Category Archives: Argentina

motorcycle mate madness

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Gather round young ones, children of the plains, mis gauchitos, and I’ll tell you a tale of maté and might, of lone warriors sipping bitter tonics from hollowed out gourds before being sent off to the battle that is their lives!


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Yerba maté, the Argentinian national drink, is a green concoction, a bitter herb similar to coffee or tea if only for its stimulant properties. All Argentines young and old can be seen sporting designer maté kits about town, sipping the strange brew from hollowed out gourds or fancy silver cups bedazzled with jewels. A good mate kit will contain a maté cup or suitable chalice, some herb, a bombilla, and a thermos. Add bonus points for an attractive leather case which holds everything within.

While the reality of sipping said tonic is a sad one indeed for most (the taste is bitter and one to be aquired) the ritual of maté preparation is a fine one indeed.

…a primer for delving into your own personal maté madness:

1. Put on a tea kettle.

2. Whilst your water is heating up, decant your chosen brand of yerba maté into your most favorite gourd or maté chalice about 3/4 of the way to the top. Put your hand over the top of your cup and then turn it upside down and shake it a few times. This mixes up the maté and helps to get rid of some of the herbal dust, which will stick to your sweaty palm (don’t be so nervous!). Creepy porteños (ciudadanos of Buenos Aires) like to mix in sugar with their maté, but this should be considered sacrilege to all true maté aficionados and may anger the Gods. You have been warned.

3. Let your water come to a boil, remove your kettle from the burner, and ready your thermos. Just like with coffee, you want to let your water cool for a moment before brewing your maté. Water that is too hot will just spoil everything.

4. There are a couple odd variants for getting this right. One is to fill your maté cup with cool water first to wet the herb and make sure that it is not imparted a bitter taste by the hot, hot water. In truth, we feel this to be an unnecessary step and one that yields a first cup of cold drink, which tastes terrible. Better to place your bombilla, or metal sipping straw, into the mate first, decanting the hot water down it’s length to cool it a bit before it strikes your precious herb. See: Brady’s dad.

5. And there you have it, your maté is ready to be sipped. Go ahead and continue to add water as needed from your thermos. Keep in mind that some say it sacrilege to wet the herb fully, and to never let the water rise above the level of the herb itself. I consider this to be a good rule of thumb and one that produces the most precious drink. But…do as thou wilt because it’s really just some variant of tea. Best or better to impart your own variant of the mate ritual on the cosmic game.

Motorcycle mate kit

Motorcycle mate kit

There are a whole bunch of other rules for sharing your mate if your in a group but…c’mon, why do you people have to share everything? It’s not like sip sip pass with coffee in the states. What’s next? Soup? A singular lollipop?  An ice cream cone?

Well, it’s a party y’all

A lil’ za, brah?

Finally, the reviews are in!

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We’re a long way from Buenos Aires, taking care of business and putting God in Submission in the Patagonian hinterlands. A long way indeed.

But that doesn’t mean that we can’t hark back to times that once were. So let’s drift back to our Argentinian salad days, back to old Buenos Aires town when once the hunt was on for the capital’s best pizza.

Look, we won’t even discuss how much we miss Mexican street food or pine for a cheesy ass slice of quality New York pizza these days. And truth be told, even the humble almuerzo set lunch so ubiquitous throughout the rest of Latin America is thoroughly missed. Argentina is in some sort of financial crisis and, coming from Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia, food prices are surprisingly expensive here. Unless you want a shitty hotdog or terrible hamburger, there is a total and complete dearth of street foods here, or any cheap eats for that matter. This is tiresome because street eats are the staple food of the independent and lonesome traveler. You can’t have a parilla everyday and a body grows tired of sandwiches.

P1050978So imagine our surprise when we get to Buenos Aires and find out that pizza is, more often than not, sold by the slice here and for about the same price as back in NYC. A real steal. In most of Latin America, pizza is a sit-down restaurant style affair with waiters and menus and cloth knapkins. A foreign concept and one that is off putting to any pizza aficionado.  It’s all just too pretentious and weird,  like the pizza is taking itself too seriously. Then there’s the fast-food weird shit like pizza-conos, which are like pizza tacos; dough rolled up into a cone with cheese and sauce and pepperoni stuffed inside. All straight out of the freezer…it should be outlawed.

