One of Jesse’s dreams has always been to ride a motorcycle through mountain roads, hugging the twists and curves of the mountain and experiencing spectacular views. So, as a surprise for my main squeeze, I rented a dirt bike from Mendoza Moto Adventura and researched a couple roads in Mendoza famous for their ride-ability and overall awesomeness.
We decided to follow the path up to La Reserva Natural Villavicencio, a natural reserve north of the city where the Villavicencio water is sourced and also where an old resort and thermal springs is located.
Part 1. Following the twists and turns
This is easily my favorite part of the trip. Paved roads with amazing views views around every turn. I constantly found myself in awe at the beauty of the area and just wanted to share the wonder with everyone, wishing I could bring all my family and friends to this area of Argentina to enjoy the wine and the nature here.
Jesse and I both have a very real appreciation and fear of the dangers of riding a motorcycle, which is probably one of the reasons we’re both still quite healthy. When Jesse first talked about getting a motorcycle back in NYC, I was not really on board. But really there is something special about experiencing a ride like this on a motorcycle. You feel a connection with nature that you just can’t get in a car. You feel the road, you feel the wind, you feel the sun bouncing off your body. I think it is in moments like this that I really appreciate how small and young we all are compared to the Earth. (Also moments like this that you find yourself humming Bon Jovi’s “Dead of Alive” to yourself. Not the dead part. The “I’m a cowboy! On a steel horse I ride!!” part.)
I took some pictures and videos from the back of the bike. They actually came out quite good considering most were taken on my iPhone from the back of a motorcycle, though the videos are understandably shaky. Also, you might want to turn your volume down if you watch the video. It’s windy.
Part 2. Off the beaten path
Ok, I won’t lie. As we stood there looking at the road ahead, knowing we had about 40km of unpaved road to travel before we even got to the reserve, 40 km of bumpy, jerky, unrelenting roads with no person in sight should the dirt bike slide out and land right on top of us, we were a little hesitant to continue. It seemed like a somewhat nerve wracking and a quite unpleasant way to spend an afternoon. But we heard the reserve was beautiful and we are not the type of people to back down from a challenge or what could be a really cool adventure. Plus, we figured, we endured 3 hours on the pot-holed clay roads of Phu Quoc, Vietnam just to get to an exquisite beach on the other side of the island, how much worse could this be? So after a little pow wow, off we went.
A long road ahead.
A plaque in honor of Charles Darwin’s 1832-35 trek and his discoveries made in this area. When we first came upon this plaque, we were a bit flustered. It was literally in the middle of nowhere. You’re just bumping along, hills to your left and right, and all of a sudden – Darwin plaque! I made Jesse stop so I could go take a picture. (Also partly so my bum could rest a bit.)
Part 3. The neverending road
This part was supposed to be the high point of our ride. Twisty turns, 360 degree curves, mountains popping up everywhere with the most amazing views. But Mother Nature doesn’t care about “supposed to” and she gave us chilly, foggy, drizzly weather that made the dirt road slick and the edge of the steep path invisible. Now that I think about it, perhaps this is why the guy who rented us the motorcycle suggested we start out early and go up to the reserve first. I felt really bad for Jesse because he was the driver and not only did he have to pay constant attention to the road to make sure we didn’t glide into an unsafe path but he had to keep the bike steady so it didn’t slide out from under us on the loose gravel. It’s a good thing he has been working out so much. Not even half way through this part of the ride both our feet felt like solid blocks of ice and the drizzling rain forced us to lift our visors thereby exposing our faces to the frigid air. I clung to Jesse for warmth and was very grateful for the lined pockets on his North Face jacket. Riding through the mountains here took as long as the two other parts combined and was maybe 1/4 of the distance. After we made it through, we both admitted that at some point in the ride we were each thinking that if we just slid off the road, the hell we were in would be over. Clearly we don’t have a death wish, but that just shows you how awful (and scary for me) it was.
The whole time though I kept thinking in my head that there must be a lesson in here somewhere (because there HAS to be something good that came out of all this). Perseverance? Character building? Sucking it up and digging in? Don’t go motorbiking through mountains EVER again? I couldn’t help but think about the times I have done my long runs. Towards the end of the run, I’m exhausted and hurting but I know that if I were to quit at that point I would be so disappointed in myself and it would also be a long walk home. (Incidentally, this could also apply to the three years I was working full time and doing my Masters.) I think the lesson is that there are times in life that things just royally suck and don’t go as planned, but there is always a light at the end of the tunnel and if you keep moving towards it, if you just put one foot in front of the other, you’ll get there, and the sunshine will be all the sweeter for it. In other words… Just keep swimming!!!
My dark and mysterious motorbike man.
So unsuspecting at first. The views at the outset really were beautiful. I imagine, and have seen pictures, if you took a car on a clear day it would be incredible.
Like most rough things, it wasn’t all awful. We got to see a couple herds of these guys the guanaco, which are llama looking creatures, a little smaller with less fur.
We waited for them to cross the road, but they’re running off at our bike noise.
The road curves into…?
A rare break in the fog to see the turns of the road ahead.
Terrifying edge of the mountain. It was about at this point that my extremities started to freeze and I decided I should probably conserve my body heat. Plus, how many pictures of fog and a dirt road can you take?
Finally we made it to the hotel! When we got there, we planned on having a very quick bite to eat and a large cup of hot tea at the visitors center, but again our plans were foiled as we discovered upon our arrival that the visitors center and restaurant (and even the restrooms) were closed for the season. We almost rode off right then thinking we wouldn’t be able to get up to the hotel, but a large tour bus pulled up and the driver, after telling us we were crazy to ride a motorcycle from Uspallata, told us the hotel was only about 100 meters up the road.
The resort was only in business for 38 years, built in 1940 and closed in 1978. (reeeeedddd-ruuuummmm!!!!) You can still go up and take some pics of the outside of the building or drink from the hose with fresh Villavicencia spring water.
You can see our red, but relieved, faces when we learned the entire road back was paved. Joy of joys!!
Later that day we returned the motorbike and rental car and boarded a bus, our bags sagging with wine, heading back to Buenos Aires. This is our booty from the trip. 🙂