Back on the bikes

Trip Start Oct 16, 2012
Trip End Apr 20, 2013

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Flag of Argentina  , Salta,
Monday, March 18, 2013

For some reason it seems harder to summon up the motivation to cycle following a long rest period than it does when we are towards the end of a long stint on the bikes. Coming in to Salta I happily cycled 165km and thought nothing of it, today however it seemed like a chore and we both stalled as much as we could before getting on the bikes.  It was only small things but we had a longer breakfast than normal, checked our emails, chatted to the German cyclist and suddenly it was 11am before we made it on to the road.

Then we were met with an absolute lack of road signs and confusing directions from the locals, which meant that it took a further hour to get out of the city. Kory had a sore thigh so we also stopped at a pharmacy before leaving, and we filled up with fuel for the camp stove, which added further delay.  As we stopped at the petrol station, we had been riding for 15 minutes and Kory realised that his brand new riding gloves (bought in Salta for $22) were already falling apart!  There wasn't much we could do about it though and we were finally we were on the road and were greeted by a fast moving, divided highway or dual carriageway.

The road made its way over a small pass, through a forested area.   Throughout the day we either had forest on each side or fenced off farmed land, with high sweetcorn crops or tall grasses. We didn't pass by a single village, town, restaurant, or housing settlement.  In short, there were no facilities and nothing to see.

As we entered Argentina we presumed there would be lots of restaurants, service stations and shops along the road and had heard plenty of tales of frequent camp-sites at regular intervals. We saw none of these things but instead were again left looking for any water that was available. We did see a rest area, that had a picnic bench, which was a new sight for us since arriving in South America.  We stopped and had a late lunch, and were extremely grateful that we had packed a loaf of bread and the left over roasted vegetables from the previous night. We would have had to eat oatmeal otherwise.

We continued on and we were feeling in much better spirits after having a hearty lunch. The weather was cloudy and grey but it didn't actually rain all day. We had expected to drop down to the lower elevation of 1000m and be hit with a heat wave similar to that on the coasts of Peru and Colombia. We thought we would be in short sleeved t-shirts, our rain coats would be stored at the bottom of the bags and we would be complaining about the heat. Nope. I still needed my rain coat on because the wind was cold and the grey sky looked like it may rain at any moment.

We probably had just enough water to cook dinner and to add to our oatmeal in the morning but we didn't see any suitable camp spots, so we continued on for longer than we wished to. It was 8pm by the time we reached Metan and well and truly dark. We fastened on as many lights as we could and cycled along the busy highway hoping that the drivers would see our reflective bags, bikes and lights. We arrived in to Metan half an hour later and were relieved to see that there was a hotel. It was the first town that we had seen all day and it seemed a lot more rough and ready than we thought it would be. Our perception was that Argentina was more developed than the countries we have been in previously but little towns like this do little to persuade us of this. There was lots of construction, shabby looking buildings and generally poor housing. We found a hotel and were then reminded that they thought they were developed at least when they charged us $40 for the night. Compared to the average of $8 in Peru, this seems extortionate. We were treated to a really hot, good shower though and air conditioning, which we really didn't need but thought that we should try anyway, as we haven't seen it since Ecuador. We went to the restaurant downstairs and ordered two beef milaneses, which are like a shnitzel, bread crumbed thin, flattened meat, with chips. The wait for the food fair overshadowed the portion size, which was tiny and by the time we ate our food we didn't have the energy to cook anything else or order another meal.  We knew that after cycling 145km we would be going to bed hungry. By the time we were leaving the restaurant it was filling up with locals ordering there food, it was 10pm, it seems like this is the standard Argentinian dinner time.
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