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March 16th, 2012 | Argentina

Two Day Ride to Salta…

Before I left Asuncion, I studied the area I was going to be riding through to get to Salta in Argentina… The reason for going back there was to avoid riding through Paraguay to Bolivia, because I had no knowledge of the conditions that I would have to ride in to get there from Asuncion…

I won't be missing the view from my hotel in Asuncion...!!

I also wanted to visit the Atacama Desert in northern Chile, and would have to ride back across the continent to do that…!!

Before I left the hotel, I discovered that someone had stolen the Leatherman out of my Bar Bag… It could only have been the gun toting security guard, as each time I went out to check on the bike, he was standing near it, or had his hands resting on it… The Bar bag is unlocked, and simple to open, but I have never had it fiddled with in the years that I have been on the road… My Leatherman has always been there, as it is a tool I have used often…

When I questioned the security guard, who the previous day could speak a little English, he pretended not to understand a word I said… I decided not to make an issue of it, as I did not have MY 9 mm Glock with me…!!

Going to a gunfight empty-handed is never a good thing, and usually ends in tears… Amongst other things…!!

Muttering to myself, I rode out of Asuncion and headed for the border which was about 40 km away…

It's been an absolute pleasure, but you won't be seeing me again until the Pope falls pregnant...!!

My intial plan was to ride to Resistencia, but that changed when I got to Formosa...!!

The border crossing was painless… Both Argentina’s and Paraguay’s Immigration offices and Customs counters are in the same building…only metres apart in fact…!! Within ten minutes I was back in Argentina…

I had just enough fuel to get me to Formosa, and planned to stop there and check on conditions in the Chaco…

This a vast under=developed and sparsely populated part of the world, that overlaps with Paraguay… Most of the area seems to be made up of huge farms where cattle run free…

The area is flat, and is sometimes known as the Green Hell, because it is affected by drought, as often as it is flooding….

Flat out through a flat green land... In conditions like this, the Big Fella covers the miles in big bites....!!

The government has spent millions of dollars to try and bring this part of the world out of the “olden times” it seems to be stuck in… Thousands of kilometres of roads have been tarred, and as usual, when a road is tarred, access to the area improves, and from there development begins to tale place….

I have seen this in all parts of the world…

In “Telegraph Road”, Dire Straits sings about a place where development takes place, and how the natural order of things change…

“Then came the churches, then came the schools, then came the lawyers, then came the rules…

Then came the trains and the trucks with their loads…

And the dirty old track became the Telegraph Road…”

I think it will be a long time before the “lawyers and the rules” get to this part of the world though…!!

"Miguel...!! We have to find another way to transport this stuff... Something with more horsepower...!! Any ideas...??"

On either side of the road, a species of Date Palm grew… Thousands of these trees for miles and miles on end… They are not planted in rows, so I can only assume they occur naturally here…!!

Beneath these clumps of trees, cattle rested… Many of them trying to decipher the recent news about something called an “abattoir”…

I refueled in Formosa, and a very friendly guy named Andreas, advised me to change my route and go directly west from Formosa, rather than run further down to Resistencia…

“The road is quite new Senhor, I have driven it to here…”, he said, stabbing a finger at my map…

I saw that he was pointing to a place called Los Lomitas, barely 300 km from where we were standing… There was another 400 odd kilometres after that before we would get to the first major town of Embarcacion… He assured me however that the road was tarred all the way, and taking his advice (and his cell number in case I had to call him later to give him a piece of my mind…!!) I reset GiGi, and took off into the “unknown”…

Just before I left, he told me to make sure I find somewhere to sleep before dark…

“There are some bad people out there…!! Many thieves….!! Few Police…!!” he said, vaguely indicating the area in the direction I was about to ride in…!!

I find it strange that so many people around the world have warned me not to go into areas because they believed it to be filled with murderous thieves and the like…!! I have almost always ignored their advice and found the places to instead be filled with friendly people…!!

