Salta day

Washing bike in Salta 1Friday 30th January 2014

 Had breakfast in Hotel Salta in good time to leave for a day trip and return – but when I went out and saw the state of the bike, I changed the plan!    I took it to a “lavadero” where it was given a hot bath and a full massage and it looks much better now.  So we had a sunny cruise in sunglasses, tee shirt and jeans around Salta instead.

 While the bike was in the Spa, I got the maps out and set my mind to planning the next few days.   The first realization was that in order to proceed with the original skeleton plan (basically continue to Bolivia), I would have to ride past and ignore some of the most dramatic scenery northern Argentina has to offer … seems like faulty logic there.   Secondly, Bolivia is a bit too risky on a solo voyage – if the bike quits 300 Kms from anywhere in Bolivia, I’m really in hot water.   So much as it pains me, discretion is the better part of valor …. I’m going to use Salta as a base for a few days and take in all that Northern Argentina has to offer ….  Giving me the added advantage of being able to travel light.

9 De Julio 5 So, today I will do a bit of protective maintenance (counter-butterfly measures) on the bike.    Tonight, I’ll enjoy the craic in Salta centro and tomorrow, I’ll go north to Purmamarca and Humahuaca to see “Cerro de los siete colores “ and the various other buen vistas available.   Further report to follow …. I did try uploading a few photos today – but I don’t think I have enough internet speed for that … we’ll see.

Hasta luego

G

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El camino de los mariposas blancas (The road of white butterflies)

Got on the road (having skipped the breakfast in the Gualok Hotel, Saenz Pena) at 9:00 AM.  Madam Ducati seems to be in a great mood, no more tantrums with the Fuel gauge and computer … The target today is Salta … 650 odd Kms away.   Ruta 16 goes through the Argentinian Chaco and there are long distances between any villages / towns, so fuel management in a big issue.   DSC_0505I filled up just before leaving Saenz Pena and after an 82 Km hop, I filled up again in Pampa del Infierno (Pampa of Hell!) …. All good so far.  The next leg took me 163 Kms to Monte Quemado where I filled up again, forgetting to turn the computer off again … So we had 100 Kms of tantrums again, at one stage telling me I was good for 350 Kms and 20 seconds later – I was on reserve ….  So I just ignored all that and ground out the Kilometers.   The road was in good condition, but it is the first time I have ever driven so far without even one bend! After Monte Quemado, there was another 163 Kms of long straight road to Joaquin V. Gonzales, but there was one bend in the road,  …. and after 400 Kms as straight as an arrow – I nearly crashed trying to negotiate it !  (Joke Mam …  ) Butterflies in Rad

By the time I got to J.V. Gonzales, I noticed that the bike was running a bit hot ….. closer inspection revealed about 6 million of those lovely white butterflies I had been looking at along the way were now dead and clogging up the radiator and the oil cooler …. It took me half an hour to get most of them out …. But full marks to the Ducati, it didn’t even blink at this not inconsiderable inconvenience. I set out on my final leg to Salta with a feeling of great enthusiasm … it was about 1:30 PM and the computer (now no longer sulking) was telling me that I should make the 222Km leg in about 2 hours … and that I also had enough fuel to make it in one hop which is exactly what happened …. The main excitement of the day happened about 200Kms out …. I saw mountains … after 450 Kms of dead flat Chaco countryside – I found myself smiling inside the helmet.   Mrs. Ducati wasn’t finished reminding me of her Italian heritage though  … at a little village 11 kms into the final leg, “she” tried to send me on a 140 Km route where the one I had chosen was only 110Kms … lucky I was awake there ….. I didn’t have the fuel for that excursion.   The final 100-odd Kms was a twisty, hilly dual carriageway (haven’t seen one of them for a long time) which took me all the way to Salta.   Sky over Salta 2 I set the computer to take me into the city centre and that she did  …. And What a beautiful city Salta is!

