The story of how I saved money, quit my job, sold my possessions,
and set off to endlessly travel by bike around the world.
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HERE for Touring Bikes and Commuting Bicycles
Custom Touring Bicycles and Bike Upgrade Buyers Guide
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Northwest Argentina Daily Journal
Travel Writing, Blog, Travelogue
La Quiaca, to La Cueva, (border with Chile)
(December 9, 2003 - January 22, 2004)
||Villazon - Abra Pampa. Don't cry for me, I am in
Argentina. Border crossings always prove to be interesting days.
It seemed easy enough to ride across the bridge and stand in line for
our entry stamp. We were in line behind a couple, he was from
England and she was from Switzerland. As we were talking two young
men kept asking for money from the couple. Suddenly, the young men
walked away and when they did they threw rocks at the couple. Wow,
I thought that only happen to us. Of course I knew other tourists
are hassled too, but to see it before my eyes was a shock. While
waiting in line I had a chance to observe the border a little more than
usual. People from Bolivia were coming over the border in huge
groups. On the other side of the
road there was a very long line of Bolivianos waiting to return to
Bolivia, all of them had a huge bundle, sometimes very heavy bundle on their
backs. They were transporting goods across the border, not by truck
or donkey, but by human strength, it looked like back breaking work to
In La Quiaca we found a bank machine with an extremely long line.
It took me longer to get money out of the ATM then it did to cross the
border. Our exchange rate was 2.92 Argentinean pesos for 1 US
dollar. By the time we had finished with the bank we were both
hungry for lunch. We stopped at a restaurant and had a steak and
salad for lunch. I can not tell you how good that salad tasted,
fresh, green with a dash of oil and vinegar. The steak was too
much for me to eat so I saved it for dinner. We finally left town
about 1:00 pm, Argentina time. The wind had picked up and we even
had a little rain. Lucky for us we had a tail wind. The
terrain was rolling and we were still on the Altiplano. The road
was paved for the first 15 km, then we had a dirt section for about 5
km. They are working on this section so within the year the entire
road should be paved from the border on down to Salta.
We camped 5 km from Abra Pampa, it would be our last night on the
Altiplano. It rained some during the night and we watched a wicked
lightning storm go by.
Tim's back is better but still not back to normal, at least he did
not have to carry our gear up a stairway today.
ascend 265 m (870 ft) descend 145
m 475 ft
|80 km 49 mi
||Abra Pampa - Humahuaca. We had a head wind up hill to
Tres Cruces. After Tres Cruces we descended to Humahuaca. We
soon learned that the winds are strong every afternoon this time of
year. Unfortunately, we were going down the canyon and the wind
was coming up the canyon.
We arrived in Humahuaca and found the
campground. It is located across the bridge on the right, it does
not have a sign. We were charge 6 pesos ($2) to camp for the
night, we had a hot shower but no electricity.
We have finally arrived in a modern country some of the things we
noticed, they refrigerate their meat, we can drink the water, the
electrical wiring is done correctly, we have hot water to name the big
changes. Also people are not extremely poor.
ascend 415 m (1360 ft) descend 920 m (3015 ft)
|81 km 50 mi
||Humahuaca - Tilcara. It was a fast downhill towards
Tilcara, the scenery was beautiful, cactus on the hill sides and
riparian vegetation in the valley. The last 7 kilometers (4 miles)
we had a very
strong head wind. We decided to stop for lunch in the town of Tilcara.
The wind remained strong so we took a room at the camp site El Jardin
located near the bus terminal. The very basic room, just a bed,
was 16 pesos ($5.20) for the night. We took the room to get out of
the wind, otherwise it would be a very nice place to camp.
Sacha in the grocery store and he showed us his father's art studio,
Utama, located on the square. I had my first mate tea. Very
tasty, I did not realize that it would keep me up all night. Sacha
directed us to a very good restaurant. We both ordered steak, a
salad, and spinach. We also shared a beer and the entire bill was
19 pesos ($6.50). Wow I will eat well in this country.
We met Garret, Krista, and Andy at the restaurant, we decided to stay
another day and go hiking in the hills nearby.
ascend 105 m (340 ft) descend 535 m (1755 ft)
|42 km 27 miles
||Tilcara. We met Krista and Andy at about 9:00 am.
We had a map to the Devils throat but it lead us in the wrong direction.
Andy decided to go up on a hill and take a look around. I do not
know how it happen but we lost him. He was gone the rest of the
day. We looked around for him but never found him. Krista
said that this has happen before so we continued our hike. I was a
bit concerned that he was gone without water.
