Dakar 2013 – Day 12

Puente del Inca to Mendoza – 20 January 2013

We all slept well in the relatively confined surroundings of a small pine clad room containing three double bunks. We learned that there are both snorers and very light sleepers traveling in our group! Life was good.

After preparing for the day and packing the bikes we headed for some breakfast. The skies were blue and clear and we had a great days’ riding ahead. Full of anticipation for the sweeping curves of the pass headed down towards Mendoza we set off. We enjoyed truly beautiful scenery as we wound down the pass high in the Andes mountains. The jagged black rocks in stark contrast to the soft flowing waters of the Mendoza river cutting its way down to lower grounds.

About 10 km after starting out we came across one of the many police control points that we had encountered along our route. And now, for the first time on this trip, we were stopped. Meyer was in the lead and couldn’t quite make out what was being requested. Eventually the official went into his office and returned with a wad of papers. He pointed to these papers as an indication of the item that he was looking for. We recognized this as a slip of scrap paper that we had received from a Chilean official at the top of the pass. It had appeared an insignificant slip of paper containing only our registration numbers but during the course of events at passport control now contained four or five separate date stamps. Once relieved of these papers we were free to go – except that Gus could not find his slip. The was no convincing the official despite our best efforts. Gus had to return to get the required document. Despite this incident we can only report positively on all our observations of police in both Argentina and Chile. They seem to prefer a light touch and only get involved if there is bad or dangerous behaviour.

Mike and Neil decided to return to passport control with Gus while Meyer and I continued. We were keen to make progress before further incidents with Meyers bike. So we pushed on.

Once again we were treated to spectacular curving countryside and great roads. After stopping for a picture opportunity we continued and then arrived at a small town called Uspallata. It seemed to be the hub of a number of outdoor activities. As this was a Sunday there were a number of street markets and parillas along the side of the town streets. There were stalls selling locally produced wares and the entire town was set in greenery under tall poplar trees. The town is used as a starting point for mountain biking, horse riding hiking and kayaking. Presumably it is also used as a base for skiing during winter time.

The previous evening we had simply followed our headlights down the pass from passport control before finding our hosteria at Puente del Inca. Now, traveling up the pass in the daylight the other three missed the turn to passport control and continued to the mouth of the tunnel before realizing their error. However, this mistake had given them the opportunity to see and enjoy the spectacular road that we hadn’t noticed late the previous night. After stopping at a craft stall they turned and heeded back to passport control where the friendly officials only took a few minutes to rectify the problem and send them on their way again.

Meyer seemed to have his bike under control and so we pushed on towards Mendoza enjoying the sweeping curves. The rate of descent leveled off a little and we caught sight of a large dam to our left. About 70km from Mendoza we started picking spots of rain on our visors but it was never enough to make us properly wet. The traffic also increased a little as we got close to Mendoza. Around 30 km from Mendoza the rain stopped and the skies cleared. Now the temperature climbed again. On the outskirts of Mendoza we saw vineyards and orchard in between other farm crops.

Meyer felt that a brief ride to San Martin would be worthwhile so that we could check out the town which seemed to be set in a green area. Unfortunately the GPS was deceiving and the place was little more than a small run-down industrial area. We returned to Mendoza to await the arrival of the others.

Enjoying a cold Coke at a sidewalk cafe set under the tree-lined avenues of Mendoza was just what we needed to end a great ride.

The others arrived around 30 minutes later and shared their little adventure with us s me made plans for the evening. It would be a night in the local Sheraton and then a nice Biffe de Chorizo wi an early night.

Tomorrow was the long 780 km haul across central Argentina and we would need a fresh and early start.

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