December 08, 2005 GMT
30th Nov 2005 - Mendoza to Puenta del Inca, then back to Uspallata

Mileage - 239kms

THE BISCUIT HAS OFFICIALLY LEFT THE TIN

Niks bike serviced, and recopvered by lunchtime after I gave him a lift in to Mendoza, poor lad suffered heart failure with three sets of disc pads costing £300, looks professionally done thuogh as even cleaned. Still no free coffee or donuts though.

Left our pad mid-day to leaden skies. For cost comparisons 34 litres of super costs £14, bythe way ! Didn't look good on the weather front, but in fact as we climbing into the mountains and followed e hidden natural pass towards Chilr thing improved markedly and blue skies and warm temporatures allowed stunning views of the surrounding peaks, particularly the snowy ones higher up.


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Cacti and Mountains, our first ´closer´view from Uspallata valley


The plae of our return for the night was high ltitude (well comparatively) plateau and a great setting to return to. It was very reminisant of the Tinetian Plataue up in Ladakh.

The colours of the valley walls was excepional and I can see why the high praise for the route. Stunning. Only beingthere or seeing the pictures can portray the wonderous colours and hues and absract mixes of sahpe and form. For this reason lesswords than I'd use, and hopefully more pictures !


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Stones and mountains, same place, windy as hell, not that you´d know from this


We reached just over 9000 Ft near the Chilean border by Puenta del Inca, which was hearalded as a stunning natural wonder but we were preety dissappointing. Compared to the mountains all around there was no comparison.

We spotted a Condor quite close, hundreds of metres away, but you could see the white colour and nose 'lumps' like a turkey has.

Saw where the folk walk in for Aconcagua, not sure if saw mountain itself.

It was weird how the cloud was all on Mendoza side, clear as bell in mountains, but very windy indeed in places.

Have to say today was the most stunning ride we have ever undertaken on our own bike. Bloody stunning.


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Valley and road, you might see road stretching away


A cyclist touring through gave us a big way, and we saw him on our return and shared big waves again. Now that's hardcore.

An odd final twist was when we saw a Harley Davidson Electroglide ride towards us and the rider gave a friendly wave. he turned and pulled in by our side,we met Craig Hutson on his way to Santiago for that night, wouldn't fancy hi journey over the mountains in the failing light, but he was obviously very experienced,on was to NZ.

Theee big other memory is the suicidal truckers, big artics barreling down the pass as if in sopts cars. Right across the wrong side of roads, slewwing and snaking on the brakes and taknig no prisoners. Bloody lunatics some of them. Quite scary, and these guys are safe compared to those in Peru apparently.


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Road and bridge, mainly for the colours, beautiful


We arrived in own before dark, as it was cooling and got an apparment for same proice as a room at Los Condores. 86 pesos for three, with a room each. blew out on tea with two bottles of wine. Bev and Nik not too keen but your less fussy author well sated and what an excellent day !

A weird aside was the photo's of Brad Pitt on the wall....Seven Years in Tibet was filmed here.


Thursday 1st December

Uspallata to Los Mollos

Mileage - 416 kms

SAND AND THERMAL CLEANSING

Managed to buy some water-pistols from a kids shop next door to the hotel. Lady bemused, we want them for soaking each other (well T-Sirts) when in the heat on the pampas. May only be 10 minutes cool reprise, but glorious while it lasts. Should bemuse people each time we stop too.

The ride back down the valley was of course gloroius and at least we saw the views the other way. The colours that were more drab on our way in were now in full technicolour with the sun shining from the other side.


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Coloured sandstone in the valley walls on way back from Uspallata


The lunatic truckers were still on the prowl however leading to caution. Even allowing the extra caution nearly wasn't enough. Three trucks in a row, a bit of a striaght and I cange down and go, indicating, and the last truck suddenly does the same (well obviously without indicating or looking) If he had been but a second leter I'd have had no-where to go. A scary moment. Ironically, Nik had gaffer taped his camera to his bike and had filmed the episode ! Don't suppose we'll report his number of course.

Regaining the plains we spotted a dead five legged horse, rigamortice had set in and it was obvioulsy a stallion !

On the multi leg front a very narrowly missed running over a tarantula too, they're a bit too comon for my liking now, that's two in three or four days !

We made good progress and then reached the point were the tarmac road went in a bow to the east and south and them west, and unmade roads went due south.

Day four (or whatever) of our BMW off-road course was now to be undertaken. We didn't have to take the unmade road, but decided it would be practice for what was to come. This was our first genuign 'Repio' road. As I'v mentioned repio is unmade road, but that's no quite the case. It's just not hard surfaced. It's gravel, but not the fine stuff, it includes sand and grit and pebbels of various size.


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Bikes and Repio, before the sand section, this bit great for 50mph (Cerro Diamante on right)


At first we were very cautious, but as we realised it was very level and compacted and was safe to ride on as long as you are light on the bars, clenched grip will see you off, you must left the bike wander gently....and saty away from the edge and any ridges of grit between wheel tracks. Generally the trails are as wide as roads, but efectively they are one way until another vehicle comes, so you have to watch for the best lines.

You'd be mistaken if you thought no-one uses these roads, they do. The epoymous 4x4s are made for it, but trucks and cars also appear...including two towing boats...hmmmm. But generally, if you were on your own and came a croper I don;t think you could rely on immediate rescue, could be five minutes, could an hour, or more.

So we were soon happy barreling along at 50mph without too much problem. The views to the right were quite spectatcular of the snow caps high above the otherwise enveloping clouds. But the problem is you can't look and ride, recipe for disaster. There were also a few lone hills - Cerro Diamante - stuck up like volcanoes, and occassional canyons off to our side.

We came across a damed gorge in seemingly the middle of nowhere. Lovely transluscent green water and obviously pretty newly built. From the downstreal side the view was amazing, the dam wall was concave, therfore we had been riding over thin air across the top.

So this construction had all taken place without one tarmac road for access, and presumably not many people get to wonder at the spectacal.

Through a tunnel and the repio climbed up the plains further before gaining the plateau.

Now the (not) fun started. The repio changed from well compaced sandy gravel to dusty sand. A very unpleasant experience when your front wheel starts to wanderwith it's own mind. literally slewing to either side. Bloody scary actually I have to say.

We have been doing very well on all surfaces to say the bike and luggage and us amounts to virtually half a ton. Thta's not the sort of weight you can right with a dab of your foot should the front or back step out. Likelyhood you'd snap something.

Anyway this truely was nighmare time. The first time it happens your heart stops, when it happens very frequently it is rather stressful in the extreme. Bev even had to dismount and walk for one section, and still the bike was slewing one way then the other completely out of control.

we had to persist with great caution. no point me standing on the pegs as with Bev behind me it was too unpredicatble, and far to dangerous to both stand up in these conditions. It's amazing how well the bike, and Bev of course, cope with all that's thrown at them. but sand was the limit, it just isn't possible to ride fully oaded two up and much more than walking pace.

The fact the sand is actually much worse, it's bull dust, doesn't help either. The only time the bike felt happy was in first gear at moderate revs, anything else and we were bogging or slewing sure to crash. With both of us and the weight crashing is not an option, too much likelyhood or injury.

Nik was able to stand and with the greatly reduced weight made better progress, though he had some mildy specatcular moments were I thought he was off.

Bythe end we'd covered 117kms of repio, of which 47kms sand, and that last bit had taken an inordinate amount of time. We were both preety exhausted by that stage and I certainly felt my mind had been pretty frazzled with the concentration.

The wind was behind us for most of the remainder of the route and we were heading staright for darkening skies and wondeful snowy peaks.

The last 20 kms here were a great twisty mountain road, with mixed conditions and the odd of rockfall.

When we arrived here I thought oh my god, it's a very small closed ski resort. There was one small hotel that had sighs of life outside, but looked like maintenace rather than anything else.

We were pretty knackered and feeling a bit desparate so Bev checked the door and it opened. Amazinglyit's a thermal hotel and for £10 each we get a room, Dinner bed and breakfast and a free dip in the thermal pools.

So, again, we had landed on our feet. No food sincebreakfast so hope dinner is good !

What better to free taught muscles, and remove the dust of miles of repio (you can imagine how dusty you get I'm sure) than t dip into a hot tub. Well that's over egging (excuse pun) it, but anyway. bev was tol by an elderly resident of how it worked and we joined her with our trunks and change of clothes.

We'd been advised to take 10 minutes of the 38 deg pool. So follows th prodeedure.

You have a changing area with slab and towel and the corridor down the middle of the room is actually different temperature 'pools' from around 35 to 42 with other changing rooms on other side.

The pools were actually likw very small flooded rooms 10 ft square with steps leading down to the rather smelly sulphorous waters below. The women thought we were mad all three going in one, but it seemed reasonable to us. two heads one end, one the other and we could all lie out and submerge or bodies. The water is very heavily salty too to add to the effect. It was pleasant in an old Soviet Sanitorium way and we enjoyed a laugh or two. After 10 minutes we were called out, back to our changing rooms, laid out on th slab on a sheet which then encased us and a blanket was placed on top. A further 10 elapsed in enforced relaxment which was very good.

