30 March 2011

Cuesta de Miranda

My stomach and back were covered in flea bites, red, itching clusters of them just above my waistband, and they had gotten my legs too around my thighs and ankles. There must have been a hundred bites in total. The fleas had gotten me good. My concern now was whether they had taken up residence in my bedding and gear. The itching I could ignore. I shook out my sleeping bag and tent and packed up.

Sierra de Famatina

I rode the 20 km to Villa Union and was stopped outside the town at a police checkpoint. They wanted to check my papers. I was a little annoyed to have to unpack my pannier to find my passport and when the one policeman said to the other that he was certain I was German I interrupted and told him I was American. They were very polite after that and the younger one gave me a map of the town.

I picked up some unsecured wifi outside one of the hotels and then went into the town center and bought a couple of sandwiches and ate them in the plaza. You could see it was a well-off town for this part of Argentina and I figured it was because of its proximity to the Valle de la Luna, a park of geologic formations 60 km south that is popular with tourists.

Outside Villa Union the road started to climb. It was midday and hot and there was no wind and the road went straight up into the hills. I could see the snow-capped mountain range of the Sierra de Famatina very well now. One of those high snowy peaks was the Col Graf Belgrano at over 6000 meters. Ruta 40 soon turned east and the snow capped mountains were behind me and it was a long gradual descent towards the Sierra de Sanogasta range.

The Sierra de Sanogasta mountains were a deep red and there were tall cactus growing on them and I entered into the range and began ascending between high walls of smoothed red rock. A small stream ran across the road and I stopped to wash my clothes in it and then sat on a rock in the shade of a thorn tree and rested. The zonda had started to blow down through the valley. The wind was against me and it was tough riding, but it sure was beautiful country.

Past the brown mud huts of Puerto Alegre the pavement ended and the ripio began. It started as washboard ripio that rattled your teeth and shook up your insides and I weaved across the whole road looking for a smooth line. The ripio turned red soon after and I rode higher and higher into the mountains until a small town called Los Termillos that was not indicated on my map.

There was a tourism office-hotel-restaurant-kiosk there and I went inside and asked about something to eat. The two old ladies offered me a sandwich which I had with a 2 liter bottle of water with gas. The one lady urged me to stay the night. There was a high pass called the Cuesta de Miranda that I would need to go over to reach the next valley. It was hard and cold atop the pass but very beautiful and it would be better to ride up it in the morning. I thanked her for looking out for me and explained I wanted to go just a little further and to camp. I paid and started to leave when the other old lady emerged with a sack of grapes and two apples. It was a dessert for tonight, she said, and they said goodbye and wished me much luck.

I started back up the climb out of the pueblo, the zonda beating down at me, and there wasn’t anything in my legs. They were heavy and dead and it was too late in the day anyway. The ripio and wind had taken a lot from me. I rode a few kilometers further and began to look for a place to put up my tent.

I found a spot right up next to the road but below it in a red dirt clearing. It was a low area with high brush along the roadside that would further hide the tent. I pitched the tent and then climbed up and walked along the road to see if it was visible. The spot was good. The headlights of vehicles would pass over the top of the tent, but if a camion or car should go off the road I was a dead man. I heard a whirring sound and saw hummingbirds feeding on the red berries of the bushes. They moved quickly and easily through the tangled branches. I shook and aired out my sleeping bag and was relieved to see no sign of fleas.

I laid down inside the tent. I was still full from the sandwich. I listened to the wind blowing through the brush high on mountainside. I took a nap and when I awoke made a cup of vegetable soup and ate some of the grapes the old ladies had given me. There was a big climb ahead tomorrow and maybe the zonda would be blowing down against me. The zonda had nothing on the winds of Tierra del Fuego though. The zonda by comparison was a minor wind. I hoped that the ripio would be good and that it would not be so steep or sandy that I would be unable to ride and have to get off the bike to push. The old ladies at Los Termillos had gotten me excited about the Cuesta de Miranda.


D558 said...

Ah, ah, yes. Now I get it.

Post a Comment

Copyright © S O U T H