The wind was frustrating yesterday but it was only a warmup for the nightshift. After a period of calm we were awoken by tent-stake pulling winds. Just another night in the scrub, a few hundred meters off the road, on a bicycle tour.
Morning provided more unpleasant surprises. The heat turned our remaining hard boiled eggs into stink bombs. I opened one for breakfast and it had a strong sulphur smell. But, I couldn’t be exactly sure that the egg was the culprit. After a few hot days and baby-wipe showers, everything in the tent smells a bit off.
After a tentative bite, my gag reflex took over, spraying bits of egg across the ground. I held the remaining egg in my hand towards Sarah asking “Does this smell funny?”. A tip, when posed this question in any situation but especially on tour, one should never lean closer and breathe deep.
We had a few more skunked eggs that I gingerly handled until I launched them off into the desert. As further proof that the eggs were inedible, neither ants nor flies would touch the egg pieces on the ground preferring instead to feast upon my morning constitutional. So here’s another tip, cover your tent in eye-watering rotten eggs to prevent ant attacks like this.
We took advantage of the relatively cool morning, a rare tailwind and flat terrain to crush the first 65km (40 miles) in about two and a half hours.
Like yesterday, the road paralleled an old train line, which in places was still firmly anchored in its raised bed, while in others it was washed out, sometimes with ties stubbornly clinging to the rails. The line was dotted with abandoned railway stations, constructed from stone. Most of the roofs had fallen in but the buildings were still impressive, outliving the iron horses that once transported goods and people to nearby ranches and towns.
Like many places we’ve passed, paved roads and increasingly efficient vehicles killed or are slowing draining life out of small communities, as it becomes fast and easy to motor to larger cities. We witnessed this phenomenon in West Texas, Baja Mexico and now here, where towns fade to nothing more than a name on map.
More impressive than the buildings was the fact that the rails were still in the ground and had not been scavenged for scrap when the price of scrap steel peaked in 2007-2008. But then again, a capitalist mentality does not permeate the Argentinian culture so I’m not surprised the abandoned rails continue to rust in peace.
We arrived a bit winded after our fast ride to the lonesome roadside restaurant where we ate lunch. It was a boon, not only for a needed water resupply, but also for its shade.
With lots of daylight we pushed on to San Juan, a large city, where we planned to spend the night at one of several campgrounds listed on our map. Being Argentina and Sunday meant that we would be lucky to find anything open to restock our dwindling food supplies.
In town, a flat tire led to the discovery of a broken spoke (you called it Gerald in your comment!). Despite the bad luck, we had plenty of shade and had a melon truck nearby. While I set to work replacing the spoke and fixing the puncture, Sarah cut up a melon snack. In all my years of mountain biking, commuting and touring, it was my first broken spoke.
Back on the road, we zig-zagged across the city in a combination scavenger hunt of “Find the food” and “No room at the inn”. We managed to find an open kiosk after about an hour of stopping and asking and we proceeded to load up on food for the next couple of days. The search for camping became an exercise in futility. Each mapped camp location was either open for day use only (they had pools) or were private recreation facilities.
It was a unique experience to consistently be refused a spot to pitch our tent by every Jesús, María y José. Or, when permission was granted after a call to the “Jefe” (boss), being asked to hand over the equivalent of 30 – 40 USD for the night!
So we moved on, left town and stabled for the night in a patch behind a gas station, along with the other long haul truckers.