But at least the porteños give it a shot and dish out something akin to real pizza, sold by the slice, fresh out the oven, and fast to your plate. Although, they still can’t shake the idea of pizza being a restaurant thing, with bowtied waiters strutting about; and those that wish to dine without service are made to stand in a separate section like animals. Whatever, I’ll take it and truth be told, we actually started developing a fondness for the typical Argentine slice.

Look, pizza is pizza but it’s good to know some important terms, so thus a brief primer on Argentine ‘za:

Fugazzeta: An Argentinian original, the Fugazzeta slice is a doughy variant of a regular  slice but absolutely smothered in onions. Some come with ham and other things on them also but the main theme is onion, lots of onion. Taste’s better than one might think. Oniony.

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Faina: Faina is just sort of like thin greasy bread, made with chickpea flour. It’s weird at first, but grows on a body. You put it on top of your regular slice and sort of eat it like that. Builds character they say.

Anchoa: The anchoa slice is just pizza bread and sauce with anchovies on top. If you want cheese on it you have to ask for it. With cheese please. It’s nice to see the anchovy get some face time down here as few in the states dare to do it.

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The Mozza: A regular slice of mozzarella cheese pizza. The typical Argie slice is thick, billowy even, and totally smothered in cheese. Sort of like what you get when you order a sicilian slice in New York.

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Napolitana: This slice is basically the same as the mozza except it has tomatoes on top. It’s alright I guess. Not much else goin’ on here though.

And so, with time to kill and a belly to fill the search was on for Buenos Aires’ best. Mexican American pal Aaron joined us for a whirlwind tour of the capitals biggest and baddest pizza joints.

Kentucky: Bearing the namesake of America’s most troubled state, Kentucky is one of the older pizza joints in Buenos Aires and its intial, and continuing, success has led it on the path to franchisedom. As such, methinks that said move has led its quality to suffer somewhat. The mystical, magical fugazzetta rellena so often recommended was a moist, soggy affair and a tepid one at that as it could have benefitted greatly from a bit more oven time. Hostel mate and Chicano Aaron’s Napolitana slice played the same cool tune, like many a porteña strumpet. Although, a free ice cream did enhance the mood somewhat and the Kentucky out on avenida Corrientes in the Microcentro is a clean joint, classy even says Aaron, “with a good vibe.”

Guerrin: Pack it up, pack it in, let me begin by telling you that pizza by Guerrin, just a quick stroll down Avenida Corrientes from Kentucky, is always a packed, bustling affair. Busy as balls it is and for good reason. Rub elbows with the Gods at old Guerrin and do yourself a solid by ordering up a porcion de mozza at this BsAs mainstay. How I stopped worrying and learned to love Argentinian pizza. Lots of grease, not enough sauce, swimming in cheeese, pillowy crust, blah blah blah. New York pizza it’s not but we’re not in old New York anyway and anyways Pizza by Guerrin serves up good stuff, a fine example of what Argentinian pizza is, or has become at this juncture in time, and so close to the end of days and the upcoming baktun. Cheese is top-notch as well as the crust, both cooked to crispy perfection. Consistent stuff and a favorite of all Buenes Aires manchildren and children of man.

El Cuartito: If TGI Fridays or Applebees solely sold pizza in Argentina they would aspire to be El Cuartito. Best atmosphere of the lot: waiters with bow-ties and kitschy framed pictures of celebrities and sports personalities that line the walls define this place. For one hallucinatory instant I swear that I caught the covetous eye of Chris Mullin mind-raping my anchoa slice from high up on the wall along with the rest of the original G’s from the 92 Dream Team lined up on their 20 year old poster shielded from the elements and pizza grease behind thick glass. Extra points are awarded for having not one but several Mike Tyson posters, all placed prominently, and a nice portrait of Diego from his anchovy days with Boca. Pizza was not much to blog home about, although it wasn’t terrible. A little soggy. Before departure, it was pointed out that Aaron had left a small piece of his anchoa slice behind and when confronted stated that he “didn’t really enjoy it that much.” Although it should be noted that when pressed further he backpedalled and said, “It was OK.” Take that for what it’s worth.

