As we left town I noticed that we had to turn right to get back on to the main highway and then just continue straight for the next, um, four days probably
. Kory said that concept isn't so strange in Canada but for Cornish people it seems crazy, we just don't have such long, straight roads. We cycled for two and a half hours or so before stopping at a petrol station, which was the first thing that we had seen all day after leaving the town. As we walked in to the large establishment we were hit with a blast of air conditioning, heard pleasant music and the smell of roasted coffee beans. We noticed that they had a microwave and hot water available, which is the first microwave we have seen since leaving Canada. They also had WI-FI available to customers. I can not stress how unusual all of these things are, even though they are taken for granted in the western world. We have not seen these things at all and now here they were. After yesterday when we couldn't find anything to eat and the petrol stations had little to offer us, this one seemed to have dropped from a different planet. Granted, the toilets had no toilet paper, working flush or lock on the door, and there weren't the services you might expect from a service station like an ATM or food available, but this was much more than we have seen for a long time. We had a leisurely lunch of left overs from last night, enjoyed a cold drink, checked our emails and then begrudgingly resumed riding in the midday heat.
The landscape was much of the same green, farmed fields, with trees and cattle and the occasional herd of goats
. It was so flat we could barely see more than the fields that directly surrounded us and only had occasional glimpses of the mountain range west of us. It seems to be exhausting us much more riding in the heat again. We experienced it along the coast of Colombia and Peru, where the intense heat makes us sweaty and lethargic and saps our energy out of us. We have managed to do 100-150km days for the passed four days but we are way more tired than usual, and this is coupled with the lack of food. We decided to call it a day at 5.30pm and ask to camp at the small town of Lavalle, rather than push on any further. We didn't have much of a choice anyway, as the next town should be 46km away, and we don't want to risk cycling in the dark again along the fairly busy highway.
We cycled around the small town, which had a population of a couple of hundred people probably. There is a small square, with a children's squeaky swing set, a few stray dogs and not much else. We didn't see any shops to speak of, but presumably they have a market or local trading arrangement for fruit and vegetables at least. We had little options, but to ask at the police station if they knew where we could possibly camp. The old policeman seemed friendly enough and pointed at the church grounds and either said we could camp there and it should be quiet for us, or we could camp there if we were quiet. Either way, we found ourselves setting up camp in the grounds of an old church, which stood forlornly at the side of the town, all locked up and like it is only opened on Sundays. I couldn't help but chuckle as I put the tent up as I wondered where on earth I would be putting it up tomorrow night. Tonight a church ground, but tomorrow who knows....
As we hadn't showered for a couple of days we thought we should try to rinse ourselves down a bit at least
. Kory filled a bucket with cold water and we both stripped off behind the church to clean ourselves as best as we could. I hoped that a priest or someone didn't suddenly arrive to find the surprise of two naked westerners in his back garden area.
In the evening two busy bodies, I mean well wishers, came to check that we were ok and that we didn't need anything. They had a bit of a snoop around and spied the bikes. I got the impression that the answers I gave to their questions about our trip and what we were up to in their village, was only confirming what the policeman had already told them. They were completely harmless and I guess we should expect it asking to camp in such a small village. I guess it isn't everyday that they had two cyclists camping in their church grounds.
We slept quite well in the sports stadium area and woke to lots of people working on the sports building roof and women were sweeping the floor. It was busy and it felt strange to be waking up in a tent next to the work area and walking through to brush our teeth. The spot was perfectly fine for what we needed though and we were pleased to be able to pop into the supermarket again before leaving the town. We picked up a few supplies for the day, as we had no idea if we would see anything on the road at all and didn't want to go hungry again like yesterday. As we packed our supplies into our overloaded panniers a local man came up and asked about our trip. Although we discussed our stats at length, and he asked all sorts of questions I think he would have chatted all morning if my Spanish was better. We also came across a bakery on the main street and indulged in a couple of pastries before starting the day.