Argentina
November 28, 2006 GMT
Tres Dias

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High on Life - Up the Andes... again

What a culture shock... leaving Bolivia and entering Argentina.

Argentine servos (gas stations) have cafes that are a) open, b) stocked and c) clean! Along the highway you find pull outs with a shady tree and picnic table. Tourist information offices are open with friendly staff and information!! OMG! we felt like we had returned to civilization.

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River Scene - Ruta 52

Our first stop was San Pedro de Jujuy where the hotel proprietor, Don Nacho, proudly informed us of the 'new road' over the Andes to Chile, how it was in excellent condition and was open '365 days of the year' with no tunnels unlike the passes further south.

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Ruta 52

This road did not appear on our map and according to our 'trusty' guide book is a ripio (dirt) road in poor condition until you reach the Chilean border.

A day trip to the beautiful relaxed city of Salta and the Automovil Club Argentina for a new updated map clearly showing 'Ruta 52'. Again people informed us of the 'Best road in the Country', we decided to see what all the fuss was about.

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Rock Formations - Ruta 52

BORDER CROSSING

Yacuiba - Bolivia
* Clear Immigration in Bolivia;
* Go to Argentina;
* Clear Bolivian Customs in Argentinan Customs building (window marked).

Pocitos - Argentina
* Go to Customs window and fill in bike paperwork;
* Go to the Vehicle window and have paperwork and bike checked;
* Return to Customs window for final checks;
* Take passports to the Gendamarie (Police) who check them quickly and send you to the Immigration window;
* Hand your passports over to the Immigration Officer and mill about outside for a while until the Gendame calls your name and returns your passport.

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Valley - Ruta 52

Ruta 52 from San Salvador de Jujuy to Passo de Jama and Chile exceded our expectations.

Yet another climb into the Andes, with endless switch-backs reaching skywards from the small town of Purmamarca and the spectacular mountain of seven colours.

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Mountain of Seven Colours

After two hours, (stopping to admire the view often) we finally reached the highest point of the careterra - Abra Potrerillos, 4,164 meteres - where a wide plain appeared below us and a familiar sight (for us Aussies) of several large salt pans where the road traversed at almost the mid section of Salinas Grandes.

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Ruta 52 bi-secting Salinas Grandes

We descended towards the lakes for perhaps 1,000 meters and ventured across the dry, crusty salt pan on an oil sealed gravel surfaced road. It seemed to us a very civilised and comfortable approach to viewing a large salt lake complete with salt brick buildings, sculptures and working salt mines.

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Salinas Grandes

We stayed overnight in the isolated pueblito of Susques, high in the Andean mountains surrounded by spectacular rock formations and colourful mineral tainted streams.

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Leaving Susques

Typically, at over 4,000 meters, the morning air was cool and crisp as we left for Paso de Jama and the border with Chile promising to return soon to Argentina for a longer stay.

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Delicious & Nutritious Roadside Lunch - Spaghetti with Tomatoes and Sardines!

Posted by Julie Rose at 09:31 PM GMT
December 20, 2006 GMT
Mate, Vino, Cigarillos & Old Cars!

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Mount Aconcagua 6,959m - Highest Peak in South America

It was easy entering into el Centro, Ciudad Mendoza and despite the frequent warnings, about personal safety from fellow travellers and locals alike, along the way the city appeared to be somewhat calm and relaxed.

Top Motor(Avenida San Jan 570) has a good selection of tyres for large dual purpose machines. Miss Piggy had been wearing a Brazillian manufactured Pirelli MT60 on the front since Arequipa, Peru, which had proved very competent in the dirt and on the pavement.

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Red River meets Blue Lake - Ruta 7

We decided to buy a front and rear and carry them for a short distance until the rear tyre finally terminated its usefulness.

So with Mendoza in our mirrors we headed south with the newly aquired tyres strapped neatly, though somewhat obviously, to the front crash bars.

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A loaded Piggy at Cabañas Calderon - San Rafael

"She'll be right!" we thought it's only for a short distance!

San Rafael was the perfect stay of several days - excellent weather, very accommodating accommodation and a tranquil air. Sol, of Cabañas Calderon (www.cabanascalderon.com.ar), a friendly lady always keen to practice her English was very hospitable and generous giving us a bottle of Malbec from her families boutique winery.

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Nan and Pop in thier (circa 1960) Falcon - San Rafael

In Argentina 1960's Falcons are like HR Holdens in Australia. At first we excitedly thought 'Oh look... an old Falcon' but after a while it became a common sight. They are the quintessential tough car (many in varying degrees of decay) for the Argentine and seem almost as numerous as modern cars.

The south beckoned, though we wished to return to San Rafael for a longer stay in the near future.

Our paths crossed with Lew and Anita (from the UK) on thier Yam's travelling around the world with thier trick ally pizza boxes. Accompanying them to Viedma with many enjoyable days and evenings of company.

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Gas Stop. Piggy, Antia & Lews Yam's
www.yamaroundtheworld.com

We were discovering rapidly that Argentina is a bloody big country and the journey to the Atlantic Coast proved long and un-inspirings, a little like riding across the Hay Plains of Rural New South Wales, Australia, except where a journey through the Hay Plains lasts only one day, the barren pampas of Argentina continues for at least four days to the east coast.

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Darwin? Are we still in Argentina?

Drinking the herbal tea Mate, Argentinas national past time. At every service stop children, mothers, Grand mothers, truck drivers, young career women and men hang over every available rubbish bin digging attentatively at the contents of thier mate cups emptying the used mash of yerba ready for yet another refill.

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Cleaning the Bash Plate - Viedma

Tobacco consumption comes in a close second as Argentines favorite addiction. School boys and school girls mingle in small hidey holes eagerly puffing and socialising away, literally everyone appears to smoke!

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Bike Maintenance - Viedma

Eating and sleeping times are so different, something Grant has found almost impossible to adjust to.

Breakfast.... what's that?? Argentines almost have none and if so it is toast, jam and coffee - with a mandatory cigarillo.

Lunch.... around 2pm if you are lucky and don't forget a bottle of wine!

Dinner.... never before 10pm - and that is way past our bed time!!!

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Concentration - Lew

Finally we arrived, tyres and all, at Viedmar and the Annual Horizons Unlimited Meeting for International Motorcycle Travellers.

