Monday, 14 March 2011

Rio Grande and little victories,

Rio Grande and little victories,

Sleeping in the tent is uncomfortable at the moment I wake a lot during the night needing to move my legs I have what feels like very faint cramp, this is a pain in a sleeping bag as I have to unzip it and move around, fall asleep, wake up cold and then get back in. I am wearing a jacket now almost all the time the days are still sunny but the wind is cold.

I booked into a small hotel in between two towns, originally I was just going to get supplies and camp in the dessert. When I got in out of the wind I thought sod it I'm going to stay. On the form you have to fill in under occupation I put 'bird of prey hair stylist'. The form wanted to know if I was single or married. Why they need to know this for a hotel room I don't know. The room was basic but nice, the taps said 'hot' and 'cold' on them, it took me a while to figure out they had been plumbed up the other way round. I asked the owner where I could put my bike and he said 'put it in your room' this meant wheeling it through the restaurant it was tight and we had to keep moving chairs and tables. I folded my map over for the last time I am on the last section, I have also worked out my winter kit is not going to be warm enough for the Andies as it will turn into winter as I climb them. I will buy some new kit in Ushaia.

I managed a good day from the hotel to rio galegous the rest had done me good as I entered I stopped at a service station and got a drink and packet of biscuits and wondered what to do I had been given an address by the couple that gave me the bananas but I thought it would be a bit rude to turn up out of the blue on a Friday night plus all I had was an address the place was a small city, I chuckled as I cycled passed the massive bus depot advertising a 36 hour bus ride to Buenos Aires was that all?

I cycled down the streets and was looking ahead when someone waved to me I waved back and was still looking down the street thinking I'm going out of town I need to go back. I turned round and was met by Juan Carlos on a bike he said follow me, I had cycled passed Geraldine and Juan Carlos (the people who gave me the bananas and there address) they had waved but I had cycled straight pass, I felt a bit silly for not stopping. I wasn't expecting to see them it was like bumping into someone in Newcastle. As Geraldine said 'it must be destiny' I soon had my map spread out and was showing them my route, Geraldine told me about a Argentinian cyclist (Damian) who had been in the paper that day who had been on the road for four years and was on his way back home he was in town and her husband Juan Carlos was joining in with a group cycling with him the next day. She very kindly took me to a bike shop and I asked for some new tyres, they didn't have any they gave Geraldine a phone number when we got back she phoned it and then told me Damien the cyclist was going to come over to see me, I was touched it was so nice of her. Damian is tanned, good looking and speaks perfect English we went through my route and he told me the best route to go (not the easiest, but the best route) he also warned me against Lima in Peru to many cyclists had been robbed in the slums going into the city. "Your white there going to think you're a gringo, they will rob you" I had been lulled into a false sense of security with Argentina it was safe. "You need to be sharp or you will get robbed or worse" Damian told me. I had dinner with the family which was great and went to bed thinking about what Damian had said. Please check out his website,

The next morning Geraldine had put a magnificent spread out for breakfast, she warned me it was a 4 day bank holiday in Argentina (sat to tue) and that there was a four hour wait in the border crossing to Chile. I said my goodbyes and set off.

I reached the crossing late afternoon parked my bike and joined the quad it was over an hour before I got my passport stamped that wasn't too bad I thought as I cycled off only to be see another checkpoint I went through it all again to get into Chile. Chile has something I had never encountered before cheerful border guards I went through my route with them and chatted it was nice to be welcomed into a country with a smile. I noticed a coach driver with a stack of passports he idly looked through a few while queuing, rather like a fat Jason Bourne choosing a new passport I thought ad I collected my bike. Once again I was searched for fresh fruit and then I was off.

The road soon disappeared and I was cycling on gravel it was hard going and the bike and me was getting shaken to bits. I stopped at a truck stop and had a sandwich while I was having a coffee a load of Brazilians on motorbikes turned up they were in the middle of their tour I posed for pictures and one of the guys said "one day I'm going to be like you and go on a great adventure".

After a while I came across some workmen putting more gravel down, they were keen to stop and chat to me. They insisted I had something to eat and drink with them it was great we talked the international language of football!

By the time I reached the boarder i was tired I stopped and asked an old Chilean guy if there was camping nearby. He motioned me to follow him and let me pitch my tent in his back garden behind his shed out of the wind. I am looking forward to going back to Chile.

I cycled on to Rio Grande and stopped in the town centre after the 8th cash dispenser I realised they were all out of money a 4 day bank holiday and low denomination notes had left them empty. It’s not just staplehurst that runs out I thought, beginning to panic a little. I had passed a casino with a hotel in it I knew they would take cards it looked very posh (and out of place) I wasn't sure what to do. Ahhh I might as well ask how much the rooms are I thought. As I went in, please bear in mind this place is posh and I haven't washed for four days, I saw a cash dispenser tucked round the corner I quickly went over and popped my card in. A security guard shouted, it was not for rif raf to use, to late I had got my money. He angrily escorted me off the premises, I was tempted to march up to the hotel reception plonk my visa card down and order a room in my poshest voice. When I got outside I chuckled and realised that's what this trip is going to be about, 'little victories' and I am going to take them where I can.

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