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Cindie's Northwest Argentina Daily Journal
Travel Writing, Blog, Travelogue
La Quiaca, to La Cueva, (border with Chile) Argentina
(December 9, 2003 - January 22, 2004)

WB01618_.gif (290 bytes)  Previous Journal Thumbnail Photo Page for this Journal

Tim's Letter for this Journal

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Dec. 9 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 me.

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
Dec 10 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
Dec 11 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.

We met 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
Dec 12 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.

 
Dec 13 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 the canyon. 

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.

114 km
71 miles
Dec 14 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 autopista.

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
Dec 15 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 our bikes.  
Dec 16 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 like Continental.  
Dec 17 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.

 
Dec 18 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 Cornel Moldes.  
Dec 19 Salta.  Time to pack.  I feel totally rested.  We have stayed longer than planned.  I will miss having access to a kitchen.   
Dec 20 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 spoiled me.

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. 

ascend 270 m (885 ft) descend 425 m (1395 ft)

67 km 42 mi
Dec 21 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.

ascend 695 m (2280 ft) descend 350 m (1150 ft)

75 km 46.5 m
Dec 22 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
Dec 23 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.  
Dec 24 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 time.  
Dec 25 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.

 
Dec 26 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
Dec 27 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 dinner there.

ascend 430 m (1410 ft) descend 275 m (900 ft)

60 km 37 m
Dec 28 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 ft) descend 355 m (1165 Ft)

45 km
15 km dirt

37 miles

Dec 29 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 leaves.

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
13 km              (paved)

48 m

Dec 30 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.  
Dec 31 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.  
Jan 1 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.

115 km

71 mi

Jan 2 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.

110 km

68 mi

Jan 3 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.

 
Jan 4 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 Union.

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 our bikes.

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.

 
Jan 5 Chilecito.  Another rest day.  It is hot and difficult to sleep at night.  
Jan 6 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.

We 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
Jan 7 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 Talampaya. 

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 wheel.

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 (1623 Ft)

83 km 52 m.
Jan 8 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.

 
Jan 9 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, winter.

 
Jan 10 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 younger days.

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.

 
Jan 11 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 miles) .  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
Jan 12 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 my bag.

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
Jan 13 Mendoza.  We were both exhausted from riding in the heat.  I slept for at least 14 hours.  
Jan 14 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.  
Jan 15 Mendoza.  
Jan 16 Mendoza.  
Jan 17 Mendoza.  
Jan 18 Mendoza.  
Jan 19 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.

Once we 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
Jan 20 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
Jan 21 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
Jan 22 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.

Ascend 605 m (1985 ft) descend 407 m (1335 ft)

25 km 15.5 mi

  ===========
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INDEX #2: South America
6-3-03 to 6-17-04

1North and
Central America
3-30-02 to 4-17-03

2 South America
6-3-03 to 6-17-04

3 SE Asia / China
11-22-04 to
9-15-06

4 Australia
9-15-06 to 9-15-07

5 New Zealand
9-16-07 to 5-2-08
6 Alaska, Canada, and the USA
5-3-08 to 4-30-10
7 India. Nepal, and the Subcontinent
5-1-10 to present
Where am I  now

Subscribe to Email Newsletter

June 4 -  July 8, 2003
Ecuador #1
Quito to Riobamba, Ecuador

Cindie's Daily Journals
Ecuador #1

Tim's Emailed Newsletters (Join  List)
Ecuador: Riding on top of the Southern Hemisphere

Best Place to see Pictures
Thumbnail Page of Pictures in Ecuador #1

Full size Picture Pages

- Quito The Old City
- The Equator "Mitad del Mundo"
- Volcano Tugurahua, Backpacking
- Banos, Ecuador Natural Hot Springs
- Quito to Latacunga, Ecuador
- The City of Latacunga, Ecuador
- Latacunga to Riobamba, Ecuador
- The Village of Mocha, Ecuador
- The City of Riobamba, Ecuador
- Other

 

July 9 - Aug 4, 2003
Ecuador #2
Riobamba to Macara, Ecuador
( Peruvian border)

Cindie's Daily Journals
Ecuador #2

Tim's Emailed Newsletters (Join  List)
Ecuador #2: The Magic of the Andes

The Fastest Place to see Pictures
Thumbnail Page of  Pictures in Ecuador #2

Full size Picture Pages

- Riobamba to Alausi, Ecuador
- The City of Alausi, Ecuador
- Nariz Del Diablo - Train Ride
- Alausi to Cuenca, Ecuador
- The City of Cuenca, Ecuador
- Cuenca to Loja, Ecuador
- Loja to Macara, Ecuador

 

