(September 21 – written by Dave)
Today we had one of those Argentinean brekkies that we’d been warned about. That is, coffee and a handful of diamond shaped bread bits. I say bits because you could eat them in one bite, they were not anything close to rolls. They also gave us a butter and jam pat each – yes, one each. Lucky we took our own bananas so at least it felt like we’d eaten something. What was really funny was watching the three energy company workers behind us get stuck into their same meager offerings – they were big guys and I’m sure that would have appreciated more food as well. And to think, we hung back later for their 7:30 brekkie start time – we should have just eaten in the room and rolled – oh well.
The good news about brekkie however is that it didn’t take long to eat and we were rolling just a little after 8AM. The first 40k was downhill and we had a tailwind as well. We probably could have rolled out the full 40k in a little over an hour had we not been so distracted once again by all the gorgeous multi-coloured hills that lined the Quebrada de Humahuaca canyon. The right side of the road was simply brilliant with the sun rising over the left/east side of the canyon. Looking across the canyon, you could tell that the same show would be repeated at sunset by the hills on that side – so much for Argentina being boring. It was simply “wow” on almost every corner this morning.
We stopped for a bio break and coffee at about 40k. There was a nice new servo at the cut-off to Tilcara, complete with an espresso machine, clean bathrooms and a very friendly boxer female dog. The latter we had a hard time leaving but she wouldn’t have enjoyed riding with us anyway. While at the servo, a fuel tanker showed up. They put up barriers and blocked all the pumps from customers. I’m not sure if this is standard operating procedure in Argentina or if it was just that we were at a very rule oriented servo – they had a lot of signs everywhere and both Nancy and I were scolded for parking our bikes incorrectly – further study is required.
Just before reaching the servo, we passed the Tropic of Capricorn line. Somehow both of us completely clutched stopping for a photo at the official sign. I saw what looked like a giant sun dial off to the right but wasn’t sure and Nancy, well, she was moving out with the wind and downhill – no need for another photo anyway – haha.
While we missed the sign, I did learn today that the Tropic of Capricorn is named because about 2000 years ago the sun was entering the constellation Capricornus on the December solstice. Now the sun appears in the constellation Sagittarius during the December solstice. Anyway, this imaginary line marks the most southerly latitude at which the sun can appear directly overhead. This happens at the December solstice, when the southern hemisphere is tilted towards the sun to its maximum extent.
And as if by magic, crossing out of the warm tropics also brings us to spring weather. Well, technically we are still in winter but today we rode downhill so much that it feels like spring. We wore shorts and short sleeves for the first time in forever. We saw lots of flowers in bloom. And now, at 6PM, we are still sitting around in t-shirts and our thongs. We love it! Don’t get me wrong, we liked the mountains of the tropics but it is really nice to be warm and not have a runny nose. We spent over eight months in the tropics, riding from the Tropic of Cancer in Mexico to the Tropic of Capricorn here in Argentina – feels good to tick that milestone off.
At about the 75k mark, for some unknown reason, the wind completely changed directions on us. What once had been a swift tailwind turned in the space of a couple K into a smashing headwind. We have no idea why this happened and even checked the map when we stopped for lunch at 80K to double verify on the map that we’d hadn’t actually made a gradual turn. Too bad, so sad, is sort of how I look at headwinds – you just have to get over it and plough on. Thankfully, after about 8k from lunch, we climbed over a ridge and had a nice long, mostly downhill to reach Jujuy. With the downhill at least we had momentum to help us break the wind.
We rolled into town at about 2PM and hit the grocery store. Because we had some friends report difficulty finding a place to stay here in Jujuy, we advance booked a spot on the edge of town. Thus the need for the grocery store stop – we didn’t want to have to go back out. We were not sure about staying so far out and our hotel/hospedaje, Rincon del Valle Hospedaje, is as remote as we thought, but I’m also happy to report that it is very relaxing. We have a room with a lovely sitting porch and have been just hanging out relaxing all afternoon. And yes, for the fourth night in a row, we have a bidet in our bathroom – as some point soon (very soon), I’m going to have to stop reporting these. The hospedaje also has a grand kitchen and we’re looking forward to cooking up a feast.
Tomorrow we head for Salta. I think it’s even bigger than Jujuy. We found a great AirB&B and plan on taking a couple days off there. After all of today’s downhill, we are now down at all of 1,300 metres. We’ll be staying down at this elevation for a while and as noted above, we look forward to smelling the spring blossoms and riding without so many clothes on. Plus the no runny nose thing – good times are ahead for sure.