Bike Journal: Argentina / Chile 2011 Sean Nichols' Bike Journal detailing his trip across Argentina and Chile in January, 2011 en-ca Sat, 29 Jan 2011 19:34:05 UT Sat, 29 Jan 2011 19:34:05 UT Travel Bicycling Home-brew CMS, FTW! Bike Journal: Argentina / Chile 2011 48 48 Jan. 28, 2011: Santiago, Chile Sat, 29 Jan 2011 19:34:05 UT 20110128 Some advice for those planning to bike through Chile: don't bother. Nothing good can come of it.<BR /><BR />Well, that's not entirely true. Some parts are very nice, and have great biking infrastructure. Others... well, I'm getting ahead of myself.<BR /><BR />A lovely, leisurely, slightly-downhill-and-not-into-the-wind-for-once 12km from Los Andes through trees and glades and the village of Calle Larga brought me to the start of the autopista into Santiago.<BR /><BR />And a big sign saying no bicycles on the highway.<BR /><BR />Uh-oh.<BR /><BR />No, seriously. Uh-oh.<BR /><BR />It's not like there are any other roads. There are still mountains around and narrow passes through them, and there's only one road through the pass, and if bikes aren't allowed, then I'm not going that way, and the next alternate route is an extra 100km around and my plane leaves <EM>tomorrow</EM> and it's that kind of uh-oh.<BR /><BR />I spend an hour or so exploring the side roads, wondering if any of them happen to parallel the freeway, but just not be marked as such on my map. Nope. I return to the sign, get off the bike and stand, staring at it. Sure this is Chile, but it's still Latin America. It's very possible that the sign is a piece of officialese; only there because the highway code says it has to be there, but not the sort of thing that anyone actually cares about? Am I just being too Canadian?<BR /><BR />I keep looking back at my map. The next shortest alternative route is roughly 140km from here, back through Los Andes, swinging around west and coming at Santiago from the side. 140km. And it's still only just past 1:00.<BR /><BR />I think I can do this! I'll get into Santiago late, but it's Santiago; not like there will be a shortage of hotels to pick from. And I'm not doing any biking tomorrow anyway.<BR /><BR />Okay, let's get this road on the show.<BR /><BR />I get back on my bike, head back towards Los Andes, swing around west, make it a futher 40km (again) out of town, and then discover that, in the year or three since my map was printed, the highway has been upgraded into an autopista and there is another big sign saying no bicycles on the highway.<BR /><BR />*cry*<BR /><BR />I decide to chance it, in the hopes that maybe I really am being too Canadian.<BR /><BR />I make it 4km. Then a local friendly carabinero (police officer) stops me. I'm about to break into my best "I'm just a stupid tourist and don't know what I'm doing" routine, but there's no need. He's not a jerk &mdash; is actually quite friendly and almost apologetic about it. But I really do need to get off the freeway at the next exit.<BR /><BR />At the next exit, there are about 2 blocks of paved road, ten buildings and nothing else. The only roads out of the village are the onramps back to the autopista. I get off the bike and walk along the edge of a farm, parallel to the highway for the 1km or so until the following exit, to the town of Llay Llay.<BR /><BR />Llay Llay is actually decently sized &mdash; about <A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" BORDER="0" ALIGN="absmiddle" WIDTH="16" HEIGHT="16" /></A> <A HREF="">20 thousand people</A>. Nevertheless, there are only 3 highways of consequence leading out of town, and they are all... you guessed it.<BR /><BR />So I suppose this is it, the end of the road. 85km and change from Santiago. It all feels... a little anticlimactic.<BR /><BR />Most of Chile's older highways are great for biking; indeed many have bicycle routes along their length. Good signage. Bicycle signals in the towns, the whole works. But in their drive to modernize the whole country (Chile has recently been recognized as Latin America's <A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" BORDER="0" ALIGN="absmiddle" WIDTH="16" HEIGHT="16" /></A> <A HREF="">first developed nation</A> by the OECD), the older roads are being turned wholesale into freeways, and leaving bicycles and other sustainable means of transportation &mdash; quite literally &mdash; behind in the dust.<BR /><BR />It's tempting to try to turn this into some kind of parable about the evils of modernization, but that would be too clich&eacute;d... and quite wrong. The many advancements in health care, housing, transparency in government, the whole works, more than make up for it.<BR /><BR />But still... there are speed bumps around.<BR /><BR /><BR />So I could take my bike with me when I get on the bus to Santiago, I suppose... but what would be the point? I make up a quick sign: "free to a good home," and leave it chained to a pole, with the keys in the lock. I hope it makes somebody's life better. <UL> <LI>Uh-oh.<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>Vineyards and the long way around.<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>No pasaje para bicicletas.<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>It was always going to be like this, one way or the other. I was originally going to leave it in Santiago, but I've decided I like the smaller towns better anyway. And with any luck, it will do more good here. I think it's more appropriate this way. It's where the bike belongs.<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> </UL> Jan. 27, 2011: Los Andes, V, Chile Sat, 29 Jan 2011 15:14:03 UT 20110127 No rambling blah-blah today, just pictures. <UL> <LI>Highway out of Los Penitentes. Wind was gone, or at least had mostly died down.<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>Aconcagua, the highest peak in the Americas (indeed, anywhere outside the Himalayas).<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>And again. It's only about 20km from the highway, making it one of the most accessible of the world's major peaks.<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>Pretty mountain streams are pretty.<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>Las Cuevas, the last town on the highway before the top.<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>A real mountain meal. My first - and only - lunch in Argentina that didn't consist of empanadas.<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>I could have taken the "new" (as of 1980) highway through the tunnel (at only 3200m of elevation), but why do things the easy way?<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>No roads up that valley...<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>The most welcome sight in the world today, the <EM>Paso Cristo Redentor</EM>!<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>You'd better damn well believe it!<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>A couple of the tourists on one of the buses were from Airdrie, and had approving things to say about the Calgary Flames shirt I happened to be wearing.<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>That over there is Argentina.<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>And <STRONG>that</STRONG> is Chile.<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <A NAME="" /><LI>This is probably as high as I will ever take a bicycle... unless I get it into my mind to, you know, bike across the Himalayas or something. (Actually, according to Wikipedia, the sign is a lie, and the pass is "only" 3854m. But the principle still applies.)<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>Starting on the long long downhill.