01st NOV 2011 – AMIGOS

Planned and constructed during the industrial revolution, (minus the industry!), Argentina’s rural towns are planned on the low rise, American grid system connected by now mostly-redundant train lines. What initially appears to be a haphazard arrangement of one ways streets, a sense of order is appreciated once you remember to; one – drive on the right, and two – give way to the right. The latter being particularly difficult to remember on roundabouts! Each town includes a central plaza with its lush green triangles of grass, a fountain and a monument or two. To save on using the GPS, make for the spire and you will be sure to find the Church and grand civic buildings surrounding the central plaza.

Each small town is linked by a ‘camino de tierre’ (road of earth) making each journey an adventure in itself.

Heavily rutted, it take only a little rain to convert each road surface into a muddy paste. Navigating the bikes the sludge can be tricky, but what’s even more tricky is trying to navigate our way by use of the road signs.

Where the road signs are lacking, the local people make up for in their generosity and willingness to help in either Spanish or English, the former of which we are still hopelessly trying to understand. The bikes draw a lot of attention and there is always someone keen to talk to us about our trip. People go out of their way to make sure we make it safely to the best campsite in town and our escorts leave us with a smile and a ‘buen suerte’, (good luck), as we set up camp for the evening.

In Tandil we met a couple of locals who stand tall and proud over the town casting down their steely eye, while the wildlife down on the campsite took a particular interest in our latest technology.

All of which are there to entertain!

The Navigation Manager, although small in stature, never fails to miss a deadline or a rendezvous.

We made it to the small town of General La Madrid, set up camp and feasted. Chloe was thankfully warmed by the immense puffer jacket given to her by the generous Liz, who she is eternally thankful to, and it’s not even cold yet!

Our first trip into town to buy supplies and go about our exploration quietly and innocently brought us only mayhem in the form of Oscar, the local radio presenter. Fascinated, (via pigeon English & terrible Spanish), by our trip, we were forthwith invited to the radio station so he could take our picture that would accompany our mini and rambling interview from the street via Dictaphone.  Oh if only it had been so simple! Before we could say empanada, we were in front of the microphone facing questions about the Malvinas, Margret Thatcher, Carlos Tevez, and whether we found Argentinean Men & Women attractive,  (what?!!)  . . .  ‘Que, fe fe fe fe Ozi Ardilles?!’

‘Si, muy bein’ (Yes, very good) was the common, all to frequent response. Rescued in the latter stages by the local English teacher, (who abandoned her studies and legged it over to the station after hearing us on the airwaves), we recovered the situation sufficiently enough to be invited to a family’s house that evening for an ‘Asado’ (Argentinean BBQ) and more Spanish lessons!

Charmed by the slight glimpse of an abandoned 18th Century adobe house over a solid panelled fence, we roped in our fellow radio presenter to help us ‘let ourselves in’ to the premises. With the help of a step ladder and a generous helping of man power we had the gate open and access to the house was ours. The oldest house in the village and former residence of an original Gaucho, Chloe ducked and dived through the tiny rooms, went crazy with the camera and smiled for the rest of the day – bless! Recently bought by a local land owner, plans were underway to move (!?) the house elsewhere so the site could be made free for new apartment buildings. The new development a certainty, we only hope, (with great doubt), that its relocation is successful and it reacts kindly to being lifted after 200 years of relative peace. Hmmm.

The following morning brought with it sunshine and the anticipation of a new journey. Safely escorted out of town by our host from the previous evening, Pepe, he guided us through the gridded street pattern on his own motor bike, readying us for hitting the road.

Like the old Western Movies, we were escorted to the end of the road on the outskirts of town where we were then faced with 100km of ‘Camino De Tierra’ between us and our next campsite.

“ . . erm . . . Ladies  first!”

Tired yet relived, we arrived in Carhue mid afternoon where we made a whistle stop tour of the central plaza and other sights before setting up camp.

Returning after a quick look inside the church, we found Pedro had taken up residence on a bench next to our bikes. While walking her dogs, Pedro’s wife had seen our abandoned bikes, felt sure they should have a guard, so had sent him to look after them until we returned. Speaking an ounce of English, Pedro explained his guardianship and then invited us to join him for some Maté. Yet again we experienced the kindness and generosity of the Argentinean people.

After a night in the tent we were invited back to the Pedro household the following day for lunch which we subsequently missed, turning up at 5pm following some Spanish-English mis-translation – ooops.

Our late arrival was due to, in part, our visit to the ‘once was’ Tourist Town of Epechuen. Over whelmed by the unexpected rise of the waters of Laguna Epechuen, the village was flooded to a depth of 10m and, over a 20 year period of very slow decline in the water levels, has been reduced to rubble. The result is an apocalyptic sight of destruction. The laguna’s water levels continue to rise and fall every few years, reclaiming the land for a short time. We managed a short visit to survey the destruction; coming to the conclusion the village could not be mass-repaired!

