Facts and Figures
Nov 3rd - Nov 21st 2010
Copiapo (Residencial Chanarcilla) - Fiambala (Argentina(Camping Don Chochita))
Earlier, when we were talking to the guys that offered to transport us to the tarmac, they had said there were no Aduana or Police at the border and that it was a free crossing. At the limit, as they said, there was nobody at the Aduana post and we were a bit worried about entering back into Argentina without any stamps in the passports. No choice but to carry on, we will just have to go to the nearest Police Station when we get to a town and sort it out.
Back on the tarmac the bike was staying out of the ďhot zoneĒ, but getting close to it even tho the ambient temperature was quite cold, 5 Deg C. We rode downhill through some nice twisties for 20KMís or so and dropped a 1000Mtrs, then at the salt lake ďVega San FranciscoĒ we saw a shed in the distance with a barrier across the road, Police, at least we don't have the problem of getting the passports stamped now. Our next problem is that it is now 18:00 and the nearest civilisation is 180KMís away at Fiambala, there are Refugioís which are sheds that have wooden beds, a wood burning stove and radio to contact the authorities for any problems on the way down. Itís cold and the wind is a bit gusty and we don't seem to be dropping in altitude, we are still at over 3,000 Mtrs. Riding through the nothingness just open plains with nothing in sight between us and the mountains in the distance apart from a few Llamaís and Flamingoís, our next concern was fuel, 180KMís =† 118 Miles, computer says I have 67 Miles of fuel left might have to use one of those Refugioís! The bike must use more fuel at altitude, when we eventually started to drop down the fuel distance on the computer went up! It got warmer too, I think it was at a place called Chaschuil and the Quebrada del Quemado, about 50KMís from Fiambala, the temp got up to a nice 25 Deg C which made it a nice ride through the red mountains with the sun going down.
We didn't quite make it to Fiambala before dark, we could see the town lights ahead in the distance but they didn't seem to be getting closer! We got to town at last, 21:00, with one more hiccup to round the day off, as we entered town there was a dip in the road, a big one, and it was full of sand that I didn't see Ö.. major wobble but kept it upright and carried on into the center to find out about camp sites. Found a nice site no problem, bike computer says we now have over 100 Miles of fuel.
A hard but enjoyable ride, 485 KMís with no fuel stations or coffee stops, I need a drink!!!!
No record of the route today, the IGotU wasn't working for some reason.
Fiambala (Camping Don Chochita)
I didnít get out of my pit till 10:00, just a rest day today. Took a walk into town at 16:00, it was shut for siesta until 18:00 Ö maybe! Found a cafť run by a French girl from Paris and had some Empanadaís and a beer while we waited for the shops. 18:00 came and no sign of anything opening so went for petrol and found a small shop open.
Start Mileage - 28660
Miles - 127
Fiambala (Camping Don Chochito) - Belen (Camping Cotelbe)
Checking around the bike this morning the rear tyre is getting a bit to worn for comfort with splits starting to show in the carcass, Iíll bight the bullet and get it changed at the next stop, Belen. It hasnt done too bad tho, over 10,000 miles since Cape Town! The brake pads are looking a bit worn too, Iíll look at them when the wheel is off.
A hot and uneventful run to Belen. We found the main plaza, the tourist info was closed until 18:00, no cafťís open either. We did find an ice cream shop open and got a couple of cold drinks and directions to a campsite. Watered we head for the site, a bit out of town, definitely not walking distance. A decent enough site with everything required except water in the pool! A couple of kioskoís around the site for supplies. The woman that showed us in gave us the price for camping AR$10pppn and one off of AR$15 for the tent but when the husband showed up to get us to sign the register, the one off for the tent disappeared, itís now a daily payment, Gringo Prices?? He also pointed out we were the first Brits to stop there since 2006 when a guy from Manchester on a Suzuki had stopped by. We decided to stay two nights anyway to get the tyre changed as there might not be a Gomeria open on Sunday at the next stop.
