December 11, 2005 GMT
9th Dec - St Martin de los Andes to Lanin National Park + evening ride along Lake Lacár

Mileage - 280 kms

Back to more routine breakfasts of a coffee and toast again, but at least it's free and keeps hunger at bay for minutes.

As we (well unusually I) was feeling a bit knackered by end of the day yesterday we didn't include a dog-leg up the road to Lanin yesterday, mind we probably wouldn't have seen it either as weather was poor, though greatly improved by that stage of the day.

Only half an hour back up the road anyway, clear blue skies, cool but warming and promised high 20s by end of day, and the wind had gone. Thank goodness, real drain on body and mind. Can't remember if I mentioned that yesterday a car pulling a boat on the mountain repio had chucked up stone that hit me smack bang on visor right in front of my right eye. Only an eye sized stone, but blimey what a whack. Can't believe the visor took it to be honest, hardly a mark. If I had my visor open at time I'm sure I'd have been blinded if not had a fracture in my face bones as well. Not country to ride without protection...and neither of us was going that fast at the time either. very salutatory lesson.



So we had to cross a couple of bridges that are always a bit fun (not). they are proper bridges, but on the deck they run longitudinal beams about two foot wide in the wheel tracks. Doesn't sound to dodgey until you're crossing by bike....and there are odd one missing ! As about 6" deep you don't want a gap ! anyway, always a minor concern.

At first there was a tarmac section, then it went bad, and from bad to worse, then again to long sections of amazing brand new road.

I'm beginning to feel very sorry for the bike with all this hammer. It's asking a lot to expect it to cope with half a tonne in these conditions. My heart is not in all this blasting around off-road like this, but, if you slow some sections are far worse, it's a quandary, but I'm trying to ease the best path possible. It'd hell on the bikes really. occasionally stand to take some of the pressure off, but it' harder with two as I'm only too conscious Bev´s' pegs are also the pannier mounts and we don't want those excessively loaded. The bike certainly becomes more manageable with me stood up on the rocky stony or gritty stuff. But sand...we don't want to go there, just plain frightening any style two up. Slow or slower only.

Looks lie we should be OK for tyres soon. Niks is not far off, past legal in UK, and ours about on legal miles left ! As we have been sending emails back and force to Sandra and Javier (as ever our saviors) I decided yesterday why not actually just pick up the phone - funny how often even at work you email rather than call, ridiculas. Anyway, as ever, it was a joy to talk and we spoke at just the right tiome as Javier was doing a tyre order just then. Tubeless tyres are very hard to get here so we'll be on Enduro 3's with tubes for rear. he TCKs have done fantastically well, they really are THE best tyre of their type in the world.....and not available in South America. Never mind.

Had a quick chat with Andy (and Maya, hope that's the spelling) who have been at the Moto Hotel getting there bike out of the port. It's not a five minute job at best of times. So they will be coming on down to Viedma on their R100GS outfit which will cause a stir, be nice to meet up again, the joys of a travelers meeting.

Anyway, Lanin. Lanin is one of the youngest mountains in the Andes being a now extinct volcano (here we go again). It's only 3776m high but it's fame lies in it's fine form. Think Fuji and you'd not be far off. Apparently it is often called Argentina's prettiest mountain.


Volcanic stumps


Stumps and Lanin



I prefer my mountains a little more rugged generally, but Lanin did swing me round. To do the peak justice you'll have to see the pictures.

The track into the park wasn't too bad and the views seem to gain magnitude as you close on it. Do you know, I think I could go for Lanin, only a 3 day climb but crampons and axe essential. Couple of refuges as well, but would have to be another time.

Just near the police point (track continues in a hairy manner to Chile apparently) a small rive course crosses the track and is mentionable for the fact it is coursed from volcanic material so almost entirely black, quite unusual.


Volcanic Rive



On this rare occasion we had not only left our passports in the hotel, but also the copies I keep in the panniers. So for that reason we didn't continue.

Nik had a minor heart attack when his 1200 brought up an "Engine management problem....go straight to nearest dealer" message. Like yeah right ! We'll just tootle back up to Mendoza or into Santiago in Chile eh ? Very pleased to report it then disappeared and stayed away (fingers crossed). Obviously in that situation we would have been looking for some strong guidance and help from back how. No realistic opportunity to get to dealer. that's were the links back home are so vital. There are so many folks in the club that can help and it's great. In fact of course our own little problem, the leaking master cylinder, is in hand through the good fortune of Simon and Georgie who have taught me so many ways to remain relaxed in what would otherwise be tense situations. cheers folks :-)
Anyway if the problem on Niks bike recurs we'll deal with it then.

So we thought it best to return to base and see what happened (nothing did I'm pleased to say).

Unfortunately though, there was a big police check at Junin....are you thinking what I'm thinking ? Yupp the missing passports. bugger !

The guy checking details spoke excellent English - a blessing I'm sure - and we were hoping to wing it. Unfortunately no chance. he wasn't a jobs worth, far from it, he was just doing the proper job. Not only was it obvious the passports would be an issue, we had the importation docs checked and then the "how much did you pay for your insurance' Gulp ! hmmmm...can't remember, quite a bit, got it in UK. Very pleasingly that was the end of that line of questioning (those of you wondering what that's about I'll leave you in the dark, it's enough of weight on all our minds).

