South America | Argentina | North West | Salta – Don’t Cry For Me
After two very satisfying days on the Salar in Bolivia, there´s bound to be a bit of a correction in life and for me that correction came on a train – a train to the southern border from the town of Uyuni. I lined up for just over an hour and a half in the morning with a couple from Ireland and twins from NZ to buy my ticket. There was only one type available and that was the “Popular” class for the train that was scheduled for 2:30 a.m. on Monday. I arrived to check my bicycle at 1:30 as directed and by two fifteen was ready to board, although I did make a couple of attempts to see if there was any upgrade available. Unfortunately there was not, so into the “popular” car I went along with at least 50% more people than seats plus their luggage. The air was thick and humid and at 5:30 in the morning after a sleepless night I was able to change to another car where there was only 1/3 the number of seats and they weren´t oversold. But don´t cry for me because I am now in Argentina and loving almost every minute! I know that´s very very cliche, but oh well! 🙂 my first smiley for ya!
I booked into a hotel that my guidebook said had a pool(but didn´t) and got a good night´s sleep anyway before continuing on the bus through numerous temporary roadblocks by indigenous peoples to the northern town of Salta. In Salta I stayed at the Munay hotel for 35 pesos($17 cdn) spending a few restful days hanging around the town plaza and going for some fabulous deli food at the Cafe Moderna with John – a world traveller type my own age I met from Australia. Actually I met him a few times – once in Cusco where he had been strangle robbed(robbed for the second time in Peru) and again just inside Argentina.
I intended to head directly south for Cafayate on my bicycle but after an 8 km detour and a couple of hours on a beautiful paved road going an average of 30 kms/hr, what do I do? I turn right and head into the mountains towards a sandy dirt road that will climb and climb and climb. After about 85 kms, a couple from Salta offer me a lift over the pass and why not? They drop me off in Selenecas at the campsite(4 pesos/night) and ironically the next day, I cycle the same distance and climb almost exactly the same amount back into the Los Cardones National Park that I would have if I had not taken a lift. I did enjoy the company and the anecdotes about the route that they shared with me.
The road south from Selenecas is sandy sandy sandy and probably absolutely impassable in the rain, but the scenery just doesn´t stop coming. From multi-coloured mountains to stunning rock formations and onto miniature canyons with desert foxes and flocks of parrots, it is a strange environment with pre-Inca irrigation on the left side providing a lush green valley and dry as a bone desert on the left side of the road for miles and miles and miles. I find some rough camping one night in a beautiful location on the river and camp in a pretty good spot in Cafayate the next.
The next little town was Amaicha de Valle with a few small town type people, but a fantastic Museo PachaMama that apparently took fifteen years to build. The museum IS the work of art with fantastic stonework everywhere. I´ll try and find a picture to put up.
With time running short, I hopped a bus south to Cordoba for my flight to Patagonia. I spend the first night in a dorm room at the Cordoba backpackers where “Roni” bursts in at 2:30 and brags about having had sex in the adjacent shower before being sent off to a hotel room by the hostel owner. I`d figured all this out anyway. I`m kind of happy to be changing rooms the next day. I´m spending Christmas with some friends and doing some trekking, so this is my sign off for a little while.
I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas or Happy Hannukah or just enjoy life whatever it is you´re doing. I´ll be job hunting very soon, so if you have any wishes for me for the new year – and I do know how lucky I am – I am starting employment hunting and a job would be good, especially if it were as an org with Medicins son Frontiers! Life like this doesn´t go on forever unfortunately. Also in my thoughts and prayers are the people who one year ago went through such incredibly stunning devastation in the tsunami and also the people in so many other places in the world like Pakistan who are struggling to regain their lives. Like many, I have a lot of admiration for those people who still smile in the face of such immense changes in their lives and for the many who make contributions and do concrete actions that assist those in need. Even though I´m travelling, I still read enough of the news in Spanish to know who is admitting how many people have died where, what states of emergency have been declared over what violence and what bombs are going off when. I also am witness to people struggling for change and a better life. What more can we do? That´s meant to be hopeful.
I don´t want to end on a down note, so there is a short little video of me cycling in Argentina. It´s bad, but strangely I still decided to temporarily put it up on my website if you´re interested. It might be good for a laugh or just a good head shake – not sure which. The camera work is attrocious and I´ve fired my director of photography/cinematographer.
Big hugs and/or kisses! Happy New Year and talk to you soon!
Fri Dec 9: Low 18 High 43 Sunny (can´t believe that – probably 35)
From: Salta 1345 m to Selenecas w/ride part way
Total: 83 kms
Avg: 13 Max 39.9
Ridetime: 6 h 18 m
Sleeping: at municipal campground at Selenecas 2207m
Comments: Missed sign leaving Salta and that was good for an extra 8 km. The El Tribuno article in that day´s paper about visual contamination was right. Too many signs hiding the ones you need to see.
Superfast road south to El Corrid, then not too bad dirt road up to the pass. Gets increasingly steep and not a lot of water after first 65 km. Beautiful rainbow at the pass.
Stunning views. Great birds and wildlife.
Sat. Dec. 10 Low 15 High 30 Mostly cloudy Cool some rain
From: Selenecas to Selenecas via Los Cardones
Total: 74 kms
Avg. 11.3 km/hr Max 38.1
Ridetime: 6 h 26 m
Sleeping: at Selenecas
Comments: Day tripping riding today. Went in a 17 km circle back to Selenecas on my attempt to go to Cachi, then just went to the park instead. Lots of birds and a desert fox. Good little market (of 2) in Selenecas – fresh baguettes and eggs!
Sun Dec. 11 Low 26 High 38 Sunny
From: Selenecas to El Carmen area
Total: 62 kms
Avg: 11.4 Max 37.8
Sleeping: at Riverside south of El Carmen – nice spot 1956m
Comments: Late start at 11:30 due to NO SLEEP from graduation dinner and dance until 4 a.m. and many people traipsing through the campsite to use the bathrooms – some of them stupid young boys being disturbingly loud – others turning all the lights on in the campsite and trying to get into the caba?as. Road is very sandy – repeat very sandy with some short very steep hills. Head winds in the afternoon – a blessing for the breeze but riding difficult. GREAT scenery and lots of stops. Hundreds of parrots or lovebirds and 2 foxes.
Mon. Dec. 12 Low 26 High 40 Sunny
From: El Carmen to Cafayate
Total: 83 kms
Avg. 14.4 Max 45.6
Ridetime: 5h 43m
Sleeping: at F y Lurza campsite just south of Cafayate
Comments: Short steep hills on sandy road through several picturesque canyons with almost vertical rock fromations plus huge expanse of white sands extending to multicoloured mountains. Just north of San Carlos, asphalt begins and continues south to Cafayate. Headwinds and crosswinds.
Tues. Dec. 13 Low 26 High 36 Partly Sunny chance of thunderstorms
From: Cafayate to Amaicha de Valle
Total: 76 kms
Avg. 16.9 Max 51.4
Ridetime: 4 h 29m
Sleeping: at 1st campsite after turn to Amaicha (has a nice pool)
Comments: Crosswinds and some tailwinds. Flat boring road but easy riding. Cool Museo PachaMama. Skipped 10 km sidetrip to Ruins. Amaicha people a bit rude. Wish I could have cycled all the way to Tucuman – big hill, but then amazing downhill through spectacular gorge.