14 January 2011

On Ruta 51 (30km to Krabbé)

The inside of the rain fly was wet with condensation and still wet from the rain on the outside. But the big storms had passed. Water had pooled underneath the tent between the ground pad and the tent floor and I stepped out of the tent into the wet grass and knew I would pack the tent wet and have to stop in the afternoon to dry it in the sun. The rain had bred many mosquitos overnight and they swarmed me and I packed my gear up quickly. These were big, strong mosquitos that landed quickly on you and began sucking blood and they could fly into the wind without any problem.

Back on the road the wind was cold and blowing into my face from the south and the skies were clear. I was down to my last 65 pesos, had limited water and food supplies and it was about 180km to Coronel Pringles. There was nothing along Ruta 51 to Coronel Pringles on my map except for a small pueblo called Krabbé. It would be 150km into this tough head wind and my plan was to stay the night there.

My legs felt alright but today would be nothing like the easy, wind-assisted ride of yesterday and I was going to need to ride further. A town called Santa Luisa was indicated about 10km off 51 and I planned to stop there for water and supplies.

At the sign marking the turn off for Santa Luisa there was a white-washed bar and restaurant and I stopped and went inside. For 15 pesos I had a meat empanada, a plate of cheese, sliced sausage, bread and jam and a café con leche.  The bar did not have packaged food for sale but the woman told me there was another bar 25kms down 51 where I could purchase supplies. While I ate an old, toothless blind man walked unsteadily through the bar tapping the chairs with his cane and he called out again and again to me asking where I was from and where I was going. I paid the bill and refilled my water bottles and half-filled my 6 liter water bladder, and if I could get more food at the bar ahead I felt I could make Krabbé though I would learn later if I had the legs.

At the second bar I bought cookies, muffins filled with dulce con leche and some salted crackers for 15 pesos. I spoke awhile with the owner and she wished me luck and then I was back on the road. I tried to take breaks because of the tough head wind but immediately when I stopped the mosquitos attacked. I had never seen such powerful, aggressive mosquitos and they sometimes landed within a few centimeters of each other on my arm and quickly began sucking blood.

At the rotonda where 51 crosses 86, and there should have been a petrol station and was not--and someone will oneday put one there and become wealthy because of it--I stopped and aired out my wet tent and slapped at the mosquitos. I ate most of the muffins and a few of the cookies and drank some water and got back on the road.

It was like other days into a headwind, with the oncoming trucks slamming you with a wall of wind and I was thrown a few times off onto the gravel or into the tall grass. I did learn that if a truck coming up on you from behind honks it is not to simply alert you to its presence but to tell you to get off the road; that an oncoming truck will pass at the same moment it will pass you and there may not be room on the road for the three of us. Sometimes too an oncoming truck would flash its lights to indicate you needed to get off the road because of a truck coming up on you from behind.

But most vehicles slowed down for me and many would honk and give me a thumbs-up or yell out some encouragement. But you had to ride the white line always and even better if you could ride the sliver of pavement to the right of the white line when there was some. Because there was always a truck or autobus that would pass you within inches without slowing down or honking and you were thankful then that you could ride a straight line on the edge of the pavement into a strong headwind.

30 km before Krabbé there was a bar and restaurant truck stop and I pulled in and had lunch. I had already ordered when I remembered I had only 35 pesos but figured I could make up any difference in US dollars. I had a plate of beef filets covered in an onion and tomato sauce, with a tomato and lettuce salad and a 1.5 liter bottle of water.

The man and woman at the bar told me there was nothing at Krabbé. I would be better to put up my tent under the trees outside the restaurant and stay the night here. There was a bathroom and shower and drinkable water from the well. It was a good idea and I was tired and had had enough of the wind and trucks and I told them I would stay the night.

Playing with a dead armadillo

Owls outside the bathroom

The meal came to exactly 35 pesos and I paid and went outside and put up my tent and crawled in and went to sleep. I awoke before sundown and ate the rest of my cookies and drank some water. I had one peso left, a few muffins and an emergency bag of cereal, but I would have a full load of water for the ride tomorrow. Then I went back to sleep and prayed the wind would be with me to Coronel Pringles.


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