Thursday, 29 November 2012

Posadas to Rosario - The long journey south begins

As road kill goes, this has to be the most impressive.

Writing this much later its seems pretty trivial now but at the time I was a bit concerned about this next section of the trip.  The result ended with my original concern about Ruta 14 amounting to nothing and instead having an unexpected problem with the bike.  I was aiming for Rosario, some 900kms away, where I was going to stay with Juli and prepare myself and the bike for Patagonia.  I could make it in two days, however it meant going along Ruta 14 all the way through Misiones and Entre Rios Provinces.  The problem is Ruta 14 is infamous to overland travellers for the number of police stops along the way where they like to find original and ridiculous reasons to fine travellers.  Anything from carrying the wrong luggage to not carrying a fire extinguisher.  Its so well known there are nine pages on this road alone on the travel forum, with one post even mentioning having a gun held to his head.  The Police block at km 341 apparently being the most troublesome.  

As I was carrying $800 I’d taken out in Paraguay to sell in Rosario, I didn’t really want to be searched, so I prepared by wrapping it in the folds of one of my spare inner tubes and holding a dummy wallet with copied documents and small notes.  Setting off I felt ready to blag my way out of any trouble.  The forum was correct too.  There were more police blocks along this route than I have seen anywhere so far.  I tried several tactics to avoid the police, the two most successful being hiding behind a lorry as I arrived at a road block and then following it closely through the stop unseen, or just slow down ready to stop but instead of stopping, overshoot the stop slowly and keep going past looking through my mirror in case they tried to stop me.  Most times they didn’t bother.  Only on two occations did I get waved over.  The first time a policeman indicated me to move over to the right and stop for his colleague further up.  I did exactly that but as his colleague was distracted by another driver I just kept going.  The second time was at the notorious km 341.  The police waved me to slow down so I waved back, and as the I crossed through I kept going again and the car tailgating me stopped instead.  No one seemed concerned when I looked in my mirror so I kept going.  For whatever reasons I made it through all unscathed and kept going all day, just stopping for breaks and the odd unusual roadkill.  Not everyday you see a 7ft alligator cut in half on the side of the road.  As the day ended I reached Chajari and searched for a campground, which I found in Santa Ana, next to a massive manmade lake, populated by millions of toads.

Toads, everywhere.  In my tent, by my tent, in my toilet, by my toilet.
Riding around this area felt like being in some old 1950’s American film.  It was as though time had stood still.  No one was in any rush, people drove around in huge old pickup trucks or worked in their barns or in orange and lemon orchards of which were so numerous that you could smell the citrus in the air.  It was while I was riding around daydreaming about running away from the real world and hiding out here growing oranges, that my chain came off the bike.  No biggie, just put it back on right?  Well no, it had ripped off the chain cover over the front sprocket, which had in turn torn off a small section of the engine where the cover is attached by a bolt.  I was pretty pissed off as I could have avoided the problem by changing the old chain earlier but I was waiting to get to Rosario.  Now the engine was exposed to air so it meant I couldn’t go on the until it was filled and for sure there are no mechanics in the area.  

One of the many Orchards around Chajari
The next morning after a sleepless night due a summer storm I found a guy who could help me fix the bike temporarily with an epoxy mix.  I also let him change the chain and sprockets I had been carrying since Santiago too.  I was still pretty annoyed as it is a really ugly job and will now reduce the value of the bike.  Anyway I could at least make it to Rosario, and the new rear sprocket was smaller, so due to some gear ratio magic I don’t understand, made the bike about 10km/h faster at lower revs.  Leaving at lunchtime I went as fast as I dared to through Entre Rios, stopping regularly to check for lost oil.  8 hours later and in the dark I crossed the bridge into Rosario but no matter I know the city well now, and was one relieved man to arrive at Juli’s with no more problems.

The "mechanic"?
Sundown just as I was leaving Entre Rios into Rosario, Santa Fe

Rosario from Juli's balcony as a storm starts

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