"Carol and Ken Duval from Brisbane, Australia have been on a world tour for the past three and a half years. They have toured North America from Alaska to Guatamala, worked in the UK for two winters and toured Europe, UK and Ireland before embarking in December 1999 from London Cairo then on to Cape Town and Durban. On 17th July they flew with their bike to Athens, Greece where they met up with Carol's brother Wayne for a few days of rest, sightseeing and family news. Carol and Ken left Romania on 7 September for Turkey, Iran, Pakistan and India on their trek homeward to Australia."
07 Sep 2000 - from Wayne Roberts, Carol's brother
Ken & Carol Duval outside Grant and Susan Johnson's, Slough, UK
August 2010 Update Venezuela Colombia
A slow start today, that’s what retired folks do, as we set a rough plan to explore Isla de Margarita. Playa El Agua, a white sandy beach with crashing shore breaks was chosen as the first destination. Huge hotel/casino complexes provided contrast to the poverty which was very apparent in the smaller villages. Umbrellas and shade huts sheltered holiday makers from the sun. Other nearby bays supported fisherman with these beaches also being very popular with locals. Few international tourists were seen on the beaches so our guess was they were at the ‘Black Jack Tables’ or the ‘Roulette Wheels’ despite the perfect weather.
Large Casino Hotels
July 2010 Update Colombia Venezuela
Early morning, and grey clouds moved in quickly hiding the blue sky on the day we planned a boat ride to neighboring islands. The vessel ‘Alcatraz’ departed 45 minutes late, cruising across the calm bay waters passing the old fortified entrance of Cartagena. Islas Del Rosario and Playa Blanca on Baru was our destination today.MORE...
June 2010 Update Colombia
It was quite a relief to reach Colombia as some months earlier in Argentina we had arranged a rendezvous with Carol’s sister Rosemary and her husband Mark. Many laughed at our projected time frame due to our slow travel pace and detours believing we would need to park the bike and fly to Cartagena to achieve the rendezvous. Rose and Mark planned to spend about 10 days with us in Cartagena and the surrounding area. Fortunately our current pace had us well on schedule to the point we could detour away from the direct route to visit two bicycle travelers met in Paraguay the previous year.
May 2010 Update Ecuador Colombia
Departing Banos we filled with petrol and a strange vehicle that had caused a few highway problems on our way to Banos followed us into the garage. These brightly colored road trains are used in many tourist areas to show off the local sights.
Mini tourist trains travel the highways slowly
April 2010 Update Peru and Ecuador
Thomas and Astrid on the Triumph side-car joined us in our ride north to Huacachina. The road added some interest in the early stages with some ‘twisties’ but straightened out just before we reached Ica. Huacachina was only a few kilometres further on and is a very small oasis village attracting both Peruvians and international tourists. Surrounded by huge golden sand dunes thousands of people arrive here to play in the dunes and swim in the small lake which is surrounded by hotels and smaller forms of accommodation. The sun was warm as we chased a suitable bed arriving at an unmarked hostel advised by another hostel owner. The building fronted the small lake and we were able to park the bike inside. Thomas declared he was happy to lock up the sidecar and park on the street. It was with some relief we had found this place as it was Semana Santa (Easter weekend) and the volume of holiday makers was quite apparent with some places displaying the ‘no vacancy’ sign. V8 buggies rumbled through the narrow streets and bounced along the approach road behind the village leading up into the dunes. Roaring through the dunes in these rough hand-made vehicles was one of the main attractions of the area.
Thomas and Astrid on their Triumph sidecar
March 2010 Update Argentina/Chile/Peru
The 1st March and our trek north began around midday as we said our farewells to everyone on the farm. There was a lot of activity as Nick was organizing construction of a doorway from the second bedroom onto the verandah accessing the pool and asado. The small farm house had received many improvements over the past couple of years plus the farm had also progressed significantly after thousands of hours of hard work despite drawbacks due to difficult weather. Everything from unseasonal snow, hail, frosts, storms and severe winds had battered the farm over the past few years. Kevin and Lorraine were putting in some hours on the farm and Carol had been working the kitchen… Me!! .. Still tinkering with the bike!!!MORE...
February 2010 Update Argentina
Preparation for our ride north to exit South America began, commencing with repairs to the bike after the last blow-out crash. Parts were ordered from the UK and Australia. We expected time issues but the customs delays were something else. It appeared the parts arrived in Buenos Aries from their separate International destinations in 3 – 6 days but customs took around three weeks to process the imports and the taxes…WOW… was all we could say.
Damaged jacket from our second blow out
January 2010 Update Argentina/Chile Dakar 2010
Progress was slow…. four days of bike work, physio and rest and we were almost done. The Dakar Rally was already crossing into Chile and we had not left Buenos Aires. On the 5th January we finally made our move after saying goodbye to Ed (USA), Brian & Marie (Can), Tony (Holland) and Ludovit who arrived and left within 24 hours. It was also a sad farewell to Javier, Sandra and Julian from Dakar Motos. At 5.30 pm as we sighted a storm brewing in the west. We departed, determined to cover at least a 100 kms before bunking down for the night. Efforts to dissuade us failed. This short ride was to be a test to our physical well being and our chance to continue the rigors of following the Dakar Rally. Reaching Sarmiento we scrambled into a cozy room just before the heavens opened up. Gusting wind and rain knocked out the electricity in the middle of the TV coverage of the Dakar. Today was our first ride since the accident and other than a little stiffness all went well. Our confidence was not lacking and we were keen to continue, a good sign as the next few days would make or break our resolve. I have to admit though every time the bike ‘wiggled’ due to irregular road surfaces we stopped to check tyre pressures. Paranoia!!!
December 2009 Update Argentina
With the bike safely tucked away on transport to Buenos Aries it was our turn to pack and bid farewell to our family of helpers in Rosario de la Frontera explaining we would return before we departed Argentina early in 2010. A few South American countries enjoy ‘Cama Buses’ which provide almost fully reclined seats allowing patrons to sleep on the lengthy bus rides. The recliners are larger than aircraft seats and the position was quite comfortable in our injured states.
