Chile, Argentina, Peru. Stories from the road.

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Ramish, Mar 8, 2017.

  1. Ramish

    Ramish n00b

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    I am not a good story teller, nor a good writer for that matter. I sometimes write about our adventures because Alex insists on me writing about them. I wish he would, he has a far better sense of humor and a funny way of seeing everything. I am more of a realist type I guess. I used to love writing when I was a teenager. But that is a pretty long time ago.

    Talking about once upon a time, in a castle looking more like a one room apartment, when we were just a bit younger and in love with the world, we used to day dream about leaving everything behind and ride our motorcycle from sunrise to sunset.

    Of course, day to day life is not always a 100% accurate fairytale, and that did not really happen. It was mostly a long time plan for two young Romanian guys with big dreams, big responsibilities at home and less then more money.
    So we made a new romantic plan. And it was not bad at all.

    In 2014 we were pushing the bikes, sweating through the dunes of Erg Chebbi, cleaning carburetors in the middle of the night at Sidi Ifni, on the Pacific Cost and conquering snow covered Toubkal in the High Atlas. I will never forget Morroco, we had the best time riding, walking, climbing, sharing adventures with friends.
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    In 2015 we took a two weeks vacation to the Peloponnese Peninsula. Mountains by the sea. The perfect southern place to be when it still too cold for camping in Eastern Europe. We could be all day long in the mountains and go down by evening just to sleep in an olive tree meadow or by the beautiful blue sea.
    We found the nicest people here and the most surprisingly beautiful places.
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    2015 was the year for another big adventure we had plan since returning from Morocco. Kirghizstan and Tajikistan. We checked the maps. So few roads. Both covered with mountains, both rough and unknown. It was such an exciting thought. We will be riding there. It was perfect for us.
    3 weeks before leaving I broke my kneecap, cried for few days about it, or every time I remembered and encouraged Alex to go on and live the dream, with the promise we will see these amazing places together the next year. And it was indeed a great adventure for him. He felt in love with those places, he made awesome new friends there. He met Sambor and spent some days in his great company. He crossed furious rivers and snowy mountains on the back of our RD03 Africa Twin. He rode the Bartang Valley, the Wakhan Corridor and the Pamir Highway.
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    In 2016 we finally relived all these adventures together, after a spring break of off-roading in the Albania mountains with heavy rain, many river crossings, narrow forest paths and snowy mountain crossings with big bikes, girls passengers and a lot of fun moments.
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    I definitely felt in love with Kirghizstan and Tajikistan. They are so pure, so sincere and simple. Nature is so rough, life is so hard. When it’s hot its very hot, when it’s cold is really cold. When it rains there is flooding, there are serious landslides, people get to be even more isolated then they are. When it does not rain crops dry, there is no water for day to day necessities. Despite all this, and in spite of all the stories you hear about those places, people are good. They share everything with you, they are happy to meet you. You don’t sense envy or bitterness. I felt immediately like home.
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    But vacation always ends a bit too soon, and we have to return to work and responsibilities. And then we start dreaming again. The dream was there actually, all this time. At least since 2013. But, from January 2018 it somehow became December 2016. We were excited to hit the road so soon, again.
    We really have to thank our friend Laci, who made us take the sudden decision. And also thank Sambor, who took our bike in this long journey overseas and made sure it got there safe and well, so we can enjoy a month of sweet warm delight, inside and outside, in the middle of the European winter.
    We are so grateful.
    The last 6 weeks before our trip for hectic. I wanted to have everything perfect and ready before leaving. I had plan to have my motorcycle license exam and have kneecap hardware removal surgery in the same week. Which I did. The hardware was bothering me a lot, especially while riding as a passenger, and the doctor told me I need 6 weeks to get back to normal after surgery. So, there you go, I had it all figured out. By the end of the week I was back home and had them both marked as checked.

    And then it was work. Alex and had his hands busy with the Africa Twin CRF1000L and wanted to have the new accessories ready just before Christmas. This meant long, long hours for the Heavy Duties team in the workshop, planning and designing, then testing. After work, I helped with photos and whatever else I could. Many times, we used to get home after 22:00, exhausted, but happy to know that we are one step closer to our trip.

