Thursday, January 17, 2013

God Willing and the River Don’t Rise…

I spent the night in Belen, AR, and headed north for Salta in the morning. Half an hour north of Belen there was a line up of cars waiting at a small stream now swollen by rain. Crap. Not knowing how deep that water might be, I found a long stick and was preparing to measure the depth before attempting a water crossing. I started taking off my riding pants to prepared for a wade into the stream. At that moment I noticed a loose bolt and a missing bolt on my engine guard (a.k.a. crash bars.) Deferring the dip into the stream, tool were unpacked and simple maintenance commenced.

The activity attracted attention for a group of people that were also coming from the Dakar Rally: Guillermo, Maria Jose, Fermin, Mercedes and their son.  Introductions, conversation, mechanical advice, sharing of chain lube and water crossing advice ensued. Trucks and four wheel drive vehicles started crossing the stream. Their path through the water was closely studied for deep selections and ruts.  The rain started again, pushing the decision to brave the swollen stream before it got deeper.

There were two Argentinian motorcyclists posed to cross the stream. No one was in a hurry or wanted the privilege of crossing first. I said, “…for the flag of Argentina, you guys should go first…” and they did.

Me: “I haven’t done many water crossing. Should I be in first or second gear.?”
Guillermo: “Use first gear and don’t stop.”
Me: “Hold on to my passport…to identify the body. <grin>”

After transferring my panniers and outer riding gear to their trunk, cameras ready, I took a deep breath, knowing that one slip could land the bike in the drink and cause untold problems.

Fermin’s capture -

Guillermo’s capture -

Lesson learned, use first gear when making a water crossing and don’t forget to close your helmet face shield. Your face stays drier that way.  =)

After fording the stream I followed Guillermo and crew toward Salta. We rode through breathtaking rock formation and some of north Argentina wine country. The road twisted and turn, sometime gravel and mud, crossed smaller streams, then the road opened up for a long flat stretch of valley floor and we hit the throttle, screaming our way to Salta.

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