cafayate - 48 km solo canyon cycle

  • me and my trusty steed
  • garganta del diablo
  • valley with the river
  • inside the garganta
  • the valley again
  • only 48km to go
  • entrance to the ampetheatre
  • inside the ampetheatre
  • more valley
  • sun beating down at 11am
  • winding road ahead
  • light shining through onto rocks
  • lamma poo
  • some of the scenery
  • nice downhill ahead
  • finally at tres cruces - hard work
  • photo courtesy of german girl
  • more weird rock formations
  • thought it was a funny name
  • yumm, lunch time
  • stream with sun shining
  • still eating
  • more rock formations
  • typical house in the rocks
  • el sapo - the frog
  • el sapo closeup
  • gonna get washed up
  • pondering on where to go next
  • old dude with lama
  • lama buddies
  • beauty is in the eye of the beholder
  • more weird rocks
  • dry river with mountains in background
  • wild horses
  • cascades in mountains
  • is this the way to the spur?
  • halfway - wooohooo!!!!
  • major fast downhill - about 60kph
  • another nice downhill
  • el oblexo
  • i love the 3 different colurs - grass, water and red rock
  • what a poser
  • las ventillas
  • los castillos - the castles
  • canyon ends - open valley
  • 13km to go - the neverending road

Today I had what has got to be the single best experience of my trip so far, and one of the top 10 experiences I've ever had. I started the day off by packing two sandwiches and 2 and half liters of water in my day pack then had as much of the hostel's free breakfast as I could, without looking dodgy and headed off to pick up my rental bike from the shop; by 9am I was on the El Indio bus to Salta, which passes through the start of the canyon at Garganta del Diablo, some 48km away.

I started my solo cycle at 10am, and because the canyon "walls" are so high, a huge shadow gets cast at that time of the morning, and it get's pretty cold. Good thing I packed a hoody - although I packed it in case I cycled at night.

When I got dropped off I immediately knew that this was going to be an unforgettable experience. Across the road from the Garganta is a valley with a river running through it and the morning sun shines perfectly off it. Also I was told that I would not see many cars during the ride apart from the occasional tourist bus doing excursions of the area. Got a few photos of the Garganta and then I was off to the next site - Ampetheatre half a kilometer down the road. I won't spend time describing all the formations, because the photos do enough i think.

Cycling this road, surrounded by canyon walls and rock formations that changed so randomly, felt completely surreal and I felt such calmness because there are no unnatural sounds or sights around. It's pretty much just you and your thoughts. And I think the locals think so too, because along the road occasionally there are single and double graves (photo above) - not like back home where people put a cross up where there is an accident - but rather, these are people that are buried here. I don't think you could find a quieter place to rest in piece.

When I say there are no unnatural sounds, it's not strictly true - for the 5 hours i spent cycling i was constantly accompanied by the squeaking of my bike chain. Not that it bothered me, in fact it was kinda nice cause it meant I was moving. I say this because at times, the head wind was so strong that even on the slight downhills I had to peddle, and some of the uphills were so steep, i wasn't sure if I was actually moving. There was also the occasional car, one of which was full of locals - i think they shouted out "Hola! Suerte hombre!" - "Hello! Good luck man!"

The guy in the bike shop told me the only major climb I had to worry about was the climb to Tres Cruces, and sweet Jesus was it a climb. When I got to the top I was shatterred. I thought I may even throw up. This worried me considering Tres Cruces was only about 10 km's into the ride. At the same time I was so relieved because the (supposedly) worst part was over, so I took a rather cheesey "rocky fist in the air" photo.

The ride down from Tres Cruces was brilliant - about 2km of free wheeling. seems the tourist office guy doesn't know his canyon too well. After this downhill I was faced with several uphills, each as bad if not worse than Tres Cruces, yet not offering the same downhill afterwards.

Still though, the scenery was so amazing that even though the uphills were killing my legs I kinda forgot about it just by looking around. When I got to the top of another major climb, I was faced with a stunning view of the valley below, so I decided to get some photos. There was a German family there in their car and the daughter, noticing I was struggling to get a photo of myself, offered to take one of me and I returned the favour, taking one of the family. The mom was seemed pretty impressed with what I was doing, and I told her at that moment I felt like I hadn't really thought it through that well cause i wasn't even halfway and my legs were sore. The downhill after this stop was by far the best downhill of the day. It lasted for about 3 km, and was so steep I reckon I must have hit over 60km/h at one point. And it was a beautiful winding road - had visions of being in some tour de france type thing. Eventually I stopped on the side of the road next to the river for my first snack. It was a nice setting, but too close to the road.

Jumped back onto the bike and cycled about another half hour where i saw a dirt path leading off the main road, towards the valley, so I followed it and it ended a few hundred metres away, down at the stream. This is exactly what i was looking for for my lunch stop. Took my t-shirt off as by now it was soaked in sweat because of the 25 plus temperature, and took a bit of a shower in the stream. My only regret at this point was that I didn't have a tent, because I would have gladly spent the night here next to the stream.

After lunch I was up and away again and wanted to start making up time as I wasn't even half way. I was still on such a high because of the surroundings and having had lunch, but then I saw another one of those damn signs with the car on a hill pointing up - another steep climb, goddamn tourist office guy.

But, when I got to the top it was worth it. On the side of the road was an old guy with his pet lama. He had a little stall where he sold jewellery made of the local rock. I asked him if I could take a photo of his lama, and he said there was no problem, and then offered to take a photo of me hugging the stinky fella - the lama, no the old man.

I was off again and eventually reached the halfway point - the photo of the 24km. I was chuffed because I had made up some good time and the road ahead looked downhill, and was for the most part except for some short, steep uphills. Still the scenery kept changing which made it easier to chug along on the uphills. Also, stopping along the way to take photos always offered a nice little break and time for a drink.

I eventually got to the 13km (remaining) mark and I was kinda sad that I was getting closer to then end, also at this point the canyon ends. These 13km were gruelling. The road was pretty much straight all the way (see photo above of neverending road), and had a slight uphill for all 13kms and my groin started hurting a bit here. The scenery was also not much to look at - mostly just desert with shrubs. Making matters worse, I had pretty much gone through my 2 and a half litres of water and the sun was still beating down.

5 and a half hours after starting, I eventually rolled into town feeling really good about myself, even though I had a raging thirst, my legs felt like jellow, my groin was killing me and my ass felt like I had spent the night in a prison cell.

Really looking forward to my next cycling adventure which will be in the salt flats of San Pedro de Atacama, but right now, I think I'll go up and join tonight's hostel BBQ.

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