Special Feature: Class 3 questions and answers

Trip Start Mar 11, 2005
Trip End Jul 15, 2005

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Flag of Argentina  ,
Monday, May 23, 2005

The answers to all the questions you wanted to ask but were afraid to: and the children of Sandford School, Devon, were not.

"Dear Class 3

Many thanks for your questions, we will answer them as you have asked them.

How are you?

We're very well thank you: we have spent a week here in Mendoza where we have been able to have a long rest.

Thank you for the email which interested us very much. Miss Robins has told us a little bit about your trip but we have lots of questions we would like to ask you.

What do you eat?

A lot!! As we're doing so much exercise we need to eat a lot of food, but sometimes there are very few places where we can buy food. However, most places sell biscuits and as biscuits are very sweet, they are very good food to eat when we are actually cycling. So we carry lots of packets of biscuits which we eat throughout the day. In the evening, if we can't get a cooked meal, we eat bread with ham, cheese, jam, etc.

Have you been brushing your teeth?

Yes, we carry toothpaste and toothbrushes and we always make sure that we have water.

How many times have you changed the tyres on your bike?

We changed all the tyres yesterday for the first time.

When will be the next big stop?

The next big stop will be at a place called Salta which is about 800 miles from here. We will probably stop there for a few days before we cross the Andes mountains into Chile.

When are you going to come home? (Miss Robins would like to know as well!)

We're not sure as it is difficult to know how long it will take to complete the journey. We think we should reach Lake Titicaca in July.

Are your legs tired?

Not at the moment as we have been resting. As we have done so much cycling, our bodies have become used to the work, but our legs do start to hurt at the end of a very long day. We're not sure why, but our legs always hurt quite a lot after we stop for a break and we start cycling again. It doesn't last longer than a few minutes, but it always happens.

Do you feel sweaty when you are cycling and do your arms and legs feel as if they are going to fall off?

We do get a bit sweaty but the weather has been quite cold so we don't sweat too badly. However, we try to wash the clothes that have been next to our skin, every day, even if that means washing them in a river.

Our arms and legs don't feel as if they are going to fall off, but sometimes, usually at the end of a long day, we wish they would and then they would stop hurting!

How many miles do you do in a day?

It varies according to the conditions - there are 4 main factors which affect us:

1) The wind: for most of the time the wind has been against us and this slows us down a lot.

2) The hills: as we are cycling close to the Andes mountains, we have a lot of hills and mountains to climb.

3) The road: for 800 miles of this trip, the road had no tarmac, there was just loose gravel, pebbles, dust and dirt. As you can imagine, this makes it very difficult to cycle, and sometimes impossible, as the bikes sink into it and slide across it. It is even more difficult when this is combined with the wind and the hills.

4) The isolation: there are very few people in Patagonia and very little shelter because of the weather, so we have to make sure that we have somewhere to sleep. We carry a tent, but we still have to have some shelter for the tent otherwise it could be damaged, and we also have to have water to drink and hopefully wash. So we might want to carry on cycling but we stop because we have found a suitable place by a river to put up a tent, or a farm where there is some shelter. Once we stopped by a solid gate, just because it provided a tiny amount of shelter for the tent.

So the number of miles we do varies according to one or more of these factors. The most we have done in one day is 100 miles, and the least is 20.

Have you ever been bored of cycling?

Yes. Although there are a lot of hills and mountains, much of Argentina is very flat. When we cycled 100 miles there were no hills at all, just completely flat from beginning to end, and when the landscape is so barren, it can be boring - so then we stop and eat a packet of biscuits!!

Have you met anybody on the way?

Yes we have met a lot of people although in the early part of the trip we met very few because few people lived or travelled there. However, the people we did meet were very kind and helpful, we think because they understand that it is difficult and possibly dangerous to be somewhere with so few people. At one place we called at a farm and asked if they would mind if we put our tent on their land near a building to provide some shelter, and they invited us in for coffee, bread, butter and jam and then said that we could use their empty cottage. At another place we stopped and asked to put up a tent, and the gentleman invited us to stay, had beds for us and invited us to share his meal of roast lamb, which was delicious. We have also met some cyclists (everyone else going the other way because of the wind!), although the last cyclist we met was about 1500 miles ago.

What kinds of snakes have you seen? How many?

We haven't seen any live snakes (fortunately) but we have seen a few dead ones on the road: we don't know what they were. We did not think about snakes at all until someone warned us that we should be careful when camping!

Do you have tatantulas? If so, how many have you seen?

We haven't seen any tarantulas but we do see some very big spiders crossing the roads as well as locusts and beetles. The spiders are grey and about the size of a fried egg. The locusts and beetles are about the length of your hand.

Do the people wear different clothes from us?

Not really, but the gauchos (cowboys) often wear traditional clothes which are usually black with a black hat (similar to a North American cowboy hat but smaller and stiffer) and a brightly coloured scarf around their waists. Many older people wear similar hats or berets.

Have you seen any volcanoes?

We don't think so: we have seen many mountains, but as far as we know they are not volcanoes, or at least not active volcanoes.

Is it good in Argentina?

It is great in Argentina. It is a huge country and we can't see all of it, but cycling is an excellent way of meeting the people and experiencing the real country. Most of the people have been very friendly and helpful and the scenery is fantastic. It is quite cheap to stay here (a 3-course meal with a huge steak and a bottle of wine is less than 4 pounds in some restaurants). However, Patagonia is a little more expensive because of where it is - everything has to be taken there in lorries and each café or restaurant has to create its own electricity as there is no main supply. The weather has been cool but as we go farther north it is getting warmer and we have had no rain whilst cycling. Apparently in Patagonia it is dry or it snows, and snows, and snows. We were seriously worried that it would start snowing before we got out of Patagonia, but we did make it in time. In the summer (during the British winter), it is very, very hot. However, if you want to visit Argentina (and we would very much recommend it) you should learn Spanish, as very few people speak English here.

By the way, we have found Mendoza in one of our class atlases.

Glad to hear that you found Mendoza in your atlas: Mendoza is a lovely small city and we can see the Andes mountains on one side. We have been looking forward to getting to Mendoza as we heard that it was a nice place, so we planned to stop there for a while to rest and check our bikes. After so long on a bike, it's nice to be able to do ordinary things like go to the cinema and to lie in bed in the mornings and not worry that if you don't get up before dawn, you might not be able to get to the next destination in time. However, we think we will get going in a couple of days' time and head northwards to Salta.

We hope this e-mail answers your questions, but if you think of any more, please send them to us and we'll answer them when we can.

With best wishes


Philip Robins and Andrew Starke."
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