Mar 18, 2009

A long first night 08/02/09
We tried hitching a truck.
Crossing Paso De Jama didn’t turn out as we planned. Rami, with his swollen knee, could barely help Gal pack the camp. We took our time.
Going back to San Pedro De Atacama, Chile, would do us no good – a tiny village with no facilities, and, why go back? We were on the way to Argentina!
We waited about 2 hours for a hitch to civilization.
The view point, our camp, spot was on a curve, so it was difficult for the few passing trucks to stop. We took turns with the binoculars, not to look at the beautiful flamingos and llamas, but to spot coming trucks, a few minutes before they take the curve (“… this one is full”, “not a pickup truck”, etc.). Every now and then we debated weather to improve our hitching spot to a place where truck can stop, but decided to stay.
Finally, a truck stopped; a group of 4 trucks, returning empty to Argentina and passing through Jujuy.
Sitting in the truck, knowing we are on the way somewhere, without out too much suffer, was a relief. We tried to enjoy the beautiful scenery, but were too heart broken of not cycling here, to take any pictures.
2 hours later we reached the actual border, with the Argentinean passport control. The friendly driver helped us and patiently waited for us. It took almost an hour of standing in line. For Rami it felt much longer.
At a small village we changed to another of the company trucks. The new driver was friendly in a bizarre way, what turned out to be a religious blindness. Every now and then he burst our: “How come you don’t believe in Jesus?” we could see his deep faith in our holy savior, by his crazy driving style. How do you say in Spanish: “this is a semi-trailer, not a Corvette”? At some point, during the last big climb, he noticed through the mirror, that one of the back doors of the lorry has fallen, and with it 2 tanks. We immediately thought about our bikes and luggage (good that Gal insisted about tying the bikes). He turned the truck and we returned about 3-4 km, till he luckily found them. He thanked his holy savior.
The landscape on the Argentinean side was more beautiful and diverse. The last downhill, from around 4,000m to 1,000m, was spectacular, going from Altiplano to lush-green sub-tropical, passing unspoiled tiny villages, green oases in the 7 colored sharp mountain desert. We deserved this downhill, after climbing it!
Our crazy truck driver pushed his head out the window and took pictures with his cellular phone. To get a good shot, he took a curve slowly, in the opposite lane, just on the cliff.
At around 21:00 we were dropped near a service station, darkness around us, except for the speeding traffic of the 4–lane highway and the big city, Jujuy, spread in the valley beyond.
We were lost, Gal on the verge of tears. Our first night in a new country, not knowing yet the culture, if there are hotels nearby and how long will it takes us to reach them. And then, if we needed to go to Salta, a bigger and much richer city (better hospital), do we need to return to the highway, for a hitch?
We decided to start with going to the gas station. It was a modern complex, with a small cafeteria, serving cappuccino and expensive meals.
Next to the gas station was a small shack selling empanadas. The owner refused to let the 2 poor cyclists in for the night, in this wet weather, not even to the neglected storage room. We desperately went to the gas station and asked to camp; it was too late to do anything to do anything else.
We were shown to the truck parking lot, but it was too muddy, or the truckers public toilet (Gal was scared of the thought of a truck parking on us.
We finally chose a miniature concrete platform, around the corner. No roof, unfortunately. We were allowed to use the toilet inside, but they didn’t find the keys for the showers.
We once again tried calling Marcelo, from nearby Jujuy, and the ‘warm showers’ guy from Salta, but, didn’t catch neither. We ate from our big stock of instant noodle soup, bread and jam and went to sleep.
It rained all night.
We woke up in a small pool, our mattresses almost floating. We slowly packed our wet gear, in the rain, laughing about how worse can it get?
Still no answer on the phones. We decided to hitch to Salta, the bigger city.
After waiting almost 2 hours near the highway, in the rain, with thousands of cars passing us at 90-100 km/h, but no one stopping, we changed our mind. Plan C – we’ll go to Jujuy, search for Samuel.

