BootsnAll Travel Network

Seeing Dead People in BA

March 14th, 2009

I love cemetaries. I always have. My brother had to suffer through the Necropolis in Glasgow with me, and I’ve got a few tales about Pere LaChaise in Paris. If there is a cool cemetary in a city, it becomes one of my top spots to visit.

Buenos Aires has Recoleta Cemetario. As with Jim Morrison in Pere LaChaise, this one has a star occupant as well, Eva Peron. In Pere LaChaise you can find JM by just following graffiti scrawls that say “The Lizard King This Way”. Not so in Recoleta. Everyone is wandering around confused looking for Evita. I stumbled accidentally on her mausoleum and the only reason I noticed it was the large number of flowers on it.

I didn´t really care if I found her. I was too intrigued with the different types of graves. Some of the mausoleums are really old and crumbley – these were usually my favorites. Often the doors were no longer locked and you could actually walk in. I felt that was a BIT weird for me, and just the musty smell of death would keep me from entering. I also liked the ones with a lot of cobwebs on them. These people were really dead – anyone would have maintained their grave or paid for it to be maintained, were long gone themselves.

Then there were the newer structures. These looked like they were mini-shops with fancy glass doors. At any moment you expect someone to open the door and say “Yes, we´re open!” Lots of these had photo portraits of their occupants, usually at their best, with brass fittings on the floor, and lace coverings for the caskets.

One of the things I found a little odd in this cemetary was that many of the coffins were still on view. The crypts are under the mausoleums, so they can be used for many family members. The coffins would be sitting in an open room, until the next person died. So literally, you are not buried, but on view. All the coffins on view looked the same as well, as if there had been only one coffin maker for the last hundred years. Same shape, same handles. Same everything. Some of the oldest mausoleums actually had coffins sitting outside and exposed. Very weird.

After spending a few hours with dead people and photographing their mortuary statues, I spent the next two hours searching for a man I was told to look for. A friend through BnA asked if I was heading to this market, could I look for this certain guy who made earrings out of chain mail? I am always happy to wander through artist markets, especially when it´s right outside the cemetary. I spent two hours browsing, with no luck. I chatted with some sellers, asked around, but no luck finding the mystery man. Sorry Cristi! I tried.

After a few hours of browsing, I hailed a cab. As anyone who has read my blogs before knows, I HATE CABBIES. This was one just awesome. He and I chatted in spanish about all sorts of stuff, most of which was different to the usual conversations I have had. He was a sweetie so I tipped him more than the usual rounding up to the next peso on my fare.

Tonight I might see some tango or grab a nice juicy steak. I´m not sure yet. Depends on if I can get a hold of some friends of my cousin. No luck yet but I´ll try again in a bit.

Anyway, here are some pics from today and yesterday.


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mausoleums.JPG kneeling-woman.JPG hands-dried-flower.JPG

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casual-statue.JPG boy-statue.JPG at-attention.JPG

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Buenos Aires

March 13th, 2009

You know when you have been having a nice vacation when you have no idea what day it is. This morning I woke up totally sure that it was Saturday, the 14th. It´s not. It´s the 13th. This means I wandered around Palermo Viejo and tried stuff on, and bought nothing.

I´m still exploring the city. Check in later.

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Catamarca, Santiago del Estero, and Sante Fe

March 12th, 2009

None of these cities were terribly exciting, and in fact I don’t think I will write about them.

Due to rain and sickness, I had to turn back towards Buenos Aires sooner than I expected. This is ok though. I have been sick and really worn down and sometimes you need to listen when your bod says something. I never used to listen, but being sola in Argentina has taught me that lesson.

In fact, Argentina has taught me a few lessons. First, I am no longer embarassed to try and use my spanish. I used to be really shy about it but the people here in Argentina/Chile have been sooooo cool about it that I really came out of my shell on this one. Some of the words I’ve picked up are useful and some are amusing. I got to know what a “gomeria” is (tire repair shop), what basura is (garbage), and my personal fav “cloaca”, which is sewer. There are lots of others but these were the most random. Anyway, I am keen to get back to spanish classes and actually speak. Where I struggle the most is listening. I need to be able to comprehend more. I can usually through a limited vocabulary and charades make my point across.

