Still in the altiplano, but now Argentinian
After the cold but easy going Bolivian altiplano, we were hoping to go lower and warmer in Argentina, but this would have to wait. We would have to first cycle 75 km of nearly nothingness to Abra Pampa. The ride, as it is usually the case in the altiplano, was easy, with very little elevations, just boring as the landscape barely changed.
Here we also noticed a few changes in comparison to Bolivia. First, most people have their own car, so instead of a colectivo (small white van) every 10 minutes, we had continuous traffic on private cars, usually way too fast for the condition of the road. Secondly, roads here have no hard-shoulder, but truck drivers still expect you to get out of the way whenever they approach you and there is traffic on the opposite direction. I think we will use our mirrors a lot in Argentina.
After a late and improvised lunch in Puesto del Marquez, we continued to Abra Pampa when the sun was nearly setting. We don’t like to ride in the dark and also when the sun sets the temperature drops a lot, so we had to hurry to reach the town on time! We found a hotel recommended in iOverlander, and although reasonably cheap it was humid and not that comfortable, but it was definitely better than sleeping outside.
For dinner we had our first ever milanesas, which is a very typical dish in Argentina. Basically is a breaded filet of veal, usually with fries. You can also get on top tomatoes and cheese (milanesa pizza), or fried egg and ham (milanesa completa), or many other variants. Unfortunately fresh limonade is over, now we have to drink “agua saborizada”, which is just that, water with flavouring and sugar.
The next day we had a climb at the beginning, which although not steep was very long and with no rests.
We finally reached the summit when it was nearly lunch time, so we decided to stop to eat in Tres Cruces, a village on the other side short after the pass.
It is small, but busy because of a police control and a huge mine nearby. It’s also supposed to be the highest village in Argentina. There was a pizzeria in the village with a sign with a loaded bike so we were curious.
That was the nice surprise of the day. The place is run by Jose and Ana, a couple from Buenos Aires that decided to leave everything behind and open a restaurant and a hostel for travelers. Unlucky for them, they started just before the pandemic hit, so they had a rough couple of first years, but they are hoping the business will pick up now. Please visit them if you pass by.
The pizza was excellent, and Simon and Thomas were having a great time playing with Franco, the owners’s kid which was 3 years old, so we decided to stay for the night.
They made us a delicious homemade dinner, and breakfast the next day, and we spent the night in our own room. The whole place was an old house they are slowly renovating and improving, trying to use as many sustainable and local materials as they can, using their limited budget.
I also went to visit the nearby mountains, which make some very interesting waves showing the different strata of minerals inside them. Locals say they are the feet of sleeping giants. It is a pity that, because of the famous nearby Quebrada de Humahuaca, not many people come up to here to visit them. Hopefully the cyclists will keep it popular, since they are right in the road where most will cycle on their way south.
Tomorrow we will finally go down to warmer weather while we cycle the world-heritage Quebrada de Humahuaca, a narrow valley famous for the colours of the mountains around.
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