Another shout and we towelled and changed - you leave the medicinal waters on.

All in all quite an experience, shame no pictures to prove it. If we end up staying longer we'll get evidence. plus I think we'd go hotter, the water was similar to noe of our baths at home...without the smells or salt.

Our tea has encouraged we should stay here a few days. At the pace we're moving (still too fast !) it would take three days to get to Bariloche, train overnight, and arrive for travellers meet.....but we have two weeks, however we spend the time its 14 night accommodation

Tea consisted of a nice home made tortia with salad followed by (asumed) goat stew. Lots of big lumps of meat on bone. Very tasty, with potatoes and vegtables. all locally made and delicious. a real family place with the most stunning of mountain views out front. It gives me pangs of wanting to be in Scotland right now and out ice climbing. The views are very reminisant of the Cairngorms in April or so. Not easily pleased eh. Food was finished off with fruit salad or flan. We also had a bottle of wine and beer. Nice family place so worth a few days distraction.


Friday 2nd December

Los Mollos - Las leñas and around

Mileage - 45 kms

We did indeed decide to stay for a few days and chill. it's a very nice area and worthy of some recuperation since we've been moving on for a whole two days since Mendoza.

Post breakfast, which like last nights tea involved the host asking if we wanted any more - how often do you get that question these days ? Nice to stay away from the faceless corporate chains.

It had turned from last nights leaden skies, getting used to the fact leaden skies here need not mean rain, to the standard glorious azure cloudless blue. Our mountain panorama was free of any cloak or vail pure unadulterated bliss.

Before I forget, the stars ! I'd popped out last night before bed to check the skies and was treated to a fine display. More bright stars than I think I've ever seen, not just loads of stars, they were brighter than the ones in the Northern hemisphere I'd swear. Also behind the hotel were two smudges in the sky I had taken for clouds, but as not moving I guess they are star nebula (might be wrong term) Some were familiar, though orion was not Orion, not ideal, no star gazer. But the stars are many and bright, first real opportunity to see them.

Anyway, we wanted to pop up to las Lenas for a nosey as it is Argentina's most chic ski resort, obviously not in summer though, but ski resorts are usually well presented and fairly high.

On way we passed the Pozo de la Animas, wailing pits, strange affairs. two deep circular pools virtually joined that are naturally formed. They were best part of 100 ft deep, wider than deep, and formed in sandy gravel so acute angeled and loose and wisely fenced - best phot's on inside obviously which is what people do (only another car there at time, tourist season not 'til Christmas really). The water at the bottom was turquoise green and very photogenic. There are so many beautiful things that we see and photograph that may not make it to the mails due to restriction using Yahoo...wish I'd paid for something else now, ways round it, but have to keep some secrets for our return !


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Wailing pools of the Animals, apparently they do make weird sounds as wind passes over then, not while we were there


Anyway the pits get their name as the wind whistles eerily over them...apparently. No wind in morning, no sound, lots of wind on way back, and still no sounds.

Onwards through, what sadly really, I have to describe as 'the standard multicoloured hills, shales and rocks' of the route. But belive me there's no insult intended these valleys have beauty that defies description.

The ski resort was like a ski resort in summer, very quite, butnot too ugly, must be chic ! We got cash from an ATM, saw very very few folk except people getting ready for summer. in fact sprinklers outnumbered people. There was the Eidelweiss cafe though with it's cheerful and helpful owner. We had a drinking chocolate and sat in sun (more later) for a while.

I'd checked whether the road to the Valle Hermoso was open. Apperently not, only 10 of 25kms. We set out anyway and after a short while the tarmac ended and it was a typical hard stoney, pebbly, rocky trail. Soon after we were onto day 5 of the BMW off-road course, today, Stream and River crossings, and for the advanced snow !


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River crossing using Vern's floatation aides ! Top panniers and excellent Hovercraft


Once we got into the swing the streams were easily crossed, took me back to India on the Enfields (organised tour) so nice to be doing on our own bike though. Slow entry, speeding up on way through and pop out the other side in one peice.

The scenery was sublime, and above 8500 ft so abov the snow line easily, in fact the road wqas carved through the drifts the higher we went.


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Bev and Nik, bikes and snow cat



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The BM stuck in snow, no side or main stand required ! Going no-where further, serious snow thereafter anyway, but you have to try don´t you (with a leaking master cylinder ?)


Finally we reached a much broader stream, fast flowing and deeper in the middle, theobvious turn road point....or.

Taking my tank bag off with Bev able to walk around via a drift over the stream I calmed my butterflies and eased into the shallows, a short turn slightly upstream and more power and the water was over and in my boots and the bike powered out the other side. like many a crossing it was far easier than it looked. I'll go for gravelly mountain streams over muddy becks back home.

Nick, though 100% inexperienced in rivr crossing acquited himself with gusto as he dived like a submerging Polaris into the deep water and rose like a breaching whale onto the far side. Very wet, but very stylish. Need less to say as with everything on this trip all this was caught on digital still and movie clip, more for you to see on our return unless anyone is offering up free web space.

Not far past that, up muddy uncosolidated switch backs we passed the snow cat parked up and then a strecth of snow. Bev hoped off, I tried my best to ease forward and managed all of 10 ft before coming to rest with no need for a stand ! That was that then, but what an adventure.

I never mentioned before, remember the last few days have been the Andes from fast on road to hard off road, well, a confession. My front master cyclinder started to leak and so far I've topped it up and stuffed some toilet paper underneath to prevent the corrosive material getting on anything. Anyway it seems to be holding up, perhaps a Christmas break repair...best not to worry when you're undertaking these minor adventure I guess. Worry yeah not ! we're not.

So anyway we had to turn and return. Even though I tried to remember to keep a hat on I hadn't put cream on and look now like Father Christmas apparently.

Back to the cafe for a fixed meal of Spag Bol, and ice cream and a fizzy drink for all of £2 each.

Back towards hotel we took some goat herders tracks, well why not. They were quite hard work, and rough, but got high up into wonderful meadows of strong smelling wild sweet peas. then bv and I took another that ended at another goat herders hut that was for all the world like the Hindu Kush or similar. goats, dust, snowy peaks a brown melt water coursing down with occassional sounds of boulders being moved downstream.

Back to base, Lahuen Co Thermal Hotel, for a hotter tub, 40 this time and a relax. with a face like a beetroot before the hot tub not too sure how relaxing it really was. Well it was great of course, marvellous.


Saturday 3rd December

Los Mollos - Walking

Mileage - 7 kms bike, 5kms foot

A SHORT WALK IN THE HINDU KUSH (NO HINDU KUSH)

Well we were all determined to get a good nights kip last night so set up for a late breakfast, 9am. didn't work out so well though. The place is quiet enough, virtually no passing traffic and few guests (reminisant of the Shining then). But for some reason none of us slept partcularly well last night or the one afore, just one of those things I guess. Bev and I have a generous room, as does Nik, we're on an all inclusive basis p/p so got seperate rooms for some space. Not that that indicates any falling out or split, just if you can get sperate rooms for the same price we may as well have. This is also the first place we've had heaters in the rooms and used them. It's quite high up and quite cool (no complaints there though)

I must do a bit of research on this place when we get home too as there are pictures all over the walls of the bar of Vincent Garcia, or other way round, who was our hosts father and obviously a racing driver of some aplomb. there are trophys galore and paper clippings and photographs showing a fairly glittering career by the look of things. He has the rakish good looks of Graham Hill with his thin moustache and from what I can make out from our host he drove Peugoets. The pics show an old car in fairly stripped condition obviously used for road (no roads) racing over several days and several countries. If I have translated some of the details correctly it sounds like in one particular year he had a close scrape, incuding some carryon with the police, and either came second, or was first in his class, or both.

Anway I have only skant details as our host though charming, speaks only 'black coffee' in English, and it is certainly another of those occassions were my lack of Spanish leaves me frustrated in the knowledge I could find out so much more with more vocablary. I guessed by the end of 6 months I would be speaking reasonable Spanish, but really I'm still using 'pointy' language (ie point and use descriptive words) rather than real sentances We'll see.

We took the bikes back up the goat track Bev and I had taken last night in order to park up an have a stroll nearer the mountains if not actually in to them. The track was more technical as it was not used by 4x4s and occasssional drainage runs ran down one part of it then crossed obliquely, and the surface was far from well graded with soft material then small boulders and all sorts.


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River and mountains from starting point



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Lenticular cloud above the valley where the hotel is - the road ´just´ visible in middle bottom


Nik decided to stop before the end and take some time out there while Bev and I continued as yesterday to the terminal sheppards house. I use the term house loosely. More shack with enclosures for the animals attached. Anyway we were greated by the usual barking dogs, like farm dogs back home all bark no bite I'm pleased to say. The goats were in the enclosure this morning which was a surprise so we ascended the hillside a little to get a shot. We were quite surprised to discover there was a sheppard in residence, he saw us, I waved, he returned the gesture and continued his lasooing of the stock. He was naturally very profficiant and skilled with his rope. No idea what he was up to but I have a nasty feeling it involves kids and Christmas, and I'm not talking children and Father Christmas, more the Turkey connection. When we've been in Spain before I have seen 'kid' on the menu, but we've allways been too late for it, here the timing may coincide with Christmas rather well !


