Inca bath house (Puente Del Inca) in Argentina just before the Chilean border.
I think there were 13 or more switchbacks
Ruta 7 on our way from Ruta 40 to Chile
The famous ski resort of Portillo, where I'm trying to convince Julie to come sking with me.
After packing up the bike (which generally takes 45 minutes) Greg decided that the rear brake pads needed to be changed. We had already said goodbye to our Argentinean mama and she was quite worried when she realized we were still sitting on the sidewalk outside the hostel with tools and parts strewn all over the ground a half an hour later. Shortly afterward we were on our way along Ruta 7, an epic mountain valley road towards the Argentinean/Chile border which is often closed in the winter for weeks at a time due to snow avalanches and wind. The headwind was so strong that we could barely maintain 75km/hr in fourth gear and I thought we were going to be blown off the road. We followed a beautiful river valley and the scenery was amazing.
A few kilometers from the border we stopped at one of Agentina's greatest natural wonders. The Puente del Inca, which is a natural stone bridge spanning the Rio Mendoza. Underneath it the Incas built a spa that are stained yellow by the natural hot springs.
We were looking for the border and entered a 3.5km long tunnel through a mountain. Half way through the tunnel there was a "Happy travels" from Argentina and a "Welcome" to Chile sign. Emerging from the tunnel there were no immigration or customs buildings to be found. We re-entered the tunnel to Argentina only to be turned around by the guy working in the toll booth who told us we had to go back through the tunnel to Chile where we would find the immigration and customs 7km down the road.
We arrived at the border to long lines of cars heading to Chile. The border was set up completely different than any of the 12 other borders we have crossed and so we had no idea where to go or what to do. Eventually Greg cut the entire line of cars to the front and two Chilean customs guards came over and asked us what we were doing. We filled 6 pages of paperwork outside in the freezing cold at an elevation of 4000meters while everyone else got to sit in their warm cars. After finally getting through the immigration and customs of both countries, and paying the entry fee of 3300 pesos, we had our bike sniffed over by a drug dog. We were just lucky that they didn't make us unpack everything so they could search our bags like all the other vehicles ahead of us.
Only a few hundred meters down the road we were in sight of Portillo, a famous Chilean ski area where many national ski teams go to train in the off season. We stopped in to check out the lodge, have lunch and use the facilities. After getting back on the road, we decended more than 13 switchbacks which dropped us down a tremendous elevation in a short distance. We realized half way down the mountain that the avalanche tunnels we drove through acted also as a ski run that allowed you to ski right over the road to a chair lift at the bottom of the switchbacks. We have decided that we'd like to come back to Chile to go skiing in the Andes.
Ten minutes after leaving the Portillo lodge we had to stop and take off all our winter riding gear as we had decended into a warm, arid climate once again. We followed Ruta 68 to Vina del Mar and then northward along the coast in search of a nice, cheap hostal/hotel. The only hotel we found in a 50km radius had the hefty price tag of $190 US (for their cheapest room) so we were forced to drive back to the city of Vina del Mar in the dark to find a place to sleep. We stumbled upon the Mount Royal Hotel runned by Daniel. Daniel lived in Canada, Calgary, for 20 years after being rescued by the Trudeau government as he was a political prision in Chile for his fight for Chilean rights. He has since returned to Chile to continue his fight and we were lucky enough to stay in his hotel and enjoy his hospitality and good english.
The night we arrived in Vina del Mar, Greg stayed up all night researching on the internet possible causes for the clicking sound coming from the cam chain side of the engine. In the morning, after our $10 US Starbucks coffees, Greg tore the bike completely apart, reset all the valves, changed the spark plug, cleaned the air filter, replaced the current jet with a richer jet in the carburetor, topped up the battery water and slapped the entire thing back together and somehow alevated the ticking sound. After all this we discovered that we had a flat rear tire.
The next morning we used a can of instaflate to get us back on the road and down the 120km to Santiago where we could buy new tires and tubes. We went to all the motorcycle dealers in town and it still took us an hour to finally find a shop (Metzler dealer) that actually sold tires and tubes. Greg paid the mechanic $20 US to change one tire which took over three hours for the goofball to do. Greg monitored his progress and finally took over the job himself when he saw the goofball insert a greasy screwdriver between the brakepads inorder to insert the rear disk into place. The guy repeatedly tapped Greg on the shoulders and back, saying in english, "it's ok, it's ok" but Greg ignored him and finished the job correctly himself.
At 4:00 we had only enough time to just make to Santa Cruz, about 200km south in the center of Chile's famous wine producing region. Pulling into town we couldn't help but notice three distinctly abundent businesses which were casinos (gamblin), wine (drinkin), and funeral homes (dyin). We decided this was the perfect place for us to hang out for a couple of days.