<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>Well into Chile now; rickety-looking footbridges like this cross the river every so often.<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>This blows my mind. That peak is 200m lower than the pass from which I have descended in less than two hours. Including 45min at the border crossing. That's a fast descent!<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>Chile so far is full of cacti.<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>At long last! Internet!<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>I've seen both the spellings "Restaurant" and "Restaurante" everywhere, and am still unclear on the distinction. But I'm pretty sure this place is just messing with me. (Or is Russian.)<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> </UL><BR /><BR /><IMG SRC="/images/wineglass_icon.jpg" ALIGN="bottom" /><EM><SMALL>Tonight's wine: <SPAN CLASS="blag_underline">Santa Rita 120 Reserva Especial Cabernet Sauvignon 2004</SPAN>. Om nom nom! Maybe it was the change from all the Malbecs I'd been drinking but this was really nice and sweet and went perfectly with the Bife Churizo.</SMALL></EM> Jan. 26, 2011: Los Penitentes, ME, Argentina Sat, 29 Jan 2011 00:21:44 UT 20110126 The accents up here in the mountains sure are thick. I've already noticed the South American penchant for dropping consonants, but the locals raise it to an art form. By the time they're done with the sentence, there are no consonants left, just a long string of consecutive vowels (they need to set up an exchange program with some Balkan state).<BR /><BR />The difference between "aqui" (here) and "alli" (there) becomes purely academic, and poor Uspallata gains an alternate existance as "Oowhaya'a."<BR /><BR />So. Oowhaya'a, when there is electricity and daylight, is a cute town. Still a little touristy for my taste, though. It is a true oasis of treefulness in the surrounding Andean desert.<BR /><BR />Having not had a chance to upload photos for a few days (I could have in Mendoza, but was anxious to be on my way), I started the day by looking for an internet cafe. There was only one in town, and I was not allowed to connect my camera. When I tried, the computer froze and the clerk came over, admonishing me not to do that, with full tsk-ing and finger-wagging on display. Well, then! It would have to wait. I took a few photos, then got back on my bike.<BR /><BR />Less than 1km out of town, the desert was back.<BR /><BR />But pretty. Finally, the air was getting a bit cooler. There were those breezes I was looking for!<BR /><BR />My ostensible destination was Los Penitentes, 60km from Uspallata, and 25 from the continental divide. At Punta de Vacas (55km from Uspallata and 30 from the divide), the road turned a corner, up out of the Rio Mendoza valley, and suddenly I encountered the stiffest headwind imaginable. I've experienced <A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" BORDER="0" ALIGN="absmiddle" WIDTH="16" HEIGHT="16" /></A> <A HREF="">stronger winds</A> before, but not very often. I tried riding into the wind, but it was just far too difficult; instead I got off the bike and started walking it. So much for fresh mountain breezes. The wind kept picking up sand and grit from the ground and flinging it into my face and arms. It stung. A lot.<BR /><BR />My internet research (by now I am quite wary of this phrase) had indicated numerous hotels in Los Penitentes. This struck me as being a little suspicious, as the town was not very big; did not even figure on most highway signs. I started worrying about all kinds of things, as it was certainly getting late. What if there were no hotels in Los Penitentes? I would have to continue &mdash; but how far? How far would I have to walk into this stinging wind? What if there were no hotels anywhere before the border? Would I have to walk all the way to the top? Would I have to cross at night? No photos! Would I have to make the crazily-steep descent into Chile in darkness? (Stupid, stupid, stupid, <EM>stupid</EM>!!)<BR /><BR />After some walking, the reason for the discrepancy clarified, as Los Penitentes came into view. It's a ski resort! The entire "town" of Los Penitentes is a gas station and 5 or 10 hotels in a cluster on the side of the highway, with chairlifts descending to their midst!<BR /><BR />Well, it's a ski resort during the winter, one presumes. In the summer, it's mostly just eerie and abandoned, the chairlifts creaking and groaning in the wind.<BR /><BR />But! But! One of the hotels is open all year around! Hooray! I have no words to describe the relief I felt when I saw <EM>that</EM> sign. <UL> <LI>The mountains east of Uspallata.<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>For Brooke: The (literal) Road to Santiago.<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>Andes.<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>Andes again.<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>And the road through them.<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>"Incan Archeological Ruins," according to the sign. Okay, then.<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>Picnic lunch (more empanadas; surprise, surprise) was beside a mountain stream.<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>This is <A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" BORDER="0" ALIGN="absmiddle" WIDTH="16" HEIGHT="16" /></A> <A HREF="">already higher</A> than I've ever been on a bike. Let's keep going!<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>The road followed the Rio Mendoza up until Punta de Vacas.<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>Los Penitentes, in its entirety.<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>Nobody home.<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>...<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> </UL>The quite large hotel was mostly empty. There were about 20 other guests, all part of one or another of three or four mountaineering groups who were using it as a base station to tackle nearby Aconcagua.<BR /><BR />I listened in on their conversations for a while (mostly English and German). It was full of "Have you gone up yet?" and "Yeah, we just came down this morning" punctuated with advice from the latter to the former.<BR /><BR />Briefly, I struck up a conversation with an Alaskan fellow named Matt. It's still weird to be talking in English.<BR /><BR />Clearly, there wasn't much happening in the town. I wandered around for a few minutes and took photos. There was no internet (because of the wind, or such was the story). The TV only displayed 13 channels of static (also because of the wind, or perhaps just because it was off-season, and mountain climbers aren't much for Spanish TV?).<BR /><BR />So I had dinner, made an early night of it and went to bed.<BR /><BR />Because tomorrow! Tomorrow, I go over the top of the world!<BR /><BR /><IMG SRC="/images/wineglass_icon.jpg" ALIGN="bottom" /><EM><SMALL>Tonight's wine: <SPAN CLASS="blag_underline">xxx</SPAN>. I did far too good a job of rationing out my Argentinian pesos. I only had 40 left, and didn't want to spend 35 of them on wine. Not when I would still need water, etc. the following day.</SMALL></EM> Jan. 25, 2011: Uspallata, ME, Argentina Fri, 28 Jan 2011 13:45:30 UT 20110125 I've had fantasies for a while that when I got to the mountains, there would be fresh air and cool, refreshing breezes rustling through trees.<BR /><BR /><STRONG><EM>HA!</EM></STRONG><BR /><BR />It is still stifling hot. There are no trees, and no shade. It is just like the pampas, except rocky, and all uphill.