An Aussie Abroad - (Taking Lucy Home, from Chile to the US)

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Junipertravels, Jul 21, 2019.

  1. Junipertravels

    Junipertravels Adventurer

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    After Talampaya I head off the beaten track a little, making for Paso De San Francisco on Route 60. This route is also known as the Camino de la volcanes - the road of the volcanoes. Here is a little clip to get you warmed up for the icy cold +4000m ride...

    #21
  2. mrsdnf

    mrsdnf Been here awhile

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    Nothing like a bit of penicillin to go with your tucker. :1drink
    Thanks for the update.
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  3. Junipertravels

    Junipertravels Adventurer

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    Cheers Mrsdnf! 'Been a while since I had the time and wi-fi to get another update in, but here we go!

    Okay so a 'teaspoon of cement later and I'm off from Villa Union. I'd been recommended Ruta (route) 60 by a friend in Mendoza (Cheers Triny!!), I head for Fiambala - it's roughly a days ride for me and it puts me halfway up Paso De San Francisco and the Chilean Border, it's not so high that it's freezing at night, but within range for a good day of exploring this "road of the volcanoes"!

    Map:
    Villa Union to Cafayate.PNG

    Using Ruta 11 to get here Lucy gets her first taste of dirt (with me anyway), I'll admit this is also the first time I've ridden off bitumen - so please bear this in mind haha! So, I'm surrounded by the Andes, passing ever shrinking villages with no services, no cell reception... I'm definitely heading deeper into a 'road less traveled. I'd been putting off an early fuel stop and now I begin to realise just how remote this road is. I choose to forge ahead despite my fuel situation because the next major town is closer than the last town I passed with fuel... Dang! A little stupidly I had, without realising, passed that "point of no return" for my fuel. Then my Garmin GPS begins contradicting the physical road, a road which is twiddling down from highway, to dual lane, to single lane bitumen, to dirt road, to dirt track... Having an offline Google Maps was a major help here, I was riding on roads Google knew about that Garmin had know idea of. Always have a few different maps downloaded! (I try to have Google Offline and Maps Me on my phone, backups to Garmin which is my primary navigation). Anyway, you get it, I can be a worrier, I was a nervous as the road turned to gravel and sand, but man it was a reward to feel completely on my own, in a wild foreign countryside, traversing a valley with towering mountains on either side of me. And man was I rewarded with a big buzz of excitement when I reached bitumen and Tinogasta's YPF fuel depot haha!

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    In Fiambala I decide my man flu has subsided enough to pitch my never before used tent. I find a lovely elderly lady through the IO app, who lets me use her fenced in olive grove for two nights - so I can leave behind a base camp for exploring. The wind picks up in the late afternoon along with a small dust storm. I use rocks to keep the fly on the ground and dust out of the tent. And I end up cooking and hiding in the tent until the wind dies down

    The olive grove:
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    In the morning I pack a lunch of cold pasta and head up Ruta 60 proper. It's a stunning road, it begins with straight roads as far as the eye can see (and a gusting wind to keep my teeth on edge). It then opens into a rocky gorge as shown in the previous YouTube video. Impressive rocky cliffs of vibrant colour begin at the edge of the road - the gusting wind changes directions suddenly as the road winds through ravines of different direction. Insanely fun on the KLR, would've hated this on my sports bike back home but on the relatively slow KLR it adds a certain spice and I end up eating my lunch with sore cheeks from grinning too much

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    The geological formations in this part of Ruta 60 are stunning!

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    Above 4,000m the road becomes icy cold (literally ICY :vardy). I take a few gravel side roads and cross my first icy stream (barely a stream really) to check out one of the volcanoes. There is a lot of water up here, and the tundra is relatively green compared with the dusty lower sections of the road. At these temperatures the lakes and rivers are all semi frozen, these ducks and flamigoes are standing/walking across the frozen parts of the lake. Llama's abound in the higher section of Ruta 60 and a herd of horses in the lower regions

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  4. Junipertravels

    Junipertravels Adventurer

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    The llama's and horses from the previous post...

