Clément, Thomas & Alexandre (France)
riding from Salta, Argentina to Lima, Peru as part of a world tour

clemthomalex-1280Mr Blue, Mr Red and Mr Orange rolled into the service station at the scruffy border town of Jama while we were waiting out a storm, and Will ended up enjoying their company on a tough but glorious two-day ride over the Paso de Jama to Chile. From left to right, Clément, Thomas (Clément’s brother) and Alexandre are in the early stages of a cherry-picked world tour: it started with rides from Paris (their home town) to Casablanca, then from Lusaka to Johannesburg; it’s continuing with a trip from Salta to Lima via Bolivia; and will carry on in Asia, probably from Singapore. Thomas, who joined Clém and Alex in Salta, is on a visibly new Surly Long Haul Trucker, modified with an adjustable stem and butterfly bars. Clém and Alex, meanwhile, are riding Nazca Pioneers – recumbent bikes from the home of practical biking, the Netherlands. The trio are strong riders and, more importantly, good guys; our roadside dinner in Chile ended with Clém passing round the Chivas Regal. You can follow their tour at their website and on Facebook.
Jama, JY, Argentina
26 January 2014



Isabel & Florencia (Argentina)
riding around Argentina

isabelflorencia-956The prize for the most stylishly dressed touring cyclists we’ve met so far goes to Isabel and Florencia, who Will encountered in the border town of La Quiaca on what appears to be a freewheeling route. They started by taking the train from Buenos Aires to Córdoba, before spending some time riding in the hilly countryside around Argentina’s second city. They then took the bus from Córdoba to La Quiaca, with a vague plan to head south but no firm route in mind. Will met them on the outskirts of town as he was returning from a there-and-back ride to the historic, atmospheric town of Yavi; fresh off the bus, Isabel and Florencia were riding out to Yavi to spend a night or two, after which time they’ll have figured out where to go next.
La Quiaca, JY, Argentina
15 January 2014



Horacio (Argentina)
riding from La Quiaca to Salta
horacio-1024Horacio’s tour began with a bus journey from Buenos Aires, where he lives, to La Quiaca, pretty much the northernmost town in Argentina. We don’t even want to consider how long it must have taken, but he’s clearly a dedicated rider to have made it. The two friends who were meant to be riding with him both dropped out, leaving him as a solo traveller. However, an ebullient character who didn’t need much encouragement to crack a smile, he seemed more than happy to be on the road alone when we saw him on day one of his 15-day trek south to Salta. His jersey spotlights the porteño cycling club of which he’s a proud member.
Puesto del Marqués, JY, Argentina
14 January 2014



Chichichi (Argentina)
riding from Salta to La Quiaca and back
chichichi-1024Every life needs a little ritual and routine, and Chichichi’s certainly has its share. We met him as he was beginning the return leg of a there-and-back, 760km ride from Salta, his home city, to La Quiaca, a dusty town on Argentina’s border with Bolivia. It’s a journey he’s made before. To be precise, it’s a journey he makes every year, and this summer represents the 18th time he’s made it. Well shielded from the sun, which can do serious damage at these 3,000m-plus altitudes, Chichichi (a nickname) carries a ton of luggage but doesn’t mind the burden. Especially since, from here, he’s got a lot more downhill than uphill to get back home.
RN9 (15km north of Abra Pampa, JY), Argentina
14 January 2014



Omar & Trish (Australia)
riding from Mendoza, Argentina to Calama, Chile
omartrish-1024Several riders had told us that there were two cyclists from Australia heading north on roughly our schedule, at one point apparently just half an hour ahead of us. We’d given up hope of catching them – until we pulled into our Humahuaca hostel to find two bikes in the courtyard. Omar and Trish have spent numerous summers touring South America, everywhere from the Carretera Austral to Mato Grosso. For 2013-14, they brought their well-travelled titanium bikes and enviably light loads (two rear panniers, nothing else) from Rockhampton, Australia on a five-week trip up Ruta 40 from Mendoza, starting with a tough climb to Villavicencio and Upsallata (‘Straight off the plane,’ said Omar, rolling his eyes). Like Didier and Sandrine, they’d ridden north to see the Quebrada de Humahuaca before retreating to cross the Andes from Purmamarca on Ruta 52, the Paso de Jama. (All being well, we should be following them in a week or so’s time.) From San Pedro de Atacama, they were planning to ride to Calama and then fly home. 
Humahuaca, JY, Argentina 
11-12 January 2014



