30th Nov 2005 - Mendoza to Puenta del Inca, then back to Uspallata
Mileage - 239kms
THE BISCUIT HAS OFFICIALLY LEFT THE TIN
Niks bike serviced, and recopvered by lunchtime after I gave him a lift in to Mendoza, poor lad suffered heart failure with three sets of disc pads costing £300, looks professionally done thuogh as even cleaned. Still no free coffee or donuts though.
Left our pad mid-day to leaden skies. For cost comparisons 34 litres of super costs £14, bythe way ! Didn't look good on the weather front, but in fact as we climbing into the mountains and followed e hidden natural pass towards Chilr thing improved markedly and blue skies and warm temporatures allowed stunning views of the surrounding peaks, particularly the snowy ones higher up.
Cacti and Mountains, our first ´closer´view from Uspallata valley
The plae of our return for the night was high ltitude (well comparatively) plateau and a great setting to return to. It was very reminisant of the Tinetian Plataue up in Ladakh.
The colours of the valley walls was excepional and I can see why the high praise for the route. Stunning. Only beingthere or seeing the pictures can portray the wonderous colours and hues and absract mixes of sahpe and form. For this reason lesswords than I'd use, and hopefully more pictures !
Stones and mountains, same place, windy as hell, not that you´d know from this
We reached just over 9000 Ft near the Chilean border by Puenta del Inca, which was hearalded as a stunning natural wonder but we were preety dissappointing. Compared to the mountains all around there was no comparison.
We spotted a Condor quite close, hundreds of metres away, but you could see the white colour and nose 'lumps' like a turkey has.
Saw where the folk walk in for Aconcagua, not sure if saw mountain itself.
It was weird how the cloud was all on Mendoza side, clear as bell in mountains, but very windy indeed in places.
Have to say today was the most stunning ride we have ever undertaken on our own bike. Bloody stunning.
Valley and road, you might see road stretching away
A cyclist touring through gave us a big way, and we saw him on our return and shared big waves again. Now that's hardcore.
An odd final twist was when we saw a Harley Davidson Electroglide ride towards us and the rider gave a friendly wave. he turned and pulled in by our side,we met Craig Hutson on his way to Santiago for that night, wouldn't fancy hi journey over the mountains in the failing light, but he was obviously very experienced,on was to NZ.
Theee big other memory is the suicidal truckers, big artics barreling down the pass as if in sopts cars. Right across the wrong side of roads, slewwing and snaking on the brakes and taknig no prisoners. Bloody lunatics some of them. Quite scary, and these guys are safe compared to those in Peru apparently.
Road and bridge, mainly for the colours, beautiful
We arrived in own before dark, as it was cooling and got an apparment for same proice as a room at Los Condores. 86 pesos for three, with a room each. blew out on tea with two bottles of wine. Bev and Nik not too keen but your less fussy author well sated and what an excellent day !
A weird aside was the photo's of Brad Pitt on the wall....Seven Years in Tibet was filmed here.
Thursday 1st December
Uspallata to Los Mollos
Mileage - 416 kms
SAND AND THERMAL CLEANSING
Managed to buy some water-pistols from a kids shop next door to the hotel. Lady bemused, we want them for soaking each other (well T-Sirts) when in the heat on the pampas. May only be 10 minutes cool reprise, but glorious while it lasts. Should bemuse people each time we stop too.
The ride back down the valley was of course gloroius and at least we saw the views the other way. The colours that were more drab on our way in were now in full technicolour with the sun shining from the other side.
Coloured sandstone in the valley walls on way back from Uspallata
The lunatic truckers were still on the prowl however leading to caution. Even allowing the extra caution nearly wasn't enough. Three trucks in a row, a bit of a striaght and I cange down and go, indicating, and the last truck suddenly does the same (well obviously without indicating or looking) If he had been but a second leter I'd have had no-where to go. A scary moment. Ironically, Nik had gaffer taped his camera to his bike and had filmed the episode ! Don't suppose we'll report his number of course.
Regaining the plains we spotted a dead five legged horse, rigamortice had set in and it was obvioulsy a stallion !
