ALGARROBO to SAN JUAN

What a great beach break.  Three days in Algarrobo really revived, and reminded us just how much we miss things like pillows and couches! We then spent a couple of days in Valparaiso, wandering the steep streets, riding the escalators and generally soaking up the colourful atmosphere of this famous port city. Lastly, a brief stop in Vina del Mar showed us how the other half enjoy their holidays… it was time to get back on the bikes!
With fresh legs we left the Chilean coast and headed once again for Argentina via the famous Mendoza pass. With the Andes gradually getting bigger in front of us, all we could think about as we rode was the climb to come. Would we make it? What about altitude sickness? Was the guy, energetically pointing and laughing at us from a passing bus, trying to tell us something?? We camped right beside the sign warning of 55km’s of uphill ahead. Tomorrow we would find out…
The Mendoza climb really involved two parts – a gradual 40km climb, followed by the more famous 15kms of switchbacks to the top and the tunnel to Argentina.  As expected, the first section was long but we managed it ok. With aching legs we then looked up in disbelief at the snaking road ahead. “Look how slow those trucks are going!”, “Look how steep that bit is!” … but then looking down from each rest stop and the shrinking world below us, it became clear that we were doing it and doing it well.  Passing trucks tooted and waved encouragement as we climbed higher and higher.  The relief at reaching the top and 3,185m above sea level is hard to explain.  We had in a single day crossed one of the world’s great mountain ranges by bike.  Enough said.

There is one good thing about riding uphill – going down – and the 85km through the Mendoza valley was no exception.  It was breathtakingly beautiful.  A perfectly blue sky, mountains of every colour, and the famous Mt Aconcagua and Puenta del Inca whizzed by us on the way.  What a reward.  I even managed a new top speed – 77.6km/hr!  Our amazing day was topped off by bumping into fellow cyclists Thomas and Celine.  We had camped with them on our first night outside Ushuaia all those Kms back! What a small world hey?
Leaving the crowds behind, we once again cycled down a dusty road, this time on a scenic loop to San Juan via the oasis towns of Barreal and Calingasta.  As expected, the Northern Andean desert was hot and dry, but what wasn’t expected, was the “Patagonian” like headwinds, and the harsh lesson, that there are many more “uphills” in the Andes than just the famous ones!  With hard riding and nowhere to get water, we gratefully had to take a few extra litres from a roadside shrine.  The water was much needed, just not so sure about the beer and cigarettes??
With a day now to regroup in San Juan, we continue our ride north to Salta, with the Valle de la Luna our next major highlight. It’s a famous geological site with some pretty unique rock formations, a submarine, worm and mushroom for example… more in our next update.

Till then, we have one last thing to share… we’re now halfway to Peru!  Not bad going for a couple of aussie expats that were carrying a few extra kilos from their time in London!!  Here, here.
Thanks again for all the support and we hope you enjoy our pics below.

Jules & Jess

A "Valpo" ascensor

Valpo and its escalator thingys

Colourful streets

Colourful streets ...

... Stacked one on the other

... Stacked one on the other

Vina and the other half

Vina and the other half

Now thats a long uphill

Now thats a long uphill

First section - ok

First section was ok

Then the famous switchbacks

Then the famous switchbacks

Oh what a feeling!

Oh what a feeling!

Breathtaking downhill

Breathtaking downhill

Aconcagua, 7000m top of the Andes

Aconcagua, 7000m top of the Andes

Puenta del Inca

Puenta del Inca

A great days ride

A great days ride

Fancy seeing you here

Fancy seeing you here

Down another dusty road

Down another dusty road

Hot in the nth argentine desert

Hot under the argentine sun

Are we there yet?

Just cruising!

Roadside shrines

Roadside shrines

Another home for the night

Another home for the night