I came across this Police Post... The guys were very friendly and posed for photos... They also warned me to be careful, and not ride after dark....!!

"Watch where you're going Miguel...!! And take that envious look off your face...!!"

By the time I got to Los Lomitas, the sun was still high… I cruised down the main road, the only one that was tarred, found the hotel that Andreas had recommended, and decided that I did not want to stop riding yet… The conditions were just too good to waste another few hours of daylight in a place like Los Lomitas…!!

I checked to see where the next fuel station was, and was told that it was at Laguna Yema, about 85 km away, and there was “habatacion” there as well…

On the way out of town, I passed a young guy on horseback and slowed down to wave at him… We rode side by side for a few hundred metres, the poor horse doing it’s best to pull ahead, the Big Fella teasing him all the while by spurting forward every time the horse drew level…

I had to speak sternly to him to get him to stop with his little game…!!

I passed small herds of goats, their herders nowhere in sight… But goats are clever animals, and never bolt across the road, but always head further off it when they see or hear a vehicle coming their way…

When we see them relaxed and ignoring us, we like to zoom in close to them and blow the hooter loudly, causing them to scatter in panic…  Once we even got one to collapse in fright…!!

I did say this was a long, straight and boring road…!! You have to find novel ways to entertain yourself…!!

One look at the main road leading into Laguna Yema was enough to make me decide to ride further, no matter the apparent "danger", of being caught out on the road in the dark...!!

I refueled in Laguna Yema, and met a guy who spoke Portuguese… His name was Manuel, and when I asked him where the next fuel station was, he confirmed that the only official fuel was available at Embarcacion, 350 km away…!!

It was after almost 7.00 pm, and there was about half an hour of daylight left according to GiGi… Manuel also told me the next town was about 100 km away, and there was truck stop just short of it, where I could stay… With much hand gestures and pointing to the sky, he made me understand that I must hurry, as it would be dark soon…!!

“Another purveyor of doom and gloom…!!” I thought to myself, as we roared out of Laguna Yema and tore down Ruta 81, heading for a place with the delightful name of “Ingeniero Guillermo N, Juarez”…

Feathers in the sky.... Late afternoon makes for beautiful sky out in the Chaco...

The truck stop just outside Juarez...

I had covered about 580 km since leaving Asuncion that morning, and was up for and 100 km, which would leave me only 600 km to ride the next day to get to Salta…

I got to the truck stop just as the light was fading, and got the last room available…!! I was told that there was internet, but that the line was down and would be fixed “soon”… I think they are still waiting for that to happen, and I am writing this from thousands of kilometres away…!!

I ate a quick meal, and went to bed early… Just as I was falling asleep, the shagging started…

The walls of the rooms were paper thin, and on either side of me, truckers were getting “their rock off”… At one point I thought they may be in competition with each other, to see who could make the loudest noise…!!

Ken and Dariusz had been here just ten days before me...!!

At first I found it quite funny, and wondered if they realised that everybody could hear them… After an hour, I found it a bit annoying, because they seemed to be involved in a marathon session… I jammed the earphones of my I-Pod into my ears, turned on some music and finally fell asleep…

The next morning, while I was having my coffee, I saw a sticker on the glass door of the reception, and asked the owner about it…

In Spanglish, he got me to understand that two gringos on the same bike as mine, had passed through there ten days before… After more questioning, and showing him a photo of Ken and Dariusz, my friends who I had met in Sudan in 2010, and again in Warsaw and Melbourne,  he confirmed that it was the same guys…!!

Ken later emailed me to say that they had swapped the sticker for extra eggs for breakfast…!!

I was amazed that they had stopped and stayed in the same place as I had…!! They were riding too fast for me to ever catch up, although we had compared routes and in many cases would be traveling the same roads…

I headed further west, the road still as dead straight as it had been the day before… The landscape became drier, the bush thinned out a bit…

The "Pot-Bellied Spiky Trunk", comes in all shapes and sizes...

