Mar 09

Day 93 – El Bolson to Sarmiento

by in Field Reports

Because we have internet the morning takes longer. We’re figuring out when the cheapest day to fly home will be (still haven’t purchased the tickets), checking on the stocks that are funding this (plummeting since the day we left), and e-mailing our dogsitter. Checkout time is 10:00, or maybe 10:30, depending on which sign you read but Dachary read the 10:00 one and starts stressing and getting a bit grumpy about not going over (since we’re getting close). I’m not sure why since the guy won’t care about a few minutes over, and even if he was an ass about it he can’t do anything because we paid in cash.

We leave, go to the Seguro place we saw. They’re open! I go in, stand in line, interrupt the lady when she starts in on the next guy “Excuse me a moment.” They ignore me. I loom a bit more, and wait for the next paragraph to finish. “Excuse me a moment”… Ah, I have your attention. How nice. “do you have insurance for one month for my moto?” “No” “Ah. goodbye.” We go to the bank and see a huuuuuge freaking line out the door. Fortunately the line is for the bank itself not the ATM. The ATM though is out of cash. Damn. But I learn something because two people used it before me. I was wrong about the machine with no buttons before. Just because it’s an ASCII art terminal with arrows pointing to nonexistent buttons doesn’t mean it isn’t a touchscreen. I prodded it experimentally and yup, pressing on the arrow or the words works sometimes.

There’s an ass-hole at the gas station who not only tries to line-jump us but blocks the people who are at the pump from leaving. Then someone does line-jump us from the other direction. I ask the guy if the road we came in on is Routa 40 south, but no, it’s jumped to the other main street in town without any signage. Dachary’s hunch was right although I haven’t a clue why she suspected it.

While waiting for gas we see a break in the clouds where a shaft of light maybe 50 feet wide shoots down like a spotlight from God and starts moving across the hills. It’s pretty amazing. Dachary though, is not having a good morning with the check-out time stress, and the assholes at the pumps and gives an official “fuck-it” to getting water across the street at the minimart and suggest we get it later. So we take off.

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=http://www.flickr.com/photos/corporaterunaways/5516185438IMG_2915[/url]

The scenery’s not as amazing as yesterday, but it’s beautiful in a rolling hills of scrub brush and grass kind of way. There’s nothing to eat though and we didn’t have “breakfast” at the hotel (more bread probably). The rain liners we put in at the start of the day (tops and bottoms) are helping with the cold but we’re starting to feel the legendary Patagonian winds (and see the signs) and it’s getting rather chilly. The hunger and the chill do not help with Dachary’s mood. I nommed some of the leftovers from the roll things I picked up last night, so I’m not starving, but Dachary eschewed grabbing some bites because of time and stress.

=http://www.flickr.com/photos/corporaterunaways/5516188290[/url]
=http://www.flickr.com/photos/corporaterunaways/5516188290Half llama half deer things[/url]

Finally, it’s 1:30 and we come into a town that… oh look a sign for an ATM… we follow it. There’s nothing down the road except a police station. We go back… I hope there’s at least gas in this … YES. With a minimart with tables even! We pull up. We go in. The lunch offerings are… minimal, but better than nothing. Two Ham and Cheese on wheat sandwiches (one piece of ham and one piece of cheese each) and two small beef Empanadas.

While Dachary’s in the bathroom I noticed a map of Patagonia with gas station icons… that’ll help. So we got that too, but as we eat we find it’s only the part of Patagonia we’ve already traveled through… shit. I fold it back up and ask if I can exchange it for one of all of argentina. The girl walks off and sends the other girl. I try again using more words… oh, yes, sure. Great… map of Argentina with…. shit this one’s by the same manufacturer, and has lots of icons, but no Gas icons. WTF. Oh well, at least now I have a map for my tank bag so I can see what Dachary is talking about when she’s asking me my opinion about the road choices ahead.

I’m not as good as her at reading it while riding, but I find it’s very nice to be able to have an idea of what’s ahead, and the distances to towns and such rather than just having to blindly follow someone else’s instructions. The GPS isn’t much help as I can only see about 10k ahead of me on it unless I switch to a different mode, reorient it, and zoom out … which is a pain (nigh-impossible when i have winter gloves on) and steals too much attention from the road.

We’ve found the GPS is good for the “where am I now?” question and the Map is good for the “Where are we heading?” question. A great combination.

Anyways, our crappy breakfast / lunch does wonders for Dachary’s mood. We go out, put on our electrics and our Cyclone Buffs and Dachary switches out of her mesh gloves which were freezing her hands. After filling up we make one more attempt to find the ATM, and do. I then proceed to break it. I think it failed be able to call home to do the transaction, gave me my card, and then gave up and said it was out of service.