Posted by Julie Rose at 03:25 PM GMT
December 31, 2006 GMT
Kickin' Tyres & Tellin' Lies

A photo album of the HU Meeting in Viedma, Argentina, December 8 - 10, 2006

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Enough Photos Already! - Total Group Photo

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Group around the Beast
L - R Aasha, Pete, Greg, Alexis, Jason, Anita, Lew, Emma, Jules

Web Pages:
Greg & Alexis - The Beastly Adventure www.beastlyadventure.com
Peter - HU Blog www.horizonsunlimited.com/tstories/baird

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Camp Ground

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Rocket Ronnie (Sweden) and Strom Hilda - V-Strom 1000

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Leonard & Karyn (Canada) - Harley Davidson

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Grant & Ronnie at the Barbie

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Martin & Katia (Switzerland) - Africa Twin

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Hubert (France/USA) - BMW R100 Outfit
We had met Hubert in Panama City, July 2006

Web Page:
Hubert - www.thetimelessride.com

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Girls on Film (High Fashion???)
Jules, Emma, Aasha

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Mark & Aasha (Australia) - BMW GS1150

Web Page:
Mark & Aasha - Two Aussies on an Adventure www.markaasha.com

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Sealion Colony

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Fat Bottomed Girls make the Rockin' World go Round - Bertha and Piggy meet

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Dusty ride to Finca for lunch

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Cordero Asado - Patagonian lamb barbeque

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Anita and Jules

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Hamish, Emma, Aasha, Jules, Lew and Anita

Web Pages:
Emma & Hamish - HU Blog - www.horizonsunlimited.com/tstories/hameandem
Lew & Anita - Yam Around the World - www.yamaroundtheworld.com

Posted by Julie Rose at 01:39 PM GMT
January 04, 2007 GMT
Careening in a General Southerly Direction

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Javier & Grant working on Piggy - Buenas Aires

With the heady socialising of the HU meeting over with we needed to make a mad northerly dash to Buenas Aires and Dakar Motos for inspection and any needed work on the engine management software and tuning system before heading south to Tierra del Fuego for Christmas.

Buenas Aires road system is like a giant plate of spaghetti though not as enjoyable. After several hours of getting lost, believing we knew where we were and then getting lost again we found Dakar Motos (www.dakarmotos.com) the buisiness premises and second home of Javier and Sandra.

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Buenas Aires

Along the way many travellers had asked us if we had been to Javier and Sandras. When we replied no, the standard answer was "Every one ends up at Dakar Motos".... guess we too are a statistic now. We happily set up tent in the garden for two nights enjoying the company of Ronnie, Greg & Alexis who we had spent time with at the HU meeting.

As for Miss Piggy the fuel filters were cleaned and Javier & Grant with the help of the trusty workshop manual adjusted the throttle valves which were found to be completely out of sync.

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Throttle valve adjustment

Eureka!! After many months of poor low speed running and cursing the wrongfully accused K'n'N washable air filter, Piggy now ran as smooth as new..... not bad for 95,000kms on the clock.

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Harvest Time - Machinery rules the road

The clouds sat heavy in the sky, dark, moisture laden with the promise of an imminent storm. As we ride, watching the very core of the storm race across the horizon in front of us, it is as if a door had been suddenly opened. Within 100 meters the temperature dropped at least 20 degrees. A radical sensation at highway speed.

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Storm Front

The beat of our large V-twin throbbed assuringly as we headed south on Ruta 3, 100kms per hour at 3,250 rpm, we are relaxed. The side winds usually constant through out this area had abated considerably.

Grant is singing Pink Floyd's 'Wish you were here' in his helmet and it feels great to be moving.

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A Long Days Journey into Night

Suddenly with no warning a loud 'clunk' eminates ominously from the transmission of Miss Piggy and instantly the engine cuts out. The dash lights up, rather ironically like a christmas tree, with warning flashes Fuel Injection System Failure, Oil Pressure System Failure, and then all goes blank as we roll silently off the desolate pampas road and to a resolute stop.

"What was that?" Jules enquires nervously as she dismounts
"Don't know," says Grant "Is the chain still there?"
"Nuh!"
"Oh Bugger!"

Ok, find a more convenient place to park Piggy and start working. After further investigation the chain is found to be still on, but just happens to be oh so tightly wrapped around the front sprocket, appearing impossible to disentangle from the transmission case and chain guides.

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"That can't be good!"

Attempting to remove the sprocket, the nut is loosened with no problems, however, we are unable to remove it from the spline due to the entangled chain.

One hour ensues and Dave from California pulls up on a 2002 V-Strom 1000. We scratch our heads and dirty our hands for a further half an hour, finally Grant gets brutal, as Grant sometimes does in strained situations.

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Twin V Twins

Nut re-tightened on the sprocket and Grant physically turns the sprocket grinding the jammed chain against the aluminium casings while Dave guides the loosened chain. Jules cringes at the eminating sounds.

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Two Heads are better than One - Dave and Grant at work

Finally the chain becomes slack and drops pathetically onto the ground. Inspection reveals the clip type joiner link (non-standard link system) had snapped, fortunately the chain appeared ok more or less. A new joiner links is secured, the front sprocket replaced we adjust every thing accordingly and after three hours we can continue on our journey.

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Packing in the wind

The long journey down Ruta 3 was punctuated by days of strong side winds, peaceful roadside stops in sheltered valleys where pink flamingos would feed in the shallow lagoons by the side of the road.

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Pretty Flamingos

Quaint fishing towns including San Julian with its replica Spanish Galleon from Magellan's fleet. San Julian was the site of the first Catholic mass in Argentina, it was presided over by Magellen himself after he executed one of his crew for mutiny.

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Victoria - Magellan's Ship - San Julian

Nearing the end of our southerly ride to Tierra del Fuego and Ushaia we meet fellow motorcyclist Brian at the ferry crossing of the Straights of Magellen. Brian a lovable 6 foot Pom from the Isle of Man was riding a Yamaha 600 Fazer, pure street bike, no pretences otherwise.

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Piedra Buena

He rode rapidly on the pavement, more so than us, but not so fast on the ripio, and it was a continual leap frog as we travelled together to Ushaia.

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Ferry Crossing - Straights of Magellan

The ferry crossing turned out to be quite rough, all of a sudden Jules skin colour turned a shade of Kermit. Piggy lurched and rocked as we steadily held the front brake fast. The semi-trailer parked close by occasionaly jumped with a resounding thud as the ferry pounded through the heavy sea crossing. After 20 minutes we were glad to disembark at Bahia Azul on Ilsa Grande Tierra del Fuego.


Posted by Julie Rose at 02:59 PM GMT
January 07, 2007 GMT
Tierra del Fuego

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Brian the Rapid Rider - Not on the Ripio

Disembarking the ferry on Tierra del Fuego (the Land of Fire) the weather was cold and wet, we had 116kms of ripio (dirt) to traverse before entering Argentina and her paved roads. Following Brian for a few kilometers it was not long before Piggy wanted to go faster and we wanted to wear out the rear tyre.

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Lupins at Lunch Stop

The muddy road took us over wind swept plains and skirted the coastline. This, the Chilean, part of Tierra del Fuego seems uninhabited apart from disgruntled newly shorn sheep, guanacos (animal related to the llama) and a plethora of birds and water fowl.

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Paso Grimaldi

Arriving at the Paso de Grimaldi the weather grew colder, the sky darker and rain began to fall as we climbed higher into this the southern end of a great mountain chain we had been following since Alaska, this is the last part of the Andes before it dips into the sea and dissapears.

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End of the World

To be finally reaching 'The End of the World' was quite emotional, especialy for Jules who experienced being snowed on for the first time in here life. The road was icey and the worn rear tyre only just hung on. (Yes we were still carrying those tyres from Mendoza!)

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Parque National Ushaia

Looking forward to Christmas with other viajeros we descended into the pretty bay overlooking the Beagle Chanel and headed out towards the National Park.

