Wonderful things happen when we open ourselves up to serendipity and chance. Embracing the out-of-the-ordinary often lands us is the most amazing of situations.
And so it was last Friday evening on Argentina’s Ruta 3. The windiest road on the planet. A road that stretches 3,036 kilometers and cuts through 5 provinces on the lonely pampa, all the way from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia.
On our Reise Know-How Argentine map, Ruta 3 doesn’t look so lonely. There are dots scattered every 80 kilometers or so. Next to these cheerful red dots are names like El Empalme, Florentino, Ameghino, Uzcudun, Malaspina. These dots indicate towns, or so one might imagine.
But no. Many such dots are simply there to mark the point where a dusty road crosses the highway and runs deeper into the pampa. Other dots denote the beginnings of large estancias or ranches. Here you will find a large welcome sign, a cattle grate and a gravel road leading for miles and miles into Argentina’s heartland. Many ranches being so remote that they are best reached by helicopter.
If you’re lucky, that little red dot denotes a gas station. Here you might hope to find some fresh water and a little relief from the wind.
That’s the case of Uzcudun, where we pitched the tent last Thursday after a long ride from a place called Trelew. It had been a long ride. Not it the sense of distance. We managed to pedal some 140 kilometers. Not bad. But not an epic riding day, either.
No, when I say it was a long ride, I mean a long day in the saddle. 9:56, to be exact.
And I don’t mean we started at 8:00 AM, stopped for breaks and a leisurely lunch, and finished cycling 9 hours and 56 minutes later at 5:56 PM.
No, I mean we were turning the bloody pedals for 9 hours and 56 minutes.
That’s way out of my comfort zone. I don’t know about you, but 6 hours on the road cranking the pedals and I’m ready for a rest.
After that 9 hour 56 minute epic day in the saddle, we were feeling, well, slightly sluggish on Friday.
Got up late to howling winds. Almost set the tent up in flames while firing up the stove for breakfast. And was then subjected to what may have been the worst cup of coffee ever brewed. Local water is heavy with salt and minerals and is best avoided, especially for brewing coffee.
So there we were Friday afternoon. 4PM, 5 hours and 13 minutes fighting headwinds and a whopping 53 kilometers closer to Comodoro, our next stop on the Atlantic coast of Argentina.
A shiny white pick-up pulls up ahead, the driver jumps out and, you know it, we’re flying down the road 5 minutes later. Our final step in the slow process of liberation from the This is what is means to be a Real Cyclist dogma.
Gustavo, our savior behind the wheel, invites us to his home. I hear him on his mobile home chatting to his wife. Yes, yes, two cyclists. They were on the road near Garayalde. Can I invite them?
This normal, middle-class sales representative has picked up two smelly hitchhikers and is bringing them home to stay with his normal, middle class family.
Normal, middle-class people are not supposed to do things like that. Hitchhikers are dangerous.
The thing is, Gustavo had just bought a brand new mountain bike two weeks earlier. He had never, in all his life, seen cyclists on Ruta 3. A new bike. Two strangers fighting a headwind on a lonely road. It must be fate. Serendipity. Chance. Something that was meant to be.
It’s Monday now and we are still at Gustavo’s home. Outside the wind continues to howl. I am happy to be surrounded by four sturdy walls, protected from the elements.
We’ve met the neighbors, looked at snapshots of the kids, traded stories over dinner. It feels good to be surrounded by a family.
Gustavo has loaded us up in his truck and we’ve gone off to admire viewpoints and check out the sea lions. He’s taken us to the beach where we got to try our hand at sand sailing. And we’ve even been on an excursion into the desert with the neighbors, Yves and Consuelo. Turns out Yves comes from Besancon, just down the road from Eric’s home town, Obernai.
Strange isn’t it, this thing called serendipity.