There will always be more to do in the Andes but having comprehensively ridden my bike all over from the north to the far south it seemed like a good idea, when thinking about this journey, to head east away from the Andes and have a look at the sierras of Córdoba province; for a number of years it has been a spot on the map that left me wondering how it would be to ride a bike there. Now I know; it’s pretty nice.
It has been a good, albeit hot stretch, exploring quiet provincial towns with a uniquely ‘Argentine’ flavour, full of friendly folk, and that would appear to see very few, if any, foreign visitors. As I write I’m sitting in downtown Córdoba capital in a somewhat reflective mood. Although there is still a bit left to do it is inconsequential, and as such my arrival here feels very much like the full stop to this journey, something I’m having a hard time coming to terms with, especially in the context of returning to a dark, wet, ‘brexity’ winter in the UK. I’ll save all that for another post however while I think about what to do next, catch up with a bit of work, and enjoy some street photography. In the meantime however, when I last wrote I was having a day off in Frías, Santiago del Estero province…
Frías, Santiago Del Estero. This happens to be the railway station… only in Argentina.
There’s something attractive about railway infrastructure. With only occasional freight trains the station was largely populated by dogs.
Frías… friendly place.
.. with plenty of colour. UK towns need more colour in the buildings… I don’t understand why grey, white, and beige are so beloved of architects, town planners, building owners etc … especially given the weather.
From Frías there was a long, flat, very hot stretch of about 230km to cross the central salinas grandes and reach the sierras. It was baking hot and exposed with a strong cross-headwind. With little choice but to use the highway it was very much a case of just putting head down and getting on with it. I made it in two stages, one short one of just 75km to a convenient stop, followed by a long slog of 150km across the wastes. With a strong wind and temps in the mid-30’s celcius it was a tough day. It also marked the lowest point of my ride, at just 229m ASL, some 5 vertical kilometres below the high point…
Parts of this stretch had a distinctly “Mad-Maxian” feel… Interesting choice of canvas on which to tell someone you love them.
Dean Funes, another small provincial town in which I enjoyed a day off to recover, and explore, after the stretch across the salinas. A place with a lot of ‘texture’…
Dean Funes… hot and humid, I very much felt the same way as these dogs.
Dean Funes… beauty is in the eye of the beholder…
More old motors. This one in Cruz del Eje.
San Marcos Sierras is a small village, with something of a hippy vibe, that sits at the foot of the sierras in the northwest of the province. In springtime it is a pretty place with the jacaranda in full bloom.
San Marcos Sierras.
San Marcos Sierras. 1951 (I think) DeSoto Sportsman still in use as a daily runner.
From San Marcos Sierras it’s a further two days to Córdoba capital. My route took me through thick bush…
… along the foot of the ranges before climbing very steeply into the mountains. Lulled into a false sense of security by so much time on the altiplano, on which nothing particularly nasty lives, I ‘enjoyed’ a very close, heart-stoppingly so, encounter with a rattlesnake on this stretch… I decided I wouldn’t be wild-camping in the bush that evening.
This part of the climb approaching La Cumbre is a route popular with the local weekend warriors.
From La Cumbre, after a morning of climbing up to 1600m, the scenery opens up.
Some really fine riding, in fresher temperatures.
I enjoyed this stretch immensely.
Ignoring the temperatures, snakes, and absence of sheep, the grazed terrain and dry stone walls were oddly reminiscent of riding in Wales.
Fine views to the east.
There are condors in the mountains here.
Signage. There was no traffic at all over this two day stretch.
Being a Sunday, a friend and cycling contact, @brunolorenzatti, from the city rode out to meet me on my way through the mountains towards the city. A perfect way to finish.