Argentina!!

Trip Start Oct 16, 2012
1
109
136
Trip End Apr 20, 2013


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Flag of Argentina  , Jujuy,
Monday, March 11, 2013

Another sunny, clear start to the day, which involved me clambering around taking photos of the tent in the cactus landscape, whilst waiting for the water to boil for our coffee and oatmeal.  As we pushed our bikes out from behind the cactus bushes we surprised a couple of local boys who were waiting on the road for their transport to school.  I don't suppose they were expecting to see two sand covered white folks wheeling their bikes out to the main road. 

As we cycled I noticed that the school children all had school uniforms, which is the first time we have seen this since Colombia.  We also saw that even the smallest towns had a football field, with basketball nets and stadium seating on the sides, many of these had a roof above them, and were the biggest and most expensive looking construction in the village.  I wondered if there had been charity aid to the area or if it was government spending for near the border to Argentina.  In a village with three houses, it is quite striking to see a big sports arena and children playing with matching football kits on. 

We were intrigued how far we would make it for the day, as we had a border crossing to complete to get into Argentina and the clocks would also go forward another hour.  We sped through the 50km to Villazon, the border town with Argentina.  The traffic was light, the road was smooth and we were able to whizz over the rolling hills, keeping up speeds of 20-25km per hour.  We stopped a couple of times for a drink and some fruit, but still made it to the border town by 11am. 

As we arrived at the town, we saw a lady selling Saltenas and couldn't resist buying a couple for the road.  As we asked her if they were chicken or beef, paid for them and leaned over (still with bikes between our legs) to take the bag from her, a beggar woman pestered us for money.  It was really inconvenient, so we said no and ignored her.  By the time we had straightened ourselves up, and were inspecting the Saltenas, Kory realised that the beggar woman had stolen one of his riding gloves, which were resting on his bike.  He had taken them off to find some change and the woman had grabbed one of them and run off with it.  It was so annoying, as she clearly didn't need a specialised cycling glove, which has pads on the palms to protect your hands from getting sore.  It is also so worn out that it permanently stays in the position of Kory's hand, because it has gotten so wet with sweat and dried, repeatedly over the course of the trip.  Most of the ends of the fingers have holes in them and they were probably caked in a layer of sand from the recent desert experience.  We were too scared to wash them in case the dirt was the only thing holding them together.  So, clearly she didn't need it and I'm sure it was high time that we bought some new ones anyway, but I was still annoyed!

We figured that we would get some lunch on the Bolivian side of the border as we still had some Bolivianos left over, and saw that a woman had roasted chickens ready to eat.  She served us the biggest roasted chicken breasts you have ever  seen, alongside chips and rice.  They were huge and neither of us could finish them, which is saying something as we both have massive appetites (we saved it and put it in our pasta dinner later).  As I paid, I miss heard her and over-paid by 10 bolivianos, thanked her and walked out.  She was soon rushing after me to give me back the extra 1 GBP or $1.50 that I had overpaid.  I was so pleased that our final interaction with a Bolivian person was kind and well intentioned.  She needed that money far more than I do and she ran after me to give it to me, rather than keeping quiet about it, which she easily could have done and I would have never known

We made our way to the border and I wondered how long the process would take us.  In fact we only had to walk up to the passport booth, hand them our passports and they stamped us out of Bolivia and into Argentina.  That was it, no questions asked, we were now officially in Argentina and allowed to stay for three months.  As a Canadian, Kory had already had to pay over the internet for his visa, which had cost him $75.  This is a reciprocal agreement where Argentina charge foreigners the same amount that they are charged to go abroad, therefore Canadians,   folks from the States and Australians are charged to enter Argentina.  As the UK lets  Argentinians in for free, I escaped the charge.

As we made our way into Argentina we were surprised that there was so little in the border town.  There was much more on the Bolivian side and we were pleased that we had eaten before crossing the border.  There was one bank, which unfortunately wouldn't accept our bank cards and no money change stations that we could see.

We made our way into Argentina, and passed the "Ushuaia (Southern tip of Argentina) 5200km" sign.  It will have to be a different trip to make it to the south of Argentina, as we are now running out of time.  The landscape slowly changed and we were back on the altiplano, with vast open scenery stretching as far as we could see.  We noticed that lots of the farm land was fenced off and there were ranches with horses and beef cattle. 

We cycled into the town of Abra Pampa, which we had high hopes for being a civilised, modern, Westernised town.  Of course, it was none of the above and we realised that we had to get much further from the border to encounter any of the above.  The only bank in town wouldn't accept our cards, so we spent the night without any Argentinian money.  We also struggled to find any water but thankfully the town was just large enough to have a police station, who obliged in letting us fill up our water bladders. 

We cycled back on to the altiplano and considered our options.  The landscape was as flat as can be, with uninviting fenced off fields along both sides of the road.  The next town was 35km away and probably wouldn't have any accommodation options for two cyclists with no local money.  We cycled for an hour, and as the sun started to lower in the sky, Kory suggested we camp underneath one of the road bridges.  As we investigated we realised that it was completed hidden from the road, and although noisy it was flat, sheltered and hidden.  We had the tent set up underneath the bridge and dinner made in time to enjoy an amazing sunset.  It was beautiful and we sat out of the tent to enjoy it for as long as we could. 

Unfortunately as the sun set and the clouds rolled in for the night, the wind picked up and the dust/sand blasted our tent relentlessly.  It blew beneath the tent cover and through the netted inner layer.  It covered me all night and I felt like a sticky, sand monster.  We had camped for four nights, which was fine, but now I felt grimy and sandy.  Tomorrow night we need to make it to a hotel room.
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