Miss Piggy - 2002 Suzuki DL 1000 V-Strom
Around this time last year we were in Nicaragua, now another year has passed and we are still in the Americas.
The year has gone by quickly, we have crossed the infamous Darrien Gap (comfortably by aeroplane of course!) and travelled to Ushaia and the end of the world, participating in the great diversity of this our first continent.
Thoughts from Grant..
40,000 kilometres and another year has passed on with most of that time spent in South America.
I have not at all grown weary of this life style, well not so far at least.
Certainly problems and hardship have occured along the way, nothing though that has deminished my enthusiasm, infact the prospects of visiting more countries and continents is an ever present lure to continue.
I have made many, hopefully, lasting friendships along the way and this, I believe has given me the greatest catalyst to change.
I remember a statement once voiced by a rather cynical friend in the past "Friends come and friends go, but enemies accumulate". Once I actually agreed.
The previous two years have given me time for reflection, of course not everyone can stay in your life otherwise there would be little room for anything else, however, one can only hope to be remembered fondly and I, for one, fondly remember these sometimes brief aquaintenances.
Moreover, on more than one occasion, it has been essential to gain help from perfect strangers and it seems that by and large people are essentially good and like ourselves doing what is necessary for them to enjoy life.
About Miss Piggy...
So after leaving Canada in June 2005 and almost 80,000 kilometres covered on the trip how is our trusty steed holding up?
Exactly that... TRUSTY!
I have nothing but praise for the strength and adaptability of our Suzuki, given the fact that we have taken her on roads (and I use the term 'roads' loosely) that it probably was never intended for, at least not two up and fully loaded.
The bike has never lacked stability, sure footedness and plenty of power to get above the real loose stuff.
True, on some of these roads the bike has been some what of a handful and its real test and ours came just a week (July 2007) ago when trying to cross the Andes on the Paso de Jama in winter.
With a nasty snow storm gathered on the slopes of the Chilean side and 28 kms of the high pass totally covered with ice and snow we eventually turned back with the thoughts of being trapped in a snow storm at over 4,000 metres. If that storm had not been present I am sure we would have made it.
Problems to date, with 108,000 kilometres total on the clock, have been minimal and relatively easy to overcome.
1. Poor low speed running between 2,000 and 3,000 revs caused by the throttle valves being out of adjustment.
2. A mysterious pin hole of corrosion occuring in the water pump outercase, possibly caused by grit or something being trapped by the impellar. Repaired on the road with silastic, rubber, Peruvian coin and a piece of fencing wire... love that fencing wire!! The repair is still sound after 30,000 kilometers, however, I will replace the cover in South Africa.
3. Clip becoming loose on the fuel pressure relief valve inside the petrol tank, probably caused by lots of vibration on dirt roads and repaired with an electrical cable tie.
4. Chain breaking on Ruta 3, Argentina. My fault completely for using a non-standard joiner link with a standard chain which wore more rapidly than the chain and was repaired on the road using another non-standard joiner link! Chain replaced 2,000 kilometres further on.
And thats it!
A letter from Jules...
"What you are doing is amazing, how adventurous and brave you are". We recieve these comments quite often, however they have little meaning to me, I don't comprehend them. Travelling this way feels like a lifestyle. I feel like I do not deserve this type of praise.
Yes it is exciting, and wonderful, but I don't feel that it is extraordinary. With hard work and determination we are very privelidged to be able to experience a nomadic lifestyle at the moment.
A real highlight for me has been the people we have met along the away. Locals and foreigners alike and during this last year we have met so many travelling motorcyclists, something we really missed in North and Central America and it has been a wonderful opportunity to meet, make friends and even travel together from time to time.
Locals often ask the funniest questions about Australia and what we are doing.
One man in Peru asked me if we have farms in Australia and a woman once asked me what a 'Bigamist Sandwich' was. I was floundering around for an answer when she explained that it was from the Men at Work song 'Down Under'. Finally I clicked and then had to try and explain Vegemite.
