February 8, 2013 by cleanwatt
A ways back now, when I was still heavily contemplating the possibility of this journey, I was working in Indiana and purchased a bottle of Malbec on a whim then was greeted by this sight upon inspecting the cork.
And the cork from that bottle of wine settled it. I drafted a letter to my employer and set things into motion that night. Naturally, I had to stop in on Mendoza after all that.
And your “two-buck chuck” can jog on as far as I’m concerned. A local Malbec that has aged in the bottle for a couple years can be had at the local market for under $5.
I’m getting ahead of myself though, I still had to cross the Andes to get to Mendoza from Santiago. Still running parallel agendas with Franky & Tony, we left Santiago the morning of the 30th and started the gradual climb towards the pass/border. The majority of the border between Chile and Argentina follows the apex of their shared Andes. As we approached the only road for the pass I got stopped by a police checkpoint and was told something along the lines of not being able to make the passage until 8pm that evening. I understood the warning, but scooted past that stop in hopes that he was full of it. The second barrier proved to be legitimate as I received word about the road works forcing the two countries to divvy the share of one way traffic. The road allowed us East from 8pm to 7am, before it switched.
The sun was on its way down as we finally were given the all clear and we shot to the front trying to make it up and over the pass before an alpine chill set in for the night.
The Argentinian Immigration and Aduana is near the summit of the pass and we pulled in to an empty building just ahead of sunset. I presume because of the frequency of folks crossing between the two countries, by entering yourself & bike into one, seemingly automatically exits you from the other. Quite simple really. Thanks to the United States position on charging an entrance fee for Argentinian tourists in the amount of $160, Argentina has recently imposed a “reciprocity fee” for visiting American tourists for the amount of, you guessed it, $160. The fee is good for 10 years, but you’re still only granted a 90 day visa per visit. I then exchanged some papers to import the bike, and around 10pm I was cruising down some Argentine Andes in the dark towards Mendoza.
There was a beautiful thunderstorm occurring over Mendoza as we exited the mountains, not wanting to brave a downpour and the late hour, we stopped in Upsallata for the night after meeting a local rider and sharing a four bed room & stories with him.
Mendoza had a nice laid back feeling. Things are marginally cheaper than Chile as well, since I able to exchange my last Dollars with a shady looking fella at a better rate than the bank. So far, all the notes seem genuine.
Tony and I signed up for a bike & wine tour and we happily put our legs to work for a change exploring the area. I don’t have a distinguished palate regarding wines, but savvy descriptions aside it was all very delicious.
The tour included visiting three different wineries, one with a brilliant lunch, and a local boutique chocolate/liqueur producer.
The following morning I said a temporary farewell to Franky and Tony, as I fancied some solo riding. I would begin to run the famous Ruta 40 from Mendoza to Rio Gallegos (roughly 1,800 miles still), effectively placing me at the doorstep of Tierra del Fuego. It may only be one road, but it’s one of the longest single roads in the world, spanning more than 3,100 miles the length of Argentina along the foothills of the Andes. The Southern sections span sparsely populated spaces, and is yet to be completely paved. The unpaved bits composed of ‘Ripio’, a term I’ve only heard regarding Ruta 40. Essentially it’s washboard, marble sized rocks, and intermittent patches of ultra fine sand. My mind is void of anything other than scanning and processing the road ahead as surface conditions change by the kilometer. While on the heavy washboard, high speed will float you over the worst of it, but beware of coming in too hot with loose rock and sand sections. I wish I had a steering dampener for these stretches. It’s sort of another motorcycling badge to ride it, at times it will be downright painful, but I’m hoping it will be worth it.
Ever since crossing into Chile I’m GMT-3, and every day I make up ground South it seems I gain nearly 10 min of daylight, so that the sun is not setting until closer to 9pm now. I find myself just riding as long as there is ample daylight.
I found a wild camp along the way and slept under a magnificent display of stars I’m completely unfamiliar with. Not that I’m intimate with formations in my native Northern Hemisphere, but it’s different not having the Big Dipper or Polaris. I guess I just have to make my own constellations.
I made it to San Martin de los Andes in three days from Mendoza, and have enjoyed walking around the nice little town. The architecture reminds me of passing through small Swiss or Austrian towns with Sam and Doris, sans snow.
The introduction of conifer trees back into my surroundings in harmony with the proliferation of Patagonian shrubbery that sometimes smells of rosemary/sage effectively create a smell I love and happily cruise with my windshield open breathing it all in. The smell, surroundings, and well appointed little towns remind me of weekends spent cruising the Northern Rocky Mountains. From cruising in the Rockies while imagining riding here, It’s powerful realizing I’m in my own dream.
From San Martin there is a well known route South towards Bariloche called the “Route of the seven Lakes”. I picked up some fresh bread, tin of sardines, few apples, and a bottle of wine and took off in search of another wild campsite for the night.
More and more reminiscent of Colorado I was whipping my head all around, stopping every five minutes for beautiful vistas. The weather has been fantastic to boot, albeit little hot for my liking. I eventually followed a dusty path off the road a bit, and saw the remains of old campfires and figured I’d throw the tent up there.
The river was refreshingly cool as I bolted out of the woods laughing buck naked and hopped in for a rinse. If there was anyone around at that point, I imagine I secured my solitude for the night after that.
Here’s a quick time-lapse of me setting up camp.
The large temperature swing that occurred over night resulted in a healthy amount of condensation and I woke up to a few drops of water hanging throughout the tent. Definitely not the best tent for when the nights get even colder, oh well. I hung around in the sun for a while drying things out before packing it away, then took off again to finish the route to Bariloche for the night.
Bariloche is nicely located upon another lake with tall tree-less peaked mountains as it’s backdrop. Fairly touristy, but rightly so since it’s one of the gateways to the wonders of Patagonia to the south.
I’m here for a night or two trying to sort out getting some cash back in my pocket. Had to cancel my debit card due to some fraudulent charges, and need to figure out how to pay for my bed in the hostel before I take off…
And to cap it all off, I’m officially in Patagonia. Splendid!
Trip Mileage: 17,438 (28,064 km)
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain