April 02, 2006 GMT
23rd Mar 2006 - San Pedro de Atacama

A return to Argentina, the worst road of the trip, the first spill, and meeting old friends

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Well for the author this was a distinct no day, Bev was able to operate uninterrupted fortunately and look after me !

I was still under the spell of my fine Peruvian guest stomach bug and distinctly under the weather (which was glorious from daybreak onwards as ever in San Ped).

A quick word on our fellow habitees in the hostel. Last time we were here it was full of really nice people and that makes a big difference to your stay. A great French family who we still remember as one of the best families we've ever met while traveling and a charming Swiss couple. It was like being with long term friends and ever evening was a joy. This time...indeed.

We had a lovely pair of English girls on a round the world tickets who were great company for Bev as it's not often she's had pure female company - and with me being dead to the world in the room she had a great girls time of it, and then.

A mute English couple, or we thought they were as any greeting was met with stares of disbelief and no communication - but then we discovered they talked to each other and were just ignorant bleeper’s (they could sit next to us at a table and still not respond).

Next up we had a group of German Hitler Dwarfs move in.....I can say this knowing of so many fine and upstanding Germans we have met on this trip (and of course previously). One of the monkeys has just swung into the hammock right besides me, without uttering a word or answering any welcoming smile.....so these are the German's the worlds afraid of. How can people not answer a welcome greeting or a smile, not even a grunt, it beats us that's for sure.

Maybe the problem is we are so sociable, and therefore assume other people enjoying the adventurers of travel would be too.

What the hell is the world coming to ? Have we entered a time warp ? We've decided it's not a great idea to return to somewhere were you have good memories as they are often then shattered. We were looking forward to returning here but something strange has happened.

It's the just the way you perceive places I guess, and this time is different to last.

One other thing is of course the route through Northern Chile, the bit we repeated. I don't think there is money enough in the world to make us do that ride from here to Arica again. It is so unremittingly tedious to make a fatal injection a preferred option ! Our advice, get the weather right and go through Bolivia - it is undoubtedly the way to go, and everyone says so. But we had the wrong timing on way up, and wrong route on way back.

So basically today was a right off, but at least the chemical action of that dear friend Cipro has put me back on course, and Bev is just raring to go. Chile has had it's time of us. The people, as witness the kindness we have experienced, cannot be doubted, but the scenery in the north is so far and few between it doesn't warrant return.

The worry about saying the above is we will soon return to our favorite country, Argentina, what will we meet ? Returning to Sandra and Javier in BA is a different matter altogether of course as it will be like returning to family, and something we are grateful for at that final departure point.

Friday 24th March 2006

San Pedro de Atacama

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What a difference a day makes.....health wise at least ! To say I have improved is an understatement. We are back on track.

We found our long lost package at the PO from Autocom, it looks like it was delayed by being opened somewhere else in Chile by the correo. Sadly the leads weren't a quick fix, and we were unable to get the intercom back to life. It will have to wait for the UK for investigation, it was great while it lasted, just a shame it hadn't lasted a little longer.

Trying to arrange one of the possible returning shipping options lead to a bit of a blank too when we weren't able to make phone contact. We can either ship the bike in the crate via a boat, which is the cheapest option, and fly it via Lufthansa, possibly without a crate which might not prove too hideously expensive. But we need the full prices and details to make a decision.

We were however able to contact Sandra and Javier, and then at least discovered that Friday was a holiday and so we were doomed to failure anyway. As always it was great talking to Javier though and just reinforced the fact it'll be great to meet them again......and they were mid asada too which made it even worse !

Discovered a wiring brake on the bike and had to carry out some interesting alternative surgery to a BM wiring block to recover the service.

In an interesting turn of fate, the two charming English girls left here saying to the owner that they'd be back tonight, whilst actually they are off to Bolivia ! And they managed to get a cheap deal on their room too. What's going on, has the world gone mad ?

No photos accompany this section as I'm sure you wouldn't be interested in the coming and goings of anything in the last two days !

Saturday 25th March 2006

San Pedro de Atacama - San Antonio de los Cobres, Argentina

350 kms

We rose early (for us) and were on the road by 9am, filled petrol (just as well, none on route - a wise decision as it turns out) and completed customs formalities easily on the edge of town before heading out. What we should have done was change the near £70 of Chilean pesos too, but that's another story.

The first 90kms odd paved, and we'd been down most of it on our previous visit so nothing new, there after all repio, and not good either.

The Seco Pass was rough but passed some attractive Salars and nice coloured hills (not to match Agua Negra though) but the route is used principally by heavy traffic and the surface was heavily corrugated which is amongst the worst for us two up and loaded, the bumps knock the stuffing out of the bike and us. At about 70kph you start to float over the worst, but the speed is not always possible.


Salar Agua Caliente on Paso Seco (Chile side)

There were at least two cars by side of road that were just empty carcasses, but obviously new. Could see what had happened. Many car transporters come through loaded from Argentina, and a combination of the load and the road had obviously lead to a couple being shed on the way. They were stripped down to nothing, but odd seeing the remains of an obviously brand new car aside the road.


Just the car chassis left after vehicle fallen off wagon on Paso Seco

The road climbs very slowly, so you hardly notice you are gaining height excepting the bike running poorer after a while, more coughing and spluttering. Obviously round the 4000m mark for a lot of the route. Not a problem for us as having been at 3500 or 4000m for a few weeks we don't notice the height at all, and fortunately neither of us encountered any difficulties really anyway....now would be the time for an assault on a big mountain !


A further Salar few kms on

The only habitation before the frontier was a Chilean police check point where they checked details but were really more interested to be seeing someone than anything else and we spent a few minutes chatting before continuing through quite a bit of 'no man's land'. Reaching the Argentinean border we were the first (and only ?) vehicle that day. The Paso Seco is not a popular route compared to the Jama pass (much better route, more later), The HGVs might use it, but the section we'd covered had no vehicles, perhaps because Sunday ? We arrived at the Argentinean side about 3pm and discovered we had gained an hour, great !

The formalities were easy and pleasant and I took the time to ensure I got the right paperwork as this will be our last 'in' before shipping and problem paperwork would be difficult to resolve as we leave the country. As ever Bev stayed out with the bike and they never needed to see her just stamped the passport as if she was there with me...it's a man's world in Latin America I guess. The border post had nowhere to change money, no gas, and no eateries, in fact naff all.

Now we had complained that the road to the border was bad, and it certainly wasn't easy on the bike or us, but what was to come made it seem M1 Standard, we were now in for the worst ride of the entire trip...thank you Argentina....so that's the price for our return

The guard said about two, two and a half hours to San Antonio de Cobres so that sounded fine. As soon as we got past the barrier it was obvious that this was not the case for a bike, maybe a 4x4, but anything else, not the case.

