This was a huge riding day. We made up for our day off yesterday in Asuncion with 168 miles today in very big chunks of 32, 41, 42 and then 53 miles due to a lack of support and some incredible mosquitoes.
If you add that up, we rode the last 95 miles getting off the bike only once. Eduardo did catch up to us one other time in that last 53 miles and passed some supplies from the Fiat window “Tour de France” style. There was no way Dalton or I were going to get off those bikes amidst the mosquitoes… more on them later.
We thought the highlight of the day was going to be the crossing of the Rio Paraguay. The big ferry goes only once per hour, so Dalton and I took a little ferry taxi.
Dalton says this was the coolest thing that ever happened to him in his life. The boat had water in the bottom, a hand crank start chuga-chuga motor, and a congenial captain, crew and passengers. It was a 15-minute ride a half mile across the river and about a mile downstream to the Argentinean dock.
Part of our happiness may have been just getting out of Paraguay. The Argentina side didn’t seem too much better though. We landed in Argentina at the destroyed old pier and ferry building. Then we followed the dirt path to the Argentinean immigration building where you get three (!) stamps and a signature on your passport.
We then lost Eduardo immediately because he had to wait for the bigger ferry that holds about 6 cars. Rather than wait, we rode off an right away came to yet another police checkpoint. I never stop at these things, even when the call out and wave, but this one had our first Argentinean flag, so I stopped and took a picture.
Little mistake. The guards waved me over (Dalton had wisely ridden past – see him in the distance?) but all the guards wanted to do was check out my Sony digital camera. It appears they have never seen one. Dalton came back, we gave them a couple of slide shows and rode on.
We were heading NW on the only paved road around and Dalton, knowing our destination was SW, was worried we were going the wrong way. Fortunately after about 8 mile Argentina Ruta 11 appeared and our work was defined. Our plan was to ride into Formosa.
Eduardo in the Fiat Adventure caught up to us an hour or so later, and we arranged a break about 32 miles into the day. At the end of our walkie-talkie conversation (how we communicate when we’re not immediately together), he mentioned that he had picked up a couple of ‘ladies’ for the ride to Formosa. We met them at the break.
Dalton didn’t even bother to say hi. Starving, he dropped his bike, strode over to the table and started stuffing available foodstuffs (that’s why they call them that) into his face.
The terrain changed dramatically and unexpected. The Rio Paraguay seems to be the definitive dividing line between hilly (way hilly) South America and flat (way flat) South America. It’s like all or none with the hills around here, no “in between”.
With no hills and a slight tailwind, Dalton and I took off, almost literally. We averaged almost 19mph over 7 hours and 43 minutes of riding today! See Dalton smile.
We took our next planned break with Eduardo at Formosa after he dropped off the ladies. We were going to spend the night here in Formosa (pop 203,000, known for its “Paraguayan market, cheap liquados and evening platoons of adolesent motor scooter racers), but it was just noon. We decided that Eduardo would go back into town to get supplies while Dalton and I tried for a record day..
The following break was going to be when Eduardo caught back up, usually an hour or 90 minutes later. Eduardo seemed to vanished, so we decided to try to ride 50 miles without a break. Fortunately we found a corroded YPF gas station 42 miles into our intense riding. We were low on water, so we stopped.
I asked if they understood English, and the attendants said no. I then flashed a US$20 bill and said “agua” and they said “si”. There is no place to change any money along this, except in Formosa which is the first city/town heading south.
We were worried about Eduardo and us. Here’s Dalton doing his “Where’s Eduardo?” posture at the gas station.
If you’re riding through this area, you need to always be prepared for at least 50 miles of no commercial establishments of any kind. Not that bad, you might think, except for the fact that you’ll consume a gallon and a half of liquid covering 50 miles on a hot day.
We had learned to count on Eduardo and he finally caught up to us as we were leaving the gas station. We walkie-talkeid a break another 15 miles down the road. It never happened.
At the intended break, Eduardo was standing by the side of the road waving his arms and jumping up and down saying “there are mosquitoes everywhere!”
We paused. Could it be worse than continuing riding in the 95-degree humid heat? I never even swung my leg over the bike to get off. Within seconds I said, “We gotta get outta here,” and took off, swatting the pests off myself for many miles. Dalton tried briefly to get some bug repellant on his legs, but gave up seconds later and followed.
All along the sides of the roads, for infinite miles around, there was standing water.
This is mosquito nirvana. We did not yet have any tactics for dealing with the swarms, except to keep riding, and riding, and riding, until we almost dropped.
Dalton was impressive, though a little concerned toward the end of the day. “Are we going to make it? Is it going to get dark before we get there? Where the ??? is Eduardo? If Eduardo shows up are you going to ride the rest of the way? Can you feel your legs? I can really feel my legs.” He was joyous when he found a last PowerGel digging through his rack bag while simultaneously riding through the mosquitoes. (You can feel them hitting your face and legs.)
We finally came to another YPF gas station just outside Resistencia and high-tailed it into the building. Shortly after, Eduardo showed. Dalton celebrated by buying us beers.
After all this, Eduardo hadn’t been able to find any hotel rooms in, Resistencia (pop 300,000, Provincial capital and gateway to the Chaco). There was some convention in town. After more searching and calls Dalton suggested we drive to the next biggish town, Corrientes, and look there. Excellent choice. We arrived at the (run down) Hotel Hostal Del Rio sweaty and exhausted, in the darkness. Details on Corrientes tomorrow.