23 January 2011

San Antonio Oeste

At first light I awoke and packed quickly and got on the road. The sun was just coming up behind me and the wind had not yet begun to blow and I rode hard, turning a big gear furiously, hoping to put up as many kilometers as I could before the wind. I was again riding with water rationing, drinking two long pulls from my bottle for every 10 km.

But the bike felt heavy. And then the rear tire slipped and shimmied and I looked down and the tire was nearly flat. I pulled over and examined the tire, looking for a thorn I had picked up from pushing the bike back through the grass onto the road. I saw nothing and did not want to waste valuable time changing the tire and I pumped it back up. The air did not come out quickly and I hoped it would hold. I started back westward towards San Antonio Oeste.

The air let out slowly and I did not go 10 km before I had to stop and pump up the tire. I laid the bike on its side and pumped the tire quickly and rode on hoping the puncture did not expand. The country was still scrub and thorn bushes but more rolling than before and up every hill I hoped to see the ocean on the other side.

And then I saw it. At the crest of a long hill I looked down across the flat to the water and I could see the Port of San Antonio Oeste. The city I did not see but I knew was another 30 km past the port. I was riding now for something I could see and it gave me confidence. The wind started to blow soon after, but it was a cross wind coming off the ocean and it was then, coming down from the rolling hills into the flats and knowing the direction of the wind, with civilization and food and water on the horizon, that I knew I would make it.

I still rode hard for the city because the wind could change. I pumped up the rear tire every 7 km and drank two pulls from the water bottle every 10. I did this until the petrol station outside the city where I stopped and had a desayuno of a cafe con leche and three media lunas. I ate hungrily and sat awhile after finishing. I had made it. I did not need to worry about water and food any longer.

There were no hostels in San Antonio Oeste and the hotels were booked up. There was a campground, but I would be unable to explore the city on my rest day because of my bike and gear. The cheapest hotel in town had a double room and paid the 80 pesos for two beds.

I took a shower and laid in bed awhile. Down the street a restaurant was offering a "tenedor libre" (trans: free fork), or an all-you-can-eat buffet. For 40 pesos I had charcuterie and cheeses and salad and empanadas and other sorts of dishes, and then I sat and digested and ate it all over again. It felt good to be somewhere. I had a beer later and went to bed. I would explore the city tomorrow.


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