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    #24
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  5. Junipertravels

    Junipertravels Adventurer

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    From Fiambala I head back towards Ruta 40 and civilisation! With an ever descending road, the climate warms enough for me to turn off my heated hand grips and I begin to properly defrost and enjoy the corners on this road. I finish up in the town of Belen, a relatively small town, I find a quaint little backpacker just out of the center for 300 Peso a night. I decide to stay for two nights as, thanks to the cold climates of Ruta 60 I am sick again. Thankfully I have a room just to myself. I give my chain some love and a few little jobs on the bike during the day, but mostly I relax and recover from camping in the cold. Hammocks out the back get some use

    Arriving in Belen:
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    The first night I am given cooking lessons from a couple from Mendoza - the dish is called Milanese (?) - I think it's Italian but every restaurant in Northern Argentina sells this. Delicious, and trumped my homemade pasta. I think I am yet to go a day without experiencing generosity from a local in Argentina

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    The second night the young couple who run the backpacker actually deliver homemade vegetable soup to me in my room - Legends! In the morning I head off for Cafayate and I only get 30min down the road when I bump into this couple. A chance to practice my Spanish and get the bonus of a free Mata (a local tea every Argentinian needs to drink or they stop being Argentinian), the lovely couple are from Buenos Aires and offer me free support if I ever come through the city. Cheers Mariano, might take you up on this later in the year!

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    The road from Belen to Cafayate is otherwise uneventful, dead straight often flat roads that are void of traffic...

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    Attached Files:

    #25
  6. Normlas

    Normlas Been here awhile

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    Great update and so nice to see that you are having a blast and that the bike is going well. I had a great place in Cafayate and ended up staying for a week and loving it, the details are in my blog - highly recommend you check it out!

    Still feels a little wrong to see you on 'my' bike but I am starting to get used to it - you guys seem to be getting along :super

    Sure gives me lots of great memories to see these places again.

    Ride on bro :beer
    #26
  7. powderzone

    powderzone Been here awhile Supporter

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    You’re in for a treat if you ride north of Cafayate via ruta 40 to Cachi. Beautiful area! The road is sandy but not terrible. Have fun!
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  8. Normlas

    Normlas Been here awhile

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    I totally agree, and then head East from Cachi to Salta - superb riding !!
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  9. Junipertravels

    Junipertravels Adventurer

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    Cheers brother! :freakyShe's been looking after me well, I've added 3,000km to her odometer

    To be honest I think she's still part your bike mate, everywhere I go people assume I'm a Kiwi with the big NZ stickers haha. You feature in every explanation of what I am doing - I had to add one Australian sticker, sorry but it was confusing people when I tried to explain to them that I'm not from New Zealand. So far no explosions :bubba

    With your blog I need an index! It's bloody huge, and trying to find which pages to read with crappy internet connections is frustrating. Would love to retrace some of your steps. Hurry up and turn it into a book! Haha

    Cafayate to Cachi! Got it!!! Cheers Powderzone :super
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  10. 08StangGT_CS

    08StangGT_CS Adventurer

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    Great story. I’m in. I’d love to quit and drop everything to travel but don’t think I’ll do it for a handful of more years.
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  11. Junipertravels

    Junipertravels Adventurer

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    Cheers 08StangGT! Be careful, your trip could come sooner than you think. With me, I started reading peoples stories on ADV and it became an obsession pretty quickly, before I knew it I'd bought a bike and quit my job to be here haha. Was like a snowball turning into an avalanche. Anyway, I hope you enjoy my story here, it's good to have you along for the ride

    Alright so, I'm catching up on a busy week away from Wi-fi, keeping on with the journey! :type

    ...

