First it was up hill all the way from San Pedro de Atacama towards the border into Argentina. On the way we reached an altitude of 4842 meters. When we got to the border, we were asked if we felt dizzy or had a blurry eyesight. Since the border crossing is in high altitude a lot people suffer from altitude sickness. Altitude sickness typically only occurs above 2,500 meters, and you have to take altitude sickness serious if you go from sea level to 3,000 meters or more in just one day. Yes, you can get really sick, and usually it last about 2 days, but it is a lot better to plan you trip and avoiding big changes in altitude (low to high).
Stopping at one of the crystal blue lakes for lunch
We crossed the border, and as we drove on the high Andean plateau in Argentina, we saw how salt was mined from the salt flats. Salinas Grandes, a massive salt desert covering almost 8,300 square kilometers. To comparison Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia is 10,600 square kilometers. Today, Salinas Grande is essentially an area for mining salt.
It was time to leave the high Andean plateau
Next day was just grey and wet as we passed Salta on our way to Cafayate
We really wanted to drive more of Route 40, which is the longest route in Argentina. In total 5194 km. RN40 begins at the Bolivian border at La Quiaca. From there it goes west to San Juan de Oro, then turns south, parallel to the Andes, by San Antonio de los Cobres and Cachi and through the Calchaquí Valleys to Cafayate.
Also most of RN40 north of Cafayate is gravel, so we decided to take a paved roads until we reached EL Carril south of Salta. Here we turned west on RP33 and followed RP 42 through Parque Nacional los Cardones, which our friends Camille and Ryan had recommended. As we entered the park, we left the clouds behind us.
The cacti landscape is amazing
Many of the cacti’s is a lot bigger than Lance
The park has an area of 650 square kilometres, with hills and ravines at the height levels between 2,700 m and 5,000 m. It gets its name from the prevalence of bush formations of cardon grande cactus.
The cardon grande cactus is also called Argentine saguaro, is a large cactus native to South America. It is a columnar, branching cactus that can grow over 7.6 meters tall. The yellowish spines are 8.3–10 cm long. The nocturnal white flowers can grow up to 20 cm long and 13–15 cm wide.
Just can’t get enough of those cacti’s
As we exited the Parque Nacional los Cardones, we hit the Route 40
Our stop for the night was at Utopia Overland camping (http://ioverlander.com/places/30924-utopia-overland-camping). We had made a plan to meet with Sebastian and Melanie in the “campulance”.
Danish “hygge” with Melanie and Sebastian
The next morning we were back on the road, and due to the washboard it was just necessary to air down the tires for the both of us
Entering Monumento Natural Angastaco as the RN40 is twisting its way through this surreal landscape
We parked the cars, and walked to the nearby viewpoint, from there we could see how RN40 continued through the “Gorge of Arrows”
Thank you Melanie for taking this amazing picture of us
First our plan was to drive to Cafayate, but as we drove further south on RN40, we came across a pool with clear water. What an amazing place to wild camp. We have now added the place on www.ioverlander.com (http://ioverlander.com/places/74596-water-fountain-fun-wild-camp). As you go north on RN40 you will see the pool on your left side just before the paved road ends, only a few kilometers north of San Carlos. We bought meet in San Carlos and made the Danish “Snobrød” (twisted bread) over the fire.
In the next post we are getting a little bit drunk… we are visiting Cafayate and the Calchaquíes valley, which is famous for the quality and originality of the wines produced in the area.