A leisurely stroll

Trip Start Apr 17, 2006
Trip End Jun 14, 2006

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Flag of Argentina  ,
Sunday, May 14, 2006

My next destination was Cordoba, the second biggest city in Argentina, and a mere twenty miles away - a pootle round the park in my humble estimation, barely worth getting out of bed for and certainly not worthy of me bothering to doll myself up in all my cycling paraphenalia and triggering yet another fashion catastrophe. Hour and a half tops.

So in my jeans and T-shirt I casually set off down the road. THREE AND A HALF HOURS LATER I rolled in Cordoba, grumpy as a pantomime dame. In eloquent Spanish, I registered my complaint at the tourist office. "What a wind! It was off the beaufort scale! And leaving me only a two-inch strip of cateye-strewn tarmac between the particularly viscious rumble strip and the stony verge, upon which you have deliberately scattered myriad broken beer bottles, a trillion shards of glass from unlucky former windscreens, and the entrails of K.I.A. brake lights, my only alternative being to get lawnmowered to the ground by the passing Citroens and Fiats, whom you have clearly remunerated handsomely in return for having them pass mere millimetres from my gesticulating fist at hundreds of kilometres per hour. And did I forget to mention the wind? It's as if you don't want cyclists in your city! Fine, if you don't want me here, I'm leaving, but in the meantime, do you have a list of hotels?"

My mood was not improved, as I discovered the city to be as dead as an extinct species of Australasian flightless bird, owing to the "Cordobeses" having retained the traditional meaning of the sabbath to an extreme that I am quite unused to. I wasn't expecting red carpets and fanfares shrilly announcing my arrival, but the odd person about the street might have been nice, even if open shops was too much to ask. While exhausted inhabitants rested their overworked selves behind closed doors, I checked into a backpacker's, a move quickly regretted when I found that like every "backpacker's" I have ever stayed in, it was full of that exasperating subspecies of traveller who travels halfway round the world specifically in order to get drunk and spend the afternoons hunting the supermarkets in vain for things from home that they just don't have out here. As it happened I was sharing a room with a couple of English girls who shared the very same grievance. This created an instant bond. I breakfasted with them the next morning, mainly so as to bask further in the glory that they bestowed on me in ample quantities due to my perceived cyclotastic adventurism (the beard undoubtedly helping the cause here). We parted ways and I had a little look at some of the churches and other nice buildings before deciding that Cordoba still wasn't all that great even once the Cordobeses had woken up, and made my way to the bus station.

Bus station did you say? Yes, though I'd love to hide it like a dirty secret, pretending that I'd just had a really good day on the bike, I must come clean and admit: I decided to cut out the next bit of Argentina, which took the longstraightflat mode of road to its logical extreme, by getting a big old lump of diesel-powered internal combustion to eat it up for me. The English girls happened to be getting a bus at the same time. "Do you want to share a taxi to the bus station?" offered one of them, Chloe. "Thanks, I would, but I've got my bike," I politely retorted. "Oh yeah, of course, that must be a pain, how do you manage to get around with that?"

Sadly my first Argentine bus experience was not a good one - the driver kept stopping to fiddle under the bonnet, which culminated eventually in everyone having to change to another bus. I got to my destination, Miramar, situated on a big lake, in time for sunset.

Beard status: worry yourselves not, dear friends, when I threatened " a trim" I did not mean the end of my beard altogether (much to my Mum's disappointment, no doubt - or was she just throwing a mischievous feline amongst harmoniously unanimous pigeons?). I simply decided that those areas of my face which were not trying to hard enough to grow hair upon them had been given enough chances, and equally, those that were trying a little too hard needed calming a little. Everything is much tidier now. The drawback of the beard, however, is proving to be that nobody believes I'm me, and they probably won't let me over the border into Uruguay, let alone on an aeroplane.
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