It was a return to full on deep loose repio. The SA Handbook had promised a good portion of tarmac....there was none ! The bike was on more road orientated tyres and was struggling to find a way to cut through the loose stuff and was hence swimming all over the place.

It takes time to adapt back to off road riding (the previous 'bad' sections now seeming like a good surface of course) and for the first 10kms or so we weren't relaxed into it and so fighting the bike and crawling along at a ridiculous max of 30kph. Once your confidence gets back you can eek up to 50 or 70 on the better sections, but clearly we were going to be struggling to make this leg in daylight. Then it got worse again !

A return to our favorite surface of all time....sand ! at first pockets, which you could see in advance due to the colouration. It's a frightening thing hitting a pocket of sand from gravel, even though only maybe 30kph the bike immediately loses control from the front and that's bad ! The trick is to slow in advance and then accelerate gently through leaving enough in reserve to be able to really rev if the bike still isn't going straight.


Our favourite road surface..NOT!..sand, sand, sand

So another 10kms and we are relaxed back to this method of riding and them we come across proper sand stretches rather than just pockets. There were whole stretches of 20 or 30m at a time of full width fine sand with ridges through were trucks had already driven. Now this was starting to get very difficult and testing. Due to time restrictions we couldn't even afford to let Bev walk sections unless I really thought I couldn't get through two up. There were only two sections that Bev had to walk. Then it got worse ! There were dunes across the road that had been dozed through, but what remained was like bull dust, fine and deep and churned up.

And so to our first 'crash' of the holiday.

We have so far (over 5 months) not come off the bike while ridding - how ever bad the conditions have become. We have fallen off the bike about 3 or 4 times - literally at stationary. The simple weight of the bike and the size on awkward ground, and dodgy footing, and we've tipped off the bike, but without injury or damage of course. But never when moving, until now !


The bike playing in the sand pit on Paso Seco

One of the stretches of sand got the better of us and at all of 20kph at the max the bike was ploughing left, then right, then left again, and my sudden dabs of feet weren’t' enough to keep near 500kgs upright and the bike went over tipping me onto the sand, and Bev on top of me ! Obviously the sand was a very soft landing, lovely imprints in it, and as we weren't trapped by the bike we were unharmed. Switch off the ignition & petrol and a quick piccie before trying to decide how to right it.

The trick is to remove material around the wheels and use leverage to ease the bike up without crippling yourself. Often folk take as much luggage off to make the task easier too. I just grabbed the bars, Bev dived under the pannier, and we hauled it back upright.

Bloody hell, this ride was becoming very trying indeed, and frankly with no rewards for all the hard effort. Really wished we'd taken the Jama Pass as it is a nice ride (the half we did), the Seco is not worth the effort, all the scenery can be matched elsewhere. We were getting concerned about the timing now too, if things didn't improve we would most certainly be well in the dark for half the ride, looked like the tent might even have to come out, we had water, but only biscuits so were encouraged to get to accommodation unless absolutely impossible.

So our first spill, but bloody frustrating so late in holiday, and so near end. Still, we have come off lightly compared to most, and 2 up is definitely twice as hard.

In fact we started getting to grips (wrong term) with the sand patches and as always, when coming across loose gravel following the sand it was so much easier to ride !

We were still riding high and gaining altitude so the bike was actually running as if the coil was packing up, so few sparks ignited the fuel and so much popping and banging.

We descended into a valley and the road joined another that was even more heavily used by HGV's. In the distance we could see a flume of what looked like white smoke, we soon discovered it wasn't as it came closer and then we realised it was a full on artic barreling down the lose repio towards us. It was clear we needed to get right over to the side and wait for it, and its following dust cloud to pass.....and hope there wasn't another one trying to overtake it !

We were lucky as there was a pull in at that point and we were able to get right off the road. The repio road the truck was piling down wasn't even straight at this point, it had a set of curves in it. In all the time we've ridden the repio roads we've never seen a truck going as fast as this one. It literally flew past at about 110kph snaking wildly. It was being driven like a rally car, and a tanker at that ! A few minutes later another the same, not at all what you want on a route as challenging as this was for us.

You should be imagining a large number of F words entering my vocabulary since quite early in the day, and this was all getting a bit mad really.

The road continued - I use that term as loosely as the previous gravel - and so did we. It was now often corrugated to a ridiculous extent, some sections we hit at 50kph and the handlebars wrestled around so wildly I was sure a couple of time we would be so out of control we would crash...heavily. You hold on tight as possible, brake gently and as the speed decreases the whole bike is pogoing on the corrugations until you get slow enough to be able to stop. Deeply scary stuff, and knocking the absolute hell out of the bike. No fun for us, but we at least have flexible frames, I was worried something would fail catastrophically on the frame. Luckily the bike is very well made and although things like the screen etc were rattling fit to destroy themselves, they never did. On a more modern plasticky bike like the 1200 you would just loose ancillaries all over the place.

The surface was a choice between these corrugations, and hard stone surface that had a similar effect, bone jarringly uncomfortable. Don't get the impression there was a choice either - it was one or the other, whichever was served up.

I've found in the past when things get this bad it's actually a much better ride to go for the loose surface at the side of the road or between the wheel tracks (when available). Though much less stable, the bike isn't being tortured to death. We even tried ridding up on the verge, or off the road, but it was too soft.

We were once again climbing and although bypassing a small mine had seen nothing for miles, and luckily no more trucks. We wound upwards once more and eventually hit the high point of 4560m as the sun was definitely on the way out. For any 'Great Railway journey' buffs this is were the Tren del la Nubes crosses so spectacularly.

The views were great of distant hills with snow caps, but the sun was going down fast, and we needed to too. Going downhill for the remainder or the journey might sound ideal, but I can make faster progress uphill thank you.

There were occasional adobe mud houses around so we knew we must be getting nearer humanity, but still had 15 of so kms to go with the sun having finally gone. It was freezing cold and there was the odd two tailored truck to contend with too, as in UK, they often travel at night for the empty roads - a scary thought. I was riding without my lights on for as much as possible for two reasons. One we were not going fast enough to put a really healthy charge in battery, and two, I could see more in dark by eye without lights that I could with them. As time went on this obviously changed and we had to use the lights. We were nearly down, and I was just thinking "wouldn't want any sand now" when, yes, you've guessed haven’t you. Sand...in the dark...what the hell else could happen. The corrugations were shaking the headlight so much that I was convinced the hot filaments would fracture, but we did eventually come out the other side of hell !