A big red BMW appeared around the corner of the ripio road and immediately we recognised Emma and Hamish on Bertha. The four of us went out to the National Park camping ground where Hydaki, Jason and Peter had already settled in and had a roaring fire going. Not long after that Holgar, Martina, Mary and Mathias appeared and Christmas lunch preparations were underway.

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Is it cold at night here?
Mary, Martina, Emma

The chicas took charge of organising the food preparation while the chicos took charge of it's cooking. It was decided that four chooks should be cooked on a spit over hot coals with the vegies spread about below roasting on a rack.

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Girls Corner

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Boys Corner

We had the rack.... we needed a spit!

After many hours of scrounging we had the materials and tools to put in place what seemed to be a workable rotating spit. Fire is roaring, chooks stuffed with an onion and not so delicatly speared with the spit, and over the fire it all went.

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Hydaki - Smoke gets in your eyes

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The solution - Grant

It looked good, in fact it looked fantastic.... one slight problem, as soon as you tried to turn the spit the chooks... they no turn!!!

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Christmas, Champagne, Tables and Abba - Bad Combination
Jules and Emma

One hour of experimentation passed where the spit was removed and fine techinial adjustments were made such as trussing the chickens, wiring the spit, securing jubilee clamps, multi grips etc.

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Brian, Jules and the formidible Yamaha Fazer

In fact the combined efforts and knowledge of two engineers, one builder, one metal fabricator and a computer technician were unable to overcome the inherent problems of keeping a chook from moving on a rotating spit. Oh well, we did try!

Eventually after much champagne we borrowed some roasting forks and the chickens roasted merrily along side the vegies! The outcome was delicious!

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Lunch

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The Gang

Bidding our mates farewell on a clear and almost warm day the scenery we missed on arrival revealed itself in all its splendid glory.

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Parque National Ushaia

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Tierra del Fuego

Stopping in Rio Grande it was time to change the tyres. After carrying the spares for 7,500kms (DON'T ASK WHY.... WE JUST DID.... OK!), finding a gomeria, half an hour later we had new tyres and ground clearance.

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Enthusiastic Weight Reduction??

Stopping at Gracielas 'Hostal Hotel Argentino' (www.hostelargentino.com.ar) we were greeted with home made cherry brandy and steaming hot tea. Graciela's warmth and generosity made our five night stay very enjoyable. Being able to use her kitchen to cook up big pots of lamb stew for ourselves and our friends made it memorable.

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Irish Stew - Patagonia Style

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Lamb Dinner
L-R Mary, Mathias (behind Mary's head), Holgar, Martina, Virginia, Pee Wee, Jules

However difficult to leave this haven from the elements the north beckoned.

With 3000 kilometers between Buenas Aires and Ushaia, 4 border posts, 116 kilometres of ripio, a ferry crossing, gusting side winds and unpredictable weather we questioned our motives for this part of our journey. Had we become obsessed with 'Check Point Tourism', did we want to boast about travelling from Alaska to Usuaia, was it for the adventure or did we just want to spend Christmas with other travellers. Maybe it was a combination of all of the above but one thing was for sure, this is not the way we liked to travel.

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Parque National Ushaia

Posted by Julie Rose at 09:30 PM GMT
January 29, 2007 GMT
Gar'n Norf - Ruta Cuarenta

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Lago Azul - near Rio Gallegos

The view of sparkling blue waters in the caldera of an old volcano was the perfect setting for a picnic. Now to find shelter from the icy wind on a clear sunny southern Patagonian summers day!

The tranquil setting was beautiful for a hike down to the waters edge where wary Upland Geese took thier young to a safe hiding place. This was a nice start to our trek up the ripio (dirt) road of the famous Ruta 40.

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As the Crow Flies - El Calafate

The picturesque town of El Calafate on the shores of Largo Argentina is filled with tourists both local and foreign. A place where serious trekkers meet and the others... well... pose in all thier pristine trekking gear to hike from the lavish hotels to the trendy shops, bars and cafes.

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'Is the water cold?' - Lago Onelli

It is also the base for thousands of tourists to visit the magnificence and splendour of the Glaciers National Park.

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Iceberg from Upsala Glacier

Being the 'un-touristy' type of travellers we broke with tradition and took a boat tour to Upsala Glacier ($Peso210/person + $Peso40/person park entrance).

We packed a picnic and jumped on the high speed cat for an all day cruise of the lake and glaciers. Every peso was worth it.

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Hanging Glacier

We passed countless icebergs, hanging glaciers, the Spegazzini glacier which has the highest front and finally Upsala glacier the largest, in this park, that converges on the waters edge.

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Upsala Glacier

A visit to Lago Onelli where three glaciers meet at the lakes edge, continually breaking ice into the water creating an icey wonderland surrounded by a strange and enchanting forrest.

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Natural Sculptures - Lago Onelli

Although our day was cloudy, windy, cold and wet it was most memorable especially as this part of the park is only accessible during summer and by organised tour boat.

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Great weather for a Boat Trip!

Several days later we approached the massive glacier of Perito Moreno, second only to Upsala. The wonderful ride along the glacial lakes edge included views of the snow capped mountains in nearby Chile and spectacular green summer forrests.

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Parque Nacional Los Glaciers

Glacier Perito Moreno is easily accessible from the boardwalk. We looked in awe at the 60 meter high deep blue walls watching with anticipation for huge pieces of ice cracking thunderously and dropping into the waters of the lake.

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Glacier Perito Moreno

And so we continued on with near perfect road conditions along Ruta 40.

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The near perfect road conditions

As the sun decended below the surrounding mountains we presently came apon a rise of low hills where the road ascended for perhaps several kilometres and then narrowed as we thrust further into the rolling hills.

It soon became apparent to both of us that perhaps we were on the wrong road as it narrowed further to become no more than what can best be described as a farm track.

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Picking up Sam

Soon we descended into a narrow green valley of pasture land and rows of tall poplar trees. In the distance the tiny flickers of light from the approaching town of Gobenador Gregores appeared and to our delight after the continous jarring, corregation and gravel a paved road.

The paved road was to be short lived, of course being soley for the convenience of Gobenador Gregorians, yet we stayed in this town for three nights whilst Ming mended his bruised ribs caused by a slow fall in a deep trough of gravel.

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"This tastes like grass clippings!" - Mate Time

After the first day we had apparently become a talking point of the town and in the morning of the second a car appeared at our camp from Channel 7 local news with the express purpose to interview we 'famous' international motorcycle travellers.

It was all quite amusing. The four of us Ming (USA - Suzuki DR650), Grant & Jules, and Sam (Ireland - KTM640) milled about uncomfortably as the camera scanned back and forth whilst Jules did an excellent job of story telling, in Spanish, for the group.

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Star Bikes!

It was unfortunate that we were unable to view the segment not having the convenience of a tele, or maybe it was fortunate as we were quite the site with Ming suited in his normal riding gear of light rain coat and trousers, socks and sandals. Jules sporting spectacular motorcycle camping fashion with motorcyle jacket, black thermal leggins and riding boots, Grant complete with two weeks growth on face, shabby uncut hair and wearing jeans that were capable of standing by themselves. Only Sam looked the part, as he was leaving almost immediately after, decked out in full riding gear!

