(October 19 – written by Nancy)
Another short mileage day but it was up all day so that counts for something, right? Our little cabana last night was very quiet and comfortable – once I got Dave unplugged from watching CNN. It’s a bit like playing video games or watching an action movie right before bed – he gets all worked up and wants to talk about all the latest indignities that some politicians are hoisting on the world…
We left relatively early this morning for the distance we had to ride (I tried to convince Dave we didn’t need to get up so early but he wasn’t convinced). It was cloudy – I think our days of waking up to clear blue skies might be over. After saying goodbye to our hosts we were quickly back on to Hwy 7 and straight into a relatively gentle climb that continued for the rest of the ride. We are back to the mountains, interesting to see after the relatively flat plains of northern Argentina.
When we left Potrerillos it was cloudy though there were a few beams of light trying to make their way through. As we made our way up through the big canyon the clouds disappeared and we had blue sky – yeah! Hopefully that will continue for the next couple of days until we get over the pass. Pretty scenery and while there was no shoulder on the road the traffic going our direction was pretty light. There seemed to be many more trucks coming down the hill than going up so it was only the rare circumstance where we felt we had to pull off the road to let trucks behind pass us while trucks were coming down.
The road followed the river up the canyon. There is also an old railway line that goes up the canyon but is clearly no longer in use as there are lots of gaps in the track. There are some neat old railway tunnels that hug the canyon walls – looks like it would have been a fun train ride when it was running. We also had some tunnels to go through – 10 in total, though they were all very short, thankfully.
The other day we posted about all of the Deolinda Correa shrines that we’ve been seeing. Well, today we saw the mother of all shrines. There were so many bottles of water that the shrine was buried and bottles were flowing out onto the other side of the road. We stopped for photos and were there for a while, but didn’t witness anyone dropping of fresh bottles. Maybe drivers only stop during the night – hard to say but clearly many bottles have found a home at this particular shrine.
We arrived in Uspallata about 11:45 and stopped at the Tourist Information Center to get some info on the road ahead and on accommodation options in town. We did get the good news that the pass is open and that there are some hostels open up ahead (we have one more night in Argentina before we cross the pass). Before looking at places to stay we stopped at the Casita Suiza for nice ham and cheese toasties (they sound much fancier in Spanish – tostada con jamon crudo y queso) and a coffee.
After we finished lunch Dave set off on a search for a place to stay. There was a nice hotel right next door, so I suggested he could make light work of his task by just going next door but of course he was not interested in that. So I sat in the sun, watching over the bikes, while he did his search. After about 45 minutes he returned, just as I was starting to think I might have to go search for him. Similar to my search yesterday, he could not find anyone at several of the places he tried to look at. Places often have a phone number to call but we don’t have calling capability with our phone and trying to speak Spanish to someone on the phone is really hard!
Anyway, one of the places he checked out was a fun little A-frame cabana, so we have ended up at the Cabanas Wenelcklen, just a little bit away from the downtown area. Our friendly host, Mabel, was such a kick getting us settled. She had some trouble getting the gas turned on (you have to light the pilot light in the small gas unit) and had to call her sister to come help. Very funny, because of course her sister got it lit on the first try. Anyway, the cabana is decent, it has a kitchen area of sorts, a refrigerator and even a toaster and a brand new coffee pot! We will cook dinner here, as we need to use up some food before we hit the Chile border.
Tomorrow the destination is one of the little villages up near the pass, about 60k or so uphill from here. Hopefully the Tourist Information Center worker is correct and we can find a hostel that is open, or we will have to camp and I expect it will be much colder as we will be up at about 2600m. But we’ll worry about that tomorrow – we need to get to the ice cream store now before it gets too cold to eat ice cream…