After the spectacular trip through the salt flats of Uyuni, I was only a handful of cycling days away from the border with Argentina. Before I cycled towards the border place, I decided to make a side trip by bus to the city of Tarija, known for its wines that are produced on high altitude. I’m actually not really a wine drinker, but I guess I don’t really have a choice with the famous wine regions that I will pass through in Argentina. I decided that I will become a wine expert.
The bus trip to Tarija was not particularly a pleasant one. The bus driver was driving like a mad man over the small mountainous road with plenty of blind corners in which he didn’t slow down at all. I really wonder where he finds the confidence to drive like this, especially considering the fact that we passed many crosses on the side of the road. You would think that all those crosses would at least raise the driver’s awareness, but nothing is less true. I was already imagining the news article of the bus accident, including images of the wreck! Horrible! And they offer these connections during the night as well….
I survived both journeys, though. The days that I spent in Tarija were quiet enjoyable. I met Tamara, an Argentinian girl from the well-known wine area of Mendoza. The following day, we did a wine tour together and enjoyed some good wines! I was more satisfied with the tour than Tamara was, probably because her standard is a bit higher when it comes to the quality of wines and wine tours. I will pass through Mendoza later this trip, so I will meet her again on my way.
The wine tour group
with Tamara at the Aranjuez winery
Unfortunately not harvesting season
Once I arrived back in the city where I left my bicycle, I quickly continued my way to the border. I always told people that I was cycling from Canada to Argentina, so it gave me a special feeling when I had crossed the border. The end is really getting closer now. I still have to cycle a shitload of kilometers, and I will still go to a bunch of countries, but still. My parents will arrive in Santiago de Chile the 8th of November, which gives me about 2 months to get there.
Argentina was a very big change in every aspect, it felt like a new chapter. Despite the fact that the country is currently going through a deep economic recession (it’s on the verge of going bankrupt for the ninth time), it’s much more developed than countries like Bolivia and Peru. It almost felt like I was cycling through the US or Europe at some points. Most of Argentina has access to drinking water and basically every town has a big supermarket! Those are things that you take for granted if you have access to them, but I’d missed it for a long time. The stupid thing is that you take it for granted again after a week of having access to it.
Een lovely lady at the border town of Bolivia
The first couple of days in Argentina were easy going, since I had a very strong tailwind. Without pushing too much, I could easily cycle around 30 kilometers per hour towards to end of the high plains. I descended out of the high plains through an area called La Quebrada, where you’re basically enclosed between two mountain ranges. Very spectacular!
The dry and dead high plains slowly turned into more lively environents when descending out of it
Successively, I passed the cities of Humahuaca, Jujuy and Salta. For the loyal followers of my blog: Do you remember the blog I wrote about that rough unpaved section in Peru that took me through some rural areas? There was another cyclist that rode it, and wrote down her experiences. I used this as a guide book about what to expect. Well, on my way from Jujuy to Salta, I coincidentally met this cyclist, Hannah. We met later that day in Salta and we decided to have dinner. The both of us still had to try the traditional Argentinian grill meal and boy did we have a good dinner! They probably had to slaughter half the cattle in the province to provide us with this meal, and not a pittance of remorse. Well, maybe a tiny little bit. We ended up going to a pub where they swept us out of the place when they wanted to close at 4 AM. It was a fun night!
Salta is one of the most beautiful cities that I have seen, its Spanish colonial style still visible in many parts. I spent here quite some time, actually a bit longer than I had wanted. I spontaneously booked a flight to Buenos Aires. I really wanted to visit this city and not just transfer through it on my way back to Europe, so now was the time to do it. Since I’m really close to Uruguay, I will go to Montevideo as well. So it’s a small city trip in between all the cycling, why not?
Hannah and me!
Salta's main square
This is literally the church I'm looking at from the window of my hostel
By the way, the yearly procession of Salta coincided with my stay. Centuries ago, two holy images remained undamaged after an earthquake that ruined most of the city’s cathedral. This was clearly not just luck, this was the work of God. So the cathedral took the images out of the cathedral and showed it to the public. And they have done so once a year every since. It is by far the biggest religious event in Argentina, and it might even be the biggest one on the entire American continent. Hundreds of thousands of people gather to participate in the procession, amongst them tens of thousands of pelgrims. These pelgrims accomplish (a part of) the camino a Salta which is based on the well known Spanish pelgrimate to Santiago de Compostella. They arriveded by foot, by bicyle or even by horse.
Pelgrims by bike
Pelgrims by horse
I’m not religious, but I always find it impressive to see the devotion of such a big group of people. The city really seemed to unite. Days before the procession to place, all pelgrims were warmly welcomed by the Salteneans and there were church services all night long. I stayed at an amazing location, a 2 minute walk from the cathedral, so I decided to take a look at 2:30 AM. The cathedral was stocked, just as the main square where people were praying.
On the day of the procession, I joint the massive crowd of people to catch a glimpse of the two images as they were taken out of the cathedral as the church bells rang and the sirens wailed. People were enthusiastically waiving their handkerchiefs towards the images. It was very special to have witnessed.
It's all about these two images: La virgen y el señor del Milagro
The procession (not my picture)
These are my first positive experiences of Argentina! Coming up: A short* city trip in Buenos Aires and Uruguay! I wish I could stop the time from passing by….
*short in the time scale of someone that has been travelling for a year and half
Oh and this is my rim that is about to break