Upon seeing my bicycle, I view it still as my only possible mode of transport but the hooks and eyes are apparent. Besides the usual things such as lack of battery energy means I can’t read much would I have the time for it. Tending friendships are eating up my battery power, if only I had time to write because usually when I am a day in camp I am full with activities which push and pull each other to be done or wanting to be done. I feel my life is brimming to the rim with simplicities I simply can’t get done nor keep up with.
I really can only take so much luggage with me, and where roads have become boring, the activity I look most forward to is baking bread. The general diet by living on the road is poor because my staple food is always pasta or rice, with, in comparison, a few sad pieces of veggies. Because I am always on the move my desires to get something else done are getting a hard push on the head before they even have time to sprout.
Cycling most definitely has quite a few downsides if it comes to the movement. I am now somewhere I would not be would I have no bicycle with me. The road cutting through this part of the world is literally the only route. Corrientes might very well be a beautiful state, it is for sure teeming with natural abundance would it not all have been cut.
Now I have only been left with one task: speeding from one border to the next. Honestly I see no reason for me to cycle here when there are plenty of motorized vehicles passing me. It makes no sense.
Days with cycling goes on. Days with the wind in my back means cold air flow, wind against me means hot air. And hot air leads to a burst, as a boil who will snap the day the skin can’t hold the festering anymore. I know one day I might be bitten by a snake, as I wear open sandals without socks. These slender animals cross the roads, impressive reptiles make it to the other side too, regarded they are fast enough. Seeing them has me realize I probably sleep close to them.
Most days I have the wind in my face. When everyone has been brought relief by an outburst of thunder, torrent and thrusts of wind, the wind will push me quicker to the next country. Cycling now is utmost basic, there is hardly any chance for cozy camping with a big bonfire to prepare bread. But I do take chances when they arise…
I try to get camp-spots where I can make a fire but the surroundings are wetlands where it rains much. Making bread has become the highlight of my cycle-touring now.
Making bread is plain fun! I guess it has to do with the fact that I make an essential -though not overly healthy- food product solely by my own hands. Sure, I use a lighter to make a fire, a spoon to mix the dough. I haven’t collected the dried fruits, nuts and seeds myself -just imagine the exhilaration that will bring me- but the whole thing rest upon an essential of human kind. Cyclist Heike told me she uses dates and nuts in her bread, and by thunderstruck I have started to see endless possibilities for my own bread. That is, if the supermercado sells what I look for.
Dates, pecan nuts, raisins, chia seeds, dried prunes, dried mint, pumpkin seeds. I need to be careful with the dried prunes though…
Maria says: ‘Don’t camp there, it is dangerous and dirty,’ when I’d rung her doorbell to ask whether I could set up camp next to her restaurant, a parking lot for trucks. ‘Place your tent on our patio,’ she’d said. Instead I set up camp behind her house, a pitch-dark unkempt garden. I don’t like to camp right in front of her house, where many trucks are parked, coming and going, together with the highway right in front of it.
When, for security reasons, Maria switch on a bright light shining right on my tent, I feel less secure. When a stem sticks out of the earth, exactly where I’d place my backbone, together with the fact that my mattresses are of uncomprehending comfort, I rethink Maria’s words: ‘Men from the bario roam the area to steal, we had a lot of theft and the police surveillance’s throughout the night now, they may come and ask for your passport’.
I switch from back garden to front door, to a smooth cement surface with a roof above my head. That turns out pretty handy as a storm sweeps through the night, leaving town and the far surroundings with snapped electricity poles.
Daughter Adelina says: ‘Well, it is not thát dangerous here, see… places like Peru and Bolivia are really much more dangerous.’ I guess she’s right, considering she compares Lima and La Paz from television with Alvear, a tiny town along the only route in Corrientes.
Ruta 155 finally made me smile with contentment. It’s a mere 40 kilometers divert of unpaved route in the state Corrientes. When I reach Santo Tomé I am again able to divert to tracks. Red earthen tracks, like blood sticking to my skin when wet. I meet a diversity of cyclists, Alejandro and his niece cycle with me for some time. Mauro has me stop, where I admire his combo of Lycra outfitted muscular body, ornaments decorating his touring-frame and two machete’s on the back.
The initial happiness of meeting these two nice men -who are good friends, I later discover- is cooled down the next day by rain. Instead of sliding through mud with half a meter earth sticking to my shoes, I decide to stay. A day in a rainy, soppy drenched camp.
A few nandu’s roam, a group of horses runs away from me. I collect rain water from a pool nearby, where I wash some of my most dirtiest clothes. Sounds coming from those pools are incredible loud, pleasant to listen to at dusk. Only one car passes throughout the day. Next day the weather is dry and I am able to continue. Back on asphalt and going towards crowded cities with complicated infrastructure, I am happily surprised that a form of aid is coming my way.
Having WiFi at YPF gas station is good coffee while contacting newly made friends, Alejandro decides on the spot to cycle towards me. He is ultra fast on his carbon race bicycle, I am a slow-moving cargo vessel on the steep hills of Misiones. This comes to his mind as well, turns, exchange the bicycle for a pickup truck and picks me up. I have no objection as I do not look forward to cycle these boring roads draped over hills towards a big town.
The hospitality of Alejandro strikes me. Of course it is a bit tricky to meet men outside public areas such as a road. Especially doubtful when I find out that someone is divorced, living alone or being single. Yet, as I have experienced in South America, this does not automatically means they are after the woman they invited. Besides, getting older has many benefits, loosing your youthful attractiveness is one.
I am invited in Posada’s, a big city right across Paraguay with only a river in between. As soon as I enter I am given the key of the house. I receive a shower, a fresh towel to dry my mosquito scratched body, food, my own mattress in the living room, laundry of all I have is done in two rounds of machine wash and surplus I am given the WiFi password and to top things off, I am allowed to cook to my heart’s desire.
Halwa, an Indian sweet desert made from carrots.
This makes me content immediately. Now I have electricity and water and tools and supplies to do whatever I desire. Being the eternal guest has made the initial shy person I am into someone who has no time to sit back and watch the scene nor to decline what is offered. Instead I take full advantage over the house, start cooking, baking and shopping for food items as if I am the matriarch. The things I am missing out on need to be replenished quick and immediate.
I indulge into being in a home where I can fulfill my homely desires. The case with invitations is that people either make clear from the beginning ‘you should take a day rest tomorrow’, which means a one-day-stay. Or ‘no problem, stay a bit longer’ then usually I make arrangements for a couple of days in arrangement with my host. ‘Stay as long as you want’ is a tricky invitation when the person is a man without a visible wife. You need to sense his intentions which might change quickly over the days. Come to think of, I not earlier took an invitation of a single man under the same roof.
This time nothing is said, but I get the hint after 3 nights when ‘my mom is coming the weekend, what are your plans?’ is being said.
A house is giving me many possibilities but a house also makes me a slave of work I can do without. Because the many machines, the constant electricity, the WiFi and all what is on offer and for sale in the buildings surrounding me are chances. Though I never want to live full-time in a house again, it dawns on me that cycling life also makes me a slave. A slave of not being able to do what I want to do besides the cycling lifestyle, a slave of keeping up with the high maintenance, a sort of victim to keep the basics and never being able to reach above those basics.
Everything cleaned and electronics charged, I cross the river to Paraguay, in a Dutch train wagon. I searched the map for paths and tracks other than the general roads bringing me to the capital of Paraguay, as I desperately need a challenge. Finely calibrated I take on the challenge to cycle towards arena, loose beach-alike sand… not knowing it rains heavily when I reach the turnoff