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Las Cuartetas: Another Buenos Aires institution Las Cuartetas, across the street from cross-street rivals Guerrin, comes in close second to cross-street rivals Guerrin. Cheesiest, greasiest slice yet but delicious at that as all ingredients are of the highest caliber. It has been told that if one were to bite into a slice of Las Cuartetas greasy, cheesy ass mozzarrella with eyes wide shut then they will be, if only for the briefest flash or glimmer in time, be transported back to the gritty streets of old New York to a favorite pizza haunt existing only in memory, so reminiscient of the New York sicilian slice is the Las Cuartetas mozza.

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Banchero: Avenida Corrientes, for a short stretch, seems only to be flanked by pizza joints and theaters. Las Cuartetas, Guerrin, Kentucky, Banchero, and countless others are pretty much right next to each other. Banchero sort of gets lost in the crowd here, although with good reason as it doesn’t really offer up anything too special or amazing to take notice of. Standard, run of the mill Argentinian pizza is all that’s on the menu at Banchero. Not bad, better than most, but decidedly not the best. Entonces: eh. Slice was good, containing the appropriate amount of sauce, but not great. Cheese quality did not seem to be up to par with Cuartetas or Guerrin.

Uggis: Uggi’s pizza is the Argentine equivalent of NYC dollar pizza, I guess. Uggi’s is the cheapest pizza you can get in old Buenos Aires town and is about as good as you’d expect, although maybe a little better. Derided by most foodies, Uggi’s pizza comes in only two variants: plain or with onions. It’s really not that horrible and it’s salvation lies in it’s consistency and availability. There are over 40 locations in BsAs proper and they’re all pretty much the same. The pizza chefs are all recovering drug addicts and alcoholics and each pizza box warns its recipient to stay away from drugs and bad things. There’s a strange, desperate air to the Uggi’s on avenida Entre Rios, as it features one man, behind a steel cage with a little hole in it to collect money and slide pizzas through, doing everything by himself. On his own terms.

So, where can a body find the best pizza in old Buenos Aires town?

The prize goes to ol’ Guerrin followed by Las Cuartetas, both doin’ it right and well after all these years. The others are the others, and just seem to be slinging some odd variant of the same, although one gets the feeling that when Buenos Aires finally goes up in flames the man behind the cage at Uggi’s will still be feverishly working away, going down with his ship.

And the band played on.

Patagonia breached…

The stars at night,
are big and bright!
<clap clap>

peritomorenoglacier

Deep in the heart of Patagonia!


P1050692Postales del fin del Mundo:
Plucked only for the inspiring label and name, Postales presents a delightful grape inspired medley, tasty and surprisingly tart and strong. Fit for a gaucho. No se che. You be the judge. Come to Patagonia and get some. Better than the previous night’s box wine, but we don’t whine and remember that to dine with wine is divine! Huzzah! To Patagonia and the Gods of Grape! Best enjoyed on a chilly Patagonian eve with a side of vacio inside a cozy chalet or, better yet, under a blanket of stars drunk straight from the bottle gaucho style naked to the elements, panuelo billowing in the breeze. Remember, in Patagonia We Trust…and we trust no one! Words on the label do say: “Postcards from the End of the World: All of the mystery that envelopes our wines emanates from the place in which we encounter a region of inhospitable beauty, in whose infinite passages we can appreciate the last footprints of creation.” Indeed.

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Patagonia be breached son and we remember the words of Lars…could it be true, is the adventure over? Really, could it be?

A long time coming indeed. But where to now? Does it matter?

Ah, but we also remember that the light that burns twice as bright burns half as long – and you have burned so very, very brightly.

Look at you: you’re the Prodigal Son; returned to reap the wastelands.

Savor the Victory…and REVEL in your time!

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Ha, nothin’s over till I say it’s over!

 

Football is Serious Business: Scenes from the Superclásico

These people are animals…

Back, going back again to a time and a place far far away where an appearance at the superclásico was just a glimmer in the lazy eye of a thick-haired young manchild summer dreamin’ in his apartment on the beach watchin’ classic soccer games on VHS tapes from 70’s and 80’s …

But this was back when Boca vs. River meant something.

Back when Argentine football was near its zenith.

…back in the day when a lone gaucho might carry a football in his saddlebags along with the classics..

Scenes from the Superclásico: Fast forward a bit to the present. Although glimmers remain, the football is no longer with us, having been jettisoned somewhere in middle america during the exodus from the east…as the apartment floats somewhere off in the Atlantic never to be seen again.

