Argentina to Paraguay

Summary

Very undulating road, mixed weather (3 degrees to 37 degrees), camped and stayed in hotels. Followed the river from Foz de Iguacu to Paraquay, highway 12 all the way.   Gary has enjoyed this week, I have found it challenging, the first week on the bike is always the hardest for me. One of my biggest obstacles is not being able to speak Spanish, it has meant I have eaten a lot of yukky pizza, so we’ve decided, I will spend a couple of weeks in Bolivia while Gary cycles in Paraguay.

29th June

The WiFi in our room was not very quick and Ginette wanted to update word press which meant we didn’t set off till 10am.

We have cycled south in Argentina for 40 odd miles and are now set up camp with our tent in Balearic las delicias Baxter camping near Nueva Delicia.

Ginette the campsite fee was 25 pesos about 50p. It looks like in its hay day it might have been popular but it is pretty run down now. Drop toilet which includes a big hairy bodyguard with eight legs, a tap but no washing facilities. We are by a stream but it is heavily polluted.

It was a hot ride, in contrast to the cloudy wet days we have had down here so far, the temp reached 38 degrees, I believe the UK is also basking in the sunshine this weekend.

The road had two lanes and a good hard shoulder both sides, plus the drivers show cyclists more courtesy by slowing down and giving us space which is much better and has led to a good days cycling.

Ginette has struggled today with the heat, we have stopped often and sheltered from the sun but she found the afternoon hard going.

We had the campsite to ourselves, it’s basic but does have long drop loos, bbq areas complete with firewood and power points so we can charge our devices. We have no WiFi, hopefully, Ginette will make it through till tomorrow without getting serious withdrawal symptoms.

Ginette – cheeky, he should be worried no WiFi, no cold beer and no wine. What are we going to do with our evening? Hide and seek from the hairy spider, giant ants and much bigger wildlife.

Ginette – Gary was eager to set off this morning and that meant we only had the water that was in our bottles from 3 days ago. When we stopped for our mid-morning break I chose not to drink this preferring to wait for a shop to get some fresh water. In hindsight, this was a mistake as I had to wait for 20 miles. I had been riding well but as I got off the bike at the service station I felt a little woozy. I was fine after several cans of sprite but found the afternoon heat kept sapping my energy. We climbed approx 3000 ft, the road was very undulating but better than the roads we cycled in Brazil.

Observations from the day as we left the comfort of the town we were met with signs warning us about jaguars (the animal variety not the car). This understandably made me feel a little nervous until we saw a man running and children farming in the fields. Our main threat came from the hundreds of butterflies that flew directly at us kamikaze style. Initially, I tried avoiding them but they were everywhere, on the road in the air and on our bike.

Lunch was a pit stop at a buffet restaurant, Gary opted for a hot dish containing chicken while I had a cold buffet style dinner with lots of potatoes and pickled cauliflower and other veg. The meal cost £4 each.

By the side of the road there were a number of small settlements all containing rundown shack style houses, some on sticks. In contrast on the opposite side of the road, there was a shop selling swimming pools.

       

30th June

Monte Carlo or Bust? We have cycled to a fairly large town called Monte Carlo.
we have cycled through Monte Carlo in France on our last long trip and now this one in Argentina. We are staying in a hotel.

Last night we camped on a very basic site for 50p, so a really good price. I enjoyed this site, we were the only ones there. We cooked our own dinner on our camping stove and even had a log fire burning in one of the BBQ setups.

There were a lot of mosquitoes and moths etc so we did have to hide in the tent after a short while of darkness to protect our skin from bites (7pm).
It rained a lot in the night so our tent was soaked in the morning.

The ride was down the same main road, we are gaining confidence with the Argentine drivers, most are courteous and give us space, we have had several cars toot to say hi as well as passing touring motorbikes.

Ginette wanted to try to book somewhere for tonight, we stopped in Eldorado and a hotel allowed her to sit in the lobby to make use of the WiFi, however it was poor and I knew there were places to stay on route as I could see them on my maps, hence we set off winging it.

