to the river.
7. There doesn't seem to be a limit on how steep they can make the roads up hill.
8. It's incredible when you look back to see how far you have come but what a hill.
9. In the heat of the Patagonian desert
10. Bariloche from the Hills nearby.