Days 71 to 73: San Martin to the (unexpected) Food Festival of Villa Pehuenia
The sight of lamb carcasses nailed into the ground on massive stakes, slowly cooking in front of open fires was a genuine sight for sore eyes for a hungry cyclist. Without any planning whatsoever, I rode into Villa Pehunia at the start of a holiday weekend, during which this small lakeside town was famous in the whole wider region for its food and drink festival. As well as the lambs there was even a whole cow split open down its front & then suspended over an open fire for 20 hours to cook it just right in line with the old "Gaucho" (Argentinian cowboy) traditions. For some reason they even left cow's black hair on the body - the only things missing were the head, hooves & insides.
What was especially cool about the festival was how the different food options went from the traditional as outlined above, to contemporary twists at foodstands from leading chefs at restaurants in the area. One had rabbit meat that had been smoked and made into a sausage, served on a bruschetta brushed with a vinaigrette and topped with a duck egg; another gave me my burger fix with a 70% lamb/30% pork patty served with a blend of 3 different types of onions and a house-made yogurt & cucumber dressing - even the empanadas were a bit more bling with combinations including beef with fruits grown in the local area.
I ate all of the above and more, and washed it down with a few beers from the 5 microbreweries at the festival - one of which had a cracking IPA and another of which had a great American Red Ale. After a glass of Malbec it was time to go and pass out, but it had been a 100km+ day in difficult conditions so I was bound to be hungry and tired.
The journey up to Villa Pehuenia had started 3 days earlier in San Martin. After a big ride up the day before I opted to have the morning off the bike & do a walk up to a local lookout point instead which had some nice views across the lake & back over the town.
My ride the next day towards Alumine did take me down through a fairly cute river valley with almost no sign of people, and I found a nice spot next to the river & under some big trees to put my tent.
The next day was the the 105km up to Villa Pehuenia where i found a new enemy - sandy roads. I'd encountered small patches of sand before, but now huge stretches of road running for hundreds of meters at a time seemed to be nothing but sand - several times I just ground to a halt as my bike was an inch deep into the road, there was no other option other than to get off and walk to a part where it was more firmly compacted.
Sandy roads may have been an enemy, but I did make some new friends in the form of a bunch of locals having a party on their farm to celebrate the holiday weekend. I declined the beer they offered since I still had a way to cycle, but did have some coke and left with a couple of apples and 6 bits of a fried bread snack popular here which they insisted I took.