Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Salta - Cafayate (Sept 17-21)

Salta was a pleasant city and we stayed 3 nights to get all the necessary things done- i.e washing clothes, blogging, bike maintenance, money exchange.

I came across this bent rim along the road. I guess you could say it is 'cactus'.

And so is this wheel. This is Jude's Velocity rear rim with a nasty crack in the sidewall which I discovered this morning in the campground at Cafayate. I had 2 of these rims fail in Peru last year- same problem sidewall cracks. No more to say on this...
I will take a bus early tomorrow morning for Salta to have a new rim built for Jude's rear wheel. Hope I can find correct sized spokes for the Rohloff hub.

Postscript: I found a large bike warehouse in Salta and found an Argentinian-made rim with 32 holes and the same circumference as the Velocity Aeroheat. So, it was just a simple matter of replacing the rim without changing spokes. They had better quality rims (eg Mavic) but I wouldn´t be able to find DTSwiss spokes for the different size rim. I took it to a bike mechanic and he rebuilt the wheel for 18 pesos (or A$5), only waited an hour and he did a great job. It seems to be holding up OK and this route along Ruta 40 doesn´t have many dirt sections. When we cross over to Chile and La Carretera Austral we´ll hit a bit more...but our tough and rough ripio roads are behind us (famous last words!)

Thursday, 17 September 2009

BOLIVIA (Country Snapshot)

Latitude: S 15.30 (Lake Titicaca) - S 22.04 (Villazon)
Total Kms: 1400kms.
Days cycled: 29 days
Daily average: 48 kms per day
Riding hours: 133.30 hours (daily average-4.40 hrs)
Elevation gain: 12010 metres (daily average-400m per day)
Road surface: Sealed 269kms Dirt: 963kms Salt: 185kms

Money spent: 5400 bolivianos in 44 days
Daily averasge per person : 60 bolivianos or $US 8.50 per day

Sunday, 13 September 2009

ARGENTINA La Quiaca-Salta (Sept 9-14)

We crossed the border from Bolivia to Argentina on Sept 9 and sped passed the usually vigilant customs. They missed me but caught Jude, although they let her go with plenty of cheap Bolivian contraband (i.e. cheap fresh food).

The road stayed at high altitudes (3500-3750m) for 100km with very strong gusty winds from the west and south (crosswinds and headwinds). It was difficult holding the bike steady. Luckily little traffic as a protest roadblock held back southbound buses. No shoulder all the way to Salta (467kms away) which made riding dangerous as the traffic picked up.

Later in the day the road turned east and the wind was a lovely tailwind - I hit 27kph on the flat without pedalling! Then turned a bend and almost got blown onto the asphalt.

Fingers of rock and striated hills near Tres Cruces, about to enter the Quebrada de Humahuaca. It is a much publicised route by Argentinians but we thought the scenery around Tupiza was more impressive. It was pleasant scenery but all the way through the canyon we had to ride hard against a punishing cold southerly wind whipping up the narrow quebrada. Que malo, que duro!

At Humahuaca campground we met 2 grey nomads from Melbourne. Barry and Carol in their rig from Australia on a 3 year odyssey around Sth America.
Buen viaje amigos!

Sebastian and his legendary carne asado at Hostal Pucara, in Tilcara - my birthday bash!

The Argentinian slow cook BBQ - puts Australian barbeques back in the Stone Age.

Here is the crowd at Hostal Pucara drinking cheap red wine- A$2 a bottle. The party got pretty rowdy later on- with Pink Floyd and The Doors blaring from the stereo.

Back on the road - after the party I was feeling all my years- not sure if it´s the hangover or the cold I got in the Gobi desert dust storm in Bolivia. My knee is also acting up again and hard to pedal strong against the headwind. OK , I´m having a whinge - a grumpy old man!

Outside Tilcara - eroded hillsides and cacti

The famous seven-coloured rocks of Purmamarca

Outside Tilcara taking a break from speeding traffic and the incessant wind. Check out the road edge- no shoulder at all. Bloody dangerous with trucks and buses.

We camped at Yala beside a river and the next morning hit the road early for the long 112km ride to Salta. Route 9 turned out to be a windless, warm and very pleasant ride. At 25 degrees C, nice climbing gradient and low elevations (1200-1500m) it was like riding up to Fern Tree, Tasmania on a summers day. Almost no traffic on a single-lane paved road weaving through the forested hills with a touch of spring genesis. Bliss for two tired cyclists!

