Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Information Transfer.

It’s siesta in Ranquil Norte. I suspect it’s always siesta in Ranquil Norte. Population sub five hundred, three are crossing the street, one is working in the ‘turista informes’. It would seem churlish to pass by with out at least saying ‘hallo’. It also happens to be the first ”i “ if you enter Provincia de Mendoza from the south, so it could, it should be a source of new intelligence. Are there provisions to be had at any of the dots that appear on our map, are there campgrounds, what’s the state of the road? Just a modicum of enlightenment. The forager takes her bag of candy with her as she noted the tourist officer’s son playing through the glass door. The son snaffles a handful and in return we get a duplication of glossy guff on the merits of the municipality’s winter ski season. An event that occurs seven riding and six calendar months ahead of us. As to reliable, usable today, information, there is a campground somewhere with in the waved arc of an arm’s distance, but as it’s without services we don’t investigate. We’ve already noted an infinite number of possibilities, including the cemetery, on the way into the pueblo. As to grocery provision she’s not sure; the road’s status?: that gets lost in translation. A handful of sweets for a handful of expensively produced non information; looks like a poor deal, the duplication hardly a bargain. Not a lot of nutritional or calorific value in the paper either, despite it being low in salts and trans-fatty acids. We enter these establishments more in hope than in expectation, yet occasionally we collect a gem which tempts us back into the next ’informes’. We’d anticipated a few days of ‘big open spaces’, stocked up on the staples of polenta, pasta and oats. It was an idea encouraged by our map, confirmed by the tourist information. The truth is somewhat different.
Next morning we meet two cycling Belgians going south, and in moments we have acquired everything a touring cyclist requires: water sources, camping areas, food reprovisioning. In return they have all our ’bon mots’. They leave us with a business card for a subsequent night’s camping possibility in Buta Billon.
Don Avila's wee campground
Out here, in a supposed ‘nothing space’, there are places trying to make a living, the passing visitor offering the prospect of some ’added value’. They get our custom. Without them life gets a little harder, yet more importantly, they deserve the support of their local government. It would have been nice to have been made aware of Don Avila’s establishment, of his proveedura, hospedaje, comidas tipicas, fresh water and camping at Buta Billon. We could so easily have stopped our day short, consequently passing by in the morning, and he missing a sale and ourselves a shower and an experience. Later we encounter Chris and Marge, two Canadians, again we top up on info, and on this occasion exchange oiling chains for a piece of dried goat jerky. A most amiable interlude.

‘Word of mouth’ as a means of advertising has always been known as the most enduring form of promotion, unfortunately doesn’t lend itself to an industry that needs to make a financial return. But for evidence of it’s efficacy take this tale from the campings in Malargue. We’re pottering around our tent, when a voice from behind asks “you must be the Scottish couple”. Pauline’s from Portobello, been cycling in the same direction as ourselves and has collected several evidences of our existence. Located and confirmed when she completed the register at reception and notices the word ’Haddington’ in the ‘Ciudad’ column. So we now know that the Belgian’s were heading for our ’spa’ camp and that the Canadians were also on their way. From her we glean all her gleanings on the road ahead, and end up travelling together for the next few days.

I’ve fulminated long and hard, wittered to my jotter, bored the covers off the ‘moleskine’ on numerous occasions about the dearth of hard, practical visitor information, of the plethora of glossy pages full of pretty, out of focus pictures and spurious, ineffectual wasted space. First prize, or at least the present leading position goes to…….. Enough is enough. I will return towards the end of the trip to enlighten you on the final positions in the “Tourist Guff League”.

Pauline, having scored some favourite sustenance
from the YPF