1.3. – 12.4.2019
What the Northern Argentines do sometimes
In the morning in La Quiaca at the Bolivian border, a young couple with three unloaded donkeys pass Globi and tie them to a tree not far from us. Each donkey is fed straw they took along with them. The two settle down under a tree and make themselves at home. Inquisitively we are watching the two. They carry a large bottle of water and several plastic cups with them, which is not something very unusual. Suddenly a woman stops by the donkeys. The young woman joins her immediately. Now the plastic cup come into operation: one of the donkey ladies is milked and the woman drinks a fresh cup of donkey milk, pays and moves on. Thereafter, the plastic cup is washed out with the water and is ready for the next customer. Indeed, we camp next to a mobile donkey milk bar! Although I immediately offered Gabi to go and get a mug for her, she refuses.
In Abra Pampa we meet Walti, the owner of the Hotel Suizo. Walti is originally from Berne, worked in the USA for over thirty years and later in Mexico and Chile. Today the fit octogenarian manages the hotel together with his local partner. Here, too, in beautiful northern Argentina, there seems to be xenophobia, as obviously everywhere in the world. A few years ago he was beaten extremely heavy – even requiring hospitalization -, because he was the only foreigner in the village. Like most Argentines, he is not satisfied with the current corrupt politicians.
The most famous colored rocks are in Purmamarca. The whole Andes are full of it, but here they are touristic marketed like the Swiss Alps. On top we have the misfortune that we arrive here on a public holiday. Parking with Globi at a reasonable distance is not possible, however hiking a bit does not hurt us at all. We crowd in the city through the throng, which is comparable to the rush hour at Zurich main station. The experience is terrible and repulsive to us and we wonder if the tourists in our country are experiencing the same or if we have become too solid recluses already.
From the Bolivian border southwards, we take a small side street – the Routa Provincial de Jujuy 72. We enjoy the seclusion of several day’s duration, the encounters with the lamas and the few people living here. In effect, there are not really mountains here, but the road builders have managed to guide the Routa along slippery, steep slopes of the valleys. We are about twenty tons too heavy and have a wheelbase about three meters too long. In the bends we are not able to place all the wheels on the track, at least one of the wheels is often hanging over the unattached abyss. The very fact that we write these lines proves that we have done it anyway. As a driver, I would say that this is due to my excellent driving skills, but honestly, one would have to attribute it to the fortune.
Four years after Iceland
We met Beatrice and Robert in Iceland four years ago. In Buenos Aires we see the two again. Together we enjoy three nice evenings. We have a lot to tell each other. Meeting friends after such a long time gives us a homely feeling.
In northeastern Argentina, we visit two national parks that are the very opposite of what we saw in the Andes, primeval forest! We look forward to the variety, even if it was, as was to be expected, very humid. Immediately we unpack our hiking boots and start exploring the forest. Somehow, we constantly feel little movements on our bare skin, but see nothing. Later we see something, huge bumps. These nasty biting bugs are so small that you almost do not see them, but they are extremely efficient in terms of impact. The bumps stay for days and we hoped that at night not suddenly small young critters hatch from the bumps, but luckily it was not like that.
The rangers have explained to us which paths are closed due to the rain. In fact, these are the really interesting paths. After a long, arduous, and steep descent, it was clear that Gabi’s advice to listen to the Rangers would have led to significantly less climbing.
We are proud that Globi has two separate diesel tanks. When the big one is empty, we can pump the smaller one into the bigger one. Once switched on, the pump simply runs as long as the engine is running. In La Rioja we also wanted to fill up our food after refueling. Thanks to the fact that I could not park anywhere in the middle of the city, I went out to explore the area on foot. To my horror, I noticed that under Globi a huge diesel plant was growing in front of the garage of a multi-family house. Since then, I know that if you set the pump for pumping, you should switch it off with two full tanks again.
On the way from the road Provincial Jujuy 5 between Yavi and Santa Victoria we were stopped by the police. They explained, that a bus got stuck and asked, if we could help.
Of course, no problem. We drive the approximately ten kilometers behind the police car to the bus. A three-axle double-decker is bogged down next to the track.
Two tractors are already there, but they could not help. We hang their big steel rope on our hitch and want to know if the gear is neutral position and everything is loose. Answer: yes of course. We start pulling slowly and very carefully, but anyhow the steel cable is split now and the bus has not moved. Afterwards, the police tell us that the bus is a smuggling bus that drives goods which have been stolen over the green border to Bolivia. It seems that at night he obviously drove a bit off the runway. However, they cannot start the engine and consequently cannot generate pressure, so the six wheels are not only flooded but also blocked. So, we couldn’t help unfortunately and moved on.
Sometimes we also have to refuel so that we don’t have to use the second tank. So we stand at a gas station and wait for the tank to be filled up. The gas station attendant suddenly asks me if we would always drive around with loose bolts. We were not offended right away, because we know that there are people who think we have some screws loose. He though meant the wheel nuts! One was already almost completely off and four others could be even moved by hand! Since we did not really want to imagine what could have happened if we had lost a front wheel, we preferred tightening the nuts with 600Nm immediately.