October 9, 2004 - Pampa Guanacos 180k, 112m***

We cannot post these updates, but they seem to be our only connection with the outside world. No phones in our rooms the last three nights, much less hi-speed internet. We read the updates ourselves and imagine how others would receive them. The day started at the Park Hotel on the side of Ruta 16 in Machagai. Dalton’s bike had a flat. We fixed it and suited up.

Expecting nothing more a long, flat day of riding in punishing headwinds, I took a few early Saturday morning photos of a gaucho and dog driven cattle herd by the side of the road, a woodworking shop and a guy on his cart (with car seats) heading into some town.

After 20 miles of serious wind, Dalton and I talked about this being among the worst days of our lives. Then I remembered (from Lonely Planet) that the regional zoo was only 6 kilometers ahead, and we went there. It’s a drive through (and walk through) zoo with people, a hippopotamus, numerous birds, wild cats, etc. etc. all displayed economically.

After the entrance, our Fiat and the toucan, you see Dalton standing next to a vulture. These things are huge, maybe 30lbs, and they have fierce red eyes and even fiercer beaks. We see them every day circling or eating road kill. Dalton keeps coming up with the worst ways to die, and getting eaten by these things is currently #1. He wouldn’t get any closer. The last picture is of some unknown animal.

We then (stalling for the wind to die down) went back into Presidencia Roque Saenz Pena to look for an internet café to try to send a couple of these updates (no luck, all incredibly low speed dial up) and to re-supply (luck) with food, water, etc. This is the only town mentioned in our Lonely Planet Guide to Argentina that is between Resistencia (2 days ago) and Salta (4 days from now). We know of no hotels until our final destination either, so we stocked up with extra supplies. Leaving town we saw our first sign that said Salta.

A little down the road we came to the ramshackle town named in the second sign. Catchy name, no? Other local places include Rio Muerto and Monte Quemado (burnt hill).

We’ve perfected a new technique to avoid the mosquitoes. Before we just took breaks in the Fiat. Now we apply suntan lotion then bug repellant before you go outside, then you,ride through dust on a hot day for hours and sweat like a pig. Even the bugs stay away, but you get decorative patterns on your skin where the sweat and chemicals mix and run down in little rivulets.

Then, to make everything even more fun, the roads went from bad to treacherous. (Keep in mind that this is an “interstate highway”, the only east-west “paved” road across Argentina for hundreds of miles…)

More on the roads tomorrow… this is getting to long. But we were able to find a “hotel” at Pampa de los Guanacos, right on the road, right next to the dirt lot gas station.

Fitting in with the rest of the day, this place was a not very luxurious. Perhaps 50 miles from anything, the hotel didn’t even have a sign. They said they had showers, but Eduardo and I couldn’t find it, until we realized that the shower head just stuck out from the bathroom wall. No separate area, shower curtain, whatever. They light the water heater at 7pm (literally lit the fire), but I took a cold shower before the hot water came around. (Not kidding.)

That’s the wall in the bathroom. You reach into it to flush the toilet.

Waiting for Dalton and Eduardo I walked around and took a few pictures of this dirt street rural village with attitude. Here’s a couple. The kids always like to see their picture on the little “TV”…

We couldn’t stay in our rooms for a variety of reasons, so we lotioned-up, set up a table and chairs in “the courtyard” with the insects and had appetizers and two bottles of wine from our emergency stash. We then found a comidor a couple of blocks away and had some tough, stringy meat and other bottle of wine.

This is Dalton flashing his famous peace sign toward the end of dinner. He believes that it is a universal sign that will save him from death or other injury in certain situations. Tom was going to put up a www.NoMuerteBobPorFavor.com for me. Neither are likely to be effective.

These are not easy days, but we are covering some good ground.

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