Argentina
November 04, 2006 GMT
Buenos Aires - made it

Finally I'm in South America! 3 years after deciding this continent would be the next I'd explore I'm tucking into my first Asado (bbq) out the back of DakarMoto's with Javier and Sandra, woo hoo!

A few months ago my mate, Jason Homewood, decided to come along and retrace some of the places he visited on a similar trip a few years back and to explre some more.

So here we are, arrived on November 2nd, we start Spanish lessons on Monday and with Sandra's help we should have our 2 KTM 950's out of the port on Tuesday. The plan is to head down to Viedma for the HU meet on Dec 8th, then on to Ushaia then North with no real plan for most of 2007. Should be fun, will keep you updated with our adventures as it goes along...

Hasta leugo,

Pete


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Posted by Peter Baird at 10:22 PM GMT
November 14, 2006 GMT
More from Buenos Aires...

Well I’m into my second week of Spanish classes and as much as I wish it was getting easier, it isn’t! Lots of study required and those that know me well know that study aint my strongest suit. Hopefully a private one on one session that I’ve booked for tomorrow will get me up to play with the rest of my classmates.

The 8.30 starts have not helped us with socialising in BA either. Its completely normal to eat at midnight or later or to not even go out until 2 or 3am. We’ve been slowly building up to staying out this late but have yet to master the art of the siesta.

Last Wednesday was a big day for us, we got the bikes out of the port and back to Dakar Motos. There’s a load of paperwork to do and money to pay, luckily we had the help of super Sandra from Dakar Motos doing it for us and any problems that cropped up (for future reference, 2 bikes on 1 bill of lading is not recommended!) were swiftly dealt with. How you’d run the gauntlet of customs officials/import papers and warehouse workers by yourself I do not know.

I managed to flatten my battery trying to start the bike which caused a minor sense of humor failure but I’m slowly learning to chill out again after 8 years pent up in London! Javier charged it up for me and on Saturday it started up for the first time on Argentinian soil, woo hoo!!! Now we have the bikes we can’t wait to get on the road, alas the Spanish is keeping us here for a few weeks more but what a great place to hang out.

The Argentines we’ve met so far have been a great bunch, from the crew at Dakar Motos to shop keepers to commuters jammed into an early morning subte (BA equivalent of the tube, though a Jubilee Line tube in rush hour is a picnic by comparison) everyone appears friendly and happy to help out and have a laugh with you (or in my case, at you, when trying to use my disjointed Spanish).

There have been plenty of other overlanders coming through here too. They all seem to make it out to DM to check in and either stay for a few days, as we did, or get their bikes seen to by Javier. So far we’ve met Germans, Cypriates, Austrailians and Luna, an Austrian on an Enfield who’s ridden from the States over the last 18 months or so. Having spent a fair while on Enfields in India my hat is well and truly off to her. All have a tale to tell and an experience to share which is going to be invaluable to us on our way north.

So for now its more Spanish lessons and hoping to get a handle on the art of staying out late, like really late…

Take it easy,
Pete

Photos are of me at the warehouse picking up the bikes and then at Dakar Motos getting it back together again – I really need to take some more pics of this place!


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Posted by Peter Baird at 06:29 PM GMT
November 25, 2006 GMT
A change of plans... #1

What a difference a week can make…

Jase and I were having fun in Buenos Aires but I really was struggling with the Spanish classes, that and the routine. Getting the tube to school at 7.30 AM, sitting in the class for 4 hours then home for a siesta, more study then dinner was, in a weird kinda way, reminding me of work back in London (though I shouldn’t moan, it was bloody hot and the beers are cheap!)

So I thought stuff it, lets hit the road!

I finished up school on Tuesday, sorted out some bike insurance (5 quid a month!) then on Wednesday headed out to Dakar Motos to pick up my bike and... well, hit the road! I reckon I’ll learn loads of Spanish on the road and may do another week in Mendoza or somewhere else.

Luckily Dakar are really close to the the motorway heading north so I didn’t have to navigate through BA. To be honest I was quite nervous about getting on the bike, don’t know why, just a combination of riding on the right, not knowing the traffic and well... the unknown! By the time I was in second gear all these fears where gone and the feeling of this being the start of the trip took over, woo hoo, Iguazu Falls here I come!

