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The Adventure Begins... Cordoba
My next stop was the town of Cordoba.
Córdoba is a city located near the geographical center of Argentina, in the foothills of the Sierras Chicas on the Suquía River, about 700 km (435 mi) northwest of Buenos Aires. It is the capital of Córdoba Province. Córdoba is the second-largest city in Argentina after the federal capital Buenos Aires, with about 1.3 million inhabitants. The city was founded on 6 July 1573 by Jerónimo Luis de Cabrera, who named it after Córdoba, Spain. It was one of the first Spanish colonial capitals of the region that is now Argentina (the older city was Santiago del Estero, founded in 1553). The Universidad Nacional de Córdoba is the oldest university in Argentina. It was founded in 1613 by the Jesuit Order. As the location of the first university, Córdoba has earned the nickname La Docta (The Learned one).
The first thing I did in Cordoba was to find something to eat. I found a cafe just off the central plaza and had a tasty meal consisting of an empanada and locro. Locro is a stew with pork, corn, beans and vegetables. It is often eaten on special occasions. This special occasion was that I was hungry.
The town center had a number of colonial style buildings like the municipal hall.
This old church turned into an information office.
The cathedral Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion.
It was brilliantly illuminated at night.
It had these amazing iron doorways with the figures of Peter and Paul.
The next day I walked around the University Nacional de Cordoba which was founded by the Jesuits.
I came across this statue of the founder of Cordoba, Jeronimo Luis de Cabrera.
There was this interesting space called the Museo de la Memoria which pays tribute to the atrocities of the Dirty War. This former detention and torture facility displayed names of the "disappeared".
There was all kinds of street art in the city
Around the Paseo del Buen Pastor there were these street sculptures.
A snake or dragon
A man and dog
A floating woman
A colorful dog
This art piece displayed photos of women whom "disappeared" during the Dirty War.
The Iglesia del Sagrado Corazon was an amazing church made in the neogothic style.
It had these incredible ornate spires
and carved columns.
And I spent a little time at the Museo Provincial de Bellas Artes Emilio Caraffa.
I really enjoyed Cordoba. It reminded me of my hometown of Austin, Texas. It is a university town, had some nice restaurants, friendly people and a cineclub (film club).
The Adventure Begins... Wine and Two Wheels
Next stop... Mendoza
Mendoza is the wine producing region of Argentina. Many of the vineyards and wineries are located within a 40km area. One can visit the wineries by organized tour, car or two wheels. And, not necessarily two wheels on a motorcycle. It is completely possible to visit a number of wineries by bicycle...so that's what I did.
A fellow traveler that I met named Randy and I rented some bikes from a place called Mr. Hugo's...and off we went.
The first stop was the winery called Museo y Bodega La Rural.
They had museum with a collection of old wine making equipment like these wine sacks.
Wine press, the kind that you jump on top and mash grapes with your bare feet.
Mechanical wine press.
Wine fermenting barrels.
Old cash register.
And of course there was a wine tasting. This varietal was a Cabernet Sauvignon.
The second place we visited was a winery called Trapiche.
Out front they had a small organic vineyard.
They had a large and modern production facility, but they also had restored this old winery building.
The original owner had built a private railroad line to facilitate the transportation of wine. Prior to the construction of the railroad, to transport wine by horse and carriage from Mendoza to Buenos Aires would take weeks. With the railroad, they could transport more wine and the journey would only take 24 hours.
Inside the winery was a receiving area to weigh the grapes.
There was this amazing rosewood tile floor.
Oak barrels imported from France and the United States.
And of course there was a wine tasting of Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and a Malbec Dulce. At this winery we ran into some other travelers that I had met previously in the town of Bariloche. Jeff and Christie from San Diego. Clinton and Laura from Sydney. We all shared in the wine tasting.
The third winery was called Tempus Alba.
It was a fairly new winery that had only been in operation for 6 years.
