Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Northern Argentina... Valle de la Luna, Ischigualasto, La Rioja, Andalgala, Tucuman...

From San Rafael, I set off down the road and pointed my wheels north.
My first stop was San Agustin de Valle Fertil
San Agustin del Valle Fertil is a small town surrounded by rolling hills, rivers and forests
There was a little lake formed by a small dam. A nice peaceful place to spend the night.
But the real attraction was just north of the town in the area known as the Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon) and the Parque Provencial Ischigualasto 
The park is a natural park and geological formation in north-western Argentina. There is a dirt road loop meandering through the park which passes by various rock formations.
I left my bag at the park ranger station and set off for a day of dirt riding.
It was a bright sunny day, not a cloud in the sky.
According to this guide, the Ischigualasto park contains late Triassic (Carnian) period deposits with some of the oldest known dinosaur remains in the world.
It is the only place in the world where nearly all of the Triassic is represented in an undisturbed sequence of rock deposits.
This allows for the study of the transition between dinosaurs and ancient mammals; research is ongoing.
These fossils were pointed out to me. I believe that they are plant fossils.
I passed by valleys and plateaus.
I entered an area know as the Painted Valley.
The Painted Valley looked more like the surface of the moon to me.
Sweeping rock and sand formations.
This formation is known as the Sphinx.
Water and wind erosion over thousands of years created the formations.
This area is known as the Cancha de Bochas (Ball Court). Supposedly these round formations were formed from water and wind flowing over, under and around solid rock. I did not really understand how that could have happened.
I did like this bocha that had been fissured.

One of the strangest things I've seen on my trip.
This tablet formation is slowly being undermined.
The road switched between dirt, sand and a little gravel... extraordinary riding.
This formation is called El Submarino (The Submarine).
A little window into the ancient past.
I can not imagine how this rock formation was created over the years.
This formation was called El Hongo (mushroom)
A different angle of El Hongo.
This formation did not have a name, but I'm going to call it La Casa del Perro de Troy (Troy's Dog House).
These formations reminded me of slugs
Rock, sand and a few cacti.
There were subtle changes in the coloration of the mountains.
This area contained red rock mountains framed by the blue sky.
In total the ride around the park was about 3 hours.

Here is a short 2 minute video of my experience riding through Parque Ischigualasto.
After completing the loop, I visited the museum which contained a few dinosaur fossils... a head
A body
A head
A body
Nice teeth.
It was getting late, so I headed toward the town of La Rioja.
I passed by this huge monument of Saint Nicholas de Bari. To understand the scale of this monument, look at the truck passing by the base of the monument.

I spent the night in the town of La Rioja.
I had been riding most of the day, so I extremely hungry. This plate of fish and potatoes really hit the spot.
I chose this route based on the suggestion of my friend Alejandro.
The road wound through mountains of Northern Argentina.
Simply amazing scenery.
Perhaps the most pleasant ride of my trip. It was cool, but not cold. The road was concrete, but also curvy. The views were scenic, but not scary.
Then rode until I reached a small town called Andalgala. I found a hotel and checked in for the night.

Every time I embark on a ride, I do a quick inspection of my bike. While inspecting my bike in the morning, I noticed that my rear tire was wearing unevenly. The nobbies on one side were showing much more wear than the nobbies on the other side. I was a bit surprised, because I only had about 4000 miles on the rear tire. However, I had been riding quite a bit of dirt and gravel. 
I was hoping to buy new tires in Bolivia where I had heard motorcycle tires and parts were less expensive. However, I had promised myself that on this trip if I ever had to choose between my safety and spending money, I would part with the money.
So I took my bike to a local tire shop and bought the only nobbie tire in town that would fit on my bike... US$180 for a single rear tire... ouch. The tire was a Pirelli MT40.

I suspected that the uneven wear on the rear tire was caused by wear and tear on my chain and sprockets. My friend Sam, who is a mechanic, once told me that after some use a chain will stretch and the circular sprockets will actually turn into ovals. I had noticed lately that while riding on asphalt that my rear wheel was hopping a bit. I attributed this action to my sprockets turning into ovals. Well, I was not going to be able to find a new chain and sprocket in Andalgala, so a new tire was in order.

There was still tread on the old tire, but I was concerned about the next segment of my journey. 

While in Andalgala a few people had asked me, "Vas por la cuesta?" or "Are you going by the incline?" A "cuesta" can be an incline, a hill or a mountain. By the manner in which I was repeatedly asked this question, I inferred that this "cuesta" was a mountain. I inquired a bit about the "cuesta" and learned that there were actually two "cuestas" and that the ride would be about 5-6 hours of steep dirt road. Four hours of climbing and two hours of descending. With this in mind, I thought that it would be nice to have some nobbies on my rear tire.
With new rubber on the road, set off in the direction of the "cuesta".
The route soon turned mountainous.
The asphalt gave way to gravel.
And the straight road turned twisty.
It was dirt, gravel and rocks. It was steep, twisty and narrow. It was single lane, remote and mountainous. It was "La Cuesta".
Here is a short 3 minute video of "La Cuesta". Perhaps one of the most treacherous routes over dirt that I have traversed during my trip.  I was glad that I had bought the new rear tire. It had just paid for itself based on this one ride.
After perhaps 6 hours of riding... the road opened up...I road on.

Next stop...Tucuman.


  1. As always, nice report Troy. "La Cuesta" looked amazing. I couldn't exactly tell, it looked like many, many switchbacks down to the valley floor. Was that part of your ride or was it a loop out and back? We are arriving in Cartagena 9/21/12, and are still developing our "must see" list. Some places came from your ride report. So are you riding back through Boliva, Peru, Equador, and Colombia?

    1. Joe, La Cuesta is a passage over a mountain range, not a loop. It has switchbacks both up the mountain and down. An excellent ride. I haven't decided my route back, but it probably will not involve Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia. I'm heading toward Brazil.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. I mentioned our conversation at a TWTex meeting the other day and another rider found a link about a Colombia / Panama ferry. After a little research, here is what we found. As someone on the article mentions, I hope they can make a go of this and I hope it is something you can use.

  2. Wow Troy. You are my super hero. Great pictures and documentation. What a wonderful adventure. Enjoy and be safe!


Thanks for visiting my website and for leaving a comment. - Troy

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