CENTRAL ARGENTINA

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DAY 785 , 786, 787 & 788 JACHAL REST DAY

DAY 789 JACHAL – KM3567 RUTA 40

START 11:45 FINISH 17:00 (01/05/17)

DISTANCE 56KM RIDE TIME 3H15

We had a bit of a late start, I caught up in Niquivil, 24km all down hill from Jachal in time to have lunch with Eva. It was pretty hot and we had a little seaster here as well before cycling on. Towns on the Ruta 40 are pretty sparse.

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The map showed the next town was another 24km away. When we got there. All there was, was a old train station in ruins. Nice place to stop for afternoon tea.

It had been a long weekend. In the afternoon the traffic was unusually heavy. We were been passed by loads of horse floats and motor bikes on trailers. Turned out there had been a huge carnival near by. We had been told by some fellow cyclists we meet earlier in the day. That there was a nice shelter close by to camp at. The Refugio was a shelter for travellers to use. It was busy when we got there. Two families were cooking on the open fire. They kindly gave us some cold water and oranges. The refirgo was flash. It had a fridge and electric plug inns. We ended up camping a short time away in the sand dunes. It was a great night for watching stars while sitting by the camp fire.

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DAY 790 KM3567 RUTA 40 – KM3538 RUTA 40

START10:00 FINISH 12:10 (02/05/17)

DISTANCE 29KM RIDE TIME 1 H 35

We ended up having a short day. Eva’s ankle is playing up. So we ended up stopping around lunch time. We went and camped in the grounds of the old rail yards.

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It is such a shame these grand old buildings are now in ruins. After the railway closed, they were ransacked. All the roof rafters had been taken, windows ripped out and even the flour tiles had been lifted. All that remained was the shell.

We cooked on a open fire by heating a rock. It worked really well. It was another great night for stars. I gave Eva a bit of a fright when I let out a yell. I had seen a huge white fire ball on the horizon. It had got me a little excited. It was probly some space junk re-entering the amphorae. Unfortunately Eva had here head down at the time and missed it.

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DAY 791 KM3538 RUTA 40 – TALACASTO

START 10:23 FINISH 14:00 (03/05/17)

DISTANCE 20KM RIDE TIME 1H48

It was another beautiful sunny day in the desert. We took our time, enjoying the morning. We relit the fire and made some toast on the hot rock. It was then a small climb up to the junction. There was another Train station in ruins and a Restaurant. It was to expensive to eat. They did sell us some eggs for 5 pesos each. Usually they are only 2. That turned out to be the only things we brought. We had fried egg sanwiies for lunch, before going and setting up camp next to the old railway station and having a relaxing afternoon.

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DAY 792 TALACASTO – SAN JUAN RIVER

START 9:15 FINISH 16:50 (04/05/17)

DISTANCE 74KM RIDE TIME 5H57

Went solo today, as Eva has had to hitch. I will hopefully catch up again with her tomorrow. Just as well because it proved to be a difficult day. It was 50km of up. Some of it quite steep. A 1300 meter climb and the pass was at 2220 meters. Eva got a ride with ease and after only 7km I got the toot as she passed me. I stopped for a break after 13km when I came across some Thermals’. Was very tempted to have a swim.

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Knew I really had to push on. It was a supper hot day and I took a pounding from the sun. There was just about nill shade. I had a much needed rest when I reached the top.

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There was a sprinkling of snow on the mountains close by. I then had the easiest 25km you will ever get with a supper fast down hill on a nice windy road. When I reached the valley. I found a Oasis.

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There was a fast flowing river and everything near it was nice and green. After crossing the bridge I was luckly enough to find a road down to the river and here I was able to find a place to camp. After setting up camp. I was really keeen to go for a swim. I was so hot, dirty and sweatie. I was guttered when I decided the river was just to strong to swim and had to avert to the old wet wipes for a wash. While starting to cook dinner. I got a fright when I moved a rock and a scorpian came out. He was a fistie bugger and moved so fast. He kept heading for my tent………..and I had to flick him away with a stich a few times

In the night I herd a donkey or a horse come pretty close to the tent. Wasn’t the only visitors. I herd the foxes come around as well.