On the multi leg front a very narrowly missed running over a tarantula too, they're a bit too comon for my liking now, that's two in three or four days !
We made good progress and then reached the point were the tarmac road went in a bow to the east and south and them west, and unmade roads went due south.
Day four (or whatever) of our BMW off-road course was now to be undertaken. We didn't have to take the unmade road, but decided it would be practice for what was to come. This was our first genuign 'Repio' road. As I'v mentioned repio is unmade road, but that's no quite the case. It's just not hard surfaced. It's gravel, but not the fine stuff, it includes sand and grit and pebbels of various size.
Bikes and Repio, before the sand section, this bit great for 50mph (Cerro Diamante on right)
At first we were very cautious, but as we realised it was very level and compacted and was safe to ride on as long as you are light on the bars, clenched grip will see you off, you must left the bike wander gently....and saty away from the edge and any ridges of grit between wheel tracks. Generally the trails are as wide as roads, but efectively they are one way until another vehicle comes, so you have to watch for the best lines.
You'd be mistaken if you thought no-one uses these roads, they do. The epoymous 4x4s are made for it, but trucks and cars also appear...including two towing boats...hmmmm. But generally, if you were on your own and came a croper I don;t think you could rely on immediate rescue, could be five minutes, could an hour, or more.
So we were soon happy barreling along at 50mph without too much problem. The views to the right were quite spectatcular of the snow caps high above the otherwise enveloping clouds. But the problem is you can't look and ride, recipe for disaster. There were also a few lone hills - Cerro Diamante - stuck up like volcanoes, and occassional canyons off to our side.
We came across a damed gorge in seemingly the middle of nowhere. Lovely transluscent green water and obviously pretty newly built. From the downstreal side the view was amazing, the dam wall was concave, therfore we had been riding over thin air across the top.
So this construction had all taken place without one tarmac road for access, and presumably not many people get to wonder at the spectacal.
Through a tunnel and the repio climbed up the plains further before gaining the plateau.
Now the (not) fun started. The repio changed from well compaced sandy gravel to dusty sand. A very unpleasant experience when your front wheel starts to wanderwith it's own mind. literally slewing to either side. Bloody scary actually I have to say.
We have been doing very well on all surfaces to say the bike and luggage and us amounts to virtually half a ton. Thta's not the sort of weight you can right with a dab of your foot should the front or back step out. Likelyhood you'd snap something.
Anyway this truely was nighmare time. The first time it happens your heart stops, when it happens very frequently it is rather stressful in the extreme. Bev even had to dismount and walk for one section, and still the bike was slewing one way then the other completely out of control.
we had to persist with great caution. no point me standing on the pegs as with Bev behind me it was too unpredicatble, and far to dangerous to both stand up in these conditions. It's amazing how well the bike, and Bev of course, cope with all that's thrown at them. but sand was the limit, it just isn't possible to ride fully oaded two up and much more than walking pace.
The fact the sand is actually much worse, it's bull dust, doesn't help either. The only time the bike felt happy was in first gear at moderate revs, anything else and we were bogging or slewing sure to crash. With both of us and the weight crashing is not an option, too much likelyhood or injury.
Nik was able to stand and with the greatly reduced weight made better progress, though he had some mildy specatcular moments were I thought he was off.
Bythe end we'd covered 117kms of repio, of which 47kms sand, and that last bit had taken an inordinate amount of time. We were both preety exhausted by that stage and I certainly felt my mind had been pretty frazzled with the concentration.
The wind was behind us for most of the remainder of the route and we were heading staright for darkening skies and wondeful snowy peaks.
The last 20 kms here were a great twisty mountain road, with mixed conditions and the odd of rockfall.
When we arrived here I thought oh my god, it's a very small closed ski resort. There was one small hotel that had sighs of life outside, but looked like maintenace rather than anything else.
We were pretty knackered and feeling a bit desparate so Bev checked the door and it opened. Amazinglyit's a thermal hotel and for £10 each we get a room, Dinner bed and breakfast and a free dip in the thermal pools.
So, again, we had landed on our feet. No food sincebreakfast so hope dinner is good !
