Got up about 9:00 am …. Decision made to ride the San Pedro De Atacama to Pumamarca leg again, for a few reasons, firstly to go on further into Chile means lots of long straight roads again, and I had enough of that on the leg from Asuncion to Salta! Secondly, that 400 odd Kilometers (Ruta 52 on the Argentina side) has to be simply one of the best stretches in the world for motorcycling. Besides, I have already done my photography on the way out, now I can take advantage of the Ducati and use it for the purpose it was designed.
The 40 Kilometer climb out of San Pedro was no less impressive going east than the descent was coming west. Also, experience had now taught me to breathe deeply on the way up this time, so there would be no problems with altitude sickness at the top – although it was odd having to constantly remind myself to breathe! I got to the Paso De Jama in no time, only to be greeted, with some surprise, by my friendly customs official / foreign exchange dealer, and he guided me into the hall where I had to face the same lengthy procedure of ‘exit Chile, enter Argentina, Argentinian police check, and finally Argentinian customs. Not only that, but a double decker bus had pulled in just in front of me with about 80 Chileans on it and they were all in the queue. Fortunately, the Chilean police official noticed me standing behind (and towering over) all the Chileans, and for some reason, he called me in front of everyone and processed my papers. Muy amable …. I don’t know why he did that, but I’m guessing maybe he is a biker.
Just when I thought everything was going well, I pulled into my favorite service station on the Argentinian side of the border and the guy tells me “estamos cargando senor “…. And sure enough a big petrol tanker is filling their tanks … “Una hora mas o menos Senor “…. Hmmm …. I’m sorry now I flogged the Ducati up to here, because I would have had enough fuel to reach Susques if I hadn’t. “Una Hora” turned out to be about 90 minutes, and I decided to wait rather than chance the leg to Susques with the remaining fuel on board. I discovered later, it would have been enough. Not to worry, still plenty of time to make Pumamarca.
The Multistrada was really flying and I got into a nice rhythm in the curves, enjoying every one more and more, until Argentina proved it has an animal more dangerous, and more stupid than the standard West of Ireland sheep …. the deadly Llama. Like our sheep, the llama, given 99 safe options and one for self destruction, will ALWAYS take the latter. As I came around one particular bend, there were a herd of llama about 500 meters in front crossing the road. I slowed down and when all but one were across the road and he was 95% of the way there, he decided it was a bad idea to cross the road and went back, 5 meters in front of me. I had no option but to grab all the brakes with death’s grip and let my good friend Mrs. Ducati use all her high technology to ensure I was still in the seat afterwards. It was a little close for comfort, but nobody died. You need a touch of good luck now and again hehehehe.
Soon I came upon ‘Las Salinas Grandes ‘ once again and there were a lot of tourists there this time.
I pulled up for a couple of photos and one of the buses was full of Brazilians, all of whom wanted their pictures taken on the Ducati against the backdrop of the slat flats, which look more like a lake at the moment due to the rains. That was a lot of fun and I had to answer a million questions about the Ducati, and what it was like and wasn’t I afraid travelling alone in these mountains. My standard reply to that last one, “afraid of what?” is always greeted with the usual silent raised eyebrow without further comment. I still haven’t quite figured out what people are actually thinking when they ask me that.
On the road again after the obligatory rapid departure on one wheel for the Brazilians’ benefit, (I don’t mind growing old, but I’m not even vaguely interested in growing up).
Shortly afterwards, I rounded a bend at the foot of the next mountain range to find a distraught native with his bike at the side of the road, frantically waving me down. Having slowed enough to ensure he was alone and that it wasn’t some kind of threat, he explained he had run out of fuel. So I got off and we siphoned 5 liters out of the Ducati into his spare fuel can. It did cross my mind as odd that he got so far into the mountains on a little 100cc moto, but he was a nice guy and I felt good helping him. However, when I was about to leave, I noticed four more fuel cans hidden in the bushes near where we were. I guess that’s how he gets his fuel. Ahh well, good luck to him.
I went on and I was really looking forward to the descent of the mountain into Purmamarca without having to stop for photos this time.
And with good cause …. It was exhilarating, and I caught the whole thing on video …. Except when I downloaded the video to the PC later, another bloody butterfly had decided to end his days on my camera lens …. Its still viewable, but I am coming to hate butterflies.
Purmamarca is a fascinating little town (Note to bikers: no fuel available), overshadowed by the Cerro de Siete Colores and I found a nice hotel nearby “Hotel Manantial Del Silencio”… A very welcome luxury after the relative ‘roughing it ‘of the last few days. It was now late in the day after my fueling problems, the Brazilians modelling on my bike and my buddy with the fuel cans in the hedge, so I didn’t get time to explore much before sunset.
Consequently, I decided to stay here tomorrow and take advantage of all the local sights before hitting the road for Asuncion on Wednesday.