We saw the lights of the village and found the hotel listed in the book which was very welcome after 10 hrs of actual riding time. The 120kms from the border had taken over 4 hrs, crazy !

The hotel was not so cheap, but then £25 for a room after all the preceding was not a problem. The manager was very helpful and I managed to persuade him the bike could go in the lobby and we went straight for dinner. He knew the English like their beer, so wasn't surprised we ordered beer and wine at same time as food. The food was excellent too, a return to Argentina meant a return to the best beef in the world. We slept well.

Sunday 26th March 2006

San Antonio de los Cobres - Salta

160 kms

After a somewhat leisurely start that we had earned we had to sort out room payment. We had tried the ATM the night before without success, and still had about £70 of Chilean pesos we couldn't change as a Sunday and nowhere open. Tried finding someone local who might change it, truckers etc, without luck.

First time we have had to turn to our emergency stashes of dollars. The hotel let us overpay and we got Argentinean pesos in change....otherwise we'd have had no fuel either. The previous route of 350kms and no garage meant we needed some to ensure we could continue to Salta, with every likelihood (confirmed) of no fuel until then either after Cobres.

Having got ourselves out of that predicament (worth noting exchange rates from www for all your currencies so you know when caught out) we stuck some fuel in and left.

This area of Northern Argentina still has a strong cultural identity with the native peoples and is quite Bolivian in aspect, except without the poverty and rubbish.

The scenery was fairly barren of the high altitude type (still 3500m) until we dropped a little and the landscape suddenly became more arid and hundreds of candelabra cacti took over the landscape.


Cacti everywhere (big tall ones too) Cobres to Salta

The valley we followed was quite picturesque and there were many wild coloured strata doted around the views, quite beautiful - but if you want to see it (there is better available locally) come for a day trip from Salta, rather than from Chile !

We were stopped briefly by a older policeman (checking cargo) just so he could have a chat and we had a nice little conversation before continuing.

The hill tops were clouded and misty and it looked like rain. The area had obviously had some harsh weather very recently and there was lots of evidence of landslides, wash outs and high rivers even though we were in an arid area and it was warm and dry.


The ´closed´ road, stream crossing with Cacti on way to Salta

As we continued down the valley it looked greyer, and more threatening and the signs of damage, along with the quality of the road, deteriorated. We were riding once again on bloody repio and had to keep crossing small streams and rivers were the track was washed out. The scenery was changed markedly as it was now far more vegetated and trees had made a comeback and the hills were forested.

The road turned to mud, and snaked about the river in the valley floor and was taking on all the characteristics of the 'road of death' in Bolivia. It had got narrow, slimy, drop off edge, stream crossings and then also some double tailored HGVs that we met at a tight spot on a corner. We had to pull as near the drop off as dare and let them ease past.

After an age we rejoined tarmac - very bad quality though - and arrived in a small town that was very colonial looking and quite a sudden change from where we'd started the day. The area was so lush and a big surprise, I thought Salta sat in an arid area, in fact it's much more like the missiones area in the NE. All sorts of flowers and vegetables growing.


Back to lush vegetation before Salta (Tren de las Nubes bridge)

We missed Salta (how ?) and when returning back down the road met three Argentinean bikers who stopped us for a chat one actually owned a hostel in town and so took us there. Seemed good enough (sadly turned out was on the main route into town so got poor sleep) and we set out for town to see if we could change the bloody Chilean Pesos and get an ATM that worked.

The ATM was easy, but Sunday no money changers open. We were just in a shop when Bev felt a hand on her shoulder as I did on mine. I turned, saw just a chest, looked skyward and saw the huge beaming smile of Richard the Venezuelan we had last seen on the Careterre Austral months ago. Wow!

He had been sat in a cafe with Stephen the American on the KLR650 when we had passed. What a lucky meeting. We sat for hours and discussed our different trips. They had seen us and thought 'We're not doing to bad still being in Argentina now, so are Fritz and Bev', then they discovered we were on our way back! Easy to see how you can end up in Argentina for so long, the people are great, the prices are right, and it has virtually all the scenery in one country that you could wish for. They have been enjoying it so much, they haven’t left! We expected them to be miles miles north, or home!

As we chatted it turned out Stephen had met Oscar from Bolivia and ridden with him and his friend Gonzalez whilst in Bolivia. And also had been taken down the 'Donkey path of death' by Jeff and was startled to hear we also had on our much larger bike.

The other interesting detail was they were considering going to Cobres, but had been told they couldn't as the road was washed out ! The one we had just come down...maybe it isn't like that all the time then !

We had a great evening together, especially after such a chance meeting., unfortunately we didn't have the camera, so still no pictures of them. Stephen had a local girl in tow, and Richard had an Asada to go to, so we didn't cramp their style all night and instead took their restaurant recommendation and had some great empanadas and a huge rump steak between us.....boy is it good to be in Argentina again!

To foil that I should point out the only negative aspect...the town driving! Argies are suicidal once they get anywhere near a town and will do anything to over (or under) take to get that 3m ahead. The driving has been dubious in several places, but the speeds in the poorer places are generally slower. In Salta it was like a deadly game of roulette. Old wrecks would sail past within inches of the panniers or fly past at stupid speeds. Think it’s that Latino macho thing going on. It's not a problem when traveling on our own as I just generally travel quicker, but the ride into town following the other bike earlier today was easily the most dangerous ride we've had for ages (including our drink drivers !)

Monday 27th March 2006

Salta - Cafayate

197 kms

After an interminable nights lack of sleep we were ready for the off. I had wandered into town after waking early to try the money exchange. Straightforward I thought. The women took the money, checked it, and put it in two piles. Christ I thought, don't say they're all forgeries. No, the ones that weren't perfect they wouldn't take, or not without an additional fee. I was not impressed, the bloody notes would end up being used at face value whatever, so just said no thanks and took the money back. With hindsight of course I should have changed what I could, but just so bloody annoyed as at the border there would have been no issue, and you know damn fine those notes will all end up back with someone who will be able to spend them at face value in Chile. Another reason never to cross using the Seco route!

The road out of Salta continued through that surprising lush vegetation with fields of crops including tobacco and we crossed numerous flood fords that were still heavy with silt and the obvious signs that a storm had passed through very recently....looks like once again we have narrowly missed some serious weather. Happened on ruta 40, and the Careterra austral, and of course in Northern Chile and Bolivia. Very Happy about that though.

As you move further south you drop into more arid conditions and the Valle de Lerma displays is true beauty and what it’s famed for, strange and fantastic rocks formations and colours of the rainbow. Having had such a poor nights rest we were feeling a bit tired but still marveled at the display. It was a stop every few kms to photograph yet another amazing view, we'll let the pictures do the talking.


