1st Oct 2008 – 12th Dec 2008
30th Sepember 2008
Our journey to South America begins. This time the bikes leave first . On 30th September 2008 we loaded them aboard a borrowed truck in drizzling rain and delivered them to Seafast Warehousing in Tilbury from whence they will end up in a container on a vessel called MV Monte Pascoal. The sea voyage will take 21 days to Buenos Aires. Will I see my packed panniers again?We had to have them in metal crates. This has given us a fair amount of bother. First we got hold of some Yamaha crates from Tinklers of Norwich , and then had to have them altered. This was not particularly easy but RBS of Fakenham did the job. All quite different to when they were last freighted out of Cape Town. There they were on a wooden base and then sort of packaged with plastic. This time the crate was very open so that all can be seen, including our panniers.We set off on 31st October by plane.
6th Oct 2008
Found a website that tracks ships. Have uploaded a photo of the container ship that the bikes are supposedly on…the Monte Pascoal. Hope our container is not sitting on the top!!
7th Oct 2008
Not great news…bikes still sitting in warehouse in Tilbury!! Some technical reason as to why they did not make the ship but now earmarked for next ship. This should go this next Saturday,;so it is NOT called the Monte Pascoal but the Alianca Maua, which for you shipping buffs has the call sign DCPC2, so we can now follow the bikes as they hopefully cross the Atlantic. This means that the bikes will arrive after us and we will have an initial delay. We have also been given a list of interesting documents that we need to bring, including the packing list in Spanish!
19th Oct 2008
We heard a few days ago that the bikes definately got on their ship. That was good news! We are tracking the ship on a website called www.sailwx.info. This morning it’s opposite Lisbon which is quite amusing as Clive is not far away in Penela, Portugal. Whilst I try and tie up a hundred and one loose ends here, Clive is seeing to his interests there.One of the documents that we have to provide is a certificate,in Spanish,showing our address to prove we really do live here in Uk. This entailed going to the Argentinian consulate in London with a certified copy of Clive’s passport ( because he is in Portugal with it) , utility bills in each of our names and money ( £22 each!). Another difficulty as utility bills in my name ( or farm’s) . The utility bill I brought was too old( April 2008) and the bank statements I brought for Clive were deemed no good. However nice girl said I could try emailing other things when I got home to Norfolk. What a hassle! Found a more up to date bill for me and something better ( mobile bill) for Clive which appears to have done the job. We probably will never have to produce these bits of paper!
All set, ready for LHR, panic today dog badly cut her foot so Vet visit required…!!! We have condensed the old Africa trip diaries into three so if you have received warnings of up-dates etc it is only that. Hopefully we now have enough room for South America and also the Africa diary will be more readable.Must start packing…!!!
Oct 31st friday .
Final jobs get done including taking Millie the dog to Clff and Caire who have kindly offered to look after her. Millie unfortunately had to have a day at the vet yesterday because she cut her ankle and it needed stitching. So we have left her sporting a pink bandage on her front leg.My parents arrive and we drive to Stansted to catch a coach to Heathrow. All goes well and we catch our flight to Paris and then the connection to Buenos Aires. Horrible long night as we gain 3 hours sleep going westwards. Plane was late on take off by one hour so it will be 14.5 hrs on board. We finally had our ‘supper’ on the plane at 1.30am.
Nov 1st Saturday
Have got quite lost with time. Thought we were 3 hours different from home but it seems to have ended up 4 hrs behind. Flight was bumpy, slept little as was cold, but we landed and gradually made our way to our hostel.We caught a bus as recommended by our hostel which took us to some terminal not particularly near the hostel. Now what? Then a van arrives and we are told to get in and we are finally delivered to the door, no extra price/money. Really quite impressed. Hostel booked on recommendation is fine. Very friendly, 3 internet computers at our disposal and our room is a welcome place to sleep after those horrible seats on the plane.Rested, we go off with guide book in hand to the Cafe Tortini. It is the oldest café in Argentina . Seemed to have the highest prices too, so we went in and we went out. Took up position on a pavement across the road with our drinks at a reasonable price and watched life from there instead. Seemed very casual indeed and Clive started muttering about transsexuals. Definitely some very strangely dressed people passed by. Then we realised that a demo was coming up the road. We now know that the first Saturday in Nov. is homosexual etc demo day. It was a good display…several women with ? boobs hanging out, bare bottoms, lots of music etc. We enjoyed it. Tired, jet lagged etc but here we are in the heart of it.Only problem was we left all our cameras in the hostel as we were worried about thieves.
Nov 2nd Sunday.
Because our bikes failed to go on the intended ship to here we now have to wait a few days for them. The ship they are on should have arrived yesterday and then it will take some days to decontainerise and reach a warehouse. We will know more when we ring the shipping agent tomorrow. In the meantime we are frustrated bikers. However the weather is a very pleasant 20 something and it is Sunday in Buenos Aires. Reading our Lonely planet guide we find the waterfront area ( done up from 1989) and also SanTelmo where we hoped to see Tango dancing and a street mkt which is only on a sunday. City is very empty. Huge wide roads to cross and very little traffic. We guess weekdays will be different. What people are around are in San Telmo. We watch life go by in a café,see some Tango dancing and wander the market. All we tourists are gripping our bags tight in case of thieves. It all appears fine but Clive and I are being careful!Our hostel is fairly noisy, full of younger travellers who are all very friendly. They were up late last night..infact very late.
Nov 3rd Monday
Buenos Aires has burst to life with the start of the working week. Traffic and people everywhere. Our goal this morning is to contact the shipping agent and get motor insurance for the bikes. We tramp the pavements in quite hot sun getting hot and tired.We are sent from pillar to post but in the end very nice girl knows what to do. One months road insurance costs £7 each. Lunch was a snack under a huge avocado tree with some sweet little bird singing beautifully. We met Marcela, the nice contact who suggested we stayed in Che Lagata hostel. In the afternoon we meet our shipping agents and agree to meet again tomorrow to begin the process with customs. Clive samples large icecream and looks for a bag to hide his camera in.
Nov 4th Tuesday
We meet agent as agreed and go along to customs . We fall at the first hurdle. The bill of lading is in my name only. The customs man does not like it. We are dismissed! Shipping agent issued the bill of lading so it can be changed. However we now have to wait till bikes are out of their container. We had all hoped we could do paper work whilst waiting. Nothing more happens today so on till tomorrow. It is very frustrating and we have to remain tourists in Buenos Aires. We mooch around and shop…well Clive does! He buys a bag to disguise his camera in AND some new shoes. (see photo). Of the top 5 things to do ,as listed in our guide, we had done 4. The last was Recoleta catholic cemetry. It was not far from where we were . We are glad we did. Solid ‘streets’ of tombs with coffins stacked inside. City of dead for sure. We found Eva Peron’s mausileum. Many other famous argentine generals,politicians etc are there too. Clive thought it was spooky and could not wait to go to’ Freddo’ across the road and have today’s icecream!
