Wednesday, 27 April 2011

The Noise Gets Louder as the Conurbation Gets Closer.

Our attempt to find a quiet retreat in the Parque Nacional Los Condoritos was partially successful. We departed on the Sunday morning with the intention of heading down to Mina Clavero to find an eccentric museum and a maze. However, just a few kilometres was enough to convince us that today was the wrong day to be heading that way. Maybe there's been an evacuation order in Cordoba, for everybody and his mother seems to be heading out and over our road.

This is probably no exaggeration. More cars will have pased in one four-kilometre spell on the Rutas Altas Cumbres than passed us in the first four weeks in Uruguay last October. If the government's populist creation of two new holidays was to bolster the rural economy through increased travel, then today's evidence suggests a sucess. Poeple most certainly are travelling and spending. Spending time queueing at the gas station, for today the attendant has a fabulous opportunity to create a queue, a cortege of cars that circumnavigates the block.

We opt to turn east and head back down, what we climbed two days ago. Fortunately everybody seems to be of a different mind and going the other way. They attack us in plugs, convultions of cars, like a grand prix, each jockeying for position, hunting the opportunity or the weakness of the man in front. Each driver convinced of the utter imperative for overtaking the vehicle in front. A race to reach the next paroxysm, the next procession up in front. A blue sign appears: 'transite lente' or slow lane, or as I soon christen them: 'the wimps and wimmins way'. This is machismo land, so there's none of the former and the latter don't or can't drive. Or so it would appear. I offer The Navigator very favourable odds if she can spot a lady driver and I even treble the stake if she can see a male in the front passenger seat. I know that my money is safe. So the crawler lane remains vacant, which still leaves the problem of the overtake. A Fiat 600, with propped-open engine compartment, is boiling and grumbling it's way uphill. Its blockage is a constipation of twenty-three autos. He's obviously male, so he's damned if he's going to lose face and move over; that's for the wuss and the weak. So the tailgate of Germanic marques cross what I take to be 'advisory only' double yellow line and head directly towards us. Interesting, if a tad intimidating. It's also the first time on this trip that I've felt the need to express my mild displeasure with two fingers.

All of which can't take away from the exhilaration of a 40km freewheel on a gradient that requires no braking, leaving gravity to exert its pull and nature to provide the scenery. The pleasure of the condor spotting amongst the high country of tussock, rock and the forests of feather dusters in the plumes of flowering Pampas grasses. Lower down the low country that's turning to autumn, the pyracanthas festooned in red and orange berries, the bean tree pods senescing to yellow and winter.

So a holiday weekend and the pressure of traffic has forced us into doing, what we probably should have accomplished voluntarily. That is, to start heading for home.