Before we left Salta we stopped by a mechanical shop, as Vasile needed to do some welding on the side stand. The side stand relocating bracket was broken, and it needed to be fixed.
The guy there was very nice and after about half an hour of team work, the side stand was fixed. But now that was not enough. Vasile wanted to make a custom side stand, so he can adjust the*length. So after another 20 minutes of team work, the side stand was perfect.
Once that done, we decided to take Hwy 51 to cross the mountains to Chile. Most of the road was paved, but it did have some gravel sections.
Here I'm asking some locals road directions. Each one with their horse power:)
The ride up was epic: beautiful landscapes and nice winding road.
En San Antonia de los Cobres we stopped to gas up and to decide what to do next. It was about 5 pm, and from there we had to do 160 km of gravel to get to Salinas Grandes, and from there to HWY 52. We were already at 3900 m altitude, and we would have had to go even higher, well over 4000 m, so we were thinking to maybe sleep there for the night and continue the next day. We were just hoping that our bodies were still acclimatized from over a month ago when we went through Peru and Bolivia, otherwise, this altitude could have caused us problems.
While we were fueling up, we met a nice couple from Australia, but living in Chile now. They told us about a really nice road on the other side, beautiful ride apparently, that was going from Salta to Purmamarca. As we wanted to see that side anyway, and we were told that on this side it was not too spectacular, we decided to turn around and take that way.
On the way back down, we saw a van stopped on the side of the road. We stopped and asked them if they needed help. Yes they did, they needed some air in their spare tire (they had a flat tire, and they had just changed it). As it was Easter eve, they had probably partied, and they were all a bit too smiley. They were trying to put the new tire in, but they were turning the screws the wrong way:) Vasile helped them put the tire and inflate it. They were so grateful, they kept insisting to pay him. As Vasile did not want to take anything, they gave him a gift to remind him of them: a bottle opener with a llama. Vasile used it already a few times:)
We got back to a little town close to Salta, we stayed for the night, and the next day we headed to Purmamarca. Beautiful ride in a nice sunny day. We got there, and it was extremely busy, cars parked everywhere. And the prices...you don't want to know. But they were all full anyway. So then we decided to do a quick hike, to see the 7 Colours Mountain and then to ride out of town and find a camping spot somewhere. While we were walking to the hiking trail, we saw a little hotel, and just for the sake of it we asked if they had rooms. And they did! So we paid a deposit quickly, to make sure he keeps the room for us, and we were supposed to come back and bring the bikes after our hike.
And here is the 7 Colours Mountain.
While we were hiking up I was just following Vasile without paying too much attention to the trail, and at some point I find myself on this very steep, narrow trail, and at the end of it on a very sharp edge that I could only sit one, as I had no balance to stand on. There was no trail on the other side to get down. And then I hear a local guy yelling at us to get down, as we were not allowed to be there. And I was like "Sure, but how do I get down from here?" Slowly and carefully we finally managed to get down from that cliff.
Then we went to pick up the bikes from where we parked them and went to the hotel. Once settled down nice and comfy, we went for dinner. And we found this place that initially didn't look like much, but that turned out to be incredibly fun, and the food amazing. And they had a live band who was singing incredibly well.
Later on, once the band left the stage, the owner took its place. And we were very surprised to see that she was singing very well. Apparently she was a well known local singer.
We had a great time, dancing and singing along. We were happy we had a last great night in Argentina, before leaving.
The next day we headed to the Chilean border. The landscapes looked like painted.
Higher up we got to the desert.
And then we got to the salt flats (El Salar Grande).
And then desert again, all the way up to over 4000 m altitude.
And there was the Argentinian border. We did our exit stuff, and now were heading to the Chilean border. I would have thought the Chilean border would have been a few km away, but little did I know. As we were over 4000 m it got very cold, and I only had a tank-top on, my mesh protection and my waterproof jacket. My bike's thermometer was showing 4-5 degrees C. As it was very windy (winds worse than in Patagonia) I did not want to stop outside and take my jacket off to add some more layers. I thought I would do that soon, when I would get to the Chilean border, and I could go inside. But I found the Chilean border 157 km later, when we got to San Pedro de Atacama.
So for 157 km this is what we saw.
It was amazingly beautiful. I was watching in awe, and the only thing that would bring me back down to earth was my body shivering with cold. When we started the descent on the other side and the temperatures started to rise I was delirious.
We finally got to San Pedro de Atacama and did the entry in Chile. Then we went to town and found a nice hotel and checked in. I was so happy to find the warm blankets on the bed!
But more details about Atacama in the next report. Stay tuned.