Stages 61-63 of 109, days 84-86 of 142
Photos and routes on Strava
- Stage 61 to campsite 120.4 km, 653m climb, 4:14, 4 km dirt
- Stage 62 to campsite 160.0 km, 556m climb, 5:08, 4 km dirt
- Stage 63 to Chilecito 121.0 km, 871m climb, 4:50
|Description||Distance in km||Dirt km||Climb in m||EFI|
Missed distance 282km, 3.5 stages (19/20 and 31/32)
We had three more days of cycling to finish out the block of six, from Salta to our next rest day in Chilecito. The first one started with a really nice breakfast at 8am. We had fresh blueberries and pastries along with the usual. Nice upgrade!
We headed out from Santa Maria at 9:15 and cruised south on Ruta 40. For the first 40km we were in a large group with Wytze leading one line and me the other. More and more people dropped off as he kept ramping the pace. Finally I had had enough and had my own little group of five or six, with me and Twan pulling the whole way. We received profuse thanks at 65km when we got to lunch. It was out in the middle of nowhere, no shade but luckily not too hot. The winds were not bad either. After lunch it did get a little worse and Twan and I just carried on the two of us, stopping for photos and enjoying the ride. Ruta 40 is the classic road through most of the length of Argentina and we know this part pretty well.
It was gently downhill with some small climbs, so a relatively easy day even though it was 120km.
At 116km, we turned off on a dirt road and wound up a valley, across a river, and finally up into some rocks to a fantastic campsite with thermal pools!
We went directly into the pools – there were two, each holding 3 people. The sign said 36C but it may have been cooler. Anyway, it was awesome, soaking happily there. We ate soup and snacks, set up our tents, and after a while had a great dinner, outdoors and warm! It was such a contrast from camping in Peru and Bolivia. We hung out drinking wine after – so civilized and fun.
The next day we had 160km or 175km (exact destination was unknown) so we had breakfast at 7. The sunrise was great instantly illuminating the vertical cliffs right above camp.
We packed up and took off just after 8am. We elected not to go with the A team and instead cruised to lunch at 75km in the town of Londres in a group of six. Andrew led a lot of the way and the riding was interesting through canyons, mostly down down down with a little up. We lost 1350m during the long ride and only climbed 550. Lunch at the town square was nice except for a super loud speaker extolling the virtues of a great future in Londres etc. But it was great to get off the bike and refuel. After lunch I wasn’t sure but decided to go with Wytze and crew. He said it would be nice but by now I know what really happens. It was ok for 30-40km then he was up to 38 kph into the wind and I faded. But it’s hard to escape. He noticed and forced us to regroup. I followed his wheel for the rest of the way to San Blas and had to refer to rule 5 in order to make it, many times. Wytze said, “You can’t escape.”
As we were getting near the first possible camp, we pulled off to get a cold drink. Only a gas station was actually open so we bought 3L of ice cold coke there and I don’t like the stuff but it was super delicious. We sat in the shade, filling our water bottles with coke, and swilling. Excellent on a hot day.
We rode down to the end of the track but no one was there. Wijnand had posted the location on WhatsApp so we could see we had just passed it. Sure enough, back 1km into the wind, the Finish flag was down on the ground – we had missed it. We propped it back up and cruised down a little dirt road to a beautiful campsite. The owner had built it all, little ponds and water ways, with ducks, catfish, turkeys, donkeys etc. It was only 2pm and Wytze showed his mastery of English: “I feel so sorry for the people still out riding….NOT!” We sat swilling many 1L ice cold beers (very cheap at 125 pesos each) and eating Anneke’s excellent tomato/pasta soup. And of course all the snacks like chips, gumdrops, cookies, everything we needed after a long ride. Our diet is so excellent: just eat all the time. Martin told us from home that he had lost 12kg riding from Quito to Salta on this diet.
The showers were hot (although not for later riders) and I found a shaded spot on the grass for my tent. I took a short nap, listened to music for a while then eventually it was dinner time. Everyone had made it, some surprising themselves at cranking out the 100 mile ride with head and side winds. Dinner was just great with giant multi-layer cakes for dessert. I stayed up a little after, but actually needed sleep.
I slept almost non-stop from 8:30 to 6, then got up at 6:30 for breakfast at 7. It’s not really the distance that is tough, the difficulty is the wind. It’s been calm (so far) in the mornings but not in the afternoons.
We headed out in a big group, which was down to 12 by about 20km. Wytze was leading at a very sane pace but then we had a hill and were down to 8.
Rob turned off at a town, then Yvonne dropped, then Lambert and we were down to five. We continued this way but then the pace increased too much on the last uphill to lunch so I dropped off. It was only one more km to lunch but fighting that wind was tough. Lunch was at a little shade structure with nothing else around in any direction.
We tried to leave a bit after Wytze but he tricked Twan and me by waiting at the road for us. So it was back to wheel sucking with the pace slightly too high. Finally I had had enough after 30 more km of that and stopped “for a photo”. Luckily Twan was dead bored and wanted anything new. He was entertained for a few minutes while I found an ant infestation in my top-tube bag and had to take it off the bike and get a million big ugly ants out. A total mystery where they came from. Then we soldiered on, up into the wind for a long way.
Eventually there was a nice downhill but you had to pedal to go even a halfway decent speed (35). Andrew later told me Wytze dropped him here because he was holding 49-50 which is faster than Andrew can even pedal. We had a 3.5km climb up to town, then rode through a bunch of red lights making sure Rob couldn’t see, and finally made it to the end at 120km. I was more tired than the previous day which was 40km longer. We have apartments with a double room and a triple room each. Kirsten and Gareth are the parents and Andrew, Winnie and I are the kids in ours. The wifi doesn’t work but the showers do so life is ok. We even could drop off large bags of laundry, a big plus. We’re here for two nights and no one has figured out what to do on the rest day tomorrow, but sitting out in the nice garden is not bad. It started with just Andrew and me, but over the next hour a ton of people came and miraculously, food and wine appeared.
Wytze, Miranda and I had gone in together on six bottles of excellent Malbec, and we donated four of them to the party. Miranda talked the crew out of a huge number of olives, and then more and more food was found.
We snacked until 7:30 then walked into town which took until 8, when restaurants open. We headed to one that was recommended and ended up with a dozen people. I had a 1L beer and a giant pizza and it was great. Ice cream for those that left space after, then shopping at a mini-mart for breakfast. We took a taxi back, arriving before 10. Then a nice call with my old friends Andy and Irene at home, and time for bed!