Tenemos nada

August 21, 2011

After two lazy days in Cordoba and our hostel in Buenos Aries booked, it was time to hit the road. We had 700km to go, which divided up nicely as 400km to Rosario then 300km from there.

It was fairly easy to get out of Cordoba and we were soon back on ruta 9, on which we´ve spent so much time these last few weeks. The scenery remained flat and the frequency of towns increased to at least one every 20km, which was a nice change as it meant that we didn´t have to worry about being caught short for food or accommodation.

The first day was fairly quick and straight and we stopped in James Craik, trying to hit over 100km a day so that we could make it to Rosario in 4 days and have a rest there. The following day started off fairly cloudy with a side wind, before an hour or so of light rain before lunch, our first bit of rain since early on in Peru!

When we arrived in Belville that evening, everywhere was either full or too expensive before we finally managed to find somwhere. The following day the side wind continued but we made it to Armstrong. Again we were faced with everywhere being either too expensive or full before we finally found a  hospedaje on the main road for the night.

This left 90km to go to Rosario and finally the wind had finally died down (along with the temperature!). The morning went fairly quickly and we stopped for lunch at a great little parilla restaurant, before making it into Rosario around 3. It was lucky that me made it to Rosario relatively early, because our difficulty in finding accommodation the previous few nights was nothing compared to how difficult it was in Rosario.

We had the address of one hostel which we found easily but they had nada, nothing. They did however give us a map with 8 other hostels on, of which we tried every single one to the same answer; nada! We started asking in hotels and anything we could spot before we finally stumbled across a hostel that was willing to put a matress on the floor for us at great expense. It turned out that this weekend was a ´red´weekend, a bank holiday in which everyone goes away. With no other options we decided to take it. When I mentioned the fact that we had two bikes and she was not happy, having none of it, she wouldn´t let them in the hostel, forcing us to leave them locked up at a parking garage across the street. Luckily for us we got talking to the security guard and the manager at the lot and they were impressed with what we had done and let us leave them there for free right beside the office.

Disgruntled, but at least with somewhere to stay, we headed out for drinks and food before coming back to find out that we had been moved into a dorm, which I have to admit, was better. However what we didn´t agree with, was having to pay more for the pleasure, an additional $40 over the two nights. We agrued with the owner, but even with my personal lawyer on the case, she threatened to throw us out if we didn´t pay. Knowing that she held all the cards we reluctantly paid and then went back out for more drinks to drown our sorrows.

The monument de la Bandera, Roasario

The following day it was one of those bank holidays where nothing was open bar a few cafes, which we hopped between before coming back to the hostel. Disappointed with Rosario and longing for the finish, we´ve given ourselves 4 days to finish the final 300km to Buenos Aires. Roll on the finish!

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The long and boring road

August 15, 2011

As we left Cafayate, we were sad to leave the wine behind, knowing that we had a big climb to get out of the valley as the price to pay for our detour. The road continued on through more vineyards before opening up along the valley before we turned and headed for the hill. The first day we camped in Amicha del Valle before tackling the 1000m, 33km climb to just over 3000m the next day. In the end, it wasn´t that bad and we made it down the other side for a late lunch and a stop in Tafi del Valle. Reaching a new top speed of 72.5km/h along the way, a record which I´m sure I won´t have the oppourtunity to brake again.

Climbing out of the Cafayate Valley

We left Tafi and still had approximately another 2000m to descend, which we did through the forest on less than ideal roads, before the scenery completely flattened out. Over the next 6 days the scenery was the least interesting of the trip so far, which was no help when we had to get the miles done, although it was relatively flat. Towns along the way were few and far between which meant we had to plan so fairly uneven days. This was not helped when on two of the days the wind was horrendous, making the days a real slog. We also registered our longest day of the trip so far, at a bum breaking 7 hours and 40 minutes but only clocking 129km.

1000km to go!

