We woke at our little hacienda near the river. Staying in abandoned places like these always makes me wonder about the people that tried to make a life here. You could tell that a lot of work went into the land and building to make it hospitable (the irrigation ditches running to the gardens where the mounded rows were still visible, a small stone-lined aqueduct still carrying water conveniently near the house, the fruit trees planted on the property, and the solid stone and mud walls of the building providing shelter).
This pondering promoted a breakfast discussion of what is next for us. Do we continue to bicycle elsewhere after we run out of road in Argentina, return to work, start a business, or return to Texas and live under a bridge?
There was no resolution to the last question when we emerged from the homestead and hit the road. Immediately we climbed away from the river and started up the switchbacks we viewed from across the valley the day before.
It was disheartening to know that we would return to the Tablachaca River in only 5 miles (8 km) as the crow flies but it would take us 20 miles (32 km) on the road to get there, with more then half of them climbing up.
Just having pavement (with almost no traffic) put us in high spirits, ringing our bells, joking around and throwing banana peels into the wind. The switchbacks made climbing a joy as they elevated us to broader and broader views of the valley as we climbed.
And then the switchbacks ended and the road seemed to go out of its way to find the steepest grade. The climbing became laborious and by the time we reached the summit in the town of Pallasca, our legs were shot.
During lunch in a little restaurant on the town square, Thomas (a Dutch/French bike tourer) rode up. We heard about him from Leah because they had ridden together. A much faster rider, he started the morning on the other side of the valley. Essentially he was riding about 1.5x faster than we were.
We caught up on the whereabouts of people we both had cycled with as Thomas joined us for lunch. Afterwards, with stomachs full, we headed out for the long downhill back into the canyon.
Letting gravity do all the work was fun as it pulled us towards the river below on the narrow, winding road with steep drops off the side. After a stop to peer over the edge and appreciate the view, I started downhill again when my tube failed and my tire folded back on itself. The bike pulled to the edge of the road and I flew over the handlebars of my bike.
I landed on my helmet and continued to roll, head over heels over the edge of the road and began to slide down the steep ravine. Luckily, the cactus stopped me, otherwise I would have slid a lot further. Unfortunately, cactus have spines.
Thomas was behind me when the accident happened and Sarah was further down the hill. I was laying perfectly still, trying not to loose any traction while I assessed if anything was broken. I heard Thomas calling from above offering to help pull me up but I just wanted to sit and recover my wits for a moment. The next thing I heard was Sarah running up and yelling “Where’s Scott?”
After half scrambling, half being pulled back up to the road I took stock of the situation. If the accident had happened 10 meters before or after the spot where I went over the side of the road, I would have had a horrible fall over a precipice.
I was lucky not to be seriously injured. The helmet, most likely saved me from a concussion and some serious Frankenstein’s monster type stitches. I managed to walk away with a scraped knee, cut palm, and a bunch of embedded cactus spines.
My bike fared a little better than I did with only a flat. The tire was still intact, the rim had no damage and was still true.
It was the first time I came off of my bike on this trip. Hopefully, it will be the last.