Sunday, 30 May 2010

Tafi - Salta

Leaving Tafi we were immediately faced with our first pass of over 3000m. Luckily, as we had already climbed nearly 2000m to get into Tafi we had only 1000m left to do, and it transpired that we share a love of embarrassingly loud, tuneless singing which kept us going most of the way (who isn´t inspired by a selection of the greatest show tunes...?). Actually singing is pretty hard at that altitude, which is my excuses for the tunelessness. At the top we met an Argentinean cyclist coming the other way who recommended (not for the first time) that chewing coca leaves could help (I assume he meant with the altitude, as it would take a great deal more than that to help with the singing).
However as we were already at the top we declined his kind offer, speeding down instead to the little town of Amaicha, where we took a day to visit the ruins at Quilmes. These were one of the tribes to most fiercely resist both Inca and Spanish invasions, for over 130 years. When they were finally defeated by the Spaniards they were forced to move to Buenos Aires - on foot, with only 10% of the 2000 prisoners making the journey alive-, where it is reputed that out of defiance they refused to bear any further children in order to end their blood line.

From Cafayate (after an all too brief introduction to some of the local bodegas) we decided against the quickest route into Salta, and (unusually) chose to take a stretch of the ruta 40 that goes via some tiny and seldom visited pueblos, including the beautiful town of Cachi. This is a challenging route by bike due to the poor and very sandy ripio, and also the altitude; the highest point being at 3400m. Whilst it was easy to see why most people would chose the paved route, the challenge was well worth it-the scenery was absolutely stunning and has probably been some of the most beautiful to date (or do I say that about every new place we go to...?).

We had hoped to camp just before the pass, at around 3400m in order to help our acclimatization in preparation for the pass into Bolivia, however unable to find water, we had to make a very ill advised 20km 2000m decent in the dark, in subzero temperatures. Prior to this however we were treated to one of the most beautiful sunsets we´d ever seen, it was just a shame we didn´t get to see the descent into the valley in daylight, as it is reputed to be stunning.

We timed our arrival into Salta with the busiest weekend of the decade; coinciding not only with a religious 4 day holiday, but also Argentina´s bicentenary celebrations, meaning every bed in the city was already occupied. Dom had been eagerly anticipating spending her upcoming 30th birthday in style; preferably in some top hotel or Spa. She was therefore extremely disappointed when insult was added to injury and the only place on offer at the tourist office was a ´special´ hotel, which it transpired meant it needed to paid for by the hour. Declining this option, we ended up celebrating in the less than salubrious surrounds of a cheap hostel, sipping champagne from chipped coffee mugs. Perhaps not quite what she had in mind, but one to remember non the less.

My bike seemed to sense Ja´s imminent departure and, either out of distress at the upcoming loss, or sensibly realising it would be a lost cause if it broke when Ja wasn´t there, pretty much fell to pieces on the way into Salta. This meant Ja had to spend much of his last time before leaving South America giving it a full overhaul, sorting out gears, breaks, panniers etc etc. And then, bike fixed, and after 7 solid months of cycling together, 7777.77 (and a little bit) kms, and (disappointingly only) 6 countries, we had a very sad farewell as Ja left for Buenos Aires in order to return to the UK to start a new work contract.

No comments:

Post a Comment