For those who did not know, the famous Argentinean road Ruta 40 (or Ruta National 40) is the longest road in Argentina and even one of the longest in the world! It stretches through the whole country from South to North, being one of the few roads in the South (the Patagonia region), becoming a busy highway by Mendoza around the center of the country and turning into a very remote gravel road among many other paved roads in the North.
After experiencing the Ruta 40 in Patagonia, we returned to it after leaving San Juan and continued all the way until the small town called Susques in the very North of Argentina, before turning west to cross the border and return to Chile for 5th time (this time should be the last time on this trip). So our adventure in Argentina begun on Ruta 40 and ended (almost) on it as well.
On the most impressive and least paved part of our last days in Argentina started a bit North of Cafayate – the town of wine-makers. Well-developed road turned into a very remote gravel and sandy washboard track, winding through incredible landscapes. We spent a night in a village called Angastaco, which I liked a lot not only because of the beautiful architecture, but also because of the name: angASTAco :)
From there we planned to continue slowly and while enjoying the unforgettable views, reach San Antonio de los Cobres – a town with one of the highest elevations in Argentina. As we got higher in the mountains, sandy sections of road turned into muddy ones and it became obviously wet… Without any suspicions, as there was about 100 kilometers left to our planned end of the route for the day, we turned to La Poma – a town we knew nothing about. The reason for the small detour, was supposed to be a quick lunch since we had nothing with us to snack on. In La Poma we went straight to tourist information office (honestly, we never did that before, but this time, it somehow happened automatically). As I started saying that we are heading towards San Antonio de los Cobres, the guy in the office interrupted me with a surprise – the road is closed a few kilometers away from La Poma because it was flooded. The other option, to come back a bit and take the alternative paved road through Salta to San Antonio was also not available since it had even bigger problems because of the recent mudslides and is impassable as well. So the only option was to wait in La Poma until Ruta 40 would be “fixed”.
We were lucky the village had free camping and free wifi in the center square. We were even more lucky to find out the next morning that the road is already “transitable”! So the tent was packed and the engines were started immediately and one of our most spectacular rides begun.
The mountain track (which was still the same Ruta 40) ascended to almost 5000 meters above sea level on the Abra de Acay mountain pass, crossing small rivers, turning in serpentines, surrounded by curious
llamas, jumping goats, guanacos and even a friendly fox which met us on the very highest point of the road. The altitude made us breathless, but the views were also worth losing a breath!
After having a snack in San Antonio, we decided that the day is not over and it is worth a try to reach a tiny village called Puesto Sey a bit further up the road. Since we are using the application iOverlander to find feedback about available places to stay overnight, we knew that in this little village there is at least one place offering cheap accommodation for people like us.
After another hour’s ride in absolutely spectacular scenery, including the incredible bridge of the “Tren a las Nubes” which is the fifth highest railway in the world! Now it is mostly used as a tourist attraction, but locals can also use it for transportation. The famous viaduct, La Polvorilla is 70 meters high and 224 meters long…and it’s curved!
Finally, after the night in Puesto Sey, which has only about 200 people living there (it is a village built of clay at 4000 meters altitude and a bit “in the middle of nowhere”…), we reached town of Susques, where our journey on the Ruta 40 ended as we took a turn West towards the border of Chile in Andes mountains through pass called “Paso de Jama”.
As we were waiting in a very long line to be stamped out of Argentina and into Chile, the weather ahead of us, in the mountains got worse and worse until everyone started talking that the pass in closed due to very difficult driving conditions up in the mountains which one needed to cross to get to Chile. Around 30 cars, several buses and 15 motorcycles got stuck there for the night. The weather was awful – rainy and windy… And since we were at 4200 meters altitude, the night was threatening with very low temperatures, so no one wanted to stay in the tent. Since all the available rooms were gone in seconds, we agreed with the lady running the restaurant by the road, that she will let us sleep on the floor in the back of the building. That’s how we spent a rather cold night and were back on our feet at 7 o’clock in the morning again to be one of the first who will cross the border and will be free to go.
By 10 o’clock we could finally hit the road towards San Pedro de Atacama in Chile. The final “intrigue” for all the motorcycle riders was snow – lots of snow by the road in the mountains and the air temperature of only 3 degrees by Celsius…
This is how we finished our ride in Argentina – a huge country, full of contrasts, very hospitable people and incredible nature.