Day 143 – May 13th 2016 – Route San Juan to desert wild camp
Up at 06:50 for an early start as it was 160km to our next town. We got on the road and it started to drizzle 🙁 The bike felt very slow so we double checked the brakes and tyres but found no problems. After yesterdays flat the slight hills felt tough. We started to get into the groove and then we got a puncture – during the repair I noticed we had a snapped spoke – the first broken spoke I have ever had in my life. A jolly Argentine stopped to check we were OK. I had some spare spokes so we got everything repaired and set off again. With no chance of reaching the intended town we wild camped on a high berm next to an abandoned mining rail track and dried up river.
Day 144 – May 14th 2016 – Route desert wild camp to abandoned hosteria
Woke up after a sleepless night imagining animals snuffling around the tent. Dusted off the tent, packed and hit the road. Lunch in San Jose de Jachal where they were protesting against the nearby mine which has poisoned all their groundwater with heavy metals leading to increased cancer rates. This was explained to us by another cycle tourist Azucar. We were also followed everywhere in the town by a pack of friendly dogs. Decided to push on a bit further and had a lovely ride up a deserted canyon road where all the rocks were red. When we got to the hosteria marked on my GPS turns out it is closed down. The man living in it kindly let us camp in the car park next to the river running through the canyon. Ants forced a tent repositioning and a faulty light in the car park proceeded to make a really loud noise all night. Clare also had a sleepless night worrying someone was stealing the tandem.
Day 145 – May 15th 2016 – Route abandoned hosteria to Villa Union
Set off early. Saw lots of buzzards/vultures/condors (not sure which) at one point and then we saw & smelt the dead horse that they had been merrily eating. Stopped in Guandacol for a picnic lunch and were stared at the whole time by 2 kids – we just love an audience whilst eating. Pedalled on to Villa Union and forded a few desert rivers in the process. We arrived just as the local horse races were finishing up. They do a sort of drag strip style race. 2 horses side by side over a 300ish meter distance. Cycled round town looking at 4 different hotels. Got a cabana and had the nicest meal in a long time in the restaurant.
Day 146 – May 16th 2016 – Route Villa Union to Chilecito
We had a big climb ahead of us so we were up early and on the road at sun up. Boring ride to start but then we entered a beautiful red rock canyon. Lots of cactus, spikey plants, a few flowers and muchos greenery. We both had close encounters with thorn trees – one scalp wound whilst taking a flower closeup and one scratched bottom whilst answering the call of nature. Sergio who had stopped to check on us a few days ago stopped again to say hello. Rode up the pass through the canyon passing some small villages where people were eaking out an existence somehow. Saw horses and goats a few times. Top of the pass was raining so we didn’t see the beautiful views. This pass used to be super dangerous apparently with lots of fatal accidents but a new safe road is just being finished. Nice 1000m descent out of the rain and in to town. Best bit of town was the man hooning around the streets in his petrol go-kart. Stayed in crappy hotel but weren’t willing to stump up $250 USD for the casino hotel! Tried to get cash out in 4 different ATMs but none had money in them.
Day 147 – May 17th 2016 – Route Chilecito to San Blas de Sauce
Bit of a lie in and then headed off. It was raining and foggy so we saw nothing for the first two hours. The rest of the ride was fairly dull but we had a good tailwind pushing us along. The last 10km was a super downhill which was fun. Stayed in a hotel and had a big milanesa in the restaurant across the road (with a pre dinner ice cream)
Day 148 – May 18th 2016 – Route San Blas de la Sauce to Belén
Tried a new diet for the day – Breakfast, lunch and snacks for the ride were bread from the panaderia. We met some more cycle tourists, two French guys heading the other way. The day was another samey desert day. We listened to our audio book whilst riding. If you want to know why South America is how it is we highly recommend “Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent” – although it is not a fun read it is interesting and thought provoking. In Belén we found a nice cabana and relaxed. The restaurant for dinner didn’t even open until 9pm which is quite late if you are a hungry cyclist – our bread only diet today will not be repeated!
Day 149 – May 19th 2016 – Belén to Altiplano desert wild camp
A really pretty ride today. It was lots of climbing but the views kept us distracted. We wound our way along a canyon with a big river in it. We stopped in a little town to stock up on essentials – lemon drink and biscuits. The kiosk owners were also operating as a little salon. We kept going as we wanted to do all the climbing. We got to 2100m but fading light forced us to find a camp before we got to the top (2400m). First camp spot I found in a little quarry seemed good until I found the half buried dead cow. Second spot off the road was much better. It was so windy and cold that we skipped cooking and had biscuits for dinner.
