Twenty-four hours was enough time for me in Chile’s San Pedro de Atacama. The small desert town had outrageously high prices on everything. I’d rather ride than hang out in a desert town so I rode on. Paul and Ian were ready to get out as well so we headed east toward Argentina.
We rode back up to over 13,000ft through more mars like landscapes. With sunny skies and no one else on the smooth paved roads it was a great morning. Less than two hours after leaving San Pedro de Atacama we crossed the border into Argentina. I had read that they recently opened a Chile border office here where we could process out but when we passed the border and still didn’t see a Chili border office I got a little worried. Two miles into Argentina we arrived at the Argentina border office. We walked in the building and I was relieved to see that both the Chile and Argentina border offices were in the same building.
This is the easiest and most straight forward border I’ve been to yet. Go to window number 1, then immediately to the left is window #2, then #3, and finally #4. All the stamps and paperwork are taken care of in a simple process. Wow that was nice. Less than 30 minutes and we had our Chile exit stamps and Argentina entrance and import permits. I’ll point out that Argentina recently enacted a new law requiring citizens from certain countries to pay a reciprocity fee to enter. For US citizens it’s $160 which is valid for 10 years. I payed the fee online and printed out the receipt which they scan at the border.
Crossing into Argentina the land became more colorful. Just after the border there is a gas station that accepts Chileano Pesos. After that there’s no gas until Jujuy. I’ll let these photos tell the story of what it’s like to ride through this part of Northern Argentina.
After riding over a pass I looked behind me and noticed Paul or Ian weren’t there anymore. I pulled over and waited. And waited. All the trucks that we passed finally passed me. It had 15 minutes now. Coming down the other side of the pass the switchbacks were in bad condition and had a lot of gravel and sand in the turns. Ian finally pulled up and said he noticed Paul wasn’t behind him so he stopped to wait. We said we’d wait for a couple more minutes then ride back. I was pretty sure he was fine but I started the ignition and turned around to see where he went. A few miles up the rode I saw Paul riding down the other way. He gave me a thumbs up and I immediately knew what had happened. He saw the dark storm clouds ahead of us then saw an outhouse at the road construction site so he wanted to prevent a roadside emergency in the rain later. Smart choice. Two things I’ve learned while being on the road. Always use a bathroom when you see one and pack toilet paper. So many places in Bolivia and here don’t have toilet paper.
The sky ahead of us kept getting darker and darker. There was no way around it. It would be a miracle if we didn’t get poured on. Halfway down the pass the rain started and it didn’t stop. 1 hour. 2 hours. We were riding along the road through the valley when the traffic came to a stop. Riding passed at least 2 miles of stopped traffic we reached the cause of the problem. There was landslide and small river flowing across the road. There was a crew there working to clear it but they had a lot of work left to do. A worker came over and I asked him if we could ride over it. He said we could so we did. That’s one benefit of riding a motorcycle in the rain.
By time we reached the small city of Jujuy we were soaked. We stopped to fill up at a gas station but before we could get there we ended up riding through the deepest river crossing of the trip. Totally caught off guard as we were riding down a city street. Assuming it was just a shallow puddle I quickly found out it was in fact a massive river that came up to my seat.
We were only 50 miles from Salta, the city we were trying to get to, so we decided we’d ride through the rain to get there before dark.
I entered Salta in my GPS and got the directions. A few miles into the ride I started questioning the route my GPS gave me when the road became the narrowest road I’ve ridden on. It was all paved but easily a one lane road that they had just painted lines on to make it two. The road went up into the mountains. With the rain and the sharp mountain corners we were only going 15-20MPH. I just wanted to get to Salta. My GPS routed us on the old road instead of the new highway. I wanted to be out of my wet riding gear and eating a nice dinner but the scenery was too amazing to be mad. It was beautiful. Passing by green mountain farms with horses grazing on the wet grass by the roads. Coming down from the mountain we came by a lake. With the sun starting to set, it glistened on the wet pavement. It was one of the coolest roads I’ve ridden.
It took over an hour and a half but we eventually arrived in Salta. The rain had stopped and the city welcomed us to light traffic and easy roads to navigate. We checked into Hostel Salta por Siempre. A 3 bed room was 90 Pesos each. We threw off our wet riding boots and gear and headed to dinner. At El Viejo Jack we had the largest and best steak and two bottles of amazing wine for less than $8 each. I think I’m going to love Argentina.