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Fasten your seatbelts it's going to be a fun ride

Monday, March 9, 2015

Ruta 40 ***EPIC***

It all started with an idea. 
Dan's idea, or rather a friend of his.
Adventure we came for and adventure we found.

The gist of it. 
Take the lower elevation pass from Orsorno Volcano in Chile (no this one didn't blow when we went by it) and go into Southern Argentina and stay in San Carlos De Bariloche.

The original plan was to shoot up the Ruta 5 to Santiago and take that pass which includes a super long tunnels. I'm fond of those after Switzerland. But I digress....

OK then...our last stay in Chile was at the thermal bath cabin/baths spot in a national park.
Expensive but cute. 


The kitchen. I ate leftovers. 
Who said you have to refrigerate food to keep it safe to eat?
It was in my top box on the bike for a couple days. 
Arka would be proud of me. 

My room upstairs.
I was originally downstairs but it got too hot for up up up I went. 
Grindle doesn't care. 
He's from Switzerland but he's in the top box all day in the heat. 
He's just glad to be out. 

Woke up, skipped breakfast and off we went.
The pass was pretty low altitude.
No trouble at the border, well except for cutting in line....
but hey, I was told to do that. 

Stopped at the peak and met a Tango expert from Arizona travelling by motorcycle.

This is a remnant peak of a volcano that blew. 

The sign that explains it.

Great twisty, curvy road. Oodles of fun.
But the perfect Chilean road turned to crap once in Argentina.
Omen of what is yet to come????

There is Doug and Dan

Many lakes in both countries. 

And gorgeous rock formations.

View of the lake from Petunia Camping. 
13 KM from town.
Grumble. Grumble.
Some beds
A washing machine.
Some warm water (Optional for me).
But most important safe for the bikes. 
So we took a cab into town for an amazing steak dinner.
Well Dan had an amazing steak dinner.
Doug and shared some thin cut steak that a New Jersey boy recommended.
What do New Jersey boys know about steak I ask?

My area. The boys got indoor rooms and a private bath. 

I sleep better on my cot and in my bag. 
It was pretty cold though so I borrowed a quilt just to be safe.
I feel safer near the bike. 
I would hear someone walking around it.
Plus the sounds of other campers is comforting that I'm not alone.
Well except for the ding dongs that arrived at midnight.
Headlamps flashed like a summer storm and eventually the dreaded car alarm went off.
I yelled "nice job" from my tent and received many chuckles. 

Another gorgeous serene roadside lake.
I'm getting good at handling dirt shoulders.
Boy I don't know a thing....more to come.

Made it to Bariloche. 
Turns out is a chocolate capital.
Actually managed to find sugar free chocolate that tasted quite good.
They use Stevia here in their sugar free stuff.

And they don't like it when you park the bikes on the street.
Motos go on the sidewalk full of pedestrians.

Now this photo is ahead of the **EPIC** part of this post but kinda says it all.

The epic, much talked about, famous Ruta 40 is not for the faint hearted.
Many complain about their having paved most of it. 
We only rode a 40 km patch of it but let me tell you, it was narly crap most of the way.
I will be fair and say there was some very nice sections.
Paved and not too many potholes. 
But the unpaved part. 
Deep gravel.
Sometimes sand.
Powdery crap that blinded anyone behind.
Well in a nutshell, we ran out of fuel and I eventually had a blow out at 60 mph.

After Doug patiently replaced the tube (boy was I happy I packed an extra one)
We went to the nearest town and found a cabana. 
We followed these two kids to a lady that then pointed us to a guy that then drove us to the place. 
Little town of 500 or so.

My room. Was so tired and wrung out from the day I forgot to take the photo until the next morning.
Of course I promptly locked us out, not realizing the key was inside the door automatically locked...and as Doug was eyeballing a tiny, high window to the bathroom to crawl through I wondered if my bedroom window was open. 
Thank God it was.

So after being in a high state of alert and wanting to avoid dirt, 
we agreed to take the long way around.
Only problem is, it turned out to be dirt after all and was longer than the original road. 
Ruta 40. Epic.

So there is a lot that happened between this early photo and the end of the day that put us in this hostel in Malarg├╝e but I was too hot, too fried and 
perennially in the grip of death with the handle bars. 
Add to that, uncertainty around finding gas. 
The stations here just run out and can be without gas for days if not weeks.
The hostel had a lovely French speaking woman who explained 
their city of 25K+ people had no gas for a whole week!

This was called the Eco Hostel.
Nothing Eco about it. 
No water saving showerheads. 
Some neat attempts at recycling.
They embedded empty wine bottles in the concrete pour of the building but that's about it.
Oh and there were some nasty, sticky plants that cause punctures in tires. 
Geeze. What can I say, freakin EPIC days on the Ruta 40.

Well the one good thing after riding that hell road is I went down this loose rocky, 
narrow road with perfect confidence. 
In the dark. 

Argentinians like to mark the spot on the roadside where loved ones have perished.
This gentle curve had a bunch of shrines. 
They are basically little houses to shelter the dead in the afterlife. 

We finally hit pavement and made it to Mendoza where the boys got their oil changed at the Suzuki dealership....and I saw my synthetic oil and thought, what the heck, why not. 

Here is the nice kid that did the change. 

Found a very nice hotel. 
Turns out this night was the big harvest festival.
If we had been on schedule we would have passed through Mendoza a few days too early.
I didn't get any photos of the parade but it's basically pretty girls on floats made out of grapes for all the regions that grow them around Mendoza. 
What a party.

Next stop. Difunta Correa

A bizarre place where people pay homage to lost ones. 
See those red ribbons?
Those are provided by all the car manufacturers.
You bring your license plate of the totaled car that killed your loved one and mark it with the corresponding manufacturer of the car. 
Er, daughter/mother/sister died in a Honda/Toyota/BMW.

You are supposed to bring a bottle of water.

Weird black smoking rock at the top. 

So like I said, finding gas is never to be taken for granted. 
That's me, kissing the pump in the background.

Cool swiveled solar panel that powers a container that is 
basically a gas station in the middle of freaking nowhere. 

We stared to enter the Valle Del Fertil. 
Higher elevation.

And this wonderful little paradise that has cabanas and camping right on the river. 
The guys in the cabanas next door had Dan in a tizzy about the scorpions.
I was the one sleeping in a tent!

I just laid in the water watching the clouds go by for a couple hours. 


On to the Valley of the Moon inside the Ischigualasto National Park. 

Found this cool buggy and saguaro cacti in the background. 

Now this place was hot and it had a 3 hour road around the valley.
I didn't want to do it on the bike so I found a tour bus to add me to the group.

They have discovered dinosaur bones and fossils. 

There were wild herds of lamas roaming.

Amazing formations and colors. 

My view from the back.

There was a rock formation that looked like a submarine.
I had the whole group singing yellow submarine.
None of them spoke English. 
At the end, the driver blew past the convoy.
I said LOCO! 
Everyone gave me strong hugs and a kiss on the cheek.
This put me in the right mood to ride 200 km alone in the desert.
The boys opted to just sit around La Rioja instead of see the park.

This is of course the sphinx.

And these weird round shaped rocks were formed here under unknown/mysterious circumstances. 
It's almost like their version of Death Valley. 

Giant slabs of stone were held upright precariously. 
Right about now, I have not eaten in nearly 16 hours, I'm hot, I'm sticky and I wished that slab of stone would just flatten me like a pancake. 

These things reminded me of Turkey. 

Stefan and his friend. We struck up a conversation during the long tour.
Gave them my card and off I went.