November 2009 Update Peru - Bolivia - Chile – Argentina
Leaving Puno the weather cooled as the road took us to the border. We noticed a distinct lack of movement on the Bolivian side which contrasted significantly to the very efficient Peruvian side. It was lunch time and nothing would happen for another 45 minutes. Indigenous venders selling all manner of goods from local foods to handicrafts approached us. A French couple (Arno & Julie) riding a tandem bicycle complete with trailer joined the migration south but their exit of Peru was not as smooth as ours. Having been robbed of their passports, the replacements did not have a Peruvian entry stamp plus their small immigration docket was also missing. No sympathy was shown for their predicament by the Peruvian officials but some how after a few dollar bills were passed over the stamp appeared and their exit of Peru was complete. Just how things are done here.
Welcome to Bolivia
October 2009 Update Peru
We had been chasing a solution to our misfire for three days now with the consensus being a failing ignition coil. Assistance came from several sources including the BMW site on Horizons Unlimited, friends in Australia, the Mitsubishi dealer in Cajamarca and lastly the mechanic of our English contacts David and Peter owners of Adventure Peru Motorcycling whose office is in Cajamarca. I will give these guys a plug as we had never met them (introduced as friends of friends) but spent a lot of time and effort trying to get our problem sorted. They also offer help and information to all travelers in the area should it be needed.
September 2009 Update Manaus Brazil to Cajamarca Peru
Carol had a days rest from navigating a big city as Joelmir escorted us to the bustling wharves of Manaus. Two in a row for her, as Cecilia’s GPS gave her a holiday in Belem as well. Competing with cars, trucks, motorbikes, pushbikes and pedestrians in 40+C heat is not fun but having someone who knows the way up front makes it much easier.
“That will NOT fit”. Loading the bike at Manaus
August 2009 Update Belem to Manaus The Long Way
Belem appeared busy every day of the week with people bustling around even on the weekends. Our boat ride organized and with the help of Alex who also owns a small motorcycle shop, we were able to find a suitable knobby front tyre for the anticipated dirt roads ahead. Pirelli MT 21’s are manufactured in Brazil but they are almost impossible to find. Even the Honda dealer did not have them listed in his Pirelli tyre book. Even the Metzler Sahara 3 also manufactured in Brazil was not available. The Mitas (rear) we had fitted in Curitiba Brazil some 10,000 kms ago still looked up for the task and should make the round trip to Manaus.
Alex’s bike shop in Belem
July 2009 Update Brazil
While we were enjoying our time in Parati we received an email from another motorcycle traveler who had suffered the square wheel syndrome after hitting a large square pothole (man made) due for a repair job. Several spokes were broken and she was now waiting in the small village of Lencois for the repair to be completed in Salvador. Cecilia (Swiss) rides a weathered R100GSPD and her reputation preceded her as we had heard from other travelers of her adventures and problems experienced in South America. Cecilia sent us an email saying things had gone a little astray and she had been waiting in Lencois for almost six weeks. Adjusting our planned schedule we headed to Lencois to see if we could give some assistance and also there was the chance we could have a riding companion to Belem should the work be completed as she was also heading in that direction. Lencois looked like a two to three day ride from Belo Horizonte.
Waiting at road block/detour North of Belo Horizonte
June 2009 Update
We stayed in Campo Grande for a couple of extra days on the invite of Rodrigo and Luciane. It was Rodrigo’s birthday in a few days and it was bound to be a fun party. With Luciane we enjoyed more sight seeing around the city including Parque das Nacoes Indigenas highlighted with the sighting of a group of capybaras on the river bank. We enjoyed a pleasant night for Rodrigo’s party at a very busy bar/restaurant with around a dozen friends. The night was cool and we arrived home only to continue our conversations to the wee hours of the morning. Our departure was delayed due to our late night/early morning but eventually we said our goodbyes and made the short distance (200 kms) to Agua Clara. A very busy town full of trucks and way too many speed bumps. An overpriced hotel and a poor breakfast saw us on the road early when we could not find the local internet open. It was 9.15 am and the Lan café was locked up with not a soul in sight despite listing opening hours from 9.00am till 12.00pm.
Night shot Main Plaza in Campo Grande
May 2009 Update Brazil
Some clouds in the sky after a bit of a late sleep. We walked the city of Santo Angelo in the morning but found everything closed. It was a public holiday!!! Gilson met up with his daughters who had returned from school in Santa Maria for the long weekend. Poliana the eldest, was studying English and she returned with Gilson to give a hand with all the translations necessary when no computer was at hand. Fagundes and Luciane arrived around 6.00 pm and later in the evening we all rode to a local fair that was the hot spot of the night’s activities. We walked the grounds for some time interrupted only by a quick meal before observing a live music concert. This was all in Portuguese however we were kept well informed with translations of most conversations and even the words of the songs by Poliana. The evening was completed with a couple of chocolate coated strawberry kebabs!!
Gilson and his daughter Poliana
April 2009 Update
Delaying our departure from Rocha was the correct decision with a clear blue sky greeting us early in the morning. Hotel Arrarte included a light breakfast in the price and after a quick pack we were on the road early. The Southern Atlantic coastline of Uruguay shares a lot with the Pacific on Australian shores although the prolific predatorial wildlife of the Australian waters is not present here. We visited several beaches in the region including La Paloma, Costa Azul, La Predera and Punta del Diablo. The beaches were very quiet despite having excellent surf and a lot of the businesses were also closed. While enjoying a lunch of fresh fish at Punta del Diablo the weather decided to do a U turn and a very strong wind began moving some very dark overweight clouds in our direction. A few photos and a hasty departure we headed back to La Aguada Campground at Costa Azul. The choice of places to camp was not limited with the grounds having hundreds of available sites and only two occupied. Such are the extremes of the tourist industry in South America. I can only visualize what the grounds would be like over the Christmas New Year period and we were even a little surprised the grounds were open as in Argentina and Chile most of these types of facilities would have closed. Our host was very helpful and while doing a little internet in the reception another two travelers (backpackers) arrived to swell the numbers.
