Salta to Mendoza
Our next destination was the wine capital of Mendoza.
It looks quite near to Salta on the map but in reality is 1600kms and a 3 day ride.
We headed out on the infamous Ruta 40 that heads the whole length of Argentina and one of the longest roads in the world.
An early start took us on a spectacular ride through desert and scenery not unlike Utah with canyons and rock formations.
A fuel stop around midday and we ordered 12 empanadas at the fuel station cafe. And so our empanada fascination ramps up a notch! Not only delicious but cheap ($3USD for 12!) and enough for 2 meals.
We were starting to see a lot of horses and donkeys on the roads. For months we had been successfully swerving to avoid dogs on the roads but now the stakes had been raised!
Our destination of Belen was reached by mid afternoon and was where we decided we would camp for the first time in quite a while. It was the most beautiful location next to a river and the campsite had its own cafe/bar. However it was a haven for Mosquitos after some bad floods a few weeks before, I’m even sure the little buggers were drinking the 30% deet repellent as it did sweet FA… poor Bec was in turmoil and now resembled a pin cushion; they even started biting me which they normally don’t do!! We both retreated to the relative safety of the tent at dusk where we were serenaded at full bore by Julio Inglesis till the early hours of the morning thanks to the handy onsite cafe/bar!
We did though make it out alive in the morning, just, all be it a little fractious. Another amazing day of riding with great mountain roads with some peg scraping switch backs and very little traffic and mountains capped with snow on either side. It made for some very entertaining riding lines and views where it was difficult to concentrate on both!!
At one point we crossed paths with the South American Rally Race and when we had to refuel in Villa Union we had to queue behind 4 or 5 competing vehicles. At one roundabout we even got cheers from locals who wrongly assumed we were taking part!
Our destination was a town called Huaco where another campground had looked promising on the ioverlander app. We should have read the signs when passing through a town that had been ravaged by recent flood waters a couple of a days prior and was in full clean up mode because on arrival in Huaco we were getting bitten as soon as we removed our helmets.
The campsite was "soggy" and when I asked if there was mosquitos there the owner looked away when answering "no".
We had no plan B and it would be dark soon and there was no cell phone service so a quick consult of the map and with fingers crossed we did a quick 40 kms blast South and found a cheap room in the little agricultural town of San Jose de Jachal. Once we had booked in Bec took great delight in trying to annoy the local cop directing traffic by going up the wrong way on a one way street to the hotel car park; “get off and walk your bike up the street you bloody foreigner" at least I think that’s what he said.
Day 3 of our ride to Mendoza and we had two route options; stay on the Ruta 40 or take a detour along ruta 149 that we knew nothing about other than it looked a bit more twisty and went through the mountains. Its a no brainer then!
Wow just WOW! we again had the road to ourselves with twist and turns and mountains. We passed a derelict aluminium sulphate processing plant and rode in to have look. We also rode some 80 kms of decent deep gravel and even had a play and lunch on our very own mud flat at Callingasta. we had been riding along and saw a flat area to out right shimmering and assumed it was a river. Bec decided to investigate and turned left down a side road and we came to this massive flat expanse of sand/mud that we rode out onto. We spent an hour hooning up and down at speed and doing donuts and trying to do wheelies before sitting and eating our lunch there. Suitably refreshed with big grins on our faces we went back onto the road only to be stopped at a nearby police check point (bugger; had they seen us hooning and were about to give us a talking to?).
We had heard about police in Argentina being very corrupt and so when they spoke to Bec and she thought they were asking if she had any cigarettes. She said no, and was relieved they hadn't asked for money and feeling quite generous so hopped off her bike and handed the policeman a big handful of toffees from the back pocket of the panniers instead.
He looked shocked and confused!
It was one of those lost in translation things because he was actually asking if we had been smoking drugs (after seeing us hooning on the flats) ...and Bec just went and handed him a load of "munchy toffees!"
Onwards to Mendoza, almost there!