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Published: February 3rd 2006
So, where were we?
Really rugged rock faces here as the valley gets narrower and the road climbs higher, tortuous, angry old mountains, great cracks and crevices, agonised twists in the layers of colours, yellows, browns, reds even green, and a quick sighting of Mount Aconagua, nearly 7,000 metres!!, snow capped, proudly standing out as the highest peak outside the Himalyas (across the border I meet a couple of German guys who are going to climb it) then into some serious going up bits, one section has 27 hairpin switchbacks in an almost vertical rise, mind boggling dimensions to the scene, the brain can’t comprehend this enormous vista of the mountains and valleys, then the near-vertical walls of bitumen at each turn, dodging giant trucks labouring under brakes, overloaded and hanging on by the skin of their teeth, glimpses of wide-eyed, white-knuckled drivers and hapless family members in the cab,, it’s a looong way down.
This is the road to the frontera between Chile and Argentina. The valley narrows, these immense walls of rock closing in on me, and then the long tunnels, low lights, too late to take off the sun glasses, water, slippery, dark, cars and trucks coming the
other way, uneven surface throwing the bike across and back, jagged rock walls in the dull glow of the headlights ( the last fog light gave up the ghost 2 days ago) terminal claustraphobia cutting in, scary, scary…the longest tunnel, almost 3 kms and 3 1/2 kms above sea level, I thought it was called Jesus the Panelbeater but it’s Christo el Redentor,
The frontera itself, well, could have been better……for all that Argentina has, and does with so much flair and friendliness and everything wonderful, this frontera was your frontera from hell. But we won’t go there, suffice to say, after 3 hours, we were happy to be back in Argentina again.
On the down side, geographically, not metaphoricaly, the most astounding scenery, down the valley, a raging browny creamy river chasing the road, I would have expected a white-water river here, this must be cutting lots of ground out to be this grubbed up. The water is wildly trying to escape the river, bursts of foam and spray as it leaps up, falling back, pummelling the rocks, you know its just a matter of time and all will be worn away, phenomenal roaring and crashing, I can hear
it from the road, even with helmet and motor on. And the sheer rock faces again in multi-colours, quite extraordinary, giant scree slopes falling hundreds of metres to the valley floor, and beyond all this several magnificent thunderheads boiling up and catching the last rays of the sun…this is all just too much!…...but I'm getting ahead of myself again...back up a few days...
Before all that, a couple of days in Vina del Mar annd Valparaiso, checking out the coast and meeting up with a couple of venezuellan ex-pats that Raf picked up on the net, couple of brothers who live with their parents and sister in a house way back inn the hills, fantastic setting, surrounded by 5 enormous white Canadian Shepherds (dogs that is)
Pablo and Mathias met us on their bikes, 800 DR Suzuki and 620 KTM and gave us an unreal tour of the cities, up and down narrow winding back streets, around the coast, incredible!…we took the scary, 18th century ascensor, sort of cable car on tracks with fabulous views out over the port....the port of Valparaiso is surrounded by steep cliffs,, with a couple of these devices hauling the locals up and down,
old English castles and houses from way back, layers and tiers of apartments, especially round from Vina, the newer developments, cascading down to the beaches.
Stayed a night at the family house with the family, the 5 dogs and the parilla and a few bottles of v nice Chilean reds.
I went to the BMW dealer in Vina on Monday morning, v small outfit and no spares but the guy there, took out Raf’s bolt, and as we figured it all looked the same, he went off and a few hours later came back with one a friend had made!!, yes carved it out of another bolt, don’t know how BMW will cope but it does the job…you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone, how true, and how sick was I getting with stepping off gingerly and putting the bike up on the centre stand!!
Went back to Santiago wondering about tyres, but as usual, something came up. On the way to Vina, we had come alongside a guy on a brand new 1200GS with every imaginable bit of touratech stuff on it…and even a touratech label across the tank, Raf had a quick chat at
the next toll booth and got his number.. The company he works for import german equipment for the food industry, the boss had friends with bikes and contacts in germany so they started bringing out touratech stuff, and Continental tyres…the most popular and hard to get tyres everywhere.
Next day we meet up and score tyres, get them fitted (a yarn for another day) and headed for the frontera where this page started.
So, somehow we ended up here in Mendoza, beautiful…… on the way into town we pulled alongside a silver haired gentleman on an old K100LT, not dissimilar to my old K100, again we pulled alongside and had a chat.
Humberto was hospitable to the extreme as we have found many times in this country, took us to a fabulous little hotel, just perfecto, then to the BMW dealer (the ONLY mechanic who does bikes is on vacation!) and then, later that night, sends his son in to guide us to the house for a parilla.
And what a parilla, with his wife and a Chilean friend who has been in Germany for many years. Humberto tells us that he was twice Argentine champion cyclist, as
in bicycles, and was heading for Oz for the Olympics in ’58 when the military coup stopped all travel etc…bummer! He has had, and still enjoys a remarkable life, has travelled a lot, seen the final leg of the Dakar etc etc and with a wicked sense of humour and a good eye for the chicas still…we live in hope!
This morning Humberto rocks up and guides out to the bodegas (wineries). I was reluctant, of course, but they persuaded me to go!! Mendoza is the famous region for wines in Argy…I had already tried several and they are fantastic!! We went along the back roads (away from the touristas on the autopistas), roads lined with Elms and Gums!! Great canopied roads with vineyards stretching out on each side, and off in the far distance, the ever-present blue, hazy outlines of the massive mountain ranges.
And the wines were fantastic, the tour guides cute, roadside lunch of proscuito and sourdough in a run-down dump you wouldn’t thin k of eating in!…with a bottle of Chandon, then another bodega and , naturally, a little lie-down.
Hey, I’m out of here…see if some of these photos tell the story,
some of them I've pinched from Raf, thanks mate.
And you know we don't do cheerios but this is an exeption!...Best Wishes to Nina and Richard for tomorrow (altho’ it’s probably tomorrow for you already) send me some pix!
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