Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Uspallata to Mendoza

T'was brilliant - I think that's all I've got to say about today's ride!

The above photos, all taken on the descent into Mendoza, Argentina were all taken on a road known locally as "The Way of 365 Curves" and I've got to say, I think it was one of the most enjoyable, photographic and scenic roads I have ever ridden anywhere. 

What's more is that even though it's got more corners than the Stelvio in Italy, I managed to ride the 1000 metres up it, and more importantly the 2000 metres down without incident or requiring aerial support.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Bareal to Uspallata

With my elbow still aching like there's no tomorrow, from yesterday's ride, I decided given that there was to be a fair amount of unpaved road to be ridden today, that I'd not aggravate the situation by riding. 

Essentially and I'm only guessing, but riding in sand or on a washboard surface seems to inflame the muscles and tendons around the plates in my arm, causing a bit of pain that only time seems to heal. 

Whilst some people would say - Suck It Up Princess - or may call me a bit of a wimp for opting out, I don't care, as far as I'm concerned I'm on a holiday not an endurance test.

The first fifty odd kilometres were on a lovely brand new asphalt road, with no traffic and the wind blowing in a favourable direction (a tailwind pushing you along), where apparently some of the chaps managed to average 40-45 Km/h till suddenly it turned to a gravel. 

Seriously the contrast between the two surfaces couldn't be bigger if you tried. There's obviously a different council that funds one end from the one that looks after the other.... 

Either way I'm glad I didn't ride today, irrespective of what others may think and hopefully it means that I should be able to ride tomorrow given that it's supposed to be a spectacular climb / descent into Mendoza.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Tocota to Barreal

Whilst some people got a great deal of enjoyment out of this morning's ride for me it was a bloody torturous hell. I mean a 55 kilometre downhill sounds easy and should be enjoyable right? Well it wasn't. I hated every (well nearly every) dammed moment of it cause it was all unpaved and had more sand on it than is found on any beach in Australia. Seriously there were sand traps galore and as I may have uttered previously (just thank your lucky stars you weren't there to hear the cursing), I struggle with the sand.

As a result by the time I got to the lunch stop, I'd had enough of riding, the weather had begun to get hot (thirties) and as a result it really wasn't hard for me to opt for jumping on the lunch truck (it's become a bit of a habit) for the rest of the journey to our campsite!

Saturday, 25 October 2014

San Jose de Jachal to Tocota

The decision last night to only ride to lunch time today was probably one of the best decisions I have / could have made, given that whilst the morning's ride was some 85 kilometres on a paved road through some glorious scenery, the final 35 -40 kilometres was uphill (only a two or three per cent gradient) but on a rough gravel and sandy road (goat track) that had even the strongest of riders apparently swearing and cursing because it was so dammed difficult to ride in the sweltering heat of the day. More than one or two riders were borderline suffering from heat exhaustion, there being nowhere on the road after the lunch stop for them to pick up water.

Being on the truck however meant that I was able to visit some rather special / unique rock formations, that as a cyclist I would otherwise have ridden past. It was some way off our route & a little hidden from view on the road I would otherwise have been riding!

Camping tonight,is in front of a very, very isolated bush police station, where apparently the cops are responsible for stopping hunters or poachers. Basically though, we're midway between villages, but as for why we've come here, rather than having stopped earlier in the afternoon and before the road & weather got too much for people, I do not know!

Friday, 24 October 2014

Villa Union to San Jose de Jachal

This morning, myself and the two Aussie shelias, Julia & Michelle, rode through some pretty impressive scenery with a mountain range on either side of the road and I've got to say it was great to be able to ride with a couple of Aussies, cause our banter and sense of humour didn't need to be explained to anyone, the European contingent all having a more staid sense of humour. 

Whilst I don't know that we solved any of the world's more serious issues, such as global warming, international migration, poverty, sustainable development, or diminishing food and mineral resources we at least managed to get a fresh and outsider's opinion on what we may wish to do when we get home to Australia, along with just talking more generally about our lives, backgrounds, etc.

Just shortly before we arrived at the lunch truck, the express (luggage) truck went passed and we couldn't help but to get a bit of a free pass by drafting behind it (out of the wind) for a couple of kilometres or so. Okay, so it may be banned by the UCI for the professional riders, but hey, what the heck, we're not and you've got to have a bit of fun out there on the road from time to time. 

Once lunch had been consumed, Shel and I, continued on at our more leisurely pace, discussing every topic known to mankind, whilst Julia, who must have been feeling a little more energetic, rode off at a pace that Marianne Vos, would have been proud of!

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Chilecito to Villa Union

Given that the paper map and route profile that we were handed this morning made absolutely no sense what so ever, I'm glad I was capable of keeping up with a few chaps who (A) Didn't want to ride on the unpaved section and found a ten kilometre short-cut and (B) Had Garmin devices with the GPX file, showing them where to go.

Essentially I rode with four others (Barry, Buck, Jurg and Terry) from Chilecito till we came across the lunch truck, which was unable to proceed to the top of the climb owing to roadworks where a quick bite of tucker was consumed. A tin of tuna with a couple of biscuits.

We then took off again shortly thereafter and it wasn't long before I was dropped. Basically it was a case of stopping to take a couple of photos and I then couldn't catch up, not helped by the fact I had to wait for a truck to unload some cement pilings.....

Whilst the road was closed to traffic owing to roadworks across the top of the climb, we were able to ride around / through it all, thanks to the generosity / kindness of the construction crew. 

Thanks fellas, it was most appreciated, particularly as the detour was a distance of some 300 kilometres.....

Once over the top and clear of the major earth moving road works, I subsequently put my head down, bum up and endeavoured to catch the rest of the group, something that I managed to do but only cause they had stopped to take some photos. Of course, everyone knows you should never stop on a descent.

