Bike Touring

Bored in Trelew

5 days later, and I’m still here in Trelew, waiting for my bike to turn up. I got all excited yesterday, because their website showed it arriving in Comodoro Rivadavia, only 400km south of here. It then showed it being shipped out 20 minutes later, so I thought it might turn up yesterday evening. I went to the supermarket, did my food shopping for a days ride, started packing up stuff, and headed over to the bus terminal at 20:30. Should have plenty of time for it to arrive.

It’s a small office, so you’d think a bike would be obvious, but still, when I had over my claim ticket, the guy still makes a show of looking through the randomly piled up cardboard boxes. NB it clearly says on my form that it’s an unboxed bicycle, so it’s not like he has to check all the numbers. He even asks around “Hey, have we had a bike turn up recently?” But no, no bike to be seen. Tomorrow maybe. Early, I enquire? No, sometime in the afternoon.

So what went wrong? It was supposed to be in transit, and I’d allowed plenty of time for it to cover the last 400km. I went back and checked the Andesmar website, only to find that after shipping out of Comodoro Rivadavia, it was then listed as shipping out of Rio Gallegos (i.e. the start point) two hours later. How the hell was it supposed to have gone back to the start point, and covered the 800km in only two hours? It’s all very strange. Makes me wonder if perhaps they were going to ship it out, and processed it as such, but then couldn’t/wouldn’t put it on the bus. So perhaps, just perhaps, it did actually ship out the second time, and when I go to the bus station later today, I can pick it up. Well, I can dream.

So what to do in this town? Not a whole lot really, mainly just wander around a bit, sit in a park somewhere, read a bit, people watch. The town is relatively pleasant in the centre, for an Argentinian town – doesn’t say much, Argentinian towns are generally pretty crap, not just my opinion either. I can’t really work this country out. I go out for lunch today to a food hall kind of place, which should be pretty cheap. But it costs me US$10. OK, so that’s developed country prices. But when I look around, it often reminds me of the Middle East. Half-finished buildings everywhere, concrete block construction, with my favourite being the completed ground floor, with half-assed blocks and reinforcing steel sitting on top, for when they get around to doing the next floor. A few paved streets in the centre, but as soon as you get a bit further out it turns to gravel, with various bits of rubble strewn about for good measure. A reasonable number of people walk and ride bikes in this town, but the council seems to actively hate pedestrians. Footpaths are a joke, heights all over the place, random step changes between properties, footpaths randomly ending. There are pedestrian crossings, but cars just plow through pedestrians. Public spaces have obviously had recent work done to them, but it’s never completed, just abandoned.

OK, so it’s like the Middle East, or parts of Asia – but how do you correlate that with the high prices? Why do they pay developed country prices, for developing country conditions? Must be a legacy of their past – massive corruption, incompetent government, has been going on for centuries, is still going on. That in combination with a bit of a laissez-faire attitude. I’ve been reading “Myths of Argentine History” and it has some fairly interesting things to say about what was going on up to, and around the time of independence. Unfortunately the translation introduces many errors and typos, and the book can be quite difficult to follow, so I’ve probably missed a bit. Must seek out some more material to explain why things are the way they are here.

People watching is more interesting. Like watching the overloaded van going down the road. The rear is completely full, and the rear door is tied down – but the rope breaks, and stuff starts spilling out on the road, as the van drives off, driver unaware for 100m or so. The construction crew nearby wander over, pick up some of the stuff, and hold on to it, until the van finally comes back to collect it.

Sitting by another park, I watch a late middle-aged couple out doing some exercise. Due to the afore-mentioned crap footpaths, the only place to walk a reasonable distance without tripping over is the path around the smallish park. It’s only perhaps 500m, so as I sit there, they pass by several times, accompanied by their arthritic Alsatian. I can fully appreciate going out for a walk in the morning, but I don’t think I could handle doing 20 laps of a small, not very nice, park. I’d get dizzy.

Watching TV in a foreign language is one of my pleasures in life. It’s lots of fun trying to work out what’s actually going on. I understood what was happening with the flooding in Buenos Aires. But I couldn’t work out what the follow-up story was today – people were out banging their pots and pans. Portenos have often used this tactic in the past, to express displeasure at the government, but I’m not quite sure who this was directed at today – were they blaming the local council for not sorting out stormwater systems, or was it actually a weather dance, the reverse of the normal rain dance? Doesn’t seem to be much about it on English language news websites unfortunately.

Anyway, I’ll try again at the bus station later tonight. If that doesn’t get anywhere, I’ll give it two more days, then go back down to Rio Gallegos by bus, and take my bike myself.