The elevation high was 16,000′ back in Peru. The worst experience was being tired after walking around too long at that elevation and having difficulty sleeping well.
As I cashed up in town (just a bit, border and exchange coming up) there was another bike in the main square. Out of the bank comes a German, Wolfgang. Whoa, two riders in one week, both Germans (as I’ve mentioned before, the majority of riders are Canadian, German and Aussie, in that order. But this may be just my experience.) We chat and are both going south. He’s under pressure to get further south than I have to today, Christmas eve is tomorrow and he has friends in Tucuman waiting for him. He’s lived in Argentina. But he’s got business at the bank, so I say I’ll get a start on the border and hopefully see him there.
People stressing out. Me – I can wait, I’m armed to the teeth with the correct paperwork and don’t expect problems. Everyone else seems to be having problem, specially the families. I wait behind one mother who can’t fill out the paperwork, she can’t read or write and is very unhappy as someone walks her through it. It’s super hot – 100F and there’s no usual water merchant
Then Wolfgang shows up right here. He walks up to where I am and by some brilliant manuever manages to get in the line beside me without getting a knife between his ribs. Very lucky. I go through first, get cleared out then just to the left get cleared in to Argentina and head off to Argentine aduana, back over the other side again, door to the right
This is no fun. I’m now 3 hours into it and the Argentine aduana chief doesn’t like my Guatemalan title. He’s not looking to be a jerk, he just can’t figure out why I would ride down from Vancouver with a Canadian bike then turn it into a Guatemalan bike later. It’s a very long story and I go through it with him slowly, twice. It takes forever.
We stop in a small town, get cold drinks and he tells me a few rider things about Argentina. Yes, the paranoia can be backed off just a bit. Yes, the Argentines are a friendly bunch. He gives me a final warning though – always keep your eyes open. No surprises. We say our goodbyes.
Shortly, we arrive in Tilcara. I walk around for a few minutes, slightly shocked. Unfortunately I had photo blackout and don’t take any pics, this has happened before when my priorities in the moment change, so you’ll have to wait for the next example of what I see and feel. It’s completely different from anything I’ve seen in a year. The people look somewhat European. The structures are modern. People look middle class. I haven’t seen anything like it in so long I’m slightly exhilarated. Off I go to the hotel, where a group of guys and I talk bikes for 20 minutes and I settle in to the awesome Posada de Luz. I’m spoiling myself in celebration. I sit up talking to the owner, Luz (which means light) for hours. Funny, Lucinda’s name comes from the Greek goddess Lucine, the giver of light.
So I guess you’ve noticed. The road is only about 8 feet wide and there’s a stripe down the middle, kind of indicating two lanes of traffic. But this can’t be, it’s hilariously narrow, like a footpath. So I expect it to widen after this little bit of local humor. But it doesn’t widen, and we’re headed into hills
And the whole time we’re riding this 8 foot paved footpath. It does crazy things to your head as you try to determine the right speed. Normal speed has you zipping through the twisties with no room for error. It’s a blast, if a little insane.
It keeps it up for nearly 50 miles, by which time I’m tired from concentrating, the corners have been crazy small too, sometimes so tight you wonder how you got through. This is definitely one of the best paved roads I’ve ever done.
Then approaching Salta, we’re on this big highway, and overhead are these completely high-tech green signs and I go into a kind of shock again. I’m not sure if we saw these in Mexico or not, but definitely not in any major city since. Nothing in a year. It’s like rolling into Vancouver. Check this sign out. Whoa, fancy
So now I’m smiling like a fool, even though I know this level of technology might be very short-lived given where I’m headed, maybe only one week, but we’re enjoying it, just like it’s Christmas or something.