The second thing I learned while on this trip was that it is in fact OK to ask for help. I’ve always been so fiercely independent that I’ve often not done something rather than ask for help. While riding around on a bike that is much heavier than I’m used to, I’ve had to ask for help on more than a few occassions. I’ve gotten help from men in estaciones de servico and chicas at hostels. Always someone is willing to lend a hand, especially when you ask nicely.

But I have digressed. I ran through these cities and while they weren’t the most amazing of towns, the people were, as usual, fantastic. All over in both Argentina and Chile, the main attraction has been the people. Yes, there was jaw dropping riding, but I never expected the people to blow my socks off.

So on my last night before coming back to Buenos Aires, I stayed in a swanky place ($50) that was the size of my apartment. I watched movies and read all night – it was just what I needed before the final haul back to BA. I was a little worried because I had never told the guy I rented the bike from I was coming today and I was hoping the shop would be open. Luckily, the shop is right off the highway, and he was there within seconds of me showing up.

Mariano checked out the bike and didn’t care that I had scratched it a bit and busted the mirror. COOL. He then called around to a few hostels for me and we found one in the Microcentro for me in a nice old building. He suggested that I take the train to the main train station and then grab a taxi. Mariano would drop me off at the train, but this meant putting ALL my gear on the back of the Transalp he was riding. Now, my mom and boyfriend both saw the amount of crap I had with me before I went to the airport. All of that, plus me, plus Mariano, fit on a bike. It was a stressful 8 blocks to the train, I must admit.

Anyway, now I’m here in BA, settled, cleaned, and relaxing. I had a beer with my sad lunch of gnocchi with pesto sauce. I plan on doing nothing for the remainder of the day. Tomorrow I will be a tourist, but for now, I don’t care. Check back tomorrow for pics!!!

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Rained Out in San Agustin then to Catamarca

March 9th, 2009

I am tired. The last few days have been different than I expected.

Yesterday I woke up in San Agustin and it was raining gatos y perros. This was a bad thing because the Valley of the Moon park loop is not paved, and if it rains, they close the park. The whole town was underwater and myself and the Canadians I met in San Juan wandered to the only thing open on a Sunday, the carneteria (meat store). I don´t know if that is the right word for it, you get the idea. We spent about $20 and got this:

before-lunch.JPG meat.JPG

We made a pasta salad lunch and planned on an asado for dinner. We then went for a walk down to the local lago through the rain. When we returned, the hostel was filled with new people and as we got to talking with them, we discovered they were mostly local tourists and they had an expert asado man within their midst. They went down the street and bought a LOT of meat and a LOT of wine. As the night wore on and the food was cooked, everyone drank an had a merry ol´time. Finally when the food was ready, here is what we got:


and in the process:


Y U M M Y.

After more drinking and eating I called it a night because I expected it to be a long day today- and it was. I woke up and again, it had rained and the park was closed. I didn´t know what to do because the roads were also sketchy and the woman at the hostel said they might be flooded. One of the girls at the hostel suggested we call the police. She rang them up and I got the A-OK to leave. Everyone else was going to have to bus it back to San Juan.

I came across small patches of water and a bit of mud in a few places- nothing to write home about. I took it slow and there was no problem. Then I came to a curious sign that seemed to say “there is always mud in this road, permanently”. I slowed down and when I came over the top of the little hill, I saw a complete disaster. Mud everywhere, running water, and big track marks made by trucks that were filled with 6 inches of water. This was not something I was hoping to encounter.

I stopped the bike and found a stick. I poked the water to see how deep it was an then stepped in it to check the bottom´s grip factor. It seemed OK so I started in, REALLY slow in first gear, and making sure not to get stuck. I kept my feet 2 inches off the ground in the hope that I lost my balance, I could catch the bike. There were three main sections I needed to cross, the initial mud, then some water, then a LOT of mud that was slicker in texture than the first mud. Phase one was accomlished slowly but successfully. Phase two wasn´t too bad because it was clear water across pavement.

It was phase three that I was worried about – the truck tire tracks. They looked really deep and ominous so I chose to try the other side of the “road”. The mud was really slick but I felt I had a better chance with it staying solid enough for me to ride over without getting thrown in. I also noticed that at this point there was a car behind me, so I wasn´t completely alone if I fell in. Slowly, and after getting stuck a few times, I made it through. I got to the top of the paved area and felt like I had when I got through the Andes pass without any problems – great.

