Hungry days - using up the last fat reserves

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

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Flag of Argentina  , Tucumán,
Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The sun was out and shining brightly today, which was the first time in almost a week.  The blue skies immediately raised our spirits and we felt refreshed from our evening off and our big dinner.  The road was not as busy as it had been and we easily joined the ring road around Tucuman, which meant we didn't have to enter the big city. 

We passed numerous signs saying no cyclists on the highway, and these were usually accompanied by signs depicting no horses and carts.  As we cycled passed them we noticed that there were lots of people driving their horses and carts along the highway and they were joined by a lot of cyclists.  I expect this is what made the highway seem better to us today, as there were lots more slow moving vehicles.  It was more reminiscent of the traffic in Bolivia, or in India, where you don't see as many fast cars or trucks, or we are further up the food chain of speedy movers.  I also noticed a more blatant disregard for normal road rules, including cars coming down slip roads the wrong way to then do a U turn on to the traffic and people going the wrong way down the divided highway/dual carriageway.  It definitely made things a bit more interesting and prevented the faster cars from cruising at their maximum speeds. 

Kory noticed that his tyre was a little bit flat and we wondered if he had a slow leak in his new tube, which he had only changed in Salta.  We stopped a couple of times to refill it and wondered how much use we are going to see from our new pump, which we had to buy in Salta too.  Hopefully it works better than his new bike gloves, which are falling apart at a rapid rate. 

Although there were no road signs we were able to follow the ring road around the city, and using the position of the sun and the shadows cast from our bikes judged the road that was heading south.  We also knew that we needed to keep the Andes mountain range on our right, and as long as we didn't accidentally climb over them again, we would be heading in vaguely the correct direction, and shouldn't find ourselves in Chile. 

The only concern over the day, was the lack of food available to us.  We stopped at one petrol station and after picking over their small offerings devoured a packet of crackers and some pretty awful processed cheese paste (Kory says it is like Cheese-Whiz but I have never had the pleasure of trying such a delicacy).  The second petrol station only had fizzy drinks for sale, so we had to satisfy ourselves with that.  So, by the time we arrived into the town of Simoca, at about 7pm, you can imagine that we were starving.  We had cycled just over 130km, on some crackers and processed cheese, resembling a Dairylea Dunker for anyone reading this in England. 

The town of Simoca was a delight though, it seemed so friendly and instantly homely.  There were people riding their horses and carts down the main cobbled street, with restaurants and clothing stores around a big, sunny plaza.  There were green grocers, with fresh vegetables in wooden crates spilling out on to the pavement to attract passers-by.  We asked in the tourist information office and they told us to camp in the town's sports ground.  When we arrived we saw that there were numerous football, basketball and tennis courts, with numerous games in play.  They also had a swimming pool, which would have been perfect but it wasn't open.  The managers were happy for us to camp in the corner and had an air of regularity about it, as though they have people stopping by all of the time.

We had stopped by the butchers and the grocers on the way in to town, so Kory cooked up a feast of chorizo sausages, with pasta and vegetables.  A couple of kids came to check out what we were up to and sat down and watched us with fascination.  I wondered if they noticed the unusual gender roles as Kory cooked dinner and I put the tent up, and then proceeded to take his tyre off and repair the obvious puncture in the new tube.  If they did notice, they didn't say anything but I thought it didn't do them any harm to watch a girl complete these activities and get a bit of grease on her hands.  As they were fascinated with the camping gear, I asked them if they liked camping, to which they feverishly nodded their heads but I couldn't get an answer to if they had actually ever been camping.  This town seems to be fairly modern and have certain amenities, which I presume allow the children more opportunities to those we saw in Bolivia, but I wonder what they will do and if they will ever be able to travel like we have. 

We watched the football and basketball games as we had our dinner and I noticed that numerous men and women were out running in the evening.  They circled the stadium grounds for an hour or so, chatting to each other or listening to IPods and it seemed very western.  These are things we have never seen in all of the other countries we have visited, you would never see someone in India or Nepal or Southeast Asia running.  Other things that Kory and I have seen since entering Argentina and realised that we haven't seen for 6 months include; someone reading a book, someone walking down the street with a take-away coffee, someone doing yoga and someone walking their dog.  All very simple things but we did a huge double take each time and said out loud "did you see that?".
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