Meeting the fossils
"When are you going to grow up"', the eternal plea from parent to offspring. Starts around primary four and perpetuates through adolescence and on into early adulthood. When said parents give up vocalising the plea, although by that age of responsibility it's a subliminal scream to leave home before you outlive your welcome.
As we haul our bikes down a bank, and scurry under the road, into yet another deep shade culvert, the navigator makes, what is becoming a common refrain; "when are we going to grow up?". It's rhetorical. There is no answer, only several questions. Who wants to grow up anyway?, what is growing up?, and WHY? Even the petulant adult can do: "Why!".
There's a lot of fun to be had being the petulant adult, the perpetual adolescent. The initial intentions for this trip were simple, to escape a capital city's clutches by train, to explore up the Valle del Tafi and to head over an Andean pass. The intended one being a recommendation that we acquired four years ago. Some ideas can stick around for sometime. The first two have come to pass, the latter has been a bit more problematic. We arrived at the junction where we would need to turn right and start a long, slow climb. There's a bus stop, a sun shelter. Deep shade and a siesta. There was no discussion when it came time to leave. We both silently turned 'left', into a strong headwind, when it would have been easier to have used the tailwind and gone climbing. Thirty five years of not growing up together has its advantages. Neither of us was ready for an Andean crossing. The effort, the altitude, the water scarcity are all physical presences, but crucial to the venture is a mental fitness. The body might be ready but the mind isn't in it yet. We head south to the Next pass and to find out if it's open yet.
Only if we're not careful we'll be riding some old favourite routes, one that have already had an investigation, some multiple interrogations. Which is how we found ourselves in Capital La Rioja, having riden through some beautiful 'Bad lands'. Sculpted mud rocks, pock holed lava blocks, rotting granite hills. There's little planning, decision making taken at the next junction. It's fun to be an adolescent adult. But have we backed ourselves into a corner, the prospect of hot, pampa cycling on roads that roll away in front, all the way to a vanishing point. Fun for a few days, but have a he potential for tedium and numb butts.
Our non topographical map shows an intriguing anomaly to the west. The natural grain of the landscape is north- South, yet there are two twisting roads heading towards each other, west-east, across the first hurdle of the Andean foothills. Logic suggests there must be a reason, either they service two separate mines; a distinct possibility or there's the intention to join them up. Need to find out.
What follows is an "auld sang to a new words". It involves our old friends in the tourist information kiosks. It's a story of mixed information, and a map that would do credit to a bingo card. An attempt to send us off on a deviation tour of over three hundred kilometres, to revisit places we've encountered before, rather than answer the two simple questions we posed.
The route and the road are remarkable. Another incredible piece of civil engineering that begs the question as to its intention and necessity. Short tunnels quarry through cascading mountain buttresses, that then spit us out over canyon crossing bridges, thence to sweeping hairpin bends that are suspended out in thin air. A new flickering view with each linked turn. Two hours of effortless freewheeling viewing on an empty tarred road. As we literally pop out at the bottom onto a vast open pampa, I remember to give thanks to the venture capitalists in New York who I assume have financed my morning's entertainment. If the sun bleached bragging board is to be believed they stumped up 234,986,368.95 pesos in July 2007, for just one ten kilometre section. Those two serpentine squiggles on the map do join up. And yes, Mr Informes, the road does go through the national park and yes it does connect to Ruta Cuarenta. Thank You!I
Start of route RN150.
However I do feel aggrieved that a liberty has been taken. . The first roadside signage states an assumption of our capabilities, or a warning to others of what they may encounter. Constructing a road just for "fossils", old fogies who should have grown up, who presumably should be sat in front of and tending the fire.