Aug 5 - Sept. 14, 2003
Peru #1
The Ecuador border to Huallanca, Peru

Cindie's Daily Journals
Peru #1 JOURNAL

Tim's Emailed Newsletters (Join  List)
Peru #1 Riding Between The Extremes

Best Place to see Pictures
Peru #1 THUMBS

Full size Picture Pages

- The Ecuador Border to Chiclayo, Peru
- Chiclayo to Trujillo, Peru
- Casa De Ciclista, Peru Cyclist House
- The Ruins of Chan Chan
- Ruins - Temple of the Moon and Sun
- Trujillo to Huallanca, Peru
- Huallanca to Huaraz, Peru
- Huarez to Pachapaque
- Pachapaqui to Huallanca

 

Sept. 15 - Oct. 31, 2003
Peru #2
Huallanca, Peru to
Copacabana, Bolivia

Cindie's Daily Journals
Peru #2 JOURNAL

Tim's Emailed Newsletters (Join  List)
Peru #2: Been Doing Some Hard Traveling

Best Place to see Pictures
Peru #2 THUMBS

Full size Picture Pages

- Huallanca to Huanuco
- Huanuco to La Oroya, Peru
- Arequipa, Peru
- Cusco, Peru
- Tambo Machay, Pucapucara, Qenqo
- Sacsayhuaman, Inca Ruin
- Machu Picchu #1
- Machu Picchu #2
- Machu Picchu #3
- Cusco to Santa Rosa, Peru
- Santa Rosa, Peru to Copacabana Bolivia
- Uros, Peru Lake Titicaca

 

November 1 - December 8, 2003
Bolivia
Copacabana to Villazon, Bolivia

Cindie's Daily Journals
Bolivia JOURNAL

Tim's Emailed Newsletters (Join  List)
Bolivia: The Calm After the Storm.

Best Place to see Pictures
Bolivia THUMBS

Full size Picture Pages

- Copacabana, Bolivia on Lake Titicaca
- Todos Santos - Day of the Dead
- Copacabana to La Paz
- La Paz to Oruro
- Oruro to Quillacas
- Quillacas to Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
- Salar de Uyuni Salt Lake to The City of Uyuni

 
(December 9, 2003 - January 22, 2004)
NW Argentina
La Quiaca, to La Cueva, (border with Chile) Argentina

Cindie's Daily Journals
Cindie's North West Argentina Daily Journal

Tim's Emailed Newsletters (Join  List)
Northwest Argentina: The Wrong Way In the Right Country 

Best Place to see Pictures
Pictures of  North West Argentina

Full size Picture Pages

- Quiaca to Tilcara
- Tilcara to Salta
- Salta to Cafayate
- Cafayate to Belen
- Belen to Mendoza
- Parque National Talampaya
- Valle De Luna Provincial Park
- Mendoza to La Cueva
- Aconcagua National Park

 
January 23 - February 29, 2004
Chile
Portillo, Chile to Bariloche, Argentina

Cindie's Daily Journals
Cindie's Chile Daily Journal

Tim's Emailed Newsletters (Join  List)
coming!

Best Place to see Pictures
Thumbnails of Chile

Full size Picture Pages

- Portillo to Los Andes
- Temuco to Parqua National Conguillio
- Conguillio National Park to Villarrica
- Villarrica to Playa Pucara
- Playa Pucura to Puerto Pirihueico
- Bariloche, Argentina Velodrome

 
March 3, to 23, 2004
  Patagonia, South America
 Argentina and Chile

Cindie's Daily Journals
Patagonia

Tim's Emailed Newsletters (Join  List)
coming!

Best Place to see Pictures
Patagonia THUMBS

Full size Picture Pages

- Southern Patagonia Birds
- Perito Moreno Glacier, (Before rupture)
- Perito Moreno Glacier (After rupture)
- Torres Del Paine National Park #1
- Torres Del Paine National Park #2
- Torres Del Paine National Park #3
- Torres Del Paine National Park #4
- El Chalten  - Fritz Roy
- Cuevas los Manos, Rock Art


- My First Jewish Passover
- Ski Argentina Cerro Cathedral
- Fall in Bariloche
- Cerro Campanerio
- Cerro Lopez
- Nordic Cross Country Skiing Bariloche, Argentina

1North and
Central America
3-30-02 to 4-17-03

2 South America
6-3-03 to 6-17-04

3 SE Asia / China
11-22-04 to
9-15-06

4 Australia
9-15-06 to 9-15-07

5 New Zealand
9-16-07 to 5-2-08
6 Alaska, Canada, and the USA
5-3-08 to 4-30-10
7 India. Nepal, and the Subcontinent
5-1-10 to present
Where am I  now

Subscribe to Email Newsletter

 

 



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