Belen (Camping Cotelbe)
Into town to get the tyre changed, the Gomeria took us in straight away. Problem Ö they don't have any Torx bits to get the wheel off, I had thought they probably wouldn't have any and brought mine.† Problem Ö whether the wheel bolts had been over tightened in Cape Town or they had seized up with dust and crap, we couldn't shift them, even the air gun was useless. Brute force did nothing but break the Torx bit, luckily I had another. In the end a big hammer, lots of WD40 and a long extension bar managed to shift them. All for the price of AR$0 .. They wouldn't take any money Ďcos they broke the bit. Problem .. While the wheel was off I had a look at the brake pads, I knew they were thin but they were worse than I thought, nearly down to the metal. Back at the site I dug out the old ones from the last change at the service in Durban, they are thin but should have enough to get us to Tucuman where the next service will be.
Start Mileage - 28793
Miles - 164
Belen (Camping Cotelbe) - Cafayate (Camping Luz Y Fuerza)
Hot day today. Up early but just couldn't get the enthusiasm to start packing, got there in the end tho.
A little bit of tarmac leading out of town then back onto the ripio for 5KMís until the next town, then ripio again.
The Ruta 40 hasnít finished with us yet! There is about 20KMís of bad stuff, very fine deep sand, rutted and with big potholes filled with sand. The next 20KMís isn't too bad and we can get a bit of speed up to try and keep a breeze blowing to cool us down, 39 Deg. C. We had a few water crossings to negotiate along the way, a couple of rocky ones that weren't very deep and easy to get through, the deeper ones had been concreted, very easy. The deepest was just over axle deep, Lorraine missed the pic of me splashing through! Back on to tarmac at last and we are running along nicely enjoying the view and the ride when Lorraine starts screaming through the mic. A bee had flown into her undone jacket, went down her sleeve and stung her on the arm. We pulled over and she got her jacket off to pull the sting out of her arm and get the bee out of her sleeve.
Back on the road again we reached Santa Maria where the map and the Garmin say we need to keep on the R40 to get to Cafayate, we get to a big dry river which the Garmin says we need to cross to get to the 40. No way, we wouldn't even get half way so we turn around and go back into town. Asking for directions to the 40 we are told that the river crossing was the right way but it isn't used any more because it is so bad and the 40 the other side is the same. We get directions to the RP307 and 357 which is the way that is used now, a bit of a diversion but if thatís the way the locals go then who am I to argue, when we rejoin the 40 it is blocked off going the way we should have come so a wise choice!!
Arrived at Cafayate around 18:00, had no trouble finding a campsite. As soon as we hit town the municipal camping is on the left Ö closed! Then another two sites on the left, first one was also closed but the next was open so we pulled in. tent up and into town for supplies and a beer. Found the beer but decided not to cook up tonight but eat out.
Cafayate (Camping Luz Y Fuerza)
08/11 - Lazy day. Woke up this morning with a flat Thermorest, job for today find and fix the puncture. Puncture fixed we wandered into town to get supplies, had a coffee and a beer then back to the site. Fired up an asado and had a really nice steak and blood sausage.
09/11 - Lorraine complaining she had no sleep last night as her arm was giving her gip, swollen and painful after the sting the other day so we stay another night so she can have a siesta. Eat out again tonight.
Start Mileage - 28957
Miles - 100
Cafayate (Camping Luz Y Fuerza) - Cachi (ACA Municipal Camping)
On the road at 11:00, tarmac to San Carlos then 135KMís of really good ripio. Nice ride through the Quebrada de las Flechas (Arrow head mountains) and the Calchaqui Valley.
Arrived at Cachi around 16:00 and one of the best campsites yet, individual pitches, very clean and cheap. Cachi isn't a very big place but has all the necessities, and a good Carniceria (butcher).
As we were hunting around for wood for the asado a couple in the pitch opposite to us called us over to get the rest of their wood. They are from Belgium and had been camped near us in Cafayate, we thought we recognised the car and tent. They pulled into Cafayate late and left early so we didnít get a chance to speak then. We left them to their dinner and started on ours.
Cachi (ACA Municipal Camping)
11/11 - Up with the sparrows this morning. The Belgium couple had no cooking gear with them so we offered them a coffee to start the day for which they were grateful. They had only bought plates and cutlery yesterday to try an asado after realising they could feed themselves for half the price of one restaurant meal!!
We had planned on taking a ride through the Parque Nacional los Cardones (cactus park), but there was a bit of a cold breeze up so we decided to leave it for tomorrow and just write up the website then go into the town. A very quiet town, there isnít a great deal here, a nice quiet plaza and a church where all the pews etc. are made from porous cactus wood.††
12/11 - Lots of activity around the site with many people keeping the place tidy, why do they start so early and right outside our tent!!!!!?
Better day today weatherwise so we are going out for a ride through the park. Panniers off and after a coffee or two we get moving. A bit of tarmac from Cachi through some small villages and the outskirts of the park. Cactus growing for miles. We are the only vehicle on the roadand out of nowhere an Armadillo scoots out in front of us, nowhere else to go but right over the top of it, I donít think it felt anything!! We then turn off onto the ripio from the Salta road and we noticed two things within the first couple of hundred meters Ö..
1 - WOW Ö the view is amazing, totally different from what you can see from the road, multi coloured mountains and cactus as far as you can see. It could give the Paso Agua Negra form Chile into Argentina a run for itís money.
†2 - I donít think there has been a grader along here for quite a while, the road is very corrugated and we are getting rattled to bits, but well worth it. Lorraine† took some video on the way round which shows how bad it is!
55 miles in all for the trip today.
Start Mileage - 29,112
Miles - 159
Cachi (ACA Municipal Camping) - Salta (Residencial Napoli)
Left around 11:15 this morning heading for Salta where we plan to spend a bit of time catching up with the website, a visit to the 64Mtr high 224Mtr long Polvorilla† railway viaduct at 4220Mtrs ASL, and also to check out a trip to Iguazu Falls.
We got held up just after we set off with a local traffic jam, a shepherd taking out his flock for the day, kind of him eh!? Cachi is at 2,280Mtrs ASL and we quickly rose to over 3000Mtrs as we climbed up through the mountains then some nice twisty, albeit ripio, roads on the way back down the other side spotting some Llamaís as we rode down.
We arrived in Salta about 16:00 and found a coffee shop before hunting down accommodation. We rose quite a lot of interest with the locals, a lot of people stopping to stare at or take photoís of the bike and we had queues of people waiting to talk to us, makes us feel quite the celebrity!! One couple on holiday from Cordoba even stuffed money into my pocket to help us out and insisted we keep itÖ very kind of them. One guy drove past in his car, saw the bike and went round the block to park behind us to take photoís on his phone. After he had pictured every nut and bolt he drove off waiving and tooting. 10 minutes later he returned with his wife and a proper camera and did the same all over again. We got some good information about Iguazu off a New Zealand couple that stopped for a chat and also a German guy, himself travelling but keen to hear our story. After all the questions the time is cracking on a bit and we still haven't got accom. Lorraine went into the nearby tourist office and we got directions for two campsites, the Municipal 9KMís out of town or a private one in the next town, about 20KMís out. We checked out the Municipal first, when we eventually found it, no signposts and none of the locals we asked knew,† it was very disappointing after Cachi, it looked like a building site and not a very good one at that. Off to find the next site in the next town. We pulled into a couple of places that had signs saying camping but none of them did when we asked. We never found the one that tourist office had given us. The Garmin has a campsite at 27KMís North on the way to San Salvador de Jujuy so we set off for that one. After about 10-15KMís, instead of getting closer, Garmin is now saying we 40+ KMís to go, Iím getting a little bit annoyed right now! We decide to cut our losses and head back to Salta and one night in the crappy Municipaal site. When we get back we realise why it looks like a building site Ö it is!! A guy came over to us after we pulled in said that it was closed for redevelopment but gave us directions to another site just up the road. We found the next site easily enough and it didnít look too bad, had everything and not too far from supplies, but AR$58 per night says we arenít going to stop. Back into Salta and after riding around for hours trying umpteen hostals that were either full or no had parking we went back to the tourist info who then rang around and found us a room. Next problem .. Navigating the one way streets, just our luck, the hotel was at the top end of the street but every street that we tried that lead onto it was going the wrong way. At last we got there, past 21:00 and knackered.† Parking was down the road so we offloaded outside the hotel and then parked the bike up.
