I hope everyone had a great time over the holidays and that 2019 has started well. I had a wonderful time with my friends in Santiago and got going again on the 2nd of January. I’m currently on the doorstep of Patagonia, but as you know, the blog is a little behind…..
After the tough desert stretch, I rolled into the city of Salta in Northern Argentina. It was great to have a couple of days in an apartment to get ready for the next leg. ‘Getting ready’ basically entailed meeting up with Stephano and Tracey again (my Australian friends from the border crossing) and eating large quantities of Argentine beef, drinking the odd glass of wine and laughing at how hard the desert had been, but also how beautiful.
After a couple of days I was back on the road, and cycled through some very remote areas, encountering charming people, as well as staying in a few really comfortable guest houses and hotels. I also saw a few murals to Che Guevara, who was of course Argentinian by birth.
One unexpected surprise was stumbling across a genuine cowboy meet. It was the ‘lasso festival’ of the area, and yep, proper cowboys were demonstrating their skills. As I cycled onto the site, the compere also made sure that everyone knew that a touring cyclist had arrived, and I was made to feel very welcome indeed (as well as slightly embarassed by the big round of applause)!
As ever, the scenery was spectacular, particularly the drive along the 68, which passes through several canyons.
As I cycled through several villages I came across their war memorials to the fallen of the Falklands conflict. It was sad to see that even in tiny villages, significant numbers of people had been killed.
I’ve been able to speak with a couple of Argentinians about the Falklands war. They told me that the Military Junta are despised for the abuses that went on in the country at the time, but there is still generally a strong belief that the Falklands (Las Malvinas) rightfully belong to Argentina. I’ve seen slogans on roadside signs and even on buses. The people I’ve spoken with explained that the feeling of injustice about the Falklands goes back a long way before the dictatorship and that they’d started the war simply as an attempt to gain popularity.
My German side made me take a little detour to visit the village of Alemania (Spanish for ‘Germany’). Apart from the name though, there didn’t seem to be anything German about it!
I also celebrated my 50th birthday last month. A few weeks before I had been on Ruta 68 and passed the 50km marker. Given that I was going to be 50 and was born in ’68, I thought this was one photo that had to be taken 😉
A few more days’ riding saw me travelling through some beautiful countryside (including past my first vineyards).
When I reached the city of San Miguel de Tucuman I made the decision to bus the 1000kms to Mendoza. I’d been warned that this stretch was very boring, and there was no option but to cycle along the major road. This didn’t sound like a lot of fun, hence my decision to try to take the bus. Unfortunately though, Argentinian bus companies appear to be reluctant to take bikes, as the buses have limited storage. Luckily, having disassembled my bike once more, I was able to convince the conductor that really it was just like taking a couple of suitcases.
Another reason to take the bus was that I fully intended to take a really good break in Mendoza and make the most of the food and wine culture the region is famous for. More in the next post. In the meantime, best wishes to anyone still reading!