We had a tough time deciding whether we wanted to spend these few weeks of riding north in Chile or Argentina. Although it hasn’t been easy, we haven’t regretted our decision to make our way up Ruta 40 across the vastness of northwest Argentina.
The desert has been some of what we expected, but in other ways, it surprised us. When we think of desert, we usually think of sand and heat (sounds like the Sahara, right?). Well, there’s been more vegetation than we had anticipated… mostly thorny trees, scrubby bushes and huge cacti. But the heat… well, that has been everything we thought it would be. Our highest temp yet was 105 degrees as a hot tail wind blew us along. But it’s not unusual for us to check our thermometer on a break and see 95 degrees (in the shade).
The most distinguishing characteristic of this landscape is how much NOTHING there is. The road is typically straight and long… and goes as far as the eye can see. We’ll see a curve off in the distance (maybe 10 kilometers away) and guess what time we’ll make it there. Most of the time there are mountains off to the east or west, which gives us something to look at, but straight ahead, the road just goes and goes. To the right or left, we often see miniature tornado-like whirlwinds of sand blowing along. At times, it’s a bit dull, but we’ve taken advantage of the lack of traffic, riding side by side and talking more than we usually can.
Long distances connect tiny towns, where, if you’re lucky, some little store will be open to sell you a cold drink. But much of the time, every business closes from 1-6 p.m. for the afternoon siesta. There have also been days where we’ve ridden and not seen a single thing. That’s why we increased our water supply before tackling this leg of our journey… we can now carry 22 liters—enough for two days of drinking plus one night of camping!
And even though we haven’t seen huge expanses of sand, but we did see an enormous dust storm blow by one evening. The wind from the distant storm made a huge racket as it blew hard against the rain fly of our tent. We were just glad we staked the tent down! As we saw the storm approaching, we were confused and kept talking about how much it looked like a storm but not quite like rain. Then we realized what it was… and ran around like crazy securing everything outside of the tent so nothing would blow away!
More to come on the quebradas (mountain gorges) we’ve ridden through as we’ve crossed the desert. But for now we’ll say although it’s been hard, it’s been beautiful! And we feel we’ve gained a new appreciation for the 40 years the Israelites spent in the desert because their fear kept them from taking the Promised Land when God commanded!
“This is my prayer in the desert, when all that’s within me feels dry
This is my prayer and the hunger in me, my God is the God who provides.”
(Hillsong, Desert Song)