I got a late start running out of Pinsen, drizzling rain and running down a muddy dirt track of a road towards La Pampa province line about 30km away past mostly semi barren fields. There were many strange rodents running across the road and even one or two skeletal remains!
I couldn’t help feeling like Indiana Jones and wondered what creatures these were!
This was actually in the middle of the dirt track road I was running down!
It was a routine day in many ways except for getting lost when these back roads didn’t show any signs, sometimes the obvious way was not the correct way, eventually I found my way back onto the main road and La Pampa with it’s wind and tumbleweed.
They were dirt track roads that day, sometimes a struggle to push on through but as always with time churning out a half decent day is always possible, this is not a race, rule is… No stop watches!
Then I got stopped by the cops, It was raining hard, they insisted on pulling me off the road. I negotiated that they take me back in the morning, agreed and they would ask their boss if I could sleep in their station that night, I also figure that makes my return just a bit more secure!
They were nice officers called Bernididino and Roberto.
I was allowed to sleep in a cell for my sins of staying on their computer till 4am while they did the rounds of the village.
Let me out, I only want to run!
Next day, same again, more heavy rain. Got stopped running in the shoulder and was brought back to Embajador Martini station where the officers fed me, dried my clothes and gave me a checkpoint caravan to sleep in for the night.
Next morning before I awoke one of the officers drove down to the village and returns with a big bag of pastries for breakfast, I breakfast with him, drinking some mate, the yerba herbal tea of sorts drank from a large egg cup shaped bowl through a metal straw like utensil. The bowl is filled up from either a kettle or a thermos.Drinking mate is a form of togethness, an expression of friendship here in Argentina. I drank some but prefer my tea or coffee and finished up my breakfast with coffee.
Older and poor picture of mate drinkers. I will have to take some more.
I am getting so much help from the police, despite being pestered by them that I struggle to keep up with their names.
On I ran that beautiful day, it was just nice and cool. I took full advantage of the early start and stop after 53km eyeing up what looks like an old school house as a likely sleeping place. There are people working there.
Back row on the left is Fabian and on the right Horacio.
I pulled up just asking for water, they are nice. A lady gives me a large glass of juice, and three plastic bags of food. I tucked into one of the bags which was full of pastries. Another had bread, the other one a joint of pork with a carton of cole slaw, also some fruit.
There were also two men, Fabian and Horacio for I did not catch the womens names.
Fabian has a spare cabin and when I asked if I could camp at the side of the property he told me I could sleep in his cabin, using his sparse facilities as best as I wanted, including a cooker.
Next morning I boiled up the kettle before Horacio arrived as he had said he would drop by to drink some mate before I hit the road. The night before he seemed to be very cautious towards me at first. This morning he asked me three times to take a rest day there, not sure if he was lonely and needed the company, I told him I had to run on. On I ran with yet another collection of an orange and an apple from a kind person.
I told them last night that Argentina is a wonderful country, No they corrected me, La Pampa is a wonderful province!
Next day 51km, the terrain is flattish, not too flat with just the occasional rolling hill.
Rolling hills and a good picture of the shoulder!
I am not bored, it reminds me of Nebraska. I enjoyed that day and had a wonderful spare rib dinner, better enjoy these while they last, soon it will be the openness and long, long straight roads for days on ends without any places to pamper myself.
Soon I am in Santa Rosa, the center of Argentina where all roads leads to.
I took a preparation rest day there getting new shoes for Nirvana and my 29th pair before heading south down route 35 before being collared by Channel 3, La Pampa. I gave a 10 minute roadside interview. Then the reporter said he wanted to take some action shots of me on the road, he did and that was the last I saw of him, not even a thank you, a bit rude I thought.
Towns and villages arestarting to stretch out now, I have been warned about huge distances between water stops, up to 250km, I always respect local advice but sometimes people have their eyes glued to the larger places and are not aware of small ranches and farms.
I stop at one such farm in a hamlet called Peru for water, there happened to be a service station just before it, but I was not to know. More nice people, sitting me down to two large glasses of iced orange juice.
Then the lady, I think she is called Laura gave me two sandwiches one of pork and the other beef, more apples and oranges, Mam would be delighted by this “Eat more fruit and stop eating that junk!” I can hear her say in my minds ear.
Thank you Laura and family
So I fill up my water bottles, they give me a 3 litre bottle but my red satchel which has served me so well over the Andes is about to fall apart, one of the men Roberto goes off to his house and returns with a small day pack for me as I fear I may overload Nirvanas weight limit of 35kgs. I had run 30km so far that day and had I another 10 under my feet I would have been tempted to set up camp there for the night, I am certain it would have been no problem.
