(September 29 – written by Dave)
As expected, we did not last anywhere near long enough last night to attend the Pena. We really want to attend one but we need to have a rest day planned for the following day – that wasn’t the case last night. So instead for dinner we settled for another empanada plate at the Case de Los Empanadas. We got really crazy last night getting 6 different kinds of empanada in our baker’s dozen special. New flavours included blue cheese, one with a Greek twist, a quarto queso and a margarita flavour. It was fun trying all the new flavours but honestly, we like the basic carne, pollo and queso best. All the fancy flavours sort of take away some of the authenticity – in our opinion.
We had another nice brekkie this morning at Hostal Kallpa. It wasn’t all-you-can-eat, but Francisco does a pretty good job all the same. The bowl of fresh fruit is a nice touch. It was such a nice place to relax, we sort of felt like we’d been there more than just the two days that we actually stayed. We’d go back to Cafayate again after this trip – I guess we liked it there!
Riding out of town we had a bike path for about 3k. It was complete with a sigh telling the Señor Bicyclist to use it for their own safety. I thought perhaps that the Senoritas should use it for their safety as well. Thankfully Nancy was happy to oblige.
We rode most of the morning through the vines of Cafayate vineyards. It was really quiet on the road and had it not been for the slight uphill and headwind, we would have given the ride 5 stars. The wind and uphill did just enough to slow us to where we knew that we were riding slow, but not so much that we mentally “blamed” the elements. This leads to a weird feeling that you are riding slow from perhaps being overly tired. I may regret saying this but it is almost easier riding into a raging wind because for then, you know that it’s not you that is flagging. Anyway the vineyards were a nice distraction.
Later in the morning we came across more of the seemingly ubiquitous green parrots that we’ve been seeing for days now. For some reason today, they didn’t seem quite as nervous and we actually managed to get a few photos. They are not as colourful as the Aussie parrots but it was fun to watch them all the same. They have the same erratic flying skills and squawking that the Aussie birds do, so it would appear that they are related.
We passed two state lines today and both of them had signs – one line had three signs. Argentina has the highest GDP per capita in South America. So things like summit signs and state line signs have made it into standard highway signage. We haven’t consistently seen state line signs since Mexico.
Once we left the wine growing region, the scenery lost some of its charm. It was mostly scrub desert with high mountains on both sides of a large valley that we were riding up. The pesky headwind lasted nearly until lunch when it slacked and started to turn. We had a tailwind for the last 5k, maybe. Ironically, once we reached Santa Maria, we had to cross a river into town and then turn back the way we came for 4k to reach our campsite – yup – headwinds again. Funny.
I’m happy to report that our tent is getting used tonight – woohoo. We are staying just north of Santa Maria in a campsite called Camping del Sol. It is run by a lovely Argentinean woman named Nancy (and her son). The sites are well equipped with power, water, tables and wifi. Plus they let us use a hostal room for a hot shower – perfect really.
When my Nancy told camp Nancy that her name was also Nancy, camp Nancy gave my Nancy a nice hug. There is a kids’ birthday party going on now and they are playing what seems to us like a soundtrack that includes exactly one song – on repeat. I’m sure that they are different songs but we aren’t into music enough to know the difference. Camp Nancy has promised us that everyone will leave and the music will stop at 7PM. She seems pretty genuine so we’ll take her at her word. So far, unfortunately none of the parents have been forthcoming with an offer to share birthday cake.
Tomorrow we have planned a longish day, with limited supplies. We’ll be taking extra water as it is supposed to get close to 100F. Today was our first day on the famous Ruta 40 (Highway 40). It was pretty bumpy for the first 50k, then we got smooth as new pavement for the last 30k. We hope that the later continues. We are looking forward to a quiet Sunday morning spin out on Ruta 40.