Hotel Arrarte in Rocha
March 2009 Update
Our family of campers at La Posta was down to five with the departure of Andy (USA) and the mood was dampened a little when it rained over the next couple of days. No leaks with the tent though and we hoped that the rain would disappear for Jorge’s Birthday asado. Fabrice (France) a free lance motorcyclist journalist arrived with his girlfriend from Venezuela in their small motor home and proceeded to photograph and interview everyone for a special article on La Posta.
Leo leaving his mark on the wall.
February 2009 Update
A quiet time these past few weeks with most hours devoted to sorting out bike problems (some ours, some others) and doing four months of updates. After the Dakar Rally we moved into the hostel at Dakar Motos joining Mathias (Honda Transalp) from Switzerland. He also followed the Dakar but clung much closer to the route and competitors than we did. He covered 10,000 kms in the two weeks of racing with his journey being almost as long as the racers. Mathias mentioned that on returning it took him some time to ‘come down’ after all the pressure and hype of this huge event. Now he was preparing for his next jump….. across the Pacific to New Zealand then onto Australia.
Mathias (with Javier) cleaning his bike at Dakar Motos before departing to New Zealand.
Thursday 1st Buenos Aires
In the evening after our first contact with the Dakar vehicles at la Rural we were fortunate to dine out with several motorcycle travelers staying in Buenos Aires. Rider # 116 Don Hatton from Canada visited our small group before dinner passing on his thanks to Javier and Sandra for their help in Buenos Aires. Good to meet another rider to look out for over the next two weeks.
The Dakar Rally Argentina Chile 2009
Team Rally Australia # 205
The tourist office in Posadas gave us a number of options to bunk down for the evening so ‘cruising’ the streets on a very quiet Sunday was a different experience. Posadas is another river city and has a very active waterfront laced with parks and restaurants. The evening brought no respite from the afternoon heat and hundreds of people gathered on the grassed banks trying to get cool in the river breeze. Restaurants were packed as we walked the pathways searching for a suitable eatery. Outside tables were at a premium so it was inside or nothing. Whew!!! Was it hot!!.. and sleeping that night was even stickier and humid.MORE...
November 2008 Part 2
To say the border crossing into Paraguay from Corinda, Argentina was a dream would be an understatement. Immigration and customs were extremely helpful with a lot of hand shaking and smiling. Not a tout to be seen and the bike parked in front of three police officers while we took care of the paperwork. Fantastic. Entering new countries we always spend some time adjusting to different driving quirks. Paraguay was no different and a small traffic jam caused an impatient bus driver (20 seats) to overtake us at a poor moment (oncoming truck) then chop across on top of us. A spray with the flashing headlight, horn/siren combo woke the driver and the ticket man up. Our first police check just outside Asuncion was painless and we joined the chaotic traffic into the city centre.MORE...
November 2008 Part 1
Some days you wake up and know that the day will bring a great ride. The air was cool and crisp outside as we packed the bike in Campo Quijano and entertained an early start, but the plan back-fired as this little village had no petrol station. Carol had planned a shortcut to meet with Ruta 33 and this took us through a town more likely to have fuel. About 10 kms down the road, Rosario de Lerma was having a ‘peak hour moment’ when we arrived and directions were needed through the maize of one way streets to find to the YPF (fuel station). The road out of town had few sign posts and reduced to a gravel track between farms within minutes. Looking lost at a crossroad a local on a small bike waved us south as we yelled “Pulares” through our helmet chin bars. Pulares was at the road junction of Ruta 33 and our little short cut.MORE...
Departing from John and Annette’s farm in San Rafael we headed north east to Grl Belgrano passing through San Luis. This ruta has one of the longest straight roads we have ever ridden probably around 100 kms long and reminds us very much of the Nullabor in Australia. Belgrano has a strong German influence and also celebrates an annual Oktoberfest. The weather was superb with warm days and cool nights and the festivities were in full swing when we arrived. We camped at Camping El Rincon under shady trees and an outdoor kitchen, venturing into town in the evenings to enjoy folk dancing on a stage in a large park. With an enthusiastic audience we enjoyed several dance routines from many European countries laughing as we listened to German songs being sung in Spanish. I guess it is the same in Aus when we do them in English. Loud applause and cheering accompanied all performances and we only departed when the cool night air penetrated our summer jackets late in the evening.MORE...
August September 2008
We surrendered Arnie and Helena’s house back to them on their return from the north of Argentina and headed back to John and Annette’s finca to prepare for our ride to Uruguay. However when we arrived we found our hosts were very busy planting over 1,000 plum trees on newly prepared land which two years before was planted with 1,000 olive trees. These were destroyed in the following year by an exceptionally cold winter which included 29 cm of snow. This is the part of farming I struggle to deal with, and after seeing John and Annette’s tired bodies, we (really it was Carol!!) volunteered our fresh bodies to assist in the subsequent planting instead of the planned trip to Uruguay. (What was she thinking???)
Planting plum trees at John and Annette’s finca
May, June, July 2008 Update
Our plan was originally to head north from Santiago as far as we could, time and seasons permitting, jump the Andes through one of numerous passes, then head south back to San Rafael in Argentina. Mario was quick to point out that many of the passes were seasonal and some would be closed. Alas, we changed directions once again, as our intended Andes crossing was not possible due to a late April closure.
So it was over the Paso Los Libertadores once again. Not that we are complaining. This is a great ride with spectacular views. The border crossing had its little hiccup with the lady completing the incorrect form for a foreign vehicle. We noticed this but could not get our message across. Eventually the error was realized and a hasty exit to another booth to get the correct form and we were on our way again. Snow had fallen a day or two before and a small patch of black ice appeared on the road at the exit of the border post building… We were being “very aware”!!!
Lunch at Uspallata, we made the decision to make it to Mendoza for the night then plan our route north from there. The decision was re-affirmed when as we road off, the centre stand did not retract and scratched along the road. Not a good sound!!! The nut and pivot bush had abandoned ship somewhere down the track, although the bolt was still in place but a little out of position. We tied the stand up and headed to Mendoza where we knew there were bike shops and mechanics that could help.
Carlos the BMW Mechanic in Mendoza
Other travelers had also advised us of a BMW mechanic in Mendoza so with some effort we tracked him down and within a minute he produced a shiny new bush and lock nut. Five minutes later we were mobile. Too easy. Once again we enjoyed the sights of Mendoza before we tracked north.
