27 March 2011

Ruta 40 (100 km North of San Juan)

I woke early and packed and said goodbye to Diego. We both expected to see each other somewhere in Colombia in a few months. After he sold his motorbike he planned to backpack his way north. It was Sunday and most shops were closed as I rode back towards San Juan and the junction with Ruta 40. I still needed another fuel canister for my stove.

North of San Juan I stopped at a small town called Albardon and bought a lunch of a half dozen empanadas from a lady selling them out of her house. Then at the service station on the edge of the town I found a butane canister. I now had what I needed and from there it was a long, gradual climb towards the mountains.

I passed through neighborhoods of mud brick homes, the children playing in the dusty streets and yelling after me as I passed, and through an industrial park and a quarry where they were strip mining the mountain, and then around a small range of mountains I dropped down into a valley. From here the road turned north and a long stair-step climb began. It was slow and hot and biting flies attacked me as I climbed, swatting at them and unable to out-run them.

At the height of the climb I looked out across to a new range of mountains and in the long flat valley below there was the glistening of a stream running through it and then I dropped down, not needing to peddle, the road fast and winding down the mountainside and a long run-out into the valley. From here it was rolling country between the large range of mountains to the west and the smaller range to the east. It was desert scrub and sand and there were low areas where I could see the rains from the high mountains had rushed down and flowed over the road. But it was easy riding and there were no more climbs.
I pitched the tent off the road behind some thorn bushes and it was not until I had crawled inside that I realized I was visible to traffic. A few cars honked at me (a gesture of encouragement in Argentina) and I decided to move camp. I repacked my panniers and took down the tent, reloaded the bike, and pushed it further through the dirt to a depressed area, maybe an old dried up lake bed, and pushed the bike down into it. Down here I was not visible from the road and I could sleep easier.

With all the barbecuing we had done over the past few days I didn’t have much of an appetite. I made some soup, a cup of coffee, and ate a package of crackers. I read awhile but felt sleepy. The wind began to blow and the temperature dropped. I wondered if a storm was coming.


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