07 April 2011

Tafi del Valle

It did not rain in the night but the humidity left the tent and sleeping bag damp in the morning. I packed and paid for my night at the campground and turned off Ruta 38 onto a road that would lead to Ruta 307 and the high mountains. I rode back through fields of sugar cane, high along the roadside, and beyond the mountains dark and partly covered by the clouds.

I stopped along a stream to eat some cookies and a small kitten crawled out from the sugar cane. She looked healthy and meowed and rubbed against me and did whatever she could to convince me to take her with me. But where I was going was hard and high and cold and not a place for a kitten. I left her some pieces of cookie and soon after turned onto Ruta 307 and began the slowly rising ascent, the sun behind me and the mountains ahead and looking very high.

Ruta 307 followed a river which you heard but could not see through the thick forest. Sweat poured off me in the humidity and the ascent steepened. Then the road was alongside the river rushing down through the rocks and boulders and the climbing became very difficult, winding higher through dense, vine-covered forest.

There was a break in the climbing at the statue of an Indian looking out over the valley. This area of Argentina was one where Indians still lived and there were shops along the road at the statue selling things they made. I stopped and had a coffee and a bottle of sparkling water. A young man told me there was another 20 km of climbing before the road leveled out to Tafi del Valle.

I rode higher and the temperatures cooled though the air was still wet and heavy. The altitude got to me a little and I felt some nausea and my legs were dead and heavy and I stopped to rest. The nausea passed and I felt better and then finally I broke through the tree line and the grade of the climb lessened. The mountains were green and grassy and there were cows grazing on them with the road running along the river. It was cloudy and colder up here and I put on my sweater and continued the climb higher.

The road flattened out and I coasted down into a valley along a lake, the town of Tafi del Valle ahead built up along the side of the valley. There were black clouds blowing down from the higher mountains and quickly it was pouring rain and I pulled under some trees and put on my rain gear before continuing the ride into the town.

Tafi del Valle is a clean and pleasant town with many artisan shops for the Indian goods made in the region and it is very popular with tourists. There was a break in the rain and I rode up to the higher part of the town where there was a campground and just got the tent up as rain started down again. It was quickly dark and I lay inside listening to the rain pound the tent and I was happy to be out of it. The tent and sleeping bag were damp and it was good to be wearing wool. I cooked up some oatmeal and ate an apple. Later there were thunderstorms and the rain continued through the night.


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