National Route 40, or Ruta Cuarenta, runs north-south down the west side of Argentina. It is the longest route in Argentina, at more than 5,000 km (3,100 mi). It has a similar charm to the US Rt 66, a road with little traffic, connecting small towns with large stretches of nothing in-between. It’s popular with vacationers and road-trippers. There is even Ruta 40 kitsch, I couldn’t resist a sticker for my bike. It seems to be the route for traveling cyclists, mainly due to the lack of alternative for direct north-south travel in Argentina.
Southbounders seem to be split on riding Ruta 40 or taking a bus and bypassing this leg of the trip altogether. We’ve heard horror stories of the headwinds, heat, and cyclists reporting being bored out of their gourd.
So if you’re thinking of riding Ruta 40, for what it’s worth, here are my thoughts…
It is not THAT bad. It has its moments where I love it and then others where I hate it.
It IS hot. There ARE headwinds. And it CAN be boring.
But it’s not as hot as Central America. The wind is not as bad as the Bolivian Altiplano. It’s nowhere near as boring as the Peruvian Pampa. In fact, it’s not any harder than what we’ve all already been through.
By the time southbound travelers reach Ruta 40, most of us have been on the road for at least a year, some two or more years. It’s easy to understand if we’re starting to experience traveler’s burnout. The landscapes start repeating themselves, like Mother Nature ran out of ideas. We get the feeling we’ve already ridden through this.
I think we are all a touch traumatized from the extreme conditions of the Altiplano; freezing temperatures, hellacious winds, bad road conditions, lack of food and water. We came down off the Altiplano into Argentina and for the first time in a LONG time, it was easy. And we had it easy for two weeks. We don’t want to go back to the place where every day is a struggle.
And with our nearing proximity to the Patagonia, it gets us all thinking of the incredible beauty and surreal landscapes we’ve heard about from northbounders and have been dreaming about since back in the days of planning, before our first pedal stroke. We look at the map and we see the long stretch of Ruta 40, nearly 1500 miles from Cafayate to San Martín de los Andes, the notorious stretch of nothingness. We know what’s ahead from all the traveling cyclists who have gone before us. We’re all a little weary and impatient. We just want to be there already.