We landed safely at Buenos Aires and started the logistics to get ourselves and all of our kit up to the top left hand corner of Argentina. ( the red dot!)
And all went well, with a bit of Spanish usage we were booked on the Monday bus to Salta and our bikes deposited with the cargo handlers, which gave us a free day in Buenos Aires. Neither of us are city people and a few hours was enough for us to take in the sights.
Monday Afternoon found us at the huge central bus terminal (busses are a major intercity form of transport in Argentina) tickets in hand. It was a relief to see that our bikes and bags were already safely in the luggage compartment, and we set off on our 22 hour bus trip to the North West. Despite the duration it was not that bad a trip, viewing the miles of Pampas during the day, and getting a reasonable night’s sleep in the reclining chairs.
Then we were there, Salta bus station, and our boxes and bags were transformed again into the bicycles and panniers that will hopefully carry us around Argentina for the next six months.
First stop was Salta campsite for three nights, first to get our kit properly sorted, stock up on supplies, have a wander around the old colonial city sights, and an extra day of rest for Jon to get over his man flu.
Then on Friday morning we set off, heading north first, and up into the hills. The first 100km. took us through heavily forested hills, dropping down into Jujay, another large city, then we were heading for our objective, the Quebrada (deep valley) de Humahuaca, the high valley that leads towards Bolivia.
The Quebrada is a World Heritage site, and we were soon astounded by the amazing scenery.
We steadily climbed the valley, from 1200m at Jujay to 2300m at Purmamarca, a small town in a stunning setting, surrounded by multi coloured rock formations
The road branches at Purmamarca and a high mountain road heads across the high puna, crossing two passes at 4300m, 300km to the border with Chile. I have read many accounts of touring cyclists who cross these high passes. However this is not for us. The physical effort of cycling both up to, and then at those altitudes is extremely testing, and also it is necessary to carry both food and water for several days, another factor, which we have experienced at the limited altitudes we have reached is the wind. Every day so far the afternoons have seen strong winds that would be almost impossible to cycle into. Luckily for us so far they have been mostly tail winds!
However, we could not come to this corner of the world and not get up onto the high Andean Puna. A shared taxi ride from Purmamarca took us high up to Salinas Grandes (salt flats) at 3500m, crossing a 4200m pass on the way.
This ride was one of the most spectacular journeys either of us has ever made. The winding road rising up 2000m from the valley, the high desert with distant 6000m peaks, and finally the other worldly salt flats. Here are a few photos, but it is so difficult to capture it with a camera. A truly wonderful experience so early in our visit to Argentina.
This route is taken by large numbers of heavy goods vehicles, many of which were car transporters. I guess they are making a trip to the port of Antoforgasta in Chile, several hundred miles away and over the Andees, an amazing drive, but important to keep your eyes on the road.
After Purmamarca we continued north along the valley, reaching the town of Tilcara. We also reached another significant point near here, the Tropic Of Capricorn. Unfortunately this is our northernmost point and we will now turn around and retrace our steps back to Salta. So an early start to try to beat those afternoon head winds!
And finally, on our last travels we met many interesting people, but never included them in our blog, hopefully we can put this right from now on.
This is Frederico, making his way from Buenos Aires on into Bolivia and Peru.
We have excellent kit, with top range bikes and panniers etc.
Frederico has an old mountain bike and his panniers are made of cut open 25L drums, with a bread basket for a back rack. Cycle touring on the cheap.
And this is Eric from Lausanne, Switzerland, Eric and his wife are making their way around South America in their Land Cruiser.
A good effort considering neither speak Spanish, and only a little English. French does not get you very far in Latin America, but smiling and pointing seems to work for them.
So that’s it until the next reasonable internet, here’s a few more pictures.