We came down past Cordoba, Rio Cuarto, and west to San Luis. The next town is Mendoza, which is a popular town and one I've already been to and blogged about. Didn't have the greatest experience there (strange Tibetan Hostel Owner with Brad Pitt story) and wasn't feeling the need to see it again. From San Luis, the road cuts diagonally over to Route 40 (Ruta Quarenta), our main goal road choice to take us to Ushuaia.. the bottom of the world!
San Luis turned out to be quite an expensive place to stop for the night. The cheapest place for camping we came up with was 14 km outside of town to a place called "Potrero de los Funes". I was only looking for a campground, and had no idea we'd end up riding on a race track! After a long long long day riding, we only had time enough to set up the tents before the sun goes down. These photos are from the next morning while leaving.
So strange, but this is the road for all traffic to use. The race course was built in the 80's and was closed for racing due to a couple of spectator deaths. They rebuilt it in 2008 and it's now used for racing again during season. We didn't use a special entry or exit.. no fees. For us, it's just the way to get to the campground, point A to point B! It just happened to be Friday night too, so you can imagine what it was like sleeping next to a race track with young drinkers and drivers partying until the sun comes up on the track. Surprisingly, it didn't bother me. The cops were around enough to keep it somewhat in control, and I still thought it was a really cool road!
That's James up ahead.. he can go much faster than me.. ;-) But I make up for it on the gravel photos below.
After some pretend racing fun, we head south. It's still VERY hot, and the road is super flat and boring.
At one point I resorted to motorcycle ballet. Or dancing to the music in my headphones as safely as possible. (I learned that from Walter, who to this day is still the biggest moto dancer I know. However, the last time I rode with him in Chile, it was not just moto dancing, he was playing a mean air guitar WHILE dancing and riding the bike (with the odd air drum mixed in... Now that is talent!) I'm not as good as him.. nor is air guitar my thing.. but a little boogie goes a long way on a boring road.. ha!
If I listen the music really loud, it makes me go a bit faster by default. Thank goodness no traffic to worry about, so we're riding free! I finally got the chance to ride in front of James. James is one of those riders who always has to ride in front. Even if we ask him for a chance to not have to stare at his ass all day long, we're only lucky to get 5-10 minutes of front row freedom. It used to drive Kevin crazy. Every time James would go past, Kevin would throw an arm, a finger, and a shake of his head. I used to chuckle all the time. And with two of them fighting for front, I would never have a chance, so I just hang back and let the boys be boys. 98% of the time, I couldn't care who is in front, but it's nice to see the open road every now and then, free of distraction. So it was worth taking a photo, just to remember I got to ride up front for once. Ha! ;-)
The scenery is finally changing.. I see the snow tipped Andes mountains up ahead.. which I also take as a sign the temps will be cooling down. I looked at the weather report while in San Rafael. Even though it's 38C (100F), the high will be 18C (64F) at our next stop, San Carlos de Bariloche.
Another big change has been very strong winds.. very strong! So much that I was so happy to see this tree line, I bothered to take a photo! Those trees help to break up the wind a lot. I wish they had the whole of Ruta 40 lined with them. But I soon came to learn they seem to have been planted about 5 km outside of an upcoming town, no more but I'll take it!
A little info at our fuel stop. Offically on Ruta 40 at the 3000 km mark, and 1680m above sea level. 3000 km to the end, seems like a long way from here, but we're ready!
And it's nice to have some curve in the road again..
Sun's going town, time to find a place to camp. Down a little dirt track that doesn't look used too much.
Nope! A truck pulled up within moments of getting the tent out. How does that ALWAYS happen! There are no buildings, nothing around here! The people were telling me there is a room we can stay in down the road. I just agree and nod my head and tell them "Gracias". (I don't want to stay in a room, I want to camp.. here. Look at the place! ;-) I asked them if they owned the property or who we could ask for permission. They didn't know and kept telling me again about the room we finally said goodbye. I hope there is no trouble camping here.
Sunrise at camp from my tent.. so quiet here.. so beautiful here.. I love this life.
James travels faster than me on pavement, but I travel faster than him on gravel. I had plenty of time to stop, and get off the bike to take a few photos before he caught up. woo hoo!!
Just like many guys have done for me on tougher roads, I pull over to verify that James is coming and not in trouble. When I see his headlight in the mirror, I can continue on.
How pretty is this!?
We came up on a herd of goat in transit. Can we just discuss the size of the little herder!!??? And can he get any cuter?? ;-) I would have never guessed such a young toddler could take on this job already. They put them to work young here!
This is ...................ARGENTINA!!
By the way, if I'm not watching the herding commotion, this is the view from the bridge. Nice!
Now, what is that in the road up ahead?
Of course, a lone cow with a rope around its' neck...
Very cool view of the volcano though! James pulled over and took this photo of me passing by. I like it, thanks James!
Have a look at those trees. It's freakin' windy here. I wish it was a steady wind, even though it's strong. If it were steady you can ride at the angle and stick with it. But the wind whips around and pushes from all directions, pushing me all over the road. I assumed it was just me on a lighter bike, but I see James on his loaded BMW 1200gs swaying over the road as well. He told me he was struggling as much as I was, so I don't feel so bad now.
The two horses are the leaders of the pack. Tied together at the head. I'm not sure why, but I wonder if it's because one is misbehaving.
We arrived the town of Zapala for a much needed meal and fuel stop. I got my fuel and pulled over to the restaurant next to the gas station. While waiting, it took all I had to keep the bike from being blow over in the wind. This guy was making me laugh though. As I watched him, he also had trouble staying upright, he's on his tippy toes, on a push bike, and waiting for fuel?
We've had a good 24 hours of living amongst the strong wind now. I'd like to say I've adapted to it on the road pretty well. At first, I was struggling a lot, fighting it, getting ticked off at being pushed around. Somehow and somewhere along the way, it must have been like breaking in a horse. I just let go and went with it. The anger was gone and the wind simply became part of the day.
Ruta 40 is famous for it's strong wind all the way down to Ushuaia. I can't help to think that we've got 3000 km of riding through this wind just to get there.. and another 3000 km to ride out of Patagonia. So imagine, 6000 km minimum of tortuous wind ahead of me. Good thing I am like the broken horse. Acutally, I was born the year of the horse!
James found a pretty spot to pull off for some photos. I hope I've got my bike firmly planted in the sand so I can walk away from it.. I sort of just ran back, quick snap and ran straight back to the bike.
Lovely road.. even with the wind..
And I've learned a new lesson.
All the struggling of riding a motorcycle in gale force winds was annoying, but I never lost it, felt like I could a million times, but never fell over in transit. The one time I did go down, was when I was stopped. I pulled out of that sandy place and stopped to wait for James. The wind was crazy and even with my side stand down, I couldn't hold the bike. While I was trying to fight my way back through the wind to pick up the bike, James saw the whole thing and he was having a good hearty laugh. Took the photo, then came up to help me pick up the bike.
My lesson was that I would have thought it would be more difficult to stay upright while riding and easier when stopped. Complete opposite. Good to know!
Just a few more km's to Bariloche.. thank goodness!