Saturday, 8 September 2012

Passing gas in Purmamarca

Meeting all these bikers I realise I know nothing about bikes so it has been really good to learn a few maintenance tips from them.  I’ve walked to the bike shops so many times and bought a multitude of things, but then again I don’t want to be stranded in the middle of no where again.  Possibly my best modification though has been to pad out my seat with a fluffy blue towel to save my numb arse...and to think some bikers spend hundreds upgrading their seats when they could be using a stolen hostel towel.

Today I felt ready to move on and decided to check out the area between Salta and the Bolivian border, around Purmamarca.  Purmamarca is a village in an area called Quebrada de Humahuaca.  The Quebrada is famous for the many colours of the rocks in this area with the hills surrounding the village aptly named Cerro de Siete Colores.  Andy just left for Brasil, but Fletch has not seen this area yet so is going to come along as well.  It took a bit of time getting out of Salta as we used my GPS, will I never learn?  Once out we took the amazing twisty track of Ruta 9. Its only a short run of 160km and great fun with all the corners but I didn't get any pictures as I was always trying to catch up with Fletch's bike.  Every half hour he would stop and wait for me and when I got there we would set off again.  Damn my slow arse bike. 

Ruta 9, Snack stop with Fletch.  Note my impressively revised towel seat.

Was a good easy run, but when we arrived Fletch noticed an oil leak caused by an oil bolt that had sheared its head off the bottom of the engine.  He could carry on using it but there is also a risk of the rest of the bolt being sucked into the engine when it is warm.  If that happens he’d have to replace the bottom end of the engine.  Bit of a disaster as we are in the middle of nowhere, the nearest bike shop is in Jujuy 70kms away, which means we have to somehow ship the bike there.  Easier said than done and we spent all afternoon walking around the village trying to find someone who has a camineta (pickup truck) who could take the bike and Fletch to Jujuy.  I resorted to walking around knocking on doors of houses that had a camineta parked outside.  It was a pain, people would tell you to go to one house then when you arrive you are told to go to another only to later find out the person you need is not in the village.   Just as we were giving up we met an argentine girl visiting from La Plata who said she knew where to find someone and helped arrange the lift for tomorrow for 300 pesos.
Parking up just outside the village
Cerro de la siete colores
Looking back into the village at sundown
Not sure what the crack is here, but they look just as happy as me to be up at sunrise....must be religious then.
Fighting off the queues during mid season sales.
Pretty cool hotel built into the hill

So now its night time and we've set up camp.  Not much else is going on up here tonight.  Its pretty cold camping at this altitude, but we just had a load of deep fried empanadas topped with chilli sauce.  There is actually real chilli sauce that came with the empanadas, a first in Argentina as they hate spicy food.  Going to bed now just waiting for the twangy music to stop in the restaurant nearby.  It sounds like they made the instruments five minutes ago using what ever they could find in the bins out the back.  
Despite appearances we are having the time of our lives
Ok new rule no chilli sauce while camping.  Was the first time in months since I ate it and we both over did it a bit.  It didn’t help the campsite toilet resembled the one from Trainspotting, even more so after we left.  Anyway early this morning I helped load Fletch’s bike onto the pickup and then rode 70km off to the salt flats called Salinas Grandes.  The route to Salinas is the start of Ruta 52 which continues onto the Paso de Jama and into Chile - the most northern border pass between the two countries.  Its a high pass hitting 4200m which affected the running of the bike causing the engine to misfire a bit, but otherwise it was a simply inspiring route with long sweeping curves and a fair few trucks to dodge.
At the top.  I made the mistake of running up this hill and nearly passed out through lack of air.
Not quite the same distance for a crow
Behold! a Euromot 200GXT.  A thing of beauty
Job done!

Twisty stuff on the way back
Returning to Purmamarca I packed up my tent and went to get petrol, only to realise there is no petrol available anywhere.   What with the chilli sauce incident in the morning it reminded me of a saying I'd been told about Mexico that applies to here too.  “You should never pass gas, otherwise you’ll either shit your pants or run out of fuel”.  So true.  I should have bought more petrol leaving Salta.  Still I figured I had just enough to do the 70+kms to Jujuy so I set off.  Using the cheapskate technique of being pulled along in the slipstream of a few trucks and also freewheeling on the long downhills I got into the outskirts of Jujuy and treated my bike to a full tank of permium petrol.  It was late afternoon and I checked into Dublin Hostel, where I'd arranged to meet Fletch.  Strange name for a hostel in Northern Argentina, but it does have an Irish bar of sorts.  Perhaps next they should look into stocking Guinness.  I found Fletch crashed out in one of the dorm rooms, so he'd obviously had one of his busy days.

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