After La Rioja it is another two days of trudging before we can turn to a more attractive route. More attractive in the sense of more beautiful… Suddenly the green around us becomes jungle-like. And, stuffy! The climb is difficult for us, but it is still a lot nicer than walking along the main road in the drought. Paul’s creative map reading leads us through a river instead of over the bridge, but that doesn’t matter. With shoes on we drag our bikes through the river over the boulders. My freshly applied sunscreen prevents me from doing so, but Paul stretches out with his clothes on in the shallow, fast-flowing river. I quickly take off my shirt and dip it in the cold water before putting it back on. What relief!

A long climb awaits us towards the much-praised ‘Tafi del Valle’, very popular among local tourists. The climb there leads us again through a jungle-like dense environment. Beautiful, but also monotonous without a view. Two days later we arrive at our WarmShower in Tafi. Our hostesses live comfortably outside the town in a self-built house with a beautiful view. We are taking a rest day here. At least, that was the intention. Ultimately, both Paul and I are busy all day. I clean our bikes while Paul fixes tires. I wash our clothes and also our inner tent which is full of mosquito and fly corpses, food stains and melted chocolate.

My legs itch like crazy! When I packed the tent the day before in the morning, I already had the feeling that I was being bitten continuously. At first I thought I was imagining it, ‘just an itch’… but then I spotted the tiny black creatures swarming around me. Would that really be the cause? When I look at my calfs and the back of my knees I’m shocked. I’m completely covered in red dots. The itching in bed that night drives me crazy. I tell myself to just persevere for a few days and then it will be over.

After this pass a long descent awaits us. After a night of camping we take a detour via a museum. In addition to the bomba de papa, also recommended by the WarmShowers hostess. But I still dare to do this. We visit the ruins of what was once the settlement of the indigenous Quilmes tribe. A tribe that lived here around the 15th century and consisted of about 10,000 people. They held out against the many invasions of the Incas at that time and managed to resist the Spanish for 130 years, until they were defeated in 1667. The 2,000 survivors were forced by the Spanish to make a 1,500km journey on foot to a reserve near Buenos Aires. Only half of them survived that journey and were subsequently enslaved. The descendants of this tribe eventually retreated to the ruins of their ancient city and built a new village next to it. They want to tell about their history and honor traditions through guided tours of the ruins and the museum. Once again I am impressed by the damage that white men from Europe have caused in this area.

At the end of the day we cycle into Cafayate, which to our surprise turns out to be a very touristy town. Fortunately, we don’t have to look for accommodation here because we can once again enjoy the hospitality of a WarmShowers member. Bicycle repairman and top chef Daniël welcomes us in the guesthouse behind his house. The apartment where he lived with his wife and baby when they were building their house 14 years ago. How spoiled we are! Not only with this accommodation but also with two delicious meals from both Daniël and his wife. In (high) exception we eat the smoked meat that Daniël prepares. I’m glad it’s still on the bone, because I really hate meat that is no longer recognizable as an animal. However, the pig goes too far for me. They are such cute animals! I just don’t want to eat them, period.

Daniël appears to have made it his specialty to convert regular rims and tires to tubeless. In other words: placing the tire airtight on the rim so that an inner tube is no longer needed. Paul has been considering this for some time. A sauce is then injected into the tire that immediately fills the hole in the tire if you have a puncture on a thorn, for example. I’m a bit more old school and stick to my inner tubes, but have them filled with anti-puncture fluid. The principle is the same, except you keep the inner tube and its weight. Would this finally mean ‘no more flat tires’?

On our last day in Cafayate we visit the ‘Carbras de Cafayate’, or ‘the goats of Cafayate’. A goat farm that also receives tourists for a tour and tasting. Cafayate is chock full of wine tastings and I’m happy to find a Hera-friendly alternative! When we arrive we can just join the tour. We don’t understand a lot of what the guide says, but just poking around is fun. I like goats. I love the smell of goats and goat cheese and their curious, funny faces. Paul knows that one of my dream plans for the future is to start a goat farm somewhere. Small but nice, with goats for fun and cheese. And then sell them. Unfortunately, it doesn’t smell like goats on this farm… and they don’t bleat either… how is that possible? I ask our guide. The fact that they do not have a strong odor seems to be because the males are far enough away from the females. When the females are closer to them, the bucks will produce pheromones that give off that strong scent. And whining? They only do that when they are hungry. And these goats just get plenty to eat. Too bad…

The tasting follows. Paul gets a glass of wine, I get a glass of water. I ask for goat’s milk, but they don’t have it… strange. We get a plate full of six types of cheese and sit at a table under the trees. It’s quiet… so quiet… I haven’t felt this calm in a long time. I’m relaxed! I already felt it a bit when we arrived and there were a few people sitting at tables in (almost) silence enjoying their cheeses. I don’t have to ride, don’t plan anything, don’t wash anything, don’t text anything, don’t read anything or look something up, don’t have to fix anything. This moment is just for tasting goat cheeses and sitting here. I could keep this up for hours. Back in our apartment I discuss it with Paul. I can’t quite figure out how it works, but maybe I should find a moment more often when I really don’t have to do anything.