14km down the road I come to a junction and turn right onto it heading south again. Its lashing raining now, really heavy, I am soaked and cussing my distance greed. I see a sign for another hamlet called something like Huacho, it’s 2km down a dirt, sand road which is a hard push for about half an hour, so muddy it was. I get to a house on the right and wheel Nirvana down a bumpy path towards a locked gate. There are a couple of houses. I call out,
‘ Hola, Hola, Hola! ‘
Just as I was turning around to go a lady comes out and comes over to me,
I ask for permission to camp. She tells me she has to ask her husband who is out in the fields tending the animals.
Very straightforward and then she tells me to wait.
So I did and waited and waited and waited till it was dark and then ate my supper, I called out again, no reply, then realised the house was in darkness, they did not bother to return, how strange, could she have forgotten about a strange gringo running around the world?
She even had my Spanish business card explaining about the run with the website address. As I am running low I don’t give these out lightly anymore, gotta photo copy a few as there were many people I regretted not giving one to for a memory.
What to do, this was one of the most bizarre incidents of my entire travelling career, for there could be no misunderstanding, all basic Spanish, besides I don’t have these type problems in communicating. The Argentines speak the fastest Spanish of all Latinos, I even think their slowed down version is even faster than in all the other countries!
What to do indeed. Should I just move on? Instead I just set up my tent, No sooner was I inside when the Heavens opened! If he asked me to move on or worse called the cops, I think I would just die!
Rained out for a day and a half. The locked gate and the house where the strange family live.
Nothing happened, thankfully, I just made a delicious cuppa soup, always a good thing to have in the kitchen bag after a bad wetting.
It rained all night and all through the early morning and late morning. I wimped it out that day, what to do, I lay there waiting for it to stop. It didn’t all day long, all evening long. I slept so, so much and lay there horizontal for about 35 of the 36 I was in that field, too lazy to even read my book Brian Keenan and John McCarthy’s Between Extremes… A great travel read about the former captives who had been held in a Lebanese dungeon for four years, how their dreams kept them alive, their dream to cross Patagonia on horseback. Too lazy to catch up on my blog on Wordpad, too lazy to listen to music. I just cooked a breakfast and dinner and washed. That day was truly the only true rest day of the run so far.
Then the next morning a break in the rain, but it returned mid morning, soon I run it off.
I start dreaming of all things, a cappuccino!
Then Daniel stops his car telling me he saw me a week ago in Santa Rosa and wanted to share a mate with me. He pulls out his thermos, so I pull out a sachet of cappuccino!
Is the road dangerous ahead I ask Daniel…
” No only for the wild animals! ”
” Wild animals?”
” Wild boar ” he replies.
I read in one of my favourite travel books, The Rucksack Man by Sebastian Snow who tramped through S America in the mid seventies that wild boar is by far South Americas most dangerous animal. I wonder about the dogs and south Peruvian drivers not to mention the famed pumas.
One for the road! Thanks Danny Boy!
” Ah! But don’t worry you will be ok. ” He reassures me.
Lots of delightful rolling hills and 44km. I pitch my tent at the side of the road.
Then a lovely 55km day. I had asked Daniel to drop off one of my 3 litre bottles of water at km 50 and when I get to km 49 I see a man called Gustavo and his wife Olga picking flowers by the side of the road. Gustavo tells me they are Alfilerillo flowers and there is great health and joint benefits in drinking their tea.
Gustavo and Olga
I decide to pick a big bag of it later but by the time I decide to i am out of their zone. It just goes to show how zonal plants and flowers can be, can’t say I have seen them anywhere else. Olga gives me a bar of white chocolate and an icy one and a half litre bottle of water.
I pick up my water at km 50 and run on.
A trucker stopped for a siesta gives me a litre of apple juice, makes a change from water.
On I run and come to a Dept. of Transport depot. Wonderful. I refill my waterbottles, am tempted to ask if I can shower from the garden hose! The guards name is Victor.
I ask him that the next time a driver is going out can they please deliver my two three litre bottles of water to kms 100 and 120. No problems. Two hours later Victor is on his way to Rio Colorado and tells me he has the bottles and will drop them as requested. Later he is on his way back and confirms he has dropped them at my requested locations.
