Week 87 - Exploring Around Ruta 40
Leaving early, we headed South on the Ruta 40, but turned off after a while on to the RP307 towards Tafi de Valle. The route was stunning and really lush green. Unfortunately, due to the heat, my bike fan was going like crazy and it was running the battery down, so when we stopped for fuel I couldn't get the bike started again. After a bit of a jump start, it sprang back in to life and we made sure we turned the fan off. Problem solved!
We followed our route and turned off on to a dirt road (the RN65), where we found a campsite called Samay Cochuna. We were the only people there so had the choice of camping and BBQ spots, surrounded by forestry, and a resident horse came to say hello. They also had showers, and although not the most welcoming we had warm water. We'd been advised to give an hour's notice of showering so that they could get the water heated, which was really lovely of them. Some places don't bother if there's only two people, so we were very thankful...I hate cold showers. I went first, unfortunately Kelvin had a spider try to attack him in the shower, or at least frighten him, so his shower was also relatively brief!
We used one of the BBQ's to make a little fire, although sadly we had nothing to BBQ, so we just made some pasta in a pan, but it was nice to have the fire and be able to stand up to cook. We washed it down with some of the wine that we had bought from Bodega Transito, and with the lack of people around it made for a super relaxing evening.
The next day we were up reasonably early again and set off along the dirt road, venturing up and up on really twisty roads through the mountain of forest. There were so many clouds that the visibility was down to zero in some spots, which was a shame and meant we crawled along at times, but on reaching the top we broke through the clouds and it was like a different world. Suddenly there was blue sky and we could see over the plain for miles from the top of the mountain. We stopped at the top and peered down. We could see switch-back upon switch-back all the way down to the very bottom of the Valley, but then it was just flat as far as the eye could see. Once we made it to the bottom of this amazing pass we literally travelled about 200km on looooooong, straight tarmac road....heaven for some, monotonous hell for us!
We managed not to die of boredom, and sometime later reached Salicas. It was a small village and we stayed at a place called Hostel Camping Indigo. It was super, super hot with plenty of mosquitos swarming about, not helped by the fact that there was a trench of stagnant water close to the camping area. It was quite cool though as they had turkey's, donkeys, ducks, geese and dogs. Again, we were the only guests, and it was another very chilled stay. We'd decided to camp because the dorm was massively overpriced at 400 ARG pesos per person, and the air con just wasn't worth the budget hit. There was a building to cook food in with a grubby kitchen, luckily we had our own cooking stuff, so we just used the gas stove. It even had working electrical sockets so we made sure everything was charged up ready for another day or so of use.
It wasn't too bad at all over night and the next day we got up and packed everything away. We started my bike but it sounded like the exhaust was leaking, so I turned the bike off and got off to have a look at the header pipe. Just as I came around the front of the bike with Kelvin, this huge, ugly as f#*k spider crawled out from under the mudguard and I jumped back. Kelvin grabbed something to try and coax it off the bike and it ended up on the floor, but reared up on to its back legs. It reminded me a bit like a video of an Australian Funnel-Web that I'd seen. It scooted off sideways like a crab, still on its hind legs until it was out of view. I wish I'd taken a photo as I wanted to work out what it was, but I was far too slow and I am a complete arachnophobe! If that little scare wasn't enough, another spider fell off when we took Kelvin's bike cover off. It was a different type and darker, but still sizeable. I was very glad we had a tent with no holes last night!!!
After the spider excitement, we set off to San Jose de Jachal. We had intended to stay at a place called Las Jarillas in Guandacol on route which had been recommended, however on arrival there, there was no answer, which was a great shame. We did meet with a young boy and his mother who tried to sort out the situation, however they were quite certain that the owners had gone on holiday. We had a photo with the boy as he was quite keen, unfortunately they didn't have access to emails so we could to send it to them. They tried to give some suggestions, but we couldn't find an affordable alternative so we continued on the Ruta 40 until we reached San Jose de Jachal. On arrival in the town we stopped at a cafe/shop opposite the fuel station. We'd got some fuel first and then trundled over the road and left our bikes in the shade by the cafe. We ordered some cheese and ham sandwiches as they looked to be the only items we knew the ingredients of, and we didn't want a crisps and chocolate meal! We also ended up getting serenaded as a guy sat on the table next to us with the owners and started strumming on his guitar and singing...to be honest it wasn't half bad and we gave him a round of applause plus a smile, which I think was warmly received.