The hike was beautiful,
I felt like we were back in Arizona, I felt very much at home. The
cactus were in bloom and the streams were running.
Later, back at the hostel, we found out that Andy returned to the
hotel after a couple of hours and then went back out to find us.
We never did find him. I was disappoint that we did not have a
chance to talk to him. He just finished his degree in Chinese
studies, he spoke Chinese, amazing, and I wanted to hear about the
mysterious country. Ah maybe later.
||Tilcara - El Carmen. We left early and the first
30 minutes there was no wind, the next 30 minutes we had a tail wind
and then we had a head wind around Purmamarca. It was still dry in
As we were taking a break two motorcyclists stopped to visit.
Arno and Cian have been traveling for the last 14 month in Mexico,
Central America, and South America. They told us about the youth
hostel Terra Oculta.
After we descended into the canyon the vegetation changed to lush
greenery, the smells were fantastic, my eyes enjoyed the color, my lungs
were filled with oxygen, finally, and the wind had stopped. We
moved on to Jujuy and had lunch. We were told that there was a
camp ground in El Carmen so we decided to move on. Jujuy had quite
a bit of traffic and we were taking the mountainous way to Salta.
A man stopped us on the road and told us we needed to go the other way,
the highway, because this road was very curvy. We continued on.
We passed acres and acres of tobacco fields. We finally found
the camp site, it had a huge pool and the local kids were having a
blast. It was great to see people enjoying themselves, especially
kids. In Bolivia, the kids do not have anytime to enjoy
themselves, they are working.
I am not sure how much we descended, at
least 800 meters, I lost the log.
||El Carmen - Salta. Route 9 from El Carmen to
Salta was fantastic, green, shady trees over the road. We climbed
to an elevation of 1600 meters and then descended past a lake.
Again we stopped for lunch and had a huge steak and salad. It may
be our standard lunch in this country. I highly recommend taking
route 9, it is a pleasant ride, minimal traffic and you avoid the
We arrived in Salta in the
afternoon, it was steamy hot, but it was Sunday so the traffic was low.
We checked into
Hostel Terra Oculta, there were no double rooms available so we took a
dorm room for the night. 9 pesos ($3) per person per night
ascend 585 m (1915 ft) descend 585 m
|40 mi 65 km
||Salta. Took a rest day. A huge storm came
in and it rained the entire day, I guess we were lucky to miss this on
||Salta. Looked for a bike shop, we went to five and did
not find the quality of rim we wanted. There are tons of bikes
here but very few have foreign made parts like we are use to. No
French rims like Mavic, no Japanese parts like Shimano, no German tires
||Salta. We finally settle on a small shop to
rebuild Tim's rear wheel. Tim gets his rear wheel rebuilt.
Tim had a Mavic downhill rim, it lasted a year on the road. Just a
week ago we noticed it was our of true and with further inspection we
noticed that Tim had pulled a spoke out of the rim, the rim was not
going to last much longer. The new rim is metallic blue in color,
double walled, and locally made. It was the strongest rim they
had, we will see how long it lasts.
We had a huge barbeque at the
hostel, the food was great, steak and salad, all you can eat. The
wine flowed freely too. It is amazing how the spanish flows better
after a couple of glasses of wine. I am amazed at how much beef is
eaten in this country and yet people do not look unhealthy or
overweight. I have come to the conclusion that the wine that they
drink with all their meals helps. I have decided that a little
wine with a steak is great combination.
||Salta. Rest day. OK I stayed up a bit too
late and drank a bit too much wine, it certainly is the normal thing to
do in Argentina. Most of the other tourists left today, all in
different directions. We knew that 6 were heading to the lake at
||Salta. Time to pack. I feel totally rested.
We have stayed longer than planned. I will miss having access to a
||Salta - Cornel Moldes. As we left town I noticed
that my new tire had a huge wobble in it. I guess I will have to
wait until Cafayate to get a new one. Traffic out of town was a
bit heavy, all the time up on the Altiplano with very little traffic had
It was also warm and humid. In the morning it was
cooler to ride than to stand in the sun. We stopped for lunch at a
gas station, I really was not hungry it was too hot. It has been a
while since we have ridden in this kind of heat. We waited out the
heat of the day and started looking for a campsite near the lake.
We ended up riding 5 km towards the lake. We took the first
campsite we could find. The cost was 2 pesos (0.69 cents) We had a nice
view of the lake and watched the horses running free near the lake.