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Sam heads off

On that same morning, with Piggy packed and us eager to move on, we donned helmets and jackets. Grant turns the ignition to on and with one stab of the starter button a resounding UUURRRrrrrr.... r ... r .. . eminates.

Oh... we seem to have a flat battery, must be the extra cool evenings. We unload and push start the bike surprisingly easily. After a short run the battery appears to have a healthier glow. It turns out that Ming is a bit of an electronics wizard, and therefore shall now been deemed 'Marvellous Ming'... by us at least.

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'Get back to work and finish those dishes!' - Grant and Ming

After a brief visit to the workshop manual he checks, with our multi-meter, the charge rate on Miss Piggy which rather pessimistically reads low. We finally deduce that while the charging system with all lights off still, more or less, works (a new generator coil necessitating) the battery is indeed STUFFED!

At 98,000km on the clock we were kind of expecting the generator to need some service soon... just not on the Ruta 40! We were very disappointed, however, that after only one year of service the very expensive no maintenance battery had failed.

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Canyon - near Cueva de las Manos

We continued north over the wind swept plains and rolling hills of Patagonia, which reminded us of the areas of Coober Pedy in Australia, except of course for the Ruta 40, which whilst servicable proved a little demanding two-up and carrying a load.

Eventually arriving at the small village of Bajo Caracoles we continued a further forty kilometers off the Ruta 40 where the remarkable 9,000 year old cave paintings 'Cueva de las Manos' stand situated in a wonderful series of volcanic canyons.

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Cueva de las Manos

It was a lovely end to a long days ride and returning to the spot of a village, Bajo Caracoles, we were again to meet up with Hediki who we first met in Ushuaia.

As with all of the dirt section of the Ruta 40 the final stage to the town of Perito Moreno needed a conservative approach to riding.

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Wide open plains of Patagonia - Argentina

Marvellous Ming showed his marvel by pushing Piggy first thing in the morning and prudently along the way we would find a small rise to park the bike for picnics and rest stops, though thankfully a bump start was not necessary during the day.

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Roadside Stop

Staying several days in Los Antiguos, the cherry capital of Argentina, Chile and the Carretera Austral beckoned.

Posted by Julie Rose at 06:34 PM GMT
March 24, 2007 GMT
¡Argentina, Otra Vez!


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"Whats this thing called love?" - Fuel Pump Mod

We secured a new battery form a nearby repuestos and the following morning, keen to move on, hit the starter, only to find the engine would start, cough and then cut out. On further inspection we found the outlet pipe from the fuel filter pump to be leaking.

Quickly removing the fuel pump, from the tank, it was discovered the fuel pressure valve to have worked loose. A snappy modifcation to the bracket, involving a trusty electrical cable tie, and voille... on our way!


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Marcello & Carolina

Esquel teemed with summertime vacationers, a forboding omen of the towns to come along the Ruta 40 and our journey north. With the help of a Buenas Aires couple, Marcello & Carolina, on the biggest 250cc cruiser we have ever seen, they led us to a guest house that was economical and had vacancies.


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Ming

At the turn off to Cholila, 70kms north of Esquel, we sadly parted company with our dear friend Ming, hoping to see him again on the road somewhere, someday.


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High Tea

The good dirt road to Cholila was covered quickly and we partook in High Tea at Casa de Piedra surrounded by photos of famous folk including Michael Palin.

Stuffed to the brim with cakes, pies and tea, we ventured on to visit the small farm and hide out of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid who lived there from 1901 to 1907 with Etta Place. The infamous trio maintained a quiet life while the locals remained unaware of thier escapades. After leaving the farm they headed to Bolivia where they were ambushed and killed in a shoot out with the police.


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Butch Cassidy Farm

Paragliders floated seductivley upon the rocky mountain ridge, gaining height with the numerous thermal air currents as we lunched on the sundeck of the trendy cafe amoungst hordes of holiday makers. With full stomachs Grant had an epiphany and decided it was time to get back into the air as a birthday present!


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Jules working up the courage to fly - El Bolson

We reserved two flights for the following day, only to find the weather had changed and to coign a phrase from Grants hang gliding days "Its Off!"


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Ruta 40 Scenery

Staying with our tradition of avoiding 'check point tourism' destinations we by-passed Bariloche. Seeing it from a distance, it appeared dusty, busy and expensive. Choosing to head away fom the mountains we stopped at the small town of Piedra del Aguilar (Eagle Rock).


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Carving of Mother & Child at Piedra de Aguila

After two days of hiking through the interesting and unusual rock formations absolutely nothing in the guise of an eagle shaped rock appeared. It was all a crock we declared!


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Piedra de Aguila

However, it was a nice stay and the wee local history musuem was quaint and interesting.


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Watch Out!

Along the route towards Neuquen the signs warned us of the impending presence of dinosaurs. This was intriguing and somewhat amusing. El Cholcon is set on a man made dam that provides water for the hydro-electric scheme and is home to one of the largest fossil collections in Argentina.


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Petrified Trees

Camping for three nights in a gloriously quiet (by Argentine standards) Las Flores camping ground we took the time to visit the museum that houses the remains of the worlds largest discovered carnivorus dinosaur Gigantasaurus Carolinii.


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Gigantasauras Carolinii

The enourmous dinosaur was discovered on the outskirts of town with the surrounding hills being full of fossils of plants, animals and dinosaur footprints from an ancient era.


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Gigantasauras Carolinii

A spur of the moment decision and we were off to Buenas Aires, once again, returning to Dakar Moto to check out the alternator and replace the fork seals.


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Guachito Gill

Javier performed a test on the alternator output, which appeared fine and assisted greatly in changing the fork seals as the fork retaining bolts were as stubborn as hell. We left him to it as much swearing eventuated, returning several hours later to find all being well.


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General Pinto


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Camping Neuquen

A night with the boys and Jules fantastic lamb stew and we were off again, leaving the capital, still not seeing anymore than the inside of Javier & Sandras workshop.


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The Lads (l-r) Grant, Justin, Hugo, Sam, Sam - Dakar Motors

Other than a very nasty accident involving a truck and a car the journey to San Rafael was uneventful, however very pleasant.


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Cleaning up after the accident


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Scooter - Who says you need a big bike to travel?

We even crossed paths with the Marvellous Ming somewhere out in the pampa.


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Sunflowers

So our casa for the next three months appeared and a welcome with open arms from Theresa and Soledad of Cabañas Calderon made us feel instantly at home.


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Happy Birthday Piggy

Posted by Julie Rose at 04:42 PM GMT
April 27, 2007 GMT
Millin' Around


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Ancient Ruin? Moto Guzzi

On February the 18th, 2007 we arrived in San Rafael and stopped at the Cabañas Calderon. This is a photo journal of our time there.

San Rafael is located in the heart of Mendoza province approximately 1000 kms west of Buenas Aires and 200 kms east of the Andes on the same latitude as Sydney, Australia.


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Grapes ready for harvest

It is a centre for wine production, fruit growing and olive farming. With a temperate climate and plenty of irrigation from the Andean snow melt, this is a prosperous region based on tourism and agriculture.