The next day our rest days are over. We took a few more than planned because the pain in my knee is coming back. It went very well for 1.5 months, no pain at all. But now two weeks ago I started having problems again. When we cycle out of Cafayate we soon find ourselves fighting a strong headwind. The surroundings are beautiful, but this is not a good idea now. I’m bummed, but a little later I raise my thumb in the hope of finding a lift that can help us move forward, away from the strong headwind that howls through the gorge. Three young men on holiday take us along. We’re lucky that they also stop at a few ‘highlights’. At our request, they dropped us off at a village that consists of no more than eight houses and a small station that has been converted into a restaurant. But we can camp there quietly on a field by the river and make a second attempt to cycle a bit the next day. Fortunately, without the headwind, things are going reasonably well. Towards the evening we find a camping spot in the form of a dead end (because it has collapsed) on the edge of a very wide riverbed through which a small stream runs. A man, with the help of his son, tries to catch fish in one of the pools left after a moment of higher water, in vain. Too bad, because judging by the looks of him and his children, they could use some free fish.

The next day we cycle to the long-promised Salta. A city known for being beautiful, atmospheric and green. We are lucky with our booked hostel. It has just opened and is run by a young couple. They serve us at our beck and call until it makes us uncomfortable and we prefer not to say that the internet has gone down again. This is a really relaxing place and I try to surrender to that. I’m not washing, not blogging, not fixing anything. I enjoy the very extensive breakfast buffet and take our card game to the dining room to relax and play a few games of ‘Claim’ after breakfast. That also requires all my attention and brings that nice feeling of not having to do anything for a while. It may sound strange… we are traveling, right? Something that many see as a ‘very long vacation’. Yet I am always busy. And if it is not practically, then it is mentally. And if not with things here, then with things ‘at home’, within the family, with friends or elsewhere in the world (Israel-Gaza, exploitation in cobalt mines in the Congo, Russia-Ukraine).

In the theater at the plaza I check what performances are on these days. Tomorrow there is a dance performance. I have no idea what it will be exactly, but the tickets are only 2000 pesos (2 euros). Just for fun I dye my hair pink in the afternoon and in the evening we stand in line outside the theater, all dressed up (as best we can do on a cycling trip). It’s busy! Still, we can find nice seats, right at the front. Only when it starts do I understand what this is about. It is a piece that was specially created for the 40th anniversary of the end of the ‘dirty war’. This is the name given to the seven-year period of state terrorism by the military dictatorship, characterized by torture, murders and disappearances of ‘leftists’, supposedly necessary to ‘establish order’. To learn more about this, I can highly recommend: the book ‘My name in Light’ by Elsa Osorio and the film ‘Argentina, 1985’. The dance performance is beautiful and moving. I can only imagine how special he must be to all the Argentinians in this room, for whom this is very recent history. When we come outside after the performance, there is a meeting/demonstration going on in the plaza about this same subject. There are still people missing, whose fate has never been clarified. The message of the Argentine people in response to this (mentioned) genocide is ‘Nunce mas!’, Never again.

We are really enjoying our stay in Salta and hope that the pain in my knee will decrease. Secretly, Bolivia is finally starting to come close. A new adventure that we are looking forward to and that I am happy to cycle through step by step. But first we will climb towards the altiplano (high plateau) of Bolivia. The climb towards it is in Argentina. But I will write about how we accomplish this and how we cross the border to a new adventure in the next blog.


  1. I have just finished reading all of your blog posts since 2016. I really enjoy your writing style and of course admire all you have done and are doing. I find myself quite envious of the independence you have created for yourself. I too enjoy that type of travel (although not yet by bike) and do as much as my life circumstances allow. I now follow you on IG and look forward to reading about your continued journey, wherever that may lead you.

  2. So much happening in this blog. Loved all the adventures I got to enjoy vicariously with you and Paul. Your mother is a sweet dear to pass along greeting cards that you carry for months to open – I recall your birthday card from a much previous posting. I looked up WarmShowers online to find its a brilliant cyclist accommodation network – clever! I often stay through a non-direct exchange of accommodations called 5W (Women Welcome Women Worldwide) similar to Couch Surfing – it’s the best way to stay and meet terrific women and their partners. I’m a big fan of goat cheese and make some fun recipes from this yummy easy on lactose issues cheese. Looking forward to seeing Bolivia through your words and lens! A former young employee and now friend did a year of humanitarian service in Bolivia and I’ve sponsored a girl in the country too (she grown up now). Keep pedaling and praying for your knee! Pat

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