The Andean Northwest & Socompa Pass Attempt

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Sideoff, Mar 8, 2011.

  1. Sideoff

    Sideoff Been here awhile

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    The "Andean Northwest" part assumes you're starting from Buenos Aires, which I was. For a month's vacation and for getting the F out of Oregon in the rainy cold winter.

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    Everyone said Buenos Aires is a great place to party so I arrived on a Thursday to be there over the weekend. I filled a lifetime quota of museums and colonial architecture on other travels so in BA I wanted to focus on nightlife. As it turned out I saw very little of BA during the day because I was asleep :) Everyone eats dinner at 10-11pm, the nightclubs didn't even open their doors till 1-2 am, and they didn't kick us out until well after sunrise. This is a city I could easily hang in for a while... just an all around great vibe.

    Here's some pics to sum up my three nights in BA... I'm not posting the rest in case I ever run for public office.

    Palermo House Hostal

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    Out at the clubs

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    Room at the Palermo House

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    Rented a Transalp from Motocare in Buenos Aires. Mariano Calderon is the owner of this company and he's a GREAT dude to work with. Takes good care of the bikes, totally fair with the security deposit at the end (there was some damage), and even helped me translate over the phone in a pinch once. He lined up all the Bolivia & Chile paperwork ahead of time so no headaches when I got down there. Really solid guy. Highly recommend Motocare if you're looking to rent a motorcycle in Argentina.

    This bike is going to get really f-in dirty...

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    Here's Mariano... very cool guy.

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    #1
  2. funhouse

    funhouse Overdue

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    looking forward to rest..........bruce
    #2
  3. Mullet

    Mullet Adventurer

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    A ride report for party people. Im in. :1drink
    #3
  4. D-Stylz

    D-Stylz Been here awhile

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    As there are many of us who are not able to get the "F out of Oregon" during the rainy season, I want to say thanks for living the dream. Subscribed and looking forward to this RR!

    :thumbup
    #4
  5. Sideoff

    Sideoff Been here awhile

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    Right on, thanks for the "subscribes" guys.

    Planning's not my specialty so I really didn't have much of a plan for this trip after I was done partying in BA. In the US I was already thinking I'd probably head north not south... just since it seems like less people go up there because Patagonia/Tierra del Fuego is such a draw. I wanted to see a big piece of South America too and maybe find some remote areas where not a lot of people ride.

    That last bit is how I got all fired up on Socompa Pass. It was on the map but Mariano didn't know anything about it and I couldn't find much info elsewhere, not that I looked all that hard, so I just sort of figured I would head that way and cross the Andes into Chile. After leaving BA that's where I headed.

    Here's about where Socompa Pass is on a map (the little blue marker)... most people seem to cross well north of there at Sico Pass. You can't see any roads there on this map but my map showed a road marked as "Huella" which is like a dirt track.

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    But first I had to get there. It turns out that Central Argentina is actually pretty boring in terms of riding... just lots of long straight paved roads... bring your Goldwing.

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    Not being used to the transalp's small 18l tank I ran out of gas in the middle of freakin nowhere. Which was a bit of a hassle since I don't speak spanish. Two cool guys with a car helped me out... we went to one gas station which was out of gasoline (a very common problem in Argentina as I learned many times after) but we found another where I filled up a portable tank then rode the bike back to fill up. Resolved not to make that mistake again... carried extra gas for the rest of the trip.

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    First night in Cordoba

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    After all the long straight roads I was itching to get to the mtns but I woke up the next morning and it was pissing down rain so instead I hung out in Cordoba, walked around, watched TV, and stocked up on basics like a big bottle of cheap local whisky.

    I was thinking about Socompa and my gas situation and decided I was going to need a shitload more than 2 gallons of extra gas to make it that far off the road system. So I tromped around the shops with my pidgin spanish until I finally found a place that had a 5 gal tank for sale. With that plus the 2 gal tank I already had it was 7 extra gallons or 28l plus the 18l in the main tank. Figured that would be enough. The 5 gal tank saved my ass later and therefore made it worth bumming around cordoba for a day in the rain, even though at the time it felt ridiculous to have that much excess gas capacity.

    You can see the big 5 gal tank strapped to the bike in this pic:

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    More long straight roads...

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    Spent the night in Chilecito

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    There were finally mountains off in the distance... By this point I was really itching for some turny roads and dirt... there was plenty to come but I didn't know that yet, just that I was getting sick of the highway.
    #5
  6. GB

    GB . Administrator Super Moderator Super Supporter

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    Nice club scene! :evil

    Looks like you've got an ambitious ride planned.. thanks for the detailed report and pics ... :lurk
    #6
  7. on2wheels52

    on2wheels52 Long timer

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    Tuned in, I hadn't given a lot of thought to that part of the world. Awaiting your report.:lurk
    Jim
    #7
  8. Sideoff

    Sideoff Been here awhile

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    Here's a 3 minute video to sum up the pavement riding across central Argentina and just generally getting to the NW corner of the country... I've got a bunch of video from the trip (first time taking a video camera) so I'll edit it as I go along with the trip report and sort through all my photos...

    <object width="640" height="510"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube-nocookie.com/v/oz-HhZRDKOY?fs=1&amp;hl=en_US&amp;rel=0"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube-nocookie.com/v/oz-HhZRDKOY?fs=1&amp;hl=en_US&amp;rel=0" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="640" height="510"></embed></object>
    #8
  9. Sideoff

    Sideoff Been here awhile

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    Yeah me either :) That was part of the motivation for the trip. Turns out there's some really good dualsport exploring to be had in NW Argentina.
    #9
  10. Sideoff

    Sideoff Been here awhile

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    From here the riding started to get more fun. I stopped in a little town called Santa Maria and then again in Cafayate.

