Category Archives: gap year

Rio Paranà, La Vuelta de Obligato, Argentina

Camp on the shores of Rio Paranà

A beautiful public beach in this sleepy  Argentinan town  is offering us easy living today. We are camped at the river beach where older couples come to fish and sit on the shore of Rio Paranà. The sun is strong enough to charge the solar panels; the weather is warm enough for shorts and swimming. It’s off-season so camps are closed, there is free camping everywhere.

Sheep dog.

Gypsy (not pictured) is having a better time here than in the city. In camp, there are up to 6 other dogs at a time causing a lot of action when there is food. Now in mid-afternoon, they are asleep in the sun. At times, they move to the shade. This lucky pup below was using the solar panel as a bed until Niles pulled him off, absolutely not moving,  by his legs.

Comotose sun worship in the park
Where we are…

History of the area: in October 1845, there was a battle stretching across the river here in Vuelta de Obligado. Argentian gauchos and women from the area were organized to fight an English-French trading convoy that intentionally circumvented the protocols for trade through Buenos Aires. (I can understand the desire to go around the port authority of Buenos Aires, ‘nough said)….But, more seriously, the British/French flotilla had colonial intentions. The young country of Argentina was able to block unauthorized trade up the Rio Paranà and thwart the commercial aggression.

A map of shipping up the Rio Paranà, Argentina today from Marinetime website. Imagine if England and France had taken the lands bordering this river….

Today, the river accommodates large container ships  We saw several heading up river. One named the Norway, another, Captain Adams and another the YaSa. The Argentinan Ambassador to the US recently commented in an article that the US is Argentina’s greatest investor and China is its greatest trade partner. Argentina finds itself between world powers because of its location and resources. To help us understand the history of the area more, we have been reading and going to museums.

Books we are listening to while driving are : Motorcycle Diaries by Che Guevara, Operation Condor: the History of the Notorious Operation by Charles River Editors, and Destiny Disrupted by Tanin Ansary (this one more to understand the Muslim World). These books all give a view of history and travel that we were missing when we started.

Ship heading up Rio Paranà

Although, the Motorcycle Diaries is the most enjoyable to me, Operation Condor is the most shocking. It details the crimes against humanity committed by the “junta”, extrajudicial killings sanctioned by military dictators in the 1970s-1980s aided by CIA intelligenc. It may be too detailed for some readers regarding torture and killings in the 70s and 80s so, readers beware.

When visiting the museums of Argentina, the information in this book has helped us to understand the US influence in the Cone Countries of South America. Museum exhibits make a lot more sense as do comments by Argentinan friends that US travelers don’t tend to know what the US has done in South Americn countries. I can say that, that’s true usually.

Hope that wherever you are, there are people you like enough to share a meal with and that you can find Chilean or Argentinan wine to pair with your food. We have found doing this over and over is improving our moods and Spanish. Love, Sarah

Mountain Biking Stories

WHAT MOUNTAIN BIKE?

Prepping for a year out of the country, Sarah and I considered what is most dear to us, recreationally. Sarah readily embraces her stand-up paddleboard (SUP), an inflatable model that can support two adults and a mid-sized dog. Dear to me is a bicycle, of any sort, but most especially one suited for off-road terrain. A bicycle also serves as redundant transportation, in a way, if we were unwilling (or unable) to move our vehicles. Top of the list, then, were added one paddleboard and three mountain bikes.

But which bike? The knee-jerk reaction is “My favorite one!” Then, however comes the realization that your favorite steed will be subjected to the elements for close to a year, draw the eye of those looking to remove you of your bicycle, and quite possibly be damaged while it is on the vehicle (either due to a collision or bikes clacking against each other on or off-road) not to mention being subjected to the dirt and grime from driving nearly 12,000 miles. My faithful Ibis mojo 3, my absolute favorite bike to ride, was quickly dismissed, as the bike is just too nice to abuse and too attractive for theives.

After further weighing these considerations, the obvious next choice was my old Ibis tranny. The frame had been damaged in a crash (what better bike to take than one that had been previously damaged?) and I had a slew of mid-level parts for it, plus a wonderfully wide wheelset that gleefully soaks up washboard. As the immense pressure of preparing two vehicles for a year out of the country came bearing down upon us, however, the feasibility of completing another relatively complex repair and rebuild side project quickly fell to the bottom of the list. Not to mention that the lively orange paint would attract a lot of attention.

Amongst the turbulence of our imminent departure, my eye settled on my covid-era mountain bike: made by Giant, this bike was conceived to go fast, world-cup fast, by riders a lot younger than me. And as mentioned, it was my covid-era mountain bike. A bike purchased when frame repair was backlogged for months and such a crushing demand existed for new bicycles that you had to take what you could find. It was in those times that I found this Giant.

And while stupid expensive and not made for idly touring another country, this mostly black frame and components (with splashes of dark blue) and  super-subtle labels does not draw any attention. The proof of this being that, after two months driving around Argentina, I have yet to receive a single question about it. Perfect.