December 20, 2014

South America: Argentina, Part 1

The first night in Argentina after crossing Aconcagua at sunset we found a little hosteria in Uspallata near the border. The next day was a beautiful ride through the desert on the hunt for hot springs we saw on the map. No hot springs were found, but we found a nice place to hide our tent in the trees in the Villavicencia Natural Preserve and fell asleep by 6pm. 

The next day was stressful rides through the large and hectic cities of Mendoza and San Juan. Outside of San Juan we pulled off on dirt service road up the mountains and found a nice place to set up camp just in time before sunset. Our dinner was pasta with ketchup. We woke up to dense fog and another morning of instant coffee with bread and cheese. 

We rode to Villa Union, a beautiful little town surrounded by vineyards and desert mountains of red clay. We found a neat little adobe hostel to stay in for a few nights and found an amazing local restaurant with dirt floors, local acoustic guitar players and the best steak and Malbec wine you could imagine. There we met another motorcycle traveler from Holland who had been riding solo until he met up with some friends in Salta. 

Due to road closures we had a big detour on our route northbound around Tamapalas National Park. While riding through the town of Chilecito James got stung in the face by a wasp. He's deathly allergic, but for some bizarre reason felt inclined to see how long he could go before using his epi pen, despite my pleading. He had a serious reaction and was forced to stop riding and use his pen. We ended up staying a night in town instead of camping because his allergic reaction was too serious. It was pretty scary and I was happy it happened while in town rather than in the middle of no where. I made him promise that now wasn't the time or place for those kind of experimentations...

The next day we rode to the most incredible hot springs: Fiambala. We relaxed there for a few days camping and soaking in a hot spring oasis hidden in the desert, drinking mate and meeting nice locals. We sadly left and headed towards Tinogasta. We saw a short cut to Londres on the map and asked some locals for directions. We rode Cuesta de Zapata to Londres, and sadly I was too scared the whole time to take any photos of the ride. Later we learned it was an over 1,000 year old horse trail, now closed to motor traffic and after the ride we clearly understood why. A tiny road of dirt, sand and large rocks with massive drop offs and no barriers, and tunnels you didn't want to hang out too long in. I often closed my eyes and prayed we wouldn't fly off the edge. When crossing through a dried up river bed of deep sand we laid down the bike. Luckily we weren't going very fast and I don't even really remember crashing, just realized all the sudden we were standing and the bike was on its side. Everything was fine, so we got it back up quickly and continued on our way. 

We saw lots of wild horses and donkeys, and at one point a tarantula. We ate lots of steak and french fries when we stopped for food and drank lots of Malbec wine any chance we could. The days blurred together and the only thing that mattered was gas, food and places to sleep. We made it to Belen, Argentina to restock on supplies before we would head into no-man's-land in the Catamarca Province for the Laguna Blanca Preserve.

More posts to follow...

And stay tuned for the story on Shwood Eyewear here coming later this month...

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