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meeting argentina

ARGENTINA: PUERTO MADRYN — VIEDMA — BAHIA BLANCA — CORONEL DORREGO — SANTA CLARA DEL MAR — LA PLATA

Sometimes it is all about the riding, sometimes it is all about the landscape, sometimes it is all about the people. Once I hit the Atlantic there is no option but to turn north on Ruta 3 and that leaves just one of those three things for my enjoyment — the people.

VIEDMA

In Viedma, I stay with Marco, Andrea and their daughter Anita, after contacting them through Warm Showers, a hospitality network for cycle tourists.

Marco is a biologist, with a special interest in scorpions, and a passion for archery. He also loves to talk about politics and provides me with an admirably coherent and balanced picture of what is going on in Argentinian political life.

...

These arrows could easily kill someone and I can't help feeling that in many places you wouldn't be allowed to shoot them at will in an urban environment under such uncontrolled conditions. I rather anxiously let a couple of the lethal projectiles fly myself and manage, to my surprise, to hit the target,

Anita...

... is a warrior princess and, probably, a great archer in the making.

BAHIA BLANCA

In Bahia Blanca, I spend a couple of nights with Diego and Natalia, a couple who spent their honeymoon on bicycles in Missiones, a choice both their families considered dangerously eccentric.

Diego and Natalia have big plans for future bike travels. We talked bike routes and gear choices late into the night.

THE FARMHOUSE

I detour into the unremarkable town of Coronel Dorrego in pouring rain with high hopes of a hot shower and a warm dry place to sleep with the bomberos.* But the bomberos, it turns out, aren’t keen to host a passing cyclist and so I leave town, as dusk falls, to search for a dry spot to pitch a tent.

Then I get a flat tire. It’s just one of those days.

As I repair the puncture by the roadside out of range of the spray raised by the wheels of passing trucks I spy a track leading through an open gate to a group of trees which obviously shelter a couple of buildings. I decide to try my luck again so I ride up to what turns out to be a once handsome building in a current state of sad dilapidation. A dog barks hysterically and a young man emerges. He immediately grasps the situation and before long I am warming myself by the wood burning stove while Juan continues to paint the kitchen.

A portrait of Juan's grandfater, or maybe it's his great-grandfather, graces the walls of the run down old farmhouse that Juan and his brother are slowly renovating.

In the morning rain pelts down as wind lashes the trees into a frenzy. I decide to remain in bed which is the only warm place in this cavernous farmhouse.

But there are plenty of elegant details...

...too admire on the occasional chilly trip to the bathroom.

THE RAILWAY LINE

Eventually, late in the afternoon, I leave the farmhouse. Given the torrential rain that been falling the decision to strike away from the highway onto a dirt road that follows an old railway line might not be a choice everyone would make. But given speeding trucks on narrow wet tarmac vs. mud… well, to me, there’s only one option.

The road follows an old railway line. These now defunct railway lines are a legacy of Britain's historical involvement in Argentina but...

... the current relationship with the Britain is not a happy one. Not a single village is without some visual reminder of Argentina's claim to the islands that they call the Malvinas and which they see as their sovereign territory.

Farmyards the world over are littered with rusting cars. I spend some time in this one waiting for the arrival of a pick-up truck that is still running to give me a lift around a couple of kilometre section of the road that is more than knee deep under water. Apparently, I have underestimated that amount of water that fell over the last few days and the flat terrain doesn't encourage it to move anywhere fast.

LA PLATA

Finally, after two and a half weeks of largely uninspired riding, I arrive in La Plata, a university town about 70 kilometres out of Buenos Aires where I plan to have a well earned rest before taking on the capital.

La Plata is an early example of one of those geometrically designed cities that idealistic urban designers like to believe will create order out of the chaos of human existence.

A stone marks the exact centre of the city where the cities founders...

... indulged in a bit of open geo-caching.

But I find the unofficial record of the city's (and Argentina's) fortunes and concerns more interesting and relevant. First. there are expressions relating to ideology and social justice. This feminist mural reads: Bread and roses; -- for the rights of working women; -- enough of violence against women, and; -- not one more death caused by backyard abortions.

...

Then there are politics and economics. This mural reads: Nationhood or Vutures! Argentina is currently threatened with yet another massive financial crises due to some complicated financial shenanigans by unethical financiers - the vultures - with a good nose for an unearned dollar. The matter is before a hostile US court at this very moment and the country anxiously awaits the outcome.

And finally, there is simple whimsy. The lamb...

... and the wolf.

CARTONEROS

Life is clearly quite tough for a lot of people in Argentina.

People who make a living collecting cardboard and other useful or recyclable bits of rubbish off the street are called 'cartoneros'.

And there are quite a few of them around.

A SUNDAY RIDE

In many ways I am a reluctant cyclist. I consider cycling transport and I don’t generally do it for entertainment. But since other people see me as a cyclist I do sometime get roped into going for a ride.

I'm staying in La Plata with Lili, who I encountered, initially, through this blog, and she is definitely a keen cyclist.

She belongs to four different cycling clubs that organise group rides and tours.

I am tired and Lili has a cold so we choose one of the less demanding options for this Sunday ride and quickly arrive at the destination...

...where people soon get to grips with the real business.

In Argentina, it's always all about the meat.

And the maté, too, of course.

There aren't that many fancy bikes or trailers, here...

...but they seem to do the job, just fine.

MEMORY

On the way back through La Plata we pass by a disturbing reminder of the excesses of Argentina’s ugly political past.

A house in La Plata that was attacked and destroyed by the military has been preserved, as a memorial museum, to remember the dead and the disappeared.

These faces represent six of the, perhaps, 30 000 victims of Argentina's military dictatorship. The death of the four young men and one woman in this case appears certain - the plaque states they were killed - but mostly people simply vanished. The three month old baby girl was kidnapped and probably adopted into a military family. In Argentina's version of the stolen generation, this was the apparent fate of several hundred babies who vanished along with their parents during the period of the dictatorship and who are only now, in some cases, being reunited with their natural families.

*bomberos = firemen

{ 1 } Comments

  1. Andrea | July 28, 2014 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Ana!!!

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