Start of Valle de Lerma


Arid rocks, not in Grand Canyon, Valle de Lerma

Cafayate is the town at the end of the valley and famed for its small wine producers and pleasant climate. It's hot, but not as hot as it gets, or got, and is a nice little place to stay. We’re here for two nights to recover a bit and get caught up on mails and getting details for shipping. The hostel (de Valle) is a lovely spot just out of the centre of town and very quiet. It's almost like staying in someone’s home, very friendly and lovely rooms, and all for a tenner a night. There are lots of places offering great value food and the opportunity to sample some of the local wines at prices that encourage you too!


Further strange erosions in Valle de Lerma

Posted by Simon McCarthy at 10:29 PM GMT
28th Mar 2006 - Cafayate

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A rest day then a cracking (!) ride

Wednesday 29th March 2006

Cafayate - Tucuman

252 kms

Having had such a restful day yesterday we didn't undertake the ride south to the ruins at Quilmes deciding to take them in on the route today.


The ruins de Quilmes, held out against Inca's then Spanish, finally over-run and marched off to near Buenos Aires, naming the beer that comes from there !


General view, large site, 3000 inhabitants at height (mid 1500s)

The ride out of Cafayate was pleasant taking us past many of the vineyards, or in truth Fincas (smaller than actual vineyards) that we recognised from vine bottle labels during our stay. You have to say it's a joy to be able to order wine with your meal without being ripped off price wise. Many establishments had their own house wines provided by the local growers. There was a local specialty that we tried last night, the white Torreontés that was a strangely sharp fruity number.

Once past the rows of wine it was once more to an arid sun parched valley before the climb of the Infiemillo Pass (3040m). Anything under 4000m seems insignificant these days, but this would class as quite high in the Alps.

The road was rough, a patchwork of potholes until well over the far side. This meant any sweeping curves were not for enjoyment as too many unpleasant surprises. At the top there were more hawks, falcons and raptors than we've seen for an age, perhaps due to the obvious thermal qualities of the weather on the other side of the hills.


The looming mist at Tafi de Vallee

We were intending stopping at Tafi del Valle, but seeing as it was so close we thought to continue a way. Tafi is a strange place, being high up and looking very German like in places, looked like it belonged more in Chile. The other strange feature is the far side of the valley is evidently normally shrouded - as now - in cloud surging up from the far side. Quite an eerier perspective, and an obvious sign of different weather over there.

Once again we had thought the far side was arid and dry as Tucuman, like Salta, has a reputation for extreme summer heat. We are frankly baffled by what season we are in. If winter is July / August then I guess January February is high summer, meaning we must be now in Autumn, or early Autumn, but different areas have different weather patterns, so not sure. Anyway, we seem to be out of the very hottest season so that's good. It turns out Tucuman is not arid at all, but very lush and humid.

As we disappeared into the cloud we discovered it was damp and really mist. Boy what a surprise you can get traveling around this continent. It was quite dense, and correspondingly damp. We guessed we would pass through it on the far descent and so didn't put on our cags or over trousers (not wearing liners as 35 degs earlier). This was to be an error !

As we continued down through various think mist and accompanying wet we were soon getting quite damp and cool. In fact the mist never left us all the way down, and only thinned on the way to Tucuman itself.

The pass was dense with vegetation and quite jungle like in a temperate way, not at all what we were expecting after being amongst cacti only half an hour before

The water had penetrated the still open vents on the jacket and was slowly being mopped up by my T shirt, even the heated grips went on.

The mist being so damp it was a pain riding and seeing, but the occasional views over the edge of the narrow twisting road showed lush vegetation and a fast flowing boulder strewn river far below. There were plenty of signs of erosion and wash out as this side definitely got some hellish weather just a few days ago which we had seen on TV in a petrol station a couple of days ago. Even had whole sections or road and a bridge taken out. Not on our route at moment though luckily.

Near the bottom we rounded a corner to the sign 'Fin del Mundo', and there was certainly no sign of a continuation. Of course the road did, but interesting that there are two such signs in Argentina, the other being Ushuaia.


The second 'end of the world' of the trip, the other being the real one at Ushuaia

Shortly we were down, but the drizzle was still with us and as we set off for Tucuman it only really let up 25kms from the city, by which time I was fair cool (Bev has the advantage of sitting in the rain shadow !)

Arriving in town (well city) was not brilliant as the outskirts were very untypical of Argentina and more like Chile or Peru with rubbish strewn everywhere and some distinctly rough looking areas.

The traffic before we had got there had become it's usual psychotic and quite dangerous. Anything to gain and extra 3m, even if it takes minutes to overtake with oncoming traffic. best advice is ride fast so nothing catches you up !

Entering the chaos of town I like to stay ahead of the opposition too, but unfortunately that lead to riding through a police stop without noticing so I thought it best to play the stupid card again and ride on, fortunately without pursuit.

Getting nearer centre I noticed a hotel and pulled over to find it's location on the SA Handbook city plan so I could get bearings for where we wanted to be. It worked a dream and we found the spot we're in now, which is a bit run down and poor, but only costs £7.

On unloading the bike I noticed the right-hand pannier seemed a bit loose. Checking closer it wasn't the pannier. Didn't look good, I guessed what I'd find. Looking even closer there was a gap where the sub-frame should be attached to a strengthening fillet, and even worse, up above a total break in the sub-frame rail. Oh dear !


Broken sub-frame, frame rail snapped, and fillet separated

Not much chance that would get us to BA with the weight the sub-frame has to carry (us and all the luggage) so needs repairing before we continue. If it led to an equal failure on the other side, basically, the back of the bike would collapse. Not a nice thought.


View from other side, bit clearer the nature of the total failure

We checked with the owner about bike shops of 'Solder' and she suggested somewhere just a block or so away. It turned out not to exist, but we asked in a Ford Motorcraft shop and our faltering Spanish got us at least a recommendation. Apparently a Japanese welder not too far out, that is good and can weld aluminum as well as steel, and so will be our first port of call tomorrow. We’ll see if he can fit us in.

The sub-frame should come off for welding I think without too much of a nightmare, would be better done that way rather than risking frying the electrics or setting fire to the plastic parts or tyre, but we'll see By the time we remove the panniers and mounts and get there it will likely be siesta o'clock anyway.

"Cracking roads Grommet" Well, I did mention how well the bike was holding up in the last mail didn't I ! Now we can see the damage all those untold miles of abuse have done, you'll only see the damage on us when we're in our 70s I hope !

Posted by Simon McCarthy at 10:32 PM GMT
30th Mar 2006 - Tucuman

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After a quick breakfast round the corner we set about taking the panniers off so we could get to the sub-frame, only takes 35 minutes even with them full, so not a bad length of time for 'fixed' panniers should you want to remove them for off roading etc (we never get the choice on this trip).


