We ended up today much closer to the Chilean border than we expected. After leaving our campsite near Puerte Alegre on Ruta 40, we continued to head south on the main road, towards San Juan, stopping for fuel and a sandwich in the garage café at San Jose de Jachal. A nip into the ladies brought me into a confrontation with a completely naked man of typical Argentinean build (think, if like me you are old enough, Maradonna) using the sink to conduct his daily ablutions.
Along Ruta 40 we have been following in the footsteps of Che Guevara who famously rode his motorcycle all the way down through South America on Ruta 40. From San Juan we skirted around Mendoza on Ruta 40 before taking Ruta 7 towards the border. Despite the heat and desert conditions the land is not as barren as it is further north. After passing through scrub and a few trees growing on the land either side of the road, with the mountains rising in the distance, we came to the much more verdant vineyards of the Mendoza region.
About 60km outside of Mendoza we came across a police checkpoint. Everyone was having their papers checked but the police officer asked us to pull over to one side. He told us it was an infraction in Argentina to drive without lights, although we had our lights on, and took us in to the office to show us the regulations book. Paul insisted our lights were on and had been all day and asked him to check his cameras. He said this was not possible. The conversation went back and forth a few times but after about five minutes he shook Paul’s hand, gave him his papers back and we were on our way again. Another corruption averted.
The irony of any traffic regulation is the sheer number of dilapidated, clapped out old rust buckets still on the roads in Argentina. I’ve seen models of cars and small lorries I’ve not seen since England in the 1970’s, and in much the sort of condition you might expect them to be in by now: bumpers falling off, rust patches rubbed down but not repainted, and sounding like they should have died years ago. I now know where they must have got the cars for the TV series “Life on Mars”!
Anyway, about two more kilometres down the road we passed through another checkpoint. This time one run by the agricultural department. Our two oranges were confiscated as one of the fruits banned from entering the Mendoza region as they battle to keep out the fruit fly. We’d had the oranges for at least a week and a half, having carried them into Argentina from Chile, so perhaps they were past their best! The officer smiled at the smiley faces Paul had drawn on the oranges, as one of his illustrations for a training course he will be running.
It’s been a long hot day with the temperatures in the upper 30’s Centigrade, and we were glad to get back out into the countryside again where we could find some more wild camping for the night. This time not far from what appears to be a large artificial lake. The dropping of the sun behind the horizon has brought some welcome cool breezes. The cool evening air will give our chilled drinks a chance to cool down again. Once bought and out of the shop fridge Fanta, Coke, water, lemonade, all take on the temperature of bath water. Or as Paul stated, his lime flavoured drink at that temperature tasted like drinking LemSip!