After what felt like 3 months of non-stop desert and pampa riding, we couldn’t handle the disappointment that the Argentinian pampas (very dry, dusty, hot empty landscapes) caused us. So after two more weeks of kill-me-now boring, stinking hot pampa (Nyle’s smelly feet were at an all time high, despite the foot deodorant) with sand blasting headwinds we boarded an overnight bus from San Juan to Neuquen (we still don’t know how to pronounce that name). And it was heavenly...
Think business class airplane seats - just on a bus. We were enjoying our included on-board dinner, served with wine in real glasses while the pampa flew by outside. They really do have long distance bus travelling dialled here! At times the desert was actually flooded and our bus was more swimming on the road than driving, I guess even in the desert here it sometimes rains, would have made for some awful wild camping.
After a complementary cup of sweet morning coffee we arrived in Neuquen and realized that we are actually in Patagonia now! It just really didn’t look like what all the outdoor brands, magazines and films always make you believe it looks like. Even Patagonia has huge areas of empty pampa, no snow covered mountains, lakes and forests. For that we still had another week or so of riding West on busy pampa roads (lots of petroleum mining here) towards the Andes ahead of us. But finally it started to look a bit more Patagonian-like. The wild camping in Patagonia however is a bit trickier than we thought, it seems to be also the place of fences and private land and no trespassing signs – sigh. Argentinians love their beef and this is where the cows get fat, in huge, huge paddocks, often including whole mountains, rivers and lakes. Not so easy to hop over a barb wire fence with two fully loaded bicycles. So sometimes we end up camping between the road and the fence line on a sandy stretch of no-mans-land. And if you get really lucky, one of those fierce storms down here decides to break all hell loose just when you have set up your tent and started cooking – resulting in a complete chaotic abandon camp mission all while being half blind from rubbing sand in your eyes. But the ravioli with mushrooms and sand still tasted good.
One of the fun facts of Argentina is that they don’t really believe in coins. It is often impossible for stores to give you back change as they just don’t have any. Instead, at a grocery store you get a few candies, in a pharmacy a band-aid and in a fruit store a piece of fruit like an apple making up for the lack in small change. Amazing. Although in the chocolate stores here in Bariloche (the Argentinian Swiss) they usually have enough change. Too bad they don’t give back fancy chocolates, I think they should just use chocolate coins instead, that would be more appropriate. We happened to run into a little family-run chocolate factory and the lady there let us try almost more chocolate than what was in the little box we ended up buying. What a sweet, sweet lady! :) It is called Noncello if you ever happen to be in Bariloche.
Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas, Feliz Navidad, Frohe Weihnachten to you all! Eat some Christmas cookies for us and drink some Gluhwein (mulled wine)!