On the road the warmer layers have made an incredible difference. Neither of us have turned on the electrics, and we don’t for the rest of the day, but now the wind is just a physical force pressing against us. It’s not this negative thing that comes and chills you. Before it was “arrgh wind!”. Now it’s “hmm the wind is blowing me around a bit”

At one point the road takes a sharp turn and we get the wind behind us. We’re riding about 60Mph and it feels like standing still. So, I’m thinking the wind is somewhere near to 60Mph… maybe I’m wrong. When the day is done we encountered some pretty strong winds, and spent quite a while leaned over, but nothing worse than we’ve encountered on the trip before.

=http://www.flickr.com/photos/corporaterunaways/5516191768[/url]
=http://www.flickr.com/photos/corporaterunaways/5516191768Rider takes a break[/url]

We stop opportunistically for gas, because we’ve passed towns with literally 1 and 3 buildings and have no confidence that anywhere on the map will have… anything. Just before another gas station Dachary spots something that might be a bank down a side street. The gas station attendant confirms this. The ATM however claims i have a zero dollar balance and won’t give me money.

=http://www.flickr.com/photos/corporaterunaways/5516194532[/url]
=http://www.flickr.com/photos/corporaterunaways/5516194532IMG_2928[/url]

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=http://www.flickr.com/photos/corporaterunaways/5515606591Dachary in the distance[/url]

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=http://www.flickr.com/photos/corporaterunaways/5516201092Curva Peligrosa[/url]

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=http://www.flickr.com/photos/corporaterunaways/5515613597IMG_2939[/url]

We drive on, and are starting to get concerned about the money thing. Yeah we’ll probably pass more ATMs before Ushuaia but who knows if they’ll give us more money and it’s been the same Fail bank at the last two small towns. We decide that since Sarmiento is the biggest town on the map for a while (possibly the rest of the way), and everything else is dinky town it’s worth going the extra 80k there and back. Plus Dachary is still physically feeling the need for a hotel, and that’s our best chance for one of them too.

When we’re there I pull over and ask a guy where to find an ATM. He tells me about the one ahead, and then says where the other one is if that one isn’t working. Yay for backup plan. We go down the road just a smidge and there it is. It’s the same bank. We’ve named it the “Bank of Stupid”. I go in and yup. Zero balance. I’m not stressing about the balance because it’s almost impossible to have a balance of exactly zero. Negative sure… but what are the odds of accidentally withdrawing exactly the amount within your account? We go to the backup bank and thankfully it’s the branch from this morning that was out of cash, but seemed to work otherwise.

Yes it’s work… no. Zero balance. WTF?! Just for the hell of it I try the business account and I get money! What the hell? Ok. Now, I’m stressed about the Zero balance. There was a hotel on the way into town, and we see another while waiting but it’s across the street from a politician’s office who feels the best way to attract votes is to blare music very loudly from speakers set up outside the front door. It’s worse than a nightclub and the hotel is across the street.

We go back to the first one. From this side it looks abandoned. But there are lights on so I try anyway. The metal bar gate in front of the front door isn’t locked so I open it. The glass door behind that isn’t locked so I open it … er the handle fall off… I put the handle back on, and open it more carefully. I walk in… There’s no-one around. “Hola?” … no response “HOLA?!” … no response… There’s a light on in a room just off the hall that has what appears to be someone’s lunch fixings (bread, soda, etc.) on the counter…. weird.

Back to the hotel across from the not-nightclub. 150 pesos for two twins or 200 ($50 US) for a double. Internet in the lobby but it’s on a main street, there’s no parking, and it’s across from the loud politician. Dachary’s not happy. She sends me back in to see if the woman can recommend another place that has parking, but refuses to tell me if she’ll take it if she says there’s nothing else. She’s been hungry for hours now… The woman says no, she doesn’t know one. I think she also says there aren’t any other hotels, but I’m not sure. Then she says something I don’t quite catch about parking on the other side of the block.

I tell Dachary. She wants to keep looking although I’m pretty sure we have seen the whole town. I’m frustrated, feeling I’m in another impossible situation where there’s no acceptable solution. The woman said there’s no other hotel with parking, we’ve seen most of the town, and no other hotels so what else is there to do but take it? I tell her to lead the search since she’s so determined, but she claims she doesn’t know where she’s going… I counter that I don’t either but it gets me nowhere. So, with nothing else to head for, I go in search of the parking the woman was talking about. Turns out, it’s another hotel… with parking. I swear to you the woman said “no” when I asked her if she knew another hotel with parking. I was pretty confident she went on to say there was no other hotel too…

This one’s run by a much nicer lady. You can’t hear the loud politician inside, is twenty pesos cheaper, and has net in the lobby. It does, however, have Zebra striped bedding and only rooms with twin beds. Totally incongruous with the rest of the place. Whatever. We take it.

Theres even a printed piece of paper with the password for the net in the room. We try it since we can barely see it in the room. “Authentication failure” hmm.. we try again. No. I bring the laptop and go see the lady. “What’s the password for the internet?” Sadly, this hotel has one of the few secure passwords we’ve encountered, so she’s reading it off to me and yes, it’s the same one, and no, it doesn’t work. I can see what she’s reading from and confirm it. She keeps thinking I’m not getting it. I keep showing her the password I’m typing in. She writes it down and holds it up next to the screen. Yes, they’re the same. No it’s not working…. Repeat…. Give up. She’s not convinced her password is wrong because she’s elderly, doesn’t understand computers, and someone she trusted told her it was the right password. I’m assuming a lot here, but I’m pretty sure I’m right.