What better to free taught muscles, and remove the dust of miles of repio (you can imagine how dusty you get I'm sure) than t dip into a hot tub. Well that's over egging (excuse pun) it, but anyway. bev was tol by an elderly resident of how it worked and we joined her with our trunks and change of clothes.
We'd been advised to take 10 minutes of the 38 deg pool. So follows th prodeedure.
You have a changing area with slab and towel and the corridor down the middle of the room is actually different temperature 'pools' from around 35 to 42 with other changing rooms on other side.
The pools were actually likw very small flooded rooms 10 ft square with steps leading down to the rather smelly sulphorous waters below. The women thought we were mad all three going in one, but it seemed reasonable to us. two heads one end, one the other and we could all lie out and submerge or bodies. The water is very heavily salty too to add to the effect. It was pleasant in an old Soviet Sanitorium way and we enjoyed a laugh or two. After 10 minutes we were called out, back to our changing rooms, laid out on th slab on a sheet which then encased us and a blanket was placed on top. A further 10 elapsed in enforced relaxment which was very good.
Another shout and we towelled and changed - you leave the medicinal waters on.
All in all quite an experience, shame no pictures to prove it. If we end up staying longer we'll get evidence. plus I think we'd go hotter, the water was similar to noe of our baths at home...without the smells or salt.
Our tea has encouraged we should stay here a few days. At the pace we're moving (still too fast !) it would take three days to get to Bariloche, train overnight, and arrive for travellers meet.....but we have two weeks, however we spend the time its 14 night accommodation
Tea consisted of a nice home made tortia with salad followed by (asumed) goat stew. Lots of big lumps of meat on bone. Very tasty, with potatoes and vegtables. all locally made and delicious. a real family place with the most stunning of mountain views out front. It gives me pangs of wanting to be in Scotland right now and out ice climbing. The views are very reminisant of the Cairngorms in April or so. Not easily pleased eh. Food was finished off with fruit salad or flan. We also had a bottle of wine and beer. Nice family place so worth a few days distraction.
Friday 2nd December
Los Mollos - Las leñas and around
Mileage - 45 kms
We did indeed decide to stay for a few days and chill. it's a very nice area and worthy of some recuperation since we've been moving on for a whole two days since Mendoza.
Post breakfast, which like last nights tea involved the host asking if we wanted any more - how often do you get that question these days ? Nice to stay away from the faceless corporate chains.
It had turned from last nights leaden skies, getting used to the fact leaden skies here need not mean rain, to the standard glorious azure cloudless blue. Our mountain panorama was free of any cloak or vail pure unadulterated bliss.
Before I forget, the stars ! I'd popped out last night before bed to check the skies and was treated to a fine display. More bright stars than I think I've ever seen, not just loads of stars, they were brighter than the ones in the Northern hemisphere I'd swear. Also behind the hotel were two smudges in the sky I had taken for clouds, but as not moving I guess they are star nebula (might be wrong term) Some were familiar, though orion was not Orion, not ideal, no star gazer. But the stars are many and bright, first real opportunity to see them.
Anyway, we wanted to pop up to las Lenas for a nosey as it is Argentina's most chic ski resort, obviously not in summer though, but ski resorts are usually well presented and fairly high.
On way we passed the Pozo de la Animas, wailing pits, strange affairs. two deep circular pools virtually joined that are naturally formed. They were best part of 100 ft deep, wider than deep, and formed in sandy gravel so acute angeled and loose and wisely fenced - best phot's on inside obviously which is what people do (only another car there at time, tourist season not 'til Christmas really). The water at the bottom was turquoise green and very photogenic. There are so many beautiful things that we see and photograph that may not make it to the mails due to restriction using Yahoo...wish I'd paid for something else now, ways round it, but have to keep some secrets for our return !
Wailing pools of the Animals, apparently they do make weird sounds as wind passes over then, not while we were there
Anyway the pits get their name as the wind whistles eerily over them...apparently. No wind in morning, no sound, lots of wind on way back, and still no sounds.
Onwards through, what sadly really, I have to describe as 'the standard multicoloured hills, shales and rocks' of the route. But belive me there's no insult intended these valleys have beauty that defies description.
