South on Northern Ruta 40

January 28, 2016

As I prepared to leave Cafayate, I stopped for fuel and food…an awesome bakery called Flor de Valle just across from the gas station. I was almost convinced to put it off another day and spend today in the bakery.

When I came out of the bakery, this guy was checking out my bike. Turns out he has a Yamaha Lander, a similar model.

Heading south out of Cafayate, it didn’t take long until the scenery changed back to desert. If you can imagine a two lane version of Interstate 10 running from Tucson to Van Horn, Texas (east of El Paso), that’s pretty much what this part of Ruta 40 looks like.

I met this Argentine couple in the middle of the desert. They were spending three weeks riding their Motomel Motard around Argentina. His 20 year old son is currently spending a year riding a bicycle around South America.

And I finally found that part of the desert where there is sand, and wind, and blowing sand….

A little further south, I turned at San Blas de los Sauces (I just like the way it sounds), and headed towards Chilecito, my stop for the night. The road through here is constantly changing desert, interrupted occasionally by huge groves of olive trees and large vineyards.

“Where the sun shines all year”. No kidding. That’s why it’s called the desert.

The hotel I planned to stay at in Chilecito turned out to be full, and also turned out to be right next door (as in attached) to the Yamaha shop. I found another hotel in town and decided to try to change my oil the next day before leaving town.

In the morning I stopped at a huge motorcycle accessory store (okay, maybe not huge by Chaparral standards, but it’s the biggest accessory store I’ve run across thus far). I bought two quarts of oil and asked about a place I might be able to change my oil. The counter person pointed me down the street to a “Taller de Motos” (repair shop), but when I got there, the shop was shut and two guys next door said he would be back in an hour. I decided to try the Yamaha shop, since I knew where it was. Typically, these are sales-only outlets, but I figured they would know where to send me.

The guys at the Yamaha shop were incredibly friendly. They had a small workshop in the back, and offered to let me use it to change my oil. They had me roll my bike through the showroom into the shop (I was a bit embarrassed, considering how filthy it is), they helped me put it on the lift and offered the use of their tools. In fifteen minutes, I had my oil changed, and was back on the road. They refused to accept any payment for the use of their shop.

It was another long day of desert riding along Ruta 40. I will amend my previous post, and say that there are indeed still people in Argentina living in mud-brick shacks with little roofing materials, but overall the numbers seem to be considerably smaller than where I’ve been recently. Although this is the desert. It could be that they’re just not living here. However, there definitely appears to be the emergence of a “middle class” here that I haven’t seen elsewhere. There are small “subdivisions” of very small cookie-cutter homes, much nicer than the cobbled together dwellings of the very poor.

This guy was interesting. Besides being probably 6 foot 7 inches tall, he’s from Germany, and came to South America without a motorcycle or even a plan of riding one. After a month, he decided to buy a motorcycle and start riding around Chile and Argentina. Note the improvised gear: shin guards over jeans, off-road jersey. I’m surprised he found any gear that fit!

I was headed for the Municipal Campground in San Martin. When I got there, I was surprised not only at the large size of the campground and its’ facilities, but the fact that no one was there. I pulled around to a side gate, and found a guy working. He confirmed that they were closed, and I asked him if I could possibly camp there for one night anyway. He pulled his phone out and called his boss, who came over and told me I was welcome to stay, for free. He showed me where the bathrooms and showers were, and pointed out that the first guy I spoke with lived on the property, and would unlock the gate in the morning and let me out. I had the whole place to myself, and locked in!

Very nice empty campground, all to myself!

In the morning I decided to sleep in, since I only had a 100 mile day planned. At 7:30, I got up and headed to the shower. Other than the guy from yesterday, who was working again, and a couple of dogs, there was no one around.

Fifteen minutes later, I walk out of the showers to head back to my tent, and this is what I see:

Where did all these people come from?!?

In that fifteen minutes, a dozen buses had pulled up with probably 500 school kids of all ages. They were fascinated with my tent, taking turns looking inside. I looked around for a teacher that might speak a little english, hoping that I could answer their questions with a little help, but no luck. The teachers seemed more concerned about keeping the kids away from the strange gringo. So I packed up and headed south towards Mendoza.

One thought on “South on Northern Ruta 40

  1. This is truly “Adventure Touring!” Ride on Pat Williams, ride on.
    Rick and Linda

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