Vineyards outside of San Juan
A little over 160 kms is San Juan. The road taken was a small deviation, the scenic route through a national park which extended the journey by another 120 kms. The scenery was not that much different from what we had previously traveled but the traffic was significantly less. Once again due to the lateness of the season the campgrounds were closed and we experienced difficulty finding accommodation with secure parking. Several hostels were also full. Our eventual host spoke a little English and took every opportunity to practice… It should be us practicing our Spanish!! Not much happening in San Juan so we push further north the next day, the weather although being a little cool, was superb after all the difficulty with snow and rain in Chile.
Our English speaking host in San Juan
On the road to San Augustin de Valle Fertil
Another short ride (260 kms) to San Augustin de Valle Fertil. A very quiet town with many Cabanas and few travelers/occupants. Our price for two bedrooms, kitchen and bathroom …75 pesos…. A bargain. The weather was very cool and a little overcast hence the lack of travelers. We did our usual routine of walking the streets and checking the sights close by and noted a number of tempting restaurants. It would have been a treat but with a great kitchen in the cabana and a super Mercado (supermarket) and a carnicero (butcher) nearby we cooked up a great feed at home!!!
El Submarino Valle de la Luna
The road north led us to La Rioja but we made a slight detour to ‘Valle de la Luna’ or Provincial Park Ischigualasto. It is a controlled tour through this National Park and the dust from the convoy of cars preceding us was choking. We slowed and wandered around doing our own thing as the Park Guide only spoke Spanish. Our information was gained from brochures and our guide book. Spectacular scenery to say the least with some diverse rock formations and colours. Numerous types of cactus dominated the plant life but the strangest items were the rock balls.
Valle de la Luna
La Rioja is a large city and after collecting information from the tourist office tackled the one way street system to find suitable accommodation with secure parking. We eventually ended up a little way out of town at what appeared to be a resort but named Monto Bello Hostel. Secure, a huge room, no cooking facilities but a restaurant attached and breakfast included. During dinner we noted a lot of activity in a room adjacent to ours. Preparations for a major function which included a stage and a band!!! It started at midnight and rocked until 5.00 am. This was a rough night .. Large pauses between song brackets (time to get to sleep) then “wham bam” away they would go again!!! Am I getting old or what??? We survived, much wiser after the event. Our second night here was more to our liking and after a day sight seeing, enjoyed a peaceful night. On our day tour of the city we found a “Lubricante” shop. These shops sell a variety of quality oils and quite often have a service bay to provide oil changes to motor vehicles. Rarely do they do motorcycles but we convey our wishes to the salesman and he is only too obliging. As a vehicle departs we are motioned to come and park. Carol advises the salesman that her “espouso” was a “mechanico” I change all four oil reservoirs in 30 mins with a little assistance from the resident mechanico. As we back out we note that a ute/pick-up has been double parked for some time. We believe that it was his turn to get his vehicle serviced and we thank him for being patient and apologize for the delay and he replies with a smile ‘no problema’. As always the people here are very friendly and accommodating.
Valle de la Luna
Another short ride of just over 160 kms and we reach Catamarca. (San Fernando del Valle de Catamarca) The guide book does not give this city a glowing report but as we plied our navigation skills to the narrow one-way streets we enjoyed its busy tight thoroughfares. The tourist office near the square gave us some misinformation on hostels (location and parking) close by but after a few laps of the inner city we noted a number of small Hotels with tell-tale driveways to large iron doors/gates (parking). Hotel Colonial …. clean old style rooms with cable TV and “desayuno inclusivo” breakfast included. We walked into the very busy town centre and sat in a small restaurant opposite the main square and people watched for a few hours in cool, dry weather.
Service in La Rioja
After one night in Catamarca we headed south on Ruta 33 to San Martin joining Ruta 60 which continued south then east and then south again. Somewhere along this road in a very small village or outpost we came across a Ural Police Bike parked on the side of the road. Stopping to take a photo the Police Officer appeared and mounted the outfit to get included in the photo. Eventually we hooked up with Ruta 9 and reached Cordoba around 5.00 pm. Traffic in this major city was heavy but organized and getting to the city square was a doddle with Carol’s navigational skills. I noted parking would be a bit of an issue and as Carol disappeared across the main square searching for the tourist office a parking inspector was busy placing tickets on mopeds parked on or near the square. I promptly took off in search of a ‘more’ legal spot. Two hours later I was getting very concerned as Carol had not returned, it was getting dark, and moving the bike around looking for suitable parking had become quite a chore.
Finally, Carol appeared. Our very helpful tourist office staffer who spoke English had been ringing around various accommodation sites (inner city) looking for secure parking. A marathon effort to say the least. We rode Cordoba’s streets in the twilight knocking on doors, finally seeing a small hotel not on the list with the tell-tale driveway and big iron gates. A nightly rate 60 pesos at Emperador Hotel was a bargain and included cable TV. The hotel was in a restaurant belt that did the “menu of the day” deal for around 10 to 12 pesos. A huge two or three course set menu meal. Good value for the locals and travelers. Plenty to see in the Big ‘C’. Old Churches, dancing musical fountains plus numerous old colonial buildings. Came across another Ural Police bike too. Cordoba was the first official capital of Argentina and is now the second largest city and is generally regarded as the University city with around 10% of the population being students. Our final night in town we splashed out and dined at The Ritz.!!! No where near as ritzy or expensive as the other world Ritz’s but it sounded good!!
Dancing musical fountain in Cordoba
Departing on Ruta 5 south, the town of Alta Garcia was our destination that morning. This was the childhood town of Ernesto “Che” Guevara (“Motorcycle Diaries”) who spent 11 years of his youth here. One of his family’s homes “Villa Beatriz” on Avellaneda 501 is a museum and some hours were spent taking in the pictures and history of this famous or infamous rebel. His best friend and mentor Fidel Castro is displayed with Che in many pictures. It is 40 years since Che was killed in Bolivia by what most believe was a CIA backed plot.