It wasn´t to last though. I got to La Rioja in good time, but when I started north towards Catamarca, it began to pour. After so much rain already I had had enough. I had to make it to a hotel and lie down.

The down side to all this rain is that I have to turn back early and I won´t make it to Salta and the Salt Flats that I really wanted to see. They were the highlights and goals of heading north at all. However, my body is really whipped and every day is getting a little harder so maybe it´s for the best.

On a positive note, I finally found a place with USB hookup so here are a few pics from the last few days:

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luis.JPG claudia.JPG claudia-2.jpg


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Ride from Chile and North to San Agustin

March 7th, 2009

I didn´t have the energy to post a detailed entry yesterday so I will do it today, without pics, because the internet is like 1996 dialup slow here in San Agustin.

I left Valpariso in good spirits. I woke up early, got out of the city and started to make my way back east. I stopped along the way in Los Andes (the city, not the mountains) to get some nafta (gas). At the estacion de servicio I sat down and started munching on my breakfast of an apple, bread, and OJ. As I was eating, the guy a few tables over started chatting with me in spanish. I´ve gotten decent at the small talk- where are you from, where are you going, what do you do for work, are you married, why are you traveling alone, etc. I get lots of questions about the bike too. ¿Seisciento cincuenta? I may have written that wrong but basically “is it a 650?”

Anyway, so we did the usual chat and I asked him what he did for work. His answer was way over my head. He went to his car and got a brochure from his company. Turns out Luis speaks perfect english and is in charge of sales for a company that makes mining equipment. I was touched he didn´t switch to english earlier and instead complimented my on my pathetic spanish. We sat there chatting about his work, vertical boring machines, rock crushers and all manner of machines that I have seen on Modern Marvels. We exchanged emails and he snapped a few photos of me, one of which I really like. I will post them as soon as I step out of the stone age. He was a really nice guy and someone I will definitely keep in touch with for another trip down here. However, it was time to hit the road.

I got to the Andes pass much faster than I expected and the next thing you know, I´m starting the intense ascent. I was lucky there weren´t many trucks when I was on my way up because my biggest fear was coming around a hairpin turn and finding a truck stopped and I´d dump the bike and it would slide down the incline. Obviously, that did not happen. I got to the top of the pass and felt like a million bucks. Knowing that I had to return over this same road had my stomach in knots all morning but when it was over I felt so accomplished.

Next came the border process. I knew the deal this time and had all my papers ready. Entry to Argentina was much easier because the bike has Argentinian plates on it, and clearly it was allowed to enter the country. The guy who initially checked my passport flirted with me a bit and said he too had a “real” motorcycle- a Kawasaki of some sort. Probably a small cruiser. I told him I used to have a Kawasaki Ninja and his eyes lit up. ¿Una NEENJA?! I don´t know the phrase for “oh cooool” but he said something that seemed similar. Sport bikes go for a premium down here, so I neglected to mention it was only a 500 to get the maximum effect.

He reluctantly passed me to the next security station where the woman scrutinized my authorization to enter paper. She wanted to keep them, but I wanted it back because it has all the cool stamps on it. I explained to her that I needed it back because I might be passing into Chile again in the north. I knew she might tell me I needed to go make una fotocopia, but when I smiled wide she went and did it for me. The border people have been so nice and helpful in both directions, as opposed to the Canadian and American ones who are complete pricks.

She passed me to the final check which was customs. ¿Plantas? No. ¿Frutas? MMmmm, I knew I had a peach in my top case but I didn´t want to make an issue of it and they didn´t ask me to open up my luggage. So, no frutas. At this time, the lady returned with the fotocopia and handed it to customs guy who stamped it, and folded it up. When he saw me begin to take off my gloves so I could put it away, he unzipped the clear part of my tank bag and neatly stuffed it under my map. ¡Buen viaje! he said and I was off.

The ride to Uspallata and Mendoza was totally envigorating. It was the type of riding that I was hoping for on this trip. Twisties, sweepers, mountains, dramatic clouds, etc. Just breathtaking.

