Written by Neon
Fidgit and I spent a day in Rodeo to work before setting off again. We left as the wind whipped around us in the valley. We walked along the reservoir outside of town and then into the narrow valley that would connect us to the next town. A policeman had warned Fidgit about this stretch of road being very narrow and dangerous, so we were cautious as we wound along the riverside and down. The road was indeed narrow and winding, but every vehicle was being careful along it and most honked encouragement. We spent the night along the river, and in the morning hours, the valley opened up for us. We arrived in the next town shortly after lunch and parked ourselves in the corner of the YPF – an Argentine gas station chain that usually has wifi. It got to be late quickly, and since we still needed to resupply, we decided to stay the night in town. The plan was to resupply and head out the next morning.
It was a good thing we decided to stay, because nearly as soon as we found a place, I was hit with a bout of intestinal distress. Grateful for a bed, I zonked out that night. In the morning, I wasn’t feeling much better, and everything was closed because it was Easter Sunday, so we ended up staying for longer in the town of Jachal. Again, I was grateful because even though my intestines weren’t cooperating, the weather outside was cold, cloudy and rainy.
My intestines and the weather cleared up around the same time, and we were able to continue our journey. We walked on, into some beautiful mountains for a day before coming out and making our way onto Ruta Nacional 40. Getting onto Ruta 40 is something I’ve been hearing about for so long and we are finally there! I was concerned it would be a very busy road. As it turned out, Ruta 40 is a 2-lane highway in a rural area, so the traffic was more, though not enough to endanger us.
Right as we made it to Ruta 40, a young man on a bike came up behind us. He was a Scotsman and had been out for about three months, making his way north. He was going to stop along the Ruta and attempt to get a ride further north. We said our goodbyes and made our way along, enjoying the warm weather until it got too hot; then we made our way to the shade of a nearby tree. As we were semi-dozing waiting for the evening to cool off, the Scotsman, Peter, rolled by again. We talked for a bit before deciding to camp together nearby. We set up camp and chatted for a good while before bed. Fidgit and I figured out that this was only the third time that someone had camped with us on-trail this season, and I very much enjoyed talking bike gear with him that evening.
Fidgit and I parted ways with Peter the next morning, as walking is much slower than biking. Making our way towards the small town of Santa Clara, we were able to get some water from some construction workers. We were running low in the afternoon, so Fidgit hung her trusty ‘AGUA’ sign from her backpack once more. I am thankful these dry stretches have been along traveled roads so we don’t have to carry more than two days of water at a time. We flew the sign as our water dwindled, and we pushed for a big kilometer-age day.
As early evening settled in, two people stopped in quick succession. One car stopped and turned around to give us water, smiling and wishing us luck. The other vehicle that stopped was a truck marked ‘explosives’ on the back – the driver got out and put water and snacks on the side of the road, telling Fidgit that he had seen us on his way past earlier. Water AND snacks?! What amazing people inhabit this earth! Boosted again by the kindness of strangers, I was able to walk a bit into the night to complete our first 40 kilometer day this season. It also happened to be day 300 of our entire trip, so there was a lot to celebrate. I celebrated by eating dinner and falling fast asleep.
I was relieved not to be sore the next morning, and we walked into and through the small pueblo of Santa Clara quickly. We stopped in the nearby YPF for a bit, then walked on after loading up on water for the next 40 kilometers. On our way towards Villa Union, we passed between some mountains that I had been watching get closer for a few days. The red rocks and sandstone had me frequently thinking of my home in Utah. It is amazing how places so far from each other can look so similar.
We camped in a wash, out of view from the vehicles passing, and enjoyed a cooler evening among the red rocks. In the morning, we watched the rocks light up as the sun rose, before we walked on into Villa Union which was having a power outage. It was the second power outage we had heard of this section, and it didn’t seem like an unusual thing, so we’ll see if it continues. The power was back on within a couple of hours, so Fidgit and I were able to find a place to stay for the night. Tired from a full day of walking and being exposed to the sun, I showered and fell into a deep sleep quickly after.
We left Villa Union and again walked into a chunk of mountains after crossing the valley floor for half a day. It seems around here the only place that water stays is in the mountains. The rest of our walking is quite arid. In the elevation and terrain change, we found a cool wash to follow instead of the road. We were so happy to be not along the road, and plunged in head first. Fidgit found some quicksand, so we were more careful after that, but to be immersed back in nature among the sandstone and dirt was reinvigorating.
We found our way back onto the road in the morning, and went up to a 2,000 meter pass and then down into the valley that held the small town of Sanogasta. At our lunch break, we figured out that we could get into town that evening, resupply and camp somewhere north of town. So that’s exactly what we did, and as a result, ended up doing another 40 kilometer day. We also found our way through the unofficial town dump before camping nearby. I laid my weary body down and was soon fast asleep.
We awoke the next morning to soaked sleeping bags and threw them over our packs to dry in the morning air as we walked. With road walking, we don’t have to be as concerned with our bags snagging on branches and tearing as they dry. The cool morning warmed up quickly as we made our way to another mountain pass. Thankfully as we crested the pass, a breeze came up and cooled us for the walk down to the largest town we’ve seen in a while – Chilecito.
We meandered into town late afternoon and weary from the sun exposure as well as a 30 kilometer (so far) day. After walking a few kilometers into the center of town, we found a small hostel and posted up for the night. We left town the next day after properly filling up on empanadas.