    Night time was our time to make tracks and check out all the places we would like to see. We did not want to go unprepared. South America was a bike deal for us. Pretty far and expensive. We wanted to make sure we did not miss anything, which of course proved to be impossible.
    I really wanted to go south. I could not imagine going to Chile and not going to Patagonia to see the glaciers and the glacier valleys. This could probably be as close as I'll ever get to Antarctica.
    We had only a small problem. A bit more than 6.000 km in 10 days, which we did not want to do only on asphalt, a constant run of more than 600 km/day in an area not really that interesting. If you wonder why the rush, well, because January is also the right time to be at the rally we really love, and that is, if you have not guessed by now, Dakar. We had to be in Salta on the 11th or somewhere around.
    We could not miss it.

    So, one day before leaving Cluj (that is Transilvania, land of Dracula, Romania) we had the tracks ready, but not for just a month, as we will find later. South of Chile to Argentina and north of Peru, of course back to Valparaiso, Chile. We had the highest volcanoes, mountain passes, many border crossings back and forth and the desert, all marked as a must see. Every photo we saw on the internet made us want to go there. We had literally no chance of doing everything, but we had high hopes.

    On the 30th we were on the road. Cluj, Bucharest, Rome, Santiago de Chile. 7h drive, 24 something hours, 3 flights, 14.000km later, on the 1st of January we landed in Chile. Why such a long trip? Well, we got to visit friends, see Rome and get to Chile for 500 euro round trip/person. It was a great deal.

    Stepping on the South American continent was surreal. Imagine, we are these two, pretty much young, guys from Romania (which was a communist country 26 years ago, that you could not get out of) that could only dream about getting so far from home. And it was really happening. And it was so easy. It was amazing.
    Our parents were terrorized by the thought of our vacation. So far from home, in a place so insecure, so wild Funny, this is exactly what West Europeans think about Romania.

    Santiago on the 1st January, like all cities around the world, was empty and big. I don’t know what else I could say about a city. I am a fan of wilderness. We had to spend a day here, because we naturally thought nobody was working on the first day of the year. We could not find any place to buy food, but we found a small fruit shop after walking for a while carrying our heavy backpacks. We sat on a bench, wearing a t-shirt, enjoying the sun and some bananas, thinking about the snowy winter at home.
    We were already relaxed.
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    #1
  2. Critic

    Critic More or less!

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    I'm in for sure! Your writing has a certain honesty to it. I can feel your sprit and joy in the words, as I read them!

    Although I love the Santiago portrait above, I hope we see idenitifing images or portraits with your story.
    #2
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  3. Suncoaster

    Suncoaster Been here awhile

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    Where the girls are green and the grass is pretty.
    "when we were just a bit younger and in love with the world"

    More !
    #3
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  4. Ramish

    Ramish n00b

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    Valparaiso was a different world. I have never seen a city like this before. So different, crazy, somehow fresh but old in the same time, packed with tourists and locals but missing that too crowded feeling.
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    It felt like a city from a sci-fi future. It looked like it was all reconstructed after a big disaster, using whatever people could find around. Old and very beautiful building in ruins, covered with sheets of metal scrap from containers, wood and dirt. All this covered in chaotic and very unique colorful artwork.
    People selling all sorts of useless stuff and traditional empanadas on the streets. All kind of strong smells. This was the world we stepped in, once we stepped out of the bus terminal in the city center.
    We had two hours of walking to the Hostel. It was perfect. Not easy, with the big backpacks, but we had plenty of time to mingle within the city. We were fascinated.
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    Our hostel was located in the old city, in a charming historical neighborhood, up the hill. As colored as all the other buildings around, inside and outside. Minutes after we checked in, we left for another walk, up the hill to see where all the smoke that was blocking the sun came from.
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    The day we arrived, 200 houses made from scrap and wood burned in the city of Valparaiso. The wind was very strong and the fire swallowed everything in the way. I manage to convince Alex, to let go of his idea of going wherever the fire was coming from and we kept walking on the narrow streets just uphill from our hostel. A chaos of inflammable materials, electric wires all around above our heads, houses on top of houses, all looking crooked and not very stable, hot days with strong winds on a romantic colored background. I am still in love with these places.
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    A big part of the city is uphill with steep slopes or many stairs to climb on, but this offers an awesome view. The harbor looks impressive with big ships, huge cranes and hundreds of containers, in the foreground the old funicular carriages, also known as elevators, constructed in the late 19th century that are still used for transportation, both by locals and tourists.
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    We went on and visit a cemetery from the 1800s, site of the marble graves of non-Catholic foreigners, where we met the friendliest cemetery keeper, not that we’ve ever met another, which gave us a tour.
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    In the end, we had spent two days walking around the memorable, unforgettable, UNESCO World Heritage Valparaiso and by the third day we were drinking our last cup of coffee, on the wobbly hostel terrace, looking over the city.[​IMG]
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    We were now, about to meet Sambor, get our bike out of customs, then out of storage, get our luggage on, and in few hours, be on our way to the mountains.

