Monday, 23 January 2012

la Sarena Chile- Cachi Argentina

South America update on blog 23rd January 2012

We left La Serena after I got my knew chain sprockets and rubber cushes for the rear wheel. It was more expensive than I had expected and I was unable to withdraw enough cash out of a Chilean ATM machine. You can only get $1000 pesos at a time out. The Pesos is currently about 3.3 pesos to a NZ dollar.

The mechanic I was dealing with Bob at Tonino Motos was very good. I now have to carry around a chain and sprocket tell the present ones are worn out enough to make it worth replacing. Not something I wanted to do because of the limited space we have in our luggage. I suspect we are not going to be able to purchase parts easily as we head into the more remote parts of northern Argentina and Bolivia in the coming weeks.

The ride north of La Serena on Ruta 3 (Pan American highway) was interesting in that we were now coming across many trucks lumbering along. The road switched back and forth as we climbed up and slightly away from the coast. The terrain got dry and arid again.
We stopped at a truck stop for lunch. The exterior of the premises didn't look great but all the trucks and pickups were an indicator that the food would be okay. We had a huge meal of fish rice salad all for about $10 NZ. Eating a big meal in the afternoon in the hottest part of the day just makes you sleepy. So I struggled after about an hour and started looking for a more comfortable position on the bike so I could relax. I had to stop and we found shade behind a shelter before I fell asleep.

This old guy glued my boots up in La Serena.

We rolled into Copiopo a mining town at about 5pm. They mine silver,lithium,cooper and probably lots of other stuff by the look of the number of side roads leading off into the desert. We called into a Honda motorcycle shop and were given directions to a cheap hostel. We eventually found it. The place was more like a cells at Nelson Police station with no where to park our bikes.

The bar next door was interesting the sign said it was a restaurant as well. So I looked in the door. There was an older women with half doesn't young ladies, not that attractive they wanted me to stop and have a beer.Not sure how it worked I guess the ladies were there to get you to spend money on beer. We couldn't come to any arrangement for parking the bikes.

An employee of a mining company called into check the hostel out also, suggested we follow him and we ended up at a hoseria a bit further away, which was more expensive but had parking . We had sandwiches for tea.

The start of the ride out of Copiopo was cool, we passed a lot local industry associated with the mining as we headed NE out of the city. Out of the city there are no homes at all. There was no water in the valleys as we headed up to the San Francisco Paso at 4700m.

We passed a couple of Guanaco (bit like a Llama) who chasing each other it went on for some time. They ran right across the road in front of us.
The border crossing to get back into Argentina was uneventful . Which was quite a change from the last few times. Mind you not many were crossing the Andes at this particular paso.

Having lunch at Chilean border.

The gravel was lose and patches of Sandy soft dust as we got close to the top which puts you on edge a bit. Neither of us were as effected by the altitude to the same degree this time. But we didn't hang around because of the cool wind.

Nearing the top of San Francisco Paso
From the the top of the pass the road was sealed. When we got down to the Argentine border control and a guy was receiving oxygen . We were told later that a guy had become unconscious and had rolled his car with his family inside a few days earlier.

We rolled on and rode into a thunder storm which then turned into shower of hail. We both had our one piece suits on. As we riding along lighting was flashing about us. I saw lighting strike hit the side of the hill about 400 m away and burst of bright red flames erupt.
We got down to the small oasis town Fiambala. A stage of the Dakar rally had started here. large sand dunes were on one side of the valley. The local cemetery was covered in sand.480km today.

Cementry at Fiambala

We found a small family owned and run campsite and cooked up some tea. Had late arrivals turn up at 10pm and preceded to make a noise. You also realise you are in rural town with all the people cruising around on small motorcycles with no helmets. We had a chat with a ex German national -Walter who was towing a 1984 BMW Dakar behind his 4wd. He gave us information on the conditions of the roads, fuel,camping which was helpful and just what we were looking for.

Our friendly family run motor camp Fiambala

We stopped at Tinogasta withdraw some more money,Joe cued for 20 minutes to get money, and ate our lunch in the Plaza area and watched the cars and motorcycles go around and around the plaza.

 We stopped in Belen for more fuel and then in San Fernando

 Donkeys all over the place as headed north.

We decided to take a side road and headed up into the Sierra Blanca area desert and very dry.The road actually goes all the way north up toward San Pedro De Atacama. But we were told the road has lots of sand on it and is very difficult. Plus you need fuel for 800km.

 The road tuned to gravel and got worse. We pulled into a workman's camp where a local man Antonia was the caretaker of the building. He let us set up our tents next to building. He offered to give us a room but we liked the cooler tents and no dust and heat from being inside his house. 2900m altitude so good for getting acclimatised to altitude. We had hail storm under the eves of the building while we cooked tea and two nosey chocks to deal with.

Having some lunch after riding in the sand pit.
On the way back through Peno we came across the 2 day enduro event. There were about 35 bikes. They had a prologue and Joe rode the DR650 over some of the course. Not the type of terrain we are used to with stones over sand. Quite neat to see a local event and the terrain they ride on.

We rode later into the evening than we both like to and ended up in a small town called Santa Maria.The towns we passed as we came in were interesting with fords of muddy water pouring through . We couldn't find a hoseria or hostel and settled for a hotel that looked pretty nice, it was more expensive that we wanted. Thinking we would get a good sleep. But a 5 year birthday party was being celebrated in the conference room next to our bedroom. At 12:15 I saw red and went to the reception and tried to speak to the owner an elderly guy who couldn't speak English. I left him knowing what I thought of his hotel. Then went to the birthday party and told them to turn there stereo down.
The next morning the old guy hung around us looking sheepish as we packed up. I managed to get some back $30 pesos before I handed the key back.

22nd January.

Had a photo session with a nice Argentine family before we left

 We stopped off at a old Indian village that has been restored at Quilmes.

 Called into Cafayate(wine growing and tourism) and had a boil up in the Plaza. Met some young Argentine guys who were keen on our bikes and wanted to know all about our journey.

We then a 158 km ride on Ruta 40 mainly on gravel to a small town called Cachi (maybe 3000 pop). The ride in was long and winding and narrow and was more like a farm track in places. The scenery was stunning in places and we got some nice photos.

 Another band playing tell 3 in the morning some where down the road.

23rd January.
Rest day. Joe change his rear tyre its down to the canvas in a few places. I updated the blog. Internet connection is of dubious quality in this town so won't be able to post it.

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