Now in Argentina, we continued on with our long day. But, now that we had passed the hard part, the bus began acting funny. It skipped, it lurched, even the funny noise we thought was the muffler returned. We continued to chug along thinking once we go down in altitude things should get better.
Our next stop was Susques, a small puebla with the redeeming qualities of an ATM and gas station. We filled up at both and headed back out to the paved highway.
We continued to descend and came upon another salt flat. We saw that there were a few vehicles on it so we immediately drove in. We had missed our chance in Salar de Uyuni to take those crazy photos, so we grabbed a couple of toys and set to it. We didn’t want to spend too much time here since we still had a long drive, and as we were heading out Jason discovered we had an oil leak. White salt flat. Black oil. Pretty obvious.
Back out of the highway, we continued to putter. We kept thinking we would be going down soon, but one look ahead and we saw we had another climb. We thought about stopping for a while and going through the engine, but we were anxious to get to the next town and call it a day. Jason looked seriously worried, but Red Beard made it…barely.
We finally descended but the bus wasn’t doing much better. We had intended to go a bit farther, but decided to stop in Puramarca, a small village turned tourist town in Northern Argentina. It was beautiful, and we had information on 3 campsites in the town. The first was super expensive, so we tried the second. It was a small motel type place with BBQ pits and camping spaces around the parking lot. The owner wasn’t there, but the 2 guests at the hotel said he’d be back soon so we parked the van and hit the showers. We didn’t set up camp since we didn’t know the price, so when the owner came back and told us there was no camping we were able to high-tail it out of there before he discovered we had used his showers. Not totally cool, but it was a long day. Unfortunately, we forgot that Jason had left a glass on the spare, so that went down with a crash as we sped off. Nothing like calling attention to ourselves when we’re trying to sneak away!
We were happy to pay at the 3rd campsite, and even happier to discover (once we had internet) that the exchange rate was about 4:1 instead of 3:1 like we had thought. The town seemed expensive, but now 25% less expensive.