Day 92 – Piedra de Aguila to El Bolson

The day started off, as usual, with us getting out of the hotel late because there was internet. Even though it wasn’t particularly *good* internet, I thought of a couple of things we should do/check at the last minute which of course took longer than it should have. In the end, it was after 10AM when we got out of the hotel, and I’d suggested that we skip the lame hotel breakfast (i.e. bread) entirely and get some sandwiches at the gas station down the road, so it was 11AM before we hit the road.

Still, in spite of the late start, I was feeling good. I had an actual sandwich for breakfast, and Kay and I agree that eating breakfast to start the day has a huge morale effect (as well as physical effect). AND! I got Diet Coke and some chocolates – which, since I’m suffering the effects of being female at the moment, is a vital infusion of chocolate to the system – so I was really in a good mood this morning.

One thing worth sharing: we’ve passed a TON of motorcyclists here in Argentina. Many of them have been adventure riders with panniers, etc. but a lot of them have also just been local motos with no panniers. And almost without exception, they all wave and seem happy to see us. It’s almost like being back in the States, where you wave to your fellow biker because you’re all part of a brotherhood of people who like to explore the world this way. It’s nice.

Routa 40

Alas, the good start to the day didn’t last long.

After less than an hour on the road, I was saying to Kay “the next bathroom we see, I need to stop.” Kay pointed out that it might be a while before we found one… and he was right. We rode. And rode. And then rode some more. Until things got so desperate that I had to ask him to spot a good bush for us to pull over. Luckily, this stretch of the road had a ton of good bushes, so we pulled over at a likely spot, I grabbed my toilet paper and practically ran up the hill at the side of the road to squat behind a bush.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t a normal quick bathroom break. This was a “you are going to have HORRIBLE diarrhea so get off the bike NOW!” sort of break. I’ve dealt with diarrhea off and on since Mexico, I think, and this is the first time on the entire trip it’s been so bad I couldn’t wait for a bathroom. Remember my comment a week or two ago when we camped in Chile and I commented that I hadn’t reverted to a savage enough to poo in a hole? Yeah. That’s because I hadn’t had a truly horrible case of diarrhea yet. This made the other bouts look mild.

So I took care of things. And stood at the top of the hill for a couple of minutes because I knew I wouldn’t be done. I was right. More taking care of things. Did I mention it’s difficult to clean oneself properly, bathroom sanitation-wise, wearing full motorcycle gear? For me, the knee armor and the tall boots make it difficult to position oneself well for maximum cleaning. So there was a lot of wiping, and apparently my TP isn’t particularly bum-friendly… my ass HURT when I was done.

Back to the bikes, and I immediately take two Immodium. And then I stand there for a few minutes to see if I’m going to need to dash back up the hill. Apparently not. (In the meantime, Kay has been snapping beauty shots of the lake nearby, and an armadillo he happened to surprise when photographing some flowers. So it wasn’t a totally wasted stop.)

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Armadillo

Diarrhea without a functional bathroom, though? Gross. Unhappy. Disgusting. Wouldn’t wish it on an enemy sort of thing. I hope to not have a repeat of that.

We get a few miles down the road, and it becomes evident that the Immodium hasn’t kicked in yet and I’m going to need a bathroom again soon. I say as much to Kay over the headset, and as we’re riding, I spot a sign for a restaurant in 7km. “I need to stop at that restaurant!” I yell to Kay over the headset. “Are you hungry enough to eat anything yet?” he asks. “Probably not, but I’ll try if I have to. I just need that bathroom!”

And then I spend the next 7k telling my intestines “Hang in there. Come on, we can hold it. Just 7k.” Etc. etc. A mantra of hope in my head because I *really* don’t want to have diarrhea by the side of the road again.

We get to a sign for the restaurant, which happens to be up on a hill, but it wasn’t obvious early enough and Kay rides right by it. I yell to Kay that we just missed the restaurant, but there’s a beautiful bridge across the lake, and on the other side there is what appears to be something that might have a bathroom. At first glance it might be a restaurant, but we realize as we pull up that it’s a gas station with mini-mart and a whole bunch of people pulled over, using the services and enjoying a break by the lake.