River vs. Boca now and at the hour of chaos: Epic scenes indeed from inside the Monumental as we’re squeezed into a moshpit of filthy Millionarios and we can only celebrate inside as Boca comes from behind to tie the match in its dying moments.

A sea of swirling humanity. Smoke bombs and fireworks. No beer, but everyone is getting high. It’s a party y’all, but you get the feeling that shit could get real bad, real quick. Lots and lots of neck tattoos and one remembers that we are defenseless, our belt having been confiscated at the gate and pants held up by only the flimsiest piece of twine

Boca Pig and the Soccer Mafia: Those not in the know should take note that large swaths of Argentine football are controlled by the Barras, soccer hooligan thugs who deal in the seemy soccer underworld and operate more or less like mafia. I couldn’t get my belt in but the Barras from the plata managed to sneak a giant inflatable pig wearing a Boca jersey inside, and I guess helium bottles also to float it up in front of the Boca fans. No love lost however as the Boca boyz pummeled one of the Monumental security guards in a gaudy spectacle of revenge.

 

Bonus Track: No trip to BsAs would be complete without a visit to the footballing cathedral of La Bonbonera, seat of all Bocadom. Played out a week before, Boca vs. Estudiantes was an interesting prep for the meeting at the Monumental. Enjoy!

 

Maradona Be Praised

Look at that. We might as well be parked on a side street in Manhattan. But it’s not Manhattan because it’s Buenos Aires.

 

Quilmes Stout: An unimpressive dark brew from Argentina’s own Quilmes mas production franchise but one must never forget the set, and setting. We’ve made Buenos Aires, conquered a couple of continents, and come a long way. We’ll remember this one most for the Asian shopkeep who sold it to us and tried to take us for a couple of kopeks, barking at us like we were a dog after questioning the price. We remember the words of Lars. Are all Argentines like this? Every Latino down to the last? In the end it matters not as the manchild turned manking simply exits cooly with bottle in check. She’ll never know, few do. WWMD?

Scenes from an Argentinian Spring: Coming from the brutality of the Bolivian Altiplano, it should be noted that the first day spent in Argentina was the first day spent at an altitude of less than 11,000 feet in 6 weeks. The dichotomy between night and day was smaller, less pronounced, and one that we were familiar with. All scenes remind a body of the fatherlands, the Promised Lands of the American West. It’s all desert along Ruta 40 in the Argentinian West, cool and dry in the springtime with lots of cactus and scrub and striking scenes of desert beauty. Red and brown are the colors of nature’s choice and the nicely paved Ruta 40 takes one south, all the way south if you desire, without need for maps. Best to leave it for later as we’ve got business to attend to at the Bonbonera. IMWT. And we trust no one, never.

Can you blow me where the pampas is?

MBP

Riding the Superhighways of Salt to a Better Tomorrow

Everyone in Bolivia is an asshole.

Well, not really but that’s the basic gist of it anyway.

Che Guevara called the Bolivians animalitos, or little animals, and then got killed there…maybe a little bit of karmic comeuppance but he wasn’t that far off.

It’s not to say that shit is all that different in Bolivia than the rest of Latin America or that it’s a bad time in and of itself…but it might just be a bad scene. Everything just comes to a head there, all the filth and ignorance and poverty and downtrodden miserableness of an entire race of people. You get tired of making excuses and a body starts to pine for the southlands and the soft light of the second world.

We’ve made Argentina and, on first glance at least, it is what seems to be the Promised Lands. Maradona, the Tango, Patagonia, big fat steaks. And inflation. Everything is about 10x the price of the rest of Latin America. The Argentines have a little personality, some swagger even, and it’s earned. No one’s eating guinea pigs here or living like a bug. There’s soap in the bathrooms and legitamate hot water showers to rule the roost. There are even bidets, bro. We don’t even have those in America. So as we recline, sipping some box wine and sleepily, greedily digesting a nice fat steak, let’s take a ride back through time and reminisce on good times memory bliss.

Who runs Bordertown? Entering Bolivia lo so many moons ago, Lake Titicaca glimmering in the distance.

Riding the CB down into the cauldron of central La Paz.