It rained around 4 in the afternoon, at least it cooled it down.
As we were sitting at our campsite we noticed a group of backpackers
coming up the road from the lake. It was our friends from the
youth hostel in Salta, we had camped next to the bus stop. They
were as surprised to see us and we were them. It is a small world.
270 m (885 ft) descend 425 m (1395 ft)
|67 km 42 mi
||Cornel Moldes - Puentes Morelas. We had a
cloudy and cool morning. As we made our way to the Canyon de
Cafayate the humidity began to drop. At first we had a head wind
and then a nice tailwind. We were not carrying any extra water, we
thought we would get it from the river. As the road winded above
and away from the river we became nervous about our water prospects.
Just when I was thinking we had made a serious mistake by not carrying
extra water, a car pulled over and a man gave us 2 liters of very cold
soda water. We drank the 2 liters within the next hour. We
stopped at the bridge and waited out the heat of the day. The
river was extremely sandy and muddy, it would have been hard to filter.
We filled our water bag at a house near the bridge. Next time we
will carry more water with us.
We started to ride away from the house
and Tim got a flat tire. It was too hot to be changing a flat
tire, ugh. We changed the tire and pushed on, it was still hot at
5:00 in the afternoon, we made it 3 kilometers and camped in some trees.
The water was so hot in my water bottle that I decided to brew tea in
them. I needed to drink but the water was awful, not bad with the
tea. We spent the remainder of the afternoon hiding from the sun.
At about sun down we had a visitor to camp. An elderly man who had
a flat tire saw us from the road and asked us to help him fix his flat
tire. It sounds easier than it was. First, the valves they
use here are strange, somewhat like a presta valve, but the valve comes
apart in three pieces. Then we tried to give him one of our tubes
and we could not get the wheel off the fork, it was rusted on. The
elderly man just sat down, rolled a cigarette and watched us in
amusement. In the end we could not fix his flat. Frustrating.
695 m (2280 ft) descend 350 m (1150 ft)
|75 km 46.5 m
||Puente Moreles - Cafayate. It was a cool overcast
morning, however, the wind was in our face. We really did not
mind, it cooled us off. The scenery was absolutely stunning.
Similar to Sedona, Arizona with red rocks and a dry climate. We
stopped at all the local attractions, like the devils throat and the
amphitheatre. After the devils throat I picked up a couple of
thorns in my tire and had to change a flat, twice. We still had a
head wind but at least the sun was not beating down on us. It
would be incredibly hot and dry here with out the cloud cover. As
we rode towards Cafayate the scenery just improved, we rode past rock
formations called the frog, the priest, the windows, the obelisk, and
the castles. Once over the pass we had an very strong tail wind
into town. We rode past a few vineyards. There were sand dunes
near town and with the strong wind we watched the dunes march across the
road. We were actually riding within swirling sand. It
looked like snow blowing across the road. When we arrived in town
we were both covered from head to toe in sand. The cheap suntan
lotion we had bought was like sticky glue and the sand grains remained
on our skin. It was embarrassing to go into a restaurant but we
were both starved.
We finally found a hostel called El Hospedaje, we
or more like I decided on the large room with a private bath for 30 peso
($10) per night. It was our Christmas splurge.
ascend 490 m
(1609 ft) descend
280 m (915 ft)
|58 km 36 m
||Cafayate. Cafayate is a pleasant town of about
12,000. It is famous for it's bodegas, wineries. There are
at least 5 located within walking distance from town. We tried to
find internet and when we did we could not download our email or post
the web page because the internet cafe was using a proxy server. I
hope we do not have this problem everywhere.
||Cafayate. We met Vicky and Mark from England, we
went to the bodegas while Tim stayed in the hostel and worked on his
newsletter. It turned out that they were all closed for the rest of the
week. I will have to try to visit the local bodegas at another
||Cafayate. Christmas. It was a nice quiet
Christmas. We had a nice barbeque with Vicky and Mark from
England and a family from Argentina. It was the most relaxed and peaceful Christmas we have
ever had. Even the fire works at midnight were tame. We were
in Antigua, Guatemala for Christmas last year and it was unbelievably
noisy at midnight.
Right at sunset we got a knock on our door.
We opened it and it was Tony from Canada. He had started in Salta
in the morning and rode the entire 196 km to Cafayate in one day, wow.
He said he had a tailwind, what a tailwind.
||Cafayate - Amaicha del Valle. We rode out of
Cafayate, past the vineyards and wineries. Once we left town there
was nothing but vineyards. We had a tailwind and were sailing
along at a great pace. We came to the fork in the road where Route
40 went straight to Santa Maria a mere 21 km away but on a dirt road.
