27 January - Road side camp to Puente Del Inca - 40km
Three years and 10 months on the bikes! All day long the road
zig-zagged up the pass. Although the gradient was acceptable it
was still a steep and dreadfully slow 22km climb up the pass
from where we'd spent the night. Roadworks along the way also
caused more long delays. Eventually we reached the tunnel at the
top of the pass and the authorities were kind enough to give us
a lift through the 3km long tunnel. Once on the other side it
was still 18km to the customs office. We flew downhill past the
small settlement of Las Cuevas with just a few timber
restaurants and a strong smell of lentil soup. Then it was onto
the small touristy village of Puente Del Inca where we found a
basic campsite. At least we had a sight of Aconcagua from the
road, the highest peak in the America's (6 960 m). Ernest cooked
supper and then it was an early evening for me. Puente Del Inca
has the most amazing scenery with high mountains all around
which turned all colors of the rainbow at sunset. In addition
there was a natural stone bridge across the river which has
turned a lovely
orange color from the sulfur spring waters running over it. The
remains of an old spa were located directly under the bridge and
were slowly turning the same color.
28 January - Puente Del Inca - Uspallata - 70km
Ernest had some work to do on his bike and it was midday by the
time we finally left. We cycled past Cementerio Andinista a
small cemetery for climbers who died an Aconcagua. Then past Los Penitentes a well-known ski resort, now all boarded up (because
it is summer and there is no snow). The pinnacles around the
town are supposed to resemble a line of monks but I looked and
looked but could see nothing that resembled a line of monks.
Then it was a long mostly downhill run to Uspallata.
Unfortunately we had a headwind all the way which made us pedal
even on the downhills. The views were sublime and it is no
wonder the film “7 Years in Tibet” was shot here. It was a
stunning ride and we stopped many a time to try and capture the
beauty of the surrounding mountains but to no avail. We had a
scary moment when a large truck and trailer overtook us on the
downhill and burst a tire right next to Ernest (who was ahead of
me). I got quite a fright but things could have been much worse
as pieces of tire flew everywhere and the truck swerved madly
from side to side. Soon we reached Uspallata and what a surprise
it turned out to be. It is a true oasis of poplar trees in this
absolutely barren mountain landscape. Uspallata is a small town
but with a campsite and all the necessary shops.
29 January - Uspallata - Potrerillos - 58km
The party next to the campground in Uspallata carried on through
the night and little sleep was had. It was 12.30 the following
afternoon by the time we finally left. Again the road followed
Rio Mendoza and the scenery was as spectacular as the previous
day. Although it was mostly downhill there were still plenty of
uphills and narrow tunnels as we followed the river. This is
also a popular rafting destination and we could see many tour
operators carting people to the drop off point for a raft down
the river. Again a headwind picked up and I was kind of sorry
that we'd left so late. However, we reached Potrerillos early
and found a campsite close to the lake with beautiful braai
places amongst shady poplars and other trees. Ernest had to have
a braai in Argentina, and he bought a large chunk of beef and
wood which he strapped to his bike, and that evening he was in
his element just tending the fire.
30/31 January - Potrerillos - Mendoza - 72km
It was a fairly short cycle to Mendoza, but first we had some
solid hills to cross before going down into the valley. Once we
reached route 40 junction the road widened and at least we had a
shoulder to cycle on. This is wine country and we cycled past
many a wine farm offering wine tasting and wine tours. Allthough
Mendoza is a fairly large town it was an easy cycle into town.
We found the accommodation frightfully expensive but still
settled for a room in one of the hostels in the touristy part of
town. It's high season and prices are at a maximum, the weather
was however fantastic and in the high 20's.
Included in the hefty room price were bed bugs which, together
with the disco next door, kept me up all of the first night.
Fortunately the hostel had a nice garden with a swimming pool
and some shade where one could relax during the day.
1 February 2011 - Mendoza
We decided to stay another day in Mendoza, as there were things
to do like internet, etc. We also booked for the braai tonight
(eat all you can - of course for Ernest as I haven't changed my
vegetarian status quite yet.
2 February -
Mendoza – Las Catitas
We left our
bedbug-ridden accommodation and headed East on Ruta 7 towards
Buenos Aires, more than 1000km across the pampas. It was a good
day as the road was pancake flat and the temperature (I guess)
in the low 30’s. We camped fairly early at a petrol station
along the road which had some grass at the back and a shower. A
Japanese cyclist called Nobu arrived from the opposite direction
and also pitched his tent where we were camping. He’s been
cycling for the past year and a half.
