ExperiencePlus! Northern Argentina Bicycle Tour 2012

Jackson Square

My bike tour through northern Argentina is coming to close – or more likely has come to a close by the time I actually finish this and post it – and it has indeed been a fun adventure. I didn’t really have a lot of expectations about Argentina or what to expect of this tour since I didn’t know anyone beforehand that had done a tour with ExperiencePlus! and in recent memory I’ve done tours that I’ve either gotten some good word of mouth about or a tour company I’ve used before. But I was impressed with the how well it was organized and the very good work of our guides on this tour. While you pay for the privilege of such a supported tour, in a foreign land with a language you don’t know I believe it is worth it.

While I saw a very small slice of the country over two weeks, I naturally formed some opinions. The contrasts in Argentina are vast. Clearly a developed country and economy it’s like visiting Europe – only it seems more generally dilapidated in many towns and cities. (More on that in a future post.) But the beauty of the countryside, the friendly people we encountered and the great food and wine made the trip a very worthwhile experience.

The Ridiculously Brief Summary

  • Lots of connections to get there: Austin – Houston – Buenos Aires – Salta … Tucman – Buenos Aires – Houston – Austin. Travel by air is more exhausting than cycling.
  • 357 miles (575 kilometers) of cycling that began as far north as Tilcara and the Tropic of Capricorn and stretched as far south as San Miguel de Tucumán. All of it is still considered northern Argentina, which is a vast country.
  • We passed through 3 provinces of Argentina: Salta, Jujuy, and Tucman.
  • 9 days of cycling over 12 days
  • Both easy cycling and challenging cycling (for a variety of reasons) but overall, not as challenging as others I’ve done.
  • 3 flat tires – one by glass, two by cactus thorns
  • lots of great food and wine
  • more diesel fumes and exhaust than I ever cared to inhale
  • hands and feet as cold as they’ve ever been
  • as many buses as there are stray dogs
  • beautiful countryside and friendly people
  • and an appreciation of a country and part of the world I had little or no insight into before the trip

Let’s Start At The Beginning

Salta was the meeting point for our small group of 7 riders and 2 guides. Salta is about a 2 hour flight from Buenos Aires. I’d arrived a couple days in advance as I often arrange just so I can get acclimated. Our group included:

  • Ole – age 76 and just coming off some other active tour in Brazil and after this one, headed off to another active tour in Patagonia.
  • Herb – age 75 and veteran of more bike tours (self organized and fully supported) than I can recall or recount.
  • Bob and Mary Ann – a couple somewhere around their 50’s and veterans of similar tours around the world.
  • Grant and Dona – a couple around their 60’s and also vets of similar tours in other parts of the world.
  • Tika and Anibal – our patient and friendly guides from Argentina.

One by one our group met up at the designated meeting hotel. We’d eventually return to the same hotel a few days later when we returned to Salta on our way further south. Ole was the first one there and drinking a glass of wine at the sidewalk tables and immediately offered to share the other half of a sandwich he didn’t want to finish. Herb joined us and stories of tours and past travels began. It was evident early that folks were going to get along just fine.

We all loaded up a big van with our group and all our luggage and 3 hours later – and introductions all around – we arrived in Tilcara, our stay for the evening and the kickoff of our cycling tour. More on that in the next post…

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