April 02, 2006 GMT
28th Mar 2006 - Cafayate

0 kms

A rest day then a cracking (!) ride

Wednesday 29th March 2006

Cafayate - Tucuman

252 kms

Having had such a restful day yesterday we didn't undertake the ride south to the ruins at Quilmes deciding to take them in on the route today.


The ruins de Quilmes, held out against Inca's then Spanish, finally over-run and marched off to near Buenos Aires, naming the beer that comes from there !


General view, large site, 3000 inhabitants at height (mid 1500s)

The ride out of Cafayate was pleasant taking us past many of the vineyards, or in truth Fincas (smaller than actual vineyards) that we recognised from vine bottle labels during our stay. You have to say it's a joy to be able to order wine with your meal without being ripped off price wise. Many establishments had their own house wines provided by the local growers. There was a local specialty that we tried last night, the white Torreontés that was a strangely sharp fruity number.

Once past the rows of wine it was once more to an arid sun parched valley before the climb of the Infiemillo Pass (3040m). Anything under 4000m seems insignificant these days, but this would class as quite high in the Alps.

The road was rough, a patchwork of potholes until well over the far side. This meant any sweeping curves were not for enjoyment as too many unpleasant surprises. At the top there were more hawks, falcons and raptors than we've seen for an age, perhaps due to the obvious thermal qualities of the weather on the other side of the hills.


The looming mist at Tafi de Vallee

We were intending stopping at Tafi del Valle, but seeing as it was so close we thought to continue a way. Tafi is a strange place, being high up and looking very German like in places, looked like it belonged more in Chile. The other strange feature is the far side of the valley is evidently normally shrouded - as now - in cloud surging up from the far side. Quite an eerier perspective, and an obvious sign of different weather over there.

Once again we had thought the far side was arid and dry as Tucuman, like Salta, has a reputation for extreme summer heat. We are frankly baffled by what season we are in. If winter is July / August then I guess January February is high summer, meaning we must be now in Autumn, or early Autumn, but different areas have different weather patterns, so not sure. Anyway, we seem to be out of the very hottest season so that's good. It turns out Tucuman is not arid at all, but very lush and humid.

As we disappeared into the cloud we discovered it was damp and really mist. Boy what a surprise you can get traveling around this continent. It was quite dense, and correspondingly damp. We guessed we would pass through it on the far descent and so didn't put on our cags or over trousers (not wearing liners as 35 degs earlier). This was to be an error !

As we continued down through various think mist and accompanying wet we were soon getting quite damp and cool. In fact the mist never left us all the way down, and only thinned on the way to Tucuman itself.

The pass was dense with vegetation and quite jungle like in a temperate way, not at all what we were expecting after being amongst cacti only half an hour before

The water had penetrated the still open vents on the jacket and was slowly being mopped up by my T shirt, even the heated grips went on.

The mist being so damp it was a pain riding and seeing, but the occasional views over the edge of the narrow twisting road showed lush vegetation and a fast flowing boulder strewn river far below. There were plenty of signs of erosion and wash out as this side definitely got some hellish weather just a few days ago which we had seen on TV in a petrol station a couple of days ago. Even had whole sections or road and a bridge taken out. Not on our route at moment though luckily.

Near the bottom we rounded a corner to the sign 'Fin del Mundo', and there was certainly no sign of a continuation. Of course the road did, but interesting that there are two such signs in Argentina, the other being Ushuaia.


The second 'end of the world' of the trip, the other being the real one at Ushuaia

Shortly we were down, but the drizzle was still with us and as we set off for Tucuman it only really let up 25kms from the city, by which time I was fair cool (Bev has the advantage of sitting in the rain shadow !)

Arriving in town (well city) was not brilliant as the outskirts were very untypical of Argentina and more like Chile or Peru with rubbish strewn everywhere and some distinctly rough looking areas.

The traffic before we had got there had become it's usual psychotic and quite dangerous. Anything to gain and extra 3m, even if it takes minutes to overtake with oncoming traffic. best advice is ride fast so nothing catches you up !

Entering the chaos of town I like to stay ahead of the opposition too, but unfortunately that lead to riding through a police stop without noticing so I thought it best to play the stupid card again and ride on, fortunately without pursuit.

Getting nearer centre I noticed a hotel and pulled over to find it's location on the SA Handbook city plan so I could get bearings for where we wanted to be. It worked a dream and we found the spot we're in now, which is a bit run down and poor, but only costs £7.

On unloading the bike I noticed the right-hand pannier seemed a bit loose. Checking closer it wasn't the pannier. Didn't look good, I guessed what I'd find. Looking even closer there was a gap where the sub-frame should be attached to a strengthening fillet, and even worse, up above a total break in the sub-frame rail. Oh dear !


Broken sub-frame, frame rail snapped, and fillet separated

Not much chance that would get us to BA with the weight the sub-frame has to carry (us and all the luggage) so needs repairing before we continue. If it led to an equal failure on the other side, basically, the back of the bike would collapse. Not a nice thought.


View from other side, bit clearer the nature of the total failure

We checked with the owner about bike shops of 'Solder' and she suggested somewhere just a block or so away. It turned out not to exist, but we asked in a Ford Motorcraft shop and our faltering Spanish got us at least a recommendation. Apparently a Japanese welder not too far out, that is good and can weld aluminum as well as steel, and so will be our first port of call tomorrow. We’ll see if he can fit us in.

The sub-frame should come off for welding I think without too much of a nightmare, would be better done that way rather than risking frying the electrics or setting fire to the plastic parts or tyre, but we'll see By the time we remove the panniers and mounts and get there it will likely be siesta o'clock anyway.

"Cracking roads Grommet" Well, I did mention how well the bike was holding up in the last mail didn't I ! Now we can see the damage all those untold miles of abuse have done, you'll only see the damage on us when we're in our 70s I hope !

Posted by Simon McCarthy at April 02, 2006 10:32 PM GMT

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