La Serena to Las Flores: Paso Agua Negra


Kitted out with a bike called "Scorpion" and some supermarket camping kit, Russ joined me on this fantastic cycling adventure. We shaked a bit in Santiago and then bussed to La Serena and set off to cross the Andes. You can see some of Russ' photos here.

The first stop was Vicuña. We'd cycled up a gentle slope all day and reached this pleasant little town. The campsite we found offered a pool, kitchen and ripe grapes for the princely sum of three pounds fifty. We chilled out.

The high mountains surrounding us grew closer the next day. Soon we found ourselves winding our way up a tight valley, almost a canyon. By the side of the road there were some stone shacks. We suspected these were used by goat hearders as there was a fair amount of goat excrement about. Russ got out his kite and I built a fire. We slept under the brightest set of stars I have ever seen.

The next day we continued on up the valley with dramatic scenery around us. In the afternoon we passed a "campamiento" and I enquired if we could buy bread. We were given a large roll free. Later, at another campamiento where some roadworkers stayed, I asked if we could camp. The man said no. There was a couple of beds we could have in an old shed. The room was plastered with posters of semi-clad women. Then, as I got out my stove on the front porch, the kind gent called us over and invited us for dinner too. Barbequed beef and empanadas. In the courtyard there was a fountain with a plastic barbie doll on the top. The water squirted out of her nipples. Quite a water feature. One suspects that these lads don't see too many girls up this way.
Passing the stunning, if not origionally named, La Laguna, we anticipated reaching the top of the pass. However, the tough gravel road, incline and fatigue got the better of us and we camped at around 4500m. We had just enough energy to wolf down some pasta and flake out. In the night I noted the temerature drop to -3C, not so cold really.

We woke. Both of us feeling well and with no signs of altitude sickness. After scoffing the remainder of our bread and jam and brewing tea with the last tea bags, we put in the last 10km to the summit.

We celebrated reaching the 4780m pass with some photos. Then we enjoyed 100km of free-wheeling downhill.

On our way down we stopped to make some rice for lunch. We were joined by a french cyclist, Christof, who looked as if he were a scubadiver. His cycling outfit consisted of a lot of black lycra. He sat down with us and told us the story of his life, his cycling and rather more about his recent sexual conquests than you would expect from a stranger.

Our freewheel ride continued on a tar road and we headed across a huge plain surrounded by mountian ranges. Then we arrived in Las Flores.

I asked Sergio if there was a campsite and he said we could camp in his garden for 2 pounds. Then he invited us to drink mate. After a bit of a chat he decided to show us how to make an asado, the classic argentinian barbeque. We bought a mountain of meat and local wine and he showed us the tradditional method to get the fire going. The wood is placed on top of the grill and as the embers fall through they are pushed under the meat and sausages. We ate, drank, chatted and it felt like a wonderful welcome back to Argentina.

This post relates to my bike trip in South America in 2010.
I now offer guided walks and walking holidays in the UK in Northumberland, the Pennines, the Lake District, Scotland and further afield.

I'm always keen for outdoor adventures to help people learn the skills to explore! My particular focus is mountain skills such as navigating with a map and compass and wild camping for expeditions.

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