Week 85 - Argentina Here We Come!
We left Sucre eventually....my GPS got confused and ended up taking us on a huge loop around the area near Frank and Rox's house because we'd entered it as a route and apparently hadn't set off on said route at the correct point, therefore it took us back to the start! Not a very intelligent GPS...or is that not very intelligent riders?! Ha ha!
The road South to Tarija was quite uneventful and sadly all tarmac. We took a back road to avoid having to go all the way out via Potosi and we didn't know if it would be paved or not but it was. Not quite so exciting, however it allowed us to get a little further than expected that day and we made it to Tarija in quite good time. We managed to find a cheap, basic little hostel on the edge of the city and decided to stay two nights as we wanted to check the place out, also try to get some more USD for Argentina as we'd heard that it was much better to exchange USD in cash than withdraw money out of the machines.
Once we reached the hostel (La Cúpula Hostel & Camping) we were greeted by a young guy and invited in, and he asked about our bikes. Then he said he was having some friends over in the evening for an Asado (BBQ) and invited us along for a small fee, so obviously we said yes. There were a couple of work-aways at the hostel and also a Brazilian/Scottish family travelling in a truck so there was easy conversation, a nice chilled atmosphere and not too overcrowded. The Brazilian/Scottish people had decided to travel around some of South America for a couple of weeks in a new Ford Ranger, however it's modern diesel system was no match for the high sulphur content of Bolivian Diesel and promptly died after the first re-fuel. They'd tried to go in and out of Bolivia without topping up, mixing it with better quality fuel they'd brought from Brazil, but it still was too much for the shiny new Diesel truck.
The family told us all about ht struggles they had had with the truck while we enjoyed beautiful BBQ dinner that had been slowly cooked on the coals over the preceding 2-3 hours. The local Bolivians that joined in were very friendly and we all sat around a large table, devouring the lovely food rather too quickly! The next day we got up and walked into Tarija. It was a good long walk, but worth it and we headed off to the central market for a nose around and a bite to eat.
I have to say it was one of the cleanest markets we had come across, and all of the little food stalls were bustling. We waited for a seat at one of the benches and then ordered something which I can't remember the name of but was basically deep fried pastry, one of which had cheese inside. Not overly good for you but it tasted lovely.
After another walk around we sat in a cafe just off the main square for a quick coffee before looking for a Banco de Bolivia for our sizeable cash withdrawal ready for our next adventures. I don't like walking around with a lot of cash so we then headed back to the hostel. We then decide to go back into Tarija for some dinner and went back to the same place but in their restaurant for a cheap and cheerful Ravioli dinner and local beer. Yum!
The next day we headed to border. Argentina were 1 hour ahead of Bolivia but fortunately they were not closed for lunch. We had been on target to get there before lunch however Kelvin needed to make a sudden wee stop and parked his bike on the edge of the road. It then promptly fell over down into the ditch and took us ages to get it back up due to the angle and we were so hot from the humidity, which didn't help matters.
On arrival at the border crossing they scanned ALL of our bags which meant we had to remove everything from the bike and take it all into the building to go through the scanner. There was also a friendly dog sat there, I guess to sniff out any contraband. After re-attaching everything to the bike it was then onto immigration and Aduana. It was all in one building so we just made way along the line. Easy! Unfortunately what we didn't realise was that we had to pay to exit as we had working visas! 160 bolivianos pp. Bugger! Oh well, it had been worth it and getting the working visas was the only way to stay in Bolivia while my bike was out of action. Also, during our time at the border the sun went in and there was a sudden torrential downpour. A lovely lady from the Argentinian customs came and quickly told me to put the jackets near where she was stationed in the dry to keep it all out of the rain, which was much appreciated as it would have all got soaked.
Despite the rain it was still very hot and humid with many mosquitos flying around and landing all over us. We rode in to the first bigger town after the border called Oran and found hotel to stay in called Hotel Colonial. At £30 a night it was expensive for our budget (75% of combined daily budget) and compared to the places we'd stayed in previously, however I was starting to feel quite ill, so we just decided to stay there anyway. I was very appreciative of the air con and the comfort. Before I started to feel too unwell we headed off in search of some cash. We couldn't draw any cash from some of the machines but Banco Patagonia did, although I had a mini heart-attack when I discovered it was 386 pesos for a maximum withdrawal 2000 pesos!! So, between the hotel and the withdrawal fee that was the daily budget wiped out. Unfortunately we later discovered that the cash machine fee was a relatively standard charge, so we knew we'd have look at changing some USD for ARG pesos in Salta.
It was then off to a little coffee shop for a sandwich as it was literally the only place open. We then realised that Argentina is a little like Spain in that nothing really opens in the evening until about eight or nine o'clock and they have a long siesta during the day, which would take a little getting used to. We managed to find some local SIM cards as we'd tried to do in every country for emergencies, and the guy in the shop was super friendly and showed us pictures of his brother's bike and also used some other national identity numbers he had in order to register our SIM cards, as apparently it was a bit more difficult for foreigners. It was then back to the hotel. Unfortunately I only began to feel worse and I ended up being violently sick all night! The next day I felt so tired and unwell that we had to stay another night and I spent most of the day in bed.
After our extra night in the hotel we rode to Salta. We managed to find find a nice place called Residencial el Hogar. We had a shared bathroom but it was really nice, cheap and had a great buffet breakfast as well as secure parking so we definitely couldn't complain. We ended up staying two nights so we could walk around Salta and change money, which we did manage to do. There was a street near the banks called 'España' (GPS -24.78860, -65.41114) where there were loads of guys standing with wads of cash and they offered an exchange rate for the USD almost equal to the actual exchange rate, so it wasn't bad at all and saved us a tonne of money cash machine withdrawal fees. To be honest, we could have spent longer in Salta but we both felt a bit citied- out, especially after our extra long stay in Sucre so we just wanted to get away into the rural areas again, which is just what we did.