(94) Groundhog day
Heading north to Salta and passing our 20,000 mile mark felt great but would be our last stretch north in Argentina before heading west back into Chile. With Sharon’s rim on her front wheel starting to split and our computer not playing ball our visit to Salta wasn’t going to be as relaxing as we hoped. All we could do was enjoy the road into the city and try and get through our jobs. This was the bit that no one likes about cycle touring but it has to be done. We just hope it all went smoothly.
Monday 3rd April 2014
After killing as many Mosquitos as we could we woke to a warm and partly cloudy day. We packed our panniers and loaded the bikes out in the yard. It had been good to rest but with a problem still with the computer, lost pictures and files it was a black cloud over our heads.
We checked our emails to find there had been a strong earthquake in the north west of Chile measuring a massive 8.7 on the richter scale making us relieved we had crossed over into Argentina. Due to Chile’s growth and investment into infrastructure over the last 50 years all new buildings have to be built to withstand an earthquake up to around 8 and the people are well rehearsed in what to do in the event. This has made a massive difference to the people of Chile but with much poorer neighbours that haven’t the development or wealth to prepare themselves for such an event they become very venerable. Having felt a much smaller one only a few weeks ago was incredible in its self and couldn’t even begin to imagine what a strong one would be like.
Many of us have heard new of earth quakes and what they measure but the way the richter scale works isn’t what we would think, so to give you an example of how powerful the power given off by an earth quake here is a simple chart.
This was the reason why we support the charity Shelter Box because we know disasters can happen anywhere at anytime to any one and when your life is pulled from under you, often losing people closest to you, helpless to do anything about it and with a charity that responds so fast it can often be the only thing that will make a real difference. Add to this a massive network of volunteers around the world ready to step in when help is really needed makes all the trivial things like our sick laptop blend into insignificance.
We could have stayed and relaxed in Cafayati for a week wondering the streets meeting nice people, drinking great local wine and wondering why our heads hurt the next morning but we didn’t have the time or the money. We headed out of town and were soon joined by a local dog that ran beside us which its self was often chased by many dogs as it passed through their territory. The dogs in Chile and Argentina were so nice and the local people treated them as their own pets with most in good condition apart from the odd leg missing from car accidents and all seemed to be in harmony with each other.
Not far out of town the road split into two, one the route 40 the other the route 68. We turned onto the 68 to Salta as the 40 soon turned into a dirt road that headed over paso Abra Del Acay at 4,972 metres (16,308 feet) and would descend to San Antonio De Los Cobres which we would be heading for.
Needing to get to Salta to fix our laptop and to replace the front rim on Sharon’s front wheel as the side walls were now starting to split, route 68 was the obvious choice. Looking at the map we managed to find another route that would take us up to the high town once we had followed a winding river down through a sandstone cannon to Salta and then on over a couple passes to San Antonio.
Shaz happy with the route
Being sandstone and fast flowing rivers it was a constant battle to keep the roads intact
With huge formation on our route to Salta made as a result of volcanic action and erosion it made for stunning ride north.
We stopped at view points and chatted to several nice Argentinians in various modes of transport as we slowly made our way down the valley. With a strong headwind and short steep climbs it made our progress slow.
With the clouds getting ever thicker we sat on the side of the road to have lunch hoping we wouldn’t get soaked. With only the odd drop of rain we packed up and headed on meeting a couple cyclists from France on a 3 week cycle tour and a couple Argentinians on a 1 week tour.
It was always nice to see other cyclist to stop and chat,recommending where we stayed in Cafeyati and taking tips from them. With Salta still a long way off we made it brief and got going so we could get within a days ride of the city to make it safe.
We aimed for La Vina and with the sun about to set we arrived. We stopped at a garage for water and Tim asked where we could camp in town. The lady looked unfazed and told us we could camp at the garage and so not wanting to complicate things that’s what we did. It was free, safe, with all the facilities and would give us a good start in the morning. Feeling happy we had covered the miles we needed, we hoped with a good day tomorrow we should find a nice place tomorrow.
good place to camp
All we could do now was cook a nice dinner and rest before our last push to Salta.
Tuesday 4th April
Our night behind the garage went well waking at 7.30am to have breakfast. It was a perfect spot well camouflaged in amongst the trees. It was still a long way to Salta but hopefully with a good road and not to many hills we would make good progress. It was a warm cloudy day perfect for riding but the scenery wasn’t as spectacular. One thing that did change was the colour. The further we rode the greener it got becoming almost tropical. With the sound of insects and birds it was incredible the difference from the morning.
We stopped at lunch in a small town and treated ourselves to chicken and chips followed by an ice cream. It was great to treat ourselves but we didn’t hang around long and with time swiftly moving we reached the outskirts of the city.
The drivers were kind and with it being around 2pm the traffic became less intense with onset of the afternoon siesta.
We reached the city and with the first task being to find a bike shop we rode around asking until we found one. With almost everything closed we waited until 4.30pm when the doors of a large bike shop opened. It didn’t take long to be told they didn’t have a 26″ rim with 32 holes and so were directed to another then another then another. After an hour of moving between shops we found a huge store with almost everything bike related.
