Gravel and Grapes: Belen, San Augustin Del Valle Fertil & Mendoza

Gravel and Grapes: Belen, San Augustin Del Valle Fertil & Mendoza

Once again I rode away from Phil with mixed emotions. It felt great to be back on the road heading towards the unknown, but Phil seemed so down in Salta, and there was nothing I could do to make him feel better.

He was making the best of being broken, but it still must have been awful to be stuck with his arm in a sling while the rest of us rode off to continue our adventures.

That morning Josh, Arun, Alan and I left Salta together, with the rest of the gang in various stages of nursing hangovers, keeping girls company in their beds, and packing up.

Nice views on the ride out of Salta

It was a beautiful ride. We stopped for delicious roadside sandwiches and empanadas in Cafayate, a wine region famous for the white wine Torrontes, also has the most hitchhikers per kilometer I have ever seen anywhere!

As we were enjoying our lunch Andre rode up and joined the gang.

There was some talk of stopping there for the night, but we were all enjoying the ride and so decided to continue on further South towards Mendoza.

Turns out the famous ruta 40 (the Argentinian equivalent of the US Route 66) includes lots of gravel. Gravel is certainly not my favourite road surface on two wheels, but I managed it alright, including some river crossings!!

This video doesn’t nearly look as scary as riding through it felt.  (I just make it look easy I guess.)

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=38aS88ETDcE]

As we reached the small town of Belen, Andre and I were riding together behind the other guys. We rode through town expecting to see them waiting for us, but we got to the other side and they were nowhere to be seen. I was tired, we’d been riding all day, and Andre felt the same way. We wanted to stop.

We decided to let those crazy boys continue on as far as they wanted, but we were going to spend the night there. We turned around and headed back into town to find a hotel.

I stopped outside the first hosteria I saw to ask Andre what he thought, and as I stopped I saw Arun and Alan pulled over. Somehow they had ended up behind us! Josh had ridden back to see if we were okay, and the others were waiting for him to return.

Turned out that there was a detour for heavy vehicles, which they boys had taken, not speaking Spanish and thinking they had to go that way. We took the direct route, and ended up in front of them.

In the end we all stayed in Belen at Hotel Angelica.  Belen was our first experience of Argentinian restaurants OPENING at 9pm. In Salta we’d eaten almost every meal at the hostel, and so hadn’t learnt this custom there. We wandered around and ate ice cream while we waited.

The next morning Arun left at 7am. Something had clicked, and he was on a mission to reach Mendoza. None of us were really sure why he suddenly wanted to go so fast, so we just let him go.

The rest of us left later and found the next day long, hot and straight. After a particularly picturesque ride through red canyons, Ruta 40 was closed for construction, forcing us to turn around and take the long way.

 

Apparently the road after this point was too dangerous.

After long straight roads to infinity, we eventually stayed in San Augustin Del Valle Fertil. It’s claim to fame is dinosaurs.

I asked Josh to take a pic of me with the dinosaur. Alan thought I was talking about him.

Alan enjoying the local wildlife.

 

After a long hot day of riding, I realised that I should have put sunblock on my wrists!

The ride to Mendoza was marred by bad gas. Both Josh and I suffered the same horrible lack of power and hesitation on our KLRs, but the fuel injected BMW and V-Strom bikes seemed okay. Very frustrating to say the least, octane booster didn’t help at all, but adding more gas from a bigger station did help a bit. I think it must have been water in the gas. As soon as I’d burned through the whole tank I had no further problems.

When we arrived in Mendoza, we went to hostel Arun had told us he was staying in.

There was some discussion, but the lady at the desk eventually gave us all beds.

Just after we had all settled in, she then kicked Alan and Andre out because they had double booked. Poor Alan was sleeping and they woke him up!

Alan and Andre found another hostel nearby, and they even had a pool, which was nice because it was very, very hot in Mendoza!! (Over 40 degrees.)

 

Grapes growing as a shade over the patio at the hostel

Jordon, Mark and Ryan arrived the next day. Josh, Jordon, Mark and I went on a wine/olive oil tour.

Dump the grapes in here and they get crushed.

They don’t use these giant barrels anymore.

Mark and Jordon learning how to taste wine

Bottles from the first winery we visited

The second winery was very modern – this was their lobby overlooking the vines

Some dusty bottles of wine

This is where the wine hangs out to ferment.

Jordon and Mark pretending to be wine snobs

Josh checking out the legs on his wine

Very interested in the olive trees.

The high tech Olive tree watering system

Our pretty guide showing us the olive crushing stones

Oil from the factory

Olives, Olive Oil, dried fruits, and body creams!

 

Also finally managed to find insurance for the bikes in Mendoza. Insurance is required in Argentina, but next to impossible to find. ATM Seguros can help and are super nice. (Also covers you for Chile, Bolivia, Uraguay, Paraguay and others.)

We bought insurance that covers us for all the Southern countries, for very cheap, from this lovely man in Mendoza. ATM Seguro. Great service.

The gang was breaking up. From Mendoza Alan was heading South, Ryan left on his own, as did Mark. Very sad to say goodbye to the gang.

Chilling with the guys on our last night in Mendoza

Nothing like grown men enjoying cotton candy before dinner!

I ask them to smile for a picture, and this is what I get…

Free wine for an hour every evening made us a happy gang.

After a few days in Mendoza, and saying goodbye to Andre, Mark, Ryan and Alan. Andre, the Alaskans and I decided to cross the Andes and head for Santiago de Chile.

The Alaskans needed more US dollars and Andre and I needed tires.