Monday, May 28, 2012

ALL GREAT THINGS MUST END!

Hospital continued....

At the hospital my greatest fear was realized. No one spoke English! Having depended on Max as my translator the entire trip I’ve been very lazy about picking up more Spanish and now I will pay for my sin!
Removing my gear after the accident

I quickly learned the word for pain (dolor) and used the #8 (ocho) to describe the pain, I would have used the number diez except that left me no place to go up in case the pain got worse (fat chance of that!). After a number of x-rays I was diagnosed with a broken collarbone and 3 broken ribs with a possible punctured lung and told that they would monitor me through the night. I was relieved I’d be spending the night because I couldn’t imagine any way possible getting my damaged body to a hostel. One thing you learn quickly in Argentina is that if you want something you must ask. This goes for a menu in a restaurant, to pay the dinner bill or get pain meds. They had hooked me up to an IV so I mistakenly thought they were administering pain meds through that but as the time wore on my pain began getting worse.

I finally asked for the pain meds and they promptly gave me a shot, I guess all’s I had to do was ask!
Once I got the shot sleep came easily and I actually got a halfway decent nights rest. The next morning I got a visit from a doctor who spoke some English who asked about my insurance. After I told him I was insured he started going over my injuries. The ribs would take care of themselves but he thought I should consider having a plate and screws to put the collarbone back together. After multiple unsuccessful attempts to contact anyone at Blue Cross (welcome to our world Senor Dr.) I was told that maybe it would be better to wait and get it done somewhere else, in other words “we don’t want to get stuck with the bill”. Meanwhile back at the accident Brine had continued on another 35 miles to Tress Lagos, a very small village, to see about gathering up my motto and gear. At around 11:00 PM Saint Carlos shows up at John’s hostel with a flatbed truck and 3 big friends to go back out on the pampas and find the bike. This they did and hauled it back to Tress Lagos. By the time they got it all unloaded it was after 2 in the morning! Of course Carlos wouldn’t take so much as a dime for him and his friends. By this time John had e-mailed Max I’d been in an accident. Since John knew little about my condition he couldn’t tell Max much.
X-Ray showing broken collarbone and ribs

 Max had spent the previous 30+ hours busing and hitchhiking down to Ushuaia then an additional 8 hours exploring the city, all without sleep! After receiving the news Max went straight to the bus station and bought a ticket to Peidra Buenas for 5 the next morning. He figured, being as tired as he was, that there was a good chance of over sleeping he planned departure time so he hooked up with some girl and spent the night roaming around town and trying his luck at the local casino. He made the bus and after hours of torturous bus ride arrived by my bedside at around 9 pm my second night there. Man was I happy to see him! I think I may even have shed a small tear of joy!  So after 2 nights in the hospital I was given my walking papers. Max found us a hotel nearby and went a retrieved my “pain meds”. Well, that fist night out was a pretty uncomfortable night. Turns out my “pain meds” were actually anti-inflammatory drugs and not the kick ass painkillers I was hoping for. The next morning I had to gimp my way back to the hospital and get a prescription for some stronger stuff (remember you must ask to receive!). We spent another 2 or three days here before I felt I could move on to a happier place (Peidra in a depressing town!).
Photo I sent Charlotte to let her know I was OK

Plus I wanted to get to an area where Max actually had something to do. El Calafate fit the bill so we loaded up on a bus and road 6 hours across the Pampas to see what we could. The bus ride was pretty cool. It was a double deck affair and we sat up front on the top deck. What a view! It’s as close to riding a motorcycle (view wise) as you can get without the wind! Again we saw herds of Guanacos and lots of Rheas. Once arriving in El Calafate we began the task of finding a suitable place to stay. We quickly stumbled onto, what turned out to be, the perfect hostel. My hosts for next number of days were a young couple, Belen and Dario. I began calling Belen “Mom”. She was always making sure I was comfortable and asking if there was anything I needed, even baking cookies for me. In El Calafate Max had a more interesting area to explore and spent a day at the Perito Moraino Glacier. I guess it was pretty impressive because Max, a ex glacier guide from Alaska, was very impressed at it’s size and the calving. Life in El Calafate quickly became very routine for me. Up in the morning; breakfast of coffee and toast then back to the pillows for a rest. In the afternoons it was a short walk and back to the pillows and in the evening it would be dinner cooked by Dario and back to the pillows. Get it? I didn’t do too much the first few days there.
My hosts in El Calafate Belen, Dario and their daughter

 Slowly but surely my non -pillow time increased, as did the length of my walks. The town is set up for tourists with lots of outdoor stores and coffee shops. There is also a wetlands area within walking distance where you can see all kinds of birds including the Argentina Flamingo that looks very similar to the Pink Flamingo. After hanging out here for a week or so it was time to move on to El Chalten, a town about 3 hours north by bus. So we packed up a got a cab to the bus terminal.
El Chalten

I guess I wasn’t really ready to travel. The cab driver took a few too many turns too fast and hit a number of speed bumps at speed that combined caused considerable movement in my tender rib area. Ouch!!!! I can’t remember feeling such acute pain before and that includes immediately after the accident! By the time I got to the bus station I was having serious misgivings on my decision to travel so soon but the thought of getting back into a cab pushed me to soldier on. Once on the bus I discovered my choice of seating wasn’t the best (I sat right over the front wheels) so after a number of scream inducing bumps Max and I found some seats nearer the middle of the bus.
Fitz Roy

That and doubling up on my pain meds made for a rather enjoyable trip. The route took us Lago Argentino and Lago Viedma, both large beautiful lakes.
El Chalten Sunset

Once we arrived in El Chalten we found ourselves in a small somewhat nondescript town surrounded by incredible glacier carved peaks including Friz Roy, a famous “must climb peak” for the seasoned climber that come to El Chalten as a destination. While I continued my recovery Max took advantage and did a couple of overnight treks. We stayed here for 6 nights then traveled back to El Calafate and back to “moms” house. It so nice to be going back to a place that is so familiar and friendly. My room was ready when we arrived including the necessary four pillows I require! Once back Max began trying to figure out how he was going to get to Tres Lagos where my bike has been stored. It turns out he would to buy a very expensive bus ticket Perito Moreno to get anywhere close to Tres Lagos. Even then the bus drops him 4 kms from town. He considers hitchhiking but there isn’t much traffic on that road. On a whim I contacted Carlos, the saint that drove me to the hospital a few weeks ago, to see if he knew of anyone coming down from Tres Lagos that could give Max a lift.
Max returns with the GS

Well, as luck would have it, Carlos himself is coming down the next day to pick up some people and will be happy to give Max a ride! Things do have a way of working out on the road and this was no exception.

Friday March 23rd
Max catches a ride the following day to Tres Lagos, a 2-hour trip north, and puts the GS back together. The only thing mechanically wrong with the bike was the hydraulic line for the clutch was pinched and once he freed that up the bike ran like a champ! He made it back to El Calafate around 7 that night much to my relief. Also much to my surprise the old girl didn’t look too bad. It was very apparent I got the worst of the wreck.
El Chalten Hot Rod

Saturday March 24th
Max leaves for Buenos Aries
The plan is for Max to get an early start today. He has almost 2000 miles to get the bike to Buenos Aries and has 4 days to do it. So around 2:00 PM he finally gets it together and hits the road. He is carrying my Spot unit so at least I can track his progress. Well wouldn’t you know it Max has either forgotten to turn on the spot or it’s not working in this area. Now I can sit a wonder where my boy has gone. By the next day the
Spot begins working and I can see he has made good time. He has gone 900 miles in the last day! I can even see where he has stopped for lunch. Pretty cool thing these Spot Units. I spend my time walking around town, hanging in coffee shops and resting.


Tuesday March 27th
Today is my turn to leave. I really hate to go but I have to be in Buenos Aries on the 28th to begin the paperwork for getting the bike shipped out. After heartfelt goodbyes to my hosts Belen and Dario I catch a cab to the airport where I get enough pity to be given seats in the front of the jet. Unfortunitly there is no 1st class on the plane and all I gain is a little more leg room (I was hopping for free drinks, cheese plates and whatever else comes with the upgrade). Max and John meet me at the airport and we all share a cab into Buenos Aries to our hostel. Kind of funny but Max got in to BA last night and John had been there since the day before. They both ended up at the same hostel but didn’t know it until the next morning!

Wednesday March 28th
It turns out I don’t have to be there for the initial paperwork so I stay back at the hostel while Max and John go find our broker. I did, however, give Max and John directions which I obtained using Dufas as my guide. They were gone all day! I was sitting back at the hostel feeling sorry for myself thinking they were out exploring Buenos Aries without me. It turns out the directions they got were way off and it took them all day to find the place! When they finally returned and told me what happened I felt bad but caught very little shit for it. Had the tables been turned I don't think I would have as forgiving!
BA Street Art




Thursday
Off to the airport to ship the bikes. Max and John follow on their bikes, me riding in a cab. The route we took was the same route last nights storm took. Big billboards were folded in half and trees uprooted. 14 people died in that storm last night. Once at the shipping warehouse we are told we could only ship bike related stuff on the pallet. This put a hurt on us as we had hoped to ship all are camping gear, tools cloths etc.. Lucky for us the guy helping palletizing our bikes took pity on us and made a call to the airline. He got off the phone and told us as long as it was attached to the bike it could go. So began the process of repacking the panniers, trunk, tank bag and putting Max’s tank panniers on and stuffing them full! We actually got everything stuffed in we needed and left the bikes to the shipper.

