05 January 2011

Tigre

It was brutal to fly with a head cold. I had 3 stops in 3 different airports (Quito, Lima, Santiago) and on each landing believed my ear drums would explode. When I arrived in Buenos Aires both my ears were pressured and clogged and I could hardly hear. I had not slept much during the night and was exhausted and dehydrated. I did not have a map of Buenos Aires and only knew that I wanted to ride North out of the city to Tigre. From there I planned to head West before turning South towards Patagonia.

The bicycle and gear had arrived intact and it took 3 hours to put the bike together. When I finished a woman came to me and asked me where I was going. She lived in the western part of Patagonia, in Neuquen, and invited me to her home if I was in that area. I told her my plan to travel along the eastern coast, but if I did make it that far west I would stop to see her. Her name was Angelina and she gave me her number and email and said if I should get into any trouble in Patagonia that I should call her. She and her three woman friends were traveling to Brazil and I said goodbye them and pushed my bike through the airport looking for an ATM machine.

Waiting in line to take out money a man asked me where I was from and I told him. His name was Mito and he spoke good English and lived part of the year in Miami where he owned an apartment in Brickell. His wife Carolina joined us and we talked of America and where I was going in Patagonia and how difficult it would be to travel there on a bicycle. In fact they lived in Tigre and Mito said that I would be fine to ride along the water out of the airport and that eventually I would make it. He gave me their phone number and said that I should call him if something went wrong.

It was hot and humid in Buenos Aires and outside the airport I changed out of my jeans into a pair of shorts and road north along the water. I didn’t like the weighting of my panniers and I had not put the bike together so that it felt comfortable. I also realized the rear brake pads needed replacing. I was exhausted and my head felt horrible and I just wanted a shower and to sleep but it was 35km to Tigre.

The road followed the water and dead-ended at an auto route and I was told by a man to take the auto route about 1km to a bridge which would lead me into the city to the Avenida Libertador. It was a main avenue and would take me north to Tigre. The traffic was fast on the auto route and because there was no shoulder I decided to push the bike along a dirt trail on the road side. I had not pushed it far when I hit a stretch of deep mud which stuck to my tires and then wedged between the front tire and fender. I could not push the bike any further. I had to remove the front panniers and unscrew the fender. It was the last thing I wanted to do feeling the way I was and I stood on the roadside, traffic buzzing past me, cursing the mud-covered bike and my situation.

Back on the road I found Avenida Libertador and further ahead stopped at a cheerful outdoor café for lunch. For 40 pesos ($10) I had the plato del dia which was a fillet of fish, salad, a bottle of sparkling water and a coffee. I was drinking the coffee when I thought I heard someone calling my name and I looked over and it was Mito and Carolina in their car. They had seen my bike in front of the café. I was not far from Tigre they said and wished me luck.


Avenida Libertador left Buenos Aires and turned into a narrow cobblestone road through tree-lined streets. The buildings were old and brightly painted and it was a beautiful area to ride through except for the discomfort of the cobblestones. It felt very much like Europe. The cobblestones ended before Tigre and I rode into the centro and asked at the Oficina de Turismo for the cheapest accommodation.

Tigre was a nice town with a river that cut through it and I took a bed at a hostel for 50 pesos/night. I planned to repack my panniers and to refit my bike while I was there and if I was not feeling better tomorrow I would stay another day and rest. There would be many days of windy riding and nights of roadside camping ahead and I wanted to be at full strength.

At the hostel was a Scottish guy from the Highlands who had traveled much in Argentina and on the continent. He pitied me for wanting to ride to Patagonia. He had seen that desolate, never-changing landscape from a bus window and felt the Patagone cold and wind and did not understand why I would choose to ride into it. Then he told me of the many times he had been robbed in Latin America and how he had been inside police stations in most countries and had looked through many pages of mugshots of bad guys. In Cuba he had triumphed and helped the police capture the money changer who had swindled him. The man had gotten a 3 year sentence for the crime.

The Scotsman and I talked awhile and then 3 Argentine guys invited us to eat with them. They had grilled out on the large barbecue pit and there was too much meat. The 3 of them were fine fellows and worked in construction and were staying at the hostel while doing a job not far from here. We had 2 kinds of churrasco, one covered in melted cheese, and a tomato salad and bread and it was good to be out of Colombia where such a meal was not possible. I already had a good feeling about Argentina and I went to sleep knowing that I would like it.

2 comments:

Marlo said...

As a Bike Friday rider and a resident of Buenos Aires I send out a welcome to Argentina

Pete said...

Muy chévere! Vamos a tener que reunirse y ir para un paseo de Bike Friday en abril de regresar quando yo a Buenos Aires.

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