By the time I arrived in Mendoza, it was 4:30pm and I had left at 8:15am, with maybe an hr´s break total. I wanted to make it to San Juan, which is 2 hours north before it got dark, so I started out on the long haul. These last hours were torturous because riding through the hot desert is like riding through an oven. There is no where to stop and not a stitch of shade. I had to use every bit of concentration I had to get myself to San Juan.

It is times like this that I wish I had my own bike. I am more familiar with it and manuevering it in the city is much easier. When I arrived in San Juan I started to look for my hostel. While I was trying to figure out why there was no hostel at the address listed in LP, an older gentleman walked up to me and started asking if I needed help. As it turns out, it said 572 Laprida Oeste, not Este. That means I was on the wrong side of the equivalent of 5th Ave. We got to chatting and I discovered he was a lawyer in town. He asked how long I was planning to be in San Juan and when I admitted it was only for the night, he got offended and said he would show me San Juan for the evening. As much as I wanted to take him up on it, I said I needed to shower, and if I did not fall asleep, I´d call him.

Even Tranny was getting tired at this point and started to stall at lights. I know a tired bike when I am riding one and this one was crying uncle.

I found the correct address in the book but still no hostel. I was getting tired and irritated. I thought about calling Mario and asking him if I could crash at his house. As I looked around, a young kid walked over to me and gave me a card with the name of the hostel I was looking for on it. Turns out they moved to a location not 2 blocks from where I had been talking to Mario. I headed back in that direction and FINALLY found my home for the night. I rang the bell and Gustavo checked me in. He also opened the gate for me to park Tranny for the night.

I unpacked the bike (disempaque – thank you Colgate “spanish for the plant” class) and took the most heavenly shower EVER. I had been on the bike for over ten hours – my knees were screaming, my fingers needed to be unbent from their grip position, and my feet had blisters on them. The water made it all better. It untensed every muscle in my body.

I spent the next few hours in an airconditioned cafe called Freud, eating a Roquefort pizza and sipping pomelo soda, while reading Atlas Shrugged. When the words started blurring, I began the ten minute walk home to the hostel.

This morning I woke up later than usual, and I didn´t care. I meandered down to breakfast and had my coffee and morning bread. While I was there I met two Canadians who were riding bicycles around the wine region of San Juan. The guy was kinda quiet but the girl told me about her friend who had had a bad bicycle accident and was thrown into a ditch. No good at all!

Note to self: do not get thrown in a ditch.

This trip has taught me to know when to ask for help. I have had to ask for help with pushing Tranny out of parking spaces on a regular basis and I no longer am embarassed about it. In this case there were two guys hanging out in the hostel and when I asked for ayuda, they willingly obliged me. We pushed him out on to the street and then I loaded him up with gear. I got the usual “Ciao ciao!” as I left and I began today´s journey.

The itinerary was much shorter than yesterday´s – only 4-5 hours. The goal was San Agustin de Valle Fertil. As short as this leg was, there was an added hitch. There were no estacion de servicios along the way and I am still uncertain about what Tranny´s true range is. I was told by two cops (also on a Transalp) that I needed to stop in Villecito for gas before the long haul. When I got gas in Villecito, the attendant told me it was 60k to the turnoff, and then another 190k from there. I don´t like to be without at least 1/4 tank, so I went to a little bodega next door and asked if they had a few 2L bottles, which I then had the attendant fill. Luckily, I didn´t wind up needing them, but better safe than sorry.

So I was riding along to San Agustin when I came to a dip in the road that had a fair bit of sand in it. Sand is NOT your friend when you are on a bike. I saw it too late and nearly had another bike dump. Luckily, I recovered and stayed upright. It was a good thing too because I hadn´t seen a car in over an hour. After that I slowed down in the dippy parts and took them all REALLY slow.

I was nearly 30k from San Agustin when I came around a curve and saw something I didn´t want to see – a LOT of water rushing across the road. This time rather than going through it and dumping the bike, I stopped. I hopped off and investigated to see if the bottom was slippery and how deep it really was. The water was about 4 inches deep and the bottom was grippy. I decided to try and walk Tranny across this obstacle and I came out the winner for it. I made it to San Agustin without any unexpected dismounts or other incidents.

