South America: Argentina to Chile
After falling in love with the town of Cachi and it's wonderful food and warm sunshine we headed towards the city of Salta to find some parts needed for the bike. We left the desert and massive cacti and headed down in elevation into the jungle. After spending a few hectic hours riding in circles around Salta trying to find a cheap place to stay, we finally found a hostel in our budget and in walking distance to the motorcycle shops. We didn't enjoy being in a big city so much, but we were able to get necessary motorcycle parts, catch up on laundry and have much needed hot showers. After two nights in Salta we headed north to the colorful and beautiful village of Purmamarca in the Seven Colors Mountains. We found out that the pass through the Andes to get us back into Chile was closed due to snow, so we stayed a second day here and it gave us a chance to explore this beautiful area a bit more. We then rode to Susques and tried to get info on the Paso de Jama border crossing into Chile, but it was challenging to get a clear answer from anyone. We met two Brazilian motorcycle travelers while getting gas outside of Susques who had just come from Jama and told us of a motel at a gas station that we could sleep at while we waited for the border to open. We decided to head there and wait it out. The village of Jama was pretty desolate and at 12,000ft elevation in the middle of winter. The gas station motel was full, but we found people gathering in a small adobe house with a family who was serving dinner and hosting people for the night, so we crashed there. We met several other stuck travelers from all over South America and shared a nice simple dinner prepared by the family and some tea made from coca leaves to help cure our altitude sickness. The next day the border was still closed and we spent the entire day hanging out inside the gas station drinking coffee trying to stay warm, and using the internet for research on our upcoming route through Bolivia.
The pass finally opened at the end of the day just a few hours before sundown and a long line of cars, trucks and other motorcycles barreled through the mountain pass that peaked at 14,000ft. It was extremely cold, windy and icy, and crossing the pass took much longer than we expected. At one point James stopped to get a photo of the icy road (see below), but the wind was so strong that it blew the bike with me sitting on it over and my knee was smashed between the bike and a guardrail. Luckily I was too frozen to realize how much pain I was in and it wasn't until we finally made it to San Pedro de Atacama, Chile that night and I tried to walk did I realize I seriously injured myself. I was in so much pain that I could hardly walk and was scared I would have to go home because of it. The pass into Bolivia was also closed to due to snow, so we were stuck in San Pedro de Atacama for a few days, so I tried to rest and will it back to feeling good so I continue on the trip. It was definitely a shitty time in this expensive tourist town filled with annoying gringos while we struggled to find cheap food and places to stay for two dirt bags such as ourselves on top of a bum knee.
After a few days the snow finally melted in Bolivia and the border opened up and we stocked up on supplies to head back up into elevation to spend a few days in the remote Altiplano of Bolivia on the Laguna Route.