    At the Servicio National de Aduanas we met some very interesting fellow bikers from all over the world, some traveling like us, for a month, and some traveling for years. We had a couple of hours to share our stories from the world, get some positive energy, if we needed more, and get even more excited about getting on our own road.
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    Later, we would be all very eager to get packed, dressed in many protective layers and start our adventure.
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    #4
  5. CanuckCharlie

    CanuckCharlie Been here awhile

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    Holy epic photos! :clap
    #5
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  6. chudzikb

    chudzikb Been here awhile

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    Well done!
    #6
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  7. Critic

    Critic More or less!

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    West of the Illinois, heart of the state!
    Well done in deed! Great discriptions with photo's telling the story with thousands of words. I am ready for the next chapter! That said, I would buy the book.
    #7
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  8. flei

    flei cycletherapist

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    incredible photos! thanks for posting this.
    #8
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  9. dgeezer

    dgeezer Time's fun when you are having flies. Kermit

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    Nice pics and rhetoric. Thanks for reminding me .
    We were in Valparaiso in January 1999. I thought the whole city
    would slide off the hill if someone just stomped their feet.
    It looked so precarious.
    And who the hell is the guy Higgins or O'higgins.
    Many streets and other things named after this Irishman there.
    (maybe it was Santiago)
    It was laughable. We kept asking ..who is this guy? haha
    #9
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  10. Dessert Storm

    Dessert Storm Dances With Drunks

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    Superb words and photos :clap More, please!
    #10
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  11. Ramish

    Ramish n00b

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    Thank you very much everyone for you extreme kind words :D I will try to do my best to continue the story as soon as possible, as the adventure begins out of the city, and the photos get probably way better given the amazing landscape of Chile, Argentina and Peru.
    In the begging I could not find enough time to make a map of our route, but now I have one to post here, drawn by hand :p
    I will try to post our track with each post. Please feel free to ask for the tracks if you find yourself in need of adventure.
    Most are accessible, although there is a lot of offroad, other are not quite accessible and those are the places where the good stories unfold.

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    Hey dgeezer! I don't know who this guy Higgins or O'higgins is, but I saw a ton of Pedro de Valdivia variations on the theme, from cities to streets, buildings and you can't imagine what not.
    #11
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  12. danger_nurse

    danger_nurse N00basaurus?

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    Incredible photography.. Can't wait to follow along on this one :)
    #12
  13. BIG OIL

    BIG OIL Loooozer

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    :clap:clap:clapI have a feeling this will be a memorable Ride Report:clap:clap:clap Following:super:super:super
    #13
  14. Johnnydarock

    Johnnydarock Been here awhile

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    Redondo Beach CA
    Looking forward to reading this thread. Lot's of pictures please.
    #14
  15. young1

    young1 Long timer

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    I am in!

