Argentina should create a “how-to setup a border” guide and distribute it to Central America. Following the clearly marked numbers, providing a couple signatures, I was back on my bike in no time, flying along the plateau, even getting my “bike on gleaming white salar” photos making up for the disappointment of the wet flats in Bolivia. Descending into Purmamarca on Ruta 52 was on the tightest, most numerous switchbacks yet. Thankfully this was Argentina and good, wide roads with an actual maintenance crew made the journey down very enjoyable. The next morning, a straight, warm freeway ride popped me out in Salta, and a quest to find a new front tire.
My front tire has been wearing strange, providing a noisy, bumpy ride at speed. I imagine if I went really fast, that it would be very bumpy. Only imagining of course. Once Salta woke up from it’s afternoon siesta, I went in search of a new tire, a task that is never easy in land of the small motorbikes. It is amazing how quick you can decide to put up with a bit of a bumpy ride when the price is four times what I paid for the matching rear tire in Peru. Tire aside, Salta did provide the best lomito I have ever had, and my first very approving taste of Argentinian beef. Okay so I have never had one before, but have had many since and nothing comes close to comparing to this one, the meat was soft as cheese. Making myself hungry just thinking about it.
With as much regard for museums and historic buildings as usual, I headed to Cachi via the mountains of Quebrada del Toro. Narrow, curry roads bordered by tall trees which allowed the sun to filter through their canopy providing fingers of light on the road, certainly make for a good morning of riding. Reaching the plateau, spotting some donkeys in the paddock, I decided to practice my donkey rounding-up skills. Turns out a donkey can run at about 50km/h, which is a touch faster than one wants to be going through rough terrain over small shrubs in a remote alpine paddock. Donkey – 1, Steel Horse – 0.
My plan was to having a pleasant afternoon road from Cachi to Cafayate along the Valles Cachaquies. The pleasantness ended upon attempting to fill up with fuel, only to have the attendant completely ignore me and serve everyone else. A look at the trip computer confirmed I should have enough to get to my destination, and ensured he didn’t have the satisfaction of making me wait, as I left gravel flying out of the parking lot. If I ever drop the bike while doing that, it shall be a bit embarrassing. The afternoon continued to degenerate, as the legendary Ruta 40 turned into sand, and I was left to ponder for 120km where the recommended “gorgeous” road was. Perhaps in a 4×4 it might be, but on a fully laden motorcycle, it is not. I did hold on to the thoughts of Cafayate, my destination, and one of the main wine growing areas in Argentina. Thoughts of sitting on a balcony, rocking in a chair, overlooking rolling hills of vines, watching the sun dip as I sipped on a glass of crisp torrontes, kept me upright through the sand. Upon arriving in town, these thoughts were soon transformed into getting out as soon as I could. Torrontes grapes must prosper in dusty, dirty sand. I don’t.
My plan has been to continue riding south saddling the mountains between Argentina and Chile, eventually arriving in Santiago where I would ship my bike back to Vancouver. Talking to other riders coming from the south and some further research concluded that it is getting very cold in the Southern Andes, and that some of the passes crossing between Argentina and Chile are closed. While rugged up in my winter gear, heating plugs sticking out of my pocket, drinking a coffee in Tafi del Valle, I decided to head to Iguazu Falls and the original planned destination of Buenos Aires. With a final horrah to the Andes on the most spectacular Rio Los Sosa between Tafi and Tucuman, I dropped down to the plains of Argentina, discovering that people still wear shorts. Happy with my decision, I headed out on my 1500km journey to Iguazu Falls, the most impressive Andes , my home on and off for the last 2.5 months, got smaller and smaller in my mirrors, eventually fading into the center line on the road.