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Goat stockade and Sheppard lasooing ´kids´. Bike in bottom of pic


We had ridden up in shirts, trousers and boots to allow walking, and buffs and caps to prevent dust ingress due to it being half way to howling gails this morning. so there was no gear to leave with the bike and I felt no compulsion to even think about locking it up, so we were able to wander off with ease.


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Cool mountain folk (?!) Standard riding gear for short trips on bike to get to walk starts


After a faltering start when we followed the goat tracks onto rather too exposed a slope for Bev we realised we would need to be on the other side of the river to get anywhere in a real sense. There was no way to cross as this was one fast flowing melt water mountain stream and if the current didn't get you (it would) the cold would be enough on it's own...plus there was still the sound of large boulders being moved along occassionally.

There were some amazing plants and flowers around. One low growing that I can only describe as looking like a moss or lichen, but actually rock hard to the touch. You could walk on it without deformation, some nice patches of it.

We wandered back downstream to the huts and suddenly I realised there was one on the far side, so surely there was a safe crossing point. Crossing point yes, safe ?

At a point where the stream narrowed, but by virtue also became turbo-charged in feroucity was a narrow plank, lets say 4 inch wide. it looked reasonably stable, but it still took a firm resolve to set foot after foot and cross. All was well of course and we set out - heaven forbide a fall there though.


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Bev walks the plank of peril (I can assure you a slip would have been very perilous even though it looks not)


We pased through an out of use stockade and admired the time and craftsmanship that went into it's construction. Upright posts of the local equivalent of a yellow barked acacia tree (ie multi barbed, vicious and an ideal security fence) and smaller branches inter-twinned to create about 3 or 4 foot of thorney hedged wall. Also one end was constructed of unrolled oil barrels with the multicolured circular tops creating an abstract artistic flourish. Very akin to African stockades - wounder what they're keeping oout here ?

A little futher up the scrub was a collection of quite large, say 6 foot high conglomerate boulders that in a strange geological feat were conregated in a little huddle with nothing similar about. I've seen plenty of conglomerate before - it's the stuff that looks like concrete with a sandstone 'cement' and rock 'aggregate' - but this stuff was literally as hard as concrete and the aggregate rocks sticking out even tougher than the bonding material. It would make sublime climbing material if formed into something larger.

Our path, well it was the goat's in actual fact, wound it's way to the right of the stream and in between little thorny bushes that had to be avoided with exposed skin as their thorns were needle sharp. There were many distractions in the form of minute flowers and verdant birdlife for me, and stones with promises of encased fossils for Bev. She found a couple of relatively good ammonites in pebbles and I enjoyed the sights of various hawks and eagles, a Condor, and nesting Plovers amongst the sparrows, finches and kites.

Though we felt far from habitation there were cows on the meadows just below the snowline, and wild horses everywhere.

We reached a point that would be the natural conclusion of the walk when we climbed a bit of a ridge that lead us too a higher plateau that would mean a considerable trek to gain any further benefit, so time to pause and drink in the mountain granduer before our return.

Quite apart from the patchs of strong smelling wild sweet peas and patches of bright yellow flowers (unknown but familar) there were clumps of cacti that will be stunning in another few weeks. Either yellow or white flowering and not something you'd want to fall into either.

We followed the stream bank more closely on the return leg and the breeze was strong enough to be blowing occassional mist onto us. If this is what the wind is like here, what is it like down on the Pampas, or more importantly in Patagonia. lots of scare stories of people being blown off the road in the stagering 100mph side winds that can occur from no-where.

The ride back was uneventful - just the way we like it, and we returned to our base about 3pm and rejoined Nik. I'm guessing we are all inclusive here but this is the first time we've been back at anywhere near lunchtime. 3pm clasified as the time the last diner had eaten and they were clearing up, well that means our host was. I asked about lunch and I guess he was saying too late and then offered us sandwiches which we duely took being half starved after our outdoor wanderings. He asked if we wanted beer which we had, but one between 3. The toasties were cheese and ham and stuffed us.

Back to rooms for a late seista at 4 to try and catch up some of our beauty sleep. by 7 we were ready for our now standard hot tub.

I'd swear the sulphurous smell is getting stronger, which is unlikely, and this time we opted for our initial 38 deg pool. Less sweating and more comfortable temps. The best bit I think is the end when you lie down and are wrapped in a sheet and blanket and lie still for 10 minutes. It's bliss, something I can't do even when sleeping. Enforced inactivity is a fine thing. There must be wind powered ventilators in the building as the errie sound that are emitted are very evocative. Low bass tones similar to giant dragonflies or some spooky film music. The mind is a powerfull thing !

I'm not sure of the relative merits of the salty sulphur baths. My ezcema has been better than for absolutely years since we came away, but not as perfect since the baths. In fact I'm wondering if yesterdays sun-burn (now greatly eased thanks for asking) was intesified by the residue of salts on me post-dip. I can imagine the miniscule salt crystals could magnify the suns rays, or perhaps I'm being a bit imaginative. Today you could see Bev's skin had a white dusting to it though, so possible. Anyway it's showers post-dip for me, and sun-cream when out. It's funny how you can get burnt and then have it eased so quick mind you.

And so another day done. Just dinner and wine and bed...or will there be more ?

Well the only addition was a surprise guest 'ruit' with the flan, our host brought it out for us to try. brite orange amazingly sweet, starchy and what was it ? I thought Sweet Potato, Bev though Angelica, but was actually preserved Pumpkin, odd, but nice


Sunday 4th December

Los Mollos - Chos Malal

Mileage - 341 kms bike

Today was a combination of many things. A geology field trip, roads of every condition, and most of the worst weather imaginable on two wheels.

The wind hadn't died and to be honest I think I'd have stayed put, especially as a Sunday and a long push ahead probably.

It all started OK with just very strong winds and the odd stray rock or goat to avoid but bright sunshine, but cool.

The areas we rode through seemed to encompass most of the things you would see on Open University if they were doing the earths geology. To use one of Bev's favourite saying you could really see mother earths growing pains today. Folds in the landscape and vertcal planes, expolded volcanoes with molten rock for miles (not a lave flow as no Volcano) and colour and tonal variations to march the scenes you see on the national parks in the states.


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Basalt columns – like Giants Causeway and Staffa back home


The roads were very hard, the fabled ruta 40 certainly lives up to reputation, even when fully good surfaced tarmac....which some of it was. But generally there were long sections of very damaged highway or gravel, or worse both togther, think marbles on the road. It's very hard riding these conditions with the added very strong side winds. the path you have chosen suddenly becomes the pile of loose materialas the wind guides you that way whether you want it or not. I had to ride with the bars slightly on opposite lock just to go in a striaght line.

it was no simple job of sitting on the back twiddling her thumbs for Bev either. She had the task a sidecar passenger would have, except we were on two wheels. Clinging in to me at times, leaning one way or the other at others. While I have the advantage of handlebars to hold to help brace my upper body and neck, Bev has little and was finding the wind a bit of a wrench on her neck to say the least.

The bloody dust ! It's bad enough generally, but in guess 40+mph, gusts there were almost constant clouds of the stuff appearing and it gets everywhere. when we stopped for a coffee and a bit of respite I even had grit in the bottom of my boots. The visors get coated in and out and you generaly feel filthy and arid. there were occassions when the vision was obscured by the dust clouds being blown across the road.


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Sand dune blown across road, not nice surprise, and not even in Patagonia yet :-0


The unpredictable nature of the wind is the bikers enemy. So many tales of folk swept to side of road, catching the soft stuff and going down heavily. There isn't much chance for looking at the scenery, just total concentration on the road. Being a Sunday in the middle of nowhere there wasn't much traffic which is just as well. Once again you realise the ease with which you can drive a car. all we encountered today could be easily accomplished by four wheels with the minimum of discomfort. In reality. on two wheels, two up with luggage this sort of day is too much, but you have to do what you have to do. I could tell for quite a bit of the time Bev was having a hard time just trying to get n the best position for her and also for us, it's a team effort.

Ironically, the best bit of surfacing following a sign for road improvemnts for 36kms. Normally that would be a nightwmare, but on this occassion it meant well graded gravel and sand lending itself to much higher speeds than were achievable on the surface we'd just left. In fact it was marvellous ! The few bridges we crossed were a cause for minor heart failure as the tubular railings offered little by way of wind protection, but the open crossing funneled the wind in intensified strength and there was only limited width to waddle about in. Really quite frightening at times.

One of the things that summarised the first half of the trip was when we can round a forlorn bend on the gravel and out of the dust cloud appeared a mono toothed Guacho who clearly hadn't seen water in a month, but perhaps beer a lot more recently, staggering waving his hands in some insane manner that suggested he had been out here too long on his own, the wind would do that to you, he wasn't seeking any assiatnce, he was plain deranged. I could understand it at that point.

