12/01/2019 Simon ‘Wardy’ Ward is nomadonanomad
As I set off from Trelew I’m well sorted out on the food and water front, and I know I have it in the legs and lungs to do big distances if conditions are ok or better, but what’s it going to be like? I have 80 kms to go before I can wild camp in an abandoned building with a further 57kms until I reach the first gas station which is not open 24 hours. The forecast for wind suggests I will make it to the abandoned building, stop overnight there, and get to the gas station the next day. Then I will have to decide if I have time and energy to go to the next gas station, a further 60 kms away on the same day, or overnight there.
The climb out of Trelew was really tough. After 8 kms of flat, but into the wind riding, I had to climb for another 7 kms, and this first part of the trip took a full two hours. The abandoned building was now as far as I would go the first day. The further I went, the more the wind strengthened and after 9 and a half hours of riding, including stops which became more and more frequent, I have never been so happy to see a ruin in my life! I was knackered. On ‘checking in’ to the ruin I was soon approached by a couple of local guys who were very friendly and said it was ok to stay the night. I think they just wanted to see what the nutcase looked like, and find out where he was from.
Photos. ‘Chez Moi’ as I called it. No stars, no wi-fi, no room service but no money! And I soon turned it into something to grace the pages of ‘Home and Garden’, even dragging an oil drum inside to serve as a ‘Lazyboy’ and installed central heating. The only good thing about the desert is the abundance of easy to light fuel.
I awoke after a reasonable night’s sleep, and set off before first light, determined to get as many kilometres in as possible before the wind picked up. It was really slow going, and I think the combination of the tough ride the day before and the now very gradual, but steady and yet almost imperceptible climbing, caused my progress to be painfully slow. It had also been very cold the previous day and I think the cold had got to me a bit and the muscles just weren’t performing. It was obvious, very early on, that the possibility of getting to the second gas station that day, another 60 kms down the road, was out of the question.
The further I went the more the wind got up. It was not just against, but across meaning that to stop myself being blown into the traffic required a great deal of strength and my arms and shoulders were doing as much work as my legs, lungs and heart. I had hoped to do this leg of the journey in no more than 4 hours, but it just got slower and the breaks became more frequent and longer, as well as less comfortable as there was nothing to lean the bike against or sit on.
4 hours turned into 5 and then 6. Finally, after 6 and a half hours battling the wind I finally crawled into the gas station, almost literally, and feeling on the point of collapse. I managed to get some food and something to drink, but then I really felt extremely sick and faint. The staff became aware that I was not well and were very kind, showing me their private rooms where they insisted I lie down and get some rest. After 2 or 3 hours sleep I got up feeling slightly better but what to do now?
I had stopped enjoying the challenge. The wind was brutal, and not going to get any better the further south I went. The desert was unbelievably boring, and I had hoped that I would see interesting things and places. That had stopped. The shoulder was pathetic and the truck drivers seemed to be more impatient than ever with the number of fast, close passes becoming disconcerting and the wind blowing me into the traffic. I was unscathed so far, but it only takes one!
Also, I hadn’t met any cycle tourists since Guillermo the guy from Brazil, on my second day when staying at Jorge’s place near San Miguel del Monte. I had hoped to meet plenty of other cyclists to share experiences of what to do and where to go and maybe just ‘chew the fat’, but that wasn’t happening at all. The local people are still as friendly and welcoming as always but even they are getting much thinner on the ground.
Then I made the big decision to turn around the next day and head back to Trelew, with the idea of retracing my route northwards until I got to a point where the desert was no more and the winds would be somewhat more manageable. Then I would either head off to the north west, or maybe continue to Uruguay and Brazil. Over the course of the next couple of weeks I could spend time looking at the alternatives and see where I would go. In addition the need to get south to Ushuaia in a rush was not a problem now, and maybe I could start to take a bit more time to relax and kick back when I came across a nice place.
After the battering I’d taken over the 2 previous days I did wonder how the 137 kms back to Trelew would pan out. There was no internet connection or wi-fi where I was so the only thing to give me an idea on the wind strength and direction were the notes I’d made before I set off for reference in just this situation. My notes told me that the wind would be strong and blowing right behind me all the way and so I was feeling that I could get back to Trelew, and some semblance of civilisation, in one day.
To give you an idea of how remote this gas station was I noticed a sign, just before I arrived there, saying ‘servicio telefono’. Wow, maybe they had some sort of connection so that my mobile, and therefore my iPad would work and I could get weather updates etc.? No, not even close. It meant they had a landline! An old fashioned ‘dog and bone’ (phone) and while I was there I was blown away by the number of people using it, obviously because they had not been able to contact the outside world since leaving Comodoro Rivadavia. Remote or what?
Also, by the roadside were SOS telephones. More an intercom operated by pressing a button and hopefully getting to speak to someone in a rescue centre somewhere. But they were only every 20 kilometres apart and no way of knowing, if you needed to, which way was the shortest walk, with the exception of the one sign I did see, which had 3 bullet holes in it!
Photo. Sign by the roadside complete with bullet holes. The backdrop is the same view as I’ve had for the previous 2 weeks. Thorn bush after thorn bush and nothing else. Boring as hell.
I set off the next morning for Trelew at 6.00am hoping like mad that the wind would help as it was about time for me to have some assistance. No way! It had turned through 90 degrees and was now blowing directly across and, at times, would be gusting against. I was as sick as a pig and thoroughly fed up. Was I facing another night in Chez Moi? Fortunately, after about 30 kms the wind did shift and, although still across, started to give me some help and my speed increased.
Getting to the gas station had taken a total of 16 hours of cycling, spread over 2 days. My return journey took just 9 hours spurred on by the prospect of a few pints of wallop in Cara de Perro, dinner at Sugar, and a nice comfy bed at the hotel I’d stayed at before which was cheap, yet more than decent.
Photos. A pint at Cara de Perro and the meal I had at ‘Sugar’ before leaving Trelew. Pedalling incentive!
I arrived, very tired, but very relieved. Had the pints I’d promised myself, followed by a great meal and slept for 12 hours straight. Now I have to decide, ‘what next?’ How far will I go north before heading west? Bahia Blanca is my best guess so far which means I can revisit some nice places and people from my first month in Argentina. Also, I’m hoping these folks will be able to give me some first-hand insight as to where to go and what to see. Yes, the internet is there, but it’s not always right. I like to ask local people for local knowledge.
Thanks as always for reading this far and may your God go with you.
Simon ‘Wardy’ Ward.