Cycling days 223 to 225 - R de Lerma to Cafayate

Trip Start Apr 07, 2010
Trip End Jan 19, 2012

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Flag of Argentina  , Salta,
Saturday, October 29, 2011

Day 223 (10/27/11): 135km

After a restful night's sleep, we are ready for more downhill. As we descend through the canyon, we are stunned by the awesome scenery of auburn and amber fields, then by familiar looking rock formations from Joshua Tree, Death Valley, and Zion National Parks. There is so much potential for canyoneering and rock climbing in this area with its monolithic sandstone pinnacles and walls that would make any climber drool.

Over 80km of descent on pavement followed by 20km on dirt allow us to rack up the mileage today. We stop in the first city we pass though for some sweets then continue a quick 10km down the road to Roasario de Lerma for a meal. We are served a deliciously succulent slice of beef and are very pleased that Argentina lives up to its reputation. We do a little grocery shopping and find a bakery that is actually open! We gorge on a few pastries each, then go back to buy more for tonight’s dessert. We ask a woman in the street about what time businesses are normally open and she says people open in the morning until about 1:30pm and re-open for the evening around 5:30pm. We buy some veggies and roll out of the city just after 5:30pm and people don’t look like they are at all in a hurry to open up shop.

We hustle down the paved, flat road at an average of 29kph and keep the brisk pace going as we pass nonstop suburb after farm after suburb. Where are we going to camp? Another city, more fenced farms and ranches, then another town. It is now 6:45pm and the sun is about to dip behind the mountains as we come to the beginnings of yet another city when suddenly, Yannick stops and says he saw a gravel sifter. We u-turn, pull into a driveway, and sure enough, it is a rock quarry. We ask a woman if we can camp in the quarry and she says it’s no problem except that it gets really cold at night. We thank her and find a nice, flat spot to camp in the endless field of rocks and gravel. As we pitch the tent without the fly, we prepare ourselves for what will be the hottest night we’ve had in several months.

Day 224 (10/28/11): 98km

We are really enjoying Argentina with its friendly people, relaxed atmosphere, respectful drivers who always wait to pass us when the opposite lane is clear of oncoming traffic…without honking! Who needs a shoulder to ride in when drivers are this civil? (Ha, yeah…Shirley would still like to ride in a shoulder! :) Today, we ride at a casually brisk pace and admire farms and ranch houses with beautifully manicured lawns, green gardens, and pruned rose bushes. As we pass by olive and mimosa trees, Yannick says the countryside reminds him of France.

By 1pm, we’ve done 56km and stop for lunch in La Vina. The weather is hot, so we are adopting the siesta – do as the locals do, right? We don’t take that long of a break, leaving the city at 3pm. But as soon as we hit the highway, Yannick realizes the pressure is low in his rear tire, so we pull over to patch the tube. Not even 5km later, he pulls over again, this time due to low pressure in his front. As Shirley inspects the tire, she finds that he has run over at least half a dozen thorns with least two went through to the tube. We carefully look over the tube and find three tiny holes.  Wow, a quadruple flat for Yannick today! It doesn’t help that our hand pump is starting to fail; there is too much friction while pumping, which causes the shaft to stick and overheat. Some days we are lucky, others we aren’t.

We finally get going at 4pm (looks like we took a long siesta afterall). It is very hot today and we can feel the sun pounding down on us and the heat emanating from the black road – 39⁰C at 5pm. Soon, we enter a canyon and take the first good chance we get to cool down in the river. By 6pm, the road is mostly in the shade and we take advantage of the better temperature to gain some distance. We settle for the night at 7:20pm under some trees andit is still 29⁰C by the tine we finish dinner and are ready to sleep. Well, try to sleep anyway. Having mosquitoes around and temperatures hot enough to make us lie as still as possible with the tent door closed reminds us of Central America. At least it isn’t humid!

Day 225 (10/29/11): 67km

Last night, we realized Shirley broke the hook on one of her rear panniers, so we replace it this morning – good thing Yannick packed a spare of just about everything. Unfortunately, what we don’t have an extra of is a pump. As we try to add more pressure to Yannick’s tire, the pump dies…no more pressure. This is not good because Yannick’s tire completely deflated when the pump went kaput. We have no other option than to take apart the pump and feebly try to fix it – disassemble, clean the caked dirt out from the shaft, lubricate the o-rings, re-assemble. To our surprise and utter delight, the pump works like new! Phew, and just as we were starting to think we’ve been cursed.

We pack up our things and depart at 8am. On the road, things start to heat up quickly; it’s already 29⁰C by 9am. Too cold, too hot…why is the temperature so extreme!? At least we have a lot of scenic things to look at to distract our attention, like a deep canyon called "The Devil’s Throat," a wide canyon called “The ampitheatre,” and many various sandstone formations such as “The Toad,” “Castles,” “The Windows,” “The Obelisk,” etc. Because we are on such a scenic route on a Saturday, there are more cars than usual as we near Cafayate. We are also in wine country and pass by countless vineyards, making Yannick feel a bit homesick.

After we enter the pretty little touristic city of Cafayate, we find a nice fruit and veggie market to take care of some of our cravings. The owner happily points us to a good restaurant that the locals frequent and we have the cheapest, yet best menu so far in this country. Yannick has gnocchi with beef and Shirley has stuffed squash – this meal makes Yannick certain that Argentina is really an extension of Europe. Some ice cream (finally!) for dessert, then we hang out in the main plaza for the rest of the afternoon. We’ll probably stay in a campground tonight, then head out some time tomorrow.

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