Along the way, it wasn´t all boring though, we found some more salt flats which we stopped at to take some funny perpective pictures. In Dean Fumes, I was interviewed in Spanish for two different TV stations and before Jesus Maria we camped in the playground of a petrol station as we didn´t make it far enough to the next town (although this time we had permission!). We finally made it to Cordoba on schedule, but absolutely knackered. We will be taking a whole two days off before starting the last stretch to Buenos Aires, a mere 700km away, and the end of the road!

Wind and wine

August 7, 2011

Safely over the border into Argentina, we pumped up our tires, found some cash and we were on our way. Leaving La Quicaca, we were hit with a howling gale and a crazy dog that decided to chase us for the first 20km before we managed to loose it. These combined meant it didn´t take Lisa long to declare her hate for Argentina. After we managed to loose the dog the wind turned in our favour and we made it to Abra Pampa by lunch, however after lunch the wind only got worse and turned side on. Forcing us to walk with our bikes through a sand storm before it calmed down and the wind turned.

We made it to Tres Cruces as it was getting cold but we´re unable to find a place to stay. Not wanting to leave the town and head into the open as the wind howled on, we found what we thought was as abandoned police station with some of the doors open. We took our chances and opted for the relative shelter and warmth of the room and pitched our tent inside. As it got dark we had the little we had left to eat and started to think about bad before a torch started to look in the room and we were busted. The policeman came in and we opened the tent. He explained that this was a polcie station and asked why we were there but as we pleaded and promised that we would be out by 8 in the morning he let us stay. Thankfully…

The police station

The next day the wind continued to howl on and as the policeman came back to make sure we were out into the freezing cold. The first part of the day was fine as we descended, but as we turned one corner we were thrown into a wind tunnel and blown across the road, forced to walk another kilometre. We made it to Humahuaca for lunch where I discovered llama is both warm cuddly and tasty as we made up for a dissapointing breakfast. Aftre lunch we crossed the Tropic of Capricorn as we headed furher south before making it to Tilcara in the evening where we picked up a map and some much needed fruit.

At the Tropic of Capricorn

The next day was beautifully downhill until a little climb after which we were hit with cold air for the rest of the day. We planned on making it the whole way to Jujuy for lunch but decided to stop early for food in a small town. We managed to find a man cooking lunch out of his home kitchen that he´d opened up to the public and we got the best plate of spaghetti we´d had for a while. When we made it to Jujuy we found a hostel for the night and cooked up a big meal once we found a Carrefour.

After Jujuy, it was time to head to Salta and we decided to take the scenic route and not the motorway. The road beautifully snaked up and through the countryside as we passed the 3000km mark for the trip, before we dropped into Salta. We struggled to find somewhere cheap to stay in Salta and the hostel we´d read about in a guidebook was now twice the quoted price. It was infact cheaper for us to get a self contained apartment for the night and cook all our own meals which meant we could eat healthy and well.

The scenic route from Jujuy to Salta

The next morning we hit the bike shops in the hope of getting a few more inner tubes but everywhere only seemed to have mountain bike ones or American valve road tyres. Getting out of Salta was suprisingly easy and we were soon on the scenic Ruta del Vino which snakes for 200km through the mountains along the river towards the Cafayate wine region. The first day we did 110km before setting up camp in Alemania and the following day we finished off the rest which was much more scenic but much windier. The scenery was reminiscent of the Grand Canyon with towering multicoloured sand and rock before it sharply changed to the green you would expect wine country to  be.

The stunning scenery

When we made it to Cafayate it didn´t take long for us to be sitting out in the plaza major sipping wine. The region is famous for it´s Torrentes wine and we sampled lots of different bodega´s (vineyards) wine to help influence our decision of which bodega to visit the following day. We decided on Bodega Etchart and went for a lovely tour the next day. We were suprised at how the tour was also in English, but more importantly, how much free wine we got to have! The rest of the day we spent enjoying the sunshine and taking it easy before we set off cycling the next day. It´s now off towards Cordoba and ultimately Buenos Aires.

The vineyards along the route

At Bodegas Etchart