Friday through  Sunday
Spent Friday getting a haircut then going to the dentist. Down here there is no need to set up an appointment for the dentist. You just show up and walk in. After looking at my teeth he decided it would take longer than he had at the moment. “Could you come back in 3 hours?” Sure, no problem. So Max and I went to the Zoo.

 After we returned to the dentist and got the work done including my cavity, cleaning my teeth and then Max’s. The whole thing cost around $150. Seemed fair. Saturday Max and I took a cab to Boca, a old district in BA that has the BA soccer stadium, questionable neighborhoods and a cool area by the harbor that reminds me of Bourbon Street, New Orleans.
This night John Max and I go out to our last dinner in South America. We spend the evening drinking wine, eating steak and reminiscing about the trip. It’s been an adventure!

Buildings of Boco



GS ready to ship

Both bikes wrapped to go


Dinner with some fellow bike riders from Austrailia and Canada

Monday
We say goodbye to all our new friends and begin our Journey home, a 26 hour marathon of flights and airports. First we fly to Santiago Chile, then to Montreal Canada, after a 4 hour layover it’s off to Vancouver Canada then a puddle jumper to Seattle. We arrive at 3:30 PM Tuesday.

In Seattle


Tuesday-
I spend the next week going to the doctor, catching up on old friends and shopping. Max took off for Portland and I met Charlotte at the Seattle Airport on the 19th to fly down to Las Vegas for a friends’ son wedding. So seeing how “what goes on in
Vegas stays in Vegas” makes this a good place to end this blog. But one last thing…

A few Stats on the trip:
My total Moto miles: 17800
Total miles on the GS (mine and Max’s): 19600
Total Countries: 14
Total KTM breakdowns:  9+or –
Total days including September Cobra trip: 187
Total bones broken (Jimi only): 8
Total days in hospital: 2
Most miles in one day: 750 Laird Hot Springs to Prince George BC

Finally I’d like to dedicate this blog to two people. The first person would be Patrick Moffit. I met Patrick on my ride through the Gobi Desert in Mongolia. He was the person who organized the trip and had been riding in the Himalaya and Asia for years. Although I only rode with him for 8 days he really left a lasting impression and opened my eyes to traveling the world on two wheels. I was hoping to someday do another trip with him through India and the Himalayas but unfortunately he died of cancer before I could make that happen. The second person would have to be Bob Youngstrom, my friend Rick Farrens’ uncle and the oldest member of the Cobras MC, Oakland chapter. Bob, a world traveler himself, has followed my last two trips closer than anyone else. He gets all the maps and follows my blog and Spot Unit, tracing my route out with a highlighter. He then prints out the entire blog, puts it all together in a binder together with the maps and presents it all to me at the end of my trips. Thanks Bob!






Tuesday, April 10, 2012

PATAGONIA!

Corcovado viewed from Chaiten

Mt. Chaiten Blowing steam
Chile border in
Chile border out!

Wednesday
Max cooks up a fantastic breakfast of eggs, steak and potatoes. We still don’t know much about the area but the visitors center opens at 10 and we learn that there  is a hike up the volcano so we decide to stay another day. First thing we need is cash so we track down the bank only to find that the ATM only works for Master Card.

Max cooking up a storm
Then it’s off to get gas. Nope the line is a hour long so we say f@#k it, lets ride. So we head north out of town to find the trailhead. On the way Max stops to ask directions from 2 girls on the side of the road. It seems they know where to go and they are going to the same place. They need a ride and we need directions so they hope on Max and my bikes and we head off. After about 30 kms I begin to worry about gas plus it seems we are going too far past the volcano. I pull over and after further attempts to communicate we determine the girls are going to the end of the road and we passed the trailhead 15 kms back. After saying our goodbyes we turn around and start back. John runs out of gas and I give him the liter I carry with me. Earlier I had noticed my fork seals are leaking badly so I was anxious to call the SF BMW and get their advise. So I headed back while Max and John climbed the Volcano.
These hitch hikers from Isla Chiloe braved riding on the back of Max and
my bikes up htrough the park

 After talking to BMW I’m not as concerned about my problem which is a relief.



Max shows up without John who had run out of gas again and had to push his bike the last three blocks to the hotel. Now things really begin to twist. We have been seeing scenes on the news of protests and long fuel lines but didn’t know where they came from. Well at dinner we got to talking to a guy from the area who spoke English and he informed us the protesters had blockaded a bridge that separated the southern Patagonia from the North and had stopped any fuel from getting through. That’s where we had planned to go tomorrow so once again protests will change our plans again (remember Guatemala?).

Thursday
We wake to a bluebird day! The sun is shinning and Corovalo Volcano is standing tall! Briner is the breakfast chef today and cooks up potatoes and eggs plus his famous coffee.
Tides out 

Max and I head down to the gas station and there is no line! Fill up with what turns out to be our last drop of Chilean Gas. The plan is to ride south to La Junta, the last town with any gas in Southern Chile, and turn east into Argentina. Down the road 50 kms. We stop to wait for John to catch up and talk to a family that just came from the south. “No gas in La Junta”. Now our only choice is to back track to Argentina the way we came into Chile. It’s still is a beautiful ride. Seeing everything in reverse is like riding a different road. We stop for gas before reaching Esquel and decide to spend the night there. While looking for lodging an another rider stops by. His name is Greg and he’s riding down from Toronto. So we join forces and find a hostel that will accommodate all of us. Gregs been riding alone since July coming across Canada to Alaska then South.
Near Chaiten

He’s had some pretty exciting times including bandits knocking him off his bike at Lake Atitlan and robbing him at machetie point. They took all of his clothes and money. His most recient adventure was he was in southern Chile and got caught up in the uprising. So it was off to a late dinner (restaurants here open at 9:00 pm for dinner) and swap stories of the road.

Friday
Lazy morning drinking coffee and shooting the shit with Greg. Max want a day on the internet to try to work out details to sell the KTM. So it’s decided we’ll stay another day while Greg continues his quest to reach Ushuaia. Not much for me to do so I go out, buy a sharpie pen and write the names of all 15 countries I’ve ridden through on my gas tank. I think it looks cool but briner just dosen’t get it.
Our hostel in Esquel

 Why would you want to put stickers and writing all over a perfectly good motorcycle? Meanwhile he washes his bike again. Another late dinner at Cheers, a family run restaurant/bar that shamelessly stole the name from a tv show.

Moto Art


Saturday
We get on the road around 11 and ride South to Rio Mayo, a little sheep shearing town that is also the capitol of this providence we are in. On the way we meet some riders from Braizl that are riding North from Ushuaia. They tell us off gas shortages south of us and they are beginning to ration.
Roadside shrine near
Rio Mayo

They advise us to pick up extra gas as many stations are closing. Shit we just can’t dodge this! About 40 km’s from Rio Mayo Max loses the end of his muffler and while retrieving it notices and new noise coming from the bike. As soon as we reach Rio Mayo we find a shop that can rivet the tail piece back on and Max has me listen to the bike. Big noise! Sounds like piston slap to me. But we also suspect the starter clutch again. The owner lets us use the shop and once again Max and I are tearing into the KTM. After a while we decide it’s fruitless and head over to the hotel where we find that there is a KTM dealer 165 miles away. Hell that’s like next store in this country so the new plan; Find a truck and get the bike to Comodoro Rivadavia, 165 miles East.

End of the road for Moto Diablo


Sunday
While I put the bike back together Max goes out looking for a truck and driver. The guy that owns the shop wants $700 to do it but Max finds a guy that will do it for half that so stay tuned for our next adventure. We meet the guy at 3 and load up the bike. John and I will follow behind. What happened next is while we are waiting for the truck to take John begins a conversation with 2 Scottish Bicyclists. The truck begins to roll so I follow but John, deep in conversation, fails to notice us leaving. The truck turns up a street and as per SOP I wait at the corner to show John we turned. Finally, after watching the truck disappear in the distance I see John down the street turning my way. I give him a wave then proceed to catch up with the truck. The truck has pulled over waiting for us to catch up.
Some kids at Rio Mayo

Our hotel in Rio Mayo
When I get there John is nowhere in sight. Shit I thought he was behind me! So off I go on one of what turns out to be three scouting rides around town. On the third attempt I see him coming from town toward me and wave to him to follow. Instead he thinks the truck is in front of him and continues riding out of town. I can’t believe what I’m seeing .  Not only is he riding away from me but he’s riding like a bat out of hell! So  I turn around and give chase. I’ve got the GS wound up to 110mph and I am hardly gaining on him. Finally after chasing him for 5 miles I catch up and wave him over. Then I politely (NOT!) tell him to turn around, the truck is back in town. Well we all managed to get together and made our way to Comodoro Rivadavia. We are in the Pampas region of Argentina and the landscape is mostly just rolling hill and scrub. We did pass by a couple of large lakes but other than that it’s pretty boring. As we approached Comodoro Rivadavia we began seeing the oil derricks and pumps this area is known for.

We found the KTM dealer without too much trouble but it being Sunday there was no place to leave the bike. While looking for alternative storage Max talks to the neighbor next store to the shop who graciously offers his house for storage. A quick search of the finds the hotels and hostels are relatively expensive but we settle on one near the motoshop but it has no parking. Well it’s back to Nester’s, where Max will keep his bike for the night, and ask if John and I could keep our bikes in his yard. “No, it is not safe in my yard, you must put them in my basement” was the answer. After spending a couple of minutes trying to convince him that would not be necessary he made more room for our bikes. The over priced hostel turns out to be a shithole. Noisy, no internet and no kitchen. Worse than all that, no love! We did meet a couple from France who have spent the last 3 years riding a 2-person bicycle around the world. That certainly puts our trip into perspective.
Then we find out the bad news; 2 day holiday Monday and Tuesday! This would mean not getting Max’s bike into the shop until Wednesday. Bummer! So we did what any down ridden traveler would do, we went out for an extravagant dinner.

Monday
Big surprise, the motoshop is open. The downside is they won’t look at the bike until the boss gets back from Buenos Aries the next day. The first thing on my list of things to do is look for a better hotel. It seems this oil rich town is used to entertaining oil rich executives. The hotels are expensive! I don’t care if I’m forced to spend time in this place I’m going to be comfortable. So we shell out the big bucks and get a room at the Hotel Austral. Later this day I find they have gin in the bar and know how to pour a drink! Money forgotten I’m settling in for the long haul.

Tuesday
Back to a all too familiar routine. Get up,eat and go to the KTM shop. At least we have Nester to break up the routine. We stop in to get some of Max’s things and end up spending a couple of hours with Nester in his kitchen swapping stories in our respected languages.
Nester with Max and his son

Of course Max is the only one who can partly understand both so I mostly just sit and listen. Nester tell us about when the moto shop bought the property next store and tried to swindle him out of some of his property. Sounds like the shop owner is a real asshole. Very discouraging.
The diagnosis is terminal

Back to the shop and our fears are realized.  The main crank bearings are toast, no parts in Argentina and shipping parts from Europe are 3 weeks out. One KTM for sale; $3000 as is where is.


Wednesday

Same old routine. Begin negotiations with the shop owner to sell the bike. Max and I take a walk along the water front. All the streets are covered in mud. I ask some people about it and am told the sewage from the hillside buildings perk up during high tide. I’m thinking maybe they meant storm sewers since the city doesn’t smell like shit but it sure is dirty. Back to the KTM. We have an offer of $1500 for the POS.

Thursday
Agree on  $2510 for the bike. This gives us $2000 to put in my pocket after we pay the labor on the bike. Truly a bittersweet moment. With all the problems we all had become obsessed with the idea getting the bike to Ushuaia. The KTM died 2 days ride from our goal. This makes my very sad because it means Max won’t be riding with us but, as always, Max puts a positive twist on the situation. He’s actually looking forward to some bus traveling and maybe even some hitch hiking.

Friday
Well the plan today is to get to the moto shop when it opens, get our money for the bike and get the hell out of town! Max and I get to the shop but have to wait for the owner to show up. Selling a used foreign vehicle in Argentina is illegal so we need to do it in a way it appears the bike is being sold as scrap to be used for parts only. This is to protect us as we have already imported the bike into Argentina and it must be exported within 6 months, if not Max will be tagged in the system and possibly fined if he ever tries to enter the country again.  The owner finally shows with the cash and we begin to wade through the legalize part of the deal. At this point I had the money and just wanted to get out of there and ride!  But noooooo! Since my name was also on the title, even as a “or”, I would have to have my signature notarized! By now it was a quarter to 1 and the notary goes for his 3-hour lunch at one. “Come back at 4” I’m told. NO,NO,NO! I must have said this out load because a call is made and the notary agrees to stay open for us. Max and I squeeze into a truck with 2 others and tear ass through Commordoro looking for the notary office. Once there the bikes title is passed around the office and many calls made until the big cheese himself approaches us to inform me we don’t need this document notarized! Great! We squeeze back in the truck and haul ass back to the shop hoping the secretary is still there so we can finish the deal. She is and after hanging around long enough to see Max can handle it from here John and I finally get out of town around 2:30. So we leave Max behind to deal with his shit, getting the document written up right, packing up his stuff and mailing it up to Buenos Aries and finding a place to stay for the night. John and I ride south on Rota 3 then turned west on highway 49 leaving the pavement behind. The ride along Ruta 3 takes us along the Atlantic coast, flat but rugged with rocky fingers jutting out from the shore. Not to sure about the geology around here but it sure looks volcanic.

The wind is defiantly picking up, blowing in from the west and gusting, causing a few unintended lane changes along the way! After turning onto the gravel the wind continues to hit hard causing the bike to drift onto deeper berms of gravel. With all the weight plus the size of my bike it becomes quite a handful. We are heading for the Monumento Natural Bosques Petraifcados  stopping to camp a few klics east of the park.
An old truck rusting away

Looks more like a sheep ranch than a campground. I go up to what appears to be the living quarters and knock. Nothing. Then I walk around the area looking for the camping area and find a kitchen, showers and a eating area but still no humans. The showers have hot water and the stove has gas so what the hell lets set up camp! Through the course of setting up camp we meet a dog, a cat and a rooster. They will all conspire against me getting good nights sleep. The dog is cool. We become good friends and my guess is if there was sheep around the dog would do a good job herding them. He is very accomplished in cat herding and herding chickens.  Walking around we find a old bus that was once used as a apartment, an old 1940 vintage truck and the ground is littered with what appears to be a red onyx looking rock and jade.
View from our camp

This part of the Pampas reminds me of far western Colorado and Utah. A rejuvenated valley with buttes in the distance. The wind blows here all the time. But we find a somewhat protected area to set the tents up. Missing Max.

Saturday March 3rd
As I mentioned before, the dog (who I thought was my friend until he pissed on my tent) and the rooster (who began crowing way before day break) kept me from getting a good nights sleep.
The dog

I awake to the wonderful smell of fresh pressed coffee coming from the kitchen where John is busy making his breakfast.  Looking around the area I still can’t find any sign of life. After a walk with my pissy dog friend around the ranch we gear up get ready to go. I start my day by dropping the GS while getting it off the center stand. This is becoming so common I’ve quit taking pictures of the bike on the ground. John and I take the short ride to the park and are greeted by a very friendly ranger who speaks no English. Through sigh language he explains the rules and shows us the trails to take. I’ve been through numerous petrified forests in my time but never have I seen one this impressive! These are trees 3’to 6’ in diameter that had been blown down and covered with ash from a nearby volcano, preserving them just the way they looked when they fell. Even the putrefied wood chips around them looked like wood. We see some large foxes while walking back to the park entrance and have a final look at the museum then hit the dirt. The road west begins as a one lane 2 track gravel road and winds in and out of the rolling hills surrounding us.
Mobile home at the camp

The wind is blowing so hard it knocks my bike while it’s sitting on it’s side stand. We begin to see small herds of Guanacos (a relative of the Lama) and some Rheas (large Ostrich looking birds). As we ride further west the Guanaco herds get larger, some having as many as 50. They are everywhere and scatter when I ride near them. We also see a few very wild looking horses out there. Highway 49 eventually intersects with highway 12, a two lane gravel road that leads us into Gobernador Gregores (another town named after someone I never heard of). There we gas up and find a room for the night. Long day: 200 miles and it’s 7PM by the time we find the hotel.
Long day 200 miles on gravel
Gas and hotel by 7

Sunday
Today we push for El Chaten. El Chaten is known for its glaciers and rugged peaks. It’s a small place with lots of hiking and on very famous peak, Fitz Roy, named after the captain of the Beagle (the ship that took Darwin on his voyage). Before leaving we were told by a number of people to avoid Ruta 40 and take a longer route around. This runs contrary to my thinking  as the 40 route is much shorter but one thing I have learned is to listen when locals speak so off we go down
Ruta 27. The first 80 miles is newly paved and a joy to ride on.
That faithfull turn that ended my ride

Then we turn west on 288 and find it a bit more challenging (an obvious understatement). The gravel is deep and unpredictable and the going is slow.

After a while the road narrows and the gravel thins out a bit and I pick up my pace. Not much to see out here on the Pampas other than the Guanacos and some Cows. While bombing along in a wheel tract doing around 50 a rather large monument catches my eye off to my left. Glancing over my shoulder was just the distraction need to turn my front wheel into the gravel berm along side the wheel track I was in and in a flash the bike was sideways and I was airborne! It was, what we call in the Moto world, the classic high side. The big old bike actually must have flipped in the air before landing too close to me. I, myself, hit the ground so hard I could not breath, not even a small breath, for what seemed like minutes. Once I came around to my senses I took inventory. I could wiggle my toes, move my legs and had no neck or head pain but I couldn’t move my right arm or shoulder. After some time I became aware that my collar bone was obviously broken. Shit!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
John showed up a number of minutes later (boy does time slow down when you are laying in the road writhing in pain). Alls I can say is “I’m so sorry I fucked up the trip”.
Well that moment was the last of the riding part of the trip but certainly not the end of the adventure. After some 30 minutes or more John flags down a passing truck (only 1 of 3 we have seen all day). I didn’t know it then but the driver of the truck was none other than Saint Carlos! Well John and Carlos cleaned  up the debris and stashed the bike while I sat helplessly watching from the truck. Carlos then drove me to a hospital in Peidra
Buena 3 hours away. About 30 miles outside of town the gravel turned to new pavement and, if I could have, I would have crawled out of the truck and kissed the ground! Once in Peidra Carlos would not leave my side until he was sure I was being taken care of properly.





Saturday, February 18, 2012

BACK INTO THE 1ST WORLD

In a previous eposode I dropped my camera in a river. This is why I'm lacking pictures of Banos and Cuenca Ecuador. Maybe if Briner would share his I could fill in some blanks.

Saturday Jan 21
A nice short ride today (actually I can’t remember the last long ride we have taken). We leave the lush jungle of the Amazon and begin climbing back into the Andes. We ride through the town of Shell. Shell Oil built this town but when none of their wells produced they abandoned the town and airstrip. Then the missionaries came in and began flying further into the Amazon from here. A number of years ago 5 Missionaries from here flew into the Amazon, landed on a sandbar and were promptly speared to death. I guess the locals didn’t like what they heard.  Anyway the building they had lived in is somewhat a shrine to the other missionaries in the area. From there we followed a river canyon towards Banos. About 20 miles out of Banos the road gets interesting and we ride through a series of tunnels, some very narrow.
Max, John and the Talopia Guy

Not as much fun now that they have installed lights. Last time I was through them we were driving these little dune buggy things that had no lights into these dark tunnels with trucks and busses coming at us and bearing down from behind. Kind of scary! Coming into town I began recognizing the layout from last time we were here and went straight to the hostel Max and Sara stayed at (Princessa Maria). We knew from before it was a good hostel with parking for the bikes.
When we pulled up the owner and his son were there at the gate waiting for us so we pulled right in. The owner recognized Max from before which is quite amazing judging by the number of people that pass through here.


Sunday
We were awakened early  (4:30) by the hoards of people setting up the Sunday market, located right outside our window. I don’t remember mentioning it before but everyone in Latin America has a car alarm and I don’t think any of them know how to turn the alarms off! It get pretty load down here at times. Anyhow John and I go out looking for a good cup of Jo with no luck. Nothing opens until 8:30. Finally we find a lousy cup of coffee served with a lousy breakfast. Off to a bad start of the day. Today I catch up on the blog and photos. 6 hours later (I type slow) I’m finally caught up! Now it’s time to find a bar  with a big screen and 49’ers game. John and I go looking but it being Sunday hardly any bars are open. We find one with a small TV showing soccer and decide to give it a try. The owners we very accommodating even though we got some dirty looks from some locals.  I must mention the crazy cop. Still not sure what this guy was about but he was sitting with a number of others at the table next to our and judging by the number of empties on their table they must have been hammered. He kept coming over to our table smiling and babbling on in Spanish shacking our hands and showing us a card showing he was a police officer. Each time he came over he was more animated than the last. Shortly before leaving he stopped by wanting to shack hands with each of us and giving us all a kiss on our cheek. Had this been the US it would have been obvious what he wanted but down here I think he just wanted to pass along some good feelings towards the visitors. The TV was very small (by today’s standards) and it all was in Spanish, but we were able to kind of follow the game. Heartbreak! The 9ers lose.

Monday Jan 23
Travel day. While packing up the bikes at our hostel a guy comes up to me and says, ” Good morning, how is your wife?”   I wasn’t sure how this guy was and being the suspicious type I went on guard for some sort of scam. I replied my wife is good and he must have seen by my expression I had no idea who he was. “Do you remember me from the Archipelago?” he says. I’m thinking “Archipelago, Archipelago, why does this sound familiar?” then it hits me, the Archipelago was the name of the boat we were on 2 years ago in the Galapagos. Turns out this was Enrico, the guy who was assigned to Charlotte to help her on the hikes because of her bad foot. I had told him my son and I were planning on riding our bikes down here from Alaska in a few years. So when he saw our bikes and Max and I he put it all together and recognized me. What a small world! He is still sailing around the Galapagos but was between trips and on the mainland visiting his girlfriend. We had a good visit then it was time for us shove off. Max (who is perpetually starving on this trip ) wanted breakfast before leaving. But alas nothing was open. Leaving town I missed a turn and we ended up on a road heading north. But we eventually got back on track without losing too much time.
Leaving Banos

The first part of the road is pretty spectacular winding its way high above a river valley then turns ho hum with small towns and speed bumps. Somewhere south of Riobamba our trouble started. First we stop at a little resturant with a Soup Nazi like cook. After and lousy lunch he turns around and charges us $14 for the meal which should have cost us maybe $8. Shortly after leaving max gets a flat rear tire (1st of the trip). So we jump into action. Surly Max will have a spare tube with all his shit. Not! Just a spare front tube. An hour later we had a new tire with a patched tube back on the bike ready to go with me yelling at Max to forget fine tuning his chain and let’s get out of here (we were on the side of the Pan American Highway with a very narrow shoulder)!  While getting my bike off the stand it falls over for the umphteenth time. This causes me to vow to get this shitty kickstand fixed at my first opportunity (remember this, it plays into the story later).
I like this shot of Max taking a picture and a woman with her donkey walk by

As we continue on I also notice my clutch acting weird, especially riding through towns. At first I think it’s in my head but it got progressively worse as the day went until it was slipping badly. We pulled into Cuenca just as the light was beginning to fade. Dufas wasn’t working so we winged it toward the center of the city during rush hour. I stopped at the first hostel I found but they couldn’t provide safe parking for the bikes. So goes the routine. John stays with the bikes and Max and I go looking for a place on foot. We walked up to the next corner turned left and bingo, there was Carolines Bookstore. Charlotte and I found this place 2 years ago when we were in Cuenca. It is the hub, information center and hang out for all the expats down here. They were just closing but I caught the owner just as he was walking out. He suggested a place right across the street. The owner was just coming out of the hostel and informed us yes she had room and yes she had parking! Amazing how easy it is sometimes. That night I put a post on Adventure Rider asking about BMW shops in Ecuador  that might be able to replace a clutch. I also sent the BMW shop in Guayaquil an email asking about parts availability.

Tuesday
John and I are up and out looking for coffee at 7. No luck with the coffee that early but we do have a good walk around the old part of town. Cuenca is a UNESCO  heritage site and has an incredible historic district dating back to the 1500’s. The main square is very old with large building surrounding it covered with ornate designs. After walking around until 9 we finally found a coffee shop open.


Wednesday Jan 25
Max’s bike is ready. A nice birthday present for him. John and I tour the Panama hat factory. More of a store than a factory but still interesting. We go to dinner at a Mexican restaurant run by an old folk hippy that plays nothing but old Beatles music on the stereo. But what catches my eye is the quart of Hendricks Gin on the shelf. Gin is a rare commodity down here and Hendricks is unheard of! When the waiter, who is also the son of the owner, asks what I want to drink, with out hesitation, I respond “Hendricks, with a splash of tonic”. “Not possible” is his response. Por Que? Is my response. “This is a special gift for my farther and is not for sell”. Are you kidding me? It’s sitting out here for all to see and I can’t have one cocktail? “No”. All right I’ll have a Tanquary instead. “No, this also is a special gift for my father” at this I would not take no for an answer and after the son consulted with his hippy father it was agreed to allow me one T&T this evening. After dinner Max wants to have some birthday shot so we stop in at a bar and order two shots of tequila. $14! Unbelievable!


Thursday
On the rode 8:30. Cloudy but not too much fog. Heading for the border. The Ktm is still running            like shit at altidtude but the road is great and we are having fun. we wind up over many passes and the surrounding hills reminds me of the alps.Lots of switch backs keeps the ride interesting. We then turn south toward the  border and the road turns to shit. After our lunch stop we decide not to cross border until tomorrow. I stopped to take some pictures and we all got a bit spread out for awhile. Riding alone was kind of nice. I found myself much more relaxed not having to check the mirrors every few minutes (this is a self imposed habit I have developed stemming from Johns lack of experence and Max's lack of a dependable bike). My worries about my previous clutch worries have evaporated and all is good at this moment in time. We arrive at the Peru border around 5. We find a hostel in the town of Macara, kind of a sleepy, grungie town but not as bad as other borders. What made this town more interesting was that it had an airstrip right in the middle of town. Max and I go out to see what this place is about and finds his coconut. I'm too tired to eat much so I just snack on some peanuts and go to bed.

Friday
After herding the cats this morning we get to the border around 8:45. Exiting Ecuador was a breeze. No lines and good directions got the bikes and us out of there in 15 minutes. We crossed the bridge into Peru and were met by officials who directed us where to park, where to go for our passport entry stamps and where to go to import our bikes, all within stones throw from each other.

