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Photo by Michael Jordan, enjoying a meal at sunset, Zangskar Valley, India

I haven't been everywhere...
but it's on my list!


Photo by Michael Jordan
enjoying a meal at sunset,
Zangskar Valley, India



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  #16  
Old 15 Jan 2018
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Join Date: Nov 2010
Location: france
Posts: 36
Bologna to Briancon, and our home: day 52- 56

We have a very important date with our family from South Africa, who by chance are also touring Europe. With lots of map and route-checking we calculate that our paths will cross in 4 days’ time at Briancon. As we have not seen each other for 6 years this is a mega-reunion and the timing is crucial.
Croatia is a long thin strip of land, with sea on the western edge and mountains in the middle. There is a highway that runs up the eastern edge bordering Bosnia-Herzegovina. We’ve had a fabulous time in Croatia and are now riding up this highway. The wind is pushing and buffeting us sideways and there is no protection. The various tunnels bring a bit of relief and we are more than happy when we reach the border post. To get to Italy from Croatia there is a section of Slovenia that needs to be crossed. All three countries are part of the European Union, so crossing should be a breeze. Well it wasn’t. If you travel from an EU country into another EU country, the ‘Borders Code’ provides EU states with a single set “of common rules, being committed to freedom of movement, avoiding disruption to travel and trade”. But, since a terrorist attack in France in November 2015, border checks are the new reality. So far in this journey we hadn’t really noticed any delays or difficulties. However, crossing in and out of Slovenia changed all this.
It’s a beautiful sunny Friday, June 30th, and the official start of the 10 week Summer Season of July and August. There are at least 40 bikers on tour, panniered up, and ready to hit the trail once they have crossed this stretch of land separating Italy in Central Europe from the route to Eastern Europe. Luckily we are going the other way. The cars and trucks are queuing and the bikers start to overtake and jump the queue in the Departure Lane. We are watching from the fairly sedate and minimalist Arrival Lane. We make friends with a chap in a fancy sportscar, who lets us into the shady part of the queue. The bikers on the other side are parked up in the blazing sun, engines idling and revving in turn as they creep forward. One decides he’s had enough and tries to jump the queue. Men get out of cars and wave fists, horns blow, and doors get flung open in the path of overtaking bikes. Luckily no-one was pushed off their bikes and as we rode past, having been stamped and processed, we will never know what happened. The road through Slovenia was single lane and full of trucks. Better to avoid that crossing in future.
We get to Trieste, climb a slow winding road to overlook the harbour city and take a moment to pause and reflect. As an 8 year old, in 1961, my family and I had caught the Lloyd Trestino SS Africa cruise liner from Trieste to Beira in Mozambique, through the Suez Canal and down the East Coast of Africa. A lot of life has happened since then, but it was good to take time out and remember the little girl that was. We make our way down the highway to Venice, still not sure of which route to take. The choices are
• the direct straight boring Venice-Verona-Milan-Turin-Briancon across the north Italian flatlands
• Or the interesting challenging complicated Venice-Bologna-la Spezia-Genoa-Savona-Cuneo-Briancon.
No prizes for guessing which route we chose. From Senj to Bologna, we rode 435kms in one day. After making our final route decision, we flashed past Venice and we found a super campsite on the outskirts of Bologna just in time for an afternoon swim, a 1 kms leg stretch walk to the bus stop and a lovely bus ride into town. The wine per glass in the city centre cost 7euros, but the food is free. What a great way to have aperitif and supper all in one go. 28 euros, 2 glasses of wine and unlimited antipasto (plural antipasti) each our thirst and hunger was satisfied. We caught the campsite shuttlebus home which dropped us almost outside our tent.
The route to La Spezia the next day took us past the home of the Ferraris in Maranello, and then up and down and over the magnificent Passa Radici and Passa Cerreto, with the medieval village of Fivizzano a secluded surprise. We came around one steep corner and were confronted by an ancient stone wall. Peering over the wall the cemetery was laid out on the other side. “Not far to go then if you don’t make it”, we laughed, (NOT). To all you bikers out there, these passes are a must. We had a rest in an old quarry site and watched as more bikes ventured up and over these crazy gorges. The Italians are world-renowned for being master road builders and these passes are testament to that.
We find a fishy place to eat in La Spezia, at a novel 5 euros per kilo, with as many mixes of antipasti as desired. We take the coast road to Savona, where the campsites have changed their prices as it is now 1st July and High Season. The average camp pitch has shot from 15euros to 30, so we need to get away from the coast. We head inland and find a campsite in Cuneo, still in Italy but nearly in France. Today we did 569kms, covering cities, mountains, coastal routes and back inland. B has clearly got his Enduro helmet on. Before settling in for the night we asked about the charges, being cautious about the change in prices between low and high season. B got the rather young receptionist to write it down and who also assured him that credit cards were accepted. We had a lovely evening with German biker companions, where the usual conversation about where, what, how and why was sprinkled with laughter and red wine.
Packed up and ready to go, we arrive at reception to find a new face, older and confused. “That fee on that piece of paper is WRONG. You must pay more!! And we don’t take cards. You must pay CASH!!” Not a nice start to the day. Leaving me as the ‘deposit’, B goes into town, finds an ATM, draws the cash and only pays what is written on the piece of paper from the night before. Before promising to report the manager to the police that he was employing his underage daughter as a receptionist, we are warned to never come to their campsite again. “We don’t want to, and arrivederci!!”.
Cuneo to Briancon is the almost final route for this story. A short 140 kms over the amazing Passe Magdalene, Col de Vars and Passe de Grande Alps, which takes nearly 6 hours. We are back in France and it feels like home. We find a campsite and with 2 minutes to spare meet my sister and family as they exit the roundabout. It’s hugs, kisses and tears all round. Home is where the heart is, even if we both live on opposite sides of the equator. The next day we do the final 230 kms over more mountains than we’ve ever imagined existed (check out the D1091)
We’ve finished our Eastern European motorcycle adventure ride and what a ride!
photos : see 2up2wheels.blogspot.com and HU Travelstories
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  #17  
Old 21 Jan 2018
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Join Date: Nov 2010
Location: france
Posts: 36
Roundtrip to Norfolk, via Jersey

Our Eastern European tour was a great success. We tested the bike and ourselves for 2months and 15,000kms and are pleasantly surprised at the outcome. We can pitch a tent for 57 days. We can survive in rain and cold and heat. We can eat cold spaghetti out of a glass jar and we still love each other.
However, there are a few modifications to be made on the bike: the most pressing one being to install a Scott Oiler. B is meticulous about regularly oiling the chain at 100 kms intervals. When the bike is unloaded it’s an effort. When the bike is loaded it’s a BIG effort. “One, two three, heave” we call as we synchronise feet placements, arm movements and shoulder pushing. For our RTW (Round The World) trip, which is looming, this is not something we want to do. After a bit of research on the internet, a Scott Oiler is purchased, delivered and fitted. We plan to try this on our next adventure to Norfolk, via the Battle Flower Show in Jersey. We had struggled a bit on the steep uphill curves when tackling the mountain passes in Romania and Central Italy, so B put his action plan to swop front-ends of the X-Country and Sertao into place. To boost our finances we participated in the annual Bric-a-Brac that takes place in the rural French village where we live. The proceeds go into the RTW fund. It’s now the middle of August and we have a chance to test the modifications.
The 410kms ride on the highway to St.Malo was cold, wet and windy but ended in glorious sunshine at the ferry port. Whilst waiting for the ferry we dozed off in the warmth of the afternoon sun. We have pre-booked a campsite on the East side of Jersey island as the population swells during this grand event. It is held on the 2nd Thursday of August, having started in 1902 to celebrate the coronation of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra. The storms that challenged us on the French mainland riding to the ferry port continued during our stay in Jersey. Wearing full rain gear we circumnavigated one side of the island, spotting the WW2 bunkers and lighthouses and getting our bearings for parking the bike during the show. We ventured into cosy harbour cafes to sample traditional Jersey Ice Cream, Potatoes and Black Butter (Spicy Apple Preserve). The day of the Flower Show arrives and still in our hi-vis full suit rain gear we stand in the queue. We are approached by a rather frantic Marshall who mistakes us for part of the missing skydiving team. We assure him that motorbikes are our thing, not jumping out of planes. Coincidentally, he is also South African and takes the joke one step further by introducing us to fellow Marshalls as part of the sky diving team, who have now been found. The language of Jersey is a Jersey-Norman dialect with an unusual accent that has a strangely familiar South African twang. We checked with our new friend that he is indeed from SA and not a Jersey man.
The show was brilliant, full of colour, fun and noise. The marching bands led the flower-decked floats up and down the parade road for at least 2 hours. The sun came out for the show and the wind blew the storm clouds away. The three nights under tent had seen the tarp blow away and tear a bit, the challenge of a different tiny 2 man tent suffocating and cramped and the need for 100% waterproof panniers paramount. We are now narrowing down the specifications for our RTW.
• B needs a chair with a back, not a Tripod chair
• 3-man tent, imperative with vestibule
• Waterproof front panniers
• Waterproof liners for back sling overs
• A bigger platform over the back to double up as a table, with holes for cups
• More efficient lighting fuel for the petrol stove
• Repair my heated vest
• B needs bigger gloves
• Collapsible pots, kettle and plates
• Windshield for stove
• Lighter weight ground sheets.
After three days where we encountered all weathers, bar the snow, we continue the journey and catch the ferry to Poole. The bad weather continues, which is rather disappointing for mid-summer, so when we land at 19h30 we question whether we will make the 200kms journey to our friends near Gatwick before the storm breaks.
Well the decision is made for us. We stop at a café to top-up our UK sim card and I switch the Garmin Navigator on to add addresses and compare distances and routes. It drains the battery: the same battery that caused us so much trouble in Belgrade. We are now stuck in Poole late on a Friday night with a loaded motorbike and no power. “Push”, says B as he foots it down the level road and I do my best. Surprise, surprise, we are at sea level and there are no hills. We get further and further away from the café and then spot a slightly uphill driveway. No-body is at home and some very kind unknowing people have lent us their driveway. We push the bike up and with an almighty push back down the driveway, it starts. The relief is huge. A decision is made to re-route ourselves to family in Worcester, where we will tout the bike shops on Saturday morning and invest in a brand new battery. We set off in the dark, and complete the 250kms, arriving just past midnight to a warm, if not surprised welcome.
Battery purchased and fitted and after a few days catching up with our South African family, we set off again to do the 320kms cross country ride from Worcester to Norwich. This is another mega South African reunion with a week of partying and some shopping. We can tick chair, pots, plates and gloves off the ‘to buy’ list. We catch up with a fellow biker at a bike-show-in-a-field-pub. The homeward route takes us 300kms south to our friends near Gatwick, another ferry and home to our lovely rural French village home. The ferry arrives in Dieppe at 5am, again cold and very wet. What happened to the sun this summer? We know it is 540 kms to home, but having only semi-dozed on the carpeted floor overnight, by 8am we are getting tired and hungry. A quick boil-up of coffee at a laybye restored us for a few hours, but when we spotted a patch of grass bathed in sunshine next to a parking zone in the cropped wheat fields, we could not resist a zizz. Parking the bike on its centre stand, we hopped over the Armco barriers and flopped onto the grass, hitting the sack immediately, keeping our helmets on, which are perfect pillows.. About an hour later, we heard a very concerned voice “bonjour, bonjour” calling us. As soon as we responded with “ merci, je suis fatigue, je suis d’accord “, our rescuer nodded and departed. Such a kind act, the poor car owner had probably thought we’d been flung over the edge. Suitably refreshed the remaining few hours ride to home was pleasant enough, where we put the bike in doors, closed the shutters and went back to bed.
https://goo.gl/maps/1UFwxNfbpuA2
B is delighted with the front end modifications and I am delighted that the Scott Oiler has made me redundant.
Our sweet dreams take us to Thailand, on a flight booked for 6 week’s time. See you there.

