“Bizarre travel plans are dancing lessons from God” – Kurt Vonnegut
Sometimes months of plans can change at the drop of a dime.
These past weeks have certainly been a practice in spontaneity and flexibility.
First, we decided that we loved Cafayate and our friends there including cyclists Mattias and Alvaro and the awesome hostel with the hilarious and lively Christian and Pepo. We said,
“Screw the rush to Mendoza. Let’s spend Christmas here”
Then, we found an amazing re-positioning cruise leaving Buenos Aires sailing to LA in California in a couple months and said,
“Screw the rush to Ushuaia! We’ll plan another cycle trip to do Patagonia and give it the time and exploration it deserves! We’re cycling to Buenos Aires!!”
We pulled ourselves away from Cafayate after a couple “Ah, just one more day”’s and had four wonderful days of riding to the town of Belen, where we spent New Years. Then, New Years Day, in a grey drizzle where the streets were quiet in the aftermath of celebrations last night, we wandered around the empty town looking for a place where we could get money.
The tourism office was open but they only had bad news for us. The only bank here is Banco de la Nacion, the national bank which usually does not accept our ATM card. And the national bank seemed to be the only bank in about a 300km radius. We went to the bank with our fingers crossed but nope, it didn’t work. We love Argentina but there is something very strange with money in this country and banks are a huge pain in the butt – a sentiment I’m sure many Argentineans would also agree. Only one bank seems to work with our card and it both gives us a low exchange rate combined with a low maximum withdrawal limit and high service charges. It’s like a little stab every time that doesn’t kill you but bleeds you out just a little more.
People are very helpful though, pointing us to places where we can change our last little American dollars though many places were closed. We finally found a very nice gentleman at our hotel that just changed it as a favour to us. It was worst than the going rate for American dollars but much better than what we expected for being our last resort.
We looked at the map. The bank we need can only be found in the major cities…and Cafayate apparently. Catamarca, La Rioja and Cafayate are all about 300km away from us. I had spent days planning out our route to Mendoza, finding little gems here and there in a stretch that many other cyclists speed by with their eyes on the prize of Patagonia near the end. I was so excited that we now had the time to really explore the area north of Mendoza and eastward zigzagging our way across the pampas to Buenos Aires. I had found little oasises, a cradle of cider growing, hot springs, visit to a astronomical observatory, beautiful mountain rides and many more.
However, sometimes fate has other opinions than our well detailed plans.
Our planned route south would not take us to any major cities until Mendoza and that apparently means no access to any banks that work for us.
Going to La Rioja makes the most sense for us but then it seems there are three mountain ranges to get back on our planned route to Mendoza. However, it does make perfect sense to ride straight to Cordoba from La Rioja. We were thinking of going to Cordoba anyways but with a wide detour to Mendoza first. Now, it seems like fate is directing us to Cordoba and saving Mendoza for the next trip. I think something to always remember is that the fun of travelling is not a checklist of things to go see or do. It’s the adventure of the different experiences on the way. It is seeing where life takes you and the amazing people and places you stumble into. Now we get to spend more time in the cites of Cordoba, Rosario and Buenos Aires, which people keep on telling us are fabulous. I have a friend who visited Buenos Aires for three weeks and didn’t even leave the city and said it was the best place she has ever traveled.
“Screw you, banks of Argentina, we’ll make it work and have an awesome time doing it!!”
By the way, we found a nifty website that shows an interactive map of Argentina with all of the ATMs and the banks they’re affiliated with (http://www.icajero.com.ar/la-rioja/chilecito/banco/banco-macro)! We have a couple ATMs that will work for us beginning about 230km away. This means we will continue with our trip to Mendoza. Woohoo! Where there’s a will, there’s a way 🙂