Some interesting artwork, Cordoba
We ride a great mountain road/pass when leaving Alta Garcia to meet up with Ruta 20 which takes us over a larger pass to Mina Clavero. This was a super road and really enjoyable as it was unexpected. Most roads in Argentina are long, flat and straight. We have a lot just like these in Australia. A few kilometers before Villa Delores Ruta 148 takes us south and eventually after some doubts on whether we were on the right road, the isolated rough pavement turned into a four lane highway…. with very little traffic. A lack of signage as we approached San Luis had us taking a wrong turn heading away from the city. Eventually we found our way and tracked down a Hotel some distance from the city but had very secure parking with three huge white dogs with cropped ears sleeping in the shed with the bike. Wondered why I put the locks on as they even bailed us up when we went down in the morning. We hoped to meet up with a young couple who camped beside us in Ushuaia but there were no replies to our emails sent earlier. Perhaps another day. We spent a day and two nights here walking the streets, sampling restaurants and even bought a couple of souvenirs for relatives back in Aus. Our first leg of our South American journey was drawing to a close as we packed up and headed towards San Rafael. Perhaps, because we knew this was our last day on the bike for a while, we found Ruta 146 was one of the most boring roads we had been on. I am sure one of the straights was around 100 kms long.
Ernesto “Che” Guevara Museum in Alta Gracia
Che’s motorized bicycle
Arriving at John and Annette’s farm in San Rafael mid afternoon we were met by the additional puppies born while we were away. They have six dogs now. What a greeting…. More improvements to the house with a very nice terracotta tiling job done in the kitchen, pantry, hallway and lounge. Nice one Phil.
Range near Mina Clavero
We spend several days sorting stuff and removing bits from the bike. On the 26th May we caught the overnight Cama bus to Buenos Aires. These are quite good to travel on with extra large reclining seats, a night meal and breakfast included plus a movie to keep you entertained. Now for the flight back to Aus!!!!
Annette cooking an asado before we leave
Carol’s parents celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary on 5th June, the main reason for our return. Our last RTW journey we were away for their 50th so we made a promise we would definitely return home for this one. Our stay was for four weeks and combined with meeting up with relatives and a huge number of friends we did a lot of shopping for unobtainable foods and things that make us Australian!! Plus there were 100 things I wanted for the bike including a new screen, smashed on Ruta 40. My patch work although very robust was not the best in regards to safety with the metal support strips pointing vertical. If it happens again my repair will have the strips horizontal. Also we purchased two new helmets .. Shoei Concepts.. as mine had a major hole patched with car filler and Carol’s was disintegrating at an alarming rate. Our intercom also died and after many years with Sonic we decided to move on to an Autocom. So our bag of goodies increased.
Carol’s parents 60th Wedding Anniversary
Along with our shopping list John and Annette also had a list of food items unobtainable in Argentina … Top priority was baked beans!!! Aaarrggh the finer things of life. As the pile mounted we wondered how we would carry it all.
During this time we also attended to all our medical duties and believe me I have a few!!! But I forgot one…. The Dentist!! Hope they hold together for the planned distance. The rest of our bodies are coping well and none of our respective medicos want to see us for another couple of years.
Packing day drew nearer and we purchased a couple suitcases to do the job. Food was packed into a small overnight case and the bathroom scales registered 20 Kg, the maximum allowable. Packing the larger case with the screen and bike bits proved a little more difficult but eventually we jammed it all in and topped the scales at 19.5 kg. We contacted Malaysia Airlines twice and confirmed that we could take our new helmets on as cabin luggage providing we had no more than a laptop or a hand bag as additional luggage.
At this point Carol and I would like to give specials thanks to Mike and Jane who are our “minders of important things” back in Oz plus provide a roof and a car when we are home. People who travel as we do know of the importance of such friends and with out them life on the road would be indefinably difficult. Along with these two are our families who also contribute to the smooth running of our journey, moral support and encouragement to keep on traveling even though we are sorely missed. Thankyou….
Ken driving the tractor, he gets the good jobs!!!
Carol shoveling the chicken s@#! fertilizer
Departure day arrives all too soon but we are far better prepared than our original departure day last September. However, our dramas were about to begin at the airport. We were told by a baggage wrapper (plastic) that we would not be allowed to take our helmets on board despite us confirming with the airline this would not be a problem. We approached counter staff and once again confirmed that this would NOT be a problem. Next problem.. we only had a one way ticket. Frantically staffed scanned the rule book and computers for rules and regulations but the area was ruled to be grey with the option being left up to immigration in Argentina. We were given the rule number to quote in our defense in Buenos Aires and also told we should have our motorcycle documents close by to prove our journey out of Argentina would be by land.
Finally all was processed and we gained a couple of allies with the Malaysia Airline staff after we had told them of our journey. They were very helpful and patient. The dramas endured took so long we had no time to enjoy a coffee with everyone, so headed down through customs and immigration. We passed through OK but were told bath soap (hard) is classed as liquid!! and therefore should be placed in a clear zip-lock bag. I wanted to argue but Carol had already warned me not to debate security. After repacking the gear it was Carol’s turn to be accosted. To be dusted down by the bomb residue detection unit. Ended up having a nice chat with the youngsters in the end. Finally we passed through only to be stopped by a Security Guard…!!! He was also a motorcyclist, saw our helmets, and wanted to know where ..why.. how. He had just booked a dirt bike tour in Thailand. His first overseas ride. Next an American guy stopped Carol, knew of Horizons Unlimited and offered us Bien Viaje (Bon Voyage). Another official we dealt with also wanted to talk about our motorcycle travels. Hope we don’t miss this flight. As we boarded the plane our lady from Malaysia Airlines who assisted through our upstairs dramas fare-welled us and said enviously “dreams”…. Dreams!!!! That last bit was a nightmare!!!!
Isn’t flight security a strange thing? Things that are taken from you as they are classed as possible weapons. The best I have heard is a very small broach pin…Then they give you a METAL KNIFE and FORK TO EAT YOUR MEAL. Are there any readers of this blog that can help me with this perplexing question?
