Shortly after Belén, pulling in for a cold milk shake in the only open shop in a small village, I met the Müllers, a lovely family with a typical immigration background: the mother, daughter of a German captain and born on the ship sailing to Argentina, married a spanish immigrant, the two daughters never got to know their grandparents who still live in Germany. European immigration shaped the Argentinean population like no other country, with the largest immigration wave in the years between 1880 and 1950 and then again since the 1990ies. Many Argentineans keep up their tradition with european naming and their background culture is still remotely present – the Müllers immediately showed me their family photo album with pictures of the grandparents in a German red-brick building. With 50% of the population aged under 30 years, Argentina is a very young country but after the hyperinflation in the 80ies still struggles with a yearly inflation rate of up to 12%.
Later that day, I joined Mike, a decent cyclist from San Francisco I had met already several times on the road. He worked, as I did time ago, in the financial industry, quit his job to study philosophy, then cycled Mexico, and now South America. In the following days, we stood together the unbearable heat and the steady head wind, we recovered with tons of icecream and we nightly pitched our tents at beautiful campsites. I enjoyed the extended and outspoken discussions with him, an inciting exchange about american politics and western lifestyle, about progress in philosophy, about entrepreneurship and family context, and about reasons for poverty in the world.
On our way down the straight Ruta 40 we happened to run into the Dakar Rally, a bunch of tall, sunburnt and handsome guys on their heavy machines. In Jachal, our ways split up again after 940km, 57 hours and 6000 altitude meters climbing: he’ll continue southwards to Mendoza, I followed the call of the Andes, crossing over the Paso Agua Negra to Chile.