Friday, December 10, 2010
La Paloma, Uruguay, mile 1,057, December 10, 2010
Yesterday morning, I re-installed the saddle bags on my bike (a laborious task), and retrieved my two frozen bottles of water from the hotel´s freezer. It must have been some freezer, because they never did completely thaw out. I then rode up one last time into Brazil (In other words, I crossed the street.), and purchased three mini-Cokes, paying with Uruguayan Pesos. From there, I rode down Avenida Uruguai, made a right turn, and found myself on Uruguay Ruta Nacional 9, headed south and east, 338 kilometers from Montevideo. For what it is worth, I am no longer so much heading "south" as I am heading "west": the geography has caused the coast line of Uruguay to run almost directly east to west.
The insane wind out of the west having died down, I headed down the road, rode past the Uruguayan immigration station that I had visited the day before, and made pretty good time. The entire country of Uruguay is basically part of the Pampas, so there are no vast changes in elevation, and, along the coast, the highways are essentially flat. If you have a tailwind, it is paradise, if a head wind is present, look out. The countryside on both sides was green pasture, punctuated by occasional ranch houses, and populated by many cows. Over the next hour and a half, I drank all my Cokes, and was somewhat consternated to discover that my water bottles would not thaw out. They must have been kept in absolute sub-zero temperatures. About 20 miles down the road, I came upon something interesting, the highway, which had been one lane in each direction, had about 75 feet of extra concrete added to it, and became an 8,000 foot long emergency landing strip for, I assume, planes out of Carrasco in Montevideo that get in trouble. There was a huge sign saying NO PARKING on the side of the road leading up to this.
Being out of Coke, and unable to access my water, I started getting thirsty. After about 43 miles, I came to the little town of Castillos, which is well and truly an armpit. I rode in at about 2PM, and could not find an open store; it was siesta time. I finally found a little store, and was told that they were out of Coke, water, and any other non alcoholic drinks. Luckily, I found a little bar, which was basically a shack with a pool table in it, and was able to buy two little 8 oz bottles of Coke. They made me feel a lot better.
For whatever reason, I was low on motivation yesterday, and did not feel like peddling any more, so I got off of Rt 9, and turned left (south, west) onto Rt. 16, which took me into the little beach town of Aguas Dulces. I could have gone on to La Paloma, where I am now, but just did not feel like it. I had been warned that Aguas Dulces was dead, and it sure was. I found one open hotel, one open restuarant, and no internet places. I overpaid for the hotel, went and sat on the beach for a couple of hours reading a book, and went for a walk through town. Then I ate dinner and went to sleep. How exciting. Since I am now moving almost directly west, by the way, it is getting dark about ten minutes later every day. Last night, it was still quite clear out at 9PM.
I rode a total of 53 miles yesterday.
Today I woke up and exited (happily) out of Aguas Dulces as fast as I could. I rode a mile out of town, and then turned west on Rt. 10, which is a secondary highway that runs parallel to Rt. 9, with about ten miles seperating the two. The wind was my friend today, and I rode the 40 miles into La Paloma in less than three hours. The scenery was the same as yesterday, and off to the north, in the distance, at one point I saw what must have been dozens of windmills generating electricity. Frankly, considering Uruguay`s terrain and the wind situation, there is no reason that they could not generate 100% of their electricity needs via wind power. Hopefully more windmills are in the works.
After I had ridden about 30 miles, I came to the cut off for a little town called La Pedrera, and then, a few miles further along, came to the main road that links Rt. 9 and the city of Rocha with La Paloma. I rode another few miles towards the coast, and found myself in town.
This is the third time I have been to La Paloma, having been here during my 2004 and 2007 bike trips. I went and found the same hotel run by an old hippy-type and his family that I had stayed at previously, re-introduced myself, and got a room. Here it got fun. Outside, was a truck from the water agency, with a few guys digging a hole in the road. I thought nothing of it, went to my room, stripped out of my sweaty clothes, and happily stepped into the shower and turned the knob. Nothing came out. In disgust, I threw on shorts and a shirt, and went downstairs, to find the irritated owner apologizing for having no water pressure. Not his fault, so I was not upset. I went back upstairs, decided I would just go without a bath for a few hours, and put on my shoes and socks. On my way out the door, for the heck of it, I tried the knob again. I got a full blast of water. Happy, I took all my clothes off again, jumped in the shower, shampooed up,,...and the water turned off. My hair was covered with shampoo, and I was getting a little dribble of drops out of the faucet. It took me a good ten minutes to get that shampoo out of my hair.
Eventually, I got dry, and headed out into Uruguay. I know I am now in Uruguay for a number of reasons, apart from the language people are speaking. One is that none of the motorcycle/motorbike riders I encounter is wearing a helmet. Another is that there are "carritos" (roach coach like food trucks) selling Choripanes on many corners. A Choripan is a sausage (chorizo) on a piece of bread (pan). I got a couple of choripanes, fries and a Pepsi for not much money at all. Sometimes, Choripanes come with an additional ingredient of E-Coli, absolutely free. (I got violently ill in 2007, in Trinidad, from one...) Hopefully today´s did not.
Full, I went and bought two newspapers, El Pais (conservative) and La Republica ("progressive"), and went to the beach to read them. The (very "progressive") union representing garbage truck drivers in Montevideo is currently on strike against the (very "progressive") municipal government, and mountains of trash are accumulating. It was hilarious reading La Republica and seeing them twist themselves into an ideological pretzal as they attacked the union for having the temerity to strike against a "populist government".
The wind started to blow up, clouds covered the sun, and it started to get chilly, so I retreated to the hotel, put on long pants, and came to this internet place to check the weather. It might, or maybe won`t, rain tomorrow, so I may or may not stay here an extra day. If I do not stay, I will try to move on to Punta del Este.
Today`s total ride was a wimpy 40 miles.