This week’s language lesson

In line with the world in general, roads in Argentina come in different grades according to their importance, and their state of repair. Since most of Argentina is frankly unpopulated, quite a lot of what people in the UK might think of as “B roads” are unsurfaced, and as for anything smaller than that, watch out for trees growing down the middle and hippos wallowing in the holes… OK I lied about the hippos but if we were in a different continent the holes would certainly be big enough.
We have discovered that unsurfaced roads come in two categories; ripio and barro. Essentially, ripio is a dirt road that has been filled with sand and gravel, and barro is a dirt road that hasn’t. Often they both look the same, particularly after a storm. However, after some hard-won practical experience in the rain, the experiment concluded that while both surfaces create a muddy pebble-dashed effect on your car, ripio is easily passable by maintaining a low gear and a constant speed, whereas barro involves skating and slithering, and the odd scientific question about how likely we are to hit that tree if we slide too far to the right, or whether this could be a good moment to try throwing it into reverse rather than have to get out and push.

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