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Archive for May 1st, 2010|Daily archive page

Grey Trevor

In Argentina, Sud America on May 1, 2010 at 5:20 pm

So after the White water rafting it is cabalgatos in the afternoon, trekking across Mendoza’s arid landscape on the back of a horse.
So I’ve always had a soft spot for horses from riding the arm of my mums sofa to victory in on of the classics, the Derby, the St Leger, the Prix de l’arc de triomphe, to getting all misty eyed when black beauty or the black stallion came on TV. So just before I left work I had taken a couple or three lessons on the very big horses that they had at the riding club to see if I enjoyed it, which I did. But I never got the chance to continue my tutelage, redundancy got in the way.
So I’m in Argentina, home of the gaucho and I’m thinking why not, when the opportunity arises. So I find myself pointed out by our guide and lead over to Trevor, the grey horse that will bear the weight of me for the next two and a bit hours. He’s much smaller than the horses I sat on so many months before, actually all of the horses are, I don’t need a box to stand on to get my foot into the stirrup and before you know it I’m heaving myself into the saddle and holding both reins in one hand.
Trevor turns out to be a very placid beast who just wants to be amongst his mates and as we get mounted he slowly moves over to the other horses and squeezes himself into the pack.
We move off in a slow line with Trevor a horse or so from the rear and our guides directions to keep your reins short and not let them eat anything. Trevor of course wants to eat any and everything so I spend a bit of time jerking his head round so as to get him away from eating the long grass.
We settle into our routine. Trevor plodding along following the line of horses up front, me trying to take photos, until a younger guide on a much sprightlier and bigger horse comes up behind us and Trevor breaks into a little trot and soon all the horses at trotting away and we become a much tighter packed bunch.
We form a single line and the horses follow each other along a path that fords small streams and tightly packed pampas grasses. I’m starting to get the hang of riding Trevor, though it’s more me sitting, Trevor walking and every so often me pulling the reins to the left or right to keep him on the straight and narrow.
We head out of the grasses and out onto the plains and it’s arid and dry, an bushes and rocks surround us, dust is kicked up with every hoofstep and the air is dry, as the sun hovers over us. But it’s a dry heat and I start to enjoy myself, twisting left and right to get a good view ot the Andes and the hills closer by. I’m a cowboy in a western, guarding the wagon train or slowly moving those cows to market. As the hours pass and Trevor carts me up hills and down into valleys and dried rock strewn riverbeds, carefully picking his way along then breaking into a little trot to close up with our lead guide, I wish i was a better rider and was on a better horse (no offence Trevor) so I could gallop and canter and explore more of the expanse of terrain around us. Argentina feels vast, somehow larger than New Zealand with whom it shares many natural similarities, though New Zealand is alot greener.
But for this point Trevor is just right for me as I grow more confident in my position when he descends, leaning way back, bouncing up and down in the saddle as I kick him into a trot and giving him affectionate pats after we crest every steep incline.
The afternoon goes too fast and before I know it Trevor is quickening his pace as he recognises his surroundings and I’m hopping off his back as he goes for a huge piss.

Ps riding behind a horse as it goes for a  shit is not recommended viewing, especially the bright pink starfish at the end.

White water

In Argentina, Sud America on May 1, 2010 at 5:12 pm

So after an hours drive out to the mountains I’m stuffing myself into a wetsuit, making the mistake of leaving my underwear on, and I’m kitted out with a fleece, waterproof jacket, helmet and life jacket and then another twenty odd min drive along the course of a river. Looking down on it as it boils and churns, white water bubbling as the river rolls over submerged rocks.
It’s me and three other Spanish bods a guy Pablo and two girls and I’m at the front, being given the three commands i’ll need to follow adelmante? Paddle alto stop paddling, and one for paddle backwards which I’ve forgotten. And we set off with our guide in a kayak out from amusing himself with barrel rolls, and two guys in the back providing the instructions and experience.
With white water rafting there are six categories of danger going from 1-6 with 1 being tranquilo and 6 being make a mistake and you die and the river for our descent is between 2-3. But I’m not frightened, well okay a bit nervous as we plunge into a depression and the water surges over the front of the raft and soaks us with it’s cold weight. I paddle as directed one foot in the triangular slipper sewn into the bottom of the raft, the other wedged into the gaps in the inflatable ridges.
The canyon soars above us on either side, scarred and jagged, bare rock and low lying bushes. The sun is high warming us even as the water tries to chill us to the bone. I try not to blink every time the boat drops precipitously into a dip of the river and the water rears up over us, but I fail, my glasses holding the droplets of water on their lenses like a chiding reminder, and I’m craning round in my seat to look up at the walls of rock hemming us in.
I’m surprised by how little paddling I have to do, we only paddle for a couple of strokes then stop, and let the force of the river carry us along, I’d imagined it to be a marathon of constant paddling, but the tranquil quiet parts of the river provide plenty of opportunity for rest and watching the view as well as chances for the tour photographer to snap shots of our grinning faces.
The guide at the back keeps up a running commentary, I assume it’s about the river and what we’re doing and how the river is formed and tidbits on the location, but it’s all in Spanish so over my head.
I listen and look and keep looking up to overhanging ridges as if at any moment native Americans could attack, arrows flying towards us, hissing through the air.

