The debate still rages in my mind as to whether the copious amounts of coca leaf Mojitos that Carmen and I had drunk the night before putting the world to rights, helped or hindered the day. Whichever way it had been great to connect again having not seen her since Columbia. She and Michael had ridden very quickly to the tip of the Argentina, Ushuaia. Michael had to get back to Germany, leaving her to explore the continent a little more with a backpack.
|On the way down to Argentina...the glory of green and warm lands embraced.|
|Stunning rock forms framed the road for hundreds of miles|
It would be erroneous to claim that I was not wary of the political tensions between Britain and Argentina, and had been advised to stay clear of the subject as much as possible. It took me five hours to get across the Argentinian border, a confusing system that did not really conform with usual crossings. This combined with large numbers of people and a final hick-up caused by my lack of 3rd party insurance and a 9 o'clock at night to scurry around to print off a worldwide insurance that I had. This insurance wasn't sufficient for Argentina, but absolute promises to buy some in the morning eventually got us through. The poor fellow at the border wanted to go home to bed. Anyway the point was that I met nothing but good humour and enthusiastic conversations about the Malvinas right from the start…initiated by others. The 2 Union Jacks on Batty may have prompted the conversation, and I had toyed about taking them off, but thought to see how things went. Nothing aggressive but a seemingly deep trench attitude of absolute claim that goes back 200 years.
Salta was a very pleasant overnight stop, like being in a classic southern European city, full of grace and architectural delights, saying nothing of the stylish and often very beautiful inhabitants. The next day was probably one of my favorite journeys particularly between Cachi and Cafayate. Although not paved, every new turn as it followed a river, had endless new forms of landscape intrigue. Nothing particularly high, but just beautifully honed forms, courtesy of mother nature.
|Scenes between Salta, Cachi and Cafayate|
|Ross and Judy|
|A small roadside cafe emptied to see Batty and I off after a lunch|
The word Mendoza I had seen on countless bottles over the years, and driving into the city surrounded by thousands of acres of vineyards held great promise. But before the testing, there were some rather urgent requirements on the Batty front. For two months I had put her through and on roads way outside her comfort zone. The frame had cracked again in front of the engine so before the day was out I found myself at Ariel's workshop. It was Saturday afternoon, and he was closed although happy for me to leave the bike with him over the weekend. Then he handed me a beer and along with his neighbour George and various other people dropping by, the next six hours was one of much humour and loads of nationalistic quips. This hospitality extended to dinner, or I should say Asado, the grilling of meat over hot coals…barbecue Argentinian style.
|Ariel found lots cracks on the frame...none as bad as the front one, but he did fix them all up.|
|Ariel's father in law, became a great pal as we worked together cleaning and sorting out bits and pieces...so much so that I asked his name about 5 times...but I just could not get it...such was his dialect and my poor ear.|
|Machine like welding of Ariel's|
|Extra metal under the seat...a crack that could have been alarming had it gone completely.|
Because we were having our annual 2 day work meeting, I had booked into a more comfortable but rather functional business hotel for the week. Catching up with the cream of the Illustration world and lots of other folk was, as always, stimulating and only excited me all the more for my return.
|A slight distraction from work...the hotel was having some form of Miss Mendoza competition|
|One of many delightful squares adorning Mendosa|
George was there again and as chief chef. A delightful and funny man, he led the charge on the only Englishman present. As each delicious morsel and beer came my way, I must confess to conceding a little bit more of the Falklands much to the delight of the assembled. The call for "Malvinas para Argentina" met with little truck from my suggestion that the Falklands should be for the Falklanders.
It was not a debate I was going to win, but it was in very good humour and nobody wants any more blood spilt. The only concession I did get was the acceptance that it was currently a political smokescreen to disguise the unpopularity and failing economic policies of the administration.
As the evening wore on George became braver, and ended asking me how many prostitutes I had been with on the trip. What do you say? If I told him the truth he would not have believed me, so I told him about a 1000….great excitement….then he asked how much did it cost each time?…$1000 on average I confessed, where upon he offered me his backside.
|George busy joking and cooking|
|The road in to Chile from the Argentinian border|
|Pack horses sharing the road|
|With Georg and Jacek in Santiago|
|Loads of graffiti in Santiago. Went on a 'free' walking tour of the city. a fabulous invention that has the guide well funded by tips|
On a 2 day, 500 mile ride south of Santiago into the Lake District, and at a stop for fuel etc, a guy on a large Yamaha came over for a chat. Juan Carlos farms 200 kms south of where we were. Such is the kindness of the man, he offered his plane if I ever needed spare parts flown in on my trip south. Hopefully nothing like that will be needed, but the offer has been completely in keeping with all that I have met in Chile.
|Under Volcan Villarrica|
|My camping neighbours, Claudia and Georg...much shared wine, food and fun|