They had some of their own vineyards, but also sourced grapes from nearby vineyards to round out their varietals
We took a break here to enjoy some food and drink. We bought some bottles of Malbec and Syrah.
As the daylight lingered we peddled our way back.
Fun on two wheels.
The Adventure Begins... A Ride Along The Andes
From Mendoza I headed South. South? Yes, South.
It was winter and turning cold in Argentina. I had been on a route fleeing the cold and heading North. But, I had a friend and fellow adventure motorcyclist that I wanted to visit in the town of San Rafael. And that meant that I had to take a short detour and head South.
As I road South and along the western edge of Argentina to my right were the Andes Mountain range.
Certainly a detour and scenery worth the visit.
The Adventure Begins... San Rafael... Feels Like Home
San Rafael...feels like home.
I traveled to San Rafael to visit a friend and fellow adventure motorcyclist named Alejandro whom I had met while traveling from Peru to Chile. Alejandro's family welcomed me with open arms. Upon my arrival I had the chance to meet his mother Rita, his girlfriend Noelia and his cousin's family. Alejandro is a chemical engineer by profession and works at a local university. Rita is a retired teacher. Noelia is an art instructor. And his cousin and wife are both physical education instructors. The kids are just kids, they like to play. The first thing they introduced me to was a nice lunch.
In the afternoon, Alejandro took me to a place called Valle Grande. It was a beautiful area which contained a lake and river surrounded by a mountain range.
Supposedly in the summer the place is swarming with tourists from all over Argentina.
But, luckily at this time, it was quite and peaceful and simply stunning.
The lake was formed by a dam.
It created a reservoir that was used for boating, fishing and water sports.
And was pretty nice to just stare at and take in it's beauty.
The next day Alejandro had to work. So Rita took me on a little tour of the town. The first stop was a winery call Bodega Valintin Bianchi.
They had a very nicely laid out display of their varietals.
They are probably most famous for producing sparkling wine (champagne).
We were taken on a tour of the facilities. I learned that the process for producing champagne is a bit different than the process for producing wine. Essentially, there is a second fermentation which may take place in the bottle, an aging on the lees, riddling, disgorging and dosage.
Rita had visited the winery previously. She knew about a special cellar in which the Bianchi family kept a private collection of wines and champagnes. She asked the guide if we could view cellar and as a favor the guide allowed us to view it. The cellar was dark, circular and filled wall to wall with the family's finest collection of wines.
This table was built on commission by the founder Valentin Bianchi. The table has six legs representing the six children of the family.
At the end of the tour we had the chance to taste some of the champagne. I tasted a little bit, but it was still pretty early in the morning to be drinking champagne. So instead I bought the bottle that appears on the left for later consumption.
Next, we walked around the town a bit and through the central park. The town converted old dying trees in to pieces of art by carving statues such as this one.
We passed by this old bank which has been converted into a municipal building.
And, we visited the university at which Alejandro works.
Later, Alejandro and I visited this sportsman's club for marksmanship. This club is a recreational club, but also a training center for olympic style marksmanship. This is a friend of Alejandro named Adrian.
This style of marksmanship requires the use of special air rifles, suits, hats, glasses, gloves and shoes.
The target is 10 meters away and contains concentric circles. The largest circle is only about 2 inches wide. Points range from 1 to 10.
It turns out that when Alejandro was young he was one of the top marksmen in San Rafael and in Argentina. He would compete in olympic style events and according to his friends he won quite a few trophies.
Adrian let me take a shot. The action on these rifles is incredible. To fire the rifle only a gentle touch is needed, similar to the feeling of a feather touching your skin.
My first shot hit the outer ring... 1 point. After I realized how delicate the trigger mechanism was, I took another shot. My second shot hit a 9. Not bad for a first attempt with an olympic rifle. Guns and shooting... it is in my blood as a native Texan.