Round and round

In all about the ride, Argentina, bike, Sud America on May 1, 2010 at 5:07 pm

You will not believe this, but Mendoza has a velodrome! A motherfucking velodrome, and it’s got the most gorgeous, high concrete banking, that you’ve ever seen, with a swoop and a curve to it that makes the jaw drop, and in a place that gets as little rain as Mendoza it should be in use 24/7.
But it’s not, it’s derelict, cobwebs everywhere, main gate locked tight and with nobody around and only the sun and the clouds above to observe what I’m doing, that gorgeous steep short track gets me rolling slowly round it, gearing to low, fear in my heart as my tyres squeal and scratch and I try to maintain enough momentum to keep myself up by the blue line.
The track feels shorter than Herne hill, maybe 250 or 300m long and the banking makes me dizzy just looking at it, I wanna say it’s as steep as Calshot of Manchester but I’ve been to neither and so can’t make any sort of informed decision.
To get to the track I have to crawl under a fence, after sliding the bike under it as well, brushing the dirt from my knees and walking the bike across rocks and shrubland, that makes me wish and not for the first time why I didn’t bring some bigger tyres with me, or even a mountain bike. But when I get to the track and see those smooth curves, I know why.
I stare at it for ages, who knew it would be here, I’ve only found it because I was round by the old Malvinas football stadium, trying to find new paths through the big park which sits at the bottom of Cerro Gloria and looking at my little map I see there’s a velodrome. I don’t believe it’ll be any good but you know I’ve got to go and check it out. I’m travelling the world with a track bike for chrissakes course I’ve got to check it out. And for those three short laps it doesn’t disappoint, forum track days would be acecakes here, with the sun always shining, using the long low ramp that connects to the back straight to get upto racing velocity and then just attack those curves hands tight on the drops channeling the spirit of the Hoy, thighs pumping, breath coming slow and deep, before getting out of the saddle for the last dig for the line, the bods cheering and drinking in the infield.
God it’d be magnificent!

addendum: on an early saturday morning ride, saw two guys on track bikes, drops and everything, heading past me in the opposite direction, possibly heading to the track. so it may not be totally unused..

google map linky

http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=-32.884241,-68.880316&sll=-32.884135,-68.880157&sspn=0.001083,0.001666&ie=UTF8&ll=-32.883083,-68.881016&spn=0.017335,0.02665&t=h&z=15

Mendoza

In Argentina, bike, Sud America, travelling on May 1, 2010 at 4:52 pm

1st full day in Mendoza, I’m not counting yesterday as it was a travel day and not having slept well on the bus I was just tired, and had no urge to do anything, plus Barca were playing inter in the semi finals of the champions league so I wasn’t going to miss that. Barca lost after a dirge of a game, inter defended well enough to scrape through and my position that the best team doesn’t always win wasn’t changed.
So after that disappointment it was time to build up the bike, which I’m getting quicker at, I should be having done it so many times now and knowing what I know now I wouldn’t have packed in half as much stuff.

If your travelling with a bike (I’m assuming it’s fixed or single speed) to a major city for a weekend of week or two all you really need is a multi tool with 4/5/6mm Allen keys, 15mm pedal spanner, flat head and Phillips screwdrivers, spare inner tubes and puncture repair kit, front and rear light, oh and a lock, preferably a mini d of some kind, plus a good small dual action pump. Put all of these into a hip pouch of some kind, I recommend a rosie from archies grobags and you’re all set.

There’s no need to take a lock ring tool, chain breaker, chain whip, full set of Allen keys, degreaser, anti seize lube, chain lube, spare spokes, spoke key, adjustable spanner, freewheel tool, and some other stuff which is in the bottom of the tool pouch which I never open, in the bottom of the bike bag which I leave in storage as soon as the bike is built up.

So built up the bike and then updated the blog, think it might be best to do that as I arrive at a place, use that travel day to good effect, as I’m now up-to-date, apart from a couple of Buenos Aires and Australia posts which I hadn’t written up initially but plan to do now.
So I’m now sitting in the sun in the parque de general San martin, whose kind of a big deal in south America having liberated Argentina, chile and Peru I believe from Spanish rule, with his army of the Andes. No wonder there’s so many parks and main streets named after him. It’s a big park which sits to the north of Mendoza and most of the main streets end up here, so it’s not that difficult to find, there’s a man made lake in the middle, and a Cerro past that which will give you a panoramic view of the city. I’m just glad to be back to someplace warm, it must be like 22/23 degrees, probably more and I’m enjoying just feeling the warm rays on my arms and legs, there’s a cool breeze which is whispering through the trees and they themselves have leave which are turning yellow and orange.
Mendoza is a man made oasis in an arid desert, based on the old indigenous aqueducts, irrigation and waterways, something green and lush has been created where before their was desert and sand and brush. I’m hoping to see the desert side of Mendoza tomorrow when I go rafting and horse riding for the day, then I’m hopefully going to do a couple of wine tours over the following couple of days, I’d love to buy lots of wine, but lugging it around would be hard, though I suppose I could just drink it in the hostel.
Quick note on the hostel, Its nice enough and the people running it are really cool and helpful, but the kitchen is a bit cramped, only one hob and sink, though they do have a big BBQ on the roof patio, but it’s quite quiet, most of the beds are vacant and I get the sense I’m going to have to make my own entertainment, which after the constant passage of people in Bariloche is a bit of a shock.