Others are just curious about where our children are and how we can afford to live this way. We tell them we sold everything... including the children!!!
With so much to see and do in this huge land called South America it is hard to think about leaving soon, however, this next year will bring about exciting new challenges and interesting places to visit as we cross the ocean to the African Continent and continue our lifes dream.
A word for the wise - Never teach a pig to sing, it wastes your time and annoys the pig!
Close to heaven on Ruta 47
It soon became obvious to the four of us, (Grant and Julie - Suzuki V-Strom 1000 Hamish and Emma - BMW 1100) that the Ruta 47 (that's right 47 NOT 40) between the towns of Andalgala, Capillitas and Santa Maria was not normally the chosen route north for motorcycle travellers, or for that matter, anyone else as other traffic was conspicuous by its total absence.
Swimming Pools and Snow
Our last few days in San Rafael were lovely. Sitting on Tom's balcony, sharing lunch, enjoying the sun before the weather turned suddenly cold. The following day there was a bitterness in the air and no way to stave off the chill. That night it snowed and we awoke to a white wonderland. Fresh snow flakes glistened in the morning sunlight, piled upon the surfaces of everything around us. We played in the snow (such a novelty to us desert rats) and by lunch time it had all melted away.
L - R Miguel, Marie, Teresa, Jules, Soledad
Amidst tears and vegemite on toast we left the Cabaņas Calderon and moved to John and Annette's finca for a couple of nights.
How many Blue Peter Points do I get for my Duck House??
L - R Andy, Maya, Annette
Like everyone else we ended up staying a week, pottering about the farm, enjoying thier company and hospitality.
On the road again - Camping Municipal, San Augustin
We had plans to meet up with Emma and Hamish... some where, some time.... We kept in contact on our travels through the beautiful National Parks Ischigualasto and Talampaya .
Parque Nacional Ishigulasto (Valle de Luna)
With the wind blowing through the stark landscape we set the tent up in the lee of the adminstration building before jumping on the bike and following the caravan of vehicles through the Valle de Luna (Moon Valley).
Dramatic colours and unusual rock formation carved by wind, water and volcanic action presented us with a spectacular environment for us to view and enjoy.
We and Miss Piggy became the centre of attention as the tour grew to a close and peoples curiosity grew. The usual barrage of questions ensued including the ever present 'How fast does it go?'
The some where happened to be La Rioja where we hooked up again with Hamish and Emma.
Grant and Hamish, not interested in Churches and searching for an unusually dressed baby Jesus, planned a route north that appeared to be mostly ripio (dirt), much to Hamishes delight, whilst Jules and Emma visited the local museum and churches, finally, finding the baby Jesus dressed as the Mayor!
The Franciscan Padre, who has worked at this museum for over 40 years, showing Jules the pre-Inca grinding stone for extracting copper
A pleasant ride to Belen and a visit to El Shincal, a pre-Inca and Inca archeological site was a good start.
Country Ride Out with Hamish and Emma - Belen
The friendly and hospitable staff at Hotel Anjelica let us tweak the bikes and use their brand spanking new, never been used before, kitchen as well as bringing us plates and saucepans to use from thier nearby home. We devoured our home cooked roast chook and vegies within minutes and played Five Hundred in the dining room.
Hamish and Grant on top of a Pyramid at El Shincal
Archway - El Shincal
We had been recommended the road, Ruta 46, between Belen and Andalgala by fellow travellers who shall remain nameless (Adam and Val).
The road turned out to be much like many of the dirt roads through the Mallee in Australia, ie sandy, corrugated and with many creek washouts.
Get your Kicks on Ruta 46
It was a lot of fun... if not bumpy, however, little did we know, it was good practice for what was to follow... The Ruta 47.
View from Ruta 47 - Andalgala to Capillitas
Lunching in the central park of Andalgala and heading off, we climbed to over 3000 meters in approximately an hour.... not taking into consideration stopping and admiring the views. The ribbon of ripio road twisted and turned on itself precariously, leaving litte room for error and oncoming traffic.... not that there was much.
MMMM Bar & Restaurant!! - Hosteria Refugio Del Minero - Capillitas
As time went by and the day was drawing to a close, we realised we would never make Santa Maria and at the passes highest point a welcoming sign announcing 'Refugio Hosteria del Minero' appeared. It was unanimously decided to head over what was little more than a goat track, to the hosteria and stop for the night.
Well this ain't too bad!?!?
It was all a little arduous after a long days ride, especially the final few kilometers, when Grant decided to lean Miss Piggy and her passengers against a cliff face and then a further 500 meters along the track, stall the bike on a very steep sandy corner. Fortunately on both occasions we did not actually fall off, although Jules did a fabulous running dismount on the second occasion.
Prayer time for Hamish
After Jules performed a little first aid on Grant's sprained arm, Grant then provided Hamish with a shoulder and neck massage. Dinner, drinks, hot showers, soft beds and much sleeping ensued.
Administering First Aid - Capillitas
The next morning we were filled with enthusiasm to continue on Ruta 47 and hoped the road was going to get better as it flattened out on the high plateau where it eventually joins Ruta 40.
Continuing on Ruta 47
Oh how we were mistaken!
Oh goody, more sand!!
Whilst the road presented us with many challenges the entire day, for example navigating the sand, riding through the rutted rocks, etc, it was hard work and to coign a much used Hameology 'It's all good fun!'.
Over looking the plains - Ruta 47
Most enjoyable, stunning high desert scenery with remote wild locations you could stay at for days.
Winds up - Lets go fly a kite!
Cafayate was our first real 'touristy' town and a visit to nearby Quilmes (the people, not the beer) archeological site, tucked away in a nook of the surrounding mountains.
'What can we make out of these?' - The Budget Biker!
Dinner in Cafayate - Photo courtesy of Emma
L-R Emma, Hamish, Grant, Jules
The Quilmes staved of Inca and Spanish occupation for 300 years only to finally sucumb to Spanish power and the remaining 5,000 Quilmes people were marched to Buenas Aires, only 200 survived the trek.
Walls of an abandoned city - Quilmes
Old Bakery near Cafayate
We continued north along the Ruta 40, all dirt but quite rideable, with a strong gusty wind tossing enourmous clouds of dust into the air and depositing them mostly in our eyes, we eventually arrived in Cachi.
Ruta 40 to Cachi
Cachi, somewhat off the international tourist trail is a gem of a colonial town, we stayed 3 days.
'I'll just ride it up!' Putting the bikes away - Hotel Nevado Cachi
Grant and Hamish walking in the countryside whilst Jules and Emma did the girly shopping stuff and visiting more museums and churches.
Museo in Cachi - all the small stones have petroglyphs carved on them and are thought to have been used as decorations on the walls of the ancient buildings
Photo courtesy of Emma
Cachi town centre
Above the clouds - Piedra Los Molina
Ruta 33 climbs continuously up the Cuesta del Obispo to its highest point at Piedra de Molina 3,347 meters where we stopped for a roadside snack and admire the glorious view as the dirt road literally plunges down through the Quebredara de Escopie and on to Salta.
Side trip to hidden valley Quebredara de Escopie
Quebredara de Escopie
Cuesta del Obisop
Hotel Residencia Astur in down town Salta, allowed Hamish and Grant to service the bikes and check the valve clearances right outside our bedroom doors and with new tyres we were ready to head north once again.
'Do you have a room for three?' - Grant enquires at reception, Residencia Astur
Photo courtesy of Emma
TLC in the Hotel Foyer - Residencia Astur, Salta
Iglesia San Francisco - Salta
Teleferico Cerro San Bernado - Salta
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