Monday, 10 May 2010

Aimogasta & Iguazu

Cycling with Ben and Sylvie has been a bit of a revelation for us, and we have rediscovered the possibilities open to us when we leave before 11 in the morning!! This has meant we've regularly been managing 100k days and have achieved our biggest day so far of 125km! Being in a group pf 4 has also given us more accomodation options, and we've been able to intersperse the wild camping with some rather lovely cabana's and taking every opportunity to perfect the art of Asado making.
The road has been mainly red rock and cactus lined desert - we're at a similar latitude to central Australia, and this may be why the area seems not disimilar to that surrounding Ayres rock! It has been entirely different from the barren windswept deserts of Southern Patagonia.

With the extra days off resulting from the trip to the lagoon we were glad to be back on the bikes again, planning to divide the 130km trip to Aimogasta into 2 days. Unfortunately, just 40km out of Aimogasta Sylvie developed a re-occurrence of a knee injury (exacerbated by some very challenging sandy ripio on the way into Chilecito) and she and Ben were forced to take a ride into town rather than cycling with us (a lucky escape from an unexpected heavy headwind!!)

In Aimogasta we had arranged to meet Dom&Michelle, (a South African couple we had previously met in Coiyhaique), thinking that as the route becomes increasingly challenging as we head North it would be nice to travel in a larger group for a while. Also Ja has a provisional date for starting a new contract in London, and in planning his exit strategy is keen not leave me making a solo border crossing into Bolivia!

With Sylvie needing at least a week off to recover, and Ja and I keen not to lose our new friends (and motivational coaches/guides), the 6 of us decided to take some time out and make the trip East to Iguazu to see the falls.

It would take an awful lot to make a 60 hour coach ride worthwhile, but luckily Iguazu is awesome enough to manage to do just that!!

The sheer scale of the falls can only really be appreciated by taking a trip into brazil where they can be viewed from afar in their entirety. This year there has been flooding in Brazil, and where the falls would normally have 1700 cubic meters of water falling per second, at the moment they have an incredible 7 times that amount, with 13000 cubic meters of water per second!!! This meant that many areas of the falls usually open to be explored were too dangerous to get close to; whole sections of the park were closed due to the sheer volume of water passing through. Even some of the areas that were open were impassable due to the falls spilling over onto them! I think it was a fairly unique experience to be able to walk underneath part of the falls!

It was a truly incredible sight and after spending the day in the Argentinian Iguazu national park, by night fall we had it nearly to ourselves except for the local inhabitants!!

After such an epic trip we were hugely disappointed to discover that Sylvie's knee was not yet strong enough to start cycling again. Unfortunately, (after nearly 1000 hard, sandy and thoroughly enjoyable kms together), as Ja has so little time left and is keen to get as far north as possible before leaving, we made the difficult decision to push on and hope that Ben&Sylvie will catch us again in a week or so, when fully recovered.

In their favour with this task is the likelyhood that we will slip back into our old tardy ways without their good influence, and the increasing evidence that Dom&Michelle share our enjoyment of the Argentinian vino and need very little encouragement to make the most of the opportunities afforded to partake in it; there may be a few more bodega visits to book in en route!!

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