Nov 5th Wed
Here we are sitting on a bench, wooden, slatted, in a gaunt industrial building. Workmen are working up one end, welding and trying to put up 3 ply boarding which keeps falling down. We are with Eduardo who is the shipping man. He knows the system and speaks the language. We know the bikes are out of the container. We are now number one in the queue which consists mainly of other foreign bikers. We have exchanged stories. One is a japanese man who has ridden for a year and a half across Russia and Europe on a 250 Honda. He speaks little english and no spanish and has no helper. Possibly holding us up…. Until we hear the ‘system’ has failed! We are continuing to sit. There is no food, no drink and it is hot. We cannot see into the all powerful office to see the all powerful official in there. Soon it will be lunch and he will close for lunch. We have been here for 1.5 hours now.And so we sit till 1am when door locked and we are told to come back at 2.30pm. We all troop ,including the customs people,to nearest café. Clive and I go back at 2pm and take up position again. Think that Japanese has been told to go to his embassy. They cannot cope with him because of language difficulties. Poor man. Hopefully we really are next.Customs man comes back at 2.30pm. We all jump up to make sure we get in the door first. There are a lot of people hanging around trying to jump the queue….. Anyway we get in. Watch our papers get slowly gathered together and then all double stamped and signed. We begin to smile, Eduardo talks about the warehouse etc.Then customs man turns to his computer to enter what he has done…system down again. Can’t do it. Puts our finished and stamped papers to one side and tells us to go and wait outside again. Now it is 3pm. Visions of getting bikes today evaporate.By 4pm the computer system has got going but another hurdle is put in place. All papers now need big boss signature. Big boss has disappeared, surprise surprise. His office is now chaos, with everyone desperately trying their level best to get their papers done/on his desk. The warehouse shuts at 5.30pm.We are told to wait. Papers go off to the big boss by car. It seems he is perhaps playing golf!? They arrive back at 5.40pm, signed. We arrange to meet warehouse helper at 8.30am tomorrow.These vital papers that were required today were a photocopy of our passport, reg document, and bill of lading. For that we waited all day.Tomorrow we may ,may get there and actually see our bikes. Cross your fingers. We now need a drink. ( or 2!! C )
Nov 6th thurs
We have our bikes and we have ridden 200 miles to Azul, south of Buenos Aires . We are both adjusting to the new situation.! We have not ridden our bikes for 6 weeks and now here we are in a strange country with different trucks and cars and roads. However…..8.30am we were at the warehouse with Daniel. Within half an hour we saw our bikes. All was well with the crates and we set to, to put on screen, connect battery,wing mirrors, handle bar and in my case put the front wheel on. Whilst we did this Daniel did his bit with those seemingly same bits of paper. More stamps, more signatures etc. Smiles, handshakes and we had done it in 3 hours. What a pallaver to get through a border!Off to hostel, got the rest of our stuff ,changed, repacked and off. Buenos Aires was a modern good city but we are really happy to be on the move again. Off through the northern pampas. Birds of prey, vultures, reas, horses and of course cattle to feast our eyes on. Endless fields of grass but to my surprise lots of big trees. Some crops and flat as a pancake. Road is good. Traffic lessened quite quickly and after 30 miles it was mainly trucks and a few fast cars. Free at last to think my thoughts and devour the landscape. We are spending the night in a ‘bike’ place, as recommended on a diary website. Its interesting! As Clive said ‘its better than camping’. Just! Had a pizza in the town in a very gaunt place. But very friendly. All towns so far laid out on a grid system so easy to know where you are. Dogs were barking as we walked back in the dark. Felt safe….
Nov 7th friday
Having thought my ipac’s battery had been destroyed by charging it on the bike (got very hot!) it has miraculously come back to life. We can write this on our phones too but easier on this gadget.This morning the temperature was 14c as we packed ourselves up from our rather strange stopover at La Posta….rather different from yesterday at 30c. As we rode off rain threatened and an hour or so later we were cold and putting on raingear. You really do not need to feel jealous any longer! Most of today has been like riding across the fens in England. More grass, more cattle but plenty of crops. Vast flat expanse. Not a weed, thistle, wildflowers or nettle in sight. Barley crops being grown for seed and prob so is the wheat and maize. The birds are not like England. In some water I saw a pink large bird like a pelican in size…ibis? Several kinds of birds of prey too.The road is straight but fairly empty and progress is good in between our stops! Clive is enjoying tasting different delicacies. Empanadas especially.As we neared Bahia Blanca , which is on the coast, the weather got warmer and warmer inspite of rain clouds. By the time we were searching for an hotel it was 27c and we were peeling off our layers of clothing . The hotel we were looking for had been entered incorrectly in the lonely planet guide and was marked as being on the other side of the street. Round and round the block we went. I was being blamed as I had the guide. Eventually found it….it was a building site! We have had to get used to eating later. The restaurant we went to did not open its doors till 8.30pm! It was only really filling up at 9.30pm. Had plenty to eat including a dessert of Dolche. Dolche is an argentine speciality. Its like thick brown condensed cream. Very sweet and eaten on bread as a spread,as a flavour of icecream, or as a sweet with caramel. Does one no good at all! ( blah blah blah,,,! )
Nov 8th Sat
I am riding along with my bike leaning in to the wind. We are crossing an area with very light soil which is blowing in this strong westerly wind. Every now and then we go into a dust storm and find it difficult to see.We made a mess of getting the right road out of town after breakfast at the hotel. About half an hour was lost asking for the way and wandering around Bahia Blanca. But once out, the road was straight as it headed across this rather lunar landscape. Grassy , flat , sometimes grassy hills, and large fields with crops. Single storey houses surrounded by trees. We had very little traffic but had to concentrate hard on the wind which was blowing us across the road. It was like this for nearly 170 miles. At one point one of the dust storms was so bad that you could barely see the white line on the side of the road and had to slow to a dangerously slow speed…dangerous because traffic behind might come into you!. Trying to wipe the visor and keep the bike leaning against the wind was tricky!. The dust came in everywhere, inside and outside the visor, on my contact lenses and Clive’s glasses etc.We reached Viedma had a stop and continued on. This time the road was headed mainly into the wind and it was easier. Petrol consumption on both bikes is high as they are pushing into the wind fully laden. My computer read out says it has gone down from an average of 60 miles per gallon to 54 mpg. Clive’s is even worse ( bigger engine, heavier load!).The very straight road reminds us of both Australian outback and Canadian praire. The countryside has changed to scrub and is virtual desert. If it had red soil it would be very like Australian outback . Not much out here. A few birds and a few cattle is all we see for 120 miles. Dust storms rage as we head into San Antonio Oeste. The hotel has a bath! Heaven!
Nov 9th sunday
Had anxious moments with my camera last night. It had got dust in it from the duststorm and the lens would not open ie would not work. With repeated goes..on ,off,on,off….poor battery…it eventually got going again. Thank goodness! Had another problem last night too. Checked my bike for oil and nothing was registering on the dip stick. Bit odd as it was serviced just before we left and cannot have done more than 800 miles since. Anyway put oil in and must check again soon.We head off down more very straight road through this scrubby dry land. Nothing but scrub. Hardly anything moving; a few cattle , one or two sheep and the odd bird of prey. Far less wind today and we get along very well. Clive and I can talk bike to bike as we go along with our Scala wireless communication. It works on bluetooth and seems to be working fine. We had always had trouble with Autocom which is a wired system. It always failed us. Scala allows you to listen wirelessly to music too through another gadget that we both have, the Zumo gps unit. Though it does not have a south american map it can tell you the direction of travel, the elevation, and numerous readouts of speed, average since start etc.One more thing to keep you busy on boring scrubby straight roads is the bike’s own little readout of time, speed, petol consumption, outside temperature (24c), mileage etc. Quite enough to look at and I was so busy playing gadgets that I nearly missed seeing my first wild llamas near the road. Into Sierra Grande to fill up with subsidized Patagonian petrol and empanadas and on towards Puerto Madryn. We deviated to Puerto Piramides which is in the Peninsula Valdes national park. Apparently excellent place to see lots of sealife. Most wildlife seemed to be down endless gravel roads so we lost enthusiasm and instead enjoyed Piramides ,which was picturesque in a little cove with big beach and whale watching tourists, and searched the sea with binoculars for the Southern Right Whale. This is where they breed. We could have gone on a boat trip at some cost but instead stood on a cliff top and indeed did spot the odd back of a whale. They are huge and slow. They reach 12 metres and can weigh over 30 tons. Hardly likely to be doing back flips! Pulled out of there and headed back to Ruta 3 and Puerta Madryn, a cool 93 kms.
