The other gringos

Note: due to popular demand, I am handing over all blogging responsibilities to Alejandro after this post

The Ruta Quarenta is a long road – we passed a sign outside Chilecito that said 4000 km to Ushuaia – but apparently we’re not the only ones who think riding a bicycle through the Argentinian desert is a completely insane reasonable thing to do. In the last week we´ve met a surprising number of people biking south. Being able to have a normal conversation in English, or even French, is a relief (sometimes I think my Spanish is actually getting worse – just ask Alex). So here´s a recap of the characters we´ve come across.

After our somewhat humiliating attempt to keep up with the Swiss, we were a little wary of the euros, but Pierre and Suzanne were no Hans and Franz. They’re from Avignon and started their trip in Jujuy, a city north of Salta, and, like us, they’re biking to Ushuaia. But the similarities end there.

They found us sitting outside the only store in Pituil in a hyperglycemic stupor eating a foul looking (and tasting) pink and yellow frozen substance that was supposed to be ice cream and drinking Salta Negra, our beer of choice after a tough day on the bikes. This was the day we
had subsisted entirely on a can of dulce de leche and cookies. We watched them emerge from what we thought was a bare bones convenience store with fresh bread, cheese, olives, and tomatoes. Apparently, we had a lot to learn. Since then, we’ve been eating a lot of sardine sandwiches, another gourmet lunch specialty we learned from the French. It tastes better than it sounds. Actually, everything tastes better when you bike 60 miles a day.

On the way to Chilecito the following day, we came across another contingent of French cyclists. These two families from Toulouse were biking around the world with their four kids in tow. They had tandem bikes and were carrying books and school supplies for a year long bike tour. So I guess we can never complain about biking uphill with loaded bikes ever again.

A few days later at a plaza in Villa Union, we met Tom and Sarah, two doctors from Australia, who started biking in Banff, Canada, and have made their way south through the U.S., Mexico´s Copper Canyon, the jungles of Central America, and on through Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, and now Argentina. They’ve been on the road for over a year and bike mostly on dirt roads and mountain biking trails. Once again, we feel a bit outdone. Even crazier, we discovered they had spent three weeks earlier in their trip cycling with this guy.

Now we’re in San Juan, 100 miles north of Mendoza, but we’re taking a bus for this last leg because we heard some reports about people getting mugged biking into the city. Apparently civilization is more dangerous than camping off the road in the middle of the Argentinian desert.

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Les Francais

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looking out from the road over the Cuesta de Miranda, an unpaved section of ruta 40 outside Chilecito

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Tom and his Surly Big Dummy - the SUV of bikes

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “The other gringos

  1. Donny

    Holy crap! Tom and Sarah must be insane.

    • Depending on your definition, we probably are crazy! We’re not sure whether it’s for cycling dirt roads or keeping up with Joe Cruz in route imagination if not pace!.

      Cycling into Mendoza wasn’t a problem, but leaving the bike for 20 minutes to go into a shop turned out to be fatal for Sarah’s bike – now gone!

      We must also point out that keeping up with Alex and Sarah on paved roads was quite a task – had they continued with us we would have been forced to produce some nice soft sand to slow them down!

      Tom and Sarah

  2. Outdone??!! I nearly fainted trying to keep up with you speedy kids! And yes civilization is way more dangerous than wild camping… As demonstrated when my bike was nicked yesterday…. (the other) Sarah

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