Racket Boy – An autobiography by Philip George

Where Focus Goes, Energy Follows

A new plan has found its place into my loyal diary: a journey south along the east coast to the tip of Argentina – Pampa and Patagonia, then tracing back up the west from Tierra del Fuego to Cafayate and Salta city, finally turning eastward back to Buenos Aires.

With 2023 closing, I began reflecting on my month in Argentina – this one is the mother of all trips! I couldn’t help but be grateful for what a generous host this incredible country and its people have been.

“Hi Phil, keep in mind that staying at Sierra de la Ventana (Torquinst Provincial Park) is much nicer than Bahia Blanca itself. Also, approaching the park from Route 76 is more scenic, but plan ahead your gasoline purchase as there are gaps with no service stations before as you get to the park. Good food, hiking, and places to camp at Villa Ventana and other areas of the park. Tor Quiet is a good place to get supplies. Don’t go inside Bahia Blanca unless you have a reason.”

I must commend Andean Roads Motorhome Rentals for their constant supportive WhatsApp dialogues like the above, and for recommending the handy iOverlander app that tells you about places and what they offer instantaneously as you hit grid points of your location.

The YPF petrol stations too have been my blessing, for they have provided safety, hygiene and most importantly, hospitality – even when I have arrived at 3 am. The warmth of the locals in letting me make use of their facilities turns each stop into a gracious exchange. In most stations, the staff fill up petrol, check my tires, water and oil, all with a smile, just the way I like it.

The ritual of camping at petrol station forecourts is a story in itself! I often contemplate the art of running a petrol station – an unintentional education bestowed by the road. Then there was this one night when I had to park my compact Kangoo next to a towering YPF fuel delivery truck; with the little one perhaps telling the big bertha, “We can be friends and share this space.” Talk about one’s imagination running riot! Not much difference between sanity and insanity – something I picked up from psychiatry lessons in the early 1970s.

Argentina certainly has a knack for turning strangers into friends on the road. For instance, in Humahuaca, outside the tourist office, I connected with an Argentinian family from Buenos Aires. The 15-year-old daughter showed off her English skills, making for a delightful exchange of stories and photos and my book. How not to love this country?

On the open road towards Las Flores on the 215 and then Ruta 3, for my next chapter in this nomadic saga, scenic Sierra de la Ventana (Torquinst Provincial Park) beckoned, a respite from the hustle of Bahia Blanca. The sights were of horses, cattle, manicured lawns, elegant houses with a pastoral charm and quaint cafes offering typically tasty Argentinian food.

One of my more interesting meals has been in Sierra de la Ventana, with a bunch of lorry drivers over a leisurely Asado at yet another Parilla, spiced up with fresh chillies to satisfy the carnivore within. When the boys found out I’m travelling solo they broke out in a song of envy – love this slow sauntering along! I’m certainly enjoying the perks of travelling alone – the freedom to embrace mindfulness and reflective thoughts.

Along the way, I’ve picked up hitchhikers – two feisty young females and not too long after, a male, all heading towards Trelew, while making my way to Cina Cina or General Conesa on R25, a long, straight road cutting through the wilderness of Rio Negro. That’s another beauty about this trip, I’m in no rush. You simply cannot feel the soul of this beautiful country if you don’t take it slow.

Another YPF station, another kind shop attendant, this time Cristian Lopez in Rio Negro. The charming young chap shared his mom’s homemade pizza and introduced me to all his friends through social media as he was intrigued by my book! I felt great that night as I got down to my ritual: organization, hygiene rituals, legal work, writing my Captain’s log, assessing road trip expenses and budget, and managing social media updates, before heading to bed.

The next morning, accompanied by a gentle breeze from the Rio Negro river in General Conesa, Chubut, I fueled up, checked the tires and oil, and hit the open road towards Puerto Madryn, Peninsula Valdez, and the Welsh towns of Trelew and Gaiman, about 400 km away. The plan was to find a spot to park my buddy and celebrate New Year’s Eve with the locals, welcoming in the year 2024.

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