• Steve Marks

Days 93 to 95: Calingasta to Ischigualasto National Park, and Off-the-Beaten-Track Curiousities


Days 93 to 95 were another three pretty sweaty days in the ongoing heatwave gripping Argentina. Despite that, the cycling has turned up some genuine curiosities that I would probably have missed if I’d been bussing around with a backpack.

Day 93 was a bruising 110km including a 1000 metre climb from 1200m to 2200m in 30+ temps, made slightly easier by a near 100% tooting and waving from every Argentinian motorist passing by (tho traffic was pretty sparse, 1 car every 5 minutes?). I had no idea where my day would end up, but where it ended was an absolute gem.

Many years ago, there were some natural thermal baths in a remote mountain valley. They fell on hard times and closed. Several years later, an Argentine hippy named Javier invited himself to move in ( with his 4 dogs plus herd of chickens) and made it his squat, and started tidying the place up. It’s now a beautiful camping spot among towering trees with several pools of warm spring water known for being good for the skin and relaxation (they smell like Rotorua for the kiwis here, or a sulphurous smell to the rest of you). The night has a soundtrack of croaking frogs and in the morning it’s birdsong. He’s also put in solar panels so he can sell cold beer from a fridge. I was joined there by a nice couple from a nearby city and we passed the evening snacking and talking.

Day 94 saw me smash out 150km to the minuscule town of Huaco (prob just a few hundred people), although I was aided by a legendary tailwind of epic proportions. Although dusty and derelict Huaco would never feature in any travel itinerary, as it happened it was the 40th birthday of the younger brother of the owner of my cheap hotel.

Several people came over and it turned into a right party in the backyard, with “Asado” BBQ, guitars, singing, Malbec and beer. One of the guys was in fact a renowned Argentine traditional guitarist who’s played all over the world, and he was epic. I could scarcely have imagined a more quintessential night in the Argentine “outback” as I’d stumbled into.  After 150km I wanted to be in bed by 11pm, but the BBQ wasn’t ready until after midnight and I ended up crashing around 2am.... they continued on until I don’t know when. Everyone there seemed to know each other apart from the one obvious foreigner in the group, but my Spanish held together enough to make the most of the night.

Outside of a cycle touring mission, it’s difficult to imagine either of these two days working out the way they did. I can’t think of any set of backpacker circumstances that would have dropped me in either locale.

Day 95 was another drawn-out scorcher over 90km including a 750m hill, through a very Flintstone-esque Bedrock type landscape which brought me to the Ischigualasto National Park, which in turn is just before the Talampaya National Park.


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