Tuesday 4th Feb
Slept in a little longer than was planned due to the fact that it was the first decent bed I slept in for about 10 days! Gracias Hotel Manantial Del Silencio. My first port of call was Tilcara, 22Kms north on Ruta 9, through the Quebrada De Humahaca. One of the sights there, quite apart from the interesting adobe town, is Garganta Del Diablo. They gave me instructions on how to get there in the visitors center, and said I could get there with the bike no problem. Ehhhh …. It was a problem. I think they didn’t realize that there are bikes bigger than the standard issue 100cc Yamazukis that are standard issue here. Anyway, again I have video footage to post when my trip is over, to show my valiant but failed attempt to get up there … But 250 kilos of Ducati, with 90 kilos of Irishman on top wasn’t a realistic prospect on the unsurfaced climb, 2 meters wide, climbing 4 Kilometers at the angle of your average household stairs, with a precipice on the right side. I made it about 2 Kms up, then decided the town was interesting enough and went back! Tilcara was very pretty and fully of young backpackers, and so cheap restaurants and internet cafes, in addition to the usual host of artisan produce in the plazas.
After Tilcara, I filled up and went on to the next town, Humahaca. It too looked like something from Peru or Bolivia, but was also full of young backpackers – mostly Argentinian I think, but I couldn’t tell, because everybody speaks Spanish and I can’t pick up on accents yet.
But there was an atmosphere of happiness and festival in all of these little towns which was pleasant to experience. The array of colors in the artisans stands was an assault on the senses and very beautiful, and to my surprise, when I rounded a corner into one particular Plaza, there was an enormous monument atop long wide stone steps, towering over the whole town, with artisan’s stalls lining both sides.
As I walked up to get a photograph from the top, I think I must have had conversations with about 50 different people …. Sometimes I forget that I look like an astronaut to some of the people I encounter, and whatever chance they have of making sense of my appearance when I am beside the bike, when you take the bike out of the picture, they simply don’t know what to make of this Gringo with the strange suit. It was a very pleasant day though and I enjoyed every conversation. I only realized for the first time on this trip, without any of my friends, that I can speak “understandable” Spanish and to my delight, nobody asked me to repeat anything.
The day wore on and Mrs. Ducati in fairness has had a tough 48 hours and was caked in mud from the Salinas Grandes, the Andes mountains in general and now a goat track at the Garganta Del Diablo. So she started to kick up a bit on the way back to Purmamarca. In addition to the flashing ‘Fuel Sensor’ warning, to which I am now accustomed, the engine warning light came on and announced an EXVL warning. This is an evil little valve in the exhaust system that does that sometimes on Ducatis in general and Multistradas in particular. I knew what it was and I didn’t like it putting the engine warning light on, because if there was a serious engine problem, I wouldn’t know about it. Anyway, I came back to Purmamarca, drank two litres of some sort of local lemonade and made friends with a baby llama in the town center. Then I went back to the Hotel and borrowed the gardener’s power washer and that solved the EXVL warning light problem (for a while).
Tomorrow is time to say goodbye to the Andes and start the tiresome trek back across Argentina through the Chaco. I’ll try to make it to Presidente R.Saenz Pena I think, but that would be a big day, something around 800 Kms, so I’ll just have to see how it goes. The problem is once I commit to the trip, there isn’t much prospect of accommodation along the way until I get there. All part of the fun!