I have finally made it to Argentina, 14 months after setting out for Alaska.
I travel South East from San Pedro de Atacama into the Atacama Desert and cruise along the edge of the salt plain. The road then peels Eastwards up from the desert floor into the Andes again.
The pass from Chile to Argentina (‘Paso Sico’) took me up and over the spine of the Andes once more and down through a very long valley towards the city of Salta. There awaits the most succulent cuts of steak and Syd-Harbs of red wine to revitalise a weary peddler. The pass became a bit of an adventure in itself. After promising myself that I would stick to the asphalt roads, I found myself doing it tough yet again and also making life even more difficult for myself.
Surprisingly the places close to the Chilean border do not have the slightest knowledge of or interest in changing Chilean pesos into Argentine Pesos. Was therefore again out of money. Having made it over the pass and through the remote customs port, I head for the closest little town of Catua only to find that my money is no good here. Damn it! Will have to get to Salta to have any worthwhile currency again.
Just before the last Chilean military check point a guy at a mining settlement gives me some water, a cup of coffee and some biscuits with caramel stuff on them. He has little idea just how important this infusion of calories is as I was starting to wane a bit and could see no real way to recharge in the immediately foreseeable future.
A local restauranteur takes pity on the plight of the poor traveling bicyclist and offers up a plate of empanadas which are dispatched post-haste.
A few miles further south Aussie guy passing in a car who gives water. I have been a true charity case this day
The next day out of Catua is one of the more incredible day’s riding of the trip. All is well until hitting the salt plain and then the wind takes over and turns toe day into a sand storm.
Having the wind in my favour should have been a good thing and it mostly was. I would have hated to be traveling in the other direction. However, especially over the top of the pass, the wind is literally propelling bike and me along and off the road. I kid you not, dear reader, that it is blowing 50 knots at least along this road. I screw u pa front brake trying to stop being propelled into the abyss beyond more than a few
In San Antonio de los Cobres thank The Great Lord Harry that a guy is willing to change $50 to Argentinian pesos otherwise I was on for another few days of deprivation, most unwelcome.
The next day I anticipate a nice trundle down the hill into Salta. I keep that thought as I enter a frickin’ wind tunnel with strong wind blowing up the valley for 100km into the face of your long-suffering correspondent.
At last in Salta and it is a great pleasure to be amongst people who appreciate the value of a good chunk of cow flesh and eat copious quantities of it while quaffing down Syd-Harbs of local red wine. Salta in northern Argentina has class and style and a population which seems to prize eating and living well. No longer surrounded by chicken & Chip outlets of their north-western almost-neighbours, these guys know how to cook a chip!
The trick here is to find the busy restaurants that have old guys serving on tables; the kind of people who have been munching exclusively on tenderloins all of their lives. This is the perfect place to celebrate my birthday.