Paradise is not where you go but how you feel for one moment of your life.
One never really knows how things will turn out. Perhaps an open mind to the possibilities is needed. Yesterday’s ride was expected to be hard especially after the prior days ride into the wind. Yesterday’s was 122 kilometers and 1250 meters of climbing. Two big climbs. We were a bit intimidated but all left cycling except Buck who is still recovering from shoulder injury.
I had decided if the wind was not blowing I would just ride at the pace I felt. Was good but of course most left me after 20 k which was ok. The remainder passed when I stopped beside the road for toilet. (Never any peace and quiet). But a most pleasant ride slowly climbing a gradual slope then a long gradual downhill through a few villages. Almost stopped at one roadside stand for fresh empanadas but persevered on. Lunch truck at bottom of second climb. Several folks said the ride was like riding through the southern French countryside. I must try that sometime as it was beautiful. Still a bit early in the spring but the leaves are coming out and road great. Road was 4 meters in width, enough room for a car and bike, but this is a two way road. Freeway lanes in the United States are 12 feet wide for reference, about 3 1/2 meters. But not a lot of traffic and the trees were amazing. Big trees with epiphytes growing on several, and big vines hanging down. Sort of jungle like but seemed more like California scrub country. Hard to describe but it was pleasant. David from England and I just cruised along till the top then 30 kilometers to Salta, stopping at a country park with lake, swimmers, tables and people out enjoying the day. We had the usual snack of ice cream and soda for energy to finish the ride. Then on to the city where instructions were take bike lane which we could not find so rode the freeway into town, then through the city center and our municipal campground on south end of town.
Salta is a city of about 500,000 and a bit busy although apparently we arrived on a holiday. Folks were sitting in lawn chairs all along the sidewalk (on the shady side) just siting and enjoying the afternoon. Businesses were all closed but expected to open again In the evening.
Campground has what must be the largest swimming pool in world. Empty of course, who knows why, but it must cover 20 acres at a minimum. Took James several minutes to do a lap on the bike. Most of us set up tents at the edge although the sun was intense yesterday. Good for solar charging batteries. Temps probably in mid 30’s. Since losing my odometer I have no thermometer. The campground was not the most inviting although the showers were hot. First time I have had to turn on cold water to mix, although here a cold shower would not have been bad. Several folks though have opted to find hotel rooms in town as it is a rest day. I do not mind camping, hence staying in campground in tent. For most of the two rest days we are on our own for food. And campground will do laundry.
Bike dreams gave a party last evening with a barbecue to celebrate the trips half way point (I am only 1/3 done) several folks are leaving mostly to return to jobs. Toos and Teo, David, Patrick, Mario, (who joined in Cusco with me), Elizabeth, and Maria, From Barcelona, who is not officially here but came with Robert, one of our drivers. She has been a great addition and we will all miss her smiling face and personality. But then all the people are wonderful and it was sad to say goodbye. I have mentioned I am in awe of these folks and their abilities. They have all taught me so much about riding whether in actual comments or through example. Mario who joined with me and we learned together to be with an established group. I think I felt close to him as we would often end up riding together. In our parting he mentioned how I was a strong rider, which made me feel great. I have never considered myself such, but I guess I survived the windy day with the pelaton.
Our group is devoted to the ride, and not much time to really socialize as we arrive in the afternoon, eat, set up camp or room, eat again and go to bed. Last night though we cranked up the music, mostly 80’s disco stuff which no one really liked but good to dance to. Occasionally some AC/DC or such, but a good time was had by all, although I guess there was one incident after I retired. Alas not all is a bed of roses. There are some very diverse personalities amongst us as with any group large group.
And a group of 14-16 year old girls came up yesterday in the afternoon to talk. (Remember my Spanish is almost nonexistent. Pantomime is great! ). They were on 3 day bus tour discussing domestic violence with their moms. The mom’s wanted to know why our stomachs were flat and their men’s bellies were round. But dancing and partying all around. Their bus had broken down and waiting for repairs. We could bounce back and forth from party to party.
Took the bus Into the city center this am in search of wifi, SIM cards for our phones, and food. One cannot use our usual phone card as way to expensive so just purchase a card to insert and get local rates. Problem is I have no idea what I got. I think I got two months worth of phone, text, data, internet for 55 pesos about $20. Reality is very different as used to unlimited but this is only 1.5 mB per day. That is one picture barely. Now I can use the phone as a hotspot and download this blog as long as not too lengthy.
Cafés had lousy wifi although food was good. Salta is definitely westernized, but as David pointed out yesterday we have gone from the poorest country in South America to the richest. Quite a change. Finally ended up at McDonalds because, as is Starbucks, it is noted for free internet and good coffee. Alas batteries almost dead and only two outlets and one in use and no internet at the remaining plugin. So back and forth. Just nice to communicate with the world I know. Finally enough of the city so caught a taxi back to campground with Marias and Hannie. And cabs here have meters hence no bartering before you get in. Western ways.
Now just sitting here with batteries, phone, iPad and camera batteries charging on light pole outlet. Barry brought over a beer ( a full liter) and discussing traveling about the world and how one becomes settles into a regular existence. Soon one year leads to another and soon time has passed. Our lists of things to see and do grows longer and the time remaining shorter. And with that perhaps it is time to go find some dinner.
And so goes our first rest day in Salta. Tomorrow I put on my new odometer purchased today and grease the bottom bracket bearing. 2000 kilometers thus far in a month. Every day we head south on a most interesting ride. As with the great divide. Eat sleep ride and repeat. As it have noted several times I am awed and honored to be able to do this. As Rob from bike dreams said a few days ago “there are no easy days on the Andes Trail” and I am finding that true. But then if it was easy where would be the challenge. Risking oneself is to risk failure but not risking or trying is to fail.