Winter arrives in South America
We knew that our route would take us straight through the heart of South America’s winter, but it shocked us by arriving abruptly and with force.
It was 34 degrees in Asuncion when we went shopping to replace Paddy’s lost clothes, so we picked out relevant replacements. Trousers and waterproofs were ordered from the UK to collect in two weeks time from Uruguay. With no immediate need for these items, it seemed an excellent plan.
Two days later we started cycling along Ruta 2 towards Encarnacion in the south of Paraguay. It was a fantastic cycling road: a mix of steady rises over expansive countryside and flat plains that we flew along. Each town we cycled through had its own delicacy, and we feasted on honeybread, hot cheese rolls (chipa) sold off the back of motorcycles and fresh oranges. The sun may have taken to hiding, but the pedalling was good.
The heavens opened on day three of the five-day leg to Encarnacion. It soon became apparent that waiting out the downpours in bus shelters wouldn’t work, the only option was to push on through. I determined to stand in solidarity with Paddy and forget about my waterproofs. It took me all of on hour to remember them, waving Paddy on as I stopped to don full Gortex.
To make up for my betrayal I helped him find a new waterproof jacket: a yellow, Sylvester the Cat, children’s mac. Not the most effective thing, but it had great comedy value and drew many smiles as we cycled along.
We spent three days pedalling in the rain and an afternoon in Encarnacion hiding in the hotel willing it to stop. When it finally did the joy was short lived.
It turned out the rain was the precursor to the cold, and goodness it’s cold. Now, I’m not talking European winter-level, perhaps five degrees. On the bike it can be rather pleasant once the legs have warmed up: it’s being inside that’s the problem.
Houses and hotels are kitted out for blistering hot summers. Bare, tiled floors, drafty windows and air con units do not make for toasty rooms and we’ve been warmer camping than inside.
We’re now in Salto, Uruguay, having spent the last three days cycling down the east coast of the Rio Uruguay being whipped around by an icy headwind that was intent on taking us off the road. The area is flat which means there are no barriers against the Atlantic winds.
Those items we thought would only be needed in the Andes, like the thermos flask and down jackets, are now in regular use. Paddy is particularly looking forward to receiving his supply of clothes, to stop the strange looks from locals at his bare knees is shorts.
It seems like it’s not only us who are shocked by the arrival of winter. According to the national news, who have been showing pictures of people scraping the frost of their cars, this is the coldest in a long time. Cold we are, but there is some comfort in that if this is extreme for the area things can only get better.
Until then, we’re off to explore the local thermal pools in the hope they may warm us up. We hope you are enjoying the sun back home.
There are more photos, as always, at www.flickr.com/pedallingabout