Day 109 – Trelew to El Condor

We poked into the restaurant on the off chance that there would be some sort of desayuno, and there was – they had media-lunas (croissants) and we got coffee and tea. Sadly, the coffee wasn’t drinkable – probably more of the instant crap they love so much here in South America – so I gobbled my croissants quickly and we headed back to the room to get ready. Surprisingly, in spite of it being a place with internet and us spending some time chatting with a guy who was staying in one of the other rooms, we got out early (for us) at around 9:30AM. Grabbed gas at the gas station next door and hit the road.

What followed was one of the most boring days I’ve ever had. It was definitely my most boring day on a motorcycle; I was more bored than I ever thought possible on a motorcycle. We rode through flat, boring (did I mention boredom?) landscape; similar to the same flat landscape we’ve been riding through since we left El Calafate. A body can only take so much of the same thing before succumbing to boredom.

At one point, we ran into a police checkpoint at a state border where they wanted to look at Kay’s paperwork and ask us a few questions (the standard where have you been, where are you going, etc.) But for the first time ever on our trip, a drug-sniffing dog checked our panniers and dry sacks while the other police officer examined Kay’s paperwork. Apparently the cop asked about insurance, which Kay ignored, and then proceeded to ask about the next gas stop to try to distract the officer from the fact that we don’t have any Argentinian insurance. He waved us on shortly after, and we rode off to the happy sight of the drug dog rough-housing around with his handler. I miss our doggies.

When we hit the gas stop 40km later, we stopped for lunch – not because either of us was particularly hungry, but because we didn’t know how long it would be until we found another gas stop and I wanted a break from being on the bike. We bought gas station ham sandwiches, and the lady toasted them for us, and had some chips. It was kind of a pleasant change from all of the disappointing meals we’ve been having lately. Who knew I’d look forward to a gas station sandwich lunch, when before I was lamenting the fact that it was all we could get? At least you know what to expect, and they’re consistent.

Back on the road, and more boredom. We rode, and rode, and rode some more. The landscape changed a bit; we started seeing more scrub and bushes until the flat land was almost completely covered with a layer of green, short scrub. But it was still flat and windy, only now it was a different color as far as the eye could see. At one point, Kay rode to the edge of the road and stuck his foot out to the side, brushing his boot against the weeds at the side of the road. “Just to see if I could.” He did that again from time to time, because we were both bored out of our minds. It was something to do.

As much as we’ve really enjoyed this trip, and had some totally epic days of riding… I think now we’re both just ready to get home. I worried when we set out if we’d feel disappointed or depressed to be coming home, but I’m excited about it, and I know Kay is, too. Occasionally during the ride we’d throw out something we’re looking forward to when we get home – the dogs are the big one, but also just sitting on our couch, watching TV; I’m looking forward to cooking something tasty in our kitchen; and we’re both looking forward to food we haven’t seen since we left the States.

Which has engendered an ongoing discussion about foods we want to eat when we get home. We’ve been saying for half of Argentina now that we really want a good American breakfast when we get home. There’s a great breakfast place around the corner from our house, and I told Kay a week or two ago that I don’t care how broke we are – we’re going there for breakfast when we get back. But since then, random foodstuffs have been popping into my mind with mouth-watering intensity – things I didn’t realize how much I love and take for granted until I had to go without for four months.

I was reading a book on my iPhone at the end of the day, and the main character ate some pancakes. “Pancakes!” I said to Kay, remembering the glorious pancakes we had in Granada. Those were probably the best pancakes I’ve ever had in my life. Which started a discussion about where we could go for pancakes when we get back to Boston.

And then, a bit later… “Sushi!” Out of nowhere. We had just kissed and Kay had gone back to his book and I got a whiff of something – probably the ocean water nearby – that made me think of sushi. Oh, how I miss it.

And then there was Indian food…

And Chinese (dim sum)…

And brownies…

So that’s our new thing. Randomly naming foods we miss that we’re looking forward to eating when we get home to Boston. I’ve lost a ton of weight on this trip, and I have a sneaking feeling I’m going to gain it all right back when we get home. But all of these little day-to-day things that you take for granted, like having a choice about what you want to eat – those are the things that really hit home after a while on the road.

Sometime in the afternoon, we stop for gas again and decide that it’s gotten warmer. In fact, it’s gotten so warm that it’s time to shed layers. Yay! We’re both psyched. Kay takes off his rain liner and heated jacket, and I do the same. I’d already taken my waffle shirt off earlier, so that leaves both of us riding in just our jacket shells (with all the other gear, of course.) I’m wearing my thin cotton Buff instead of my thick wind-breaking Cyclone Buff, and we both switch to summer gloves.

And it is glorious. Glorious! We feel like we’ve each lost 10 pounds and have suddenly ceased to be sausages – there’s so much more room in our gear now and everything is just a little easier. Gearing up to ride off without the extra layers is faster and infinitely more comfortable. It’s the high point of our day, and a wonderful gift in the middle of a very boring day. For the next hour or two, one of us would randomly say “It’s so comfortable!” or “It feels so good!” over the headsets because we were so happy to shed the layers.