<BR /><BR />Today, I went about 130km (hard to know precisely, as will be seen), making this the longest day except for the 174km Jun&iacute;n-to-Rufino slog last Friday. But today I got to add a km-and-change of altitude gain.<BR /><BR />The day started out nicely enough &mdash; leaving Mendoza, cycling through the vineyards and climbing along the Avenida Panamericana. And then I discover that the existence of highway 82 from Cacheuta to Potrerillos is mostly wishful thinking on the part of my mapmaker.<BR /><BR />The rest of us have the priviledge of living in a world where that stretch is projected for some point in the future, but as yet remains unfinished. Instead, we get to follow a poorly-marked detour that leads some 10-15km back towards Mendoza, downhill (undoing all the hard work we've already spent climbing out of the plains), before skirting a bunch of oil refineries and dumping us back on the main highway (Ruta Nacional 7, which I'd been following since Luj&aacute;n in Buenos Aires), with majestic unceremony, in the middle of nowhere.<BR /><BR />This is roughly when I started feeling the aforementioned stifling heat. My water was gone in no time (note to self: <EM>two</EM> 1&frac12;L bottles in the future), and I was counting down the km to Potrerillos.<BR /><BR />Now my initial plan had been to do the climb from Mendoza to the Paso Cristo Redentor in two days. Once the bus intervened, I decided I had the flexibility to reschedule this into three. Better for altitude acclimatization, and all that.<BR /><BR />So my first-day destination of Uspallata had been revised to Potrerillos. Internet research indicated the existence of a hotel in Potrerillos. When I got close, signs on the roadside indicated the existence of a hotel in Potrerillos. I followed the signs right up to the point when they suggested I take an exit from a roundabout that led to no more than a clump of bushes and a rusty fence.<BR /><BR />Then I decided that a bit more discernment in my choice of lodgings was in order.<BR /><BR />I asked around: "Is there a hotel here?"<BR /><BR />"No. No hotel."<BR /><BR />"But the signs...?"<BR /><BR />*shrug*<BR /><BR />Thanks again, Internet!<BR /><BR />This being resort country, I did find one place that was willing to rent me a (4-person) cabin for less than I'd paid for hotel rooms in San Luis and Mendoza the previous nights. The only catch: it was 25km away on a gravel road along which I'd have to return the following day. Sarah Palin has done a good job of summing up my reaction to this idea.<BR /><BR />Fine, then: Uspallata it is! I set out on this 55km journey at about 7PM. <UL> <LI>Andes. Can you spot the moon?<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>Mmm, fruit stand just outside of Mendoza. Second breakfast!<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>Andes again.<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>Back on the Ruta Nacional, following my detour. The sign going the other way said Mendoza: 34km, so by my arithmetic, that's 541km the buses ate up. A little over 1/3 the total.<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>Light shining through the clouds in Potrerillos. That's the "hotel" on the immediate (foreground) right.<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>For the first time, I wished I'd brought a tent so I could sleep out. At least, until the storm appeared.<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>Signs indicating altitude appear occasionally along the highway. Mendoza is at 750-ish metres, so I'd climbed a little over that amount again so far.<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> </UL>Remember how I'd said, the previous time, that it would be the last time I biked on these highways after dark? Yeah, well...<BR /><BR />I was still 20km short of Uspallata when the sky started growing dark, and the highway, now well and truly in the mountains, started going through tunnels. As much as I dislike pulling off the highway to let the trucks go by, at least there usually <EM>is</EM> a place to pull off. In the tunnels... not so much. Seriously, seriously scary.<BR /><BR />I was still 14km short of Uspallata when the lightning started, and I heard the echoey growls of thunder.<BR /><BR />"<EM>Crap!</EM>"<BR /><BR />...isn't <EM>quite</EM> the word that went through my mind.<BR /><BR />It did wonders for my motivation, however. Those must have been the fastest 14km I've covered on this bike. And, again, they were uphill.<BR /><BR />I recalled the weather forecast I'd seen in a newspaper the previous day (I liked it so much, I wrote it down). "Muchas calor y tormentas para esta semana." Of course, "tormenta" just means storm, but I am amused by the transliterative approach. This week: heat and torment.<BR /><BR />At any rate, 6km out of town, the "Bienvenidos a Uspallata" sign coincided with the start of the pelting. 3km later, the pelting stopped. Just a brief mountain sprinkle; whew!<BR /><BR />The lightning did not stop, however.<BR /><BR />1km from the town centre, I saw a sign for a hotel (Uspallata, at least, has over a dozen hotels, so I wasn't &mdash; initially &mdash; too worried about finding a room). As I started pulling in, I saw a man fiddling around in the gatehouse. Then the lights to the gatehouse and the sign went dark. "Hm. Must have just filled up, or something," I thought, and returned to the road.<BR /><BR />150m later: Wait. It's not just the hotel lights that went out. All the street lights, and those in all the other businesses also just went out. That's strange.<BR /><BR />150m later, as another bolt of lightning cleaves the sky: Oh. I see.<BR /><BR />(In my defense, I was pretty tired, and my brain wasn't firing on all cylinders.)<BR /><BR />By that point, I was pretty much in the centre of town, and had my pick of darkened hotels. All the cars parked along the side of the roads with their headlights on were a tad ominous.<BR /><BR />I went into one, picking my way with my battery-powered bike headlight, and asked if they had a room. No problem! ... but could they borrow my light for a while?<BR /><BR />(All's well that ends well. The power returned to the town less than an hour later, and I still had plenty of time for dinner. Wi-fi took a little bit longer to return.)<BR /><BR /><IMG SRC="/images/wineglass_icon.jpg" ALIGN="bottom" /><EM><SMALL>Tonight's wine: <SPAN CLASS="blag_underline">Juan Suter OWS Malbec 2005</SPAN>. Not bad. I was going to go for something else, but the waiter strongly recommended this one. My only complaint: there was a lot of sediment in the bottle. Fine as far as that goes, but why recommend a wine with a lot of sentiment, then not decant it?</SMALL></EM> Jan. 24, 2011: Mendoza, ME, Argentina Fri, 28 Jan 2011 01:23:32 UT 20110124 Fifth (and last) Argentinian province.<BR /><BR />I took the bus again, this time doing things in the right order, I figured: worst-case scenario, the bike can't go on-board, I just swallow the cost and buy another ticket. I mean, seriously. They're 17 dollars. I can do that more than a few times before I have money-flow problems.<BR /><BR />But of course it was a total non-issue. Gave the baggage kid (a different one, thankfully) a fifty, as before, and we were off. The on-board movie was some local production; somewhat soap-opera-y and somewhat slapstick-y.<BR /><BR />The scenery outside had turned rather arid and desert-like. The road was basically one long construction zone for the 133km from Desaguadero to San Martin. The weather was full of thunder and water. A perfect place &mdash; and time &mdash; to take the bus.