Photos on 2up2wheels.blogspot.com
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  #18  
Old 21 Jan 2018
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Join Date: Nov 2010
Location: france
Posts: 36
South America: The Stars are Aligned

“You’re never ready until you’re ready and then you’re still not ready”. Our heads are buzzing with this mantra as we try and get ready. The lists of ‘things to do’ seem to be endless and as we cross things off the top, more appear on the bottom. We’ve been preparing for this day for at least 11 years, and as my son says “he’s been hearing about it for 11 years”!
Normally our winter break is enjoyed riding our 200cc around Thailand, but this year we had gone to Thailand early, in October for our 3 month stint, expecting to return only in December to spend time with our family. Our fabulous trusty Tiger2 was in storage in Phuket, costing a small amount, not too much but enough to warrant it being moved to our family up north. We planned a roundtrip from Thailand, across east through Cambodia, then up north to Laos and back to the northeast in Isan country, where our extended family live. A family illness at home changed our plans and our trip in Thailand lasted 15 days. It was enough time to collect the bike, ride 4000kms north, build a sturdy 2x3m breezeblock garage on the side of the kitchen at Bamboozer INN, Ban Thon, Khon Kaen and fly back to France. Knowing that the bike is safe and secure for a good few years until we return was the start of getting the stars aligned.
The empty days between Xmas and New Year, when festivities are over, the holiday break is coming to an end, the French weather outside is foul and the question of what shall we do? and where shall we go? loomed. The tragedy that brought us home is prolonged and ongoing and we are powerless to help. In a mood of despair, we grasp on the long suppressed idea that now is the time to start our RTW. Retirement finances are just sufficient. Our sale of extraneous bric-a-brac has boosted the RTW fund. Family commitments are stable. Our health is good, at 64 years and 79 years. Our lock-up-and-go is ready to be locked-up-and-go’ed. We bought the much needed waterproof panniers and liners on our recent trip to Thailand. The bike has been modified to almost perfection. We have a family friend of more than 30 years willing to housesit for 9 months. More and more stars are aligning themselves.
What more is there to do?
Just GO.
The two weeks between the idea of going (29 December 2017) and the action of departing (12th January 2018) are filled with tiny details. We do lots of internet searches and purchases and hours of u-tube viewing of other Motorcycle Adventure Travels in South America, tips and hints of what to do, where to go and how to get there.
Cost Star: Emails are sent around the globe to shipping companies and agents. We chose James Cargo Services Limited to fly our bike to Buenos Aires and Dakarmotos to help us through customs the other end. Medical and travel insurance becomes quite an ordeal as we trawl through the internet looking at options. Being on the wrong side of 75 years, on a motorcycle and going for more than 3 months, we are considered a high risk. The costs are beyond our budget until our French Insurance man finds us the right product, at the right price, worldwide for one year, with the provision we return to France every 3months to ‘check-in’. That’s fine by us. James Cargo have assured us they have agents willing to store our bike while we do the return trip in between rides. Documents are scanned and sent to all parties concerned. The hotel in Buenos Aires is booked and paid for on our arrival night. We’ve set up direct debits and done a budget, reckoning about 60-90 euros per day maximum for food, fuel and accommodation. We meet up with our lovely English-speaking French Bank manager and tell her that the card will be showing up lots of purchases from far way places. She is so excited for us and it is beginning to dawn that the moment we have been rehearsing for is nearly upon us. The stage is almost set for opening night.
Sometimes we feel as if there are plots to stop us
• the printer cartridges need replacing
• the internet goes off for maintenance
• the shops are closed for inventory
• the stock is not available
• the nurse needs a prescription for the vaccinations
• the doctor is on holiday
• we need a week between vaccinations and the time to depart France is a few days away.
Medical Star: Vaccination requirements for South America include Meningitis, Typhoid, Diphtheria/Polio/Whooping cough, Yellow Fever with Certificate, Tetanus, Hep B & A, and Cholera. We check our Health Record Card to find there is a mish-mash of what we have and don’t have/need. We get the prescriptions from the doctor for some and the lovely nurse comes to the house and jabs us. I make an appointment with City Docs in the UK near the Airport for the missing ones in a week’s time. B gets a 6 month supply of his tablets. A kit bag with medical essentials is packed.
Bike Star: the Sertao gets stripped and serviced. We remove the back wheel, chain and sprocket. B thoroughly inspects the sprocket and turns it around before replacing it. The Michelin tyre still appears impressively new even though we bought it in Greece and it has done another 12000kms. We buy and fit a matching front tyre. He drains the radiator and spots flecks of oil in the water. The hunt is now on for a set of waterpump seals (on a Sunday, in rural France) - no chance. By Tuesday night they have been ordered, delivered and fitted. The front sprocket is badly worn on the splines. We raid the X-country and swop the front sprockets. The bike also has the front-end from the X-country, so it’s now a bit of a hybrid and is ready to GO. Our clever friend, who builds bikes, skilfully fits a stainless steel tool box between the engine and the front wheel and two platform-type extensions to the Alu panniers. The bike gets new oil and a new oil and air filter. The new battery is checked, no water needed. The Scott Oiler is primed and checked against the re-fitted chain. The headlights now sport an LED bulb and the spotlights we bought in Thailand are fitted. We fit extra brackets to the front box that projects over the front wheel (carrying spare parts) and remount the GPS bracket. B has fitted a ‘manual’ cruise control, which we tested and enjoyed on our trip to Jersey/Norfolk and back.
Gear Star: My heated vest gets a make-over. We sort out good thermals from rubbish ones. In the UK, where we have a week between delivering the bike and waiting for our plane, we buy a new visor, keeping the slightly scratched one as a spare. We waterproof our gaiters/spats with a double dose of spray and our dear friend in the UK gives our boots a good polish.
Security Star: Amazon and EBay must love us as we order a personal alarm, a disc brake alarm and a Targos Defcon cable alarm. We carry a hefty chain looped around the tank bag. We buy an ultralight weight bike cover and chunky bike lock. In the UK we research the SPOT TRACKER, which is duly purchased and connected. Various trips into the garden at 2⁰ reveal it can catch the GPS signal and send Spot tracking signals to the Page on the computer/smartphone. We set up family and friends as virtual watchdogs.
Camping Star: Berghaus gets an order for their ultralight 3 man-tent with vestibule. We weigh all our bedding and camping kit, knowing we must lose at least a few kilograms. The bedding bag weighs 9kg, we get it down to 7kg by losing pillows and those tiny aeroplane blankets courtesy of China Air. The camping kit weighs too much. We get rid of one chair, take off the BBQ grill, replace the traditional groundsheet with an ultralight one from Geertop, and the new tent is already 2 kgs lighter than the old one. We manage to shave a total of 5kgs off the camping and bedding weight from the Eastern European trip. We halve the amount of the clothes we pack, which removes another few kgs. In the UK we buy reflective adhesive tape to wrap around the black waterproof bags. We also hope to lose some personal kgs !!
Document Star: CHECK LIST: International Driving License, Passports, Bike Registration (Carte Gris) and Proof of Purchase, Health Cards, Travel Insurance paper, Air Ticket, Notebooks for Journal and Codes.
Electronic Star: CHECK LIST: Smartphone, Lapbook, Camera, GoPro, and now Spot are all ready to GO. The Helmet intercom is checked and charged, with charging cables reduced to the minimum. The Garmin is updated and a map of South America purchased and installed. Cigarette type charger.
Spares and Tools Star: CHECKLIST: Batteries for Spot and lamps. Spare microSD’s. Spectacles. Tyre lever. Tyre pump. Tyre pressure gauge. Jumper leads. Spanners. Scott oil. Duct tape. Syphon tube. Gasket cement. Bulbs. Puncture repair kit. Chain link master. Visor. Oil filter. A 17” inner tube that will work for the 17” back tyre and stretch for the 19” front one. Bolts, nuts, washes. Fuses.
Route Star: We land at Buenos Aires and aim South, and at some time aim North, with a zig-zag in the middle. That’s it. We land on the same day as the DAKAR RACE ends.
At last the list of checks and to do’s gets shorter. We say farewell to our fabulously supportive friends and on a sunny but chilly 6⁰ mid-morning, we ride out of the drive for the 500kms ride to the ferry at Dieppe. By 16h30 the temperature has dropped to 4⁰ and the nearer ferry port of Caen is calling. We buy an overnight ticket, hang around for a few hours in the cosy café and eventually board just before midnight. Their carpets are really soft and our good sleep was aided by a whisky-tasting promotion on board. A few phone calls to re-arrange our schedule brought us together with another wing of the family that we haven’t met up with for at least 6 years. The warm welcome, not to mention the delicious breakfast and supper, made us feel very special and cared for. Then from Bournemouth it was a short whippy ride in 5⁰ to Amersham where we have been spoilt from top to toe, while we gather our thoughts, have more injections, deliver the bike to James Cargo and complete the endless list.
B leaves ahead of me to test-track the SPOT in London. It works. I catch up a few days later and we train down to friends (the same ones who joined us in Croatia) near Gatwick. We have a very merry evening, followed by a very early start, last minute bits and pieces and then we get delivered to South Terminal. Not much to do now! Somehow all the stars are aligned and it’s time to go.
photos on 2up2wheels.blogspot.com
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  #19  
Old 1 Feb 2018
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Join Date: Nov 2010
Location: france
Posts: 36
Argentina: Land of birds, week one