It was stinking hot and once I was off the motorway onto single carriage way I just cruised along at 70mph, passing the odd truck and taking in the scenery. The road I was on, RN14, is notorious for cops looking for bribes but having read so much about it I was kind of looking forward to being stopped and checking out my technique for getting away with not paying (playing dumb appears to be the general rule, not hard with my Spanish!)

I saw the first group of cops on the left side of the road. Just at the last minute they saw me and I heard a whistle then saw an arm indicate that I should pull over . I pretended I hadn’t seen them and carried on, checking behind every once in a while to check they weren’t chasing. Phew, first cops successfully avoided! Wasn’t so lucky the next time. I’d just passed a truck on a really open left hand turn (okay, so I did go over the double yellows but it was hardly unsafe), and there they were... about half a mile down the road. I had to stop for these guys. They first tried to tell me I’d passed on the dos lineas, I pretended not to understand and he drew a picture. I then drew another picture showing me passing on the dotted line. He then tried to tell me that I was doing 140kph, I protested that I was only doing 100 (which I was, surprisingly) and figured there was no way they could have a picture of me as the only “speed detection” equipment they had was a pair of binoculars! By this point I knew they just wanted some money but I was still suprised when he asked me outright for cash. I pulled out a packet of cigarettes and indicated I’d spent my last pesos on them and that I used credit cards. Eventually he got frustrated, shook my hand and wished me buen viajo! Pete 2 – cops 0.

I camped up after 300 k’s at a site on the side of Rio Urugay (see pic). Was nice to get the camping gear out and check that I had everything I needed. A Stella (I kid you not) and a massive steak later and I was ready for some sleep. Day one successfully complete, yay!

Thursday was more of the same long straight roads, stinking hot weather and lots of trucks to pass. Was nice to get the odd flash of headlights and waves from oncoming truckers, makes you feel more at home on the road. I was doing long stints on the bike as there really wasn’t a lot to stop for other than gas. I’ve spent a load of time at petrol stations in the past and doing this again was telling me the long distance travel vibe is really starting to sink back in.

I met another overlander, Tom from the States, on a long straight road and we stopped for a chat. He had started out from North America with a friend but the friend had had an accident and was quite badly smashed up and still in hospital in Brazil from what I could gather. I hope you receover soon mate. Tom himself had had an accident just a couple of days prior, a fox ran out in front of him on a dirt road. Lucily he was okay but his KLR was a bit smashed up and he no longer has a speedo. Valuable lessons about taking it easy and watching the traffic for me, but you never know what’s around the corner do ya.

I stopped at a tiny town, Yapeyu, at 3 that afternoon as I really didn’t want to slog it out too much. Was met with some fab hospitality at the only gas station in town. When I indicated to the owner I was hungry she got out some salad, rice and bread for me and I chatted away with her (Roxanne) and her husband, Victor, for a couple of hours. They didn’t even mind that my Spanish was so shite, they just spoke a little slower. Lovely hospitality to a complete stranger (me!), its been a while...

The camping there didn’t look too organised so stayed in a bungalow for the night but following the afternoon food (and beer, of course) I had a little siesta (well, 3 hours!) I was so knackered I didn’t even notice the bloody noisy overhead ceiling.

Was strange to wake up on Friday and see grey skies after the clear blue of the previous days. Oh well I thought, at least it’ll be a little cooler. 40 miles later I was searching for shelter (see pic) as the couds that I’d hoped would remain on my left swept over so fast the ruts in the soft tarmac formed by trucks were instantly flooded. With my dark visor on I couldn’t see a thing so stopped and changed it, put my jacket’s “waterproof” lining in and found my over trousers (which I hadn’t seen for a few days and was starting to wonder if I’d forgot). I couldn’t find my thick gloves though so for the next 400k’s my hands where constantly wet, though so was pretty much every other part of my body too! The rain was incesant and the sky was only grey. I did get 50k’s or so of dry road before hitting what I can only describe as a tropical downpour for the last 50k’s into Iguazu. Was a right pain in the ass in one way, but a load of fun in another and is to be expected. Anyway, all is forgotten after a shower and a beer ;-)

So now I’m in Iguazu, home of the largest waterfalls in the world. I’m going to check them out tomorrow (Sunday) and hang about for a couple of days before heading back to Buenos Aires for next Saturday, meet up with Jason and head south.

