Really Tough Day
March 30, San Sebastian, Argentina
All the days on this trip when I said things like "this has been the toughest day so far" are all trumped by yesterday. 10 hours on the bike included 5 hours on a bad gravel road going anywhere from 10-35mph, 3 hours in and out of 4 different border posts and 2 hours nearly being blown off a good, paved highway by extreme winds. The gravel roads were the worst of it. As the road got worse I saw dozens of car tires left on the side of the road after they'd been blown, which was a constant reminder to take it slow even if it meant I'd be getting to a hotel well after dark. A couple of truckers informed me that this was the best route and now I want to find them and throw poo at them.
From Rio Gallegos to Punta Delgada was very, very cold and windy, much worse than the previous day on the road. The ferry ride over "Estrecho de Magallanes" was interesting and they didn't charge because they were all giddy about my being so close to my destination. The gravel road to Cullen was mediocre, but I could deal with it. If the road had stayed the same the day wouldn't have been so bad but it appears that Cullen is the name of a company, and the town, that subsidizes the condition of the road only to the north of them. Everything about the road going south of Cullen got really bad, so more than half of the trip was avoiding pot holes, large jagged rocks, ditches and tires.
I started the day in Argentina, crossed into Chile, then back into Argentina. Entering and exiting each border takes a while, especially when the border folks suck. You can't make the trip to Ushuaia without crossing these extra borders and the best I can guess is that Chilean and Argentinean politicians designed it this way so they could get jobs for their retarded relatives as border post guards and paper pushers. The worst was Fernando; I only remember his name because I got to stare at his name badge, sewn into his brown sweater, for about half an hour. He would pick up a document and stare blankly at it like he really didn't know if he should stamp it, sign it, or eat it. Then he would set it down and pick up another with that same stupid hungry gaze.
The Fernando border crossing was entering Chile, early in the day. At the end of the day, about 9:00pm, I was extremely cold, shivering almost uncontrollably, when I got to the border to re-enter Argentina. There was a snotty Argentinean border official bastard that asked me the same questions over and over and took little breaks while handling my papers - I didn't care that much because I was inside; it was warm and I really needed the opportunity to get some heat back into my extremities so I just stood there and waited for little Napoleon to finish - plus I was too cold and tired to get angry about it anyway. Just as I was finishing up with that guy and was thinking about how snotty and conceited Argentines are, the next guy I had to see was really cool, helpful and efficient. I like it when good people prove bad thoughts wrong.
Just 100 yards inside the Argentinean border in San Sebastian there was a crappy little hotel/store/gas station/general small town hangout where I decided to stay. I woke up the next morning to the sound of extreme wind - the type of wind where even when you're inside it is blowing so hard it changes the pressure inside the building and you can feel it in your ears and you wonder if the windows will break. I left very late in the morning and now I'm in Rio Grande at one of those YPF service stations that has wi-fi; I haven't found one of these in several days so I thought I'd stop for a sandwich and a quick update, if it works. Then I'll head toward Ushuaia.