Argentina: Land of Birds
We have found a suitable campsite and are taking a day off from riding to do washing and writing. We landed in Buenos Aires more than a week ago and have been riding for the last 5 days, completing about 2000 kms on our route to the North of Argentina.
Fortunately the flight was not full so we had an extra seat to stretch out on the DreamLiner Boeing from Madrid. I have developed a painful heel and find it difficult to walk, but we have organised a shuttle bus and pre-booked hotel, just 3 kms away from the airport. With a Sim card inserted and paid for from the Telcom depot we are set to communicate, wherever we are. We learn that the motorbike is still in Toronto, so the expectation to collect the bike is dashed and we have an extra day in Buenos Aires, which is 30kms away. Making full use of the free shuttle service, we go back to the airport the next morning and catch the local bus number 8 to take us ‘downtown’. We enjoyed the 3 hour ‘round the houses’ route, chatting to Ekna, who is touring around Argentina by bus with her 70 year old father from Mexico. We are also fascinated by the array of facial features, South American Indian, Mexican, Argentinian, Spanish and Western European. Buenos Aires is a city in the state of change. We find a tiny ancient church surrounded by construction and demolition and traffic. B A is clean and calm and the people very polite, with an air of relax and respect and lots of catholic icons. We also saw some mattress and plastic street homes and mothers with breastfeeding babies begging in the subways. It’s a bit sad when babies and children are exploited like that and our hearts hardened as we passed by, not sharing our pesos. Walking became increasingly painful and hobbling up and down the city streets began to affect my hip and back. We stopped at a chemist and bought some gel pads on the card, which involved a long complicated passport identification process. This is when we realized that having ready cash in Argentine Peso might be a problem. We found an HSBC, but the card only works in the ATM at a cost! We skyped HSBC in the UK and asked about this cost, they suggested we use the card as much as possible for purchases, not cash, to save some charges. There are no facilities to withdraw a lump sum at the counter. Even though we had a lot of dollars, they are not accepted, so we exchanged those, also at a cost! We get notification that the bike is now in Chile, off route and we need to stay another night. The hotel is full and the reception kindly phoned around to find us a room at ‘Ann’. We rested and read and looked at the map and the shuttle bus then took us to Ann. So far the bike has cost us two extra nights and a bit of anxiety, on the plus side my heel is getting a rest. We thought the charge for the simple room a bit extravagant, so when Ann indicated that we could help ourselves to tea/coffee and the selection of cakes and biscuits, we did. We also laughed when Ann asked if “I was a girl?” I replied, “yes” and B “is a boy”. My shaved head is growing a bit and I declined to explain the reasons for our matching hairdos. We have since found that in the heat of riding, a cropped head is perfectly cool and helmet hair is not a problem. We have been informed that the bike arrives tomorrow, 3 days later than anticipated.
As arranged, we meet J and S from Dakarmotos, who then inform us that the bike did actually arrive 2 days ago, but without any paperwork. The Air Canada system had gone down and no-body had really known where the bike was!! Always a good start for a year long motorcycle adventure, without a motorbike. Anyway, it all worked out , customs signed, sealed and bike delivered. On the afternoon of day 4, our riding adventure finally starts. The 70kms to the first campsite was very entertaining as we ride our way out of the city into the country. Car windows are opened and long friendly conversations in Spanish are directed at us, to which we nod, smile and point North. We discover that ‘hazard’ flashing lights mean that the vehicle is about to do something which is not really allowed, like pulling in/out or double parking or stopping/starting suddenly. The left turning traffic keeps to the right so that through traffic can go, but when the traffic lights turn red, then they can cut across your bows to turn left, because the left turn arrow is now green. We buy a detailed map and head for the town of Lobos, where the campsite is 20kms out of town at the Laguna. The gate-guy wants to charge us ½ a day because we arrived before 8pm, and then another full day because we are staying overnight and can stay until 8pm the next day. We explain we are leaving by 10 am and will wait outside the gate until 8pm tonight as we don’t want to pay for one and a half days. He changes his mind and offers, as a special favour, that we need only pay for one day, as long as we leave by 10am. All very complicated. He even suggests we can sell some of our belongings if we don’t have enough money. Astonishing, or what? We are very excited as we pitch camp for the first night of this trip and obviously so are the parakeets in the scraggly twig nest in the Bluegum trees above us. Fortunately they settle down with the sun and after a huge Argentine Steak which drips over the side of the plate (for £3) we settle down too. The campsite restaurant offers a breakfast of fruit, croissants, tea/coffee, cereal for £ 2 and as we have yet to go shopping we enjoy their services. On the table is a Tupperware of chopped leaves and a little yellow bowl with a metal straw. A teaspoon of sugar is ladled into the bottom of the bowl, then it is filled with this herby stuff and another teaspoon of sugar, then filled with boiling water. Not stirred and when cool enough sipped through the metal straw. Called ‘Yerba’, pronounced Sherba, it is a typical Arg drink. To our taste it is revolting, like drinking the dregs of a wet ashtray and cigarette stubs. One sip and I had a headache.
We pack up and move on before 10am, finding a road that is so straight, B can even ride ‘hands free’ on cruise control. We watch in amazement as we ride through this wonderland of wetlands and birds for over 200kms. Muchos Ranches Grandes, many huge ranchlands filled with cattle and horses, vast plains of green, green pastures interspersed with flocks of flamingos, ducks, black neck swans, moorhens, black ibis, egrets, herons, storks and more that we don’t even recognise. We ride through various towns which are laid out in a square grid pattern, alternating the traffic one way then the other with big dips at the intersection to act as a water run-off and traffic calming. It works. We kept looking both ways at every intersection until we discovered little arrows on poles which tell you the direction from which the traffic is coming. One road left, the next right and occasionally both ways. The houses here are cubes of brightly coloured bricks/mortar, only front door plus lintel high. They are clustered in blocks onto the street in the towns, but the more affluent Argentinians have a swimming pool in the front yard, still with a low possibly 2 to 3 cubed structure. The town centres around a square/plaza of grass, statues, playgrounds and benches which comes alive after 5pm when siesta time is over. The shops re-open, motorbikes buzz around and life begins again. We found another bank to try and draw a large amount, but even their ATM would not oblige. The very handsome bankman followed us onto the pavement and as a favour offered to personally exchange our dollars into Pesos. Many places do not take visa, so having cash is very necessary. Turning off the main road we enter the semi-industrial town of Teodelina, occupied by large ‘cereal’ factories. We stop at a bicycle shop and inquire about a campsite. 3 blocks straight, 2 blocks left, we pull into a sports centre with football field, shabby ablutions and concrete picnic tables. “ Are we staying for the music?” asks the man in Spanish, “no, just camping, for one night”. “Then it is free.” How lucky. As we are setting up camp and start offloading the bike, we are surrounded by friendly, chatty onlookers. Our Spanish is improving by the minute. Carmen bounces over, introduces herself with a kiss on the right cheek, sits down and tells us a long story, to which we nod and smile and we manage to communicate in a mix of English and Arg Spanish. The family next tent along offer to take B to the supermercado to buy provisions and the sweeping squad suddenly appeared and swept around our patch. We are toasting ourselves with a late sundowner when an entourage of people arrive, armed with phone-cameras and microphones and tripods. This is the town council, plus the Communal President (mayor, a young man of 28 in his first month of office). We are interviewed, photographed and presented with a flag of the town as their first ever foreign visitors. Astonishing. There are many farewells as we leave the next day, doing 450 kms along more straight roads, cattle and horses plains and wetlands from Teodelina to Vendo Tuerta to Rio Cuarto to Alcira. At one section we turned off the motorway ( double orange lines on the map) onto a short-cut side road ( thin green line on the map). We discovered that thin green map lines mean unpaved, no tarmac. We gave it a go, but when the gravel turned into deep sand, we released some air from the tyres, turned around and managed to get back to the ‘asphalt’, before finding a camp ground at La Cruz. This campground was absolutely bursting with people, cars, tents, caravans, plastic dwellings all alongside a beyond-huge swimming pool and waterfall built within the fast flowing river. It was an overwhelming jumble of habitation and we just keep riding for about one kms hoping to find an area of calm or a turn around point. Luckily at the end turn point there was a gate with a welcome sign for more camping. The whole family of four generations welcomed us and helped us find the perfect spot next to the chicken coop at the top of the garden to pitch our tent. The chicken kiep-kieped gently as we set up camp on the neatly cut flat patch of lawn. It’s always good to shower at the end of the day’s ride and this place offered hot water, heated by an external fire source, in a breezeblock hut. We chose wet-wipes. The grandfather proudly offered to cook some home-made chorizo for our burger bun supper to have with our tinned creamed sweetcorn and vegetable mix. Just like Boerwors, they were delicious. After family photos and google translate, thanking us for staying with them, we departed. The plains changed to hills as we approached Santa Rosa de Calamuchita, ignoring the sprinkle of rain as the temperature of 26⁰ and the wind dried us almost immediately. We stopped for lunch and an HSBC ATM in Cordoba opposite a church building, looking like a fairytale lego castle in ‘The Seven Colours’. We believe that the ‘Place of Seven colours ‘is up North and we hope to find it. Another long straight 90kms bound by green, green, green pastures that took us to Dean Funez, where we camped under the peppertrees and had a proper shower. The first since leaving Ann! Lining the routes are many manicured greens on dead level Golf Courses, watered from the heavens, something that Cape Town is in dire need of right now. We pass stalls displaying traditional clay pots, urns and ornaments, brightly painted in geometric designs. Argentina appears to be a land of sharp angles, even in their art and dancing. We are handed a brochure to ee a Tango show, but it’s not in the budget.
Sunday 28th January turned out to be a marathon day, partly because it was a Sunday and not much was open. Even the petrol stations in the towns were closed, so we back tracked to the motorway for fuel and provisions. The first station has run out of Super and with the fuel warning light on we just made it to the next one a few kms back down the road. Rule number one: if you see a fuel stop FILL UP. The distances between towns here are vast, more than 100kms, with nothing in between except cattle and horse, maize and sugar cane. Even though it looks very cloudy, with rain clouds ever present, we still ride North across the raised motorway surrounded this time by salt pans and mud flats. The bird life consists of buzzards and harriers and vultures-type birds-of-prey. The electricity poles support huge chaotic twig nests, with parakeets zooming around and also strange moss-balls/ staghorn fern growths. Beats us how the electricity works! We pass a random herd of goats wandering down the motorway, being shepherded by dogs, not people, which we only realise when one of the ‘goats’ barked at us to keep away. The salt /mud flats turn into thick dense shrubland, with thorny acacias (Elephant country in Africa). There is no such Big Five in Argentina. We get waved through a police check with the policeman/woman wearing their gorgeous shorts, in the middle of nowhere, 100kms each way from the next town, at a remote coffee place. We have a large black coffee accompanied by a basket of dry bread and the favourite caramel spread, yummy for the quivalet of £2. Since starting riding, over the last 5 days our budget has worked out at just under £50 per day, excluding the extra fiasco costs at the beginning. Reinvigorated by a sugar fix we tackle another shortcut over the hills ( indicated by a thin orange line on the map).We are assured that it is asphalt all the way, which it is until we get a bit lost in Icano and some mud. We turn around to find the sign behind us. This thin orange line emerges into a superpass for more than 100kms across the hills to Catamarca. The landscape is one of cactus, thorny swelling Baobab look-alikes, prickly pears and other spiky plants. We see aloes and something very similar to a suikerbos. We spot a black bird with a bright red head, possibly some kind of woodpecker. The higher we get, the mist turns into rain, so we stop and get suited up. Thank goodness we are now highly visible as the superpass get twistier and steeper, and we are riding through and above the clouds. Driving is respectful and we get many waves and phone camera videos from passing traffic/people leaning out of car windows. From the top of the pass we could see way down in the valley a big wide serendipitus brown river, spreading itself sideways. We made it into Catamarca city which was a great disappointment, dirty and full of litter. The Ministry of Waste Management seems to be on permanent holiday here. We cross a water causeway to get to the municipal campsite, which appears to have been washed away as there are great donga on the way in/out and the ‘banos’ is full of mud. We type supermercado into the Garmin and head out of town. Even the Supermercado has a head scratch and “ No” to paying with the Visa, so the cash is disappearing. A very chatty lady takes a phone photo of me guarding the bike and when she spots B in the shop, she proudly shows it to him! The Garmin says there is a campsite 60kms away, so we go up the motorway again, find a man on a scooter, who says, “ No Camping No”, we carry on to the next town, another 60kms away, “No Camping No”. By 8pm it is getting too late and we pull in to J.B. Albredi to re group ourselves. It has been a long 500kms day, and the waiter directs us to a hostal where we pay 660 pesos ( 25 pesos = £1) for the night and the bike gets locked in their garage.
We plan a short ride for day 6, starting with one of B’s famous salami and sliced banana rolls. He developed a cold from wandering around BA in the rain, and we were issued with some tablets including anti-biotica, from 3 large pharmacists after a bit of a conflab. A day off will do us both a chance to wash clothes, write stories and rest my still painful heel and his snotty chest. We type HSBC into the Garmin and ride the100kms to the beautiful city of Tucuman, where the ATM is not working. Coffee and croissants and a chat to a smiling lady in a fancy traditional embroidered blouse gets us going again onto the next HSBC. I take a ticket for Premier customers, wait my turn , go to the counter, show my passport and get denied access to a lumpsum. The nice bank lady, in English, gives me a long explanation, but the end result is we can only use the ATM to draw out a limited daily amount at a cost!!! Of £9 per £90 withdrawal!! Oh Well, we try and pay as much as possible on the card, at a lower rate, but even the fuel stops don’t have Card facilities. It’s not a problem yet, but something to keep us on our toes. Rule number two: See an ATM, draw cash. It’s an easy ride from Tucuman to Rosario de la Fronteria where we find out that there has been very heavy rains, wash aways and the mobile data is down. B finds a friendly immaculate academic ‘Shakespeare English Institute’ where we use their Wi-fi to search for campsites on Google maps. Out of the 6 listed, only one is open, the others closed or the road closed. We realise now that each town has a sports centre, within which is a camp area. It’s perfect and so for 60 pesos per night we pitch, make BBQ with more Arg steaks, meet other travellers and rest up for the day. It’s a whopping 33⁰ and the tarp is doing a good job providing shade while B has a mid afternoon snore/snooze. A bright green lizard pays me a visit also looking for shade. We are joining our fellow travellers (Arg couple in a Mercedes van, having driven from Alaska) to a special Goat BBQ tonight. B has bought 2 kilograms of Rump steak for £1.20 to add to the dinner. B went shopping this morning to seek out Methylated spirits for our Primus stove. He found some at the Farmacia and the pharmacist insisted it was free. We have been told about some thermal baths down the road so are going for a swim. The ride for a swim turned into a ride searching for Wi-Fi to upload this story. Apparently the Wi-fi and even mobile data is only available for WhatsApp. Google maps, google search, and Blogger are out of the question here.
The collection of people in the campsite include a young man on a fat-wheeled bicycle. He is travelling around Arg by bike and bus, supplementing his income by sharpening knives. He has connected a grinding stone to his handlebars and pedals the stationary bike to set it in motion. Bingo , a sharp knife. There is an aged Scout, identified by his striped scarf rolled and toggled. He is on a very old motorbike, carries his tucker around in an old wooden crate and boils the water for his Yerba in an old peach tin with a man-made shaped spout. The couple in the van are middle-aged, living near Ushaia, and have been travelling all over the Americas and Canada on various expeditions. They area mine of information and have promised to write some info for us. Two mid-30’s blokes strolled in carrying huge backpacks. They are hitching and walking around Arg for one month, carrying tent . One is a chemical Engineer, having played for rugby for the Pumsa, and the other a veterinary student. We swopped notes on the birds we had seen. And then there is us.
We are getting the hang of the language slowly. We know our numbers now. A Double LL is pronounced like J as in Jack. A single L is prounced like L in Lamb. A J is pronounced like gargling Ghhh, or a soft H and a Y like a U as in Up. The E is like the E in Egg.
When we find a strong Wi-Fi you will get this story.

