So, all crazy things done and dusted and, for the matter, also the cycling, I’m packed and ready to tackle a large chunk of the legendary Ruta 40 from the comfort of a bus seat.
I have people waiting for me in El Bolson, roughly 900 miles north of El Calafate for my next WorkAway stint. I have fallen out of love with the cycling this winter. I am not sure if it’s the combination of the terrain with the Brompton or the fact that I have managed to convince myself that this trip is more about learning Spanish than to cycle, but the net result is that by the end of the trip I will have completed a fraction of the milage I have completed last winter in New Zealand and Australia. Still there is more to this going round the world than cycling.
So to the route. “La Ruta 40” is to Argentina what Route 66 is to the USA, a semi legendary track that evokes Kerouachian memories and reaching for the frontier. It runs from the top to the bottom of continental Argentine more or less all at the foot of the Andes.
While the majority of it is paved, there are chunks which are still not and one of them, a whole 100+ miles of it, is lying in my way. Luck, or better, bad luck, wants that the unpaved road is in the middle of the night part of the 23 hours journey and this means little or no sleep. On the other hand I meet a very nice Canadian girl, Claudine, who made the journey that little bit shorter with lively conversation.
I get to El Bolson in good time and make my way up an unpaved road to my new home for a month the Hostel “Vamos al Bosque”. I am going to stay here for a while helping the Di Lorenzo family setting up a camping across the road from the hostel and in the process, I hope, improve my Spanish and taste a bit of true Argentinian family life.
Life with the Dilos is quite good fun, the work is harder than in Uruguay but I like the fact it reminds me a bit of the times I spent with my dad in Italy building and rebuilding the surroundings of the house in the mountains.
The more time I spend in this country the more I am mesmerised by their fluctuating environmental consciousness. On one hand they are great advocates of minimising the road paving to preserve nature for just those who truly care about it and preventing the flooding of “town people”. On the other there is hardly a corner of this land which is not overrun with garbage of all kinds, moreover there are cars on the roads that would make the more lax emission tests appear an impossible challenge. As part of our renovation work we have to clean up a piece of land that was formerly used as a dump site and, environmental concerns aside, this proves to be a rather interesting archeological pursuit.
I work a few hours a day for six days a week for my keep and that means I get Sundays off. On the first Sunday therefore I elect to go for a long walk (13Km) to the local hotspots of Cabeza del Indio and Cascada Escondida.
The walk from the Cabeza to the Cascada was a treat of well signed walking and lots of delicious bramble stops.
Then there is normal life, a lot of changes around the hostel, the Dilos are leaving it and, from next year, only running the camping we are setting up. Aside from spending a Sunday catching up with Thiago, my Brasilian friend from Uruguay and Buenos Aires who is now working in another hostel here in El Bolson, I go to town a few times to sample local life, a few beers and the occasional choripan.
Life in a Provincial town in Patagonia is amazing. Amazing in the sense that it is rather different from what I am used too. The times are all different: lunch is at 15:00 or there about and often dinner is not till midnight.
I start to take pictures to remind myself that there what we consider old cars in Europe are just off the line here.
Other than that life at the hostel proceeds well with the occasional asado to make life just that little better.
On the third Sunday of my stay Carlos and I are off to the races, quite literally at one point we are racing our kayaks on Lago Epuyen joining the crowd of Puerto Patriada Kayak for a day on the waves.
The day is cool and as well as trying the two and the single I get to eat a splendid bbq lunch and make a whole bunch of new friends.
On the whole it’s a lot of fun to stay in El Bolson.