Saturday, 1 October 2011

Roundup of week 1 of Vuelta Sudamericana tour

Hi guys

I am back in the modern world again, after days of cycling through pancake flat country in Argentina, and camping in little villages that don't see that many foreigners.  I am now in Cordoba and we have the luxury of staying in a hotel, because tomorrow is a rest day.  This gives people a chance to do laundry, get a shower, and to generally be more human in appearance, ready for a night on the town. 

Thumbs up - all is good (except the sore butt)

We have cycled a whopping 900km or so in a week, on a mixture of paved and dirt roads.  And for the last few days we have been cycling into a strong headwind.  Unfortunately the roads in this region are almost totally straight and if the wind is against you it remains against you for the whole day.  Some people on the tour had never cycled more than 60km in one ride in their whole lives.  A few of these had to ride the truck as their bodies were crying out for rest, but one or two have made it through the entire first week, and I find that pretty amazing.  I myself have cycled these kind of distances many times, but never for so many days in a row.  My body so far though is holding together just fine.  A sore butt is the worst of my worries, and even that is improving day by day as it turns from squidgy to rock solid.

The most shocking thing I have found in Argentina is the sheer number of street dogs.  Sometimes they are in packs of more than 10, just roaming the streets.  On the whole they ignore us passing cyclists, but from time to time they start to chase us.  So far no one has been bitten and I hope it stays that way.  Apparently the problem of street dogs is not just limited to Argentina and is a general problem in South America.  We have been warned to expect even more once we arrive in Chile.  The howling of dogs at night has become a normal expected background noise for us when we are camping, and we have just had to get used to it.

The group is a great bunch, and many of them are repeat tourers, having done other tours organised by Tour d'Afrique.  In fact a lot of them knew each other already from the Cairo to Capetown tour, and some from the Canada tour.  The majority are early retirees but there are also some in their 20s and 30s who have managed to take a sabbatical from work or take a break from their studies.  Everyone speaks english except for one Italian guy, who understands it but doesn't speak it so much.  He is very comfortable speaking spanish, so the ones of us that know spanish try to use that with him so he doesn't feel too left out.  In terms of nightlife they are not exactly party animals and on cycling days, by 8pm everyone is in their tents reading or sleeping.  The cycling abilities are rather mixed and some have cycled thousands of kms this last year, and others have barely been on their bikes.  I am one of the, if not the strongest cyclist on the flat, but it remains to be seen what happens when we start tackling the Andes.  I have a feeling that then things will change a lot, as there are some good cyclists who are 15kg lighter than I am, and in the hills power to weight ratio and not raw power is what counts most.

For people like my friend Pete who love looking up routes on Google earth, these are the stages we have completed this last week (although most of the time using very indirect routes to avoid traffic and increase the scenic factor of the trip):

Day 1 - Buenos Aires to Capìlla del Senor
Day 2 - Capilla del Senor to San Pedro
Day 3 - San Pedro to Rosario
Day 4 - Rosario to Bouquet
Day 5 - Bouquet to Villa Maria
Day 6 - Villa Maria to Rio Tercero
Day 7 - Rio Tercero to Cordoba

The next few weeks we will be heading towards San Juan and then over the Andes to Santiago de Chile.  We have been told to expect more MTB like terrain for the coming days and people have been warned to change to their off road tyres.  I only have one type of tyres with me (of which I do have spares) and it has been good on the road, so I hope it will be equally as good on rougher terrain.  Fingers crossed eh!!