February 12, 2006 GMT
4th February 2006 - Puerto Montt

0 kms

Well today loomed with grey and leaden skies so our plans were scuppered even before started. No beach option, and no ride out to see the scenery options, in fact, a further 'in town' day.

It could have been an uneventful day, but it wasn't ! We spent most of time wandering around seeing the place, not museums and stuff, just streets and people.

In 43 years I've hardly been a victim of crime, couple of minor incidents in past, a bike nicked, but otherwise nothing. In all the years traveling there has never been an incident, a few sharp folks, or 'errors' but no direct street crime or other incidents. Today that changed....or nearly did I guess!

We got toward hungry o'clock and aimed for a small place not too far away that was quite busy, in fact only two tables free, guess thirty people in. We choose one table for two that was a bit on its own and between two doorways, the entrance to each toilet as it turned out. But as quite a small place it was a good table.

The staff were great and we continued our quest for good cheap local food with Pastel de Choclo for me and a seafood soup for Bev. The Pastel should not confuse you, although it's Spanish for cake, in this case it's a pie with meats and egg and olive with a puree of sweet corn on top....a strange Sheppardís pie type thing. The waitress asked it I wanted sugar with it which must be habit, but not for me. Bev's seafood soup was wonderful for her, but although I'm enjoying the fish I'm afraid shellfish does nothing other than disgust me so the soup was far from my idea of a good meal, Bev of course loved it though as it was everything she likes in one bowl.

So moving apace to the crux of the matter, we had Bev's small daypack with my Palms and card reader and like in, but nothing else of value, sat against the wall at my feet, safe enough we thought. Out of sight in a quiet spot.

The first thing I noticed was a guy in a grey suit come in behind Bev and talk to a waitress, I eyed him and there was just something not right, his suit was too threadbare for the way he was trying to wear it, sounds strange, but he wanted to give the air of someone in a suit, but the suit didnít match. I didn't think too much of it, but did clock him.

Meanwhile Bev saw a guy come in and ask to use the bathroom.

Bev looked over my shoulder and thought the guy had fallen as she could see his arm on the floor, and was about to say to me 'see if that guys OK'.

Then she noticed her rucksack moving through the door !

Bev leapt up and opened the door and the guy was rolling up his sleeves to open it and Bev snatched it back and quickly told me what had happened.

In all this time the staff and customers hadn't noticed anything other than wonder why Bev had leapt to the Gents bog suddenly.

The guy had left and I sprinted out of the cafe and grabbed him virtually by the throat, pulling his buttons off his shirt and his sunglasses and somehow his jacket into the process.

The owner came out and shouted thief (in Spanish) as I was chucking his jacket and glasses at him with him doing the 'what me' bit.

Thinking back I'm amazed of two things. One that I didn't keep hold of him and suggest the police - the staff would have happily done that, and two, that I didn't lay into him. Probably luckily all round.

The guy in the suit was outside too with I think a lady so it was a well planned action and but for Bev's good sight and reaction would have all happened with us not being aware for a few moments at least.

The staff were quite supportive but there was nothing more to do than enjoy the rest of our meal as we ran it over and over in our heads like you do in such circumstances. Bev had heard the guy in the suit click which must have been a message to the other one.

Invariably these people are slippery customers and generally not violent, certainly not in the context of a cafe environment, but the slight of hand if you can call it that was amazing really. You have to be criminally minded to be able to think how easy it is to do.

With hindsight you can see several things to avoid, but of course these folk are one step ahead anyway. We are I would say pretty vigilant to theft and pick pockets etc but they are fast and smooth operators pit against the best of foes.

Obviously after that everyone looks like a criminal, but this is such a rare occurrence you can't judge everyone the same. It might be the first time, but I wager it won't be the last time during this trip we have such an incident. This time we were lucky! There are so many variables in all these incidents that could have happened that would have made the crime perfect, but very few that would prevent it realistically.

We returned to the accommodation and retuned the items of any value before returning to town to enjoy the rest of our day. We rarely carry stuff with us for just such a reason. If you were too vigilant you wouldn't go anywhere or see anything. Then your stuff would be nicked in your room!

