Stages 58-60 of 109, days 81-83 of 142
Photos and routes on Strava
- Stage 58 to bushcamp 95.7 km, 504m climb, 3:03
- Stage 59 to Cafayate 91.5km 951m climb, 3:12
- Stage 60 to Santa Maria 80.4 km 468m climb, 2:57
|Description||Distance in km||Dirt km||Climb in m||EFI|
Missed distance 282km, 3.5 stages (19/20 and 31/32)
We had a couple of rest days in Salta, our first rest days camping. Unfortunately the campground wasn’t all that great, and the weather was quite cold so many people bailed to hotels. Some of us stuck it out, taking many taxi trips to town for meals and shopping. The first day we did have a fantastic dinner for 17 in a fancy restaurant – everyone marveling at the great food, giant servings and plentiful wine and champagne.
The second day wasn’t so bad as it warmed up a little. After a nice brunch downtown, we took the cable car up the hill and could see the whole area around Salta. Then another trip to a beautiful wine bar we found followed by another amazing and huge dinner.
The really sad thing in Salta was saying good-bye to so many riders: Simon and Karin from Switzerland, Michael from the USA, Rai and Bianca from Holland, my riding buddy Jens from Denmark, and of course Tom and the unforgettable Martin. We also said good-bye to Mechanic Lucho and driver Henk who had been with us since Quito. We have a few new faces but the group is smaller and feels somehow incomplete.
We left Salta on another cloudy morning, in a big group, starting out on big roads with lots of traffic. Pretty soon I was in the standard group with Wytze, Andrew and Twan, cranking along pretty fast. In a town, a dog suddenly veered after us but didn’t attack. Instead he ran with us at 35+ for about 4km. Two other later groups had him run with them too.
We got to about half way in 1:40 and hadn’t seen either truck so sat at what looked like a little shack but was actually a nice place serving drinks and food. After a while the trucks passed, then various riders, while we relaxed. It turned out lunch wasn’t until quite a bit further, but the road was gentle and easy. After lunch, we had just 30km to go, but we now had Bastiaan and he and Wytze together equals a big pain. They just spur each other on so soon we were going over 40. First Twan fell off, then me, and 3km from camp, even Andrew was dropped. Those guys are just amazing. Camp was at a rustic place where they’ve camped since 2010. The owner now has a nice building we used for cooking and eating, and nice bathrooms, and even a (cold) shower I didn’t try. I set up my tent (Martin’s tent) and had a little rest but noticed my thermarest was leaking. Looking on the tent floor I found I giant 2″ thorn sticking through. So I spent some time patching but wasn’t successful. I eventually grabbed a spare one and slept on two deflated mats which was ok. At dinner, Rob gave a long speech about being careful riding, especially about not riding through red lights. Guilty as charged. Then he asked me to present the llama I had been carrying for three stages. I talked about how the llama liked riders who dug deep and how that’s what Bike Dreams seems to be all about. I had all the remaining EFI riders stand up: Joan, Bastiaan, Wytze and Andrew. Then I presented Andrew with the llama for his “EFI test” 2 days before Salta. Changing his second flat at 140km, in the pouring rain. The EFI test was when the truck pulled up and offered a ride. He passed by asking for the pump instead. Everyone liked that story. Then I said that the llama also had a delivery: a package for Miranda. She stood up and I gave her the “Diario Secreto” that Martin had prepared. It had a very touching “We promise to take care of Miranda” page signed by Jan and Winnie. Under threat that Martin would return to cut their balls off if they failed. Everyone loved that too.
In the morning, we had a normal breakfast then took off on another sub-100km day. Wytze declared it a “Holiday” so we got to ride a little slower. It was a slow gentle climb the whole time, going up a gentle river valley. Pretty soon the scenery got better and better, more mountainous. It was really nice riding. Lunch was at “La Garganta del diablo”, the Devil’s Throat, at 40km. We hiked up to it, a scenic and impressive rock formation that we climbed into.
1km down the road was another big tourist attraction, a natural amphitheater. We rode our bikes into that one, then continued, stopping at many more places for photos.
We finally rode into the town of Cafayate in the afternoon and stopped at the Heladeria Miranda, where they created the idea of wine flavored ice cream. We were passing lots of wineries and the whole area now looked much more upscale. We had a long moment of comedy when Jan tried to order ice cream. He didn’t get the sign with the flavors and sizes and the woman was just priceless, speaking in glacially slow Spanish which he didn’t understand at all. She threatened to call her son who speaks English. I was dying. Finally we all had ice cream and sat outside eating.
Our campsite was just down the road, and soon my tent was set up and I started working on patching my thermarest again. This time I was successful and it ended up holding strong the whole night. Dinner was a barbecue, quite fun. I passed on going back to town for more wine and crashed early. I slept really well from 9pm to 5am even with the loud music going on down the road – it finally stopped at 5:30 and then many people arrived back at the camp.
We were up as usual for an 8am breakfast and took off around 9. The ride was even shorter today so four of us (the usual suspects) turned the wrong way, went back to town and sat in a coffee shop for 45 minutes. It was Sunday and Mother’s Day so everyone was out buying pastries etc. We started off and Wytze and Bastiaan again pushed it to 38+, so I dropped myself. But Wytze noticed and wasn’t having that. He came back and got me and said, “No, I want to see you suffer”. So we cruised to lunch at more like 30-33. We ate under a tree at the turnoff to some ruins Rob recommended. Some went to check them out but I felt tired and finished the last 30km with Winnie and Dick, riding more relaxed. In Santa Maria we stopped for ice cream, then at the main square where we saw a bar that was actually open. The town seemed very locked up and quiet on a Sunday afternoon. We had beer and other drinks, and Winnie had a whole meal. Then just one km to camp. It turned out the whole town (it seemed) was at the camp. Music blasting from all corners, people everywhere, quite the scene. We pitched our tents, then looked for a shower. Finally found the place for a hot shower and it was great. Then hung out and got ready for another barbecue dinner. This time I was on dinner duty so helped set things up. We had a few salads, roasted corn and eggplant, and lots of wine. It was Carol’s birthday so the crew had bought two cakes plus a giant cheesecake. It didn’t fare well in the truck but was still delicious.
They also stashed a ton of ice cream in the camp’s freezer so we had a grand dessert. We sang Happy Birthday but had to do it twice since Rob said we weren’t good enough the first time. Rob gave a briefing so excellent it generated applause. “It’s a little further tomorrow, 120km. Lunch is about halfway. Follow the GPS track to the end”. Something like that. Luckily the campground quieted down and I got ready for another nice long sleep in my new tent. Thanks again Martin!