• 23 February 2018

From the north of Argentine to the north of Chile on bike

From the north of Argentine to the north of Chile on bike

From the north of Argentine to the north of Chile on bike 1024 576 Gürkan Genç

I passed the Paraguay Argentine border at such a silly point such I’ve never seen before… There is a river flowing between the two countries which acts as a natural border. You need to take the bridge to cross the border but only for pedestrians. Being so, the open-air market swallowed the bridge and its surroundings. Dude, it was impossible to see the bridge. I rode up and down but couldn’t find the bridge. At the end I asked a woman. “For god’s sake, where is the bridge?” I went to the point she showed, well it was in a form of a covered bazaar. You enter, do your shopping crossing the bridge and at the other end you arrive in Argentine at which a customs and passport control post is found.  Dude, I could ride straight without stopping by, no body cares who is crossing the border. Since this was not a point where it can be passed with motorcycle, vehicle and truck and Paraguayan and Argentineans cross freely, the officers were just sitting there. When I went there I got surprised. I handed my documents, they asked me where I was coming from and going to. After a short talk I entered the country through greengrocer section. The passport control post was practically placed in front of the wholesale vegetable market.

Since it was Sunday, Argentine side was quieter. On the other hand, Paraguay side was more hectic probably due to latest flood after the rain for the last week I guess. Anyway, I entered Argentine and went to a bank. As usual, the bank didn’t give cash for any of my cards. I had very few Argentine pesos in my pocket. I went to one of the open greengrocers and bought fruits and vegetables enough for 4 to 5 days. I already had pasta and muesli. I can make out till the next town. I’ll try use the ATM’s at the towns once again.

After I crossed the Paraguayan border on the north, I followed the roads numbered 86-95-5-89-34 and 9 respectively till Tucuman the capital city of the region. On road, I stayed near police stations, at parks in the small towns (quite secure), on agricultural fields and at gas stations. Especially, I’ll never forget the route 86 which I entered first after crossing the border. At every place I stayed along this road I saw so many insects and insect species that I didn’t see in my whole life. I really saw some insects for the first time in my life. Due to high insect population the frogs have really become obese, they were as big as twice the size of my hand. Also, the mosquitos mutated. I didn’t ever see such a thing! During my 6 years of travel, I either rode at minus 40 °C cold for 50 km uninterruptedly and then tried to stop at a warm place or in the deserts continued to ride willy-nilly due to shortage of water and food.

I didn’t stop riding for the first time on this road due to mosquitos. At any time during the day whenever I stopped hundreds of mosquitos were surrounding and biting me. Not only 2 or 3 mosquitos, hundreds or maybe thousands of mosquitos. Therefore, I was uninterruptedly riding. Even, there was a section where I rode for 120 km without stopping even once (It is really, not easy to ride like this continually with a heavy loaded bicycle). At the evening I camped at the backyard of a village house. While sleeping inside the tent my hand had touched the mosquito net and remained there. At night I woke up with pain, I guess hundreds of mosquitos had bitten my hand from the other side of the net, I couldn’t move my fingers. This is the down side of a one-person tent, it is narrow and when you touch the net your hand may got bitten by mosquitos.

En route is the area where El Chaco meteorite hit the earth. Chielo Campground was established on this area. It is a very nice park for caravan and tent camping for free with free WIFI, rest rooms and water supply. El Chaco meteorite had hit the earth 4000 years ago which weighs 37 tons. It is the second biggest meteorite on the earth. There is a very nice museum also.

NASA requested this meteorite from Argentine, but the Argentinean government didn’t accept. Moreover, the government made a very good arrangement. As the meteorite hit the earth, its pieces were scattered all over the region which are presented in this park.

During the period I rode through route 5 on the north, Vivosmart 3 which I bought from Garmin became nonfunctional somehow. Garmin/Turkey arranged for me an upper model (Garmin Vivosport) but how would I find some to come to Argentine and on top of it to the region I was at? Then, one day I received a message. Burcu, one of the THY hostesses was going to visit north of Argentine. She was asking about the possibility to meet. I replied as “if Tucuman is on your route why not”. When you work at airlines you get very cheap tickets for both regional and international flights. Especially this is advantageous for international travels. But would I be there when Burcu arrives in Tucuman? I’m talking about 1 200 km of distance. This distance takes a long time for a bicycle in Argentine, Chile and Brazil. When I’m saying 1 200 km I’m talking about only a small region on the north. If there isn’t a Paraguay Tucuman border, I need to ride 900 km more to cross to Chile again. To ride in those three countries means to ride through more than the half of the continent. Finally, I managed to arrive in Tucuman on time, just a day before. Under normal conditions it was impossible to arrive for me. What are normal conditions? If there were trucks on road; well, I had mentioned about them in my previous articles; Argentine is the worst country I have seen so far in terms of bad roads and truck traffic. During the period I was riding, there was a big strike in the country. Since the truck drivers were on strike, I didn’t encounter any trucks on the road.  There weren’t any impudent truck drivers passing me fast. So, I rode on my bike in peace.