<BR /><BR />When the rain and construction left together in search of a better party somewhere else, there were vineyards everywhere. The roads, houses, all infrastructure, was in a much better shape than previously. Clearly Mendoza is a much richer part of the country. <UL> <LI>Cathedral in San Luis.<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>Didn't Radiohead write a song about this place?<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>Another street market in San Luis. This time during the day.<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>The Sierras just outside of town.<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>In Mendoza now: one of the various parks.<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>...<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>Sometimes you come across the strangest things.<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> </UL>Ah, Mendoza.<BR /><BR />It is a very, very pretty town.<BR /><BR />It is also <EM>super</EM> touristy. I am instantly plunged back into the world of McDonalds and Subway. Everything is Wine Tours this, Adventure Tours that, and tourist info center the other.<BR /><BR />People here speak English and <EM>IT IS WEIRDING ME OUT.</EM><BR /><BR />Seriously, even in Buenos Aires, people don't speak English. Other foreigners aside, I have heretofore spoken English to precisely three people in Argentina: the passport & immigration officer at the airport, and the two clerks at the Buenos Aires youth hostel.<BR /><BR />All of a sudden, it's not even just hoteliers, but street corner kiosk proprietors that deal in English.<BR /><BR />At dinner, I ended up seated next to a table of boisterous Australians whose conversation seemed to orbit around the various unfortunate side-effects of partying too hard.<BR /><BR />I can't wait to get out of here.<BR /><BR /><IMG SRC="/images/wineglass_icon.jpg" ALIGN="bottom" /><EM><SMALL>Tonight's wine: <SPAN CLASS="blag_underline">Carcassonne Cl&aacute;sico Tinto 2010</SPAN>. I'd seen this wine with its distinctive yellow label on display in many places, but never (it seemed) on the menu. So finally I broke down and asked. I kind-of like it. Rather inoffensive, a bit alkaline.</SMALL></EM> Jan. 23, 2011: San Luis, SL, Argentina Fri, 28 Jan 2011 00:58:21 UT 20110123 Today's episode: Public Transit (or: how <EM>not</EM> to take a bicycle on the bus).<BR /><BR />So my internet research into transporting bicycles unearthed the advice that the prospective traveler should not buy a ticket until he or she was certain that the bus would be able to take the bike. (Notwithstanding the size of one's bribe, the baggage compartment is of limited &mdash; and fixed &mdash; size, and sometimes a bike just <EM>can't</EM> be accomodated). Were this to be the case, one's ticket price would not be refunded.<BR /><BR />With this in mind, I showed up at the Laboulaye bus station an hour or so before the bus' scheduled 14:50 departure, didn't buy a ticket, but settled down to wait. Shortly before the bus arrived, I disassembled the machine, used my cable lock to cinch the parts together as tight as I could (aided by a roll of packing tape), stuffed the seat, pedals and other small pieces into my backpack, and was done just as the bus came into view.<BR /><BR />"Is there room for this to go to Mendoza?" I asked the baggage kid in my best Spanish, slipping him a fifty (about $CA 12). One brief argument between him and the bus driver later, my bike and backpack were tagged for Mendoza and safely on board. I was asked for my ticket, and discovered that the answer, "Oh, I just have to go get it," while pointing to the ticket office, was the <EM>wrong</EM> answer.<BR /><BR />Their faces instantly soured, and I could feel the glares burning into my back as I ran for the ticket office, money in fist. Enlightenment came when the ticket agent languidly hunt-and-pecked at his computer before turning to me: "I can't. The bus is full."<BR /><BR />One of those interminable ringing-in-ears pauses before he spoke again: "There's a seat as far as San Luis?"<BR /><BR />"Yes! Good! I'll take it!" I grabbed the ticket, left him the 6 pesos in change as an impromptu tip, and ran out to see the bus pulling out of the parking lot. With my bike and backpack still "safely" onboard.<BR /><BR />Aaaaaaaack!!!!<BR /><BR />I ran after the bus, caught up with it when the driver miraculously turned out to be the only person in Argentina to stop at a stop sign (with no cross-traffic, anyway), banged on the door, and was able to clamber on board. Handed the ticket to the scowling conductor, and minced guiltily to my seat. <UL> <LI>The bus station in Laboulaye. My chariot had yet to arrive.<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>Statue in the San Luis city plaza.<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>Night market in San Luis.<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> </UL>The on-board movie was "Mr. Bean's Holiday," dubbed into staticky (i.e.: barely comprehensible) Spanish. It seemed... more than a little apropos.<BR /><BR />The scenery out the window was more flat, featureless pampas, of the sort I'd already been riding through for days. I don't feel like I really missed much by taking the bus over this part. Which is, you know, good.<BR /><BR />When we arrived in San Luis, I went to collect my bags.<BR /><BR />"I thought you were going to Mendoza?" asked the baggage kid.<BR /><BR />"I <EM>was</EM>..." I started, but the baggage kid didn't want to hear it. He just started pushing luggage around, trying to get at my mis-tagged stuff. I couldn't quite hear what he was muttering in the process, but I'm sure it had something to do with "damn bloody Gringos."<BR /><BR />Thanks for nothing, Internet!<BR /><BR />From San Luis (a much bigger city than Laboulaye), there are buses leaving every hour or so for Mendoza. I briefly considered getting a ticket and going the rest of the way right away, but decided against it. I'd had enough buses for one day.<BR /><BR />Instead, I found an overpriced hotel downtown, and wandered around in many semi-concentric / semi-overlapping circles in search of an internet cafe open on Sunday.<BR /><BR />San Luis is an interesting city. It's visually attractive, being at the base of the Sierras &mdash; the first range of Andean foothills. It has one of my favourite (thus far) central plazas and cathedrals, with huge overhanging trees in which live thousands of noisily-chirping avian animals. (Birds? Bats? I'm not sure, and couldn't quite catch a glimpse).<BR /><BR />But it's odd; there's this subtle undercurrent of &mdash; I'm not quite sure what &mdash; in the people. Everyone seems ever-so-slightly on edge, for some reason that I couldn't begin to understand. I'm not even certain it's not my imagination?<BR /><BR />Maybe it's just me and my bus experience, projecting.<BR /><BR /><IMG SRC="/images/wineglass_icon.jpg" ALIGN="bottom" /><EM><SMALL>Tonight's wine: <SPAN CLASS="blag_underline">Graffigna Syrah Cabernet Sauvignon 2009</SPAN>. It's four days later, and I have completely forgotten what I thought of this wine. Which... maybe says something?</SMALL></EM> Jan. 22, 2011: Laboulaye, CÓ, Argentina Mon, 24 Jan 2011 02:16:05 UT 20110122 Oh, today was a scorcher! 41-and-something degrees.<BR /><BR />The headwind was also back.