The ski resort was like a ski resort in summer, very quite, butnot too ugly, must be chic ! We got cash from an ATM, saw very very few folk except people getting ready for summer. in fact sprinklers outnumbered people. There was the Eidelweiss cafe though with it's cheerful and helpful owner. We had a drinking chocolate and sat in sun (more later) for a while.
I'd checked whether the road to the Valle Hermoso was open. Apperently not, only 10 of 25kms. We set out anyway and after a short while the tarmac ended and it was a typical hard stoney, pebbly, rocky trail. Soon after we were onto day 5 of the BMW off-road course, today, Stream and River crossings, and for the advanced snow !
River crossing using Vern's floatation aides ! Top panniers and excellent Hovercraft
Once we got into the swing the streams were easily crossed, took me back to India on the Enfields (organised tour) so nice to be doing on our own bike though. Slow entry, speeding up on way through and pop out the other side in one peice.
The scenery was sublime, and above 8500 ft so abov the snow line easily, in fact the road wqas carved through the drifts the higher we went.
Bev and Nik, bikes and snow cat
The BM stuck in snow, no side or main stand required ! Going no-where further, serious snow thereafter anyway, but you have to try don´t you (with a leaking master cylinder ?)
Finally we reached a much broader stream, fast flowing and deeper in the middle, theobvious turn road point....or.
Taking my tank bag off with Bev able to walk around via a drift over the stream I calmed my butterflies and eased into the shallows, a short turn slightly upstream and more power and the water was over and in my boots and the bike powered out the other side. like many a crossing it was far easier than it looked. I'll go for gravelly mountain streams over muddy becks back home.
Nick, though 100% inexperienced in rivr crossing acquited himself with gusto as he dived like a submerging Polaris into the deep water and rose like a breaching whale onto the far side. Very wet, but very stylish. Need less to say as with everything on this trip all this was caught on digital still and movie clip, more for you to see on our return unless anyone is offering up free web space.
Not far past that, up muddy uncosolidated switch backs we passed the snow cat parked up and then a strecth of snow. Bev hoped off, I tried my best to ease forward and managed all of 10 ft before coming to rest with no need for a stand ! That was that then, but what an adventure.
I never mentioned before, remember the last few days have been the Andes from fast on road to hard off road, well, a confession. My front master cyclinder started to leak and so far I've topped it up and stuffed some toilet paper underneath to prevent the corrosive material getting on anything. Anyway it seems to be holding up, perhaps a Christmas break repair...best not to worry when you're undertaking these minor adventure I guess. Worry yeah not ! we're not.
So anyway we had to turn and return. Even though I tried to remember to keep a hat on I hadn't put cream on and look now like Father Christmas apparently.
Back to the cafe for a fixed meal of Spag Bol, and ice cream and a fizzy drink for all of £2 each.
Back towards hotel we took some goat herders tracks, well why not. They were quite hard work, and rough, but got high up into wonderful meadows of strong smelling wild sweet peas. then bv and I took another that ended at another goat herders hut that was for all the world like the Hindu Kush or similar. goats, dust, snowy peaks a brown melt water coursing down with occassional sounds of boulders being moved downstream.
Back to base, Lahuen Co Thermal Hotel, for a hotter tub, 40 this time and a relax. with a face like a beetroot before the hot tub not too sure how relaxing it really was. Well it was great of course, marvellous.
Saturday 3rd December
Los Mollos - Walking
Mileage - 7 kms bike, 5kms foot
A SHORT WALK IN THE HINDU KUSH (NO HINDU KUSH)
Well we were all determined to get a good nights kip last night so set up for a late breakfast, 9am. didn't work out so well though. The place is quiet enough, virtually no passing traffic and few guests (reminisant of the Shining then). But for some reason none of us slept partcularly well last night or the one afore, just one of those things I guess. Bev and I have a generous room, as does Nik, we're on an all inclusive basis p/p so got seperate rooms for some space. Not that that indicates any falling out or split, just if you can get sperate rooms for the same price we may as well have. This is also the first place we've had heaters in the rooms and used them. It's quite high up and quite cool (no complaints there though)
I must do a bit of research on this place when we get home too as there are pictures all over the walls of the bar of Vincent Garcia, or other way round, who was our hosts father and obviously a racing driver of some aplomb. there are trophys galore and paper clippings and photographs showing a fairly glittering career by the look of things. He has the rakish good looks of Graham Hill with his thin moustache and from what I can make out from our host he drove Peugoets. The pics show an old car in fairly stripped condition obviously used for road (no roads) racing over several days and several countries. If I have translated some of the details correctly it sounds like in one particular year he had a close scrape, incuding some carryon with the police, and either came second, or was first in his class, or both.
