1/30/20 – 2/8/20
Long, flat, cool tail wind. The desert that great dump for all of man’s unwanted trappings. On the north end of the agricultural inspection booth; old televisions. To the south; tires. Who keeps this great warehouse organized is a mystery. What anyone will do with an old cathode ray tube ever more the enigma. The man in the booth is friendly. But the only way to pass is through the machine that sprays pesticides on cars. I felt a certain discomfort knowing I was covered in carcinogens, mutagens, and all the great twentieth century warfare chemicals which had fled to the more peaceful and economically predictable agronomic and food safety industries. Despite this indefinite feeling, I slept well knowing that no insects would bother me.
After one hundred and forty four kilometers, we arrived in Jocoli. A nice woman named Monica, after some negotiation, quoted us four hundred pesos to camp behind her hotel and use the outdoor shower. Her husband returned shortly thereafter and told us she meant four hundred each. This quickly descends into a shouting match between him and Soph with me mostly just watching to see how high things might escalate. He drops to five total, Soph tells him we’ll leave a bad review, he tells us to leave. I had already packed my things.
Another thirty five kilometers to Mendoza. That made it about a hundred and eighty after only planning on ninety or so. Our longest day to date. We met with Connaire for drinks and to collect a few things we’d shipped to his friends that were meeting him to climb Aconcagua. It would be a ten day affair. A part of me wanted to join, but I knew that it would be a large undertaking and with only a week or two of notice, I didn’t feel I could wrap my head around it all fast enough to feel comfortable. My knee had also been hurting for a few days and it seemed that it should be rested.
We stayed in Mendoza for almost a week. Mostly doing nothing beyond wandering the beautiful plazas with tile work worthy of a king’s bathroom. On one of our last nights in town we had dinner with a couple named Mark and Hana. We’d originally met them in January of 2017 in Mexico. At that point they were about six months into their trip from northern Alaska and we were just driving around Baja. We’ve kept in contact for most of the trip and often seek information about some of the routes they’ve done that we are considering. I never thought we would catch up to them. We read each other’s blog posts, so having a beer was this strange experience in which you feel like you know somebody really well that you’ve never actually spent any time with.
From Mendoza, it is three hot, flat, windy, and visually bland days to San Rafael. The only noteworthy event during this stretch was that Soph got her first two punctures of the entire trip. We were both disappointed. She because of shattered hopes to make it to Ushuaia without popping a tube, and me because I had promised myself that if we’d made it to within a day of the end and she still hadn’t gotten a flat I would stick a nail in her tire.
“That’s so awful.”
“You can’t ride around the world and not have to change a tire in situ.”
In town, we bought what should be the last chains that we will put on our bikes for this trip. We also bought three new tubes to replace the ones that had been punctured the day before.
They had a strange valve. I sent a picture to Jim in Tucson.
“Ha, they gave you a euro valve.”
“Of course they gave me a euro valve,” I thought. Argentina has a strange obsession with Europe. They all want to be Italian. They even inflect the second to last syllable of a sentence in the same way that Italians do to put emphasis on something. “Necesito regresar a la CAsa.”
In Buenos Aires I had met up with a local named Martin and an Italian guy whose name I never got. Martin was going on and on about how connected Argentina and Europe are.
“And because we are Italian we eat pasta every Sunday.”
“What does this have to do with being Italiano?” the Italian inquired.
“You don’t eat Pasta on Sundays?”
“I eat the pasta whenever I FEEL like it.”
Martin looked a bit hurt. I felt bad for him.
“Well we like to think that we have authentic Italian food here.”
A bit later I was standing in line to get a beer with the Italian.
“Their food is nothing like Italian food. If you go to Italy you will see that the filthiest shithole has better food than this entire country.” He seemed legitimately bothered. When we got back to the table I asked if he could generally understand Spanish due to the similarities with Italian.
“Spanish is like Italian slang. Imagine going to a place where everyone speaks terrible English. This is what it is like for me to hear Spanish.”
Martin looked hurt again. The relationship between Europe and Argentina felt more and more like that between an abusive father and his son that he’d sent off to boarding school. The latter always trying to live up to the impossible standards of the former. Always flaunting their relationship to the rest of the world, but deep down always knowing that he would never amount to a bag of salt in the hollow eyes of his father.
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