Tucuman is the capital city of the region. Although it was a chaotic city, we liked to eat ice cream at the main square at night. Well, since I hindered Burcu from her travel we certainly had to take a tour. From an agency near the square we bought a 2 days tour with car. First, we went to the place where the sculpture of Jesus, Cristo Bendicente, was located. I had mentioned before that I encountered Jesus sculptures on the summits in South America many times. At this place there was a small museum also. In this museum the biggest Jesus sculptures were listed, the first in Portugal. I thought that the biggest sculpture in South America was in Brazil but wasn’t. The one in Bolivia was bigger. Look what I’ve learned, a new information. It is on my route, l’ll to go there. This here was the fifth biggest Jesus sculpture in this continent. The guide told us that the forest in this region was one of the branches of the Amazon rainforest which starts in Argentine. Well, unfortunately the forest was destroyed to a great extend to open new agricultural fields. The guide told us that avocado was grown.

On our second day we did a longer travel with Burcu. The Amaicha del Vaile and Quilmes ruins located at Tafi del Valle. This wasn’t along my original bike route. A single solid climb from 800 m to 3100 m. While driving on this road I saw many road cyclists. I turned to Burcu:

  • Burcu I think I’ll pass this road also on bike. This is an amazing climb with spectacle view. I want to ride on this road.
  • Normally people don’t like climbs, but you especially choose roads with climbs.

Don’t know why but I don’t like straight level road, I get bored on such roads and don’t like speeding either. But I do like climbs. I like to scream arriving the summit after a hard climb. I like to eat my lunch on the top. As beautiful the road is, its history is as much full of suffer. The Quilmes and Calhaqui tribes resisted Spanish siege for 130 years at this place where the ruins of Quilmes are. How come? 130 years, what type of warriors were they? I’m sure, yes sure, that they were Turks. After a research it was found out that their ancestors were Indians of North America. They were Turks for sure. They had established a tremendous productive agricultural system on the fields where the ruins are found. This detail I should mention: 2000 years ago, the agricultural practice of these people was as such to achieve high productivity in shortest time. In a book I read, according to a scientist, present knowledge doesn’t support this high-quality productivity with that high amount of organic produce. Well, why this system was not taken and applied? The reason: The Spanish demolished the agricultural fields without taking any notes or drawings when they conquered the region. After 130 years of resistance, this folk was defeated and prisoned. The Spanish soldiers forced the prisoners to walk to Buenos Aires on this road I came over – I’m talking about a distance approximately of 1800 km. Given that there weren’t any roads at that time, the Spanish demolished this folk in great suffer. Only 4000 people could arrive in Buenos Aires and were made to work on establishing the city and ports as slaves.

There’s no peace for the people torturing other no matter to which nation or religion they may belong to…

Today, after restoration work the Quilmes ruins are turned to a nice place to visit and a very nice museum was established in the middle of the ruins. At the same time, Quilmes is the most popular beer brand in Argentine. It was nice to sit and eat at the small restaurants located around.

As I said to Burcu; I passed the same road on my bike once again. This road joins the famous Ruta 40 in South America after Amiche Del Vale. Along the road there is a section between Santa Maria and Belen which quite boring, straight forward and like a desert where the wind blows from north to south.

On the road I received a message from 3 cyclists staying in a small village, Londres:

  • Hi Gurkan. I’m Naco. We are waiting for you in Londres. We are staying at Jorche’s house, you’ll like it here. We’ll be happy if you can join us.

Nacho, Gerogie and Simon are 3 Spanish cyclists on a tour around the world. They have named their travel 260Litros. They both travel intensively and record good videos which they share on Youtube. They knew my equipment page better than me, I was really surprised. We stayed together for 4 days at the house of Jorche a known citizen of Londres.

The house was 150 years old. Jorche was possessing huge walnut fields. He wanted 4 of us to stay because he needed help for walnut harvest. Nacho talked with him about the payment but didn’t like the offer and therefore didn’t accept it. Instead of it, we cooked the meals and tidied around for the 4 days we stayed there. I really wished to travel with this trio, but we were going to different directions. They were coming from the direction to which I wanted to go, from the pass at the mountain Ojos del Salado. They admitted that the road was quite weary.


The name of the pass climbing to the mountain Ojos del Salado is Paso de San Francisco. This mountain with a height of 6893 m is the second highest mountain in South America and the highest active volcano in the world. Furthermore, altitude records were set at this mountain with car, motorcycle and bicycle. The altitude record set on bike is 6 312 m. To come up to this point one must start riding from sea level. This record was set by a German cyclist is March 2014. Now it is March 2018 and I also rode to this point to climb to the summit in the thought to set a record. I had made necessary alterations on my bike for this purpose but that year the winter was snowy. After 5 200 m everywhere was covered with snow. While it was impossible to climb higher I rode to Laguna Verde at 5 000 m altitude and spent some time there. Afterwards, I rode down to the town Copiapo at sea level at the Chilean side. There I stopped riding for a while because I needed to rest.  I’ll restart from this point my voyage and will ride towards Bolivia…

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