|It's 1100 Km from Buenos Aires to Mendoza. The first 600 Km or so is
ordinary two lane highway, in good shape apart from a 30Km section of
dirt road where you have to go round a lake which has flooded the road.
We saw some cattle, but mostly it was huge fields of wheat or soya as
far as the eye could see, all being farmed in a highly modern manner.
I'm told that it is this which keeps the country afloat whenever the
Argentine economy crashes, the most recent bout being only three years ago.
We were made to drive in a specific order in our convoy, most
un-Italian! Primarily I think this is because every now and again we had
to stop for a photo opportunity for FIAT; Our photographers would rush
ahead and choose a suitable location where we would have to drive around
in a field or make some dust or something until they were satisfied. Of
course the locals found it all extraordinary.
I suppose the convoy could also have been in case any of our brand new
cars or vans broke down. They weren't taking any chances on this, we
had a FIAT Argentina maintenance van with us too.
Pretty much the whole way it is completely flat and the road is dead
straight. The map shows one section is straight for 160Km though in
fact there were a couple of slight bends in it. A perfect gliding sky,
with a huge cloudbase.
Other than Hungary, Argentina is the only country I know of where you
have to drive all the time with your lights on. Actually this is a very
good thing as on these dead straight roads with a bit of a heat mirage
it is really quite difficult to see oncoming traffic when you're trying
to overtake one of the hundreds of trucks which were cruising along at
half our speed. The other thing which I've never seen before is most
trucks and buses are fitted with devices which constantly maintain tyre
pressure whilst they're going. Given that nobody takes any notice of
speed limits, so closing speeds on two lane highways are very high, and
the roads are hot, I suspect these has saved many lives.
For lunch we stopped at a fairly unexciting looking truck stop. In
reality it was the most superb Parilla (pronounced Parija), a sort of
barbecue grill very common here with great slabs of beef off the
barbecue for practically nothing. Vegetarians would struggle to survive
The further west you go the drier it gets and cultivated land gradually
gives way to grassland populated with cattle and the odd Gaucho who you
occasionally saw trotting along checking a fence or something.
Highway 7 turns into a four lane motorway complete with street lights
for 250Km through the Pampas of San Juan province, this was such an
extraordinary sight (relatively speaking, it is a fairly boring drive) I
even worked out it was 4230 street lamps for the whole distance.
After 850 Km we stopped the night in the Gran Hotel de San Juan. My
room had that nasty musty spell reminiscent of motels in the USA.
There are three kinds of petrol in Argentine petrol stations: Normal,
Super, and Fangio*. The latter I understand is a very good quality 98
octane which will do for my trike if we can't find any Avgas. (Actually
my engine doesn't really like avgas as it has a lot of lead in it and
all Rotaxes are designed for unleaded, but avgas also has additives to
prevent vaporization at high altitudes which is what I need, and I'm
told by the chaps at Skydrive that no damage will be done in the
relatively short amount of flying time we're planning).
The last 250 Km to Mendoza seemed to take along time, perhaps it was the
stops for photo op's which took the time, but we were there early
afternoon just as Angelo was completing a press conference.
Angelo had flown to Mendoza so hadn't made the drive. It sounds a bit
like the Expedition leader taking advantage, but actually we should have
already been here two days ago and he had ministers and things to deal
with in Buenos Aires, so theoretically he should have arrived later than
Mendoza is an ancient city of more than a million in a desert at the
foot of the Andes. What makes it surprising then, is the large trees
lining every street. They survive by merit of a network of 500Km of
ditches between the pavement and the street which irrigate the trees and
make it very pleasant shady place in the 35 deg heat of this time of year.
Tomorrow we plan to go up the mountain to Punta del Inca to look at our
* Juan Manuel Fangio, Argentine National hero, three times World F1
champion in the 1950's, a record only beaten recently by Michael Schumacher.