We pull in and I run to the bathroom, grateful that it has a toilet seat. And spend far too long in there, feeling bad for the queue of women waiting behind me (there are three stalls, but there are a ton of women in line and I know me staying in there so long is delaying everyone else) but I don’t have much of a choice. After I’m done, I decide I should stick near a bathroom for a while so I don’t have any more repeats of this near-call stuff, so Kay grabs me some potato chips to nom (I think I need the salt – dehydration is a worry with diarrhea like this) and some Diet Coke, and we hang out by the lake while I wait to see if my tummy will be upset again.

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Kay at the lakeside
Kay climbs
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45 minutes later, I’ve been back to the bathroom once and think my intestines are hopefully happy enough to let me ride safely for a while. So back on the bikes. Where I realize that all of this mucking about with the diarrhea has dislodged other things… i.e. my “feminine hygiene product” has become positioned incorrectly, and is EFFING UNCOMFORTABLE! Obviously you men out there can’t conceptualize it, but for any women reading this – you probably know how unbelievably uncomfortable an incorrectly-positioned feminine hygiene device can be when you’re straddling a motorcycle. OUCH! But we’ve already spent so long here that I ask Kay if we can pull over at the next gas station we see, which I think will be in about 30 miles, so I can adjust.

In the meantime, the landscape has gone from being interesting to drop-dead beautiful. Shortly before the last stop at the gas station, we’d rejoined Routa 40 (we’d left it for a while when there was a dirt section because I saw a paved road further east that would be faster) and it was absolutely stunning. Beautiful. Glorious.

Kay was snapping pictures the whole time, and we were commenting back and forth about how beautiful it was, but the whole time I wasn’t able to really enjoy it because of the intestinal trouble, and then the problem with my feminine hygiene products. I even remember thinking at one point “I really wish I wasn’t dealing with this stuff so I could just enjoy the scenery more, because it’s beautiful and I’m not paying enough attention to it.”

Routa 40
That's one way to do it...
Routa 40
Routa 40

The landscape continued to be beautiful, and we arrived at San Carlos de Bariloche, on the shore of a stunningly beautiful lake, surrounded by mountains – some of them snow-covered. We hadn’t actually gotten gas at the last gas station, so we had to leave Routa 40 and go into town to find a gas station here. Also, I wanted a bathroom so I could deal with my stuff. So into town we go, to discover – this town is effing gorgeous. Most of the towns we’ve seen so far in Argentina have been pretty well developed for Latin America. We’d commented yesterday or the day before that we could have been driving through Middle America, the landscape and towns seemed so familiar. But Bariloche is something special.

The architecture in the town is intentionally planned to mimic the natural beauty of the surrounding landscape. There’s a lot of natural wood-looking details, decorative trim and high-quality building and architectural styles that really elevated the town itself to express beauty and quality. I definitely wished it was later in the day so I could justify staying there for the night, because it was the kind of town where you want to spend more time. We really liked what we saw and wished we had more time there.

We were relatively quick, though. We got gas, used the bathroom and grabbed a quick sandwich, since it had gotten to be 3pm and we hadn’t eaten lunch yet. Then we headed out again, not without a backward glance or three at the beautiful town we were leaving, and back to Routa 40.

More beautiful landscape. Gorgeous mountains surrounding us, marching south, pine and evergreen trees standing sentinel over rivers and lakes meandering along the valley floor. I’ve really never seen anything like it. It was as beautiful as Colombia, if not more so, but with a different feel. Colombia was lush and verdant, whereas this section of Argentina feels alpine. Snow on some of the mountains, pine trees everywhere and a hint of chill to the air, even at the hottest part of the day. This part of the land stirred my blood in a way that few places on the trip have – if I were ever to move somewhere out of the United States, I could see enjoying this sort of landscape. Kay commented that it was one of the best days of riding on the trip so far, and I have to agree.