    SO. Cafayate... What an Awesome little township, Ruta 40 goes straight through the guts of it, it's also encircled with bodegas (vineyards). Like all the towns I've been through there is a plaza in the heart, restaurants and information points surrounding. Cafayate is more tourist friendly than the last few stops, and I admit it's nice to get back to some comforts that come with being in a tourist zone

    As has become my habit, I do a quick lap and find a YPF (fuel station). The ritual of getting the fuel when I reach the destination is a really good habit; it kind of triggers a change in mindset. From "going with the flow, riding and site seeing" to "chores, logistics and organisation." My ritual is to arrive, fuel up, calculate my fuel efficiency (make sure it's not abnormal), use the loo (toilet), and jump on iOverlander to look for any recent accommodation posts that suit my requirements. YPFs often have free Wi-Fi which is handy. Before I get back on Lucy to look for accommodation I do a quick check of the oil level - since she tends to burn this I need to check daily, the fuel-up ritual is a great way of making sure I don't forget

    Anyway, on iO I find a little hostel walking distance from the plaza for 250 Peso per night - dirt cheap thanks to the recently falling ARG currency. I also read about a bike-friendly restaurant/bar, "Baco Resto Bar" that is a supposed hub for moto riders. This is actually kind of important to me, as I have been beginning to feel a sense of prolonged loneliness. In hindsight I realise that I haven't had much human interaction sense I left Mendoza, at least not in English. This is about 8 days gone. I guess it's hard to get complete social satisfaction from "Donde el bano." So determined to make a friend, I drop Lucy off at the hostel and walk up to Baco Bar - it's easy to find as it has a handful of motorbikes parked alongside. I walk inside, wearing my DriRider jacket and immediately am introduced to Gille, an English-speaking frenchman living locally. It was a great way to finish the day, the local Salta beer was a pricey (200 peso), but it was cold and refreshing. Salta Negra is similar to my favourite beers back home, and I decide this is my choice beer for as long as I can find it. Gille took me under his wing straight away, he produced a map of North Argentina and began explaining options for me ride. Before long we were joined by an American-turn-local, Enrique the bars owner and others... I ended up spending 3 times the cost of my accommodation on beer and pizza, but it was totally worth it :beer

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    (Frenchman turned Local Gille, giving me some travel tips)
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    (Baco Bar is full of moto memorabilia)
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    This is a small taste of Cafayate...


    The next day I grab a big free breakfast and head back to Baco Bar to relax, meet some more riders and get some more advice on which roads I can take. I'd decided to head off the next day, to head for Cachi on Ruta 40 (what the guys are recommending above). So I head back to the hostel to pack the bike for an early night

    ...Enter four french girls...

    I was in the hostel cleaning up after my dinner, making small talk in my terrible Spanish with one of the other guests when I caught a bit of french accent. Once we realised we could speak English together the conversation flowed. Was so nice to have some people I could chat with in English haha, I think they felt the same. I ended up making a cuppa-soup and joined them for their meal just so I could keep talking in English. I think it was here I realised how much I'd missed social interaction like this

    And like all French I've met, they were foodies. I've never before seen backpackers have a casual 3 course meal. The four are actually student doctors, here in Argentina on placement

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    (Daphne, Manos, Tiffany and Clementine)​

    Clementine invites me to join them the next day, they're hiring some bikes and doing a little scenic ride along some of ruta 68. Sounded lovely... So I extended an extra day, and the next morning found myself being dropped off in the desert with a bicycle miles and miles from town. I somehow had the impression a bus would be picking us back up later in the day. But shortly after getting there I realise they meant to ride all the way back into town. This little scenic ride was actually a 6-7 hour ride, through the desert in the peak of the day... We started in the cold of the morning so I was wearing jeans, I also didn't think to bring sun block, and none of us brought enough water... Crazy french girls. I'm used to doing things without pre-planning but this was another level haha. But poor planning is how adventures are born. We ended up getting home after dark - and to give them credit the sunset riding was mind blowing, as was the scenery. I think I was just caught off guard by how casual they made the invitation sound. (I would later learn, they are frequently downplaying their travelling plans)

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    Attached Files:

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  12. Junipertravels

    Junipertravels Adventurer

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    Along this bike ride, every 5km roughly, is a geological feature often with a short walk... I think it might be called Quebrada de las Conchas (ravine of the shells)... And they're pretty spectacular. The first feature is the Garganta del Diabla Salta (devil's throat?) and it is amazing. The photos don't do it justice, it's a massive naturally formed optical illusion. to get into the gorge you need to go upwards with a little scrambling over rocks. But the landscape makes you think your actually walking downward... Hopefully you can spot what I mean in the photo...