Man it’s great to be back on the road...

Pic’s:
1) Looking out of the classroom window in Buenos Aires
2) Camping on the first night
3) One of the many long straight roads
4) Sheltering in a bus stop
5) A break between storms



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Posted by Peter Baird at 03:23 PM GMT
December 04, 2006 GMT
Waterfalls, crooked cops, “short cuts” and muchos new amigos…

Its been just over a week since my last entry but it seems like ages ago I was enjoying the grandeaur of Iguazu Falls… they are are massive and spectacular. The day before I was planning to head to the falls I met Glenn, an Aussie on a 1 year trip from Brisbane. He already had a ticket booked for the next day which included a 4X4 trip through the jungle and a boat ride so we teamed up to check it out.

The boat ride was really cool and allowed us to get up close, and even under, some of the falls and we got completely soaked. Good thing though as it was stinking hot again. I took loads of pics but here are a couple of the best. For waterfall lovers this is your paradise…


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Having been stuck in Buenos Aires for the previous 3 weeks it was great to be somewhere else and I ended up staying 5 nights at a hostel in Iguazu. Its been a while since I hostelled and I’d forgotten how easily you meet people and make new friends. Luciano, Raquel, Glenn, Eddie, Rose, Estelle, Mauizio and especially Helle made the 5 days a load of fun and as a result of a late night dancing (well, moving around drunkedly) I didn’t get moving until very late on Wednesday with the hope of making it back to Buenos Aires on Friday.

Pic is of Luciano and Raquel (Glenn is out of shot) following an afternoon on a flying fox and Rapelling (down a 7 meter waterfall)…


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The weather was back to its best and as always it was great to be back on the road. I find that when I stop somewhere for a while and meet some great people I just want to stay there and the thought of heading off and leaving friends behind can be a bit of a downer. It normally only takes a few miles to get back into the swing and that was definitely the case this time.

Apostoles was the stop for the night and again my lack of Spanish caught me out, I thought the hotel owner wanted 50 pesos for a night but in fact it was only 15, very glad he was an honest geezer (15 pesos is about 2 pounds 50, great value in anyone’s book) though my boots smelled better than the room!

The next 2 days where a bit of a slog back down almost the same roads I’d traveled north on the previous week, only punctuated by being stopped by the police and the great hospitality of Africa Twin riding (and camp site owning) Gustavo.

The police were a bit more serious about it this time, and on both occasions I was taken to an office on the side of the road. Both times I protested my inocence and on one occasion had to produce my first aid kit to avoid a hefty fine (thanks Danyelle, your birthday present from years back saved me there) and then mucho “no entender” and showing of credit cards got me out of paying both times. Note to overlanders heading up or down RN14, please don’t give in to these guys, it just makes it harder for everyone else. Apparently this is the only place in Argentina this happens and I suspect they are mainly out to rip off truck drivers en route to Brazil. Was fun “negotiating” though…
Pete 4 – cops still a big NADA!!!

A big thanks to Gustavo from Colon for taking me out for a beer while was camping there. The 10k ride home on dirt roads was taken mas lento (bloody slowly) and I discovered that Hare’s can run at 27mph when one ran out in front of me and wouldn’t let me past, most impressive!

Safely back at Dakar Motos in Buenos Aires I headed back into town for a renunion with Jason and another big steak. Aww, it was good to see him again, the big lump.

I was keen on a day to chill out but Jase wanted to hit the road so Saturday 2nd we headed back out to DM. I had my bike cleaned, reapacked all my stuff and we headed off. Jason was as nervous as I had been the previous week but being the “old hand” I popped a little wheelie on our way off. I can safely say we’ll both be needing new head bearings by the end of this trip (if not before!)

We were lucky enough while at DM to meet another Gustavo, this guy built the Nortons for “The Motorcycle Diaries” and had been allowed to keep the one in the pic below by the films’ production company. It seems like everyone in Argentina has seen this film (though not everyone agrees with Che’s politics) and it was great to see the bike and meet the man that built it.


