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

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