Samuel 09/02/09
While entering Argentina, at the passport control, another Israeli couple was waiting. The guy recognized Gal as his ex-lab instructor, 3-4 years ago, and we started talking. We told them of Rami’s knee and they said that they have just been in Jujuy, and in their hostel was staying an American, a medicine student, during his student exchange problem, a Jew! Maybe he can help.
We slowly cycled (Rami using one clip) to the hostel, on the way buying a local SIM for our cell phone (basics). We arrived to the hostel; it was around 14:00. We were surprised to find him there – finally, something going our way.
We were tiered, lost and desperate, that just talking with someone very sympathetic to our situation and in a more familiar language, filled us with strength.
Samuel called his mentor, an exceeding doctor, specializing in rheumatology, at the local hospital, and told us to be at the hospital tomorrow, 08:00.

Marcelo – Megusta Jujuy
While at Samuel’s hostel, we finally caught Marcelo.
We met Marcelo and Melina at the Chile-Peru border. They were on their way back home, after traveling for a few months on their motorcycle. They were very friendly, and invited us to rest in their house, at Jujuy, after crossing Paso De Jama. They got more than they expected!
Marcelo arrived 5 minutes later and apologized for being away, with no cellular reception.
We slowly followed Marcelo, for the quick ride to his house, where his mother and
Melina were waiting. They welcomed us warmly, showed us to ‘our’ room, turned on the boiler for a hot shower and prepared lunch.
In the delicate state we were, with no energy to make any decision, this homey atmosphere was the best thing we could ask for.
Marcelo cooked a tasty lemon-chicken dinner, accompanied with local wine. Unfortunately, Melina had to leave that night to their apartment in Tilcara. Marcelo had to take care of the 3 dogs, 2 cats, the 20 year old turtle and the many plants while his mother was away.
Before bidding us goodnight, he promised us a traditional Argentinean asado.

With Marcelo and his mom on the first night.

08:00 the next morning Marcelo accompanied us to the hospital. Samuel met us and said that Dr. Lascaro will see us shortly. There was a very long queue of locals and Bolivians, coming to Argentina (Jujuy) for free health care. After a short wait we were called in. Dr. Cruz Lascaro was very friendly and was interested in our travels. He was very confident and relaxed when checking Rami’s knee, what calmed us. He extracted 3 syringes of fluid from the knee. He mentioned it’s a good sign that there is no blood in the fluids, but sent a sample to the lab, just in case. Samuel escorted us to do an X-ray and to get anti-inflammatory pills. Dr. Lascaro told us it’s probably an inflammation; Rami should rest 6 days and come for a checkup in a few days.
Health care is free in Argentina.

Samuel and Dr. Lascaro.

Our first queue
From the hospital we went to ‘down town’, a few blocks away, to use the ATM. Clustered in the small center were about 10 ATMs, some of them with a queue of more than 50 people, others vacant. Gal ran between a few of the vacant ones, but returned empty handed; she couldn’t withdrawal more than $100 – a too small amount for the commission. Frustrated, we queued for over an hour with the queue-loving Argentinians. We were told we can withdrawal her 1,000 Peso ($300).
3 people to go. The ATM swallowed the credit card. The apathetic Argentinians continued waiting patiently; so did we.
2 people to go. A man with crutches arrived directly to the front of the line. Why didn’t they tell us about it in the hospital?
Excited, we finally entered the small cabin, to find out the maximum amount we can withdrawal was $100!
Only the following day we got money – changing traveler checks.
We wasted more time for getting money, than you guys reading this!

Marcelo's turtle.

Our first Asado 10/02/09
Marcelo promised us a traditional Argentinean asado and gave us the full experience!
In the afternoon we went to the nearby market, and bought all the ingredients: a few kilograms of beef, potatoes, corn, tomatoes, onions, bread and lots of wine.
In the evening, a few friends arrived, the fire was lit (each Argentinean is proud of his special technique of lighting the fire) and we started drinking the wine.
After almost an hour the charcoals were whispering and the meat was laid on the grill.
Another quick 45 minutes and the meat was ready. Marcelo cut huge chunks of meat and dinner begun. For maybe 2 hours, more and more meat was brought to the table and more wine poured to the glasses.
It was a long, slow, relaxed dinner, so different from the traditional Israeli BBQ; 20 minutes for the fire, 20 minutes for the meat and 20 minutes for eating.
The evening ended with guitar playing and more wine.

The evening have started!
The meat is on the fire, Rami already drunk.

More meat!

Megusta Jujuy.