for photos go to 2up2wheels.blogspot.com
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  #20  
Old 10 Feb 2018
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Argentina: Land of a Million Colours

Argentina: Land of a Million Colours

Our convivial BBQ came to an abrupt halt when the lightening started to flash in an ever decreasing circle around us. We had noticed the very tall lightning tower next to the campsite and had similarly wondered about the gridwork of metal lines and arches over the swimming pool, when we had an afternoon dip. Now we knew why. Securing the tarp over us and the bike, like a green shroud, we crept into our ‘cave’. We had purchased an ultralight bike cover for anti-theft/spying reasons, but it was beginning to be useful against the rain as well. It means we don’t have to unload the bike every night, just cover it and using the two massive eyelets, hook the chain through them and the front wheel. Once covered with the green tarp we become an almost invisible hump on the landscape. The deluge happened a few hours later, but we remained dry and cosy. In the morning we discovered the other tent-campers had given up and found refuge in the kick-boxing hall and we were indeed on a dry island surrounded by water and mud. A little doggie with a sore leg had crept under the tarp and taken refuge on our island of dryness. Even the basketball court was a lake. This fabulous outdoor complex comprises open air kickboxing, weightlifting, a running track, and outdoor keep fit circuit, a huge swimming pool, a handball court, volleyball pitch and football field, all on concrete slabs and fenced in, where appropriate. At 5pm it erupts with kids, parents and super keen trainees of all ages, carrying on up until midnight. The Argentinians seem to be sport mad. It’s run by the municipality and is part of the school program. The camp cost us 60 pesos per night (2.50 euros). Our little town in France should take note! By the time we finished washing the mud off the ground sheets, the lake had dried up on the courts and the kids were practising their skills again. We set off as soon as the sun came out, only to stop a few kms later to put our rainsuits on when the sun lost the battle with the rainclouds. At the next fuelstop, fed up with water trickling into my boots, I put on my Belstaff overboot gaiters, which had been sprayed with waterproofing stuff. B carried on without gaiters, which he later regretted. We have questioned ourselves a lot about what/what not to load on the bike and even though some stuff may be used very rarely, it makes for comfort in the long run. We continued for the rest of the day in rain and sun, stopping briefly to withdraw cash, buy provision for the next 2 meals and landed up at Humahuaca, 340 kms later. We had seen the church of Seven Colours, and had heard about the mountains of Seven colours and on the road to Humahuaca we found them. A short stop at the tourist bureau in JuJuy gave us the chance to pick up a local guide map, where we were informed that this mountain is best in the morning and the other best in the afternoon. We were riding in rain at the wrong time of the day for the best views, but nevertheless, we were astounded at the millions of coloured pigments the landscape had to offer. En route we noticed groups of young people hitching/waiting for a bus, with large backpacks , bed rolls and guitars strapped on. Humahuaca is a small ‘ancestral’ town, with many signs for hosteria and camping. A band of Gauchos, dressed as if in a movie with leather leggings, lassos and spiky spurs on the pointy boots, plus the big hat and scarf rode past up the dirt track as we entered the big gates of an advertised campsite. Well, a field really, with a large communal round table and logs to sit on, power points and concrete BBQ stands. We parked up, dismounted our metal horse and both staggered dizzily as if drunk. Feeling a bit weird, I looked at B who was also leaning a bit sideways and finding it hard to catch his breath. In the few hours it had taken to ride here, we had climbed over 2 kilometres in altitude to 3000m above sea level. Of course when you are sitting on a bike, being enchanted by the view, battling with a groove ridden road and dodging trucks, its not surprising we didn’t notice. Getting off the bike onto hard ground and trying to unpack and pitch camp, was a big effort. We acted like some slow-motion zombies. The youngsters at the big table called us over for tea and while we acclimatised, we swopped stories and found out that it was the long 10 week University holidays. Backpacking, playing guitars and thumbing lifts was the thing to do. After a very slow-cooked spaghetti dinner, we went to bed, before sunset as lying down was the easiest thing for us to do. The guitar playing and sing-a-long around the campfire lasted till the wee hours, as we drifted in and out of sleep. Feeling a bit better in the morning, we were up before the ‘kids’ and as cooking was rather an effort, decided to treat ourselves to lunch in town. A slow laboured stroll over the bridge bought us into the centre of this busy market town, where fresh veg and fruit and flowers (bunches of Gladioli) were being traded. We noticed a higher proportion of police than we would have expected in such a small town, directing traffic and intermingling with tourists and locals, almost directing them subtly apart. We had a delicious lunch of Llama stew (pronounced Jama) and still out breath wandered slowly back over the bridge for an afternoon kip. Supper was a jam sandwich, followed by an early night, accompanied by more guitar playing and singsong. The ‘kids’ are 20-25years old students studying Maths, Science, Marine Engineering, Drama and International Relations. They are delightful, interesting and interested in whether we had ever seen The Beatles as “ All Argentinians are mad about The Beatles.” On the third day of our stay in this fascinating little town, having walked and not ridden the bike at all, we felt strong enough to tackle a ride to an even higher altitude. With the traditional right cheek to right cheek one kiss, we said our farewells and took a very early walk into town for breakfast. Whilst sitting at the same place as the Llama stew lunch we noticed a bit of a flurry, the outside pavement chairs were brought inside, and a security guy came in to check the clients. The President of Argentina was in town, actually driving in a cavalcade of 4x4’s and mini-buses down the very road we were in. Hence the large police presence. As the cavalcade rode past, we noticed escorting trailbikes with rifle-bearing pillion bodyguards. We tried to spot the President, but left that to the locals and went back to pack up and set off North. Having learnt that fuel stops are far apart, we needed to fill up first. Impossible. All roads were barricaded, blocked and re-routed. We just couldn’t reach the two petrol stations in town until Mr President had finished his task, which was to re-inaugurate the railway line, defunct for more than 25 years, but now restored. Eventually we were given permission to pass over the railway line, down through the market, squeezing our bulky way through alarmed stall holders to find the once manned barriers now unmanned. All the roads in this town are cobbled and dirt roads, no tarmac. We wiggled through them as we knew that the Great Man was on the other side of town. By midday, after a planned 8am getaway, we getaway!


We punched Abra Pampa into Garmin, a mere 85kms away and another 500 metres up. The weather is sunny, blue skies and red mountains, dashed with splashes of green and pink and yellow. On the way to Abra Pampa, the joints in my fingers feel very heavy and stiff. When we dismount for a pee stop and watery drink, I notice B’s lips and the tip of nose is a bit purple/blue. We reckon its high enough and time to go back down. The aim was to get to the Bolivian border where the famous 6000km route 40 from top to bottom of Argentina starts. It’s out of the equation for us. So we turn around and go back the way we came, except that we see a gravel shortcut. The first 8kms was ok, although a bit too corrugated for my liking. Expressing myself in loud terms that I was not having fun, we stop for a chat. Some Llamas joined in by peering at us quizzically. “It’s only another 100kms” says B, let’s give it a go. The dry river beds had washed deep sand across the compacted dirt road. We go for about 10 seconds, hit a sand patch and fall over. And in front of the Llamas, too! We untangle our legs, slither out from the sandpit and try to lift the bike. It is way too heavy for both of us to lift, out of the deep sand, being out of breath and huffing and puffing. We strip the recumbent bike, bag by bag, until we can get it upright. B rides it back to stable ground and I trudge 4 trips of load while he packs it back on. We have to stop and rest every few minutes, for a task that is usually effortless. The 8kms back to the tarmac felt very long and was not pleasant. Back on the road, it was a wonderful ‘asphaldo’ ride, at the right time of day this time all the way back, passed Humahuaca, where Mr President was still busy, through more stunning scenery we had missed previously due to rain, into the tourist town of Tilcara. A good day’s ride of 200kms, with a variety of colours, shapes and adventures.

The tourist office was still open and offered us a hostel for 800 pesos, No way Jose. Reluctantly, she found us a private camping site inside a mud-walled enclosure for 160 pesos. We noticed that a few locals had lop-sided faces where big balls of stuff were being chewed and very bad teeth. It’s the local anti-altitude medication. No way, Jose. We find the elevation here in Tilcara more suitable, and as we ride further’ downhill’ to Salta feel better and better. We had noticed that most people carry a thermos slung over backpack or shoulder and purchased one during our little jaunts into Humahuaca town. The lady-owner at the Kraal camp filled ours with boiling water for our day’s journey. During our travels we had noticed small encampments/ outposts brightly decorated with red flags and red banners and shrines. Not sure what they are, and not sure who to ask we dismissed the inquiry, however upon leaving the city of Salta we found ourselves being held up in traffic by a ‘posse’ of horseriders, escorted by policemotorbikes. We noticed the horsemen crossing the pedestrian bridges over the highway ring road. The bridges are completely encaged with wire netting to prevent any skittish leaping. We deduced that these were traditional folk on the move, following the red flag paths of their ancestors as there were great gatherings along the way at these sites. Not sure, could be right/wrong.



Still suffering from 4 days of little sleep and not much air, we stopped for a snooze on the green grass of the central plaza in Salta, before weaving our way through more colours and shapes than we’d ever imagined on the 68 to Cafayate. We’d given up on riding route 40 from Cachi to Cafayate, and as beautiful as we’d been told it was, we are sure the 68 was just as good. It’s a Sunday and the petrol stations have queues going around the block, so we eat lunch at a restaurant opposite the station. When B sees a gap, between main course and dessert, he hops on the bike and fills up. We join the magical Route 40 at kilometre 4346. Since collecting our bike at Buenos Aires 12 days ago, we are 3000kms into our journey. It’s another glorious day through magnificent red cliffs and rocks, where we stop at 2000m altitude for a coffee break. I toss a piece of left over gristle up in the air (from the delicious T-bones steaks we BBq’d last night) and it must have shone like gold against the red landscape. Shortly afterwards two large birds of prey circled overhead. We found a campsite at a Marine Corrall on a man-made Hydro-electric Dam (dique) setting up on the patio. Another refill of boiling water for mid-morning coffee saves us the daily £2 spend. What a valuable thing is a flask. The scene shifts from White Canyons to Red ones, from Green Vineyards to Yellow deserts. We count at least 15 dust-devils swirling in the distance and put on a spurt when one charges towards us, just clipping our rear end and giving us a wobble. We learn to read the difference between mirages and river crossings. The one recedes and the other approaches, rapidly. The road is made up of asphaldo (tarmac) rises and concrete troughs. There’s no point in building a bridge, it will just get pushed aside by the muddy waters. So we approach each trough carefully, some are filled with rivulets of sand or water or both. A large muddy pool is in our way. Rule number 4: if you can’t see the bottom, don’t ride through it. I volunteer to wade through in my shiny dry boots, in a direct line of sight with the bike, testing the depth, and checking for hazards such as hidden rocks, pot-holes or deepsand. We know it’s not a sink-hole as we’ve seen cars go through (and I don’t disappear). Next time though, I’ll take the 2 Nordic Poles we carry to give myself a steadier step and bit more prod. It’s safe and B follows in my wake.