La Paz: A lot of the buildings in La Paz have got some character to them, antiquated and crumbling with live wires running everywhere yet rarely lacking charm.

Leaving La Paz: La Paz is the highest capital city in the world or something like that. It’s definitely the biggest highest place in the Americas and one of the more messed up places we’ve come across thus far…although not in so much of a bad way because it’s all good bro and we had some good times there, we did. Rolling on the throttle the altiplano stretches forever it seems, a vast blanket of high altitude nothingness cordoned off on all sides by snowcapped mountain ranges sometimes glimpsed through the haze of the far away. Up and up. When arriving in La Paz by way of Peru and Lake Titicaca you can’t really see it at all until you’re right on top of it. You’ll eventually approach some nondescript wastelands of poverty and dust, stray dogs and women selling fruit and cheap goods on the side of the road. This could be any shitty town in Latin America but it’s El Alto, the poorest and highest part of the city at about 4000m and still part of the altiplano. Then all of a sudden El Alto parts and you drop down into the gigantic bowl that is central La Paz, more than a thousand feet down into the center of it all and then almost two thousand feet down to the really nice areas where Evo lives, wheel bearings screaming the whole way. All the while Illimani towers in the distance, a huge fucking mountain, dominant always but just one of many that encircle the city. Down on the floor it’s all chaos and traffic and pollution. Traffic lights don’t work and cops are always afoot or riding three-up on Chinese motorcycles, all dolled up in their handsome riot gear and blocking off streets at random. Markets spring up out of nowhere and make entire neighborhoods impassable. Slick cobblestone streets lead nowhere. It’s all good though and we like places like this. All the weirdness of Indian America comes to its end here as fat women in bowler hats hawk greasy llama fetuses and garbage bags of coca leaves from poorly constructed street stalls. It all should be embraced, at least for a little while, then pushed away into the gutter where it belongs. We did our time and then the rains started to come. No one wants to be around this place when it’s pouring rain all the time, least not atop a CB500T with slick tires riding up cobblystone streets, fording rivers of garbage to places that even God doesn’t want to admit exist. And that was that, the rains came and we were off. Legend has it that the land of Maradona was glimpsed from the top of Huayna Potosi and that the bug had started germinating ever since. WIth and wink and nod, we were off.

Tihuanaco: The last of the great megalithic ruins of a forgotten world. This was another place that I had wanted to see since time immemorial. The result was that it was not that impressive after seeing Sacsayhuaman and all the myriad mystical ruins of old Peru. Even the Peruvian fertility temple with its charming stone penises was better than Tihuanaco. But look, it’s interesting nonetheless for those that have an interest in this sort of thing. The Tihuanacans were into some pretty serious shit way back when, before the Incans arrived on the scene. We’re talking guest appearances on Easter Island and what not. Heyerdahl knew. The original masons bro, for real.

Coca museum: The Coca Museum in central La Paz was comically awful. It resembles a high-school science project display with photos printed from a printer that was running out of ink, all pasted on plenty of oak tag. There are free coca leaves and lejia though…although this stuff is basically free in Bolivia anyway. Another guidebook misstep.

Mercado de Brujas: or ‘witches market’ where you can buy dried llama fetuses for use in your black magic rituals. People will often bury them under a new house or building for good luck, although the more common ritual is burning them with incense in front of your business or home to bring good luck or ward off evil spirits or something. Better to mock the whole thing and drag one around La Paz on a string like it’s your pet before depositing it on top of a mountain.

Weird scenes inside the Silver Mine: Riding high atop the cozy 4700m high hamlet of Potosi is the Cerro Rico, a huge hill worked since ancient times for the precious metals and minerals within. Something like a million people were worked to death inside this thing by the Spaniards and their Annunaki masters greedy for gold and today people are still pumping it for tin and silver. The conditions within are hellish. Thousands of tunnels and shafts are bored into it and none of them are safe. A perfect tourist attraction. Deep inside and walking under a rock arch supporting the weight of a cavern it was explained that the miners make these supports out of rock instead of using wood because it’s cheaper. Yea sure, I guess. We’re in Bolivia. If you’d like to play tourist for a day in the 3rd world you can pay ten bucks and you get to go inside, dodging carts and scurrying workers while being led around by an ex-miner. Everyone who works in this thing is dead from silicosis within 10 or 15 years from inhaling all the dust. To combat this, and to garner some good fortune, the miners pray to the devil, or Tio, and little statues of him are everywhere inside the mine, always surrounded by cigarettes, alcohol, and coca leaves. All the statues have boners all the miners are drinking moonshine, smoking unfiltered ciggy-poos, chewing coca leaves and exploding dynamite. And yes, the legends are true, you can buy dynamite on the street in Potosi. It’s like a dollar a stick. We exploded some inside the mine. A weird scene no doubt, but one meant to be seen.

