in this country you find everything from dry to wet, from cold to hot, …
Mendoza was a great place to reorganise everything and to relax. Due to the fact that I didn’t see a hole next to the walkway and fell into it (together with my bike) I prolonged my stay in Mendoza by another day. It proved that cycling is healthier than recovering and walking in a city.
I also dismissed my first idea of going by bus to northern Argentina. I opted for the “adventurous” variant of moving faster by cycling and doing auto-stop.
Leaving Mendoza with a great headwind I realized that for getting an autos-stop with the bike and the luggage I need some luck. Fortunately the luck was with me and I got a great lift by Oswaldo to San Juan. He was on his way to a amateur bike-race and helped me to skip 150km of “nothing”.
Arriving in the afternoon in the town of San Juan, I only wanted to eat my belated lunch and get out of town.
With even more luck I asked some guy, waiting with his truck (“camionetta”) on the side of the street, about the upcoming villages (water!), when my glance went to the big and empty loading space. He would take my up north, great! The guy I asked was Mario Diaz, who was with his wife and his 2 boys on the way back home. From the 1st moment on I loved this family, they where so interested in my trip and especially the boys were awesome! In San Jose de Jachal we meet more family and I had good time with Fernando and Rosita. After some Mate and we left towards the hometown of the Diaz family, Guandacol. They insisted that I would sleep inside their house. After answering really all questions of Ezquel and Angel about bikes and Europe I fell into the bed way after midnight. I also was invited to breakfast the next morning and afterwards Mario proudly showed my around his Finca.
When the family dropped me off in the next village, I was really sad to leave this great people behind (the boys felt the same). Muchas Gracias familia Diaz!
After skipping about 400km by auto-stop, I was back on the bike. The road went over a beautiful pass, but as usual here in Argentina, as soon as the landscape gets stunning, you will find “rippio”.
Getting into Chilecito that evening, I was looking for a good accommodation, the tourist information wasn’t a great help, but someone on the street told me that I should go to the fire-fighters (“bomberos”). The Bomberos said: No problem, we have a bed for you and you can use in the kitchen whatever you need! They showed me proudly their fire trucks and we had Mate together. The next day the Bomberos actually had to go to an accident, but their truck had a flat tire so that we had to load the entire gear on another truck.
Great guys the Bomberos, but once again (it happens every day) the information about distances were far of reality 😉
On Easter Friday I cycled along a big valley (desert!) and got hit by a terrible heat wave/storm (40°C). After my lunch break I took the chance and stopped a truck passing by. I jumped with my bike on the loading area of this 50yrs old truck, got entertained by the little daughter and skipped about 30km to the next town. Until the evening I cycled into San Blas, everyone sitting in their front yards and waving to me. The night I spent behind a petrol station where I could get beer and have a shower.
At this time I was always thinking about stopping cars and skip some more km, when I saw a cyclist on the horizon. It was only the second cyclist I met since 2.000km, it was Holger from Germany!
He has been cycling from Germany to China last year and now is heading the same as I do (check out his great blog: http://bikeproject2010.de ). We had a lot of stories to share and quickly got into Belen, where we pounded a big ice-cream. We found a nice hostel and set up our tents in the garden. We celebrated Eastern on our/the argentine way with a huge Asado.
Easter-Sunday was supposed to be a very relaxed day and after we found the hidden Easter-eggs we left Belen very late.
Our plan was to get to the hot springs of Hualfin, but somehow we missed the road to the springs, so that we had to look for a place to put up the tents in the little village of Hualfin. Someone said we should camp on the main plaza, but we considered it as too exposed and camped in the garden in front of the tourist information/museum. Some neighbour told us that we couldn’t camp in the garden but we ignored it knowing, this was the best camping spot in town (with lights, toilets and a truck full of sweet grapes).
From Hualfin we had another 40km rippio, as a good training for Bolivia it was a sand gravel road. Around noon we got to a little local airport and as it would be great place to get shadow for lunch we went to the main building. To our surprise, we didn’t see anyone, but the door of Terminal and Waiting area was unlocked. Inside the terminal were couches, tables and hot water for our lunch…we had a great lunch, until the guard came (who must have slept because he didn’t see us). When he came into the Terminal he looked at us, our bikes and plastic bags with food and started laughing. The airport was privately owned and belonged to a gold mine nearby, of course we had to leave. Although the young guard was afraid that he would loose his job if someone finds out about the 2 german cyclists in the Terminal, we could take picture with him.
With this funny and surreal experience, we continued on a paved road and got in time to San Jose. As usual we went to the main plaza and there we found a school with a big playground in the back. Arriving with our bikes, we quickly got the attention of the headteacher and asked if we could camp in the school’s garden. She said we should first ask at the church (they would even have a shower) but if not we could of course stay the night in the school. The pastor of the church wasn’t at home (Easter-Monday) and we set our camp in the school.
The next morning we got up early to be in time for the school morning ceremony. As soon as we got out of our tents we also had 2-3 persons (teachers, kids,…) around us, asking and asking and asking. The ceremony was great once again (it’s the 2nd time that I slept in a school in Argentina). As usual we put down our tents, but this time we surrounded by 20 kids, I invited them to help packing my stuff…that was so much fun!
Next destination was Cafayate, as it is wine region and Holger & me are big wine drinkers, we stopped at some winery, did some tasting and got back on the road with a good bottle of wine in the luggage.
The road from Cafayate to Salta goes through a valley with beautiful red rocks (got slightly more touristy than the last 2.500km). After 20kms we saw a camping-car standing a few meters off the road with big letters ALEMANIA. We decided to say hi, it was Ria und Georg from Bavaria and we got coffee and great (“sauguts”) home-made cake. We both have met a lot of travellers, but these 2 were extraordinary, travelling since 23yrs (!) with the camping-car, mainly in the US. We enjoyed their stories and stayed for more than 3 hours.
Due to that long stop we had done until 5.30pm only 50kms, with more than 30km to the next village with the name “ALEMANIA”. We got there in the dark, couldn’t see much of the village (no electricity) but found an old train station with water and everything…great spot to stay overnight. And it got even better when found someone who sold us an amazing goat cheese and beer. Look at the pictures, this village is beautiful, unknown and is just amazing!
Salta – we’re coming. The road to Salta was beautiful, after lots of kms in the desert, we cycled through green fields. I hit the 5.000km wall and we’re now in Salta in a Hostel to recover and get ready for the upcoming adventure (so far only the keywords PASO DE JAMA & BOLIVIA)…I’ll keep you posted!