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The Journey in South America

Motorcycle journey in South America


Luca has finished his university exams while Marco has been in São Paulo since July… So we’ve decided: in December we are leaving for South America! Obviously by motorbike: we are all 4 passionate bikers. But hiring motorbikes in South America is neither easy nor safe, so we buy 4 used bikes, identical to make it easier for spare parts: 4 old Transalps, completely mechanical to avoid complications with electronic components. Marco and Luca, good mechanics, take care to service the motorbikes. Marco chooses his and calls it ‘La Poderosa’. For luggage we get 2 tents, mats, light and heavy jackets, airbag jackets and some clothes, plus the complete kits of bags and accessories by GIVI. To avoid problems at customs, we send the bikes by plane, stored in suitable crates with all we need in the cases. Costs are high though, so we send only 2 motorbikes and we will travel with 3: we already have a Kawasaki Versys 650 in São Paulo, it will be less loaded with luggage and it will carry Laura as a passenger. The bikes will arrive in Buenos Aires in the first days of December. Luca leaves first, November 27, to collect the Kawasaki in São Paulo: he reaches the south of Brazil alone, crossing the long isolated roads of Uruguay, covering around 2,000 kms in 2/3 days.
We catch up with him. Argentinian friends host us and give us precious advice on the places to visit and let us use their garage for the final preparations. Customs clearance, followed by ‘Dakar moto’ goes smoothly. Luca and Marco, the owners of the 2 Transalps present themselves with all the documentation at the airport where they collect the bikes which are perfectly intact.


From Buenos Aires To San Salvador De Jujuy

We leave on December 6 from Buenos Aires and, crossing the province of San Luis and Mendoza, in the evening of December 8 we reach Mendoza, city famous for its wine producers. The following morning we leave for the Andes. The temperatures decrease as we go up, enchanting roads take us up to 3,500m on the border with Chile. We cross the Aconcagua park and reach the glacier at the feet of Acouncagua mount (literally ‘White sentry’), one of the highest peaks of the Andes, 6,926m! The scenery is magic. We ride for 3 hours off-road in breathtaking scenery. A solitary biker shares these unpredictable mountain passes with us , while from above we are observed by some curious lamas. On December 10 we leave Mendoza, we cross a desert and arrive in the province of San Juan, then we find never-ending straight roads up to the fertile valley of San Augustin, where we buy and fill 2 extra fuel tanks. As we get deeper into the desert the cacti become more frequent, green giants that bring to life
the immense space in the middle of nowhere, and we have fun taking pictures of their majesty.
After many kms we reach the small Valle Fértil. 

It is fantastic when we reach the beautiful and mysterious Valley of the Moon in the Ischigualasto park, around 62,00 hectares of territory declared, along with nearby Talampaya, in La Rioja, World Heritage Site: in its palaeontological deposits you can find the almost complete sequence from the Triassic Period to the Mesozoic Era.
We are so enchanted by the place that we decide to camp here, to take part the following day in a fantastic tour in this land of the Dinosaurs. On December 12
we do the Coronel Felipe Vanera road, a red road that takes us hairpin bend after hairpin bend to Punto Alto, towards Chilesito in La Rioja. Wow! The roads continue to amaze us for their perfection, they seem to invite us to one bend after the other, pity the load we carry does not allow us to do it. In Chilesito what drives us is curiosity and faith: on the bell-tower of the small church of Saint Dominic every evening the Virgin Mary has been appearing with an unexplainable light effect. We admire the spectacle enthralled! A great Christ like the one in Rio overlooks the city. The following day we start on the legendary Ruta Nacional 40 to reach Cafayete. And we are in the province of Salta, famous for its vineyards. The morning of the 14th we start the evocative route to reach Cuesta del Obispo under a glorious sun. We unexpectedly find a majestic amphitheatre dug out by the wind in the rock, 40/50 times taller than us, resting place in the shade for many small parrots.

With a 21-km off-road route that links Salta to Cachi, we reach 3,457m of altitude to savour a surprising landscape and some fantastic goat cheese and salami that a herder, with his lama, sells to tourists. We descend towards Chachi from the ‘Bishop crest’ through an immense plateau covered with cacti. In Cachi one of our most beautiful adventures starts!
Our destination: San Antonio de Los Cobres, the highest town in all of Argentina.
An intriguing route awaits us: we are anticipating by a couple of months one of the legs of the Dakar rally!
Towards midday we relax in a delightful restaurant and then continue. We soon realise that going back up the Andes the difficulties of the journey increase. Unfortunately we puncture a tyre: we go back to Cachi to repair the tyre and re-evaluate the road. The following morning after a small ford we reach La Poma, a small village nestled in the colourful Andes plain. Then the landscape become more dry and inhospitable, the ‘40’ starts going up, our breathing and the bikes’ carburation change. We come across a nice woman taking her lamas to the pastures, chewing coca leaves to cope with the altitude, and she asks us for money to be photographed.