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Big thanks also to Javier for sorting out the GPS points for our exit from BA. I only made one wrong turn and that provided much mirth as we negotiated a muddy road to cut across back onto the main road. We both nearly lost it several times and needless to say my newly cleaned bike was again covered in mud… just how it should be!


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In Azul we stayed with Jorge at La Posta, once again met up with Luna and her Enfield, and enjoyed some great hospitality and yet another Asado (seriously I’ve never eaten so much meat in my life).


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We’re now in Necochea on the coast. We had 2 reasons for coming here; 1, the KTM importer for Argentina is based here, 2 we wanted to check out the beach. Well, the KTM guys have been closed all day and the water at the beach is freezing plus there is no one here as the holiday season doesn’t start for about a month and the place is a ghost town.

We’re leaving tomorrow…

One final pic of a mint Mark 3 Cortina for those old petrol heads amongst us, they certainly make their cars last out here!


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PS. To Alison and Katy that complained they weren’t mentioned in my last blog, there you go – you’re famous now! Thanks for the fun nights out.

Okay, just one more...


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Posted by Peter Baird at 07:44 PM GMT
December 13, 2006 GMT
Beaches, bikers... bliss

We were pretty happy to leave Necochea, its a typical coastal holiday place but with not many people there it lacked... well, much fun! We also discovered the KTM dealer had moved to Buenos Aires so there wasn't much point hanging out there any longer.

After an easy, but bloody hot, days ride west we found another coastal hang out, much smaller this time, Puehen Co. The holiday season for places like this only lasts about 2 months but as we were a bit early we had the only open campsite to ourselves. The owners reckoned they'd have over 1000 people on their site in peak time, sounds hectic and glad we missed that.

We were lucky that the site owners adopted us, the boys helping to get our bbq going one night (with only a lighter and pine cone, much to Jason's chagrin)...


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And inviting to us asado with them the next night, Ricardo Sr. providing instructions on how to do it properly...


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We also had some fun with the bikes on the beach...


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...and did some sun bathing (though I'm still too white to release those photos!)


We had some bloody strange weather too, stinking hot in the day with thunder, lightening and hale stones in the evening. The lack of women to chat up was driving Jason spare though so we set of to Viedma for the HU meet.

As usual with bikers everyone was really friendly but we crossed to the dark side and camped up next to The Beast (www.beastlyadventure.com), a 1976 former UN ambulance converted for overlanding and driven from the UK to Australia then shipped to Buenos Aires by Alexis and Greg. They had everything in the back of The Beast along some great stories and pics of their time in Russia and China so we did well to hang out next to them...


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The five nights we spent there passed in a blur of cheap red wine, enterntainment a la Greg, a visit to a seal colony...


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...and some great riding on dirt roads.


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Big thanks to Oscar, Floppy and Nancy for organising it all, great job guys ;-)

I had a bloody puncture as well which wasn't much fun but there were loads of people to help out and many thanks to Tom who loaned a spare tube I could borrow as, of course, all of my stuff was back at the camp site. I had been meaning to change my front tube to a heavy duty one that I brought from the UK but had been too lazy to do it, wish now that I had. I also wish I had checked the 6 identical pairs of brake pads I bought with me (the shop said they'd do front and rear) as I discovered that they are, in fact, only for the rear!!! I've had to glue part of one of the front pads onto its backing... Apparenly there are a few KTM places in Chilie so I'll be light on the front brake till then only 5000k's or so then!!!)

Its not a problem, I'll just nick Jason's ones while he's not looking, or if worst comes to worst it won't be too difficult to convert it to single disc.

Its been 6 weeks since weve left and I must admit its been quite strange adapting to life on the road. There were a couple of days where I was wondering what the hell I was up to, "come on Pete, get back to real life, get a haircut and real job and stop messing around...". It was great chatting to Lew at the HU meet, he'd had similar trepidations when he first started off but over 2 years later he's loving every minute. Just talking to him made me feel a load better, cheers mate...

Posted by Peter Baird at 04:15 PM GMT
December 31, 2006 GMT
Christmas in Ushaia

Its been over 2 weeks since my last update but so much has happened (all good!) it seems like about a year.

Firstly happy new year to everyone and thanks for reading my blog and all the messages of support.