Coffee and bed.
Salta (Residencial Napoli)
14/11 - Still hacked off with Salta and not finding cheap accommodation itís up pack and leave for Tucuman, sod the Train in the Clouds and trying to organize a trip to Iguazu, weíll do it down the road. Funny how things change!! I had stomped off down the road to get the bike but when I pressed the start button Ö. Nada, it wouldn't turn over. I wiggled a few wires and sprayed a heap of WD40 over everything but still nothing. The guy that owned the place came out and wiggled some wires then we tried a bump start, again nothing. An hour and a† half later I give up, Lorraine comes wandering down thinking Iíve been knocked off the bike itís taken that long. There is an ACA garage 3 blocks down the road so we take a bimble down to see if we can get a mechanico to help, no joy, it is Sunday and they will only do a call out if you are a member and I don't think we can push our luck with the expired AA cards we use for discount at their campsites!! No choice but to stay another night and find a mechanic on Monday morning. I wondered if the bikes computer was lying about the amount of fuel in the tank as the ambient temp was quite high (fuel vapour expansion) and maybe there was not enough fuel to allow the bike to start. Jerry cans off and get some fuel, it is not that either. Battery maybe? No charger so I will take it off tomorrow and get it tested at the mechanics that one of the kids at the hotel told us about.
Back at the hotel I put a post up on the HUBB and ADV rider to see if I could get any help there, also skyped BMW emergency in UK who were no help at all, theyíve had their money and thatís it, worldwide service? Huh!
In the afternoon we wandered into town to try and find some info on the train and Iguazu. Not having much luck, no-one can tell us what time the train reaches the Polvarilla Viaduct and the only way to Iguazu is a normal long distance bus, no tours from Salta, maybe from Tucuman. Stocked up on tobacco and found good maps of Bolivia and Peru.
Back at the hotel and check the web, lots of helpful replies from the HUBB and ADV though too late to start playing now, Iíll wait and see what the mechanic says tomorrow.
15/11 - Up early and take the battery off† the bike after trying to start it again with no luck. The lad in the hotel had told us about a mechanic who races bikes, Di Bez, supposedly the best. He had marked where the shop was on our town map, looked easy to find tho a bit of a trek too get there. Arriving at the street that he had marked we couldn't see the shop anywhere and asking at the shops nearby didnít help either. There was a bike shop near where we were supposed to be but not called Di Bez. We found it with the help of a taxi driver in the end but it was the wrong place, it was the father of the guy who races shop and he was only a small shop that sold hardware. He gave us the right directions but said his son had been racing in Cordoba over the weekend and wouldn't be open until 12:00, so we went for lunch and then waited. 12:00 came and went and no sign of movement, Lorraine went back to the old guys shop and was told that the garage will open at 16:00 now not 12:00., he just lost some business. We went to the other mechanic ďOn Track MotoísĒ that we had seen and they tested the battery which proved to be good. They were just closing up for siesta took the details of where we are staying and said that he would be there at 17:00. As promised he turned up and we went to the bike, he thinks it might be the solenoid or the starter motor and eventually decides on the starter motor. He needs to get the bike to his shop to strip it down and find out for sure but it wonít start and weíre not pushing it there! No problem, his mate brought him up on the back of a moped so they can manage it by the moped rider pushing my bike with his foot .. Heíll have a sore leg by the time they get there. They will give us a ring at 20:00 to let us know what the score is.