Anway I have only skant details as our host though charming, speaks only 'black coffee' in English, and it is certainly another of those occassions were my lack of Spanish leaves me frustrated in the knowledge I could find out so much more with more vocablary. I guessed by the end of 6 months I would be speaking reasonable Spanish, but really I'm still using 'pointy' language (ie point and use descriptive words) rather than real sentances We'll see.
We took the bikes back up the goat track Bev and I had taken last night in order to park up an have a stroll nearer the mountains if not actually in to them. The track was more technical as it was not used by 4x4s and occasssional drainage runs ran down one part of it then crossed obliquely, and the surface was far from well graded with soft material then small boulders and all sorts.
River and mountains from starting point
Lenticular cloud above the valley where the hotel is - the road ´just´ visible in middle bottom
Nik decided to stop before the end and take some time out there while Bev and I continued as yesterday to the terminal sheppards house. I use the term house loosely. More shack with enclosures for the animals attached. Anyway we were greated by the usual barking dogs, like farm dogs back home all bark no bite I'm pleased to say. The goats were in the enclosure this morning which was a surprise so we ascended the hillside a little to get a shot. We were quite surprised to discover there was a sheppard in residence, he saw us, I waved, he returned the gesture and continued his lasooing of the stock. He was naturally very profficiant and skilled with his rope. No idea what he was up to but I have a nasty feeling it involves kids and Christmas, and I'm not talking children and Father Christmas, more the Turkey connection. When we've been in Spain before I have seen 'kid' on the menu, but we've allways been too late for it, here the timing may coincide with Christmas rather well !
Goat stockade and Sheppard lasooing ´kids´. Bike in bottom of pic
We had ridden up in shirts, trousers and boots to allow walking, and buffs and caps to prevent dust ingress due to it being half way to howling gails this morning. so there was no gear to leave with the bike and I felt no compulsion to even think about locking it up, so we were able to wander off with ease.
Cool mountain folk (?!) Standard riding gear for short trips on bike to get to walk starts
After a faltering start when we followed the goat tracks onto rather too exposed a slope for Bev we realised we would need to be on the other side of the river to get anywhere in a real sense. There was no way to cross as this was one fast flowing melt water mountain stream and if the current didn't get you (it would) the cold would be enough on it's own...plus there was still the sound of large boulders being moved along occassionally.
There were some amazing plants and flowers around. One low growing that I can only describe as looking like a moss or lichen, but actually rock hard to the touch. You could walk on it without deformation, some nice patches of it.
We wandered back downstream to the huts and suddenly I realised there was one on the far side, so surely there was a safe crossing point. Crossing point yes, safe ?
At a point where the stream narrowed, but by virtue also became turbo-charged in feroucity was a narrow plank, lets say 4 inch wide. it looked reasonably stable, but it still took a firm resolve to set foot after foot and cross. All was well of course and we set out - heaven forbide a fall there though.
Bev walks the plank of peril (I can assure you a slip would have been very perilous even though it looks not)
We pased through an out of use stockade and admired the time and craftsmanship that went into it's construction. Upright posts of the local equivalent of a yellow barked acacia tree (ie multi barbed, vicious and an ideal security fence) and smaller branches inter-twinned to create about 3 or 4 foot of thorney hedged wall. Also one end was constructed of unrolled oil barrels with the multicolured circular tops creating an abstract artistic flourish. Very akin to African stockades - wounder what they're keeping oout here ?