<BR /><BR />Which meant that Laboulaye was as far as I was going today. Even over the course of that 65-odd km trip, I was more than a little concerned about sunstroke. I bought a 1.5L bottle of water as I was leaving Rufino, but it was gone by the midpoint. And I'm well and truly on the pampas. It's often upward of 15 to 20 km between trees: I maybe passed 4 clumps (to call them "groves" would be misrepresenting the fact) all day. By the time I got to Laboulaye, I was exhausted, woozy, and quite convinced I was going no further.<BR /><BR />So. Tomorrow starts the bus hunt in earnest. <UL> <LI>I only passed through a small corner of Santa Fe, and am already in C&oacute;rdoba.<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>Wait. That needs a proper welcome.<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>Canada dry? Really? (Protip: no. ca&ntilde;ada &ne; Canada)<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>That's a... lot of onions. I approve!<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>Church in Laboulaye.<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>This far from Buenos Aires. And so ends the road, for now.<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> </UL>After the crappy day on the road, I rewarded myself by splurging on another hotel with free wi-fi. The proprietor was v. interested in me and my bike.<BR /><BR />Laboulaye is a decent-sized town, but very dusty and sleepy. Or maybe it's just because it's the weekend. I found a number of parillas, but they were all take-out only, which isn't really what I wanted.<BR /><BR />Eventually I found one with a sit-down "comedor" section that was very... working class. There was no menu, or anything resembling a selection of meals; no real options of any kind. Indeed I only had to make one decision. I sat down and the server just asked: <EM>&iquest;vino?</EM> Not: "What kind of wine?" and not: "Do you want wine or something else?"<BR /><BR />Just: "Do you want wine? Yes or no."<BR /><BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" BORDER="0" ALIGN="absmiddle" WIDTH="16" HEIGHT="16" /></A> <A HREF="">&iexcl;naturalmente!</A><BR /><BR />So I was brought out a bottle of wine (cold? doubleyou-tee-eff is with these Argentinians and the horrible things they do to their wine?), and a tray of meat. And that was that. Said tray contained about a dozen or so pieces; half of which I recognized (short ribs, steak, chorizo, the ever-present dark bean sausage, etc. I'm pretty sure one was liver). And the other half... well. I certainly didn't recognize them at all. I asked what they were called, and my dictionary didn't recognize them either. Based on the complete unfamiliarity of taste and texture, I rather suspect that some of them were from parts of animals that I'd rather not know about.<BR /><BR />It also came with a little dish of salsa verde, which I had never previously encountered at a (sit-down) parilla, but which went quite well with the pieces. There was only one thing on the tray that I was unable to finish, although a few of the others were certainly helped by the salsa verde.<BR /><BR />The place was otherwise full of burly men cheering on the futbol game on the TV. I'm sorry I didn't think to bring my camera. All in all, it was one of the more interesting dinners I've ever had. I'm glad to have tried that once... but probably won't be doing it again.<BR /><BR /><IMG SRC="/images/wineglass_icon.jpg" ALIGN="bottom" /><EM><SMALL>Tonight's wine: <SPAN CLASS="blag_underline">Toro Viejo Cl&aacute;sico</SPAN>. It was what it was. Cold and not very good. But nevertheless the only thing they had.</SMALL></EM> Jan. 21, 2011: Rufino, SF, Argentina Sat, 22 Jan 2011 20:47:59 UT 20110121 <EM>One hundred and seventy-four kilometres!</EM><BR /><BR />Even with the stupid roads, and the stupid trucks, and the stupid mountain bike and the stupid heat.<BR /><BR />Admittedly, it was somewhat borne of necessity. There just aren't really any towns between Jun&iacute;n and Rufino that are big enough to have a hotel. Even when I was planning on biking the whole way, this stretch was going to be the longest single day, for precisely that reason. I remember warily eying this stretch on Google Earth before leaving Calgary, checking out all the towns on Wikipedia in an attempt to discern just how big they were. And... no. So I really had no choice but to buckle down, slather on sunscreen like nobody's business, eschew the midday siesta (I now have an armful of blisters to show for my trouble), and just go like mad.<BR /><BR />It was also v. much a case of fortune favouring the foolish. One of my concerns about going from East to West had been that the prevailing winds might, as would be the case in Canada, be against me. Sure enough, they have been. But today, for whatever reason, on the one day that I needed to make good time, they died down and allowed me to do my best.<BR /><BR /> <UL> <LI>I am in the lowlands (actually below sea level at some points), and the highway crosses many lakes.<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>There were many hundreds of different kinds of birds in the marshes around the lakes. I was too concerned about making time to stop and take too many photos. But these bright flamingos were especially striking.<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>With the exception of the lakes, the highway out of Jun&iacute;n was pretty flat and featureless for the most part. This photo contains as much shade as I saw for most of the day. See above re: sunburn.<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>Just outside Vedia. As in many countries, highway roundabouts provide an excellent occasion for public art.<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>Just crossed my first province! Goodbye to Buenos Aires, and hola to Santa Fe!<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> </UL>Even with all of the above, I didn't make it to Rufino until about midnight. Biking after dark through the Buenos Aires suburbs was one thing. But on the Ruta Nacional, with all the damn trucks, it was near suicidal. Also, by the time I got there, I didn't have much of a choice of hotels. Where I ended up was a step above the first night in Moreno, but not a very big step. At least the bathroom down the hall had plumbing, and there was electricity in the room. But my concern about catching bedbugs, or having to fend off a midnight robber, was greater.<BR /><BR />I do (as I write this the following day) seem to have survived without incident. But yeah: not doing that again.<BR /><BR />The one upside to biking through the dark was the nighttime scenery I would not have otherwise seen. I stopped for a quick break at one point, saw the southern cross (I've been in the southern hemisphere before, but too long ago and/or in areas that were too urban to remember seeing it) and a harvest moon rising above the lake. Along with hundreds and hundreds of fireflies in the reeds and marshes along the highway. I never realized before how <EM>bright</EM> those suckers were! Of course, the number of photos of any of this that came out at all: zero.<BR /><BR /><IMG SRC="/images/wineglass_icon.jpg" ALIGN="bottom" /><EM><SMALL>Tonight's wine: <SPAN CLASS="blag_underline">xxx</SPAN>. Too worried about making time. Dinner was empanadas and a bottle of <A HREF="">Ser</A> from a highway-side gas station.</SMALL></EM> Jan. 20, 2011: Junín, BA, Argentina Fri, 21 Jan 2011 18:04:23 UT 20110120 I think the worst part is the bloody Camiones.