Alpasinche to Belén
Average speed: 14.7mph
Moving time: 3h49
Door to door: 4h30
Surprisingly, after our intruder last night, we both had a good night sleep under the stars.
We had decided that our best bet to watch the England Scotland match would be to get to Belén, the biggest town in the area for 2 o’clock. Unfortunately this meant being on the road by 8.30 cycling steadily uphill with headwinds and rain in our face.
Both exhausted but happy to have made it to Belén we searched in vain for the rugby, only finding women’s beach rugby between Argentina and Chile. To be honest this was a much better watch...
We had planned to leave Belén but none of the shops opened until 6pm and we couldn’t leave without more gas so ended up having to stay in a hostel.
DAY FIFTY ONE
Belén to 5 miles on from Campo Arenal Airport (2,500 m.a.s.l)
Distance: 65 miles
Average speed: 14.9
Moving time: 4 hours 19
Door to door: 6 hours 30
Probably the worst sound for a cyclist to wake up to, apart from lorries on the hard shoulder, is the sound of torrential rain that threatened to make our day a living hell!
Having been told by a fruit seller we were completely crazy to get going we ventured back onto Ruta 40, in the knowledge that we would be cycling uphill all day in the rain!
Miracles however do happen and after a morning of heavy rain suddenly outcame the sun and the strongest tailwinds we’ve had all trip :) After amusing ourselves at the Belén sign we began the steady climb up the valley, which actually felt like going downhill the wind was so strong.
All in all it was then a successful day as the climb we had been dreading wasn’t too bad and we found an amazing camp spot nestled in the sand dunes at 2,500 metres.
DAY FIFTY TWO
5 miles on from Campo Arenal airport to Cafayate
Average speed: 14.6mph
Moving time: 6h22
Door to door: 10h25
After another amazing night under the stars, which were maybe the best we’ve seen so far given we were 30 miles from the nearest village, we were soon on our way making good progress on what would be our last day on Ruta 40.
However, much like last time when we left this magnificent road it thought back and our gradual descent into Cafayate became a tiresome mission as the wind again built through out the day, this time straight in our face and the worst we’ve encountered since Patagonia.
Despite this we had a great day cycling through small villages, waving at the locals as we went by and stopping at nearly every mini mercado we saw to keep our energy levels high enough to battle the fierce headwinds.
Reaching the valley around Cafayate was a huge reward as we cycled through endless vineyards set in the backdrop of huge mountains.
After battling headwinds for 94 miles we were finally able to enjoy a much deserved beef lomo and a glass of Malbec in the lovely town of Cafayate.
DAY FIFTY THREE
Cafayate to Parador Las Abritas camping
Average speed: 14mph
Moving time: 3h02
Door to door: 3h50
After the waiter had forced a whole litre and a half of Malbec on us the night before we made a slightly slower start out of Cafayate then we would have liked, punished in return that the afternoon winds were in full flow by the time we hit the road.
Much like when we said goodbye to Ruta 40 near El Chaten la Ruta 68 gave us a cruel welcome seriously testing our tired bodies and heads.
Again however the incredible scenery was enough to sustain our energy on the slow climb out of Cafayate, with the road winding through valleys that were like nothing we had ever seen before.
For 30 miles we were enclosed either side by huge red mountains, that had been chiselled by years of constant winds that we were experiencing to represent the most incredible sight.
Sadly the night closed in on us and we had to race the last few miles to our campsite, where we were greeted by not one but two puppies and two full bags of pasta!!
DAY FIFTY FOUR
Parador Las Abritas camping to Salta
Average speed: 15.9mph
Moving time: 4h45
Door to door: 6h30
Both so excited to get to Salta to get to the emergency brownies sent to us by Billy Clark we hit the road quickly, breaking the day up into three 25 mile chunks.
First 25 miles done before 10am then a coffee in a tourist pack petrol station. Second 25 miles done before inhaling some food in El Carril. The final 25 miles flew by as we made it to Salta in no time. Both just so happy to have made it after what feels like a pretty big milestone on our long journey north.
