TL;DR; Ruta 65 is awesome, find the GPX file here
Back in August 2019 while in north west Argentina, I traveled from San Miguel de Tucuman to the tiny town of Andalgala.
The aim of my South America trip was always to visit Patagonia. I entered the country about 2 months earlier and realized that while my destination is south, my South African constitution in no way equipped me for the cold I was experiencing. Ushuaia, and the many towns in between would be covered in snow. I knew this beforehand of course, but there is a huge difference between knowing something and understanding it. Feeling the Buenos Aires cold helped me understand I was not yet ready for snow.
So north it was. To Parque Nacional Ibera, to the Cataratas (Iguazu Falls), across Paraguagy, and back into Argentina. After an amazing 2 week vacation in Salta (and much more riding around), I found myself in Tucuman. It was nice. That’s it. Nothing particularly memorable. I lived in not the nicest part of town (though far from the worst), so perhaps my impression is biased.
Regardless, my next big destination was Mendoza, and there aren’t a huge number of amazing cities between the two. In the spirit of adventure, I chose to head to Andalgala, a very not-impressive town surrounded by amazing scenery. But my real reason for going was the road. According to the map, it had everything an adventure rider looks for. It was meant to be mostly gravel, tons of switchbacks, mountain climbs, and those are often accompanied by good views. My expectations were not high, but a ride though the mountains always beats a boring freeway.
My expectations were completely blown away. The views were amazing, the road was amazing. The terrain changed from forest to mountain climbs, to riding in the mountains, and back down again. There were literally moments I stopped riding, looked around and went “WOW, I can’t believe I’m here”.
Thankfully a picture speaks a thousand words, and a video a thousand more.
As it turns out the road I originally planned to ride was a closed off mining route so I followed the main road instead. I have no regrets. As I was leaving, I received a warning from some friendly mining folk not to leave my bike unattended since petty theft and outright robbery, even in more remote areas, were commonplace. I cannot attest to that personally. I always got the impression that Argentina was safe. But of course I’m South African and I understand one’s views on safety is very much a relative concept.
After following the river for a while the long climb up the mountain started, with more switchbacks than I remember. I do remember feeling particularly adventurous on my KTM 1090, overlooking a forest from a mountain I had just climbed, with more peaks to be discovered … until a man on a tiny city scooter passed me on his way down. He didn’t have fancy riding gear and wore the sort of bored expression that convinced me this was a regular journey for him. It’s one of many similar lessons I’ve learned on this trip. It’s not about what you have, it’s about what you do with what you have. My adventure is daily life for many.
The road weaved through the mountains, ever undulating but without any nasty climbs or difficulty of any sort really. The descent was amazing in its own right, but the climb up will forever be burnt in my memory. The road flattened out for a while and switched back to tar until not too far from Andalgala, where a second small climb revealed some of the most stunning views of roads and landscape, with Andalgala in the distance.
I have pictures, videos, memories. But the unexpected experience of finding exactly what I was looking cannot be expressed in words.
For anyone wanting to view the route or better yet, try it yourself, you can find the GPX file for your Garmin or similar GPS device here