<BR /><BR />Argentina has no rail system to speak of when it comes to shipping freight (an interesting aside: all indications are that it used to; I am constantly coming across railway crossings, with the signs and everything, and rails still embedded in the roadway, but no rails on either side, just an overgrown right-of-way where it is clear that a railway used to run, but has not done for some time). So instead, the entire industry of the country relies on a neverending stream of trucks and semi-trailers plying the nation's highways. Now when a car or other private vehicle needs to pass me, no problem; there is plenty of room. But the trucks take up the entire lane, and then some (watching two of them pass each other on a particularly narrow stretch is sometimes a little cringe-inducing). Which means that I must pull off the road to let them pass. Except there is no shoulder, no nothing. There is typically a grassy verge on the side of the road, but it is often extremely soft, and I can't plod through that for more than a few metres. So I am brought to a halt until the truck passes and I can walk back onto the highway.<BR /><BR />And there's a truck passing me by approximately once every 2-3 minutes.<BR /><BR />So you can see how this frustrates any attempt to make decent time. Anyway. I made it to Jun&iacute;n fairly early. Unfortunately the next several towns are fairly small, and I didn't know what hotel availability would be like. In Carmen de Areco, there were two hotels in the whole town: when I arrived at 8:30, the first was completely full, and in the second (the aforementioned Hotel Isis), I managed to get the last available room in the place. None of the towns after Jun&iacute;n were even as big as Carmen de Areco, and I was unlikely to make it to any of them before about 8:00 at the earliest. So I decided the prudent thing would be to stop in Jun&iacute;n.<BR /><BR />Jun&iacute;n is actually a decent-sized city (the largest since Buenos Aires), and I had my choice of places to stay. <UL> <LI>Every now and then, one comes across a town with a name that is decidely not Spanish. I can't even begin to imagine how they pronounce this.<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>The hotel where I ended up staying had... "character"<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>It was actually a historic hotel (or so went the claim) that was in the process of being renovated (or so went the claim). It was filled with antiques (or so went...).<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>If nothing else, I think Jun&iacute;n had the nicest plaza of any town I've yet been in. (I never tire of them.)<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>And the requisite impressive buildings lining same.<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>The cobblestone streets &mdash; while annoying to navigate on the bike &mdash; were picturesque.<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> </UL>It was actually my original plan to stop in Jun&iacute;n on day 2 &mdash; hence Tuesday &mdash; anyway, before said plan went awry. The town is rather touristy, but it didn't take me long to decide I quite preferred the smaller, less-touristy places. Among other things, it was harder to find a decent parilla (although I did see a bunch on my way out of town the following morning; ah well) and instead decided to eat at a pizzeria. (Pizza being the 5th national culinary obsession, along with empanadas, helados (ice cream), Wiener schnitzel, and grilled meat.)<BR /><BR />The "Especial" pizza I had &mdash; mozzarella, ham, green olives, roasted red pepper, oregano and anchovies &mdash; may not be appearing on a Canadian menu any time soon, but it was actually really good.<BR /><BR /><IMG SRC="/images/wineglass_icon.jpg" ALIGN="bottom" /><EM><SMALL>Tonight's wine: <SPAN CLASS="blag_underline">Bodegas Lopez Vasco Viejo Tinto 2010</SPAN>. One of the more downscale offerings from Bodegas Lopez. But I still rather liked it. Was pleasant enough and went well with the pizza.</SMALL></EM> Jan. 19, 2011: Chacabuco, BA, Argentina Thu, 20 Jan 2011 20:38:18 UT 20110119 Well, this was an interesting day!<BR /><BR />After a wonderful evening, I woke up to extremely loud crashing and banging. Poking my head out the door led to the discovery that there was a thunderstorm situated, roughly, in the hotel courtyard. It being only 6AM, I went back to bed, hoping it would dissipate in the following few hours.<BR /><BR />It did not.<BR /><BR />I hung around the hotel as late as I could, but by 10:30 it was check-out time, and I had to hand in my key. The proprietor looked at me rather incredulously, verifying that: yes, I really <EM>did</EM> want to head out in that torrential downpour? She had a room available the following night, she assured me.<BR /><BR />Well, perhaps "want" wasn't the right word, but I felt a need to be on my way. The thunderstorm in Buenos Aires on Sunday had abated by about 2:00 or so, and I was crossing my fingers in the hopes that the same would be true of this one.<BR /><BR />I headed out toward the highway, and made it about... 4 blocks. The water in what had been streets the previous night was up over my axles in many cases, and the same was about to be true of my backpack. Instead, I resolved to make the best of the delay, and went looking for a locutorio (internet cafe).<BR /><BR />I found one &mdash; well, actually I found three &mdash; but the internet in Carmen de Areco refused to understand my camera, and I wasn't able to upload any photos. So, nuts to that: I wandered around the town taking photos when the rain abated at all, hiding under awnings when it didn't.<BR /><BR />Which is when I got interviewed for some Argentinian TV station.<BR /><BR />There was a news crew out filming... something, I'm not sure what? And when they saw me taking pictures, they flagged me down, asking for an interview with the crazy fool out on a bicycle in the pouring rain with a huge backpack, a plastic thing ("Creo que lo llaman un... &iquest;<EM>casco</EM>?") on his head, and taking pictures.<BR /><BR />So now there's apparently an interview with me on Argentinian TV, trying to explain in my questionable Spanish just what I was up to. I'm not entirely certain what station it was; I think they said it was one of the stations affiliated with <A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" BORDER="0" ALIGN="absmiddle" WIDTH="16" HEIGHT="16" /></A> <A HREF="">Telefe</A>, but I might have misunderstood.<BR /><BR />At any rate, the interview over, the rain was starting to let up, so I took a deep breath, grabbed some empanadas from a bakery, and headed out on the highway.<BR /><BR />With good timing; as before the thunderstorm stopped at 2:00 almost on the dot, and from thence there was perfect biking weather: cloudy with sunny breaks, not too gloomy but not too sweltering and sunburn-y.<BR /><BR />I made it as far as Chacabuco, but it was late enough that I wasn't up for the 55km to the next town, so I found a hotel with free wi-fi (I was amused at how upscale I was getting, after the first night in Moreno, but then realized it was still only $CA 30 per night) and checked in.<BR /><BR />Went out to see what there was in the town, and discovered a folk music festival that night! Bonus! Had another <STRIKE>Thanksgiving</STRIKE> parilla dinner that couldn't be beat, went to sleep, and didn't get up until...<BR /><BR />Er wait, no. Went to the folk festival, then went to sleep and didn't get up until the next morning, when luckily, there was no court date awaiting me (or 27 8x10 coloured glossy photos). Just a bicycle. With yet another flat tire. Sigh. <UL> <LI>The reason I didn't leave Carmen de Areco until 2PM...<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>The official building in the center of town. There were christmas decorations in the plaza opposite, but they didn't photograph well in the rain.