After the so called roadworks we encountered a change in the weather again as the mountain tops were lightly dusted with fresh snow, or maybe hail, as we got some of that. It looked like we'd avoid the rain, but we caught the edge of it and I'd swear the temperateure was near zero...in fact it was about 9. But that's very cold here. It was short lived but long enough for Bev to want me to sit on her hands to stop frost-bite setting in. The heated grips helped my palms but my knuckles were unaware of the joys.

Now the situation had clearly gone too far as I was grinning inanely in my lid in a world of my own, guided by voices, all my own (remember the intercom is not functioning at present). I was actually laughing as I was applying counter streering to try and balance the attack of the invisible forces pushing us for ever towars one side of the road or other. It was bliss on the occassions the wind was directly behnd us, but foolishly you forgot as you rounded a bend and suddenly caught a strong gust again.

Towards the end of the day there was some fine twisty well surfaced bends but nothing you could take advantage of.

as we descended towards our little oasis here - yep, you guessed it - as soon as we stopped you wouldn't have believed the wind was even blowing. bloody hell !


Posted by Simon McCarthy at 10:59 PM GMT
December 11, 2005 GMT
5th Dec 2005 - Chos Malal

Mileage - 0

Nothing day really, for a change, Half a day fruitlessly emailing in slow cafe, Bev sun-bathing, little else (PS : Please note record short entry)

Tuesday 6th December

Chos Malal, Andacollo and around

Mileage - 180kms

As we'd decided to stay on another day and risk exploring an area without the guidebook (wow) we headed out after our rather dissappointing breakfast (3 croissants and a solitary coffee...how we've been spoilt before eh)

This area is pushing it's tourist agenda on Volcanoes, so it was another OU field trip in Volanology. Initially a perfect tarmac road lead towards Andacollo, the details I had surfed up the day before proved to be very accurate.

There was the corridor fence to the side of the road that was used in the goat droves, even now, well right now actually, still used. The tarmac road lead through and past glorious mountain scenery, which meant the obligatory stop for video clips and stills of your heroic bikers cast against snowcapped vistas.

Truely this was Marlboro Country. We came acrosss countless head of cattle and goats being driven by gaucho type true-to-life cowboys. These guys obviously live the full life, and a hard one it must be. They humoured us with waves and photographs and we were in awe of their skills in driving such large amounts of animals along so easily.


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Marlboro country


The mountains round remainded me of colleagues pictures of the Grand Tetons, these, even now, though low, only 4500 ft on road, snowxcapped.

The small hamlets here about are like oasis towns, clustered in valleys with columnular trees, the only tall vegetation in the otherwise desolate landscape.


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Homestead


Friendly locals all wave like used to in Scotland or on moors in years past, better sure when you may need someones asssistance, unlike our insular times.

Andacollo had accomodation that looked good, good food, not mentioned in any of the guides, a forgotten - but far from forlorn - quater of the country. My advice would be, come here, and stay in Andacollo, wish we had. great little place where you could immerse yourself. Hell even at lunchtime I threw myself into helping the locals bump start a car, and the owner of the hotelry had to have his picture taken with the bikes.

We rode around some more before returning to Chos Malal which is a big enough place to have most things, especially if you want clothes or shoes !

Wenesday 7th December

Chos Malal to Lago Aluine, Villa Pehuenia via Ruta 40, 23 and repio Ruta 13
Mileage - 200 odd kms

Leaving Chos Malal the weather looked mixed, still unseasonally cool, in fact the lad at the police check-point (no problems and friendly as ever) said usually about 30 here, nearer 20 but feeling a lot cooler. All liners in and the heated grips in use on and off, until near permanant towards end of day, more of that later.

There were long stretches of striaght road stretching across the now normal plains with large hills all around and occassional high peaks breaching the skyline to the right with their snowy tops. The scenery is so reminisant of all those old cowboy films. Reinforced by the two wheeled gauchos waves to their horse-mounted colleagues...hey, who are we kidding, but there is a link there. Not quite as tacky as those Easyrider murals of course, but we receives as many waves from horsemen as we promote. We do share a limited bond in our mechanical mounts with their four legged workhorses. We both travell with out belongings strapped to our mounts (I do let Bev sit there mind).


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The colours of the dusty sendimentary hills remind you of those jars of the sickeningly sweet and yet sharp sherbert stuff that came in layered colours also like those jars of multicoloured sand you occassionally get in tacky tourist shops. Interesting geology all around.

The other thing you note is the ccassional vehicles, or individuals sat by the road side in the most inhospitable locations at the end of long staright dusty roads leading away into seemingly endless wastes. They are the people awaiting the bus to take then from their far distant eastancias or villages onwards to civilisation for whatever reason.

Especially now without the intercom (hopefully only another week until we're up and running again) you get lots of time to ponder life, the universe, and everything. It's still like a holiday now, but at the same time - like every tour I've ever taken - it's like we've been doing this for ever and the 'normal' life was never there. Only the occassional realisation that bills haven't been paid at home, even though we left everything in place, bring ou back to reality occassionally. You can never plan too far in advance is my advice, set all your systems up a couple of months in advance so you know they work I'd advice, even now we have Visa bills unpaid that should have been automated. Still, it'll resolve in time.

To hell with that anyway, what of the day unfolding ?

We battled that insessant wind some more, occassionally I'd see Nik in the mirror leaned over at an accute angle and wandering one way or the other, truely we were weaving our way down the road like little boats on a stormy sea.

A lunch stop, it WAS cold, about 15 (I know, I know, but wait 'til alter before you dismiss it in your wintry hell back home) so we took a break. We had a coupla coffees each and a very large hamburger of good standard for all for under £8.....and that included a coffee for our Spanish friend too. He had walked in and introduced himself. he was here on business (aeronautical) and staying on a few days to visit friends and see the place. He's been the places we had, but running up to Aconcagua base camp and now bound for Bariloche. A fellow airhead owner back in Spain for once he was more interested in our bike than Niks. He was a great and very enthusiastic host and a joy to spend time with, hopefully we'll meet on the road again one day.


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Lunchstop


So we had choosen a route to take in a couple of lakes near the Chilian border that host huge collections of Monkey Puzzle trees. Our first site of the area, battling up a headwind, was distant smaller peaks with very obviously fresh snow. The trees stood proud like ancient Caledonian pines and for about the 100th time we were reminded of Scotland.


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Monkeypuzzle tree


These tress are also ancient and proud in stature. As we rode further in we were shielded from the wind - horah - and the trees grew in number to create one of the most memorable entrances into a new landscape I think I have ever witnesses.

This country is without exception extraordinary. It has hidden treasures that exceed anywhere we've been mile for mile. Our first real view was of basalt towers ith trees huddled in groups all around and a waterfall spilling over a face in a beautiful freefall with the wind only adding to the specatacle. It was like a scaled down version of that one at Yosemite, stunning.


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Falls


The horizon showed clear wintry weather, and as we have continued south the hills are lower, but more wintry...it was looking like we were about to become very aquainted !

Shortly after the rain started and the temp was below 10. We had to stop to don our waterproofs, and those heated grips were on fully now.

Our junction appeared and we veered off on another dirt road, the first and last of the day. This one, as wet, had difficulties anew. The rocky repio sections were fine, though of course all the embedded polished pebbles and stones aren't exactly very grippy. The problem was the more muddy or clay based sections, very hazardous, and very slow and careful thank you. Some sections felt we were riding on lard !

As we climbed we were passing more and more snow and then enevitably the snow was occassionally on the track. Hmmm....merry bloody christmas ! Anyway the clouds had closed in and we had to badger on relentlessly to get past the higher - 5000ft - ground and on our way down as it didn't look like it would suddenly burst into sunshine anytime soon.

True to when lucks on your side he track descended and became more sandy grit on clay and very good for progress, as long as you saw the soft spots in time. There were secions were the old bike was crawling along crab style sliding sideways. Several heart palpulations later we were nearer our goal.

As the lke loomed into view, and a tarmac road, the rain started in ernest. bummer ! At least we were nearly done. The small matter of accommodation was more problematic, either folk didn't want to know, or it was costly. we took costly but actually ended up getting a better deal chucking us all in together and an evening meal to make it unecceassary to go out again (nice one). Hosteria Al Paraiso gets a recommendation based on the excellent meal they rustled up for us at short notice and the very helpful staff. Spent some time going over the map and the places we had highlighted (they were impressed we had reseached so much, tick for Bev) and gave us some "local recommendations for local folk".

So your global warriors have not been forced to erect canvas and yet again have four walls and a roof. OK it was costly this time £7 each.

So you don't feel we're such wimps I should point out the temp got down to 3 degrees at one point, and the weather is set for 3 more days.

So, this is the South American summer then .....


