What’s new, Argentina?

Leaving our unexpected and comfortable accommodation at the border, Stephano, Tracey and I set off towards the next town (some 68 kms away). We were promised that the Police there would be expecting our arrival and would be happy for us to camp behind the police station.

The corrugated concrete road surface, together with sand, made riding a slow business. It was even slower for me than for Stephano and Tracey on their mountain bikes with minimal luggage (well that’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it). The ride was tough, and got tougher as the day went on and the sand in the road became deeper. But it was still nothing short of spectacular, and it was incredible to be riding through this crazy landscape without cars or lorries (maybe 5 cars passed all day).

As I rolled into town, I met Stephano and Tracey again in Ollacapato. True to their word, the Police were expecting us and were happy for us not only to camp, but also to use the toilets at the Police Station (leaving the back door open for us at night). Whilst it might not have been the prettiest campsite in the world, the shelter and facilities were much appreciated.

Ollacapato exists, I suspect, only because of mining. It was clearly a tough town – constant beating sun, heavy winds, and really not a lot to do.

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Leaving town the next morning, I was on the road that links the mines there with other parts of Argentina. Whilst the traffic was still infrequent, it did mean the occasional lorry.

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Unfortunately, given the dry and sandy conditions, this was what then followed, so I made sure to get to the side of the road well in time, just in case another vehicle was following and unable to see me.

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The landscapes remained amazing however and the road took me to my highest altitude of the trip so far (and I suspect of the entire trip), Alto Chorrillo at 4560 metres above sea level. Probably because of the gentle increase in altitude (as opposed to flying or driving to altitude) I suffered none of the effects of altitude that I’d previously experienced in Nepal. No headaches, no sleeplessness, and not even oxygen problems as I climbed hills. The body is a remarkable thing.

From this point, a few days of fun started as it was pretty much all downhill to Salta at 1150 metres, but still over 200 kilometres away. The scenery was spectacular, and the downhills were awesome (despite brutal headwinds at times).

Notwithstanding the incredible scenery, the towns in this part of Argentina weren’t much to shout about. I hate to think what would have happened had I gone into the video shop or the (probably somewhat optimistic) tourist information.

In another one-horse town I met with Dante, an Argentinian who was cycle-touring with the added complication of being deaf and without speech. We had great conversations  using a combination of lip-reading (which must have been difficult for him, given my beginner’s Spanish combined with accent) and writing messages on phones. We rode together for a couple of days and also camped together at one of the prettiest campsites so far.

There’s no way that my pictures can do justice to the incredible countryside. It was a fantastic welcome to Argentina. And as altitude dropped a little, the countryside was suddenly littered with Cacti, some of which were enormous.

I was a little bit worried by this sign, warning of a control of weight and dimensions. Luckily, the police officers on duty just waved us on, but of course not until they’d asked whether we had enough water with us.

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I was also pleased that (once we were out of the super remote areas at altitude) the people were hugely warm and welcoming. The second picture is of a little train that’s used to transport workers from one of the mines. The waves given as I took the photo were typical of the welcome from those I passed on the bike. Super friendly people with a great sense of fun. Argentina had started really well and I was looking forward to seeing more.

My blog is, in fact, a bit behind. I’m actually back in Chile now (I’ll be criss-crossing between Chile and Argentina from now on). Over Christmas I’m going to be with John and Gertje, good friends from my time living in Pakistan. They’re now in Santiago, and kindly offered to host me over the festive period. I’ve also agreed to house- and cat-sit here over New Year, so it’s another good break before I set off South again.

Hoping everyone has an enjoyable and peaceful time over the Christmas period,

Stuart

 

44 thoughts on “What’s new, Argentina?

  1. Hi Stu,

    What a fabulous post and such breathtaking scenery. I see you have totally acclimatised and are rockin’ some bike abs too! I am way behind there. Not enough time in the saddle as yet for me, clearly.

    I am glad to read that you have company on the road and for Christmas.

    I can’t wait to catch up soon.

    Merry Christmas!

    Love and hugs,
    Sue
    Xo

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    1. Hi Sue! Yes, certainly acclimatised. Not sure about the abs though. I think I’m genetically disposed, regardless of how skinny I am, to having a wobble of blancmange where others have a six pack 😉 I’m lucky to have my friends out here in Santiago, and sure I’m going to enjoy the little slice of ‘normality’ with a family. Hope you have a good Kiwi Christmas, and look forward to seeing you back in Europe! Lots of love, Stuart

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  2. Dear Stuart amazing the pictures – here everything is fine G. was hospitalized again now for pneumonia – he is ok now tired from all the antibiotic…..Wishing you the most wonderful Christmas and enjoy going into the next year with the Cat. all our love, Gerda & George

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    1. Hi Gerda. Good to hear all is well. I’ve emailed separately with George – sounds tough. I hope you had a great Birthday over there (and got my message). And congratulations on your culinary success – it’s not everyone who can pull off cooking for a Michelin-starred chef! Christmas is going to be lovely here with my friends – they’re a lovely family. All my love, Stuart x

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  3. I bet you’re looking forward to some basic luxuries mate.! Glad to see is all going to well and bike and body holding up., adapting. The experiences look and sound great. Enjoy the Christmas period and a bit of respite in a house. Happy new year, take care caminante.