At first the guy went through rim after rim and after some pointing from the staff he found one.
With some negotiation we got a good price and headed off to find a place to stay. Again we went from place to place until we arrived by accident at a hostel that was very reasonable. The hostel owner said he knew where to get the computer fixed and so relaxed for the rest of the evening and get the jobs done tomorrow. We spent the evening with a very nice Austrian couple who made us feel at home. It was so great to chat and relax after a few long days.
Wednesday 5th April
Waking with clear heads from vowing not to drink until our jobs were done we got up and had a nice breakfast. Sharon started to go through or things while Tim made his way to the computer shop to see if they could fix it. The shop owner assured us he would do his best and to return at 7pm to pick it up. feeling relieved it was in good hands Tim moved on to the next job which was to take Sharon’s front wheel apart and build a new one. Tim had managed to build a few wheels in the past and shouldn’t have been a problem but as he started to lace the wheels it soon became apparent that the spokes were to short for the rim.
With a short ride through the town back to the bike shop and some new spokes later Tim returned to build the wheel only to find these were still to short but only just. so off he went again back to the bike shop and with some longer nipples in hand he managed to get the wheel built.
Sharon was making progress with her jobs but without the laptop and the hostel computer dropping internet access we knew we weren’t in for an easy ride.
Tim returned to the computer shop to pick up the laptop only to find the owner had to run a full recovery program and would take a while.
Feeling disillusioned Tim returned back to the hostel to have tea and relax. life on the road seemed so easy compared to having to sort out these jobs but we had to stick with it.
Thursday 6th April
Waking up with the feeling of dread about all our lost photos and GPS route data we had breakfast and waited nervously until 12 when our computer would be ready. On arrival all seemed good until we tried to insert an SD card only to find it had totally messed up the system. With a whole new issue we would have to have the whole computer reset and reinstalled.
This would take a while and with it already Saturday afternoon there wouldn’t be time to finish it before closing for the weekend. Our hearts sank and the energy drained from our body’s. we wondered back to the hostel and mopped about feeling sorry for ourselves. All that hard work and amazing pictures lost.
We knew the world hadn’t ended but it was something we didn’t need. Someone once said “cycling is the easy bit” and today we felt like riding off.
One thing that was keeping our spirits up was our friend Yoann who we had met many times on our trip was coming over to see us and arrived while we lay in our room feeling sorry for ourselves. Yoann arriving was the perfect Medicean as he has a very good energy and the sort of person that pics you up when you feel low with out even doing anything.
Now feeling relaxed and not having anything to rush for we very quickly consumed the bottle of wine Yoann had brought and headed off to the supermarket to buy ingredients for pizza and more wine. After a previous discussion about Yoann’s route and finding out he had changed his to the same as ours it was great to chat about our ride over the passes and the road whilst adding the toppings we wanted and enjoying the various bottles of wine. With little to do the following day it was just what we needed.
Friday 7th April
Waking up in our beds with sore heads was ok. We had little to do but wait and heading into the city would cost money. We took it easy and once we were feeling a little more normal Sharon worked on the blog as much as she could while Tim cleaned both bikes and chains before cleaning the stove. It’s always a job he’s not keen on but felt good to get it done.
The afternoon was spent researching our route through Bolivia and Peru which may sound a bit premature but with massive salt flats the altiplano and a very mountainous Peru with many pass’s ranging between 4200 and 5200 metres. it would be worth the effort. The day drifted past but not thinking about the computer helped. With a trip down the shop to be told tomorrow would be d-day when we would hopefully get a fixed computer and maybe some more pictures all we could do was keep our fingers crossed.
Saturday 8th April
After finding we didn’t have the computer sorted we had breakfast and Tim went down to the shop to try and get our problems sorted. For some reason they tried to install different word programmes only to find they were all were in Spanish. It was incredible we couldn’t get an English version. Once they found a program waiting for the large files to download on a very slow connection then to be uploaded then crash then another program then the same it was becoming frustrating. The guys In the shop were doing everything. While Sharon worked on the hostel computer Tim popped back and forth hoping that at some point it would be sorted. After being there until 11 pm and still having program’s crashing they said they would have it fixed by the morning.
Sunday 9th April
With another day in the hostel without really seeing or doing anything we needed to escape. Wondering the streets of Salta was nice but we needed to do a bit more so we decided to visit the museum of 3 sacrificed inca mummified children that were discovered high up on Volcan Llullaillaco at 6,739m in 1999 close to the Chilean border. Volcan Llullaillaco is the second highest volcano in the world and is also the second highest mountain in South America and so to find 3 mummified children over 500 years old is a pretty big deal. With the mummies on a six month viewing rotation due to preservation it was still an amazing sight to see.
Enjoying the park in the city
With plenty of time to waste we picked up lunch, changed money and picked up a few more beers before heading back to the hostel and on to the computer shop to check the progress of our laptop.
