A border crossing back through the Andes, a fat motorcycle bill, and a handful of goodbyes to my wonderful San Juan hosts and I was off into the late afternoon sun of northwest Argentina.
Unable to secure a new rear tire, the balding rubber kept me honest and under 100kph. My hope was to pick up a new one in Bariloche – roughly 1,400km away and reachable within two very long days in the saddle.
Package Delivery in Mendoza
2 1/2 hours down the road, I had to make a stop in Mendoza to drop off a package for a family friend who didn’t trust the postal system. In theory this was fairly simple but in readying my gear and motorcycle to depart San Juan, I realized that my GPS unit had been pinched from my bag; likely in transit to Argentina when my bag would be most accessible. I had only just noticed because I hadn’t needed my motorcycle gear for the first week. My paper map was good for highways and large roads but it lacked the finer details for a city of 1 million+ people. Needless to say, I was flying a little blind. Oh well, it’s all still doable. It’ll just be more difficult.
More than an hour was spent searching the middle-upper class neighborhoods of Mendoza’s suburbs and with the dipping sun, I was getting a little anxious to get further south and get off the road. After asking multiple people for directions, I finally arrived at what appeared to be the right house. Except no one was there and neither was the son that lived next door.
Two doors down, I finally managed to get an extremely skeptical old lady to open her door to talk to me. She peered with clear trepidation between the bars of her locked security door while I tried to explain in my broken Spanish that I was here to deliver a package to her neighbors but I couldn’t make contact with them. The wide eyed concern relaxed slightly into a more inquisitive gaze as she explained that they were all away on holiday. With few other options, I asked if she could hold it for them. For a moment it looked as if she had just been asked to be part of a top secret mission. But a smile formed and she nodded her salute of acceptance. Thanking her profusely, I handed over the package and got straight back on the road south to get as far as I could before total darkness hit.
I spent the night in San Rafael after my plans to camp were thwarted by darkness, rain, and recommendations to stay in town. I couldn’t tell you what was going on that weekend but San Rafael was full and inundated with tourists. The cheapest room I could get was $50, which I reluctantly paid after I realized that I had no alternatives.
Ruta 40 & Patagonia
The famed highway, Ruta 40 and its path to and through Patagonia was one of the few must-do’s I gave myself on this journey. I had heard many stories of relentless winds, sporadically paved roads, and an environment that was not to be taken lightly. It had all of the lore and lure an adventure rider could ask for and I was excited for its famed section through the Patagonian wild.
Unfortunately for me, rocky roads don’t mix well with a balding rear tire and so my concerns for a flat were escalating rapidly. Adding to this was the fact that I was constantly in the middle of fucking nowhere. And so if I had a blowout, not only would I struggle to get a new tire, but I would also struggle to get proper medical care if I got hurt in the process.
That night I slept next to the river in a public campsite. I didn’t have too long to think about my potential tire situation before utter exhaustion and the calm surroundings smothered my needless thoughts.
Awakening groggily, I set off for the tourist town of Bariloche. With more distance to cover than yesterday, I knew it was going to be a brutal day. And it was. Nearly running out of gas became a minor memory swirled in with the hours of trying not to get blown off the road by the infamous winds of Patagonia..
Blusterous doesn’t quite describe the winds in this part of the world. Abruptly violent is a better description and I got the shit beat out of me for hours. Big trucks, dust, and crumbly roads created an environment of chaos at best.
But, I finally crossed the official line into Patagonia; a place I had dreamed of for years and was one of the big inspirations for this very journey I was on. I let out a big “Wooo!” in my helmet and I pulled over to marinade in this long awaited moment. In the distance I could see the jagged mountains, forests, and lake that Bariloche sits amongst.
The breathtaking lakeside ride into the picturesque tourist town of Bariloche was quickly overwhelmed once I entered the hectic downtown area. Thickets of people blanketed the sidewalks while cars and bikes snailed along bumper to bumper. Expensive hotels, restaurants, tour agencies, and curio shops seemed to go on endlessly.
I meandered around town in search of a decent meal, some groceries, and a beer. I found all that I was looking for and enjoyed the mesmerizing view that Lake Nahuel Huapi and the backdropped mountains create. Strong winds blasted south over the lake toward us and created white crests on the water that intermittently shattered the sun’s shimmering glow.
As much as I wanted to stay, I didn’t have the budget to contend with Bariloche’s accommodations. So, I opted to take up a camping recommendation from Mike, a fellow motorcycle traveler that I met last year on the shores of Lake Titicaca.
Mike, a recently retired Englishman, advised that I camp at Los Baqueaños; a picturesque spot on the south end of Lago Gutierrez. Mountains, forests, water and relative solitude. Just what I was looking for.
I managed to reserve a perfectly lonely camping spot along the lakefront for two nights. Both my bike and I needed a rest after some very long days of battling winds and rough roads. It wasn’t about to get any easier.
After a deep sleep, I awoke to my most important mission of the day; getting a new rear tire in Bariloche. It should have been a simple exercise but I apparently learned nothing in my 7 months in South America and I decided to visit the tire shop during the midday siesta. A complete amateur move that required patience and some time killing.
After a couple of hours, I returned to the shop and eventually got a new, overpriced tire, inner tube, oil, and a clean chain. Good to go! Mostly. My motorcycle still made the inexplicable noise at high speeds but otherwise it was still trucking along. With the essentials taken care of, a renewed confidence set in as I cruised back to my camp at Lago Gutierrez. One more night and then it was back on the road for another long haul.
Keep reading the adventure! – Chapter 24: Oil Leaks & Lines for Gas
Start this journey from the beginning: Introduction