Day 199 – Uspallata, AR to El Zampal, AR

Day 199 – Uspallata, AR to El Zampal, AR 03/08/11 Mileage: 434

I was up early, broke camp and was on the road around 8 and rolling south towards Mendoza.

My stealth campsite actually turned out to be pretty picturesque in the morning…

The vineyards around Mendoza with the Andes looming in the background…

I wanted to have a steak and a bottle of red in Mendoza, but the road south beckons and it will have to wait for the way back up. Eventually the vineyards around Mendoza gave way to open rocky desert and I was making good time.

I took a detour up to Las Lenas, another well-known ski resort, and had a nice lunch and a beer.

Let the good times roll indeed! But why is that sign in english?  lol

Back on the road I continued south across the scenic but barren landscape.

These cute donkeys stood and watched me watch them for quite a while…

Nightfall finely caught me and I stopped and bush camped along a river….another great day on the road south…

Day 198 – Valle Nevado, CL to Uspallata, AR

Day 198 – Valle Nevado, CL to Uspallata, AR       03/07/11       Mileage: 221

I made some coffee and walked out a bit further on the outcropping just in time to catch the sunrise over the high peaks of the Andes.

Some wild horses were nearby as well…

I lingered a bit to take it all in, then packed up and continued up to the Valle Nevado ski are to have a look. As a die-hard skier, I’ve always wanted to ski in South America in Chile and Argentina, so even though it’s not ski season I’m still drawn here like a spanning salmon.

The resort sites on a knife ridge with spectacular views in every direction…and it’s only an hour ride from Santiago…pretty cool.

I also swung by La Parva on the way back down to Santiago.

Back in Santiago I went to draw out more pesos but three different ATM’s said there was a problem with my card…damn! So I stopped into a Starbucks and used the wifi to call my bank, and they said my card was disabled because a merchant I bought something from(they couldn’t say which one) back in the states got hacked, so they disabled every credit and debit card ever used at that merchant. I know that’s for my own protection, but what a pain in the ass for me. I only had around $8 in pesos left which wasn’t going to last long…Chile is as expensive as the US. The banks were already closed, I couldn’t change any of my US dollars….so I decided to use my remaining pesos to buy gas and head for the border into Argentina….country number 16. It took about 90 minutes to get there and the road climbed up a scenic mountain pass past the ski area of Portillo.

Now that is a twisty road!

The immigration and customs for Chile and Argentina were both in a combined building in Argentina…..brilliant! When you pulled up, you gave your passport to the Chile official who stamps you out, then they slide it over to the Argentina official sitting right next to them, who stamps you in…20 seconds tops! Same for the customs, an official from each country sits right next to each other, so they processed the bike in and out at the same time. There were no money changers at the border, so I continued down the valley to the town of Uspallata….a cool little place that seems to be a base for trekking, rafting and other outdoor activities.

 The bank was already closed, so I tried to change money at 2 pharmacies, a gas station, 2 restaurants, a market and the casino…and nobody would change or accept US dollars. Next I went into a hotel and they said no as well, but I pleaded my case. They said it was illegal to change anything other than Chilean pesos, which I had none of either, but in the end they helped me out and changed $100. I thanked them for breaking the law and now I had money for gas a food. It was already dark by this point, but I rolled south in search of a stealthy place to camp. The road was pinched between cliffs and a river so finding a spot to camp proved difficult, but I did muscle the bike down onto a small embankment about 30 yards from the road by the river. I’d like to be farther from the road, but at least I was well hidden given the pitch black darkness. I had a quick bite to eat and then crashed.

Day 197 – Valparaiso, CL to Valle Nevado, CL

Day 197 – Valparaiso, CL to Valle Nevado, CL      03/06/11      Mileage: 111

I’m a beer man for sure, but I like wine as well so while in one of the wine regions of Chile, might as well sample the goods! I packed up and left Valparaiso feeling like I had missed out, but I’ve got to get south and I can’t do everything….maybe I’ll catch it again on the way back north. It was a short hop over the coastal mountains to the Casablanca Valley to the Casas del Bosque vineyard.

It was a nice place and I signed up for a tour and tasting. The tour was brief but informative but the tasting was the highlight for sure (of course?).

This is their aging room….they were even playing classical music to entertain the wine…

They brought me and the two other guys on the tour into their tasting room which is really nice….in fact way too nice for a smelly biker. But, they let me in anyway and I sampled the goods, including their most expensive wine, the Private Reserve Gran Bosque.

So after my high zoot wine tour, it was back on the bike heading for the mountains to check out Valle Nevado and the other ski areas near Santiago. The road snaked its way from downtown Santiago up a picturesque canyon before turning into countless switchbacks.

Slicing through downtown Santiago…

Ahhh…home sweet home back in the mountains…

Nightfall was coming fast so I decided to camp up here in the mountains. A few miles from Valle Nevado I saw a rutted track heading out towards an outcropping and decided to have a look.

I couldn’t decide which sunset picture I liked best, so I put them all up and let you pick the one you like best…

It turned out to be an idyllic spot complete with another amazing Chilean sunset. I’m one lucky bastard for sure….