Anyway, I made it to the top, and my reward was what has to be surely the worldŽs most wonderful descent
. The road, cut into the mountainside, swooped down through glorious scenery with literally hundreds of hairpin bends. There were no safety barriers, so had I got sidetracked by the view and missed a corner, or had a brake cable snap or a tyre blow out, I would have ended up taking the fast, painful and unrecommended way down the mountain. (DonŽt worry Mum, brake cables very seldom snap!) The only downside to the fabulous road was that my luggage did not get along with the bumps, and I had to keep stopping to reassure it and assuage its threats to part company with my bike altogether. By the time IŽd got to the bottom, every bit of rope, strap and bungee that I had was employed in keeping my luggage attached to my bike!
I camped in a park ranger station at the bottom, where the ranger was anxious that I choose the perfect location for my tent. He said what I thought was something about a film crew coming at ten the next morning to make a documentary about the oven (gesticulating towards a large stone structure), at which point I became convinced that my Spanish was failing me completely. However, low and behold, at ten the next morning, up turned a van, and IŽm sure I saw cameras...
As I had been coming down the mountain, I had encountered what looked like some sort of deer or antelope running dow the hill. It was only when I got the ranger station, though, where they had some of these creatures in a cage, that I discovered that were small, humpless camels, with the same big eyes, long eyelashes and backwards knees. WhoŽd have thought it?
The park ranger made a joke about getting eating by pumas but I slept OK nonetheless.
There are two ways to get to Mendoza from Uspallata - the easy way and the hard way. I took the hard way, to avoid the lorries and enjoy the scenery. This entailed a climb out of Uspallata, on a gravel road, to a height of 3000m. The main problem with the gravel road was that the other side always looked smoother than the side I was on. As such, I ended up unintentionally zigzagging my way up the road. The scenery was very beautiful here, but the air was still and hot, and I was comprehensively covered up to protect my poor sunburnt limbs. I had visions of myself as a pile of bones next to a rusty bicycle by the side of the road. A man in a passing car stopped to express his concern. I asked where I could get water and he said something about a wedding and doubling back on myself, neither of which sounded particularly feasible options (my Spanish could have been faltering here...)