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    1. Hola mi amigo! I’m most looking forward to being with friends. I get enough luxury here, it’s just the rough bits are more photogenic! As for the body, it’s remarkable how it adapts to the daily exercise. The bike just laps it up – it hasn’t missed a beat. Although it seems a long while ago it was sitting in my office, looking all pristine 😉 Hope you have a great Christmas too, and all the best for the New Year. Warmest, Stuart

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  4. Fascinating journey you’re undertaking. I really enjoy reading your blogs. A very Happy Christmas from the UK to you and I look forward to hearing about your 2019 adventures.

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    1. Cheers Paul, and good to hear you’re enjoying. Hope you have a great Christmas too, and look forward to catching up sometime in 2019! I’ll try to keep the blog interesting, although suspect Patagonia is going to make that fairly easy. All the best, Stuart

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  5. Argentina looks beautiful. I hope you are going to put the photos and the blog into a book when you stop long enough! Glad you well and hope that you have a relaxing and great Christmas. All the best for 2019.
    Dave

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    1. Cheers Dave. I’m certainly going to make myself a book when I get back. It’ll give me something to do until the next trip! 😉 Iran is calling my name at the moment…… I finally got into a bit of Christmas spirit yesterday, when I had a culture fix in downtown Chile. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas too, and that 2019 brings all you wish. Warmest, Stuart

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  6. Lieber Stuart,
    weiterhin macht es große Freude, Deinem Reiseblog zu folgen. Tolle Fotos, tolle Unterkünfte, spektakuläre Geschäfte :-). Wie einsam kann man sich auf der Welt noch fühlen. Die Kastanienallee in Berlin scheint da das komplette Gegenmodell zu sein. Wir wünschen Dir ein schönes Weihnachtsfest und einen guten Rutsch ins neue Jahr. Bleib gesund und munter! Wir freuen uns auf den nächsten Bericht.
    Viele Grüße aus Berlin von Susanne und Rainer

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    1. Hi Rainer! Es freut mich zu hören, dass es für dich interessant bleibt. Komischerweise, habe ich mich bisher nicht einsam gefühlt. Aber doch sehr alleine auf der Welt, das stimmt. Ich hatte Einsamkeit schon ab und zu erwartet da ich ja eher im Tummel bin – so wie in der Kastanienallee. Euch wünsche ich auch ein wunderschönes Fest, und hoffe 2019 bringt Euch alles was Ihr Euch wünscht. Liebe Grüße aus Santiago, Stuart

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  7. Stuart, just unbelievable vistas and well done so far (Michael told Annette and I about your trip and blog – WOW!), thanks for sharing the journey. Keep up the peddling, enjoy the Xmas break and keep the photos coming please. As you say, photos and even video (try some) just can’t do it justice.

    cheers and happy xmas – Annette and John Sydney

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    1. Hi guys – and great to hear from you! Yes, I’m spectacularly lucky to be able to have this adventure. The photos will keep on coming, worry not – there are a whole load of them stacked up and waiting to be posted! As for the video, that’s a funny one. I did do a little video of some of the roads a few posts back, but on the whole it just takes too much time for me. I did buy a go-pro to take with me, but it stayed at home once I saw how long it takes to transfer and edit. Guess I’m a lazy blogger. Hope you both have a wonderful Christmas too, and look forward to seeing you again sometime on travels somewhere! Best wishes, Stuart

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    1. Hi there! Yes, there have been some incredible places on the way so far. Looks like you’ve been to some pretty remote places recently too – great photos. As for the bicycle bit, for me it’s the best way to travel. By foot is too slow, and by car/bus is too quick. The other beauty of being on a bike is that people seem to find you entirely approachable – from those in luxury cars to those riding donkeys, all will happily chat with you. Keep on travelling, and all the best for the holidays, Stuart

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      1. Bicycling would probably be my husband’s preferred way of travel too, as is yours. I love to walk myself, and although I love to bicycle, I don’t know that I would enjoy climbing steep inclines or carrying a lot of weight. My tailbone wouldn’t care much for the long hours in the saddle either! But I am certainly impressed by people who do it. I like the idea of being totally approachable. Happy holidays to you, Stuart, and happy new year! Many happy travels. 🙂