To cap things off the parcel had made it from England and we were rewarded for our efforts with some of the best brownies we have ever tasted!
DAY FIFTY FIVE
After a hectic and exhausting two weeks we enjoyed a rest day in Salta, eating lots of ice cream and doing some admin jobs. We also met Sam and Jane, a couple from England who have been cycling around the world for nine months. It has been so much fun sharing cycling tales with our cyclists and especially other Brits, and also they shared some really useful knowledge about the next leg of our journey into Bolivia.
Reflecting on the last two weeks the leg from Uspallata to Salta was much harder than either of us had imagined. In such a short space of time we have both suffered from horrible altitude sickness, diarrhoea, sick from dehydration and have at stages been literally unable to turn the pedals.
Whilst we are both determined to complete the challenge, we really couldn’t have kept going through those dark times with out everyone’s support which has been amazing and something which we really didn’t expect. Today we have raised over 50% of our target which is mind blowing, making this whole trip extremely worthwhile as the four charities we have chosen will benefit hugely from this money. We cannot thank people enough who have donated so far and for those who are planning on it. The next challenge, four days of climbing into Bolivia will be some of our hardest days yet so please do keep the amazing messages of support and donations coming as they spur us on so much!
DAY FIFTY SIX
Distance: 10. 8 miles
Av speed: 10.3
Moving time: 59 minutes
Door to door: 1 hour 20
The day turned into a rest day by accident as we finally attempted to get up to date with our journey log, with the last update being 26 days ago!
We will not let this happen again as one hour turned to two and before we knew it it was getting dark. Also we apologies for anyone who has been waiting for any news from the road, we have just been so so exhausted that it is often hard to find the time! Despite a happy day sipping on Yerba and eating ice cream we are both extremely relieved to be finally up to date and will from now on update the website every two to three days, WiFi permitting.
Sad to leave Salta which is definitely our favourite city we have visited thus far, with a very laid back atmosphere and so many friendly people. Indeed, our attempts to finally finish the journey log were constantly stalled by people asking questions about the bikes and our trip. As usual we enjoyed people’s disbelief that we were cycling all the way to Colombia. (“Colombia?! En bicicleta, no!!!!”).
Finally managed to hit the road by 9 o’clock, as we cycled the 10 miles to the nearest campsite out of town. Whilst it was tempting to avoid another treacherous journey in the dark on a busy main road we were rewarded with our hard work by a lovely family and 6 empanadas each!
Really looking forward to the challenge of the next few days ahead as we climb from 1000 metres all the way up to 3,400 metre border crossing into Bolivia. Whilst we will be sad to leave Argentina and all the friendly Argentinians we have met Bolivia sounds like a completely different world and a very different challenge to what we have experienced so far!
DAY FIFTY SEVEN
Camping Papi Lalo to Yala camping
Distance: 60 miles
Av speed: 13.6
Moving time: 4 hours 10
Door to door: 8 hours
Lots of uphill today which took it out of us so we made fairly slow progress.
One of our favourite climbs of the trip so far was the winding Ruta 9 that took us out of Salta province through the Yungas Forrest. After two weeks of empty plains bar the odd cactus it was such a treat to be immersed once again in so much green which stretched for as far as the eye could see, seemingly a million miles away from the red valleys of Cafayate.
The descent took us into our 6th and final province on our return to Argentina, with Jujuy bordering Bolivia to the North. So far so much green and so many friendly locals waving and saying “Suerte”
Stopped off on our way through San Salvador de Jujuy to watch a local Saturday league football match. We timed it perfectly as a red card for an awful challenge caused a huge bust up between the offending player and his teammates who chased after the referee, causing the linesmen and nearby officials to pile in. A great insight into South American football and after 10 minutes of pushing and shoving we decided to leave it at that, who knows if the game ever restarted!
Steady climb up to Yala campsite El Refugio which we had chosen due to fire pits and our determination to finally have a proper Argentinian BBQ. Great to fall asleep with extremely full belly’s after consuming over a kilo of filet steak between us!
Huge climbing day tomorrow!!!!!