DAY 793 SAN JUAN RIVER – CALINGASTA

START 8:10 FINISH 12:00 (05/05/17)

DISTANCE 40KM RIDE TIME 2H47

This morning I had a double flat tyre. Both front and back wheals were flat. The front tyre had a whopping great big thorn coming out and I replaced the tube. The back tyre I just pumped up and got on my way. I didn’t need to pump it up for 25km……..then I had to pump it up every 3-4 km because I was to lazy to change it.

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It was such a beautiful ride this morning, following the river with only a very gradual rise. Was was stunning was the snow cap mountains (Andes) I was cycling towards.

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I would have got to Calingasta sooner if I hadn’t kept stopping to take photos. Some seanes from Brad Pitts movie seven years in Tibet were filmed here.

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When I got to the municipal camping………..I found Eva with ease. 70 pesos a night to camp. With very good hot showers. After some lunch we spent the afternoon in the ice cream shop.

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DAY794 & 795 CALINGASTA REST DAYS

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DAY 796 CALINGASTA – HILARIO

START 12:40 FINISH 16:30 (08/05/17)

DISTANCE 21KM RIDE TIME 2H11

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With our slow place. It is allowing us to be able to have some real gourmet breakfasts. Eva came up with the idea of toad in the whole for this morning, previous day we had French toast……….Another Eva idea. Previous to that I had cooked Bacon. Eggs, fried Tomato on toast. Often we are having fried banana as well. Making you hungry.

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The previous days huge winds have been getting up in the late morning or early afternoon. So we we taking a chance leaving town after 12. It was actually a pretty warm sunny day. Good for cycling. It was a easy gradual climb out of town along the river, with the most stunning snow caped mountains in the back ground on one side and the desert, completely different on the other. We cycled for about a hour before stopping for some lunch.

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We then past some old ruin s in the late afternoon near Hilario that were the remains of a old silver mine from the 1820’s. We ended up camping for the night near the town with the same name. We set up our tents behind a bank seprating us from the road. We were close to houses. No on e bothered us. It was a cold night. The moon was getting full and everything was well lit up.

DAY 797 HILARIO – BARREAL

START 9:30 FINISH 13:00 (09/05/17)

DISTANCE 2OKM RIDE TIME 1H37

 

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It was a bit of a overcast and cool start to day. We took our time as usually to get moving. We then cycled just 20km to get to Barreal. We had just the one stop, stopping in Sorocayense. Where we visited a nut farm and brought lots of dried fruit for the magic box. We decided we would try to camp for free for the next few days in Barreal. We ended up cycling just a few km from the centre and next to a small park were some woods that we were able to set up camp in.

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DAY 798 &799 BARREAL REST DAYS

 

 

we spent 3 nights camped in the woods. Nobody bothered us. We must of camped on the road up to the cemetery. Because soon half the town knew where we were camping when a funeral precession came past on the 3rd evening. Then they returned 30 mins later.

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DAY800 BARREAL – NP EL LEONCITO

START 10:30 FINISH 15:00 (12/05/17)

DISTANCE 33KM RIDE TIME 3H02

Our quiet road was again busy this morning. Just as we were packing up the army started to march past us. They were over a hounded strong. When we came out of the woods we found it had snowed a lot in the night. The mountains now had so much more snow then the day before. Unfortunately again I had to cycle alone this morning because Eva is unable to do the hills. As we cycled out of town we were joined by dog after dog. We must have had a dozen with us at one stage. In the end two dogs walked with us for the first 14km. You couldn’t see the tops of the mountains because they were in cloud. You could see the snow below them. After 20km I turned off onto the road for El Leoncito National Park. There is a free camp site here with hot showers & Wifi. There is also a number of obsertories in the park which we plan to visit. I caught up to Eva about 3km from the park office. She was pushing her bike. She had managed to get a ride to the end of the ashfelt, which was good. So she only had to do the last 7km………..it was up. We were the only ones in the camp site. There was lots of fire wood around and we were able to make a good fire. We made a stone grill and cooked up some steak. It was pretty cold at night. Great for looking at the stars.

DAY 801, 802 & 803 NP EL LEONCITO REST DAYS.

I got up early this morning to go off and do a 3 hour hike up to small mountain in the park. It was a awesome morning, first Eva and I walked up to the small hill behind the camp site to watch the sunrise.

The mountains were looking fantastic. I then headed off, the trail was good, pretty flat and passed through some changing landscape.