Nov 10th Mon
We found an hotel after several tries. 155 pesos, a bit on the high side for us. This morning on check out he claimed it was 155 dollars! Horror! The room was not that great and we cannot afford it. He was very nice, spoke good english, and we paid our 155 pesos. The difference was about £70 or more!Puerto Madryn is about 44° south but its minimum winter average temp is 14c. Much warmer than I would have imagined.We head south to Trelew and a couple of ‘welsh’ places, Dolovan and Gaiman slightly off our road. Welsh nationalists were allowed to settle here at the end of the 1800’s. Trying to equate a grid style cowboy style town with a welsh village was difficult. I think we were disappointed!. Before leaving a tea shop Clive managed to bash his head on a very low sign outside. Now sporting plaster over loo paper padding. He says he was very brave!We then head on south through the endless scrubby desert which has now gone on for about 500 miles.(it is a big country) It is not how I had perceived Patagonia. I thought it would be wetter, greener and not so flat and dry.. My contact lenses get very dry in the dry air. It is pleasantly hot. Very little traffic..a few trucks and cars and us. We gradually gain height and end up on a plateau of greener scrub at about 500-600 metres. The prettiest scenery of the last 2 days comes as we drop off the plateau through a valley and down to the coast at Comodora Rivadavia. Its a dump and we cannot find a suitable hotel. I am happy to camp but Clive is not. It transpires that he has not brought his airmat for sleeping on! In the end we find a motel in fairly industrial surroundings. I believe we are going to eat at the petrol station café….Wifi has been in every spot we have stopped in. It means we can download emails but not send ( our phones have a microsoft bug apparently). There is even Wifi at the petrol station. But it didn’t work!
Nov 11th Tues
Commodora and Trelew are the only 2 towns we have seen that had rubbish problems. On the outskirts it was bad especially near cheap (”breeding boxes’ says Clive”) little new homes . Otherwise Argentina has been pretty clean.15c and cloudy. We have a longish day reaching Puerto San Julien. As we leave Commodoro we go past lots of ‘nodding donkeys’. Oil was discovered here in the 40’s.Nowhere in between to stop! Today the road has a few bends and ups and down but we still do a fair number of miles on a straight road across bleak countryside. Scrub gives way to tussocky grass. The wind is strong on our right side and at times we have to really fight it, leaning the bikes over. We stop at roadside petrol stations when they appear…they are few. This morning I noticed that my bike was leaking coolant. A hose was coming off. We managed to get it back on and hope it will not do it again. Its possible that it got dislodged by the front wheel whilst it was in its crate. The front wheel (which was off) was leaning against that area.In San Julien there is a fighter plane, on the sea front, that was involved in the Falklands war. Just to remind us! It has 3 trophy ships on its side….that it sunk?
Nov 12th Wed
As we arrived in town yesterday we bumped into another biker…Tony from Melbourne, Australia. He has been ‘on the road’ for 8 months. We stay in the same hotel and eat and chat together. He tell us a bit about what we can expect as he has travelled down South America. Tony is taking the same road as us today so off we go together. He likes to travel at a slightly slower speed so we leave him behind to catch up at the petrol/tea stops. This works fine. He has a smaller bike, a Yamaha 650 single, and it is working hard. Same type of scenery but more wildlife. Llamas/vicunas, sheep,rheas, geese, ducks and believe it or not, 2 flamingos head down in a pond. We have noticed the white salt around these shallow bits of water but I can’t work out why they are salty . Suits the flamingoes!Weather has got colder, now 15-21c. Lucky with the wind today..its veered into the north a bit which means it is slightly more behind us. Also it was not so strong. Arrive early in Rio Gallegos, 52° south. Many hotels full but we find a spot.Managed to ring home on Skype to find that my mother is already back home after having an operation to renew her knees. All has gone well we think.Just looked up the weather in Ushuaia and its about 4c and showery! We must be mad. We have also learnt that we had motorbiked yesterday in a wind gusting to 75mph! Tonight the wind has got up again and is apparently gusting the same. Certainly sounds like it . Glad not on the road now.!
Nov 13th Thurs
Today we have to cross from Argentina into Chile over the Magellan Strait and then back into Argentina before travelling 80 miles to our next stop in Rio Grande. Well here I am writing this sitting in a howling wind literally in no mans land between Chile and Argentina. My motorcycle has a back wheel puncture! We have been on gravel road for 70 miles, it had nearly ended but I got the puncture just 600 metres inside Chile before the customs post. We managed to get some air in and get across the border amd thus into the 10 mile gap between Chile and Argentina ( ie no mans land ) when the tyre went down again. Clive has now gone off with the wheel on his bike to the border where we hope it can be fixed. He may have to go through and then back through again! Plus points are that it is sunny and dry. 10c.We said goodbye to Tony this morning. He has gone a different way.We had 222 miles to do today plus 2 border crossings and a ferry. Ferry is behind us. The sea was wild! I am now gazing out on a flat grassy plain with grazing sheep. We have seen lots of llama/vicunas /guanaco. No one has told me the subtle difference. Also seen some pretty biggish birds with a long curved bill.Clive comes back. Its now 5.40pm. Says the tyre is not punctured ,its more serious as it is leaking round the spokes. Using 3 of our little compressed air bombs I leapfrog to the Argentine border..as the tyre deflates, reinflate with another ‘bomb’. Just make it. Clive meanwhile has been ridIng to and fro trying to locate the only tyre repair man he has apparenlty gone to town and we later discover will not return for 24 hours. ! Clive then negotiates the transport of my bike the 70 miles to Rio Grande with a water delivery van that is passing. This van is a box van and almost full of large empty plastic water bottles. With the help of the driver and his mate, we load the bike into the back of the van. There is nothing to tie the bike down on and we make room for the bike by piling the bottles to the front. I then have to sit inside the van in the pitch black hanging on to the bike amongst a whole lot of empty plastic containers while we drive to Rio Grande. Clive rides behind. As we drive off many bottles fall over me and I am surrounded by these lovely empties.! Off we go and after 15 minutes the van starts bouncing around, clearly we are off road. After what seems an age the van is stopped by Clive who opens the door and instructs me to quickly get out with my valuables asap… apparently we had gone behind the hills into no-where and were approaching a workers camp which he feared we could have been mugged robbed and worse… so he instructs the driver to go off and do whatever he has to do and return to collect us on his return.. meanwhile we stand by the road in the dusk and cold, the van with my bike dissapears…. fortunately it returned 20 minutes later still with my bike and I resume my postion in the dark. The journey then continues in a temperature of 2 degrees to Rio Grande where we arrive about 10¨45 pm and there we are deposited by the driver at a puncture repair place which is still open.! They are very friendly, we remove the wheel again and to our utter surprise find I have a tube in the tyre. The puncture in the tube is soon fixed and then we make our way, very late, to the only contact we have, the Hosteleria Argentino. The lady owner Graciela, is not only up but greets us warmly with a bottle of wine at 11.30pm. We end up in bunk beds entirely grateful that argentines keep such late hours.! The bike is fixed, we have learnt a lesson, and we can continue on tomorrow as planned. BMW have put tubeless tyres on their bikes for several years now. This new bike of mine, the latest model… has old style tubed tyres…why have they reverted back?
Nov 14th Fri
This day is a doddle compared with yesterday as we make our final push to Ushuaia. We have 130 miles of tarmac to do. After 20 mins of setting out we see trees! Mostly dead and mishappen but trees. We have not seen trees outside town for days. The countryside is now pretty with treeclad rolling hills. Then mountains appear with snow. As we go over a low pass (410m) to Ushuaia , it snows. Its 1c there and 5c in town. In between these snow showers its sunny. As we set off from a traffic light stop in town a wandering dog attacks Clive’s foot and tears a small hole in his thick leather boots. I was therefore prepared when it was my turn! We have prebooked a B & B which we find. We are here for 3 nights.
15th Nov Sat
It is sunny cloudy and NOT windy for a change when we set off for the final few miles to the end of Ruta 3 and the sign which will say 3079 kms from Buenos Aires and (more). It is in a National Park and we slowly wend our way in very pretty scenery on a fine dirt road for about 20 miles in all. Plenty of tourists all taking photos of each other by the sign. Just as we are getting bikes aligned by the sign, a big Fuegian Red Fox walks nonchalantly by. Clive got a photo of it!
