Week 105 & 106 - Return to Argentina
It was time to leave Chile and head back over to Argentina, and this time we decided to take a route over we'd not been on before. We'd crossed between these two fantastic countries several times, and generally the border process is quite quick and easy. It's much more common here to be crossing back and forth due to the geography of the countries, well Chile in particular.
We decided to take the Ruta 60 to Paso Internacional Los Libertadores which was a nice, easy tarmac road, and once there, on the Chilean side we took the old road up to Paso de Uspallata on the E-773. The views were absolutely spectacular and the road up to the 'Cristo' monument (GPS: -32.82528, -70.07075) was made up of switchback after switchback, on a gravelly dirt road. Unfortunately, my time off the bike for a few weeks in Santiago had definitely made me a bit on the rusty side, and I was feeling a little tense on the deeper gravel. I ended up managing to drop my bike going too slow on one tight corner with a lot of rocks, just because my head got in the way, which was really annoying. Doh! Picking loaded bikes up on a hill at altitude is always harder work!
The customs was very easy for a big border, taking us 20 minutes maximum, and we bypassed the tunnel by going up to the Christ monument, which meant we didn't get a slip of paper we needed for the border apparently. However, this is common for us lot who have the time and are making the most of the journey and views by taking the back roads, so the border officials were more than happy to help us and provide us with the slip of paper we needed.
After the border, the first small town to speak of was Uspallata, where me managed to find a lovely little campsite on the right side, before we crossed the bridge in to the town. It was called Cabañas Tranquil Lunacy (GPS -32.59124, -69.35298), and it was just what we wanted. Friendly, quiet and some good sized tables to sit and cook at. We camped there for two nights and the weather was lovely and warm. We were enjoying being back in the countryside and surrounded by nature and wildlife, before heading in to the busyness again.
On leaving Uspallata, we headed out on the stunning RP52 to Mendoza rather than the RN7, which is the main road. This was a beautiful route made of dirt roads, stunning views and also lots of people dotted around the place as it was Easter week (Semana Santa). Again we encountered multiple switch backs, narrow roads with drop offs, but no bike dropping this time...yey! It was definitely one of those routes that required a working horn, but highly recommended.
On reaching Mendoza we decided to stay at Sosahaus again as we knew the place already (see the previous Mendoza blog), however the price had gone up significantly, which I hadn't realised and was a big bummer, but it was good to see Sergio and his dog Wilson again, plus it gave us a good opportunity to change our Chilean pesos for a good price. The street to change money was apparently General Espejo, and once there it's obvious who's offering their 'cambio' services. Just look for the best rate and then just ask. It was also a chance to go back to Gelato Italiano, which served the most amazing tasting Ice cream and gelato, and much appreciated in the hot weather. It's just as well we weren't staying too long in Mendoza as I'd have happily been back to the Gelato place every day!
Next we headed West to Potrero de los Fumes near San Luis, and stayed at Hosteria Los Naranjos near Potrero de los Fumes International Circuit. It was so lovely staying three as it was very clean and tranquil, although it rained quite a bit. Fortunately, not too far from our hostel was a few eateries that were open, and we went to one on the main 'Circuit' route, managing to not get too soaked in the process. The people were so super friendly, and it was so quiet because not only was it the off-season, but it was too early for Argentinian's to eat (their eating times are akin to the Spanish I find).
The next day we left and did a lap of the International Circuit before heading off to Villa Maria. I had booked a basic room at Hotel La Republica in the heart of the town, and there was a great deal on Booking.com, and amazingly we were upgraded. It was absolutely AWESOME! We were treated to a fabulous stay in a 'suite' for two whole days. I soooo wish I'd booked longer, ha ha! We even had a bath with hot water, a rare treat when on the road on a tight budget!
The breakfast included in our stay was really lovely and plentiful, which meant we didn't need a big lunch. We went to 'Bar Argentino' for some food later on, which wasn't too bad and very reasonable, plus I also took the opportunity to get a hair trim at Charme Peluquerias (hairdressers)...my annual haircut!
Finally it was then off to Funes near Rosario to see Lisandro and Julieta, with their dogs Felipe, Pocha and Milko. We originally met them a while before when we stayed in Trevelin at a campsite, and we'd gone over to chat to them. It was so nice to see them again and they were so welcoming!
It was definitely a rainy time that we'd chosen to cross Argentina and it chucked it down on the way to their house. There were some very slippery places on the roads, but luckily we both managed to keep rubber side down for the duration. Lisandro took Kelvin and I in to Rosario, walking along the promenade of the beaches. We then stopped at Caracolas Beach Bar on the beach called Rambla Catalunya, a lovely little place with some nice food and good coffee.
Spending time with Lisandro and Julieta was very chilled out with plenty of scrumptious food and wine, and the dogs seemed to like our bed quite a lot, lol! Unfortunately on one of the trips out, the dogs managed to get hold of my riding trousers and add some additional venterlation! I made the best of it, creating a few patches with each of the dogs' names, which was definitely quite comical. We stayed with them a total of three nights and really enjoyed ourselves. It was sad to say goodbye because we weren't sure if we'd get the opportunity to visit again before we left South America to go home, but were very thankful for the great memories.
It was now time to start heading Northwards towards Paraguay via Lago Iberá, which I was really looking forward to. We kept our fingers crossed for some dryer days as we knew what the roads would be like if the rain continued!