This blog post comes to you from Arrecifes, in the north west province of Buenos Aires. We are on day four of Retracing Routledge in South America, our third day of cycling. We have decided to follow a different ‘Ruta’ heading west – after taking advice from a local Argentine. So far we have covered 170miles, which includes the miles in and around the city. So that means only about another 830miles to go…
To start with, our first full day in Buenos Aires was mainly spent assembling the bikes – and discovering what was sadly missing from the bike boxes – or my bike box specifically. Unfortunately I had not secured the essential ‘spacers’ to the frame once the handlebars had been removed for travelling (I literally followed advice from the airline, which may not have been necessary) – and they were lost in transit somewhere between Honolulu and Buenos Aires. The search for the components took us to three different bike shops, and was the first real test of our spanish. Amazingly the third shop, which was closed for an agonisingly long thirty minutes mid-afternoon, did have the spacers required that were just sitting in the back of the shop. Luckily we still had time to explore the city and made our way towards the quayside to look for the harbour where we believed the Mana had docked in 1913. We arrived just in time for dusk and found the North Dock, which is now a ferry terminal. The scene was tranquil and as we looked out towards the Rio Plata estuary and the Atlantic it wasn’t too difficult to imagine a white wooden schooner sailing in to the harbour.
Our next stop was the Casa Rosario, illuminated for the night by the time we arrived on our bikes. The scene at the Plaza de Mayo was quite surreal – the pink Presidential building providing the backdrop to a group of Autism demonstrators who were gathering around the central ‘Pirámide de Mayo’. We wandered around the tree and palm lined Playa, pondering people and politics. Next up was dinner – and we followed a recommendation from the guide of Simon’s previous day’s city bike tour – and cycled into the district of San Telmo for a hearty meal. We chatted about the next day’s route, knowing that it meant the ‘real’ cycling was about to begin!
The aim for the first day on the bikes was to make our way out of Buenos Aires – but only once we had packed the panniers, checked out of the great little Hotel Pop (thanks to world travellers Anna & Genarro for the recommendation!), and double checked all gear and equipment again! The city of roughly 3million people is just like London, or any other major metropolis – very busy, even on Palm Sunday. We settled into an unhurried pattern of starting and stopping for traffic lights and buses as we made our way north – only broken by our own need for sustenance. Simon spotted a ‘Panaderia’ – a bakery on the other side of the road and so quickly ditched his bike with Jesse & I, zipped across two lanes of traffic and promptly disappeared! A few minutes later he returned with a bag full of delicious baked goods – mostly coated in, and full of sugar! or dulce leche. Jesse decided we needed coffee, and so began what has become a much needed morning ritual of ‘coffee & carbs’!
By late afternoon we had reached the outskirts of the city, and cycled through the interesting area of ‘Tigre‘ – a low lying popular spot on a tributary of the Rio Plata. It was thriving with families out for a stroll along the river banks on an autumnal Sunday afternoon and we realised in the summer it must be heaving with people. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to stop and look around and kept moving, knowing we needed time to either find a place to camp, or a roadside hotel to stay. After asking a few people for directions, camping was not looking hopeful – we were still too close to built up areas. One group of locals suggested a hotel named ‘Deseo‘ but we soon realised that was not the place for us… Eventually the town of Escobar was recommended but by that point it was getting late and it was still a few more miles down the road. We chose to pedal on, and picked up our pace so we could reach Escobar in good time. Finally we found a hotel and grabbed a room for the night. Just as we were checking in, we met an Argentine called Guillermo who offered to take us to a good restaurant. We took up his offer, and were glad for the conversation since it turned out that Guillermo knew the restaurant well, and that they had free tango lessons on a Sunday night. And so, before settling down to eat, we were treated to tango lessons from a group of serious yet enthusiastic, and heavily scented teachers! Thankfully we didn’t have so many miles in our legs that we were unable to survive a spin on our feet around a dance hall and it was a fun ending to our first day on the road.
Next up – cycling onto a serious ‘Ruta’ and why we decided to change our route.