May 22, 2012
No more group tours. I decided to be adventurous.
In Salta, I rented a car for my three day trip into the mountains of Quebrada de Humahuaca in the northwest corner of Argentina.
When I am alone in a car in a foreign country, there is one major element to consider: the unknown.
Yes, I received “get out of town” driving instructions from the staff at my hotel. I have my road maps. I am confident with a manual shift transmission. Still, there’s always the unknown.
For example, what I did not know was that one of the headlights on my car did not function. (Headlights are obligatory, even in the daytime, in rural Argentina. I had been stopped by the police once before outside Trelew. So when I drove north out of Salta, I switched on the lights.)
About half way between Salta and Jujuy, La Policía stopped me again. “La luz no functiona.” I managed to talk my way out of receiving “un infracción” when I promised to repair the light. (The policeman was kind and sympathetic and spoke not one word of English. Somehow we managed to communicate.)
After several frustrating minutes along the busy streets in the city of Jujuy, I pulled into a Michelin Tire repair shop. When the technician examined the burned out bulb, he said sadly, “No tengo.” Just across the street I found a Toyota Service station. Here the attendant checked his computer and smiled, “Sí, lo tengo.” Estoy feliz.
I resumed to my adventure up the mountains to the small town of Purmamarca, my destination for today.
So, my dear friends, you think I am adventurous? Think again.
Up in the mountains west of Purmamarca, I met a band of black leather British bikers. They were on a month’s tour of South America. The bikers had just crossed The Andes (The Andes!) from Chile and were heading south in Argentina. They stop when they need to. They stop when they want to. Just like yours truly.
Except my biking days are over. (Ha! They never began!)
I am an American guy and I admit I love automotive travel. I grew up influenced by the radio and television jingle, “See the USA in your Chevrolet.” At the moment, I am navigating my Volkswagen Golf over the narrow and torturous mountain roads of the Humahuaca Region.
I stop when I need to. I stop when I want to.
And who knows what I will find around the next curve in the mountains?
It’s an adventure.