My aim was to get the 1200kms to Salta in one day by starting at 0600. It wasn’t to be but I had fun trying!
I followed the rural 40, the main road running along the east of the Andes. From Mendoza, the farmland slowly faded into arid semi desert to north to San Juan. Very reminiscent of the Eastern side of the Rockies in the US. I had no idea what to expect of the drive, I had blindly assumed it was the main road north to Salta. The road got quiter, then it began winding its way through small villages, and through short hilly terrain with sheer, unbarricaded drops on one side. The brutal desert like landscape would suddenly reveal fertile oases, lined with eucalyptus.
Small towns dotted they way, some with just a few very simple mud brick houses. One particularly memorable sight was a little girl sitting in front of a very ramshackle and basic farm shack, right on the roadside, staring feverishly into her laptop computer.
Night soon fell and I parked up, slept in the back of the car and headed off at sunrise, hoping to get to Salta by late morning. Alas it was not to be, the route was quite hard to follow. Frequently it would bring you to the middle of a small town, and you’d be faced with a one way street, and forced to make a snap decision to turn right or left, and rely on bird like navigation sense to reacquire the road out of town. Furthermore, one way streets just seem to be known, they are not always signposted. Checking the direction of parked cars in the narrow streets was my final check if I wasn’t sure…
Despite the frustrations of losing time, I quite enjoyed the sights of the little back streets, and when the wine region of Cafeyte revealed itself with its wineries and amazing rock formations, it was firmly sealed as a place to come back to with the family in April.
Finally I made it to Salta, and my only task remained to buy two new front shocks and get them fitted. It challenging, but rewarding, finding your way around a remote South American town using your best Spanish trying to buy some Amortaguadores. Finally I found somewhere selling them, but then found all my credit and eftpos cards not working…. Fortunately I had some USD that I changed, and after my banks confirmed that the cards were not actually frozen, I tried many more ATMs to find them all a bit hit and miss. Sometimes you could get cash out of one, other times the same machine would spit your card back at you.
Eventually, I headed to the municipal campground, complete with a huge pool. I camped up in the most peaceful place (no easy feat in Argentina!) with the aim of getting the shocks sorted the next day.