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Part of it went through a cannon. Then you were up on top of a ridge and been able to appreciate the snow capped Andes. Which were looking awesome. The eyes were not just on the beautiful scenery. I still had my eyes pealed and on the look out for a Puma. Apparently there are a few in the park. Was hoping to see one. But I never did.

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When I got up to the top I found myself ontop of a small peak. It was rather exposed and it was windy and cold. But the view was stunning. Well worth the short climb.

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After dinner, Eva and I walked the 2km up to the closeted observatory. I had seen it early in the day. When we got there. It wasn’t quite what we expected. We didn’t get anywhere near the observatory. Instead we found ourselves out in the cold looking at stars through a digital telescope. We did get to see Jupiter and Saturn and a few other star consolations. It was still a bit disappointing.

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The next day I went on a 11km return walk up to the largest telescope in Argentina. On the way I stopped off a few times to watch the horses and to do a small hikes up to a waterfall close by It was free to visit the obsererty and I got a nice little personal tour. I didn’t see any stars. I did enjoy it a lot more then the night before. The telescope is huge. It weighed 40 tons and the lens was 2.6 meters wide. They started building the telescope in 1960 a6nd it didn’t open till 1986.

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We were really lucky we got to have our nice little camp site to ourslves for the whole 4 nights.

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DAY 804 NP EL LEONCITO – NP EL LEONCITO RUTA 149

START 12:30 FINISH 15:20 (16/05/17)

DISTANCE 36KM RIDE TIME 1H43

This morning we had One last hot shower before leaving. I also took the opportunity to finally have a shave. After a month it was getting a bit out of hand.

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The ride out of the national Park was beautiful. Didn’t need to pedal for 13km. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. The mountains covered in snow looked fantastic.

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They were so clear and sharp. Below the mountains was the Barreal Blanco. Like a very flat salt flats. In summer between 5pm and 8pm land yhuats use the flats because the wind is at its best. Otherwise there is no wind or to much. desert.

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Soon after getting back on the highway. There was a police check point Instructions were to stop. I could have cycled straight through because they were sleeping. I had to go into there office and wake them up. Just as well because they were expecting me as Eva had told them I was coming. When I caught up to Eva we stopped shortly after for the day. The wind was really strong. The ground very open and exposed. We ended up camping below a bridge…….which was some what shelter. Not before I had the idea of setting the tent up in the culvert. What a disaster turned out to be a wind tunnel and no protection from the wind at all.

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DAY 805 NP EL LEONCITO RUTA 149 – USPALLATA

START 10:00 FINISH 18:00 (17/05/17)

DISTANCE 68KM RIDE TIME 4H11

Unfortunately the up hill is no good for Eva or the 35km of dirt road that lay ahead.. We managed 23km before we had to either stop and camp or for Eva to get a ride. The wind was again back and as strong as ever and ground was so open. Camping wasn’t looking good. Traffic had been very light. Just at the right time. Luck went our way. I caught up to Eva on the top 23km away. She had only had to wait a hour. It was blimmin cold. We then took the easy 24km down into Uspallata. What a tourist town. The atms worked which was good. Two previous towns we had been denied.

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We went to the camp ground. There we meet Loranzo who offered for us to come back and camp at his place with his family. When we arrived he was already hosting two other cyclists from Spain. We ended up having a bit of a group dinner and sitting around the fire.

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DAY 806 & 807 USPALLATA REST DAY

It was a pretty lazy start to the day and by the time we all had brunch in was after lunch time. After helping Lorenzo dig a trench and berry a water pipe after covering it with horse dung and straw to help stop it freezing. We cycled 5km up the road to visit some rock paintings. Eva was struggling a little with the up so we tired a rope between our bikes and I gave her a tow. It worked well, the weather can change so quick. Soon after arriving it started to snow. It wasn’t very pleasant.

 

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 We still visited the main rock paintings. There are hundreds in this area. Afterwards we sat in the Refugio with the guard and drank Marta before venturing back out into the snow to cycle back. When we got back we found it had hardly snowed at all. It was bloody cold.

 

 

 

Turns out Lorenzo does a 4 hour radio show every week on the local community Station. He invited us all to come in. We all ended up getting interviewed for the next few hours. Locals were sending in questions on What’s up, Going to the radio station we had to forgo dinner. It was 2am before we got back to the bus and ate. It was such a cold night everyone bailed from there tents and slept on te bus. I still stuck it out. I like to test myself.