Next our flight was delayed (on tarmac) by a baggage/handling dispute or problem for over an hour. Whew…this long flight was getting loooonger. Brisbane to Kuala Lumpur, bus to hotel for a few hours. Bus back to K L airport.. to Johannesburg to Capetown to Buenos Aires. We passed through Immigration and Customs with out any problems. “Welcome to Argentina”. Next, cab to bus terminal. Bus to San Rafael. Suffice to say when we caught the bus from BA to SR exhaustion took over and we slept….and slept well. Thank goodness for Cama Buses.
50th Birthday wishes for John from around the world
We have been back in San Rafael or nearby for some weeks now. Plodding around John and Annette’s farm, putting new bits onto the bike, fitting the intercom to the helmets and helping to organize a surprise 50th birthday party for John. It’s been a great fun and we thank John and Annette for sharing their home with us for this time.
Which cake will I try!
7 degrees C at 3.50 pm
11 am and 1 cm of ice in the dog’s water bucket
Through John and Annette we have met a number of expats who have made this area their home. A great crowd of multi-national people, two of whom are Arnie and Helena. We are currently relaxing in the comforts of their home and finca which is approximately 40 kms from San Rafael. They are enjoying a ten day holiday up Salta way and from all accounts they are having a great time. The pace is not a fast one and we have been able to catch up on a lot of computer work including updates and photos. We walk the dogs several times a day and with the weather being quite cool have probably allowed them inside more than we should…They like the fire too.. On their return we will move back to John and Annette’s for a day or two to pack and then it’s on the road again.
Plums, grapes and the three dogs, finca No. 2
The casa, finca No. 2
Carol has quite enjoyed this extended bit of R & R and wonders why some sort of a network amongst motorcyclists has not evolved offering house and pet sitting. Many RTW bikers often need a rest from traveling for a short time, some even months, to juggle seasons for their next leg. Now there’s an opening!! Please contact Carol to make arrangements!!!
New screen for the bike
1981 R80 G/S with PD tank and larger fairing. Luggage. Two Givi 41 ltr clam opening with combination flap opening on top (His & Hers). Top Box-Rubber Maid Action Packer 60 ltr (Tent, S/Bags, Mats, 1st Aid kit, Stools). Tank Bag Magnetic Dririder-2 compartments (Kitchen).
Problems and repairs so far. Distance covered 23,000kms
(1) Leaking shaft drive boot since we started. (perished) Fixed temporarily with silastic then replaced July 08.
(2) Spotlight switch and aux. power switch failures. Replaced July 08
(3) 12 volt reducer to 9 volt etc. Replaced Jul 08
(4) Combination lock on Pannier. Repaired June 08
(5) Fairing screen smashed in crash. Temp fix then replaced Jul 08
(6) Headlight protector (perspex) smashed. Temp fix then replaced Jul 08
(7) Fairing, hole in fiberglass. Patched and painted Jul 08
(8) Pannier rack welding broken in crash. Repaired April 08
(9) Welding - Seat Lock & sub frame brace. Repaired Feb 08
(10) Centre stand- bush & nut AWOL. Repaired May 08
(11) Light switch wiring loop wires broken, old age. Replaced Jul 08
(12) Paint on crash bars plus frame where welded.
(13) Tyres. Two rear, two front & one rear tube (creased).
(14) Engine serviced every 5,000kms filter every 10,000 kms
Gearbox, shaft and bevel drive oils every 10,000kms
Fork oil changed at 22,000kms
Air filter-foam Uni Filter cleaned and oiled three times.
We are happy with the bike so far but its early days yet!!! This is the same bike we used on our first trip 1997 to 2001 (200,000 kms).
Puerto Madryn is used as a base to access Peninsula Valdes so it was no surprise to find backpackers discussing the attributes or lack of in using a day tour to sight the wild life on Peninsula Valdes. Some had already been and were extremely disappointed that less than an hour was given to get a chance sighting of the killer whales in action. This rarely happens and we encouraged a few to combine forces, hire a car and head out for a whole day or even more as this would be the best way to get a possible sighting providing the tides were suitable. We spent an enjoyable few days at a very comfortable Hostel close to town talking to people about our recent experience and convincing them to spend the money and make the effort to see this phenomenon.
Washing day in Puerto Madryn
Taking in the sun
Servicing the bike is always interesting and this time was no exception. We usually buy our oil from a garage then do the service there. Persuading the staff that auto oil is suitable for the motorbike is the first hurdle and then they say we need to go to a bike shop but we are generally able to convince them that I am a ‘mechanic’ and can do the work. The procedure always generates an audience and plenty of helpers.
A huge Parrillada meal in Choele Choel
Breakfast under the gum trees in Choele Choel
Our tasks completed we headed back towards Chile on Ruta 3 to Choele Choel communicating constantly with Daniel Todd whom we hope to meet somewhere along the road. These roads crossing Argentina although well surfaced are long and can be quite boring. We try to maintain a 100 to 110 kph speed limit to conserve fuel and subsequently are passed by the local vehicles that usually travel around the 140 kph mark. There is very little wildlife to be seen and traffic is generally minimal until the small towns dotted along the highway.
After 8 years we finally catch up with Daniel Todd
Eventually we met Daniel in Neuquen on Ruta 22 and it was really great to hook up with him again. It was in the latter half of 2000 we first met in Islamabad, Pakistan, all be it for a brief time, however we have remained in constant contact as we followed his traveling exploits over the past eight years. Some serious talking for several hours over a day or two and Daniel departed for Zapala where he is looking at a new job prospect. We need to stay another day in Neuquen to organize a new rear tyre.
The Tourist Information came to our rescue with directions to an area where there were numerous motorcycle shops. We scored a Metzler Enduro3 at the first port of call and adjourned to the Hostel to fit it. The purchase and fitting went so smoothly we could have left town around lunch time but we had committed to stay for another day so we caught up on some emails at the YPF (Repsol) garage across the road. A lot of these garages with cafes have great coffee and free WiFi.
