Tafi del Valle to Salta
The first real uphill, up the Andean planes and to Tafi de Valle, was a nice change after all the flat grassland and boring scenery so far. The vegetation was different every few meters we climbed up. We cycled from Famailla directly to Tafi, 70km, 2000m up. We started with fields and fog clouded mountains in the background, small quite villages and a road under construction, which helped to keep the trucks at bay. The gravel on the contruction good enough for our bikes, and we could enjoy the scenery.
Further up the fog got denser and everything looked like rainforest. Directly next to the road a river ran, a beautiful view. Somewhat mystic and gloomy, barely able to see something, just hearing the sound of the water dropping down in the deep. Now and then some cars would pass us, but they did little to disturb the atmosphere. We had to climb a lot higher to get out of the fog and see the sun again. The road kept going on, serpentines sneaking uphill, with small villages, in the background impressive mountains and the clouds beneath us.
We reached Tafi de Valle in the evening. The hardest part were the last few kilometers, our first encounter with strong winds. Tafi lies in a valley and streches out to the fringes of the mountains, a nice view, but till we reached the actual town a lot of time passed... We did see the lights in the dark before us, but it seemed that they were not getting any nearer. Luckily we did reach it in time before it got pitchblack and we even found a little delicatess store near the town entrance. The lifely streets of Tafi are stockfull of supermarkets, restaurants, artesanas (local art manufacturers) and street dogs. Even a tourist information, which provided us with a map and a direction to the camping place. The first time we had to pay for camping!
The campingground was a bit small, we had tent numero seven and there was no space for another one. Another thing to note here is that the place was a bit crowded and really loud. Not just the drumming and partly drunk hippies, but also the powerfull winds pulling the tent left and right robbed us of our sleep. On the next day we made a short break and had a proper look at Tafi, we found lots of Artesanas, a gaint cactus right next to a restaurant and a field with a huge tent. That was some kind of agricultur tourism convention, with different regions portraying their products and giving out FREE FOOD! We bought some honeycombs as well and tried locro. Locro is a soup made out of pumpkin, beans, corn, meat and some more stuff that we did not identify yet.
Amaicha del Valle was our next target, after another night on the rather loud camping ground. The first pass is done. But unfortunatly not without some help. We cycled the biggest part, but after the road turned to gravel and the winds took up power again we decided to stop and flag down a pick up. It took some time, all pick ups going our way were either full or wouldnt stop. But suddenly a car going the other way stopped. A older cupple greeted us, Betty and Ricardo. They didnt know Cologne or Duesseldorf, but Goettingen, because they have freinds there. They took us and our bikes into the cramped car, turned around and drove us the last 5km over the pass. The wind did not stop, but at least it was downhill from now on. But hey, we had to pedal even then because the wind would have stopped us. Yes, stopped us from going downhill.
In Amaicha we stopped at a small restaurant and ordered humitas, a local dish we noticed for wuite a while. Without knowing what it was we started to cut and nibble on it, till we decided to simple wrap the cornleaf open that enclosed the delicious content. That was a lot better, corn with cheese and spices. Yummy! Camping that night was yet againg alone in the wild (as in: next to the road) with a terrific view of the stars. Millions of them, you could even make out the milky way. Ruinas de Quilmes should be our goal the next day. The ruins are rather nondescript and we had little information about them, but we made the detour anyway. Quilmes was a town that resisted longest against the Spanisch conquistadors, but after they were conquered the locals were deported to Buenos Aires. The well known Quilmes beer, with its brewery in Buenos Aires has been founded by them. By pure chance we met the swiss cyclists again, Felix and Katja, at the entry of the ruins. For the rest of the day, till Cafayate, we cycled in a convoy of four :)
Cafayate, in the middle of wineyards, mountains and rivers, is a true sight. The village, that lifes of tourism and wine, has a nice plaza, lots and lots of restaurants and artesanas. We stayed in the hostal del angel, run by Juan, born 1938 (as the wifi password revelead to us ;) ) very cosy, with a fountain inside. We tried a lot of new food in Cafayate, highlights are ice cream made of local white wine, chocolate pralines (Dulce de leche with grapes, biscuits with strawberry and more) and llama-meat. That is a story by itself. We decided to spend some more money in the only gourmet restaurant and ordered "Llama in carbenet with mini crocetts and salad. Delicious. Delicous! The bill was also delicious. Martin did not take any money, because I (Diana) wanted to break a 100 pesos note. Since small change is hard to come by in these parts we do that quite often. In total I had 114 pesos with me. Thats it. The bill was... tada: 114 Pesos... unbelievable. Less tha price, but the luck that it fit so well. Just a note here: 114 pesos are abouzt 20 euros.
