Day 2 (Sunday January 29th) was long; we were on the road for almost 13 hours. We covered a bit over 600 kilometers to finally leave the pampas and move into the flat woodlands of the Province of Santiago del Estero at the heart of Argentina. Santiago is not a destination but rather a transit province; very few people would choose to vacation in Santiago del Estero. As one crosses Santiago, one transitions between different landscapes. Following route 34 we went from grasslands through woodlands—dominated by acacia-like trees—to the forest-covered mountain range that runs parallel to the Andes. Santiago is a relatively poor province. The summer heat is nearly intolerable. Under the thorny trees there is a poor soil with very little humus and too much clay. Santigueños (the locals) use this clay to make bricks and the abundant wood to make charcoal. Along route 34 we saw many improvised side road shops (huts) offering bags of charcoal for sale—together with melons, watermelons, and wood carvings. Despite the harshness of this land, Santiago is the cradle of the most upbeat genre of all Argentinean folk music: the chacarera. In their lovely, sweet accent, santiagueños sing with pride and love for their province.
Day 2 was very hot and very windy. We knew it would be hot so we tried to leave as early as possible after a quick coffee (we love our Coleman stove!). The morning ride was pleasant. We stopped under a big algarrobo tree (imagine a big African acacia) to rest and take a closer look at the huge nests make by green parrots on almost every old telegraph post. As we were stopping, Adrián heard a weird noise coming from his bike but could not figure out what it was. As soon as we went back on the road the reason became obvious. A 3-inch long bolt had punctured the rear tubeless tire of the BMW. We fixed it provisionally using a rubber plug from a BMW repair kit and continued on the road until we could find a gomeria—a tire repair shop—that would be open on a Sunday in the early afternoon (siesta time) in Santiago del Estero! In the town of Lugones, 15-year old Marcos, alias el Sanjuanino (i.e. native of San Juan), was willing to open his already closed shop to help us. He saved us from having to wait potentially many hours in the overwhelming heat. The afternoon ride was not fun. Route 34 provides the fastest connection between Northwestern Argentina and major cities like Rosario and Buenos Aires, so it is full of trucks. The heat, the wind, and the trucks made riding our bikes a chore. At a gas station we met Damian, an Uruguayan from the city of Florida, who is traveling solo—on a relatively small, Chinese made motorcycle—in the direction of Bolivia and Perú. Like a good Uruguayan, he carries a thermo and a maté on the bike.
We finally arrived exhausted to the city of Rosario de la Frontera (Province of Salta) at night. We treated ourselves to a hotel with hot spring water in our room. It was a wonderful to take a hot bath after such a long day on the road. Then we watch our favorite soccer team, River Plate, to lose for a second time this summer to Boca. We are still el mas grande!