Ginette has again struggled with the heat. It was wet this morning but the sun came out and reached around 35 degrees. We had to stop several times in the shade. Needless to say, she is not enjoying this, it does put a damper on the trip.

Ginette – Not only am I suffering from the heat but I’m bored. I know, I’ve felt this way before but I feel like I’m wasting time rather than having an enriching experience, I feel like it is groundhog day.

Gary – Personally, I would prefer to just cycle till I am tired then set up camp, Ginette would prefer to have a pre-booked hotel room. We are now in a hotel which we found once in this town, the shower was cold and we have had to pay for food out, and it was not that nice. I don’t see how this beats camping. If we had camped I could have cooked what we wanted when we wanted it, there is not a lot gained in spending out for hotel rooms.

Ginette – I think you either like camping or don’t. Last night we were eaten alive, no shower, a drop toilet and to feel comfortable we had to retire to our tent at 7pm. Personally, I would much rather have a bed inside, where I can relax bug-free and go to the toilet when I like rather than waiting for the rain to stop or fearing spiders or snakes or worse. I confidently say I prefer a bed indoors, although I acknowledge it is good to eat what you like, when you like and only pay 50p for your lodgings.

We are starting to appreciate we want different things from this adventure and that is fine, we’re grown-ups, we will sort it out.

1st July

We started the day with a fight to be the first to pinch punch the other, I think this one must be declared a draw.

Ginette – we both had a restless night due to the number of mosquito bites we have, fortunately, we were in twin beds so we did not disturb each other too much but the itching is driving us crazy. Each day we’ve applied the lotion it is called bug off but I think it is actually attracting the bugs. I have never had so many bites in my life.

We are now in Puerto Rico, having cycled south on the same main road.

Today though we moved into a different borough and the roads lost their trusted safe hard shoulder for long sections, so we had several close shaves with heavy lorry’s as there is little room for them to go by, the drivers are pretty good and do slow down and give us as much room as they can.

It’s the cars that can be hairy, Ginette had a close fly past with a car just as our hard shoulder disappeared and she had to rejoin the main road. Cycling on another route here is not an option as there are very few other roads and none heading our direction.

Ginette – I am losing confidence by the day, the drivers are much better than Brazil but the traffic is fast and there is no room for error. We’ve seen a number of dead dogs, and they can move quicker than I can on my heavily laden bike. More worryingly when I look behind me I can’t see the cars approaching, we are going to see if we can fit a wing mirror to my bike. I am tense all day long, which means I ache at the end of each day. Added to this the road we have been on for the last 3 days is very undulating with climbs at 8 – 10 % which is a perfect recipe for lactic acid to build in your joints.

I have been chatting with the local wildlife, there is a small yellow bird here with a call that sounds like “peek a boo” but as a whistle, hence I have been whistling peek a boo to our feathered friends. There are still rainforests around us, although it is becoming less as we enter some cultivated areas. I am sure there must be quite a bit of wildlife lurking but the most obvious is always the birds, they are the easiest to spot and to hear. The bird calls are very different from the UK.

This Puerto Rico looks like it may have been a thriving tourist town once, it is now rundown and quiet, perhaps we are out of season as well but the town is well past the need of a makeover. There is a ferry crossing to Patagonia here, we walked down o the crossing where there is an Argentine naval barracks and memorial to those who fought in the Falklands.

On route we stopped for a sprite at a petrol station, the owner was a lovely man called Hector. We spent a while trying to chat with Hector and swapped numbers and e mails. I think he was trying to tell us about the interesting places nearby that we should visit. It’s a bit frustrating not being able to communicate but also fun at the same time.

Ginette – it is highly frustrating not speaking Spanish, can you imagine the treatment two Spanish cyclists would receive if they turned up in England without speaking any English? I have decided I need to do a Spanish course, I will probably take time out in Bolivia.

Our hotel is pretty nice, Ginette managed to secure a room down to a discounted price of 1000 pesos, around £20 compared to the 2000 pesos that the hotel had wanted to charge, 50% discount not bad at all.