<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>There's apparently an election coming up; there are campaign posters like this all over the highways.<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>I'm all over this idea. Sadly I seem to be the only person in the country that is.<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>Downtown Chacabuco.<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>Tango and folk music festival! Entry only 5 pesos ($CA 1.25).<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>Some musician guy. A surprising amount of the festival consisted of stand-up comedy, which obviously went largely over my head. But it was still fun.<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> </UL><BR /><BR /><IMG SRC="/images/wineglass_icon.jpg" ALIGN="bottom" /><EM><SMALL>Tonight's wine: <SPAN CLASS="blag_underline">Comte de Valmont Cabernet-Sauvignon Malbec Pinot Noir 2008</SPAN>. Kind of blah and generic. Nothing stood out one way or the other.</SMALL></EM> Jan. 18, 2011: Carmen de Areco, BA, Argentina Wed, 19 Jan 2011 22:43:32 UT 20110118 It's doing this sort of thing that makes one appreciate the small things in life. A shady tree. A bottle of cold water. A bar of soap. A packet of shampoo. Holy crap, <EM>air conditioning</EM>!<BR /><BR />All of this, and more (well, except for the first one) awaits you at the Hotel Isis in Carmen de Areco! I had the best, and longest, cold bath of my life tonight. Oh man!<BR /><BR />Anyway. I've decided that there will be a change in plans. I am reminded of just how much I don't like mountain bikes. They are exhausting to ride, and I can't make nearly as good time on them as I can on my old road bike. On the latter, I usually manage upwards of 25km/h, but on this thing, it's been a pretty consistent 15.<BR /><BR />Also: this country makes for a pretty decent human oven for most of the day. The only way it's terribly manageable is for me to bike as far as I can in the morning, followed by an afternoon siesta (as the locals do; I mean, why <EM>not</EM> follow the example that they have determined works?) and then a resumption of the road in the afternoon.<BR /><BR />Which is all fine and well, but it means I can't make 150km/day. No way, no how. And hence, don't have the time to make it to Santiago. I was worried this might be the case, and the worries have been realized. If I had an extra week... but no use dwelling on mighta'beens.<BR /><BR />But I'm mostly fine with that. I figure that I'm on holiday dammit, and I want to actually enjoy myself! There's no point in wearing myself out chasing after some goal that isn't really attainable.<BR /><BR />So, yeah. Whatever. I'll go as far as I can until next Wednesday or so (depending on where I am), then take the bus the rest of the way.<BR /><BR />The only real downside is that I will spend all my time working through the "boring" part of the country, and miss biking through the mountains where it should be interesting. So I'm going to see whether it's possible to take my bike on the bus, then do that to Mendoza or so, and bike the rest of the way. Maybe.<BR /><BR /> <UL> <LI>Once out of the Buenos Aires metro area, the road opened up a bunch, and became more picturesque.<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>There is a very ornate cathedral in Luj&aacute;n. I should have taken a closer look, but at this point was still worried about making time.<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>After Luj&aacute;n, the road became even better, and was a very enjoyable ride (while the trees lasted).<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>The neat little town of San Andr&eacute;s de Giles.<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>Like every Argentinian town of its approximate size, San Andr&eacute;s de Giles has a plaza at the center.<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>And a church.<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>The Argentinian countryside <EM>really</EM> does look like Alberta. If I didn't know any better, etc...<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> </UL>In Carmen de Areco (which being small and a few km off the main highway, has no tourist trade to speak of), I found a great parilla where I had the first proper Argentinian meal (unless you count the omnipresent empanadas) of the trip. (No matter how I tried, I couldn't find anything in Buenos Aires that wasn't a tourist trap, and if you recall, I didn't have anything for dinner on Monday at all). Muy muy excelente!<BR /><BR />Aside from the above, How did I know it didn't cater to tourists? Because of the stares I got when I tried to order an ensalada. "Hey, get a load of this guy; he wants <EM>plants</EM> with his meat!" After some back-and-forth, they finally decided it was doable, and basically recited a list of the vegetables they had on hand that they were able to chop up and put on a plate for me. Half the names were ones I didn't recognize, so there was a lot of me guessing and going "s&iacute;" and "no" at semi-random. Turned out pretty good though! Heavily tomato, carrot, cabbage and beet based.<BR /><BR /><IMG SRC="/images/wineglass_icon.jpg" ALIGN="bottom" /><EM><SMALL>Tonight's wine: <SPAN CLASS="blag_underline">Estancia Mendoza Cabernet/Malbec 2010</SPAN>. Another one I quite liked. The parilla didn't have a menu as such, just a bunch of bottles on the counter. I picked one that looked most interesting. A little on the raw side, would probably be really good in another year or two.</SMALL></EM> Jan. 17, 2011: Moreno, BA, Argentina Tue, 18 Jan 2011 15:07:19 UT 20110117 Carrefour has internet cafes! (Well, ok. Just about everyone has internet cafes here.)<BR /><BR />Well. It was a pretty crappy day, all told. Enough to make me consider giving up on this whole enterprise. The day started out with a prolonged wild bicycle chase. The used bikes that the internet had told me about turned out to be reluctant to materialize. There was a lot of "He's not here right now," and "Maybe by the end of the week." Uhhh... no.<BR /><BR />Even after deciding to buy a new bike, it took a while. One thing I definitely didn't want was a <A HREF="">BSO</A>, but neither did I want to spend $CA 2000 on something that might not even make it to the end of my trip. Finding something at the right price point was tricky, and I ended up walking from one bike store to another to another all over Buenos Aires for most of the day. I finally found something semi-suitable, and left the city at about 7:30PM.<BR /><BR />Which is when things started to go downhill.<BR /><BR />It was extremely slow going through the suburbs, and I only made it about 30km (recalling that I need to do about 150 per day). A lot of it owes to the extremely poor coupling between the signage and my map, and on more than one occasion, I left some town on a road that turned out to be going an entirely different direction than the one I wanted.<BR /><BR />Also: 2 flat tires today. I only <EM>bought</EM> eight spares, and since my bike isn't the sort that most locals tend to ride, I don't know that more would be easy to come by.<BR /><BR />At around 10:30, I reached Moreno, and decided it was time to find a hotel. Didn't see anything. Shortly I started leaving town and was pretty soon on the highway where it was clear there wasn't about to be anything. I recalled having seen one on the way into Moreno, 10km earlier, so reluctantly turned back. Made it to the hotel, and went in only to discover that it really... wasn't what I was looking for (the room tarrifs were, for example, posted by the hour, if you know what I mean). I had a moment of panic when I realized that the front door had locked behind me (You can check in but you can never leave?), but after explaining to the voice behind the one-way glass that what I was really looking for was a place to <EM>sleep</EM>, he buzzed me out without further incident (or payment, which is what I half-expected).