The scenery throughout the morning was of a similar construction and we saw various rock formations along the route
. Again, the wind was whistling through the valley and impeded our downhill. We hoped that as soon as we got out of the valley the wind would be less ferocious and we could cycle with ease again. As the descent levelled out and we made our way on to the valley floor, we saw two cyclists approaching us. They were from France and on a long trip across numerous countries. We enjoyed a long chat with them and gave them our maps for Bolivia, which we no longer need. They asked if we would make it to Salta today and then corrected themselves as they remembered it was way too far to go in one day.
We cycled to Jujuy and considered spending the night there, but decided to continue towards Salta and camp somewhere on the outskirts, depending how far we made it for the day. The ring road around Jujuy was busy and the city had the first highrise buildings we have seen in a long time. It felt like a busy, westernized city, with fast cars and lots of turn-offs. I can't say that I have missed this at all and couldn't wait to get back on to a smaller road.
We pulled in at the small town of El Carmen, which had a wild west feel, and I half expected people to come down the road in horse drawn carts. It felt a lot more modern than in Bolivia, with lots of American trucks, but there were also fruit stands and a small market in the park
. We enjoyed the usual chicken and rice lunch, and then went to the fruit stall for some dessert. Once we were back on the road we were treated to something else we haven't seen since Colombia - a bike lane. We whizzed along it and both remarked that it felt like we were out for a little Sunday afternoon bike ride. It was surprising how easily our attitudes changed, as we cycled along with families along the bike path and it felt like we were only on a little 20km outing. We saw a demonstration by Agricultural workers, who had blocked the road to protest about their right to have a union. The police were there and everyone was sitting politely waiting for the demonstration to wrap up. They seemed like they were used to this sort of thing, with banners and fire across the road and we were pleased to see that the protesters were allowed to make their point and highlight their plight. We were even more pleased that they let us pass though and we didn't have to be held up, even though I believe they have a good cause.
The bike path soon ended and we took the minor road to Salta. Our map suggested that it was still a proper road but was a shorter distance than the main highway. The road turned into little more than a bike path, and made its way for 40km through a thick forest. We have barely seen any trees recently, as the altiplano was quite barren and little grew in the desert other than cactus, and now we were surrounded by them
. It was a spectacularly beautiful cycle and if you are ever in the area and fancy a little bike ride, I highly recommend it. The air was filled with bird song and we saw exotic, tropical birds flying in the sky. We heard the sounds of monkeys but thankfully none of them came down from the trees to greet us, or I would have had quite a fright. It was beautiful and I felt like this trip had given me every landscape possible to cycle through. We saw another group of cyclists ahead, and this time it was a family, with a son who was around 13 years old. They had cycled from the southern most tip of Argentina and were heading for Bolivia. We didn't stop to talk to them for long because we had set our sights on making it to Salta, even though they told us it was too far.
We whizzed along the final 30km and arrived at the outskirts of Salta, after cycling 164km over the day. It was another long day but it had been beautiful and the scenery was spectacular. We were happy to be arriving in a touristy city, with lots of restaurants and hotels where we could relax for a few days. The arrival into the city was easy and not difficult to navigate across. We checked into a hostel and made our way into the main plaza area. The main square was dominated by a large cathedral on one side, and lots of restaurants with outdoor seating on the others. We wandered around and found a nice place to sit to enjoy a cold beer, some dinner and to watch the locals. In Argentina dinner time seems to be from 8pm until the early hours of the morning, we saw people walking around slowly looking at the menus at 11.30pm and a sign saying "live music from 00:30". We were happy to kick back, relax and know that we aren't cycling anywhere tomorrow.
We were not moving fast in the morning, after having so many long days on the road recently and no real end in sight yet. Kory was fascinated by the entertainment that was occurring just outside our room. Someone had backed their car on to a stone ledge and the car was balancing precariously on it, with one of the front wheels dangling in the air. As we ate breakfast and slowly packed our bags, they tried a multitude of ways to get the car off the ledge. It took them about 2 hours to finally release it from the ledge and happily Kory was able to watch all of it whilst we slowly prepared for a day on the road. Once we had pumped up Kory's slow puncture we were off and only stopped a few times to take photos of the main plaza on the way out of the town. The main attraction for the area was a mountain, that was layered with rock formations of seven colours. It was beautiful and we stopped again to take a few photos.