The next few days we spent resting and cooking wonderful dinners with Marcelo and Samuel. Marcelo taught us how to cook a fantastic carbonada as well as pizza. We also tasted our first amazing Argentinean ice-cream, at Pinguino.
Marcelo, thanks for the warm north-west Argentinean hospitality, especially during one of our most difficult moments.
Marcelo, Melina y Samuel – esperamos en Israel.

Knife sharpening.
A 100 year old barber chair.
another amazing meal.
Another asado!
Pinguino ice-cream.
Marcelo and the dogs.
A full living room.
An excellent home made pizza.
Megusta Jujuy!

Camping municipal 17/02/09
Excited, we set off from Jujuy, towards Ruta 40, taking the small mountain road to Salta. It was a perfect road for cycling: a smooth, narrow road, with no traffic, zigzagging through lush green hills. We meet 3 cyclists, a friendly American, whose luggage (Bob trailer bag) was stolen/disappeared, while he was running for his life, escaping an attack of American bees, and 2 girls from New-Zealand.
In the afternoon we reached La Caldera, a tiny village, 20km from Salta. Asking where to camp, we were sent to a private campground. We didn’t like the place, so the search continued. We were permitted to camp at the camping municipal (municipal campground), which was still under construction. Being intimate (and closed) made it very relaxed. The shower and toilets were ours! Later, the caretaker arrived, charging us for the tent and 2 people, not before filling 3 different receipts, all together $3.

The famous service station, from our first night in Argentina.

The small road to Salta.
A mate glass, on a cyclists bike.

The girls from New-Zealand.

The next day, we arrived early to Salta. After hearing many travelers praising this atmospheric city, we were very disappointed. Except for the main plaza, even the ice-cream was not so good.
Hotel prices were a bit too high, so we went to the municipal camping, a huge complex with thousands of families on their summer vacation.
We were ‘stuck’ there, not able to leave due to theft, very popular in big cities, all around Argentina. We recalled, just this morning, meeting another cyclist (4th, but who’s counting), whose 4 panniers were stolen at the municipal camping of Catamarca.
At least there was a supermarket, just around the corner, selling cold beer, cheese and sausages.
Leaving Salta was exhausting – a narrow road with too much traffic. We finally took the small tranquil road to Cachi, climbing over Piedra De Molino. The scenery was beautiful.

Having fun in Salta.
Tobacco fields.
We reached the wine country!
Attacking the mountains.

Looking for a place to camp, a nice old man told us there was a campground, 8km ahead. We reached this ghost campground, taken from a horror film. It seemed abandoned. A crazy, mumbling old drunk came out of a small shack, took a tiny fee and left us, mumbling away. Later, his 2 granddaughters arrived and took him home. We were left alone in this beautiful green valley.

Ruta 40 21/02/09
The climb to Piedra De Molino, 3,348m, was easy. It was Rami’s first big climb since the ‘knee’ incident. It passes its first test. The pass itself was disappointing, covered with clouds, but the other side was beautiful, surprising.

Piedra de Molino.
Sleeping with locals, on the climb.
Bad weather.

We quickly entered a desert valley, bounded to the west by the Andes range, covered with snow.
Ruta 40 is the longest road in Argentina, over 4,000km, along the eastern slops of the Andes. We will follow this road for the next month, through beautiful desert, dotted with wine producing oases.

A 14km straight road.

Big cactus.
The snow covered Andes.

Adobe houses.

Bicycle junk yard.
A baby jumping on goats.

After a long cycling day, on dusty dirt roads, we decided to spoil ourselves with meat. We threw our stuff at the intimate municipal camping and visited the local butcher. Maybe it was the meat, maybe us, but we still had a lot to learn…
Later that night, just as we lay comfortably in our tent, a dog approached and elegantly peed directly on Gal’s head (and her pillow, mattress and sheet) through the tent’s net.

What did we do wrong?
A nice house.
Parakeets, million of them!!!

On the way to Cafayate.

