Day 81: Cafayate to Bush Camp, 150k
The morning started out cool and cloudy, but the birds were singing. Another really long day of riding and it was a gradual up hill all day. Out of Cafayate the roads were lined with vineyards and mountains, this went on for at least 20k. Soon after the terrain went back to dessert landscapes with cloud covered mountains the distance. I was riding really well today, no breathing issues or pain. We passed through several small towns that were not awake yet, it is Sunday morning. In wine country, the small towns revolve around the vineyards, even backyards have their own few dozen of vines growing. Around 50k we were directed off the highway onto a gravel road, this continued for 20k. Surprisingly, there were many small villages along this road and the locals gave a big wave and smile as I road past.
After lunch, the sun finally came out and warmed up the area. We jumped back on the highway, Ruta 40 and followed this all the way to camp.
The road wound through residential areas and small villages. At 109k, it was the last opportunity to get a Coke. I noticed a sign for coffee so I stopped, there were two other riders already there, and two more joined before I left. It was like early days in the tour when people actually took breaks!
The road continued into wide-open desert prairie with goats, cows, and horses. Around 125k there was one small climb over a hill then it was flat and straight camp.The straight away was fun because I was able to go into my handlebar drops and speed along at 35kph. The wind did pick up as a cross wind coming from my left. A few kilometers from camp, a dust devil flew across the road and I rode right into it, there wasn’t enough time stop. The sand spray hurt and got into my eyes and the momentum of it pulled me off the road. A new experience for me.
Our camp was just off the highway in the desert. The wind picked up and blew sand everywhere, including in our tents. During dinner, we had sand blown all over our food. Everyone retreated to their tents after dinner to avoid the wind. Bruce and I even had a layer of sand on top our sleeping bags! The wind did eventually die down. Fingers crossed for a tailwind tomorrow!
Day 82: Bush Camp to Londres, 118k
The ride was predominantly downhill and on the highway. Just after leaving camp, we had slight uphill for several kilometers then it was a long winding downhill for 30k or so. The wind was behind us which made it easy to go 50kph. The views were the same beautiful dessert and mountains we have seen lately. A few sections had some really pretty rock formations. We rode past several small towns, but most of them were 500m or so off the highway. A few of the towns had vineyards just outside the borders. After 2 hours the wind shifted and became side wind, just enough to slow me down a little. After lunch we rode down through a canyon, it was beautiful but it turned into a strong headwind, more like a wind tunnel, which was frustrating after having tailwind all day. The wind settled after the canyon and riding through a larger town as the road started a gentle grade up for the rest of the ride.
Our camp was at a municipal camp in a small town. A stream ran through it and Bruce and I took the opportunity to rinse off in the cool waters, it was refreshing and good recovery.
Day 83: Londres to Andolucas, 100k
We woke up to a very pleasant morning, the air was warm and the sun was shining. It was the first morning in a long time I did not need my jacket.
We returned back to the Ruta 40, and enjoyed a gradual descent for the first 20k. The traffic was very light so Bruce and I were able to ride side by side for the majority of the day. We rode through the desert with bushes and small trees lining the road and mountains in the distance. There was a slight headwind that picked up through the day as the temperature increased. The road started a gradual incline for the next 60k, it was just enough to make you feel like you’re working harder. We descended for about 5k into a very dry valley with grass bushes. After a morning of solitude we entered our first town at 80k, which turned into a succession of small towns for the remainder of the ride. We did stop for a coke and ice-cream at what we thought would be our last chance before camp, but later found several better options. Right before camp there was a small shop where we stocked up on beer for the hot afternoon.
Our camp was at another municipal camp with a river flowing through it. We were told by the staff that there was a waterfall 500m away with a pool to swim in. Several of us hiked to the waterfall without success but we did find the pooled water and enjoyed a couple of hours splashing in the cool and refreshing water while sipping beers. A fantastic end to a quick day. The air temperature was very hot, 43 degrees in the shade, and I was ready to die! It has been staying light until after 8:30 so it will be a challenge staying awake and out of the tent until it cools down for the night.
