25 March 2011

San Juan 2

San Juan was the last big city I could stop at before Salta. I stayed longer than I wanted but there were things I needed to accomplish that only a bigger city had the services for. I am now ready for the mountains and desert wilderness to the north.

I stayed the first few nights at a hostel in the centro of San Juan. There was a Swiss fellow (French speaking) staying there and we took a taxi out to the Graffigna Winery for a free tour and tasting. A couple Parisian girls were there and we spoke in French and we were allowed to taste some of the other varietals not included in the tasting. Afterwards the Swiss and I had a nice lunch in town across from the Plaza Espana and afterwards he left by bus for Buenos Aires.

Also staying at the hostel was Colombian named Diego who was traveling by motorcycle. He was preparing to sell the bike and was staying in the city until he had resolved certain mechanical issues. He planned to cross over the Paso Los Libertadores and to sell the bike in Santiago, Chile. Diego had graduated from the finest school in Colombia with a degree in economics and a focus on the Austrian school and we got on well and he told me of a campground 15km outside the city that had been closed but at which you were still allowed to camp. He had been there a few nights before moving into town. The campsite had potable water, electricity and use of the bathrooms. He was leaving the hostel and urged me to join him there.

I met up with him a day later. The campground was clean and quiet and located near a canal bringing water down from the high mountains. It was called “El Pinar”, meaning pine forest, and the trees were old and high and it was cool in the shade under them and the ground soft from the needles. We looked out of our tents beyond the pine grove to the Andes, and Diego and I took turns riding into town for supplies and to use the internet. At night we barbecued chorizos and steaks over a wood fire along with salad and rice or pasta and cheap, good wines from the provinces of Mendoza and San Juan. During the day we worked on our bikes and I did some reading and writing on a pine stump. It was a pleasant way to live and it felt very good to be out of the cities and back inside my tent.

I will know soon whether the time off in Mendoza and San Juan has effected my fitness. I have cycled less than 1000km in the last month. Tomorrow I head north on Ruta 40. There will be a few days of wilderness and desert before I hit the ripio and start into the foothills of the Andes. The tests of my fitness will begin there.


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