Tomorrow I am off to the Valley of the Moon. It´s supposed to be kinda like Bryce Canyon or something like that. Keep checking back to see how I´m going!

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Back in Argentina – San Juan

March 7th, 2009

This is going to be a quick post…

I am back in Argentina. Yesterday was hellish. Over ten hours on the bike. My knees were starting to rebel towards the end. The Andes crossing was unnerving but I did it while I was fresh and enthusiastic. I made it back to Mendoza without incident. The last 2-3 hours to San Juan were horrific and I had to dig deep to find the concentration to get here. There was no option really because there is NO WHERE to stop in between and the road was like an oven.

I will write more details later as I relax in San Augustin after a measly 4.5 hr ride.

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Valpariso y Viña del Mar (Chile)

March 5th, 2009

I woke up this morning with a sniffle. I´m not surprised. I´ve been beating my body to death and it needed a day of rest. A rest day means not being on a motorcycle for 8 hours. So instead I hopped on a local bus to the next city over, Valparaiso. (I can´t for the life of me remember how to spell it).

Taking local buses is something I used to do all the time. The thing that used to drive me nuts what how do you know when to tell the driver to stop when you´ve never been there before?? I stopped at the tourist office and asked the woman for a landmark a bit ahead of where I needed to hope off. It worked like a charm.

Valparaiso is a city on a hill and the different neighborhoods are accessed by elevators. The elevators themselves are archaic and belong in a history museo. I immediately thought of my mother who can´t stand near a window, forget look down from any decent height without having a coronary. She would have NOT enjoyed Valpariaso.


The area I went to was Concepcion, which is known for its artists. The thing that I loved about it (other than the fact it was above all the noise) was the graffitti. They have some really funky “urban art” and I spent a good hour photographing nothing else.

graffiti-street.JPG ojos.JPG weird-baby.JPG timburton.JPG

natalie-portman.JPG hot-dogs.JPG dogs.JPG big-kid.JPG alien.JPG

I think I particularly enjoyed the “I eat hot dogs every day” one the most because the hebrew script up above which led me to ask “are they Hebrew National hot dogs??” I konw, deep. Really deep.

I did a bit of shopping while in the area, but nothing major. I got a bit irritated when I went to a nice restaurant (Cafe Turri) and they told me they didn´t “have any tables available”. Clearly, they did- they just didn´t have one for me. I wasn´t dressed badly or covered in mud from the bike, so I thought this was a bit uncalled for. I decided to walk around and find a different place for comida. While I was wandering around, I noticed there was a museum dedicated to a cartoonist called “Lukas”. I had no idea who he was, but the views from the museum were certainly worth the $1 entry. After eating and touring, I headed back down the elevator to Errazruiz Avenida. It runs right along the water so it´s hard to not head in the right direction. I flagged a Viña bus that said “Alvarez” and was back home in 15 minutes.

It was still early in the day so I decided to take a walk up to Cerro Castel or the Castle Neighborhood. This is where the rich must live because the houses are huge. There are a few real castles, built by Germans. The houses all had caretakers or help scurrying around and I don´t think I actually saw one person who actually owned one of the houses. They were all probably having their siestas. With that, I called it quits for the day.

I have a long day ahead of me tomorrow and I didn´t want to wear myself out. I need to head back over the Andes pass into Argentina. Just writing that is kinda wild. I will be crossing the Andes, one of the tallest mountain ranges in the world, on a motorcycle. There aren´t many times I´ll probably have cause to say that again.

I may be so tired tomorrow after a 10 hour ride that I might not be able to post. But who knows. Stranger things have happened. Check back tomorrow!!!

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Detour to Chile

March 4th, 2009

Today I woke up in Mendoza and decided I was going to ride to Chile. I had gotten some good recommendations on Vilapariso (I´m spelling this wrong) and Viña del Mar so I headed west to see what they were all about.

Getting out of Mendoza was interesting because I didn´t have a map or any idea where I was in the city in relation to the autopista. Luckily, directions are one of the few things I am good at understanding, so I got there without too much hassle. Once out of the city, there are wineries everywhere… at any other time I´d be sampling every single one, but bebidas + andar la moto = muerto Claudia and we don´t want that now do we??? I passed.

