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Published: August 6th 2015
Distance driven today: 317 miles / 510 km
Cumulative distance driven: 12,928 miles / 20,806 km
Today’s trip: Tarija, Bolivia to Salta, Argentina
International border crossings: 1
After 3 hours of rather easy riding, we finally reached the border to Argentina today. During our enjoyable morning ride from Tarija in Bolivia we steadily descended, and before we knew it we had left the last parts of the South American Altiplano that we have been riding on ever since southern Peru behind us. By the time we reached the border we were practically at sea level altitude, with the temperature having risen to a very comfortable level and the tropical vegetation, which we hadn’t seen since Ecuador, reappearing on the roadside. It felt really good after our challenging Altiplano adventures.
At the border we were initially confused. It appeared as if there are two border crossings at the same place! One border for locals going back and forth all the time, and one international which is the one we were directed to. As always we expected the worst from a border crossing, but we got surprised when we had gone through both the Bolivian and Argentinian
immigration and customs offices in less than an hour. Apart from saving at least 2 hours compared with other similar border crossings, the whole area was very quiet and well organized. We counted a total of 10 people at the border during our time there; not exactly a crowed place. Both Zoe and I quietly thanked the Bolivian road engineer that we had met during breakfast yesterday in Tarija Bolivia for his excellent suggestion of choosing this very border.
With over 2 hours ahead of today’s schedule, and flat and straight roads in excellent condition, we decided to head to the city of Salta, which is the capital of northwestern Argentina. With its colonial architecture, pedestrian streets, and a vibrant central square, Salta felt like a welcome change to the harsh climate and less than elegant architecture of the South American Altiplano. Our goal now is to plan more in detail the logistics and schedule of our final riding in Argentina and Chile, since these two countries are also the last two on the long PanAmerican Highway. Argentina and Chile are however also, by far, the longest countries to ride through. With 5,000 km / 3,000 miles, and a
tough gravel road at the southern part of Argentina (the road is Routa 40 – more on this in a later blog post), we still have quite some way to go.
Since we look to be rolling into Santiago Chile over the coming weekend, we would like to change tires while here in northern Argentina. This way we hope that we will not have to hang out in Santiago over a weekend, having to wait for 1-2 days for the stores to open and get new tires. I somehow have a sense that we will need those extra days in southern Chile and Argentina. But where do you find good tires that fit our specific wheel dimensions, and which are good for paved roads for northern and central Argentina while at the same time are soft enough for the tough gravel road during the final 2,000 km / 1,200 miles of Routa 40 to Ushuaia?
As luck would have it, Zoe spotted two Bolivian motorcycles parked at the main square here in Salta yesterday, just before we sat down at a dinner place. The motorcycles were identical to ours and Zoe walked up to the Bolivian riders and
asked them whether they by any chance happened to know a good place for tires in the city. Half an hour later we had got tons of great information on local and regional roads, including two great tires stores in Salta to get the exact right tires we need. Turns out that these riders from southern Bolivia (I guess you could say that they practically live next door) ride through this region a couple of times per year, and have an excellent knowledge of the region.
The final stop of the evening was an eyeglass store to get new sunglasses frames. My frames broke clean in two parts at the border earlier today. Riding under the strong sun without them is difficult. The lady who owned the eyeglasses store I walked into was extremely helpful, and managed to find a set of similar enough frames that could fit the prescription lenses from the broken frame. While I waited for her son to transfer the lenses from the old broken frame to the new one, she stuck a conversation with me, summarizing her analysis of the current Argentinian economy in three sentences. She informed me that Argentina has three main
problems. Though I am pretty sure that there are many more, but she claimed that, as a private business owner, that there are three main evils haunting the Argentine economy. First, the country continues to be plagued by massive corruption at all levels. Second, because the current government has been subsidizing lots of goods and services, the incentives for business are distorted, making it hard to start and/or run a private business. Third, as a result of the first two problems, there is big unemployment in Argentina, and sense among the younger generation that the future is rather bleak. I laughed when she said that Argentina had become the Greece of Southern America! In summary, I got a new set of frames for my sunglasses and
a lesson in Argentinian macroeconomics in less than 20 min – not bad if you ask me.
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