I’ve been climbing steadily for the last couple of days…. from Jujuy to Purmamarca, and from Purmamarca to Humahuaca as I make my way up onto the altiplano. The riding itself has been wonderful… from the green valley of San Salvador de Jujuy the road took me up above the moisture laden clouds to the pampa… back to a mountain desert landscape with terrific cliffs upon which cacti stand sentry once again below the eagles soaring the updrafts.
As I write this I’m sitting at about 10,000ft with just another 2500 or so feet to climb to the border I think. I’ve made good time, the road has only been steep in places so just 3 to 3 1/2hrs riding and 70km each day. I figure 1000m of ascent is enough for one day while still enjoying the ride… ;-)
Despite the sublime riding my time on the bike has been tinged with an air of melancholy… these are my final miles in Argentina as I climb to the border… it feels like saying goodbye to a close friend, a drawn out goodbye when you know it may be a long time before you meet again. Argentina and it’s people have been good to me. A wonderful country.. and all that time I spent battling and cursing the headwinds and ripio she was saving a parting gift for me… a light to moderate tailwind to ease my climb to the heights of the altiplano… hence the good time I’ve been making :-)
I’ve been very much in a reflective mood these last couple of days… as I sat in the plaza at Purmamarca last night watching the locals put away their market stalls and contemplating the endless cycles of lives around the planet I was reminded that even when this particular adventure is over my wanderlust won’t be satisfied… after almost as many countries as I have years it never has been and never will be no matter how far and how long I travel. Such is my life I suppose as I pass through the places in between as little more than a two-wheeled shadow… the hard part is figuring out how to consolidate it with the need to earn a living… lol!
My soundtrack then as I climb towards Bolivia, with just one brief exception, is very much Remember by Groove Armada…
Anyway enough of that… back to the past few days :-) My extra day in Jujuy proved to be a fun one… that second evening as I was sitting on the floor looking at my map of Bolivia a pair of well used hiking boots appeared somewhere just west of lake Titicaca… I looked up… they were attached to a fine pair of legs belonging to a regular Lara Croft character.. sassy stance, backpack slung over one shoulder but minus the firearms… (probably a good thing)…… but it was only Emma from Sweden … :-) Choosing not to camp in towns definitely has advantages for the solo cyclist… ;-)
Llama in various forms (leg of, steak of etc etc) also appeared on local menus for the first time, along with the change in the faces of the locals another indication of the transition to a more purely ‘Andean culture’. That evening the four of us went for a pre-dinner peek at the local ‘crime’ museum, it was the girls idea.. getting warmed up for a steak or something perhaps, or just satisfying a buried bloodlust, as it contained a pretty gruesome collection of photos of bad guys and fools in various states of dismemberment… I enjoyed the rifles, vintage frogman suit and chatty copper downstairs in the police museum much more :-)
Met Emma again in Purmamarca, a very pretty pueblo nestled against richly coloured cliffs. The church here was beautifully simple with an interior heavily decked out in cactus wood – ceiling, pews, pulpit, altar etc.. in fact everything that wasn’t stone or adobe. It’s a beautiful wood, odd to look at – a porous lattice that polishes up better than you’d ever expect based on it’s living form. I’ll get some pics when I remember… With reference to my post of the 22nd March this Wednesday was a public holiday in memorial of the 24/3/76. The tiny plaza was full of people, live music and traditional dancing.. the dancing in particular was interesting, almost animalistic in it’s intensity and movements, but with a subtle sophistication all the same. Quite remarkable.
That evening dinner with Emma was ‘blessed’ with a loud local duo.. pan pipes, drums and stuff… something of a conversation killer and not a deliberate choice of place to eat but inevitable I suppose given Purmamarca is quite the touristy little spot being so close to Jujuy and Salta. Ho hum… I felt for the guys when no-one bought a CD afterwards… but only until I saw a compulsory cover charge added to the bill* . The obvious escape was to climb the hill behind the village by moonlight and sit up there looking at the stars… and listening to the same music drifting up from the streets below.. some stamina those guys, lol.. night-time vocals almost as durable as the local dogs… Our stamina on the other hand was pretty rubbish… at about 11.30pm the evening ended on a note far less romantic than the surroundings with a duo of ” yawn…time for bed…” so we split with an idea to try and meet again in Bolivia – which would be ace, the usual downside to travelling by bike is that the people I meet are travelling so much quicker than I and never seen again.
I also know who to blame for the mental soundtrack to the morning I left Purmamarca on my bike being Abba’s Chiquitita… I only managed to get it out of my head with the excitement of crossing the Tropic of Capricorn… a very cool moment well worthy of goosebumps :-) After that is was back to Groove Armada…
And that is pretty much that for the last couple of days… Humahuaca is a fine highland pueblo with cobbled streets and colourful adobe buildings. It is deliciously cold and windswept tonight too… though suspect by the time I’ve crossed Bolvia cold and windswept won’t feel so delicious :-) I think I’m going to have to stop a day here in Humahuaca too.. all is not quite right… that niggling sore throat from Jujuy, unable to sleep properly and stuff… very tired I guess. No matter, although not high by standards of previous adventures it will be useful as an acclimitization stop :-)
*still cheap and with Bolivia just a couple of days away I’ve stopped caring about my budget…