Tuesday, 15 October 2013

The Paso de Jama ....

I woke early in San Pedro and made my way to the customs/immigration post, already there was a tourist bus there with it's occupants waiting in a queue to sign out of Chile. I joined in. As I was waiting I noticed two other guys dressed in motorbike gear, they had cleared customs, where were their bikes ? I watched them walk across the road and get onto two Vespas crammed with gear. Amazing, were they going to cross the pass ?

Aduana and migracion, San Pedro
I got signed out of Chile, had a chat with the customs/aduana guy about the difficulty in pronouncing 'th', as in Southampton, Plymouth and Portsmouth, put my gear back on and headed towards the pass. I knew it was going to be very cold high up in the pass so I had put on layers under my bike gear, first time since the UK I needed these. You turn left after the border post and start heading up, and up, for 160 Kms. Just a great ride, perhaps the best of the journey so far, not a cloud in sight and those mountains just getting bigger and bigger until they surrounded you, snow and black ice at the top. I passed the two Vespas after about 20 minutes, gave a wave and 'beeped' the horn, they waved back and then, nothing, no more vehicles until I reached the Argentine border post. Windswept and remote, the few buildings had heavy doors to keep out the cold, I was the first through that day. The staff were great, I got stuck importing the bike as the bus full of tourists arrived and started channelling through. After a while I had the bike stamped in and wandered outside, I was in Argentina ....

Suddenly, a guy in bike gear ran up and grabbed my hand, it was the Argentine BMW riders I had met in Northern Peru, they were heading home. Amazing, what were the chances of being at the crossing at the same time ? As we stood chatting the two Vespas pulled in, we all wandered over. They were from São Paulo in Brazil doing a circuit of South America on those machines, great story. They handed me a sticker from their club and videoed me telling the story of my ride, I reckon they should be videoed, all that way on two scooters, great stuff. I stayed with the Argentine riders and the two Vespa boys while we all cleared customs and had a chat about the next part of the route, I was assured it was 'beautiful', I shook hands and thanked them all for their help and advice and moved on, feeling great about the world.

All that way, from São Paulo on a Vespa, time to start waving at those scooter riders
Back with the BMW boys at the Argentine border
I sat on that bike for the next 300 + Kms, not feeling tired, not feeling sore, it was just an amazing ride. I felt like I was flying. The landscape had everything, mountains, valleys, flat plains and even salt flats. Lamas, Vicuna and donkeys wandered along side, and on, the road. A couple of the BMW riders caught me up and rode out onto the salt flat, waving as they went.  The colours were ever changing, brown, greens, dark mountains and then, as you got past Susques and closer to Purmamarca, the rock went multi-coloured, pastel reds and pinks. Just when I thought it could not get better I looked up to see the road twist over a mountain in front of me, going up was fun, coming down the other side took some concentration. Deep valleys masked the road, as you looked down you could just see bits of the road ahead, it looked like there were lots of roads going in different directions, but it was all one. Half way down I passed a car transport truck on it's side, the driver sat out front on a chair, drinking mate. Below, I passed the cars that had been on the truck, all smashed up and lying on the road, 'poor bugger' I thought and then had to concentrate as the tarmac broke up and turned to dust for a couple of turns. As soon as I reached the bottom I stopped for the first time, what a ride.
Heading towards Purmamarca
Looking back down the road at the mountains I had just crossed, a fantastic ride.
I pulled into Purmamarca, found a hotel and went for a walk around to see the village, I stopped at a local eatery and had a Lama steak, I figured it was the thing to do. Being out of season I was the only guest at the hotel, it was quiet, restful and the scenery stunning. I was a lucky boy, what a great day and what a welcome to Argentina. Buenos Aires, here we come.
The sun rising over the village
The hotel in Purmamarca


  1. ha ha that hotel looks fab mate...half expected to see clint eastwood & lee van cleif walking out!!! loving the pics & blog xxx stay safe xx Debs x