16 March 2011

50 km to San Juan

It was late morning when I left Mendoza. I stopped at a bicicleteria to buy some chain oil, but didn’t find the type I wanted and decided to wait until San Juan. Putting the wrong kind of oil would just foul up the drive train after I had cleaned it. I rode east through the city center and then north along the canal to Ruta 40 which will take me to San Juan and then further north.

Outside the city it was the easiest cycling I could remember doing. The road was flat with the steppe on one side and the Andes on the other and there was little traffic and no wind. After a time the trees and greenery ended and it was parched dirt and desert and dusty scrub. Later there were some vineyards and I saw sheep at pasture and some goats along the road, but this was tough land to do much with and there were no towns or houses.

At 80km I was waved through the checkpoint where Mendoza Province ended and San Juan Province began. If it had not been for the late start I might have done the whole 165km and made San Juan today. Further ahead there were little mud huts along the road and poplar trees separated the larger properties and I began to look for a place to camp. I did not want to get too close to the city of San Juan.

I saw a little dirt road that ran off into the scrub and followed it across a mud-caked flat and behind some thorn bushes I pitched the tent. I made a cup of coffee and did some reading and later stepped out of the tent to boil some pasta. It didn’t take long before the mosquitoes discovered me. I swatted at them for awhile as the water heated but there were too many and I gave up on the pasta, taking the hot water back inside the tent and using it for a big dish of oatmeal with a sliced banana. As I finished eating the sun set and the mountains became shadows and then quickly it was dark. It was still, the night sky perfectly clear, and the moonlight showed brightly across the mud flats. I hadn’t put the rain fly up. I wanted to fall sleep looking up at the stars.


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