Stripping down the bike to get the sub-frame off for welding

We were wondering when the break actually happened, and I think it stems back to July 2004 when we were rear-ended by a fellow GS Club member on our way home. That caused the right hand original pannier and frames to be wrecked, and for part of the bracing on the back of the sub-frame to tear. Quite conceivable that that impact also weakened the web at the front.
No two ways about it though, the damage was caused by the excessively bad roads we've encountered. We are carrying a lot of weight with being two up and luggage for two, so the sub-frame has really loaded off road. The earlier g/s models had a weak sub-frame, but the later ones like ours, certainly don't. It's the only explanation we can find anyway.

As the city takes its siesta seriously we weren't hopeful of getting anything done fast, but turning up at Torneria Mechanica de Ernesto Hamada, Suipacha 282, San Miguel de Tucuman we were pleasantly surprised. The owner is of Japanese descent, whether that makes any difference, but we had half an hour until siesta o'clock, but no problems stripping the bike for the work.

The sub frame came off reasonably easily, just one minor bolt snapped, and one of the sub-frame mounting bolts sheared too. In the right place for replacements !

With the wiring tucked away there was plenty of easy access for welding and the down spar being completely separated means it can be strengthened with a bar through the tubing as well as welding up.

I noticed the silencer had a crack and is blowing slightly there so they will patch that small bit up too. Couldn't resist starting bike with silencer off, wow, wonderful, like a big block Chevy. With the sub-frame off it looks a wonderful basis for a nice street fighter / chop !


BM R100GS low rider, do you know I like the look! Check out that cool ´stacker´exhaust. Mi Gusto mucho! (and the SOUND!)

By coincidence they are 'especialidad in soldura de aluminio' too, but we'll leave the box repairs for now, should hold out. They have fractures right along the welds where they were repaired previously.


DIY assemble yourself sub-frame kit !

We can return at 5 to collect which sounds excellent, the owner’s son drove us back and we're close enough to be able to walk easily. If all done, we should get bike back together in daylight which would be good.

Couldn't resist starting bike with silencer off, wow, wonderful, like a big block Chevy. With the sub-frame off it looks a wonderful basis for a nice street fighter / chop !

Well on returning at 5 it wasn’t exactly done, but it was then ! Not the finest artisan job, but fit for purpose and with a bit of welding on the silencer where there were (you guessed) some fatigue cracks, and the welding up of the sub-frame it was all of 40 Arg peso´s, or under eight quid. Can’t argue at that. Mind that’s what I thought with the pannier repairs, and they cracked back along the welds, so let’s hope that doesn’t happen with this.

Think the bike will need some tender love and care when we get home after this trip !

So, all in all a good days work, getting it all sorted in an afternoon is a result after all, ready to head off tomorrow, South some more, perhaps part of the way to Cordoba, seen some hills on the way that look an interesting route.

Posted by Simon McCarthy at 10:33 PM GMT
April 08, 2006 GMT
31st Mar 2006 - Closing the Circle

Tucuman - Santiago del Estero

240 kms

Nipped out from the Petite for our breakfast round the corner in the 'locals' cafe. Great value if not exactly a Full English. At least we're onto decent coffee, and now without the heavy chlorinated water of some of the places. With fresh orange juice (so that means twice as much for me), a couple of croissants - called media lunes (sp) here, which is nicer as 'half moon', and some brown toast with a weird cream and fruit compote all for 8 pesos, about £1.60 for both of us, you can't go wrong.

The hotel was inhabited by some 'characters', and has seen better days, but for £7 a night (the room) it was great compared to some of the crappy places in Chile at four times the price. At least here the room was cleaned and we had new bedding each night....surprisingly not always the case elsewhere. They were very friendly and helpful too, and it saw us past our 'problem' with ease.

Leaving Tucuman it was very grey, and still humid, that’ll explain all the sugar cane growing hereabouts then ! Had been trying to work out where the problem road was (Tartagal), the one on the news we saw collapsing yesterday, and soon enough down the road we found out.

They obviously get a lot of rain here, and they are prepared for it, but this was an event like we had in Hawnby back at home, were the rain was very intense in a small catchment area and it wreaked havoc. Probably not made the news at home, except perhaps hidden in the columns of the serious papers, but its big news here. In fact the main story at moment. Seems like no one was killed, but think over 100 properties lost. The irony is the river is the Rio Seco, the 'dry' river !

We had planned on going to San Fernando del Valle de Catamarca and had set out on the Ruta 38. A few 10s of kms further down we were stopped by the police at a large junction and it was apparent we couldn't continue that way. It may be the problem area was a short way further on, and that we could have rejoined the 38 further on, but we decided to cut our loses and head for Santiago del Estero. Funnily enough the oldest town in Argentina, not that you'd have a clue now of course.

The section of road we had to take across to the Termals del Honda was appalling ! With it being a Friday, in Argentina, it means that if there is going to be a demo, this is the day. We met one ! No idea what for, or the cause - if it was the condition of the road I whole heartedly am with them ! Anyway, the traffic was stopped briefly at a bridge by a crowd laying down their children (nice !). Motos it appeared were allowed through, so we rode cautiously ahead...just as the demo fell apart and we could all come through anyway. The road thereafter was truly grim in section. It's bad when the road consists of patched potholes all uneven, but this one consisted of unpatched potholes and there was little surface between them, a bleedin nightmare.

The journey otherwise was unremarkable, but it looked like we were heading into rain - what was I saying just yesterday ? so waterproofs were put over jackets and trousers just in case (still too warm for liners). Proved a false alarm I'm pleased to say, but only by an hour !

As we felt knackered we pulled straight into The Savoy (this ones only three stars though !) and decided it would do fine, had covered parking, but public so locked bike and took bags to room - not something we've had to do very often on this trip. Easy enough to get safe parking where the tank bag pockets and red stuff bag can be left on, and the bike not locked. Usually a guard or in such a place you couldn’t get it out without someone knowing.

The Savoy has been run down in the past, but is being improved, but in that ugly way that removes most of its character. A room was stretching our budget now, as up to a whopping £13. We were tired enough to have an hour’s kip on arrival.