When I began the import process the guy tells me we need insurance before starting the paper work and points to where we have to go. Again just stones throw away. We all go get the insurance and while we are gone the official actually takes the initiative and gets all our VIN numbers of the bikes saving us the time to go out with him and get them. This might seem trivial but after somewhere around 9 border crossings this is the first time I would call the process efficient! All and all I was completely done in under an hour and all of us were through in less than an hour and a half. A new record unlikely to be beat on this trip! The ride today took us South from Macara through Loja over to Sullana ending at a little fishing/ Surfing town Pinental. This town appears not to have it’s potential yet. It has everything it needs to prosper as a tourist destination except the infrastructure. A great beach with good surf. Good climate and lots of restaurants. What it lacks are hotels of hostels. The one hotel by the beach we checked out has been converted to a few offices and a number of banos’. The place reeked of urine! The only other hotel looked as if it was moved from some war zone in the Middle East. Broken windows, doors missing etc.
Our own pyramid for the night

 On our first reconnaissance of the area we passed by a communal looking place a ways from the main beach area. It looked as though some acidhead had an idea years ago of building a commune on the beach. Unfortunately the drugs and the booze kind of stymied any hope of finishing the project. Well it turns out this will be our only hope of lodging here. For $8 apiece we get our very own bamboo/Concrete pyramid. Very rustic but did have a toilet, although no running water. The owner spiced up the deal with a offer of a cerviche dish and one free beer each at his restaurant on the beach so we had a deal! The restaurant was a small disappointment. We had to order 3 times before the order actually went in and they also tried to stick us with the cerviche dish.
Waiting for the bill

But to give them the benefit of the doubt this may be there busy night. After all there were three of us in there! There were no screens or any kind of bug protection in the pyramid so fortunately it was cool enough to completely immerse my body in my bag liner for protection. Mr. Briner didn’t fair as well.

Saturday
Up with the sun and rode to the main beach area for breakfast. Ummm, instant coffee and scrambled eggs. Max went for a jog in search of internet. More KTM business. After losing his air mixture screw the mechanic in Cuenca plugged it with a regular screw and the bike is suffering for it. Hopefully we’ll remedy that in Lima. After breakfast we went back to the compound to settle up on dinner the night before and after another ½ hour we are back on the rode riding south. Today we ride down to another surfing town of Huanchaco that we heard was kind of laid back. We quickly found a nice hotel, if not a little over budget. Not much to write about. A good shower, good dinner and a comfortable room.


Sunday
The push for Lima….  We get an early start for Lima but Dufas’s maps aren’t working well in Peru. I make the mistake of trying to follow the GPS route out of town, which is a straight diagonal line through the middle of Trujillo. After a half hour of dodging one-way streets and dead ends I find our way to the Panamerican Sur and we are off and running.
Along the Peruvian Coast

 The scenery has change to dry arid sand with small dunes all around us. The ride is going well and it looks like we will get to Lima around 3. Even after getting pulled over twice by Peruvian Cop (the crooked type) it still look good for a 4:00 arrival.  We had been warned by numerous people about the cops in Peru but beings how we had made it this far without problems I was beginning to think they had exaggerated the stories. We found out different. With Max leading we came up over a rise and there were 2 cops waving us over. They told us we had crossed the double line while passing a truck. Well, the truth be known, we had and whether or not they actually saw it was beside the point. All they wanted was lunch money (they actually said as much). So after playing the game we ended up giving them about $20 and went on our way only to be stopped again for speeding.
Some Peruvian Moto guys we met at a gas stop. All are riding
Chinese 650 v twins

Again Max was at the lead and a cop was going the other way. He motioned to me to slow down, which I did but somewhere down the road turned around, lights flashing and pulled us over. This time we played it differently, telling them to write us the ticket and we would pay it in Lima. “No can pay in Lima, you must go back to Trujillo”. This would mean going all the way back to where we started the day. Max then ask him what proof they had. Did they have radar? That’s when he pulls out a video camera and shows Max the video of them following him showing Max in front then scanning down to the speedometer showing a speed over the limit. “ Are you kidding? This only shows you were over the limit not Max”. Anyway this went on for a ½ hour or so.
Rest stop

These guys playing good cop, bad cop and not very well I might add. Finally we out lasted them and the good cop tells the bad cop to forget it and let them go. Max was determined not to pay these guys anything as was I but my resolve was fading and I was actually going for my wallet when they decided to end the game and let us go.


Max and John talking to the "Good Cop"
After flying into Lima to meet Charlotte a number of weeks before I had a fairly bad impression as to what we were riding into. From the air Lima looks like a desert wasteland covered by adobe shacks and small streets. It really looks as if my ultimate nightmare is about to unfold today. On the way there we stopped for fuel and met 5 or 6 guys riding these 650 Chinese v twins ala Harley style. They were a friendly bunch of guys who helped us out on directions. One guy kept saying “ whatever you do don’t go here or don’t go there, too dangerous!”  I wish I paid a little more attention but I never did figure out where he was talking about. At about 4:30 we are just getting to the outskirts of Lima and I notice Max and John are no longer with me. Turning back I find them a few miles bake on the side of the road.
Max fixing his 2nd flat in as many weeks

Max has gotten his second flat of the trip. This time we have a new tube to put on and we are back on the rode within 45 minutes. As we ride into Lima from the north my first impressions are realized. It is abject poverty. People living in these small one-room adobe shacks crowed together forming various barrios. But as we get nearer to our destination of Mears Flores the city becomes more and more modern until we could be riding in the suburbs of Los Angles. By the time it became dark we had found a hostel to stay at and another one for our bikes. Oh yea I almost forgot to mention I was sick all day. We went out for dinner and all I could stomach was a frozen fruit smoothie.

Down the street from where we stayed in Miraflores Lima


Monday
Ah, another KTM day!
After much research we find that there are two KTM dealers in Lima. We go in search of the first one. Turns out google maps had the pin on the wrong street and we have to get a cab to follow to find the correct one 4 miles back through town. The shop is located in an unmarked warehouse that houses a bank of computers and people working away on “KTM business”. A number of new bikes are scattered around but we figure it’s just for show as a cover to whatever the primary business is. Long story short the guy is a prick and no help at all. Next we go the BMW shop and get a new front tire for me. Very expensive but available. Next we go to another shop that has been recommended to us on the outside chance they may have KTM parts. It’s a small shop but they do have a KTM, same year and motor as Max’s. We try our best to talk the guy into pulling the airscrew off of their bike and using it on Max’s bike but are told it’s not their bike. That doesn’t stop us from working the poor guy over. Finally the owner shows up. Ricardo is a big Austrian look guy who races bikes here in Peru. Must be pretty good since he’s been champion 3 years running. After awhile he begins to warm up to us and takes a real interest in our problem. After a few phone calls and conferences with his mechanic he tells us not to worry he’ll fix everything. Max’s KTM John’s broken pannier bracket and they will even mount my new front tire. To good to be true, stayed tuned…. So we grab a cab back to Meriflores to a mall Ricardo recommended for food.
My attempt at art. A sculpture with two paragliders sailing by

 Miraflores is an upscale part of town that sits high on a bluff overlooking the ocean. This mall is amazing! It’s built below the cliff so when you drive or walk by it you don’t see it. Once you walk down to it it’s like you are suspended over the ocean. It’s got a number of very nice restaurants but one catches our eye.
More Meraflores

 Tony Romas! After months in 3rd world countries eating only local food the chance to eat at an American chain was truly overwhelming. Of course I am still a little punky but manage to eat something small while watching John and Max chow down a couple of good looking steaks. While dinning a couple of parasailers drift by then a couple of more until they are flying all around us. This gets both Max and John salivating to go fly so after lunch we walk over to where they are launching. The launch is is pretty simple. One, two and you are totally committed over the cliff! Once up you just begin climbing and they can soar back and forth along the cliff at ease. They land where they take off from so no climbing or transport needed. My kind of operation! The boys are stoked to fly! Unfortunately the following afternoon provides no wind and lots of fog, so no go.

Tuesday
Max and I walk to mall and grab some coffee. Next we grab a cab to take us all the way across town to the BMW dealer where yours truly left his debit card then back to Motoperformance for the bikes. They are all ready and clean! For Max’s bike they found an airscrew for another bike, took it to a machine shop and turned it to match the original screw exactly (they did pull the original screw out of the KTM they had on consignment to get the specs from). All and all Max’s bike cost $40, mine $15 and Johns $20. Got to love labor rates down here! Another great dinner at the mall and another hole in my budget!
Some pictures...









Wed.
More trouble getting out of town. Dufas just doesn’t get Peru. Finally we are back on the Panamerican Sur . It’s foggy and cold by the coast but begins to warm up as we go inland. The sand dunes eventually give way to vineyards.
Jay, a fellow rider who rode with us for a few days

At our lunch stop a fellow bike rider from California spots us and stops in for a chat. Jay has been riding his 650 GS alone and is on his way to Brazil to live for a few months. Since he’s going our way he asks if he could ride with us. “Hell Yes” we all respond a little too fast. I’m guessing we could all use some new blood around the campfire. Our route takes us past the Nazca Lines (the lines in the desert that can be seen from space). No one knows for sure the significance of the lines but best guess is that some Pre Inca people put them there to try to communicate with their gods. It really is amazing that these marks in the sand (really just scratched in the dirt) a thousand years ago and still can be seen from the 100-meter tower we climbed up.

