Relieved to have got out the other side alive we head into Chile. After reading and researching online I was expecting Chile to be very different to Peru and the difference between them to be startling.
Yes Chile has shops and is 'civillised' but it's not that different at first. There are certainly less dogs here and they are less aggressive which is a good start.
We head into Arica and pull into the first Hotel we can find on the sea front. It is a beach type resort and not very cheap.
Today has lost us 2 hours in time due to crossing time zones so it is now about 8pm. After a speedy change and dinner, we unfortunately realise there is an ant problem in our room. Then we notice the yukky bathroom and the smell from the toilet is vile.
Checking out next morning I set about complaining in spanish to the Receptionist. Maybe I got some words wrong but she certainly was very embarrassed by what I said and offered us a discount straight away. This is the first complaint I have made so far concerning hotel rooms and I was so mad about the price and lack of quality that I made a point of telling the staff I have stayed in better hostals in Peru...
The next few days would see us ride through the infamous Atacama Desert, Em found this boring at times, but for me the place was wild.
Some of the sand dunes have to be seen to be believed as they tower above, many stories high. With some stretches It felt like we were riding through Mars not Chile, the wind was fierce - sometimes blowing us onto the other side of the road. You daren’t open your visor even a crack out here due to the sand and the heat is searing.
Looking out into the dessert you could see whirlwinds pulling up great cones of sand, amazing to witness, but glad they werent too close.
The road on the whole is straight, at times stretching to the heat hazed horizon, the only thing breaking the monotony is the elaborate road side memorials to those who had not survived a particular incident on the road - a reminder to keep your concentration.
More worrying though is the lack of petrol stations. The first one we find we ask for extra fuel cans. They don't have any but recycle a couple of oil containers and fill with petrol for us. We strap these to the side of the back box and hope we have enough.
The riding starts to get very windy and it is hard going just holding yourself up.
The wind blows the sand around and worse it increases our fuel consumption.
Later that day we have to pull over and use the spare cans to fill the tank. With the wind effect and our additional cans we can do around 300miles, its only now I wish we had the Adventure fuel tank, but we manage fine. Luckily an hour later we reach a fuel station and brim the tank and containers.
After a long days riding we reach the town of Iquque. This place is nestled by the sea and has cool sea breezes.
We treat ourselves to a proper hotel with great views of the ocean, later after getting the sand out of all the cracks, we head down to the restaurant for a very good meal and our complimentary drink.
Later that evening we route plan for the next few days riding, using the laptops remaining battery as we don’t yet have a Chilean power adaptor. One practical thing a day....
Setting out for more of the same wind, sand and boredom it is now that I am so grateful for my ipod.
We get to Antofagasta after another long day and find a hotel on the seafront.
Leaving Antofagasta early the next day we drive past "The Hand'.
This is a sand monument of a hand probably made by the Chileans to try and ease the boredom of the landscape. It doesn't work.
That evening we get to Bahia Ingles and decide to stop for the night. We have trouble finding a decent hotel and end up in a hostel, which is very pricey but has secure parking. There are loads of backpackers around as we wander into town in search of food. Finding nothing except a Mexican Bar we settle on Pina coladas and nachos for tea.
Knackered after the last couple of days we settle back into the hostal. At 11pm the underground club across the street from us kicks off with banging dance music until 5am, then the inevitable noise of drunk people leaving. We get no sleep at all it is so loud, I think the bed was shaking in time to the music. I must be getting old as I was very peeved by it all.
Next day is a little better as the scenery starts to green up abit and we get out of the dessert. Stopping at a fuel station just before lunch we meet up with a Chilean local on a BMW. Fernando asks us to join him for a coffee and we chat about the bike, where we have been, and in general. It is fascinating to hear about his life here, Fernando is a fruit farmer in La Serena, he has 7 children (6 girls 1 boy) which we have a good chat about.
