Mar. 20 – El Bolson to Rio Mayo

2009 April 9
by joe

We were up early, again, and had breakfast at the campsite – banana and yerbe matte and leftover cheese and salami.  We load up, and leave the dormi and campground behind us, as we travel a decent paved road.

We leave the mountain and forest terrain and enter a desolate desert landscape –  flat, depressing, constant high wind.  No services, no gas, nothing to break the monotony and desolation. We are now on the famous Ruta 40 of Argentina. We occasionally see living creatures – weird big birds, like a cross between a turkey and an ostrich, that I believe are named Namdus,  and strange camelid creatures like lama/alpaca, but wild.

We have to buy our lunch in a gas station quickie-mart.  At one point, we have to buy gas from a man at a closed station, out of a pail, or we would have run out.  Hundreds of miles go by with no houses, towns, roadsigns… nothing but sand, rocks, and desert scrub.  It is hard riding, because of the wind and monotony/boredom.  No fun doing this stretch.

We finally make it to a town/army base sunk down in a dry river gulch in the desert (you cannot really call this a river valley).  Because it is sunk below the plain of the surrounding terrain, Rio Mayo is somewhat sheltered from the endless prevailing wind.  But it is hardly more than a village, with gravel/dirt streets and very little to offer a traveler.

We stop at the first of the two hotels in town, and decide to stay.  Not horrible, but no place I would recommend to anyone.  Their big featured amenity is central heat!  The food offered at the hotel is wildly overpriced, and as far as we can tell, there is only one restaurant in town,  a dump named El Gordo – ‘the Fat Man’ – after the owner, who is what the name implies.  We have empanadas and beer for dinner,  then we order a pizza (the only other food on El Gordo’s menu), as we are still hungry.  The pizza is the worst I have ever had.  Weeks later, it still haunts me!

We hit  the sack early, knowing that tomorrow we will be facing a long, hard day, as Ruta 40 turns to gravel, and it is a long, long, very empty way to the next town.

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