We entered Argentina via a stunning border crossing, the paso Agua Negra, which is (untill now ;-)) the most beautiful ride of our lives. Coming down from that pass, we immediately found ourselves in an enormous valley the country is notorious for (the pampas). We struggled to recharge ourselves to cycle on, and have been discussing for hours (even days?) which would be the best route up north.
– Argentina is full of enormous valleys. We cycled towards that big snowy mountain in the distance for 3 days. Not really our preferred road. –
Google to the rescue? Or not?
There are many many cyclist travelling through South America, with quite a lot of them come all the way from Alaska. Hence a lot of experience available to learn from. And Google easily lets you find their blogs and websites.
We also became part of a WhatsApp group of cyclist currently riding on the continent where any practical question can be asked and any member will try to help you out. From which hostal to sleep in what town, to where to find bicycle spare parts and drinkable water.
Sounds helpful right?
Well… not always. We learned in the meantime that not all bicycle travellers are the same. Some people we met on the way like to (and can) cycle 150 à 200 kms daily. Some are on such a small budget that they wildcamp 9 out of 10 nights. Others are travelling with a completely different bike set-up and enjoy other kinds of terrain. We quickly learned that what one appreciates, finds ‘good value for money’ or what road is good to ride isn’t necessarily ours.
Besides that, and this might come as a surprise, Google does not know all. While we had full confidence in Google about where to eat, sleep, find water or camp, we discovered a whole lot more is out there in the world. Which is good news, especially if you think you won’t see any village during the whole day, and all of the sudden you bump upon a lovely small hostel or a terrace with coffee and cookies. But sometimes it feels misleading and confusing: if we would have known, we would have planned differently…
– Coffee (yes coffee, in a kind of teabag) and cookies in the middle of nowhere. There are still places like this Google doesn’t know about. –
So after spending hours and hours on the screen, and still not knowing where to go, we made a decision: let’s completely skip Google and the huge amount of information it provides. It’s just too much, too little or not relevant. So back to paper maps, touristic information offices, 2 navigation apps (maps.me and iOverlander) and chats with people that really know and with whom you can have a real conversation, the kind with questions and answers.
So let’s have more conversations...
Our first impressions from the Argentinians was that they’re really friendly and helpful. As soon as you say Hola! they start chatting to you in Spanish and they will always try to help you out. Even if we both have a basic knowledge, it definitely was not enough to say a lot back. The dialect didn’t help either (‘como te djamas’ iso ‘como te llamas’, ‘azji’ iso ‘alli’, …) and we felt pretty lost in translation. So with our new resolution to chat more, we decided that we wanted to spent some time off the bike, and into Spanish classes.
One final time, we googled ‘spanish classes’ and guess what, we ended up nowhere. Or only in posh language institutes in the big cities that have spare money to appear high in Google. But that wasn’t what we were looking for. So we asked around, via WhatsApp and the tourist office. And ended up with 2 lovely ladies, who were teaching English in the village of Chilecito, and made a deal with them. We spent 3 days together while improving our Spanish. It was a great experience, and we would never ever have found them through Google.
– Denisse and Paula from Chilecito taking us to the local market, 2 birthday parties and a real Argentinian asado, teaching us Spanish at the same time –
In a world where almost everybody has constantly a smartphone in his/her hands, it’s really interesting to have a digital detox and go back to the basics in this field too. To be more conscious about what is really helpfull about the online and social world (like some specific apps), what not (a random search and one-way advice from complete strangers), and what still works as ‘in the old days’. To not research and overplan too much upfront. To not see all the possibilities online, and then have to choose, and loose. But to go with the flow, and enjoy that route you’re riding.
At least that’s how it works best for us. Now during this trip, and probably also beyond. So the next time we don’t like the valley we’re in, we simply ask around, and go somewhere else.
– Once you leave the Argentinian valleys and cycle through passes and canyons, the Andes scenery is simply stunning –