Starting the slog south with Joe, Argentina.
With Jugs repaired, it was time to make the big push south. First to Salta to rendezvous with Joe, then as far as possible each day. Of course Salta was only 100kms away, so I was easing into this “big push south”. A fun 100 kms though.
The “hobbit road” aka “camino de la cornisa” aka ruta 9. The narrowest of roads, often only wide enough for one car to pass at a time. It weaves through the forest along a ridge, occasionally opening up to provide delightful views. Twisty as all hell. A short, delightful ride.
In Salta I head for centro to change some more American dollars to Pesos. The Bolivian border had given me 12:1. Salta offered no better than 11.3:1. I found overall as you go south, outside of Buenos Aires, the rate drops. The official-unofficial “Dolar Blue” rate was heading south along with me at the time, around which didn’t help either. Still beats the 8:1 official rate. Lesson: bring American dollars to Argentina.
I briefly made like a tourist in Salta, with a quick stop at the High Altitude Archeology museum. A small collection, within which they have three perfectly preserved frozen children. One is on display at any given time( held at -20 Celsius), and “the boy” I saw looked like he was about to get up and walk away. Eerily preserved. Worth my 40 pesos.
Back at Loki Hacienda I reunited with Joe and his Triumph Sixto, while barkeep and friend Liam set us up with some Bloodbombs to start off the night. Many Bloodbombs later we found ourselves in a heated game of Flip Pong (combo of beer pong and flip cup) against some locals. A great night. Triumphant, hungover, the morning came too early. We would set the tone for all our starts, leaving late in the morning on our first day of the push south.
Bikes prepped, we head south through what would be very varied terrain this day. Red rock canyon, flat dry plains into a high mountain pass. The weather would vary to extremes as well. We made it from Salta to Monteros, via Cafayate. 400 kms.
While sharing desire to make some serious miles each day, Joe and I still wanted to enjoy ourselves. We were starting our ride at the start of Carnival, a four day holiday where everything is closed, and everyone is having a fiesta. Passing through a small jubilant town we stumbled upon a rodeo, and decided it was time for a break.
Rested and with our fill of sun and bulls, Joe and I set of to find ourselves in new terrain yet again, the start of a mountain pass. This time greeted with a rainbow!
The rainbow was misleading, and we soon found ourselves in heavy, cold fog. Misty fog is the worst subset of rain I’ve found, since it continuously coats your visor. Every couple seconds I had to wipe my left glove across my face-shield. Somebody please invent a Rain-x type product for plastic visors!
The rain and fog would lighten after an hour of misery. I wish it hadn’t. This (temporary) stoppage of the rain encouraged us to push onwards, trying to make it to Monteros before dark. 30 minutes later we found ourselves in a new full on downpour, riding down steep switchbacks, stuck behind a train of cars unable to pass a semi-trailer. Given the conditions, being stuck in slow moving traffic was likely the best possible outcome. We made it to Monteros well after dark, soaked. Fortunately the rain trickled to stop as we rolled into town.
Every local we asked in Monteros said we could camp in the “Gimnasio” aka the athletic field. The young kids “working” at the field disagreed, and called their jefe (boss) to double check. In general, I prefer to ask forgiveness instead of permission, and this case would be no different. After waiting for over an hour for an answer, the Jefe called back. The permission was not granted. Now past 11pm, tired and frustrated, Joe and I rode around neighborhoods looking for a vacant lot. A couple old boys having a chat on the side of the road would be our saviors.
They too initially suggested that we just camp in the athletic field. After hearing our tale of woe, Hugo offered his back yard. We graciously accepted. It was concrete slab to set our tents upon, but at almost midnight we didn’t care. Hugo didn’t have much in his “holiday” house, he normally lived in Buenos Aires, but he shared all the wine and crackers he had. Snacking away, Joe and I set up our tents… and the skies opened once more.
Tomorrow would be another wet one.