We have arrived in Cafayate – a place which for 3 weeks has seemed a looong way away. It is where we head to high ground and leave the paved roads behind. We will need to ´suck´ it in a bit more from here on in. No grand lunches at wineries (has happened once), no comfy chairs and family movies in the middle of the day (once also).
We are excited, but in trepidation of 4900m passes and colder weather. So far it seems we are in eternal balmy autumn weather, no frosts even at 2200m and lovely autumn colours. Still almost too warm in the early afternoons.
It was 3 days from Belen to Cafayate and 3 reasonably solid days. Without knowing what was ahead, we left Belen and climbed all day to our camp in a small town centre 800m higher. We struck our first decent stretch of awful ´road under construction´ ripio surface. Unpleasantly corrugated. Luckily we had a strong tail wind. We got a huge fright in our tent that night when the resident bear like dog, who was sleeping under one of the concrete barbque structures, wanted to move in with us. Our tent is spacious enuf for one more but not one who slobbers.
Next morning we copped the trifecta – head wind, nasty ripio and uphill. Our rate of progress was slowed to 9km per hour (20 is roughly our average on the paved). The wind stayed with us all day so even as the gradient rolled over and the road became paved it was frustrating not to be making faster progress. But the scenery was big and our jamon and queso tostado (ham and cheese toasted sammy) and 1.5 litre of coca cola enjoyed. We cannot believe where the content of these large bottles of coca cola or agua con gas go as we can consume all in one sitting.
Our third day into Cafayate, even though 90km, sped by with no wind, slight downhill and mostly paved. Nearing C. we rode thru massive vineyards and wineries and treated ourselves to a winery lunch. The wine was good but luckily not as potent as NZ as we still had 15km of hot cycling to go. We had met our 2nd cyclist and he put us onto a cheap and friendly camping option near the centre of Cafayate. We would rather spend our pesos on good food than accommodation.
This morning I have enjoyed a depiliation (lower leg wax) at the hair salon and we are having a total rest day, only our 2nd day with no pedalling. Tomorrow we start our slow climb to Abra Acay, just under 5000m and we will try and space things so the ‘mal de montana’ (altitude sickness) is minimised.
Fauna to date: dogs, cows, horses, donkeys, falcon, foxes, sheep, condors, cats, teenagers with loud music at all hours of night
Road kill to date: dogs, horses, foxes, olives, garlic
Sunrise: 8 am Sunset: 7pm
Weather: sunny – all days bar one, slight tail or insignificant wind – all days bar one