Tuesday, June 28, 2011

one small step for a trucker, one giant leap for a cyclist

Chos Malal has two fantastic parks, curious locals, a river, and large expanses of farmland surrounding the town. My trucker buddies took good care of me. They wouldn’t let me pay for anything. We talked about all sort of philosophies. I served mates. We ate a lot of chicken milanesas and tomato salads. And I helped them unload crates of veggies from the trucks, despite their protests.

Sergio was the truck driver who took me from Chos Malal passing 518 km to San Rafael. A journey that would have taken me about 10 days. We arrived in 8 hours. I was blown away.

I saw nothing of the landscape. It was dark. We drove though the night, passing small towns and a whole lot of starlight. I held a small celebration as we crossed into the Province of Mendoza. Constant bumping reggaeton was the trip’s soundtrack.

We arrived to San Rafael at 6 o’clock. AM. Sergio couldn’t enter the city with the truck, so I unloaded my things on a darkened street corner. It was cold. The city was deserted. I had no idea where I was. And I hadn’t slept all night.

I pedaled through the city, paying attention to the street signs and waving to the early morning street cleaners. I must have done a few kilometers before I reached Jeronimo’s house.

Jeronimo was my Couchsurfing host. We exchanged a few words upon my arrival. I unloaded my bike as he went back to sleep. Unfortunately I wasn’t so lucky; I had trouble sleeping due to auditory disturbances of the snoring variety.

The small apartment was my home for two more nights. On the second night courteous and respectful Yanette and Robert, from the Netherlands arrived to the already overcrowded overly cluttered apartment. I cooked a colorful zapallo relleno accompanied by pan con ajo. They were well received. We stayed up late getting acquainted with Fernet and boys vs. girls truco.

The next day had me hungover and maneuvering the washing machine. I walked around the city pondering life. I like San Rafael. It’s a short-building city with trees. It’s happily nestled in wine and olive oil country. The landscape is completely different than what I’ve been pedaling through up until now. It’s a different climate up here. It’s a different vibe. I love the land. But it’s the people I’m having a hard time figuring out.

It seems that people in San Rafael are unsatisfied. I get the impression that they are not completely happy. A tremendous generalization, I know, but it’s the feeling I get. From the angry man who cursed me from his car window to the bakery woman afraid to go outside. There’s something missing from their lives. There’s something not quite settled. There’s a lack of something… Perhaps that something is peace.

With every day that passes I’m changing my life concept. I am making sense of a lot of things. I’m very much at peace. I’m living my adventure. And I’m loving everything about it.

The last night, we added one more person to the apartment, Lee, the Korean backpacker. What a character.

I cooked up some milanesas de berengena with an ensalada de arroz. Robert whipped out the guitar and we stretched our vocal chords. It was a beautiful night.

The next morning Jeronimo was going to Mendoza, so we were all evicted. I loaded my stuff into his car and drove under the cloudy sky to a small town. I announced that I wanted to get out and ride. I unloaded my stuff. It was cold. Very cold. My face burned in the wind. My fingers were numb in my gloves. But I was happy to be back on the road.

The landscape is so different here. Lots of vineyards. Lots of small towns one right after the other. Many more houses. Many more cars. A very luxurious road shoulder for bikers.

I turned right at the GNC station and pulled into San Carlos. No relation to San Carlos de Bariloche. A small town. My intention was to eat lunch and keep going on to Tunuyán. My intention turned out to be easily persuaded. Good thing I’m flexible.

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