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DAY 808 USPALLATA – POLVAREDAS

START 11:00 FINISH 15:00 (20/05/72)

DISTANCE 41KM RIDE TIME3H14

At this time of year the pass over the Andes to Chile is often close because of the snow. It was opened yesterday. Closed the day before. The weather is looking good for the next few days. So I will attempt to start the crossing today. The plan is for Eva to stay behind and hitch a ride up and meet me at the top tomorrow around lunch time. It’s about 90km to the border. It was freezing cold when I packed up the tent. Everyone was sleeping. It was good of Eva to get up to say good bye. I cook some breakfast. It was so cold the stove hardly wanted to work. About 9:30am I cycled into town. After visiting the panadera. I stopped at the café for a coffee. I was a bit naughty because it was nearly 11am when I started cycling out of town. It was still pretty cold. Don’t think it got above zero degrees. Even with the sun out. It was very pretty cycling out of town, with the fresh snow on the mountains. The old train line was on the other side of the river and also following the valley up to the frontier. Like clock work every 10km was a station and old water tower. The cold was making cycling very tiring. A lot of trucks cross here to Chile. The road can be danger’s.

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I came across the wreckage from a few weeks ago where a truck had crashed off the edge of a bridge and plummeted 100meters into a ravine. I’m certain there was no survivors. There was a old tunnel next to the new road. I thought I would pass through it. Only to discover half way that the tunnel was blocked from a cave in. When it got to 3pm I reached Polveredas. It used to be a busy railway town. When the railway closed. It looked like the people stayed and continued to live in the railway houses. As I walked through the town. It was pretty run down and the people I saw were not very friendly. No one wanted to talk to me.

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The old Railway sheds were open. Every single window had been broken. The old station had been ransacked as well. I was keen to find somewhere to camp for the night. The sun was starting to disappear from the valley very quick. The wind was fiercely cold. I had the impression if I camped here tonight I would wake up in the morning and all my stuff would be gone. So I decided to continue.

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Just on the outskirt of town I saw a sign for police station. I went and rang the bell. I got two young guys up from there seester. I told them I wanted to came. They told me it wasn’t possible because it was dangerous. I told them I couldn’t go any further. And the next town 12km away was to far. I didn’t want to get caught out in the open if it snowed. In the end they said I could put my tent up beside the police station, which I was more then happy with. It was only 3pm I put my tent up and went straight to bed. I was far to exhausted and tired to do anything. I was so tired I couldn’t even cook. 6 hours later the police came back from there rounds and told me they would cook for me, which was really nice. Then at 10pm they brought me some chicken and chips and a bag of biscuits. By 9pm traffic is scares because the border is closed. So things are tranquil. Except that the wind blew so strong all night. You could hear the big gusts coming.

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DAY 809 POLVAREDAS – LAS CUEVES

START 8:45 FINISH 15:00 (21/05/72)

DISTANCE 47KM RIDE TIME 5H19

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I had planned to do 60km yesterday and then only have 30km to finish off today. So the 40km I did yesterday was a little less then planned. I got on the road early to give myself a chance of meeting Eva at midday. When she passed me in a truck around 11am I was still 25km from the top. By this time the snow was down to the road. It was freezing cold again. One thing in my favour was the sun was out. All the way up the valley was snow tunnels over the railway tracks to keep the train line clean.

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Not far from the top, was lots of ski resorts. I stopped in one restaurant for a hot drink and to warm up. 10Km from the top I meet a family from Mendoza who were having a picnic in the snow. They also kindly gave me a hot drink.

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Lots of tours come up as well to see the largest mountain in all of South America. Today it had a strange cloud halo around it. It was 3pm when I reached the last restaurant before the tunnel and Chile. I was glad to see Eva’s bike out the front. I went in and had a hot drink and a hot meal. Not to mention warm up by the fire. Our plan was not to go any further today. Instead we went over to the administration building for the toll office and the tunnel. We asked them for a place to stay and they kindly gave us the ping pong room next to the control room for the tunnel. It’s just two cold to sleep outside in the snow.

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Just in time we learnt Chile is very stricked about bring vegetables in. So we cook up everything we had as if it is cooked. They are ok. After dinner we watched a movie.

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