13 February 2011

Rio Gallegos

I awoke in the night after the storms passed and went out of the tent to relieve myself. It was still and cloudless and I looked up at the foreign stars awhile. There was something just like what we called the Milky Way. I wondered what they called theirs. The moon was bright and I could see clearly over the hills. I was wearing two tshirts and my sweater and a tshirt wrapped around my neck as a scarf, but it was still cold and I crawled back into the tent and went back to sleep.

The wind was cold and blowing hard from the west when I awoke. I would have less than 10km through the hills fighting the wind, and then the road bent eastward and I would have 33km of windblown riding into Rio Gallegos. It was exactly what I had hoped for the day before and the reason I had not started this stretch yesterday when the wind was blowing from the sea.

After winding through the hills Ruta 3 dropped and it was a fast run-out to the lower plain. There the road turned eastward at a place called Güer Aike and traffic was backed up at a police checkpoint. They stopped me too and I needed to show my passport.

The wind was blowing from directly behind me now and I up-shifted to my highest gear, mashing it hard. To my right the yellow brown plain extended to the south and on my left were the cliffs of the broken plain I had just descended from. I was riding so hard traffic was only slowly passing me now and though it was rolling country it was the fastest I had ever ridden not descending from mountains.

I soon made Rio Gallegos and rode into the center of town and at the tourist office was given a map and a location beyond the edge of town for the campground. I stopped at a pizza place and had a large pie and a Quilmes. I was there awhile and ordered a salad and when that was not enough I ordered another small pizza. There was a free concert going on in a parking lot beside the plaza and I pushed the bike over and watched two of the young rock bands.

It was getting dark and I went in search of the campground. It began to rain as I rode to the southern part of town. I was near the bus station and it was a beat-up area and down a muddy gravel road with deep potholes and puddled water there was supposed to be the campground. I didn't see it anywhere. Dogs barked and chased out after me from the shadows. I couldn’t out ride on the gravel and when I saw them coming I got off my bike and would pick up a rock. That usually stopped them, but some still charged and I had to throw at them. These dogs must have been hit by rocks before and a rock thrown near them turned them around quickly and they pulled back but continued to bark.

It was fully dark and I gave looking for the campground. I had the address of a hospedaje and rode through the dark streets with a handful of rocks-- dogs around every corner-- until I found it. It was 60 pesos for a shared room and I would have to lock the bike up outside. I had little choice and paid for the bed. I had wanted a rest day in Rio Gallegos but decided then I would leave the next day. I didn’t like the hospedaje, the town, or all the dogs.

Sleeping in the bunk beneath me was a Dutch guy named Johann. He lived in South Africa and was traveling Patagonia and planned to do some mountain biking. We talked roads and bikes for awhile and he was a fine fellow. His life had taken a difficult turn and he had come to Patagonia to figure things out. Patagonia was a good place for that. I made coffee and we talked until they closed the kitchen and turned the lights out at midnight.

I did not sleep well. There was a couple in the other two beds in the room and the man snored loudly through the night. I kept thinking the snoring would wake her and she would nudge him. But she didn't and maybe she was used to it. I didn’t like Rio Gallegos at all.


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