November 14, 2009 GMT
San Rafael, Argentina, October 23, 2009.

San Rafael, Argentina, October 23, 2009.

CROSSING A SALT LAKE, RED VOLCANOE'S AND WORKING ON THE FARM.

In San Antonio de los Cobres the wind is howling and there is dust flying all over the place. Not an attractive place to be. And it's cold. We find a place to stay in this mining town, it has heating as well!
We buy a lot of fuel, loads of water, crackers and tin food. We are above 4000 meters, we can't breath very well, our lips are already cracked and our skin is dry as leather. We follow for 70 km the track in the direction of the Paso de Sico, towards Chili. Then there is a turn off. On the map it looks like a little village, but all we find are some abandoned houses in the middle of nowhere. We start to follow the 17, an interesting track. No cars, no people, nada. Loads of space, pinky, purple and red colors.

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Posted by Maya Vermeer at 05:39 PM GMT
December 19, 2009 GMT
San Rafael, Argentina, October 23, 2009.

San Rafael, Argentina, October 23, 2009.

CROSSING A SALT LAKE, RED VOLCANO'S AND WORKING ON THE FARM.

In San Antonio de los Cobres the wind is howling and there is dust flying all over the place. Not an attractive place to be. And it's cold. We find a place to stay in this mining town, it has heating as well!
We buy a lot of fuel, loads of water, crackers and tin food. We are above 4000 meters, we can't breath very well, our lips are already cracked and our skin is dry as leather. We follow for 70 km the track in the direction of the Paso de Sico, towards Chili. Then there is a turn off. On the map it looks like a little village, but all we find are some abandoned houses in the middle of nowhere. We start to follow the 17, an interesting track. No cars, no people, nada. Loads of space, pinky, purple and red colors.
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The higher you are, the more pastel. Some deserted villages and lama herds.
It's cold during the day, we are wearing all our clothes. At the end of the day the temperature drops quickly and at night it's around minus 12-14 Celsius. Higher up in the mountains we find snow, but the track has been cleared.

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Posted by Maya Vermeer at 06:13 PM GMT
January 18, 2010 GMT
DECEMBER 27, ESQUEL, ARGENTINA.

DECEMBER 27, ESQUEL, ARGENTINA.
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In San Rafael, at John and Annette's place, we stayed for 6 weeks. You can stay at their finca (farm) if you give them a hand. Before we left we finished the galleria (the porch). We did the concreting underneath in the early hours of the morning to avoid getting heatstroke.
I love this place when it's spring, all the greens look so pretty.
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We celebrated Guy Forks night at the finca. One of those great ideas of Annette. She made toffee apples and I made a guy from old cloths and hay. Annette had invited friends, also expatriates from Britain and the States (the last one's had no clue what Guy Forks night was all about!).
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It took all morning to buy some fireworks for Guy's night. In the shop they couldn't tell us how much it would cost and we had to come back 3 times before we got them. After Andy had fired off the first one, the hay underneath the trees started to burn. Some buckets with water prevented the finca from being burned down. After singing a song and a last dance with Guy we threw him in the fire...
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Posted by Maya Vermeer at 05:55 PM GMT
January 23, 2010 GMT
SHIT SHOVELLING IN 'HOTEL PATAGONIA' AND BONNIE MEETS TIGER!

SHIT SHOVELLING IN 'HOTEL PATAGONIA' AND BONNIE MEETS TIGER!
January 17, 2010, Esquel, Argentina.

Christmas was well celebrated with our friends Tony and Hazel in Esquel. We had a real Christmas dinner, even champagne for breakfast. This would be the last treat for a while. The plan is to go South, following the Caratera Austral in Chili and routa 40 in Argentina, all the way to Porito Moreno (an enormous glacier). It means we have to wild camp a lot and eat noodles..
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The Caratera Austral showed me one day 12 waterfalls in one view! Yellow bushes and blue lupines in front of emerald lakes and rivers made it all look like a postcard picture. The road was often full of potholes and deep rippio, but my eyes were everywhere and popping out all the time. We saw a hanging glacier and a huge waterfall with a rainbow.
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On the way to Coihaique Tony and Hazel took an exhausted push biker with them in the car. He had hurt his leg. When he had a look at the sidecar he called Andy 'a road worrier'.

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Posted by Maya Vermeer at 06:03 PM GMT
April 25, 2010 GMT

March 2010, somewhere on the ocean.

HEAVY GOODBYE'S, DROWNING SHARKY AND SAILING HOME.

On January 15 we crossed for the last time the border from Chili into Argentina. After many nights of wild camping we stayed indoors, in a place with a shower, oven and TV and behaved as greedy piggies, after plundering the local supermarket.
We were just back in time in Bariloche to catch up with Tony and Hazel. We had a great meal together and the next day they took of by bus in the direction of Cordoba.

Bariloche was overflowing with tourists, the traffic was horrendous and we had -almost- an accident. A car jumped in front of us and Andy had to brake so hard that the whole sidecar went sideways. It stopped a few centimeters behind the car of this stupid driver. He had to escape our anger.

