I’m finding out that not having a “goal” per se affords a entirely different riding experience. The old adage, “If you don’t know where you’re going any road will get you there,” definitely holds true for bike touring – in the most positive sense possible. North Americans are so goal driven (including me!). If we’re not heading towards something big, we’re wasting time. Not so in Argentina. Here, in Latin America, there is value in discovery, slowing down, conversation, relaxing, and just letting things unfold without a plan. While noble on the surface, these concepts are hard to embrace and adapt to (can you guys just bust a move for f#*k sake and get on with the plan). Fortunately, after about six months, I think I’m starting to understand the beauty in this other way of being. By letting go of a fixed outcome, I’m allowing other experiences in that I would have missed before. Who’d thunk!
To continue with a chronology of my ride…
I’m continuing up the Atlantic coast of Argentina. Long-ass distances all the way. For example, from my jumping off point in Puerto Madryn, I rode 88 miles to the first one-horse town and then another 75miles the second day to my destination of Las Grutas. And, I was lucky there was a tiny hamlet in between. Often times it’s just continuous pampas and you pitch your tent under the stars (hoping there are stars that night) or, in a best case scenario, you find an abandoned house or structure with a roof to protect you against the elements. I have to say that I really enjoy these long rides and the nights in between. Although, contradictory, I often sleep like crap in my tent (was that a person, a bird, or big-foot I just heard about five inches away from my head?).
Las Grutas is a summer beach-resort hangout. I’m now biking in the Southern Hemisphere’s fall which equals… NO ONE HERE. Love it! My French friend, Matteo, texted me to tell me he had a hostel all to himself. We were literally alone in this huge hostel for three days. This means a take-over of the kitchen, my own room in which to freely run around butt- naked, and my own bathroom to wash my dirty clothes. To a biker who is always sharing space, or simply has no space, this is freaking paradise!
From Las Grutas, Matteo and I rode two days together up the coast to Viedma, again, two long riding days stopping in the middle of nowhere to pass the night. This time in an old abandoned farm house (honestly, I don’t do this often by myself. My imagination is extremely vivid. To much Twlight Zone when I was a kid!).
Viedma is a town on the boarder between Buenos Aires Province and Rio Negro Province. The river Rio Negro divides the two provinces. I was excited to see that people were really active in and around the river. Most of the time, people in these parts work on their farms and extra-curriculum exercise is not part of their lives, but these are city folk and; therefore, different rules apply. Although Viedma has its charm, the hostel couldn’t compete with Las Grutas, so we only stayed a night and took off the next morning for Bahia Blanca.
From Bahia Blanca (the biggest city I’ve been in since Mendoza about three months ago), Matteo and I part ways once again. He went on to follow the coast line to Buenos Aires, and I headed up to the hill country.
Tornquist, Villa Ventana and Sierra de la Ventana are towns in the Sierras of Buenos Aires Province. Tornquist is a town establish by the son of a German immigrant in the early 1800’s. This fellow bought up a lot of the land in this region and built his farm or Estancia which included the highest “hill” in the province, Cerro de Tres Picos. I wanted to hike to the top of this hill (cerro) but was getting all kinds of conflicting information on how to do this, so I decided to take matters into my own hands and just ride out to the estancia and ask first hand. Bueno, that didn’t really work either! On Tuesday morning, after a 15k ride on some of the worst “ripio” (gravel/washboard) to date, I was told that I could only hike the Mt. from Thus – Sun. and that I couldn’t stay at the Estancia or pitch my tent on their grounds because I wasn’t German and I didn’t make my reservation from Buenos Aires…really? Apparently, old rules die hard in this neck of the woods. The German vacationers at the estancia offered to pay for me and find me space, but, alas, burocracy trumps spontaneity, so I headed back to Tornquist to regroup.
On Wednesday morning, the receptionist at the hotel I stayed in called the radio station to alert them to the fact that there was an outsider in their midst. Ten minutes later, I found myself being interviewed live on the local station. Let’s just say that my life will never be the same! Suddenly, I have a faint idea of what it feels like to be “famous!” Seriously, the rest of the day I was pulled over on the side of the road to talk, people messaged me on FB, a young boy ran to get his dad when he saw me coming and a couple invited me to coffee. It was exhausting! Whew, I’m glad that day is over!
Now, after a good rest, fresh air, and beautiful scenery, I’m ready to put my head down and go forth into the huge metropolis of Buenos Aires where threats of thieves, thick traffic and polluted air wait to suck me up and spit me out. And the adventure continues…
Note: If anyone can help me post photos and the interview here on this blog post from my email, I would be eternally grateful! If I knew a teenager, my problems would be solved in a Nano-second.