Ginette – In the afternoon we walked down to the river, the shops and bars were shut but it was interesting walking past the Argentina naval base, if not a little unsettling as there were memorials to the Falkland war.  We had dinner out, Gary ordered an empanada which turned out to be a very small steak pasty at £5 while I ordered a Calzone for the same price but was big enough to feed a family of 4. The culture in Argentina is similar to Spain, everything closes during the day and opens again after 6.00pm. We have struggled to find restaurants that are open when we feel hungry and have had to resort to eating junk type food. In this regard, camping is much better.

Due to the fact that we have been charged an astronomical fee to access our money we have tried to use the credit cards whenever we can, however, this has proven to be time-consuming, as we have to also show our personal ID, in our case our passport. Interestingly I show my passport which after some confusion is accepted with Gary’s credit card, this seems to be acceptable. This is interesting because on the occasion I have asked why they need the passport they say for security reasons. This is even the case in the local supermarkets.

2nd July

We woke on Tuesday morning to rain and 13 degrees, unlike sunny England. The cycle ride was horrible, the wet weather not only made it cold and unpleasant but the road noise of the buses cars and lorries was heightened and as this stretch of the road kept running out of hard shoulder it made it quite frightening. It’s not nice seeing Ginette in tears as she builds up the courage to attempt the next narrow stretch caused when the hard shoulder disappears.
Her confidence has really taken a low after being knocked off, we opted to walk several stretches on the grass verge.

Ginette – I felt really anxious, I could cope when we had a hard shoulder but this disappeared for miles and we were forced onto the dual carriageway style road. It felt dangerous, if I’d seen two cyclists using a similar road in the UK in the pouring rain I would have thought they were nuts. Unfortunately, we had no choice, all the other roads were dirt tracks and in the rain, this made them impassable. I played my iPod to dampen the noise but the voices in my head kept shouting danger, danger. The first time I got off my bike in panic was when I saw a large truck coming over the brow of a hill and he was wiping his windscreen with a rag, if a truck or bus had overtaken us at this point I have no doubt they’d have been a crash. I feel a bit of a failure walking but I’d rather that than be the cause of an accident.

After only 20 odd miles we stopped at Jardin America, soaked and cold and defeated. We found a restaurant with the usual one price buffet. This was really nice, it had table cloths, a nice atmosphere and a waiter coming around with basted BBQ beef pork and chicken on skewers (carnivores paradise) he kept filling my plate on regular occasions. The only thing that spoiled this restaurant were the two dripping cyclists that left a huge puddle around the table.

We used the WiFi in the restaurant to book an apartment in town, we’d had enough, although it was only 1.00pm, it was still raining and it wasn’t enjoyable. However, it took us 2 hours to find the bloody place. We found another Cabana close to the one we had booked and even knocked to ask where the other place was.

After going around in circles we stopped at the police station for help, then followed our armed police escort. He took us to the same Cabana we had knocked at before, then after directions finally found us the correct Cabana. However, no one would answer the door and neither the policeman or fancied opening the gate due to the barking dog on the other side.

We opted to go and disturb the nice lady at the first Cabana again and have paid her £20 to stay in her hotel. All this time the rain was still hammering down so we were like drowned rats.
This place was nice, it had a pool and sunbathing area, shame it pissed it down all day.

3rd July 

What a difference a day makes.

We didn’t leave the room yesterday once settled, we cooked our own dinner and sat inside in the warm listening to the rain hammer down.

This morning after making our own porridge we packed and put on our still wet shoes to go, and found a breakfast tray outside our room along with a note in English hoping we had had a nice stay and wishing us well for our trip (our landlord speaks no English so has put some effort in for us). She also left a small gift of an insulated cup for making and drinking the local tea Mezzee. What a lovely gesture, shame we had no room to take it.

It had stopped raining and was overcast initially but the sun came out to give us a nice comfortable 20 degrees to cycle in.

The road is still the same one heading south, we have grown more cautious and savvy, when the paved hard shoulder disappears we now either switch to cycling on the hard shoulder on the other side or ride on the dirt and grass verge. Cycling on the other side seems far better as you can see the heavy lorries coming so you don’t have to worry about them approaching from behind and hope they are making room for you.