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    Some of the other formations... And yes I realise I rattle on about rocks a lot, but there are some seriously interesting formations along Ruta 68, photos just don't do justice but you hopefully get something of what I saw from them!

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    Calchaqui Valley, Ruta 68 within
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    Making friends with a lone Cactus
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    The sunset was so spectacular it was nearly eerie on the final stretch back to Cafayate
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    #32
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  13. Junipertravels

    Junipertravels Adventurer

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    In the morning I part ways with the french-doctor-students and make for Cachi along Ruta 40. Here is a little taste of that ride...

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  14. mrsdnf

    mrsdnf Been here awhile

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    Nice video and write up. Keep up the good work. :-)
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  15. ScotsFire

    ScotsFire And then a drifter rode into town...

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    Rough duty, but someone's gotta do it!

    French girls. They are wacky. (among other things...)
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  16. Junipertravels

    Junipertravels Adventurer

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    Thanks guys! Loving your tagline ScotsFire... "If you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there". So appropriate for me with where I'm up to on my trip right now

    Alright so back to Cafayate... In the morning I take a couple of the Frenchies for a joyride around town (a little naughty with only one helmet, need to find another!). Also a little annoyed at myself too, I'd parked the bike inside the front yard of the hostel in loose gravel/dirt. In the morning I was trying to move the bike into the street and the secure parking was awkward. Anyway, I dropped her trying to reverse her around a corner uphill and cracked the plastic front fairing. Duct tape for now and will try to fix in the evening. So loaded up, double checked oil, a few goodbyes and I'm back on the road. I do a quick lap of the plaza to check out the festivities - it's San Martin's day, a public holiday and everywhere seems to be music, food and parades. This is the rad general/captain/revolutionary dude I mentioned in my Mendoza post - if you're interested have a read about him here

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    Map (Cafayate to Cachi):
    Cafayate to Cachi.PNG

    I get about 10min down the road and realise my camelbak isn't sealed properly and icy water is leaking down my back. Rather than stop I decide to quickly drink the contents, now rather than stopping once I have to stop every 30 minutes... There's a lesson in there somewhere I think, but hey I'm at least hydrated after the crazy French desert expedition the day before

    Then, shortly after San Carlos, the bitumen evaporates.

    At the time I didn't really know the condition of the road (this happened before the above advice from Powderzone). Frenchman Gille had just said it was a must see; I'd suspected it wasn't sealed since Google Maps gave me a 3.5h drive time for only 150km. Now, I'm going to hit pause and have to come clean about something here. With the exception of my short stint up to ruta 60 I've never actually ridden a bike off bitumen. Back home in Aus I had Ducati 848, in other words I am a dirt - n00bie. My riding was weekenders on the Sunshine Coast with twisty roads on clean bitumen between craft beer back-rest stops. A little different from the riding I'm doing here in SA. There are those of you who probably think I'm a bit of an idiot for jumping to a KLR for a cross continental trip without having some off-road experience, and to be fair you're probably a little right haha. I had toyed with buying or renting a dirt bike back in Aus to practice on but between finishing up my job, selling my household possessions as well as the fact that I was trying to save money so I could be unemployed for a year, it wasn't a priority. I figured I'd get the experience along the way. I think I tend to fixate on something and once I'm committed I push forward with it, perhaps sometimes a little recklessly. That being said, I think you can get stuck in detailed preparation for a trip like this, eventually you just have to take a dive and commit to it. I mean it is an adventure after all