<BR /><BR />But: still no hotel. I asked some cops (what, you mean you don't get your directions from people toting semiautomatic weapons?), but they weren't local, and had no clue. Eventually at a little while past midnight, someone directed me to a place on some back street. It was a roof overhead and a door with a lock, and that's about it (there was an outhouse, or a proper bathroom in the gas station at the end of the block), but that's all I needed.<BR /><BR />I took the opportunity to try to patch my punctured tires (not wanting to do so out on the street: even during the 5 minutes I took to put on a new tire, some guy on a motorbike pulled over and warned me to be very careful, as it was dangerous to be seen on the side of the road in any state of indisposition).<BR /><BR />So. Yeah. I really don't know how well this will all work out. I'm... pretty exhausted, and pretty discouraged right now.<BR /><BR /> <UL> <LI>A candy and wine store. Fun for kids of all ages!<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>Insert joke about a lord of the token-rings.<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>This (<A HREF="">Bicicleter&iacute;a Nodari</A>) is where I finally found a bike. They were v. helpful. Recommended. (If you're ever in Buenos Aires and in need of a bicycle.)<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>And the machine itself.<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>The road today mostly looked like this.<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> </UL><BR /><BR /><IMG SRC="/images/wineglass_icon.jpg" ALIGN="bottom" /><EM><SMALL>Tonight's wine: <SPAN CLASS="blag_underline">xxx</SPAN>. Are you kidding? I didn't even manage dinner today, let alone wine!</SMALL></EM> Jan. 16, 2011: Buenos Aires, Argentina Mon, 17 Jan 2011 13:30:30 UT 20110116 Sunday was full of thunderstorms. That, and closed shops. I went out for a few hours in the rain, but since everything was closed anyway, gave the enterprise up after a while and returned to the hostel. At which point I tried making some changes to this blog software (<EM>Someone</EM> &mdash; who shall remain unnamed &mdash; was disappointed that I hadn't thought to include an RSS feed). After a little bit of <EM>that</EM>, I decided that programming on a Spanish keyboard was just too painful (ALL the punctuation's in the wrong place!), and went back out into the thunderstorms that had by that point relented into a slow drizzle. Soon enough, even that abated to nothing, and the rest of the day was nice. <UL> <LI>Obligatory touristy shot. To prove I'm in Buenos Aires, or something.<BR /><A HREF=0.jpg"><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>A Sunday street market; making do in the pouring rain.<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>Get'cher copper here!<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>Merry Christmas? Not my hostel, but (possibly) only because I hadn't come across it the previous day...<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>National congress. I have too many photos of various "$foo de la Nacion" buildings...<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" BORDER="0" ALIGN="absmiddle" WIDTH="16" HEIGHT="16" /></A> <A HREF="">This building</A> was totally burned out / abandoned, and had apparently been so for a while. Too bad; underneath there were signs that it had once been quite attractive.<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>On a recommendation, I went to the <A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" BORDER="0" ALIGN="absmiddle" WIDTH="16" HEIGHT="16" /></A> <A HREF="">Cementerio de la Recoleta</A>. Closed on Sunday, along with everything else. Still some cats for me to meow at, though.<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>The huge IBA reserve right in the middle of the city.<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>Seriously; this is only a few blocks from the city center. More closed-on-Sunday-ness, though.<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>The sidewalk along the side of the sanctuary was lined with these Parrillas. They were open. And not so German.<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>I ran across some mini street festivities. A buncha' drummers and dancers wandering down the street.<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> </UL>And now... off to find myself a bicicleta!<BR /><BR /><IMG SRC="/images/wineglass_icon.jpg" ALIGN="bottom" /><EM><SMALL>Tonight's wine: <SPAN CLASS="blag_underline">Reserva del Fin del Mundo (Patagonia) Malbec 2008</SPAN>. Yeah, this was more like the Malbecs I'm used to. Not to my taste. Wasn't my first choice, but they kept coming back saying they didn't have 375mL of anything else.</SMALL></EM> Jan. 15, 2011: Buenos Aires, Argentina Sun, 16 Jan 2011 19:19:17 UT 20110115 In which we discover that while my Spanish is good enough to ask where the stop for bus #86 is, it's not quite good enough to decipher the answer that "Bus #86 has been replaced. You need to get on #8 instead, and it will take you there."<BR /><BR />Rather, I understood that I had to take #8, then <EM>transfer</EM> to #86. Cue expected hilarity, etc. Other than that? A quite uneventful trip. I slept the whole way...<BR /><BR />Anyway: on to the photos! <UL> <LI>Do I regret leaving Calgary behind? Well... no. Not so much.<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>It's amazing just <EM>how much</EM> Argentina looks like Alberta from the air.<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>This will mean more to some people than others. I went in, for nostalgia's sake. Half the store was taken up by wine. <STRONG>This place is great!</STRONG><BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>Maps posted up around the city showing the local bike routes. I like this idea. (Are you listening, Jakub? <IMG SRC="" ALIGN="absmiddle" />)<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> <LI>Life on the streets, even after midnight! Sigh...<BR /><A HREF=""><IMG SRC="" /></A></LI> </UL>I have discovered (well, ok, "discovered" isn't quite the word; I knew about this before I left) that there is not a single commercial establishment in Buenos Aires that is open on Sunday. Getting a bike will have to wait until Monday AM. Not a huge deal; my plan had always been to spend the day wandering around the city anyway. But I guess that will wait until tomorrow's post.<BR /><BR />My other discovery is that 90% of the restaurants in this town seem to be German. Not too surprising, knowing the history of the area, but I wasn't prepared for its overwhelming preponderance. Even trying to find someplace non-German (I eventually went into a place advertising "Patagonian fish, Argentinian wines and meats." or something of the like) I perused the menu only to discover that, well...<BR /><BR />(I mean, this is all fine, I like German food. But had I wanted to eat German, I would have gone to: Germany?)<BR /><BR /><IMG SRC="/images/wineglass_icon.jpg" ALIGN="bottom" /> <EM><SMALL>Tonight's wine: <SPAN CLASS="blag_underline">Bodegas Lopez Malbec 2009</SPAN>. I really liked this one. I'm usually not a fan of the tannins in a Malbec, but this wasn't too bad. It was quite smooth, with a spicyness in the aftertaste that I normally associate with Willamette Pinots.</SMALL></EM>