There are not many appealing peaks between Las Flores and Fiambala, so I was looking at several days of pure riding, much of it through widely-spaced low-elevation towns where the afternoon temperatures get close to 100 degrees. After a very short ride from Las Flores to Rodeo, I had hoped to relax for just a single afternoon, then knock out the remaining 325 miles to Fiambala in four days.
However, a combination of everything being closed for New Year’s Day, and some compound stupidity on my part, kept me in Rodeo an extra day. Fortunately, what could have been a nearly trip-ending screw-up turned out better than I had any right to expect. First, the crowding in my campground on New Year’s forced a friendly family from Jachal to share my table and use my grill. Not only did they feed me dinner — imagine pizza cooked on a grill, but with the crust made of meat — but Carlos pointed me in the direction of Ischigualasto Provincial Park, an area that looks like southern Utah, and has some of the best early dinosaur fossils in the world. Second, I ran into Simon again, retreating with his tail between his legs after having nearly succumbed to a flash flood on the Paso Agua Negra.
With these two developments, I decided to take a slightly longer route east through Huaco and Patquia before heading north. Ischigualasto was a bit of a disappointment, as one can only see the place as part of a guided group; this protects the fossils and rock formations, but is not my style. Fortunately a mother and son had room in their car for me on the vehicle convoy tour (they wouldn’t let me ride my bike, and the shorter bike tour misses all the interesting stuff). The park delivered the southern Utah sandstone scenery I had expected, and even had a nice campground for $3.30 per night. While there, I met an Argentinian bike tourist heading the other way with a truly ghetto touring setup. Despite riding a clunker, carrying polished rocks which he sold to pay his way, and looking to be in his fifties, I was impressed to learn he was averaging about 120km per day.
I got a relatively early start for once, and almost made the 105km to Patquia before the regular afternoon east wind started. With the next town far away, water sources uncertain, and afternoon temperatures well into the 90s, I decided it would be a good time to hide somewhere with air conditioning and internet. Here are a few photos from the ride and park.