Sunday 5th February 2006

Puerto Montt - Osorno

239 kms

Well a very welcome return to tarmac for the majority of the day, and in fact for part an acquaintance with a road that will become our companion for many a mile from this point onwards, the Pan America, Ruta 5.

We left Puerto Montt on another grey cloudy threatening day. The views seaward for our first two days were exquisite. If you overlooked the tower crane (rather a feat) across the bay stretch the high and lengthy run of hills stretching far south that we had followed for days. In the far distance you could see a few snowy summits that must have been a 100kms away. Off left were two volcanoes some 40 or 50kms distant to the east. One was fractured and less picturesque, the other a perfect snow cap so reminiscent of Fuji, or of course Lanin the volcano north of Bariloche that we visited oh so long ago. This peak though was Osorno, and was to be our close companion most of the day until we reached the town bearing the same name.


Osorno Volcano

We rode off out of town on Ruta 5 (henceforth to be called Pan Am) and diverted east towards Ensenada on the coast of Lago Lanquihde which we would circumnavigate during our travels.

It is a popular route as it is one, and a very scenic one at that, route to get to Argentina and bariloche involving ferry crossings and some apparently stunning views. However we werenít going that whole way so only know the initial stretch..

As the weather was a bit of a disappointment first thing, though we shouldn't complain as the threatened rain didn't materialise, the views of the looming peak of Volcano Osorno were late coming.


Volcano and road

The first we knew of it was when the cloud broke to show the upper slopes of snow even with the bottom and top still concealed. And my, what a sight even that was in it's self. The area is very touristy due to this presence and that's no surprise. Photogenic is not the word.

We had a brief return to repio as we passed through a national park, but it wasn't too bad and there was light traffic.

Once on the far side we were in for quite a surprise! The scenery and everything turned not so much a 'little like Germany', so much as like 'a little Germany'

Like Puerto Montt, this area was largely colonised by the Germans way back in the 1850's and there are Germanic names everywhere and obvious stylistic references.

What was a surprise was the sudden emergence of pastoral scenes that would have you believe you were in Europe and amongst the Tyrolís of Germany or Austria. The sight of Friesian cows and large timber barns would fool you into believing you had had be teleported away from were you where.....except. All the time there was that huge snow capped volcano looming above the landscape. I can honestly say it's like nothing we've seen before, as if someone had created a montage of views of two separate countries.


Germany or Japan? Niether!

Some of the buildings were absolutely specifically German and it was hard to believe you were actually in Chile I had to keep taking photographs as the contrasts were sublime.

The road is such a shock too, I can almost feel the bike sighing. At one point I changed down and accelerated past a car and was horrified to see over 120kph appear on the speedo. Bloody hell, not that it's that fast, but I can assure you it is warp factor (how many Star Trek references can you get in one report?). After what we've had in the last few weeks (or lifetime as we call it!)

We continued on round the lake to Puerto Octay, which had been circled on the map after discussions in BA with a German couple who came this way a couple of years ago, and we called by for a look to remember why it was so circles. Angela and Axel had - I think - said it was a remarkable German village. And it was, so much German architecture including the church and convent and several other building some of which were sadly in decline

We were a bit peckish by this stage so were looking for somewhere to eat. A small Hospedaje (Hostelry rather than hostel) appeared that looked nice and traditional so we pulled up. Yet again another good choice. Though the meals were just salmon and chicken they were very good indeed and cheap too. We were thinking, and in all the time we've been over here we reckon we can only remember two crap meals which is quite an achievement when you think about it, afraid the UK couldn't match that level of satisfaction.

Once more unto the round we continued to Frutillar which sits serenely by the lake side with black sand lakeside beaches and a stunning view of Osorno. There is a famous musical festival annually here - we saw it on the TV the other day - and it's here now so was very busy!