We take a short walk along a path. See some wildlife, mostly birds. Its very pretty with sea, trees, and mountains around with snow.
That done, its all north bound. Make our way back to Ushuaia. Clive explores the airport road thinking of his daughter who came here and ran along this road.
Every Argentine town we have been to has very similar street names and Ushuaia is no different. Certain ones crop up in every town…san martin , 9 de julio, belgrano, brown,maipu, 5 mayo etc. It does make getting around easier but exits from town are without signs and difficult.
16th Nov Sun.
Points on Ushuaia . It has grown in the last 25 years from 7000 people to 70,000. The houses seem to be built and designed by the owner out of anything to hand. Crossroads continue to be a free for all. Temperature in town ranges from 0c to 10c year round and the wind blows!
We have had it good with the weather..no wind yesterday and sun/cloud today. We have done an other must do…climbed up to the Martial glacier. Motorcyclists are not renowned for fitness but we made it up! Motorcycle boots are good for trecking and our jackets make fine anoraks! My tankbag becomes a rucksack and we are ready. Fantastic view of the Beagle channel. Clive aided his climb by using a chairlift part of the way. He said it was more peaceful and gave him time to admire the view on the way down.
17th Nov Mon.
Last night Raul and his wife Christina kindly entertained us with wine and accordian playing of lovely Tango music from early times to present. Raul was ‘very accomplished having been interested in music since he was 5 yrs old. He was playing a 50 year old Scandalli italian accordian .Before coming back to our Tango B&B we watched an argentine submarine come in to Ushuaia; and a cruise ship dock. The submarine was a rare occurance.Now we are on the road again and for 2 days repeating our footsteps till we are back in Rio Gallegos. Back to Graziella tonight, very welcoming.We had the best meal of the trip here, tonight, at ?///
18th Nov Tues
We made it ! Back over the 2 borders and ferry..in,out,in,out. Very tedious, temporarily importing and exporting our motorbikes. The border guards in Chile were seemingly working to rule. When we first pitched up the border was shut. Then they said us and cars only. Poor coaches and lorries had to wait.No puncture over the 75 miles of gravel road and instead we enjoy looking at Vicunas jumping gracefully over the fence by the road ,flamingoes feeding in the salt pans/ponds, the lack of wind and the higher temperature. No petrol stations meant I had only 9 miles worth of petrol left by the time we reached Rio Gallegos.( Clive has bigger tank!. )
19th Nov Wed
Eat good veal last night in local restaurant with tele blaring out football. Today we set off in good weather, 12c which rises to 19c quite quickly. We are excited as we are heading off Ruta 3 and going west to cross the country and really start our journey north. The road stretches remorselessly out through flat grassy plains enclosed by gently curving hills. Now and then we change valley. Its not bleak…perhaps spacious and empty. The air is so dry it could not be bleak even with the wind blowing. Today we are lucky again with the wind which is slight. Upland geese ,in pairs, wander;as do Rheas.Suddenly on the skyline are the Andes, rocky and snowy. We are heading for El Calafate and the Moreno glacier.We are very surprised after arriving in El Calafate about lunch time ,to strike lucky on our second try at staying somewhere. We had looked on the internet before arriving and everywhere claimed they were full. So all sorted and the whole afternoon ahead of us we thought we would do the Perito Moreno glacier today, instead of tomorrow morning.Weather is good…we now understand the weather is unexpectedly good and that we are very lucky. The glacier is very worth a visit. 80 kms up the road but we are very impressed. This is not the largest glacier around apparently but perhaps has the easiest access for those on foot. From a vantage point you can hear the ice cracking, groaning grinding . As it moves at 2m (in the middle) a day ,pieces are constantly breaking off its 5km long front into the lake formed by its run off. This lake is the largest in Argentina; its milky white turquoise in colour because of all the minerals from the glacier and is 3-8c in temp. I saw flamingoes on the lake which amazes me as I thought they would need a hotter clime. I have seen other glaciers when skiing but the serrac field on this is amazing.The front of the glacier is 55m high and below the lake surface another 180 meters! It is an enormous entirely natural moving object.On the way back I see a Patagonian skunk and we help 2 stranded moped riders who have run out of petrol. Good deed done we cook our own meal in our backpacker place.
20th Nov Thurs
The “Hospedaje Familiar Las Cabanitas'” were extremely friendly and accommodating to us. A family run hostel trying their best near the main street. They let us leave our bikes with them while we went shopping/post office/internet.The houses in El Calafate were better than the norm of build it yourself and they also seemed to be doing something about roaming dogs. To our amusement 3 people with red hats and lassoos came along trying to lassoo dogs from off the pavement. They were unsuccessful this time!We set off at lunch time to cover about 100 miles to Tres Lagos. We were not sure if there would be an hotel there but were taking the chance as we are keen to be ready for the gravel between there and Bajo Caracoles, a stretch of 300 odd kilometres. It was not tarmac all the way today and we had about 20 miles of gravel. Wind had been rising all afternoon and ended up blowing strongly.Just before Tres Lagos we fill up in the last petrol station before Bajo Caracoles . I also get 2 litres more in a plastic bottle to be on the safe side. My tank range is generally 230miles or so but you never know!Tres Lagos is a 3 street town. Gravel streets. We find a Cabana/ Hospedaje . Its basic but clean. I quickly check out whether we will find food. One very basic store. I miss the” restaurant “! It looks like some ones home and is called ‘ Flopi’. We decide to opt for this ,instead of cooking in our one saucepan, later in the evening. We have been joined by a dutch cyclist. He came in just after us. He has been battling the wind and snow and rain from Punta Arenas for 4 weeks. He is going to take 1.5 years to get to Alaska. He likes the gravel road, camping and being alone! He is 37 yrs old.
21st Nov Fri
When we got back to the Cabana they tried to get us and the cyclist to share a room. We explained that we were not friends ( he was dutch,we were english etc). We did not understand why either. In the morning the cyclist was gone before us and we never saw him on the road. He disappeared into thin air!We got up at 6am to try and beat the wind. It was already blowing but not too bad. Off we went on the wrong road! (how did we manage that when there were only 2 different roads?!)I was a bit tense to start with and the gravel was loose. However slowly settled into my stride and settled down. The bike constantly twitching as the tyres slip on the gravel. The wind sometimes causing problems. Constant attention required to keep the tyres out of deeper gravel and in the ‘rut’ made by cars. The road is cutting its way through this large and empty landscape shaped by past glaciers. If you want to get away from it all, this is the place. In 5 hours we saw 5 cars, a number of sheep,cattle, lovely horses, vicunas/llamas, and one house! We had covered 115 miles with only a couple of tense wobbles. We twice stopped and brewed a cup of tea, sheltering from the wind near culverts.Then to our surprise we find tarmac for 45 miles before another 40 miles on gravel takes us to Bajo Caracoles. This place marked with a good size dot on the map is a mere hamlet. It has a petrol station and a police station and a few homes of which some are little basic hostels. Our host is busy building/altering an extension himself. The building work is very ‘interesting’ with 3 tree trunks seemingly holding the structure up and fishing net holding a thin layer of insulation in place against the tin roof. We have done well. Clouds now loom ominously. Tomorrow we are heading towards Chile.(Clive here. Did she forget to mention a slight wobble that resulted in her dropping the bike.. But no damage and I was on hand to pick it up! A really bleak ride today, hours without seeing a thing just an occasional animal. Thank goodness no punctures. Bikes are going well but we are taking it easy, best way on these roads. Another 80 miles of gravel tomorrow, hey ho keep on wobbling…)
22nd Nov Sat
Our room had no window. The electricity power went up and down and some water pipe somewhere trickled all night. Amateur builder! But it had a heater and was warm as we listened to rain and wind.At breakfast Clive and the owner chatted away about his building works. Clive converses mostly in english with the odd spanish,portugese,french or italian word thrown in for good measure. The owner speaks fast spanish. Interestingly we get the drift, especially when thin walls and noise coming through from next bedroom is mentioned. ‘Ah’ he says, ‘I am going to solve that with this’ and he goes off and gets an eggtray and holds it against the wall demonstrating how a whole lot of egg trays plastered to the wall will do the trick.! Amazing, do it your self at its best!Ruta 40 here we go again..the rain has gone but the wind is there. Sunny and cold, 8c. Gravel road for 46 miles and tarmac for 40m. The gravel road is quite tough in places and the wind grips us now and then. The snowcapped Andes can be seen on the horizon as we travel up and down across this rather lunar landscape. We are about 600-700m up. When we hit the tarmac things are not hugely better as the wind is a really fearsome crosswind and we struggle to cling to the centre line of the deserted road. We go along at 45-50mph leaning heavily into the wind. Reach Perito Moreno…not much to say for itself and end up in the petrol station café as usual. A delicious pie thing makes us happy but non existant cup of tea and bad coffee. Leaving ruta 40 we head west for Chile. Los Antiguos is small and fairly dull so we head on and cross the border to Chile Chico. The idea is to catch a ferry here across the lake. Meet some young australians on a 6 month trip. 2 guys and one girl pillion from Perth. Not yet met another female riding her own bike. We have met/ seen more bikers than in Africa. Quite a few pairs and one lot of Finnish bikers who were not very friendly.