I kept an eye on the map and decided that El Bolson might be a good place to stop for the night. We’ve seen literally a ton of places offering camping here along Routa 40, as well as plenty of good hidey-camp spots, but with the diarrhea and me being girly, I really wanted a functional bathroom. And for the first time on the trip, I actually regret not camping. This type of terrain begs for camping. I’d really love to be surrounded by this beauty while I fall asleep, and wake up to it in the morning. I lament my desire for a bathroom… but practicality wins out. If we had to camp, I would, but it makes more sense to stop for the night at a place that is likely to have a hotel or hostel and hope I feel better tomorrow.

We ride through town, spotting a ton of cabanas (cabins) but only one or two hotel/hosteria, and neither of them looks particularly promising. Also, as it’s early (around 6pm) Kay has decided that he’d like to shop around for a place that has wi-fi. We have a ton of pictures to upload and there are a few things we didn’t get to do on the Web last night because the net connection was so slow. So when we spot a hotel down a side street, check it out, and discover it has wi-fi and a nice, clean room with a bathroom – we take it. Even though it costs too much, as most everything in Argentina seems to.

Settled in for the night, we discover a reasonably fast (although quirky) wi-fi connection, and Kay starts uploading photos before we head out for dinner. With a bit of light left, we wander out into the town looking for a restaurant that’s open. That 4-day weekend the other adventure rider warned us about on Saturday when we crossed into Argentina? Apparently it was a Monday-Tuesday holiday, because *nothing* has been open at the towns we’ve stayed in the last couple of nights. Including restaurants. Tons of them, closed.

We wandered around a bit and stopped at the first open restaurant we found. It turns out that service was slow, Kay wasn’t particularly thrilled with his meal (whole trout, with bones, which was inconvenient) and my steak had a ton of gristle… but it *is* true what they say about Argentinian beef. It’s some of the best beef I’ve had, including the Wagyu beef I had in Santiago, and some of the good steaks I’ve had at home in the US. It’s not cheap here, either, but I’ll definitely be getting steak again in Argentina now that I’ve gotten a taste of it.

Kay’s note: I’m pretty sure this is another tourist town (thus the high prices), although I’m not sure why tourists come here other than the fact that it has 4000 places offering “Camping”. Dachary says she saw a shop sign offering lots of different nature related activities here, and notes that it’s the only town for the next 170k so there not much of anywhere else to stay and do your nature related activities.

On the way back to the hotel, we walk right past an artisan chocolate shop. That happens to be open. When we first crossed into Argentina from Chile, we passed a ton of artisan chocolate places, but we didn’t have any Argentinian pesos yet so I couldn’t stop and buy chocolate. I’ve since commented to Kay “now that we have money, of course we haven’t passed a single artisan chocolate shop.” It was obligatory that I walk in and check it out.

Kay was shocked when I walked back out again, because they didn’t have any “assorted” boxes of chocolate. One had to pick out the chocolates that one wanted. I couldn’t be arsed to try to pick out individual pieces of chocolate, but I couldn’t quite bring myself to walk away, either… so a quick consultation with the iPhone to get the word for “assorted” and then back into the shop to try to order an assorted box of chocolate in my poor Spanish. Some initial misunderstanding led to much mutual smiling and me walking out with an assorted box of chocolates. Score!

So the day started out with promise, had a less happy middle, but has ended well. I am a happy woman, and hopefully tomorrow the diarrhea will be cleared up. Just in time for some dirt!

(Random note about Kay’s bike for the day: his brake light has started working again. The gas light also went off at one point, but then came back on. Still full of gremlins, but at least he now has a functional brake light again.)

Kay’s note: on the way to the restaurant we stopped in a supermarket where, once again, I grabbed some tasty looking bread products… something that looked like a cinnamon roll, only not, and something that looked like a regular bun but I suspected had something sweet inside (there was no signage). By itself this is not very noteworthy, but when we got back to the room at night I discovered that unlike all the other fresh bread products we’ve purchased and been disappointed by, this was fucking delicious… well, the not-cinnamon-roll was. The other thing ended up being a bun with pineapple in it, which was pretty tasty. I’m soooo happy about this. Fresh baked goods have finally redeemed themselves, and they only cost $0.25 each!

3 Comments

  1. Armadillo! Sorry about the other troubles of the day, though. Photos look so lovely. It’s another gray and cold day here, if you wanted to know! ;)

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