Arriving at the Argentinian border post, we were told there was no space at the nearby hostel (I’m fairly sure we just looked a little dirty for their liking)! We would, instead, have to make the waiting room our home for the night. It was not a large room, but with some kitchen facilities and bathrooms next door, it was comfortable enough. Two French girls who had made a pretty early decision to give up on finding a ride to hitch with were clearly in for the duration, but there was enough space for us all. However, over the next few hours, a procession of hitchhikers arrived and proceeded to make a small square of the space their own until there were no fewer than ten of us crammed into the small room. Eventually, we all bedded down and somebody went to turn the lights off at the fuse board outside (the only way of doing so). One of the border guards on duty however, clearly being something of a jobsworth, insisted that they couldn’t turn them off! After about 10-15 minutes lying there with the lights on in the stuffy room, I decided that I was having none of it, got up and grabbed my stuff and went and set my tent up round the back of a nearby abandoned petrol station! Thankfully, it was a dry and windless night and I was able to get a reasonably good night’s sleep. Returning the next morning, I found a half-empty waiting room and an understandably grouchy Scott, who hadn’t got a wink of sleep! Besides the light being on, one of the hitchhikers had the most ridiculously lightweight sleeping bag (which clearly offered no warmth whatsoever) and no mat and therefore insisted on shutting the small window whenever anybody opened it to get some fresh air in the otherwise boiling room! Definitely a bullet dodged there.
Scott and Sue headed off whilst I packed up my stuff and I then set about chasing them down, rolling on a straight asphalt road, thankfully again with a tailwind despite our now Southeasterly heading. Despite going into full time-trial mode and pushing about as hard as I could, with the tailwind it still took me an hour and a half to catch them!
That afternoon we rolled into Río Grande and past their countless memorials to the Falklands conflict (or the Malvinas, as they still refer to them as). The city is one of the closest to the Falklands geographically and was a significant staging point. It’s now seeing the benefits of a significant income from oil but is otherwise in a pretty drab location. Finding another cosy warm hostel was a priority and, after doing the rounds a bit, we soon checked into one. It was interesting to talk with the owner, whose brother was a Falklands veteran, about the conflict. As a Brit, I had been wary of bringing it up in Argentina as it still seemed to be a source of significant discontent and patriotic fervour. However, he was quick to assure me that he bore no ill will towards the British and, in fact, it’s apparently becoming something less of an issue as whole generations grow up knowing nothing at all about the conflict.
The next day we continued back on the main road, passing the junction where we would have emerged had we been able to cross at the more Southerly border, and then dived off on another detour. The next two days were fantastic riding on rolling dirt roads, the colours of autumn slowly starting to emerge in the trees, with an overnight in an abandoned old hotel by Lago Yehuin.