21:00 and no phone call, just about to give up on them for tonight when he turns up on the bike with a big grin. All sorted, the starter motor had got clogged up with dust and dirt so it was stripped down, cleaned and back together again in a couple of hours for AR$400. Checking the mileage later on explained the grin on the mechanics face, a 33 mile test ride!! Iím just glad itís fixed, and again without the usual ďcanít fit you in for 3 weeks and itíll cost you a fortune mateĒ that you get back home.
We considered staying another night here and doing a day trip to the Viaduct but it is nearly a 100 miles and the road is supposedly quite bad. Not knowing what time the train passes we decide to give it a miss and just ride on down to Tucuman, the rear brake pads are getting really thin now so Iíd rather not be doing any bad ripio without a decent rear brake.
Start Mileage - 29304
Miles - 189
Salta (Residencial† Napoli) - Tucuman (Municipal Camping)
We have to wait to get laundry back at 10:00 before we can start to pack up today so had a lie in. On the road at around 13:00 for a bit of a boring ride to Tucuman, not much in the way of scenery, just a main trunk route with loads of trucks and buses. We stopped for fuel on the way and their were two 4x4ís with trailers loaded with GSís and KTMís parked at the fuel station. We got chatting to them and found out they were on their way back to Buenos Aires after taking a tour group to Machu Pichu. One of the guys, Andres Memi has raced in the last two Dakars with Simon Pavey, and was impressed that we have ridden so much bad ripio loaded as we are. He also has contacts throughout South America so if we are ever stuck we are to get in touch with him first to see if he can help.
We rode into Tucuman and found the Municipal campsite without any bother, nice surroundings in the middle of a park and the cost was just a donation. Going on the previous Muni sites we have stayed at we thought AR$20 was a fair price and the guy nearly took Lorraines hand off when she handed the cash over, should have been a clue! Always check out the place before you agree to stay. Once we were in it looked completely different, lots of rubbish lying around and a lot of street sellers that looked like they were permanently based there, whole families with dogs, Pikey site!!. It didnít feel as if we could safely leave anything unattended, even more so when a few of the street sellers started to come over begging for money. We will find somewhere else tomorrow, too late to move on now. There is a Belgian couple here as well and they have the same feeling and moving tomorrow as well.
†Lorraine walked into town for food and I stayed on guard.
Start Mileage - 29493
Miles - 32
Tucuman (Municipal Camping) - El Cadillal (SuterH)
Weíre off to the tourist info to find another campsite, the Belgians are off to a hostel, we will leave the Pikies to the cold water showers and non flushing toilets.
We got a list of campsites from the tourist office, all about 20KMís out but thatís no big deal, also got directions and a map to BMW for the service. Headed out to BMW first just to get the location. They were closed as expected for siesta but we now know where to go.
Lots of campsites around El Cadillal, one we looked at was very nice, right on a river but as we are staying for a couple of days need hot water. The next had everything but the owner told us he was expecting over a hundred kids so we wouldn't get any peace. They were all quite good but we plumped for one with a huge swimming pool for Lorraine, hot water 24hrs, very clean and quiet, we even got a discount!
Tent up then back into BMW to book the service. A couple of the staff there spoke English so we had no trouble booking the bike in. We told them that we were looking at taking a bus to Iguazu for a couple of days but hadn't booked anything yet , ďno problem, just call us when you have your datesĒ. We can leave the bike and all the gear there as well which is a bonus. I bought the badly needed brake pads while we were there ready to fit them tomorrow.
Back at the site and looking forward to a nice hot shower but there is a queue, we are the only ones on site but the local police all come down for an end of shift dhobi, Iím not going to rush them, they have guns!!
Shower, nice asado and bed.
El Cadillal (Camping SuterH)
18/11 - The peace is shattered, I think the guy from the second campsite we visited yesterday sent the kids from there to here. 3 minibuses full of young kids but doesn't look like they are staying thankfully. Lots of noise with them all running about and playing in the swimming pool. An hour or so later another load turned up, this time teenagers with camping gear, and they were putting the tents up next to us!!