Thursday 8th December

Villa Pehuenia to St Martin de los Andes

Mileage - 220 kms

We had a huge breakfast this morning. Home made cakes, several, toast, cereal, coffee, home made jams. Just about more than you could eat and they kept asking if we wanted more.

Sadly they had priced the room wrong to us and it wasn't 108, it was 180 so quite a difference. By the time last nights excellent steak etc was added, and 3 small bottles of beer each,the total was 270, or a round £18 each which I guess isn't to bad really but more than we'd have chosento pay, but limited options and it was chucking it down so we hadn't too much room for manoever. It was much more like hotel accommodation though and the people were very nice.

The ride out was on the tarmac for a few miles with a 2km diversion to take in the ski area, which would have given fantastic views if it wasn't for the fact it was very cloudy and about to rain. The Monkey Puzzle Trees are a thing of wonder, quite extraordinary. Common enough site in UK in gardens, but not in these numbers, normally solitary, and most of these are ancient and huge, obviously very slow growing. Many seemed to be in flower.

Not sure quite how, but in silloutte thay often look like something more tropical, like coconut trees. Think it's the fact some lose all but their top growth. Even odder when cast against a background of snow.

All to often the views take us striaght back to Scotland, ironicall at this time of year. This is a bit unseasonal here, but even with all the fun we're having I find myself pining for thr climbing opportunities. Though there is snow here, there is no ice of course.

There are a few lakes here and our drive around was nice though a bit dissappointing for the long views. In places we would have seen much mor edistant views but not today. The snow was lurking in and out of the cloud. Once again we were remarkably close to Chile and as ever had to go through a now standard police check-point. Just a look at the passports and a check we weren't going to Chile and we were on our way again. No one has asked to see the bike docs of any form for ages now, passports suffice. And at least they're all resonable and don't try it on.

A fox ran across the road in front of us at one point, quite large and marked more like a Silver Backed Jackel from Africa than a traditional fox of the UK.

This is certainly another area I'd recommend visiting, worthy of a few days for some walking if better weather at time. Lookef like the second hamlet might have a cheaper hostelry too.

he weather improved to much more sun, and it's more sheltered from the wind down in these valleys to but still preety cold.

Out of the park we again hit some startling new twisty tarmac for several miles then onto another repio that followed a fast flowing wide and very good fishing river. Fantastic quality even though dirt, and in fact recorded the fastest speed, at 118kms, of the day. As the route rose it got rougher, lot's of gravel, at one point a car had gone over the edge onto it's roof. Inhabitants OK and police were there. Still very volcanic with lots of wild rock formations from basalt cliffs to lava fingers and the like.

Another section of tarmac brought us to Junin de los Andes and first petrol for 280 odd kms. A quick coffe and on to here for bed. Found a place for 100 for the three of us, two rooms and shared bath. Awaiting heating making it to radiators and then off to ecxplore town and catch up on mails.

Two argentian reg Transalps and a R80 g/s that beongs to a German operating tours for german customers. Runs out of Salta. look rather worn, but guess up to task.

Posted by Simon McCarthy at 09:16 AM 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.


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Andes


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 limit....so 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.


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Volcanic stumps



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Stumps and Lanin



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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.


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Volcanic Rive



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Lanin


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.


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Market



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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 09:30 AM GMT
December 28, 2005 GMT
11th Dec 2006 - St Martin de los Andes to Bariloche

Mileage - 170 kms est

Well think I might finally be getting sensory overload, been a while coming, but think I may reaching a limit.

Not that the views aren't stunning, they certainly are, just bit tired of the views coninciding with some grim sections of repio. That means two things, you can't see the view without stopping (unless you fancy stopping in a pile at side of road of course) or you're half knackered and the view comes secondary to your physical condition.


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Mountains lakes and Lupins leaving Bariloche


This area is famous for the 'Five lakes drive' and therefore the drive is quite popular, understandably. meaning even the odd three tourist buses who WILL take the best path through the potholes, whether you're their or not Nice.


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Bev and Nik admire the views


Also there is a correpondingly larger amount of dust in the air which is frankly getting a right pain too. Ah well, the troubles of those out enjoying themselves while you work eh, I wouldn't blame you for limited sypathy too !

Still, some of the views where stunning again. Lakes to match the best that Switzerland can offer and lots of infrastructure suggesting wealth a plenty. Hence the prices are correspondingly more, and now the holiday season is kicking in too.

Some of the forests had some of the best coloured cleanest looking water I think I have ever seen, outstandingly beautiful. the fishing is famous apparently, and it would come as no surpise at all.

We stopped for lunch at very nice spot up a track on the hillside where the owner had a fundura to. Was - I guess from what he was saying and his accent - a pilot in US for a number of years, hence able to set up in a lush spot.

We never intended having more than a snack. But ended up with a full, and not too cheap, but very good meal. Keeping it shoorter than usual we then crested the lake to see the town ahead, not nestled in the mountains as expected but spralwed alonge the lakeside.

Eventually found a cheap place with Nik camped on lawn for 10 a night and us in a simple room for 20 p/p. The lady who runs the place is 83 and very helpful and knowledgable, as well as Spanish, perfect English and German. She bustles around and makes light work of the satiars up to our room that are more akin to ladders than stairs.


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Bariloche nestling on lakeside near the mountains



Monday 12th December

Bariloche

Mileage - 0 kms

A further day of frustrations regarding our planned train journey. We were unable to pay the money into the guys bank account as even though we had the cash it was not possiblew ithout us having an Argentinian bank account, which obviously we don't have.
Basically spent most of day bumming round tyrying to sort it. In end we got a mail saying th tickets woiuld come on an incoming train and we could pay there. Keeping it all short here as writing while awaiting going to train


Tuesday 13th December

Bariloche, short circuit

Mileage - 100 kms

Took the so called 'short circuit' which gets high marks in the right ups in the books, but in effect was half just a road through a developing tourist area, and half beautiful but extremely touristy, coach loads of people at the panoramas etc etc. Like the Lake District on a bust day at home, not our cup of tea. Really Bariloche has turned out to be another Mendoza, not somewhere we want to be, and realy not even a necessary evil.

The only fun to be had was annoying dogs - they bark all bleeding night and wake you then doze during day. So finding a nearly guilty party I allways like to start the bike up and esure muttley gets proper wound up before we go anywhere.

Not content with barking all night they do like to get out of their daytime slumber by chasing apssing motorcycles. This is a very dangerous passtime for us not them. They leap out from behind hedges of walls straight into the road. as far as I'm concerned I'd have no problem with having the lot put down, in fact I'd volunteer to do it. Obviously dog ownership here equates to having a dog in the loosest sence rather than the general approach we have (generally !) in the UK of pet care and responsible care.

So we half enjoyed the run around and even though it´s a beautiful place it´s very very touristy. Will get worse now season has started, but we have the transport to get away from it all at least.


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Argentina's best hotel, Llao Llao, in beautiful setting


Got tickets, but Nik decided the costs were getting too high for him so decided to leave in morning to ride to Veidma. As compulsory insurabce based oin bike value as was 20 quid for one way trip and his nearer 100 so understandable. Shame to split so quick without aproper chance for a good old knees up, but we´ll all be a Veidma in two days anyway. (insurance – like I believe it is 1% of value of bike, per trip, ridiculas)

Tickets were about 24 quid p/p for a bed on train, and 50 quid for the bike. Costly but we decided to go for the experience anyway.


Wednesday 14th December

Bariloche - Cerro Tronador

Mileage - 180 kms

Nik left early, we didn´t see him as making most of a lie-in. More on that later.

We went out of town to another beauty spot, unfortunately involving a one way road - 2hrs solid off road ride each way, 10.30 til 2pm one way 17.00-19.30 return direction. Was surprised we only met one vehicle ignoring it. Very very hard road, but extremely beautiful at end, lakes with crystal clear water, and at end a hanging glacier and tons of waterfalls, and the famed black glacier. It´s truly black, full of volcanic dust I guess. Well worth seeing even with the ride.


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Crystal clear water on way to Cerro Tonador



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The Ventisquero Negra, truely a black glacier



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Ice in front of glacier



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Stunning falls at end of road


Thursday 15th December

Bariloche - train

Mileage - 0 kms

What an experience ! 5 men manually loading the bike into a carriage. Will have to speak more on this another time. Scarey, but they did it, and our pride and joy is strapped down tight I hope (well there´s always the insurance to fall back on…….


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Wheelie Time


Posted by Simon McCarthy at 04:45 PM GMT
15th Dec 2005 - Bariloche to Viedma

Mileage - 0 kms (except to station)

Well this is a rare experience, the hustle and bustle of the train station. Regular for the backpackers and like, but not for your global motorcycle adventurer everyday. It might not be the baggage car across the Siberian tundra it might not even be a necessity, but it is an experience alright.

So our adventure started for this leg many days ago with the elaborate attempts to even obtain details, and thence some time after, the tickets themselves.

I have elaborated on the frustrations encountered already, but I can assure you those are as nothing compared to the reality of the situation. There were times when it seemed this would never happen, and of course for Nik it hasn't due to the financial implications of insurance costs.