The pale yellow sands soon change to a slight fuzz of green, then a carpet of blue flowers, followed by white ones. We find a municipal camping ground at Belen, with a fabulous pool and not so fabulous disco that pounds out its beat until 4 am. Don’t these people ever sleep? We had just settled in for the night when the night watchman asked us to move. “Manana, por favour?” He advised us quite strongly to leave nothing outside the tent and cover everything up, bike included. The whole night, there were bikes buzzing up and down and people wandering passed, giggling and carrying on. Not so good. We’re up and off just after dawn, doing 250 kms before lunch to get out of the heat. Its difficult to see where the pale grey road ends and the pale grey sand begins, only separated by a few whispy yellow tufts of dry grass. In the heat of the day, in 37 degrees, we are stopped by the gendarmes who want to see the permit papers for the bike. A left turn a short while later brings us to green velvety hills and cacti bearing gorgeous flowers. We stop for a coffee break, but the miggies force us to gulp water quickly and as there is a crowd of vulture like bird swirling overhead, we move on. My wading trick a few days ago and riding in wet boots for a few hours has given me a cold and thick head. The bike and B are performing like a dream, but as chief navigator, with a thick head, I fall a bit short. We lose Rte 40 and find ourselves 100kms off track. Seeing a sign that says ‘petrol, 60kms’, we think it wise to head that way. The only bit of action for 150 kms of straight, straight road was a cool dude shiny brown horse, clip-clopping down the road with an egret on his back. They must have been good friends for a long time as there were dry white streak down the horse’s rump. We find the fuel stop and then google maps informs us the nearest camping is 114 kms away! We ride to Malanzan, a place in the middle of nowhere, go to the cop shop and get escorted by bakkie (pick-up truck) to the municipal site, where there is an outdoor shower and lovely pool and a kiosk selling . Amazing.



Its 27 degrees and 9 am when we start the 300kms round route to get back to rte 40 at San Juan. We head straight for the bank, which is closed for maintenance. Its now Wednesday, we are a bit tired from all the late night revellers at the various campsites and the long hot rides, but tackle the 150kms ride to Mendoza with gusto. A roadside melon farmstall catches our eye and we ride in to spend a few minutes in the shade of their bluegum trees to soak up the shade and sweet juices. A couple of pet vultures were roaming around with the chickens. We arrive in Mendoza by mid afternoon and yippee the bank is open for withdrawals. We park the bike on the pavement opposite the bank, find a café nearby, order a and cooldown. What a lovely city. All the streets are laid out in the familiar grid, each lined by rows and rows of big leafy trees, fed by an underground water system straight from the Andes. B finds a mate to share a cigar with, who also very kindly pays for our coffee. We are in awe of the road builders here, who battle against a shifting unstable land, and also the friendliness and kindness of the Argentinians. As we ride, people wave and give us thumbs up signs. In Salta a grandparent couple asked me to take a photo of them, with their phone , next to our bike. When we stopped at 2000m at the top of the pass near Cafayate, we were photographed and had hands shaken and good luck messages given. The ultimate kindness was yet to come when at the end of this very long day we failed to find a campsite. Camping has two meanings here in Mendoza/Argentina. One is for day picnic only, the other for overnight. Googlemaps directed us to 4 picnic campsites, no overnight. It 7pm on Wednesday 7th Feb and we’ve ridden 480 kms through seering heat, limbs are weak and rest is uppermost in our minds. At the 4 th turn-away site, a charming gentleman and his wife overhear our plea and in perfect English offers to lead us to a very nice overnight campsite just a few kms down the road. He starts off up the hill and slows down to wait for us to follow. Now the thing about 2 wheels and 4 wheels is that with 2 wheels you need to keep moving to stay upright, or have somewhere to put your feet down. He stops, we stop. B shouts “Jump” and we clear the bike as it slides into the sand at the road’s edge and falls over. At least now there are 4 of us to lift the bike. I get in the car and B follows onto the asphaldo, round a round-about and here we are. Its heaven. There is green grass, purple BBQ stands, pepper trees with little pink pepper clusters and all the buildings are painted yellow.
The giant who threw his paintbox around in the mountains, and built marvellous clay and sand landscapes finally found time to lay down a calm square patch of green and a cool blue pool, filled with mountain water, here in Mendoza. We booked in till Saturday.
Photos on 2up2wheels.blogspot.com
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  #21  
Old 10 Feb 2018
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Originally Posted by BRAUSCHNIEMANN View Post
Argentina: Land of a Million Colours

Our convivial BBQ came to an abrupt halt when the lightening started to flash in an ever decreasing circle around us. We had noticed the very tall lightning tower next to the campsite and had similarly wondered about the gridwork of metal lines and arches over the swimming pool, when we had an afternoon dip. Now we knew why. Securing the tarp over us and the bike, like a green shroud, we crept into our ‘cave’. We had purchased an ultralight bike cover for anti-theft/spying reasons, but it was beginning to be useful against the rain as well. It means we don’t have to unload the bike every night, just cover it and using the two massive eyelets, hook the chain through them and the front wheel. Once covered with the green tarp we become an almost invisible hump on the landscape. The deluge happened a few hours later, but we remained dry and cosy. In the morning we discovered the other tent-campers had given up and found refuge in the kick-boxing hall and we were indeed on a dry island surrounded by water and mud. A little doggie with a sore leg had crept under the tarp and taken refuge on our island of dryness. Even the basketball court was a lake. This fabulous outdoor complex comprises open air kickboxing, weightlifting, a running track, and outdoor keep fit circuit, a huge swimming pool, a handball court, volleyball pitch and football field, all on concrete slabs and fenced in, where appropriate. At 5pm it erupts with kids, parents and super keen trainees of all ages, carrying on up until midnight. The Argentinians seem to be sport mad. It’s run by the municipality and is part of the school program. The camp cost us 60 pesos per night (2.50 euros). Our little town in France should take note! By the time we finished washing the mud off the ground sheets, the lake had dried up on the courts and the kids were practising their skills again. We set off as soon as the sun came out, only to stop a few kms later to put our rainsuits on when the sun lost the battle with the rainclouds. At the next fuelstop, fed up with water trickling into my boots, I put on my Belstaff overboot gaiters, which had been sprayed with waterproofing stuff. B carried on without gaiters, which he later regretted. We have questioned ourselves a lot about what/what not to load on the bike and even though some stuff may be used very rarely, it makes for comfort in the long run. We continued for the rest of the day in rain and sun, stopping briefly to withdraw cash, buy provision for the next 2 meals and landed up at Humahuaca, 340 kms later. We had seen the church of Seven Colours, and had heard about the mountains of Seven colours and on the road to Humahuaca we found them. A short stop at the tourist bureau in JuJuy gave us the chance to pick up a local guide map, where we were informed that this mountain is best in the morning and the other best in the afternoon. We were riding in rain at the wrong time of the day for the best views, but nevertheless, we were astounded at the millions of coloured pigments the landscape had to offer. En route we noticed groups of young people hitching/waiting for a bus, with large backpacks , bed rolls and guitars strapped on. Humahuaca is a small ‘ancestral’ town, with many signs for hosteria and camping. A band of Gauchos, dressed as if in a movie with leather leggings, lassos and spiky spurs on the pointy boots, plus the big hat and scarf rode past up the dirt track as we entered the big gates of an advertised campsite. Well, a field really, with a large communal round table and logs to sit on, power points and concrete BBQ stands. We parked up, dismounted our metal horse and both staggered dizzily as if drunk. Feeling a bit weird, I looked at B who was also leaning a bit sideways and finding it hard to catch his breath. In the few hours it had taken to ride here, we had climbed over 2 kilometres in altitude to 3000m above sea level. Of course when you are sitting on a bike, being enchanted by the view, battling with a groove ridden road and dodging trucks, its not surprising we didn’t notice. Getting off the bike onto hard ground and trying to unpack and pitch camp, was a big effort. We acted like some slow-motion zombies. The youngsters at the big table called us over for tea and while we acclimatised, we swopped stories and found out that it was the long 10 week University holidays. Backpacking, playing guitars and thumbing lifts was the thing to do. After a very slow-cooked spaghetti dinner, we went to bed, before sunset as lying down was the easiest thing for us to do. The guitar playing and sing-a-long around the campfire lasted till the wee hours, as we drifted in and out of sleep. Feeling a bit better in the morning, we were up before the ‘kids’ and as cooking was rather an effort, decided to treat ourselves to lunch in town. A slow laboured stroll over the bridge bought us into the centre of this busy market town, where fresh veg and fruit and flowers (bunches of Gladioli) were being traded. We noticed a higher proportion of police than we would have expected in such a small town, directing traffic and intermingling with tourists and locals, almost directing them subtly apart. We had a delicious lunch of Llama stew (pronounced Jama) and still out breath wandered slowly back over the bridge for an afternoon kip. Supper was a jam sandwich, followed by an early night, accompanied by more guitar playing and singsong. The ‘kids’ are 20-25years old students studying Maths, Science, Marine Engineering, Drama and International Relations. They are delightful, interesting and interested in whether we had ever seen The Beatles as “ All Argentinians are mad about The Beatles.” On the third day of our stay in this fascinating little town, having walked and not ridden the bike at all, we felt strong enough to tackle a ride to an even higher altitude. With the traditional right cheek to right cheek one kiss, we said our farewells and took a very early walk into town for breakfast. Whilst sitting at the same place as the Llama stew lunch we noticed a bit of a flurry, the outside pavement chairs were brought inside, and a security guy came in to check the clients. The President of Argentina was in town, actually driving in a cavalcade of 4x4’s and mini-buses down the very road we were in. Hence the large police presence. As the cavalcade rode past, we noticed escorting trailbikes with rifle-bearing pillion bodyguards. We tried to spot the President, but left that to the locals and went back to pack up and set off North. Having learnt that fuel stops are far apart, we needed to fill up first. Impossible. All roads were barricaded, blocked and re-routed. We just couldn’t reach the two petrol stations in town until Mr President had finished his task, which was to re-inaugurate the railway line, defunct for more than 25 years, but now restored. Eventually we were given permission to pass over the railway line, down through the market, squeezing our bulky way through alarmed stall holders to find the once manned barriers now unmanned. All the roads in this town are cobbled and dirt roads, no tarmac. We wiggled through them as we knew that the Great Man was on the other side of town. By midday, after a planned 8am getaway, we getaway!