23rd Nov Sun
We are catching a ferry today across Lago Buenos Aires(lago General Carrera). The good ship Pilchera is there when we arrive at the dock. Captain says he has room, no need for ticket and pay on the boat. Clive is a bit anxious about this..also we do not know how much it will cost. The trip is 2.5 hours. The wind is blowing!In the event all is well and we get on with the bikes. Tiny ferry,maybe 10/15 cars on the open deck. Its been built in Norway in 1970. How did it get to this inland lake on the Chile/Argentina border?.We sit out side at the back in the sun and some of the wind in all our 5 layers of motorbike clothing! Inside there are rows of old seats in a stuffy room. No food or drink. Its 8c. The waves get bigger;spray gets all the way back to us. Only the hardy sit it out in the middle of the back!They unloaded very quickly, including the 5 horses that had stood ,penned, amongst the vehicles in the spray. After a food stop we got on our way. Real Chile! We have crossed the Andes and now have the snow capped mts to our right. The pass was low at 1120 metres but it was cold, 6c. The first thing that strikes me are the trees. They are not fir trees..they are hardwoods or lenga. The green grass is not that green but the wild lupins by the roadside are very colourful. It is not alpen, its andean. Unfortuately 1 hour later I see plantations of northern pine trees…things will change and so will the andean feel.We reach Coyhouake. Its individual wooden houses with their tin roofs, remind me a bit of Lithuania. Many are fairly run down ( need a torch to them, says Clive) . Searching for a B and B, we get put off by the shabbiness of many. Quite a few are full but we find a good Cabenas and are happy.
24th Nov Mon
Quite a day, all I all. It pours with rain in the night but by morning it is seemingly clearing up. We mess around finding closed internets and exchange places. Finally leave on tarmac road which after a while becomes gravel/dirt road. This is the Carratera Austral, the main Chilean highway. On the map looks significant but in reality looked much like a farm road in parts. It varied from good going to testing! At height (we went over a low pass of 550 m) it was narrow, hairpin bends, and rocky and lower it was slippery in the drizzle. We met 2 cyclists struggling along, one pushing his bike up the rocky pass. The surrounding terrain is pretty. Termed humid temperate , we noticed wild fushias, bamboo canes, wild rhubarb etc. Lovely local hardwood trees. Wild lupins gave way to cystus and laburnham and then the forest. Up above, in the cloud, were snow capped mts.We arrive in Puyuhuapi. It is a small village of a few hundred inhabitants founded by german settlers in 1935. Our hotel for the night, Casa Ludwig, is owned by the daughter of one of those original 4 settlers. We eat in a ‘restaurant’ up the road. It is a shop out the front and has a room at the back for the ‘restaurant’. We are the only clients. We eat what we are given and I choose wine to drink from the shop. Its like being in someone’s house for supper.We have now done about 500 miles on gravel roads. I much prefered this dirt road today compared to the Ruta 40 in Argentina. The Ruta 40 is dry , straight and windy with little to divert your mind from the bumpy surface. Its boring ..struggling NOT to look at how far it is to go. This road is really scenic , has potholes to keep you on your toes, as well as wandering cows, bridges over raging torrents, picturesque waterfalls, a pass where road narrows and becomes wet and rocky, and not least road works; which give slippery mud sections, falling rock sections and very loose soil sections! As we neared here there were a few bends around which you were confronted by a huge deep puddle and nowhere really to go apart from a thin strip of gravel. This was real motorcycle touring.
25th Nov Tues
We have had to make a choice. Back over the Andes to Argentina, travel north and then return to Chile OR continue on our road and catch a ferry on Friday from Chaiten to Puerto Montt. Today is only Tuesday so that means going dead slow as we are only one days travel from Chaiten. We have decided on staying in Chile. The reason the ferry is not running every day is because a volcano is erupting at Chaiten and the town has been evacuated. This started happening in May.So we have taken a day off and visited some hot springs at a ‘resort’. Some fellow guests wanted to go as well so they took us in their pickup which was easier for us. It entailed going back along the road we had come on for 13kms and then a little boat ride. We met some dutch in Chile Chico and one of them was the mangeress of this hot spring place. Thus when we turned up she gave us a good greeting. They said that they had all thought about us travelling the road yesterday and wondered how we had got on. Now they know!The hottest pool was 40c…pretty warm! It was all very swish and relaxing in a beautiful setting by the sea. Relax for days on end with service and good food etc. Clive rather fancied it. I am afraid it was out of our budget so back to Casa Ludwig for a second night. The road workers working on the road have blasted a bit more down today. The road is shut each day between 10.00 and 14.00 hrs. We will find similar tomorrow; we must enter the roadwork section north of here before 10am (or wait till 2pm).
26th Nov Wed
We are off by 9.15am in order to enter the road work area before 10am. We had had a very good evening with the very nice Chilean couple, Tiarella and George. They found a better place to eat than we had the night before. We sampled Pisco Sour made by George in the restaurant kitchen and then the lady produced some kind of shellfish starter followed by Hake and Conger Eel fried with potatoes. The shellfish were very meaty and unlike anything I know.We made it to the beginning of the road works with 5 mins to spare. Today proved to be a testing gravel road day! Road works can prove very tricky as surface can change from dry to wet to deep gravel to soil. Other sections of the road had the grading machine on and again these areas can be testing. I dropped the bike trying to get through a rather soily part of the road works. Total lack of confidence as I viewed a large stone in the rut I was going down. Pathetic of me..it is all in the mind. My initial instinct when I see something I don’t like the look of is to slow down. Sometimes the sudden lack of confidence leads to a complete stiffening of every muscle. Momentarily of course or I would not make it! Slowing down is generally not good especially when deep gravel(or sand) is encountered because the bike needs to be driven with power through it. Steady power on to keep the back wheel driving and then the bike will be able to be steered through. It all goes against the instinct, though, to go faster when the going looks horrible! However it works. Power on and its amazing what you can get through. So, driving as we have done a lot of today, on loose gravel that seems like marbles, can be achieved! How can we balance on two wheels on marbles? Don’t know….Bikes are doing okay. Nothing rattled off, no repeat of puncture yet, touch wood, my radiator hosepipe is moving a bit but have eye on it. Clive has lost one screw on his screen. Tyres are getting worn but my chain is doing okay. Odd bits of luggage aren’t making it…tent glue tube has burst, hole rubbed in tent bag….I know this because lo and behold we are camping tonight! Slightly desperate for somewhere to stay we had to back track down the gravel road for 25 k to an expensive fishing lodge. Totally unprepared because we had no food. So camping outside but eating in style! Rain is forecast especially tomorrow.