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Valle Grande - Popular Tourist centre 30 kms from San Rafael

Soooo... what have we been doing for the last three and a half months?

SITTING ON OUR ASSES

Some of our dear friends have passed through San Rafael, said they were staying a few days and ending up leaving after a few weeks.


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Easter Madness
L - R Jules, Grant, Anita, Lew from Great Britain


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Mary and Mathias from Germany


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Hamish from Scotland


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Emma from England


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Val & Adam from California


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Eduardo and Margarita from Mexico

COOKING

Our cabana has been very confortable, a real little house, complete with kitchen, such a treat after living off the camping stove for months.... well years almost.


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Chicken Pizza.... isn't that an ancient Mayan ruin in Mexico???


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Hurry up Val!.... we are starving and that Milenesa de Pollo smells too good to be true!


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Emma show that brocolli who is boss

EATING & DRINKING


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' Why are you taking a photo of cakes?... Don't you have cakes in Australia?' asked the confused man in our favorite coffee shop, not understanding Jules obsession with beautifully decorated food


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Stew, Veg and Friends - Has Adam gone for more plonk?
L - R Emma, Val, Grant, Hamish


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A few drinks around the table
L - R Mary, Mattias, Anita, Jules, Lew


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Hame & Grant relaxing with a vino tinto

SOCIALISING


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'Nah mate, seriously, it is this big!' - Phil and Grant tell tall tales


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Asado at John and Anettes
L - R Jules, Grant, Tom, John, Annette


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"Happy Birthday Phil"

FIXING THINGS

It has been a fantastic opportunity to do all those fiddley little things you never get a chance to to when you are on the road such as fix the velcro on your jacket and re-seal your now leaky wet boots.


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Fixing up the wet boots


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Hamish and Grant bashing Berthas panniers back into shape after her tumble in the snow a few days before

CHANGE THE STEERING HEAD BEARINGS

Grant awoke early on a cold overcast Monday morning in anticipation of a start to changing the steering head bearings on Miss Piggy.


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A naked Piggy in the Bush

We had been in San Rafael for seven weeks and after a cursory visit to the local and very helpful SKF store to purchase the said bearings, it was all go.

The workshop manual, once again over complicating all and necessitating the pre-requisite NASA engineering degree to perform any work on the bike, was duly closed.


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Stripping Down - Changing the Steering Head Bearings

As the morning disappeared so too did the front end of the Suzuki. It appeared all was going well, however, as the clock struck mid afternoon, San Rafael's normally stable climate took a rapid turn for the worse.

The darkened clouds of the morning had increased in blackness and with cool strengthening winds the pitter patter of rain drops began to fall our cabaña roof.

As Piggy's carport is merely an oversized shade house we hastily covered the bike with the cover and hoisted all associated bits and pieces into the living room.

'Okay,' we thought 'not so lucky with the weather but it will be only overnight, it never rains for long here'.


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Rain and Rain and Rain

... Six days later the sodden form of Piggy with no front end mournfully sat amoungst the flooded surrounds of the cabañas and we, equally in mourning, sat surrounded by the disassembled pieces, watching through the closed windows as San Rafael experienced the heaviest and longest rainfall in living memory.


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Yep.... still raining

RIDING TO CHILE & BACK

Once the rain had finally abated, the flood waters drained away and Piggy back in one piece, we took a ride over the Andes to re-new our tourist visas, bike paperwork and test out the new bearings.


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Clear blue skys, spectacular scenerey with a nasty cold wind - Ruta 7 to Chile


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Then it snowed overnight!


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Quite a bit of snow actually

RELAXING

We have also had the time to revitalise our bodies, minds and enthusiasm to continue on our journey.


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A taste of Home
'Mmmmmmm cherry ripe! Rich chocolatey/cherry goodness!'


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Kermit at the day spa


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'I hope that is soap bubbles Kermie!'

We have almost become accustomed to the 5 hour siesta each day. The entire city shuts down around mid day and opens at 5ish. No restaurant is open before 9pm or serves before 10pm. Pubs and clubs only open after 11pm or 12 midnight and discos do not open thier doors before 1am.

TOURING AROUND

Having a base where we know we will be at the end of the day has been comforting and enjoyable.


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Cactus in Flower

We have been able to watch the town change from summer to autumn, see shops close down and new ones open and monitor building projects from commencement to completion.


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Dique Tigre

There are many beautiful short (or long if you so choose to make them) rides around the San Rafael area. The Hydro Electric Scheme in the area has produced picturesque dams, dikes and river scenes contrasted by the modern electrical plants.


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Dam at Los Reyunos


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Dam Wall - Valle Grande


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Overlooking the dam - Valle Grande

The Canyon Atuel circuit is somewhat remeniscent of Arizona and Utah in the United States, with unusual colourful rock formations that change and surpirse at every corner.


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Canyon Atuel


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Cruisin' Canyon Atuel with Lew and Anita


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Stone Sculpture - Canyon Atuel


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"You two bob down so I look like the tallest" - Canyon Atuel
L -R Hamish, Grant, Emma


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New Reality TV show - Swapping Bikes
Grant and Bertha, Hamish and Piggy

Slipping into Argentine life has been easy, taking a pile of wood out and cooking over a fire on a Sunday afternoon has becime a small ritual for us, just like the locals!


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Sunday Picnic


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Mini Ausie/Argie Asado

HELPING OUT


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'Peel me a grape sweetie darling!'
Jules and Emma

John and Annette are British ex-pats who, on completion of thier 3 year motorcycle tour, moved to Argentina to continue thier life's adventure as farmers. Their small finca grows plums, wine grapes, walnuts and last year they planted 1000 olive trees.


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Grape Harvest

A phone call to Annette one morning resulted in the six of us (Grant, Jules, Emma, Hamish, Val and Adam) lobbing up on the farm to help pick grapes. Due to unusual weather conditions, this years harvest needed to be completed in three days instead of the usual seven.

It was hot and dusty work and at the end of the day we were tired little motorcyclists.


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After extensive instruction on how not to drive the tractor, Jules is ready to go!

Another time.....


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Grant foolishly offered to help Tom fabricate and weld a gate and window security bars.... eeewwww yuck welding!

WATCH THE PARADE

May 22nd is the Fiesta de la Santa Rita in the small village of 25 de Mayo, near John and Annette's finca. A parade is led by the Gauchos and finishes with mass in a large marque and a party that goes all night.


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Gaucho in training


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Gauchos Leading the Parade


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Santa Rita

Well it has been three and a half months here in San Rafael and it is time to move on, so much more to see and do.


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Kermie (in Clan McFrog Tartan anf Virgin Islands Sporan) practices his Highland Fling

Staying in this town has provided us with great rest, enabled us to catch up with old friends and make new friends, given us a base to receive much appreciated letters and packages from friends and family and will forever remain a highlight of our journey..... We are even thinking of returning in a few months.


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Jules Garden - Petunias saved from certain dehydration and death, they just needed a little water and TLC

Posted by Julie Rose at 03:51 PM GMT
June 30, 2007 GMT
In Good Company


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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.