Over a few days Alejandro and his family showed me incredible hospitality. They provided me a bed on which to rest, filled me with food, took me to a winery, introduced me to olympic marksmanship, took me to a friend's birthday party and showed me the best of San Rafael. During an excellent asado (BBQ) meal, I had the chance to meet Rita's brother and sister. Her brother gave me some great advice on places to visit in northern Argentina. Alejandro augmented this info with some route suggestions and a map. Alejandro also helped me wash and complete some maintenance on my motorcycle. I do not know if I will ever have the chance to truly return the kindness that I was shown. I hope that I do.
I must say that I was happy to visit Alejandro and his family, but I was sad to leave. They truly made me feel at home. Alas, the weather was starting to turn cold. I needed to head north before the cold, rain and snow set in.
I road off into the cold, but with a warm heart.
It's been great reading your story, very inspirational. My girlfriend and I are in San Antonio right and plan on starting a South America trip this November. We are flying into Chile and buying bikes there. I wish you safe travel through the rest of your journey.
The Adventure Begins... Northern Argentina... Valle de la Luna, Ischigualasto...
From San Rafael, I set off down the road and pointed my wheels north.
My first stop was San Agustin de Valle Fertil
San Agustin del Valle Fertil is a small town surrounded by rolling hills, rivers and forests
There was a little lake formed by a small dam. A nice peaceful place to spend the night.
But the real attraction was just north of the town in the area known as the Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon) and the Parque Provencial Ischigualasto
The park is a natural park and geological formation in north-western Argentina. There is a dirt road loop meandering through the park which passes by various rock formations.
I left my bag at the park ranger station and set off for a day of dirt riding.
It was a bright sunny day, not a cloud in the sky.
According to this guide, the Ischigualasto park contains late Triassic (Carnian) period deposits with some of the oldest known dinosaur remains in the world.
It is the only place in the world where nearly all of the Triassic is represented in an undisturbed sequence of rock deposits.
This allows for the study of the transition between dinosaurs and ancient mammals; research is ongoing.
These fossils were pointed out to me. I believe that they are plant fossils.
I passed by valleys and plateaus.
I entered an area know as the Painted Valley.
The Painted Valley looked more like the surface of the moon to me.
Sweeping rock and sand formations.
This formation is known as the Sphinx.
Water and wind erosion over thousands of years created the formations.
This area is known as the Cancha de Bochas (Ball Court). Supposedly these round formations were formed from water and wind flowing over, under and around solid rock. I did not really understand how that could have happened.
I did like this bocha that had been fissured.
One of the strangest things I've seen on my trip.
This tablet formation is slowly being undermined.
The road switched between dirt, sand and a little gravel... extraordinary riding.
This formation is called El Submarino (The Submarine).
A little window into the ancient past.
I can not imagine how this rock formation was created over the years.
This formation was called El Hongo (mushroom)
A different angle... same Hongo.
This formation did not have a name, but I'm going to call it La Casa del Perro de Troy (Troy's Dog House).
These formations reminded me of slugs
Rock, sand and a few cacti.
There were subtle changes in the coloration of the mountains.
This area contained red rock mountains framed by the blue sky.
In total the ride around the park was about 3 hours.
Here is a short 2 minute video of my experience riding through Parque Ischigualasto.
After completing the loop, I visited the museum which contained a few dinosaur fossils... a head
It was getting late, so I headed toward the town of La Rioja.
I passed by this huge monument of Saint Nicholas de Bari. To understand the scale of this monument, look at the truck passing by the base of the monument.
I spent the night in the town of La Rioja.
I had been riding most of the day, so I extremely hungry. This plate of fish and potatoes really hit the spot.
I chose this route based on the suggestion of my friend Alejandro.
The road wound through mountains of Northern Argentina.
Simply amazing scenery.
Perhaps the most pleasant ride of my trip. It was cool, but not cold. The road was concrete, but also curvy. The views were scenic, but not scary.
Then rode until I reached a small town called Andalgala. I found a hotel and checked in for the night.
