The matters about route 7

Mendoza Travel Blog

 › entry 36 of 86 › view all entries

Most travellers take trains in order to get closer to stuff. I would have liked to, but according to Darens rulebook of how to cykle around the world this would be chaeting; The train out of Buenos Aires could be nothing but a means of transport out of the slums. As our direction was north west our train bumbled south west and Daren was beaming with pride at his plan whilst i silently questioned his sanity. Even more so when his paranoia of cheating, out of the blue, caused him to jump of the train 4 stations to early. As there was no time for me to leave the train with him i found my self heading into the subburbs with a wagon full of laughing argentinians whilst Daren was left rather sheepishly at a station appropriately enough called moron.

Never mind. As we sat in the open doors of another train, fields and houses flying passt us and grass occasionally whipping against our faces and feet we were shure to get there soon. But then the train slowed down and after 40 minutes of crawling along it stopped completely with no apparent intention of ever starting again. The argentinians were obviously used to this and knew that the best thing to do was to jump of the train into the fields and walk. So we followed suit, into the field with bikes and all. Obviously, then the train slowly bumbled away into the distance....

But here they were: The long flat roads that would eventually lead us 1000 km across the pampas. To the east and central these vast flatlands consist of fields so large that the harvest people set up camp in them as they take days to harvet. Further west the earth becomes sandy and dessert-like, the maize gives way to low and thorny shrubs. Eventually the Andes mark the end of the pampas. First as a beautiful blue silouhette against the sunset and then as a 200 km uphill towards the pass into Chile at 4100 m.

All this was far ahead and our first mission was to head north towards route 7 which we'd be following more or less prallel west. As the crow flies our destination of the day lay only about 25 km away, however as the roads were not yet as straight as expected the map indicated it would be 40 km. It turned out altogether differently as, inspite of being flat it was very difficult; There was a maze of unmapped tracks seemin to lead in circles or just end and the villages turned out to be mostly desserted cattlestations. We ended up with a map drawn to us by a farmer. Our points of orientation were to be an old palmtree, two bridges and a large corner. (???) "There's an englishman out there looking for route 7" a farmer greeted us. "that would be me" Daren replied. Word spreads quikly out here and people were already shaking their heads at us, showing very little confidence in our ability to cross their flatlands. 64 dusty km later after having passt the large palm tree, the two bridges and a corner a litlle larger than all the other corners we finally arrived at our destination, as the crow flies 25 km from our campsite. The next day was to be no easier we realised, as we passed our campspot for the third time after having ridden 11 km on dead end tracks. With a lot of help from the headshaking locals we eventually found our main track: A STRAIGHT dirtroad that would trake us over 150 km west. "But you can not take this road" they had said whilst they shaked their heads. "Go to route 7". Oh well.. 

The few villages out here consisted of nothing but a few houses and we rode long streches along a desserted trainline with squeaky windmills being the only thing to break the endless horizons and the odd curious cows being our only company. "Go to route 7. It's the only way" they seemed to muuuh. whatever...After many days like this the fields became to dry for grass to grow and there were no more cows to keep us company. The landscape that looked more and more like the sahel in Afrika. The villages changed from being farms to being designed only to keep the heat out. Low white buildings surounded by thorny dessert. Inspite of the apparent lack of cows the main job out here seemed to be a cowboy. They had ceased to shake their heads but just coughed and rolled their eyes at us.

The most famous Cowboy was gaucho Gil, an 18th century robin hood style  character who stole from the rich, gave to the poor and refused to join the army. Evenmtually he was caught and killed. His grave on the pampas shows his status as a saint: An area of about 20 square meter is covered with ribbons, red flowers hanging in red bottles, red candles, red crosses, red wine and red footballshirts and anything other red. Everywhere in Argentina, especially on the pampas, these red ribboned shrines stand, honouring their anti-authoritive hero and protecting saint of travellers. "Go to route 7" Goucho Gil would have told us. "Don't go on the tracks" his ghost would have whispoered to us had we honoured him appropriately by ringing our bell. But we didn't know we had to and as you get rather self centered of this cykeling around the world buisness we didn't think that the drivers were sounding their horns out of any other purpose than attention to us and we didn't think  that they were actually gaining valuable traveladvice and protection in doing so. Overbearingly we just smiled and waved, not ringing our bells as we should. 

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photo by: montecarlostar