Arrived in Salta

Arrived in Salta

I’ll stay here tomorrow and get some R&R and some photos to add.   I found Hotel Salta, right on the corner of the Plaza in the city centre – beside all the restaurants and bars …. And it looks like something in Italy – absolutely beautiful. So summarize the day …. 650 Kms, 49 Litres of fuel, six and a half hours including fuel stops – and a slightly sore ass.  Feeling great though …. And I’m within striking distance now of both the Andes mountains between Argentina and Chile to the west, and the Bolivian Border to the north (Just one day’s ride to either).    Will look at the weather because both have average altitudes way way higher than I ever went when I was flying planes!  Average 4,000 Meters …. That’s 13,000 feet in my (original) language.   Apparently at that altitude you get about 12.5% oxygen in the air…. Some people can manage without problems and some can’t …. And there is no rhyme or reason to it – either you are lucky or you aren’t.   The Bolivians swear by chewing coca leaves, mixed with some sort of catalyst …. but I don’t know about that …. not for Bikers anyway …. Time will tell. Easy day tomorrow then …. I’ll find somewhere to get the remaining 3 million white butterflies out of the Ducati and then take steps to prevent the same thing happening again – and take some photos to add to this post !

Caio for now. G

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Asuncion, Paraguay to Presidencia Roque Saenz Pena, Argentina

It was a bit slow getting out of Asuncion and Paraguay today, firstly because of traffic and then at the border crossing, everything went well with immigration and Argentinian customs, until I tried to leave.   The police stopped me and wanted a “papel” which I didn’t have.  It took a few minutes to understand what was happening, but everyone was good natured and helpful.   Eventually, it became clear that even though I had been stamped out of Paraguay and stamped in to Argentina, and cleared customs satisfactorily, I didn’t have the little bit of blank paper the Paraguayan immigration girl gave me … i handed that to the Argentinian immigration guy, who was very pleasant and efficient – but didn’t give it back to me.   How it Works is that they all put their stamp also on this little bit of blank paper as well as on your documents, and then the police in Argentina ask you for it, so that they can see you have gone through both immigration offices and customs, then they just throw it in the bin.   You live and learn!

The road to Formosa is long and straight and relatively traffic free, with a good surface and I stopped to refuel at the first station.  It was at this point the Ducati decided to remind me it is Italian.  While the guy was filling the tank, I turned on the ignition to make a note of the mileage  …. Ducati’s don’t like that!   When I left for Resistencia, the computer spent the first 20 Kms flashing up “Fuel Sensor” warnings – and the following 40 Kms telling me the tank was almost empty.  Then it gave me a real fright …. It started to stutter about 50 Kms short of Resistencia.   I really didn’t fancy being stuck with a ducati in the Argentinian Chaco with a dead motor and I decided not to stop in case it wouldn’t start again!   After about 5 Kms, the stuttering disappeared and I rolled in to Resistencia apparently functioning well.   With about 5 Kms to go, two Brazilians, rolled into formation with me, and now I was riding ‘point’ in formation … a good start to the trip I think!   These guys joined me for refreshments in the service station and they turned out to be part of a group of over 50 motorcyclists from Mato Grosso in Brazil.  They were on the return leg of a trip through Peru, Chile and Argentina, which had taken them to Machu Picchu.   It was interesting talking to them, partly because they could understand Spanish, but not speak it – and I could understand bits of Portuguese but not speak it!   But mostly because they were able to tell me a lot about the roads I might be encountering in the next couple of weeks – and it was pretty much all good news.   They didn’t go into to Bolivia though.   Still a bit of an unknown quantity that.

After we took some photos and went on our separate ways, I turned my attention to my temperamental Italian friend once again.  This time I turned off the ignition and didn’t turn it on again until I had fueled up and locked the petrol tank!   Miracle …. not only did the computer start to work correctly immediately, it proudly announced that we had a full tank (I knew that) and that we now had a range of 310 Kms.   It never did that before …. it always denied it had a full tank and just showed 50% until it was actually 50% full, at which stage it would start giving accurate information.   Hmmm …. BMW’s don’t do this ….

