Thursday, November 17, 2011

ARG by MTB Day 1: Salta to Cachi

Today, we started our 5 day MTB trip in northwest Argentina. We are four: Matias Hodara, Gonzalo Chernitsky, Javier Vilamowski, and myself. Flights were dicey in Buenos Aires this morning. Just 5 minutes before we were due to board at 6.30am, all flights out of BA were put on hold due to volcanic ash from Chile. I knew about problems in the south west, but I wasn't aware of ash reaching the east coast of South America. Not knowing whether we would be waiting hours or days for flights to resume, all we could do was take a seat. The Argentines didn't seem too stressed, but I was quite worried (perhaps another sign that I over-stayed in the US). Luckily, flights were taking off again within a couple of hours. It all seemed very odd. 

Our driver and support vehicle met us at Salta airport. We had a three hour drive up to Piedra del Molino at 3500 meters altitude. We planned to ride the 50km descent to Cachi but unfortunately rain was coming down way too hard near the summit. So we drove 10km or so to 3100 meters altitude and then jumped on the bikes. 

We had some fast downhills and long flats. The terrain changed quickly from lush green to dry desert as we moved west. Most of the distance was open road, but we also saw a couple of small towns. 

We got to Cachi around 8pm. Cachi is a small colonial town (2,000 people) of adobe homes located at 2,280 meters. We have a very nice colonial-ranch style hotel just outside of town. We found a good restaurant for dinner with locals playing Argentine style Tango music on guitar. Dinner was typical food from the area: empenadas, tamales, humita, pinchos de cabrito (goat), cazuela, and llama (similar to camel). We definitely over-ate, as we didn't burn many calories on the descent (all we did was sit and steer). 

Matias in Salta.

The drive from Salta (1400 meters) to Piedra del Molino (3500 meters).

The summit at 3500 meters. Unfortunately, it was too wet to ride the descent from here.

Changing roadside at 3100 meters.

And we're off!

Musicians at the restaurant in Cachi.

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