05 April 2011

Rumi Punco

I left the hostel and rode through the streets of Catamarca to Ruta 38 and descended towards the Sierra de Ancastio del Alto. The Sierra de Manchao was behind me and the zonda was blowing powerfully between the ranges. It was going to be a tough ride north over the mountains and onto the plain. I was stopped at a police checkpoint before the road turned into the wind. The cops were curious and wanted to talk and we talked, but I was only thinking about the climb ahead. The policemen wished me luck and the road started up.

There was a turnoff for the Cuesta del Portezuela and I realized I would not have to go over it. Instead Ruta 38 rose steadily higher, the zonda a strong headwind against me. I turned it in the lower gears of my second chain ring, head down, the sun hot, the road bending but always rising between the two ranges of mountains.

It was a green and fertile country and there were orchards and along the road and stands selling the produce from the region. I bought a pear and some apples and the pear was one of the best I had ever eaten and I would have bought more if they weren’t sure to be turned to mush inside my saddlebags.

I stopped at service station at La Merced and ate a sandwich and drank a juice and took a siesta under a tree beside a Gauchito Gil shrine. The road became much steeper from here as it wound up into the Sierra de Manchao. The road was finally going over the range. Sweat poured off me as I struggled up the pass.

Then at the top I could see down into the valley, flat and green and stretching out to the horizon, and then down, descending, the road dropping, and bombing down the mountain, little bugs bouncing off my face and through the trees catching glimpses of the green valley below until through the last trees and out onto the plain, the farms and fields of corn and soybeans stretching out.

It was flat and hot and humid in the valley and very buggy and I kept my mouth shut and eyes squinted as I rode through the farmland. It was late and the sun was near going down below the mountains but with all the farmland there was no place to camp. But then ahead I saw a little access road that went back into a forested area and I rode back in and found a little spot partially hidden behind some brush along the dirt road. There were many mosquitoes and I put up the tent and quickly crawled inside. I cooked up some oatmeal and a cup of coffee. It was too hot and humid to get inside the sleeping bag and I lay on top of it. Soon after I closed my eyes I was asleep.


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