We decide to find an internet cafe before we grab food, thinking the cafe will close first. We can’t find the one we saw before without way more wandering than Dachary is up for because she needs food, and if you haven’t noticed the trend here Dachary needs to be feed at regular intervals just like a diabetic and we’ve not been doing that. Anyway, we give up looking for net and start looking for a restaurant. I know there’s one near the hotel so we wander towards that. Along the way we pass another restaurant with a row of computers all populated by kids playing first person shooters.

I go in and ask if they have WiFi… they don’t but they’ll let me use an ethernet cable with my laptop. Excellent, because we need to check the bank accounts and I aint doing that on a public computer. Log in and … oh.. shit…. Negative over $1,000 (US). That’s um… That’s not good. Check the business account… Yup, that’s about right. Looks like the plane tickets from Panama just hit my account a week ago. I fucking hate that merchants are allowed to sit on charges like that. There’s also a $1000 transfer from my personal account to the business account that has gone into limbo. Same bank, but apparently they’re not sure if they’re good for the money because they took it out of my account and are now waiting to see… if they have it ? before they give it to our business account?? I dunno. But, of course about $300 of the -$1,000 is overage charges.

I tweak the stock sell price to sell it since I accidentally put it a dollar too high yesterday, where it would have probably sold, but didn’t, we read your comments and smile big smiles, then run off after about half an hour in the net cafe to find food before everywhere closes as it’s now 9:30 at night. Dachary doesn’t want to eat at the net cafe it was too loud, and filled with young teens blowing things up. Also, while they had hamburgers and pizza and things I’ve given up on ever getting a real pizza in Latin America. I keep bringing it up when I see it (habit) and then Dachary says “do you really trust it?” And I don’t, so we get something else.

The restaurant I’d seen earlier is there, and open… hours are 12-3pm and 8-11pm.. hmm. Inside the menu is painted on the wall, and the place smells somewhat of gas but when the proprietor comes over he’s all excited about his offerings. Telling us how the pasta is all hand made as is the sauce, that they don’t use any of that canned stuff, etc…. He goes over some of the options (with and without pasta) and recommends the beef pasta. We say “Beef is good” and there’s a little confusion about what we want with it and we’re all… “Whatever you recommend” because it’s rare to see someone so excited about their food. So, he brings us spinach ravioli. I’m not sure what happened to the beef. It’s… ok. The sauce is interesting, and hand made too, but also … ok.

On the way back to the hotel Dachary hunts for Coke Light (Diet Coke) but can only find regular Coke in the wine store next to our hotel, but in the process of pulling it out of the fridge causes three other bottles to fall (stacked by fools), one of which escapes the case, plummets to the floor, breaks the cap and starts shooting an arc of Sprite across the room. For a moment everyone stares at it. Then Dachary reaches down, grabs it by the cap and picks it up while Sprite continues to pour out through her fingers and onto the floor. I’m watching through the window from outside and laughing my butt off. People in the store are grinning at the chaos and running for something to clean up the growing puddle with. She’s apologizing… It’s excellent. She apologizes more, puts her coke on the counter and realizes that she only has a hundred (it’s what the ATM dispenses) for a bottle of soda. Then has to come out to me to get some small bills.

That coke was worth every peso.

Back in the room the mood is good, but tired. I write up a couple responses to comments to the thread on ADVRider, we watch a Torchwood, make love, and go to bed. Some days have their ups and downs.

The plan, with regards to money, is to sell the few stocks I have left, which should be just enough to cover the plane tickets and rest of the trip. We’ll try and store the bikes at Dakar Motos and have them ship them up north to us when we can afford it. But, when we get home we’ll be broke to the point that we won’t be able to pay the next month’s rent. So… that’ll be interesting. I’m crossing my fingers that I’ll be able to get another position at my old company, or anywhere else in Boston. But as a web developer who’s run their own business and has 15+ years of experience I’ve usually got a good chance at the jobs I apply for.

Side note: We forgot to mention that the other day I killed a bird. It was the first real death of the trip as the llama I drove over was already dead. That, and we don’t count the thousands and thousands of bugs we’ve killed. I was riding along when this bird launched itself from the side of the road towards the bike. I’m not sure if it hit the side of the bike and then my knee, or went directly into my knee, but at about 60mph I felt the thud of it bouncing off of me. Dachary saw something come off the right side of the bike and go flying off to the side of the road. She thought I’d dropped something, but when she passed through the same section of road there were still feathers floating in the air, and judging by the “velocity with which he was ejected into the ditch” there’s not much chance he survived. The next day I was pondering him and feeling bad that I hadn’t gone back to make sure he wasn’t laying there suffering. Put him out of his misery if needed…

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