The Ride to Fiambala Day 1: Chilecito to El Potrerillo soccer court stealth camp

April 16 -
104.2 km
This bike trip through the valley leading up to Fiambala was one of our favorites in Argentina.  The valley is gorgeous and full of farms, friendly people, and warm sunshine.  The elevation gain was large, but gradual and easy.  And its always great to be off the gringo trail. 
 
Initially, after we road out of Chilecito and headed North onto Route 40, we found it to be a bit mundane and trashed along the roadside.  It was evident there was some sort of makeshift landfill created here, and small incinerators filled the air with the smell of burning plastic. Once we turned onto a different highway heading towards Famatina the experience changed for the better.  The roads were beautiful, tranquil, and very well-paved.  Small farms brought life to the valley.
 
A few kilometers before reaching Famatina, we stopped at a Regionales Food store looking for road snacks.  We scored some amazing chocolates and dried fruits, as well as a much-needed map of local things to do and places to camp.
 
Once in Famatina, we got a good feeling from the place right away.  There were signs posted everywhere that read No Toca de Oro de Famatina, which basically translates to, Don't bring your large-scale gold-mining operation into our town.  Everyone was very friendly and waving to us in the streets.  I sensed a lot of pride and respect for the beauty of the valley here.  And to top it off, there was a small bicicleteria in town!
The roadside rest-stops past Famatina leading to the Pass
Dang, this were some beautiful pieces of granite
After passing through Fatima, we rode through a large valley for a while, and stopped for lunch under one of the many roofed mini-reststops along the roadside. Following this, we biked the pass, checked out the glittering granite,and  curved through a narrow canyon.  Once through the canyon, the road opened back up to large valley, and a headwind started.  Still, the rocks were beautiful in the distance.
The canyon after riding up to the Pass
 
Camping at the soccer field. What you cannot see are the amazing mountains directly to the left.
I had read on our map that the small village of El Potrerillo had beautiful camping with a lot of opportunity to play around the nearby mountains, so we biked 3 km off the main highway on ripio to get there.  When we arrived, we couldn't find the campground with services, but after talking to woman at the church, she told us to camp on near the soccer field next door, which had everything we needed.  Water, outhouses with adobe toilet pits, and old asada concrete tables to cook on.  Since it was the night before the full moon, the soccer field was a great backdrop for a moon-shadow show. We whipped up a good batch of Mac and Cheese with Salame, my camping version for Macaroni and hotdogs, a previous potluck favorite.  In Argentina, they have these  powdered packets for everything.  So we bought this one called of Cuatro Quesos, added powdered milk, two types of fresh cheese, and bowtie pasta, with salami…nuf said.
This is my camping version of the crazed 1950's houswife

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