We punched Abra Pampa into Garmin, a mere 85kms away and another 500 metres up. The weather is sunny, blue skies and red mountains, dashed with splashes of green and pink and yellow. On the way to Abra Pampa, the joints in my fingers feel very heavy and stiff. When we dismount for a pee stop and watery drink, I notice B’s lips and the tip of nose is a bit purple/blue. We reckon its high enough and time to go back down. The aim was to get to the Bolivian border where the famous 6000km route 40 from top to bottom of Argentina starts. It’s out of the equation for us. So we turn around and go back the way we came, except that we see a gravel shortcut. The first 8kms was ok, although a bit too corrugated for my liking. Expressing myself in loud terms that I was not having fun, we stop for a chat. Some Llamas joined in by peering at us quizzically. “It’s only another 100kms” says B, let’s give it a go. The dry river beds had washed deep sand across the compacted dirt road. We go for about 10 seconds, hit a sand patch and fall over. And in front of the Llamas, too! We untangle our legs, slither out from the sandpit and try to lift the bike. It is way too heavy for both of us to lift, out of the deep sand, being out of breath and huffing and puffing. We strip the recumbent bike, bag by bag, until we can get it upright. B rides it back to stable ground and I trudge 4 trips of load while he packs it back on. We have to stop and rest every few minutes, for a task that is usually effortless. The 8kms back to the tarmac felt very long and was not pleasant. Back on the road, it was a wonderful ‘asphaldo’ ride, at the right time of day this time all the way back, passed Humahuaca, where Mr President was still busy, through more stunning scenery we had missed previously due to rain, into the tourist town of Tilcara. A good day’s ride of 200kms, with a variety of colours, shapes and adventures.

The tourist office was still open and offered us a hostel for 800 pesos, No way Jose. Reluctantly, she found us a private camping site inside a mud-walled enclosure for 160 pesos. We noticed that a few locals had lop-sided faces where big balls of stuff were being chewed and very bad teeth. It’s the local anti-altitude medication. No way, Jose. We find the elevation here in Tilcara more suitable, and as we ride further’ downhill’ to Salta feel better and better. We had noticed that most people carry a thermos slung over backpack or shoulder and purchased one during our little jaunts into Humahuaca town. The lady-owner at the Kraal camp filled ours with boiling water for our day’s journey. During our travels we had noticed small encampments/ outposts brightly decorated with red flags and red banners and shrines. Not sure what they are, and not sure who to ask we dismissed the inquiry, however upon leaving the city of Salta we found ourselves being held up in traffic by a ‘posse’ of horseriders, escorted by policemotorbikes. We noticed the horsemen crossing the pedestrian bridges over the highway ring road. The bridges are completely encaged with wire netting to prevent any skittish leaping. We deduced that these were traditional folk on the move, following the red flag paths of their ancestors as there were great gatherings along the way at these sites. Not sure, could be right/wrong.



Still suffering from 4 days of little sleep and not much air, we stopped for a snooze on the green grass of the central plaza in Salta, before weaving our way through more colours and shapes than we’d ever imagined on the 68 to Cafayate. We’d given up on riding route 40 from Cachi to Cafayate, and as beautiful as we’d been told it was, we are sure the 68 was just as good. It’s a Sunday and the petrol stations have queues going around the block, so we eat lunch at a restaurant opposite the station. When B sees a gap, between main course and dessert, he hops on the bike and fills up. We join the magical Route 40 at kilometre 4346. Since collecting our bike at Buenos Aires 12 days ago, we are 3000kms into our journey. It’s another glorious day through magnificent red cliffs and rocks, where we stop at 2000m altitude for a coffee break. I toss a piece of left over gristle up in the air (from the delicious T-bones steaks we BBq’d last night) and it must have shone like gold against the red landscape. Shortly afterwards two large birds of prey circled overhead. We found a campsite at a Marine Corrall on a man-made Hydro-electric Dam (dique) setting up on the patio. Another refill of boiling water for mid-morning coffee saves us the daily £2 spend. What a valuable thing is a flask. The scene shifts from White Canyons to Red ones, from Green Vineyards to Yellow deserts. We count at least 15 dust-devils swirling in the distance and put on a spurt when one charges towards us, just clipping our rear end and giving us a wobble. We learn to read the difference between mirages and river crossings. The one recedes and the other approaches, rapidly. The road is made up of asphaldo (tarmac) rises and concrete troughs. There’s no point in building a bridge, it will just get pushed aside by the muddy waters. So we approach each trough carefully, some are filled with rivulets of sand or water or both. A large muddy pool is in our way. Rule number 4: if you can’t see the bottom, don’t ride through it. I volunteer to wade through in my shiny dry boots, in a direct line of sight with the bike, testing the depth, and checking for hazards such as hidden rocks, pot-holes or deepsand. We know it’s not a sink-hole as we’ve seen cars go through (and I don’t disappear). Next time though, I’ll take the 2 Nordic Poles we carry to give myself a steadier step and bit more prod. It’s safe and B follows in my wake.



The pale yellow sands soon change to a slight fuzz of green, then a carpet of blue flowers, followed by white ones. We find a municipal camping ground at Belen, with a fabulous pool and not so fabulous disco that pounds out its beat until 4 am. Don’t these people ever sleep? We had just settled in for the night when the night watchman asked us to move. “Manana, por favour?” He advised us quite strongly to leave nothing outside the tent and cover everything up, bike included. The whole night, there were bikes buzzing up and down and people wandering passed, giggling and carrying on. Not so good. We’re up and off just after dawn, doing 250 kms before lunch to get out of the heat. Its difficult to see where the pale grey road ends and the pale grey sand begins, only separated by a few whispy yellow tufts of dry grass. In the heat of the day, in 37 degrees, we are stopped by the gendarmes who want to see the permit papers for the bike. A left turn a short while later brings us to green velvety hills and cacti bearing gorgeous flowers. We stop for a coffee break, but the miggies force us to gulp water quickly and as there is a crowd of vulture like bird swirling overhead, we move on. My wading trick a few days ago and riding in wet boots for a few hours has given me a cold and thick head. The bike and B are performing like a dream, but as chief navigator, with a thick head, I fall a bit short. We lose Rte 40 and find ourselves 100kms off track. Seeing a sign that says ‘petrol, 60kms’, we think it wise to head that way. The only bit of action for 150 kms of straight, straight road was a cool dude shiny brown horse, clip-clopping down the road with an egret on his back. They must have been good friends for a long time as there were dry white streak down the horse’s rump. We find the fuel stop and then google maps informs us the nearest camping is 114 kms away! We ride to Malanzan, a place in the middle of nowhere, go to the cop shop and get escorted by bakkie (pick-up truck) to the municipal site, where there is an outdoor shower and lovely pool and a kiosk selling . Amazing.



Its 27 degrees and 9 am when we start the 300kms round route to get back to rte 40 at San Juan. We head straight for the bank, which is closed for maintenance. Its now Wednesday, we are a bit tired from all the late night revellers at the various campsites and the long hot rides, but tackle the 150kms ride to Mendoza with gusto. A roadside melon farmstall catches our eye and we ride in to spend a few minutes in the shade of their bluegum trees to soak up the shade and sweet juices. A couple of pet vultures were roaming around with the chickens. We arrive in Mendoza by mid afternoon and yippee the bank is open for withdrawals. We park the bike on the pavement opposite the bank, find a café nearby, order a and cooldown. What a lovely city. All the streets are laid out in the familiar grid, each lined by rows and rows of big leafy trees, fed by an underground water system straight from the Andes. B finds a mate to share a cigar with, who also very kindly pays for our coffee. We are in awe of the road builders here, who battle against a shifting unstable land, and also the friendliness and kindness of the Argentinians. As we ride, people wave and give us thumbs up signs. In Salta a grandparent couple asked me to take a photo of them, with their phone , next to our bike. When we stopped at 2000m at the top of the pass near Cafayate, we were photographed and had hands shaken and good luck messages given. The ultimate kindness was yet to come when at the end of this very long day we failed to find a campsite. Camping has two meanings here in Mendoza/Argentina. One is for day picnic only, the other for overnight. Googlemaps directed us to 4 picnic campsites, no overnight. It 7pm on Wednesday 7th Feb and we’ve ridden 480 kms through seering heat, limbs are weak and rest is uppermost in our minds. At the 4 th turn-away site, a charming gentleman and his wife overhear our plea and in perfect English offers to lead us to a very nice overnight campsite just a few kms down the road. He starts off up the hill and slows down to wait for us to follow. Now the thing about 2 wheels and 4 wheels is that with 2 wheels you need to keep moving to stay upright, or have somewhere to put your feet down. He stops, we stop. B shouts “Jump” and we clear the bike as it slides into the sand at the road’s edge and falls over. At least now there are 4 of us to lift the bike. I get in the car and B follows onto the asphaldo, round a round-about and here we are. Its heaven. There is green grass, purple BBQ stands, pepper trees with little pink pepper clusters and all the buildings are painted yellow.
The giant who threw his paintbox around in the mountains, and built marvellous clay and sand landscapes finally found time to lay down a calm square patch of green and a cool blue pool, filled with mountain water, here in Mendoza. We booked in till Saturday.
Photos on 2up2wheels.blogspot.com
Thank you for your wonderful descriptive reports. I entered Argentina in the south from Chile a few days ago and reading your stuff makes me excited (and better informed) about what is to come as I head north. Wish I could write as well. Travel safe.

Sent from my Moto G (5S) Plus using Tapatalk
__________________
Martin

finally back on the road again


http://awayonmybike.blogspot.com/
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  #22  
Old 16 Feb 2018
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Join Date: Nov 2010
Location: france
Posts: 36
thank you

Thank you for your kind words about the story writing. you may find on your travels that wi-fi is a bit sporadic here in Argentina. We had a slight tumble on ruta 40 between Malargue and Barrancas. Take care. Its not a bad road for one up with a light load, as you read we are 2up, heavy load. We are Ok, just resting in Chos Malal if you are coming this way. Enjoy .
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  #23  
Old 16 Feb 2018
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Posts: 36
Argentina: Tea time in Mendoza

Tea seems to be the favoured refreshment here. Ordering tea means a presentation of hot water and a selection of teabags in a stylised box. We drink it 'sin leche, sin chuker'. There are lots of flavours to choose from all in very prettily decorated packets. On this long day getting here we were really looking forward to a cup of tea.
On one of our excursions into a previous town we had purchased a mini pan/grill combo set for easy bbq. Today bought some burgers en route to finding a campsite. Our eventual arrival at camping 'el manguello' in Mendoza was too late for a bbq, so we chose the primus burner option to cook our burger supper. Shortly after putting the burgers and mini pan on top of our 45year old petrol fuelled primus, it blew it's safety valve with a big flash of flame, a bit like an oil rig fire. B poured a bottle of water over the flames after rescuing the burgers which were cooked to perfection. We assume that the 120 cms square base of the grill pan directed too much heat back down onto the stove, causing the safety valve to activate. With no facilities to boil water, of which we now didn’t even have any, no tea.
Thursday 8th February was spent riding around the beautiful cool tree lined avenues of Mendoza looking for a replacement cooker. The supermarket, Coto, had just the thing: a bigger gas platform and screw on backpacker canisters. B had another cigar and coffee with his new mate in town. We bought 4 x T-bones for one euro each for another go at a bbq and afternoon tea. The afternoon was lazed away swimming and sleeping under cool shady trees on lush green grass. At 6pm, sundowner time came ready for a cup of tea and the fitting on the ring does not match with the screw on the canister. We had already put the 'instant incinerator' on the concrete bbq stand. (This a cardboard box filled with charcoal with a 100 x100mm base made out of tomato box timber/kindling. There is a small air vent at the base through which the kindling is lit. Brilliant).
Desperate for a cup of tea, we left the burning box and rode 8kms back to Coto to get an exchange or refund. They could not match the parts and willingly gave us a refund. By the time we got back to camp the fire was perfect for our T bone supper. We used our collapsible silicone kettle with the stainless base directly on the fire to boil water and after filling the flask ready for early morning tea, we finally had our afternoon tea at 10pm.
On Friday we Googled for any specialist campshops in the area and rode back into the beautiful city of Mendoza, where there was a cluster of such shops opposite a Carrefour Hypermarket. Success. We chose a neat screw type gas canister with even neater selfstarting flash ignitor on a universal ring. It was quite expensive, but absolutely necessary. We have thought about sending 5kgs of excess luggage back to France and found a DHL. The expense outweighed the value of the goods. The plan now is to re-arrange the weight distribution on the bike by packing the heavier stuff lower down. We enjoy another lazy afternoon swimming and sleeping on lush green grass under shady trees. Even the dogs have their own separate splash pool which they dip in and enjoy at their leisure. We love it here so much we paid to stay another day. It was just as well because when we went to boil the kettle for afternoon tea, the electronic ignitor on the new cooker didn't work. B found his cigar lighter to rescue tea-time. The shops here are open from 9 to 13h00 then its SIESTA. It is now Saturday and we are supposed to be leaving. Ho-hum, we ride back into the beautiful city of Mendoza to exchange or refund this super-duper cooker. We found the Carrefour again with its motorcycle lockup cage, parked, locked up and took ourselves on a walk around Mendoza. We walked past the campshop for a successful exchange (yes we tested the ignitor starter in the shop) and many other fabulous shops displaying quality leather capes, cloaks and llama ponchos. We spent millions with our eyes and finally bought a ROUTE 40 sticker for 30pesos to put on the front mudguard. Our walk took us through a promenade filled with cafes and music. How could we not resist stopping for a and salad. On the HU (horizons unlimited) website it was suggested that a few copies of all documents kept separately in plastic pouch was a good border-crossing idea so that’s what we did. On our walk around all the blocks we noticed the numbers in groups of 100 per block. By knowing the number of your destination you can work out how many blocks away it is. At the crossroads, the corners of the buildings are cut off at 45 degrees to allow maximum visibility for oncoming traffic, whatever the direction. This town planner deserves an A*.
While the town had its SIESTA we worked. B washed the grease/dust off the bike with pretty useless engine cleaner and adjusted the chain. The Scott oiler works well and B dripped engine oil on the tools which had been submerged on river crossings. The toolkit was showing signs of rust. I spent the afternoon weighing and comparing, separating heavy and light, useful and useless stuff. By teatime we are packed. Our young neighbours, the chef and the tourism student, shared their bbq T-bone with us, cooked the Argentinian way - well done.
Four fabulous days, tea time sorted, and 100kms ride around and about the beautiful tree-lined avenues of Mendoza. One more sleep here and we depart tomorrow, Sunday.