    Kiwi Mike
    #15
  16. acidman1968

    acidman1968 Been here awhile

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    Definitely gotta follow this one - I lived in Chile for about two years back in '87 - '89, some of it in Santiago, but the majority up in the north - Chanaral, Arica, Chuquicamata, and Antofagasta. Loved it, and ever since then I've wanted to ride my bike in that country!
    #16
  17. LoneWolf-IT

    LoneWolf-IT fantasy traveller

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    Rome Italy
    :clapgreat trip and awesome photos, I lived in Argentina in the north area, the Andes have a very beautiful road and awesome view. I would like to come there with my bike.
    #17
  18. edhaeuser

    edhaeuser Adventurer

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    Wisconsin
    Nice story so far, I'm in! Good Luck!
    #18
  19. Ramish

    Ramish n00b

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    Thank you again and again for your good and generous remarks. I hope I will rise to your expectations. I want to apologies in advance for the long gap between my posts, the riding season has begun! It is my wish to finish this ride report before another one starts and takes over my previous adventure memories. Although, it is much likely that next winter will find us back in South America, as it is amazing!

    Not long after we left the warehouse and seconds after we said our second goodbye to Sambor and to our italian friend Stefania, who was traveling by herself for a month in Chile, Argentina and Bolivia on a Aprila Caponord, our travelling companion, Sergiu, remember he forget to get a bigger front sprocket and filter oil for his Africa Twin.
    It was already late and our plan to get rid of the very busy and hot city was gone out the window. We were about 25km away from Valparaiso, but we were informed we wont find what we need there. We had to try Vina del Mar. That ended up to be a nightmare. First, we did not get along with the GPS and missed the city with 10 km, so we had to turn back. Then, Vina del Mar is a very touristic city and the GPS took us on the busiest streets, on pedestrian streets, on the seaside boardwalk, we were all over the place. My knees were killing me. I did not enjoy it. The city is very glamorous and expensive, so different then Valparaiso. Probably, a lot of Chilean people go there in vacation, so it's normal to be as it is.
    Unfortunately my only thought was to get out of it, this is way I didn't took any pictures.

    Sergiu managed to find a Honda dealer shop and got his filter oil, while we got some empanadas by the side of the road and off we went. This time the adventure was about to begin. For real.

    Chilean Iindustry, somewhere on our way to Vina del Mar.
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    Most of the day continued on Routa 60's asphalt roads trying to reach Los Andes Province, on which I took only photos of flowers... because in the end I am a girl, tho I enjoy industrial scenery also.
    I am not a big fan of asphalt roads as the speed of travel is most of the time to fast to be able to really enjoy the sites, although we keep it at around 100 km/h.
    What really impressed me this day, was the diligence of the Chileans. The way they work the dirt, their farming and agricultural skills, beautiful homes and of course luxurious flowers. From which I will post only one :)
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    After Los Espinos, we had to leave Routa 60 and find ourself a camping spot as it was getting pretty late and the road kept going up to 3200m and getting closer to the Argentian border. There was no point on going further. Spending the first night at more then 3000m coming from 0 it was not a good option and Routa 60 was pretty steep for camping from this point on.

    We found this road going right and we took it. Acceso cerado, but the barrier was open and looking very old. I don't like trespassing, as it happen before that we woke up somewhere in the Romanian forest with a guy holding a gun pointed towards us. Our guys decided that this it is indeed the perfect spot for the night and like always, were right. Our first night out was on this narrow valley with a barrier on one end and a pretty steep river crossing on the other. We camped in the middle on the road and slept like babies. After drinking some Chilean beers, of course.
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    This is our track from 5th to 7th of January.
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    As it was our first camping night, we woke up very early and filled with positive energy, ready to cross the Andes many times in the days to come.
    We got gas for the bikes and begin climbing Paso Internacional Los Libertadores.
    This mountain pass is the main transport route connecting the city of Santiago to Mendoza across the border in Argentina and begins rising steeply as you get closer, in a series of 29 winding curves "giving the appearance of the coil of a fridge from the air" approximately 50km from the city of Los Andes (elev. 800m). The last 20 curves are named Los Caracoles and consist of a series of hard switchbacks on an extremely steep incline.
    Again I have no photo showing this amazing road. We were in the process of looking for the perfect photo spot when we slipped on an oil spill and we were about to get spilled ourselves, traffic was really intense, a lot of heavy vehicles and buses, we forgot all about the photo until we reach the Chilean Immigration Post and it was too late. I can tell you the view was pretty amazing and despite our little oil thing, Alex said he had a lot of fun riding the curves with me and all the luggage :p

    Image credit www.dangerousroads.org
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    Image credit warianoz.com
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    Once we were in front of the tunnel we decided that it would be quite normal to take it to get on the Argentinian side, so we did not. I was not too keen on trying the tunnel anyway, after passing through a no ventilation, no light, full of gas and potholes with water, 5km long tunnel north of Dushanbe in Tajikizstan, going into the Fang Mountains. Although that was quite an adventure.