3 February - Las
Catitas – Alto Pencoso 99km
We awoke to a
fairly strong wind, probably sounding worse than what it was due
to the popular trees we camped under. The pampas consists mainly
of large open plains, and is therefore quite exposed. We saw
little in the way of interesting sights just low bushes and
sandy soil. The wind was against us all day, but at least it was
nothing close to the wind in Patagonia.
In Argentina road
fatalities are not just indicated by a humble cross but by
little shrines and sometimes quite elaborate ones, the purpose
of the collection of empty plastic bottles at some shrines still
baffles me. The shrines surrounded by red flags have an
interesting history and (I understand) pays homage to Antonio
We camped in the
municipal grounds of the small settlement of Alto Pencoso.
People went out of their way to accommodate us, even unlocking
the community hall’s toilets for us. Mostly people were just
amazed at these two foreigners on bicycles arriving in their
4/5 February -
Alto Pencoso – San Luis 22km
20km Down the road
Ernest’s back hub eventually packed up totally. He tried to do
makeshift repairs, but it was too badly damaged. We were
fortunate enough to get a lift into San Luis where he could buy
a new hub. Spoking and straightening the wheel is a
time-consuming activity, and the next morning Ernest was still
not happy with his work so we moved to a cheaper hostel and
spent another day in San Luis. San Luis is actually not a bad
city; it has a lively town center with, as usual, a central
square and some nice buildings surrounding it. I still find the
language a bit of a problem; it is surprising how few people
actually speak English. I also seem to find food a bit of a
problem as this is beef country!! Argentinians are the biggest
consumers of beef per capita in the world and God forbid that
one should be a vegetarian in this country! At least there’s
plenty of good wine and pasta around as well.
6 February - San
Luis – Picnic area (close to Villa Mercedes) 85km
It was an
excellent cycling day, the wind was slight, it was bit overcast
and the road fairly flat. We cycled along quite happily until we
spotted a really good picnic area next to a river, and we
thought we may be able to camp there. People were swimming and
having a picnic on the grass under the trees and we went to
We explained that
we wanted to put up our “carpa” (tent) and camp for the night
which was no problem. Smoke from the asadas (barbecues) was
hanging thick in the air and people stared at us in amazement as
we cycled in. They even came to have their pictures taken with
us. We hadn’t even unpacked the bikes before our
neighbours presented us with a plate of barbequed meat. Not
wanting to be outdone other neighbours also came with a huge
plate of meat. True to Argentinian asadas they don’t bother much
with salads and other food, just a huge plate of meat. Even I
tried a piece of meat, as I felt too embarrassed to turn them
7 February -
Picnic area – Old petrol station (Washington) 96km
All good things
come to an end as it started raining the previous evening, with
some heavy storms during the night. We woke at 8h00 but it was
still raining so I crawled back into my tent. Eventually the
rain stopped and goats and sheep came wandering past. It was
12h00 by the time our tents had dried and we got on the road.
What a lonely stretch of road it was. We saw little in the way
of life along the road and when we finally reached a disused
petrol station we were out of water. We filled our bottles at
the still functioning tyre repair workshop, and decided to camp
there seeing that there was water – we camped on the porch of a
vacant house on the premises. I’ll be more careful tomorrow and
take more water with me for the road.
8/9 February -
Disused petrol station – Laboulaye 128km
We set off and
soon reached Villa Mackenna where we spotted several service
stations, a camping area and a Motel. We stopped and had a nice
lunch at one of the petrol stations and then carried on along
the road. Once again there was not much along the way but large
cattle ranches, vast fields of corn and soybeans. The crops are
probably for cattle feed as I have not noticed much soybean
products in the shops. I guess that in a beef eating country
like Argentina soybean products will never been very popular.
The road was once
gain fairly narrow with loads of trucks and we had to be very
careful staying out of the way of the trucks and cars. A steady
headwind slowed us down and it was getting late enough for us to
get concerned that we would have to cycle in the dark if we were
going to reach Laboulaye. 7 km from Laboulaye Ernest came to an
unexpected and sudden halt. The front hub on his bike had also
siezed up totally and with a fast setting sun he quickly had to
do an emergency repair job before the light faded. We then
managed to battle on to Laboulaye in the dark.
The town was much
bigger than expected and we even found a hotel room for a
reasonable price, where we stayed the next day while Ernest
repaired his bike. Fortunately Argentinians are a fairly
sporting nation, and one can find a fairly decent bike shop in
most sizable towns. Laboulaye was big enough to sport a bicycle
shop and we could even find a new front hub for Ernest’s bike.
