Day 16 (February 23, 2014) We left the Hostal Río de Arena after a very special breakfast with home made bread, plum preserve, and dulce de leche made with goat milk. Craig, the Canadian KLR rider, joined us for breakfast but asked for scrambled eggs (Argentinian breakfasts are too wimpy and sweet for a genuine lumberjack from Alberta). We felt very lucky to have found this place to stay. The hostel is a perfect place to rest. The rooms of two old houses have been turned into large, modern sleeping quarters with private bathrooms. Roberto, the friendly owner and host of the hostel, has clearly put a lot of thought into this place. Most of the cooking is done in wood ovens giving empanadas, breads, and meats a very unique flavor. Roberto produces his own Río de Arena wine from the vineyards adjacent to the Hostal. A new cellar is currently being built. If you prefer the country to the city or if you want to take a break from the hustle and bustle of a city, you will enjoy this hostel.
A few kilometers south of the hostel we stop to help a guy who was having trouble with his motorcycle. His name was Juán and the problem was that the chain of the bike kept coming off because the tension adjuster was not working. Juán asked us for tools but it turned out that he had very little experience with motorcycles so Adrián and I ended up doing all the work.
We got gas in Amaicha del Valle and then continued onto Tafí del Valle. From Tafí route 307 goes down—following the Río de los Sosa— through the cloud forests that cover the eastern slope of the Sierra del Aconquija. The stretch of forest along the eastern slope of the Andes Mountains in Peru, Bolivia and northern Argentina is known as the yungas. At higher altitudes the forest here is dominated by alders (alisos); a species of tree that is not very common in Argentina. It was raining lightly as we were riding down. At times we rode through heavy patches of fog. Down at the valley we turned south on route 38 in the direction of the city of San Fernando del Valle de Catamarca. This fertile valley of the Tucumán Province is heavily planted with sugarcane and tobacco. As route 38 enters the Province of Catamarca, the road climbs through the Sierra de Ancasti. We stop to rest at a Gauchito Gil shrine which had several offerings including a bottle of red wine and few energy bars. We reached the city of San Fernando del Valle de Catamarca at around 5 pm and got a room at the Amerian Catamarca Park Hotel near the central plaza. That night we had dinner at Restaurant Valmont located next to the basilica cathedral of the city—bifes con papas fritas and Stella Artois Noire.