19 January 2011

Near Pedro Luro

The wind was not with me the next morning at Bahía Blanca. It blew forcefully from the west and I rode out of the city south, through an industrial area, and then west, into the gusting wind. I was finally on Ruta 3 which was combined with Ruta 22 until 30 km outside the city, and it was hard going, my head down, turning a low sprocket on my second chain ring, riding on the white line of the shoulder with the trucks passing. My right quad still bothered me and I pulled my toe clips tight and concentrated on my cycling form, trying to get a full revolution out of my legs and using muscles other than my quad.

I was forced to stop at a fruit and vegetable checkpoint where my bags were searched and anything found would be confiscated. I was carrying no fruits or vegetables and soon after the checkpoint the road split, with Ruta 3 heading south and Ruta 22 continuing west. I had the choice here to battle a headwind west and then take another road south a few days later to join back up with Ruta 3 at San Antonio Oeste, or to ride south on Ruta 3 with a cross-wind. The trucks seemed to be heading west and the cross-wind would not be strong enough to push me out into traffic, so I turned onto Ruta 3 towards Carmen de Patagones and Viedma.

The country was in some parts lush and green, with rolling hills between the flats, and there was an area of small lakes between the sand dunes and it was very different country than the dry, dusty farmland I had ridden across from Buenos Aires. It was not difficult riding with the cross-wind and I would now be on Ruta 3 all the way to Ushuaia.

But then the wind changed and I was fighting a head wind and it was difficult riding. At Mayor Buratovich I stopped at a supermercado and bought some pasta and sauce along with a cold beer. I was exhausted and wanted to set up camp and to use my stove for the first time and the idea of hot pasta and a cup of coffee excited me.

The cashier at the supermarket said it was another 10 or 15 km to a lagoon where camping was free and it was a very beautiful place. I did not want to go further into the wind and it was past 6pm and the sun was getting low in the sky, but the idea of cooking pasta at a lagoon seemed a perfect one and I rode on out of town. I passed a grove of pine trees and some other excellent places to camp but continued on for the lagoon.

The lagoon was not 15 km from Mayor Buratovich and two guys at a service station told me I had another 10 km to go. They were correct on the distance but failed to tell me about the additional 4 km on a dirt road. It was past 7pm now and I was dying in the saddle as I rode carefully down the rocky road towards the lagoon. Mosquitoes attacked me but I could not ride any faster and I swatted at them. Then my wheels sunk into the sand and stopped. I got off and slowly pushed the bike through the sandy stretch, the bike much harder to push now with the additional water weight, the mosquitoes landing all over me, and then I hopped back on when the road firmed. 

But not much further I hit fine sand again and got off to push the bike, slapping at mosquitoes, and I looked up into the setting sun and did not see any end to the sand. I had not gone 1 km on the road and knew I could not push the bike another 3 km with the weight and mosquitoes. My plans for the lagoon had fallen through. I cursed my bad luck and turned the bike around and pushed it back through the sand and rode back to Ruta 3. I had passed numerous excellent campsites on the way here and now I had nothing and the sun was going down.

I rode another 10 km before I saw a dirt access road going back through the scrub and turned down it and found a sandy spot between some shrubs. I quickly set up the tent and put my gear inside and got a pot of water boiling on the stove. I put the pasta in and gave myself a quick shower from a water bladder and cracked open the luke-warm beer. It tasted great. There weren't even many mosquitoes here and I stood watching the stove work and the sun setting over the orange fields and I realized there would be time to eat and to relax a little before night fall. Things were working out after all.

The idea came to me suddenly--and it appeared to me in my fatigued state to be an original work of genius-- to use the water from the boiled pasta to make the coffee, and when the pasta was ready I poured some into my cup with the coffee powder. Both the pasta and the coffee cooled at the same time and I ate pasta and drank coffee inside my tent and I was very tired but very happy. I had ridden 40 km more than I wanted but the day had turned out alright. The lagoon was no doubt teeming with mosquitoes anyway.


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