16. Bang goes the spoke.

Back in Argentina for the fourth time here's their flag. As with Chile, their money is also the Peso, but the Argentine Peso and likewise uses the dollar sign,  the exchange rate being ~ $21 :£1. Prices are similar to Chile - expensive food, hostels and campsites.

....Cycling away from our 5-star accommodation under big grey-bottomed patchy white fluffy clouds we hoped the sun would burn them out of the way. The scenery was much the same - huge open spaces of scrub land.
Later we pass an unexpected welcomed change of scenery, a green area that was fed by a clear-water brook running through it, birds could be seen in the distance.
A sight I so hate to see, the poor bike laid down on the gravel, almost like it's keeled over on it's last few breaths.
 This is how it should be done!
In the afternoon the weather had warmed nicely and as we cycle along we pass by some of the locals;
By late afternoon the route had veered into the wind so with reasonable distance on the clock we decide to set camp, managing to find a slightly sheltered area on what looked like a dry river bed. Phil needed to attend to his rear wheel again so here he is posing for 'Bicycle Mechanic' monthly!
You my friend, badly need a haircut!
Starting to run low on our food the following town of Susques was a stones-throw away with the road passing through some really amazing scenery and - bonus! -  even gave us a nice long descent.
I'd seen mountainside town names written with rocks quite a few times, 'SUSQUES - Poatico De Los Andes' translates into; "SUSQUES  - Poetic of the Andes". With a few basics purchased we're back on the saddle.
A day or so until we reach the town of Purmamarca, smile for the camera! 
 I love this type of rock surface, lots of protruding square-edged pieces, almost Lego-like!
Approaching mid-day we were blessed with another great descent twisting and winding through a cactus lined man-made canyon, the only annoying part was the traffic speed-precaution lines painted on the road, these were common in Argentina and done using extremely thick paint that gave quite a 'bump!-bump!' as we rode over them. 
By mid afternoon we arrive at a village not listed on either my map or Phil's Sat Nav. Saying he felt a bit lethargic we decide to stop at the mystery town, as we reach the town's edge we find the name of it most strange;

We soon find a partially built adobe building big enough for our sleeping bags and bikes to fit so call it home for the night. Spotted by the village's mafia they come over to investigate. Impressed by their bikes front-wheel balloon addition that creates a rather realistic sound of a moped's exhaust we're soon accepted as part of their clan whilst a short distance away were audibly entertained by a mechanic playing Abba's greatest hits (a mechanic!?)...most surreal! 
The following morning the road passes through a huge salt lake. Having never seen one before it was quite impressive. There was a visitors centre with restaurant and sellers out on the lake in buildings actually made from salt bricks, quite literally building with what natures provides.

Riding off we arrive at a junction to the town we intended to reach the night before, luckily we didn't actually head for it as it was ten kilometres from our road..a twenty kilometre round trip! 
Several kilometres down the road BANG! While rolling to a stop I look down at my rear and see it now has the most severe buckle I've ever seen! For just one spoke to have broke with such s noise of high-tension being released I new there was a severe problem. There was now only just enough clearance between the side of the tyre and the chain-stays for the wheel to turn and I was certain that further riding would soon buckle it even more and be prevented from turning . There was only one real option...put our thumbs out.
With such little traffic passing it would no doubt take a while, a few loaded trucks went passed with no room for two people and bikes, a small coach comes into view, clearly a vehicle that would not stop for anyone hitching a ride...again, even more-so with bikes! With nothing to loose we play dumb and both stick our thumbs out...as he whizzes past a short distance down the road his brake lights illuminate and it pulls onto the gravel-shoulder. Two men exit the coach and walk towards us, as we do to them. We explain our situation and to ou gob-smacked astonishment they say sure, "put your bikes in the boot...it's empty".😲 Astonished at our luck, we un-clip our bags, pick our bikes up and simply lay them in the huge empty boot whilst to minimise bike-to-bike scratching use our bags as padding between our injured horses.
As we board the coach all eyes are on us, rear-seat passengers call us to the back where - how's ya bloody luck - two vacant seats await us! The passengers were a big group of retired French travellers on a coach/fly trip around South America. With Phil being Canadian the French-Canadian tie bonded well and me being their neighbour proved just as good and soon were nattering away telling them of our adventures and listening to where they'd been.  
Several kilometres later a big climb comes into view, hairpin after hairpin we climb higher and higher and a while later we reach the pass and we're kicking ourselves at what we're missing out on! The view was absolutely amazing as was the astonishment at how the descending road had ever been built onto the side of such a steep mountain.  Zig-zagging around steep angled hairpins we s-l-o-w-l-y edge lower and lower. The lower we got an abundance of greenery neither of us had seen for a long time slides into view - this was one mountain pass I definitely regretted not ridding over!
Soon we arrive at my 'places to visit' listed town of Purmamarca where our journey ended. The town was in total contrast to my expectations - jam-packed with tourists, the central plaza streets packed with sellers, busy streets and expensive food. Heading for the coach station we buy a ticket to the main city Jujuy, on arriving there we buy yet another coach ticket to the bigger [regional capital] of Salta
Departing the coach station we're collared by a local hotelier touting for customers. Leading us back to his 'hotel' our day's luck had already served us well and along with now being late we were not fazed by the Fawlty-Towers meets Steptoe-and-Son like offerings.
In the morning we head out in search of slightly better offerings -  a toilet seat for start would be nice. Using his phone Phil soon locates a few hostels around the corner and ten minutes later we're booked in.
For the best part of the day we taxi'd around the city looking for a good bike shop / mechanic. Of the shops that were recommended none of them stocked the spokes - fitted with a standard derailleur gear system Phil's spokes were of standard length whereas my bike having a large flange-diameter hub gear meant suitable spokes were not so easy to find, but eventually from bike shop to bike shop we were pointed to a small side street stockist called 'The Spoke'. With several old boys dithering around inside they pulled open a few dusty wooden filing-cabinet type draws and soon I had hold of 32 new - correct length spokes (although only one of my spokes had actually snapped I'm sure many of the others may have exceeded their yield-point and likewise on the point of snapping. This is what the wheel looked like, and the culprit was a crack on the inner face between every eyelit, exactly the same problem I'd encountered on my previous tour when I had the wheel (this wheel!) re-built in Malasia's capital - Kuala Lumpur, most strange for the same problem to occur on a different manufacturers rim.
Back at the bike shop I hand over the spokes to the mechanic, a rather young looking guy for the sort of wheel-building experience I was looking for but when there's little choice...
The following day I'm back at the shop collecting the wheel and with tyre and tube re-fitted it's back on the bike...out with the [no so] old and in with the new. 
Salta itself was a reasonable city - one immediate thing I noticed was the abundance of sandwich sellers, from street-shacks, kiosk's, and bigger shops - they all seemed to sell them so obviously a regional thing. The prices were quite good so needless to say I'd regularly be eating one...or two...With typical offerings such as a large [grubby] central plaza, a cable car up to a view-point and a big cathedral..of which I found the mosaic floor artwork in front of it rather trippy!
Next time, am I in Holland?
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