(If you're just coming to the blog and want to read from the beginning of the trip, start here.)
Day 6: Purmamarca to Pozo Hondo
Distance: 475 kilometers
Today was the start of our trek back home. By this point, we'd gotten pretty good at motorcycle travel. Within an hour of waking up, we had the bike all packed and ready to go.
When we had planned the trip, we had a good sense of how we would spend the first five days. There were places we wanted to see, so we had figured out how far we had to go each day to fit it all in. But the last leg of the trip was much more flexible. We knew we had three days to travel about 1,650 kilometers. Past that, we hadn't decided where we would stay or what roads we would take.
Overall it was a very pleasant day of riding. We hadn't made it back to the plains yet, so the roads still curved and the landscape changed every couple of hours. First, we left the desert behind and passed through gritty Jujuy. In the south of Salta province, the terrain was more wooded, with hills in the backdrop and plenty of fields and farm animals. It was the type of ride where you could just sit back and enjoy.
I have been on trips where the food was half the point — Rome, Barcelona, Mexico. But not this trip. We ate at gas stations half the time. Our diet consisted mostly of pasta, steak and pizza. Ravioli felt a speciality food. I'm not saying that this sandwich in Metan was a sophisticated culinary achievement. But it did have more than two ingredients. And considering that butter, a slab of white cheese, a slab of ham and sliced bread passes for a sandwich a lot of the time in Argentina, it was a damn good sandwich.
We had thought at the beginning of the day that maybe we could get to Santiago de Estero. But around 4:30, we reached a town about 80 kilometers north, and decided to call it a day. We asked someone at the entrance to the town if there was camping nearby, and he said we could camp in the town square. We drove through town to see if that was a good idea. The town square was a big mostly-grassy field, but we didn't feel like being stared at all evening. We asked a passing cop where we could camp, and he gave us directions to the town's "hotel". So we headed out of the town a little ways, found a spot on the side of the road and made camp.
I was nervous about this arrangement. My mother had been worried we would get attacked by bandits on our trip. While back in Buenos Aires, this had sounded ridiculous. But off on the side of this road, I wasn't quite as confident. About an hour after we arrived, a man approached our camp. "I'm not police or anything," he said, "I work for the town." At that point, we figured we were about to get kicked out.
Instead he hung out with us for half an hour. "We see a lot of tourists around here," he told us, "but not like this," gesturing at our campsite. He even offered to let us camp in his yard up the road, if we wanted someplace safer. But after this, I was no longer worried about bandits and happy to snuggle into my sleeping bag.
Continue to Day 7...