Monday, 10 December 2012

Laguna Alsina - Disaster strikes, man stranded.

Coming off the high of playing airplane pilot in Nueve de Julio I was ready to hit Bahia Blanca and then Patagonia.  As I packed to leave I saw rain clouds looming, but I managed to keep ahead of the storm for the first two hours until it finally caught me and then proceed to punish me for trying to avoid it.  There was so much water the road was submerged in places and visability was bad.  It really put my new waterproof clothes to the test.  My gloves and trousers worked well but my $200 boots didn’t fair so well.  It was a really impressive storm as storms go so I guess I can forgive the boots a bit, but you'd expect better from spending so much.  

Pushing my waterproofs to the limit
Eventually the storm subsided and I was just getting used to seeing where I was going when there was a horrible grating noise and the bike lost its drive.  Pulling over I found out the chain had snapped.  I was stunned as I’d only changed it under 1000kms back.  Upon inspection I noticed the guy who fitted it back in Santa Ana had merged on some extra weaker links so that he could fit it easier.  To make matters worse, the chain guard had come off again and the welding I had only just done a few days before in Rosario and spent a lot of money on had partially come off.  What a waste of time and effort.  To say I was pissed off is an understatement and I was kicking myself for not watching the guy fit the chain.  This was a definite lowpoint and I was in a really bad mood. 

Unpacking everything, I managed to remove the weak chain links using the tools I had, but when I tried to join the two original ends I couldn’t force them together.  The reason being they were so strong – the bloody reason why I bought an expensive Japanese chain in the first place.  I spent the next 2 hours trying to do this using my biggest spanner as hammer, an allen key as a chain tool and the edge of the road as an anvil.  Came close a couple of times but I just couldn’t do it.   It was too dangerous too because I was so close to the road and there were many trucks.  A car even stopped to tell me to be more careful so it must have looked bad.  I had to admit defeat when I could hardly grip the chain anymore and my thumb nail was going black from hitting it so many times with the spanner haha.

It was then that I started to look out for help.  About 7 police cars went past in a convoy, but not one was interested in helping, a number of cars too, but later a man on a push bike rode past and I asked him where we were and how close the nearest town was.  His name was Oscar and for many reasons he turned out to be my lucky break.  I had broken down only 5kms from a small pueblo called Laguna Alsina about 220km below Nueve de Julio.  Oscar knew Edwardo who had a camioneta who could pick me up and on top of this they both knew Lisandro, a guy in the village who speaks English, runs a repair shop and is a champion speedway racer.  I don’t just mean locally but races all over Europe.  That’s 3 strokes of luck in one.  It was a remote part of the country and the pueblo so small, so to find all this was seriously fortunate.  Desperation soon turned to hope and within the hour Edwardo had dropped me off at Lisandrews shop.  

Edwardo and his camioneta
Lisandro at the repair shop
By this time it was getting late and unbeknown to me, Oscar and Lisandro had arranged for me to stay at the village social clubhouse, which had a bedroom, bathroom even a swimming pool.  So after he closed the shop Lisandro dropped me off.  We arranged to meet later for a drink, where I learnt that Lisandro had returned to Alsina because his dad is unwell and he needs to help at the family shop.   Whilst doing this he also had invested his money in a pig farm and a crop spraying business.  To say I was stunned at the money you could make doing this is an understatement.  While I stayed at the clubhouse Edwardo came over to see me, such a small village he had heard where I was staying and wanted to check I was ok.  A testament to the warmth of the people.

In the morning I went to the shop and got the chain fitted properly this time.  I tried to pay for the help but no one would take anything.  “how can you pay for something if you didn’t buy anything”.  Astounded, the only thing I could pay for was a spare chain.  The people in this whole province are amazing, first Nueve de Julio and now Laguna Alsina.  Shame no one ever sees this part of the country and never ventures outside Buenos Aires.  I set off in sunny weather feeling pretty damn lucky to escape being stranded again, but before leaving I dropped off a bottle at Oscar, Edwardos and Lisandros houses.

Laguna Alsina, where you can ride lawn mowers down the street...
As busy as it gets here
The petrol station still uses a till from the 1930's

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