Villa Mercedes - The thirteenth step ... Six months in South America - CycleBlaze

October 16, 2022

Villa Mercedes

Overnight a number of trucks pulled up to spend the night at the service station.  The first one arrived while I was still awake but I have no recollection of the arrival of the others.  The first one to arrive parked right next to out tent, shielding us in some way from the the road.  He must have had a hard day because he was still there when we left this morning.

Just as we started packing up the tent we were visited by a provincial police officer, named Marcello.  He went through the usual questions that cycle tourists have to face and then asked to see our passports.  This is the first time we have had to haul out our papers since we got here but we were quite relaxed.  He scanned them into a mobile device, proudly telling us the system connects to the national database and Interpol.  He clearly hadn't had a chance to use it much yet because he took quite a while working through the options.  I'm guessing he hasn't managed to stumble on sufficient foreigners on which to try it out.  The source of his pride might have been that it is only Cordoba province that has access to the system so far.

The ride itself was another easy one with the wind behind us and very gently rolling hills.  We soon crossed into San Luis province, arrived in Villa Mercedes at about half past eleven and set off to buy some groceries before checking into our digs, an apartment just off our route, soon after twelve.

Crossing into San Luis province. Not all of the provincial boundaries have been marked as well as this one.
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Soon after crossing into San Luis province we came upon a fast food joint out in the middle of nowhere. There wasn't much available so we bought a home made salami ("salame casero") and a bun for second breakfast. First brekkie was simply a couple of cups of coffee and some Marie biscuits so a decent second brekkie was needed.
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The first shrine to Difunta Correa we have seen on this trip. I have written about her in previous journals but here is the crib from Wikipedia again: The Deceased Correa (in Spanish La Difunta Correa) is a semi-pagan legendary figure in folk-religion, for which a number of people in Argentina and Chile, especially among the popular classes, feel a great devotion. According to popular legend, the husband of Deolinda Correa was forcibly recruited around the year 1840, during the Argentine civil wars. When he became sick, he was abandoned by the Montoneras [partisans]. In an attempt to reach her sick husband, Deolinda took her baby and followed the tracks of the Montoneras through the desert of San Juan Province. When her supplies ran out, she died. Her body was found days later by gauchos who were driving cattle through. They were astonished when they saw the dead woman's baby was still alive, feeding from her "miraculously" ever-full breast. The men buried her body in present-day Vallecito in the Caucete Department of San Juan, and took her baby with them. Cattle keepers first, then truck drivers, disseminated the figure of the Difunta, creating wayside shrines in many roads throughout the country, with images and sculptures of the Deceased. They there leave bottles of water as votive offerings, "to calm her eternal thirst".
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Once we got the immediate chore of laundry out of the way, I re-arranged the furniture and set up the tent so I could give it a good clean, particularly the zips.  We have been camping in quite dusty conditions and the tent is useless if the zips give up.

Tomorrow's route has zero facilities between here and the next town Buena Esperanza, which we will only reach the next day.  To use the words of the owner of tonight's apartment the route has "nada, nada, nada".  Water is the big challenge so we will have to use what we carry for drinking and will probably not cook.  This means we have to  stock up on bread to see us through a day and a half of traveling.

Today's ride: 48 km (30 miles)
Total: 2,204 km (1,369 miles)

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