(September 22 – written by Dave)
Today we started with another Argentinean brekkie in terms of serving size but as most of it was homemade by our hospedaje’s owner, well, it was orders of magnitude better in taste. It may still not have been enough food but it was delicious. There was some limited discussion among leavewithoutpay team members over who should eat the last roll. The senior editor won out, perhaps because the junior editor was feeling a bit sheepish over scarfing more than his fair share prior to said discussion…
We had about 25k of frontage road and then Highway 9 to ride first thing this morning. Both were overly narrow but traffic on Saturday morning was pretty light. The flowering trees are really out in force here and they made a nice distraction for us to stop and take pictures. In fact, they are almost all that I got pictures of today because my camera battery charger died and I only had half of one battery and a completely dead one. So, photo taking stopped a little after noon and was somewhat limited until then. Not to worry, even though tomorrow is Sunday, Monday is a holiday and Tuesday there is a national strike, I managed to find a new charger this arvo in the town of Salta – normal programming will resume shortly – meanwhile, enjoy the trees.
We stopped for morning tea at about 25k and enjoyed a proper coffee and some fresh baked strawberry thingies. We tried to order one of the strawberry thingies to split but somehow ended up getting four slices. Oh well, they were good. Almost best of all, there was an entire wall of cold drink cases and all of them were turned on, both cooling and lights. North of here in Bolivia and Peru, the cases were often left off – it was so cold that the shop owners didn’t need to pay for power to keep the cases cool. It is much warmer here, and we like it.
After morning tea, our narrow road got ridiculously narrower. So narrow in fact that they had a security guy in a booth that was stopping trucks, trailers or really anything bigger than a car from passing. How lucky are we, an almost private road through the mountains with a speed limit of 40k in most places. And it was super windy – sort of a cross between a road and a golf cart path. We were riding uphill for most of the road, almost 20k of total climbing but it was mostly through a thick forest canopy of oak and pine trees. There were some cars and motorbikes out but mostly they drove at or below the speed limit. It really was a spectacular section of riding and while not as scenic as the rock canyons of earlier in the week, it was spectacular in its own way.
We stopped for lunch at a spot just down the other side of the climb. There was a small kiosk selling cold drinks and a sun cover – quite a lovely spot. We only had 25k to ride from there but were a little worried as Salta is a city of close to 750,000 people. We expected the road to widen and traffic to pick-up considerably but neither really happened until we were only 4k from town. And from there, we had a bike path – it was remarkably easy for getting into a city of such size.
Once in town, while I raced about the city, trying to find a battery charger, Nancy sat at a cafe and had lunch. To be fair, the food at the cafe was pretty ordinary so I may have had the easy job. Once the charger was located and lunch consumed, we headed over to our prebooked AirB&B apartment. And boy did we score on this one. It’s only slightly over budget but it is fantastic. We have everything we could possibly need for a couple rest/sightseeing days here in Salta. Because of the holiday and potential strike, there may be some challenges facing us in terms of shops being open so we are up late tonight after making an emergency run to the grocery store. Well, not really emergency as it was a Carrefour grocery store and it took us awhile to get through – we have not been in such a good grocery store since.. well, I can’t remember.
We should have enough food to last us for a couple days should the closures really happen. And best of all, on the way to the grocery store, we found a made-to-order empanada shop that will be open at least tomorrow. We may just have to buy enough empanadas to get us through the weekend, but life could be worse (and we probably bought enough Argentinean Malbec so life is good). More later on what we find in Salta. These Argentinean shop hours are hard on cyclists…