Every time I embark on a ride, I do a quick inspection of my bike. While inspecting my bike in the morning, I noticed that my rear tire was wearing unevenly. The nobbies on one side were showing much more wear than the nobbies on the other side. I was a bit surprised, because I only had about 4000 miles on the rear tire. However, I had been riding quite a bit of dirt and gravel.
I was hoping to buy new tires in Bolivia where I had heard motorcycle tires and parts were less expensive. However, I had promised myself that on this trip if I ever had to choose between my safety and spending money, I would part with the money.
So I took my bike to a local tire shop and bought the only nobbie tire in town that would fit on my bike... US$180 for a single rear tire... ouch. The tire was a Pirelli MT40.
I suspected that the uneven wear on the rear tire was caused by wear and tear on my chain and sprockets. My friend Sam, who is a mechanic, once told me that after some use a chain will stretch and the circular sprockets will actually turn into ovals. I had noticed lately that while riding on asphalt that my rear wheel was hopping a bit. I attributed this action to my sprockets turning into ovals. Well, I was not going to be able to find a new chain and sprocket in Andalgala, so a new tire was in order.
There was still tread on the old tire, but I was concerned about the next segment of my journey.
While in Andalgala a few people had asked me, "Vas por la cuesta?" or "Are you going by the incline?" A "cuesta" can be an incline, a hill or a mountain. By the manner in which I was repeatedly asked this question, I inferred that this "cuesta" was a mountain. I inquired a bit about the "cuesta" and learned that there were actually two "cuestas" and that the ride would be about 5-6 hours of steep dirt road. Four hours of climbing and two hours of descending. With this in mind, I thought that it would be nice to have some nobbies on my rear tire.
With new rubber on the road, set off in the direction of the "cuesta".
The route soon turned mountainous.
The asphalt gave way to gravel.
And the straight road turned twisty.
It was dirt, gravel and rocks. It was steep, twisty and narrow. It was single lane, remote and mountainous. It was "La Cuesta".
Here is a short 3 minute video of "La Cuesta". Perhaps one of the most treacherous routes over dirt that I have traversed during my trip. I was glad that I had bought the new rear tire. It had just paid for itself based on this one ride.
After perhaps 6 hours of riding... the road opened up...I road on.
The Adventure Begins... Adventure Motorcycle Review
Here are two videos reviewing adventure touring motorcycles including the BMW R1200GS, Yamaha XT1200Z Super Tenere, Triumph Tiger Explorer 1200 and KTM 990 Adventure. Enjoy!
See Part 1 Video
See Part 2 Video
The Adventure Begins... Northern Argentina
From Salta, I continued north along the highway.
I passed by the Cerro de los Siete Colores (Hill of Seven Colors).
To me, the hill seemed to have more than seven colors.
I could count at least 10, maybe more. But who is really keeping track. It's just one of those wonders to ponder. How does that happen?
I rode on and passed an area known as the Quebrada de Humahuaca (Ravine of Humahuaca). There were mountains with crazy rock formations. I don't know if these mountains were formed from erosion or tectonic plates colliding... amazing either way.
I checked out the Posta de Hornillos.
The fort was built in 1772.
Supposedly the fort and others like it were instrumental in the war for independence for Argentina.
Ever see a llama up close and personal?
How about a giant llama?
I reached the small town of Humahuaca.
I left my bags in the hostel and decided to do a little exploring in the outskirts. I headed down a dirt road to an area called Coctaca.
I found the village which contained about 5 houses and this small iglesia (church).
Not much out there, except some thistles and some ruins.
Actually, Coctaca is supposedly some of the largest pre-Colombian ruins in South America covering some 40 hectares.
However, many of the ruins were not excavated and could not be distinguished from a pile of rocks. But there were quite a few of them. There was no information center, no landmarks, no signs... just rocks. I walked amongst the ruins freely.
There was absolutely nobody around.
Just me, Emi and a few cacti.
Actually, there were more that a few... the valley was covered in cacti.
Up close, the cacti were quite exquisite.
Oh... and there were a few burros amongst the rocks and cacti.
I headed back toward town along the dirt road.
