Friday 2 October 2009

ARGENTINA Cafayate-Chilecito (Sept 24-30)

El Ultimo Mochilero.
We met Dan van Damme, this Argentinian nomad just north of Santa Maria. He´s been travelling around the backroads of Argentina and neighbouring countries for the last 25 years. He is wearing a cap with `El Ultimo Mochilero´ (The Ultimate, or Last, Backpacker) embroidered on it. He has taken up cycling for the last 3 years and finds work along the road, like the old swagmen of the Australian outback or the vagabundos and gypsies of the world.

We camped at the head of this quebrada outside Hualfin where there was a hot spring. Very windy even in this protected pocket.

We came to this sign on Ruta 40 and weren´t quite sure what to make of it. Lavelle seemed to be nowhere or here and the other was confusing.

All along Ruta 40 we saw shrines cloaked in red to honour Guachito Gil, a cross between Robin Hood and Jesus Christ, a folk hero among poor Argentinians. They leave odd tokens of thanks eg. plaster casts, wine bottles, old T-shirts....

Argentinians are very pious and superstitious and there are religious shrines everywhere. This is the local patron saint, Difunta Correa, a woman with a baby at her breast. Like Gauchito Gil, travellers and locals all leave items at the shrines. In this case they leave water for Difunta and the baby. As the story goes, she crossed the dry pampa to bring food to her husband, a soldier, but she died of thirst enroute. She was found with the baby suckling on her breast. Anyway, we were very low on water on this lonely dry stretch of road and helped ourselves to some left by the faithful. Difunta didn´t seem to notice- too busy feeding her baby. Gracias, Difunta!

MILESTONES - 5000 & 10,000 kms!
Judy celebrating reaching 5000kms. Check out the long straight behind her.

This was probably the most boring bit of road of the entire journey. Dry thorny scrub, cold headwinds, cloudy sky and these 15-20km straights cut through the featureless sandy landscape.
Just before we reached Chilecito I clocked up 10,000km for the trip, from the Caribbean to NW Argentina. Only 5000kms to go......

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