It had only been a short day, so we actually spent more time drinking coffee (or something stronger) than we did riding, a nice balance sometimes ! Not long after taking out position in a good window seat and wasting time people watching the weather changed and we were very pleased to be inside as the rain, or heavy drizzle really, was quite unpleasant and the sort of stuff that soaks you before you know it (like the other day on bike in fact)

At this point there were quite a few bikes turning up. Unusual enough in itself, but most of these were 'cruisers' with even the odd Harley which was unusual. We noticed on riding in Argentina previously that there isn't the same fraternity as in Europe (in fact it's like the UK has become in many way !). A noticeable thing is 'cruiser' type riders very very rarely return your waves - I guess maybe weekend warriors ? If I was even off the bike, and saw bikes parked up (even foreign) there is a very good chance I'd have a quick word. Here, even when they know you have a bike, they won't necessarily take you to their bosom. It's very odd. Non bikers take more interest in our bike, than bikers do (maybe they recognise a wreck)

Anyway, our wanders around town trying to locate somewhere to eat brought up a fast food place that was quite alright, but naught else. The place is absolutely over run with clothes shops, and barren of food outlets, quite the opposite of most large towns. There is a split from one side of the square to the other as to a posh, and none posh end. Some are doing well here, others not.

We decided we could do worse than eating in the hotel, and ironically were wrong ! The food was distinctly average (which in Argentina means very poor) and the meat was pathetic. Still, it was cheap.....and so it should have been.

There were one or two bedraggled bikers turning up. Assume a do on, but with weather perhaps decided to forgo the camping.

Saturday 1st April 2006

Santiago del Estero -Cordoba

428 kms

Well the included breakie was crap, as usual, really you're better off going without and buying nearby, but we don't seem to learn !

The papers had a brief bit in about the bikers coming to town (NOoooo...not us) and it looked like they'd come to bring clothes to the people suffering from the floods, but we may have misinterpreted that, and the flood being a coincidence. Anyway, there were a few here, and they would have a display of 'their colourful vehicles' in the plaza later. Thought it unlikely worth staying for and headed on our way.

Leaving town it wasn't long before the roads were getting wet and their was that drizzle about again. All this time with no rain, you mention it, and look what happens ! We donned the waterproofs once again, but it was only a brief section really. The strange thing was it was welcome to have the cags on as it was cool......only 25 degs...your heart bleed for us !

The roads were much nicer once beyond the wet - I never trust these surfaces as they look greasy as hell in the dry - Never mind the wet !

At least though a fairly direct route across the Pampas, and therefore blistering in the summer heat (as it was when we were last in this area all that time ago in November) it was much more enjoyable in these more temperate times.


Scrub Pampas on way to Cordoba

The scenery wasn't outstanding, but was variable enough to not get boring. Initially lush green sugar cane country, that gave was to the more classic Pampas aridity with thorn trees and scrub. For all the world like the Serengeti, even down to the rocky hillocks like the Kopjes there. The one major difference was cacti. Huge cacti, either massive candelabra types or Prickly Pear types that had trunks on them you wouldn't believe, the thickness of mature trees. This is estancia country and there were several hamlets along the road. Nowadays they must be slightly less isolated with modern vehicles and buses, but 100 or more years ago it must have been a different story.

Stopping for lunch we had a buffet style meal at an ACA (?) petrol station. They're run by the Argentinean equivalent of our AA and offer reasonable food at an excellent price. We were stuffed for six quid even including a sweet, drinks and coffees. Not bad.

The road took in a few low hills giving distance views to reinforce the huge scale of this landscape before suddenly becoming far more arable and we were into the area of huge fields of corn and the like and towns full of heavy agricultural machinery.


Silhouettes on the last corn before harvest

We had another return today, Tarantulas ! You'd occasionally see them crossing the road and we had to stop for a photo of one. This was only a small one, it would fit in your hand if you cut your fingers and thumbs off, so just a small one ! Was quite defensive though, and I reconsidered the option of picking it up (with gloves etc on of course) after it stuck the pose of body up and legs outstretched in the air. Sure these blighters aren't dangerous at all, but we were warned both here and in Chile of spiders people said were deadly. Not sure on that one as not heard it anywhere else - but anyway they were much smaller ones, not Tarantulas. I'll be happy to return somewhere were there is no possibility of finding one of these in the garden though thanks !


Our last Tarantula?

The final ride into Cordoba was unexceptional, but the distances you can cover with ease on these roads is quite something. In the heat of our last time hereabouts it was demanding, so hot, and combined with strong head or side winds. So much more pleasant in this temperature and the generally calm conditions.

Cordoba was the nearest place way back then that I could get my digital SLR cleaned, and we ended up down at ville de Belgrano for 10 days. We only visited Cordoba to drop off the camera, and pick it up again, but we remember just how steamy it was then. It's Argentina's second city at about 1.2million people so not somewhere we particularly wanted to linger. There was a hotel shown on the BA side of town, but when we tried it was full. There were plenty of others nearby so we took the first one that was reasonable and had secure parking.

What a contrast this place is compared to last night. Here you can't move for eateries, in the main confiteria's which offer a large range of cakes, fine by us !

It is very strange that we have now virtually 'closed' the circle. Once in BA we will be back right were we started. We visited San Ped again, but generally everywhere we have been, has been for the first time.

With hindsight perhaps we would have planned open ended tickets and returned from somewhere else, such as Ecuador or Peru, but we have a crate in BA, and return tickets from there. Hard to believe probably only a fortnight ago we were in Peru doing our mad bit of the Gringo Trail. We didn't want to rush round that bit, but the choice was that, or nothing, and it was well worth it. Returning to BA it will be great to see Sandra and Javier again and BA is somewhere we could easily spend a few days without boredom.

It isn't over yet, we have about two weeks left, but once in BA we are unlikely to use the bike to travel again. We want to sort the return shipping out, and that's the priority. There is a lot to be said for not taking a bike home and returning to continue travels, the cost of returning being high, but to leave it you are relying on someone’s hospitality which we don't think is fair (there are a few bikes we've seen like this where the people have yet to return...if they ever do).

We hope we will have enough leeway that we can perhaps organise a little adventure form BA without the bike. There are a few options to go places by overnight bus, or plane. Something we will investigate once we get there.

Sunday 2nd April 2006

Córdoba - San Antonio de Areco

500 odd kms

Well, true to form, since our return to Argentina everything continues to go pear shaped. This time only the small matter of the weather. it was lashing down drizzle - I know that sounds wrong, but you know what I mean. Not rain, but soaking stuff.

We left sans breakkie to find it at one of those hospitable YPF stations. It was miserable weather with the roads wet and slimy and we were grateful to stop for a coffee fairly soon after starting.

We discovered two characters from the Fast Show enjoying a miserable Sunday morning watching the Gran Prix on the TV in the petrol station. For some reason they assumed we were Italian (that's a new twist...are we that stylish ?) and as usual, they were quite in awe of our travels. I guess we too will be in two weeks :-(

We struggled on out of town without the waterproofs, but had to give up and cover up as soon as on motorway as the spray was drenching.....in fact we'd left it too late, and were damp in all the wrong places for quite a while.

