Tarija to San Salvador de Jujuy. 22nd October. 13,071 Miles
Tarija is a pleasant town with a semi tropical climate and many tree-lined plazas.
At the part we spent several hours listening to a folk music festival varying from local talent of dubious ability to an international professional group.
A group of American Peace Corps workers who are volunteers working on a range of projects from teaching to agriculture and health education were also staying at our hostel. One of the volunteers, Brian, had rented a small place in Padcaya, 30 miles away towards the border and invited us to stay on our way towards Argentina.
On the way, David found that sitting on his saddle was quite uncomfortable and in the morning it turned out to be a painful lump between him and the saddle. The lump was not on the saddle! In the morning it had swollen to the size of an egg and medical attention was obviously required. Further cycling at this point would have been out of the question.
Brian escorted David to the local doctor in Padcaya where Brianīs ability to speak good Spanish came in handy. Brian explained that David had a gumboil on his backside as he did not know the Spanish for infected cyst. The doctor prescribed a three-day course of antibiotics and regular applications of hot poultices to the affected area. The nearest pharmacy was 30 miles away back in Tarija, but the local system was for a collectivo, or group taxi driver to collect and deliver the prescription for a small fee. Joan was looking forward to applying the hot poultices, but David wasn't too keen.
Although Brian was quite happy for us to stay as long as necessary, we decided to go back to Tarija until cycling was possible again as there was more to do there.
The town has a very interesting palaeontology museum stuffed full of fossil bones of mammoth, giant sloths of 20ft tall, and giant armadillos. All the specimens were found within a few miles of the town in areas that were supposed to be knee deep in fossilised bones. We couldn't find anything but apparently we looked at the wrong time of the year because the deep gullies where they are to be found are regularly renewed after the rainy season which uncovers more fossils. The rainy season is about to start soon and we are not hanging about waiting for muddy fossils to appear or the roads to become impassable.
David's lump shrunk down to pea sized and was no longer painful after four days. We decided to go back to Padcaya to renew our journey with plans to remove a carefully selected portion of saddle if the problem recurred.
At Padcaya we again stayed at Brian's place overnight ready for an early start the next morning. We were joined in the evening by another four friends of his and the seven of us ate pasta with garlic bread prepared by Joan and the girls. The Peace Corp reliably informed us that the next 30 miles were paved before we would be back to dirt. Also, we were informed that after a comfortable 40 miles of scenic riding a town called Emborozu, which was not on our map, had not one but two hotels.
Emborozu is a small settlement and we quickly identified the two hotels and chose what looked the better of the two. It had no rooms and was no longer a hotel although the sign outside was still obvious. "OK", we said, "We will have to stay in our second choice". "We have a room" they said, "but we have no beds".
We settled down in a clean but completely empty room. Better than a tent as we were at the start of the rainy season and expected an overnight downpour. A cold shower and clean toilets were available and the owner would take no money. The electric light did not work initially, but even this came on when it got dark.
The map indicated a short trip of 30 miles to the border town of Bermejo, which turned out to be 60 miles. The road followed a river most of the way and the terrain was mostly semi-tropical forest with parrots and toucans to be seen. Parts of the road rose high above the river and were very narrow with many landslides. If a truck appeared we had to stop and let it pass cautiously. Muddy fords were frequent. Most of the time the road, although dirt and gravel, was quite rideable and much preferable to the sand we had a couple of weeks ago. For those in the know, it was like riding 60 miles along Quarry lane although much more scenic.
Bermejo is a typical border town with lots of hostels, most of them fairly expensive by Bolivian standards, but a local woman pointed us towards a small sign in black felt tip where we found a very nice room at a good price. The town is on a river, which borders Argentina, and an Argentine town Aguas Blancas is on the other side. A fleet of ferries is constantly taking people across the river and back apparently avoiding customs as the people of Aguas Blancas do all their shopping in Bermejo at Bolivian prices which are considerably cheaper than Argentina. The town is a dual currency one and Bolivian Bolivars and Argentine Pesos are accepted in any mixture.
The border officials wanted proof that we had sufficient money for our stay in Argentina and we told them that our Visa card was sufficient as in theory we could have up to 1000 dollars a day. They still wanted to know the total available and accepted our 5000 dollars as good enough for two months. We hope we don't spend this much.
12,890 miles at border.
As soon as we entered Argentina, the change was obvious. The roads were smooth tarmac with wide mown grass verges. There was some garbage about, but very little compared with the other Latin American countries. The first largish town looked somewhat like rural North America and the shops had better goods than we had seen for ages. A hotel wanted 30 dollars and so we pressed on and camped wild with hordes of mossies and biting flies.
At San Martin we reluctantly paid 28 pesos for a room although it did have cable TV and included breakfast (coffee, juice, biscuits and jam). In Argentina 1 peso equals 1 US dollar.
The roads are very good, but like England, there are no hard shoulders for cyclists. The terrain to San Salvador de Jujuy was open forest and scrub and we saw many parrots and toucans. Scissor-tailed flycatchers sat on telegraph wires and Caracaras were abundant.
Stayed two nights at San Salvador. The town is a large modern town with good shops and at last we found decent cycle stores with prices about the same as England.
Since we entered Argentina, we removed the British flags from our bags. They have worked well up till now, but somebody here may still remember Mrs. Thatcher and the Falklands. (They are still marked as Argentinean on our map).
We are about to go on local TV. See next report.
Dave and Joan