Vino Patero 24/02/09
After another tough, dusty ride, we reached Angastaco, a tiny dusty village. It had nothing, but a small deserted plaza. We arrived deep inside the siesta; Gal was sent to knock on doors, in search of food, but returned empty handed.
We went to the municipal campground – a huge, dusty area. At the corner was a swimming pool, but Rami was lured to the concrete around it. There was an empty room and a big roof – a perfect camp spot, under the circumstances, after last nights’ rain.
After organizing our camp, Gal went in search of food, again, hoping to cook Carbonada.
After an hour of wandering between the small houses, she returned with everything but the meat and wine. The butcher opens only at 20:30.
At 20:30 Rami set off to the meat, while Gal started cooking. The butcher wasn’t open yet, but a woman recommended the Patero wine, at the local winery, in one of the houses. Rami walked through sandy alleys, with grapevines around him, till he found the house. The happy drunk owner welcomed Rami in and gave him different wines to taste, getting Rami drunk. Finally, Rami managed to escape with a bottle and returned to Gal, with meat. Gal, who was waiting for the meat, was happy to see the wine, and after tasting it, sent Rami for another bottle.
Carbonada should be cooked in a clay pot, on a low fire, for a long time. It was difficult with our kitchen, but dinner turned out a success.

Taking the rest of the wine with us...

A dog 25/2/09
We had a dog for one day.
He joined us, when we left Angastaco. The same dusty, rocky road was bad for cycling, so the dog had the advantage.
As the hours passed, we became more attached, giving him water and even a bit of food.
After around 40-50km we reached the paved road to Cafayate and, exhausted, he was left behind, in a small village.

Sand roads.
But, beautiful!
Our dog.

Fiat 600 - a classic.

Great parking!

The package 22/09/09
We rested 2 days in Cafayate, a touristy wine touristy village. We opened our tent in the garden of a friendly family. As we mentioned earlier, camping (instead of hotels) is very popular in Argentina, and there are many private campgrounds.
On our second day in Cafayate, Rami’s parents called, excited, and told us that the package has arrived!
About 10 months ago we sent a package to Rami’s parents.
About 11 months ago Gal finally managed to persuade Rami to buy 2 hammocks and send them to Israel, gifts for Rami’s niece and nephew. Mexico is a hammock kingdom and we found ourselves in a hammock producing region. Gal chose 2 silk hammocks and, as Rami feared, for the next 2 weeks we carried this 2kg weight with us, searching for a convenient post office. We barely passed through cities, and when we did - it was a weekend!
We finally sent them from San Cristobal De Las Casas, south Mexico.
The sending procedure was not so smooth and we heard different opinions about the Mexican postal service. We sent it by land/sea mail – “not more than 4 months…”
4 months passed quickly and we sent Rami’s mom to inquire about the package. She returned from the post office empty handed.
Time passed and still no sign of the package. We bothered Kate & Mac, whom we stayed with at San Cristobal. Kate emailed us back that the package should be at its destination, according to the San Cristobal post office. Rami’s mom inquired at her local post office, again, but, still, no package.
Every now and then we asked – but, nothing.
Then, in Cafayate, Argentina, Rachel called us, embarrassed, telling us that 10 months ago, Ralph, Rami’s dad, received a package and put it in the attic, less than a month after it was sent.


An amazing asado in Cafayate, thanks for the house owners.
Mitzi, the cute kitten.
Bicycle culture.

We left Santa Maria, a small village, on Sunday, after eating ice cream for brunch.
It’s tough, even challenging, to cycle here on Sunday, with the smell of asado from every house.
If that’s nor enough, without noticing, we entered a long stretch, 80-100km of desert: no food, no water, no villages, and only strong head wind. We camped near a house/shop/restaurant, the only ‘something’ on the way with water and home made bread from last week. We asked when do they bake fresh bread – “when the old bread is finished!”