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      2. Ah, the steep inclines when combined with weight are one of the tougher aspects, that’s true. But there are plenty of flatter places on this earth 😉 I hope you had happy holidays too, and all the best for 2019 – no matter how or where you travel! Best wishes, Stuart

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  8. Great post, Stuart. You’ve bonded with so many friendly and unusual folk. Impressive cacti and a weirdly evocative landscape, obviously dry as a bone. Weirdly Does your beard grow faster, or grayer, at the higher altitudes…? 🙂

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    1. Hi J. Yep, it’s been a spectacular time since entering the Atacama. The deserts here are incredible. As you say, dry as a bone. It’s amazing when you get to areas such as Mendoza, where they use irrigation systems introduced by the Incas to keep the city green despite it still being desert. More about that in a future post! As for the beard, I think it’s getting greyer of its own accord – doesn’t need any help from the altitude 😉 Hope you have a peaceful Christmas, and all the best for 2019, Stuart

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Colin! Yes, it’s everything I’d hoped for, and more. The best country for cycling has been Colombia – by far – but the others are pretty damned good too! Hope that you’re having a good time over there, and all the very best for 2019. Please give my best to all the old crowd too – hope they’re all well. Stuart

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  9. Hallo Stuart,

    wir verfolgen Deine Reiseberichte immer gespannt auf das, was Du als nächstes erleben wirst! Mittlerweile sind wir wieder in Deutschland angekommen und senden Dir viele Weihnachtsgrüße aus der Kälte! Wir wünschen Dir noch eine tolle Reise! Vielleicht trifft man sich ja noch einmal im Leben 🙂

    Viele Grüße & Merry Christmas von Fabio & Laura (vom Guesthouse Playa Chinchorro in Arica)

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    1. Hi Ihr Beiden! Schön zu hören, dass Ihr noch ‘dabei’ seid! Hoffentlich war die Rückkehr nicht zu schmerzhaft und die Jobsuch nicht lang für dich, und der neue Job für Fabio hat gut angefangen? Euch wünsche ich alles alles Gute für 2019! Liebe Grüße (jetzt aus Santiago), Stuart

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  10. Hi Stuart, loving the blog; fantastic photos (to be expected!) and great descriptions of your journey, the places you pass through and most importantly the people you meet! So jealous of such an adventure. Enjoy the Christmas/New Year break and stay safe on the next stage of your travels.
    All the best, Bruce

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    1. Hi Bruce. As ever, good to hear from you. Yes, it is an incredible adventure – and I still pinch myself on a daily basis that I’m finally out here living it! Hope you had a great break? I’ve been in Santiago with a former colleague from Pak and his family, but think he was before your time. All the best for 2019 – hope it’s a good one for you!

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  11. Stuart

    Amazing pictures and adventures.

    I love the fact that there are very few people and cars, the world stands still.

    Glad you had some shelter over Christmas and probably much needed sleep.

    Love reading the posts, stay safe and enjoy

    Lots of love and a a happy New Year

    Lorraine and Emma
    Xxx

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    1. Hi you two! Yep, the isolated bits are incredible, particularly when I think about some of the more crowded places on this earth where I’ve lived and worked! That said, it was great to enjoy some luxury over Christmas, and be with good friends. When they went away over New Year I was able to stay in the house on my own, so I enjoyed being able to cook proper meals in a fully equipped kitchen again! Hope you both had a good one too, and you’re managing to get some decent time together? Look forward to seeing you later this year – expect to be back in Europe sometime around the summer. Lotsalove, Stuart x

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  12. Hola Stuart

    Hace ya mucho que no me reportaba pero he leído tus posts en compañía de mi hija de 7 años. Se sorprende de ver de ver de lo qué es capaz de lograr alguien que quiere ver el mundo y sus maravillas de una manera diferente.

    Eres un campeón de las experiencias de vida sobre una bicicleta.
    Gracias por compartirlas y dejarnos ver parte de Sur América y su diversidad de climas,, paisajes, culturas y personajes.

    Espero que ya estés disfrutando de ese vino argentino en la Patagonia.

    Los mejores deseos de bienestar, prosperidad y éxitos.
    Felicidades para este 2019.

    Nota. Seguro que ahora tienes un español bien internacional con buenas anécdotas.

    Saludos desde Medellín,

    Sergio.
    Profesor de español
    Colombia immersion

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    1. Hola Sergio!

      Estoy muy feliz de saber que lees con tu hija. Me recuerdo cuando contaste de ella en nuestras clases.

      Espero que las vacaciones fueron excelente y el año nuevo va bien! Ahora estoy cerca Patagonia, y sí, disfrutaba mucho las zonas de vino – en Argentina y Chile tambien!

      Y el español? Puedo decir que Argentina no fue tan difícil como pensaba. Pero Chile……. Chile es un desastre – no es español! que la gente habla!! 😉

      Saludos mi amigo,

      Stuart

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