27th Nov Thurs
Well, our night in the tent went quite well. Quite warm enough, not too uncomfortable. It rained but we were dry. Each tent site has its own little hut which houses a table , bench seats and a fireplace with wood to burn. What more could we want…cup of tea, one banana and a fire. You may wonder why we do not go out and buy some food. The nearest shop is 25kms away down the gravel road and it is now pouring with rain. This area receives 4000mms per year. That is an average of 1/3 of an inch every day of the year. Forecast today here is for 2 inches. We have been lucky with the weather so not really moaning. Tent stays up and we commit to another nights camping here. Funnily enough we are the only campers! Ferry in the morning.We while away the day sitting around in the expensive hotel, using its free Wifi, chatting with the fishing mad guests, and looking out on a lovely view of a lake and mts covered in mist and lashing rain. Shame we couldn’t have had a good walk around.We discover a bit more about Chaiten , the destroyed ferry port. The volcanic ash/lava blocked its river causing the water behind to back up and then flood/destroy part of the town . The rest has ash half way up its buildings. Apparently…we might see tomorrow.
28th Nov Fri
It rained most of the night but did not get as cold as forecast. Well done to our tent, Aztec Duro. It took rain for 36 hours nonstop, much of it heavy and did not leak. We did get damp through the floor at the end of that second night but it was very soggy in the grass outside so not a surprise. We got up at 6am to break camp. Carried the very soggy tent to the loo block and rolled it up there. Set off in the rain but it very soon stopped and by the time we reached Chaiten blue sky was approaching.The nice police guarding the road intoChaiten lead us to believe that the ferry might not be going at 10am…if at all! Anyway they let us ride on into this devastated place. Grey ash piled up and many destroyed houses were seen as we slowly picked our way through to the sea. The road to the ‘port’ area hung in space, cut in two by the power of water. We were shown how to get round via a dirt road.At the jetty we found some workmen otherwise not a lot of action for this supposedly imminent ferry. Worst fears confirmed almost…now scheduled for this afternoon. A brand new waiting room becomes our base and we hang around. I unpack all wet gear in the now lovely sunshine and festoon my bike and local bushes with the tent, sleeping bag etc. For a while we are happy but as the hours drag by and various mutterings of ‘Manana’ start penetrating through and we get rather despondent. A german arrives and confirms that there really will not be a ferry today. He has arrived in Chaiten in a minibus expecting to catch a ferry this afternoon. Now one is scheduled for 8am. We all need to stay in this near deserted town overnight. We two decide to stick it out at the port and take full possesion of the new waiting room. We do not want to miss this ferry, whenever, if ever, it arrives. The german was luckier; amongst the bus passengers was a man who owned a house in Chaiten. He took all the passengers to his deserted house and opened it up. There was no electricity, no water, no sewerage. But they had a dusty bed!I had walked round the town in the afternoon. Its all very sad to see people’s houses/lives destroyed and deserted. Its a mess. Some houses stand as left ,ornaments in the windows etc, but others have been emptied. Three horses seem to have the run of the town though the only grass is down by the beach. The beach that was….its now grey volcanic dust strewn with debris from houses. The playground looks very sad with the slide sticking out of the grey. But as the german said…why haven’t they cleared any of it up.? Much could have been done, some parts were okay apart from the services. Is it because the volcano,Michimahuida ,is still active?We went to the one shop that had opened , bought food to cook in our one saucepan, and settled down to a night on the concrete floored waiting room. During the night Clive saw molten lava in the sky above the volcano. It is about 15 kms away.
29th Nov Sat
We are woken at 5.45am by a truck arriving. Various truckers had arrived during yesterday which was how we had found out about the ferry’s unreliability. There are no officials at the ‘port’. Several of the truckers had thought there was a ferry yesterday. They had spent the night with some families that are living in the town.Its quite cold but sun coming up as a ferry eventually heaves into sight. At last! Takes ages unloading and then loads one huge truck and one pick up and goes! We have all been told to wait for the next one…faster and bigger. Not despondent for too long as we see it coming as the other leaves. It takes ages to dock. Not surprising really as this whole bay has become quite silted up with volcanic ash and debris. It is also low tide. It has to turn on its anchors and then haul in on ropes. No roll on, roll off, but to us, once we are aboard, it is warm and comfortable. We are on our way again at last. Watching the erupting volcano as we leave Chaiten behind. All we need now is a lovely warm bath/shower. Both Clive and I have a cough , mine being very tickly and it has not helped the sleeping. We snooze as the former greek owned ship takes 7 hours to steam our way to Puerto Montt but that is not quite the whole story. We anchor up with destination tantalisingly across the water. We are waiting for a berth….probably the only berth. Patience yet again. Volcano Osorno rises up in the far distance on the right, perfect conical snow cap looking lovely in this bright blue sky. It is not erupting!3 hours we hung around! The slow ferry caught us up and even docked before us. Problems with the port! Eventually we got off at 8pm. We were on our way for 1 hour to Puerto Octay.
30th Nov Sun
Very kind hosts and some very nice fellow guests chatted to us as we ate a very good meal at about 10.30pm after a quick welcome shower.Armid (swiss) and Anya.(chillean) have built themselves a little switzerland here. Slightly ethnic but good value. Culture shock coming off the ferry into a bustling modern town and then riding on motorway through cultivated,neat green countryside looking like Germany or Switzerland. All this with three snowcapped volcanoes guarding over you. Volcano Osorno is text book in shape and is very majestic…we ride towards it to take photos but it is almost more beautiful from further away.Wooden houses, wooden churches, with tin roofs. New houses built like boxes, neatly packed in rows with their new tin roofs gleaming in the sunshine.The weather is spring like ….many familiar flowers around including rhododendrums,forsythia,lupins,cystus fushia but also the bright red chillean fire bush. Green fields, horses, and black and white cows grazing. Large birds of prey and different types of ibis fly around. Just what we want for we were tired after our troubles down south. A few hours on a ferry and we are in a different world.We are only aiming for Osorno today. We are going to Motoadventura tomorrow for tyre change and general check on the bikes. We find hostal near Motoadventura and go into town to eat in the evening. It is pretty run down…plenty of very neglected looking/dirty looking wooden houses. Shops dingy looking, centre lively though. Its Sunday and not all restaurants are open. We find some bar/café and have Pisco Sour drinks (chilean speciality ) along with some not brilliant food.
1st Dec Mon
Ibis birds outside are really noisy and wake us early. Other largish birds are also wandering the grass…poor worms! Hostal Truyaca was a good place nontheless. Off to Motoaventura….they’ pick us’ up and we follow to the workshop. Tyres and oil change for me, oil for Clive but he is going to carry his set of new tyres for a bit. He had done less mileage before we left. People nice and efficient.Its now hot! We set off for Pucon which is futher north in the chilean lake district. It is wedged between a lake and the largest volcano in Chile, volcano Villaricci, which is active. Lovely green rolling countryside, little traffic and all goes well. When we pull up I realise that my silly radiator hose is leaking again. I had a different clamp put on it at Motoadventura but it cannot be tight enough. Though touristy we find somwhere to stay without huge problems. Go shopping and I manage to leave the Chile Lonely Planet guide somewhere. Going to try and find it today! Had a very indfferent vegetarian meal in ‘the best vegetarian restaurant in Chile’.Supposedly served fish as well but we did not get any!
