Slovenian immigrants

Here and Now

The route from Santa Rosa to Bariloche I have done in accordance with the thought from my last post. I was Here and Now! In doing so I haven’t thought much about you who read my sporadic writings. What can I say – Though luck!

With Andres we have set our course due SW. Kilometres and kilometres of nothingness. A long, straight road leading to infinity, shade only if we were lucky, sun that burns and emptiness. Not a living soul, just cars passing by. Every now and then we had access to water when there was a windmill pumping water from a well was close to the road.

Windmill – water

Obviously when the windmill was intact and the wind was blowing. There was lots of wind but not always when one needed it. And when I didn’t need it, there it was. I particularly didn’t like the fact that it normally the wind was not going in the same direction that I was going. It was very much in a rush in the opposite direction. A typically cyclists situation – headwind. Though I have to admit that it wasn’t always so and that there were days without wind or even some tailwind.

From Santa Rosa to Bariloche it is 999km (supposedly, never saw a sign with this info). Andres and I have done a bit more. The route that we choose wasn’t the most direct one. It did however took as on a road nicknamed »Ruta Campaña al Desierto« or I also heard » Conquista del Desierto«. It could be translated as »Route Campaign into the Desert« or »Conquest of the Desert«. And who would have thought – there is nothing there. It’s not that classical sandy desert with camels and dunes. Here the highest plant reaches about shoulders high, we came across two small towns and that was all for about 400km until the border with the province of Rio Negro. Lots of sun, little water. But at the end of the day we always managed to find something to pitch our tents.

Roadside camping

Wind shelter in the form of trees of a roadside rest area, water from the windmill and picture perfect sunsets.

A long and straight road at the end of the day

Then at the border between La Pampa and Rio Negro, we have crossed Rio Colorado and the countryside on the other side was identical. Just the vegetation moved a step down so the highest plants reached our hips, normally only up to our knees. So we had about 150km of this and then greenery, trees, river and population. And encounter with Slovenians or their descendants that live in the city of Neuquen and its surroundings. Edgardo was our guide, Mariana our host. Bed, hot water and commodities of civilization.

With Edgardo and Mariana

We took advantage of the time we spent there doing some standard chores, like bicycle maintenance, stocking up on provisions, laundry and spending time with the locals. Amongst others, the Slovenians organized a small reunion in our honour.

Slovenian reunion in Neuquen

After three days being spoiled by Mariana and Edgardo who also took us on a tour of the vineries (I strongly urge you not to do it on an empty stomach), we were back on the Road. Back to what we are used to and became used to in the kilometres to here. Lots of nothing, headwind, sun and then a quiet evening when a cup of coffee accompanied by a chat makes you forget the effort you have put into getting here. Our goal were hills and a new route with a name – “Ruta de los 7 Lagos” (Route of the 7 lakes). Still more than 350km away, but there again we were greeted by greenery and water.

What a nice change of scenery

The hills made sure the road started swerving a bit. This meant the end of the endless straight lines where you could find yourself staring at an antenna on the horizon for more than 20km. You watch it grow from a size of a toothpick to reaching more than 50, 60 metres high.

Meeting with Slovenians in Neuquen started some sort of a chain reaction, we started to visit Slovenians. In Junin de los Andes we were invited to Janko and Martina. Not only they had welcomed us, Martina almost made me cry when she put krofi (Slovenian type of doughnut) in front of me and I certainly did cry when horseradish appeared on the table.

Janko and Martina with family

A day of luxury and comfort and we hit the road again. This time for real “Ruta de los 7 Lagos”. The road winds between the mountains, forest all around, s smell of pine fills the air, all is green and one is never too far away from water. And since the route is called 7 lakes, there are lakes as well (reinventing the wheel, I know). On the shores of one of the lake there is a small cottage where Victor and Regina, descendants of Slovenian parents, otherwise living in Buenos Aires, are spending their holidays.

With Victor and Regina

Lago Meliquina

Again a warm welcome and with difficulty we said goodbye and moved on. But we “had to” move on since a few days later we were expected in Bariloche by Janez and Maria. Next stop on Slovenian tour.
Before Bariloche we visit a few more lakes, we take a few brakes on the riverbanks, mate or coffee or just a chat with a camp employee.