The left fork was paved and went around, this way added 17 km and a
hill. We started on the dirt road and none of us wanted to
continue on the washboard and sandy surface. We turned around and
went the paved way.
We stopped at a gas station for lunch. Tony
was the object of attention of a number of women who came into the
store. We were planning to push on to Santa Maria but found a
campground near the river so we decided to stay. Tony and I went
for food in town and found that everything was closed until 5:00 pm.
So we waited until everything opened to buy dinner. Tony had his
first camp out and cook out. camping cost 6 pesos ($2) per person
ascend 495 m (1623 ft) descend 145 m (475 ft)
|65 km 40 m
||Amaicha del Valle - Punta de Balasto. We were in
Santa Maria in no time, we stopped and picked up food, we were not sure
where we are going to camp this evening. The winds picked up early
and this time it was a head wind. We stopped in Punta de Balasto
for water. On our way out of town a sand storm blew in, our
visibility was down, we could not even see the mountains anymore.
We went from the small oasis town to a few trees. Shelter from the
sun and blowing sand would be hard to find. Then we crossed over a
bridge, it was almost big enough to stand up in. We had found our
camp site for the night. I was not too thrilled about sitting in a
wash, you never know when a flash flood will occur but we had no choice.
It was out of the wind. The wind did not die down until after
sunset. We set our tents up under the bridge and even cooked
ascend 430 m (1410 ft) descend 275 m (900 ft)
|60 km 37 m
||Punta de Balasto - Los Nacimientos. Woke up to a
cloudy day. It was raining when we packed up and left. We
had a very strong head wind the entire day. We were in the middle
of nowhere. We had no choice but to ride and ride. It took
us 5 hours to ride 60 kilometers. The road turned to dirt about 15
kilometers before Los Nacimientos. We camped outside the first
restaurant we found, I could not go on any further.
ascend 280 m (920
355 m (1165 Ft)
15 km dirt
||Los Nacimientos - Belen. Nice morning. A
graded dirt road. It was easier to ride on the dirt road today
then it was on the paved road yesterday. Tim had some extra energy
today, I did not. He set a blistering pace, I could barely keep
up. The road turns to pavement 13 kilometers before Belen, we also
dropped into Quebrada de Belen. Pavement sweet pavement. We
covered the last 13 kilometers in no time. We stopped and asked
how far down town was, the women told us there were no hotels and no
restaurants here. She was not very coherent, she was chewing coca
We arrived in town right before siesta. Everyone was
getting ready to go to sleep. This area is know for its wine,
gauchos, and ponchos. I love the hats they wear, they are usually
black with a broad flat rim. We finally found a hotel room for 20
pesos ($6.80) for our room.
We went out for ice cream and had to wait until 8:00 pm to eat
dinner. I was starved. Tony and I split a parrada. The
last one I had in Salta had all kinds of cuts of meat. This one
had ribs, liver, intestine, brain (yes brain, I could not eat it), and a
few other delicacies. Tim ordered a chorizo, it looked like a huge
T-bone. Hmm next time I will order the chorizo. The chorizo and salad
was 9 pesos ($3)
ascend 355 m (1165 ft) descend 1065 m (3495 ft)
|65 km dirt
||Belen. We decided to stay in Belen for the New
Year. We walked around this small town in no time. Siesta is
long here, from 2 until 6 in the afternoon. However, a lot of the
stores are open until 10 at night. I still can not get out of my
north American tradition of eating early and going to bed early.
We end up waiting hours until the restaurant opens.
||Belen. Everything is pretty quiet today, we saw a
small parade with gauchos (cowboys) on the way to the church. I
tried to stay up for the fireworks at midnight, no such luck. Tony
and Tim went out to try and have a beer. They said every bar and
restaurant was closed so they came back to the hotel. Tony went
out later and said that it was very quiet. I guess the tradition
is to have a big meal at home with the family and then go out later.
Later is 2 am, not wonder they have a 4 hour siesta.
||Belen - Andolucas. We left Belen at 7:00 am, it
was cool and cloudy. We soon passed through the town of Londres,
it was obviously the new year there. People were in the street,
staggering, they all wished us a happy new year.
The road was a little rolling and then flat. We had a cool
morning so we rode for 50 km (30 mi) straight without stopping.
