We are in Salta, Argentina and I've just found out that their Carnaval
celebration is tonight at 11 pm. We will try to stay awake. You know
how it is with us campers - can't stay awake after dark.
We spent a couple of days in Santiago, Chile in Hotel Nippon, which
was very nice. It's always a treat for us to have the luxury of our
own bathroom! Santiago is a very European city with lots of elegant
old buildings. I really didn't like driving there, however. The smog
in Santiago is brutal and there is an enormous fleet of city buses,
I assume, to encourage people not to drive. The bus drivers are the
most aggressive I've seen anywhere - I likened them to a swarm of yellow
jackets. One day Shay wanted to go to the Centro to walk around so he
took a cab from our hotel. A bus crashed into the fender of the cab
and never even stopped to examine the damage. Shay says the cab driver
wasn't upset or particularly surprised.
One night, (after rush hour!) we went out driving around and found,
outside of the Centro, a restaurant district with live music and sidewalk
cafes. We still don't know what the name of this district was but we
had a great time, drinking margaritas a place called, I think, the Louisiana
Boat House, and listening to the music. Maybe somebody from Chile can
tell us where we were!
From Santiago, we drove north past Valparaiso (another heavily smogged
city) to Viña del Mar. When I was in Viña del Mar many
years ago, it was a sleepy little seaside town. The beaches are still
beautiful but it's definitely not sleepy anymore. The seashore is lined
with condiminiums and the beaches are packed with people. We drove on.
A little north of there, we found 2 slightly less busy beaches, Reñaca
and Concon. Between the 2, on a cliff overlooking the ocean, we found
a place to park, undisturbed, to camp for the night. I think this was
my favorite campsite to date. The waves were crashing on the rocks,
lulling me to sleep.
The next morning the guys, who have been suffering beach deprivation
since Brazil, went back to Reñaca to body surf in the waves (The
waves were huge!) and I stayed behind and enjoyed my lovely perch above
the waves. On the next point south was possibly the most beautiful beach
house I've ever seen. It was totally constructed of the same pinkish
stone as the surrounding cliffs. There was a small, blue swimming pool
in the rocks right next to the crashing surf. The next day I stopped
and walked around to look at the house and a passing Chilean lady told
me that she walks by there frequently and has never seen anybody there.
I'd be happy to move in!
After a couple of days enjoying the beach, it was time to drive inland
again. We headed back east into Argentina, to Mendoza, the heart of
Argentine wine country. We had stopped at a couple of wineries in Chile
and I'd purchased a couple of different bottles there. In Mendoza, we
were in search of an air conditioning specialist and found a VW/Volvo
shop where we were referred to an AC guy. (My AC continues to plague
me. This one said it was a faulty switch and replaced it. It still only
works sometimes.) The owner of the VW shop's name was Marcelo Rutini.
I asked him about wineries and he sent us to Bodega El Rural which has
a Wine Museum, tasting and a tour. It turns out that the vineyards were
planted over a hundred years ago by Marcelo's great grandfather. We
took the winery tour and did a little tasting. I bought a couple of
bottles there, too. Unfortunately, a hot van is not a good place to
store wine so I'll have to drink them up pretty fast. I've only had
time for one of the Chilean wines, which I enjoyed very much.
Moving north from Mendoza, we spent a couple of very hot, dry days
driving through desert. One morning we woke up to a rainstorm. It felt
good to me, but the roads in this part of Argentina are not able to
withstand rainstorms. Even the paving has frequent dips (called badens)
which are designed to let the desert floods flow across the road. When
they flood, rock and sand wash into the baden. Tyler plowed into one
of these and, we discovered later, sheared off the bolt that holds on
his left rear shock absorber. (We stopped into the nearest VW dealership
and they fixed it for him in short order. The VW dealerships in South
America where we have frequently stopped for small repairs have been,
without exception, unbelievably kind and have bent over backwards to
assist us. This one was VW Autovia in Catamarca. They charged Tyler
$2.50 for replacing the missing bolt! In addition, Tyler discovered
that when his main seal was replaced some time ago, the mechanics had
overfilled his transmission with fluid. These wonderful guys must have
spent 2 hours straightening this out and refused any pay whatsoever!)
Our planned route for the next day was closed due to flooding so we
detoured south from Aimogasta to go north to Tucuman. Between Tucuman
and Salta we discovered a distinct change in the terrain. Suddenly we
were back into semi-tropical lushness. The passes through the Andes
were suddenly dense and green where only the day before, they'd been
rocky and barren. Both were incredibly beautiful, but such a change.
We are now in Salta, a very old and beautiful city and I expect that
we will be having a good time tonight at Carnaval and recuperating tomorrow.
We should be on the road again in a day or two and expect to be in Bolivia
This means that we are more or less on schedule and, barring landslides
in Bolivia, will be arriving in Peru according to our original itinerary.
I am very much looking forward to meeting our Peruvian friends as well
as my daughter, Jenn, who will be joining us for 3 weeks, starting in