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Day 3 (Monday, January 30, 2012). The Sub-Andean Hills that run parallel to the Andes in North Western Argentina are green, very green. The hot humid air that we experienced while crossing Santiago del Estero rises along the eastern slopes of the hills, cools down, and generates clouds and copious precipitation. The cloud forest National Parks that are located in this region—El Rey, Calilegua, Baritú—protect several endangered species of big cats like the yaguareté and the onza. Other mammals—tapirs, anteaters, peccaries—and many gorgeous trees are also protected. Today we rode our bikes through this forest on a road that should be in the must-do list of every Argentinean motorcyclist. I am referring to the old Ruta 9 between the town of La Caldera (Salta) and El Carmen (Jujuy). The road is known as El camino de la cornisa (the road of the cornice), a name that suggests a certain degree of danger.  This is not a road to follow if you are going from Salta to Jujuy in a hurry, but it is not a dangerous road. The pavement is impeccable and the scenery unforgettable. We rode slowly and took many pictures. I will let the pictures speak by themselves. By the time we reached El Carmen it begun to rain very hard. We travelled for several miles under heavy thunder and lightning (not fun) until we found shelter at a gas station.

We encountered two fellow travelers today. After a nice breakfast at the Hotel Termas we got into Rosario de la Frontera to get gas. There we met Jorge Itrosi, who was riding a BMW F800 and coming back from Perú.  Jorge served as support mechanic for a truck that raced on the 2012 Dakar Rally. He rode his bike following the race fro more than 9,000 kilometers from the start at Mar del Plata (Argentina) to the finish line in Lima (Perú). He had so many stories to tell that we could have spent the entire day talking to him.  The other encounter came towards the end of the day while we were waiting in a long line to get gas at San Salvador de Jujuy. I suddenly saw this guy on a KLR650 cutting though the waiting cars and riding in our direction. He had a big smile on his face and immediately started to talk to my brother in English.  The happy fellow was Mark from Olympia, Washington.  He left the US from his parent’s home in Redding, CA—relatively close from where I live. You can read Mark’s story at his ADV thread entitled “Gender feminism send me to South America”. Curious?

After meeting Mark, we rode under the rain to the city of Purmamarca (2,100 meters above sea level). It had rained that day so the dirt streets were muddy. We had ravioli and gnocchi for dinner at La Posta—a restaurant on the town’s square. We begun to feel the effects of the altitude on the walk back to the hotel—or maybe it was the full bottle of malbec that we shared for dinner.