I finally left Valparaiso. I was very much looking forward to getting out of the city and into the outdoors. I am a little worried about Stybba though. She is leaking oil from the gearbox into the drive shaft, which makes for a big mess. The leak is a lot worse now, even though I have changed the seal on the output shaft twice now. So I think there has to be some other problem, I am not aware of. Khim has offered to have a look at it. I am planning on meeting up with him and Katharina in Mendoza. But they are still quite a bit further south and will not be in Mendoza for a while. This leaves me some time to go exploring. I want to avoid driving a lot, but instead hope to do some trekking. A good way to get to know the place and loose some of the weight I have put back on in Switzerland.
From Valparaiso it is a fairly boring ride down to Talca. But there I head up into a very pretty part of Chile. First towards Lago Colbun and then past the lake and a place called ‘Suiza’, I take a little detour into the Melado valley. I ended up spending a couple of days out there with the Chilean cowboys. I helped clear the potato fields, eat wild blueberries and went trekking. It was great, just what I had been looking for. At night there were a lot of stars to admire and a very bright moon was shining. And just like Matz had predicted, but wasn’t a 100% sure of, the moon is ‘the other way around’ down here, if you know what I mean (a ‘z’ for waning moon and an ‘a’ for a growing moon). So Matz you were right all along, sorry for the confusion!
Eventually I dragged myself away from this paradise and headed back to the main road which was going to take me over Paso Pehuneche to Argentina. In ‘La Mina’ a good 50 kilometers from the pass and the border I had to check out of Chile. I am not in Asia anymore. There no matter where I went, the bike was always the big attraction and I forever had to answer to same questions: ‘Diesel or petrol? How many cc? Mileage? Double-engine?’
Here there is really only one question: ‘Sola?- Alone?’ Never mind the bike! What strikes people as strange here, is the fact that I would be travelling alone. They just can’t get over that. Especially here at the border they seem to think that it is way too far and way too dangerous to drive over this pass alone. They almost had me worried, but a look on the map shows, that it is really only one hundert and odd kilometers to the other side. So I dismiss all their concern and tell them that it is going to be alright. Which invokes a lot of head shaking, but they let me go.
Unfortunately I don’t get very far. A big rusty nail, probably the only one around for miles, ripped a big whole into my rear inner tube. All of a sudden it is not just the gravel that makes for an unsteady ride. I just barley manage to stay upright. Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea after all to attempt this alone? Nonsense, there is a trickle of traffic of Chileans heading up to the hot springs or the Maule Lake for fishing. They all stop to ask if I need help. So I get a hand in putting the bike on then central stand, which proves to be impossible by myself, since the gravel is very deep and makes handling the heavy bike difficult. Getting the rear tyre of was easy, but getting the tyre of the rim, turned out to be more of a problem. No tyre wallahs around here! But what do you know, up pulls a 4x4 campervan from Austria! Till lent a hand and in no time the tube was changed and the wheel mounted again. I even got treated to coffee and cake as well as a routable Argentina map for my GPS! Thank you very much Till and Gerlinde!
What with fixing the flat and chatting with Till and Gerlinde it had gotten late. So I decided to spend the night up on the pass Pehuenche on the border of Lake Maule. The Austrians had warned me that it was going to get cold, this being above two thousand meters. I was more worried about what the Argentineans would say, if I showed up at the border a day after having left Chile. But that was for tomorrow. Today it was difficult finding a spot to camp. It is Saturday, so it is hard to get away from Chileans having ‘assados’ and a rowdy time. Takes a little away from the impressive landscape and remoteness of this part of the Andes.
The next day made for a great ride over the pass and into Argentina. I have the road completely to myself and the landscape is just breathtaking. Reminds me both of some of the mountain passes in Tibet and later further down about places in Nevada and Arizona. At Las Loicas, a long way down from the pass, I finally get to the border checkpoint of Argentina! They are very surprised to see me: ‘ You came from Chile, today? Alone?’ Apparently the road was supposed to be closed today, because they were doing road construction and were planning on blasting the way in a couple of places. Once they got over just how lucky I was, to still be alive, it was back to the subject of me travelling alone. That and my last name: Rojas. ’Are you sure you don’t have any Spanish ancestors? There are many, many Rojas around here.’ I am not about to explain that Rojas is not really my maiden name. That would really make for raised eyebrows, me being married and not travelling with my husband! Best leave them to believe that somewhere in my family-tree lurks a Spanish ancestor.
So now I am in Argentina. It is still a long drive through the Pampa Diamante to Malargüe. I treat myself to an ice-cream and a phone call home. It is Sunday after all.