Into the Mountains on Gravel Roads

2011/01/30-31: In Chos Malal
We stayed two days in this oasis town. On Sunday evening Chris accidentally ordered a rather large bottle of wine, and there was a summer street party with music and folk dancing that made for  a late night. The men in the dancing troupe wore flowing bloomers which I guess are classic gaucho attire.  Staying on Monday meant we could get my sunglasses mended, post a thank-you card to the estancia friends, and drink a bit more good coffee.

2011/02/01: 64 km To El Cholar
We turned off the pavement onto a gravel road that climbed into the foothills, a tough but scenic route suggested by the Scots. The climb was hot and windy, I skidded and fell several times, and we walked our bikes  for some of it. El Cholar has no paved roads, and it’s population cannot be over 1000 souls, but as we sat outside the kiosk eating potato chips upon our arrival, horses and riders were heading to a playing field behind the community centre. When I asked what was happening, I was told they were practising for una fiesta that would take place in two weeks. After depositing our bikes at the hosteria municipal, we went to watch the proceedings.

The first segment was an impressive  choreography involving some 24 riders, wearing traditional floppy berets,  and a troupe of folk dancers with the ladies holding  their brightly coloured full skirts out like fans.

Near the end, watch for the young lad who makes himself 
very comfortable on his white  horse when he has to wait.
I hope he doesn’t do that during the real performance!

The group of riders included a few lads as young as eight or nine, who handled their mounts well enough to form spokes of rotating wheels. I wonder how many practice sessions they’d already had?  Then fourteen older and better riders moved on to perform a high speed musical ride, which ended with them intersecting two  lines of riders at full gallop, moving along the diagonals across the field! It was great to watch, and we were probably the only outsiders.


2011/02/02: 95 km to Longcolpue
More challenging loose gravel, but more down than up, with one small pass to climb in the wind and heat. At least the mornings are cooler as we get higher. As we ate lunch in a park in tiny El Huecu, a policeman asked us for our ID and where we were headed. Another policeman had asked us the same as we left Chos Malal. It’s not as bad as China, but still a police state, and a reminder to appreciate the freedoms we have at home.

It was a relief to be back on pavement as we entered Longcolpue, where we found simple digs, good supper,  and empanadas for next morning’s breakfast.

M

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