I was looking forward to stay at the adventure hostel in Buenos Aires. A Belgian friend of a friend started his backpacking trip in Buenos Aires and he brought a package for me with a new Brooks saddle and some other stuff which he left in this hostel.
There’s always a great vibe hanging around hostels and many travellers to meet. Unfortunately though, most of the people staying there were residents who have seen so many travellers passing through, that they just don’t care about you anymore. But luckily I met Tom and Ben, two Australian cyclists, with whom it was really great to hang out with! They are both really impressive guys with unconventional life choices and great accomplishments, but still remaining really integer. In other words: great partners in crime to roam around the city and grab beers in the park.
I also got to see Elias again, whom I hosted through couchsurfing in Bruges half a year ago on his trip around Europe. He and his friends submerged me in Argentinean culture by making an ‘asado’ (BBQ), making me drink Fernet and, of course, by going out.
Seems like big cities are not that fascinating for cyclists. We didn’t really care about visiting all the sights. But it was great to go out, to do some other stuff than cycling and to get our energy level back up, before hitting the road across the boring pampa’s.
I also had to fix my laptop, clean the sensor of the camera and make my plan for Argentina. So with all of that sorted out, I headed West towards Cordoba, where I had friends and where I was hoping to spend Christmas.
Cycling out of Buenos Aires wasn’t so hectic as getting out of Sao Paulo. Of course I had to be careful, but I could ride on the ‘collector’, a road parallel to the ‘ruta 9’, the Panamericana! What a beautiful name for an ugly six lane road.
First I headed to Pillar, where I stayed with Inaki, a friend of Elias who I met around the campfire.
The quest for quieter roads was on. Turned out though, that there are no roads here with little traffic.
For some odd reason, the Argentineans stopped using the railway to transport crops, meat, wheat, soja, mais,… about 10 years ago. So now, all of this is going by trucks towards the capital and the ports.
To make things worse, main roads don’t have a hard shoulder here! From Buenos Aires towards Cordoba, I only had about 50 km of it. It had been a long time since I wore my helmet, but that seemed to be a must here. Luckily I have a mirror on the bike, so I can observe the traffic and get into the grass if necessary (which I had to do many times).
There is no need to write a day to day report about this stage. These 800 km were some of the most boring I’ve ever ridden. Wind came from the North creating a strong side wind which slowed me down. And then there was the 35-37°C heat! This made me only cover about 100 km a day (which is not so fast for a flat, uninteresting landscape). I tend to live on the rhythm of the locals. Here that means having dinner between 9-11 pm. So I didn’t get to leave early. Therefore I usually only did about 35 km until lunchtime, after which the heat forced me to take a break till 4 pm or so. I then tried to do 60 or 70 more till around 8 pm. Most of the time was killed by listening to my Spanish course on my phone, but it was still a very long way across nothing.
But! There were still many experiences along the way!
While getting closer to the 25th, I was receiving many pre-Christmas gifts!
First there was Fabrizio from Rojas, who invited me to stay with him, join him and his friends for an asado, go fishing the next day, to eat more asado and to go out.
Then there were the members of a club in Hughes who invited me for lunch after I stranded with 6 pesos (30 eurocents) and a cash-machine that wouldn’t accept my card.
Then there was Sr. Pruzzo, the entendente from Canada del Ucle who organized my stay in his village including a shower, an asado, breakfast and many lovely people. I felt Iike I could stay there a long time, I felt so welcome. People give you the type of hugs one could only give to his family.
It’s good to know btw that villages here have an ‘entendente’, a village chief, who will take care of visitors. And although I don’t travel at night, it’s comforting to know you can get to a village in the dark and still find a good place to rest.
In Chazon, Pablo from Warmshowers paid for my campspot.
In Monte Maiz, the sign of ‘Empresa Belgica’, Belgian enterprise, caught my eye of course. They fix up big New Holland machines, but somehow I managed to forget my camera there…? They came tracking me down the road to return it to me. Good guys! Might not be so lucky the next time.
People invited me for lunch, when asking directions for the shop and I couldn’t pay for lunch in a restaurant.
… Incredible people, these Argentinians!!!
Many villages also have a ‘clube’ which is a place to make asado’s, camp and take a dip in the pool. Perfect places for a siesta or camping!
Apart from that, it’s also common to camp at petrol stations. You can take a shower there too, so it’s a pretty good option too.
And so, nine days after leaving Buenos Aires, I made it to the hills of Cordoba region where I got to see my friends, Carla and Daniel, again after hosting them in Bruges and Ghent three years ago. They now have a beautiful daughter, Sol. It’s so good to see them again!
Next day, we spent Christmas together: mission accomplished! Of course, in Argentinian style with one hell of an ‘asado’!
Here’s a text I wrote on Instagram after staying with Fabrizio in the beginning of this stage:
Love and peace from Argentina!
After a very hot and boring day on the road, this happened.
When I got to Rojas I parked the bike at the first shop I found to quench my thirst with a cold drink.
I greeted some people with an energy only achievable by spending hours alone in the saddle looking at the tarmac.
for some reason, I’m never bored answering the basic questions about my trip. meeting people might just be the essence of my travel.
almost immediately Fabrizio invited me to stay with them.
an encounter so spontaneous, no way not to trust reach other.
and before i knew, I joined Fabrizio and his friends for an ‘asado’ (barbecue) and stayed one more day to go fishing, another BBQ and a party.
the road had been boring, but it sure had some twists in it!
I left this afternoon. dark clouds held off the strong sun for once. the wind had turned too. I rode 50 km without stopping.
I rode feeling happy. I rode and rode and forgot the time. i rode with a very full stomach. I rode with a warm feeling. a feeling so strong, it proved me once again that, although I travel alone, i’ll always be surrounded by family.
I felt alive. I felt privileged to be offered so much hospitality. I felt grateful to experience from a first row seat that the world is a good place.
from Iran, Tajikistan and Tibet to Mali, Gabon and Zambia, to Brazil, Argentina and onwards. there seems to be something connecting us all. one might call it humanity.
again, the world is a good place peeps! just turn off your television and get out there. see with your own eyes that those lunatics making the headlines on the news, don’t represent us, as humans.
don’t be scared, there is no need. by traveling, I gained more and more confidence. no need to worry where I’ll sleep. every night, some one will reach out and help me.
I’ve cycled across 48 countries clocking up 58.000 km along the way. nothing has ever happened to me. if that is not a proof, then I don’t know what is.
so go on, smile along, say hi to strangers (it’s ok, really!!!), help each other out, take care of each other as if we’re all one big family. and remember: we are all in this together.
peace and love from Argentina!