2nd Dec Tues
First job to get to Post office. I am sending home 2 books and Clive some surplus clothing. We bought 2 packets but in the end taped it all together to make it cheaper. Cost £27. Rather ridiculous…though Clive’s stuff worth more. Then the next job was to recover the guide if possible. 3 shops and it was in the second one. Glad it was not in the third…it was called El Tit ! I had gone there hoping to get a cheap watch but they could not get their credit card machine to work so I had given up. My all singing , all dancing watch got water in it when we went to the hotspring. I had it on to read the temp of the water. It got to 38.7c which must have been too much for it!We leave Pucon about midday after fiddling with my radiator hose again. We got Motoadventura to put a jubilee clip on but they put on one that was too big and obviously did not tighten enough because it was leaking again. During today I bought another jubilee clip and some coolant so we can hopefully make a good job of it ourselves tomorrow.Clive looks well laden with his new tyres on board. We decide to make some mileage north on the motorway…the Carrera Austral. We are now in Middle Chile. Rolling land, sort of european look with grassland , trees, crops of cereals and maize. As we head north the wooden houses give way to stone/brick ones. Scots Pine plantations cover unfertile hills giving a Mediteranean feel. Logging is big business.The motorway is more like a dual carriageway. Some poorer housing spills on to it, stalls selling honey sit in the verge, tractors are allowed as are bicycles which head towards you on the hard shoulder. We even met one coming towards us on the central reservation side of the fast lane. People cross or walk the hard shoulder. Copec, a petrol company has good stations with cafes,ATMs, good loos and even places to do your washing up outside.! Pushing on we head for the Pacific coast for the night. Its quite late, after 7pm, by the time we reach our destination. We climbed a small pass in the last 30km and I got cold in my T shirt having been in higher temps the rest of the day. Small place but find an Hosteria luckily. Village has quite different feel to last night with narrower streets, stone buildings and tiled roofs.
3rd Dec Wed
Slow start after putting on the new clamp on the hose of my bike. Dirt road to start with and soon construction road…always a nightmare changing from slippery watered dust to deep gravel etc. We wandered along achieving about 20 mph. Fishing villages, quite poor where dirt road was. Oxen plouging etc. Got to Chanco, touch of tourism. Clive chooses great dish of mussel soup for his snack. Most unusual as he normally has a pastry! Lovely fishing beach, lots of fishing boats being hauled up by tractor but oxen still in use hauling carts full of fish across the black sand. Ladies selling crabs etc. Rancherios in doorways!Nice coastal route , wild flower meadows, wild yellow lupins beside the road, farmland giving way to plantation forest. Great motorbiking and pretty scenery. Forestry becomes big business and many factories, pulp, cellulose, floor boards etc. Every lorry is carrying wood. See oxen ploughing and a horse too. Town called Constitucion is surrounded by shanty town wooden houses. It is over flowing and smells of sewage! Not a good place!We are advised later in a café to take another dirt road as opposed to the longer tarmac route. ‘Its good’ he said. Off we go on the first bit, 16kms of tarmac, only to find it is under construction with some deep gravel in places and nice wet skiddy soily bits in others. I have one nice skid but survive while Clive goes carefully on in front. Who suggested this route? Specially prepared for motorcycles! We are getting a bit fed up bouncing along dirt roads! Looking for an hotel we find ourselves in a very exclusive area by Lagos Vichuquen. All the houses have german names and the hotel we find is out of our budget! So we arrive in Llica, a fishing village. It has wet its dirt road especially for us so we have to ride very carefully to the end of the road where we find a great place on the beach on the pacific. Vultures are hopping round the beach with the gulls eating up dead fish from the fisherman.
4th Dec Thurs
Mist and cloud disappear as we have breakfast.More dirt road to start the day with but once done it is very nice motorbiking on a good swooping road. Rancherios spotted now and then, as indeed they have all the way so far through Argentina and Chile. Plenty of horses in both countries still.We could be in Spain very easily. Vegetation and scenery very similar. Rolling countryside,dry looking,sun shining, crops including Proteas (what are they?), olive trees,vines,pine and eucolyptus trees, wild yellow lupins covering the hills and bright yellow buttercups line the road. We arrived successfully in Valpairaso but I lead us wrongly up the wrong hill looking for the right hill to stay on! Very steep cobblestone hill. We then followed a car for some distance back to the right hill to look for hotel/b and b. More steep cobblestones down again. Not easy on a bike. Now staying in very nice house (b and b) but had to park bikes in underground car park down below. Had to fend off stray dogs with our feet. They like to attack motorcyclists and especially your ankles.I managed to get one full on the face! Took ancient ‘ascensor’ back up. Built in 1863! They have 15 of these still working.The Navy is in town. Plenty of British influence. We have a drink in Lord Byron and eat at The Brighton!.
5th Dec Fri
Though we get on the right road out of town, we lost it somehow! Clive didn’t like Valparaiso. I thought it okay. Everyone seems to live up in the hills and all business/shops seem to be on the flat bit near the sea/port. Our landlady prefered Santiago! She says “everyone in Chile, from top to bottom,is a thief!”We had eaten in a restaurant up on a hill overlooking the town. Very nice, can’t do that everywhere.Another day for mileage. We are heading north up the coast. There is no other choice of road really. Though it is motorway it is quite scenic and the road has some curves and some major ups and downs. The countryside is dry, except in the valleys. At first, north of Valparaiso, there are lots of fruit farms. Fruit trees growing all over the hills. But a change of valley and all goes; now we have scrub and cactus. In one place lots of Olive trees have been planted. We head for a beach resort called Tongoy. It is pre season (starts at Christmas ), so some places not really functioning. Hotel is found…it is empty but they won’t bargain much on the rate. We eat very fresh fish in a restaurant on the beach watching cars and lorries driving by on the beach! Pelicans feeding out in the sea just off the beach dicing with the odd rogue wave. We walk back to the hotel on sandy dirt streets. We have found an internet café in a sweet shop and are here for two nights.
6th Dec Sat
This is like a Sandbanks but needs another 50 years to mature. We clean and fix bikes a bit while it is cloudy but then it gets too hot (no shade in parking lot). Walk the beach, fancy a swim but quite cold.Later, we do swim. Big powerful waves with big undertow. Interesting!I then spend some time taking my garmin gps holder apart. My Zumo has not been working for several days. In the absence of my watch to tell the altitude I have had the zumo but now I have nothing. As I suspected the all weather proof holder has got water in it and it has shortcircuited the little electronic board. Its had it. I am fed up. Clive has one and I will now have to nag him for altitude details. Not quite the same.
7th Dec Sun
Lazy start but off by 10am. Nice temp, around 20c and sunny. We are heading up the coast for awhile and then the road goes further inland. Not long and we are in the region of Atacama. Stony desert. Large hills covered in stone, rocks, scrub and cacti. The road is good, wending its way up and down and around these barren hills. We climb some passes, a couple over 1000 metres. It gets browner and browner, even the cacti are giving out! Occasional glimpses of greenery where there are wadis and sand on the hills making them look like enormous sand dunes. A couple of large towns as we head for Copiapo and then beyond to Bahia Inglesia.The road is a trucking road. Us and trucks. No petrol stations , just very ramshackle truck stops that look like falling down shacks. Luckily there is a breeze and things do not get too hot even though it looks so dry.All along the road there are brightly coloured shrines. Shrines for each accident victim. At times it is not quite believable that so many have died. This road is good with long straight bits and little traffic. Very few cars. Yet here we are stopped by a shrine that says 23 year old Dayan died here. Just near the airport, south of Caldera is the worst spot for accidents in Chile. We did see a large number of traffic police.’We get to Bahia Inglesia . It is famous for two things at least. One is its scallops (very good) and two is that it boasts South America’s first railway station and first rail line in South America. The line ran between here and Copiapo to export silver and nitrates. British railway!Towards the end of the day Clive discovered that his bike’s brakes had a fault ie he is losing brake fluid. His computer has been flashing warning lights at him. We cannot see the source of the leak…its somewhere under his petrol tank, but we can see its leaking! Put it off till tomorrow and admire this pretty bay. Plenty of young here, kite boarding across the bay. Lovely beaches between rocks and supposedly lots of pelicans which I want to see in the morning. Hope to be able to keep bike brakes going till Antofagasta by buying brake fluid and topping up.