Watching the loading and securing of our cargo this morning I am more convinced of the complete farce of having to pay 1% of the vehicles value.

I had mistakenly believed (never trust a nice web-site !) that there were to be a couple of carriages of 'low loader' type onto which we would ride the bike and naturally enough there would be adequate stowing points to safely lodge the bike in static and immobile integrity. Oh how we can laugh now ! Box Car Willie must have written a song about this I'm sure.

So, from the fantasy of riding the bike onto a low loader to the reality of the situation....how many people would it take, do you think, to load a cumbersome overland motorcycle into a box car ? Yes, you read that right, a bloody box car, a big grey standard issue cargo van. I know what you're thinking; just ride the bike off the platform through the opening. Well you're right....no hang on a minute- went into fantasy land again there for a moment.

Let’s paint the whole scene for you shall we ? Yes why not, it'd be amusing after all.

The station bears enough character for a brief description on its own. It was a station once (OK it is still a station, but no indication on either visit before leaving of it being working). Those images in the westerns you are all familiar with ring true. you can virtually see the tumbleweed blowing past in the dust through the opening to the platform and inside the empty space of the foyer dimly lit with one or two people attempting to carry out business with staff about as uninterested as they could get. So there is the station as is.

We arrived at 11am (train leaves - in theory - at 5pm) after the usual lack of communications with the staff, my fault not theirs as obviously, they spoke perfect Spanish ! After some time it dawned on me the low loader wasn't the weapon of choice, but the humble collective of grey sad old and weary box cars three lines away that I had assumed were abandoned where in fact Patagonia Rail's top class rolling stock.

Something was immediately obvious to me. The side entry doors were 4 foot above the rails. hmmmm. At first I imagined a very dangerous 'riding the plank' experience was forthcoming. It would need to be a very long, very strong, and very bloody wide plank for me to want to attempt it safely. I needed have worried.

How heavy is the bike they asked ? more of less 400 kgs I said. A quick bit of maths and a few shouts to gather staff (I guessed a winch perhaps ? Ho ho) and it was apparent they were going to bodily lift it it into the box car. Bloody hell !

I had to ride the bike round and up to edge of car - an easy enough task strangely enough as the lack of maintenance meant all rails here only protrude about or 4 inches. Otherwise, say as in UK, it wouldn't have been able to cross all the lines..

Once in position the crew assigned their handling points. Now again I must interrupt myself to describe the crew.

There were the two men from the cargo handling area who looked like something from Open All Hours with there grey grocers jackets, neither a year under 60, and in fact one of the two nearer 70. There were two further guys, one small and a little portly, and one thin as a latt. So the odd one out was the one who actually looked like he could do manual work....he'd be strimming the tracks up to this point.

So, you get the picture, not exactly the fittest or strongest looking set of people to bodily lift the bike 4 foot. I was wondering why we hadn't yet done the paperwork for the insurance when they started to up-end the bike. Petrol poured from the carbs, but did little to concern our crew, within no time the bike was popping the most monstrous of wheelies of its career and they were asking me to climb into the doorway to manipulate the front wheel in the right direction.


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The train, loading bike, up-ended,


Well, to be frank, I could see no way on earth this was going to work, but in the same way you allow skilled physicians to work on your new born I was at no point able to withdraw from allowing the motley crew there task in hand. It should be obvious there was no similarity between the physicians and the crew of course !


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and into the wagon


Quite beyond my belief they did raise the bike to a point I could rotate the wheel to ease it forwards, they barely even touched the bash plate on the door edge. I have to say I was completely amazed that the bulky weight of the bike had been raised to above shoulder height by these guys. Now you can't imagine that in the UK can you, would break every rule in the H&S handbook, no library !

The rear number plate got a crack, but I guess I'll live with that, I'm sure there is a £1000 excess on any claim anyway.

I think I can say with hand on heart that Nik would be certain to have suffered a massive heat failure had he stayed on. I don't think you'd ever seriously consider putting your pride and joy through these hoops to avoid two days riding....and with hindsight...oh well it's an adventure alright !

And so to stowing of the bike.

Initially it was via an elaborate criss-cross of ropes suspended from ceiling rails that gave the bike the somewhat odd perspective of auto-erotic bondage. It could work - I don't mean as a turn on fools - I mean as a method of securing. But not long after 'completion' the store man returned and rubbished the handiwork and from what I picked up suggested it should be stowed more like cargo, i.e. attached to the side, akin to on a ferry. this sounded better I must confess and put my mind at ease from some bizarre sex act taking place once I had left.


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Attempt 1 of strapping, the bondage swing


We started all over again, my involvement being to limit the tying points to things that were safe to stow to, and ensure that there wasn't too much that would be rubbed through. I can't see the bike getting off the other side un-marked, and I won't expect it, but limiting the damage would be good.

A settee back was brought in to stick between pannier and wall and the whole progress of attaching new screw in stowing points began again. Quite a carry on all together. Still, after another hour it was done and looked better and more secure though not to a standard you could expect in most western countries. For a newer bike it would be a nightmare.


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Final strapping down


The work complete there was nothing to do but cross my fingers and hope for the best. Hope strongly !

We now returned to the familiar enclave of the baggage handlers office and did the paperwork. A price of 67 pesos for the bike, then the tax, then 1% of my declared value of £2000. So in total, a payment of 237 pesos, or £47.50, of which insurance £20. Payment, rather surprisingly, was OK by Visa.

So the total cost was £24 for each of us and £48 for the bike. Certainly cheaper going by road, but what price this experience ?

A peso each, each way on the bus into town to kill a few hours before the train was due to leave and we were still back for 16.20 in case the train left on time (or at all !)

Returning we gave 5 pesos to the baggage man for looking after our lids and jackets, went straight in his pocket of course. I'd given the two guys who tied the bike 20 pesos by way of thanks too, half that advised by our ticket seller, but twice as much as perhaps the stowing was worth.

The station actually looked like a (run down) station when we returned, as it was littered with bodies of people obviously going where we were - so there was a train then ! It seemed a mystical experience until we saw there were other people here now.

The majority of the people looked pretty poor, many indigenous faces, a few regular passengers, and one or two of what I assume would be folk making 'rail journeys', older westerners, not that I expect this will be in the league of crossing India or Canada on those classic train journeys.

The train did actually appear fairly well on time and there was much hustle and bustle as everyone made there way to the platform, though not a mass scrum like so often would occur in Britain to be fair.

The train had definitely seen better days and though painted for maintenance purposes there was no sign of loving attention or any indication of pride etc.

There was one carriage titled Dormitos (or similar) that contained 22 beds as far as we can tell. We boarded and were handed our complimentary champagne and shown to our walnut lined chrome 30's style compartment were the valet explained the various functions of the buttons and switches and how to get his attention and what time cocktails would be served.

So then, did I have you believing any of that ? it's not quite like that I'm afraid ! Not bad though ! In effect we have a compartment to ourselves that is 8x4.5 foot with a window and shutter and a leatherette spacious seat that is creating sweat aplenty as I sit and type. On the wall are two slim cupboards one with a pair of towels and soap, and space to hang a dwarfs suit. There is storage space a plenty overhead and a wash hand basin in the corner that doubles as an executive writing desk on this occasion. There are banks of switches for lights that actually work ! A charging young lady has given us a key for our door and the only real downside I can see is there is one ladies and one gents for the carriage.

The AC has fortunately kicked in and it's not looking to bad. We have had a reservation for dinner at 21.30 so that will be our next adventure, update shortly...ish

The train timing somewhat surprised us too, at 17.15 there was a tug and shake and we were off. Well, for all of 30 minutes anyway.

Apparently this train runs through a fairly barren stretch of Pampas, and although there is a repio road adjacent, it is by all accounts very poor. Christian, the guy in Belgrano with the KTM had warned us it was very poor and had little fuel along it (probably no gas stations I'd guess). We have been told, by the hosts in out rather posh hotel, that if you are down in Patagonia and you are running low you can purchase fuel from the estasions(the enormous cattle ranches out here) though you might have quite a trek down their accesses to find anything.

So we've been sat here, 30 minutes down the line, for over an hour now. The engines have just stopped, and of course we have no clue what the problem (if any) is. Apparently the train stops in remote spots to provide a lifeline to the extreme hamlets along the way...I don't think 30 minutes into the journey classifies as one of these locations though ! (ended up near three hours, locomotive probs fixed with spanner and screwdriver)

Interestingly the box cars are out front ahead of the twin locomotives...are you thinking what I'm thinking ? If the train did de-rail (as it has in past) I guess they come off first. hmmmm


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Train breakdown 1 after 30 mins


We had a wander through the train and it seems behind us is the Pullman class which seems quite reasonable with spacious chairs that can be well adjusted. Just ahead is the restaurant with another empty restaurant car ahead of that, then the - I guess - third class carriages between that and locomotives. It looks a bit rougher up there with kids yelling and running up and down and definitely more indigenous faces than anything else, in fact nearly all.

