The further south we travel in Argentina the more civilised things become and it is almost a relief to start “trusting” the roads and know they won’t just “run out” when we hit a town!! The smallest things are giving us pleasure – like being able to order “real” food and to have some variety on the menu – and it’s just so wonderful to reach red wine country!! The bikes have “95” back in their tanks – and we have the “sting” back in our tails!!
From Jujuy to Salta we go through thick sub-tropical forest on a windy back road – full of hundreds of butterflies and a glorious chorus of cicadas, beautiful moss-covered trees and lots of animals. We seem to have left the feral dogs back in Peru and Bolivia – sometimes they travelled in “packs” in all shapes, sizes and breeds! In Argentina, we see herds of goats on the road instead!
We take the Ruta de Vino through Cafayete and the Calchaqui Valley – bursting with vineyards, tobacco and maize crops – and flanked by mountains on both sides. The riding is just awesome with a huge, very scenic “red” gorge, magic surface and more corners than you poke a stick at!!
We leave Tafi del Valle and the road starts a descent following a river – hairpin after amazing hairpin – made even more tantalising with the thick cloud cover and dense forest.
We spend several days on very remote roads as we head to the border of Chile – with a huge variance in quality and evidence of the “wet” – some of the roads would be very “dodgy” and quite scary if it wasn’t dry!!
Fifteen kilometres from the border with Chile is the highest mountain outside of Asia – called Mt. Aconcagua (just below 7,000m – and just under 23,000 feet)! It’s hard to appreciate the size with the view we have from the “pass”.
The road down the Andes in to Chile is quite a spectacular series of hairpins that just go on and on!
We hit the Pacific Coast at Vina del Mar – we haven’t seen much of Chile – so maybe we could just poke our nose down in to Patagonia….
We find a hostel right on the top of the hill in Valparaiso – a city which attracts many artists and cultural entrepreneurs who have set up shop in the historic hillside districts. It was once a major stop-over port for ships travelling between the Atlantic and the Pacific after they crossed the Straits of Magellan – but when the Panama Canal opened, the reduction in traffic was crippling. Fifteen years on and thousands of tourists come to see the cobbled alleys and colourful buildings with lots of cruise ships visiting during the South American summer. We head south and spend a night in San Antonio, another port town, where we meet some Phillipino crew at our hotel – their rosters are nine months on/three months off!! The ships are just huge rectangle boxes which ply the waters between Mexico, Peru and Chile – delivering cars manufactured in Mexico! They are basically giant “car parks” – and it’s a “drive-on/drive-off” system.
When you are on the “road” you really get a feel for the food in each country – and it’s quite different to what’s available in “tourist” towns. We are eager to try some new flavours – in fact anything but pollo and papas frites would be good (chicken and chips)!! Argentina has consistently “good” food from the moment we set foot in the place – the meat is done over a fire and has a smokey flavour that is unique and to die for – and they always do some sort of sauce which just sets the digestive senses in motion!! We are in Vina del Mar having new tyres put on the bikes and on a wander along the road from the moto shop we find this little “gem”! Patrick is a Chilean who lived in Hastings and Tauranga for a year and fell head over heels in love – with the N.Z. fish and chips!! He came home to Chile and decided to have a go emulating it and sharing his love with the locals – we can vouch that it was the best we’ve had in a long, long time! The battered fish just melted in your mouth and the chips were hand-cut with the skins on – just delicious!!
Story of the Week
After several unsuccessful attempts at locating new tyres in Vina del Mar, Chile, we are sent to Lorca Motos – where it turns out they sell all sorts of spare parts for “big bikes” – and are a Pirelli stockist!!
Overseeing business is Jose Lorca himself and he is very interested in our story. Likewise we are just as interested in his story as it appears he was quite the “racer” in the fifties.
As it turns out, Lorca Motos only “supply” the tyres – they do not fit them – so we follow a customer to another workshop…fitting is done and we are set to go!