Today we rode a motorcycle through the Andes Mountains.
What an epic statement. We rode our custom-built moto and sidecar through the Andes, crossing from Chile to Argentina, and we loved every second. The ride from the town of Los Andes all the way up to the border crossing was beautiful and hard and rugged and... can I say it again? Yes.
Within about 10 minutes of leaving our motel, the mountains loomed overhead. But before actually beginning the ascent, we rode through a string of dusty communities littered with signs advertising "Seguro Obligatorio". By law, every driver in Chile and Argentina needs to have insurance. Apparently, this is rarely enforced so most people go without it until confronted with the possibility of consequences. Border crossings are full of such confrontations, thus the need for "last minute insurance". Seeing as we didn't buy any in Santiago, we did actually stop and think about it. But seeing as the policies were being sold from tin shacks, we decided we'd take our chances...
Before long, the elevation began to slowly rise and the scenery changed...
Seeing as this particular road (60 on the Chilean side, 7 on the Argentine) leads to a major border crossing, the quality of the asphalt is great. The big trucks took advantage and drove like they had stolen whatever it was they were hauling.
The asphalt was smooth when we had it, but there was a lot of construction as well. Better get used to this Kristen...
I'm thinking it was the time of day because I had heard this crossing was very popular, but we hardly saw anyone.
It's hard to tell how steep of an incline that these switchbacks are climbing, but we were barely able to get out of first gear on those turns. I'm not sure the Ural would have enjoyed that section...
We eventually made our way up to Portillo - a popular ski resort situated at nearly 8000 ft. Many Olympic skiers from the USA come here to train. It was closed seeing as it's currently summer, but it was beautiful nonetheless. Plus there was a huge st. bernard dog napping in the grass in front of the hotel. Perfect.
Before we knew it we were leaving Chile. I should admit that we tried to stop at the Chilean Aduana but were quickly told we didn't need to. Even still, we stopped again a few miles later to ask three bikers from Brazil where the Argentine Aduana was - silly gringos...
And suddenly we were thrust into a border crossing. We had hardly seen any other cars, but here we were sent into line to wait with a ton of other vehicles and busses. People were roaming around everywhere and we were the main attraction... I don’t know if people thought we were famous or if they just liked our bike but we took a ton of pictures with complete strangers in front of the rig.
It was also in this line that I had a very cool experience. An older man from Switzerland came to talk with me about motorcycles. He spoke no English so we communicated in Spanish and had a very interesting conversation about travel and other things. It was the first time that I’ve ever had a conversation with someone in a language that is not native to either of us. For some reason, it struck me as amazing and made me wish I had paid more attention in school.
The border itself was simple. It took 2 hours but only because we had to wait in line. We were a bit worried that we would have to unpack all of our stuff for the customs agent to look through (a van in front of us had to take everything out) but when it was our turn, they just stamped us right through.
Our first glimpse of Argentina!
Before heading down towards Mendoza, we stopped to admire Aconcagua, the highest peak in the Western Hemisphere at 22,841 ft! Very impressive even though it was hidden amongst the clouds.
As soon as we started to head down from the high mountains, the wind picked up (as Argentina is prone to) and it got hot - like 90 F hot. The sun fried both of our hands and faces at this elevation.
And now we come to my favorite pictures of the day:
We stopped just outside of Uspallata for a break from the sun. From across the street came an old man named Juan. He was smiling from ear to ear, not a tooth in sight, and had completely fallen in love with our rig. Then came the surprise. Juan looked as if he was from modest means, the house he lived in was very small and from the horse tied to the front of the building, I had guessed he didn’t have a car. But as soon as he approached us, he pulled a Canon digital camera from his pocket and proceeded to line us up for a few shots. It was even his idea to climb up on the bike and have us take his picture.
I’ll miss you, Juan.
And thus came the end of an amazing day. We found a decent hotel in Uspallata (which ended up giving us bed bugs), found a farmacia for me to buy some medicine for my throat (which is completely trashed right now for some reason) and closed the night with an empanada.
Not a bad day, fellow BOMFers...