Tafí del Valle to Andalgalá: Long Day, Short Distance

Friday, February 27


We got a late start the next morning, not wanting to leave our new favorite bed and breakfast. The breakfast was the usual bread and jam with juice and coffee, but much higher quality and included a selection of local cheeses, which Inna very much appreciated. Stefano was already almost finished by the time we made it to the dining room.


We decided we would spend the morning riding south together, and then figure out as we went along where we would part ways. Inna and I felt bad that we weren’t ready to ride until 10 am, as Stefano cleared moved faster in the mornings than we did. Inna was trying to get some quality time in with the llamas before we had to leave.

The ride down the valley was a nice, twisty descent along the river below the lake. The pavement wasn’t the highest quality, but it didn’t detract from the ride. We quickly made it to the town of Concepción. We were thinking of taking a dirt road west from here to Andalgalá, and wanted to see if we could get any information on the quality of the road before we started out. The locals were of little help. It amazes how people can know nothing of a town only 20km away. If you asked me about any town within 50 miles of Seattle I could probably tell you at least something about it.


After we passed through the tiny town of Alpachiri, the road turned to dirt. Neither Inna nor I were ecstatic to be back on dirt, but we’d willingly volunteered for it. The road quickly turned into a series of switchbacks, going up and up and up and up. It was slow going as the U’s were very tight and full of gravel. As we wound ourselves up the mountain, we were at least treated to some nice views.


There was occasional traffic going the other direction along the road, which was encouraging in that corrugation aside, the road ahead couldn’t be too difficult or too isolated. After treating us to some scenic overlooks of the river valley below, the road wound alonside the mountain, gradually descending.


We came to a small town, and decided it would be a good stop for lunch. We walked in like alien visitors into the bar/cafe, where we interrupted the locals watching soap operas on the TV. We ordered some sandwiches, all of which were terrible. While we ate the locals amused themselves by taking pictures of each other alongside our bikes.


Once we left, we had more descending ahead of us. The descent turned into downhill switchbacks which we navigated slowly. The hard work was rewarded with ample scenic views of the plains and salar in the distance. We had a strange feeling that we were looking out over an ocean. I lagged behind to take pictures of Stefano and Inna from above, almost none of which came out. Bummer!


We finally reached the bottom, and slogged through more corrugation and sand. We joined the paved road just south of town, and road to the center to find a hotel. Our book had the official tourist hotel listed along with another very low quality hotel. At the tourist hotel, neither Inna nor I were pleased with the price, and walked next door to another hotel not in our book. It was slightly cheaper, but when we came back Stefano had negotiated the same price for us as the tourist hotel. Nice. It was amazing how little distance we had covered during the day.


We went into town after dark, to the main plaza to find dinner. It was a busy night and the town felt vibrant. People were in all the benches and strolling through the town square park. We picked a pizza restaurant, assuming it would be a safe bet, and it had the added bonus of having seating outdoors across the street in the park. We had a reasonably good pizza and beers as we watched a Carnival related parade go by on the street in front of us. For our day of dirt riding, we treated ourselves to more fantastic Argentinean ice cream as we walked to the hotel. Unfortunately it seemed like the end point of the parade was just in front of our hotel, so we tried to sleep in spite of all the loud music and percussion.

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