Closer to civilization there were more burros.
And a few sheep going about their business.
I ran into this old lady and her dog. She looked like an interesting person.
I asked her if I could take her photo... and she said yes. An austere lady in a rugged landscape.
The next day I would push on towards the north. I passed hills, rivers, canyons...
chasms, bridges and mountains.
I stopped along the way... just to take a deep breath... and look. Northern Argentina had some of the most amazing scenery.
Further down the road, I reached the frontier town of La Quiaca. I crossed from Argentina into Boliva. Bolivia requires a visa for US citizens. I was able to get it at the border. It set me back US$135.
Ciao Argentina, you have been an amazing travel partner.
For the full story visit Northern Argentina
The Adventure Begins... Salar de Uyuni
Upon entering Bolivia I traveled to the town of Tupiza.
In Tupiza, I met some fellow travelers and we would set off on an excursion to the Salar de Uyuni.
The Salar de Uyuni is the largest salt flat in the world at over 4,000 square miles (10,000 square kilometers). The Salar was formed as a result of transformations between several prehistoric lakes. It is covered by a few meters of a salt crust. The crust serves as a source of salt and covers a pool of brine, which is exceptionally rich in lithium. The Salar is both a natural resource and wonder.
For the full story visit Salar de Uyuni
The Adventure Begins... Inside a Potosi, Bolivian Mine
I went from the sublime to the subterranean. I traveled from the bliss of the Salar de Uyuni to the gritty mining town of Potosi. The town is known as being one of the highest cities in the world at 13,420 feet (4090 meters) and for the production of silver extracted from the mines in the area.
And the thing to do in Potosi... is to go visit a mine.
I saw the mines as I approached the city.
I signed up for a mine tour and was equipped with a vintage Beastie Boys outfit.
As part of the tour, I visited a mining store. It is like a convenience store for miners to pick up supplies for their work... like gear, tools, water...
That's right... one can walk off the street and into one of these stores and pick up a stick of dynamite.
My guide showed me how to connect a fuse and add a bag of common fertilizer to add a bigger bag for my buck.
I then went to the miner market where I could pick up some grain alcohol to drink and some coco leaves to chew. These are actually things that miners take with them into the mines to lets say "take the edge off the work day". I was encouraged to buy a few items to bring into the mine to provide as gifts to the miners.
I was then taken to a part of the mine at which I was shown how minerals like silver are extracted from the material that is dung out of the mine.
This huge apparatus separates the mineral from the material with water and chemicals like arsenic and mercury.
And if one is lucky...
Silver is extracted.
Then it was time to go inside the mine.
For the full story visit Inside a Potasi Mine
The Adventure Begins... Sucre
Sucre is a pleasant town with a nice climate, colonial architecture, cheerful parks, good restaurants and some art.
For the full story visit Sucre
The Adventure Begins... Museo de Etnografía y Folklore Mascaras
I visited the Museo de Etnografía y Folklore (Museum of Etnographia and Folklore) in Sucre.
There was an amazing collection of ceremonial masks.
For the full story visit Museo de Etnografía y Folklore Mascaras
The Adventure Begins... Sucre to Santa Cruz... Dirt, Sand and a Slight Delay
From Sucre I planned to travel to Santa Cruz.
I had a friend named Dave that was going to be visiting Santa Cruz and he was bringing me some parts for my bike.
I set off from Sucre along the asphalt highway.
Outside of a town called Acquile, I ran into a local motorcyclist pulled over on the side of the road. I stopped to see if he needed assistance. He said that he was just changing his oil. I said great. He inquired as to where I was headed. I said Santa Cruz. He said that he was going to Santa Cruz too and that we should ride together. He seemed pretty eager. I said okay and we headed off.
For the full story visit... Sucre to Santa Cruz
Hey Troy. Great job with your blog. I'm leaving in a few days to follow your trail. There are so many negative remarks about Mexico and so it was nice to read your account of the accident with the taxi.
|central america , dr650 , mexico , south america|
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