After filling our bellies we took the bikes to a small campsite at the edge of the town called 'Los Hornos'. It was super busy as they had a small pool and I think it was the local hang out of a summers evening, but after 8pm the crowds subsided and it was super quiet. We were glad as it had been full of screaming kids, but they all left fortunately. Two more biker overlanders also turned up in the evening and a camper van. Unfortunately, at about 11pm there was a huge party going on in the property next door which continued until about 4am, and it was soooooooo loud. It was impossible to sleep through even with earplugs because they had an awesome sound system and it was like somebody had put a boombox next to your ear at full volume. Not fun! Needless to say we had very minimal sleep and we awoke at about 7am to be surrounded by sheep. At 80 ARG pesos per person, we couldn't really complain as it was cheap, but a few more hours sleep would have been lovely.
It was then off on the RN150 to an amazing lake called Dique Cuesta del Viente. It was SOOOO blue and the snow capped mountains bordering Chile were in the background. Needless to say we stayed a while to take some photos and admire the stunning view. Following our short break by the lake, we headed off on RN149 which had loads of beautiful coloured rocks, and continued to Villa Ibáñez where our friend Bryan had invited us to stay in a cabin for a couple of days. He had given us directions and told us some of his girlfriend Marcela's family would be there on arrival. When we found the place there was literally a huge pool party going on. Marcela's nephew and some of their friends and family were celebrating his birthday, so when we turned up we had lots of people asking us stuff in Spanish and offering us cake and wine. It would have been rude to say no, so we happily accepted the offerings and tried to blend in. We didn't join the pool party bit as we felt a bit bad for gate-crashing but they didn't seem to mind us being around.
They all seemed to be enjoying themselves, so we decided to excuse ourselves and ventured off towards the shops we'd seen on the way in. The local's were super friendly. We managed to find a little shop to get some fresh empanadas and cooking supplies, and took a long walk around the quiet local area. The outdoors life was fantastic and everyone seemed to have big BBQ areas and outdoor seating, with relatively small houses. We got back to the cabin and Marcela's family were getting ready to leave. Marcela and Bryan were due to be meeting us in the evening, but unfortunately her car had broken down so we didn't see them until the next day. They arrived the following afternoon with bread, cheese and olives...yum! It was so lovely to see Bryan again (who we'd first met in Lima) and meet Marcela, who was the most lovely hostess.
Kelvin had been using his spare time to give the bikes some more TLC, this time changing the front sprockets, brake pads that needed replacing and also taking the forks off and giving them a good clean as well as replacing the fork skins. It was baking hot so he was grateful of the shaded area around the edge of the building, and stopped him getting too fried. It was then time to start putting everything back together again.
The next day we decided to go off to the shops on the bikes. Unfortunately, just as I was going through the gate, the thing holding open gave way and it swung back and hit me. I fell off quite hard and hurt my knee. The builders that were near by were most concerned and wanted me to go to hospital, but I was ok, although I was a bit embarrassed, luckily the bike was fine to. I seem to have perfected the ability to always fall off in front of people! My knee was just grazed and there was a bit of pain, with a good dose of shock, but nothing serious. I was so glad I had been wearing bike boots and not decided to be lazy and wear trainers or something.
On our return I whipped out the paper maps for some good old style route planning for the rest of Argentina and Chile. I love getting out the big paper maps, looking at my maps.me app and plotting the way, even if we change it as we go. We made a reasonable, loose plan for the trip ahead for the next week. That evening we were joined again by Bryan and Marcela. Marcela made us an amazing Asado (BBQ). It was funny because she used a few bits of wood and then a grill over the top once they'd been burning for a while. Kelvin and Bryan tried give some profession UK style bigger is better assistance; however, she wasn't having any of it. They soon learned that no-one can beat an Argentinian at an Asado! Despite the measly looking fire that she had going, it was kicking off some amazing heat and the wood was burning white. Once there was a small blanket of burning white wood embers, the meat went on the grill and it was cooked to perfection!
The naughty puppy from next door made his way over to see if he could get in on some meat-eating action, but sadly for him his owners saw him and came over swiftly to collect him. It was such a lovely evening, washed down with some tasty Argentinian wine. Sadly all good things come to an end, and we would soon be saying goodbye. They both came to meet us at a local petrol station the next morning for a quick bit to eat and a fond farewell before we headed off on the road again.