After lunch we all head out together and Fernando leads the way to La Serena, pointing out landmarks and interesting things along the way. Once in La Serena he takes us to a lovely hotel, and bids us farewell.
That evening we meet up with a lovely couple from Scotland who are here visiting family. We have a fantastic evening with great food and company.
David and Ailsa- it was a pleasure meeting you, thanks for a fabulous evening!
After a great breakfast we head out the next day. Our first stop is a photo shoot outside the hotel courtesy of our new friends from last night!
The Pan am from here downwards starts to get better and Chile is starting to feel alot more civilised from here on in. Fuel stops aren't such an issue and you can buy water and snacks at them too which is a bonus after Peru.
There are many cake ladies along this stretch of road - locals who bake cakes and sell them on the roadside. They wave white hankerchiefs at you to get your attention.
Reaching Santiago, later that afternoon we drive around the capital looking for Hotels. There must be a Hotel district in Santiago and we definately didn't find it! We did find the banking district though and it was very hectic. After about an hour we manage to find a hotel and get us and the bike sorted.
That evening after dinner we set about doing some research. We need to find the BMW dealer in Santiago tomorrow to hopefully get some new tyres ready for off road later to come. After emailing the dealers twice about 3 weeks ago and no response we really don't know what to expect. They might have our tyres in stock?
Next day we head out armed with a tourist map and a route by me. We manage to get out of the centre and onto the right road after 10 mins or so. After half an hour we reach the BMW dealership, only to find out it is the wrong one. Luckily we meet Gonzalo there, another BMW rider on his bike and he offers to take us to the right place. We set off after him and he isn't hanging around! Gonzalo speaks perfect Queens English and sets about explaining to the staff in Spanish what we need. Then he translates it to us - they have the TKC’s and can fit them by 5pm today. Perfect.
We decide to hang out in the showroom all day while the tyres get changed.
Gonzalo is concerned about us driving around Santiago as there is a tag/ toll system in place. We need to have a tag to drive on the ring roads and there is no way we can get out of the city without crossing a checkpoint and maybe getting fined or chased by the police. Think London congestion charge, but with bigger fines.
Darren heads off with Gonzalo on his BMW into town to the Motorway Office to find out how to get a tag etc. I am secretly thrilled by this as I am hoping Darren will realise what it is like to be a pillion for a change.
Ems comment made me smile, I actually don’t normally like being pillion, as I have said many times I don’t know how she does it – especially off road. But today I really enjoyed being pillion riding with Gonzalo around the city, first we went to his house to collect his tag, then onto the transport office.
It turns out that as we have foreign plates we don't need a tag and don't have to pay anything to drive around – one less thing to worry about. I suggest to Gonzalo that he should get himself some international plates for his bike – save a fortune. We offer to take Gonzalo over to a cafe to buy him lunch for all his help, he is not having any of it though and insists on paying for us instead. Whilst in the supermarket we pick up some bits and bobs we needed for the road and head back to BMW.
At BMW they wheel the bike out and I only just recognize it – they had cleaned it, Beamers first bath in months! The fitter also mentioned that although he managed to fit the tires ok, he was concerned about the rims as they were somewhat buckled…really? Cant think how that happened…
Gonzalo meets back up with us at 5pm to check everything is okay with the new tyres, then he leads the way out of town and waves us onto the right road.
Gonzalo, mucho gusto, !gracious por sus ayuthar con los pneumaticos!
We head out to Rancagua and reach it by about 6.30pm. Finding a Hotel proves very difficult and eventually we come across the most lovely place on the outskirts of town. It is beautiful here, very quiet, with loveley gardens and spotless rooms.
Breakfast is very nice the next morning and I ask Darren if he can just leave me here and do the last bit on his own, it is just too nice to leave. He tells me to stop day dreaming and get my kit on!!
I would have liked to stay longer, but what Em fails to mention is that this place is 3x our nightly budget! The stop was a good one and it was nice to get some luxury for once – and to see Em with a smile on her face.