This one had been turned into a shrine, using it's hollow trunk as an altar...!!

One of the more common trees was what we called a Kapok Tree back in South Africa… It had a bulging trunk, which is covered in sharp thorn-like spikes… Not a tree you would want to hug…!!

I passed a big cotton farm, the first large scale farming enterprise I had seen in almost 1000 km… Then, just before the town of Hickman, more cultivated lands began to appear… Maize, potatoes and Soya were the most common…

Herds of cattle and goats still grazed on the roadside, and I came across a gaucho and his three dogs, who stopped to stare at me… I turned back and with sign language asked if I could take a photo of him…

He laughed loudly when he understood what I wanted, then stopped his horse, and posed for me…

It was that kind of day for me… I felt in no hurry and was prepared to turn back if I overshot something I thought would be interesting to photograph…

I had made all the hard miles the day before, and having left Juarez early, knew that I could afford to take my time today…

The birdlife along Ruta 81 was prolific to say the least… I saw at least 50 different species of bird, many of which I would have easily been able to identify if I had a guide book, such was the clear sighting I enjoyed…

Apart from the many raptors on view, I saw a few different species of parrot… Small flocks of green parrots flew across the road quite often, their plumage glinting in the sunlight, like emeralds thrown across a black surface by an unseen hand… They flew so fast, I only became aware of them when they were highlighted against the tarred surface…

"Madre de Dios...!! What kind of horse is that...!!" said the dog hiding behind the Gaucho's chaps...

I had been dragging my tail a bit, and was surprised that I still had so far to go to Salta...!!

Just the right amount of "greens"...!! P. would be proud of me...!!

I refueled in Embarcacion, and then sat down in the little service station and ate a small plate of mixed cold meats and cheese… I smiled to myself as I looked at the few olives perched on top…

“At least I have the “greens” covered on this one…!! And just about the correct balance too…!!”

After the late lunch, I realised that I would have to right hard again to reach Salta before dark…

Ruta 34 is a busy road, but traffic flowed smoothly, and we rode due south, we made good time to the juntion of Ruta 9, and turned west onto the double-laned highway…

I was surprised to find such a major road leading towards Salta…!! I was even more surprised when the road climbed up a steep series of curves and peaked at about 1 300 m, and then went through a narrow gap to reveal the city lying in a bowl below me…

My "cell" in Salta, where I would spend the next four nights...

It was much larger than I had expected…!! I rode down the main road, and stopped outside a hotel opposite the main park… The cost of a room in what was quite a swanky place, was far more than I was happy to pay, so I rode around the corner and found two hostals a short distance apart… The one did not seem to have parking, while the other did…

The choice was therefore simple…!!

I asked for a room as close to the internet router as possible, and was lucky enough to get the room right above reception, which looked out onto the street below…

The room was clean and sparsely furnished, and large enough to have all my kit scattered around without me falling over it every time I moved around…

There were many restaurants surrounding the park, and just as many small supermarkets where I could get supplies…

All in all, I had struck it lucky…!!

I had made the long ride to Salta from Parguay, without being bothered by murderers and the like, and had “survived” a ride through the “lawless” Chaco…!! The only lawless thing about it was jay-walking cattle…!!

©GBWT 2012

3 comments to Two Day Ride to Salta…

  • Mark Behr

    Sounds like you took it all in your stride.

  • Ramiro

    Greetings from Quito Ecuador…!! Let us know when you get TO Quito, will be happy to meet you, I am a friend of Adrian the Colombian who you helped in Arequipa, a hug

  • Thanks Ramiro (my middle name, but spelt differently…!!) I will keep in touch, and should cross the border on or about the 15th of April…!! It was a pleasure to assist a fellow Road Warrior, it is what the Brotherhood of Bikers must do… We never know when next we might need help too…!! Look forward to meeting you…!! Cheers, R.

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