Ginette – last night I gave myself a good talking to and woke with a more positive attitude to cycling. We’ve cycled on worse roads, I realised we just needed to be very cautious and take it slowly. I also feel more content now I know i will be leaving in a week or two for Bolivia to learn to speak Spanish. 

We are at San Ignacio, we have visited a world heritage site of Mini Ignacio, this is a Jesuit ruin from 400 years ago. It looks similar in the stonework at Angkor wat in Cambodia but not as extensive. It was interesting learning about the way the Jesuit community blended its own religious beliefs with that of the locals, they built the temple areas with lots of structured housing for the locals. Taught them art, farming and skills that would be useful. It seemed a good commune environment to live in. The Jesuit’s were finally driven out of South America by government decree and the ruins have only been restored since the 19.40s.

We have noticed that there is always a queue formed outside some banks to the ATMs, Ginette has had to Queue herself to get cash out of the rip off ATM,s but the locals seem to be forever queueing.

4th July

Setting off in the morning it was interesting to see that there was already a queue at the bank, queuing at banks seems to be a daily occurrence. We also saw a bus arrive and the majority of the passengers disembarking were Gurani (local tribe people). We presume they must work in the local area.

It was really cold start to the day, I had to stop after a short while to dig down in my cycle bag for a pair of gloves, the temperature was 3.5 degrees, a drastic drop to the previous day so we really felt it.

The road we’ve been cycling on is undergoing a major widening project so we had lots or roadworks to navigate, parts of the road were rubble tracks but in other areas we were really lucky and had long stretches of new tarmac, three lanes wide all to ourselves as the traffic was not yet allowed on these bits of new road.

My chain came fully off on a dirt section, the speed links had somehow come apart, it was just a matter of cleaning them and fitting them back together.

I spotted a Toucan in flight just before it came to stop in a large tree, Ginette could see its large colourful beak in the tree. We also had a few other bird encounters, it’s the calls that are the most interesting as they are so different to any we hear in the UK. I still have the peek a boo birds to entertain me as well.

Despite the road works we made really good time and reached our accommodation in Garupa by 1.30. We really stink so Ginette has taken the opportunity to use the washing machine. Other than that a restful afternoon

Ginette – found my bike legs, at last, the riding was a lot easier, and when we had the road to ourselves it was quite enjoyable. However I will be glad to leave Highway 12, with it’s constant, noise, and up and downs. 

We are very close to the bridge where we cross into Paraguay, but unfortunately, we’ve learnt we can’t cross the bridge on our bikes. This is crazy as we can walk across (but not with bikes) and motorcyclists can cross on the road. Our landlady is being super helpful she has contacted the bridge, ferry port and train station but all without any joy. We are hoping a taxi will take us across otherwise we will need to cycle much further to the next bridge crossing.

Lasting memories of Northern Argentina (albeit based on one week), people drink lots of Matte (green leaf tea, in a pot, topped up with hot water from a flask, very bitter taste). There are dogs (both dead and alive) everywhere, on the whole, they are harmless although have given chase once or twice.

People are welcoming, but slow to smile. We’re not sure what happens at the bank, but people spend a lot of time queuing and then 5-10 minutes at the cash machine.

We’ve seen a mix of rundown accommodation including shacks, not dissimilar to South East Asia alongside very modern buildings. On the whole it appears to be a poor country. Drivers have been more considerate than Brazilian drivers.

It is a very carnivorous country with very few vegetarian options. Pizza is different from European pizza, the dough is thicker and generally, it is served undercooked.  We particularly like the buffet self service restaurants. These have been good value for money.

The weather can change on a daily basis from hot to cold to very wet (at least in the Winter, in the summer it is supposed to be very hot all the time).  We are travelling out of season, which has meant the tourist attractions have been quiet and a number of shops/restaurants have been closed.

The birds have kept us company along our route, it has been lovely listening to different calls from the trees.

1 thought on “Argentina to Paraguay

  1. Bob H

    As always, thank you both so much for taking time to write up your blog.

    It’s a really enjoyable read.

    Good luck with the next section, love

    Bob and Sue

    Like

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