    So back in Aus I'd discussed, gotten advice and watched YouTube videos on how to respond and react to sand and soft roads. I'd revised these the night before I left Cafayate. 'If you hit sand and the front wheel slides, accelerate and bring your weight backwards. 'If you want to turn right, move your weight on to your left peg and lean against the corner... These things are a little counter intuitive for me after riding a sport bikes. So when I first hit the soft road I was nervous, but I took it slowly and practiced the advice I only had in theory. Dropping the tire pressure helped a lot too. It felt totally weird at first, and it was real thrill to be out of my comfort zone. I think had a sadistic grin half the time, every time the bike felt like jelly it'd split my face ear to ear. Once I had the rhythm going I pumped some Beastie Boys into my helmet earphones and embraced it. I have to say it was f**king fun, and I think I'm now fully converted to getting something for the off road when I finish the trip

    The more confident I was with my actions the more stable the bike felt. Occasionally I'd forget myself and would momentarily slow after a sand-wobble, bite a curse and instantly chide myself and re-focus. After a while it began to feel more natural and I could stop thinking about it, let myself go a little faster and enjoy the thrill of the bike hitting something soft. In my GoPro footage I can notice the slow start and faster speeds as I get more confident

    And the landscapes... Man the scenery was just breathtaking. I'll upload an unedited clip or two to give you an idea... The landscape was originally flat desert but soon it winded through giant slabs of rocks coming out of the sand at near vertical angles. The road also follows the River Calchaqui which is more of a stream this time of year, but still offered interesting scenery. There was also a handful of dune buggy cars racing around this road too, looks like a blast skidding around those corners with 4 wheels


    About 20min outside of Cachi there is a tiny little village on the side of the road. There's half a dozen adventure-kitted bikes parked up and so I pull over, adding Lucy to the back of the line. Helmet and earplugs come out and I'm greeted with the sounds of San Martin Day festivities - Argentinian folk music (Chacarera), interlaced with kids playing and barking dogs


    As you'd all know, when moto riders meet there's an instant connection, it's no different when I made my way over to these other riders. My greeting and introduction in Spanish is becoming well rehearsed. The group are all locals to Northern Argentina, and all except one can only speak Spanish

    We click instantly after one of the lads imitates a kangaroo hopping through snow and we all get a good laugh (back home in Aus there have been snow storms and the strange scene of roos hopping through snow have made the news over here). Carlos, well one of the Carlos's anyway, recommended to try the fruit punch in the below photo. Damn it was refreshing. Sitting here typing about it is making my salivate a little haha

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    They invite me to share the costs of a hotel room with them tonight - still more expensive than the cheap dormitories I'm using but a chance to hang out with these guys more is appealing so I agree. Once in Cachi we hunt around for a hotel, and immediately after parking up the bikes Fruit-Punch-Carlos pulls out a tube of some kind of superglue and a container of fine table salt. He tells me he's going to fix the front of my bike, the crack from dropping it that morning, which I'd completely forgotten about. The Argentinians I've met here are like that, always super generous and sometimes fiercely determined to be so haha. He applied layers of the superglu in between sprinkling layers of salt, making several layers until a seam of salt/glue is formed along the crack (could just be me but I've never seen this before). The seam is a hardened shell, which so far has proved strong enough to withstand any amount of corrugation induced vibrations. I think it's worked better than the epoxy resins I'm carrying - need to keep an eye out for the stuff to swap it into my toolkit I think

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    After hot showers we buy Salta Negra and street-food tortillas and then relax in the street. Eating, drinking and continue communicating through Spanglish and charades

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    The next day these guys are riding North to San Antonio Del Cobras along Ruta 40 - they invite me to join which I accept. I mean these guys are awesome fun and I'm having a blast being a part of their gang. I had planned to go to Salta to meet up with the Frenchies but the idea of another winding dirt road sounds better than going back to a city

    Before I go to sleep I do a little reading of the road I've just agreed to ride - more soft gravel/sandy roads, with half a dozen river crossings and at its pinnacle a pass of 4,972m in altitude (though all the signs here in Argentina have it at 4,895m). The highest a national highway goes anywhere in the world...