Salares: Sometimes they sell you gasoline in Bolivia and sometimes they don’t. They have this law there that they can only sell gasoline to vehicles with foreign plates at three times the normal price. It works out to about $5 per gallon. That’s fine I guess and they’re all supposed to sell it to you but most of the time they won’t because they don’t want to fill out the receipt or just because they’re assholes. So you have to ride around to different stations looking for gas. Sometimes you get lucky and someone will sell it to you right off the bat and sometimes you get unlucky because there just isn’t any gas at all. We got stuck in Uyuni waiting for gas for a couple days like this. Uyuni is a dusty little carbuncle of a town sitting on the edge of the world’s largest salt flats, windblown and barren and forgotten at the end of the earth. The scene is apocalyptic, offering up a good prep for the upcoming end of days. Powerful winds whip up off the flats, fueled by an opressive radioactive sun hanging in a cloudless sky. At night the sun drops and so do the temps; shit gets ice cold. It’s like being on Mars except with garbage everywhere and bread that tastes like gasoline. It’s all good but it would have sucked big time if we hadn’t been tooling around on the flats beforehand, having made it out there to realize a dream before the mini gas crisis. A mindbendingly epic ride in one of the most surreal places on earth. Nothing but salt, punctuated here and there by a few cactus strewn islands, forever. With the speedo finally broken on the CB, there was no way to tell how fast we were going and it is anyones guess. 150-160 mph? It’s probable. There’s no telling. Faster than the speed of salt as the mind bends and the salt blends into obscurity a million miles away.

bYe-bYe-bOliVia: Exiting Bolivia down by old Ollague and Chile way, one stares down 250 miles of testicle-shattering dirt roads. This is not a popular border crossing by any means and between Uyuni and the next town in Chile there is nothing in between, no gas, nothing. It’s all high, dry desert and an empty plastic bottle that once housed vegetable oil was sourced as an improptu gas tank for the long haul to the second world. Surprisingly, the road on the Bolivian side is in better condition and we’re cruising in 5th gear on stretches, past salt lakes and pink flamingos until the border at Ollague. This place is a real outpost, a windblown dessicated train-yard that shouldn’t even exist, in the middle of the Atacama desert. Volcan Ollague puffs its stuff out in the cloudless distance and we say goodbye to Bolivia and enter Chile, unrecognizable in these parts from Bolivia save for the fact that everything is 20x more expensive. Wine is cheap though and a bottle was sourced at the border as we prowled the desert in search of shelter in the waning light of the Atacama. And as luck would have it, shelter came that night came in the form of an old nitrate mine just sitting there all cute and abandoned-like at the end of a sandy road. Sampling local spirits on border crossing days has now become a rite of passage and a god-given right of the lonesome adventurer and even though we don’t really drink wine, a beverage mostly relegated to usage only by moms or Frenchmen, it was felt that such would be an appropriate tipple for the occasion. So there we were, seemingly at the end of the world in the cold night of the Chilean desert, drinking wine from the bottle and pieces of roof into a roaring fire in a stone fireplace in the Atacama. Mein wine in the mine, it’s mine. Don’t touch!

Flamingos

Border outpost at Ollague

First night in Chile and chilly willys abound in the cold Atacaman night

 

Better than a hotel and free, although I’m probably sterile now from breathing in all the saltpeter dust. Better off anyways and we venture on.

 

 

 

 

Finally hitting pavement after another 120 miles of terrible, sandy Chilean washboard dirt roads was sublime and the CB rolled on, in Chile now but pointed towards end game Argentina. Camp was made once more out in the Atacama and in the ice cold frosty morn and with frost bitten fingaz the CB and me cleared Paso Jama and entered Argentina, mission nearly complete, descending out of the Andes and into an Argentinian spring.