I´m getting a bit photo happy and I have to keep deciding whether or not to stop every 20 minutes. It becomes a project. Find a place to safely stop, take off the helmet, get out the camera, shoot some pics while keeping un ojo on any traffic (especially camiones), put the camera away, put on the helmet, get back on the road. Sounds simple, but it´s not. I long for a small point and shoot camera in my pocket. But, there is a tradeoff, you can´t use the all useful polarizing lens that gives DRAMATIC clouds.

Anyway, so on my ride to Uspsallata I saw this:

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Quick note on this landscape… this was where Seven Years in Tibet was filmed because it “bears a striking resemblence” to the Himalayas. I´ve been to Tibet and it KINDA looks the same.

About thirty minutes later, I came across a bright blue lake and I stopped for a photo. Far more interesting than any photos I took was the group of people I met. I´ve been meeting a good number of people because I´m a bit of an oddity – a solo woman on a big bike. People come up to me constantly to chat about it and ask where I´m going. Today was no different. As I was taking my pics a middle aged man came up to me to ask about the bike. He had three women with him and you could tell they were probably inlaws or sisters I chatted with him for about ten minutes in broken spanish until the women got up the nerve to come over and ask for a photo of me with the bike. And all of us with the bike. With four different cameras. I tried to get one of them on it, but they weren´t having it.

As it turns out, the man, Santiago, is a Mendoza resident and he was showing them the beauties of his area. The women were from the same barrio in BA that I had stayed in in BA, Vincente Lopez. They were very impressed that I knew it. It seems he could not understand how they could even consider living in BA when Mendoza had so much more to offer… I wish I knew the spanish for “to each, their own.” Here is a photo of my recent friends:


The group and I passed each other several times and we gave the friendly honk. I saw one of the women trying to get an action shot of me while I was whizzing by… cute.

Oh, and I took advantage of someone else being around to take my photo. Here´s proof I am really here in Argentina rather than just posting pictures of a motorcycle.


Moving on down the road, I came to an area that is known for it´s dinosaur ruins. I didn´t stop to see them, but instead used the pull off for more dramatic photos:

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I was nearing the Chile border, but I wanted to stop at a place called Puente del Inca. It the site of some closed down hot springs that were built into the cliff. You can´t go in them anymore because it is structurally unstable, but it´s still interesting from the outside.


After leaving Puente del Inca, I arrived at the Argentina side of the border. They wanted to see my passport and papers for the bike. No problemo. The Chile side was a lot more complicated, but everyone was super friendly during the process. I´ve found I get away with a lot here when people realize I´m a chick on a bike. This was really helpful at the border. Apparently my motorcycle papers that certify I am authorized to bring it into Chile are supposed to be on yellow paper. Mine was white. There were several officials walking back and forth, discussing my faux pas. I took off my helmet, waved them over and asked what the problem was. They told me they didn´t know why it wasn´t yellow, to which I asked if it had all the information they needed. It did. I smiled and said I was color blind. My pathetic attempt to say this got a giggle and I was passed on to the next security hut.

At the next stop, I was told I needed a fotocopia of my bike authorization. So if they need a copy, who cares what color it is! I stepped around the corner, had a copy made for 1 peso and got back to the bike. While I was copying, the officials had decided to move Tranny over to the side of the queue. Unfortunately they parked him in a way that is really hard for me to get him upright so I had to ask for help. The official was still messing around with my fotocopia and rather cranky about it, but his friend was all about seeing the bike. I decided to use this to my advantage. I asked the friend if he would move the bike for me and I let him sit on it and ride it for like 20 feet. Needless to say, this got me through A-OK.

The next stop was customs. Open your bags, do you have plantas, frutas, o carnes? No, no and no. When I was done exposing my packed up undies to the official, he passed me on to the drug sniffer. The drug sniffer brought his dog over while I gave my passport for the final stamp. The girl sitting at the vestibule was really intrigued and asked me all sorts of questions about the bike, curiosity stuff, not official questions. When we were done, she looked at me straight in the eye and said “por favor, conduce con cuidado, la calle es muy peligroso”. This means “Please, drive carefully, the road is VERY dangerous”. I got the feeling this was a personal warning she didn´t give to everyone. This made the road ahead sound ominous.

