The title "The Wrong Way in the Right Country" has several
meanings; as any good title should. The wrong way refers to the wind
blowing in our faces. At first, we thought this annoying
headwind was temporary. As the weeks went by, we thought we could deal
with it. Eventually we accepted the fact we were going to suffer and
had to readjust the number of kilometers that we could ride each day. During the last couple hundred kilometers we had to climb
completely over the Andes in a very strong head wind. On this very
steep and endless section, the wind blew so hard in our faces that it took
three and a half hours to ride 16 kilometers.
Argentina was the right country in many ways. The
everyday diet of the common citizen (and us) is excellent. I believe their favorite
food is steak. It is a national pass time to grill thick pieces of beef
over real wood fires. They seem to practice this art form from a very early
age and by the time they reach adulthood they are
experts in selecting cuts of meat, building cook fires, and grilling beef. This worked very well for me because beef, especially the
choice cuts that are so common here, is my favorite food as well. For the first three weeks that we
rode through Argentina, we ate US$2 fire grilled steaks everyday. At
times our large lunches made riding very difficult.
Argentina is also far more advanced economically than any
country that we have visited in Latin America. This meant that
hot showers were hot and people were not asking us for money at every
corner. Until recently, Argentina was considered the most expensive
country in South America. Their Peso was tied to the US$ (one to one) even
though market value suggests it was actually worth much less.
Everyone told us of the glory years before the crash. With the
inflated value of their currency, imports were very cheap and everyone was
The problem was
that Argentina's exports were very expensive and no one
was buying. Major industries went under and unemployment increased.
Then and now Argentina runs on a deficit with a string of International Monetary
Fund (IMF) loans to make up the difference. This could not last forever. On
December 21, 2001, the entire economic and
political structure went into turmoil. When the Argentinean Peso was
finally allowed to float, it plunged. Most kept their retirement nest
egg in the bank. They thought their 100,000 Pesos was also 100,000 US
Dollars because for years they were interchangeable. You can imagine
the anger when they learned that their money in the bank was in Pesos and
now worth one fourth as much in US dollars. To make things worse banks
were not allowing people to withdraw their failing pesos. Millions of
people with money in the bank were suffering because they could not make
withdrawals. Everything exploded.
There were huge protests in the capital demanding sweeping changes in the government. Many people
we met were involved in the drama and tell their stories of out of
control protest marches and businesses being attacked.
Argentineans can now claim that they had several presidents in five days.
Few, outside Argentina, have experienced such chaos.
While we were in Argentina, one US dollar was worth about
three Argentinean Pesos. The north of Argentina had the best value for our
that we had seen on this trip. It was not quite as cheap as Guatemala
or Bolivia but the standards and quality of everything are much higher.
Argentina was also our first country that had an extensive campground system. This meant that we did not have to rent a hotel room to take a hot
shower. We had good weather and spent weeks at a time sleeping in our
tent. These campgrounds were very cheap and the savings freed up our
budget to eat out constantly. We lived like kings in a cloth castle.
THE DEBATE CONTINUES BETWEEN US
I want to thank all of you who wrote in on our discussion
board with suggestions about what continent we should explore next.
These comments have given us many new ideas that we previously had not
thought of. We still do not know where we are going after South
America but at least we have more information. Really, we are more confused than ever. We do plan on flying
back to the USA in June to visit our families and publish our first book.
We hope to be done with the book in October and back down the road in early
November. I like the idea that we can go anywhere we want. Not
knowing where we are going is half the fun. Please let us know where
you want us to go by posting your comments on