Gusatavo and Cristina 02/03/09
We survived the long desert stretch and passed another tiny grape oasis, leaving with sweet grapes, more than we could carry.
We still had a few hours left till Belen, the nearest town, big enough to have (very slow) internet, when a car stopped next to us and offered help: water, fruit, etc.
A couple, Gustavo and Cristina, from a big city in south Argentina were on a 2 week vacation in the area. Gustavo is a cyclist and is sensitive to the needs of other cyclists. After talking a bit, we continued.
About 20km before Belen, they met us again, on their way back to their hotel in Belen. We agreed on having dinner together – asado! We estimated it would take us 2 hours to reach the town.
At around 20:00, just after sunset, we met Gustavo at the outskirts of town. He was sent looking for us, see that everything is OK. We stopped and discussed our plans. They already bought wine and meat; they bought pork – on Monday it is impossible to find good asado beef in Argentina.
While talking, a neighbor, watering his garden next to us, approached and offered his help. We shared our dilemmas with him – where can we camp and make asado? We heard that the municipal campground is not safe enough (theft). Paco made a welcoming hand gesture and offered his garden; he’ll be at his restaurant all night, so we’ll have privacy.
Opening a tent in a stranger’s house is one thing, but having a BBQ, with friends, in someone’s house, without him being there is different.
Gustavo was a bit worried of Cristina’s reaction to the situation, but we calmed him. Meanwhile, Paco arranged everything: a table, chairs, the grill and even a red table cloth. He even took Gustavo and Gal, with flashlights, to pick a few tomatoes and onions, a ‘must’ in the Argentinean asado. Gal asked Paco not to bother about it too much, but he replied: “when I’m useful – I’m happy”.
Rami went with Gustavo to bring Cristina, the food and the wine. Gal stayed in the garden, with the 2 dogs and the horse, building the fire.
We had a fantastic evening, with good cheese for desert, feeling almost at home.

A picture taken by Gustavo & Cristina.
Sunset, before arriving Belen.
In Paco's garden, enjoying asado & wine with Gustavo & Cristina.
Redish from the wine...
The asadero (grill).
A huge toad, one of many.

Paco 03/03/09
We woke up late, the sun in our eyes. It was a designated rest day, so, we lazily pulled the tent under the shade of the fig tree and returned to bed. When we finally went out of the tent we saw Paco. It is difficult to describe the tranquility he induced on the place.
We stayed 2 days in Belen, under Pacos’ hospitality, enjoying local food & wine (and cooking frozen pork at 22:00 for 8 people).

Our tent in Paco's apartment, under the fig tree.
The dogs.
With Paco.
The view from Paco's hill.
Cooking pork for 8 people in Paco's restaurant.
Eating in the restaurant.
The dogs, the garden and the horse.

Pinki 04/03/09
It was a rainy morning, what postponed everything. Till we were ready to leave, it was lunch time. We were taken by Paco to eat Locro (a local corn stew) and enjoyed Grido ice cream for dessert. It was late, but the thought of unpacking in the same place was unbearable, so we heavily cycled 7km, to Londres, and were invited to Pinki to open our tent at her garden.
We enjoying another asado with Pinki. Her dog pissed IN our tent, and we had to wash everything at night and wait till it dries. All that after a 3 hours meal and liters of wine...

Pinki and her scooter.

Our first broken spoke - 13,500km!!!

No Privacy! 05/03/09
On our first nights, cycling in north-west Argentina, we slept in organized campground – a cheap and comfortable solution for travelers. But, the price was isolation from the local culture.
On the other hand, the last week was very intense, socializing every night, in Spanish, a long dinner, meat & wine, going to sleep late – all making an early start impossible,
We decided we’ll camp in a campground, have a quiet evening, and maybe even have some time to write to our blog.
But, surprise-surprise, there’s little chance of privacy in north-west Argentina!
We arrived to a private campground, very relaxed; but, the moment the owners saw our meat, they happily announced they’ll bring more meat & wine and join!

In addition to the long night we had, 30 of the villages’ finest soccer players started playing near our tent (2 trees away), till 01:00!

We finally accepted the north-west Argentinian infinite socializing culture and gave up on our privacy.

The camp ground.
Km 3952 - a long road...
Ants attacking a piece of ham.
Locals, giving us food for the way.
Hotel Chilecito, WITH COLOR TV!!!

Feliz cumpleaƱos 08-09/03/09
Is has been over a week that Gal's coming 30th birthday and her aging was an issue. beyond all the nonsense of becoming old - "mi vieja", as Rami started calling her, influenced by the local slang, the main question was: "when to celebrate?".

"How to celebrate?"
Easy! Wine, asado and ice cream, in this order.
Luckily, we are in the wine country of Argentina. we've been carrying a wine opener (our crab crackers, Mr. Cracky, we left at home) since California, USA, for 13 months, knowing there will not be any good wine on the way, waiting for Chile and Argentina. In Chile, being cheap buggers, we drank Clos wine, from Carton boxes (cheaper, bigger, safe to carry on a trailer and drinkable). Here, in Argentina, where our expenses are much lower, we indulge ourselves with $1.5-3 bottles.
Asado (barbecue)
since we left the USA, beef was terrible! the texture resembles the soles of Rami's old sandals and we had no choice but to downgrade to pork and chicken. And we finally reached Argentina, where the art of asado is a fundamental aspect of their culture, and the smell of asado, on Sunday, is everywhere.
Ice cream
In every small town, around the main plaza, you'll find at least one ice cream parlor, with better ice cream than the ones in Tel-Aviv. Gals favorite: Dulce de leche granizado (vanina, Gal finally understands your passion).