    ...Well I wanted an adventure didn't I?
    #36
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  17. mrsdnf

    mrsdnf Been here awhile

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    Orsm reading and great pictures Junipertravels. Nothing like jumping in the deep end to learn something new. Nice work. Looks like I'll have to go and watch YouTube videos with my son. :D
    #37
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  18. powderzone

    powderzone Been here awhile Supporter

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    Awesome adventure! It’s great retracing some of my own past adventures through your ride.
    #38
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  19. Junipertravels

    Junipertravels Adventurer

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    I'm falling behind in this blog guys! So much to catch you guys up on!

    So, Ruta 40 - Cachi to San Antonia Del Cobras... Man, what an incredible road! Just going through the videos now, and man I'm considering going back and doing that road again. It is one of the older stretches of this massive highway, dirt and gravel that's seen no upgrades since it's creation in the late 1950's. The highest point is called Abray Del Acay or Acay Pass, to get here the road has an inclination of 4.5%, crosses lots of rivers and creeks and lacks the standard 21% oxygen

    So I wake up in the morning nice and early, pack the bike, check tire pressure, and grab a decent amount of breakfast. This is the first time I'm staying in a Hotel not a backpacker and the breakfast is awesome! I don't normally use hotels but I split the cost with my new amigos, 600 Peso or $20AUD a piece which was about the same as a backpacker in Cachi - it's an expensive town!). I know it's better to be at altitude without over-eating but I can't help myself. It's tasty, unlimited food; and there is cereal and milk - I can't remember the last time I wasn't eating Caramel (Dulce de leche) on toast!

    After breakfast the guys tell me I should get some Coca leaves to complete this high altitude adventure. Pretty much everyone here has a cheek full of the stuff. Coca Leaves do have very small amounts of cocaine, and the last time I was in South America I was hiking to Macchu Picchu but didn't try them for fear of failing a drug test at work. Now that I'm unemployed I thought why not, give it a whirl. At least it might settle my nerves haha

    So a couple of the guys and I take off on our bikes early to hunt down some Coca Leaves. We start by asking someone in the street who waves us in a direction, 300m or so later and more verbal directions from another stranger directs us down another street. This process is repeated half a dozen more times until we zero in on the backdoor of a house down some back streets. This whole process reminds me of what buying illicit drugs might be like (of course I wouldn't know, I'm just imagining here...) Anyway, it looks like a standard kiosk or milkbar inside but the guy doesn't open the door for us and makes us do the whole transaction through the window. I've a little clip of it all below

    At the time I felt so rebellious, of course I looked it up that night and found Coca Leaves were totally legal in Argentina! :imaposer

    Map:
    Cachi a San Antonio.PNG

    Alright so back to the riding! Out of town it wasn't long before being re-acquainted with my new friends - dirt, gravel and sand. We sat on a good pace, trying to spread out to minimise riding in each others dust clouds - the road dust is fine and covers everything and gets into everything. Everything. We stop a few times - a look out, a road side temple thing to acquire some favour with the motorbike gods, and pull into La Poma for our lunch spot

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    (Lion King Pose)​

    One of the guys, Marcelo, is riding this beast - note the tires in the below photo! Couldn't believe it at first, didn't seem to hold him back in the slightest though and I sure would've preferred something fuel injected up there. He shows me photos of his collection of Enduro Motobike trophy's when I query him about his bike

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    La Poma was great - still in celebration for the San Martins Day, these guys were completing a ritual for Pachamama (mother Earth) as part of their festivities. I joined in some of the dancing but I'll spare you guys those videos. Here they are burying offerings for Pachamama - various foods, drinks, all the best stuff. They also buried a packet of cigarettes, might just be me but I thought there was a sad irony in that


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    We also had the bikes blessed by the locals, to help us on our quest to conquer Abra Del Acay that afternoon:


