Trip Blog‎ > ‎

Salta, Argentina to Córdoba, Argentina

posted Jul 8, 2011, 2:31 PM by Paul Gareau   [ updated Aug 31, 2011, 3:23 PM ]
Coming to Córdoba wasn't part of my original plan, but since I'm still trying to slow down enough to avoid the worst of winter, the side trip added just enough time to put me on schedule for arriving in Ushuaia in mid-November. I wish I had a better summary for this section than to say that it was cold, windy and hilly, but I can't say a whole lot more about it than that. I rode on route 9 the whole way, which had no shoulder and alternating periods of heavy truck traffic and bad-to-worse rolling hills. The scenery was better during the first few days when there were lots of green hills around, but that tapered off into a far less interesting landscape and farmland for the remainder of the two weeks. The first few days were also the warmest, but that suddenly changed and I ended up spending one cold, rainy, windy day in my tent. The next morning I headed out in near-freezing temperatures, and a few days later had a 15F night --- when I left the mountains, I thought I also left the cold nights behind too!  

I did a lot of camping between Salta and here, spending all but three of the nights in my tent. Camping is quite popular in Argentina (probably more-so in the summer) and it's easy to find designated campsites from free to $2 per night. On nights where there weren't organized camping areas, I usually didn't have much trouble finding a place to pitch my tent. One of the advantages of camping this way is that I can ride almost until sunset, then finally find a place, pitch my tent, cook dinner and fall asleep. Since the temperatures were generally always cold, but the nights were not as bad as they had been in the mountains, I didn't have a big incentive to stay in my tent until sunrise (8:30AM) and I could start making my breakfast as first light, about half an hour earlier.

I passed through two large cities, a couple smaller ones and quite a few small towns. The cities were Tucumán, and Santiago del Estero. Tucumán was just a typical city, and I planned my arrival so that I'd have time to spend the afternoon walking around. There are some historic buildings and some interesting architecture, but nothing that made me want to spend another day there. There are a few hostels there and I stayed at one that happened to be housing a truck driver who must have been preparing for a contest to see who can stuff the most coca leaves into their cheek. I've never seen anyone with so much in their mouth at one time, and it made him nearly impossible to understand. If that wasn't annoying enough, he was also in the same dorm as me and he snored louder than anyone I've ever heard. Half way through the night I had to change rooms to at least get a few hours of quality sleep in. The hostel (Hostel OH!) was a nice place though, with a pool, big kitchen and a courtyard. In Santiago del Estero, I stayed at the municipal campground, which was at the north end of the city, about "30 blocks" (according to a cab driver) from where you enter on rte 9. I'd recommend that other cyclists take the alternate route that branches off route 9 and enters the northern end of the city. Anyway, since I rode across the city twice on my way to and from the campground and didn't see anything good, I decided not to stick around. Jesus Maria was maybe my favorite of the cities I passed through, being modern and clean and easy to get around in. I was also able to meet up with a woman named Dayana, who runs a blog on the area and had given me some advice on what to see. From there it was just a short ride into Cordoba, where I learned the World Cup was being hosted and prices for lodging were all doubled. I managed to get a special "poor biker" discount which made staying here much more palatable (I promised not to say what I paid!). I'm at the Hostel Aldea, which is basically a perfect hostel.

I started out feeling great and got back into a routine of doing days of respectable mileages, even with the constant rolling hills. I was really surprised about my endurance, since in the mountains I hadn't been riding very far each day, or very long between breaks. I felt like I could ride forever with the only reasons for stopping being to add or remove layers, eat or answer calls of nature. This eventually wore off unfortunately, as the road, lack of interesting scenery and traffic all conspired against me. I finally broke out my iPod and listened to it through only one of the headphones so I could still hear overtaking vehicles. Music helped a bit, then I finally changed to my NPR podcasts.... Ahh, much better. 

I had my third bloody fall of the trip during the first half of the section, when my front tire slipped over the edge of the pavement, then couldn't roll back over the lip. It was a clumsy, skidding fall, probably caused by the pressure wave of a truck that had just passed in the other direction. Sadly, I was wearing the down jacket I had received in San Pedro, and "christened" it with holes on the inner and outer layers that the down all seemed to be escaping through - a couple pieces of duct tape took care of that. At other times the combination of the wind and passing trucks would create a pressure wave either strong enough to nearly blow my helmet off, or give me a significant "pull" in the direction that I was going.

When I was in Tucuman I spent even more time revising my route. I've spent more time on the Salta-Mendoza section than probably any other - for the most part because I just couldn't get excited about any of the ideas I had come up with. My new route from Tucuman was to continue on route 9 to Cordoba, then head north a bit through the Sierras to the west of the city, then head more or less west back towards the Andes, where I'll pass through some areas known for having interesting geology and rock formations. Since those two things are still ahead of me, I'm excited about my next couple weeks (and mostly getting off route 9!). From the formations to Mendoza I'll be back in the mountains, which should be nice too. I also just decided today that I'll go to Easter Island after cycling to Mendoza. I need to get my passport "re-stamped" so that I'll have more time in Argentina, and in most countries, the only free way to do it is to leave the country and return, getting a new stamp in the process. I also wanted to see Santiago and Valparaiso in Chile, and since flights to Easter Island leave from Santiago it was a perfect opportunity. I'll be arriving at Easter Island on July 30 (which is a full moon!) and I'll spend three days there before returning on the 3rd of August.

OK, that's all for now - I have to go cook my dinner. Ciao!