Although a tad later than expected, Pedro and Maria never batted an eyelid, and we spent the evening with them instead, also joined by a family friend, to then crash out at 1am in one of their spare rooms that they had generously offered. By jove! We were ready for bed at 10pm but supper, (empanadas), had only just arrived!

Chloe brushed up on her already expanding Spanish vocabulary, while Chris brushed up on his already expanding waste line.

Pedro was quick to justify the quantity of food as energy for his regular game of football that was to take place the following day. Chloe, in her selfless wisdom recommended Chris as a star player, securing him a place in the team for the fast approaching game!

Full of trepidation and uncertainty, Chris joined Pedro and the team in the blazing heat the following day. Five minutes in and things were proving difficult for our talented hero – it was like Kenny Dalgliesh had been signed by the Boca Juniours. However, disaster struck as those pasties and cakes began to take their toll!

Six minutes in and it was time for a rest!

Re-energized with more cakes and Maté, we settled into an evening with Pedro and Maria for a second night so Chris could recover from his gallivanting on the pitch – he was a broken man! The first full game of football in over a year ended in Chris & Pedro’s side losing 2 – 8! The evening brought more friends over, including Ricardo who, having travelled extensively across the world on his bicycle (crazy man!), lent us his prized Argentinean road map and showed us the best routes – thanks Ricardo!

We said our goodbyes to the lovely Pedro & Maria on the third day and made for the hills of Sierra De La Ventana for our first taste of the mountains of Argentina.

Cold Showers – Chloe 2 v 1.5 Chris

Near death experiences, apparently! –  Chloe 1 v 0 Chris

Nutmeged (football speak apparently, ladies!) by a middle aged Argentinean – Chloe 0 v 1 Chris

Radio Interviews (woohoo!) – Chloe 1 v 1 Chris

Books read – Chloe 0.5 v 0 Chris

Trousers ripped – Chloe 1 v 1 Chris

Rucksacks lost (with new camel back bladder, doh!) – Chloe 1 v 0 Chris

Hasta la vista! x

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12 Responses to 01st NOV 2011 – AMIGOS

  1. Luz Guanziroli says:

    Hello guys!!!!!!!!!!! I hope you remember me. I´m the lady who made the translation on the radio in Gral. La Madrid. I aprove all my exams!!!!!! Lovely the picture with you! Y will keep track of your journey. Keep safe! 🙂

  2. katie maher says:

    This is like reading the latest instalment of a big blockbuster ( which of course it is) can’t wait for it to continue. The near death experience sounds a bit scary or am I better not knowing? You’ve met some great people and are spreading your own sunshine as you go.Take Care. xxx

  3. harriet says:

    Hi you two, what an amazing story and I wish I could be there…. hope to hear more!

  4. Jo Greenwood says:

    Wow! First one of your blogs I’ve read 🙂

    I love how much of the detail you’ve put down and the fact you look so happy Chloe 🙂

    You guys are my heros – what an awesome adventure 🙂


  5. Kate T says:

    Wow, the people that you are meeting are so generous! And the scenery looks beautiful. Are you eating freeze dried meals on your camp?!?!??! Were we your guinea pigs?!!! Keep safe, dudes xx

  6. Helen O'Kane says:

    Loved reading your news so far and but wish you’d expanded on the trouser ripping situation?!?! You both look great and v happy, looking forward to the next instalment!
    Sending love from us all
    The O’Kanes x x x x

  7. Pedro says:

    Hi ¡¡¡¡ Please ¡¡send me a mail¡¡¡¡¡¡¡ I have not ¡¡¡¡ IWe hope windows pictures ¡¡¡¡¡ Regards Abrazon ¡¡¡¡¡

  8. Rick Walker says:

    After seeing the problems with rising damp at Epicuen I am slightly worried about the efficacy of the membrane breneath the Sports Centre at School. Can Chris assure me that he will be back in the UK by the time the ice cap melts and sea levels rise?

    Also very pleased to see that Sam is learning Spannish.

    Keep going both of you – you’re living our dreams as well as your own.

    Rick @ MTS

  9. Stewart Mowatt says:

    Your reports and photos are super. When are we going to see them on the Horizons Unlimited newsletter so that many more people can enjoy them?
    PS Note my new email address

  10. chris mcconnachie says:

    I forgot,
    When I got out the car at work this morning there is a 650GS Dakar parked outside the office which made me think of you.
    Then I login and see that you’ve posted this new blog… spooky!

  11. chris mcconnachie says:

    This is great guys,
    When you watch that Mcgregor guy with his mate Charlie on the bikes doing their long trips down,accross and round a bit, you hear them talking about the local hospitality etc. but you often associate it with the attached film crews and entourage they have on tow.
    It’s great to see and read that locals really do welcome you in like this because you are travellers with an interesting story to tell.
    Keep it up!
    With Chris’s glass ankles that was a high risk football match, then he lets in 8 goals when he was keeper! 😉

  12. Anna Yeung says:

    Sounds amazing guys! Lots of lovely people and a taste of real local food and hospitality!
    The flooded village sounded amazing! Love the photos! Xx

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