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Drabs and Dribbles - The Return to Argentina

So I last left you in Coyhaique, Chile. Since then I have taken numerous ferries, saw the Cuevas de los Manos, crossed the Chilean-Argentine border about three times, booked a boat to Antarctica (!!!!), hiked on a glacier in Calafate, went horseback riding with a wonderful picnic lunch, backpacked part of the famous “W” in Torres del Paine park and am now sitting in Ushuaia drinking coffee and occasionally looking out the window to glance upon the Beagle Channel – yes – the Beagle Channel. Have I mentioned how wonderful and diverse South American is?

So I finally left Coyhaique after a tense morning waiting for the minibus that was to transport me and my bike to the ferry. It was supposed to show up at 6:30 and moseyed up in front of the hostel at 7:30. This was after they locked me out of the hostel – I had to bang on the door and get them to call the transport company for me. Anyway, off I went hoping that my fellow biker, Nick, was safe and sound and out of the 4 inches of snow that had fallen overnight. I was glad that I made the decision to not ride – I would have been miserable and growing through endurance was not the frame of mind that I was in at that point. Once on the ferry, I sat in the minibus to stay out of the wind and cold and to avoid the huge waves that splashed over the side of the ferry and onto the windshields of our bus (and on my bike which they had lashed to the side of the boat). I was happy not to be out there. We landed and after a few crazy gringa woman sentences and gestures to the captain of the ferry (no one else would look at me) they finally released my bike from the boat. Perhaps someone was hoping that the bike would just be forgotten. Fat chance. Actually, to be more realistic, there was probably just some protocol and paperwork that I was ignorant of and we all really just did what we could – I insisted on my bike in baby Spanish; they insisted that I wait to have someone else bring it off the boat.

I loaded up and set out for my very short ride to Los Antiguos – back into Argentina. It felt good to be on the bike, if only for what I though was to be a 7km ride but turned out to be a 15km ride (about ½ on gravel) due to road construction. I rode on pavement, in the chilly but not rainy weather to the Chilean border – this was a stop sign (PARE) in the middle of the road – with no parking area – I guess they don’t get much traffic at this crossing. After rousing the police and aduana from their lunches I breezed through the border in about 5 minutes. Wow. Then I headed off onto what the GPS said was a secondary road toward my beloved Argentina. I pedaled and pedaled and even flagged down a passing truck to see if I was going in the right direction. I was – they had just changed the road! Breezed through the border and hopped onto an, oh so convenient bus that was headed to Perito Moreno (changed my mind about riding the next day – worried about bus schedules).

Perito Moreno was the perfect example of how open and helpful Argentinean people can be. There was one company offering travel to El Calafate (my next major destination) and while it wasn’t Chalten Travel (who didn’t bother to email me back about ticket purchases) and didn’t go down the famous Ruta 40 it was transportation, they would take my bike AND it was cheaper. The ticket seller got me a bus for the next day, called a travel agent to help me arrange a trip to Cuevas de los Manos and between the two of them discussed places for me to sleep. The travel agent piled my bike and gear into her truck and off we went to find a bed. This is about the third time that someone has driven me around city or town and helped me find a decently priced, clean bed to sleep in. I am just constantly amazed by this (and it’s all been in Argentina!!). Bed found, we unloaded my stuff, she drove me to town, showed me the banks, grocery stores, and internet and after agreeing to pick me up at 6am for the Caves, we parted.

The next morning dawned very early – somehow I had managed to stay up until midnight – packing my bags for the 20 hour bus ride that I would embark on almost as soon as we returned from the caves and read for a bit. I’m reading more again now – when I don’t stay in hostels. Hostels are sometimes dangerous places – too much socializing and not enough reflection and writing. Bad Nif (but I have met some fascinating people – and some really stupid ones too).

You know – I am leaving for Antarctica tomorrow and have realized that I would like to actually describe the events of the past few weeks in detail and I do not have the time right now, this evening to dedicate to another 10 pages of tedious detail. But, I should have time on the boat – I share a cabin with one other person. I hope that I have the self-discepline to actually focus on writing. It will be sort of like a prison; on a boat there won’t actually be anywhere to go. Ahhh, but that is not true – apparently the operations deck is open and we can badger them about navigation and GPS and all that fun stuff. I’m looking forward to it. And to all of the wildlife that I am supposed to potentially see. And to set foot on Antarctica!!!!

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