There's a nice rain storm with distant thunder and lightening going on so at least we're spared that. wish I'd picked up that English lass's free give away book now. And it's title ? The Patagonia Express by Paul Theroux, would have made an ironic read just now..

Our designated dinner time came and we were given a choice of starters, had steaks as main, and skipped pudding. Set price of 20 pesos which was a bit of a bargain. Shared table with an American and arg/american couple. Behind us was s guy who grew up in Newcastle and knew Northallerton well, but been living here for 8 years.

Some of the scenery we went through before dinner was exceptional, yet again all volcanic geology, but different versions of strata from previous, quite exceptional. Fantastic country to visit from a geology perspective.

Our dinner had been a leisurely affair and we didn't get to our beds til about 1am. The beds had been lowered and of course had linen etc on. About 1.30 they spent around an hour breaking into next door when the dodry old folk locked themselves out going to toilet, apart from that it was a remarkably good night kip, rougher than many a ferry crossing on board here, hope bike has faired well !

We just caught breakfast at 10 as we were in our last major stop before the end. We had been stopped at 1am for a couple of ours at another town too, presumably unloading.

After a lot of shunting of carriages back and forth - to unload the required ones - the locomotives were at the other end and we were now reverse traveling - ironically meaning for first time we were facing direction of travel.

We have certainly enjoyed the journey from the perspective of complete change, not like ridding the bike at all. Not exactly luxurious travel, but probably as near as we can get. You have to offset the Advantages of traveling overnight with the fact that you see less scenery, but probably most of the latter part was the Pampas we've seen so much of already. If we hadn’t had been delayed so long we would have been treated to some great scenery over dinner, but alas that was not to be.

Some of the bends last night were so tight you could look out the window and see the front and back of the train (it's not that long really either). No wonder the rack is so rough, next minute it's dead slow and stop up-hill, thence a ferocious charge downhill at breakneck speed. I can certainly imagine the train occasionally de-railing.

So I thought the train arrives in Viedmar in morning, but it's looking distinctly like afternoon and the hot part of the day as I see it. I hope the unloading is easier than the ;loading as I'm not sure I can take another of those experiences, and it would be nice to leave the station promptly and with everything in one piece, more on that later.

At yet another impromptu stop due to locomotive problems we spy a tortoise wandering through the arid scrub, strange sight indeed. At least the AC is still functioning so comfortable stuck in the middle of nowhere, another tortoise now wandering around too.

Wonder, when, or if, we'll arrive. May be a night in Viedma at this rate, or arrival at the campsite in dark, if we could even find it, even the train journey is an adventure !

Well, we did arrive, obviously, but several hours late, 6in fact, but at least we saw the faces of Nik and Javier on the platform which was very welcome.

So then we went to the goods wagon.....oh dear ! I might have guessed, seeing as the old train was wriggling like a slug in salt at times, the bike was not as left.

Beyond chairs and random oil drums was a sad sight, the bike tilted at 45 degrees leaning on the left bar and pannier with front wheel against the end of the wagon. Expletive, expletive, expletive.


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The day after!


So basically three people, two being Javier and Nik, lifted the bike onto the platform - at least here it was a third the height difference - and we examined it. I was not a happy bunny to say the least. You have to sign for the bike and obviously if you do you're waiving your rights to any compensation. I strongly suspect the insurance would be worthless, I guess the first £10,000 of the claim you would have to pay, that sort of thing.

Still before signing I took bike for spin. It was all well as far as I could tell, excepting the mirrors out of place, the pannier scratched with one strap rubbed through and the only real issue the left hand grip was chewed up leading to the heated grip not working.

I had to decide to go with it, sign the paper, and walk away (trying to ignore that 1% of vehicle value insurance farce).

I'd recommend the train for the experience, but not sure I'd recommend taking your bike with you - unless you had to due to circumstance. And you'd be best advised to know your ropes for the tying down, I left it to them, really that was half the error.....glad I tipped them....you live and learn

I've seen numerous bikes being lowered into the holds of boats on essential legs of journeys before, but wonder at the logic of this experience as one 'for the hell of it'. Well, there you go...Great Train Journeys....not

Posted by Simon McCarthy at 04:59 PM GMT
16th Dec 2005 - Train arrives in Viedma...

Mileage - 0 kms

Covered on end of train message, but basically bike damaged, Nik and Javier on station, then met Oscar the Horizons Unlimited organiser in Viedma for the meet, met his two daughters and wife and many other bikers traveling and local(ish) arriving for meet.

Campsite a small one at Los Comodores, some tree shade, very sandy, 5 mins from beach, for meet a room hired too for cooking and a huge asada space. Good showers and toilet facilities so our home for the weekend.
From memory - poor - and apologies to those missed, we had:-
one Aussie (but first welsh) Mark, KLR
Brits, us R100GS, Nik, R1200GS Andy & Maya from Dumfries with their R100GS outfit, Cynthia with her R80G/S, Martin & Alan, round the world on R1150GS's and John and Annette who arrived by bus - they traveled her on two GSs and loved the place so much they're presently buying Nr Mendoza.
Mexico, Balam, Honda XR (?)
Argentina, Sandra Yam SR250 & Javier Honda Africa Twin, Sergio Honda XR (?), Carl Honda XR
USA Bob and Joan, and others I've forgotten.
Spent most of night talking and swapping tales into the wee hours post a great Asada.


Saturday 17th December

Viedma

Mileage - 0 kms

Fixing bits and bobs and trying to fix intercom unsuccessfully. Sadly the leads we'd had sent UPS for $45 to BA were the wrong ones, error from States dealer and not Autocom. The lead we got was the accessory one and not the one Doug in UK had specified. Very frustrating. My only option was to take a spare lead I had and butcher it to try and fix. The lead from my headset was the fault - traced it by trying Martins headset on our set-up. If the parts Doug from Autocom had asked the US dealer to send d arrived it would have been all the leads and headsets for both and we've have been very happily sorted, but sadly the lead sent from US was no use what so ever.

Anyway butchered my only spare and was impossible to fix due to having to connect 5 (I think) very fine wires without proper tools. 4 hour intense concentration that was in end fruitless.

So we're buggered again for a while as replacement parts are going to be tricky to get to us due to our no fixed abode. Perhaps one we have a route planned we can get them sent ahead to a post office and pick up, Xmas getting in way too. Really, really miss the intercom now.

At least we fixed heated grip. Javier to rescue again as he explained I had to connect the electrical wire to the grip wire by folded connection rather than solder - the grip wires are different material. The man is a hero ! Moved on to injector probs and bad running on the 1150 GSs next, and sorted.

Some folk went for a ride out with Oscar to Viedma but many stayed on site and talked more. We had a group dinner of Spag Bol and another night of beer and wine and talk.

Another benefit was picking up a new rear tyre and tube that Sandra & Javier had brought for us.


Sunday 18th December

Viedma - ride out

Mileage - say 100 kms

Oscar and friends had a full day planned for us so we were up and off for around 10 I think. First down the coast to visit one of the many Sea lion colonies around here. It was VERY windy when we go to the cliff top viewing area with turbo charged sand being blown up too. There were hundreds of sea lions a hundred or so feet below us but viewing was a bit difficult with the wind. Big dominant bulls running the show and we were treated to a few minor scuffles and amorous moves. You can't go onto beaches here so you only get so close, occasional wafts of noises and smell though !


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Sealion Colony


From there we took quite a few repio roads out into the back of beyond to a friend of Oscars who had a farm for an excellent Asada of two lambs. We all congregated in the barn to escape the wind and tried the 'drinking the wine from a goatskin' trick. Several spills on we got the hang of pouring a thread a few inches into your mouth without spilling.


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Asado on farm



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The company was great and the food excellent, great people and fantastic hospitality. We spent a few relaxing hours there and as a bonus those that weren't already equipped with sheepskins (we are) were offered to choose their own for free !

They were a little 'fresh' but some washing, salting to cure, and a little attention and several folk got a treasured memory. Great scenes of folk choosing and having the skins cut to shape with some classic English shears still doing the business even today (though electric for the flocks of course)


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Choosing free DIY sheepskin kit



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Leaving the farm we took some more tricky rough repio to a hill above Viema for a view of the town, thence ice-creams in town and a return for team tea on site.

Oscar took up the guitar and proved very accomplished as he gave some fine renditions followed by his daughter Camellia who taught herself to play via the internet and had the voice of an angel.

In comparison the British contingent could only muster some rumbusious rugby songs that were plainly not odes of love lost and the beauty of the landscape, but somewhat more coarse and embarrassing in comparison. at least Cynthia got us a little more on track with a full rendition of 'on Ilkley Moor B'tat'.


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Group shot, Viedma



Monday 19th December

Viedma

Mileage - 0 kms

Well we were planned to leave today, but the weather changed our minds for us. Chucking down from just after sunrise. Each morning at around sunrise, just before 5am we are treated to what I have termed 'Parakeet O'Clock'. Here is the largest Parakeet colony in the world apparently, and each dawn they fly past screeching as they go. Luckily I can nod back off after, but as I have marveled at the numbers and types of the parakeets we see here they have come now to haunt me !