Lago Espejo in the morning

Mist rising from Laguna Fria

Lago Nahuel Hupai

Perfect place to have maté

Not to appear too kitsch. We also had rain, that small, drizzling kind that just lingers on and on, there was also wind moving us all over the road,… But I was always Here and Now!
If I was to write that I was enjoying and screaming of joy all the time, no one would have believed me. Also because I would have been lying writing that. But I was Here and Now! Listening to the river or music, whatever felt like right thing to do. Soaking in the sunshine or searching for a roof so that I would not get too wet. Pedalling like mad being swept by the moment on a downhill or cursing into the wind that almost stopped me… And if it looked like it’s going to be miserable since the rain is going to soak everything, I remembered that tomorrow is another day. Another new day awaken by the sun that will dry the tent.

With a Smile on my face, until next time!
Simon

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Look At That – A Slovenian!

If I relate to last thoughts of my previous post about going with the flow and then in the evening being surprised by the bank on which the flow has washed you up, then for sure I must write about meeting with a Slovenian community in Entre Rios.

The day has started in a tent, squeezed between a pick-up than has long ago finished its service, a truck than not so long ago must have still been working, an ice machine and some sort of a cage. Hidden behind a gas station in a large village. Outside there was frost on the grass and the sun on a perfectly clear sky hasn’t yet managed to warm up the atmosphere. Morning tasks are routine, cleaning and taking down the tent, making breakfast, enjoying my coffee, then saddling up Lou and back on the road.
Plan for the day was simple. A stop in the first town, Cerrito that is about 25km further down the road Entering the first shop to stock up on supplies for dinner and push on into the wide open farmland. Maybe, just maybe I might make it to the next village that is about 60km further on from Cerrito. All in all, it seemed like just another day on the Argentinian countryside. Until I have reached Cerrito.
There is a junction at the entrance into town. I look left, no traffic, I look to the right, no cars – wait a minute, there is something wrong with this picture. There is a sign and on that sign a Slovenian flag. What?! I turn to get closer and I read: “Plazoleta Republica de Eslovenia” (Park Republic of Slovenia) with additional text “Colonia Cerrito, cuna de los Inmigrantes Eslovenos” (Colony Cerrito, cradle of Slovenian Immigrants). Obviously I’m totally confused, but the more I look at this, the more it seems to me that I have to find out more about it and that it was meant for me to turn into here.

I let go of the thought of finding the first small shop, buying what I need for dinner and to push on. Instead, I turn into town all the way to the central square/park. I look for a nice bench, so as to soak in the sunshine, roll up a cigarette and try to think of a plan what to do next. Well, before I manage to finish my cigarette, a man approaches. A friendly handshake and a conversation starts. Pedro is a cyclist that lives here and it’s immediately obvious to me that he will not “allow” me to go on that easily (another reference to my previous post). So we go to his house where he feeds me and when I mention through the conversation that I have stopped here because of the sign at the entrance, Pedro goes into action mode. All organized! My bed is in the guest room, there will be a fish asado at his friends’ place this evening and I’m going to meet the local coordinator of the Slovenian community here in Cerrito. Now it’s time for maté.

In the afternoon Pedro first introduces me to Laura, his wife before we head out. To Luz, the local coordinator of the Slovenian community. The meeting is brief, there is only enough time for her to invite me to tomorrow’s lunch at her house. So we will have more time to talk. Today I’m out of time as Pedro has other plans with me. These continue in the company of his friends Edgar and Amilcar, eating fish asado.

The day after I have lunch at Luz’s where I meet the rest of her family. And the lunch turns into more “tasks” for me. A visit to the Slovenian community in the city of Parana, a short history of Slovenian immigration to Entre Rios and a dinner at family Fatur. Time flies by and it’s getting a bit difficult for me to keep up with all that is going on. And for me, it doesn’t stop here.
The following day in Cerrito I attend the presentation of the book “Cocina Eslovena” (Slovenian kitchen) by Carlos Savor And I could not leave the town without stopping at Javier Podversich the day after for an asado, strait from the farm.

The four days in Cerrito went by in a second. Spending time with friendly, warm people that have opened the doors to their homes, have honoured me with the time they have shared with me,…
In reality in all these days I did not even have the time to comprehend what has actually happened to me. A state of constant amazement by the turn of events and an ever new surprise by what is to follow.
To be honest, even now as I’m writing about it I cannot stop myself no to be surprised by the bank on which I have been washed up that day.

With a Smile on my face, until next time!
Simon