Andrea, Klaus, Manu and Nico adopted us again. We spent a great week together. One day we went to visit Andrea's brother for a BBQ and a swim near El Bolson. On the road to his place we saw to our big surprise a sidecar; Astrid and Thomas!.. An omen, we would meet again.
Andy and Klaus were working on his bikes to prepare them for the next group of clients that he would take all the way to Ushuaia, while Astrid and Thomas were working on their bike in the front garden. Everybody had a good time!
After days of fun we had to leave our favorite family in Argentina. Klaus and Andrea took us to a restaurant and beer brewery for a last meal...
For all of us it was difficult to say goodbye to our friends.
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We left together with Thomas and Astrid. Bonnie was happy to ride with Tiger over a pass called Paso Colorado. We found a good camping spot. Thomas started immediately to gather fire wood, like men do. Our last night together was a nice one, cozy, while we were all staring at the fire.
I am sure we will meet again.
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And maybe we made a bit of history together; it might have been the first time in South America that 2 TRIUMPH SIDECARS traveled together!
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Our Bonnie was sad after being left alone by Tiger, but she plowed all the way to Chos Malal through the blasting wind and she made it 42.000 kilometers on the clock.
What a great bike!

Then the bearings of the back wheel (the Cagiva wheel) went. Early in the morning we tried to fix this, the sun was already boiling hot, not a fun job. We always forget which spacer has to go where, so it takes much more time then necessary.

Back in San Rafael John and Annette had been working hard to get the swimming pool ready. It was great fun to be in there, especially in these super hot temperatures.
Andy bought a orange blow up shark. Berwick didn't go in the pool him self (legs to white honey, or do you think you look weird in swimming trunks?), but I had fun with sharky, couldn't get enough of jumping on him (he didn't burst) and drowning him.
We didn't do any adventurous things, we cleaned the bike and she was even shining in the moonlight. Everything, luggage and bike was checked: we were ready to go.
We left John and Annette with mixed feelings; their place is like our home in Argentina, but we also like to go home, to Scotland, now.
We hope that next year, and the years after that, their plums will be big like tennis balls and that a walnut will be worth a dollar each. Good luck to you both and thanks for having us!

The road from San Rafael to Gral Alviar shows many farms, vineyards and orchards. The smell of plums is combined with the scent of eucalyptus trees and diesel smoke from the old trucks they are driving here. Then everything disappears and the land turns into campo, flat, flat land with some scrubs.
Somewhere along this endless road I smelled just cut grass and I felt HOMESICK!
Maybe a strange thing to say as a rufty tufty bike traveller, but at home I love mowing the grass.

In a town, no idea how it's called, we had to repair 2 broken spokes. The last ones.
There were so many mosquito's around, I couldn't pee in the grass where they were waiting for me. We had to spray ourselves totally, because there is Dengue in this area.

The closer you get to Buenos Aires, the busier the roads are. A travellers nightmare. The sun was shining on the GPS, so Andy had trouble reading it. I tried to navigate him by using the map and because I recognized and remembered street names from 3 years ago we managed to find Dakar Motos, the bike hostel, run by our friends Sandra and Yavier.
The hostel was overcrowded, but the company was good. We all took turns cooking and some shared the bike maintenance. Great fun to meet Ken and Carol again and we enjoyed sharing time with Sandra and Yavier (thanks for the great BBQ!).
Sandra had already started to cry the day before we were leaving and I have to admit, I hardly couldn't stay dry ether.
Our very last goodbye's.....difficult.
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While we were waiting for our Grimaldi ship, a German woman turned up with a small motor home. Also a German guy in a huge truck. This guy drove away to post some cards at 3 o'clock, the time the shipping agent was suppose to arrive. Later on the German woman drove against a pole. She had to stop for the Aduana, but didn't.
Grimaldi said there would be a vigorous customs check, but nothing like that happened. So we wouldn't find out what the reaction would have been to our machete and huge BBQ knives (our only souvenirs from this trip).

Two other passengers were already on the ship. A woman from Switzerland and an English lady. So we ended up with 3 German speaking and 3 English speaking passengers.
At 6 o'clock we had our first dinner together in the officers mess. The German woman didn't want me to sit next to her, because she thinks that I don't speak German.
The conversation at the table is spoken in 2 languages. The Germans, who speak English as well, continue in German, the English ones in English, so nobody can really have a conversation.

The air conditioning doesn't work well, we sweat our bits of, especially at night. It's difficult to sleep well, this vessel is also very noisy. Everything rattles.
Sometimes we saw flying fish and dolphins chasing them.
We are nearly there...
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On March the 11 we arrived in Hamburg. It was minus 2 and there was still snow in the fields. We were frozen very quickly, our bodies had been in the sunshine for one and a half years...
We arrived at the end of the day at my mum's place in Holland, her hugs made us warm!
A 3 week tour along friends and family in Holland and Britain followed and finally we arrived HOME. Our friends Fritz and Bev came with us and helped us moving all our stuff from the container back into the house... that was fantastic!
It's great to sleep in our own beds again and to sit on our own toilet. It's very quiet here, that is so welcome after being in many noisy places in the America's.
Andy is day and night in the garage, I have been cutting the grass. We are happy to be back home after being on this long trip. We feel very privileged to be able to be away for so long, to see so much, to have met great people...but the travel bug will hit us again!

Posted by Maya Vermeer at 07:26 PM GMT
 


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