PHOTOS: 2up2wheels.blogspot.com

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  #24  
Old 16 Feb 2018
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Argentina. Violent Land, Compassionate People

WARNING: Contains graphic details intended to inform other travellers, not to alarm family and friends.

It's already 27 degrees when we load the bike and leave Mendoza early on Sunday morning. After a few confusing turns we find Ruta 40 heading South for 150kms. There's a fork in the road where the 40 goes right and the 143 is left. On the map it shows a thin orange line which then turns into a dotted thin orange line. Mmm, secondary tarmac road, then construction, and another branch onto a thin green line which indicates gravel. No gravelly green lines for us! We start down the tarmac, spot a sign reading 'asphaldo fin 65kms'. So we turn around and head down the 143 to San Rafael. The altitude climbs rapidly from 700 to 1400m above sea level on this vast plateau. The summer temperature drops rapidly to 22⁰ then17⁰ then 14⁰ then 10⁰ in a matter of minutes. The wind chill factor increases and a very low snow cloud blankets the flat landscape. We stop, don balaclavas, inner jackets, zip up air flaps on our summer wear, and climb into our babygro rain suits. Instead of coffee we use the hot water from our flask for a cup-of-soup sachet. Warming up we start again. By the time we get to San Rafael its a balmy 25 degrees, altitude 1000 and we are sweltering. Such a weird experience. The coffee machine at the lunch stop is broken so we are brought hot water and use our own coffee. An American couple tell us about the Ville Grande to search for a campsite and as we're going that way we feel confident about our sleep tonight. It’s a scenic route through vineyards, canalised irrigation and tree-lined avenues. Sure enough we found a campsite easily and enjoyed the peace and quiet of Ville Grande.
A sunny warm Monday sees us riding to Malargue through more flat lands, a few mountain passes with craggy drops and advertisements for 4x4 adventures. Snowy mountains appear on the horizon and the thin orange line 40 which should emerge to join the 144 never does. Glad we didn’t take that one as it is still being built. There's a section where mechanical donkeys are pumping oil and then vast pans of salt crystals shimmering under the blue sky. The foothills are a bright green with new grass and fans of yellow rushes line the motorway. It’s a beautiful day as we ride into town for a lunch of empanadas and Argentinian tea. More 4x4's drive past. The map shows a dotted double orange line and a double green line indicating major road/tarmac under construction and major road/ribbed. The abundance of 4x4’s should have been a signal, however our bike is designed to ride off road (but maybe not 2up and under load.)
We leave Malargue and have a pleasant ride to Bardas Blancas where we decide to set up camp before tackling the next 206 kms that Ruta 40 has to offer. Except that Bardas (Badass?) Blancas is just a name on the map and a patch of shade under a tree. We start the 206 kms, at about 2pm, to Barrancas on a newly constructed tar road with traffic control and cones. 60 kms further on more and more short sections of dirt road appear in between the tar sections and lots of constructions trucks. Then the construction part finished and the road was dirt road, ‘Main Consolidated’ as indicated on the map. We are riding in the Valley of the Rio Grande with high hills on both sides, twisting and winding alongside the very wide river bed. The bike is handling the dirt section very nicely with its redistributed load. Until, suddenly a patch of river pebbles appeared in the road and with the better handling of the bike B decided to increase the speed to ride it out. The theory goes that the faster you ride over sand and pebbles the more stable the bike becomes. B increased the speed from 50 to 70kms, without realising the heavy trucks had forced these pebbles into deep grooves. Surface pebbles would have scattered. It is a bit like hitting the wake behind a speed boat, whilst waterskiing. This set up a speed wobble and snaking action that became uncontrollable. The bike highended doing a 180 degree roly-poly and landed on its handlebars, tank bag and soft back bag with wheels skywards. The windscreen got flattened and the spare parts flew out of the now-opened front box. We hit the deep marbles, I slid and B took an impact on his head and chest. I whipped off my gloves and helmet to get to B who was by now on all fours choking. I took off his helmet and he gulped deeply to get air as he was totally winded. B shouted 'take a photo' which I did but the SD card had become dislodged in my camera and there is no record!!. Such an impressive shot, not. We are in a hurry to get the bike back on its ‘feet’ because of petrol, oil and battery acid leaks. There was a lot of traffic on this road and within a minute two girls stopped their car to attend to us and we pushed the bike back through 180 degrees in an upright position. The only thing that leaked was the now topless, Extra virgin olive oil strapped onto the aluminium pannier shelf. Another car pulled up as well to help. The second car, occupied by Carlos, his wife Sally and 8year old Jago offered to put me and the luggage in their car and accompany B who declared himself fit enough to go the remainder of the way solo and no load. He zoomed off, skimming over the corrugations. With the lighter load, the shaking became exaggerated because the bike's suspension is set up to carry a heavy load. We met many other weary dusty bikers coming the other way, all keen to find out how good/bad the road was. Breathlessly B explained our situation, and re-assured them that it’s OK one up, light load. “Stay in the middle, away from the trucks and the sloping pebbled run-offs.” We trundle along in the car, bouncing around through every rise and trough. Carlos explains that this valley forms part of the place where the Atlantic and Pacific plates meet. The scenery is monumental and we are surrounded by jagged peaks, washaways, volcanic debris and landslides. I don’t believe they can complete the road through here. The land is too violent and will beat the construction at every turn.
B stops intermittently for us to catch up and got alarmed when he pee’d blood. I used Maps.Me (an offline app) to locate the nearest hospital which was at the end of the valley at Barrancas. It took 3 hours from tumble to hospital. In excruciating pain, exacerbated by the corrugated road jarring his chest, B exclaimed “ that felt just like my enduro days”. Really? What? The Pain or the Ride?
Fortunately the hospital is opposite the police station, so our bike and luggage were secured at the police station while B was taken into be assessed. We said farewell and a big thank you to Carlos and his family.
Barrancas is a small outpost hospital and after a thorough examination the Doctor and Eugenia, the nurse, concluded that B needed an xray. A 4x4 arrived to take us the 30kms to the next hospital in Buta Ranquil where another assessment, plus xray was conducted. No rib fracture seen. At this point I telephoned the 24hour Medical Insurance Company in France and registered the incident. They have ‘held our hand’ at every event, phoning, inquiring, translating and relaying information. The haematuria/blood in urine is still causing concern and an ultrasound was required, which is available at the next hospital 100 kms away. An ambulance arrived and B was stretchered into the back, accompanied by a pretty rosy cheeked doctor who held his hand the whole way to Chos Malal. I sat in the front and watched the glowing blue light reflect eerily off the dark rock faces as the driver expertly manoeuvred his powerful fast wagon through more mountain passes, this time all on tarmac. We arrived just before 11pm where re-assessment, re-xray and an abdominal ultrasound showed all OK. To clear out the potential kidney bruising, the drip was maintained for 24 hour observation and B was given pain relief. I was given a bed alongside.
Urine clear, rib pain and stiffness are causing B some grief, but it’s manageable. Somebody found some day clothes for me as my dusty bike gear was starting to get unpresentable.
In between doctor visits I have been wandering around town buying cooldrink, buying credit for our phone and mobile data, buying batteries for SPOT and generally amusing myself. I made friends with a family who run a corner store, by popping in every day for water, toothbrush, toothpaste, etc. We only have the clothes we are wearing and our passport/document folder. Our map has become a bit torn at the folds, but as they do not actually sell sellotape, they used their roll to mend the map and would receive no payment, but gave me a cake. B has been sleeping: pain killers and the drip keeping his kidneys flushed.
It is now Wednesday. We are free to go, but our bike and gear is 135kms away. The kind wonderful compassionate people in this remote part, between the violent plates, are sorting out a truck. By the time you get this I'm sure clothes, bike and us will be together again. Until then we stay in hospital.
The medical insurance company are dealing directly with the hospital administration. The Health service in Argentina is free and we have been told that there is no charge. The violent nature of this landscape here is in complete contrast to the kindness and compassion of their people.


PHOTOS: 2up2wheels.blogspot.com

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Go Well, Hamba Kahle
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  #25  
Old 16 Feb 2018
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Location: france
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Argentina: Valentine's Day

