Right now I'm the sole customer in a roadside diner, 35km shy of
my destination. The woman behind the counter keeps peering over at
me and I can only imagine how I look to her curious eyes. I haven't
showered in 3 days, my hair is plastered to my head and layer upon
layer of sticky sunscreen has become a grimey jacket that I
I'm starting to feel like a contestant on 'Argentina Survivor'
but I'm the only gringo crazy enough to have signed up.
How did I get to this point you might wonder? This morning I
woke up at a campsite in San Pedro with the plan to get away early
and cycle 60km north to Ramallo. I had breakfast and went to the
bathroom but when I returned all my cooking equipment and
toiletries on the table had gone. My bad - if it's not tied, locked
or bolted down people 'borrow' things here. I decided not to pull
out my iphone in the busy campsite so I walked to the nearby
playground to check the GPS map.
You've probably heard that a lot of people get mugged in South
America. As a result I'm always careful not to put myself in the
cliché dark alley scenario where someone could pull a knife on
But I hadn't anticipated that I would be tackled and mugged in
a children's playground at 8.45am with half a dozen witnesses.
I also imagined that if in this situation I'd let out a blood
curdling scream and fight off my attacker. Wrong again. By the time
I worked out what was going on I was mid-tussle with the young thug
and the noise I emitted was like the pathetic whimper a dog makes
if you step on it's tail. In short, the guy (about 18 years old)
got away with my iphone and I considered chasing him but didn't
because A. My bike and all my other belongings would have been
unattended and B. What was I going to do if I caught him? The
people that stopped to watch the incident then carried on their
way, my wellbeing of little interest to them.
Stunned, I sat on a park bench, barely aware of the tears
rolling down my cheeks. My multi-purpose iphone had been my tool
for communication, updating the website, compass, GPS, translator
and contained motivating music to get me up the big hills. Without
it I felt lost and the attack had left me feeling vulnerable and
I decided to get out of town as fast as possible so hit the road
with no real plan. It wasn't until 20km later that I realised to
have any hope of claiming insurance I'd need a police report so I
turned back and found the local police station. Thankfully I was
looked after by Franco who didn't speak a word of English but
smiled a lot and seemed to want to help me. Somehow he was able to
understand enough of my jungle Spanish to type out and rubberstamp
an incident report, key-by-key on his stained Commodore 64
Once again I had an overwhelming urge to get as far away as
possible so in the 38 degree heat of the day I set off again. On
the way out of town I stopped at a roadside stall to buy a couple
of Naranja (oranges) that are grown everywhere in San Pedro. The
woman must have sensed my sadness and insisted I take them without
charge, perhaps karma was helping to balance out what I'd lost
earlier. Life may have dished me out a few lemons today but at
least I was on the receiving end of a couple of delcious
Every 10km or so, I had to stop to let my body cool down and to
gulp down water that tasted like it had come straight from the hot
tap. I don't know how I kept going in that heat, rationing the 6
biscuits and 2 oranges I had but then at kilometre 78, like a
mirage on the horizon, I spotted a diner.
So here I am in air-conditioned paradise, scoffing down
empanadas and stealing the wifi connection. I'm dreaming of
arriving at my cheap hotel in San Nicolas, with a roof, crisp white
sheets, a cold shower and a lock on the door. I just need to push
on for another 35km and it's all mine.
This has been one of my most challenging days by far but if the
whole experience has taught me anything, it's that if I can do
this, I can do anything.