Entre Rios is the name of the Argentinian province that lies between Rio Uruguay and Rio Paraná. It’s flattish terrain used for agriculture, mainly cereal crops and grazing. Chris has been photographing flowers, and I’ve been mulling over how to differentiate sorghum from corn. We’re definitely off “the Lonely Planet Trail” here, and it shows in the way locals interact with us. We get approached as welcome visitors, rather than as cash cow tourists. I get drawn into conversations that stretch my language skills, and Chris follows gestures and expressions, waiting till we ride off down the road for the full translation.
2011/04/25: To Villaguay 103 km
The first errand of the day was to mail home a dictionary and some maps that were no longer needed. I had purchased a Spanish only dictionary for my course, and was still hauling it because we’d forgotten to take it with us as we mailed a parcel in Buenos Aires. I’m already carrying a bit more than my usual share, in deference to Chris’s arm. I didn’t need that dictionary! We also stocked up on Ibuprofen for his arm.
Munching lunch bits later in a park, and older couple approached us to chat. They were both proud and envious of their grandchildren learning English, and bemoaned their own lack of a second language having grown up in small villages. As they steered the conversation towards religion, I preemptively made my opinion on evangelists very clear. A later conversation with a gentle older man informed me that the most important local product is sorghum, followed by cattle, then other cereals, chickens, and more. He asked about what we grew in Canada, and a bit of botanical vocabulary helped me determine the words for canola and flax. I knew wheat. When I asked him about work, he said he couldn’t work “because of his arm.” When I looked more closely, I saw his right harm hung useless, and I suspect he’d had an accident with some farm machinery.
As we signed into a tidy travellers’ hotel in Villaguay, it was clear the hotel woman thought I was from somewhere nearer to Argentina than Canada, because she asked me to fill in my “National Identity Number.” When I said I was Canadian, and got out my passport, she apologized for mistaking me for a Brazilian. Apparently Brazilian cycling groups come through this way. She said she should have realized I wasn’t Brazilian, because she “couldn’t understand a word they say.” The implication was that she could understand me with relative ease, and I was duly flattered!
2011/04/26: To Viale 107 km
You know you are in Argentina when the hotel cleaning staff see you filling your water bottles, and immediately offer you hot water because you surely want to make maté. There are also hot water dispensers at many gas stations, so drivers who sip maté can easily refill and continue to sip as they drive. The traditional round maté container narrows at the top, and the tea is sipped through a bombilla rather like a tea ball on the end of a metal straw. It’s not a bad travel mug.
At a drink stop, a chatty woman noticed Chris taking pictures of flowers, and the conversation quickly turned botanical. She led us on a tour of her vegetable plot, and Chris was walking a little to the side in the long grass as we ambled along. When she pointed at Chris’s feet and said “¡Atención! Hay víboras ahá”, I didn’t wait till afterwards to translate that she thought there were poisonous snakes where he was walking. We found a simple hospedaje in Viales, leaving ourselves an easier last day to Paraná.
2011/04/27: To Paraná 60 km
The hospedaje didn’t do breakfast so we found our way to the bus station for my morning coffee. Chris had maté cocido, a teabag version of the bitter traditional yerba maté drink. We pedalled in a crosswind to Paraná, and found lodgings only on our third try. We are sharing a pleasant hostel with two Dutch girls and twenty-two lads who are here from Buenos Aires province, here for a field hockey tournament in which eight teams from around the country will play.
2011/04/28: Day off in Paraná
We need to look into a possible kayak outing on the river tomorrow, and bus logistics for accelerating to Córdoba. And there’s laundry, of course.