We head out and back onto the Pan Am for a long and fairly uninteresting ride down to Los Angeles .The great thing about Chile now is the fuel stops- they have cafes attached to them with a nice area to sit down and have something to eat so we treat ourselves to lunch.
These roadside service areas remind me of riding through France, great service and very fresh produce – plus you have to pay to take a leak!
We reach Los Angeles and find a suitable motel. We need a good car park area so that I can do the long awaited oil change- we have been planning to do it since Panama.
Once checked in, I set about the bike, its seriously hot as I drop the belly pan ready for the oil change. Its then that I spot the reason why Beamer has not been on top form – theres a hole about the size of a five pence piece in the exhaust down pipe. On closer inspection I realize that on one of the offs in Peru, the now bent crash bars had hit the pipe, forcing the bars fixing bolt to go through the pipe. Ten minutes and some metal putty later and the repair is done.
After swapping the oil and filter I also replace the air filter and check the brakes and spoke tension, thankfully all is in order.
The next day is a very wet one and we get absolutely soaked travelling down to Osorno. We planned to stop here so that we can pick up the 215 road tomorrow across into Agentina. The town of Osorno is terrible, we couldn't find anywhere we would like to stay, so decide to head on in the rain to Puerto Montt.
The rain is now torrential, and we come across numerous accidents caused by the conditions, the worse by far is a double trailered tanker that has overturned after hitting a car – as we get closer I spot it’s a fuel tanker and gas it to get away as quickly as possible!
We had been warned that Puerto Montt wasn't very scenic or pleasant- for me it was nicer than Osorno, it is a port town and rough around the edges is how I would describe it after staying there.
While Em checks us into the hotel I wait outside in the rain and its here that I am approached by a guy who had arrived in town yesterday. He too is on a bike trip and plans to ferry across to pick up the Carretera Austral. We are not the only riders he has met in town, apparently there are a few riders ready to go south – I wondered where they all were.
Once settled into the room we decide to give ourselves a day off to plan ahead for the border crossing and organise money. That evening we realise that we are seriously pushing the budget to get to Ushuaia as we had planned, ie by taking the famous Carreterra Austral and the infamous Ruta 40.
This route to Ushuaia would take us about 10 days- 10 days of money we didn't have. With all our options used up, we come to terms with the fact that we have to take the quickest route possible to Ushuaia. Then to 'haul ass' as a Texan would say, back up to Buenos Aires as quickly as possible to ship us and beamer home.
That evening we sit in the room not saying much, alone in our own thoughts about what we have to give up. I work out a route that still gives me a small taste of Ruta 40, but the reality is that the true Ruta 40 and the Carrettera Austral will evade us on this trip, maybe next time.
It is a disppointment for us both but our number one priority is to get to Ushuaia ASAP and finish the trip as we had planned from the top of the world to the bottom in one ride.
With the new routes planned, we leave Puerto Montt setting out early back up to Osorno then onto the 215 road heading East and into Argentina. Just outside town we pull up to a road block where the Police tell us that the Ruta 5 (PanAm) is shut so we have to follow a detour out of town. For some reason it is very smokey and we pull our neck buffs up to cover our mouths just to breath.
Once out of the backstreets and smog and finally on the 215 road the scenery opens up to parklands and trees reminding me of England. The weather has dried up and it is a lovely sunny day. We pass lots of tourist spots and cabanas for rent. It is really pretty out here. We stop by a field full of buttercups to have some biscuits and a drink.
As we approach the border, a BMW 650 Daker is coming the other way, we chat to the lady rider who is Australian and has traveled from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia and is now making her way north – alone. I have a great deal of respect for her as, to put it politly, she was mature in years and still living the dream. Em – I thought she was the coolest woman I had ever met and vow to take my bike licence as soon as I can. We both hope you have a fantastic trip.
Crossing the border from Chile into Argentina is the best crossing yet. There are clear signs telling you where to go and why, the staff are friendly and best of all it is quiet with no crowds or queues of people.
