Discoveries in the Argentinean High Desert
Somehow, everything’s different now. We’re finally back on the road, spend the nights in the tent, and we’re constantly outside. Actually, everything is just like before, but something fundamental has changed: the feeling. The involuntary long break in Santiago de Chile was good for us. We are so grateful to finally be back on the motorcycle that we perceive everything even more intense and enjoy it to the fullest. Now, everything is smooth, relaxed and uncomplicated.
The Journey is the Reward
We even have a plan: to go back to Argentina and follow more or less the tracks of the famous Ruta 40 to Salta, the largest city in the North. Salta is surrounded by insanely great landscapes that we don’t want to miss. But also the city itself is interesting for us because we have the opportunity to start a small photo project with children through a local organization. But until we get to Salta, we’re gonna take a looooooot of time to enjoy riding the bike again.
After the longer stay in Chile, we like Argentina even better. The people we meet here are very open and curious about us. The food is excellent, and we like camping culture too. The vast Argentina just has more charm.
Even if Patagonia was already really impressive: the Northeast of Argentina is something special. We are so fascinated by the stunning rock formations, the colors and shapes, that we can’t stop marveling.
When we tell our friend Andres from Chile where we are just hanging around, he gives us a tip: “Stop by at Martina’s.” The German dropout has bought a hectar of land in Argentina together with her husband Johan. Far away from the city, with a magnificent view of the mountains, and the most beautiful starry sky, it’s easy to relax. Because electricity or internet are not available at “Utopia Overland Camping”, as Martina and Johan fondly baptized their campspot for individual travellers. The toilet is nothing more than a simple hole in the ground, and the water for the outdoor shower is heated with a solar panel. The little hut of clay, in which Martina and Johan sleep, has been built step by step by them. Just like the charming outdoor kitchen and the huge clay oven. They haven’t started a long time ago to build their tiny pieces of paradise.
Before Martina settled here with Johan, she was a long term traveler, too. For many years, she has been riding a motorcycle and later with an all-terrain vehicle and a dog around the world. Now she’s inviting the world to her home.
Almost as the same time as we did, the guests Paula and Fede have arrived here with their funny dog. The two Argentines have packed two bicycles on their upgraded Combo and also want to continue to the North of America. Their dog called Grunon (in English: Grump) doesn’t seem to get tired, bringing his boomerang to us, so we throw it somewhere distant. And then there’s Caroline. She was born in South Africa and decided in her middle ages to start art studies besides, to finally ask her adult children for permission to dare a new start as a teacher in the UK. A few years later, she landed as a teacher in Southeast Asia. She tells me that she was disappointed when she had to retire because she had no desire to live a boring existence on the couch from there on. So, she decided to travel South America alone. Now that she’s got only a modest pension, she just does Workaway. This means that she offers other people her skills for board and lodge. For Martina, she constructs a self-designed floor of mosaic in the small house. While she tells me her story, I feel the incredible energy and enthusiasm of Caroline. “I’ve never grown up”, she tells me with a glow in her eyes. Chaupeau!
Above the Clouds
On the way to Salta, there is a very special surprise for us . After a ride across the abandoned Cactus-National Park Los Cardones, we reach the top of the pass Cuesta del Obispo. Here, we are literally above the clouds.
When we get off the top of the summit in bright sunshine and ride into the clouds, we are suddenly in the middle of the winter wonderland. Everywhere, there is thick frost in the bushes and it gets bitterly cold within a few minutes. In some places, we can only see up to five meters. We were lonely all day, but the pass seems to be a popular tourist destination. Many minibuses drive dangerously close to us on the bad track. That makes you start sweating even if you have temperatures below zero…
Arriving in Salta
In Salta, we have to wait. Until we can start with our photo project, it’s still going to take a while. It’s not a problem, the clocks are just ticking a little different here. We also couldn’t say exactly in advance when we would arrive in Salta. It is just important to us that the project will go well if it ever will take place.
Adventures in the High Desert
All right, if we have to wait a little longer until something comes up, we just go to the incredibly spectacular high desert, that’s called Puna here. We wanted to explore the area in the Northeast of Salta anyway before we leave Argentina. And as promising as the way to Salta was, it can only be terrific. And indeed: at heights up to 4200 meters, we meet the most beautiful mountains, giant cacti, the wide salt desert and many friendly people in the small villages that lie between the adventurous streets of the plateau.
The dry and dusty semidesert, with its overwhelming beauty is so faszinating that we are already thinking about whether we should not settle down here somewhere. But as beautiful as it is, the journey must continue. Because it is addictive to look at the countless facets of the Andes with our own eyes.
And Lastly: A Rather Unpleasant Discovery
At the end of our tour, we are getting nervous: the temperature of the engine is increasingly getting hotter. We are blaming this on the high number of revolutions that we have in the partially sandy sections. A look at the cooling water reservoir reveals that we can simply solve this problem: it needs to be filled up with new liquid. This problem belongs to those things that you can easily avoid if you check regularly. But the motorcycle maintenance does not yet belong to our strengths. Of course, we’re in the middle of nowhere now, and it’s still two days to the next town, but we’re gonna make it. However, it is a bit suspicious that we have this problem now, because we just filled up the liquid not a long time ago.
Three times, the engine runs so hot that the pointer jumps into the red area and we have to take breaks. We’re happy when we finally get back to civilization and able to fill up the liquid. Done! But only two kilometers later, Moe is stopping on the shoulder. The engine’s hot again. While many friendly Argentines are passing with a thumbs-up, we clean up our cooler in the middle of the stressful rush of the main road, as good as we can.
And it seems to help. But in Salta, this stupid temperature pointer is back where it doesn’t belong. Now, that we’re going to stay here for the photo project anyways, we can take care of our baby. Hopefully, it’s not too bad…