Day 84: Andolucas to Sanagosta, 130k
A really difficult day. The morning started out colder than yesterday, as we camped in a shaded valley. I didn’t bother with a jacket because we climbed for 10k first thing. The first climb was a gentle grade like we have been riding, but I’m starting to think that since we are in the desert and the panoramic views make the road always seem flat. The wind picked up very early around 8:30, lately it has been closer to noon before we have wind. This wind was a crosswind/headwind. I became infuriated with the wind and the day ahead. We had several climbs on the ride planned. Around 50k, I put in my earbuds to help with my sour mood. The land was absolutely desolate, nothing new to look at and we did not go through a town until 100k.
Once I arrived at lunch, around 70k, I was filled with piss and vinegar and just word vomited all my anger. I feel bad for my fellow riders who were there. But after venting and a sandwich I was in a much better mood. Right after lunch we began a 15k climb ganging about 200m. The wind was still strong but I had more energy and gutted through. The climb was rewarded with a legit downhill of about 10k losing 300m of elevation. There was a strong headwind, but I turned up my music and went into the drops to zoom down the hill. It was fantastic because my music mix serendipitously played Journey then Hall and Oats and I got to practice my karaoke skills without disrupting anyone. At the bottom, another hill started almost immediately, going up 150m in 8k.The wind was dying down a little but it was starting to get very hot! I refilled my water from my water reservoir bottle and hoped that the lunch bus would pass me soon for a fill up. A large town was at the top of the climb and a couple of riders had stopped for a Coke, I stopped as well then realized I did not have any cash. Luckily, the lunch bus arrived soon after. I felt energized and ready to finish the ride with less than 25k left to go. After riding through the rest of town and hitting every stop light for 3 kilometers, I began a long downhill on the highway with a broad shoulder to ride on. Once again I turned up the music and went into my drops to sail down the hill with headwind.
At the bottom began the final 12k climb into camp. It was not steep and the wind did die down finally. The views were actually pleasant because the entire horizon on my right side was filled with layered mountains. In the distance I could see bright green trees, which means a river is close by so I knew I was getting close to camp. I turned off the highway and had a 2k slight up hill ride in the direct sunlight. I was beginning to get extremely hot, and poured the little bit of water I had left on my head.
Soon, trees towered over the road and created shade and a welcomed breeze. I arrived at our camp, which was a shaded camping park with a creek. As soon as I dropped my bike, I filled my water, and dipped in the creek to cool off. It was amazingly refreshing. After relaxing with fellow riders and commiserating about or day, I realized my legs were toast! It has been a while since my muscles have been sore after riding. Hopefully I can recover before tomorrow!
Day 85: Sanogosta to Villa Union, 87k
Another beautiful morning and heading into a rest day! My legs were still sore, so this was going to be tough day. We left camp and rode through the rest of Sanogosta, which was remarkably larger than I had imagined. There were several small shops and beautiful homes with flourishing gardens. A floral scent filled the air as we rode through the town. Once on the highway, we began the climb for the day, gaining over 800m in 21k. We haven’t had a climb like this in a long time, most of us were excited for the challenge. The road started at a shallow grade and the highway was lined with more beautiful homes, tall trees, flowering cactus and views of the mountains. After 14k, the road began getting steeper and you could see up in the distance our future of the climb. At that point my legs started to feel better that some of the lactic acid had worked out. In the last 10k of the climb it became more steep, sometimes a 10% grade, and wound up and around the mountain. At 20k there was a mirador, or viewpoint and you could see the valley we climbed out off. At 21k, the summit, I stood for a few moments and relished in the fact that I had just nailed the climb without physical issues and no one else was around, it was completely silent. I love these moments.
After the climb was a 25k decent into the next valley. The mountains turned into beautifully crafted red rocks and the road curved down in an exciting S pattern for several kilometers. Towards the bottom, the magnificent terrain was spotted with flowering cactus, flowering bushes, and more red rocks. I stopped to take pictures and again enjoyed the solitude, minus birds singing.
After lunch at 50k, the road flattened out and it was the same desert like terrain we have been riding through the last few days. I put on my ear buds and hammered through. Around 70k, the road went up and over a hill and, again, the next valley transformed with red rock formations and in the far side of the valley a beautiful red mountain with a larger blue mountain behind it. Trees and other greenery were lining the bottom, and I assumed our town was approaching. The decent from the hill was fast and on fresh tarmac, which made for an exhilarating ride.
As I turned onto the road of our hotel, it was lined with vineyards and a few restaurants. Our hotel is very nice, but not conveniently close to town, or anything really. They do serve food throughout the day, so I do not think we will be leaving the hotel tomorrow and actually resting our tired legs tomorrow.