A little futher up the scrub was a collection of quite large, say 6 foot high conglomerate boulders that in a strange geological feat were conregated in a little huddle with nothing similar about. I've seen plenty of conglomerate before - it's the stuff that looks like concrete with a sandstone 'cement' and rock 'aggregate' - but this stuff was literally as hard as concrete and the aggregate rocks sticking out even tougher than the bonding material. It would make sublime climbing material if formed into something larger.
Our path, well it was the goat's in actual fact, wound it's way to the right of the stream and in between little thorny bushes that had to be avoided with exposed skin as their thorns were needle sharp. There were many distractions in the form of minute flowers and verdant birdlife for me, and stones with promises of encased fossils for Bev. She found a couple of relatively good ammonites in pebbles and I enjoyed the sights of various hawks and eagles, a Condor, and nesting Plovers amongst the sparrows, finches and kites.
Though we felt far from habitation there were cows on the meadows just below the snowline, and wild horses everywhere.
We reached a point that would be the natural conclusion of the walk when we climbed a bit of a ridge that lead us too a higher plateau that would mean a considerable trek to gain any further benefit, so time to pause and drink in the mountain granduer before our return.
Quite apart from the patchs of strong smelling wild sweet peas and patches of bright yellow flowers (unknown but familar) there were clumps of cacti that will be stunning in another few weeks. Either yellow or white flowering and not something you'd want to fall into either.
We followed the stream bank more closely on the return leg and the breeze was strong enough to be blowing occassional mist onto us. If this is what the wind is like here, what is it like down on the Pampas, or more importantly in Patagonia. lots of scare stories of people being blown off the road in the stagering 100mph side winds that can occur from no-where.
The ride back was uneventful - just the way we like it, and we returned to our base about 3pm and rejoined Nik. I'm guessing we are all inclusive here but this is the first time we've been back at anywhere near lunchtime. 3pm clasified as the time the last diner had eaten and they were clearing up, well that means our host was. I asked about lunch and I guess he was saying too late and then offered us sandwiches which we duely took being half starved after our outdoor wanderings. He asked if we wanted beer which we had, but one between 3. The toasties were cheese and ham and stuffed us.
Back to rooms for a late seista at 4 to try and catch up some of our beauty sleep. by 7 we were ready for our now standard hot tub.
I'd swear the sulphurous smell is getting stronger, which is unlikely, and this time we opted for our initial 38 deg pool. Less sweating and more comfortable temps. The best bit I think is the end when you lie down and are wrapped in a sheet and blanket and lie still for 10 minutes. It's bliss, something I can't do even when sleeping. Enforced inactivity is a fine thing. There must be wind powered ventilators in the building as the errie sound that are emitted are very evocative. Low bass tones similar to giant dragonflies or some spooky film music. The mind is a powerfull thing !
I'm not sure of the relative merits of the salty sulphur baths. My ezcema has been better than for absolutely years since we came away, but not as perfect since the baths. In fact I'm wondering if yesterdays sun-burn (now greatly eased thanks for asking) was intesified by the residue of salts on me post-dip. I can imagine the miniscule salt crystals could magnify the suns rays, or perhaps I'm being a bit imaginative. Today you could see Bev's skin had a white dusting to it though, so possible. Anyway it's showers post-dip for me, and sun-cream when out. It's funny how you can get burnt and then have it eased so quick mind you.
And so another day done. Just dinner and wine and bed...or will there be more ?
Well the only addition was a surprise guest 'ruit' with the flan, our host brought it out for us to try. brite orange amazingly sweet, starchy and what was it ? I thought Sweet Potato, Bev though Angelica, but was actually preserved Pumpkin, odd, but nice
Sunday 4th December
Los Mollos - Chos Malal
Mileage - 341 kms bike
Today was a combination of many things. A geology field trip, roads of every condition, and most of the worst weather imaginable on two wheels.
The wind hadn't died and to be honest I think I'd have stayed put, especially as a Sunday and a long push ahead probably.
It all started OK with just very strong winds and the odd stray rock or goat to avoid but bright sunshine, but cool.