There was not wind, a surprise for us. The wind did not start up
until 11:00, by then we had turned southwest and the wind was at our
back. We stopped for a cool drink and found another New Years
party. The kids were sober and that was about it. At least
they were not driving. They told us that we could camp at the
Balanarios (swimming area) up the road about 20 k (12 miles). It
was hot and a pool sounded great. We arrived and the pool was
empty. However, there was a natural water way were everyone was
swimming. We camped near the soccer field. The cost was 2
Pesos (68 cents) per person. I was not feeling
well, I was achy all over, kind of like a flu.
Tony looked around the area and found all the swimming holes. I
just did not feel like exploring.
||Andolucas - Chilecito We had a steady climb out
of Andolucas for about 5 km. Then we descended into another valley.
The Andes were shear and tall in front of us. The terrain reminds
me of the Cottonwood area in Arizona. Palo Verdes are in bloom,
cactus, and mesquite trees. The big difference is the huge flocks
of parrots we see every morning. Noisy things, at least their
wings are not clipped. We also see birds of prey, mostly hawks.
We also saw what might have been javelina, we were not sure, they were
too far away.
We had a head wind into Pituil, we stopped for an early
lunch. When we came out of the city the wind was at our back,
yeah. The road was flat or slightly down. We covered the
next 40 k in no time after which we had a climb into a mountain pass and
then out again. The last climb into Chilecito was a grind, it was
hot, we were hungry and once again it was siesta time. We managed
to find a restaurant open at 3:00 pm.
We stayed at the first hotel we could find, Hotel Wamatinag, on the
plaza. It cost 20 peso ($6.90) a night for Tim and I and 10
pesos ($3.30) for Tony.
||Chilecito. We decided to take a day off and check
out town a little bit. The plaza is huge, has beautiful trees, and
the is lined with out door restaurants. Every side of the plaza
has an ice cream store. Argentineans love their ice cream as much
as they love their beef and wine.
An ice cream or two a day has been
the norm, there is nothing better than a couple of scoops of ice cream
on a hot afternoon.
I am still not feeling well, I have a canker sore under my tongue
that will not go away. I have had it since we arrived in Belen.
I also have a slight case of diarrhea.
||Chilecito. We were up early and just about ready
to go. I went to the bathroom and was shocked to see blood in my
stool. Tim also had a severe case of diarrhea. Tony said he
was not feeling well either. Tim and I went round and round about
leaving or not. I did not feel too terrible, but we would be
heading off into the desert again, a place with no doctors. I read
in my lonely planet health guide that if you get blood in your stool
that you should see a doctor immediately. Given that this is not a
normal occurrence we decided to stay and see a doctor. Tony said
he felt well enough to ride. So he left about 7:00 am for Villa
We stayed and went to the doctor. I noticed that I had
blisters all inside my mouth by now. So off to the doctor we went.
One physician saw both of us for 35 pesos ($12). The doctor was
young, female and had a good bed side manner. She checked our
blood pressure and temperature. Checked our throats and stomach
area. She said that we had a bacterial infection in our stomach
she told me what it was but I can not remember. Also, we had a
viral infection in our mouth, Tim had blisters too. Both of these
were from drinking water. We must have drank some bad water along
the way from Salta. She prescribed an antibiotic for our stomach
and a cream for our blisters. She was also concerned about us
dehydrating and recommended that we rest another day before we leave on
After all that we went back to the hotel and slept for an hour.
We think we caught this early enough not to cause dehydration but rest
never hurt anyone.
||Chilecito. Another rest day. It is hot and
difficult to sleep at night.
||Chilecito - Los Tambillos. We left Chilecito not
feeling 100 percent. We rode south and turned west at Nonogasta.
We steadily climbed towards Miranda where the pavement was suppose to
change to dirt. We had a bonus of 8 km more kilometers of pavement
past Miranda, we even had a tailwind. The road steadily climbed
through a narrow canyon of red rocks and ranches near the stream.
We climbed to the pass at 2020 meters at Cuesta de Miranda.
descended along the dirt road until we reached Los Tambillos, the only
place we could get water for miles around. We stopped and rested,
picked up water and started down the road again. We decided to
spend the night in the area because the desert was so beautiful.
We were surrounded by red rocks and cactus. There were flocks of
parrots everywhere and we saw an occasional eagle here and there.
