November 22, 2005 GMT
San Fransisco to Villa General Belgrano

Wednesday 15th November

Mileage - 186 miles

Oh for hindsight. Spent two days complaining about the heat, and now here we are room bound in our German alpine lodge....I kid you not, more later, with hail bouncing off the ground and a huge thunder and lightening storm raging.

It all started with flowers in our hair, umm I mean San Francisco. We had out tea in the hotel there - following our tradional ride all day on a breakfast of a coffee and coupla cakes and a lunch of an ice-cream. Sense indeed. So anyway, we're eating in the restuarant when suddendly outside all the plastic tables and chairs dissappeared ! A gale had blown up from nowhere and there was trouble on the way. We stayed later than planned, and therefore had too much beer whilst we watched the incoming storm unleash itself.

The lightning was visible from a long way before it hit town, and we finally gave up and crashed out to the sound of crashes and bangs all around and car and shop alarms wailing.

After a fairly reasonable nights sleep over all it was a bit dissapointing to see the rain was still with us. Had anexcellent breakfast next door with cakes and coffee for all of a quid each. Packed and getting waterproofs out when the first of the blue sky appeared.

Nik had put his liners in, we had opted for liners out and cags on top and ex-army overtrousers. Much a better option for these climes where the weather changes down the road - easier than having to take everything off to get the linings out again...particularly with the trousers ! Anyway that meant Bev and I could easily get our gear back off, just my overboots on - the tank panniers protect most of my legs anyway. Poor old Nik wondered if he was ging to drown on the inside - he needn't have worried.

By the edge of Frisco, just as we passed over the Golden Gate bridge...oops...away with the fairies again, as we left town it was obvious we were not riding away from the storm.

We were lucky in that we got about 100kms without needing waterproofs, but it was a close call al the way. Bev was in a little discomfort, think the litle scone type things at breakfast were a little leaden. The villages have now changed from uninspiring agro complexes back to places with heart and soul. The locals also changed again, a cross between andean features and Mexican, quite attractive, and I talking about the ladies here incase you're concerned. One or two villages even had collections of old tractors in the plaza, and another a train, nice tobe able to slow down and see things.

In general on the road everyone, and that includes us, openly flaunts the signs, regulations and laws. If you were to follow the double lines for no over-taking the place would grind to a standstill. On the bikes we can easily overtake on corners etc as they are so shallow. A lumering truck can be passed in no time. In towns, larger ones, people often run the red-lights, in which case we do (and that can be adviced at night in unsavioury neighbourhoods by the locals) The speed limits appear to be simple decoration, if you slow to within 50% of the adviced limit through town, you will be overtaken or risk rear-ending from a truck. saw a coule of accidents today, not really seen any so generally the system seems to work, but I don't entirely know how.


More nice police

Anyway, the skies were dark and the wind was rising, so it was obvious we were going to get caught so on went the waterproofs and we continued. We bypassed Cordoba - Argentina's second city - and saw our first sight of true hills since we arrived.

As mentioned previously on this station we had found in our guidebook (South American Handbook) a German colony based on the remaining interned survivors of the scuttling of the Graf Spee. I have to say at this point that the guide has been a god-send. We've compared notes with Lonely Planet etc and none are a patch on it, and it's very nice to know the book is British and has been published annually - virtually - since the 20's. Reccommended.

Anyway, our liitle (not so little) stadt is quite remarkable. If you were lead in blindfold you would swear you were in Bavavia. It's just like southern Germany or an Austrian tyroil town. It's not a little disturbing too. There is almost too much of a teutonic current to be healthy. There are some very dubious T-shirts in a shop across the way along the lines of the US "the south will rise again". But the folk are friendly, and it is very nice that the place is spotless and has such good services.

We are booked into a room for three for 12 a night with breakfast. The German owner who speaks good English and fluent Spanish is a nice old guy, and just possibly, old enough to be one of the original survivors - certainly, most certainly - there are people here who are members of that original colony. Now how weird is that ? There are some indigineous faces amonst the inhabitants, but virtually evertone is western, well German, looking.

It is the most amazing place, a tyrolean village in the Sierra's, and I mean Tyrolean. I can't image Trelew is as Welsh as this place is German, we'll see. How manyu more surprises will this journey throw up.

As another kick in the teeth as we left the plains and climbed up here (few hundred metres altitude) the road became more sinous than almost any we've been on. i was actually grateful for the fact the roads were still damp otherwise I may have over egged it and got into difficulties.

The bends took on preposperous tigntness and the cambers aren't eaxactly favourable, tis a mad road. Oh for no luggage ! We hope we can explore some of the area roundabout with some of the luggage off, but this mornings weather has not been good. It'll take until this afternoon before it dries off, if it does, and the dirt roads will be well dodgey, and the weather is likely to be worse higher up. It's actually cool enough for liners in jackets and trouser, then the skies willclear and we'll burn up !

I have developed an intersting sunburn, the glove to jacket relationship is falling short. Hence I have half inch red strips on my wrists, must be 20hrs on unadulterated full sun, luckily doesn't hurt, but looks weird.

And in summary for now - photo's to prove the extreme suprise element of our temporary home to follow - who's bright idea was it to set up a colony of German survivors of a sunken battleship, and then name it Belgrano. Someone was having a laugh surely...not ?


Belgrano high street


The Grafspee

Thursday 16th November

Villa General Belgrano

Mileage - big fat 0

Shame I woke everyone up, by accident, at 7am this morning, thought folk were awake when it was only me. We were up 'til past 12 trying the local whiskey (OK but not too sophisticated) and black Warsteiner beer, Bev on Cognac to settle her stomach. Not enough water though.

Well the big storm stayed put on and off from 10am so no riding today. As tomorrow is better hopefully we can get some in. At 4 each a night we can afford to stay a while and wait, and chill. We have a month 'til the travellers meeting at Veidmar which is quite a way away, but considering how far we've been we have the time to spend a few days in different places, though there's plenty of nice places to visit on the way. We have a cunning plan, a train from Bariloche over to Veidmar, Sandra and Javier mentioned it and we're trying to get details...a chance for another adventure, and saves some dull miles.

Just been out for a traditional local lunch, Knackwurst and Saurkraut (sp) and water and coffee, all of three and a half quid each, bargain.

There is obviously not much we can do as the weather settles and then it changes to chucking down again. Bit of catching up on internet, may test the brollies lightning conducting capabilities with a walk up the local hill, Bev and Nik watching Shawshank Redemption. Kinda nice to do so little - we have the time. Still rushing too much I say. There are a coule of weather fronts moving up the country and I guess we're suffering from effectively being on an island here. A couple of hundred miles to west or so are the Andes, to our east flat pampas, so the weather effect is like UK I guess, the Sierras aren't big enough to avoid the weather and so we get the lot. . Bummer.

I'll attach some pics from yesterday showing the hills, and some from today of the town and the Graf Spee connection. The sky is darking again, so looks like either the walk is delayed, or I just go and to hell with it.

This is just such a crazy place.

Posted by Simon McCarthy at November 22, 2005 10:51 AM GMT

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