The big business is taking you up in a plane and seeing the whole thing from the air but since this is a motorcycle trip not a flying trip we declined the numerous offers we got. We found a place in Nazca for the night (actually they found us. We hadn’t even made it through the first intersection when a guy pulls up and leads us to his hotel). That’s how it works in these tourist towns. While looking for a place to eat we are approached by Edwin, the owner of the towns “finest restaurant’. He even offers us a money back guarantee if we don’t like the food. It turns out to be a great choice and we end up with Edwin at our table with tells of his vast travels around the world.
Nasca Lines

He has lived in India, Afghanistan, America, Europe and Asia. He has had a different wife in each country and catered to the Dakar people this year. He had to provide tents, tables, chairs, food and wine to 200 people out in the middle of the desert. He even had pictures to proof it!

Thursday
Today we all sleep in a little and Max cooks us breakfast. Max keeps insisting that there is no way to cook breakfast (a meal he can’t miss) and still leave early. He has proved this time and time again!). Max is also now on a hunt for KTM parts. His starter is going out again and we are back to push starting the bike again. After calling numerous shops he finds one in Chillan, Chile that claims to have what we think we need.

So we set our sights on Chile! Either the bike is running better or the team is getting better at push starting but I haven’t had to do a pull start since the last starter gave out. We ride down the coast on Ruta 1 to Camana. Camana looked like a cool beach town but riding through it proved to be just another dirty, dusty town with no soul. About the time I gave up on it and began riding out of town a couple of sportbikes ride up and beckon us to follow them. We followed them a couple of miles south of town then turn towards the beach and there it is .the “beach town”. The riders own one of the bars there and show us to a nice hotel nearby. After fleshing up we walk back to the bar (actually just a shack on the beach the serves beer and whisky). I order up a shot of tequila and some guy runs across the street and brings one back for me. And so went the night….
Friday

Friday
Today we run for the border. More desert riding. Jay is still with us adding a bit of newness to the trip. We rode into the town of Tacna. We decide to stay here for the night and make for the border first thing in the morning. We stop to check out some hostels but they don’t have secure parking so we decide to head to the central part of town and guess whose bike won’t start?
Another stop for the KTM

OK try again… That’s right the KTM is dead. No juice in the battery. Now I didn’t slam my helmet down this time but did use a few choice words to describe my inner most feelings of the situation. Then rode off in search of a hotel with parking. I hadn’t ridden 2 blocks when I spied a hotel and a Honda shop a block away. It being close to closing time I quickly returned to the scene of the crime and told Max to start pushing the KTM to the Honda shop. At the shop they tested the battery and decided that was the problem. They had a new one and all was well, although I had questions about the charging system, which would prove right later the next day. John and Jay found us a place with parking in a garage a few blocks away so all was good again. John also found a Hoff Brau and brewpub in the Lonely Planet so that’s where we headed. We new the street but not what end of town but the cabbie took a guess and landed us at the doorsteps.
View from our hotel. Cool art on a hill.

 Well they had tons of beers on display but unfortunately only had one in stock. And no roast beef sandwiches! Down here I guess you can call yourself anything you want and get away with it. Across the street there was a fancy hotel and restaurant so that’s where we ate.

Saturday Feb 4
Border crossing today and as usual I’m feeling a little stressed. Even though we have moved from the 3rd world into the 2nd world the borders still stress me out. Maybe it’s the bad memories from Central America, I don’t know. Anyway it’s the usual breakfast fight with Max and a later start than I wanted but we are at the border around 11. This is a very friendly border but with lots more paperwork than usual. While going through the process a couple pulled up on a KLR.
2 more desert sculptures. No idea what they mean


Paula and Noel are from Vancouver BC and had shipped their bike down to Lima. What a nightmare they have been through. It took a week to clear customs with the bike then while they were in Puno Peru they got their tank bag stolen. No big deal except all their documents, cameras, laptop and other important things were in it. They eventually got most of their documents but not the cameras or laptop. Oh yea and they lost a GPS. After we all cleared customs we all drove into Arica to get a bit to eat. While sitting at the restaurant I pull out my iphone and noted we had just had a time zone change. 2 hours! Shit it was now 4:30 in the afternoon, which meant time to find lodging. Oh well today we rode a whooping 30 miles! So one beer turned to two and then we went looking for a hostel. Now we are 5 motos roaming around a strange city.
Ah yes, a familiar site, towing the KTM in Arica

We finally find a sleazy looking hostel that turns out to be pretty nice once you get through the dirty fa├žade of the building and they have parking! We have been spoiled in both Colombia and Peru as bikes were exempt from rode tolls.
I think we made a wrong turn!

All the major highways down here are toll roads. But now in Chile we have to pay! Works out to about $15 a day and the hassle of stopping and having to dig the money out while straddling a Moto with gloves on. Oh well, it pays for these beautiful highways which makes it almost worthwhile.

Sunday 5

Breakfast at hotel and on the road at 10. We say goodbye to our new friends from Vancouver and ride on down the coast to Tocopilla. On the way we encounter an aduanas (customs station) in the middle of nowhere. As is our usual practice, when coming up to a government station where it’s a police roadblock or an agricultural check station we just slow down and continue on by unless someone starts to yell. Well Max was leading the way and went on through with me following. A guy comes running out yelling his fool head off so I stop. Max keeps going. Now the guy is really pissed!
A great view of the valley

He begins to take it out on me but I through it right back at him, in English. Fortunately he doesn’t understand a word I’m saying and visa versa for me. Max eventually turns around and we have to go through the customs thing again. Twice in two days. No biggie. Our papers are all in order and we are not carrying panniers full of guns and drugs so they let us go. It’s more dry coast running and getting drier as we get farther into the Atacoma. We rode the city of Iquique where Bob and Julie Burtons daughter Alexis lived for a number of months studying Spanish.
Our campsite for the night
Camping!

We ended the day on the beach south of Tocopilla. Found a great campsite right above rocky tide pool with the Pacific crashing on shore. Max cooked up a dinner of Rice and beans (like we haven’t had enough of them already) that were very tasty. All along this part of the coast there are these shrine areas much like you see everywhere someone has died in a car accident but much larger. Some of them have multiple crosses and big shrine enclosures. Be guess is that they are for fishermen and sailors lost at sea. They all face the ocean and all appear to be built on public land.


The spot we camped at had a small monument wit some inscription on it facing the ocean. Also there were coins and rosary beads placed around it. Kind of reminded me of the Shrines we saw while riding through Mongolia except we don’t stop at each shrine and walk around it 3 times taking shots of vodka as we did in Mongolia.

Monday
After a restful night of listening to the ocean crash right below us I arise around 8 (it’s actually 6 in Peru) and after Max cooks up a luscious breakfast of oatmeal, no milk on honey just oatmeal we pack and are ready to go around 9:30. First thing is to tow Max and the POS KTM to a place we can push start him. Towing him uphill in the sand proved too much for the old man and his bike. Each time I would take off the weight of his bike lifted my front end up so much I couldn’t steer. After two close calls to dumping the bike I call it quits and we push the bike to a hill. Max is getting really good at firing the beast in 1st gear and pulls it off one more time. About this time Jay informs us he has found a route to Buenos Aries that does not involve riding with us another day. Hummm, I can’t help but think the KTM may have played a not so small part in his decision. (KTM breaking down in the middle of the Atacoma desert would scare off the heartiest of riders). Anyway it’s adios to Jay and good riding with you buddy. We continue down the coast for a number of miles, ride through the port city of Antofagasta (gota love the name) then turn in to the heart of the Atacoma. I had pictured Antofagasta (it’s even fun to type it) to be a dirty industrial port city but found it to very modern and clean with nice beaches and a beautiful downtown tourist area. About 30 miles south of Antofagasta (there I typed it again!) We come upon a landmark we had been seeking since the beginning of the trip. LA MANO DEL DESIERTO!!! “The hand of the desert”
           
Some wacko artist a number of years ago thought it would be really cool to create a giant in the middle of the driest desert in the world (it hasn’t rained here for 600 years! Really!)
I wonder where he got the water for the concrete…
But I digress; this is very impressive standing alone on the flat desert plain. So we stop, take the appropriate pictures and move on. Oh yea, after we push start the POS KTM.
Knowing we have a long way between gas stops we picked up a gallon water jug and filled it with gas at our last stop, good thing because Max runs out at 250 miles, Johns on reserve and the GS still has one bar left! Love that bike! The few occurrences this day are we come upon an accident in the middle of nowhere along a very straight section of rode. It’s a truck that has roll numerous times (maybe a blown tire). The Policia were there so no need to stop. It seems that there is a road crew every 5 Kms or so with shovels and brooms to keep the road cleared of sand. We did see a few loaders, but just a few, most of the work is done with manual labor.
Our 2nd beach camp

 We rolled into Chanara around 7 and find some beach camping about 5 kms beyond town. It’s a nice place with sites that include a picnic bench and a fire grill. No charge and we are the only ones there until later when one other truck shows up. Tonight Briner treats us to a Southwest Smoked salmon with pasta dinner served with a very good red wine (wine is good and cheap down here!). Sitting around watching John and Max cook, sipping a glass of wine I really feel blessed to have this opportunity with my son. Somewhere along the way Max has become a very self-sufficent, good-natured, good humored (and rides like a pro!) young man. He really is great company and I can’t begin to tell you how much I’m enjoying his company. Another soothing night sleeping with the sound of the surf has me feeling fine!
Morning view from our camp



Tuesday
Hostel in Los Vilos
We are packed up and on the road by 9. We need to make almost 1000 miles in the next 2 days to get Max’s bike to the KTM doctor before the weekend. We run along the ocean, on Ruta 5, for the first 30 miles then turn back inland. More of the same; sand dunes, no vegetation and drifting sand on the road. There doesn’t appear to be anything living here except some vultures. I haven’t seen so much as a lizard out here! This desert is getting a bit monotonous but after passing through La Serena, a nice port city with a impressive built up tourist area and clean beaches, we begin to see green again. Not much but enough to make the ride a little more interesting. After 450 miles we end up in a small but very funky surf town (Las Vilos) and find what might be the last room in town.

