Argentina postcard


Haze curtain horizon, or like always looking through a old windowpane. Otherwise so much Alaska, BC here, here there, no shock the antipodal symmetry, then along a latitude to New Zed Land. I’ll soon be further south than I’ve ever been.

Grey dry under tire, volcano ash powdery but plenty ridable into knurled green creases, flora the kind of branches that twist sturdy against the sun, that cultivate surfaces that aggressively fend off touches. In the distance silhouettes as in all the postcards south of Argentina’s bisecting latitude: distinctive ridges that remind me of a graph of some ill behaved effect that one might yield in a study with too few subjects.

Six hours to a mountain refugio, a pleasant punishing ascent with a just acceptable ratio of pedaling to pushing. I do spend thirty five minutes working through an exposed section with a twenty meter drop to a collection of rocky pools, lacing my arms through a fixed line and painstakingly inching the bike along a ledge. I’d later be asked about this stretch, deadpan that I rode it, no one laughs.

Arrive. Horses a dog and more than a dozen backpacks of dubiously enormous girth leaning against the wall of a sturdy stone and wood structure. Folks are looking at me, wait, has conversation stopped?, with the usual puzzlement, I’m giving my best Hi. What? look but can tell immediately that the ranger needs urgently to Explain Something. That something is, of course, that bicycles are not allowed on the mountain routes, though they are welcome on the dirt tracks of the park. I am not exactly astonished by this, I shrug apologetic — “Didn’t you ask when you bought your park permit?” shake my noI’mjustthatstupid head, and keep my opinion about the calculated ease of asking for forgiveness rather than permission to myself — and we agree that I’ll spend the night and then stay on the ripio. The refugio master suggests that I just get written an infraction ticket and then I can do what I want, head toward the border or whatever, I resist showing my enthusiasm for this fine idea, the ranger hesitates but smiles the suggestion away. At least I’m not headed to jail as I might be if this was the Grand Canyon. The other trekkers are torn between shaking their heads in smug reprimand and complete fascination with the bike, I entertain amiably and later sup with an international cadre of confessors to the effect that they’d like to tour on bikes someday.