It was a day of dull riding, at least the first one for a long time. Little of interest, the only times being when we were on single carriageway sections and overtaking was required.

One point of interest was not long after leaving Cordoba when passing through a small town. There are signs all over Argentina, but mainly in the NE for some reason, along the lines of the Malvina's is Argentina. There are also numerous museums regarding the conflict throughout the country, based I guess on gaining some popularity for the government of the time. One such museum was in this quite small town. The relevance was it was the 24 anniversary of the Argentine invasion and there was a huge parade and stuff going on.

If all this had taken place with Peru, I think we would have felt a little concerned at riding through, but Argentineans are considerably more broad-minded, laid-back, call it what you like and we didn't think we were likely to be lynched. It would have been interesting to have stopped, but we had a long way ahead and the weather wasn't promising for the journey. They had a couple of planes on display, and a section of the prow of a boat and were doing the full speeches and parade thing. I doubt you'd find many people in the UK that would remember the date, let alone know it was 24 years ago, so it was surprise to find it being acknowledged here. Anyway we passed with no threat or inconvenience as has been the case for the whole of the trip. You might expect some resentment, but not a thing of it, all put down to governments and not individuals.

The one thing to note is the suicidal tendencies of the Argentinean drivers. Love the country, love the people, don't love the intensely dangerous driving. Why anyone should think they can overtake us and not cross the white line fully when the opposite direction is clear I just don't know....it must be a machismo thing....or plain stupidity. It’s the speed of the driving here that makes everything so bloody dangerous. In Bolivia or Peru you come across occasional suicidal tendencies, but the speed difference is limited. Here, it is considerable, and that makes it all the more dangerous.

Our favourite (not) manoeuvre today was the truck coming straight towards us overtaking another. It was - as all were - a dead straight pampas road and he must have seen us as he edged out as I put the lights on full beam, but he just kept coming. I guess he had the arrogant attitude of "it's a bike, they'll get off the road and I can continue" Thank god there was a hard strip at that point is all I can say. Bloody dangerous stuff.

We were aiming for San Antonio as very near BA and so a short ride to Dakar Motos from there. It was also heralded as a historic old place and a centre for the estancias thereabouts and had a Gaucho museum. If we stopped two nights we would have time to see around - that was the plan.

We got into town quite a bit before dark and stopped in a place that could have been better, but once in you can't be bothered moving for one other night. Had the traditional great feed that evening.

Monday 3rd April 2006

San Antonio de Areco

0 kms

A day of sightseeing. The Museum of the Gaucho was actually a museum to a poet who wrote a well known (but not to us I'm afraid) book on them and was a little disappointing.....well OK it wasn't much cop at all. There were one or two things of interest in the town building wise, but not really enough to warrant a visit from our point of view.

The thing that was of interest here, for all the wrong reasons, was the bl**dy dogs !

Now we have been some places on this trip where dogs have been aplenty, and at night a real nuisance. It's hard to explain to anyone that hasn't heard the sound of persistent dog barking through the night (and NOTHING in the UK compares whatever you might think). Dogs are a total pain in most towns - ironically less of a problem in Bolivia and Peru where you'd think they would be at their worst. In India and other similar places it's the same, the dogs sleep all day on the streets and then come to life at night and bark through the small hours. Its one of the least attractive elements of travel, having so much interrupted sleep.

This town has probably the worse dog problem we've come across. Down near the river is a park were the street dogs congregate and hang out and make the absolute biggest racket you can imagine. This morning was the worst we have heard anywhere in the world, and in a country like Argentina, there is absolutely no reason for it. They could pound the dogs, neuter then on mass, but instead, they acknowledge the problem and do nothing.

Now post the drink driving incident and the use of violence then, you will probably think the following is a further worsening of my condition, but in all honesty,. I would take a gun to these dogs if only someone would give me the bullets (or the gun). There is no room for anything other than a harsh solution to the problem (By the way, I'd neuter the original owners too !) Walking around to town these muts start tailing you and I'm afraid after our appalling nights kip due to them they got the side of my foot to encourage them to go back whence they belonged. Over 50% of British readers are tutt tutting and reading no further !

Wasted the rest of the day bumming about (in rain, typical, it's following us)

Tuesday 4th April 2006

San Antonio de Areco - Buenos Aires

120 odd kms

What on earth is going on ? At some godforsaken hour this morning one hell of a storm broke with thunder (no lightening) and the most persistent rain we've witnessed in years, and it continued right though till mid-morning. We actually thought we would get soaked, but after breakfast the skies cleared and it was roasting hot, and all that water created the worst of humidity, not ideal motorcycling conditions.

The news was covering the weather as a cyclone, and a new word for us, and easy to remember was orribles. As in Spanish the 'h' is silent you can see what the word is, and refered to the conditions exactly

In many many ways today was a very sad day indeed. The closing of our circle. The return to where we started from. The end of the trip with the bike.

5 months ago to the day we left Sandra and Javier at Dakar Motos in Buenos Aires to start our trip and adventure.

At least we had the great advantage of returning to their welcoming arms, that is the only bonus at this point in the trip.

We made it to BA in no time and were soon jostling with the crazy high speed drivers and their psychotic ways. We actually found Dakar Motos relatively easily and were welcomed by Sandra and Javier.

All that is said of Sandra and Javier is true, or possibly understated. It may sound saccharine laden or sycophantic but in all honesty is all true.

There are probably no better people to spend time with at this section of the trip, and they are one of our few props on sanity now the riding is ended, anywhere else I think we'd probably have just burst into tears.


Back at Dakar Motos, at least the trip ends with friends!

So, from here what ?

We obviously have to arrange shipping the bike back, but strictly speaking we have a fortnight until we have to fly ourselves. We could take a trip with the bike to say Uruguay, of south or west from BA, but having arrived with the bike in one piece I think we'd like to let her rest here. We could take a trip somewhere, but so far the favoured options, Galapagos, Easter Island etc are looking very expensive indeed. We could fly to Rio or anywhere for a week, but that's a decision we have yet to make.

I guess we will do a summary of the kit and things we've learnt but the mails from on the road are at a very very sad end. It is over so far as the riding goes now.......bummer

What an adventure though, what an opportunity, and what a fantastic way to fill it. I'm sure nothing much could have been bettered, and there's hardly anything we'd change. The time has been the only limiting factor, six months was too short....no really!

The bike is parked, the helmets stowed.

Posted by Simon McCarthy at 08:56 AM GMT
April 28, 2006 GMT
Leaving on a jet plane, not sure when we'll be back again

Having spent many a day at Dakar Moto HQ, thought it might be time for a quick update.

