January 02, 2004 GMT
No Fuel or Insurance?

The air was full of dust and we couldn’t see the mountains surrounding us, so decided to give Valle de la Lunar a miss and ride on towards Mendoza. We took a wrong turn in the village of Huaca and ended up on dirt. It wasn’t too bad and the small river crossings cooled us and the bikes down. We were soon back on tarmac, but it was so potholed, the dirt was preferable. Two lights came towards us, bikes with metal panniers and lights on - must be travellers! KTMs in fact, ridden by Austrians in search of some good dirt roads and on the way up to Bolivia.


Off the beaten track and still bumping into other travellers.

Chatted for an hour or so then they went north, us south towards San Juan. It was getting late and it was still 70kms to San Juan and the next fuel station, but we only had enough fuel for half that distance. How did that happen? Something to do with taking that wrong turn, bypassing the last fuel station and riding against a strong headwind for the last 100kms.

We stopped at a campimento by the side of the road and asked if they had some spare fuel. They had a couple of litres for the XT, and some gasoil, a sort of diesel, which Arno put into the Beemer. We made it to the next fuel station, Black Betty not suffering at all from the strange fuel.

Camped behind a fuel station next to the Ruta 40 (now smooth tarmac and 4 lanes wide) just outside San Juan. The next morning we took it easy, only 150kms to Mendoza and I thought we would be there for lunch. The Argentine police however had other ideas.

At the provincial border between San Juan and Mendoza, there is a check for fruit and veggies, then 50metres on, a police check. Had to show our papers as usual, then they asked us for our insurance. Arno got out some German papers, I did the same, we handed them over and crossed our fingers.

The police were quite happy with my insurance papers, however the date on Arno's had expired, Uh Oh. He was hauled into the office and told he had to pay 300 pesos, about U$100. We tried showing other papers, but they weren't having any of it. They gave us the option of riding back to the previous town , on one bike, to buy an insurance, decided to sit it out and see what would happen.

Were busy formulating a plan, when after an hour or so, a guy came over and asked if there was a problem. We explained and he went in and talked to our tormentors. After a few minutes and raised voices, he came out and was explaining that he couldn’t do much, when the policeman came out of the office, shook our hands and wished us good luck - our cue to get out of there ASAP. Thanked Rubén and arranged to meet up later.

Arrived in Mendoza and were greeted by traffic chaos and demonstrations. At a major intersection, tyres were burning in the middle of the road, the police standing around watching.


Tyres burning in the middle of a busy Mendoza junction.

We managed to squeeze past and find the hostel we had booked for Christmas. Mendoza is a lovely city plenty of shady streets, tree filled plazas and open spaces.

A few days of rest and it was time to head over to Santiago for the New Year. We stopped briefly at Puenta del Inca to test out the hot springs there. The wind was blowing a gale, so decided not to camp and rode over the border to Chile. After the border post, the road dropped down into the valley in a series of about 20 hairpin bends stacked on top of each other, spectacular.


The road of many curves, Chile

Got to Santiago in the evening and booked into Scott’s Place, a hostel a little out of town but with parking and a good atmosphere. Met up with the Swiss guys and also Claudio, one of the Africa Twin riders we’d met in Bolivia, and went for a meal out in the trendy Providencia district of the city.

Together with Alex, a Dutch rider also staying at the hostel and needing parts for his F650, we took a bus and visited the BMW dealership where Arno was expecting to pick up a starter motor under warranty. Unfortunately the person he has been dealing with wasn’t there and they refused to let him have the thing unless he paid for it.


Arno with his hands almost on that starter motor at BMW, Santiago.

Frustrated we left with no spare parts, no starter motor but lots of muttering about BMW and their ever declining customer service for riders of older bikes.

Mendoza was calling, pleasanter and cheaper than Santiago, we hot footed it back over the Andes in time to see in the New Year with Rubén, Marco and Cornel and in true Argentine style we were still eating at midnight.
We did eventually tear ourselves away from Mendoza, albeit reluctantly and rode south through San Rafael and the first rainstorm since we arrived in Argentina.


Riding reluctantly towards a rainstorm on the pampa

At Bardas Blancas, we turned off the ruta 40 and headed towards the Chilean border. No, we hadn't gone mad and changed our minds, no, we were headed to the hot springs at Cajón Grande. It was a 12km ride along a track, through a beautiful valley, before we got to the campsite and the end of the road. Here were the hot springs, a meadow in which to camp, next to the river, surrounded by snow capped mountains, all for 5 pesos a person!


Campsite and hot springs at Cajón Grande

We were so impressed by the place we decided to stay there the next day. It was so peaceful, we walked up the valley then soaked in the hot springs for a few hours, before relaxing by the river and watching the sun go down.

Posted by Sian Mackenzie at January 02, 2004 09:51 PM GMT

I see Arno's hair has completely falen out dealing with South American BMW agents

Posted by: Andy on February 7, 2004 06:57 PM GMT

I have enjoyed your commentary and photographs from day 1. Best wishes and a safe journey.

Posted by: Franklin on February 12, 2004 09:25 PM GMT
Sorry, due to heavy form spamming, Comments are OFF.

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