In the morning I decided to try out my alcohol stove. I rustled up some porridge only to be ushered inside to calls of “Ross! Ven! Desayuno!”.
Double breakfast, baby!
I forgot everyone’s names apart from the dogs…
I said my goodbyes to the family and set off down the bumpy track. 20 minutes later and I was on the main road to Jardin, winding my way through the river valley. After passing through the town of Andes I started the steady ascent up towards Jardin. Feeling noticeably stronger, I managed to bludgeon my way up slopes that would have damn near killed me a few days before, but after and hour I still wasn’t in sight of the top. As I was about to get off and push, I heard a motorbike slowly purring behind me.
“Te ayudo! Mira”
My new friend, whose name (I think) was Ramiro, stuck his foot up the arse of my bike and started pushing me up the hill using his moto. Like this we cruised all the way to the peak. We had a little chat and it turned out he was from Jardin and had his own workshop there. After violently shouting at someone over the phone he gave me his number and offered his assistance in Jardin before heading on his way.
At around midday, after only 3 hours on the saddle, I arrived at my destination. Having had 3 punishing 7/8 hour days I was due some respite and settled in at a table on the town square where I whiled away the afternoon sipping beer and reading my book. Old men in stetsons drank tinto (black coffee) and gossiped to the soundtrack of ranchera leaking from the bars that lined the plaza – each given character by a striking array of different colours (the bars, not the old men). Unable to get into contact with Carlos’s dad, with whom I was supposed to stay, I checked into the cheap and cheerful Lulo Guest House. There was a nice crowd there so I decided to stay an extra night to work on the blog and rest my weary legs.
The next day I accompanied some Belgians on a hike…
up to the Cristo Rey that overlooks the town…
past a waterfall…
to Lulo’s twin hostel up in the hills…
where we had a beer and played table tennis.
The following morning I set off early for the path to Riosucio which, I had been warned, lay on the other side of a hefty climb through the mountains.
Spurred on by a podcast interview with Arnold Schwarzenegger (the man gets shit done!) I rose up out of the valley, past fincas and trout farms…
and into the clouds.
Along with experiencing my first rain of the trip, I also bumped into my first fellow bike tourer, Jesse, a friendly Australian dude who has been heading north from Ushuaia, the southernmost city in Argentina, for nearing a year and a half. We shot the breeze for a good hour and after a particularly uplifting story of a guy cycling around the world on a penny farthing, we parted ways.
Eventually the clouds cleared and I was flying down the bumpy path towards Riosucio. Just as the stones turned to tarmac I crossed paths with Jesse’s German mate who, having also cycled from the tip of Argentina, was now playing catch up. [Insert bike tourer – London bus analogy here]
I had lunch at a restaurant overlooking a catch-your-own-dinner! fish pond place (13,000 pesos per kilo) and went on in search of a place to camp. Alas, the road out of Riosucio
hugged the mountain leaving little room for wild camping and, once again, with nightfall within touching distance, I was struggling to find a suitable spot to pitch my tent. Everyone I asked told me the ‘patron’ wasn’t home and presumably couldn’t give permission to some mystery white haired gringo for fear of angering the owner.
Finally I spotted a football pitch and the guy who owned the nearby tienda told me I was fine to camp there. Hallelujah!
Tunes: Bruce Springsteen – Tunnel of Love, De La Soul – 3 Feet High and Rising, Marc Maron + The Nerdist Podcasts