We happen to camp along a path used by horses to get to who knows where,
they were curious and came to visit us early in the morning..
ascended 1100 m (3610 ft) descended 210 m (690 ft)
|65 km 40 m
||Los Tambillos - Parque National Talampaya. We
decided not to follow Route 40 on to Villa Union we took a left at Route
18 towards Pagancillo. We wanted to see the National Park
The road to Pagancillo was dirt and sandy to begin with, it improved
steadily to hard packed dirt. At Pagancillo we took a left onto
Route 26. We entered Talampaya National Park, the scenery was
desert palo verde like trees, dry, dusty and a headwind. We took
pictures of the Park sign, not 5 minutes down the road my front tire
blew. I had just bought this tire in Cafayate, it did not last
very long. Once again the emergency tire was back on my front
We arrived at the park entrance. The cost to enter was 12
pesos ($4.10) per person. We rode the final 14 kilometers into the park
and arrived hot and dusty.
We decided to wait for the tour until the next day. They only
way to see the park is to do a tour. The cost is 120 pesos ($41) per
truck, a maximum of 8 people per truck. We thought that the
camping would be included in the entrance fee but it was not. The
cost to camp is 3 pesos ($1.05) per person. The camping area was the worst
I have seen anywhere. It is hot and not a tree for shade in sight.
We decided to stay on the restaurant porch.
We noticed a white van pulled up late in the afternoon. We
first met Nestor and Maria when he offered us a cold drink. We
could not refuse, it was hot. Nestor and Maria are from Buenos
Aires and are on vacation.
ascend 350 m (1150 ft) descend 495 m
|83 km 52 m.
||Talampaya. Valle de Luna - Villa San Agustin Valle Fertil. We put our bikes and gear in Nesters van for security.
Then we were off on our tour of Talampaya, a total of 7 people went on
the tour. A cost of 17 pesos per person. We were the first
vehicle into the part at 8:15 in the morning. Consequently, we saw
a lot of wild life, Guanacos (a relative of the llama), Mara (it looks
like a rabbit with short ears), foxes, wild parrots (very noisy), and
Chuna (looks like the road runner in the Looney tunes cartoon).
The rock formations were also light up nicely in the morning. Our
first stop were the petroglyphs, very interesting, I was surprised to
see petroglyphs with out any sign of dwellings near by. Next we
stopped at the botanical garden, we walked by many plants that are
similar to the Sonora desert of the southwest USA. Then we came to
the chimney, a wind eroded sandstone column. It had a great echo.
Then it was back in the pick up and out to other wind eroded formations.
The first half of the tour was very interesting then it was a 45 minute
ride up a canyon and then back again.
Since our bikes were already in
Nesters van we decided to go to Valle de Luna with them. It was an
hour drive, it would have taken us a day to ride there, to Valle de
Luna. They only way to see the park is in a private vehicle.
The entrance fee including the guide was 5 pesos. They same price
for everyone, unlike Talampaya. Valle de Luna is suppose to have
some very good fossils, however, the guide only showed us plant fossils
and then rock formations like the submarine and mushroom rock.
They highlight for me was the concretion balls. We were all pretty
tired by the end of the tour, two parks in one day makes for a very long
day. We drove to Villa San Agustin Valle Fertil and found a
campground for 10 pesos ($3.41) per night. It was hot and difficult to
sleep at night in the tent.
||Valle Fertil We hung out in Valle Fertil for
the day. Nestor, Maria, and I visited the local museum, 1 peso per
person. It was a nice museum with a good variety of local minerals
and rocks, indigenous artifacts they even had a birthing stone. They
also had local handicrafts.
It was a hot day so we basically hung around the pool. I tried
to find a bank machine here but there was not one and the bank would not
change US dollars. We were stuck, I had miss calculated how much
pesos we needed and we were now down to our last 50 pesos ($17). Not
enough to travel on from here to San Juan. We asked Nester and
Maria if we could get a ride to San Juan with them. They were
happy to give us a lift. We finally found a bank machine in San
Juan and then headed out to the lake west of San Juan. It was nice
to get a ride through this desert, there was not much to see after the
parks, barely a town anywhere, dusty and hot, and a head wind. It
probably would be more pleasant here at another time of year, say,
||Valle Fertil - Ullum. We leisurely packed our
bikes in the van and then started down the road towards San Juan.
It felt strange riding in a vehicle rather than pedaling our bikes.
Given the heat I gladly accepted the change. The scenery was dry
desert and the next 300 kilometers had maybe two very small towns in
them. We arrived in San Juan, found a bank machine, and then drove
on to Ullum.
