Getting to know Argentina

Trip Start Oct 16, 2012
Trip End Apr 20, 2013

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Flag of Argentina  , Northern Argentina,
Tuesday, March 12, 2013

After watching an amazing sunset last night, I was awarded with a beautiful sunrise in the morning, which slowly lit up the mountains and the surrounding altiplano landscape. I was struck with the feeling of "this is what we do this for".  How often do most people watch the sunrise and then experience gorgeous sunsets day after day?  How many people can tell you what phase the moon is in and how beautiful the stars look at night?  These are the reasons why I love camping. 

It was a beautiful but really cold start to the day.  Although I was struck by the beauty of the landscape I was also exhausted from not sleeping well in the windy/dusty conditions all night.  As we slept under the bridge, it was the first time that we have been able to put the tent away dry in the morning for a long, long time. 

As soon as we got on the road we realised that Kory had a puncture. It seemed strange as this was the first camp spot in four nights that wasn't in a cactus valley but he had picked up a puncture none the less. The next difficulty was that we found that the pump was no longer working, but after disassembling it and squeezing some lubrication into it, it was mended for the time being at least.  I am constantly amazing at Kory's ability to be my bike mechanic, whether it is fixing my gear cable, making the broken pump work or generally tinkering with the camp stove etc, he is proving very useful and almost worth bringing along on the trip.  Ha ha, I joke!!  Our gear seems to be falling apart recently, with two snapped cables (one gear and one brake), a few punctures, two holes in our water bladders.... I just wonder what will be next and hope that we aren't being as hard on our bodies as we are on our bikes.

We had an uphill to start the day, which lasted for about an hour, but then gave way to a gradual descent of 1000m over the next 75km.  It a slow, steady downhill, where you still needed to pedal but it was enjoyable none the less and allowed us to cover a lot of ground over the morning.  We passed a lot of awesome rock formations, which showed the rock jutting up like it was freshly spilling out of the ground.  It made me think that if you thought the Earth was flat, you might make it to this area and think that you had found the end.  It looked like it had curled up like a piece of paper.

We stopped at an elaborate looking shrine by the side of the road.  It was based on the popular legend of Deolinda Correa, who is believed to have died of dehydration whilst walking an isolated pathway, to reach her sick husband.  Although she perished, her baby was found days later in good health. as it had continued to suckle at her breast throughout the ordeal.  There are numerous shrines to her and the baby throughout Argentina and Uruguay, and I believe people leave water bottles at the shrine in order to gain luck and good fortune for their travels.  We entered the shrine which had candles lit and numerous drink bottles, including water, fizzy drinks and wine.

We came across a great town at lunchtime.  It was the first place that felt "Argentinian" or at least, not Bolivian.  There was a lovely vibe to the main plaza, with panpipe music playing and lots of people hanging out enjoying the sunny afternoon.  We went into a restaurant for some lunch and were struck by how fancy it was, there were wine glasses and cutlery, even wooden chairs, rather than plastic ones.  It felt like fancy dining compared to what we have gotten so used to and we were quite happy to sit back and enjoy it.

As we carried on for the afternoon the wind had built up and was a fighting force.  It was really slow going even though we were going downhill.  We descended a further 1000m over the next 70km but it was really hard work and we had to fight to move at all.  We stopped a couple of times in the afternoon, once at the "Tropic of Capricorn sign" and once at a small church.  The small town had a nice feel to it but was full of tourists who had gotten off a big tour bus.  The church was unusual and worth a visit because each of the angel figures was holding a gun of some sort.  It seemed quite funny for them to be portrayed in this manner, and it entertained us for a few minutes.

We finally made it to Purmamarca, at 7pm, and again made it in just before the sun set.  The second half of the ride had been much more difficult with having to battle the wind, and we were exhausted as we finally pulled into the small tourist town.  Thankfully we easily found a place to stay and then went to the closest restaurant that was serving food.  We have to get used to the Argentinian time schedule whereby most restaurants don't even open until 8pm and people tend to dine between 10pm and midnight.  Kory and I were far too tired to wait until then and were pleased to find some Argentinian steak on offer.  It was just what the doctor ordered, a huge dinner and then a comfortable bed.
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