Ooh Santa Rosa de Calamuchita. With your beautiful river, waterfall, lake, hills and people you were hard to leave. Here’s what I’ve been up to spending two weeks in this village and cycling up to Mendoza.
Like you read before, I managed to cross the Pampa from Buenos Aires up to Santa Rosa just in time to spend Christmas there.
I was now reunited with my dear friends, Daniel and Carla, whom I had hosted in Bruges, Belgium about three years ago. After driving their old Renault around Latin America for four years and cycling in Europe, they had now settled in this beautiful village. With the birth of their lovely daughter, Sol, and buying a piece of land to live off the grid in harmony with nature, many of their dreams are becoming reality very soon.
While traveling Latin America for such a long time, they obviously made lots of friends. Many of them settled in the same region later so I met quite a few of them.
In the end, Carla and Daniel and their friends, turned Santa Rosa into a truly inspirational place for me. All of these long-term travellers, that shape their life in a way to still have freedom and time, even when the trip has finished. Seems like traveling makes you understand you don’t need much stuff or a big house. And that opens so many possibilities. It’s quite simple: don’t spend money on stuff you don’t need and use your time to actually LIVE the way you want to.
For travelers that seems to be having a simple life, living small and close to nature. Many of them had built their own house using mostly wood or other natural materials. I can definitly see myself heading the same way. Having lived in a trailer for six months while studying back in 2013, I already now I only need 15m² or so to live my life.
Anyway, that’s for when I one day finish doing big trips I guess!
So apart from hanging out with all these lovely people, I also got to improve my Spanish, help Daniel and Carla at the bar they run next to a swimming pool, play basketball and football at the local court, go cycling around the beautiful area, running up the hills to take a dip in the pool at the foot of the waterfall and swim and study Spanish at the beautiful river that makes Santa Rosa so famous.
No need to tell you it was hard to leave!!! Again, I felt I had made some more family along the way. And it’s never nice to leave family. Love and hugs to all of them!
But off I went, although a little insecure. This because I didn’t really felt that strong cycling up to Santa Rosa, and now, after a two week break, I still didn’t feel that strong. I had gotten my blood, urine and faeces tested in Santa Rosa, but there was nothing wrong with those. So I then knew I had to eat better and regain strenght by doing so.
It was only on the second day cycling, when I got super weak and had to stop every three km or so to eat a little, that I got the real wake-up call though. Cycling up to the pass which divides the regions of Cordoba and San Luis had taken two days, and I had barely made it.
The descend into the touristic town of Merlo was simply stunning. It had been a close call, and getting to the pass felt very sweet! And what a view!
First I had to find a working ATM to get some money as I had only 6 pesos left. (There was a two hour waiting line at the ATM in Santa Rosa and I thought I would easily make it to Merlo…) With another 2000 withdrawn, I headed to a hostel to recover.
I stayed two nights there, until the hostel was fully booked and I had to get out. There was a truly great atmosphere hanging around (so much better than the hostel in Buenos Aires) but all I did there was sleeping and eating.
I guess it wasn’t the best idea to continue the trip without fully recovering. But I was now back in the pampa so I could cycle at a low intensity along the flat plains.
And it got even better when the wind decided to push me to the South! First night after Merlo, I got invited by a family to pitch my tent in the garden after asking for water. Of course, a hot shower, dinner and breakfast were included 😉
Then I had a wonderful 140 km day with the tailwind towards San Luis, great to boost the moral! I put on Netsky, Belgian dubsteb music, at the end of the day which got me dancing on the bike, a mountain range lay on my side and I felt stronger again with the wind pushing me at 30 km/h.
When you feel down and weak, it’s easy to doubt the trip. Even one km can seem so hard sometimes and thinking that there are about 30.000+ to make seems absolutely impossible. But turns out all it takes is some Netsky, a sunset and some tailwind to get back at it!!
Finding a campspot again was easy, definitly with such a big grin on my face. Always makes it easier to get permission from a family if you’re all positive.
The guys went out in the middle of the night to hunt for wild pigs with their dogs. I passed, and had a great night sleep.
I got some supplies in the city of San Luis. Since Merlo, I started cooking meat and rice for lunch and taking a nap/siesta afterwards. I definitely felt better with that, although there’s not much happening in a park on your own for 2 or 3 hours. Once, a young woman and her family saw me sitting in the park and invited me to finish me lunch and have a rest in the house, before continuing my trip. So nice of them!
I had now 260 km left up to Mendoza, and the road got busier. Luckily there was a hard shoulder most of the time! That was a first in Argentina!
I camped at the local campsite of Balde, which turned out to be free. I had cycled late after sunset and had a puncture just before entering the village (and just before a police checkpoint). So I had some company while fixing my puncture. They told me there are puma’s here! I didn’t need to be scared of them, put still good to know! I thought they only lived far away in the mountains, but apparently they also roar the plains.
Of course, I met some people at the campsite, who shared their food with me. You’ll never be alone here!
Then two long days across the boring pampa again with a side wind slowing me down. Not much happened during the day, I was just hoping time would pass quickly as I listened to some Spanish podcasts.
In La Paz, I found a nice family once again to pitch my tent. The daughter studied oenology, the study of wine. I was definitely close to Mendoza now!
Some 30 km from my destination, I looked up from the tar road and saw some strange white things peaking through the clouds. The Andes!!! I was truly impressed and stood next to the road for a while with my breath taken away. 6000 m mountains flank the city, which was also going to be my start of the famous Ruta 40.
I easily found my Couchsurfing host in the center which accomodates about 130.000 people at the foot of the Andes. Next day, I joined some other couchsurfers for an asado and a swim in the river, some 30 km from the city. I met Che, a backpacker from Israel, and Julianne from France.
My couchsurfing host turned out to be somewhat weird. He was very mysterious if you ask me. We had made a plan three days in advance to grab some artesanal beers when I got to the city, but instead he left the appartment to see someone without inviting me, asking me to cook and I spent the night with his mother. He would leave two more times to meet with friends without inviting me. I don’t know the guy at all, I couldn’t really talk to him, while couchsurfing should be all about the exchange of experiences. Then later, he had an argument with his mum about hosting people and he was being really mean to her. So I left. Luckily I could spent two more nights at Julianne’s place before continuing South along the 40!