We found a camping resort on the lake. It was Saturday and the
place was packed. The camping area was one big party so we chose a
quieter place as far away as possible. There was a day when I
would have preferred the busy camp site but those day are gone with my
Some things I have observed about Argentineans: they love their ice
cream as much as they love their beef. They love to camp and have
huge barbeques. Unfortunately, the time to eat is anywhere from 9
to 11 at night. I am just not use to eating that late. I am
always hungry about 6:30 pm. Nothing is even open yet.
People are friendly here and they do not ask to many questions. In
other Latin American countries the questions were always, how many kids
do you have, how old are you, and do you believe in god? Here
people respect your privacy and do not ask.
||Ullum - Villa Media Agua. Ah back on the bike
again. It was a bit of a climb up over the dam of the lake and
then a steady down hill. This is the area where many local
cyclists like to ride, we saw many on the road. We stopped at a
gas station to take a break. As we were sitting there a cyclist
came in and filled his water bottles. He was wearing an old
fashion leather hairnet for a helmet. Tim said he wore the same
thing in the 70s. I had never seen one before, it did not look
like it would do much for you.
The day was heating up and the head
wind was getting stronger. Around lunch time we stopped in Villa
Media Agua to have lunch. We stepped into the air conditioned
restaurant and did not want to leave. We noticed that they also
had room here. Hmm. very tempting. We spoke with a
local and he said that there was nothing for the next 100 kilometers (62
We decided to take a room and call it a day. We rolled our bikes
into the room and took a 2 and a half hour nap. When we woke up a
huge storm was brewing outside. High winds, swirling dust,
lightning, thunder, and a little rain. This area is famous for
it's hail storms that can produce hail the size of a baseball. Not
something I want to witness first hand. We were both glad we
decided to spend the night in the middle of no where.
|85 km 53 miles
||Villa Media Agua - Mendoza. We were up early and
out the door. We wanted to get some kilometers in before the wind
started. No such luck, the wind started blowing in our face bright
and early, before 8:00 am. We pushed on but our progress slowed to
about 17 km per hour. We took a short break at the state line
where we were asked for our passports. I had them buried deep in
We arrived in Mendoza in early afternoon and began to look for
a hostel. We went to three hostels and they were all full.
We ended up staying at Hotel Galicia across from Plaza Pellegrino for 25
pesos ($8.56) per night. It was hot in Mendoza and this room was hot too.
|120 km 75 miles
||Mendoza. We were both exhausted from riding in
the heat. I slept for at least 14 hours.
||Mendoza. We are working on the web page and Tim
is working on his letter this week. It is hot. We do enjoy going
out to eat and eating at outdoor cafes. In the evening it is
pleasant. Argentineans eat so late, we always have to wait until
at least 8:00 pm to eat dinner, 9:00 pm is better.
||Mendoza - Potrerillos. We rode out of town on Route 7
the traffic was heavy for the first 20 km. My chain started
slipping and I thought my cassette was worn out. It turns out that
I had broke my chain. So Tim had to fix it on the side of the
highway. This is the first chain I have ever broken in my life.
turned west towards the Andes the road turned up, the wind was at our
backs and the scenery beautiful. I felt great from all the time
off the bike, Tim was feeling good too, although he was loaded down with
food for the next few days.
We came to Potrerillos and decided to camp. We stayed at the
ACA campground. They charged 12 pesos ($4) for the site. The
grounds were clean but the toilets were a hole in the ground and the
shower nonexistent. I suggest another campsite.
Ascend 965 m (3165 ft) descend 310 m (1015 ft)
|68 km 42
||Potrerillos - Uspallata. Met two cyclists
from Mendoza and then a cyclist from Buenas Aires. Damien stayed in our
campsite because the rest of the sites were full. It seems that
all of Argentina is camping at the moment. Everyone has a tent, a
stove to heat water for their mate, and tons of food. We met a
family at the campground from Mendoza. We went to bed at about
10:00 pm when everyone else was eating dinner, it seems that our friend
Damian stayed up rather late, he did not get up until 9:00 am, when we
were ready to leave.
Uspallata is where they filled the movie, "Seven
years in Tibet". It is truly a beautiful valley.
Ascend 700 m (2295 ft) descend
215m (705 ft.)
|52 km 32 m
||Uspallata - Puente del Inca. We left Uspallata
with a slight head wind that turned to a tailwind for the next 40 km.
We were doing a lot of climbing and then dropping climbing and
then dropping. The road is heavy with truck traffic to Chile.
I prefer it to be quiet but that just does not happen all the time.