Then it was back to the room for the time consuming job of
spoking the wheel again.
10 February -
Laboulaye – Rufino 71km
We encountered a
head wind from the start of the day, and the traffic seemed to
have gotten even worse. The narrow road left us virtually no
room to cycle as there was just not enough space for two trucks
and us. The grassy verge was of no benefit to us as it was
nearly impossible to cycle on it. By the time we reached Rufino
we turned off into the town as I dearly needed a mirror so I
could at least see what was coming up behind me (Ernest had
fitted a mirror in Chile already).
We arrived at
siesta time and the place was like a ghost town, but a policeman
on a motorbike took us to the town park where we could camp .
People here take their siesta seriously and only seem to wake
again at around 17h00. No sooner have they woken up from their
siesta and the entire town was at the park (which was also the
sports grounds), playing football, hockey, running, and even the
local marching band was out practicing. What a delight it was to
observe a small Argentinian country town in full swing. Once
again there was a bike shop where I could get a mirror.
11 February -
Rufino – Vedia 119km
It was another
windy day on the road and 18-wheelers still came roaring past,
causing us to dive off the road every now and then. The mirror I
bought the previous day at least helped a bit. Again we cycled
past vast cattle ranches. This is the Pampas and home to the
Guacos, it’s an area known for tasty beef. With Argentinians
being the world’s biggest meat eaters, no decent petrol station
comes without a nice grassy area and some barbeques, making it
pretty easy to camp at these places (which we did again on this
night). An added bonus is that they also come with good clean
toilets as well as showers. Most also have hot water on tap as
it is quite inconceivable that one could go without a flask of
hot water for mate (a herbal tea sucked through a metal straw).
12 February -
Vedia – Junin 58km
The wind seemed to
have picked up during the night, fortunately it was not as bad
on the road as I had expected. The traffic was a bigger problem
than the wind. My legs felt lame all day, and we turned off into
Junin town where we found a comfortable room. We relaxed lying
on the bed watching TV for the rest of the day. I seem to be
constantly hungry these days, and after a visit to the local
supermarket I had my fill of bread and cheese as there seems to
be little else around this part of the world except for meat,
meat and more meat.
13 February -
Junin – Carmen de Areco 126km
We picked up a
nice tailwind for a change, and not being one to waste a
tailwind we cruzed all the way to Carmen de Areco. It was a
Sunday and the traffic not too heavy, a pleasure to be on the
road. At Carmen de Areco we were in luck and had 3 nice petrol
stations to choose from to pitch a tent. The best one was at the
YPF with a large picnic area at the rear of the buildings, a
children’s play park and plenty of barbeque areas, perfect.
Ernest cooked the usual large pot of pasta and after a beer and
a big serving of pasta I was off to bed.
14 February -
Carmen de Areco – San Antonio 66km
I could tell we
were going to have a head wind and was pleased that we’d pushed
on the day before. We ate our leftover bread with cheese, had
some coffee (as I have not yet acquired a taste for mate) and
then it was time to leave again.
The traffic was
hectic as usual, but once we turned off Ruta 7, it was slightly
better. A nice ride through the countryside brought us to the
town of San Antonio. Dating from the 18th century it
is loaded with history and is also considered home to the
Gauchos. We pulled in at the local campground and relaxed in the
15 February - San
Antonio – Buenos Aires 118km
We followed Ruta 8
East in the direction of Buenos Aires and soon found ourselves
on a highway. Much easier than cycling on that narrow road.
Closer to Buenos Aires traffic became a bit hectic and about
10km from the city centre we eventually got kicked off the
freeway. We slowly battled the rush-hour traffic on one of the
regular arterial roads, which spat us out right into the city
centre as it became dark. Every few hundred meters there was a
traffic light so it took forever to reach Ave 9 de Julio (the
main road). It was 21h00 by the time we found a room. Although
the hotel was rather expensive it was really nice and right in
the city centre.
What a lively city
Buenos Aires is, street cafes everywhere, and people out and
about until the early hours of the morning.
16 February -
We walked around
town, down Ave Florida a pedestrian mall jam packed with people
and street vendors, down to Plaza de Mayo with its pink palace
(or presidential office), past lovely old colonial style
buildings and around the famous Obelisk right in the middle of
Ave 9 de Julio, with its 8 lanes in each direction it must be
the widest main road in the world.
decided to sit down at a sidewalk restaurant, and while looking
at the menu a very skilled thief nicked my bag (which I’d placed
on the ground between my feet). So good was the thief that
neither Ernest nor me noticed anything. This was quite a
disaster as my wallet with cash and bank cards was in the bag,
as well as my camera, glasses, and the disc with all my photos
which I’d taken in South America since arriving in Ushuaia. Most
of the rest of the day was spent cancelling cards, ordering new
ones, and contacting home so someone can send me money.
