Cafayate – Cachi – La Poma – Abra del Acay – San Antonio de los Cobres
A magnificent route through the Valles Calchaquis over the Abra del Acay, Argentina’s highest road pass. From Cafayate’s vineyards the road undulates up a lovely valley to Cachi before continuing upwards to La Poma. From Cachi to La Poma the scenery is sublime, with tiny, centuries-old adobe settlements scattered along the road.
After La Poma the climb to the pass is steep and unrelenting, and there are a number of river fords to negotiate. The final 15kms are at an average gradient of 7% and as the pass is at nearly 5,000m this makes the climb very hard work. On its own this is a great route, but combining it with a crossing of the Paso Sico to San Pedro de Atacama makes for an unforgettable 10-14 days of cycling.
Supplies can be bought in Cafayate and Cachi (and other villages like Molinos and La Poma which are off the main road). From La Poma to San Antonio de los Cobres there is nowhere to buy food. There are houses from which to obtain water all the way to La Poma and after Saladillo the road remains by a river to about 4,050m. In the few kilometres after leaving the river there are a couple of decent camping spots and the road crosses a little stream – still over 600m below the pass, but the last water source before the pass. There is no reliable water source on the initial part of the descent from the pass either.
We obtained information about this route from Stefan Roman’s useful site.
Sadly our camera was broken for most of this route, so we don’t have any photos from north of Cachi.
|Total dist.||Stage dist.||Description|
|0km||Cafayate (1,630m). Nice wine-growing town with tourist facilities including ATM.|
|162km||Head north on paved RN40 for 23kms to San Carlos. 7kms after San Carlos the tarmac ends and it is 132kms of ripio to Cachi, passing through Molinos (2,130m) en route. The surface is often a bit sandy.|
|162km||Cachi (2,380m). Pleasant town with accommodation, restaurants, shops.|
|56km||13kms of paving to Payogasta, where Ruta 40 leaves the tarmac and turns L (north) towards La Poma. Pass through a number of small villages slowly gaining altitude, arriving at the turn-off to La Poma (3,000m) after 43kms. The ripio is fine and not sandy. La Poma is not on the main road – go L at the junction to go through the village.|
|218km||Turn-off to La Poma (3,000m).|
|48km||Continue straight at the junction. The last settlement on the road is Saladillo, 18kms north of La Poma. From La Poma to the Abra del Acay the surface is generally fine, but there are a number of river crossings. The first is through a side stream, then 22kms north of La Poma comes the first of 5 crossings of the main river.|
|266km||Abra del Acay (4,966m – GPS01).|
|45km||Descending from the pass it is 32kms to the junction with RN51. Intially the surface is loose, but it improves lower down. Turn L (west) on RN51 for 13kms to San Antonio de los Cobres.|
|311km||San Antonio de los Cobres (3,760m). Town with accommodation, restaurants, good supermarket, ATM, internet.|
|Time taken – 6 days and amount climbed 5,400m||9 hours: Cafayate to Molinos (1,380m climb).
4 hours: Molinos to Cachi (800m climb).
5 hours: Cachi to La Poma (920m climb).
7 hours: La Poma to Abra del Acay (2,200m climb).
4 hours: Abra del Acay to San Antonio de los Cobres (~100m climb).
|Traffic||Some traffic as far as Payogasta. From there a few vehicles to La Poma. Virtually nothing from La Poma to RN51.|
|When we cycled||Early June 2010.|
|How much we had to push on this route||5kms (wind, steep)|
|GPS01||Abra del Acay||24.4366 S, 66.2391 W, 4,966m.|
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