Buck, Terry and Barry!

From there, we rode essentially in a peleton but only cause Terry ensured that the speed wasn't too fast as to have me falling off the back again. Now at this point and it is subject to a bit of controversy I'm going to claim that I "won" today's ride, cause I was the first to the Express Fire Truck. My colleague Buck claims the victory to be his however on the basis that he was first to the allotted finishing point, albeit three kilometres before we ultimately ended up tonight!

Monday, 20 October 2014

Hualfin to San Blas de los Sauces

Unfortunately it would appear that I don't have the mental stamina I thought I had when I signed up for this trip in January or unfortunately (and perhaps more importantly) that'll see me through to Ushuaia.

Basically I no longer have the desire or perhaps it's the tenacity, to push myself through whatever the conditions are, such as the barren landscape we were due to ride through today.

It would seem that in order to ride at my best, I need to enjoy the scenery and to be somewhat mentally distracted, cause otherwise I end up either over thinking things whether it simply be what I'm doing in terms maintaining a decent cadence, or (as occurred yesterday), what I should do on the work front when I get home to Australia, what's currently happening at home, etc. Heck I mean if I'm totally honest, there's at least part of me that thinks I should be at home living and concentrating on the real world as opposed to living in cuckoo land, as I am at present by being on an extended holiday!

So where does that get us as far as today's activities, well aside from not really looking forward to riding what appeared like being a long (150KMs) ride through a boring nondescript wasteland I woke up this morning feeling a little dispirited about things and with a heart rate that was well above what it should be.....

So essentially I didn't ride today....

Hopefully resting today as I have, will result in things returning to normal and I'll be able to get back on the bike tomorrow even it's only for a portion of the 120KM we're due to ride.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Santa Maria to Hualfin

Today was a tough day on the road and I am ashamed to admit that I pulled the pin 2/3rds of the way in, I was just so tired of fighting what I can only guestimate was a 40 KM/H headwind for three or four hours on end. 

The effect of the wind was such that I was only averaging 15 KM/H and with the campsite, located some 120 kilometres from Santa Maria, I became a little concerned at my ability to get there, grab a bite to eat, set up my tent and so on, before midnight!

In all seriousness though, with the scenery being a little boring (Sorry no photos to prove it either way) and getting so frustrated at pounding the pedals and getting nowhere fast, it was my mental stamina that gave in far before I reached a point of physical exhaustion. Hopefully, it’s just a 24 hour phase, though unfortunately I suspect it may not be, cause all I know is, if the scenery / wind are like they were today for the next couple of days or so, then I will most definitely pulling the pin in Mendoza.

Whilst the size of the peleton has diminished, with seven or eight cyclists leaving in Salta, there has been an addition to the staff in the form of a new cook which I’ve got to tell you has resulted in the quality of the dinners going through the roof, relatively speaking.

Nonetheless, whilst both of the above scenarios should mean that there has been an improvement in attitude and conditions, I’m not sure that the former has occurred. 

Basically, I suppose what it boils down to is that I don’t think, I’m getting as much enjoyment or satisfaction out of this little adventure as I envisaged originally or was having whilst in Ecuador / Peru, not that I haven’t enjoyed my time in Argentina, per se. 

Either way though, I suppose only time, the next week or so, will tell as to where I head or what I do next.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Cafayate to Santa Maria

I may well have burnt off a bit more of my energy than I anticipated yesterday and ended up paying for it today cause I gotta tell you, today's ride just felt a bit more sluggish than usual. I mean sure I was able to maintain a decent pace, it just felt harder to keep the pedals turning.

Fortunately the first fifty odd kilometres was on a well paved road and so it was only after lunch and I'd paid a visit to some Inca ruins that the fun and games really began to start as the final thirty kilometres were all unpaved. Not that they were treacherous or overly corrugated just tough enough as to be a pain in the arse, particularly as by now I was coping a fairly decent head wind. 

Resistance training as its called in cycling terms and good practice for what I believe we'll encounter in Patagonia. 

Whilst normally I don't do too bad on rolling hills today it was just painfully slow hard work and I was wrapped to get into town and to be able to buy myself a nice ice cream (as good as some that I bought in Italy, but without the drama of missing a ferry - Dammo). T'was, Banana, Limon and Strawberry and very delicious.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Salta to Talapampa

It felt brilliant to be back out on the bike today and I've gotta say I didn't realize how much I'd missed riding, till today.

Initially, well till lunchtime at least, we ostensibly rode as a single group, with everyone I think feeling very relaxed and extremely well nourished as a result of having spent the last two days in Salta.

No-one was seemingly in the mood for pushing the pace too greatly rather there seemed to be a desire to simply chat with one another as to where we'd all been, what we'd eaten and so forth.

T'was very pleasant it was.

It also served to distract us from the fact it was getting increasingly hotter as the day wore on. Seriously folks, it was warm when we'd started out but by the time it got to midday it was hot. Forty degrees according to my Garmin, though I suspect closer to low to mid thirties.... Following lunch, which included a bottle of Fanta purchased from a little shop across the road from our designated lunch stop the pace (and temperature) got a little hotter and hence the peleton became no more.... At this point I've got to be honest and say my speed became a crawl as we rode towards the campsite.

Whilst I'm only guessing, I'm going to say it was the temperature, which by two o'clock was apparently tipping close to forty degrees, that had my heart rate going through the roof, despite my endeavours to lower my cadence (number of pedal revolutions per minute), slow my cycling speed and to generally "relax". T'was a bit scary I've got to admit. Just hope I don't suffer from the heat like that again, tomorrow or ever again for that matter.