28 April 2011

Buenos Aires - La Recoleta

Today I visited the cemetery where the famous American pop star and actress Madonna is buried. I did not know her real name is Eva Duarte.


18 April 2011

Salta 3

I abandoned my plan to take the train from Tucuman to Buenos Aires. There seemed no way to purchase a ticket online and it was impossible to purchase one by phone or even to inquire about the availability of tickets. Tickets were supposed to be purchased 2 weeks prior to travel at the ticket office in Tucuman. There was also a report that prices had been raised by 80%. Even more worrisome was the possibility I would have to pay a significant excess baggage fee to get the 2 boxes containing my bike and gear to Buenos Aires. To answer these questions and get a ticket I would have to go to the ticket office in Tucuman. As much as I wanted to travel by train across the Pampas it was too difficult and I decided to travel to Buenos Aires by bus from Salta.

I walked to each of Salta’s bike shops inquiring about boxes. Only one shop had them and a man working there offered to sell me a box for 20 pesos. I told him he was joking. He said he was serious. I offered 10 pesos, not even intending to pay that. He refused and I left the shop.

Walking back through the Plaza 9 de Julio someone called out my name. Sitting at one of the outdoor cafĂ© tables was Jason, an English cyclist I had met in Tierra del Fuego at La Union Panaderia at Tolhuin. I sat down and joined him for a drink. He had just arrived by bus from Buenos Aires. After a few weeks touring Uruguay he had tried to ride cross the Pampas but abandoned due to there being no shoulder on the road, heavy truck traffic, and a lack of places to wild camp. There was nothing to the countryside but flat farmland. It had been my original plan to cross the Pampas from Mendoza and I was glad I hadn't tried it.

Jason had just built up his bike and back at his hostel and, if it was still there, he had a bike box. We talked roads and places we had been since we had last seen each other and I told him about the good riding south of Salta through the Valle de Lerma and the Quebrada de Las Conchas.

We finished our beers and walked back to his hostel and the box was still there. Jason was anxious to get back on the road and my description of the good riding south of the city had excited him. He planned to leave tomorrow on a loop that would take him south to Cafayate and then back north on Ruta 40 towards Bolivia. He planned to cross into Bolivia and continue north and he would contact me in a some months when he made Colombia. If I was still in shape we could do some riding together there.

14 April 2011

Salta 2

 Hostel rooftop

 Rooftop view

 My room on rooftop

13 April 2011


I slept without the rain fly and it was a cool night and my gear was wet when I awoke. I packed up my panniers and waited until the sun had come up over the mountains so that the tent could dry. It had been my final night of camping in Argentina and today would be my final ride. I packed the tent, loaded the bike, and pushed it through the brush and onto the road.

I stopped at a service station outside La Vina for water and to eat a couple of sandwiches. It was only 80 kilometers to Salta, and I could make it by lunchtime if I wanted. Ruta 68 rose and fell through the Valle de Lerma, through corn fields and farmland between the ranges of mountains. It was clear and warm by late morning and I rode thinking about my last day on the bike here in Argentina and regretting it was over. But there would be other places and I could ride in Colombia if I wanted. Still, Argentina had been a fine country to tour in and I was going to miss it.

The farmland ended 30 kilometers from Salta and there were series of small towns. I stopped in El Carill for lunch and for 30 pesos had a milanesa napolitana with a salad and a 2.5 liter bottle of sparkling water. It was as cheap and delicious a milanesa as I had had in Argentina and when I asked the man who ran the restaurant about another of the meats on the menu he brought out a plate of what was veal for me to try. It was a large piece of veal and very good and I thanked him.

From El Carill the road began to fall and then closer to Salta it descended sharply and there was a long run-out into the city. Then I rode through narrow, heavily trafficked streets with buses and cars and scooters towards the centro. Salta, like other Argentine cities, is made up of one-way streets with few traffic lights or yield signs making it both dangerous and confusing at every intersection and I rode towards the center of town carefully.

At the Oficina de Tourismo I was given directions to a number of cheap hostels and I stopped at a couple before deciding on one further out from the center of town. At this hostel I would have a room to myself on the rooftop and more importantly there was a downstairs storage area to put my bike and where I could work to take it apart, clean and box it for the trip to Buenos Aires and my May flight to Colombia.

12 April 2011

La Vina

I was happy to leave the hostel at Cafayate. The town was pleasant and charming but overrun by European backpackers. The townspeople tolerated these outsiders and the town had changed to accommodate them and their money. I wanted to get back on the road, back into Argentina and away from the tourists.

I picked up Ruta 68 outside the town and started north through fields of grapes. Ahead were the mountains and the road climbed up into them and then down to follow a river through the valley. This area along the river is known as the Quebrada de las Conchas and is dry and desert-like, with smooth, mud-like rock formations formed by the river and rain and wind. Ruta 68 would climb up out of the riverbed and then drop back into it through deep red and yellow layers of rock and earth. It was beautiful to ride the winding road through the river valley, and a headwind blew down to cool me.

 El Obelisco

After 70 kilometers the road left the river valley and rose to follow the mountains through the dense forest of the Valle de Lerma. It was cool and humid now and very buggy and I had to ride with my mouth closed and eyes squinted to keep the small bugs out. I passed through small villages and through an area of farmland and just before the pueblo of La Vina I pulled off the road and pushed the bike into the brush and pitched the tent.

I cooked up a plate of pasta with a sauce of fresh tomatoes and onion and drank a cup of coffee. It was a calm, clear night under the stars and I didn’t put on the rain fly. I wanted to look up at the moon and the constellations. I was running out of days on the road and nights camping. This would be one of the last. My journey by bicycle was coming to an end.

Copyright © S O U T H