We continue crossing fords up to the highest point, the Abra del Acay pass, 4,895m of altitude: happy and cold, we take some unforgettable pictures! We reach San Antonio de Los Cobres on December 15: we eat a very good lama stew and spend the night, only guests of the hotel.
Heading towards the province of Jujuy, the whole following morning we cross a huge plateau: white and brown lamas graze in the pastures, we have fun taking pictures and chasing them.
Then a new fantastic view: we leave the colours of the hills behind us, and in front of us we see unexpected white, blinding like snow. Slowly we approach this white majestic desert and we understand we are in front of Salinas Grandes. Perfect hexagons are painted like pictures. 10,000 years ago it was a freshwater lake, swampy and with abundant vegetation. Today it’s a huge body of salt studded with turquoise pools. We enter on our motorcycles loading on our saddle, instead of our luggage, the guide who will show us in detail the workings of nature and man. We resist the temptation of going really fast on this salty lake, in case some point collapses. We end our Argentinian leg of the trip on December 17 in San Salvador de Jujuy. 

How much beauty during these first weeks on the road! Argentina surprised us, we would never have imagined such fascinating places, routes and adventures: a real wonder of nature and a great, unexpected gift. Our bikes have always been up to the challenge, we cared for them simply by regularly oiling the chain and checking a few details, what bikes! And the riders have been even better: great fun and great family!!

Paraguay and Brazil


It’s December 18, we ride on red dirt through luxuriant vegetation towards Asunción to meet Padre Aldo, a dear missionary friend of ours, founder of a great charity. We spend 2 rainy days with him, going to his clinic for very poor terminally ill people. We visit the school and nursery which host more than 500 children, located in a building that looks like a fortress. In the fragile reality of Paraguay, all this seems a miracle. With Father Aldo’s blessing we leave for Iguaçu National Park. On December 21 we are in Foz do Iguaçu – ‘Great Water’ in Tupi-Guaranì. The greatness of these 275 60-metre-high waterfalls, one of the natural wonders of the planet, in indescribable! We visit them on the Brazilian side seeing every gully we can reach and remaining awed. In the afternoon we don’t miss out on the opportunity of visiting the huge hydroelectric dam of Itaipú, built on the Paranà river on the border between Paraguay and Brazil: 7,700m long, 196m high, with 20 turbines it satisfies the electrical needs of 95% of Paraguay and 25% of Brazil.
We leave ‘Las Cataratas’ on December 22 and we enter Brazil from the chaotic Ciudad del Este, unexpectedly without problems at customs. For Christmas Eve, passing through Maringà and avoiding imminent heavy downpours, we reach the legendary São Paulo.

Leaving behind us the comfortable roads met until now, we throw ourselves into the vigorous traffic of this city! We swiftly move from Ibirapuera to Morumbi on the Paulista, the Marginale, the Bandeirantes, paying attention to the many speed cameras. We know Brazil: Alfredo often lives here for work, Laura has been here many times, Luca a few, Marco has spent the last 7 months here for a university exchange and has fallen in love with it. We spend Christmas in this huge city, where we were expecting to see more lights and colours, but this year you can really feel the economic crisis. While for our Christmas lunch La Jardineria, our favourite churrascaria, surpasses itself…and we will be back on January 4 for Laura’s 54th birthday!! For New Year’s Eve we would like to enjoy the fireworks in Rio, so after a couple of days we get ready to leave. Friends of Marco’s invite us to stay with them in Ilhabela, so we spend December 28 overtaking the long queues going to this beautiful sea resort. Seeing palm trees and fat exotic plants reflected in the sea is great, our hosts are incredibly hospitable, but Rio can’t wait. Leaving Ilhabela is more difficult than reaching it: we would like to go along the coast to admire the scenery, but the traffic forces us to take the motorway.

By nightfall we are in enchanting Rio. We cruise on our bikes under the sun of Barra da Tijuca and the downpours in the ascent to the Christ, we enjoy relaxing snacks lying on the fine sand of Praia Vermelha behind the Pão de Açucar and we admire enchanting sunsets on the lagoon. New Year’s Eve we park our motorbikes near the Botanical Garden and, with a mass of people dressed in white to wish each other peace and prosperity, we reach on foot the already crowded, noisy, sparkling Avenida Atlantica. We wait for midnight, and the show is exhilarating: thousands of noses in the air look towards the horizon above the lighted cruise ships which are waiting to be framed in a rain of light. At midnight the show begins: 20 uninterrupted minutes of light, fires, fireworks which shine over Copacabana and the beach and ocean colour themselves continuously fading out and then being flooded by light again. We still have 2 days of holiday left, so we decide to learn how to surf a bit. Happy and tanned we return to São Paulo leaving at dawn to avoid terrible downpours. We arrive dry and satisfied, ready to celebrate, with a last churrasco, Laura’s birthday and the end of this unforgettable, surprising, magnificent and…. family adventure in South America!

The protagonists

A family from Brescia

The protagonists

A family from Brescia

A family from Laura, the mother, Alfredo, the father, Luca and Marco, the sons: four passionate motorcyclists.