As you'll remember from way back when, last year in fact....though only 5 months ago really, Sandra & Javier run a motorcycle repair shop with facilities for traveling bikers to stay.

Though it's out in the suburbs there is an excellent train station nearby and a return ticket costs less than 25p p/p. There is an underground network and it costs little too.

So it's a great place to be based. The accommodation is adjacent to the workshop, bunk beds, a toilet & shower, and kitchen. There's a garden outside (or camping area!) and so long as there is space and time, you have an opportunity to work on your bike, or better still, let Javier do it for you for very reasonable costs. He's worked wonders on a few of our fellow travelers bikes and there are some excellent services available for repairs. Non re-builable shock trashed ? Well that can be taken apart refurbished and reassembled as good as new. Smash a screen, a new one can be made to match. If there's a problem, there's someone who can resolve it. Excellent facility. Fortunately for us we are simply staying here !


Our hosts at Dakar Moto's, Javier & Sandra, and us still able to smile!

We could get somewhere 'downtown', but the ambience here makes it hard to leave. It's hard to describe that ambience really. The place is a workshop frequented by many of their friends, and to a man (and the odd women if we ignore Sandra which of course we never would) they are fantastic friendly people.

ALWAYS here you greet everyone. No matter you never met, no matter you met yesterday, always is a handshake and welcome to everyone. Those of close relationship kiss...that's the men...women are always kissed ! It's a strange thing to plant (or have planted on you) a stubbly peck on the cheek, but it's the way and all quite normal here.

Having been before we know quite a few of the Dakar Motos Social Club, and it's nice to be reacquainted. Our limited Spanish is not a hindrance, just an opportunity for some humour !

By the time lunch comes round there is usually a small group of people and some takeaway is bought in, pizzas, steak sandwiches or similar, and there's some time out for socialising.

It's a hard thing to explain how we have managed to spend so much time here, without actually going into town much. After all, there is much to see in town and we know our way around now. I think it's the fact we sit down and share coffee with Javier and Sandra when they arrive in the workshop, and start chatting. Their company is good and time seems to fly. Nosing around the workshop is easy, and the other travelers staying or calling in are always easy to talk with and share experiences. Before you know it time has disappeared and it hardly seems worth going out. That's why I say Sandra and Javier are like family !

We finally managed to get sorted with the bike shipping. First stage was taking the bike down the road for a clean, our last ride on the continent ! A local place run by a biker is recommended and proved to be very good. For about £3 the old girl came out with no dirt, clean, with only the rust showing up more clearly.


Washing bike for three quid, came up lovely, all rust now clearly visible!

A funny thing happened the other night. We decided to pop downtown, really for the hell of it, but to get a little shopping and a drink. We were sat in a cafe and the television was showing the weather. It indicated there might be rain that night, but nothing dramatic. But one feature of the TV is they always give the capitols weather at the end and show some live pictures of the weather on the main highways around the city. They switched to that and it was absolutely nailing down ! It was very warm, calm and dry where we were. All the people in the place where looking up at the TV, looking outside, at each other and the staff, and back to the TV. It was surreal, like the pictures weren't live. I sharp realised that was weather coming our way and we settled up as fast as possible. By the time we had the wind was blowing wildly outside with leaves and litter flying everywhere and the first drops of rain falling. Fortunately the subway was outside and we dived down and made our subterranean journey in the dry. Only the walk from the rail station to Dakar Motos was wet, lucky !

Actually that wasn't the last ride, as of course we had to get to the airport. We had finally discovered to fly the bike with Lufthansa was by far the best deal, and far less complicated than going through the port for a boat

The preliminary enquires sounded great, and the procedure sounded simple so we decided to go with it. Having had such an easy procedure on entry to the country through the airport, it sounded the best way out too.

Our last ride was upon us !

An early start was required as we needed to get to the cargo area by 9.30. The roads were pretty busy and we had a few errors in route finding.....you'd never expect a sign on the M25 for the airport would you ? Of course you would ! None here until you get to the road off the ring road. We finally got there, only 15 minutes late, so effectively early ;-)

When we turned up at the cargo area at the airport, all we had to enter was our airway bill number, just handwritten on the email from Lufthansa, sufficient to pass security, let us in without question :-0

Security at the 'Deposit' cargo warehouse got a 'wrapper' for us. Preliminary weigh on scales (no pallet) in first building was 286kgs, moved to adjacent packing warehouse with our assistant. He took us through and got us clearance security badges. The bike was then placed on wooden pallet.

We had to carry out certain formalities, petrol has to be drained - they get bored, not necessary to empty, if say near empty, they will accept that, battery has to be disconnected, and tyre pressures reduced, again not sure you need to do tyres, but we did on this occasion. The customs formalities have to be done, one guy, he was friendly, he took our temporary import document. He checks number plate, chassis, motor, cursory check luggage.


Wrapping bike

The bike was strapped with nylon tapes to the wooden pallet and eventually wrapped in cling film, we locked lids to bike, and strapped a large stuff bag with sleeping bags etc on and our jackets were shrink wrapped and strapped to bike under screen on seat. Once completed the wrapper asked for I think 120 pesos (£24) with a receipt, or (definite price) 60 pesos (£12) no receipt, obvious choice as we can't reclaim. Once finished the bike weighed in at 330kgs (including pallet).


Bike Wrapped

We went around corner to Lufthansa office with customs documents and receipt document from wrapping warehouse. They produce a form with details of bike flight etc, the Airway Bill. You complete a vehicle check sheet – what’s on bike, and pallet, and condition of vehicle, signed declaration at end. A Dangerous Goods Certificate is done and signed.

Now we had to pay ! You can ONLY pay cash, either in US Dollars, or local pesos, or combination of two.

After all paperwork was completed we were given a sticker to apply to bike - we had to do it to ensure it was the right bike. After that we had completed everything. We left and handed in our pass.

We kept the petrol removed from bike in a can and took it away with us for Sandra and Javier. No one queried us walking around the cargo area with the petrol, even through the checks, or when we walked to the entrance of airport terminal. :-0 .....really.

We walked away and hoped our pride and joy arrives in UK OK !

An aside. I wondered if the loaders of the planes are as committed to balancing weight as us with the bike. Seen some bikes with the most ridiculous amount of luggage badly placed while here. Wonder if some loaders better than other. Imagine the pilot fighting with the controls all way to UK with a “Bleeding ‘eck Miguel’s been loading again”.

We are definitely “Leaving on a jet plane”, but there is the question “Don’t know when we’ll be back again” See you in the UK !

Posted by Simon McCarthy at 09:00 PM GMT

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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


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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