We had completed our round and so hit the Pan Am for our onwards journey to Osorno the town. We wouldn't choose to run into another large place, but as we are tyre hunting it was the most likely place. There is a tour company runs out of here on BMW F650's at the least, so we guessed we might be able to get a tyre.

The other unwelcome surprise in Chile is that bikes pay on the toll roads, it came as a very unwelcome addition to the expensive costs of the juice. It's only a small fee, but it all adds up. The road is very good of course, not too exciting, but well presented and in excellent shape, which is good for mileage crunching spells which we will need to get up north with good time.

We reached Osorno in good time, say 5pm, but were grateful it was Sunday as this is a large place, population around 114,000, and not somewhere you want to jostle with traffic while trying to find accommodation. At least leaving is easier.

We aimed for the bus station as the cheaper accommodation is often in that area and true enough it was. The ones in the book didn't sound too promising - i.e. the ones in scrooge bracket - so we were happy to look around. The other thing with the guides is they seldom include anything on secure parking, which is a must with the bike as we don't want to unload everything every time we stop. We found a place with an elderly guy who understood Spanish perfectly and so Bev was struggling but we eventually found the parking was off street in their yard and ideal. The room too was large and reasonable with the one draw back on facing the road. The same one all the buses use all night. Ah well!

A brief walk into the centre confirmed several things, one that we have returned to having three heads! The thing that surprises people particularly it appears is our footwear. You can see them look at our boots and wonder, maybe they think we're retired skin heads or something, whatever, it's very strange. What makes it stranger is there are so many obvious descendants of the German colonisers so more people of blond or European looking stock. We can't figure out what it is that's so unusual about us. Hell, I wasn't even wearing my shorts!

There are several older buildings in town that show obvious German styles including some fine mansions in timber and some 20's style concrete ones. However, the thrust is modern with the inevitable shopping mall being the place to be. Had some very nice, and costly, coffees in one cafť. Hard to believe you are offered hot water and a tin of Nescafe virtually everywhere you go, real coffee doesn't exist outside decent cafes.

Hopefully we can find a new tyre and return to our village lifestyle. Our plan, if there is such a thing, is to do part of the day on the Pan Am, and exit it for some back road interest towards our chosen destination so we don't endure endless miles of boredom, and still get to see the country up close and personal. We'll see!

Monday 6th February 2006

Osorno - Curacautin via Villarica

Say 340 kms

Having discussed the amazing qualities of the food we are enjoying I have to add one caveat, breakfasts. Basically forget them in all but exceptional circumstances. The breakfasts here range from truly appalling to mediocre, with very rare peaks above that. Generally it's coffee and bread and jam. I seem to recall in Arg we often got cakes, and even if the coffee wasnít brilliant it was at least real. Chile is the absolute pits to date for breakfast, you would almost do better to skip it generally, and they are all surpassed any time we camp by what we have ourselves.

This morning 'offering' was as bad as they get. The usual Nescafe tub - with an even more inferior brand of powder within - and bread rolls and a cheese slices that smelt like they'd been stored in our bike boots overnight (and believe me I'm far from picky when it comes to cheese) and a jam that could only be described as such by colour. The texture was like sugary syrup and the flavour was like sweet cabbage, truly abysmal.....never complain about a continental breakfast again !

We had a plan to get a tyre before leaving and we tried a small Yamaha shop nearby but they had nothing I would wager Bevís and my safety on. He said try Moto's Kuper (Los Carrera 1291, Osorno) and indeed their range was better, they had a choice, not much, but I got a Pirelli MT60 for 28000, under £30 and a tube for a fiver. The tyre is slightly more road bias but should serve us well, particularly as we have a lot of road miles ahead. At those prices I don't mind changing again before Bolivia (if we get that far).

They don't fit them so we had to find somewhere. I would swear by your typical roadside Gomeria that you see everywhere in Arg, but here they are less frequent, and usually called Vulcan something or other. As we were looking we saw a Pirelli tyre shop and so naturally pulled in there, like you would an ATS or so at home I guess.