BOLIVIA Uyuni-Villazon

The ride from Uyuni was supposed to be cruisy sort of ride to the Argentinian border, but it was 5 very tough days in the saddle. Dust storms, howling wind, washboard roads and rollercoaster hills....

The wind did howl, the wind did moan
Leaving Uyuni we followed the edge of the salar with a light wind at our backs. However, it just kept blowing, gaining in strength as we headed south. The road was in bad shape (corrugations and sandy sections) so we opted for the tracks alongside, hitting over 30kph on the flat. But after 30kms the wind turned into a maelstrom and we had to hide behind some roadside tombs to eat a quick lunch, dust whipping around us, not hearing anything but the howling wind. Later I heard a prophetic Nick Cave and PJ Harvey singing "The wind did howl, the wind did moan".

Very little traffic on this road, but the wind, dust and sand was our nemesis today. Gusts of about 80kph - tailwind and crosswind. Poor Jude was knocked off her bike 3 times. I had plenty of ballast on deck (water and food) to stay upright. The dust storm blew around us all afternoon- visibility at times was down to 2 metres. I lost Jude for about an hour, but she emerged out of the wind and sand, covered in dust and grime. The wind blew the sand off the dunes into our ears, eyes and even down our pants. Jude´s bum was rubbed raw from the sandpaper effect.
We had to push our bikes through sand dunes which had encroached onto the road from the dust storm. Here is a photo of the dust storm before it increased in intensity. I didn´t want to open my camera up in the maelstrom.

At about 5 in the afternoon we left the flat country and climbed into some interesting eroded landscape.

We made it to Atocha in the dark with our headtorches lighting the way through a spooky canyon. We didn´t have the energy or courage to get under a cold shower (it was very cold in this wild west town) so we had 2 hamburgers and beers and climbed into tiny beds in our dusty clothes. 105 kms on a bad dirt road, with a 500m elevation gain - one of our hardest and longest days. I clocked up almost 8 hours in the saddle, but Judy did a spectacular 9 hours and 44 minutes!! I wanted her to ride around the dark deserted railway station for 16 minutes to achieve the perfect 10, but she impolitely declined. (Tim S, this would be a true Audax moment wouldn´t it).

Next morning we scrubbed the dust out of all orifices and got back on our bikes. Climbing out of Atocha the imposing volcano Cerro Chloroque with it´s pyramidal face.

The road to Tupiza snaking its way high over the Cordillera de Chichas. It climbed and dipped over the rugged range for 70kms with elevations between 3900-4250 metres.

The road south. In the distance a truck is sending up dust as it heads down into one of the dessicated barren valleys. Very litle traffic- just the odd bus and 4WD.

The gradients in Bolivia are similar to southern Ecuador - bloody steep. Over the Cordillera de Chichas the road climbed and fell into narrow dry valleys - over 100kms and about 13 of these rollercoaster dips, mostly at 10-13 degree gradients. Here is one such descent with a sign warning of the sudden fall (double click on the photo to see the angle indicated on the sign).

Some of the road followed a high ridge with spectacular vistas to the south.
Then the big drop into the Tupiza valley began - from 4200m to 3250m.

Cacti and red rock country. Coming into the Tupiza valley the landscape changed dramatically. This is Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid country - nearby they held up their last cache of money and were ambushed and gunned down by the Bolivian constabulary.

A side gorge into the Tupiza river.

Eroded rocks near Salo.

El Pirongo, named after the Argentinian vernacular for `penis´.

Tupiza river

A bicycle shop in Tupiza. I love the Connondale slogan.
We found a nice friendly hospedaje in town, Hospedaje Central and enjoyed warm showers, beer, wine and good food.

More red rock country outside Tupiza.

The road from Tupiza to Villazon is being upgraded and traffic is forced into the river- quite deep for bicycles. Luckily, I hadn´t bothered cleaning the bikes in Tupiza.

Another stretch of bicycle wading - check out Jude navigating the deep waters on the right.

A narrow canyon and tunnel. Jude emerges from the dark rock as a truck waits.

Jude among some beautifully-coloured landscape and interesting clouds.

Send in the Clouds

Lenticular cloud formations sweeping across the sky.

At our campsite beside the railway we had this spectacular light show in the sky.

Cacti and red sky

Our campsite between Tupiza and Villazon. I had my cycling boots drying on the tracks when I train came hooting around the corner. Just managed to save them. Phew!

More silhouette cacti, more blood-red sky.