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Tilcara, about 200km south of the Bolivian border was our most northern point, and now we were to retrace our steps to Salta and then to continue south for the next few months.

we were to drop from 2500m back down to 1200m, but the first part was a gentle downhill gradient. The wind had previously kindly blown us up this hill, but now it was a battle to cycle downhill into the wind. However we soon reached the steeper gradients where gravity beat the wind.

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It was great to descend through the stunning scenery, as you could sit back and admire it, as opposed to the hard slog uphill.

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After a couple of days rest in Salta, this time for Sylvia to recover from a cold, we were off again. We thought that the views we had already seen would be hard to beat, but we read that we were heading for the Quebrada de Cafayate, a wild desert like area.

We passed through a wide flat agricultural valley, with mountains rising high on either side, for the first 100km.

 

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The hills stacked up in blue and purple layers, looking like a painted stage set in the distance. it was beautiful and easy cycling country.

Then, after 100km, and with 100km to go to Cafayate. the hills closed in and choked the valley. and we started to climb gradually up into amazing rock formations and desert areas.

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img_9721The cardones, or candelabra cactus has been a regular sight on our journey so far, and i have learnt that they are not the soft fleshy plant I imagined them to be.

I read in guide books about “cactus wood” being used for construction, and had no clue that there was such a thing as cactus wood.

But this is what a cactus “skeleton” looks like

 

 

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And here it is being used as the supports for a porch.

learning something new every day

 

 

 

We camped at the halfway point, and it was clear on the map that there were no villages for the next 100km before Cafayate, Due to the high temperatures (high 30’s), strong winds and some climbing we decided that this would be a two day trip, with a wild camp for the first night. I was concerned about the amount of water, we carry about 8 litres between us, but we thought there must be somewhere to get water, and set off.

We covered 70km on the first day, and almost used up all of our water, there was nowhere to find any, and it turned out that there was nowhere for water in the entire 100km. We were fortunate to beg a few litres from a Swiss couple in a motor home, but it was a salutary lesson in the big distances that we will encounter between settlements at times, and the need to carry extra water.

At a push there was a small river, and we do carry a water purification system, but that is for emergencies and there will not always be a river at hand either.

This was our wildcamp spot for the night, just off the road and hidden behind some bushes, all was fine except for a wild donkey who gave us a bit of a fright in the dark.

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Camp sites have been interesting generally, some very basic, and always very dusty, with the wind giving us and all of our kit a regular sand blasting.

img_0235The basic nature of some sites has given me a chance to try out a piece of equipment we have carried for many miles for the first time, our portable shower.

 

It worked fine after leaving it in the sun for an hour or so to warm up. Obviously I don’t normally shower in my pants but the censor insisted I put them on for the photo

 

 

 

Despite the heat, the wind and the lack of water, the ride was another memorable one, so far every day on the bike has been one of constant amazement at the unfolding countryside.

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After the wild desert area Cafayete has been a welcome bit of sophistication, a small town set in a wine region, surrounded by vineyards and ringed by mountains, another day off to visit bodegas and museums.

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Three weeks into our trip we continue to meet interesting people every day, here are a selection.

A meeting of the cycle tourists, we met up with two cyclists from Florida, heading south, and two from Argentina heading north, on a rainy day in the cloud forest.

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once again we witnessed the inventiveness of the Argentinians with their home made panniers.

So, the Argentinians travel with home made panniers on old mountain bikes, well this is how our French friends, Bridgitte and Alain travel.

 

 

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20 tonnes of go anywhere luxury, they are not going to run out of water like us,with their 1000L tank. An impressive truck that they have been touring with in South America for the last 4 years.

 

Finally at our campsite tonight I was surprised to see two fire engines arrive, however these were soon followed by 30 cyclists. The fire engines have been converted into support vehicles for a ride from Ecuador to Ushuia at the very bottom of Argentina, an 11000Km 4 month adventure. We were fortunate to be their dinner guests for the evening.

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As we continue south we can see on the map that there will be some challenges to face, with large distances between settlements and testing climbs, but we are becoming used to the challenges of this amazing country and hopefully will be up to it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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