Translated from the German original 10.12.1987
Edited by the secretary IMC (International Motorcycle
I had left Buenos Aires on the 4th January, and was now in Comodoro
Rivadavia buying gas and food for the trip across to the hippy village
at San Martin de los Andes, which I had heard so much about.
My motorcycle was a BMW and it received a lot of attention in Comodoro.
The result was numerous invites back to peoples' homes and an extended
stay of four days in this rather depressing place, although the view of
the long coast stretching away south and north was very interesting. Comodoro
is an 'oil' town and the surrounding low hills are studded with rigs and
'nodding donkey' pumps but despite the wealth of oil in the region, the
people do not seem to have benefited greatly.
Anyway, I enjoyed the hospitality of the wonderful Argentine people
of the place and then set off for the big ride across Patagonia and into
the foothills of the Andes where I was told, I may find the famous hippy
The weather could not have been better and as I settled into the ride
and I looked forward to seeing the small towns and villages that one may
come across out here, in the 'forgotten' part of this beautiful country.
My mind began to wander nicely as the road ahead stretched into the
horizon and I began to think on the stories of this place (Patagonia)
that a friend in BA(Buenos Aires) had the kindness to tell me.
Many of Argentina's problems have been buried in this great scrubby
desert and even today, there are riots in the south. There was trouble
in Comodoro while I was there - and the prison that is hidden away in
the depths of this place, is once more full of Argentines, many of who
are probably thinking that they may end up buried out here somewhere despite
their country now being a democracy.
I came up to the remains of a small town. It was just a few houses really
and had most likely been part of one of the big ranches that had now closed
down. At the road edge was a wood sign and on it somebody had scratched
something in Spanish. My Spanish was very poor but I am certain it said
something like, 'The worst place in Argentina' and it was after seeing
this cursed place and that sign that I believe my luck changed, for it
was only a few kilometres further on from this place that I found my worst
He was sitting next to his bike at the edge of the road. At first, I
feared to approach in case he was part of an ambush team. Patagonian roads
at that time had a reputation for banditry. But I observed him carefully
and he looked in a bad way and there was nobody else to be seen in the
flat countryside surrounding him, so I approached carefully.
He looked up and saw me coming. He did not seem surprised and he made no move to rise from his position and
greet me. His motorcycle was a Yamaha XT350 and did not appear damaged so I asked him what the problem was.
"Petrol", he replied - his reply betraying him as an Englishman.
"How low are you"?, I asked - I could not believe he could be empty.
"None", he replied "Do you know where you are"?, I asked.
"Argentina", he replied.
I looked away and tried to think. I admit I was tempted to just ride away and forget this moment in my life as just a daydream,
I looked at him and he was staring off into the distance. "There'll be a truck or something along soon and I'll get some
petrol or a lift off it, so don't worry about me", he stated flatly.
"But this road is not used much now. There might be nothing for hours, maybe days," I replied and then continued, "do
you have food and water"?
This was a terrible situation. If I filled his tank from my own reserve I would also be short of fuel and there were many hundreds
of kilometres to go before the next gas stop.
"There's a town about fifty miles further up the road", he said - as if he knew what I was thinking.
"I don't think so", I replied. "In fact", I continued,
"There is no town for exactly five hundred kilometres."
He just stared at me before almost growling, "well have you got any suggestions then?"
I looked at his machine. It was brand new and had no modifications for riding in these conditions and there was no provision
for carrying extra fuel. His personal possessions were just as few and from what I could see, he had only a large soft bag strapped
onto the rear of the machine's seat.
Which is all very peculiar and annoyed me a little when I considered the expense I had gone to in order to prepare my machine
and myself for this long trip. And I also had a schedule to keep.
"Do you need my help,"? I asked him, before adding,
"because if you don't, I think I will get on my way."
"You do what you think fit", was his only reply before casting his stare off into the desert somewhere, so I offered
him my good luck and once more continued my journey.
I reached my fuel stop safely at a small town about 200ks before the beginning of the Andes foothills.
I filled-up, washed the machine and checked everything was lubricated and tight before checking into a small hotel and spending
a night in a proper bed. I always stay one night in five at a hotel. All other times, I camp.
The next morning, I collected my machine and visited a restaurant and took the meal outside, at one of the sidewalk tables.
I remember the day as being very sunny and warm. Perhaps a little too warm but there were plenty of people and vehicles around.
I suddenly heard somebody shouting in the distance. I looked down the road to where the traffic lights are and I saw a number
of cars and people collecting. As I watched, I could see the situation becoming agitated and then I saw two policemen arrive
and the shouting increased.
I decided it was time to go and so I paid my bill, climbed onto my machine and rode away from the worsening dispute at the
other end of the road.
The town was perhaps five kilometres behind me when I looked in rear-view mirror and saw the most amazing sight. A motorcyclist
was coming up on me quickly and behind him was a police car which itself was being chased by other cars and a small truck.