Anyway we got a good slap for no passports and he checked with his boss and let us go with really a very friendly bit of advice not to leave home without them here. I had visions of poor old Nik having to go and get them for us, and still being fined. I have o say we can't complain at our treatment by the police - we were lucky to avoid the dodgey area NE of BA, but everywhere else they have been great generally.

So with skin of teeth intact we returned. Nik decided on he needed to get a bit ship-shape and popped to the hairdressers for a haircut and beard-trim. He went on his own and I can only imagine the interesting pointy language used to obtain the services. still, he returned freshened up and I thought that was a good idea too, well for £2 why not. My task was made considerably easier being the second Brit in the shop that day. Being one of Nik's friends also made it much easier, obviously Nik had made an impression, but I think he was hoping it would more with the ladies than hairdressers. Anyway it was a good laugh and grebo biker is less gebo now.

We decided to have a quick shot out of the bikes before dark as we had seen one or two larger bikes go through and thought something must be on. Bev describes it (probably correctly) as it being like dogs when they go round marking their territory !

We found no bikes but did find a very fine twisty well surfaced tarmac past the lake and up to great views of the setting sun on the Andes - hand on, interlude.

You do know that joke don't you ?

Son : Dad, where are the Andes

Father : I don't know, ask your Mum, she puts everything away

Boom boom !

Anyway, it was a corking road and nice to stretch from the center thread to mainly the edges. Mindful of cows locking horns on th verge, foxes running across the road, and rocks lying in wait on the road round the next bend we still managed a right hound along some blissful roads in blissful condition with blissful evening conditions. I'm sure the bike must prefered it to the usual absolute hell of the tracks and trails of recently.

As if that weren't enough the town had some festival on and we were able to go out and experience a little more of the real local life. hereabouts is a lot touristy and plush, like the lakes. but imagine a sheep fair of an evening and suddenly all those posey fashion conscious shoppers are replaced by real people and real life. probably were those in concern say watch your valuables too, but none of it. Good honest people having a good time.

There were stalls set up for tradesmen and women to sell all the stuff you see at similar things back home, and then stalls by - I think - schools and community projects that were doing food. Very difficult getting served as we obviously looked like difficult customers language you see , but we peserveered and ended up Bev getting a lovely women on side and some hot-dogs, chicken (superb) and beers for a remarkably reasonable price.




Is that Cumberland Sausage??

In addition there was a stage with a mix of traditional dancing and the like and music. Some of it quite good, a pair of brothers from I guess Easter Island (Ecuador province) gave a few good renditions but then a Chilean dance troupe came on who made come dancing seem like some sort of acid house rave party. There were some very good traditional dancers earlier in case you think I'm a philistine.

A late night for us, we were out until after mid-night....fortunately we didn't turn into Pumpkins. Fairly obviously most of the action I'm sure was well after we left.

Saturday 10th December

St Martin de los Andes generally

Mileage - 45 kms

Not up to much today. Got a lot warmer. Had a ride up to Chapelco ski station via some dirt roads that to be honest I'm getting a bit tired of now. Seems so hard on the bike, so much more leisurely going today. The bloody dust is maddening too. had a great sneezing fit today, plays havoc with the eyes, and the washing, you wouldn't believe it ! We generally wash and wear the next day, but the amount of dirt that comes out of stuff is unbelievable, but then riding dirt roads it's just funneled in. Be greatly for our green and pleasant land and it's climate...really !

The only thing to write is that we've been trying to arrange a train across from Bariloche (next destination, just south) to Viedmar on the Atlantic coast. There is a motorcyclists travelers meet there (international) and we will meet up with old friends and new.

It would be great to credit ourselves with this fiendish way of saving two or three days riding across featureless repetitive pampas (on dirt) but in truth it was...yes you guessed...Sandra and Javier who put us onto the idea. What's more the train is overnight and an experience we really want to add to our eclectic journey. just to put you buffs out of your misery it ain't steam.

I had tried emailing the train company, I thought without success, in English and translated Spanish (babel fish, excellent tool on web). A few days ago out of blue we received an email from an individual saying he could get the tickets if we paid him.

naturally, being skeptics, we thought it was a con. It's actually the guy who used to run the commercial side and speaks very good English and deals with their English requests. To cut a long, tedious and rather fraught story short we have finally achieved our objective. Of sorts. We had difficulty paying and will sort in Bariloche on Monday. But basically, the plan is to get the bikes loaded a couple of hours before 5, then then train leaves with us on. W have a meal and retire to our beds for the overnight trip. Unfortunately Nik didn't get a bed as none available, but I guess we can sneak him in on the floor as a better option than in a seat though.

whether our aspirations will live up to the actual we'll have to wait and see, but we're quite excited about the option and have yet to decide who plays the detective, who the corpse, and who the damsel in distress. At least we have our water-pistols which haven't been used since purchase due to dropping temperature.

That's quite enough ramble for now, post this and perhaps there will be a reinactment of last nights do but maybe with more gusto tonight !

Posted by Simon McCarthy at December 11, 2005 09:30 AM GMT

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