Day 150 – May 20th 2016 – Altiplano desert wild camp to Cafayate
We decided that we would cycle the 170km to Cafayate in one day. The first part of the ride was great. A small climb with a tail wind, then a flat ride along the desert altiplano in the sunshine and a downhill to the town of Santa Maria. From here things got worse. Clare needed a sit down lunch (to my disappointment – we had to maintain an average speed of 20kmph to make it before dark and a long lunch impacted my plans!) so we stopped for a quick lunch which then took 50mins. We had an argument and then charged off – straight on to a really bad ripio road for 11km. We got back onto tarmac and then got a massive headwind all the way to Cafayate. There was a full moon, which was very picturesque over the mountains and vineyards, so we had some extra light to finish the ride. We got a puncture outside the first hotel we stopped at, the finance controller decided it was a bit pricey so I pushed the bike to the next hotel which was lovely and cheaper. They offered is breakfast in bed and free clothes washing which really sealed the deal 🙂
Day 151 – May 21st 2016 – rest in Cafayate
A really lovely town. Small, relaxed and everyone is friendly. Our hotel looks onto mountains and vineyards which we hadn’t seen in the dark. I repaired the front puncture and pulled a thorn out of the back tyre… We then went into town, Clare had her nails painted and I ate ice cream. We had 12 empanadas for dinner and then we had an early night. We decided to stay an extra day as we liked the town so much.
Day 152 – May 22nd 2016 – rest in Cafayate
Checked rear tyre and it was flat too. We went out and bought more patches and some tyre slime. I spent the morning fixing and prepping the inner tubes. The rear had 4 punctures. Clare popped out and had a massage. In the afternoon we went on an organised bus trip down Ruta 68 which was full of different red and other coloured rock canyons that we hiked in
Day 153 – May 23rd 2016 – route Cafayate to Angastaco
Took it slow in the morning and finally set off at 11:30. We said our goodbyes to Alvaro the friendly hotel owner. 30km of tarmac through vineyards and then we hit the ripio road. We stocked up on toffees to power us for the next few days. The scenery changed as we cycled away from the irrigated valley. First it was just dusty villages but then we hit an amazing section of giant water and wind eroded rocks which were spectacular. We got pretty tired as the altitude and soft sandy road took effect. We stopped in the little town of Angastaco and stayed in a little hospedaje.
Day 154 – May 24th 2016 – route Angastaco to Molinos
This day turned into one of the prettiest days riding of the trip. We followed the broad valley which had a little river in it. Due to irrigation channels we passed areas of green fields that had crops and cattle on them. Still a tough ride but well worth it. We have also been seeing lots of parrots during the last few days which squark loudly as we pass. We stopped early in the town of Molinos and decided to stay in a converted hacienda. Lovely grounds and rooms made for a very tranquil afternoon.
Day 155 – May 25th 2016 – route Molinos to Cachi
After a big buffet breakfast we set off into the hot and sunny day. We decided to try a short cut out of town which led to us walking across a small river but we managed not to get our feet wet. It turned into a long and dusty day but still we had very interesting views with lots of cactuses about. Another tough day – 1000m of climbing bit only 500m of elevation gain. Got a bit lost finding our vineyard hotel so ended up eating through another river. Finally arrived and had a hearty meal of empanadas before I retired to bed and Clare socialised with our friendly neighbours.
Day 156 – May 26th 2016 – rest in Cachi
Relaxed all day in our lovely cabana placed high up a side valley above Cachi. Lovely and peaceful with beautiful views of the valley and surrounding mountains
Day 157 – May 27th 2016 – route Cachi to Salta
Started out OK but got real bad. The morning ride was a gradual up hill in the sunshine. We went through a national cactus park. As usual with the passes we do – once we were at the top the weather closed in and it got really cold. There was ice on all the plants due to the freezing fog. We changed into our warm clothes and started the descent. I was so cold that my hands were in agony. We did see lots of sad donkeys hanging oit in the fog. We had no views of a really spectacular pass which was a real shame. Once we got lower the freezing fog turned into rain but we could finally see something which made things more enjoyable. It was very strange crossing from a dry arrid desert into a green lush rainforest in the course of a few hours. At the bottom of the pass we had an argument/discussion and decided to push on in to Salta so we could stay in decent accommodation. It was a tough ride in the dark but we made it to hostal relax and relaxed. A tough 100 mile day – and the last ride of the trip 🙁