    Gas Lines everywhere in Argentina...

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    Above ground graves also everywhere

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    The last of the never-ending straight road shots for a while thankfully...

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    Some old ruins

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    Ran into some fellow solo riders Loic (who I ran into again later in Bolivia as well) and another gentleman on a superenduro whose name I can't remember but who was nice enough to email some detailed maps of southern Bolivia.

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    Nightly routine of hotel sink laundry...

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    #10
  11. jim_nasium

    jim_nasium Adventurer

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    I'm in.....keep it coming.:lurk
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  12. mighty3

    mighty3 n00b

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    subscribed. keep sharing!
    #12
  13. Sideoff

    Sideoff Been here awhile

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    Thanks for the comments! Lots more pics to come.

    This is where the trip started to get really, really fun for me from a riding perspective. Due to my utter lack of advance research and planning I didn't have any idea what was ahead, and I didn't even really have a destination in mind except that I was really curious about Socompa Pass, and one of my friends had told me the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia was cool, and I knew that I couldn't cross directly from Argentina into Bolivia due to a paperwork issue with the bike so I'd have to go via Chile, and that at some point I had to get back to Buenos Aires to return the bike by March 2nd. Although maybe not the smartest way to travel I think this is definitely the most fun way... no plans, no expectations.

    From Cafayate I kept going north toward a town called Cachi. It looked like a very short distance on the map but I apparently neglected to notice that it went over a 16,000+ foot mountain pass, and of course had no way of knowing that the road up there was going to be totally washed out by a river, although I might have guessed from the lack of traffic. I'd rerouted due to another flooded river a few days before in a rainstorm and was still feeling like a pussy about that so when I hit the first river this time, a small one, there was no way I was turning around. Then like 6 larger river crossings later on the same road there was no way I was turning around because I didn't want to go BACK through them all! Funny how that works...

    When I'm alone in a foreign country it feels a lot different crossing rivers and heading up unknown roads as opposed to when I'm home in Oregon ripping around on a dualsport trip with my buddies. If something went wrong I knew it would be a big mess. Esp 60k deep in a washed out road with zero traffic after crossing a bunch of rivers.

    Fucking great riding in this area tho!! I highly recommend this road for just sheer fun and scenery. Cafayate to Cachi over Abra el Acay pass, which I have since learned is actually one of if not the highest official pass in S America??? A very cool thing to stumble on when you're not expecting it.

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    Love the random backcountry roadblocks...

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    Awesome road continues

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    This is where the road was totally washed out... I continued anyway hoping it would flatten out again, which it did, but the washed out section was longer than I expected.

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    One of many river crossings. I get the feeling that there's not always so much water flowing through here but that the rivers were high due to all the rain in the last few days.

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    Climbing...

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    Some old indigenous ruins... these are literally everywhere on the route... for some reason they were totally fascinating to me... just something about abandoned structures is cool.

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    The road

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    Llama-deer-ish things

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    At the top... man, 16,000 feet of altitude really took a toll on me physically and also on the bike. Not much power, and the bike died instantly if I let off the throttle. After the exertion of the ride plus lack of food I was feeling pretty giddy at the top... felt great actually... like after a few cocktails. Later replaced by a headache on the way down, also like after a few cocktails.

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    The road down

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    More graves

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    Down from the pass it was time to stock up for the trek out to Socompa Pass... gas, food, booze, and whatnot. Finally used the 5 gal tank (which had been empty up till now) and this gas station dude had a good trick of putting a ripped plastic bag under the cap to keep it from leaking. Still leaked, just not as bad.

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    A Honda 650 with 7 gals of extra gas onboard... funny :)

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    From Cachi I went to San Antonio de los Cobres, then from there I really did not know what to expect. Most travelers would head to the more developed Sico Pass, not the way I was going, southwest toward Socompa. There was not much showing on the map between here and Chile via Socompa. And it was a lot of distance.
    #13
  14. Gerd

    Gerd Adventurer

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    Those are vicuñas, wild relatives of the llama. I´m loving the report! Lots of cool pictures of my country... :D
    #14
  15. Sideoff

    Sideoff Been here awhile

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    Thanks man! I was wondering what they were. Saw tons of them on this trip.
    #15
  16. Sideoff

    Sideoff Been here awhile

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    Here's a video of getting to Cafayate. I'm a little bit out of chronological order with the pictures. I'll post a video of the ride up to Abra el Acay pass next. It takes a while to edit and upload the videos.

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    #16
  17. Sideoff

    Sideoff Been here awhile

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    And here's a video of climbing up to Abra El Acay pass... this was really a fun ride.

    <EMBED height=510 type=application/x-shockwave-flash width=640 src=http://www.youtube-nocookie.com/v/wTSptVVJY5I?fs=1&hl=en_US&rel=0 allowfullscreen="true" allowscriptaccess="always"></EMBED>
    #17
  18. Sideoff

    Sideoff Been here awhile

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    Whoops... this is an accidental post... can't seem to delete it!
    #18
  19. LaOutbackTrail

    LaOutbackTrail Certified Smartass

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    Awesome videos man. Would absolutely love to ride there!
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    #19
  20. Sideoff

    Sideoff Been here awhile

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    Thanks! Lots more to come. The dualsport riding in this area in NW Argentina and southern Bolivia was crazy fun.
    #20