Monday, 20 August 2012

El Leoncito National Park a million miles from anyone, well nearly

Seriously cold morning.  So cold I couldn't bring myself to move from sleeping bad, which turns out to be a pretty good buy actually.  After sticking my head out from the tent I could see there were some pretty good views, so forced myself to crawl out and take a ride to one of the viewpoints to see if I could see a decent sunrise.

Sun rising from my camping site

It was an eerie ride in dark silence through the park and upon reaching the top I cut the engine, which left no noise other than my breathing and footsteps on the loose rocks.  The wind was a fraction of the day before so there were no dust clouds and as the sun rose behind me I could properly see the Andes and the huge dried up lake bed in front of the mountains for the first time since arriving.  Without wanting to sound like a complete hippy, it was pretty special and I was glad not to have made it to Barreal yesterday.

I also took a quick video too:

And played with my shadow like the sad bastard I am

Up high the cold was really getting to me, so as soon as the sun came up I rode back to the campsite and as it warmed up I ate the rest of my food from yesterday.  Luckily for me it still had a layer of dust from the "Zonda" dust storms - Just as I was beginning to forget how it tasted too.  With that done I packed up camp and took the 250km ride through Barreal and onto San Juan.

Riding north into the Cuyo Region it definitely felt warmer and as I moved inland the scenary began to change from the mountainous landscape with the fast moving streams I was used to, and begin to open out into wide grassy plateaus and slower moving rivers.  It also mean it will probably be the last time I see the Andes for a while.

I hardly had time to notice this, as soon after I hit a massively fun section of Ruta 412, which contained literally hundreds of sweeping winding bends through a canyon created by a river that ran through it.  I tried to take a film of this using my SLR tied around my neck, which you won't be surpried to hear is not the easiest thing.  I'll post a video below when I find a place with good internet, but I can definitely say I am getting better at leaning into the corners. After messing round on this road I took it steady again and rode into San Juan on a sunny warm afternoon and checked into San Juan Hostel.

The original plan was to stay for one night then head of to Valle de la Luna.  But after washing the bike I noticed a spoke on the rear wheel had snapped clean off.  I knew would happen since reading about the weakness of the wheels before buying the bike, but didnt expect it to be so hard to find spare spokes that fit.  I couldn't find any in Santiago and again it took an afternoon of riding around San Juan before I found some.  I replaced the spoke only to notice another one had broken in the meantime leaving me with not much confidence in the wheels.  The Dakar route around Uspallata must have weakened them a lot.  After fixing the second with the help of a mechanic I sat up till late tightening all the spokes on both wheels and decided to stay an extra night in San Juan.  Weirdly my compact camera busted in the dust storms began working after I "gently" tapped it a couple of times too.  So am back to one handed shaky videos again.  I'm sure you can't wait for them.

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