Gualeguaychu – Ceibas – Zarate – Tigre – San Telmo, Buenos Aires – 275.6km
After the hotspring and dancing craziness of Carnival in Victoria and Gualeguaychu during our ride through Entre Rios province, it was time for our final week of our epic cycle from Vancouver to Buenos Aires. Our previous rides in Entre Rio was quiet and peaceful but that ended in this final week into the urban metropolis of Buenos Aires and the sprawling urbanity all around it. We were now on the autopista, the freeway, south of Gualeguaychu. We only had about 60km to do the first day out of Gualeguaychu to the next and only town of Ceibas before the river, which was fortunate since we went to the Election of the Queen event the night before closing the Carnival celebrations for the year. The event started at a modest 10pm and ended “early” by Argentinean standards at around 1am. It was a workday the next morning after all… or a riding day in our case. We were riding on the freeway but there was a generous shoulder though there were some tricky bumps here and there to prevent cars from using it as an extra lane. We spent the night in the small town of Ceibas set in the middle of the vast marshlands between the two huge rivers, Rio Parana and Rio Uruguay. The lush green area is nicknamed “Mesopotamia.” However, at night, the mosquitos come out in force. I was cooking in front of our run-down room in a little trucker hotel when the sun went down. Within a minute, the mosquitos swarmed and I couldn’t get into our room fast enough. As I finally ran in, a cloud of the blood-sucking bastards trailed in behind me and on me.
The shoulder on the freeway ended after Ceibas but it was fairly quiet and the traffic wasn’t much of a problem. We then rode across the 45km stretch of the Brazo Largo–Zarate bridge, which consisted of two tall 5km long bridges and a flat ride across a hot island in the middle. There is a pedestrian section on the bridge and we tried it at first but it kept narrowing to un-ridable and then un-walkable thinness. After lifting our bikes over each railing beam that made it too thin for our bikes and panniers for one part and then riding a short bit before finding another narrow section, we lifted our bikes over the whole railing and rode on the road. The bridges are two lanes in each section and fairly quiet. Only about 5 cars passed us in our lane in both bridges and all of the trucks moved over to the other lane. There were even some trucks that cheered us on with their drivers waving at us. It was about 82km from Ceibas to Zarate and from Zarate, it was urban riding for the rest of our journey and trying to find our way around the asphalt labyrinth.
After Zarate, we rode on Hwy 12 for just 3 more kilometres until reaching the mega freeway Hwy 9 where bikes are officially not allowed but apparently no one really cares. We would ride on the freeway when we had to but left to side options whenever possible, which was pretty often. It is city after city broken up by short wild marshlands but soon, the cities blurred into each other so it was only the name of the area that changed not the urban landscape. We broke up our long urban ride into Buenos Aires by spending a night in Tigre, about 80km of cycling from Zarate. Tigre is called the Venice of Argentina because of the many scenic canals, little islands and elegant Victorian mansions.
From Tigre, we took the back way into Buenos Aires following the river though quaint neighbourhoods and suburb cities of the well-off citizens. Urban riding is always a bit more tiring because there’s traffic that we always have to be on high alert for and we are often in a state of confusion feeling a little lost. We don’t have a GPS and our map is of the whole country without the minute details of cities. I look up the maps in Google Maps before our ride and take a picture with my camera but those photos are only a small snapshot of the busy, chaotic streets of the whole city. There is a lot of stopping and asking people and stopping for a well deserved coffee break!
At one point, I stop and ask a couple teenage boys what was the name of the area we were in. They replied that we were near the stadium where River plays, one of the two main football (soccer) teams of Buenos Aires. According to the boys, everyone knows where Rivers plays! Well, at least I found out that we were now in Buenos Aires instead of one of its neighbouring cities.
However, the highly urban area has its perks as well as they seem to be filled with amazing, friendly people! We stayed with hosts every night in the last week of our journey hanging out with a political journalist in the industrial city of Zarate, a clinical psychology student madly studying for an exam to qualify her to work in the hospital (about 700 students take the exam and apparently only around 40 will qualify) in Tigre and a graphic designer in Buenos Aires.
The last week of our epic cycle ended with a bang and we made it into Buenos Aires on February 26, 2015 a year and a half after cycling away from our home in Vancouver, Canada!