That was probably not a good idea as they appeared to have no knowledge of motorcycles in the least. It was a tense affair getting the tyre fitted I have to say. It's never fun watching your bike being worked on by someone you can't entirely trust, and tyres are a very important safety feature on bikes.

The guy took an age getting the bead broken even with a machine; I certainly would have achieved that with my 6" BM levers in half the time. Watching him fit the new tyre and tube I was to say the least a lot concerned. It was obviously not something he had ever done on a bike with tubeless rims Iíd guess. Once a screwdriver comes into play you really worry about the possibility of tube damage... you can tell if someone knows what they are doing, and clearly he didn't.

To cut a long story short with my assistance we got there in the end, but the sting was in the tale. It took too long to do and I think we paid for the frustration of the taxi driver who was waiting, nearly a fiver just for fitting. The compressor he insisted on using had as much power as my bicycle pump so the bead wouldn't pop.

Anyway, put it down to experience that one I think. Small places are nearly always better than the larger chains, same here as in UK.

We left Osorno with job done, and the hope we wouldnít have to go anywhere that large again for some time, and hit the Pan Am for a while.

I keep thinking these accounts sound like one long whinge, but I hope that's not how they come across.

We followed our plan to do some major and some minor roads and headed once more towards volcanic peaks and the lakes of this famous area of Chile. It reminds us of the Danish lake district of southern England if you ignore the bloody great volcano smack bang in the picture. It's very pastoral this area, apparently (seed rep in tyre change place) produces most of the arable products for the whole country.


The Chilean Lake District

There was some nice scenery, but not as - how would you say - stunning as in other places. Pleasing to the eye, but not gob smacking (oh look at them with their 'look another volcano' attitude. Sad isn't it but we've seen a few recently, and the best ones were first).

The volcano at Villaricca differs in that it's still active (but safe). You can climb many of these, including this one, quite reasonably. The costs aren't too high and there is the added aspect that you still need proper skills with axe and crampon, but it would seem to selfish just for my pleasure even though Bev says I should.


Another Volcano, Villarica

We had intended stopping the night at Villaricca, but as we got there we just thought it's too big and touristy. OK it's the height of summer here, but we really do like the smaller places were you can wander around and see the place rather than be swamped in your surroundings. So we decided to hightail out of town and aim for somewhere smaller. The only draw back was it was later so we would be arriving at that somewhere too late to be able to really see it, but what the hell.

We rejoined the Pan Am and got north of Tumuco before turning once again east to Curacautin to a much smaller place about 50% bigger than Thirsk.

The roads running into the town were long and occasionally winding and passed through some pleasant scenery. At least the road could be trusted as earlier the paved road had be pock marked with nasty potholes in the most unexpected places. Since the Pan Am it is obvious were the money went north of Osorno.

As we pulled into town I thought I could make out a bike up ahead, as we got closer it was obviously several. It was a group of Colombian bikers on a monthís tour starting from Santiago. Pulled up for a brief chat as it was 20.30 and we had to find a place top stay, and it tuned out they still had to get to Tumuco. Quite a surprise to see the yellow Columbian plates, and to see the bikes. The ones we pulled up behind were two 1200's and an 1100. They didn't even recognise our bike as a BMW! Good God! They did however caress the panniers and marvel at the quality and size, so there's a market here Vern for sure. They had flown their bikes, but assured us was only 12 days to Columbia from here!

We arrived too late tonight so just took the first place we tried which is expensive by our standards, but it was the last room and at least it's en-suite. But £20 is more than we'd want to pay, but nearly 9pm we couldn't be arsed running around. (In a.m. turned out to be 12000, not 20,000, so actually excellent value, and with garage for bike too)


Eine Bier 1

Bit of a ramble tonight explained by the pictures of our beers. We nipped out for a light tea - great you can get egg and chips easily in SA and had a beer to accompany it. The lady said small medium or large and we went large. Large would normally be half a lire, near a pint, but here it was a litre stein. We'll sleep well tonight then! The waitress thought it was hilarious and it rounding the day great.


Eine Bier 2

Posted by Simon McCarthy at February 12, 2006 05:56 PM GMT

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