With things looking up and a positive owner and already managing to recover half of our photos it would only be a matter of time before he’s recovered them all and we can finally get back on the road.
being in a hostel we got to meet many lovely people and we found ourselves in the company of a family who were cycle touring. it was so lovely to see them enjoy the same passion with their kids.
All loaded and ready to go
Monday 10th April
Waking up to what felt like Groundhog Day was rubbish. All we hoped for was the computer to be fixed. The guy in the shop had been great and was interesting to see how he solved various problems but fixing our computer and putting it back the way it was was proving a little tricky. We cleared the room and loaded the bikes knowing the owner would charge us for half a day if we didn’t and went and had breakfast. Tim went down to the shop to see if he had fixed it to find he had installed a similar word program which was almost identical to office and in English. Tim returned to the hostel and started to try and finish another bog but this is when we found the facility for shrinking photos wasn’t there ahhhhhhhhhhhh. Returning to the shop we tried to install office professorial but still no option. Seeing as Tim had spent what felt like a lifetime in the shop Sharon stayed to try figure out another solution. After another hour she returned with what looked like a way more time consuming method and with the Internet now down in the hostel we had to leave it. We left around 12 paid our bill at the shop which was tiny compared to what it could have cost and thanked the owner who had managed to get our computer fixed and recover all of our lost pictures from the last pass and also Lesotho in South Africa.
A very releaved shop owner and 2 very relieved customers
With our bags loaded we said goodbye and headed for the supermarket. We picked up a few bits and went to head into town to change enough money to get us to the border when we heard someone shout. Tim crossed the junction when Jo and Lizzie pulled up next to Sharon. It was so great to see them and so great to chat. After swooping our adventures and finding out there plans we hoped to see them in San pedro de Atacama.
We would have stayed but being in Salta for 6 days most of that in a computer shop and knowing if we stayed we would have sore heads and even further behind.
We bid them well hoping we would see them in a few days we headed into town. After a small money change we went in search of food and quickly ate our nice hot empanada’s and rode out of town.
If we were anywhere else it wouldn’t matter what time we left but after our scary experience in Mendoza we didn’t want to risk it. After weaving through the city streets not really knowing whether the area was safe we hit a ripio road. We thought this would be it now for Tarmac but after spotting the main highway we were soon back on a good road heading south west.
The green fields and trees were much like home as we passed between small suburbs. We stopped for a look and with 4 miles until we turned west it wasn’t long before we reached a large town. With the time getting on being an hour and a half before sunset we passed a municipal camp site. Thinking it would be silly to miss the opportunity for one last shower before the big climb we made ourselves at home. With a long climb coming it would be good to get an early start.
Tuesday 11th April
With a dog laying outside our tent getting to sleep proved harder due to it constantly cleaning himself. We were however grateful when it growled at a person walking past the tent. It was a great campsite with everything you could think of other then wifi. Looking around there was only one other family staying and so getting up to have breakfast was quiet. We rewarded the dog for his guard dog skills and told him to keep the cleaning to the day time.
Someone looked excited we were about to cook
We headed out of town and slowly started to climb. There was no steep hills just a steady gradient slowly winding its way up a long valley. The sun was hidden behind a cloudy sky but this didn’t hide the stunning colours of the mountains.
As we continued up the road as it steadily climbed the colours became more and more Impressive. We had been told of another road with mountains of many colours but this made up for missing it.
We were always amazed by the colour of the rocks
We criss crossed up through the valley following a railway line doing the same when a guy on a motorbike stopped. He told us that the road would be asphalt in 15km and would last for 100km which was amazing.
He also told us of some Inca ruins in Santa Rosa a few miles up the road and that the railway line was still in use for tourist.
We felt a little annoyed we found out after as it would have been great to have gone on it.
very colourful school
The route we were on was stunning although a little tough going on the gravel road but once we were on the asphalt we could fully enjoy the scenery. We arrived in a tiny village where we spotted a small shop to pick up a coke and sat in a bus shelter to have lunch. Tim was feeling shattered and drained and so we slowly rode on steadily climbing towards Santa Rosa.
As we approached what looked like a big climb ahead, Alex a motorcyclist from the hostel pulled up. He thanked us for telling him about this pass and when we asked at what time he left Salta he said 1 hour ago. After all the effort to get here it felt like was it worth it and to be truthful yes. We had so much time to stop and take pictures and the fact we had climbed 1500 metres to just under 3000 metres felt like a good day on a heavy bike.
We wished him luck and we set off climbing the few switchbacks between an orange rocky valley until it levelled off before we rode into Santa Rosa.
slowly gaining height
Still along way to the pass
The village was small yet had a small municipal camp site and we asked if there was any charge. With the answer being that it was free with a museum behind and the path to the inca village leading away it was perfect. With another dog to guard us we just hoped this one had washed.
Our camp spot with a small tree that kept making us jump because it looked like a person
After what was a long day it felt great to have reached the small village and looked forward to the morning off to check out the Inca ruins.
Thanks for reading xx