Not quite conquered the Salar yet, but the last couple of weeks have seen me chill out in Salta, explore isolated cloud forest national parks (ie wet and humid) in Northern Argentina, meet some very kind and interesting people in isolated indigenous communities, have my first taste of Bolivia, do some pretty cool riding and only just make it unfrozen for a final Andes crossing back to Chile from Argentina.
Instead of doing a play by play, thought I'd just jot down some of the moments that have made me cringe, smile and think over the last couple of weeks....
Of course there's copious amounts of photos to wade through - of both the PN Baritu, the Quebrada de Huamhuaca - but I'm going to keep things clean for this post...
- Enjoying my first taste of coca tea – the coca leaves that men chew in big wads in their cheeks (que feo...), but these are just the leaves in hot water (tastes like a green tea)
- In Salta, watching Diego and Mika do tug of war with my front forks to separate the parts (the oil seal was being changed)Enjoying a very dry, warm night inside a converted German police bus in a wet, raining campground courtesy of some very cool Germans AND Jan's kick ass river stone stove built on the asado
- Realising how shit it is riding in rain, but also how proud I was to make my own waterproof pants out of a garbage bag and duct tape
- Enjoying some termas after arriving wet and cold – and seeing grandmothers and granddaughters rubbing mud on eachother's backs in the baths
- Making it through a border crossing, another country, 30kms of dirt and 27kms of mud slide that took me 3.5hours to conquer to Parque Nacional Baritu in northern Argentina. There were 3 quite isolated communities ' one called Los Toldos, which is relatively a big city of a couple hundred people, then 2 smaller communities ' Lipeo and Baritu with 24 families and about 30 families respectively. Very very closed communities, girls having children at 15, 12 kids in a family, no electricity. But families that are very close, inquisitive and curious children, children who grow up and return to be medics and teachers in the communities and very relaxed and generous all round.
- Especially in Lipeo and Baritu, also being asked straight after disbelief that I was travelling alone on a motorbike, how many children do you have? Such a different place and environment to anything I am familiar with.
- Definitely feeling the loneliness of solo travel while camping in PN Baritu
- Discovering 50+ photos of Adelina – a girl from Lipeo – taken at the campsite, inside my tent, dressing up in my clothes on my camera
- Riding 2 up with Massimo who let me stay in his house from Toldos to Tarija
- Absolutely LOVING my first taste of Bolivia – the markets, the very unique looking people (women in colourful billowy gypsy skirts, long pigtails tied at the ends and top hats), fantastic food
- Realising that I was saying I love you I love you over and over to a hot shower in Tarija, Bolivia after a week in the forests and bathing in cold rivers.
- Enjoying immensely the windy dirt roads of the river canyons in Bolivia from Iscayachi to Villazon. Was really fun riding and I think my favourite road yet.
- Riding over Paso Jama to nearly 5000m, a day before it was closed due to snowcover, arms shaking from the cold, fingers barely moving to change gears, doing yoga breathing to try and warm up while I rode – but doing the most kms I'd ever done in 1 day (about 460kms) and making it to meet up with Kurt in San Pedro de Atacama.
- Eating gulyas/goulash made by Philipe in Calama... I had 4 servings for dinner, and 1 more for breakfast.
- Riding out of Calama on my 200cc bike, leading Philipe in his sidecar, Kurt in his 650cc BMW boxer and Fred in his Kawasaki 650 KLR. Felt like I was part of a bike gang, albeit a really nice one:)
- Riding with Philipe in downtown Calama as a passenger in a sidecar – and getting more turning heads and looks that I normally get riding loaded up into a town.
- Laughing to myself as my bike tried to keep up to the bigger ones at high altitude on gradual ascents. Alas, it tries so so hard and has the best of intentions, but is just not that big and beefy to really cruise up there with the big boys.
- Eating freshly baked baguette out of an outdoor adobe oven in the hostel in San Pedro de Atacama – made by Arthur the French chef at El Anexo. The BEST bread I've had since travelling here...
Muddy road to PN Baritu Across the Andes again - Paso Jama
Windy road down from Paso Jama Gorgeous riding in Bolivia
Markets in Tarija, Bolivia