Victor with workmate
A few minutes later he returns and gives me a very nice red high viz vest. Though my running tops have high viz, I though it would be nice to have such a small, fist sized vest as it would be handy to pull on over my wind breaker when I am wearing it in the wind or cold weather.
I said it before that most people are not knowledgeable about water locations even in their own area as so many times I have been told there is nothing available.
Water is also available from these water storage tanks should I be desperate.And the DOT depot are just typical examples.
At km 98 I notice that all of the wonderful sheltered bushes for camping were running out and to make matters worse at km 100 where I pick up my water cache there are huge swamps full of surely millions of toads making such a din! Not camping there.. Luckily 2km further on I find a sheltered bush to bed down.
Its a nice starry night so I don’t bother with my tent, I just lay my tarp and thinsulated mat down and tuck into my sleeping bag with lots of OFF mosquito spray! I can suggest a better name that rhymes with ‘ flip off. ‘
So I have plenty of water now, even if something hapens to my other 3 litre bottle, I have the luxury of a good wash without worry about budgeting it, even knock over a saucepan of water and laugh. I take a shave which I manage best while lying on my back on my sleeping bag while holding a small mirror in my left hand, hot water in my makeshift basin, a cut off bottom of a 2 litre soda bottle. Gotta look respectable for the run into Rio Colorado today.
The run into Rio Colorado just over the Rio Negro line was pretty routine, even if I was just a bit tired. About 7km before rio Colorado and at a major junction in La Adela and in the distance I see of all things a man on roler blades pushing a Chariot Cheetah jogging stroller. Just like Nirvana but with a higher carrying capacity. He is being questioned just like me by a cop.
Alexander roller blading from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia
This man, Alexander Pfiffner is a 60 year old Swiss man who has in the past worked on cruise ships travelling around the world now prefers to cruise along on roler skates! He is now a sports photographer has decided to roller blade the 3,000km from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia for a Swiss childrens charity. His site is www.sportfotograf.ch
He pushes his 65kgs of baggage including 6 sets of roller blades along the highway. Needless to say when I see him at the junction the police are giving him a hard time! He mentions to me what I told the police here many times, we are no different to cyclists, take up same room and can exit quicker, that its just ignorance they hassle.
We stop for a soft drink in a gas station in La Adela. He is skating around the isles of the mini-market. He seems to be in a terrible rush. I wait for him to say something like..
‘ Gotta get my skates on! ‘ But he has them on!
Can’t say I blame him as I got very little time to socialise either, all my spare time is on wifi.
He tells me he prefers to skate at night and I cant imagine that what with the shoulder and the cops and drivers, but he seems to manage.
Alexander has got a very good solar panel attached, I got my thinsulated mat and a spare wheel attached!
I have a terrible time finding a place to stay in Rio Colorado as the Tourist Information give me mal information and tell me the cheapest place is 180 pesos a night nearly 40 dollars. This is a bare-faced lie as there are several places which charge 100 pesos. I reckon the place they recommended pays them.
All in all between this and that my whole night is lost and I get no work done. I know the YPF service station has wifi but after 6 days/ nights on the road I have a date with a steak and a huge salad. When I demolished it I ordered another
I find a place beside the service station for 100 pesos and the dear old lady is mopping out my room for 10 minutes. I am so tired I tell her not to bother. It’s after midnight and I am shattered.
But she persists and then tells me to wheel Nirvana into the room, from the muddy yard!
For sore reason the water was cold, so the long dreamt of shower was not so delightful, I slept little that night.
I then had to get some supplies for the road for the 3/4 day run to General Conesa. I spent the whole morning hunting down some camping gas cylinders, before giving up and buying an incredibly expensive Argentine stove head and cylinder. It’s really an incredible expensive country, how about a no name screwdriver, the type we get in a $ or euro shop costs $7 here, same for a small bottle of mouth wash.
A nice lady called Silvina had pushed Nirvana into a small store room in the YPF service station here. I did not want to cart her around town. When I returned at 2pm she told me that she finishes work at 12pm but had to wait for me to return as the staff didn’t want to take responsibility for her, even though she was parked in an inaccessible location to the public, nice staff indeed.
Silvina minded Nirvana in her own time while I shopped. I had set my office up in that corner behind her for the afternoon!
Silvina told me about how she learned nice ethics and morals while living in Miami. Her Mam was an orphan and instilled a high moral value in her. People think she is strange for being so nice, Silvinas words, I find so many wonderful people here, but I don’t live here.
On I ran into the sunset, for it was a lovely evening.