Thinking sea food should be the fair here I order camorones (shrimp). Since I can’t read Spanish I never know what I’ll get and what I get is a bowl full of tiny shrimp floating on a sea of butter. It goes without saying those little buggers slid right through me and kept me from getting the fitful sleep I was getting used to.


Wednesday
We get an early start today. Well we made it out of the Atacoma and begin to see crops growing, mostly grapes. We are once again in wine country, this time Chilian wine! The are we are riding through reminds me of the Napa/Sonoma area but without all the congestion. The climate but be similar with coastal fog coming in the morning then burning off and heating up during the day. As we approach Santiago the air becomes hazier until it’s thick smog.
Santiago Smog

Looks at least as bad as LA does in the summer. We pass right on through Santiago without too much traffic ( the highways are muli-lane and very modern) . Ruta 5 becomes a boring 4 lane road much like I5 in California but it also allows us to really burn the miles! We pull into Chilan around 3:30 after riding 400 miles and head straight for the KTM dealer. At first it appears closed but soon after arriving the employees begin showing up after their 2 ½ hour lunch break! Max explains, in his broken Spanish, what he wants done and I attempt to get a rear tire but they don’t have  one in my size. I’m beginning to worry I might not be able to get one in Chile and hear it’s even harder to fine one in Argentina. We get the feeling these guys could give a shit about our problems and leave feeling a bit dejected. I went off looking for a place to stay nearby. My requirements are simple. Cheap,  comfortable, a pool ( it’s frig’n hot here) and beer. What I found was very expensive places, some with a shared bath, and no pools. Finally I find a place named Hotel Canada run by a nice lady for only $80 a night (we are used to paying about $30) and felt lucky to have found that! We met a couple from northern Italy staying there. They had been there almost a month spending time with a young girl they are adopting from around there. She works for Pagani, an exotic car manufacturer in Italy, and he works at Ferrari.
Our friens from Italy

Very interesting folks. I had fun talking Moto GP and Formula 1 with someone who knows a thing or two about the sports. Dinner was at a nearby restaurant. It was king of weird but we go in this place and they must have seating for 100. We are the only ones and I get a little suspitious of the food. But we go ahead and order. A bottle of wine (the best they have) $8! A steak $6 (it can’t be any good). The wine is great and the steak is fabulous!  1 ½” 16oz steak, as tender a steak I’ve had and cooked to perfection. After the last 3 months looking at 1/4” overcooked tough pieces of some sort of meat I was in heaven!
No words can discribe my pleasure!

Thursday
After breakfast we all headed up to visit the patient. All the guys at the shop seemed to have warmed up a bit and they begin to go over the list of things they found, bad intermediate gear (the same gear we replaced in Medellin), A failed stator, the sub frame had broken, new tires for and aft, flushed the cooling system and a oil change. They are waiting for a part so will have the bike another day. Also after asking again they they said they would order a tire for me. I was told by someone that you have to ask to receive down here. I had asked if they had a tire yesterday and was told no. They didn’t offer to order one even though they knew I desparatly needed one. But when I asked again today I was told “no problem” they would have it Saturday morning. Another great dinner, this time at Motonietis, a restaurant named after the owners first scooter.

Friday
Spent the day downloading music to my GPS. Now I have my entire iTunes library at my finger tips while riding. I originally bought this model of GPS because of it’s built in XM radio only to find out it faded away somewhere around El Salvador not to return until I get back to the northern hemisphere. Oh well I guess the XM guy misunderstood me when I asked if it would work in South America, he must have thought I was asking about Alabama or something. Dinner with the Italians to finish the day.

Saturday
Max and I go looking for coffee.
These were new at the beginning of the trip

This seemily simple task is not so easy here. In Chile most people drink Nescafe and the few that enjoy a good shot of espresso must not get out until after 10 in the morning because that’s when the coffee shops open. Then it’s off to the KTM shop. They have found a few other things that needed replacing also related to the starter/stator problem. Good news the parts arrived the bad news my tire didn’t! Anyway at least the KTM will be ready for an early morning start tomorrow. So I spend the rest of the day trying, without success to find the leak in my air mattress and tracking down a tire.. I know we will be doing more camping and my mattress completely leaks out over the course of the night causing me much discomfort during the early morning hours of the day. I did have some success finding a tire. There is a shop in Bariloche that might have one. After a number of calls I verify there is one there! Yahoo! I’m so excited I don’t even ask how much.

Sunday

Packed and on the road by 8:30. Gas up and…Shit! The starter on the KTM just spins! After giving the right pannier a swift kick we settle down and have a trip planning discussion (in the gas station parking lot). It’s Sunday and the shop is closed so do we all wait until Monday, which means not getting out of town until Tuesday morning at the earliest. That’s 2 more nights at the way over budget hotel. After much discussion we all decide it would be in everyone’s best interest if John and I head for Argentina and Max finds a cheap place to stay in Chilan and deal with the bike himself. As tough as a discussion it was it did turn out to be the best one.
Camped of the night

So John and I point the bikes south and wave a heartfelt goodbye to my #1 son. We ride south on Ruta 5 then turn East on 199 to Lago Villarrica. This is the beginning of the Lakes District that we plan on spending some time in. It is a beautiful setting that reminds me a little of North Lake Tahoe. Off to the South is Volcan Villarrica, a 9000’ active volcano that rises straight up from about a 1000’ elevation, very impressive! Our map shows some hot springs in the area so we ride through Pucon and turn north for 25 kms to Huife Thermals. On the way we ran into a Moto tour group of about 15 bikers. Compass Expeditions, a company from Australia, does these 18-day tours from Osorno, Chile to Ushuaia, Argentina.
Volcan Villarrica

We got camping information from them and found an awesome place to camp right on a small river. It is very comforting to be camping next to a clean cool river for the night. A couple of locals were catching Rainbows right in front of our campsite with nothing more than a hand line, bobber and a chunk of Crayfish. After a gourmet dinner of Pad Thai (freeze dried of course) and a bottle of Chilean wine we hit the sack.
Some Gouchos crossing the river

Monday
Coffee and yogurt, pack up the bikes and head for the hot springs about 2 ktms up the road. We arrive to find they won’t be opening for another hour.
A number of of somewhat flimseys bridges awaited us in Arg.

I just can’t get used to the late night late morning lifestyle the Chileans have. So we start our days ride a little earlier then planed. We ride east on 199 through Curarrehue onto a dirt road to the border. We are in the middle of a National Park and it is beautiful! Lots of small lakes and pine trees. There is a type of pine that’s called an Araucaria tree. Is a very bizarre looking thing that grows very big.
Araucaria tree

 Instead of needles it has these rose like thorns and is sometimes referred to as a monkey tree. The border crossing was very organized but slow due to a number of tour buses that had arrived before us. Once into Argentina the landscaped changed and began resembling parts of Montana I’ve ridden through. Rolling hills separated by these pretty rivers that must be full of Rainbow Trout. They have strict catch and release laws here in the Patagonia. We made it to San Martin de Los Andes and found camping in town for the night. San Martin is a recreation center referred to us as “the Bariloche of 20 years ago”. If that’s the case I wonder what Bariloche of today is like. This place is teaming with tourists. The main streets are lined with outdoor shops and restaurants. The town sits at the East end of Lago Largar and serves as a ski town in the wintertime. While eating dinner a guy from New Zealand hears us speaking English and comes by to ask about roads around. It turns out him and his son rented a couple of Honda Trans Alps and are looking for roads in Chile to ride so we spent the rest of the night going over maps with them. The owner of the place, Juan Pablo, also was great, buying us a beer and keeping us amused.
Line at Argentina border

Tuesday
We had such a good time and food at Juan’s we go back for some breakfast after which we explore the town looking for air mattress patch kits and a thermos for John. Back at camp I attacked the air mattress project with a new zeal, hoping to find the source of the pinhole leak. After going over the thing inch by inch I finally find a very, very small leak, which I patch up with the kit I brought from Skagway. The patch failed, and I’m back to looking for another kit. Spent the afternoon working on this god-forsaken blog then called my bride to wish her a happy Valentines Day. Dinner at Juan’s again (hey, when you find a good thing why chance otherwise?).