    La Poma was a chance to stock up on some more coca leaves...
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    Now riding out of La Puma we had a couple of minor incidents - first the BMW got stuck on the wee land bridge to cross the river, and the Super Tenere went for a quick swim. I maintain that the bike blessings stopped them from becoming worse than minor


    From La Puma the road worsened (or got better, depending on how you like your adventure). I completed my first creek crossing without embarrassment - (side note, I did send this video back home to my mates captioned as a river crossing, the response I got was mostly laughter so there was a touch of embarrassment. I mean a good story needs to be embellished! Anyway, back to the embellishing). As the road steepened we started seeing ice - looks like snow but I think it's ground water that's just freezing at night. We stopped for a quick break at one point, the Super Tenere needed its air filter removed and dried. Was a perfect place to drink some Mate (tea) and share some travel snacks. Again the Argentinian generosity! One of the guys gifted me his last coffee bag - I was addicted to these back in Queensland and it is one of the best ways to drink coffee when you don't have access to a barrister



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    [NEXT PAGE...]
    #39
    mrsdnf likes this.
  20. Junipertravels

    Junipertravels Adventurer

    Joined:
    Mar 30, 2019
    Oddometer:
    47
    Location:
    Australia
    ...continued

    After the coffee and mate (the Argentinian tea not the colloquialism for friend... this could get confusing) we continued on. The route climbed higher and higher, steepened in sections, switchbacks became so steep I had to take them in the torque-y 1st gear. The air thinned but Lucy continued on without any dramas. One of the guys dropped his moto on one of these switchbacks, nothing major... It nearly happened to me at least a dozen times. One switchback I took completely wrong and had to roll backwards out of - when I say roll, I really mean slide. Lucy fully loaded on a steep dusty road didn't like her brakes being touched, there's probably some advice I need about this haha. Anyway, sliding backwards on my tippy toes I was able to throttle forward before I got too close to the edge of the road. No video of that fun experience sorry. Here is a couple of other videos/photos though



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    Finally reaching the summit - sorry the audio is crap, don't think I was saying anything interesting

    It was a defining moment to reach the top, though the cold stopped me from reflecting on it too long. Here I am, in Argentina, on one of the highest roads in the world, surrounded by new friends, having just ridden up a very challenging road considering my lack of experience. It really was a proud moment. Reaching the summit the wind really picked up, so that within a few minutes of stopping I'd lost sensation in my hands and feet (you get some idea from Sonia's hair in the below photos). I'm guessing here since Lucy doesn't have a temperature gauge, I reckon it was about 5 degrees Celsius, with wind chill on top of this. I also had a few dizzy spells and a shortness of breath that comes with high altitude. So no stopping for picnics. Sonia and I quickly left our moto-traveller stickers on the signpost at the top before we made for the descent

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    (This altitude is incorrect according to my Googling - it's actually 4,972m)

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    Lucy was feeling the cold too and struggled to start when we left. In fact, she'd struggled to start a few times that day. I chalked it up to the high altitude... I admit don't know how to adjust the carburetor, and I hadn't had time to read up on it the night before. Anyway, she made it down just fine and I defrosted shortly after getting off the ridge line. San Antonio wasn't far. There's a lookout as you drop down into the township of San Antonio so we pull over for some victory photos

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    San Antonio has a military base, and as we enter the town we stop next to some army tanks to pose next to, or in my case, post on top of. I mean, I am on an adventure motorbike ride. I have to do my Charley Boorman impression, even if it means risking a scolding by the army dudes

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    In San Antonio we play the hotel game in conjunction with a game of hide and seek (basically we all got separated and had to comb the streets to regroup). It takes some time but we manage to all gather in front of this cracking hotel - El Portal de Los Andes. I find it using iOverlander and it already has a handful of overlanding legends there including a German couple I can hopefully meet up with later in the year

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    (ADV Rider Collective getting larger)​

    Dinner is a cheap burger from a takeaway across the street, entertainment is an impromptu jam with some other guests at the hotel. Though it doesn't take long before I crawl into bed. It's -7c outside but the rooms are heated

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    #40