Museum in Plaza Huincul
Continuing west on Ruta 22 we stopped at Plaza Huincul to look at the Dinosaur Museum. It was a very small display but with some great skeletons and mock up creatures. Our hosts were very helpful with information and also allowed us to park the bike on the premises for security reasons. We doubt there would be a problem but it is always good to know someone is watching the bike while we wander off. Exiting the display we could not believe the transformation in the weather. In a matter of 45 minutes the blue sky and brilliant sun had disappeared in what looked like a dust storm. Rubbish and dust flew into our faces and we had difficulty in seeing the end of the street. The westerly head wind was gusting as we headed across the treeless plains towards Zapala. Our sympathies were with a lone bicycle rider who appeared to be enveloped in a dust and sand cloud that was probably bead blasting his face. This is oil country and numerous mechanical chickens dipped slowly into the earth sucking up its precious fluid. Argentina appears to be very rich in black crude.
Dust storm on the way to Zapala
Arriving in Zapala around siesta time we rang Daniel who was staying at a house on the edge of town. We stalled our western push for another few days as the weather was looking a bit damp and the winds were also making traveling very unpleasant. Daniel’s KLR 650 was experiencing rear wheel bearing problems also, so we spent a bit of time trying to get it sorted. Luck was not with us however and eventually Daniel had to make a direct ride to Santiago Chile where he hopes to get the necessary repairs completed.
Autumn leaves as the weather cools
We rode to San Martin de los Andes where we met up with Annette our English friend from the finca in San Rafael who was giving her old boss from the UK a quick guided tour around a small portion of Argentina. We rode into town as the heavens opened up. Our days of bad weather are starting to accumulate and after a warming drink organized some accommodation. Carol found a great place at a really good price (off season) so we settled in and hoped the weather cleared in a few days. The four of us enjoyed a huge meat dinner (parillada) and a lot of laughs. Our hosts at the Apartment hotel however advised that the weather would be cold and wet for another day then should improve so we bide our time hoping to see a little sun.
The road from San Martin to Paso Huahum
A couple of days later the weather was fine and we pack slowly as there was plenty of time to ride the fifty kms of ripio to Puerto Pirihueico via Paso Huahum and catch the 5 pm ferry. Leaving Ruta 234 just outside San Martin we are greeted with our nemeses of freshly graded ripio and two graders providing added entertainment with high mounds of soft soil to jump to avoid their neat maneuvers. We survived the ride and stopped on the edge of Lago Pirihueico after negotiating another Argentina to Chile border crossing.
Welcome to Chile, again
A bullock wagon backing up to the ferry to unload bags of apples at Puerto Pirihueico
Two trucks loaded with wood joined us at the ferry ramp around 4 pm and we confirmed with the drivers in our poor Spanish that the ferry was due at 5 pm. While the ferry was disembarking several more cars arrived which included some of the customs and immigration officials that had just processed our papers on the Chilean side. The lake was like a millpond but Carol noticed fresh snow falls on some of the surrounding peaks. This no doubt fell over the past few days when we were in San Martin as the weather there was very cold. Docking at Puerto Fuy we noted most of the passengers left town immediately. We decided to stay however and rode the seven or eight dirt streets in relative darkness as the smoke from hundreds of heating fires and stoves enveloped the town. Booking into a little Hostel we organized dinner and breakfast and settled in beside the fire. This village was very damp and cold. The gentle tapping of rain awoke us around 6.00am and we contemplated staying another day over breakfast as the rain increased. By the time we were sugaring our second cup of coffee little white fluffy balls were falling outside the dining room window. We were unfazed at first but them it began to settle. The black bike cover was looking more white than black!! I expressed concern to Carol that we should move today in case the snow gets to a point where the road is closed. So we hastily packed the bike as the snow increased and removed a one kilo lump of ice from the folds of the bike cover. Frozen rain… this is cold…..
Snow on the bike at Puerto Fuy
Number plate from Queensland Aus. at La Torres Suiza Hostel
We rode for around 15 kms on soft ripio before the snow stopped. Concern that the puddles of water would freeze over did not eventuate and for almost 200 kms, drizzling rain and cold accompanied us to Villarrica. We found out later that Puerto Fuy is one of those unique places in South America with a micro climate and it was probably the only place experiencing this extreme weather. No wonder all the other passengers did a runner when the ferry docked the previous day.
View from our room of Volcano Villarrica
Beat and Claudia made our stay at La Torres Suiza hostel in Villarrica very pleasant. They also are Swiss bicycle travelers who have settled in South America. Tom from La Suizandina (see our 2nd report) just north of Villarrica was visiting while we were there. It was good to catch up and ask him about the fire works from the erupting Volcano Llaima in January. Pucon was under 30 kms away and being off season, was very quiet. The road along Lago Villarrica has numerous campgrounds and plenty of top end Hotels down to hostels but most were closed or looked empty. Our hostel however still had a few people floating through and it is always good to get up to date information from other travelers. Weather, although quite cool was fine so we departed feeling that things may be improving. Our original destination was to be Valdivia but our good friend from Santiago Mario, would be in Osorno for a short time on business so a small detour had us checking out the sights of this busy city.
Fort Niebla near Valdivia
Once again our comfort zone has been encroached and we find the city very cold and windy with a lot of pollution from wood fired heating and cooking. We share a couple of meals with Mario and his business partner and bid them farewell indicating we would be in Santiago within a week or two depending on the weather. Overcast skies and cool was the order of the day enroute to Valdivia. Our routine of visiting the Tourist Office for accommodation info was fruitful and we booked in Hostel International with secure parking, warm rooms and hospitality to match. Rain was forecast the next day but we took the chance and visited Fort Niebla. The weather obliged by fulfilling the forecast so on the return journey we stopped off at the Kunstmann Brewery having heard of the good food served there. We were not disappointed and struggled to get into our wet weather clothes to ride back to town.
Sea Lion Valdivia
Fish Market Valdivia
The next day saw a distinct improvement in the forecast so we walked into the city and over the bridge to the history museum. Alas, all was in Spanish but the photos and period furniture was still very interesting. Highlights of our walk were the sea lions being fed with scraps from the fish markets on the river. Perhaps a dozen or more of these animals gorged themselves for hours then rested on the platforms placed conveniently on the rivers edge. To have easy access to these noisy overweight mammals was a real people pleaser for both tourist and local with the audience growing substantially during the afternoon as the sun made a brief appearance. My dark bike clothing caused a couple of the older larger sea lions to make threatening charges towards me when I moved too close.
