Saturday, April 11, 2015

Back into Argentina for the Final Time

The expected four day stop at Mauricio's turned into ten days with the side trip to Rio. It was way longer than I had intended but for all that it was a welcome relief from the constant travelling and it was great to see Mauricio and Jucelia again. We traveled with them in 2009. At the time they were living in New Zealand but have resettled in Brasil and now have two young children.
All four of us left on the same day; Colin along with Robin and Dianne heading to Bolivia while I headed south to retrace my route down the Argentinian panhandle to Resistencia. First night was in Maringa, Brazil - the nice city we all stayed in when heading north. Next day I crossed back into Argentina and made it to Ituzaingo (the town with the dam) for an 800km day. No one stopped me at the Brazilian border so I just rode on through and even the immigration official in Argentina required only 5 minutes. Problem is I have no papers for the bike which is not normal. The immigration official said that everything was noted in the computer because I had been in Argentina before and even the Customs official was disinterested. I hope this does not cause me a problem because I exit Argentina at the top of a mountain so I guess I will get to see how well the system works. I had a great evening chatting and drinking a beer with the woman hotel owner and her son. She is no friend of Chile on account of their help to Britain during the Falklands war.
In the last couple of days I have seen people living (squatting) on the side of the roads. In Brazil the shacks were made of plastic and cardboard and in Argentina they were slightly more robust but all have dirt floors and no electricity.
Salta is 1100km away from Ituzaingo and too far to do in one day so the next day was only 400k to the only town on RN16 with accommodation. Saenz Pena is clearly a rural town - there is a tractor dealer in the middle of town. Here the woman manager of the hotel talked of her "beautiful Argentina" - clearly she has not been out much. The early arrival gave me a chance to adjust my chain and do my laundry. This hotel was $230 a night and last was $220. Both were very good and makes some of the $200 places seem extremely overpriced. That's Pesos not dollars (about $35 NZ).
After eight hours and 644km I arrived in Salta and because the road was pretty straight and with little traffic I was able to average 96 km/h. There weren't many gas stations on the road and I only just made it to Salta. Nothing much to see on the road; just scrub and cattle. Some of the "towns" look pretty poor and there are horse and carts every now and then. Hazards included free range horses and goats wandering over the road. I also came across a major head-on between two trucks. One had its cab destroyed and was jackknifed on the side of the road while the other was in a run-off with its cargo dislodged. I doubt one of the drivers survived and there was a woman and child sifting through what looked like personal stuff of the driver. There was still debris on the road when I arrived. Taking my cue from a HUBB report I booked into Hostel Salta por Siempre. Hmm! at $280 per night it's no bargain but they let me park my bike in the foyer and later that evening another bike turned up. This is the first time since leaving Ushuaia two months ago that I have met another fellow traveling biker.
I am ahead of schedule so I decided to stay an extra night in Salta. I figured the rest day would be nice, I can also use up the balance of my Argentinian Pesos (which no one will exchange) and besides there is an asado (BBQ) scheduled for tonight. My last meal in Brazil was crap so I am determined my last meal in Argentina will be something they excel at - roasting beef over hot charcoal. I also finally got a haircut - for fifteen bucks NZ I got a cut, wash, blow-dry and product. I suspect I look like an Argentinian spiv.
So this is my last day in Argentina. Tomorrow I head over the Andes to Chile. It's over 600 k's away so it's going to be another long day and I hope the promised rain does not appear.
Social housing in Brazil.

Small town Brazil.

Sign warns of a narrow bridge - like we can't tell!

Cities seem to just sprout from the fields - Brazil.

Love motels. Not brothels but places where lovers can go.

Crashed motorcycles at Police stations. Cars also. Brazil.

RN16 - 1100 km of nothing much. Argentina.

Basilica in Salta, Argentina. It's very impressive inside.

Street performers, Salta, Argentina.