Been awhile again hasn't it? Sorry folks, but we've been on a bit of a whirlwind since we left our last respite in Puno, Peru. Once we left Puno we started a mad dash through Bolivia, that morphed into a mad dash through northern Agrentina to get to Mendoza. Hard to really process Bolivia as we spent a grand total of 7 days there. It featured some of the most amazing scenery of the trip. For the first day we rode next to the dark blue waters of Lake Titicaca, fronted by multi-colored Quinoa fields and backed by the jagged, now snow-capped Andes.
Bolivia also featured some of the worst roads of the trip, from asphalt rutted like a slalom course, washboard gravel, to 200km of construction torn freeway. Luckily, it was also one of the easiest countries we've been in to find wild camping. Basically ride until four or so, then find a spot in the vast expanse of plains that bordered the road. Definitely made it easier to put in the miles we needed to - 280 miles in a week? Sure, why not. Let's get to Argentina!
Our experience with Bolivia boils down to: amazing scenery, amazing people out in the country, minimal sevices, terrible drivers, worse roads. Luckily, the Altiplano is rather flat (imagine that) and we had tailwinds most of the way between Desaquadero and Oruro. Riding from sunup to about 2 hours before sunset, eating our stash of dehydrated food, and shivering through the 12,000ft nights, we were able to keep pace to make it in time for the train to Villazon, on the border of Argentina.
These folk were awesome. Met dad while setting up camp as he drove some cattle back from pasture, he came back with wife and daughters (the shawl wrapped around the lady is holding a passed out baby girl). The lady and her son (uniformed up for school) brought us some milk at daybreak that she'd just milked from the cow. Hot and mixed with a little bit of sugar, oh so delicious.
As beautiful as Bolivia was, once riding the rails through the south of the country, we knew we'd made the right decision to trade the riding for the rails. Southern Bolivia is a vast desert with little to nothing for hundred mile stretches. At the speed we travel, without support, we knew we would not be able to carry the supplies necessary to jump the gaps. It always sucks having to cheat and motor through some segments, but it helps a little when the landscape shows you why you made the right decision.
This is the sign that greeted us upon our arrival in Argentina, after our biggest hassle of a border crossing this trip (thanks absurdly restrictive U.S. visa policies triggering "reciprocity fees" across South America!). A nice reminder that, though we may be entering the last country of the trip (unless you count a 3 day jaunt across Chilean Tierra del Fuego), we still have a long way to go. Momma and sister McBride were planning to come meet us in Mendoza, a little over 1,000 miles away, in a little less than a month. We'd knew we'd have to boogie, so boogie we did. First week in Argentina looked something like this.
After descending from the high plains, through long miles of weathered desert stone, we arrived in a humid, jungly heat box. Heading south from Jujuy, (people kept telling us that Jujuy was an ugly town, but after 2 months of Andean pueblos, it seemed rather lovely) we entered a stretch that had us feeling like we were back on mainland Mexico - sugar cane rising 10ft over the road, bushes singing with a thousand insects, and nasty little flies that'll leave bloody welts before you can ever feel them land. It was even hot. Stupid heat. Hot enough that we stayed up past dark waiting for the tent to cool off enough to sleep. Made a lot of miserable memories come flooding back in. Luckily we knew that once we climbed over a little mountain range heading east, we'd be back into the cool nights of the desert. Of course, after bitching about the heat, before climbing over said mountain range, we got hit with a two-day deluge. We rode through the rain - spraying off truck tires, arcing off of our tires, dripping off hair and dribbling down necks. Set up camp in the rain - turning dirt to mud, soaking the inside of bags in the time it took to pull gear out. Cooked in the rain, slept while it rained, woke to it still raining, broke down camp in the rain, then rode a full day without it ever stopping raining. Stupid rain. I guess too much of anything will have you dreaming about the opposite extreme.
Amazing when we did cross over that mountain range though, immediately it felt like we'd gone from mainland Mexico back to the Baja - scrubby green brush, cacti, and spindly trees. Back in the desert there wasn't a lot of anything between towns, and the towns were a long ways apart. For two weeks life was basically, ride, eat, ride, set up camp, eat, sleep repeat. At least any roadside tienda had good cheap wine to sooth our weary muscles, that and Lays potato chips, we ate a lot of lays potato chips and piles upon piles of eggs. Scenery was pretty damn amazing though...
So yeah, on May 28th we arrived in Mendoza in time to meet the fam. Since leaving Puno, Peru we completed our longest stretch of the trip, covering 1,250 miles in just over a month. This leg featured a number of firsts for the trip, including: Our farthest month of the trip (1,066 miles), our farthest week of the trip (316 miles), our longest and 2nd longest days of riding (81 and 80 miles), and our longest stretch without a rest day (8 days and 360 miles). Still feels like a bit of a blur, and there's a ton of stories I'm sure I'm forgetting. But it's late, we rode 50 miles today and are riding 50 more tomorrow. Such is life when you're trying to get to the end of the world. Guess you'll have to wait for the book for the rest of the dirty details. Onward!