I acted stupidly; instead of slowing and then pulling off the road, I opened the throttle and soon found myself
flying along at a terrible speed, but at least the pursuing convoy was fading into the distance. At last I came to my senses
and pulled off the road and after driving into the desert for a few hundred metres, awaited the arrival of my pursuers. And they
were not long in arriving. The Motorcyclist had been doing well until he came abreast of me. A dip in the road and then some
missing tarmac put paid to his flight and he crashed headlong into the sand and scrub at the side of the road, his race ending
in a vast cloud of dust.
Seconds later, the police arrived, the officers rushing from their vehicle to the now prone cyclist and yelling loudly at him,
their guns drawn and pointing at his seemingly lifeless body.
The rest of the convoy was quickly upon the scene and the mad crowd milled and dashed around the policemen all shouting and
yelling at the same time.
They were unaware of my presence and in order to ensure that they did not become aware, I lay prone upon the
sand, the scrub and gorse helping to conceal me and my machine.
The cyclist was brought to his feet and although I could not see what was actually going on, I guessed he was being bundled
into the police car for the trip back to town. His Motorcycle was bundled onto the back of the truck.
The scene became quiet for a while before exploding with more yelling and shouting, another sudden pause, then the slamming
of car doors, the revving of engines and finally, the squealing of tyres as the convoy raced back to town with their prize.
I lay on the warm sand until I was certain the scene was safe for me to appear upon and regain my journey to the mountains,
which were now only a couple of hundred kilometres away, but it was not to be.
I had been seen, and although the convoy had seemingly moved away, a car had remained, one of the four occupants of which was
a policeman - and he was now looking directly at me.
Now, I had a choice in this situation. I could wait where I was until the arrival of the policeman and be taken forcefully
back to town to face the consequences of whatever it was they suspected I had done.
In a town that small, there would probably only be a couple of policemen, and they would most likely be untrained, locally
elected representatives of the law. The town's judicial system would most likely comprise a locally elected magistrate and a
few of the local pillars of society.
Enquiries would be painstakingly slow and the town jail, awfully uncomfortable. I would most likely lose a good part of my
equipment - maybe even my motorcycle - to bribes: an extra blanket maybe, perhaps a little fresh fruit -a little tobacco. And
then there was the possibility of being framed for a crime or an involvement in something of which I was totally innocent. Then
there could be hard time in the Patagonia 'Hilton' and a small cell shared with four sex-starved ex-gauchos for company.
I feared for my machine's drive shaft as I flew across the sand and onto the tarmac, the rear tyre screeching for grip as I
held the throttle wide-open, my foot struggling to find a higher gear and more speed.
In my rear-view mirror, I saw the car throwing up dust and scrabbling for grip on the sand, but within a second,
it had gained the road and was accelerating after me. I went up a gear and held my speed at 140. I prayed the road ahead had
no breaks in the tarmac surface, no hidden holes, no sudden corrugations. I knew I could escape the car easily by driving into
the desert, but by doing so, I would be entering a huge area of land for which the map did not refer and up ahead, was a good
sized town of sophisticated people who might be more interested in establishing the facts of the situation rather than the emotion
and an opportunity for self -enrichment.
So I sped on.
I looked back. The front passenger of the car had his arm out of the window and was pointing what looked like a pistol at my
back. I heard two sharp cracks but felt no dreaded fist in the small of my back. Instead, I accelerated to 170. The car remained
at a fixed distance behind me, its huge Detroit built frame sometimes bottoming out in the dips and bumps in the uneven road
sending showers of sparks into the roadside.
The chase continued for one entire hour before the car slowed, eventually stopping and fading into the distance and it was
with immense relief that I did likewise - lowering my speed to a sane 90 which allowed the engine to cool a bit, but all the
time my eyes were fixed on my rear-view mirror.
The car had gone. Perhaps they were low on fuel. It was after all one of those huge 1960's American fuel gobblers. And I was
I never did stop at San Martin de los Andes. Instead, I kept going until Bariloche, where I re-fuelled and continued up over
the mountains and into Chile, eventually arriving in Santiago where I finally stopped and began my preparations for the journey
home - I wanted no more of South America and was only too glad to cancel all my expensively laid plans and expenditure.
Two days later, my machine had been re-boxed and was awaiting a flight at Santiago airport. I had a couple more days before
my own flight and so spent the time wandering around the city-one afternoon ending up in the university district where I found
a trendy little cafe.
I had only been in the place for a few minutes before a group of young student types entered, spotted me and - as usual in
South America - asked if they could join me for coffee and 'Empenadas'.
They were desperate to practise their English and even though I rather tetchily reminded them that there are other languages
spoken in Europe, I welcomed them and in my best 'English', entered into a lengthy discussion of just about everything.
Check out the Books pages for Travel books and videos.