“Whatever you are, be a good one.”
These last few days in Argentina have been our much needed rest days after weeks of non-stop action. When we arrived into Calafate we found a campground with hot showers, wifi, and a whole lot of other cyclists so we ended up staying three nights during which time we BBQed, hung out with our fellow two-wheelers, and simply stayed around camp not doing a thing.
Argentina is famous for its BBQs which normally involve incredible amounts of meat, and so we did our own two of the nights with burgers, sausages, and vegetable skewers. (Funny story, these skewers were actually part of Mike’s broken fender!) Dinner here, especially BBQs with friends, only start at about ten pm so here in Argentina we have adopted a much different sleep schedule which involves late nights, and late starts, a very different routine from our very early nights and early mornings in Turkey. That’s what you get when the sun doesn’t start setting till ten!
In one month down here in Patagonia we have already met (or seen) 35 cycle tourists. That’s 35 other people like us who camp, cycle, and understand our lifestyle which had been a really fun turn of events after going months between any cyclist-sighting in past countries. At our campground there were six others (meaning ten in total including the four of us) for the first two nights, and as we were leaving, four others arrived. Here is a bit about the five we hung out with.
Alyson: The Little Bike That Could
Alyson is a neuroscientist who had also done work for the Peace Crops and the UN in Afghanistan, Mongolia, and Africa, and when she is not cycling, is teaching neuroscience part time while enjoying her quiet and sustainable (rain water/solar panels) life on 18 acres in Arizona. She rides a Bike Friday (look them up if you don’t know them already, they are from my hometown of Eugene!), and is all about “riding your own ride.” The craziest thing about meeting her was that Kevin and her briefly met exactly one year ago in New Zealand as they were both cycling there. It’s fun to see how big yet small our cycling community is, and this is the perfect example.
The Three Boys: An Australian, a Scot, and an English
There were two friendly and fun guys at camp, a Scot and an English, who have been riding together down from Lima (Peru) for the past four months. One of them is a computer guy who is possibly going to go back for his PhD, while the other is a high school teacher who also leads teenagers on travel expeditions. A few weeks ago they met an Australian on the trail (who later lost all of his paperwork, passports, and cards and had to spend two weeks in Santiago getting himself sorted but now is on the road again) who was traveling on a mountain bike without panniers in an extremely lightweight fashion (but who has since added two back panniers so that he stops running out of food and water).
The Tandem Couple
This couple (late twenties) definitely won the award for the most unique bike, as they have a partial recumbent tandem which them have been riding together since Peru. He has his PhD in electrical engineering, while she does a sort of physical therapy for people with mental disabilities or diseases.
And of course, Mike and Emily who you already know by now!
Here are a few of the other bikes we saw around camp. As you can see, cyclists range from PhD holders to teachers, from young couples like us to white haired solo females. We ride mountain bikes, and tandems, Bike Friday’s, and Surly’s. It’s been neat to meet so many cyclists as we usually have a whole lot in common, and often see the world in the same sort of way, yet we all have such different bikes, routes, and stories.
Here are a few random observations from the last month which have surprised me after a year and a half in less developed countries. These are things most of you guys probably take for granted, but they are things which most people live without. Though culturally Argentina and Chile may not be as different or “exotic” as they are just as developed at the United States, I’ve realize that I would rather spend my time in beautiful easy countries (with mountains of course), rather than struggle through some of the more difficult yet fascinating ones. We truly feel back at home now that we no longer stick out, and I’ve come to appreciate the feeling of being “invisible.”
-Playgrounds: I saw my first one yesterday and was very surprised as I realized I haven’t seen one since the states.
-Bag boys: Here in Argentina is the first time I’ve had someone else bag my groceries at a store.
-Huge grocery stores with aisles of different cheeses, cereals, jams, and packaged food to choose from. In most countries we have been shopping at the small local shops or stands by the side of the road, but now we are back into the land of huge commercialized chain stores.
-Clean water coming out of the tap. Though Turkey had this too, it’s still someone we really appreciate after cycling through Asia.
-Free toilets: at bus stations, restaurants, everywhere.. They are free!
-Campgrounds: We are currently staying in an actually campground, and it’s really nice to be back in a country where camping is actually a common activity amongst the locals.
-Any of the touristic locations we have visited (campgrounds, towns, national parks…) have more locals than foreigners, which is a stark contrast to places like Nepal where the only locals in a national park will be working there, and the visitors will be 100% foreigners.
-No garbage strewn across the streets or in the rivers… People use garbage cans!
-We don’t feel like a walking dollar bill anymore. Though we are indeed currently in an extremely touristic town, no one tries to pull us into their shops, or shove us into their restaurants, and we feel like we can have a conversation with someone without having to pay them for something.
-The fact that we are in a developed country also means that everything is a whole lot more expensive, in fact, we have found that here in Patagonia everything is more expensive than in the States.