8th Dec Mon
We learnt last night that today is a bank holiday. Since we have not been near a shop or town all day today it did not affect us much!Off to petrol station to get petrol and brake fluid. Clive is going to ride with back brake only. At the same time we make sure the front brake reservoir is topped up because they might be linked through the ABS system. We head off up the coast at first until the road takes us inland. It is not too hot till later but, wow,its barren. Brown hill/mts with nothing growing. There is the road with us, a few cars, trucks and buses. The ever present shrines decorate the verges, adding a bit of colour along with bits of tyres and other truck debris. Now and then there is a teeny bit of green and a shack or two. In the distance remains of old mines now and then and some active ones.We keep topping up the brake reservoir which is leaking in spite of not being used. It is a great road for not having to use your brakes….lucky there! Keep nagging Clive for altitude updates. We reach an altiplano of about 2000 metres and the temp is still reasonable…below 30c as we go along at about 70mph. But about 3pm it reaches the dizzy heights of 35c and I wonder what it will be like down at sealevel in Antofagasta ? I ride striving to get maximum wind funneling down my jacket. Sooner than we expected we reach ‘the hand in the desert’.Large modern day concrete hand sticking up out of the desert. The chileans have graffitied it rather horribly. Not as big or as remote as we had both expected.Down to Antofagasta following the dried up river in its gorge. A railway track has been laid in the river bed so there can’t be too many flash floods!( average rainfall is 1mm, yes, 1mm, per year.). Clive’s front brake fluid is now leaking more badly inspite of the fact he has not used it. In the evening we manage to negotiate a mechanic for 11am next morning. There is no BMW agent even though this is 2nd largest city after Santiago.
9th Dec Tues
We have decided to check out of the hotel, hoping the problem will be fixed by the afternoon.The mechanic does come at 11am and we go off to this Yamaha dealer, our hotelier leading the way. Problem is explained to them and so we set to, to remove the petrol tank. Quite a performance but lots of screws later it is off .The problem is soon apparent. It is one of the pipes coming out of the ABS unit. Its seating washer has a crack in it. Off goes man and later comes back with a new pipe made of copper…but of course, we are right in the centre of the copper mining region. We saw copper sheets coming in on the train yesterday.He gets it on and we get the tank back on etc. All in all takes 3 hours everyone doing their bit! Seems to have done the trick but as we set off Clive says his warning lights are on again. He had gone a tiny distance with no warning lights. We have to ride back to the hotel to collect his bags anyway. On the way he then says maybe the warning is his tyre pressure. His bike has too many sensors.! Sure enough, outside the hotel, we check his back wheel and there sits what looks like a nail in the tyre. Get out my pliers ( remove seat, take off bag yet again) and get nail out and down goes the tyre!Hotel owner, young and doing well, has had nothing better to do all day than hang around us, (This is lucky because he can speak english) is now bidden by Clive to help push the bike up the hill and round the corner, quick, to the petrol station. In the meantime I put my seat back on and the bag, and follow! We end up at a tyre man round the corner from the petrol station. More unpacking to get more tools out as Clive decides whether to mend or replace his tyre with the one he has been carrying the last few days. Replace both; and so we get on with it. Give up leaving and ask hotelier if he has empty room. We get the one we checked out of back! All done and take a brief ride around, no warning lights! Fingers crossed that all is now well. Only small problem is that I have two small scews still in my pocket….should have gone somewhere on Clive’s bike’s bodywork on reassembly !!
10th Dec Wed
We ate again in the same place as last night. Its a bit of a dubious area so we acted cautiously. The restaurant was good and tonight we ate late enough to be treated to two men playing in duet on the piano! It was good. Waiter kept on giving us little tots of some local liquor. Did us no good!The hotel had treated us well but its breakfast was not good , the bed not that great, and noisy trucks woke us up in the morning. It had been a bit of an enforced stay.All seems well with Clive’s bike but tyre sensors playing up. Nice ride up the coast beside the sea.( Still heading north in Chile as dirt road into Bolivia not advisable in rainy season. Instead we will take the third and only paved option.) The road is between the high cordillera and the rocky coast. Lots of seabirds on the water’s edge when there is a beach and every now and then white guano covered rocks. I think this is caused by sea going pelicans and other larger birds. In one place we saw several very large pelicans catching fish and perched on the rocks. They were really quite a sight. At the same time , high overhead were various birds of prey incuding vultures and Condors.Going through customs from one region to another we spied another biker. Whilst sitting outside the café with him, 2 more turn up and then another 3 (who did not stop). They were going south; the one from Panama and the two from LA.We head on north to Iquique the chief town of this taxfree region. Its heyday was nitrate mining, followed by silver mining. Now its beaches and tourism. The old main street has been well preserved with its old wooden colonial buildings, old wooden tram and lovely well used theatre. Wooden boardwalk as well. Back one street and its modern mess!Our hotel looks fine but we soon discover the water is off…till 8pm. We are hot and dirty!
11th Dec Thurs
Finally shower in the morning but I am the lucky one with hot water! Hopeless hotel! Here we are tonight in Arica, people are are still doing their shopping, as in the butcher, the bread shop etc, at 11pm! No wonder the restaurants start late…we are generally gasping at their doors by 8.30pm. Tonight we did quite well. It can be a bit hit and miss with the menu but our second last night in Chile (hopefully) we did well with fresh fish in a sauce with the right amount of veg. We have ordered too much , too little etc on occasion , as you can imagine! This town is very lively with local people. We have admired the church…its made of iron by Mr Eiffel of Eiffel tower fame. Older than the Eiffel tower, it was fabricated in France and shipped over in parts. It survived an earthquake. Amazingly attractive and really quite big. We were impressed. We had a good ride from Iquique via yet more desert. Amazing valleys that we crossed…1000m down to the dried up river bed, over the bridge and up 1000m on the other side. The road cut across the sandy slope like a skier cutting across a virgin powder snow slope. You felt that the whole road could go down as if in an avalanche on the slope. These huge barren hills of brown sand ( not dunes) felt like huge slopes of snow….ready to slip at any time! Down to the bottom which had a little bit of greenery in it and up on to a plateau which today was pretty flat. Ghost mining towns and the odd truckers stops, and our road. Luckily not to much wind! We have found the scenery of the Atacama more interesting than the road south of Buenos Aires even though it is more barren. The Cordillera is more majestic and the coast more interesting . The sheer lack of vegetation/life is extraordinary .
12th Dec Fri
Today we stop heading north and head for Bolivia by turning east and going inland. Following the green river valley we are sign posted to look at geoglyphs. Apparently some Inca shallow depression lined with stones. We plod along various little paths but cannot understand or appreciate the difference between stones of today and yesteryear! One pile of stones looked just like another. Plod back to bikes! Later geoglyphs turn out to be art on the barren hillsides! Not very impressed we go on. Leave green valley and climb up and up and up. At 3300m. We stop in café feeling a bit light headed. A short while ago we were at sea level! The road is a great mountain road, good motorbiking with a few trucks. Loaded tankers getting fuel from Chile for Bolivia. Loaded car transporters getting cars from Chile. After café road still climbs, up to 3800m, before we stop for the day and before the border. The idea is to acclimatise a bit before tackling the high pass and reaching La Paz! Putre is our base before entering a national park and the pass. Weather has been good but it is now about 17c at 3500m.To help acclimatise we go off to a thermal bath place. Its at 4100m! However its very pleasant and relaxing. Head back to Putre and bump into 2 English bikers on their Transalps. Steve and Deborah are very experienced travellers from the sound of it. She is the first woman biker I have seen on this trip. She says I am the first she has seen for weeks. They have been travelling for 7.5 months from Montreal, Canada southwards. We exchange news and info and have a meal together. We learn a bit about the roads in Peru and more and give them info on what to expect on their way south!