After checking out of Chile you have a 15mile ride through 'no mans land' which happens to be a National Park and is very pretty.
Reaching the border post into Argentina, again all is simple and easy.
Once we head out into Argentina the scenery is beautiful. There are may ski lodges and chalets, along with lovely little shops, flowers everywhere and friendy people. It feels like you are in the Swiss alps!!
We head round Lake Nahuel Huapi which is beautiful and can see our planned stop for the night of Bariloche on the other side of the lake.
We roll into Bariloche and follow the road round the edge of the lake- it is lovely. Accommodation is quite pricey here but we manage to find a cheap hostal with secure parking.
Deciding to head into the town later for some dinner we find a busy cafe. The service is slow and dissmisive and we think it must be us because we are British. We were warned by people that there might be some animosity towards us beacause of the Falklands. After a while it becomes clear they are like it with everyone! The waitors are highly distracted by the football on the TV, it is clear that Argentinians are very passionate about the game. The food is worth waiting for and we both sample the Argentinian beef.
Then we go and do my favourite sport - chocolate eating! Bariloche is famous for it's handmade chocolate and there are hundreds of chocolate shops in the town offering every type you can imagine. The first shop has a pick and mix option so I set about getting a good selection, then we try another shop for some more.
The chocolate is really good and definately different on the palate with many unusual fillings that aren't the norm in Europe too. It melts quickly (a sign of quality) so we have to eat the lot.
Next day we head dead South following the 40 road to Esquel.
The scenery has started to dry up and is dusty.
Stopping just outside of Esquel for fuel we meet up with Doug, he is heading south after starting out in the rain forests of Brazil on his 1150GS. We have a good chat about bike travel and as we do so a group of Chilean bikers turn up too.
After a good chat we head back onto the 40 and down to the town of Gobernador Costa. This is a very small town with 1 hotel only. We knew it would be a bit grim as we are out in the middle of nowhere, the price you pay for the quick route to Ushuaia.
The Hotel is actually a restaurant that has some rooms attached. There is a dreadful smell in the Restaurant and we skip dinner and breakfast. There is alot of building work going on and we settle in for a noisy night.
Keen to leave the hovel we are up and out early heading down to Comodore Rivadavia.
This place is the pits too but we manage to find a basic Hotel- far better than the previous night.
Next day we head South on the 3 to Puerto San Julian. Just as we head out of the town of Rivadavia we get stopped at a Police checkpoint and are made to get off and take our passports into the office.
The grumpy Policeman takes our passports and asks us where we are going. I reply 'Ushuaia then returning to Buenos Aires then England.' The policeman looks blankly at Darren, completely ignoring me and asks again where are we going?
Darren says 'Ushuaia then returning to Buenos Aires then England.' He nods and stamps our passports then sends us on our way.
Darren thinks its hilarious that the policeman ignored me - I mutter under my breath that Argentinian men are all sexist pigs frightened of blonde women on motorbikes...
Finally out on the open road it is good to get going but ridiculously windy. The wind cuts across from the sea and it is all we can do to hold on. There are occasionally big gusts that blow us around on the road too especially after trucks passing us in the other direction.
The wind robs us of valuable fuel as the bike is working a lot harder to keep us in a straight line. There are fuel stops on this road but they are few and far between, several are locals selling fuel.
After a strenuous morning we reach a fuel stop with about 10 miles left in the tank. The pump assistant tells us they have no petrol (they call it nafta out here) and the next fuel stop is 140 kms ahead. I tell him that this is seriously bad as we have 10 miles left and are desperate for fuel.
He thinks for a moment then says there is a place we could try a kilometre down the road. It is a comedor and doesn't advertise the fact that they have fuel. We set off and a mile later pull into the comedor, I ask the local and he tells us to go round the back, where a cheerful guy is filling up a car from an oil container with a hose.