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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.


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Cabañas Calderon
L - R Miguel, Marie, Teresa, Jules, Soledad

Amidst tears and vegemite on toast we left the Cabañas Calderon and moved to John and Annette's finca for a couple of nights.


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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.


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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).


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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.


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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?'


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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!


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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.


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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.


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Hamish and Grant on top of a Pyramid at El Shincal


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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Continuing on Ruta 47

Oh how we were mistaken!


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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!'.


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Over looking the plains - Ruta 47

Most enjoyable, stunning high desert scenery with remote wild locations you could stay at for days.


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Picnic


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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.


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'What can we make out of these?' - The Budget Biker!


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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.


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Walls of an abandoned city - Quilmes


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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.


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Ruta 40 to Cachi

Cachi, somewhat off the international tourist trail is a gem of a colonial town, we stayed 3 days.


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'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.


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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


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Cachi town centre


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Leaving Cachi


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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.


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Side trip to hidden valley Quebredara de Escopie


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Quebredara de Escopie


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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.


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'Do you have a room for three?' - Grant enquires at reception, Residencia Astur
Photo courtesy of Emma


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TLC in the Hotel Foyer - Residencia Astur, Salta


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Iglesia San Francisco - Salta


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Teleferico Cerro San Bernado - Salta

Posted by Julie Rose at 03:30 PM GMT
July 11, 2007 GMT
¿Por qué? Crossing the Andes in Winter?


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Virgin de Perpetua Socorro - Salta

A long and colourful parade preceded the appearance of the Gauchos Patron Saint, 'Virgin of Perpetual Help', who was carried on the shoulders of the faithful around Salta, ornately decorated with flowers and flanked by the congregation.

The crowd rose to their feet and became silent as the brass band struck up the National Anthem of Argentina. With hands on thier hearts an in one united voice every man, woman and child proudly sang along to the music.

In honour of the Virgen hundreds of Gauchos in thier traditonal finery proudly rode around the plaza on thier magnificent steeds.


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Gauchos - Salta

Bertha and Piggy, sporting new tyres and having been tweeked gently, left Salta via a pleasant mountain ride through the lush sub-tropical rainforest delivering us in Tilcara, a mere spot of a village, in the beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Quebrada Humahuaca.


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Leaving Salta
Bertha, Hamish & Emma

The weather was surprisingly warm and it was decided that camping was a good accommodation option, even if the nights were becoming very cool.


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Valley View - Tilcara

Whilst Emma and Jules cooked up a storm on the parilla, Hamish and Grant cooked up a plan to take us over the Paso de Jama, famed for being open all year round, then on to Bolivia over the Salar de Uyuni.


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Cross - Tilcara

Hame was a champion researching the in's and out's of the plan in between us all relaxing in the camp ground, taking walks and visiting the small, but very interesting ruins Pucara.


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Pucara Ruins, Tilcara

Known locally as 'The Fort', due to its location perched upon a hill in the middle of the valley, the ancient peoples who lived there were farmers and shepherds until they were conquered and dispersed by the Spanish.


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Pucara Ruins, Tilcara

Archeologists have spent a great deal of time interpreting this site and restoring some of the buildings which gives the visitor and interesting perspective to a maze of low walls.


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Purple and Yellow Mountain - Quebrada Humahuaca


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Frozen Waterfall

'There is some ice on the road, so be careful' the young and cocky Gendarme informed Grant at the Argentine/Chilean frontier, Paso de Jama.

Concerned about the 180 odd kilometer ride ahead, Jules sought clarification.

'How much ice? A lot of snow? Does it cover the road or is it only in a few parts?' she questioned.

'Ony in a few parts, just be careful.' he replied, nonchalant.

We discussed whether to go on or turn back and decided to go for it, confident that Hamish and Emma were not far behind us should there be any problems.

Clear blue skies, icey cold head winds Piggy and her faithful mounts crossed into Chile.


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Blue sky, red earth, white snow

The road was good, dry and the scenery just as spectacular as it was in November last year.

'This is not too bad!' we thought continuing on till we hit a small patch of ice, slowly and carefull we crept over it with the back tyre slipping a little.

'Still not too bad, need to be careful.' we thought.

A little further up the snow was thicker along the sides of the road and a few trucks and cars had stopped.

'You will not get through, it's impossible!' yelled a truckie passing us by foot.

We dismounted to check it out. For 200 metres one lane of the road was blocked by thick ice, snow and a broken down truck. It did not look pretty but it was certainly possible. Grant gently manouvered the bike down the road and Jules followed on foot.

'This is getting a bit more difficult,' we thought 'Hopefully thats the last of it.'.

From there on things improved. Still blessed with blue skies and not so blessed with the wind we continued on our way. Sure the snow was getting thicker on either side of the 2 lane highway but the road was still clear and dry.


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'Seems to be a bit of snow and ice here'

Last year the lakes we are spectrum of colours and filled with flamingos, now they were frozen over and deep blue. The rivers and streams were iced up, however, it was after all a clear bright day.

Our next ice traversing feat arrived. This time there was heavy snow all around and covered most of Ruta 25 with just narrow thoroughfare down the middle that was thick with ice.

Jules jumped off to lighten the load for Grant. He slowly and surely navigated through a couple of hundred metres, stopping periodically for Jules to catch up.


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Worsening conditions

'Things appear to be getting worse' we thought.

Suddenly we were being bombarded by white wind and our blue sky was disappearing fast as an evil looking storm was forming at the apex of the pass 4,500m above sea level..... exactly where we were heading. We were 75 kilometres away from San Pedro de Atacama and a nice warm hotel.


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Viento Blanco - White Wind

We pushed on for another kilometer into the ferocious wind, blinding snow and intensifying storm. The road had disappered.... completely.

'This is really bad and potentially disastrous' we thought. Quickly deciding to turn around and head the 115kms back to the border just as it began snowing.


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Lets Turn Around NOW!

Attempting to re-ride the road we had just came along was very difficult and frought with danger as the new snow, driven by the storm, was now axel deep. We dropped the bike twice in the thick snow and twice on the ice.

Away from the storm and back on the 'good' part of the road we stopped to catch our breath near some Chilean road workers.

'Hey your friends are waiting for you at the border' they told us happily 'The road is closed!'.

'No kidding!' we thought, they could have imparted this information on the two occasions they passed by us earlier.

(We later found out that the stretch of road where we had turned around continued to be impassable for a further 28kms - storm or no storm.)

Half expecting to see Emma and Hamish we continued to the border with no sign of them. While completing our Argentine customs and immigration formalities, for the second time that day, the same cocky young Gendarme gave us a note letting us know Hame and Em had been told the pass was closed and had turned back to Susques. With few options avaliable to us we headed there too.

30 Kms down the road the gasoline warning lights started flashing. We were running out of petrol. With a maximum of 65 kilometres range in the tank left and another 90kms to Susques we had no option but to return to the border and hope to precure some gas.

'Hey Australia, whats wrong!' we were greeted by a friendly customs officer. Explaining our situation he told us that our only option was to wait until the following morning when a bus would return to the border post with some gasoline for us to buy.

