(October 5 – written by Dave)
It was super quiet overnight in the Los Tambillos hostel. There may have been a few cars out on the highway but otherwise, silence. Ruta 40, which we’ve both read a lot about in bike journals, continues to amaze us with such limited traffic and even more limited population. There are towns here and there, but they are all small and pretty isolated. For some reason, we thought there would be more people – perhaps it’s because many of the journals we’ve read talk about the people the authors meet.
Speaking of people, today was another day of meeting touring cyclists. In the morning we meet Poncho, a nice chap from Santa Fe (Argentina) who was riding to Bolivia. A little later at a servo in the small town of Villa Union we met Karen, a gal about our age from Switzerland. She was having a 2 month holiday, riding mostly in Argentina and Chile. Then this afternoon after we’d settled into our posada in Guandacol, we ran into a couple gal from Buenos Aires, Nancy and Vane who were riding for 8 months and hoping to get to Colombia. All of the riders had done the Carretera Austral – a famous route in Southern Chile that we’ll be on in a month or so. All of them were very enthusiastic about the route, which was good to hear.
It was cooler this morning – we wore warm coats and leg warmers for the first time since Bolivia. It was probably related to the overall elevation that we were at last night than any sort of weather trend. In fact, last night we both had to put on long pants as we were hanging out at the hostel. By noon today we were down to shorts and short sleeve shirts as we descended to lower altitude.
The ride this morning was quite stunning. We continued down off Miranda Pass, riding more or less downhill until the town of Villa Union. For the first 15k or so, we were in more red rock canyons like we were yesterday afternoon. It’s hard to imagine that almost every day since we entered Argentina some 1,200 kilometres ago we’ve had at least some amount of gorgeous rock canyon to ride through. We’re not complaining, but it is a surprise as we didn’t really expect to see so much of the country like Utah or Arizona down here in Argentina. I think we were expecting more big mountain peaks like we’ll see down in Patagonia – Argentina continues to surprise us.
When we met Karen (the cyclist from Switzerland), it was sort of late “morning tea time” so we settled in at her table for a coffee and a few “medialunas” (similar to a croissant). It was one of the chance meetings where you just seem to click with a fellow traveller. We probably could have sat, looking at maps and talking about our collective trips for hours. As it was, we spent more than an hour and thoroughly enjoyed the interaction. It was a shame that we were going different ways. Much like Andy a few days ago, it would have been nice to ride with Karen for a while.
We had more headwinds today and once leaving Karen, the afternoon winds were starting to pick-up. It felt like the last 45k to Guandacol were going to be a real slog – the first half were uphill and had headwinds. But it worked out fine. At some point Nancy said to me, “hey, at least we don’t have the blowing sand today”, which honestly made me almost forget the winds. Often times you just need a different mindset and riding gets easier (or harder).
Before long we were riding into Guandacol and looking for a place to stay. We first tried the hostel that we’d read so much about. It was about a mile from the town centre on a dusty, windy road. When we got there, there was no one to be found. I walked over the whole complex but could not raise anyone. With no choice we rode back into town and pulled up at an ice cream shop that was near the Krasia May Posada. After ice creams, I wandered over to see what the story was. It was hard finding anyone at the posada as well but eventually a cleaner came out and helped me. They had rooms, very nice clean rooms and they were within budget. Even though we wanted to stay out at the other hostel, we decided to stay here. Maybe we can go out there for dinner – it is supposed to be good. It is nicer here, being right in town as well. Many of the people who review hotels don’t think about how far it is to walk to things. It’s a bigger deal to us obviously. We really do like being in town.
We are probably going to take a day off here tomorrow. There is very little to do in town but we have some chores to do and will find more than enough to keep us busy. Having a clean place to stay, with a nice patio garden and some outside benches is more than enough to make us happy. Nancy suggested that we might want to ride to the next town but I think a day off is a good idea. We’ve ridden about 650k in the past 7 days and our bodies can use the break. And besides, the posada has brekkie – we’ll need some good time in the morning to make sure to eat enough and uphold the good reputation of the touring cyclist mob.