Wednesday
We ride the seven lakes route south down to San Carlos de Bariloche.
The route takes us through some spectacular areas. We follow lakes, streams on mostly nice roads with about 30 miles of dirt. While riding we begin to see a light colored dust everywhere, on the roadside, in the trees, in the streams and up in the mountains. We are perplexed until we meet some bicyclists from Argentina who tell us it’s ash from a volcano in Chile the blew 5 months ago. As we ride in closer to Bariloche the sky begins to fill up with more ash from the same Volcano. This area has been dealing with this for months! By the time we reach Bariloche you can’t see ½ way across the lake and by the time we get to our hotel visibility is down to ¼ mile. When the wind blows from the west they get this new ash from the volcano. What a mess! The first thing I do is go to the Moto shop to see if they have my tire. They do and they will sell it to be for $430! That’s three times what I pay in the states but it’s here and I need it so I pull out the visa only to be told, “Cash only”. The owner had to drive me to a cash machine; even pulling out the maximum amount I still didn’t have enough. I guess I look honest because he let me take the tire and pay him the rest the next day.  Later we meet up with some old friends of John who live here. Daniel and Clyo had worked with John back at Telluride as ski instructors 6 or 7 years ago. Daniel owns the ski school here at the big ski resort. After numerous beers and some food we part company having made plans to have dinner with them tomorrow at their house. When I get back to our room I got an email from max saying he would be here tomorrow. I’ll be very relieved to see him and his bike here in one piece!
The rangers down here dress way cooler than our rangers


Thursday
Not much to write about until around 2:30. While in our room writing on the blog I hear a bike that sounds like Max’s but louder (if that’s possible). Looking out the window I verify it’s Max and head down to meet him. The back cap on his muffler has falling off, the rivets failing from the excessive vibration from his bike. Fortunately he found it and will get it put back on. He has had a good adventure riding dirt roads across from Chile. And, other than the muffler issue, the bike is running better than ever. After getting settled in we once again take the POS to a moto shop to get the muffler fixed. John calls Daniel and is told he will pick us up for dinner around 8:30. Are you kidding me! That’s closer to my bedtime than to my dinnertime. Actually my head is beginning to adjust to Argentinean time.
Some bikers we met on the 7 lakes route

 I’ve been eating late staying up late and sleeping in late. No more “the early bird gets the worm”. Max on the other hand didn’t have to adjust; he already has the sleeping in thing going for him.

Friday FEB 17
Rain! I didn’t realize how lucky we’ve been until waking up this morning to pouring rain. Funny story…. Yesterday while at the moto shop I attempted to ask the owner what time he opened tomorrow. “Que Tiempo Manana?” He just looked up at the sky and shrugged his shoulders. So I asked again and this time he goes to his computer, smiles and says the Spanish equivalent of “rain next five days”. Turns out “tempo” means both time and weather.

7 lakes route

Lakeshore covered with volcanic ash

 I finally figure this out and leave not knowing what time he will open in the morning but an pretty sure it’s going to rain the next day. Spend the day sorting pictures and finalizing an exit plan for getting back home.
Road from Bariloche

We will ship the bikes by air from Buenos Aires to Seattle on the 8th of April and will fly ourselves to Seattle on the 9th. We still not sure what to do with the POS KTM but Max is actively trying to sell it down here. Although it is illegal to sell a bike not registered in Argentina he may have found a buyer who would pick up the bike just north of Ushuaia and Max will have to walk, bus or fly to Buenos Aries. Stay tuned.
Daniel and Clyo, Johns old friends in Bariloche hosting a great meat dinner!



Saturday
John finds out one of the owners at the place we are staying does guided Moto and 4 wheel drive tours down to Ushuaia. After asking if he could help with our trip planning we all sit down with our maps and he lays out a route that takes us back into Chile crossing at Futaleufu  and riding down through the archipeligo to Villa O’Higgins then back track north, crossing back into Argentina at Paso Roballos to Ruta 40 South.
Road to El Boson

 It looks awesome and the roads are mostly gravel. After breakfast we start riding south out of town heading toward El Bolson, where we heard there will be a hops festival this weekend. . Almost immediately I understand the draw to this area. The countryside turns wild with hanging glaciers, emerald lakes and rouged mountains. We reach El Bolson and stop to get some lunch and information. The lunch was great but the information notso good. The festival does not begin for 2 weeks but on a positive note there is a festival this weekend at a town named Lago Puelo, only 20 Kms south of here. Hey we’ll take any festival so we ride on down, find camping and go check out the party! It is more like a county fair with cotton candy, music, games and NO BEER!
Lunch!

I’ve probably mentioned this before but Argentina is a trip. Nothing opens before 10 AM and then everything closes between 1:00 and 4:00 then opens again, except the restaurants which don’t open until 8 or 9:00. People do not eat dinner until 9:00 at the earliest. Anyway no food or beer so I take a nap. When I awake around 9 I’m hungry and we find a place nearby to serve us food and beer. This area is well known for it “artisans beer” or home brew. Anybody can home brew and sell it so the rodes around here are full of signs advertising there beer that they serve right out of their homes. Briner is in beer heaven!
Enjoying some local brew in Lago Puelo

Sunday
After a late breakfast we pack up camp and ride south down 258 to 71 and into Parque Nacional Los Alerces.

The park is beautiful with lakes and mountains but is known to have the only living Alerces trees. These trees are considered to be some of the oldest trees in the world dating back 4000 years ago. They grow to 3 meters wide and I don’t know how tall. Still don’t because we didn’t take the time to walk the 20 minutes to see one. We set up camp at a free park campground by a lake. John thinks about getting some hand line and flies but it’s too windy to try. Max and I take a hike up to a cool waterfall then return to eat some dinner. John cooks up my last freeze dried meal, pasta with Salmon and we polish off a bottle of wine. After Max breaks out the rum which leads to Max and John trying to walk across strapping tied between 2 trees. Fun to watch but hard to do. John has read that we are near to the homestead Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid lived on for a while in 1906-08. They raised cattle and horses, attempting to go straight only to be falsely accused of robbing a nearby bank. That’s what got them running off to Bolivia. So we plot a course for tomorrows ride that will take us by the site.

Monday Feb 20
We are off In search of Butch Cassidy’s ranch. It’s a beautiful ride down the lakes on a well maintained gravel road.  According to John the site is near La Hoya, a ski area north of Esquel.
Road to Esquel. I can see the draw for Butch and Sundance

We stop in Esquel for lunch and information on exactly where we are going only to find that the site is very near to where we had camped, not down here. Bummer! Well lets gas up and get going. Not so fast, the first station has no gas and the other has a line around the block. After conferring with my map I see there is a good size town just inside Chile so we decide we'll pay alittle more in Chile but it will be worth it not having to wait.
Gas stop

So we back track a little ways and ride on to the Chile border. A large line of tourists await us and the exit/ entrance process takes us 2 ½ hours  and we don’t get through until 6:00. Our goal of getting to Chaiten tonight is slipping through our fingers. Once through we ride into Futaleutu for gas. We ride by a gas station under construction but don’t see any other. Max gets directions to one that leads us to a mechanics shop where we inquire about gas. We are told there is no station here or anywhere within 90 miles, but if you please I have gas at my house that I’ll sell you for $10 a gallon! We have no choice but to follow this honest man to his house where he sell us each 1.5 gallons of low grade petol, enough to make it to Chaiten. By the time we get out of town it’s 7:30. So we continue riding south on 231 on what has to be one of the most beautiful rides I’ve taken (except the 10 ktm stretch of rough and deep sand waiting to be graded).

RIVER RUNNING ALONG OUR ROUTE

Along the road into Chaiten

Our kitchen and dining room at Jorges'

We find camping on property owned by a fishing guide that is right on the lake. After John clears off a number of cow pies we set up camp and eat a wonderful dinner cooked by chef John.

Tuesday
No rain so I get up and pack my tent before the rain comes again. We are now in a rain forest much like SE Alaska. They cook us breakfast then it’s KTM maintenance. Chain lube and tightening. The new issue: The KTMs steering head bearings seem to be going. No problem, I tell Max, they WILL last the trip! (I hope). We finally get riding around 11 and have a very enjoyable ride into the town of Chaiten where John and Max hope to run into Doug Tomkins, the founder of North Face and a environmentalist who has be instrumental in setting up 2 large park/reserves here in Chile.
Breakfast at Jorges'

 The one here is Parque Palena. It’s a large park containing both rainforest and mountains including the Volcan Chaiten. The second park is south of here, Corcovalo National park. If you haven’t seen it yet download and see the film 180 degrees South. This is the film that inspired us to spend time in this part of the Patagonia. It also features Doug Tomkins and Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia clothing. After arriving in Chaiten I got online to see what I could find about this place. Holy shit! In 2008 the Volcan Chaiten erupted causing the evacuation of 4000 people here. Very few have returned and the town resembles a ghost town. Many of the houses here are time capsules from May 2, 2008 when the people just left and never returned. The volcano, only 10kms away, still spews great clouds of steam.

Yelcho Lake at Jorges

Just outside Chaiten

Road to Chaiten