Jujuy, Salta, Tucumán, Catamarca, La Rioja and San Juan provinces, Argentina
It’s not a “farewell” but a “see you soon” that I say to Chile while entering Argentina. I’m thinking of crossing the border going along the top of the Andes almost ten times. However, the next Chile I’ll see will probably be as dry and solitary as the one I just lived.
The first days in Argentina looked like the last ones in Chile : frisky morning, alone in the silence of the sunrise; a different song in my head from the one that haunted me the day before; the wind waking up at midday slamming in my ears and the search of a place to camp where my tent won’t fly away to Brasil.
But those days are counted. El Abra del Acay is getting closer, and with him, the end of 3.000 to 4.500 meters altitude. I’m going back down, and I’ll even maybe complain that it’s too hot.
The Death Road in Bolivia, or la trampolina de la Muerte (trampoline of death) in Colombia are famous apparently dangerous road, but the downhill of the Abra del Acay has nothing of a evocative and scary title. It should have though. If the Colombian and the Bolivian “scary” roads had the reason of their title in a maybe not to far away past, they are today way more secure and protected from the cliff. The Abra del Acay road is unlikely today still a one lane dirt road, without protection, sometimes sandy, stuck between the cliffs and the ravine. I was happy not to drive a car there, even if we are here on the famous road 40, a road linking the south and the north of the country along the Andes. Km 0 is in Rio Gallegos, south of Patagonia, just before Tierra del Fuego, close to the final destination of the trip. The first milestone I saw on this road was 4.629 km: something to cheer me up…
Anyhow, it was such a breathtaking and interesting downhill, bringing me in the Calchaquíes valley, which is, without hesitating, entering in my top 5 of the most beautiful road I took. The road follow a quite large valley along a river which is sometimes strangled by rock formations. The road needs to climb it up, and go back down in the next valley. Add to that some cactus, a few not in a rush old cars, goats and cows cattle, a cowboy here and there, some other reddish rock formation coming from an other planet and you’ll have the eyes wide open all the way to Cafayate, a wine region where stopping to taste can be possible.
After that, if the Ruta 40 has its interesting geographic zones, it’s needed to ride long straight lines without too much interest between them though. Fortunately, I wasn’t alone. Getting out of Cafayate, I caught up a Swiss couple and we spend the next 10 days together. Fighting against the wind was way easier! We all of us have different observation subjects on the road, sometimes according to our profession. I work in tourism, so let’s say that on my side it’s quite general and relative to where I am. But when you have an electric engineer to share the road with, it gives observations like this blogpost from his website (password: 123) (in French).
After many ice cream jars, one-pound cookies bag and BBQ in campground, every good thing has its end. It’s time to split: Mathias and Marion are staying on the Argentinian side for the moment, while I’m going toward the Agua Negra pass, a seasonal road that will open right the day I’ll arrive there, letting me cross to Chile. I heard about the splendor of the scenery, and sincerely, the effort worth it. The tranquility of the road and the area enchanted me.
I spent a part of the two-day climbing with a French couple on a tandem with an ion motivation even though their mechanical problems. Hosts were awaiting me on the Chilean side, and I had to split from them a little bit further to go on climbing solo. I could camp at the pass’ summit and even if it was the coldest night I ever had, it worth it!