09 March 2011

Paso Los Libertadores (80 km to Mendoza)

The wind blew up the valley through the night and was just as strong that morning. It would be another difficult day descending into it. As I packed my tent a gendarmerie truck sped through the valley along the river and men got out and climbed the rocks up the side of the mountain. Higher above a team of men on horseback were driving a pack of horses through a trail on the higher pass. The gendarmes called out to the men to halt, but they could climb no higher to stop them and stood watching. I figured they were horse thieves.

Ruta 7 wound down and around along shear rock walls and through tunnels and down to the Rio Mendoza and along the flat of the riverbed and then would climb back up from it. The wind made it challenging riding and I knew unless it changed direction I could not make Mendoza.

Outside the pueblo of Uspallata I stopped to talk with two cyclists heading up the pass. One was Argentine, the other Brazilian, and they wanted to know if it was cold and was there snow. I told them they were lucky to have the wind behind them and that the Argentine side was a gentle climb that assisted by the wind would not be difficult. The Chilean side was where the steep climbs were, and most would be descents for them. We took pictures of each other and talked bikes and then said goodbye.  

Past Uspallata the river valley narrowed and the wind concentrated in power as if in a wind tunnel. I pushed ahead, riding hard through the dark tunnels through the mountainside and praying a camion coming up from behind would see me and slow down. The tunnels scared me and lasted long enough that it was entirely dark inside them and you did not see the white line of the road. It is very disorienting to ride hard and straight in complete darkness.

Daylight disappears quickly when the sun drops below the mountains and I began looking for a place to camp. I saw places to camp but worried about falling rock and continued on. Off a turn on higher, sandy ground I saw a place to pitch the tent behind some brush and pushed the bike off the road up to it. I had a plate of oatmeal for dinner with a banana and an apple and some other snacks. By nightfall the wind was gone. I knew I would have at least until mid-day tomorrow to ride without the wind.


jhaygood said...

amazing travels you are on! thanks for the posts. i'll keep following along from california!

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