"Where to celebrate?"
Easy! A small town on the way. A too big town is problematic with camping (yes, Gal's 30th birthday... but a hotel?) and in every camp ground, there is an asado stand. Every small town on Ruta 40 has vineyards with local wine, meat from the pampas and excellent ice cream.

"when to celebrate?"
the straight forward answer is on 09/03, her birthday. But with the bicycle, nothing is too trivial. Not every night we reach a town. Sometimes we camp in nowhere, in the desert.
More problematic, is the fact that this year Gals' birthday falls on a Monday! Monday is the day that follows Sunday - asado day! literally everybody makes asado on Sunday and on Monday it is impossible to find good asado meat (ribs, etc.). So, just in case we decided to start the festivities on the 8th and, if we'll be lucky, we'll celebrate again on the 9th.
If Monday is not problematic enough, Sunday is not easy as well. Everything (except for the ice cream parlor and Internet) closes at 13:00 (how can they make asado if they work?). The town becomes a ghost town.

06:00 - Sunday morning - we woke (an hour before sunrise), quickly packed and attacked the remaining 36km to Chilecito. The beginning was easy, we were optimistic, till the last 10km, a steady climb against the wind as if the gods of the asado were playing with us.

12:20 - we entered town and tried getting quick answers about a camping place and where to buy good meat, but, in Argentina, nothing is quick. The clock was ticking...
On the way to the camp spot, on the far end of time (and the highest point), we learned that many carnicerias (butchers) ran out of ribs.

12:45 - we reached the cute camp spot. The owner wasn't there, but there was a small private party; a bunch of drunks, celebrating since the previous night.
We threw our trailers in a nearby house and cycled to town, in search of meat. going through a few recommended carnicerias, we finally found ribs and chorizo - 2Kg of meat (and tomatoes, onions and potatoes).

13:30 - We left the carniceria, and... Shhhhhhh... silence! The whole town/district/province/country was deep in the weekend siesta. Not the usual 12:30-19:30 siesta, but the real thing - Sunday afternoon.
Luckily, a shop in stages of closing, sold us some bread.
We were still missing the most important ingredient - good local wine! we asked a local, who said: "we are in the wine country, but it is impossible to buy now wine!". He referred us to the shop of the gas station, recommending "La Puerta", a good local wine. Rami surprised Gal with 2 boutique wines: "La Puerta, reserva, Syrah 2006, Famatina valley, Chilecito, La Rioja". Actually, the second bottle was not the reserva, but being a 'second' bottle, makes it better.

The only 2 things we could still do were ice cream an Internet. We shared a fantastic ice cream, 3 huge scoops for a ridiculous price (ice cream prices are ridiculous here), one of the many chocolates, coconut with dulce de leche and (Vanina - this one is for you) Dulce de Leche Granizado.
In the Internet we accomplished the most important mission - talking with Tamar, Gals' mother. Skype was too much for the Argentinian Internet (everything is slow in Argentina), so, Tamar called the Internet place!

17:00 - We finally took our trailers (and the meat, which was kept in the refrigerator - Rami was laughing of the thought of the cycle tourist asking Rachel, Ramis' mother, to keep his meat in her fridge!) and arrived to the campsite. The manager, a youngster, was drunk in the party. The toilets were spread with vomit. So, Rami crossed the street to a local club deportivo (sport club) and asked to camp there. The young worker, totally understanding the situation in the campground, said the owner will arrive soon, but, it shouldn't be a problem. And, yes, we have a Parrilla (cooking grill), obviously, you can make asado!

It started to rain. Rami quickly gathered some firewood for starting the charcoal (we later learned the local myth: better use only wood), before they get wet. Gal waited with our stuff under the roof of the 'stage', our designated camp spot. Shortly, the owner arrived, and obviously approved - Argentina!
While building our camp, under the roof, the young friendly worker brought the parrilla and another bag of charcoal, ready to light the fire. He spoiled us with a cold shower - luxury! (on the next day, Gals' birthday, she didn't get to shower, well, maybe next year).