17/21 February -
Early morning I
was woken by a phone call from my bank to advise me that they
will have a new card delivered, but it may take 7 working days!
(We may be waiting here for some time). Again we wondered around
town, and down to Puerto Madero (a waterfront area with a bunch
of modern skyscrapers), and South to San Telmo district with its
narrow cobbled street, old buildings and antique markets. We
carried on walking to La Boca district with its colorful houses
and home of Boca Juniors football team. Eventually we took the
bus back to the city centre and scanned the shops for a new
is a lot to see in BA, and we’ve been spending our days visiting
all the interesting places. I’m in awe of all the beautiful old
buildings in the city.
22 - 25 February -
with its vaulted ceilings and painted dome must be one of the
most stunning shopping malls ever. Constructed in 1889 and
restored in 1992 it is now a very upmarket place. The same goes
stunning!! Constructed between 1880 and 1908, I understand that
it romantically opened with Aida! I can just walk and stare, I
had no idea there were so many stunning buildings in Buenos
Aires (must be the valuer coming out in me).
We took a train
ride to Tigre (less than 3 Rand for the return ticket) and spent
the day wondering around this peaceful settlement on the Parana
river delta. There’s just sooo much here one can do with little
money that I can’t think of a better place to wait for my new
bank card to be delivered (although it’s taking somewhat longer
than expected). We had our own little picnic in the park and
then took the train back to the city.
are loads of free things to do in Buenos Aires like visiting the
Quite an amazing cemetery with loads of statues and crypts, all
of course for the rich and famous of their time. The most
visited grave must surely be that of Evita, as there were so
many tourists that we could hardly get close.
Of course nothing
is ever perfect, as Ernest and I are getting on each other’s
nerves being cooped up in a room for such a long time. Ha, ha, I
guess we’re just meant to be out on the road cycling.
I’m in seventh heaven in this meat-eating country. I discovered
this most amazing vegetarian take-way place right next door to
our hotel!! Owned by Chinese people it was the most delicious
food I have eaten since China - I was in there twice a day!! I
was getting bored with the very Argentinian breakfast (included
in the room price) of coffee and croissant! They’re just not
big breakfast eaters in this country. And just in case that was
not enough there was Ugi’s on the corner, the cheapest pizzas in
town. They only sell one thing and that is Mozzarella Pizzas -
and you pay 50 cents extra for the take-way box!
In the meantime I
was still scanning the shops for a camera as I got some good
tips from my cousin Ansie and my friend Kathy in what to look
for. I also ordered new glasses at an optician around the corner
– but I can only get all those things once I get my sweaty paws
on my money! Come on Nedbank how long can this card take to
The bank card
eventually arrived on the 25th but was not activated,
so I had to contact Nedbank again, who said they’ll come back to
me the next morning to activate the card….give me strength!!!
In the meantime we had some excitement at our hotel, as we
discovered to our horror that the guest in the room next door
had died. Something strange was going on as the police were in
and out the entire day. I did not ask any questions, but felt
that they could at least have closed the door or pulled a sheet
over the body.
26 February -
The bank phoned me
back in the early hours of the morning to inform me that the
card was unlocked. There was hardly time for breakfast as I was
keen to pick up my new glasses. We took a walk to the ferry
ticket office to purchase our tickets for the following day to
Uruguay. Then it was off to the camera shops to see what they
had in stock. None of the latest models where available, and in
the end I settled for the Lumix.
27 February - Buenos Aires,
Argentina – Colonia, Uruguay - By ferry
We were up rather
early to start packing and get the bikes out of the storeroom
where they were resting for the past 12 days. Then it was off
to the harbour to check out through immigration and board the
ferry. We took the slow ferry which took 3-hours instead of the
more expensive fast ferry.
It was smooth
sailing across the huge Rio de la Plata estuary all the way to
Colonia, Uruguay, where we arrived in the heat of the day.
Colonia dates back to 1680 and is now a Unesco World heritage
site. We cycled past the old city gate, through the old city
with its cobblestone streets and down to the old harbour.
Eventually we headed for the local campsite. We were a little
shocked at the price and the quality of the facilities and there
and then decided to wild camp from then on.