Today's itinerary was north then west into the Andes to Villavicencio on the Ruta 52 that goes to Uspallata. First day was the most nearby west route on 13, next day was south to Cacheuta, now we're venturing more north and into the mountains.
Villavicencio also has thermal pools, a little interpretive center with a pet llama for petting, and is famous for bottled water - most of the bottled water in restaurants is Villavicencio brand. We drove straight as an arrow for probably 30k along the flat plains while gently climbing, then as we turned left into the mountains, pulled over to start riding. It gradually steepened until we reached the interpretive center. A few kilometers past that was the thermal baths and a lunch spot where a coke and a large jamon crudo sandwich while listening to 80's tunes was the order. We split ways here - I went up the gravel road, which is supposed to take 3h to drive to Uspallata up up up over the mountains - the squiggles on google maps made it clear there was a lot of climbing and switchbacks - trying to put as much distance in as possible before the sag wagon came back up the hill to catch me. I felt on fire and free as a bird, the times in life when I absolutely live for riding a bike. Beautiful uphill TT, and it worked well enough that I scared the sag wagon on why I wasn't caught sooner. Beautiful views, giant mountains, rugged feel. Heavenly.
The approach road was straight as an arrow for miles before this, here we're close to the mountains.
Nice road. Next to zero traffic. Few days of riding has both of us a bit more tired.
Interpretive center at Villavicencio. Notice the road way back on that mountain. I ended up making it higher than what's seen there.
One ranger station, one interpretive center, one set of banjos.
Oh yeah, and one pet llama.
They sit funny. It was little. The rangers petted it.
The map isn't drawn super exact, but you get the idea that you're going up and over some mountains by the switchbacks.
Restaurant with cured ham hanging. Had a sandwich and a coke, and chatted to the busboy who was probably over 40 but working on his english - and doing quite well at it.
Past the turnoff for the restaurant/thermal baths, the road goes to gravel.
I started time trailing, such a fun climb. Felt great. Stopped here just cause I had to get the view of the below.
Not a lot of guard rail. Nice grade though, pretty easy to push a good gear.
Where I was caught. Not the top, but probably close. Thought about riding up further, but it was up into the clouds and some precipitation, didn't feel the need to get chilled, and haven't been bringing any warm clothes at all, just jersey.
Small hike to lookout.