The areas we rode through seemed to encompass most of the things you would see on Open University if they were doing the earths geology. To use one of Bev's favourite saying you could really see mother earths growing pains today. Folds in the landscape and vertcal planes, expolded volcanoes with molten rock for miles (not a lave flow as no Volcano) and colour and tonal variations to march the scenes you see on the national parks in the states.
Basalt columns – like Giants Causeway and Staffa back home
The roads were very hard, the fabled ruta 40 certainly lives up to reputation, even when fully good surfaced tarmac....which some of it was. But generally there were long sections of very damaged highway or gravel, or worse both togther, think marbles on the road. It's very hard riding these conditions with the added very strong side winds. the path you have chosen suddenly becomes the pile of loose materialas the wind guides you that way whether you want it or not. I had to ride with the bars slightly on opposite lock just to go in a striaght line.
it was no simple job of sitting on the back twiddling her thumbs for Bev either. She had the task a sidecar passenger would have, except we were on two wheels. Clinging in to me at times, leaning one way or the other at others. While I have the advantage of handlebars to hold to help brace my upper body and neck, Bev has little and was finding the wind a bit of a wrench on her neck to say the least.
The bloody dust ! It's bad enough generally, but in guess 40+mph, gusts there were almost constant clouds of the stuff appearing and it gets everywhere. when we stopped for a coffee and a bit of respite I even had grit in the bottom of my boots. The visors get coated in and out and you generaly feel filthy and arid. there were occassions when the vision was obscured by the dust clouds being blown across the road.
Sand dune blown across road, not nice surprise, and not even in Patagonia yet :-0
The unpredictable nature of the wind is the bikers enemy. So many tales of folk swept to side of road, catching the soft stuff and going down heavily. There isn't much chance for looking at the scenery, just total concentration on the road. Being a Sunday in the middle of nowhere there wasn't much traffic which is just as well. Once again you realise the ease with which you can drive a car. all we encountered today could be easily accomplished by four wheels with the minimum of discomfort. In reality. on two wheels, two up with luggage this sort of day is too much, but you have to do what you have to do. I could tell for quite a bit of the time Bev was having a hard time just trying to get n the best position for her and also for us, it's a team effort.
Ironically, the best bit of surfacing following a sign for road improvemnts for 36kms. Normally that would be a nightwmare, but on this occassion it meant well graded gravel and sand lending itself to much higher speeds than were achievable on the surface we'd just left. In fact it was marvellous ! The few bridges we crossed were a cause for minor heart failure as the tubular railings offered little by way of wind protection, but the open crossing funneled the wind in intensified strength and there was only limited width to waddle about in. Really quite frightening at times.
One of the things that summarised the first half of the trip was when we can round a forlorn bend on the gravel and out of the dust cloud appeared a mono toothed Guacho who clearly hadn't seen water in a month, but perhaps beer a lot more recently, staggering waving his hands in some insane manner that suggested he had been out here too long on his own, the wind would do that to you, he wasn't seeking any assiatnce, he was plain deranged. I could understand it at that point.
After the so called roadworks we encountered a change in the weather again as the mountain tops were lightly dusted with fresh snow, or maybe hail, as we got some of that. It looked like we'd avoid the rain, but we caught the edge of it and I'd swear the temperateure was near zero...in fact it was about 9. But that's very cold here. It was short lived but long enough for Bev to want me to sit on her hands to stop frost-bite setting in. The heated grips helped my palms but my knuckles were unaware of the joys.
Now the situation had clearly gone too far as I was grinning inanely in my lid in a world of my own, guided by voices, all my own (remember the intercom is not functioning at present). I was actually laughing as I was applying counter streering to try and balance the attack of the invisible forces pushing us for ever towars one side of the road or other. It was bliss on the occassions the wind was directly behnd us, but foolishly you forgot as you rounded a bend and suddenly caught a strong gust again.
Towards the end of the day there was some fine twisty well surfaced bends but nothing you could take advantage of.
as we descended towards our little oasis here - yep, you guessed it - as soon as we stopped you wouldn't have believed the wind was even blowing. bloody hell !
Posted by Simon McCarthy at December 08, 2005 10:59 PM GMT