Sebastián (Argentina)
riding from San Salvador de Jujuy, Argentina to Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia and back
sebastian-1024We’re always delighted to meet there-and-back riders – there’s a definite purity to any bike tour that starts and ends at the tourer’s front door, with no recourse to planes, trains and automobiles. One such rider is Sebastián, who set out alone from his home city of San Salvador de Jujuy on December 3. Having reached and ridden around his target, the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia, he was on his way home when we met him. At the time, he had just 95km to go, most of them downhill; only a fierce headwind was stopping him from arriving home later the same day.
RN9 (between Tilcara & Huacalera), JY, Argentina
11 January 2014



Sandrine & Didier (France)
riding from Ushuaia, Argentina to destination unknown
sandrinedidier-1024The look on Didier’s face when we asked where he and Sandrine had come from offered an instant explanation as to why most touring cyclists with an eye on Patagonia head south towards Ushuaia, rather than using Argentina’s southernmost city as the starting point for a trek north. ‘Very hard,’ was their verdict on parts of their tour, which has taken in the Rio Grande, the Carretera Austral and some fierce headwinds. We met them about 10km south of backpacker-packed Tilcara; having explored the Quebrada de Humahuaca, they were on their way back to Purmamarca before planning to head over the Andes via the Paso de Jama. Hailing from Perpignan in France, they’ve travelled widely by bike, including twice completing the legendary Paris-Brest-Paris event. Sandrine chronicles their adventures at their website.
RN9 (between Purmamarca & Tilcara), JY, Argentina
10 January 2014



Juan (Argentina)
riding from La Quiaca south towards Córdoba
juan-1024We regretted bypassing the city of Córdoba on our way across Argentina – the more so when we ran into personable Juan, a native of the city, about 25km north of San Salvador de Jujuy. Juan’s tour started with a 20-hour bus journey from his home town north to the border with Bolivia at La Quiaca, since when he’s been winding his way back south along Ruta 9 through the beautiful Quebrada de Humahuaca. As we’ve passed cyclists coming the other way, the accuracy of their advice on the route ahead has varied; one person’s ‘gentle slope’ can be another’s stiff climb, and ‘terrible traffic’ might amount to not much more than a couple of buses. Juan’s guidance, though, turned out to be spot on.
RN9 (near Lozano), JY, Argentina
10 January 2014



Anonymous & anonymous (France)
riding from Bolivia south through Argentina
french-1600Will rode straight past our next riders, but Ruth spotted them taking a picnic at the roadside about 10km after we met Eric and Al, and pulled in for a chat. A young, friendly French couple, they looked a bit fed up in a splendidly, shruggingly French way. Keen, they said, to see some trees after a long time in the desert, they were planning to rethink the second half of their two-month route when they got to Cafayate later that day. Having neglected to ask their names, Ruth then forgot to take their picture. So here’s an artist’s impression.
RN68 (35km north of Cafayate), SA, Argentina
4 January 2014



Eric & Al (Canada)
riding from Salta to San Carlos de Bariloche
erical-1024Shortly after Christmas, Eric and Al flew from Vancouver to Buenos Aires, stepped off the plane into the thick, sticky air and immediately had second thoughts about their planned route west from the capital to Mendoza. Thinking quickly, they rerouted: bikes still in boxes, they hopped a flight north to Salta. When we met them, they were on day three of a month-long tour that should take them more than 2,000km south to Patagonia. The big advantages of a tour this length are that they only need to pack for one season and can set up their bikes for a single purpose. While we were enjoying the freedom that comes with living year-round on the road and riding on whatever surface is in front of us, we can’t deny that we envied their light loads and slim, speedy tyres. Particularly, it should be noted, on the day we met, when their helpful tailwind was slowing our progress to a crawl.
RN68 (25km north of Cafayate), SA, Argentina
4 January 2014