They offered us a place to stay for the night in a small portable office inside a large shed. Great we thought shivering, the cold finally catching up with us.


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A warm safe place for Piggy, Grant and Jules

The Border Control Officers were very kind to us, provided us with safe shelter and a thermos of boiling water. Tired, exhausted, bellies full with our emergency food rations, terrible nasty cheap whisky and some chocolate we bunkered down for the night and were fast asleep by 7:30pm.


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Will the Butterfly emerge from her cocoon? - Camping Paso de Jama

The following morning we were greeted with 'I have some bad news!'

What now... surely riding over snow and ice, avoiding a blizzard, nearly running out of petrol and camping at the border in -18 degrees C was enough for two days?

'There is no gasoline coming, maybe a truck will come past today and have some.'

OK, these things make up the rich tapestry of life and the adventure of travelling, or something like that anyway!

We take Piggy out of the shed and put her in the sun to warm up, instantly causing curious stranded people to come over, look and hear our story as the border was still closed and there was little else to do.

Edgar from Paragauy spoke a little English and was more than happy to help. He asked people in cars if we could by some of thier gasoline, unfortunately, for one reason or another, we were unable to extract it from their vehicles.

As the morning approached mid-day a stranded bus driver overheard our plea and informed us he had petrol but we had to take 20 litres at approximately 5 times the normal price.... well what are you going to do?.... pay the money of course!


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Edgar helps us obtain fuel

Edgar and Grant filled Piggy's tank with the most expensive fuel we have ever purchased and we headed off, back to Susques where we were greeted with hugs from a worried Hamish and Emma who were just about to leave as the believed we had made it to Chile.


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Salinas Grande - the only salt lake we were going to see

'Well that's us for mountains and cold weather!' we declared leaving Hame and Emma at the bottom of the mountains in Purmamaca, planning to meet them again in Sant Cruz, Bolivia.


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Purmamaca

We were in desparate need of some warm weather. Jujuy did not provide much as a cold snap had taken over most of South America giving Buenas Aires their first snow in 80 years.


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Cemetary near Tilcara

Jujuy is like Salta's harlot sister. Established in 1593 it was besieged by earthquakes and wars for nearly 200 years. In 1812 General Belgrano ordered the city to be destroyed to prevent it being taken over by the Spanish. It lacks the colonial eloquence of Salta but has a definite charm and there is still much evidence of it's Spanish past if you take the time to wander through its streets.


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Sign - Jujuy

Back in the land of sugar, where the cane is still cut by hand. We wave at the groups of men gathered by the sides of the road as we glide past on Piggy. Used to a reception of smiles, whistles and returned waves, we noticed these men were unresponsive, wearing the weary faces of those that toil for little gain.


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Roadside Repair - Liberador

We took a break from the road for a day or two, which turned into a week, in the sugar and paper town of Liberador General San Martin before crossing into Bolivia at the crazy black market shopping town of Yacuiba.


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Everyone Comes out to say Goodbye - Yacuiba, Bolivia

Yacuiba and Calmira were finally warm though we both had developed colds.

Disapointingly it was difficult to travel north as the roads had been blockaded by protesters, we decided to change plans, yet again, and return to Argentina and work our way across to Brazil, thus disbanding Team Loose Plans (ie Hamish, Emma and us).


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Calmira - Bolivia

So.... why try and cross the Andes in winter?? 'No lo se'

Posted by Julie Rose at 03:22 PM GMT
September 28, 2007 GMT
Desert to Jungle


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Road Works on the Ruta 16

Spring has sprung! With the warm sun shining upon us we headed out on Ruta 16 a long, long.... long straight road disecting the top of Argentina. The 600 kilometres cuts through flat scrub lands and is punctuated, now and then, by the odd 40 kilometres or so of road works... just to add a touch of spice.

Dotted here and there are dusty, unispiring small towns with insipid, dubious lodgings. One such town with such a hostal was El Quebrachal. It was the only place to rest for the night , the hostal was taken straight from the chain 'Worlds Truely Horrible Hotels'

Fortunately for Jules, she was filled to the brim with cough syrup and whiskey (purely medicinal of course!) to combat her nasty flu. She did not notice the cigarette butts, dirt and scum that decorated our small dank room.

Around 4 o'clock in the morning a fight broke out in the room next door. The shouting, banging and crashing turned into a full-on brawl and moved out into the street.... yeah... great!

To be perfectly honest, the journey was not all that bad, just the one night. After our horrid evening we again broke the ride, but this time in the very nice town of Presidente RS Peña, in a very nice hotel, with a very nice owner, who had very nice collection of very nice muscle cars!


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NICE! Don Hector's 'Hot Rod' 10.6 seconds, Standing Quarter
Don Hector told us that when he drives this car all the girls want to kiss him!!!

Dry desert brush almost instantly transforms into lush tropical forest as if a line is drawn in the sand. Replacing the rocky dust is a deep red cla,y which surprises you visually, and the dry desert air is replaced with the sweet, damp smells of rainforest. A truely beautiful sensation.


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Baby Seat on a Baby Bike - Corrientes

The township of San Ignacio de Mini is quite and relaxed. Most of the tourists are 'Day Trippers' being dragged about the country side in battered mini busses to visit ruined Jesuit missions. A whirlwind tour takes place before being packed back into the bus and whisked away to the next exciting location.

Founded in 1696, at its present site, San Ignacio de Mini is impressive. Life on the mission brought together various indigenous tribes, including the Guarani, and provided them with employment, food, education and religion and a peaceful way of life until the invasion and ultimate destruction by armies from Brazil and Paraguay.


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Remains of the Church, completed in 1724

People watching is one of our favorite past times, and where better to undertake this activity than at a historical site filled with tourists!


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Creepy Jesuit Sun Dial... at least we hope that is what it is!

Some rush form place to place, 'ooh' and 'aah', take a quick snap for their holiday album and speed off to the next point of interest.

Others leisurely stroll and chat, taking it all in enjoying every moment, wandering and pondering.


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Door to the Library

Whilst there are others, like 'Video Cameral Man' who absorbs everything through the view finder of his camera. Pushing in front of people to ensure exclusive footage of each and every artifact on show, all to be enjoyed at a later some date in the comfort of his living room.

To us, these different people are as fascinating as the actual ruins themselves.


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Where has all the rain forrest gone
One million square kilometres of virgin rainforest has been depleted to sixty thousand kilometres and spread about in tiny parcels

30 rivers converge to create the famous Iguazu Falls. With the mistaken belief we would be communing with nature we visited the impressive and well organised park.


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Parque Nacional Iguazu

Unfortunately our timing was off. We arrived in Puerto de Iguazu in the height of the winter tourist season, when a multitude of tourists, local and international, all vie for a view of the enourmous cascading flow of water.


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Glimps of the Mighty Iguazu Falls - Devils Throat

The crush of people at the view point for The Devils Throat should had been expected. As we walked across the kilometre of board walk, throngs of holiday makers were scurrying backwards and forwards like a troupe of army ants.

Arriving at the lookout, Jules managed to sneak forward and take a few precious photos whilst being elbowed and almost knocked over. We are sure the Falls would have been magnificent, should we have been able to see them in full.