With B in hospital, waiting to be discharged, and the 2nd love of his life locked in a police station, Valentine’s day wasn’t holding much promise for a happy ending. And then three English speaking hospital staff appeared. It had been a holiday weekend and now they were back. Now we realise why the Ruta 40 was so busy. Two doctors and the nutritionist were there to attend to our every need, including finding a tow-truck to fetch the baggage and bike which are 135kms away. We receive a message that the tow truck is on its way in 30mins to the very destination we need. I scramble into smelly bike gear, grab ID documents for me and the bike, a couple of apples, a cooldrink and my gift cake. The weather forecast shows a red thermometer, warning of exceptional heat today. The towtruck is driven by Marcus. We drive back down the road, daytime, that we had travelled by ambulance, at night, 3 days ago. There are twists, curves, loops, straights, volcanos, gorges, canyons, cut- aways and flat plains all on tarmac. At a slow steady pace, dragging a big trailer behind us we completed the 135 kms in 2 ½ hours of afternoon heat with my window and the rear cab window open. Marcus put a frozen bottle of water on the dash which he sips as it melts. We shared some cake which had been given to me as a gift from the shopkeeper where I bought sticky tape to mend our map, earlier in the week. At the police station all the items were checked and ticked off and signed for, with passport photo and number. We winched the bike on, lifted the rear end and secured it with good strong ties across the front end of the trailer. I met up again with Eugenia who came running across the road from the hospital. I re-assured her B was OK, said many Gracias and we started the long hot journey home, this time with the western afternoon sun on my side. The reason for the long trailer was that Marcus was combining the bike collection with a car collection at the place of the 2nd hospital, Buta Ranquil. It is hot, hot, hot. In fact so hot that one of the tyres on the trailer threw its tread. I’m learning fast how to be an apprentice and handed Marcus all the tools from the back of his pick-up so that he could remove the wheel. Luckily this trailer had a double wheel system . We drove into the Auto stop just outside Buta Ranquil on 3 wheels. While this was getting repaired I walked to the hospital with a weird impression I’m in a Clint Eastwood movie. No shade, just a cocacola, marching in full bike gear, no helmet, and this apparition steps in from the heat into the empty hospital foyer. Drumroll. The doctor who had attended B was not on duty. It was very difficult to explain “that on Monday we had been treated there and I had returned to say thank and that my husband was OK. The three ladies sitting around the Coffee table kept telling me it was Wednesday everytime I said the ‘Lunes’ for Monday. In the end I gave up, big smile, many Gracias and trudged back to Marcus and his 4-wheeled trailer. Marcus couldn’t find the house where the Peugot 205 was and this was when I discovered the reason for his closed window. At every passing person, he stopped, opened his door and yelled out “ hola, etc etc in Spanish,where is bla,bla,bla”. That door got opened and shut a good many times before we found the broken down car, which was tucked out of sight behind the garage under some trees. Lucky I had my dungarees and boots on, posing as an apprentice, as it needed both of us to push and pull and steer this car out onto the road to get the winch attached and hauled upon to the platform. The back of the pick-up is full of bike gear, the bike loaded and car loaded and its time to go back to Chos Malal. We arrive at 9pm, a good day’s work ! One of the English speaking doctors (US/Argentinian) has kindly offered us a room in their house to rest and recover. His wife is a GP and when they came off duty they took B with them. The drive back was uneventful, except for the rabbit skin I saw drying on the Armco barrier. It’s desolate out here! Marcus and his mates offloaded the car, and then we arrived at the lovely cool house of Eduardo and Milka where the bike was unwinched, covered and locked. With our dirty, dusty baggage scattered all over their lawn, we settled in for a super supper and lots of stories about Argentina and Africa. B, me and the bike are all together in the loving home of Eduardo and Milka, who are expecting baby no 1 in 4months. Our Valentine’s Day ended happily after all.

PHOTOS: 2up2wheels.blogspot.com

ROUTE TRACKER: Just follow this link to see my location updates:
http://share.findmespot.com/shared/f...CBhWoLRO08eq3k
If the link doesn't work, try copying and pasting it to your browser's address bar.

Go Well, Hamba Kahle
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  #26  
Old 17 Feb 2018
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BRAUSCHNIEMANN View Post
Thank you for your kind words about the story writing. you may find on your travels that wi-fi is a bit sporadic here in Argentina. We had a slight tumble on ruta 40 between Malargue and Barrancas. Take care. Its not a bad road for one up with a light load, as you read we are 2up, heavy load. We are Ok, just resting in Chos Malal if you are coming this way. Enjoy .
Sorry to read of your fall - one of those things that can happen to all of us. Glad to hear you are both ok. I'm slowly heading north in your direction. Currently in El Calafate and moving onto El Chaiten tomorrow. At my slow rate of progress probably a week or so until I'm up as far as you. Stay in touch - I'd love to meet up. And good luck with the recovery and bike repairs.

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  #27  
Old 17 Feb 2018
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The link is broken!

Note you can't copy from the SCREEN if you've posted elsewhere or here on the HUBB, as it is often "shortened" as you can tell by the ... in the middle of the url.

You MUST click the link, get the proper full url from the browser, and paste it in. Our software and many others will then "shorten" it, but it will work because the underlying code is complete. Always test your own post, and if it's broken, it's easily edited and fixed so you don't annoy people.
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  #28  
Old 18 Feb 2018
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Join Date: Nov 2010
Location: france
Posts: 36
Argentina: SPOT tracker

https://share.findmespot.com/shared/...CBhWoLRO08eq3k
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  #29  
Old 18 Feb 2018
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I've merged this and the spot thread, no point in having two.
NOTE: You CAN EDIT your post to fix links or text errors, and also instead of starting a new thread all the time, just post a reply to the previous thread, then you get a continuous story instead of scattered all over in old threads way down the page.
If you like I can merge ALL your trip threads into one, would be much better for readers I think.
Let me know!
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  #30  
Old 29 Mar 2018
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Join Date: Nov 2010
Location: france
Posts: 36
Argentina: The Great Escape

Argentina: The Great Escape
It certainly was a great escape. An escape from serious injury and an escape from daily stress as we rest and recuperate in the quiet secluded town of Chos Malal, helped along by the calm and caring Doctors E & M. The temperature outside reaches above 35⁰ but we are cooled by a breeze through their typical Argentinian square flat house and shaded by the waving poplar trees in the garden.
B’s chest is sore, fractured ribs diagnosed clinically, and my right knee got a bit of a pounding. In between drug-induced sleeps we wash our clothes and bags and inspect the bike.
The windscreen got flattened, scratched and the mounting bolts, which got torn out, are replaced with cable ties. The righthand spotlight bracket got bent and the front box has a broken hinge and gravel rash. We lost one ‘deer whistle’. The righthand indicator broke, and now has a splint of wood and duct tape bandage. The master cyclinder clamp snapped but luckily is held in place by the ScottOiler bracket. Altogether, a very lucky escape considering the bike inverted and landed on its seat, wheels pointing skywards. My right boot almost lost its sole, but a trip into town to buy contact adhesive and with some powerful strapping until the glue set should do the trick. The right front slingover bag got ripped off its zipper. Dr E found us the shoe maker/repair man in town who sewed it back on.
The crash occurred last Monday, so we are hoping to leave within the week. The washing is done, the bags are clean and re-packed, with the excess baggage ready to be posted to Lima, where we will collect it when we fly back to France. Before our departure, the attending Consultant wants another blood/urine/xray check so we take the bike for a ride downtown to the hospital where the necessary tests are carried out. There is still no fracture showing on the xray, however blood/urine test have returned to normal. Minimal displacement shows up at the Acromio-Clavicluar joint space and prodding on the sore spot indicates that clinically the ribs are fractured. The Doctor prescribes anti-inflammatory medication for another week and advises AGAINST departure. Our excess baggage weighs in at 10kgs and the P.O. can only send a maximum of 2kgs. We decide that the bike must just carry it to Lima.
On our excursion into town we buy some near-equivalent spices to treat our hosts/friends to a typical South African Bobotie dinner. We conjure and cook up the evening meal early on Sunday morning, leaving it to settle and mature for the day. A Sunday afternoon/farewell outing has been planned and our lovely friends take us for a drive into the Argentinian mountains across the valley, through stunning scenery to a fabulous local restaurant where we have typical empanadas (mini Cornish pasties filled with meat or cheese or chicken or veges). The restaurant owner surprises us with some huge beef ribs from the BBQ. It has been a wonderful day, being driven around, swopping stories, seeing the mountain peaks of La Corona and coming home to a Bobotie dinner. On Day 7, To test B’s energy and strength up we stroll into town, which is not so good, so the departure is delayed. We visit the museum, buy some socks and wander back up the hill: a total of 24 blocks. The shops close by midday and open again at 17h30, so afternoons are reserved for Siestas. Feeling the need to escape from chamber-maid duties, I walk into town in search of an art supply store, there’s enough time to do some painting as the departure date is moved on and while B recovers. On Day 9, B had an almighty Sneeze, and the pain was so excruciating, he could not even walk. With lots of grimacing and grunting we got him into the car to go back to the hospital, where the xray now revealed 2, possibly 3, definite fracture and displaced ribs. That sneeze was literally the final straw that pulled the ribs apart at the fracture site. Another drip, different pain killers and confined to ‘minimal activity for 14 days’. We are not going anywhere! I carry on painting while B sleeps on and on. The painting develops into a representation of our wonderful trip through Argentina, with a South African flavour. Only four colours are purchased, primary Red, Blue and Yellow, with a pot of White, a canvas and a small brush. I find the large brush (that B used to degrease the bike with in Mendoza) and spend hours and hours under the poplars escaping into another world. 30 years of memories get compressed into a tiny Table Mountain tableau on the left side joined by blue Atlantic Ocean waters to La Corona and the White Cross on the hill above Chos Malal on the left. The colours of Argentina and the Karoo merge as do our paths. Another hike into town around 30 more blocks and I find a little pot of acrylic varnish to seal the imaginary world onto the canvas.
We offer to doggie-sit while our hosts/friends go on a weekend shopping excursion to Chile, across the border about 5 hours by car. A perfect opportunity for me to escape from this confinement by crocheting a blanket for their baby, due in June. I chose colours that we saw at the markets stalls in the north of Argentina and happily crochet away in front of Netflix. At 2hours a movie, from 9am till midnight, I watch at least 7 movies a day, for 4 days. That’s a lot of movies! Julia Roberts, Jennifer Arniston, Diane Keaton, Pierce Brosnan, Jack Nicholson, and Billy Connolly entertain me for hours and hours. By the time our friends arrive back I am square-eyed, the blanket is finished and we tuck into an English Cottage pie. Granny-to-be has arrived from the East coast and the little house is now bulging with 5 adults and 1 baby-bump, all our luggage, plus goodies from the shopping trip to Chile.
It’s Day 5 of the new ‘minimal activity’ and we have received an instruction from the medical insurance that the bill is too small (92 euros) for them to settle directly with the hospital. We need to pay and send them the receipt for reimbursement. I trek into town, find the finance room and call on Dr E to help with the translation. It transpires that medical care in Argentina is free. The ‘bill’ sent to the insurance was a list of commodities used. If they can’t settle directly then there is no charge, because there are no facilities to issue an invoice, write a receipt, etc. So after a lovely meeting with the director and colleagues, lots of one cheek kisses and hand shaking, I invite them all to France as a way of saying ‘thank you’.
Communication with Granny, G, is frustrating as we neither speak each others language enough. Dr E has a busy life translating every evening as we swop stories and get to know each other. G and her family are 100% Argentinian, speaking Spanish, although her blue eyes and blond hair tell of a different heritage. As this story is about escaping, its worth mentioning that she is 3rd generation descendant from Germans fleeing during WW2. Her delicious ‘jam strudel dumpling stew’ is a tiny remnant of a recipe passed down and I shall attempt a repeat meal back in France.
By day 9 of the ‘minimal activity’, B can blow his nose painlessly. That is quite an achievement. Our grandchildren can testify that when Oupa blows his nose it is like an elephant trumpeting. Departure date is drawing nearer. We will have the house to ourselves again for a few days as Drs E & M and G are leaving for a holiday on the East coast where their home is. They will complete their 2 year compulsory Medical Residency just before baby is born. The obligatory medical residency ensures that the remote hospitals are supplied with competent staffing and in exchange the different needs of the remote outposts are met. A few days before we arrived, Dr E had been called to assist in a helicopter rescue in the Andes. The Gauchos take their goats and sheep high up for the summer grazing, sleeping in stone huts covered in woolly skins, and move about on horseback. A young lad had fallen off his horse and it had taken more than a day for someone to ride to the nearest town to summon help. And then another day for the helicopter to wait for daylight to then find the location and perform the rescue. The lad had broken his elbow. Dr E showed us some excellent footage and photos of the trip over the Andes to find the poor boy. Dr M is a GP and ‘works out in the field’. Dr E works in the hospital. They both also do a 24hours shift in A&E/ER and one twilight shift a week. G and I clean, shop and prepare supper, while B sleeps on and on.
It’s a sad farewell when they drive away for their very well deserved vacation and we are left behind. What wonderful people to share their home and life with us. We exchange gifts and receive a beautiful and authentic hand carved steel Gaucho knife in a leather sheath.
At last B is feeling better; it’s day 14 of ‘minimal activity’ and 22 days since the crash. B is determined that today is Departure Day. The bike is packed, we climb aboard and head south west to Chile. And we are riding through my painting, escaping to another adventure across the border.

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