Joaquín (Argentina)
riding from San Miguel de Tucumán into the hills north of Cafayate
joaquin-1024When we returned to the courtyard of our Cafayate lodgings on the third afternoon of 2014, we found cheery, unflappable Joaquín loading his luggage on to the first bike trailer we’ve seen on this trip. After travelling from his home city of Buenos Aires to San Miguel de Tucumán on one of the country’s few long-distance passenger train services (distance: 1,250km, time: 26 hours), he’d ridden alone up to Cafayate before heading into the hills and mountains to the north and west. Joaquín started out with what he ruefully admitted was too much luggage and has been shedding stuff en route; Ruth is now the grateful owner of one of his spare tyres. He was planning to head home a couple of weeks after we met.
Cafayate, SA, Argentina
3 January 2014



Alfonso (Chile)
riding from Cafayate north into Bolivia & Peru
alfonso-1024Pulling into Cafayate, we met our first South American tourer who actually comes from South America. More excitingly, though, Alfonso was riding north. (At the time, we thought we were the only ones.) Hailing from Los Vilos in Chile, he was 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 when we met, Alfonso was also a little camera-shy, so here’s a photograph of his panniers.
Cafayate, SA, Argentina
31 December 2013



Monika & Robi (Switzerland), Winnie (Germany)
Monika & Robi riding all over the world; Winnie riding south to Santiago, Chile
monikarobiwinnie-1280No more than 5km behind Oliver (see below), 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 was carrying rather less luggage. We were sorry we couldn’t join them: the three of them looked like they’d be fantastic campfire company.
RN40 (30km south of Cafayate, SA), Argentina
31 December 2013



Oliver (France)
riding from Quito, Ecuador to Ushuaia, Argentina
oliver-1024Looking slightly weary but in good spirits when we met south of Cafayate, Oliver started out in Quito, Ecuador and is heading to Ushuaia via Mendoza and Santiago. Hailing from Toulouse, he was 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.
RN40 (35km south of Cafayate, SA), Argentina
31 December 2013



Michael (USA)
riding from Bogotá, Colombia to Ushuaia, Argentina
michael-1024Michael 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 (see below), he was rolling on a Surly Long Haul Trucker, the same model Ruth’s using, and was 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 was much less red than either of ours.
RN40 (50km north-east of Hualfin, CT), Argentina
30 December 2013



Simon (Germany)
riding from Bogotá, Colombia to Ushuaia, Argentina
simon-1024Smiling Simon from southern Germany was the first cicloturista we met to be decked out in full cycling regalia, although the hat is non-standard issue, and the most athletic-looking rider we’ve yet encountered. 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 hadn’t had a puncture since he started in Colombia eight months ago. (We’re using Continentals and had just fixed our 14th flat.) For his website, click here. When we collided at about 10am on 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
RN40 (40km north-east of Hualfin, CT), Argentina
30 December 2013



Răzvan & Cristi (Romania)
riding from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia via Chile
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. They were 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 were then following Ruta 40 for almost its entire 5,140km length south through Argentina. For more, see their website and their Facebook page.
RN40 (70km north of Chilecito, LR), Argentina
30 December 2013



Tommy & Joris (France)
Tommy riding from Alaska, USA to Ushuaia, Argentina; Joris riding from La Paz, Bolivia to Santiago, Chile
Joris (left) and Tommy are a pair of fabulously nonchalant Frenchmen who’d been riding together for a few days when we met them. Joris started in La Paz, Bolivia, and will be flying home from Santiago in March. Tommy, meanwhile, is 18 months and an awe-inspiring 32,000km into a highly circuitous ride from Alaska to Ushuaia. We collided on the beautiful Cuesta de Miranda, us on the way down towards Nonogasta and them on the way up to the 2,050m mountain pass. More notable: they were the first cycle tourists we’d met on the road for 5,400km and five months.
RN40 (Cuesta de Miranda, LR), Argentina
23 December 2013