Tupiza was a small town, we found only one hotel with parking, so it wasn't surprising to find a couple of bikes already there. The Africa Twins belonged to Claudio and Eduardo, from Santiago, on a 2 week holiday, heading towards Uyuni and the Salar. They were spending the next day riding around the area, but we were anxious to reach Argentina, so agreed to meet up again in Santiago.
Africa Twins from Santiago in Tupiza
Leaving Tupiza was another toll and police post. Here our papers were checked thoroughly for the first time in Bolivia. The road from Tupiza to the border, was a little more difficult than the previous day, more gravel and more corrugations. We met the grading machine after awhile and for a few kms afterwards the ride was a little smoother.
Waiting to get our papers back and to pay another toll.
Despite some carburettor problems with Arno's bike Ė for a change - we got to Villazon in time for lunch, stamped out of Bolivia, rode 10metres across the bridge and started the entry process for Argentina. Immigration done, we had to wait awhile for the aduana bod to come back from lunch.
Now lunch in Argentina is a long affair, luckily Bolivia is one hour behind, so we didnít have to wait too long. A constant stream of people crossing the bridge kept us amused for the first hour at least. After awhile, we realised that it was the same people, they would go over to the Argentinean side, load themselves up, cross back into Bolivia, then start the whole process again. They were carrying all sorts of things, sacks of cement or grain, crates of beer and soft drinks, boxes of groceries etc etc. It wasnít personal shopping, it seemed as if they were emptying a truck. Indeed, when we finally got across the border, we found out that was exactly what they were doing. Seems like the Bolivians donít want Argentinean trucks on their roads. Or is it that the Argentinean truckies donít want to ruin their nice trucks on Bolivian roads?
Eventually the lady from Aduana appeared, her lunch must have disagreed with her as she wasnít too happy about us wanting to bring the bikes into the country. She wanted to know where we had last left Argentina, and examined our passports trying to find the relevant stamp. Then marched off to consult with a colleague, came back and reluctantly said we could have 3 months, but then we had to return to our country of origin, she even wanted to know which hotel in BsAs we would be staying in.
The forms slowly typed up on an ancient typewriter, we then had the bikes inspected by 2 different officials before we could eventually enter the country. All the other Argentine borders have been speedy and friendly, but this was by far the worst border experience of our whole trip. So if you want to enter Argentina at Villazon, just beware the Aduana Dragon.
Our first night back in Argentina, we camped behind a fuel station, good for the budget and the tent which we haven't had a chance to use for awhile. The next day, riding to Salta, the landscape suddenly changed from dry dessert to lush green and between JuyJuy and Salta the fields were filled with lush green tobacco plants. We found the hostel that had been recommended to us, Terra Occulta, a great place with a garage for the bikes, where Arno could spend some time fiddling.
Cornel and Marco arrived a day later and we drank a few beers on the rooftop terrace and traded Salar stories.
After a couple of days, it was time to head south, decided to ride together for a couple of days and take the gravelled Ruta 40 towards Cafayete. Was a lovely ride through lush valleys along the river. The then road twisted up to a pass at 3000m before dropping down toward Cachi.
The Ruta 40 between Salta and Cachi Ė Easy!
Shortly before Cachi, the road was paved, and for 11kms or so, dead straight. This section was named TinTin, donít ask me why!
Arno at the beginning of Tin Tin
We camped in the tiny but lovely town of Cachi for one night, then on towards Cafayete. Marco and Cornel are much faster on the dirt than we are, well ok, than I am, so we started out a little earlier, knowing they would easily catch us up. The road for the first 50kms, was really narrow in places and we wondered if we had missed a turn-off. After the village of Molinos the road widened and passed through valleys filled with spectacular rock formations.
The road passes through weird rock formations.
Reached Cafayete in time for lunch and Arno and I decided to stay there. Cornel and Marco decided to keep riding as they needed to be in Santiago for Xmas. Found a nice hotel, then spent the rest of the day wandering around the town and doing some sampling. Most people come here to sample the wine, but we made do with the wine flavoured ice cream. Most of the Bodegas being closed over the weekend.
Chilecito was the next stop, had trouble finding accommodation, full, overpriced or with no parking. No-one seemed to know where the campsite was and the fuel stations were in the middle of town, so no camping there. For the first time, we checked out a hotel run by the ACA, the Argentine motoring club, which is supposed to recognise members from the British AA and the German ADAC. We did get the members discount, so checked in and were treated to all mod cons, cable tv and a pool, which of course we made the most of. Sometimes its hard to be a traveller!
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