Touring by Bike South America, Africa and Europe by Bicycle

Touring by Bike
Day 41. Volcan to Salta

Km today: 133
Trip odometer: 2536

I woke up late and only because Mathias called me. It was 8:45, waaay later than I intended to leave (not to mention waking up).
As usually, it took me one hour to pack and be ready for leaving. I definitely need to find a better way to organize stuff in the panniers.
Especially that I noticed it can be done faster. Mathias was ready in 15 minutes, including packing the tent and arranging the bike. Amazing, even though he doesn’t have many things to pack, he’s travelling very light !
We said good-bye to Diego (that used to work as a clown or a rope dancer at at circus and now was leaving in the school on which basketball court we camped) and leave on a secondary, faster road towards Leon, the next village. Close to Leon the landscape changes a lot, the Quebraca leaves place to the forest. Matias told me it rains more in this area.

We descend a lot and we enjoy the lack of front wind (well, it is a little bit, but it fells like nothing compared to yesterday and two days ago). the first descent is longer and my speed is somewhere between 45 and 60 km/h for quite a long time.
We shoot some short movies, is amazing how easy this is when someone is helping you.
And we reach Jujuy soon after midday. I’m surprised by how European the city is. After seeing some small villages marked as important towns on the map (in Peru and Bolivia), the
clean city with large streets, big shops, gas stations and American and European brands looks like from another planet. I have lunch (empanada de carne, empanada de pollo and cerveza) with Matias, offer him a small Romanian flag and he joins me out of the town, on the road to El Carmen. He suggests that I can spend the night in El Carmen, but my intention is to reach Salta and eventually take a night bus to somewhere, closer to Buenos Aires.
After a little bit of climbing, I reach El Carmen at 3 pm, with plenty of time to go. But also with about 60 km to go to Salta. But I do not worry, I understood the last 50 km are pure descent. Not very steep, so probably I will not fly with 50 – 55 km/h, but I hope to go with 25-30 km/h and reach Salta clearly before sunset.

The fun starts right after El Carmen, when the “costisa” road starts to climb. And it climbs and climbs and climbs.
I wait to be at 50 km to go and start the descent. Well, I feel lucky. The descent starts about 60 km to go. But…wait. Wait, wait. This was just a local descent, about 3 km, just to make the next climb longer. Holly….Easter !
Fortunately, it is not boring at all. Jungle. After passing a lake, where all the people from Jujuy goes to fish and relax for the weekend (or for the Easter weekend), the road goes in the jungle. So this is how the jungle looks like. Lianas hanging down from the trees, a wide variety of plants, including some that occupied some trees, many many birds.
After what looked to me like a long climb (but in fact was nothing compared to the 4600 meters I reached in Peru, starting from the sea level), I finally start to descent at about 5:45.
Is a slow one indeed, also because the road is winding down through the jungle at the beginning. Out of the jungle, it gets more straight and the descent is faster, by pedalling I can maintain a speed of 35km/h for a while. Lots of people out in the nature, lots of cabanas and summer houses close to Salta. People riding the horses as well.
After the last climb the ETA for Salta was 19:56, but with the descent it gets down to 19:40. Not big deal, one might think, but it is if you think that 19:30 is about the sunset time and the dark comes very soon after.
Close to Salta, there is a highway going to the city center, but of course is forbidden for cyclists.
But there is a cycling lane parallel to it. Following the cycling lane, I reach the city center at about 8 pm, in time for some Easter ceremony at the cathedral here. I drop in a restaurant, in the main square; in fact at it’s terrace outside, so I can watch my metal horse.
I realize Salta is at 1150 m.a.s.l, but for me it feels like the seaside. Maybe the warm evening, maybe the pressure and the abundance of oxygen in the air, after spending almost one month over 3000 m.
After asking the guys at the restaurant to put my tablet at charge I have 4% battery, just enough to see that the buses towards Cordoba or Buenos Aires are leaving Salta at 9 pm. I look at the clock, is 20:15. And I’m still waiting for the pancakes. I look at the GPS to understand how far the bus terminal is, I look at the clock again and is 21:18 (is the GPS clock this time, I realized I forgot to set the tablet on Argentian time). With 1% of hope that might be also a bus at 10 pm I try to hurry up the guy with the pancake (which proofs to be delicious) and after another 5 minutes of waiting to pay I head towards the bus station.
I spot some hostals on the way, where to return if I’ll have to spend the night in Salta.
At the bus station I’m told there is a bus going towards Buenos Aires at 22:15. Is 22:05, I buy the ticket and ask if this includes the bike transfer. I’m told “yes”, but now I now that the driver will ask for something. The something is 100 Argentian pessos, that drops down to 60 pesos after a 5 seconds negotiation.

So now I’m writing this in the bus, from Luca’s laptop, a good Argentinian guy who offered me his laptop (without me asking for it).

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