Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Trans Chaco Ruta 81

As might be expected, the Australians have an acronym for it.  What, from the perspective of the steering wheel looks like “MAMBA“ or “miles and miles of bugger all”, can turn out to be something entirely different.  The stretch north of Mackie in Queensland, certainly received this appellation. The general advice to cyclists was to take the bus: you’ll only get bored. We didn’t on either score. The trans-Chaco has the same reputation and we got similar advice. Viewed through the limited scope of a windscreen I can understand why a degree of boredom might set in. Viewed from the perspective of a stubborn cyclists saddle, it is a slowly mutating, changing world.

In the east it starts the moment you roll off the bridge over the Rio Paraguay. Before that point, to the east, it’s been varying states of heavy sea swells; over the Rio and it’s into flat calm, the doldrums and the wet Chaco. It comes as a surprise after the exercising we’ve received since the Provincia de Corrientes, 1000kms of exercise, that, if we were to be honest, could at times become interminable. When the wheels felt like they were in treacle, and the odometer was on strike. Now suddenly we are sailing, bowling along. On a deserted road. I’ve not long re-read my entry for what we considered a quiet road in Uruguay. Now we will need to re-evaluate, recalibrate that equation. By the end of the Chaco, six lorries an hour constituted a normal day. There’s probably more traffic stuck on one mile of the M25 on a Monday morning than has passed us in the eight days it has taken to cover the 800+ kms of Ruta 81.

Yet this road is not about distance or miles in a day. It’s about watching the slow, almost imperceptible changes, that if you look at two different photos taken at either end, would depict two different and distinct vegetations. Yet for us it would be hard to pinpoint where the change happened.

To the east is wet Chaco, to the east is dry Chaco. Over all it is level, with a near imperceptible decline to the east, rising at 0.004% as we cycle west. I’d like to claim it was noticeable, but as each day warmed up, a blessed tailwind would develop, mitigating any perception of a hill. What that flatness does mean is you pedal crank every single kilometre, there’s no freewheeling, no easy breathers out here. That’s a Wiki simplistic overview. The journey as a whole, is made up of a series of chapters, small paragraph moments in time.