Eventually, we arrived in the town where we’d intended to call it a night – the plan was to ride to Viedma, and then down Route 1 a little bit to the campground where Horizons Unlimited hosted a meetup in December. It sounded like a nice spot where we could spend a few nights and kill a bit more time before arriving in Buenos Aires, where we’re going to have to sit around until it’s time to fly home. At this point, we’re only 600 miles from Buenos Aires, which is two easy days of riding in South America… and even if we weren’t, I was so bored I couldn’t ride another hour and had no hope of making it further down the road.

It turns out that Viedma is a surprisingly crappy little town. We saw a sign for Route 1, which took us down a road that had like 30 of these ginormous speed bump things. They were more like pyramids with the top chopped off – they’re probably 3 feet from front to back, so your wheels go up on it, you ride on it for a second and then you come down the other side. They came in pairs before every road that intersected Route 1, in lieu of stop lights, and it was one of the most ridiculous roads we’ve seen. Eventually it merged with some other road and stopped doing that, but in the meantime, it had completely bypassed the town, so we didn’t see a gas station where we could fill up, or a supermarket where we could buy some food to cook at the campground.

30km later, we arrived at El Condor – a sleepy little beach community with a surprising amount of hotels. It was slightly nicer than Viedma, but very lacking in amenities. We passed what might have been a supermarket, but our first priority at this point was finding the campground, so we road past and figured we’d come back later.

A few minutes later we see a sign for a campground, so we turn up into it… except it’s right across the street from the beach, and the entrance is covered with a big mound of sand. Kay takes it easy, gets his rear tire a bit stuck but is eventually able to power through it and makes it past the sand. I swing a bit wider and get stuck in a different spot, and my rear end fishtails wildly as I free my rear tire from the mini-sand dune, but I remained surprisingly controlled and powered through the sand. As much as I might not want to admit it, I seem to be getting better at non-paved road surfaces.

Around a corner past a building and we enter the campground, except it doesn’t look like much. In fact, we both have a hard time believing that it’s the same campground where Horizons Unlimited hosted a meeting. Kay asks the guy who comes up to us if there’s another campground, but he shakes his head no, so Kay asks about price and sets us up for the night. The plan had originally been to stay for two nights and spend the day here tomorrow, but after seeing this place, neither of us wants to commit to that right off.

I go visit the bathroom, which is disgusting, and Kay heads out to scout and see if there’s another campground. He sees no sign of one, but there is a tiny “kiosko” (think convenience store) across the street, and also a couple of restaurants. So we set up the tent, read for a bit and then walk across the street to check out the beach, the kiosk and the restaurants. The beach is beautiful. A dog walks by, we speak to it, it wants to be petted, I pet it and then it jumps up on me for more lovings. I oblige, missing my dog from home. Then it runs off, and we go back to walking on the beach for a bit.

El Condor
Kay in El Condor
Success
El Condor

We walk down past where the GPS had indicated the other campground to be, and see no sign of it. This has to be the campground where Horizons Unlimited met. As usual, the restaurant isn’t open until 8:30, although when we ask the guy at the kiosk about it, he offers to make us some sandwiches. We buy some chips and decide to come back later, when the restaurant is open, as the other restaurant doesn’t inspire us with confidence and Kay has decided we should eat at the “good” restaurant on the beach to make up for the crap campground.

Another trip to the bathroom, and it has gotten even more disgusting, which I tell Kay and he suggests in all seriousness that I use the men’s room. I just can’t, though. I can’t stand the idea of walking in on a guy peeing at a urinal, or being in there when a guy walks in. I’m still too “civilized.” So I use the disgusting bathroom, and it’s slightly mitigated when one of the other stalls is unlocked so I can start using a non-disgusting stall. Suddenly I feel much better about the campground.

We venture out for dinner when the restaurant is open, and it looks like we’ll be the only patrons. And there is no menu. The guy rattles off a list of options, none of which sound particularly good to me, and Kay eventually settles on Napolitano, which is milanesa with ham, melted cheese and tomato sauce on top. I order the same thing because I’m not thrilled with any of the options, and it sounds about as good as anything else, but I tell Kay after the waiter leaves (who is, incidentally, the same guy from the kiosk… apparently he owns both places, and is surprisingly attentive) that I’m sick of milanesa. He didn’t realize that’s what he ordered, but I tell him nothing else sounded better, and we wait for our food.

When it arrives, I’m pleasantly surprised. The fries are the tastiest fries we’ve had in ages (but now I’m dying for some rice… what happened to the rice? Why are we never offered rice anymore?) and the napolitano is only slightly odd-flavored. As I eat more, the odd flavor goes away and I’m left with something resembling tasty. I enjoy the meal a lot more than I’d expected to, and watch the lightning light up the clouds off to see. It looks like we’re going to have a storm tonight.

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