Monday, February 8, 2010

Water,Water, Everywhere and Not a Drop to Drink

Donkey`s hanging out on the road looking for a place to happen.
Argentinian, railway train bridge in the desert.

Hotel Vinas Riojanas, along Ruta 40 that we found just before dark in a beautiful desert valley.

View just around the corner from our hotel.

1100km down and only 4000 to go!
Feb 3
We left Cafayate and pretty much entered a flat land desert right away. The surroundings had mountains dotted here and there called the Sierra de Ouilmes. There we no houses, no farms and no cars. At one point we came across a herd of donkey's that walked up onto the highway while I was crouched down checking the oil and having a pee break.
There was no real sinage that Ruta 40 was a 90 degree turn of,f at the only "T" intersection on the highway. I would have driven right passed it had Julie not tapped me on the shoulder and pointed it out. The signs of a near by city was on the horizon...but not the signs you're thinking of. I'm talking about the garbage and burning plastic smoke from the open dumps that are situated on the outskirts of desert towns. The wind picks up and blows the bags all over for miles and they get caught on the cacti and scrub trees that grow along the ditches and perimeter of the dumping grounds.
Finally after a few more Km's we made it to the Town of Chilecito. There was not a hotel in sight. We found a Hostaling International but after the woman was rude and nonchalante about us staying there, and more concerned about feeding her dirty little kids and doing her nails in preparation for her night job, we decided to move into the next town.
The next town of Nonogasta had a bank where we withdrew much needed cash. There was a sign to a hotel 1km down the road but after two drive-bys we found nothing. It was 1 hr before dark and 130km of dirt road to cover to the next town. We decided to go for it and we drove into the desert mountains called the Sierra de Sanogasta. These mountains were beautiful with the setting sun illuminating the red and yellow striations in the rock on the opposite facing valley.
Just out of pure luck we saw a small sign to a hostal in the next 20 km. We encountered 3 other biker travelers on similar bikes to mine heading in the opposite direstion. I asked them about the hostal...they did'nt know what I was talking I did'nt bother trying to tell them about how hard it was to find anything in the towns that they were heading to in my broken spanish.
The Hostal appeared as we decended deep onto the valley once it widened out. We passed 15 horses and 10 men riding them with the others in tow. It was a tranquil scene just before checking into the family run hostal. The place was excellent and a super score. The man who owned it cooked a great juicy steak and tossed together a salad for us while we rehydrated with water and beer. The accomidations were really cheap and the food was great. Julie made friends with El Capatain...the hostal dog who was a really big sook for attention. In the morning ...more desert ahead.

Feb 4

Today was the day that Julie thought she was going to die. The heat in the desert was almost unbearable. I got so cranky that I just let loose and hit Julie.....Just kidding..... Actually Julie got so cranky that she just let loose and punched me in the back while we were motorcycling .....oh yeah that's funny isn't it?!
Apparently I deserved a punch in the kidneys because Julie could'nt decide if she wanted saran wrapped sandwiches or not. So "I MADE HER"...get on the bike and brought her to a shady, cool place with refreshing drinks and good food.
We were trying to take an over the mountains road to Uspallata, however, the road had a gate and the man looking after the gate informed us that the road was closed. Alas, the desert was our only option. We really had no clue what the guy was telling us ...only that "no Pasar" sounded like "nope"!
The 50km back to the nearest town where we could get back onto Ruta 40 was lined with giant sycamore trees with their mottled green, gray and white bark. A large river ran through this valley which supported agriculture. There were a lot of cyclists on the road with the adjacent fields growing grapes for winery's.
We were soon back into the wind and sand and the relentless solar radiation. I had to keep my visor down and my jacket zipped up to keep the hot air from drying out my eyes, nasal passages, and skin at cruising speed. At one point we stopped in a shaded area where there were a couple of large trees (An oasis). In the shade the heat wasn't so bad, but when the wind gusted it was hot. It was almost like wind chill in reverse......lets call it wind baking!
On the horizon I could see the highway ascending and I glanced down at the GPS to see that we were climbing at about 1 meter/second. The desert gave way to a gorge and then almost instantaneously we were in the mountains riding a perfect twisting and turning highway cut into the mountain following a river.
We finally arrived into town just before dark as per usual and checked into a hostal. Our host suggested that we head over to El Rancho ( An indoor wood grill) and enjoy some good Argentinian meat. We ordered a "Grill Especial" special for two people with a bottle of wine. When the meat finally came it was served in its own little BBQ heated with wood coals pulled from the mother stash in the fire place.
Julie and I began exploring the heap of flesh trying to figure out what, was what....because you never know what you order down here. Playing it safe Julie went for the 1/4 of what was left of a hacked up chicken and I went for the coiled thing that was stuffed with a creamy pate like paste that I could only guess was a gizzard. Chewy nonetheless! Moving on with the dinner I next tried what Julie was avoiding knowing that I'd probably not choose to eat blood sausages in Canada...but, here it was in the name of adventure. Julie especially loved the goat ribs and the tender meat that only kids have.
It was a really great dinner and we washed it all down with Argentina's finest 4 dollar wine produced right in the local region. It was so good infact that we went back the next night for a second helping.

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