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Continuing the theme from previous days’ reports, I must start with a brief account of dinner, that more then made up for the disaster of the previous night: we enjoyed a rib-eye steak – rare, with all sorts of Argentinean side thingies – spiced tomatoes, squashed potatoes etc according to their Google translate menu, washed down with a bottle of Trapiche Malbec Reserva 2011, from Mendoza of course, that just hit the spot. Excellent!!

Today was due to be a driving day with the choice between 469 km on asphalt (according to the map) or 398 km of which at least 100 km would be on ripios. The most significant consideration were the tyres – already in a poor condition, I did not want to expose them to more slipping & sliding. So I decided on the longer way round, saving lots of time – in theory. I had failed to include a drive through the town of San Raphael, where the main highway went straight through town, with traffic lights every hundred meter, that all seemed to conspire in being red, except for the one where a white van man had broken down right on the crossroads.

The road went away from the Andes so that we were driving through some very uninspiring flat terrain. For those who have seen my Namibia & South Africa presentations, think of the most boring 500 km of road from Windhoek to Keetmanshoop. This had some saving graces: during the ‘I don’t believe there are no cacti’ leg stretch, Angie found one (1) Maihueniopsis darwinii (?) and just before San Raphael (we seem to have missed the San Raphael by-pass) the road went through some hills with nice twists and cacti visible, even at 80 km.p.hr. We stopped to photograph Echinopsis (Lobivia) huascha (?), Opuntia sulphur, a Pterocactus and Denmoza rhadacantha, showing off its peculiar flowers. Then it was back to flat agricultural land with a few tractors and local trucks, in such poor condition that they held all the through traffic up.

Things speeded up once we were back on RN40 and became interesting once we climbed along RN7 towards Uspallata at 1,900m and with just 85 km to the Chilean border. But we’ve stopped off at Uspallata for tonight and tomorrow night with a look around the local cacti on Tuesday.

We’re just off to visit a few of the restaurants where we enjoyed great steaks & Malbec in previous years – yes, there is genius behind my madness!

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