A short journey to Temuco the next day once again had us in the drizzle. We are really a little late to be traveling this far south in Chile. Finding a suitable Hostel in Temuco also proved a problem as it was Sunday and the Tourist Office was closed so we were relying on bits of information extracted from Guide Books and travel brochures. We stumble across one with secure parking and settle in for a day or two. Unfortunately the past cold weather and poor air finally caught up with us and we both came down with really bad colds. We spent four days, most of it in bed, trying to get well in a climate that was both very cold and polluted. We needed sunshine and lots of it. Thinking back over the past 6 months we really have not had a summer this year. The South American summer experienced in the Patagonia was generally much worse than our winters in Brisbane.
Dancing in the streets of Chillan
Venturing north again we chase the sun and hope to find more than glimpses in Chillan. Not much luck though with a short journey in cloudy cool conditions. We booked into a hostel only two blocks away from the Tourist Office then emailed Jimmy, a man who introduced himself while we were waiting to catch the ferry from Chaiten to the Isla de Chiloe some weeks earlier. Heading to town the next day we found the streets were closed for a parade. Nothing like a parade in a foreign city and it was the 25th April too which is ANZAC Day in Australia. No news from Jimmy so we ventured to the local markets and spent a few hours checking the local handicrafts, flowers and food.
Meat Market Chillan
Fruit and vegetable market
It must have been around 8.00 pm when there was a knock on our door at the hostel and we finally catch up with Jimmy, his partner Marisol and their children. We were taken to a restaurant for dinner and enjoyed a huge steak. Our newly found friends have dreams also of traveling, but now the family comes first. We cannot thank them enough for a really great evening and we vow to keep in contact. We find this hospitality one of the great things about traveling as we spoke only a few words to this man while waiting for the ferry at Chaiten.
Marisol and Jimmy
Our internet weather radar indicated that the climate was always warmer in Santiago so we sent a text to Mario advising we would be arriving Saturday afternoon after riding directly north on Ruta 5. He advised that things were getting cooler there as well but we considered it was no where near as bad as what it was like here in the south. My walking, talking, smiling GPS once again guided us to our destination without a hitch.
Some of the puppies
Some of the members from Aperrados Moto Club
Our days spent with Mario were fun as he now has 12 young puppies to keep him occupied. Talk about chaos at feeding time. Also, we were invited to his motorcycle club’s (www.aperrados.cl) anniversary ride and lunch. One of the clubs members was also a computer whiz and he sorted out our WiFi gremlins at a recent club get together. Many thanks Patricio (Warlock). Meeting up with our friends Bob and Gloria was once again a really fantastic. In all a great time with everyone and we could have easily stayed longer, however we need to keep moving as the sun is shining ever brighter in the north. We vowed to return to Santiago in January next year to catch up with everyone again.
Ken with Gloria and Bob
Aperrados Moto Club ride to Las Cruces
Before departing Puerto Varas we enquired with our host Andy at Casa Azul the whereabouts of a motorcycle shop in Puerto Montt so we could purchase a new front tyre. His direction however was to a shop less than a kilometer away. A small Yamaha dealer who had exactly what we wanted and it matched our current rear tyre. Fitting the tyre in his workshop we departed for Puerto Montt around lunchtime. After all the hassles with the purchase of the rear tyre this was too easy.
On the ferry to Hornopiren
Los Antiguos and its paved roads faded quickly into the distance as we headed south on Ruta 41. The ripio was sandy and corrugated (washboard) and the newly repaired fairing rattled more than I would have liked. Stopping, we contemplated returning to an easier route but a quick inspection revealed a loose mounting bolt. On the road again and things were a fair bit quieter as we rattled along. Around the fifteen kilometre mark we were stopped by the Chilean Police in the middle of a fairly inhospitable piece of real estate. A bit of sign language and ‘Spanglish’ we deciphered that a bicycle race was in progress and there would be around a 15 minute delay until all competitors had passed safely. Forty minutes later the backup vehicle appeared after around a dozen bike riders gathered around the Police vehicle and drank quickly from their bottles. They were looking a little spent as well as dusty and the ripio to Los Antiguos would certainly sap their last little bit of energy. Resuming, we road through quite different country side, that, although little better than Ruta 40, was more entertaining because of the varied track and scenery . There was flat country with stones and sand and steep climbs into undulating hills. Some of the higher roads gave great views of the arid terrain. Sheep, cattle and horses were the only animal life seen. Traffic was almost non existent and because of the open country, could be spotted a long time before they ever reached us. We rode down a very steep grade to the Argentinean border post. This place is so remote, and the officer processed our papers in record time. There were no tour coaches in this part of the world. The nine kilometres of narrow gravel that separated the border to Chile was rough and indicative of what was to come over the next sixty kms. Chile always takes a little longer with the paper work and they always like to have a bit a chat when they inspect our luggage and documents. The next bit of road was the roughest we had tackled so far and the corrugation (washboard) was teeth rattling stuff at any speed. Arriving at Cochrane we had just completed our first few kms of the Carretera Austral and what a dusty road pounded by the sheer volume of traffic, no doubt. Today we had only traveled just over 200 kms but it felt like a 1,000kms!!! Heading to the town square we met up with Thomas and Katharina from Germany who had been with our huge party of travelers at Ushuaia for Christmas and New Year.
The start of Ruta 41
On the fifth of January it snowed which was to be our day of finally leaving Ushuaia, not that we wanted to leave. Despite the crazy weather we loved this place so we delayed our departure another day, finally leaving around 1.00pm on the sixth of January and headed to Rio Grande. The weather was sunny in Ushuaia but once in the mountains the skies closed in and around 70 kms from Rio Grande the rain started drizzling. In a fine patch of sky we stopped to check out a beaver dam that we spotted heading south a few weeks before. Alas the dam had been destroyed, possibly by the farmer as a lot of water had banked up behind it. Carol took this opportunity to have a wee stop….It was a very hurried one as the path beside the road was used by the local dirt bikers and she was buzzed by three bikers just as she was walking up the embankment!!
Carol appearing from a wee stop just as a dirt bike rider approaches, that was close!
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