Just outside of Puente Vaca the winds picked up. There was a
strong head wind so we took a short break at a restaurant. I was
hoping the wind would change while we were in the restaurant but it did
not. As we went around a bend in the road the wind hit us hard,
Tim was pushed back and just about landed on me. I jumped off my
bike, and good thing I did. The wind hit us hard again and spun
Tim around 180 degrees, I was amazed he was still on his bike. I
had to point my bike into the wind and hold on until the gust passed.
The 16 kilometers (10 mi) to Puente del Inca, took us 3 hours to ride, up hill
and into the wind. That is about 5 kilometers an hour (3 miles an
hour), some people could walk faster. We arrived in Puente del
Inca, exhausted, We decided to stay in the first hotel we saw,
mentally I was spent. The cost for Hostel Puente Del Inca was 76
pesos (26 dollars). Out of our budget, yet we decided to stay.
About 2 hours after we arrived we saw a group of climbers coming down
from the mountain. They were staying in rooms around us, it turns
out that they all were with a Mountain Climbing Club from Denver
Colorado. It was great to meet a huge group of Americans, 11
in all. We invited ourselves to dinner, they did not mind.
We spent most of our time talking to Roger, the liberal of the group.
I also had a chance to talk to Susan and Lori (I think), the two women
of the group and Andy. They were all still pumped from climbing
Aconcagua, the summit is at 6,900 meters, over 22,000 feet. They
said they hit the snow line at 16,000 feet. Funny how our system
of feet sounds so strange after using meters for so long. I have
to admit I have a better feel for feet, but I am beginning to prefer
meters and kilometers to feet and miles. We stayed up later then
we wanted, but with such interesting conversations, how could we sleep.
Ascend 1220 m (4000 fT) descend 410 m (1345 ft)
|74 km 46 m
||Puente del Inca - Portillo. We had breakfast with a
room full of climbers, most of them Americans. If this was the
only place you traveled to you would get the impression that all
Americans are rich and travel in big groups, of course that is not true.
I wonder what other impressions that I have gotten are not true, hmm.
We left at about 10:00 am, and no wind. We planned to ride to Los
Horcones, the entrance to Aconcagua, camp for the night, hike some, and
then leave the next day. Well we arrived in Los Horcones and the
ranger informed us that the cost to camp was US$10 per person.
There was not even any shade, barely a flat spot to pitch a tent, we
would of had to share a bathroom with 100 climbers coming a going, and
the shower was nonexistent. Our guide book said that camping here
was free, far from it. We had to decide what to do next, we
decided to cross the border to Chile. Of course by this time it
was 1:00 pm and the winds were strong again. On we pushed, it was
only 13 kilometers to the border. I do not mind riding up hill
into the wind, what I do mind is riding through pitch black tunnels that
are long and narrow. When we came to tunnel number 14 it was just
that. Up hill, into the wind and pitch black. We tried to
hitch through it but no one would stop this close to the border.
So we waited until traffic was no where in sight. Tim urged me on,
go Cindie go, I started pedaling as hard and as fast as I could.
The tunnel went from dark to pitch black, I could not see a dam thing, I
could see a light in the distance and aimed for that. My head was
swimming, I was confused, I also feared I would hit a hole in the
pavement. Finally a car coming from the other side shed some light
on the road. I was in the middle of the road and had to move over
to let the car pass. I raced to the end of the tunnel and pulled
over to the side of the road, lungs bursting and adrenaline pumping.
Tim was right behind me. Not seconds after we got out of the
tunnel a truck with a load of new cars rushed by. I was glad we did
not meet him in the tunnel. It was 2 km from Las Cuevas to the
next tunnel. I was still unnerved when we got to the next tunnel.
We waited almost 2 hours to get a ride through the next tunnel.
Then we had to wait for our exit stamp from Argentina. The next
line was an entry stamp for Chile and then customs. They asked me
the usual questions, do you have any fruit or vegetables, well yes, but
I do not want to give them to you. We had arrived at the border a
day early and we had food that we were suppose to eat. Well they
found it all, oranges and dried tomatoes. Somehow they missed the
onions in Tim's bags, it figures. By the time we went through
customs it was late. We saw a hostel on the other side of the
border and decided to stay there for the night.
Hostel Cristo de Rendour was in Chile and more expensive. It
really is used during ski season, Portillo is a kilometer away. We
agreed on a price of 10,000 pesos (US$16). We were tired and
needed a rest.
m (1985 ft) descend 407 m (1335 ft)
|25 km 15.5 mi
6-3-03 to 6-17-04
Aug 5 -
Sept. 14, 2003
The Ecuador border to Huallanca, Peru
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