It was rather unpopulated in the puna/north of Argentina. We enjoyed the feeling of being alone in the middle of nowhere, with nothing but nature and it’s forces around us. From Paso Socompa to Copahue we cycled for around 2 months (beg Nov till beg January with some time off over Christmas etc). Distance wise that translates to around 2000k as far as I remember right now, for accuracy look at our gpx files…
We had to carry more water than usual as rivers and sweet water lakes were almost nonexistent. This was a small price to pay for the stunning views we got in the puna. From sand dunes to salt flats to interesting rock fomations. Unfortunately we were forced onto the “Ruta 40” after Paso San Francisco which wasn’t only asphalt and trafficked but also full of spiky plants that gave us numerous punctures, the reason we eventually decided to hitch/bus to Mendoza. around there it was very dry and perhaps less “scenic”, except for the mountain range in the west aka the passes to Chile. We wanted to do a couple of passes but due to a long winter some hadn’t opened yet and others couldn’t even be crossed on horse as the rivers were too high from the snowmelt. We eventually passed the cordillera via Paso Copahue, a horse trail near Chos Malal (probably the priciest town we went through until then).
Most towns, even small ones, had WiFi in the plaza or some other municipal building.
As for costs, coming from Peru and Bolivia, everything seemed rather pricy. Prices also seemed to increase the further we went south and the further we were from bigger cities.
We usually managed to haggle prices for a room down to 100 Argentinian pesos pp (about double to what we paid in Peru and Bolivia). The cheapest camping we could find was in Malargue for 50 for both of us in one tent in the municipal campground. Free camping was pretty easy too though, except for along the 40.
Even if shops were little they usually had everything we needed.
Prices for food varied from town to town and shop to shop sometimes – big supermarkets were usually more affordable. Below a list of products with costs as of December 2015/January 2016 (as the government was changing) in northern towns of Argentina (around Antofagasta de la Sierra down to Mendoza).
Cheese, 100g 7-12 (queso cremoso was sometimes as cheap as 6)
Coffee, instant, 400g 30
Coffee, ground, 250g 50 (only available in big supermarkets, and most come with sugar)
Cookies, variety bag 18-25
Cookies, 100ish g pack 10
Flour, 1kg 6-15
Honey, small jar 30
Jam, jar 25
Milk, 1l 10-15
Oats 400g 16
Salami, 100g 15