At the outset we were asked if we expected to meet many other cycle travellers. We surmised that Uruguay and Paraguay would be highly unlikely places as our route would be off ‘gringo trail’. That it would be in and around Salta and northern Argentina that there was an increased likelihood of an encounter. So it has proved.
The league table of nationalities is interesting, as much for the fact that the Germanics have yet to register. It’s the French that lead, in part due to the family of five, two daughters and a son, all under ten years, on a one year tour. I see riding a tandem on an Americas’ wet season ripio road, as an amazing feat, the Navigator considers keeping the demons of entertainment and clean knickers at bay more remarkable. They had entered Argentina moments before we met them and had just got their first quote for a room and were wondering if it was extortionate. Unfortunately for them it was on the cheap side.
The table contains one ‘no show’, an abandoned entry and a most unusual encounter. On a road that was boasting a mere handful of vehicles per hour, two fully laden tourers are coming towards us. In these situations you start to speculate on nationality. Time was, you could tell by the panniers, but now all the Europeans use German Ortliebs, their gloss an indicator of time on the road. So you resort to stereotype; tall blonds are the cloggy Dutch, drop bars and helmets are the ‘feert of-sky-collapsing’ Brits, the Argentines will have cut-down chemical cans for bags, carry an axe and a machete. We slow for our advancing couple, who don’t; they ride right past and she can’t even acknowledge our presence. Most unusual, downright rude. If the Irish bless you with the hope that your road will be ever downhill and the wind at your back, then I offer our ignorant anti-social bici-ists my Bolivian blessing, a curse borne of experience: ‘May you be caught in a Zonda with no water, ten leagues from hope and home’.