We left the kids and went into town to check tours to Iguazu. No tours so itís just a bus, we have to check and see if we can get accommodation before we buy tickets. Found a cheapish hostal online and booked in then back to the bus station for tickets. Leave Saturday 11:30 arrive Puerto Iguazu Sunday 08:30 return Tuesday 21:00 arrive Tucuman Wednesday 18:30, should give BMW enough time to do the service.
Back to the site, hope the kids have gone, they haven't! still lots of noise and running around. We ate around 21:30 and, typically Argentinean, the kids asado didnít get fired up until gone 22:00, going to be a late night. We turned in at midnight and the kids were still eating and playing football, don't know where they get the energy!
19/11 - The football and running around went on for while before we managed to doze off. Whether the kids had turned in or not we don't know but around 03:00 they were at it again, it had started raining and the kids were up again running around and making noise. We made some audible comments from inside the tent and they seemed to move out of earshot for a while before coming back and carrying on. Dozing off and being woken up again doesn't make me happy, at 05:30 they right outside the tent screaming and kicking a football, annoyingly there was a teacher with them, enough .. I leapt out of the tent and hollered ďSILENCIO F.F.SĒ .. Seemed to do the trick, the kids stopped in their tracks and it was deadly silent for a minute, then the teacher quietly ushered them away, ďyou should know better, take controlĒ wish I could have said it in Spanish but I think he understood. Stayed in the tent till it was to hot, then went for a shower when the kids had gone out Ö peace, unfortunately the tents are still here so they will be back.
We went for a little ride around the lake to get away from the kids but it was only a short ride. There is only a few kioskoís in El Cadillal and not wanting to be back to early we went into town to WalMart to get dinner. When we got back a lot of the kids had gone, the younger ones though not the teenagers, if they start up again stand by!!! A couple of the kids came over to talk to us and apologised for the noise and promised to be quiet tonight, they said they were cold and couldn't sleep last night thatís why they were running around. I told them we had to be up at 06:00 to take the bike in and to get the bus and if they weren't quiet there would be trouble. After that they were very friendly with more of them coming over to talk and ask questions through Brian, who was their translator.
Three other bikes had turned up on site during the day, a 110cc moped, 150cc scooter and a 250cc moto with a trailer, they have been travelling around Northern Argentina and have over 700KMís to do tomorrow to get back home Ö ouch!! Sore ass.
Ate late tonight and were the last to turn in, kids in bed at 22:00 and being quiet!
Tucuman (Camping SuterH) - Puerto Iguazu (Hostal Guembe)
20/11 - The alarm went off on my phone at 06:00 and after punching Lorraine in the head trying to turn it off we got up! The kids got up with us and were still firing questions all the time we were packing up. On the way to Berlin Motoís at 08:30 and arrived just after 09:00, split all our gear, changed into holiday gear and stowed everything in the store room. A taxi was called for us and we left the bike in their capable hands.
Empanadas and coffee while we are waiting for the bus which arrived at 11:15, offloaded† the incoming cargo and their bags., then loaded our bags on and promptly pulled off the stand with no passengers on board. The driver signalled to say he was just turning round, two hours later it pulled back onto the stand and loaded the punters.
A looong 22 hours on the bus with not many† stops, no hot food like on the bus that we got to Buenos Aires and no coffee or hot water.††
21/11 - 3 hours late we pulled into Puerto Iguazu, checked into the hostal just up the road and then back into town to find out about buses to the falls. As we were walking around town the skies opened and it chucked it down, nothing for it but to go for a beer.
Once the rain had calmed down enough we headed to he tourist office and got a good deal on a trip to the Brazil side of the falls, a visit into Paraguay to see the Itaipu Hydroelectric Dam, (holds the world record for Hydroelectricity production) and with lunch included. The tourist office also recommended we visit Tres Fronteras where you can see Paraguay and Brazil from Argentina which we did in the afternoon in between the showers. A long day but good, cook up in the hostal and a few beers.