And it was. If I had known what white knuckle riding I was about to get myself into, I don´t think I would have come to Chile. Hair pin turns with trucks bearing down on you or towards you. And I mean HAIR PIN. I certainly did NOT stop to take a photo but here is someone else who did. What a nut!


So after an hour of “oh shit” riding, I arrived on the west side of the Andes! I crossed the Andes. That´s pretty freaking cool. 🙂 WHat came next was an unexpected surprise. After a few days of dry red lanscapes, I encountered a lush, green, and tropical climate. The air smelled and felt different. Cleansing almost. It was a welcome change.

I had come to Chile with no map, no idea where I´d stay or how to get where I was going. I just kept following signs to Valpariso until I finally got here. I knew that somewhere in Al Centro there would be an info office and they would have places to stay. Trouble with this one was that there was no parking around it, except in the really posh hotel lot right next door. I took a look at the attendent, pulled off my helmet, and asked him if he would do me the favor of letting me park there for ten minutes. He was more than happy to oblige, and was guarding Tranny when I returned. I figured he´d done me a favor so I asked him about himself, and all that. He really wanted to try out the few words of english he knew and I humbled myself by saying I starting learning spanish too late, at thirteen. I asked him if it was the same for him, which it was. We agreed that 2 or 3 was a better age. With that he helped me back Tranny up and put her in a good position for me taking off. I gave him my best “Ciao!” and took off.

I found a hostel here in town and when I showed up with the Tranny, again I got a huge reception and help from all the people working there. I must have had the look of total exhaustion on my face because other guests got up to relieve me of pushing the bike up the slight incline.

It was true. I had been on Tranny for over 8 hours, and I had had enough. I had done so much I felt like I had squeezed in a week´s worth of activity. Tomorrow will be different. Relaxing and sight-seeing, solamente.

Keep checking back!

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Tourist Day in Mendoza

March 3rd, 2009

Today was my day to wander around Mendoza.

Mendoza is a small pleasant city. I was able to get around the main areas on foot during the day and still get in the customary afternoon nap. This area of Argentina is known for its wine so everything is centered around that industry. Clothing stores have mannequins wearing their lastest fashions, with a bottle of the local vino at their feet. One of my hosts is studying viniculture so she has given me recommendations of where to stop when I leave the city.

But today I wandered up to the Mendoza version of Central Park, Parque de San Martin, followed by Plaza Independencia. The plaza was great for people watching and I got to see a lone guy doing bike tricks in a dried out fountain and a gang of breakdancers showing off their moves. The guy doing the bike tricks was right in front of a bunch of bicycle cops and they nodded on approvingly, which coming from NYC is unusual. But it´s a good example of how relaxed this city is. The lifestyle is very fluid and spontaneous. Another amusing moment was when I heard “My Heart Must Go On” on Incan pipes. Is it mandatory for this song to be played by Peruvians??

As I walked down Calle Villanueva, I ran into a group of local cops. They all had the same bike as me! They were friendly enough and I should have asked them if I could take a picture with me sitting on one of the Mendoza Police bikes but I got nervous with my spanish.


I have mixed feelings about my bike now. Do I have the Crown Victoria of motorcycles? I hope not! It makes me feel decidedly unhip. Speaking of bikes, I´ve seen a fair mix of them since being here. There are of course the obligatory scooters and small bikes, but I´ve seen a lot more cruisers than I expected. This morning I spotted two Honda Falcons, ridden by two extranjeros wearing BMW gear. I also saw on Calle Colon a gigantic KTM Adventure in front of an internet cafe. I had half a mind to go ask whose it was. The family that is hosting me are a BMW crew. What amazed me is the cost of motorcycles here. When I was speaking with Mariano in BA he told me that a Honda CBR is $21,000 here. That is absolutely insane. And an old Vulcan would be $9,000.

Anyway, tonight I am going for some wine and then on to one of the plazas for Italian food.

I could get VERY used to this city. It´s a good thing I rented the bike, else I´d be very unmotivated to go anywhere else than here!!

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Vincuña Mackenna to Mendoza

March 3rd, 2009

My first night was spent in a little roadside hotel in Vicuña MacKenna. It was getting dark when I arrived so I just walked into the first place I saw. A single female on a bike attracts a LOT of attention and I don´t mean in a bad way. People walk up to me all the time and say ¿Sola? The first few times I said no, but who am I kidding? There is no other bike in sight.

