Well, good thing those motorcycle boots are adjustable, because my leg was still swollen. We left Tupiza after the extra day and after just an hour or so we reached the border to Argentina, thinking this should be an easy crossing, but… no such thing!!! First of all there were crowds of people coming both ways, perhaps because it was the day before Christmas? We had to get in line for the exit stamp from Bolivia into our passports. By that time the sun was already burning quite a bit and there was barely any shade. After an hour we were ready to move to the next line for the entering stamp into Argentina.
Finally the “Senora” at the immigration window took one look at our passports and with a (I thought) devious smile gave it back and wrote down a website on a piece of paper. She said we had to go back to Bolivia, find a computer and pay an entrance fee on this website, then come back with the receipt.
By then I was so impatient, that I could have pulled her through this window and gave her a piece of my mind. She was not the least bit of helpful, but most likely because of my attitude!! I guess I wasn’t following my own rule to be patient and keep smiling at border crossings!!
So I stayed with the bikes and Heinz went back to Bolivia, which was just across the bridge to find an internet Café and get this paperwork done. He came back after about another hour and we quickly got our entrance stamp. Then off to the next window to get our bikes into the country. There was one customs officer who took us into his office and quickly printed out the document for the bikes, gave us the sheets and asked us to sign them and left. Well, he didn’t spell our name correctly, so we had to wait for him to come back to re-print the sheets!
After the re-printing was finally done, he waved us through without even checking our panniers or bags, whereas all other people’s belongings were painstakingly checked right in front of us.
We still had to find a bank to get some Arg. Pesos and fill up the bikes. La Quiaca, this Argentinian border town was pretty sketchy and dusty. The gas station wouldn’t accept credit card and were out of Super Gas anyway. We had to fill up with the Premium for an outrageous price, with a good chunk of our Pesos already gone!
Not a good day and…so far Argentina wasn’t very welcoming!!! The landscape remained desert like dry with the occasional Cactus, reminded me of Mexico, but still poor little villages with mud houses. Finally we came to a historic picturesque village called Humahuaca, where we decided to stay and spent Christmas at Hotel Alto Independencia.
We found a decent Hotel, but on the way there, when we were riding down the wrong way into a one way street (usually there are no signs you can only tell by the way people park!) a car coming out of a side street hit Heinz’ front wheel and he dropped his bike. The car had a bit of a scratch (the bike was fine!), but the owner didn’t seem to mind, didn’t make a fuss only pointed out that we were going the wrong way. Oh well, everybody does it here!!
The one thing that reversed my opinion about Argentina was the restaurant we found on that night. The couple was very welcoming, put on some lovely (Argentinian) music and we had a great meal. Finally no more chicken and rice, at least some other options. I did realize though that the Argentinian Spanish sounded so odd that I could barely understand a word and I thought that my understanding of the Spanish was improving more and more!! (Cebolla/onion was all of a sudden cebosha???)
We still don’t know whether the Llama stew Heinz had on that night was the cause of his Diarrhea which is still following him to this day!!
We had to stay for 4 nights, for various reasons, to name a few: Heinz’ constant Diarrhea, my leg still heavily bruised and swollen, all facilities closed…At times we were the only guests in the Hotel, the Hydro was unreliable and on Christmas Day, “Enzo” the kitchen guy, who was supposed to make us breakfast, was asleep on the couch (probably after a good night of drinking!). He would not wake up after I tried numerous times, so we helped ourselves! He joined us when we were done in the kitchen with a smile on his face!!
We even made it to church on Christmas Day and by then I was starting to understand a bit more.
Finally on the 27th we left this sleepy town both back in decent shape (with Heinz now weighing a few pounds less!!) We had an awesome ride at first still through desert like areas but the landscape slowly changed into more luscious green, with pastures, tobacco fields lots of salad fields. There was actually a real 4 lane expressway and the towns were starting to look more European (or North American!)
It looked and felt like Spring/summer the trees were in bloom, beautiful flowers everywhere and there were a gazillion of butterflies flying around. I was starting to really like Argentina now!!
The population was changing as well. The indigenous people were not visibly present any more, people looked like you and me, so we didn’t stick out as tourists like we used to for a long time!!!
We arrived in Cafayate on that night a pleasant town and Argentina’s second center for quality wine production. It still has a small town feel but …. what a change! Decent restaurants, nice buildings everywhere a bit artsy feeling and … of course great wine and…delicious ice cream, too!!
Lots of European cars, specifically French ones! I can’t believe how many Renaults, Peugeots and Citroens, which I remember from the 70’s are still on the road here! Even some “R4’s” and Citroen 2CV’s (we called them “Enten” in Germany!!)
We only stayed one night though at Hostal Don Emilio and moved on the next day towards Mendoza. From Cafayate on we stayed on the famous Ruta 40, which kept changing from gravel road to paved road through little villages and “campesinos” passing by on horses at first but then becoming almost boringly straight switching to desert again, so a bit of everything. We spent one night in Chilecito, a town approx.. half way to Mendoza. Another sleepy town at the foot of the mountains, which almost looked like life in the seventies starting from cars over clothing which people wore to window displays in the shops. Really peculiar!
The weather remained hot and dry with dark clouds only hanging over the mountains. For us it also means looking for accommodation with air conditioning again. Yesterday after a long day of riding we arrived in Mendoza and found a really nice Hostal Alamo near the Main Plaza.
What a nice town so far! It is a desert town after all but you wouldn’t even know! Wide avenues, trees everywhere, lots of beautiful parks, street side cafes…I love it! Oh and not to forget the famous wine! We saw vineyards before we reached the city yesterday but to me they are right in the desert and must be heavily irrigated!! Beats me, where the water is coming from!
We had our first delicious steak last night and with a good glass of Malbec…yup Argentina is climbing up quickly on my favourite list!!!
Today I would like to explore the city more but Heinz is still struggling with his “Diarrhea” companion, so maybe I have to go alone! Tomorrow we will move on to Santiago, Chile to spend New Year’s with my cousin Maria.