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Frocked Up!

Fed up with being pushed, shoved and generally squashed we chose not to board the train back to the main gate but take a silent and gentle cruise down the river.


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Peace and Quiet at Last

Here the river runs like treacle and the world seems to stand still and silent. Alligator and tortoise bask on the banks lazily, sunning themselves, moving only for a superior position in the sun.


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Aligators

We had hooked up with Marcel from Switzerland, (our paths had been crossing, now and then, since San Rafael) caught up on travel stories over a few meals and bottles of wine.


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Yet another fine Argentine steak dinner
Grant, Marcel, Jules

As Australians we are required to have a visa to enter Brazil. Fearing a long-winded and difficult process we started procedures early. In reality the visa organisation was a doddle. We visited the emabassy, filled in the required forms, presented a photo each, paid the fee and returned in two hours for our multi-entry Brazillian visa. Done like a dinner.

Next stop... Brazil!

Posted by Julie Rose at 03:32 PM GMT
October 07, 2007 GMT
The Last South American Run


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Oh My! That's a dirty fuel filter!

Back in Argentina, and finding that changing the fuel did not really help Miss Piggy's nasty cough infact it got worse. Grant pulled out the fuel filter for inspection. The pre-filter mesh was.... well, you look at the photo!


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OOOH Goody, Choices!

Cleaning the mesh and soaking the cartridge in clean fuel had the bike running well once again, however, at 115,000kms Grant suspected the fuel cartridge was fianally shagged, and rather ironically in the last 200 km run back to San Rafael the symptoms appeared once again.


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Sunset - Federacion


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Where are my glasses..... Jules.... Jules!
Thermal Baths at Federacion


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Federation
A town where you can walk around in your bathrobe all day!


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Apparently Maria has the best regional treats in all of Argentina


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Cattle Barge


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Whose your little friend Piggy??
Check out the panniers under the seat!

Snow and ice greeted us on our return to San Rafael for a two and a half months stay, caretaking a friend's apartment.


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Snow Man - San Rafael

There were jobs to do, friends to re-unite with, wine to drink and preparations for our next continent, Africa, to make.


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Gate at John & Annettes

Amongst chunks of slow melting ice in the back verandah Grant went to work on Miss Piggy.


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Rosie looks for a snow ball

After 115,000 kilometres the fuel filter cartridge was finally shagged. At a rather exorbitant US$300.00 per item, with no ready supply (apart from shipping one down from the United States), the Internet was accessed for a reliable modification that could be performed.


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Working on the Fuel Filter By-Pass

We found one, bypassing the original filter and placing an in-line injector filter from a Renault car snuggly between the air box and frame. Cost: around US$10.00. Problem solved.


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Problem Solved

Grant had been toying with the idea of constructing a fully enclosed chain case, similar to the one that had been factory fitted to our previous bike (1981 Yamaha TR1 1,000 V-Twin - a rare breed). It was a remarkably effective device and proved that the whole concept of an enclosed chain is possible, but probably not continued by manufacturers simply because they would not have an after sales market for chains and sprockets! Is that possible??? We don't know... anyway constructing such an animal seemed like a good idea at the time.


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Stage 1 - Development

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Stage 2 - Assembly

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Stage 3 - Testing

Six weeks later, after much swearing and cursing and narrowly escaping a marriage break-up, Grant did indeed have the case developed and working, gasps of excitement ensued! It is still a little clunky and needs a small adjustment but we will get there.

For many years now we have been hearing about the illusive and famous (maybe infamous) Ken and Carol Duval from Brisbane, Australia. They are good friends of our finca mates John and Annette. Ken and Carol are now on their second RTW motorcycle journey, starting in South America. They lobbed up at the farm and also at our home stay for a few days.


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Ken, Grant, Carol & Andrea

Ken and Grant replaced the swing arm bearings on Piggy, utilising what we had on hand to make the job a little easier.


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Boiling the Swing Arm


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Ken and Grant press the new bearings

After a hard day farming, sitting down to cottage pie for dinner, the dogs barking accompanied the distinct sound of a motorcycle pulling up in the driveway. Who were Rosie and Rita announcing, none other than Emma and Hamish on Bertha. A huge surprise to see them, one last time, before we left South America.

The last few days in San Rafael on John and Annette's farm saw us singing for our supper in various ways. Pulling wires from grape vines, mending pannier frames on Johns KLR, killing the 'Big Dick' - the most enormous, evil and vicious rooster known to humankind!

A teary farewell to our 'Moto Familia', followed by a quick run to Buenos Aires and a smoothly organised shipping by air of the three of us saw us land in Cape Town, South Africa on the 15th of November 2007.

Shipping by Air

Buenos Aires, Argentina to Cape Town, South Africa

**PLEASE NOTE: THIS IS OUR PERSONAL EXPERIENCE; YOUR EXPERINCE MAY NOT BE THE SAME. PLEASE DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH.

We used Malaysia Airlines. They fly twice a week (Wednesdays and Sundays), the bike will go on the same flight as you.

You will need to use a Shipping Agent. 'Delfino' are the preferred agents for Malaysia Airlines, telephone: +54 11 6320 1000, website: www.delfino.com.ar

Firstly, visit the Delfino Office at San Martin 439 in Buenos Aires. It is walking distance from the Retiro train station.

Take with you the length, width and height of the bike in centimeters as well as an estimate of the weight in kilograms (include luggage if you are shipping it with the bike). The weight will be calculated on volume and weighed at the airport. The higher of the two is what you are charged.

Delfino will inform you of the next available flight.

An estimate will be calculated. Go through the fees carefully and get them to explain each one so you have a good understanding.

Delfino are obliged to recommend you use a Customs Broker (Trammite), if you feel confident dealing with customs you may wish to decline this option. Also, it will be recommended that you photocopy your entire passport (each page and covers), motorcycle documentation, temporary import papers etc and have them signed by a Notary (similar to a Justice of the Peace), supplied by them or chosen by you.

Secondly, book your flight and give Delfino a photocopy of your airline ticket. Word of warning: To enter South Africa you, will need to prove to Immigration that you have an onward or return ticket, even though you are motorcycling trans-Africa.

Thirdly, two days before your flight, take the bike to the airport. Follow the signs to Carga and then to Exportacion. Park outside the main barrier and visit the Delfino office where you will be guided with the bike to the weigh station. You need to get a 'ticket Agent del Ingresso', ask your guide for this, before you can visit customs and exit the bike from Argentina. Once the bike is cleared by customs, a check on the motor number will be made, it will then be secured on a palette and finally wrapped in plastic and cling film. You are allowed to stay in the warehouse until this is completed.


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Tied down nice and tight


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Movement at the warehouse

Fourthly, return to the city office of Delfino for final instructions, calculations, payment of account.

Finally, the day the bike flies you will need to visit the Lufthansa/Malaysia Airlines office at the Terminal de Carga to sign the final copies of the Dangerous Goods Certificate and ask for a copy of the Airways bill.


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HERE WE COME

Posted by Julie Rose at 08:00 PM GMT
 



Renedian Adventures

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