Falling In Mud

Some days just suck. There’s no bright side. There’s no lessons learned. There’s no looking back years later and laughing, thinking it wasn’t so bad. The day sucked then, it sucks now, and it will suck forever more. That’s the summary of my ride from Gualeguaychu, to Buenos Aires.

I entered Argentina from Uruguay 3 days earlier via the Fray Bentos border, traveling from Mercedes, Uruguay to Gualeguaychu, Argentina. Gualeguaychu is a small but typical border town. This was my first experience of Argentina. The next stop was Buenos Aires but rather than follow the main freeway I found a few farm roads leaving town and connecting to the main road. It would not extend my trip by much (maybe 6km) but turn a boring city-to-city all-tar ride into something a little more interesting.

There was a light rain the night before I left and the morning of my departure promised more that afternoon, but the roads were fine. Turning off the tar, the road was light gravel with just one minor deep sand patch for around 100 metres. After perhaps 10km there were hints of mud and the road getting a little tougher, but not enough to be a deterrent. Things went south fast though, and only a few kilometres later, well … the pictures tell the story.

The bike was down but I’ve fallen many, many, many times before and I knew how to recover. What I wasn’t expecting was the slipperiness of the mud. My feet couldn’t get sufficient traction to lift the bike at all. Thankfully two men in a 4x4 showed up soon after and helped. Realizing the foolishness of continuing with the road only getting worse, I turned back, thankful for help arriving so soon.

Then the rain started and made the return path increasingly dangerous. So when I found a shorter road to the freeway, despite me not knowing what to expect, I thought why not? Instead of traveling another 16km, the shortcut promised to get me out in just 3km. Sure it may be a little slippery, but 3km! I was tired, and sore, and at that point I just wanted it to end. It was a seriously stupid decision.

500 metres later I encountered a horrible mud patch. The bigger problem was I couldn’t turn around without risking a fall and with no help in sight so I went forward, barely keeping the bike upright. I made it. Only 2.5km to go. There was a small hill coming up, tiny really. I had to make it up. The road was so slippery that if I stopped I wouldn’t be able to get going again. And since turning around was out of the question, at least without serious risk of falling and not being able to get up, I had to make it up. I opened the throttle and hit the base of the hill as fast as I dared. Halfway up the bike started sliding around dangerously, turning almost completely sideways at one point. I held on and against all my instincts I didn’t hit the brakes, I didn’t go faster, I just stayed in control. I did it. I made it up the hill. It was one of those glorious moments where I knew I’d achieved something far beyond my skill level. I was beyond happy – just elated. And 2 seconds later I fell.

I was 1km from the freeway. It was just around the corner. But the mud was so slippery I could barely stand. The tyres were caked in mud. I had TKC80 knobby tyres but I may as well have been riding on slicks.

I offloaded the luggage from the bike, sometimes crawling in the mud to do so, but it made no difference. I couldn’t lift the bike at all. I couldn’t even drag it to the edge of the road. I was out of energy. Just completely exhausted. And the mud made it almost impossible for one person. I sat and waited. I didn’t have the strength for much else.

Some time later a group of farm workers were passing and stopped to help. We easily lifted the bike; 4 pairs of hands made quick work of the task. I loaded my luggage onto the back of their 4x4 and they escorted me to the freeway. That last 1km was easy riding, as it turned out I fell at the very last obstacle, which was the worst of the road. I packed my bike, hit the freeway, and rode to Buenos Aires without further problems.

That day sucked.