After all, barring Mark who needed to move, decided to stay put due to weather it was a very steady day spent under tarps. Nik and I went into the village to get food supplies for tea, and then Bev joined us for a spot of beach combing, and remarkably it stayed dry for a couple of hours. Some interesting finds, egg cases (we guess) big enough to be turtles of some such, plasticy rather than shell like, lots of nice stones, and a dead Armadillo that must have drowned in the river and washed up here. Few surfers out and the water was warmer than you's expect. we made a few sculptures and a message for Christmas before returning.

Earlier Cynthia and Bev repaid Sandra and Javier by dressing Sandra's very nasty burn on leg before they and another contingent left for Oscars place for a night before onwards journey.

So Ourselves, Nik, Cynthia, Andy and Maya stayed on along with John and Anette 'til their bus. We had a group cook up and retired in hope of dryer weather in morning,


Tuesday 20th December

Viedma -Trelew

Mileage - 540 kms

The relentless march towards Christmas is mainly passing us by, a look at the dates is scary, were will we be, and doing what ?


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Bike loaded


It was dry, so we all packed and left, Andy and Maya at own speed on outfit and our party of 3 now a four with Cynthia. She is a bit of a celebrity on the traveling scene being more mature shall we say than most, and a lady on here own. She has been to most far off and obscure locations and is presently 'round the worlding'. In April she had a bad prang on repio down here and wrecked her bike and broke her collar-bone (and others). She's a marvel to us all, an inspiration. Hallowed company eh ! With the time of year we've all teamed up to make Christmas a bit more special


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Cynthia and bike



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Nik and bike


The days ride was fairly long, fairly boring, but pretty easy. We decided to stay in Trelew in hotel for two days to get over the w/e and get things dry. Found the Galicia and booked in two nights. Not as cheap as we'd like but useful. Went to the 'Touring Club' for tea and enjoyed its faded charms over some great wholesome sandwiches and far too much drink. My final a mix up when I got a double Drambui with a whisky, in same glass....nothing for it....


Wednesday 21st December

Today was a rest day, and a chance to catch up on mail. Unfortunately all computers win 98 so can't accept USB connections so all the words and pics not able to transfer, frustrating. Still never mind, that's why these mails are so large then.

Visited the local museum which was a bit lack luster, place settled by Welsh and some names still here and some folk speak the lingo, but frankly they’re trading on something that has now passed in reality. Very warm though and able to dry tents and stuff in car park and I checked my valves and the like. No problems fortunately so fine.

After the first museum we tried the dinosaur museum but that wasn't too much to my taste. Excellent explanation of 'big bang theory' mind. Went into the auditorium and of all things saw a 'Horizon' prog from UK, included a bit on North Yorkshire coast - spooky ! I'm afraid the excitment was too much for me and I nodded off and got some disapproving looks when I started snoring !


Thursday 22nd December

Trelew - Caleta Olivia

Mileage - 440 kms

Well Xmas really is coming fast. You guys and girls will be on Christmas do's, we're wondering what to do. I didn't want to miss out, or be caught out, so we agreed to book a hotel further done in advance to be sure there's room at the inn. Cynthia rang and booked us in. We will be in Ushuaia for New Year, but it's just too far for Xmas without going mad.

We met two Brazilian bikers, on the long long boring roads and ended up passing while video'g -and discovered them doing same to our fly past. We met in next petrol station and had a good chat and got given stickers and email adds. Wish we'd brought some with us for handing out, never thought.

Near the end of the day I felt a very unpleasant squirm at the back...just after a road on hasty descending bends. Rear puncture. Managed to stop without too much crisis, but a very unpleasant event.

The rear TCK is just past legal for UK, but would do another 1000 or two miles here. We tried plugging the leak but after 8 it was clearly time to change to new rear and inner tube. Guess the tyre got damaged after went flat and ran on rim briefly. Lucky we had the spare on the back, and really it was good to get the load off and both have more room available.


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Tireplugging


Got it up enough to manage the couple of miles to a garage that had a Gomeria behind it. (tyre repairs)

The team got together to get wheel out and the guys in the place changed the tyre over in no time and did a great good for 10 peso's (£2) wanted to give them 15 but didn't have a 5 so paid 20. They were very chuffed and gave us a stone that is a particular fossil from round here I think.


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Tyre changing


We still had time to get an extra 50 miles in and get a hotel for the night without problem. Again not so cheap, but excellent restaurant and a great meal. Some office parties in too. Very odd, doesn't seem like Christmas to us. The evening ride was great with lovely light and a coast like Saltburn.

I realised I'd left a set of my Tilley travel pants behind in last place which was a blow, they're costly but good. One pair on, wash pair and they dry overnight. Very recommended.

Anyway, down to one so our relationship group just got more weird. Nik had rediscovered one of the three pairs of travel pants he had so gave me a pair. So that's how far we go now - swapping pants. Had to share that with you! in exchange we paid the £6 for his room


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Giant oil worker statue, Caleta Olivia



Friday 23rd December

Caleta Olivia -

Mileage - 660 kms

A final day of our Christmas migration south.

Long, and generally very boring boring roads.

Tedium only lifted by company and the occasional wildlife sightings, today pink flamingos ! really fluorescent.


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Flamingoes


By afternoon the wind had started to build, later to a side-wind, the worst. The headwind was bad enough. Bikes doing well though, 100 kph average for 2 hours at a time which is good. But hammers the rider (and pillion of course). we were laid as far as possible for sections to try and slip stream as much as possible. In the side wind I could sit off side of bike and keep a straight line, until cramp set in.

Amazingly we enjoyed the ride in the main, and miraculously avoided the bad rain (mainly) that was forecast for all day.

Everyone on the road knows were we are going they know the bikers are going to the 'end of the world' and you are constantly being flashed, toted and waved at. all very touching, but after two days worth, and with the wind, it's down to flashing the headlight in recognition.

Finally, finally, into town, in good time, as rain started, and into our Christmas base. Here three nights so will arrange an office do for tomorrow aftie and something for the festivities to follow.

Went to a buffet place last night where it was £3 to eat as much as you wanted of really top quality food. Its open Christmas day evening so think that'll be were we are.

Not sure how Christmas will pan out, but looking forward to an interesting time.

To add extra value Andy and Maya turned up and booked in too ! Excellent, we really will have a 'proper' do with the 6 of us together - I predict a substantial hangover once we've been through a few bars, ending round the corner at 'The Belfast'

Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year to you one and all from all of us here, sharing the cold and wet you probably are too, time to warm the insides I think XXXXXXXX


Posted by Simon McCarthy at 05:01 PM GMT
25th Dec 2005 - Christmas Message


xmascard.jpg


With apologies to those who´ve left work and will get this in New Year.
This a collabrative art project courtesy of Fritz y Bev y Nik
Have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy and prosperous New Year !
We´re in Rio Gallegos for Christmas and Ushaiai for New Year (most southerly town in world !)
Love to all XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Posted by Simon McCarthy at 05:05 PM GMT
 


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Global Rescue is the premier provider of medical, security and evacuation services worldwide and is the only company that will come to you, wherever you are, and evacuate you to your home hospital of choice. Additionally, Global Rescue places no restrictions on country of citizenship - all nationalities are eligible to sign-up!


New to Horizons Unlimited?

New to motorcycle travelling? New to the HU site? Confused? Too many options? It's really very simple - just 4 easy steps!

Horizons Unlimited was founded in 1997 by Grant and Susan Johnson following their journey around the world on a BMW R80 G/S motorcycle.

Susan and Grant Johnson Read more about Grant & Susan's story

Membership - help keep us going!

Horizons Unlimited is not a big multi-national company, just two people who love motorcycle travel and have grown what started as a hobby in 1997 into a full time job (usually 8-10 hours per day and 7 days a week) and a labour of love. To keep it going and a roof over our heads, we run events (22 this year!); we sell inspirational and informative DVDs; we have a few selected advertisers; and we make a small amount from memberships.

You don't have to be a Member to come to an HU meeting, access the website, the HUBB or to receive the e-zine. What you get for your membership contribution is our sincere gratitude, good karma and knowing that you're helping to keep the motorcycle travel dream alive. Contributing Members and Gold Members do get additional features on the HUBB. Here's a list of all the Member benefits on the HUBB.


Books & DVDs

amazon

All the best travel books and videos listed and often reviewed on HU's famous Books page. Check it out and get great travel books from all over the world.


Motorcycle Express for shipping and insurance!

Motorcycle Express

MC Air Shipping, (uncrated) USA / Canada / Europe and other areas. Be sure to say "Horizons Unlimited" to get your $25 discount on Shipping!
Insurance - see: For foreigners traveling in US and Canada and for Americans and Canadians traveling in other countries, then mail it to MC Express and get your HU $15 discount!

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Editors note: We accept no responsibility for any of the above information in any way whatsoever. You are reminded to do your own research. Any commentary is strictly a personal opinion of the person supplying the information and is not to be construed as an endorsement of any kind.

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