(October 6 – written by Dave)
As you can see, we did not have a rest day in Guandacol today as planned. We were all set to until about 9PM last night when I checked the weather forecast for the next three days. There are severe wind warnings for the San Juan area on Monday and Tuesday. And bad news for us, the forecast had the wind coming from the due south – the direction we were planning to head. There was a little good news in the forecast however, today and tomorrow’s winds were supposed to be northeastish and not as strong. So, we made a last minute change of plans, riding today and moving the rest days out to when the forecast is not as good for riding.
It was a wee bit stressful having changed plans so late in the day/night but we are in Argentina and one good thing about having the mid-day siesta is that the shops stay open late into the night. At 10:40, I went to the small tienda across the street from our hotel and managed to buy enough food to get us through today without issue. We got to bed a little late however, as we were not really in “get ready to ride” mode when we made the change.
Last night we got the hotel to move our brekkie to 7:30, instead of the “rest day” plan of 8:30. I’m not sure they really figured out why we were leaving early but they smiled, made us brekkie and were nice enough to see us off in the morning with a wave and a smile. We were the only hotel guests, and perhaps the only hotel guests in all of town. It was a very quiet night.
We had nice blue skies and almost no wind starting out. The road was slightly uphill and sort of a giant rollercoaster. And by rollercoaster I don’t mean it climbed and descended. For some reason, they laid the road right on the ground in a straight line, without filling or digging for any of the multitude of streams than come off the hills. We went up and down for a good 60 miles. When it rains, clearly many of the down bits would be flooded as the road was built on the creek beds. There was no traffic but watching Nancy ride ahead of me, disappear, reappear, disappear, reappear, well, you got the idea that the road would have really been not all that safe with traffic, much less fast moving traffic that wasn’t paying attention. But not to worry, there was no traffic at all. And neither of us got seasick riding the ups and downs, so all’s well that ends well.
We had lunch at police checkpoint at the 75k mark just as we left Ruta 40 for and headed through a gap in the range to our right, on Ruta 149. The sole police officer working there came out to say hi and tell us how narrow and steep the road we were planning to take was but we kind of knew this already. Had it not been for a group of motorcyclists, we would have even less traffic on this road than we did Ruta 40.
Ruta 149 ended up being another one of those amazing northern Argentina multi-coloured canyons, super narrow, very colourful and a road that really had no business being built where it was. We like these roads because all the traffic in a hurry takes the faster new roads and the narrowness means any traffic going our way has to slow down. And of course, the views were great. We stopped quite a bit for photos so you get another red rock overdose again today.
The climbs in the canyon were quite steep but pretty short so that they really didn’t bother us. At the far end of the canyon, you burst out into this lush valley, complete with a reservoir, lots of green farm land and even a view of the snow capped Andes. It was generally uphill and the winds were not helping us at this point but we knew we only had a short distance to ride to reach Jachal.
Once is town we headed for our first choice hotel, which is really not a hotel but rather an apartment. It could sleep 4, has a full kitchen, two TVs, two AC units and yes, a bidet. It is called an Apart Hotel and we may just look for more of them as we work our way south. It is nice to cook your own dinner and finish well before the restaurants open on the main square. The hotel name is Haulta Picum for those heading this way – it would be better value with 4 people but it’s still within our budget so we are happy (the exchange rate here is just great for us now).
We are not sure how far we are riding tomorrow. At 100k there is a roadhouse where we think we can camp. At 160k, there is the big country town of San Juan. We’ve rather not ride the full 160k but there is more downhill than up and the winds are supposed to be at our backs. And the wind storm forecast for Monday and Tuesday is still holding – so no riding those days at all might be a good option. We are going to leave early and just see how the day goes. We know that we can ride 160k if we have to but we also know that we’ll be shattered at the end. Rest days will follow in San Juan, whenever we get there. And from there, it is only 2 days to Mendoza –wow, Mendoza seemed impossibly far away only a few months ago…