(October 1 – written by Dave)
Today was a carbon copy of yesterday, weather wise. Luckily for us, we had a much shorter day planned and even though there is another sand storm raging through Belen right now, completely blocking the views to the surrounding hills, we are tucked into our hotel, wind free with no dirt blowing in our ears – nice.
Knowing that we had a short day, we had a somewhat leisurely start to the morning. We couldn’t quite figure out if we were getting brekkie from the hostel or not, so we just made our own and ate in the dining room. As we were getting tucked in to it, the hostel manager came out and asked us if we wanted brekkie. Oh well, we weren’t sure if it was included anyway, so our oatmeal was fine.
As we left town on Ruta 40, we were surrounded by more stunning red and white windblown hills. Plus we got a good look at the “snow” on the mountains that we saw coming into town yesterday. The snow turned out to be some sort of white rock deposited in a way that it looked like snow. I was pretty sure that it wasn’t snow when we saw it yesterday but the late afternoon sunlight made it hard to tell. That and we were pretty tired as well.
We had a mostly downhill ride today with only a few short uphill pitches. For the first 6k, it felt like we had a tailwind, either that or the wind was simply not blowing. From that point onwards, it was like a switch flipped and we had strong headwinds all the way to Belen.
We stopped for morning tea in a small berg called La Cienaga. It always takes us a while to figure out what drinks we like when we enter a new country. Here in Argentina, we settled pretty quickly on big bottles of pomelo juice. Here in Argentina, pomelo is grapefruit. Pomelo to us is not grapefruit, rather it is a much bigger cousin of grapefruit that grows in Southeast Asia. You can get 1.5 litres of pomelo juice for about $1 USD and it is very tasty. Best of all, it claims no less than 50% juice and sugar is the third ingredient, so it’s not absolutely horrible for us.
Even with the headwind, we made it to Belen just past noon. We could see the massive brown of a sand storm brewing further south of town. It was nice to know that we didn’t have to go back out into that mess. We had a couple ideas for hotels but none of them ticked all the boxes so what else to do but sit in the main plaza and have a milkshake and our PB&J sandwiches. Lunch sorted, we went on the hotel quest and ended up “having” to stay at the most expensive place in town – the Hotel Belen. For some reason they offered us a big discount so the decision to stay here was pretty easy.
While Nancy showered, I headed to the roof to get our “spot” message out and watch the sand storm build. Before long, the hills surrounding town began to disappear. By the time I got back to the room for my camera, they were almost gone. We later headed to the restaurant for a coffee and you could barely see 100 metres. It’s a big brown soup out there and we are happy not to be part of it. Even sitting in the restaurant, there is a lot of dust in the air giving me the sneezes.
We are not sure about tomorrow. The wind forecast is about half what today was but it is still coming from the southeast. The next day doesn’t look all that much better. We are currently thinking an early start might be our best option – at least it would give us a few hours to make progress before the dust starts flying. The locals all say that this is unusual, but we’re never sure which part of “this” they are referring to. For sure the wind blows here regularly as evidenced by all the trees growing much bigger on one side than the other.
We found a 2-hour laundry right near our hotel, which is great; we need to get some of the sand washed out of clothes. Washing them in the shower only works if they haven’t been sand blasted like ours have the past two days. While out we came across a kid’s parade/event of some kind. We’re not sure what it was all about but the kids all had on great costumes made essentially of old magazines – quite clever as the cost is low and creativity only limited by what Mom can come up with.
We got one last photo of the sun – just as it was heading below the hills over town. Clearly, the sand storm has not quite run its course. Here’s hoping that tomorrow morning it will have…