19:00 - Clean, dry and happy, we were ready.

Let the festivities begin!

Cutting them...
The reserva...
A bit of gasoline...
Druck already?


1 down, 1 to go...
1 for each decade,1 for the comming.

Another one down...
Dessert... Grapes.
But still eating...

The next morning, before leaving town, we ate a bit more ice cream...

Happy 30, Gal!


More hospitality.

Climbing beautiful Cuesta de Miranda.

More asado!
A HUGE spider!!!

Full moon 11/03/09
We had another long day in the desert. We had a lunch break at the entrance to a gold mine and then over 60km with nothing till Huaco. We were optimistic. As the sun was setting, the full moon rose, illuminating the red desert. We cycled another 2 hours in the dark, with the moon showing us the way. 2 cars passed us during the dark hours.

A dead cow in the desert.

The full moon rising.
Carbonada while camping.

India? 13/03/09
We were towards the end of the Latin-America chapter of our trip. We gave up the south, planning on zigzagging the Andes, between Chile and Argentina, catching Paso San-Francisco (4,750m) and Paso Agua-Negra (4,780m) in the way, and cutting directly to Bs.As.
But, what next?
While in Jujuy, out of boredom and curiosity, we asked a travel agent about flights to India. We didn’t yet know if our trip will continue and whether Rami wants to continue cycling, but, just to get a rough estimate… it was too early with Ramis’ knee anyway.
On the way south we asked many Argentinian tourists (from the bigger cities) about a travel agent, but, Argentinians just don’t fly, since the economical crash, 10 years ago.
Finally, Gustavo hooked us up with his travel agent. In Belen we tried calling her, but the language/accent barrier and the bad reception ended up with the wrong Email. The internet didn’t work, so we headed off, hoping for the best. Later, Gustavo gave her our correct Email, and we finally had a modern travel agent, even a good one.

Internet in Argentina?
The only good thing we can say in favor of the Argentinian internet cafes is that they are open during the siesta.
We were in the process of ordering flight tickets, from Bs.As. to Delhi, a problematic request to start with. Add to that the bicycles and the overweight…
Flying from Santiago was not an option – non-residents cannot get a visa for India there.
We were in Email contact with Gustavos’ travel agent and the Indian console in Bs.As., working on plane tickets for Tamar, Gals; mother, for her visiting us in India, doing homework – planning her visit (using the fantastic forum India Mike) – we needed internet! And north-west Argentina is not the place for that!
Connecting to our Gmail (in basic HTML!!!) was difficult enough; Skype calls almost impossible.
‘Internet time’ was also a problem. We’ve been camping almost every night, since we’ve left Peru. We couldn’t just leave our stuff in the camp ground and go to the internet. Our bet solution was to stop for internet at noontime – the hottest hours of the day/ Dirty and stinking, we parked our bicycles inside the internet place and felt comfortable.
But, the internet, like everything in Argentina, is SLOW.
Rachel, Ramis’ mom, once again (and more than once) helped us out, calling our cellular and informing of new emails we got, calling our travel agent, helping with Tamar’s tickets – well, coordinating everything.
After another long day, one of many, in the internet cafe, in San Jose de Jachal, we had flight tickets to Delhi, leaving Bs.As. on 15/04/09, a month away.

More asado!

Agua Negra 13/03/09
We camped 2 nights in a magnificent spring - Agua Negra. Perfect clean water going out of a huge cliff. We even brought meat & wine with us, for asado ;-)

Leaving the main road.
Not so hot anymore, with cold beer.

A shower.
Us and more beer.
Gal, in the toilets.
A huge cricket.
Returning the grill to its' owner.
Another underpant gone...
Sunrize in the desert.

The next 2 weeks we continued to enjoy the scenery, wine, meat, music and people of this region. We reached San Juan. From there we turned 90 degrees to the east (after 14 months of south), towards Buenos Aires.

Tomas, in charge of the grill.

It took us 3 hours to change traveler checks, in an empty Citibank branch, at San-Juan. The best of the local minds were working on it.

Waiting, at the bank.
Last grape trucks. Leaving ruta 40 and its' wine.