I spoke last time about the trepidations of starting off a one year trip. All that is history now thanks to all the great people I've met along the way and especially following a fantastic week camping in the National Park at "el fin de mundo" 20k's out of Ushaia. More of that later...

From Viedma we continued the trek south staying in lovely Puerto Madryn for a couple of nights then onto Peninsula Valdez to camp and, specificaly, to go on a whale watching trip. My knowledge of whales and marine life in general is quite limited but it was quite an experience to see these behemoths of the ocean playing around and showing off for our benefit, at one point even bumping our boat from underneath safe in the knowledge that there is nothing we can do to harm them...



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The side winds on Route 3 heading south were bloody awful and passing trucks was particularly tough, you really have to be ready for the wind blast as you get to the front of the truck otherwise it feels like your front wheel is going to wash out. Often I just wanted to shelter beside the truck for a while to get some protection from the wind but on these single carriage way roads it wasn't advisable! The relief of turning off the main road and heading to Puerto Tombo with a tail wind to check out a penguin colony was palpable, and the penguins were cute too...



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Rather than go straight back onto Route 3 we decided to stick to the gravel roads running along the coast for a couple of days. I was a bit nervous on the gravel at first, especially with the side winds, but after a while and with the lower speed of riding on gravel my confidence rose and we both really enjoyed the riding. The scenery was great and the lack of traffic made you feel like you were in the middle of nowhere, fantastic, puncture wasn't so much fun though...



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It seemed like everywhere we stopped we were bumping into bikers heading for Ushaia which ensured more than a few drunken nights and late starts. We passed quickly through Comodoro Rivadavia and Rio Gallegos battling side winds the most of the time.



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To get to Tiera del Fuego you have to go through Chilie and take a short ferry ride, then go back into Argentina going through the obligatory customs and imigration check each time. Would be nice if they could sort out a quicker way to do this but there doesn't appear to be any love lost between the 2 countires and I guess territory is territory...



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The weather had started getting a load colder over the previous few days and the night spent sleeping beside my bike on the side of the road a few nights back seemed like a distant memory, luckily though we had the wind at our backs.


In Rio Grande we found a great hostel, Los Argentinos, and again it was a mini bike meet with Emma, Hamish, Asha and Mark who we'd met previously and some new faces, Gunter, Fausto and Peewee (I never got the bottom of that nick name!) enjoying Graciella's home made alcohol until the wee hours.


The next day we made it to Ushaia, woo hoo!!! A year previous I'd been telling all my mates I'd be in Ushaia this time next year but wasn't 100% sure it would happen, all the doubts you have when planning a trip like this, financial, mechanical, whatever, can conspire to make you doubt yourself so the joy at finally making it was fantastic.



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After all the flat roads of our trip so far we it was great to finally see some mountians. Awesome they are too, snow capped and rugged with lakes dotted here and there, bloody cold though!


We hostelled for a couple of nights before heading 20k's out of Ushaia to the National Park to camp up. At first I wasn't so keen as it was cold wet and windy but Jason convinced me and a great decision it was too. Other bikers started arriving soon after us and a few days later we celebrated Christmas with 20 or so others. We tried to make a spit to roast chickens on over the bbq but in the end our collective engineering skils failed and they went straight on to the grill. Brilliant meal it though and a massive thanks to Emma and Juile for getting it sorted.



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The view from the campsite was spectacular and we ended up staying 7 nights there...



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Our days consisted of gathering wood for the fire, cooking, drinking, and just relaxing, just what the doctor ordered. The last few nights were spent with the fantasic company of Emma, Hamish, Val and Adam. Cheers guys, sure were some fun nights...



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Posted by Peter Baird at 06:09 PM GMT
February 14, 2007 GMT
Out of Chile... into Argentina, then Chile again, then what the hell, Argentina...

Leaving Jason to wait for a new rear tyre in Coyhaique I headed north conscious that I was on my own and fending for myself. “No prob” I thought, “I’m a big boy…” etc etc. 40 k’s into the ride disaster struck…

Okay so it only took me 30 minutes to track the cause of my bike’s miss-fire down to a loose battery terminal but that point at which you realise there is actually something wrong with your bike and ignoring it doesn’t make it go away creates an empty gut type feeling in the pit if your stomach. You quickly run through your options: carry on and hope for the best, stop and track down a truck to take you back to the nearest town, torch the bike and carry on by foot…!

Anyway, was a simple prob and once sorted there was only one thing to do; I danced the jig of my life.

The route north of Coyhaique continues on the Carretera Austral. There are sections of tarmac but mostly its gravel and winds its way up over some impressive passes.


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Along the way I met up with Katherine and Torsten (on an overloaded GS1150) and Steve (bloke from South Africa who bought a 150cc cruiser in Buenos Aires and has done pretty much the same route as us. Proof that there is always someone crazier than you out there). We stopped for a smoke together but due to the relative differential in our speeds on the ripio we arranged to meet them further up the road for the night in Puyuhuapi.



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Steve arrived with a puncture (his first, the lucky buggar) so we set about getting that sorted while consuming liberal amounts of cerveza. I most surprised that the tyre still had air in it the following morning.

Chaiten was the next stop, the Carretera Austral again confirming itself as my favourite road on the trip so far. En route I met up with Nick (www.wiatgo.com) and proffered some advice on riding the gravel roads as he had been pretty much sticking to second gear.


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Nick, he liked me, really... I think!


50k’s into the ride I hit a pothole at speed, “Ooohhh that can’t be good” went through my mind, shortly followed by “oh f*** my front tyre if definitely flat, bollox bollox bollox, that’ll learn ya”. I figured I must have pinched it. Worst thing was my electric pump had permanently died a week previous so I wasn’t sure if I could get any air into it. I stopped at what looked like a sawmill hoping they might have an air compressor or summat but no one was home. There were 2 large truck tyres outside the place and in a move James Bond would have approved of I tried to get the air out of them into mine… While to my mind this was ingenious, the laws of air pressure transfer (I’m sure there must be one) proved to be beyond my skills. Then I remembered I had a coupe of Co2 cannisters and hey presto I was back on the road.


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I’d decided to check out the Isle Grand de Chiloe, an island accessible only by boat and famous for its indigenous culture. A 6 hour ferry got me to Castro where I rode down to the very south of the Island where the Panamerican begins (ending in Alaska).


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It was strange to ride on tarmac roads with lots of traffic after the relative traquility of 4 days on the Carretera Austral and to be honest, I wasn’t really feeling it. That night I was the only guest in Sr. Luz’s hostel in Cucao on the west coast of the Island. She praised me on my Spanish but I think she was just after a tip. Bless her for making conversation with me, this was the first night I’d spent outside the company of bikers or backpackers – good I guess, but I felt a little lonely.

It looked like the beach in Cucao would be awesome on a calm clear day, unfortunately it was overcast, drizzling and windy so I turned around and aimed for Puerto Montt.



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On the way back toward Sr. Luz’s I hit a small small small rock… flat front f***ing tyre again! A local restaurant provided an air compressor and this time I found the small nail that had obviously caused my flat a couple of days back, as well as this one, D’oh!!!

(at this stage I’ve stopped taking pics of repairing flat tyres, seen one, you’ve seen em all!)

It pissed down the entire way to Puerto Montt so my memories of Chiloe are not the best. Can’t blame the place itself really, just the set of circumstances. Seeing the golden arches as I rode into town put the smile back on my face and I dined there 2 nights in a row while I waited for my boots to dry out. I picked up some supplies (air filter, new air pump etc) then set off for the return route to Chaiten, this time on mainland Chile. Great ride south on the most northerly part of the Carretera but experience permits me to offer one piece of advice: if the only beer available before getting on a 6 hour ferry (Hornoprien to Caleta Gonzalo) is a 6% local brew, say thank you and walk away (you’ll thank me later).


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By this stage I knew Jase had his tyre and was further south in Futulefu so following a tearful reunion we crossed the border back into Argentina. “Ahhhh Argentina, how I missed you so, where the fuel is cheap, a steak costs 2 quid, a Mk 3 cortina is a status symbol, and the girls all where g-string bikinis” this could possibly be the best country in the world…

Sticking to our “take the dirt road” policy we rode through Parque Nacional Lago Puelo. The lakes and mountains where all quite spectacular, unfortunately the only pic I took was of Jase’s bike stuck in some soft stuff (he was doing a U-turn so I could get a pic of him splashing through a ford but this one came out better)…


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El Bolson greeted us with open arms. The Argentine home of cerveza artesenal and hippys… we fitted straight in. We were lucky enough to meet up with David, a local biker and all ´round cool guy… he owns a lingere shop, ‘nuff said.


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I developed a taste for a local beer con Cassis. When I couldn’t find any at the supermarket I opted for another colourful bottle. My first swig back at the hostel confirmed that I really outta have made more of an effort with Spanish… I spat it straight back out. On further investigation I discovered it was a beer made with chillies, what a twat! Luckily I found a sucker to help me out with the second bottle, William. He had ridden a 50cc scooter down from Suriname. That’s right, 50cc. 55kph on tar, 15kph on ripio, I tip my hat to you sir.


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Bariloche beckoned. I got myself together and managed 4 Spanish lessons before my tutor declared me a detriment to the Spanish language. Well, not quite, but I swear he lost hair in the course of the week. Had a great night out with the Spanish school at the local bowling alley. Its been years since I bowled and was sure that they had machines to put the pins back where they should be, not here in Bariloche though, small boys did the job. The health and safety crowd in the UK would have shut the place down in an instant as its fair to say there were a few close calls.

Bariloche is a tourist mecca, loads of activities to do, walking and stuff. We had an afternoon on the pebble lake side and did a 250k loop of some of the other lakes in the area before finally leaving (after 8 nights or something, my liver needed a rest).


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Bariloche from a distance... its safer that way!


I met up with Tom (guy I met while on the road to Iguazu several months ago) and also caught up with Sev and Lorenzo who we’d spent several nights hanging out with in Buenos Aires. They were on push bikes and enjoying a head wind when we saw them on the way out of town. Hope its going well guys.


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Sev, Jase and Lorenzo together again at last...


After a night in Junin de los Andes we rode west into Chile through Parque Nacional Lenin on a route recommended by Tom. The road was proper off road stuff (for me anyway!) with rocks and ruts everywhere. The bridges were rated at 2 ton’s so its fair to say they don’t get a lot of traffic through this way. Another great ride. Took us ages cos we kept stopping for photos…


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Once into Chile the map showed a small red road as an alternate route to Pucon. This took us through another national park, Villarica. What a route! Basically they had cleared a path between the trees so we were riding over tree roots the whole way up.


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Was a bit of a challenge but the bikes coped bloody well. I came a little close to a tree at one point and a branch snagged my pannier. Luckily I stayed on the bike but it cut a hole in the pannier and ripped one of the top mounts partially out of the box. A deftly handled big stone fixed most of the damage. Halfway though the park we found 3 KTM dirt bikes and a couple of 4X4’s, 2 families travelling together. They rewarded us with a cold beer for our efforts, cheers.

Pucon is the Chilean Bariloche so we opted to camp on the lake further out of town. Lovely spot.

Having developed a taste for “small red roads on the map” we headed for another park but ended up on a road which led back into Argentina passing a fab looking volcano.


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After crossing the border we were back to only 20k’s north of Junin de los Andes so figured we should push on north. Again the road was awesome, really hard packed underneath with a soft layer of sand on top. Great for getting it sideway but not so good for our airfilters which were already starting to feel blocked up.


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We found a lovely spot to camp just north on Alumine and cooked pasta with tuna… again!


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A series of small back roads got us back onto Ruta 40 for a night in dusty Buta Ranquil followed by a big day in the saddle (for us) of 500k’s to San Carlos just north of where we are now in Mendoza.

The last week has seen some great riding and scenery, great fun and good for the soul. Its great to be back into the heat and Mendoza is a lovely looking place. It’s the first non-touristy town we’ve been in for ages, is famous for its great wines and leafy avenues. We’ll be here for a few more days before heading to Santiago to pick up my sister, Jacqui, and her husband, Trent. They’re going to join us on the back of the bikes for a month which we’re really looking forward to (they’re also bringing lads of much needed bike parts, thanks guys).

Take it real easy,

Pete
(we stay in hotels a lot)


One last pic...


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Posted by Peter Baird at 05:49 PM GMT
 


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