Anyway, after friendly goodbyes with my new Brazilian friends, I set off for Presidencia Roque Saenz Pena …. And the bike never missed a beat.   Confidence shaken but not stirred.

So, nice easy 500Km first day  – enough to get organized, and see what I forgot  –  my watch, and an adaptor for Argentinian sockets.  However, at least I’ll have time to look around Saenz Pena for the adaptor and I’ll see if I can find a watch when I get to Salta.

More tomorrow (internet access dependent)

G

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Under way at last

Ready to rock!

Ready to rock!

Well, the time is here …. the bike is packed – clothes – check, tools – check, documents – check, photocopies of documents – check, compass and two GPS’s – check.  Adventure suit – check … suit inner linings – no ( how cold can it be – even on the Bolivian high plains during summer ? and anyway – I have no room for them).   Tent (in case of emergencies) – check, sleeping bag with mosquito net – check.

Cameras – Sony DSC-RX100 and GoPro Hero3+

Just have to buy a 1st aid kit now, get some Argentinian and Bolivian Pesos and that’s about it …. Hit the road early tomorrow – Asuncion, Resistencia, Sáenz Peña …. About 550 Kms – an easy 1st day to make sure everything is ok and nothing falls off.

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Multistrada issues …..

I wanted to buy a “dual sport” bike to do some long distance touring in South America. The choice came down to the tried and tested BMW1200 GS or the relatively unproven (except on the race track) Ducati Multistrada.

The BMW has a proven track record, it’s bigger, stronger, heavier, devoid of character and ugly as sin. The Multistrada is unproven in tough environments (like the Andes), temperamental, and comes from the shop floor with a few built in glitches before you even start … For example, a fuel gauge that insists you are out of fuel just after you top up the tank and a butterfly valve in the exhaust system that has no function other than to affect (reduce) noise – but regularly sticks, causes rough running and generates computer error readings.

I decided to buy the Ducati. You see, life is too short for Germanic engineering excellence at the total cost of character, and the Ducati is a thing of beauty. The minute you throw a leg over the Ducati, you become entranced by its charisma. It has lost NONE of the racetrack pedigree that is synonymous with its origins. At the same time, those clever little Italians have put in a computer that gives it three ‘other’ personalities… Press the appropriate buttons and it offers urban mode, enduro mode and touring mode – all of which calm down the sport mode – which was my first experience and the cause of my attraction …. With all of it’s 150 horse power. The BM can do all that too of course …. Except it’s still a big panzer tank and it’s never going to be pretty.

Right then. Wrong decision made, and happily justified …. ‘No victims, only volunteers’ as a good friend of mine regularly observes in life. Im not revisiting that decision either – I can’t live with a bike I hate the look of..

So. Having explored how I can get rid of that butterfly valve in the exhaust …. The news is not great …. That computer I mentioned doesn’t like it if you just mess around and disconnect it. A full ‘cat-free’ exhaust system is about 10 Kgs lighter (significant) and there are kits available on the market which bring their own solutions to fooling the computer into believing the butterfly valve is still there and working. It’s an expensive option at about $2,000, but that 10 Kg saving combined with a free flow exhaust system is attractive too …. Jury out until I can convince myself it’s worth it.

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Ducati Multistrada 1200 ‘Pikes Peak’

image

This is the bike I will be touring on … Big, fast, Italian, totally electronic /  computerized … Just perfect for the average mechanic in the Bolivian high plains if anything goes wrong – hehehehehe (You have to laugh don’t you).

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Suzuki Boulevard 1,800 V- twin

20131201-002844.jpgSuzuki Boulevard 1,800 V- twin

This is NOT he bike I will be touring on, but it is a barrel of laughs from traffic light to traffic light.

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