Our prediction that we’d run into more cycle tourists now we’re on the well-travelled Ruta 40, one of South America’s most iconic roads, is proving correct. It’s helped by the fact that while apparently every bike tourer within striking distance of Argentina is heading south for summer in Patagonia, we’re going in the opposite direction, riding north towards the rainy season that everyone else is escaping. We will find out how foolish this is in due course. In the meantime, though…

(Note: since this post, we’ve gathered together all our encounters with fellow touring cyclists into a separate section of our website. You can find it by clicking here.)

 


 

razvancristi-1280Will was slightly embarrassed to run into Răzvan (left) and Cristi on a day when he was riding without any luggage. (Ruth, feeling poorly, had cadged a lift for the day as we tried to stay on track for New Year in Cafayate, and Will was only too happy for his bags to join her in the pick-up truck.) Still, the Romanian pair took it with good grace when we met on 27 December, 70km north of Chilecito. They’re tracing an appealing, adventurous loop: from Buenos Aires, they rode west over the Andes to Santiago, north through the Atacama Desert and east back over the Andes into northern Argentina via the hardcore Paso de Sico route, and are now following Ruta 40 for almost its entire 5,140km length south through Argentina. For more, see their website and their Facebook page.

 


 

simon-1024Smiling Simon from southern Germany was the first cicloturista we’ve met to be decked out in full cycling regalia, although the hat is non-standard issue. He’s toting his sizeable burden of luggage on a sturdy-looking Stevens bike with disc brakes; thanks to his wise choice of Schwalbe Marathon Mondial tyres, he hasn’t had a puncture since he started in Colombia eight months ago. (We’re using Continentals and just fixed our 14th flat.) For his website, click here. When we collided 40km north-east of the peculiar little town of Hualfin at about 10am this morning, December 30, he told us that he was aiming to reach Chilecito in time for New Year’s Eve. 320km in a day and a half? Suerte

 


 

michael-1024Michael also started in Colombia, having previously ridden down from California to Guatemala before returning to his native San Francisco for a breather. A laconic, instantly likeable chap who we encountered just 10km after meeting Simon, he’s rolling on a Surly Long Haul Trucker, the same model Ruth’s using, and is heading for Patagonia via Mendoza. The sun here is vicious, which explains the wondrous headgear: a helmet over a baseball cap, surrounded by a brim cut free from a sunhat. No wonder his face is much less red than either of ours.

 


 

oliver-1024New Year’s Eve brought no fewer than three separate encounters with fellow riders. Looking slightly weary but in good spirits when we met 35km south of Cafayate, Oliver started out in Quito, Ecuador and is heading to Ushuaia via Mendoza and Santiago. Hailing from Toulouse, he’s riding a Surly Long Haul Trucker with butterfly handlebars and an awful lot of luggage. Our French and Oliver’s English were at roughly the same level (clue: not high), so we attempted to converse in Spanish. Sign language might have been a better idea, but we muddled through in the end. Oliver’s website is here.

 


 

monikarobiwinnie-1280No more than 5km behind Oliver, we ran into a couple with as much baggage as we’ve ever seen on a touring bike. Monika and Robi (centre) left Switzerland in May 2004 and have since been riding around the world for nearly ten years; you can read about their story here. Full of enthusiasm and energy, they were heading south with website-less Winnie (right), a similarly cheery lone rider from Hamburg whom they met in Salta and who’s carrying rather less luggage. We were sorry we couldn’t join them: the three of them looked like they’d be fantastic campfire company.

 


 

alfonso-1024Pulling into Cafayate, we met our first South American tourer who actually hails from South America. More excitingly, though, Alfonso is riding north. (And we thought we were the only ones.) Hailing from Los Vilos in Chile, he’s heading for La Paz via the Paso de Jama, then continuing on towards Cusco, Machu Picchu and beyond. We suspect it may not be the last time we meet. Still working on his website, Alfonso’s a little camera-shy, so here’s a photograph of his panniers.

 


 

from Santa María, CT, Argentina, on 30 December; updated on 31 December from Cafayate, SA, Argentina