Day 226 (10/30/11)
We take the morning off to relax, take a proper shower, and do some chores. "El Rafa" (address: 189 San Martin, Cafayate), where we are camped, is such a tranquillo spot so close to the main plaza, groceries, and cheap eats.
After we have a lunch of monster sandwiches, we go back to the hostel/campground and pack up our things. As we are about to leave, Rafa and Estella invite us to have some lunch with them and we say we've eaten, but they insist we have a plate of barbeque. We end up sitting and chatting with them for a few hours and leave their home at 3:45pm…oops, a later start than we anticipated!
We go to the plaza for some last-minute internet, then finally get on the road for a little bit of saddle time. With the wind at our backs, we speed down the scenic Ruta 40, passing by vineyards and quaint little towns. We are only slowed down when the road turns to dirt as we get closer to Santa Maria. At 7:15pm, we set camp in the grass next to the road, hidden by tall bushes. We are amazed that we’ve done almost 60km in about 2-1/2 hours of riding time without much effort. Day 227 (10/31/11)
We wake up in the morning to frozen dew on the tent – we’ve been in such dry areas lately, we really didn’t expect to be damp when we woke up. It’s also been so hot the past week we didn’t expect to have frozen for breakfast either! We pedal in pleasant weather along the dirt road and make it to Santa Maria by 11am.
We stop at a bicycle shop where the owner lends us some tools to make some minor adjustments to Yannick’s front wheel. When we ask to buy a rear brake cable and a shifter cable, he just gives them to us for free!
After we leave town, the road is bumpy between the small villages filled with a lot of people on bicycles and motor scooters. Once we pass the last pueblo, the road improves as we enter the large, open desert. We are riding fast with a bit of tailwind, but at 4pm, the wind does a complete 180⁰.
Our speed goes from +25kph down to a meager 10kph as we battle the strong headwinds. We push ourselves, making slow progress and wasting a lot of energy, eventually figuring it is futile to fight Mother Nature. At 5:30pm, we pull over to shelter inside a brick 4x4m brick bus shelter (the first building we’ve seen in over an hour) to rest and eat. If the wind doesn’t calm down, this will be it for the day.
The floor is covered in goat poop, so Yannick goes exploring for other options. Hmm, do we want to go to the abandoned building with severed goat hooves strewn about the ground and splattered blood on the walls? Or do we want to break into the locked little chapel adjacent to us? How about nah to both. Instead, we sweep the goat poop aside and stay right where we are. Day 268 (11/1/11)
We wake up early to get a jump start on the day; we want to cover about 105km to put us in Belen, where we have a potential stay with a WarmShowers.org host. The desert is so much more pleasant when the temperature is around 10⁰C and there is no wind in our faces! It’s nice when we can actually admire the view rather than having to keep our heads tucked down and stare at the ground.
We quickly cover a lot of distance, including a 30km dirt section that was quite smooth half of the time. By 11am, we’ve put in 70km and make it to Hualfin for a food break. From here, we’re back on asphalt, but the wind switches directions again…so early in the day! We watch the kilometer markers count down the distance we have left; with 20km left to Belen, we enter a twisting, undulating canyon road where at time feels like a wind tunnel when the path between the canyon walls narrows.
At 2pm, we arrive at our destination, much earlier than we thought, so we go hang out in the plaza for a few hours with some free Wi-Fi. In the late afternoon, we go meet with Antonio, a local textile artisan who works with llama and sheep’s wool to make ponchos, carpets, shawls, purses, etc. Seeing the process of how the pieces are put together is a very interesting, but laborious process. After giving us a tour of the workshop and his home, he shows us our room and where we can take a hot shower. Ah, time to wash up, do some grocery shopping, eat, relax, and recover.