Day 18 (February 25, 2014) We woke up to a cold, cloudy, and windy day. We could hear the whistling of the wind from the hotel room. After breakfast we loaded the bikes, bundled up, and rode south on route 60. We stop at Aimosgasta to get gas and have a coffee. A few miles south of Aimogasta we visited the small town of Anillaco, the birthplace of Carlos Saul Menem—a corrupt and unscrupulous individual who was president of Argentina for two terms from 1989 to 1999. With the go ahead from the International Monetary Fund, Menem applied savage neoliberal deregulation policies with disastrous effects on the Argentine economy. The Menem administration privatized utilities including the oil company Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales (YPF), the post office, telephone, gas, electricity and water utilities. These privatizations were carried out through corrupt contracts that enriched Menem’s associates. The Menem administration divested in higher education—an area that has always been of central importance for Argentinians. The country has a long tradition of investing in education. The Argentine education system has at times reached worldwide levels of excellence. For example, Argentina educated three Nobel Prize winners in the sciences: Luis Federico Leloir, Bernardo Houssay and César Milstein. In addition two Argentines have received the prestigious Rolf Schock Prize: Luis Caffarelli in Mathematics and Mauricio Kagel in Musical Arts. The program of deregulation and privatization pursued by Menem resulted in the decentralization of the secondary school system whereby funding became a provincial rather than a federal responsibility. As a consequence the system of high school education was severely weakened. Funding for universities and research was also curtailed resulting in massive emigration of university trained professionals to the US and Europe.
In Anillaco we visited a saddle and leather shop where I bought a sheepskin (pellón) to use as seat cover on my motorcycle. Many motorcycle riders claim that a sheepskin cover would keep you cooler in hot weather and warmer in cold weather.
From Anillaco we rode south through the cities of La Rioja—the capital of the province—and Patquia onto Chamical. It rained very hard for the last 60 kilometers of our ride so by the time we reached Chamical we were ready for a hot shower and a nice dinner. We stayed at a brand new hotel, Hotel Portal del Noa, next to the gas station on route 38. For dinner we took a taxi to nearby parrilla (grill). We had asado with a Bonarda wine (a varietal) from La Rioja.