(September 19 – written by Dave)
We rose this morning with low expectations for a hearty brekkie at our first Argentinean hotel. We heard and read that they don’t do brekkie well here. I’m happy to report that at least at the Hosteria Munay in La Quiaca, brekkie is more than sufficient, and may have indeed been one of our more substantial hotel brekkies of the trip. They had a good number of sweet cake-like treats – perhaps not the thing we’d normally eat for brekkie but a nice treat all the same.
And jumping right to the end of the day and more hotel reports, I’m excited to report that for the second night in a row, we have a bidet in our bathroom. Not only that but we again have hot and cold running water in both the sink and the shower. We haven’t quite figured out what to do with the bidet and honestly, the bathroom would more spacious without it, but the nice European gesture is not lost on us. Other than the bidet, our hotel tonight (Hotel Cesarito) is more down to earth than our digs last night. The room has a bit of an art-deco feel to it, complete with a lovely “shag carpet” look bedspread.
Back to the ride today… We left our hotel a little after 8AM, but really, that’s almost 6AM for our biological clocks and for the sun. In the last 20 days we’ve moved about 6 degrees latitude east and had to move our clocks forward two hours. 6 degrees would be a lot if we were at one of the poles but we are still technically in the tropics so 6 degrees hardly seems like it should merit moving our clocks forward two hours. 8:15 seems late to us to be starting but to our bodies it seems too early right now – given that just 3 weeks ago that was really 6:15. I’m sure that we’ll adjust.
We stopped at the bank on the way out of town and discovered one of the joys of travelling in Argentina – bank fees. The banks charge about a 10% commission to use their ATMs and they only let you withdrawal about $100 USD. The later is a pain because we have to now keep looking for banks but it is actually good in one sense because the currency here is tanking and we’re better off not holding a bunch of Pesos.
On leaving the bank we ran into Yves and Frederique, the French couple. We saw them at the border yesterday but they were planning on riding through La Quiaca and camping. They ended up having to stay in town because they were not able to change their $20 USD bank notes at the border. The border money changers would only take $100 USD notes. They were headed to the bank to see if they could get a better outcome.
The ride today was basically 25k uphill and 50k of downhill. We ended at the same altitude so the climbing had to be a little steeper. We had a wind on the nose most of the day even though the forecast called for it to switch to a tailwind in the afternoon. Both the uphill and downhill were very gentle so the wind was really more annoying than something that would impede our progress.
The scenery was actually quite boring. In fact, our first day riding in Argentina was almost exactly how we thought riding in Bolivia was going to be – flat, very little to look at and just a day to get through. We did see a few alpaca herds and there were the odd fence lines to photograph but other than that, there is not much to write about today. Both morning tea and lunch were taken standing on the side of the road – thankfully traffic was not too heavy, so at least we could spend most of our time staring off into space.
We rolled into Abra Pampa around 1:30 and eventually located our “fancy” hotel (which we think is the only hotel here). It seems that here in Argentina, the siesta period is observed more regular than in other parts of Latin America. For us this means a late lunch is less of an option – wait too long and all the restaurants are closed. So before showers, we took the hotel owner’s recommendation and went round the corner to a sandwich shop that was also serving a menu of the day – I am at least always up to trying the menu. Our first Argentinean menu lunch turned out to be very tasty, chicken with spinach crepes as the main, followed by a hearty pork and pasta soup and a small desert for all of $2.10 USD. As noted yesterday, we are going to like eating in Argentina.
Tomorrow we head south again, shooting for the town of Humahuaca. Soon after Humahuaca we will officially exit the tropics – riding over the Tropic of Capricorn. What’s funny is that today and yesterday, we are actually starting to get warmer temperatures. We are finally starting to lose altitude and the day after Humahuaca will see us drop below 3,000 metres. We will stay there for the foreseeable future. We are looking forward to riding in warmer temps, if nothing else, so that our noses don’t run all day. A constant companion for at least that last 4 months has been a runny nose caused by the cold weather and we are both to the point where even touching our raw noses is very painful.
Apologies in advance if sometime in the next couple weeks one of us complain about it being too hot. I can’t imagine that but you know us travelling cyclists can be a finicky bunch. Abra Pampa scenes and door of the day follow.