    Instead we saw this road going up to the Cristo Redentor de los Andes Pass or Uspallata Pass, which seems to be the same thing or I got really confused, and Alex told us that there is where our track goes.
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    Not yet on top, but this is the beautiful view of another "refrigerator coil" road, the alternative route to the tunnel.
    The rough gravel, sand and rock old road climbs steeply through a series of tight switchbacks all the way up to the Christ the Redeemer statue at the summit. There was almost no traffic on the Chilean side, just us and a 4x4. So different than the busy paved route.

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    The summit is at 3.840m, and it is here, on the La Cumbre Pass, that you will find the famous Christ the Redeemer statue, which I did not post here as I don't have a very good photo of it. But according to Wikipedia, the statue was unveiled on 13 March 1904 as a celebration of the peaceful resolution of the border dispute between the two countries and the writing under says "Sooner shall these mountains crumble into dust than Chileans and Argentinians break the peace which at the feet of Christ, the Redeemer, they have sworn to maintain", which I find very beautiful and romantic.

    From up here we enjoyed the breathtaking views of the valley below and the mountains around. The mountain pass is really exposed, the wind was blowing very hard and it was cold. I took my helmet off and regret it. After 10 minutes we had to go down.
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    On the Argentinian side we go down on the Bermejo Pass to reach the city of Las Cuevas, pass the Aconcagua National Park, and we see the summit of which, again, I have no photo..It looks majestic.
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    Finally, we reach Control Integrado Horcones and we get in line to enter Argentina, which already offered us a pretty awesome preview and got us feeling like we belong here.
    Few minutes later we meet a group of Brazilian speaking Portuguese, a language that we adore, motorcyclists and we exchange stickers and a very few words as there is no common language between us. They do not speak English and we do not understand a thing except "obrigado". But we find out they are going south.
    The custom control was going at a decent speed rate, until it came the turn of another motorcyclist, in front of us. We were terrified by the thought of taking all the luggage off, opened and then back on. The guy in front was not looking happy, nor was he lucky. 30 min later we were still waiting for the border police to finish searching his stuff and for him to pack his things back on the bike. We said our prayers, played stupid and touristy, smiled a lot at everything, they've checked our documents and 5 min later pulled us from the line in order to make our import documents. Of course, we did not knew at first why they pulled us from the line and expected the worst.
    I think Alex was charming and funny with the girls from the customs office as they were laughing and waving us off 5 more min later.

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    Argentina here we come!
    We barely left the customs, when few hundred meters we stooped again. This time, it was to see this natural wonder of Argentina that goes under the Puente del Inca name. This stone bridge it is speculated to be the result of Río de las Cuevas being frozen and covered with snow and debris brought down from the mountain by avalanches in winter time, which served as a path for the sulfurous water who also petrified its surface. Later, when the snow melted, the bridge remained by itself glowing in a dazzling orange and green. Under the bridge, covered by sulfurous deposits, lays the brick ruins of an old spa, built as part of a resort and later destroyed by flood.
    Due to the unstable nature of the structure, the area has been closed off and you can’t cross the bridge or enter the hot baths any more.
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    It is such a pity to be on the run, but one month for 3 big and beautiful countries is not merely enough, so we're back on the road. I want us to stop all the times to take pictures of everything, but I find out it is not possible. Uff!
    RN7 to Mendoza, but we're getting off in Uspallata.
    The road amidst the Andean Mountains.
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    In Uspallata we stopped for coffee and a sandwich on the side of the road. The little town was packed with motorcycle travelers from all over the world. The local Argentinians and Chileans motorcyclists were by far the friendliest of the bunch. We got our local sim card and off we went north.
    Ruta nacional 149 runs parallel to the Andes Mountains, it is part of the mining corridor and passes through the El Leoncito National Park. From Uspallata to Barreal we met no one on the road. It was just us and the wind and long, straight and good gravel road, on which Alex loves to go fast and I usually fall asleep after 20km of nothing happens.

