Monday, March 7, 2011

Sunday 6 Mar: definitely back in Argentina now

The 200km descent didn't entirely live up to expectations. The first hour was pretty fair traveling, but then we refound our old friend, Argentine headwind. The clouds had cleared overnight so it was a dry day, but very windy. It isn't supposed to be that strong this far north, and it is meant to prevail from the west, yet there it was in our faces as we traveled east, and then south after lunch. We somehow pretty much avoided any wind in our previous sortie into Argentina, in the lake district, so maybe this was to make up for it.

The Rio Mendoza valley is spectacular scenery though, so our stunted speed was not without its benefits. The rock is red and orange and green and black at various points, and interesting shaped with oddly angled strata throughout.

Also, entertainment was found playing spot the (disused) railway line, seeing the bridges and tunnels it follows and landslides it disappears under. At one point in the afternoon we saw a couple people with a motorbike making their way up the abandoned line! Not sure how they were coping with the collapsed sections and crumbing embankments above the fast flowing river. The Mendoza river is popular for white water rafting, and we saw several rafts on the river. There didn't seem to be a great deal of white water though, and like most of the rivers we've seen flowing out of the Andes in this area, the water was definitely a muddy brown colour.

As well as windy, this valley road is less monotonic in its ascent to the pass, and by lunch we'd already climbed over 800m despite being on the downhill direction!

By 5pm we were pretty warn out from battling the wind, barely managing 10mph downhill in places, so we gave up on any plans of making it to Mendoza, and stopped in Potrerillo with some 50km still to go. This is a slightly odd town, the recent (ish, I think) dammed river has forced the road to reroute and bypass the town, but they seem to have forgotten to put up much in the way of signs to let you know what the town offers, or that it's even there. We eventually found the campsite, after climbing several km around the bypass to drop back down into the town and discover we needed to get back across the town to a few hundred meters of where the road had passed on the way in!

So, in all not the elusive hundred miler day we thought it might have been, but 127km it was still our longest yet of this tour, and 1500m of climb and the headwind, not an inconsiderable one.


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