CRUISING SOUTH

A few kilometres outside of Cafayate, we joined the Ruta 40, which runs the length of Argentina and would form the ‘spine’ of our route South.

Instantly taking to the laid-back atmosphere of Cafayate and given our relatively relaxed schedule ahead, we decided to take a rest day there. Weeks earlier, we had thrown around ideas with Neil and Vicky to try and meet up for Christmas in Mendoza. Mendoza was a reasonably attainable target for the plethora of touring cyclists amongst whom we had also spread the word. With shifting numbers committed, we set about trying to find a house/hostel/cabin/apartment that would provide a base to gather. Seeing as we were the vanguard of the group (alternatively called Cyclismas or Christmenos) and only had about 1000km to Mendoza (with plenty of time to spare), we could afford to take it pretty easy! In Cafayate, we caught up again with Austrian cyclist, Mike, who we had met in the Casa de Ciclistas in La Paz and together we rolled out of town…

The following days were a mixture of the absurdly lazy, interspersed with bigger efforts and getting used to the variety of campsites that Argentina has to offer. Municipal camping, we soon learned, was not all that it was cracked up to be – with music pumping from car stereos until 4-5am (apparently commonplace behaviour) and dogs barking most of the night. We longed for the quiet of wild camping in the Peruvian Sierra or Bolivian Altiplano! It was also here that I was more than a little peeved to awake to find that a dog had peed on my tent, something that Mike spoke about from his own experience where a single dog ‘marking’ then led to a succession of mutts marking their territory! Needless to say, a week or so later, I had a visit from another hound! [On somebody else’s advice, I have now scrubbed the tent with apple cider vinegar and, whilst not fully ‘field tested’, it seems to have done the trick!]

Upon reaching Chilecito, we decided to take a couple of rest days and found an apartment to collapse in. Here, Mike headed off South alone, only to be replaced by Scott, whom he had bumped into in town on his way out. American Scott, who we had first met in Cusco and who had been playing catch up with us ever since (having left a few weeks after), had been putting in some big efforts to get to Mendoza for Christmas. He had a few errands to run in town before heading out but duly caught us up later in the day. I asked a van driver headed in the opposite direction to give him a message and we also left some for him, which he amusingly never spotted, to let him know where we’d be camping (in a lovely gorge with a swimming hole)…

The next day Scott and I stretched our legs whilst catching up on events and, later that evening, we found a great little sheltered campsite on a dried-out river bed…

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