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    The Barreal Blanco or Pampa del Leoncito, seen from the back of the bike, at sunset. A perfectly smooth dry plain about 10 km long by 3 wide, created by evaporation of a recent lake basin.
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    Once we got to Barreal, on the paved road, it was pretty late and we started looking for a place to camp along Rio de los Patos. The stretch of land running around the river was heavily populated and I was not surprise, coming from the 100km long desert without inhabitants and water in sight. There were small villages everywhere and there were a lot of people walking on the road. The houses were scattered, looking very poor, made of clay or dirt, people and children were working around the household. It was a very different world. It is surprisingly and in the same time normal (if you think about older times), how much life changes according to climate and what people can use from nature. So different then West Europe where everybody has everything no matter of the geography.
    30km later, before reaching Calingasta, we found this small road on the right side of the 149, which took us on a dry river bed closer to the mountains.

    We went to sleep with this sky.
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    And woke up to this one.
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    In Calingasta we left the 149 behind and embark on another gravel and sometimes loose sand road, the Provincial Route 412, wich conencts Calingasta to Bella Vista.
    Along its route there is just a desert landscape, having the imposing Cordillera de los Andes on the background.

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    Just a desert landscape it is maybe too harsh, as few moments after thinking it we saw an ostrich. And then 2 and then a whole bunch of them running around.
    I know they are hard to spot in this photo, but again, it was taken from the bike. If you see some grey to yellowish elongated spots where the grass meets the hill, that is what it is. They are gracious and fast.

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    Here are some horses living peacefully with the Argentinians cattle.

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    From Bella Vista to Huaco we took National Route 150, along the Jáchal River Gorge. The canyon is quite spectacular, rising 30 meters above the river level. The road is narrow, but there is not much traffic.

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    From Huaco it was straight forward, literally. We were on Routa 40, but not yet on the amazingly beautiful part of it. The sun was blinding us and it was super hot. We were on this very long and straight road, feeling pretty tired, when we realized we were very close of ruining out of gas. For some reason we missed the last gas station and our calculation left us unable to reach the Ischigualasto Provincial Park and started the "running out of gas panic" in our small group.
    I was pretty disappointing, but got convinced by the "let's leave this for the next time we come back" line.
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    Once we found gas and shadow we were saved. We also found these two Argentinians, traveling from Buenos Aires to Mendoza, camping and visiting friends. Really cool people.

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    From Villa Union we took Ruta Nacional 76 on our way to Paso Pircas Negras, at 4165 m. By evening we were just in Vinchina. Locals were nice enough to advise us not to go any further as there was still a bit of road in front of us and we will find the border closed, but we really wanted to get closer to the mountains we've been seeing all day long.

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    Leaving Vinchina, on our way to the small village of Jague, we were suprised to discover the amazing wonder of nature and geology, of course, Quebrada de la Troya. There is very little information to none about this dramatic folded and tilted rock strata which is the home of Troy or Bermejo river, although it is on the route to visit Laguna Brava and Paso Pircas Negras. It is said that on the slopes of the mountains you can see petrified traces of life that populated these places before they got to be so folded.But everything is beautiful.

    In some sections the route becomes pretty narrow and you must be careful where you stop as there is a lot of traffic during the day, of tourists and locals enjoying the valley.
    We found this to be the perfect place for the night and immediately started looking for the best spot to enjoy a bath and get the bikes near. It was the perfect end of a day with a lot of asphalt and not many stories to tell.
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    It was such a great, warm evening with a beautiful sunset and one of the many perfect camping spots we enjoyed during our trip, each more spectacular and definitely different then the previous.
    Our guys had a bit of fun in the sand and then we all dived in the very shallow water flowing under the old bridge.

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    #19
    Suncoaster, roadcapDen and dgeezer like this.
  20. everready

    everready Stuck in Ohio....Ugh!!!

    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2013
    Oddometer:
    2,118
    Location:
    Macedonia, Ohio
    Very cool. Please keep it coming!
    #20