After the short cycling break in which I visited Buenos Aires and Montevideo, it was time to start cycling again. I left Salta with renewed energy and focused upon reaching Cafayate within a couple of days.
The morning I left salta, I received a question from someone that has been following my trip on Instagram and she asked me why I’m carrying such a big bicycle pump. I told her that I’ve had quite some flat tires along the way and that I was tired of using the small pump. I didn’t even make it outside of the city center before I noticed I had another flat tire, I think I shouldn’t have talked about it. It must have cursed my bicycle. It was extra annoying because I left Salta pretty late already. In each case, it felt really good to be on the road again. It took me three days to reach Cafayate and I cycled passed beautiful artificial lakes and rocky environments.
In Cafayate, I stayed for an extra day to discover this pittoresk village. Cafayate is known for its wine production and the centre is full of little bodegas where you can get a wine tour and tastry. It’s currently off-season and it was a Tuesday evening, so the village was really quiet and not really impressive to me.
A couple of weeks earlier, I discovered that the rim of my backwheel is starting to break on the outside, which meant that I could not use my brakes in the back anymore. The crack in the rim was slowly growing and It was only a matter of time before the wheel would break. A breaking back wheel in a descent is a risk that I am not willing to take, so I had to do something. I found out that the next 450 kilometers towards Chilecito were flat, so I could push my luck and hoping that my wheel would hold. Luckily, I did. After a handful of long days through monotonous and deserty roads, with an annoying headwind all day every day, I reached Chilecito.
I camped out multiple times on my way to Chilecito on the campgrounds that are maintained by the municipality. These camping are generally located on huge terrains with bathrooms, a swimming pool and an infinite amount of locations where the Argentinians can put their grill to prepare their meat for the so-called asado. These camping have quite some workers that are employed by the municipality to keep everything administrated and clean. They are on a payroll, so they come no matter what. This labor force is probably necessary when the campings are full, but I’ve been the only guest multiple times now on campings that are designed for hundreds of people, so it seems ridiculous to employ 5 people for empty camping.
On the caming
For me, it was really comfortable to reach an established campground at the end of the day to take a shower at zero costs (they don’t charge in off-season). It’s actually unnecessarily luxurious, but why wouldn’t I use it? Another difference with basically all previous countries, is that Argentina barely has any showers are heated by those electrical elements above the showers, often called suicide showers by the frequent shocks that these showers give you.
Back to Chilecito. I met up with a German couple and an Argentinian guy that I had met hundreds of kilometers before. They are travelling on motorbikes and we agreed upon meeting again in Chilecito. The German couple has been travelling for over two years through South-America on a huge BMW and will take a plane to New-Zealand soon (with the motor in the plane!). After New-Zealand, they will continue to Australia, Indonesia before driving all the way back to Germany. What a trip that is!
They will fly to New Zealand from Chile, but they told me that they will go to the Argentinian city Mendoza first to do some administration. Mendoza is the last big city before an important border crossing and is about 600 kilometers away from Chilecito. We agreed upon meeting each other there.
Orange guy in the crosshairs
Fernando (Argentinian) and Thomas (German)
I knew that the part after Chilecito was becoming more mountenous, which was way too risky with my back wheel. I had already done some research online and I’ve been looking for rims in Buenos Aires and Montevideo as well. There were no rims available that were usable for my bicycle, so I wasn’t really hopeful in finding one here. As an alternative solution, I went to several welding companies to ask whether they could repair my rims, because South-America in general has an incredible repairment industry, they can repair everything! All the welders told me that it was impossible to fix my rim and that I should be replaced. Without many expectations, I went to a bike shop to ask if they miraculously had a rim on stock that was suitable for my bicycle, and they did! I couldn’t believe it. The bike mechanic built the wheel the same day and even delivered it to my hostel at 10 PM, what a service!
With my new backwheel, I was able to conquer the mountains ahead of me. It was nice to finally have some variation in the landscape that surrounded me.
Peanuts after Peru
New back wheel!
This beautiful landscape was only for a short distance though, and the endless emptiness soon returned, and so did the headwind that always seems to come from the South. It took me a week to cover these 600 kilometers to Mendoza and I met a lot of nice people on the way. I met Santiago that stopped on the side of the road for a talk and asked me if I wanted a lift to the city San Juan, about 50 kilometers from away.
The endlessness is interesting for one day
Maybe two days...
But starts to get boring after a while.
I’m too proud to actively look for a lift, but not too foolish to refuse one, so I gratefully accepted Santiago's offer. I could even stay in his house for two nights. In this city (San Juan), I went to visit another Argentinian family that I had met earlier on the road. They had invited me into their house for a lunch and they even gave me a private tour to the dams and artificial lakes that provide the city with water and electricity. Incredibly kind people.
The last couple of weeks have been another roller coaster ride in which I met lots of people and did lots of things. It’s too much to mention it all.
Once I arrived in Mendoza, it was time for another break and I’m currently, at the moment of publishing, still in this wine capital of the country. My parents will arrive in Santiago de Chile in two weeks. It’s been a year since I’ve seen them, so it’s about time to see them again. I hope that the situation in Chile will normalize soon, because Chile is with its current violent protets, curfew and lootings not the ideal place to go. Time will tell, I have faith.
Oh by the way, I took a haircut in case you didn’t notice! Wish I did it months ago, I can finally see again! And I finally updated my stats, so check it out here.