So when I stopped at this hotel, the guy at the desk ran out to see Tranny.

“Una moto muy grande!!!” He then took me to see his car which had Dakar race stickers all over it. We chatted a bit about what I do for a living and where I live, etc. I must have had a look of total exhaustion because he told me I looked like I needed sleep. And right he was…. my body was whipped from the days riding.

In the morning, I woke up before sunrise, packed up, and loaded Tranny.


I wasn´t sure where I´d make it to for the evening. The plan was to try and make it to Mendoza to stay with a family who befriended a good friend of mine when he was riding through Chile and Argentina. So I set out.

I had read in the ol´Lonely Planet that there was a small town named Carolina (population 200), about an hour north of San Luis. The road to Carolina is the main reason for going there, not the town itself. Obviously, good riding roads are what I´m after, so I thought I´d check it out.

Did Lonely Planet ever get this one right! The road was in great shape and there was literally no one on it. It had twisties with beautiful vistas, hills, craggy rock formations, just remarkable scenery all around. I passed a car every 20-30 minutes and when I did see another vehicle, it was like we shocked each other. I´ll let my photos describe the area for me.

ruta-a-carolina.JPG ruta-a-carolina-2.JPG

I was riding along for about 45 minutes or so when I came across a bit of water in the road. Two or three inches at most. I slowed down, but rode on through without a problem. About fifteen minutes later I came across a second bit of water in the road and did the same, slowed down and went on through. Unfortunately, there was algae at the bottom of this water and it was super slippery. I dumped the bike. Surprisingly, I wasn´t that shaken up. I knew exactly what had happened and reacted to get out of the way of the bike. I had my gear on so nothing was hurt.


But now how am I going to pick this thing up???

I unloaded the bike to make it as light as possible. I knew I´d have a bit of a wait, so I stripped off my jacket, gloves, etc. I had water and munchies to last me a while so I was in no danger of starving. Luckily, two cars came along no more than fifteen minutes later. I explained I needed some help to get the bike across the water. Unfortunately, I wasn´t able to explain which side of the water I wanted to walk the bike to so they walked it to the far side, which meant I would have to ride it through the water again. Stupidly, I hopped on to ride it across the water, unloaded, but also without my gloves and jacket. When I went back through the water the same thing happened. I dropped it again! This time I got some minor road rash on my elbow.

My helpers picked up the bike again, I checked it ran ok, and I thanked them profusely. I said I didn´t want them to waste their day on me and after a few minutes of insisting I was fine, they continued on their way. I repacked the bike, bandaged up my arm, and hopped back on for the ride back to San Luis. I handled it far better than I would have expected.

About ten minutes later, the adreneline started to wear off and I started getting nervous. I noticed my turns weren´t as confident and I didn´t feel in control. I found a nice spot to rest, stopped the bike, and pulled out the camera again. I took a walk around and waited out the aggitation.

flowers-2.JPG after-accidente.JPG

About twenty minutes later I felt better and Tranny and I were off again. I got back to San Luis, called Marcos in Mendoza, and started the three hour ride to get there. I knew the road between San Luis and Mendoza was going to be an inferno so I packed lots of water and stopped at each gas station along the way to get a cold drink. It was hot and treacherous riding, but after hours of twisties, a highway was welcome.

When I arrived in Mendoza, the Astegiano family welcomed me. They graciously put me up in their Mendoza apartment, which had become a bit of a hostel because another American was staying there as well. The whole family rides motorcycles, so I was able to get top notch advice on what roads to take and what to skip. Local advice is SO much better than having to rely on a book or the internet. With my route planned out, I cleaned up and off we went to their cousins house for a late dinner and drinks. I got to have more asado, along with killer wine and a taste of Frenet. Frenet is the local alcohol. It smells like turpentine when not mixed but when you throw in some Coke, it´s really tasty! Finally around 2 we came back to the apartment and I fell asleep before I even hit the bed.

Before I sign off, I know my mother is freaking out, so here is a pic of the minor road rash I got. It´s really nothing major…


Keep checking back….

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