Onwards, though the canyon of Cafayate, towards Salta. The biggest part was not that spectacular, but the "amphittheater" and the "devils throat" was magnificent. Especially the amphittheater was nice, with locals playing music with a grand natural accustics. Martin couldnt resist and did climb a part of the wall. Later we met a travelling biker, motorbike, who enthusiasticly took some pictures of us. We hope they will reach us ;) Another experience we'd like to forget is camping rather near to a cow carcass.
And than: Salta. Salta, a linda - the beautiful. We stopped at a gas station with wifi, and found a rather good sounding one: Ferienhaus Hostel Salta. We took a dorm that we had all by ourselves. We did visit the office of the "Tren a las nubes", the "train to the clouds" where I bought a ticket for the next day. (Diana)
The trains leaves at 0705 in the morning. While it was dark in the beginning the sun revealed views of the landscape. The dirty windows were a nuisance somtimes, because the older couple next to me got cold that fast that the windows had to be closed most of the time. But hey, I would be cold too in a sportsdress at 4200m above sea level. ARGH. The day was all in all rather boring. The landsacpe, mostly burned gras and some bushes was mostly empty, except some small villages and mountains in the background. Really good to make pictures, but I wouldnt recommend the tour to anyone. The biggest attraction, the Viaducto la Polvorilla, is shown on every poster in Salta.
The days were quite and relaxed. We strolled along through Salta, climbed up 1021 steps to the Cerro Bernando with a beautiful view of Salta, run down, visited markets, restaurants and churches. A few things we like to mention: The sign of Salta, a romanic church with exceptional red fassade, the mercado central and Almandina :) The church is true eyecatcher. Painted red and yellow, with many details anbd the highest churchtower in Southamerica, but the inside could not compare to the Iglesia Catedral. The mercado central is a meeting place for locals and tourists alike. Like the one in Montevideo, a gaint covered hall full of small shops, fruits, DVDs, foodstalls, tshirts, cellphones and laptops, everything. The food is good, local and cheap, pizza, chicken, steak, humitas, empanadas, everything could be found. And if you want to cook yourself ? No problem, just go one stall further, fresh fish and vegetables. The last place we visited was Almandina, a small Design shop with a retarded llama as mascot. I did buy a extremly awesome tshirt (Diana) :D Yeah!
Next place on the list is San Salvador de Jujuy, we'll just cycle through to get to the real sights, the sorrounding hills. Humahuaca, Tilcara and small other villages also sound nice, from what we read in the Lonely Planet and the Get South (our two travel guides) Just 400km left till we reach Bolivia :)
A few things I want to note:
- Argentina has 970ml beerbottles
- We have no kindle (lost in airplane) and no GPS (eaten by tent) anymore
- The EEE PC display is sometimes brighter, sometimes darker
- Llamas wear no hats and wont eat hands
- So far we only met 3other travelling cyclists
- Bathrooms with toilett, sink and shower are sometimes smaller than a wardrobe
- Most of the wild animals we see are roadkill
- Small babycows can survive a crash with a pick up
- We only used our stove twice, rice and omelett
- Slaves to Armok, God of Blood, Chapter II: Dwarf Fortress
- Our tires sometimes loose a little air, without any cause (Martins backtire, Dianas fronttire)
- Dulce de leche will never replace Nutella
- Argentinian people cannot play football (most players just roll around on the floor - invisible rope ?) ;)
- It is always getting COLDER!
- In half a year we will be almost where we started, the Brasilian east coast
So, thats it for now. We'll upload another monthly summary and lots of pictures shortly, from Buenos Aires till Bolivia :) Take care !