With 40 degrees Celsius we work hard to climb the Cuesta de Chucabaca on the terrible ripio road on our first cycling day. We are here for only two and a half weeks and want to climb two passes: the Cristo Redentor and the Paso Agua Negra.
29 hairpins lead us to Portillo and Laguna del Inca at 2800 meter, since the hotel is too expensive we are allowed to camp at the lake enjoying an amazing view and a cold night. The next day we continue our climb and reach the Argentinan side of the Andes Mountains. Here the road winds down into the valley of Uspallata, but before we do that we make a short detour to the base of Aconcagua, with 6960 meter South Americas highest mountain. We have a blue sky, a white topped mountain, a lake and some yellow bushes.
We cycle to Uspallata and continue our route to Barreal and Calingasta; it’s hot in this part of the world and there’s nothing to give us some shade; all desert. Once our temperature meter reads almost 50 degrees Celsius! Because of this we set out of sad looking Calingasta with 17 liters of water… The track from Tocota to Rodeo is more like a dry riverbed with huge loose rocks that suck our bicycles away. We find a little bit of shade and decide to take a little break here. Today only one car passed us! And the nights are lonely; just us underneath a million stars. With a little help from a truck we escape the heat for a moment and start preparing our ride from Rodeo to the Paso Agua Negra; a 4779 meter high pass that will lead us back to Chile.
Riding towards the Andes it looks like we’re going down.. but looking at our odometer and our current speed, this must be going up. Slowly and in a very straight line the mountains come closer and closer. We reach the Argentinan customs, get a stamp and the ripio is back again. Now the road starts to twist and turn a bit and at about 3000 meter we find ourselves our first camp spot next to a small stream. A few man are fishing, but as soon as the sun disappears, so do they and we are alone again. The next day we plan to reach the next stream at 4000 meter and so we continue our climb up along red and yellow colored mountains and beneath a perfectly blue sky. There’s hardly any traffic on this stretch and we enjoy our time away from the main road here in the middle of the Andes. We set up our tent next to the stream and cook ourselves a pasta meal before the sun sets and the temperature drops.
We have ice on our tent and no sun in the valley yet! Temperature is below zero and are toes hurt so we keep on pedaling to reach a little sun light and to warm our feet! The road climbs up and up and we sea dark clouds coming in from the East. Just when we make it to the 4779 meter pass, snow starts falling from the sky. Lucky for us, it stays in Argentina and on the Chilean side it’s still sunny. The downhill is a tough one though, a very bad and steep track and an exhausting headwind. Bye, bye Agua Negra; you were so worth it!