Thankfully he fills up our tank too but then won't accept our Argentinian money as the note is too big and he says he has no change. It was probably a ploy to get our money and after I offer to pay him intead in either US dollars, Peruvian Neuva Soles or Chileano pesos he suddenly finds the change and sends us on our way.
There is alot of fascinating wildlife on this road, mainly Emu's and Llama's!
Wearily we reach Rio Gallegos after feeling like we have been sandblasted by the wind all day. The town has a weird feeling about it and we feel rather self concious here. Finding a hotel in the main town we get settled in.
Later that evening we head out a few blocks to a Bakery I had spotted on the way into town. It is an amazing little place full of lovely things and the smell of fresh baked bread is delicious.
We don't get any sleep that night due to a loud Nightclub again not stopping until 5am. They certainly like to party here.
Next day is a big one as we plan to get onto Tierra del Fuego today.
After checking our guide book for the details of the day we need to cross 1 International border, then take a ferry to the island, then 100k of off road, then another International border before reaching our planned stop at Rio Grande.
Leaving Rio Gallegos very early we reach the first border from Argentina into Chile.
This post is already quite busy (8am) although it is pretty civillised with clear signs and helpful staff. I also stop to change some money here so that we have Chilean pesos to pay for the ferry. I have a good chat with the staff in the Exchange Bureau and they are very interested in our travels.
Heading further South we follow the road along 40 miles and stop abruptly at a line of cars and the end of the road - this must be the ferry stop then!
We check with the office and the next ferry is in an hour, so we wander around to kill some time. A friendly man in a truck asks if he can take our photo as he is a journalist. After posing for the shot we notice the cafe windows. They are covered in biker stickers - we decide we need to stick our blog details on the window too and after finding some glue in the back box we get our card stuck on.
The ferry arrives by this time and we are made to wait at the side of the road until everyone else is on. For some reason they must like to put bikes on the back of the boat. There are no straps to hold the bike down so Darren stays with the bike while I find the Pursers Office and pay.
After 20 mins it's time to get off - only problem is that a coach has got stuck trying to get off and is grounded out.
It takes nearly an hour for the ferry crew to free the trapped bus by moving the ferry back and forth and using wooden chocks under the back wheels to try and lift it up. At one point a truck is used to try and tow the bus but this doesn't work either. Finally the Coach gets free and everyone on the ferry gives a loud cheer.
Once off the ferry we are all eager to get going. The Journalist we met earlier is ahead in his blue truck and suddenly veers onto the verge, we slow down and see that he has hit a llama. Luckily there isn't too much damage to his truck but the llama is definately dead.
After a short section of tarmac the road turns to gravel. Big chunky gravel and the dust blocks everything out too which really doesn't help.
After about an hour of bumping up and down I am desperate for the loo, so we have to pull over. There is no place to shelter here- no trees - nothing, I manage to find a slight hollow in the ground to 'hide' in but still manage to flash my backside at some poor trucker. Think I am a proper biker now as I didn’t even blush…
Feeling better we continue and manage to make it to the second border post, crossing back from Chile into Argentina. This post is really relaxed and there is no-one around at 4pm in the afternoon which means no queues.
The stretch of gravel road between the two offices is very pretty and we see some flamingo's.
We stop for fuel and nearly get blown over, the weather has suddenly turned very blowy and grey, we are going to get wet soon.
Sure enough the rain starts just as we hit the tarmac, but it's not long till we get to Rio Grande our stop for the night. We take a wrong turn once in the town and end up riding by the Army base and giant Maldivas/ Falklands Memorial complete with F1 Fighter jet.
At this point, I should add, that so far in Argentina we have stayed at two of the towns that hold the garrison from where the Argentinians launched their campaign on the Falklands.
We are riding a British bike with UK plates with dirty great Union Jacks stuck all over it and yet we have experienced absolutely no hostility. In fact the locals are very welcoming and friendly, the warnings that we had been given were frankly rubbish.
We pull into a nice looking Posada (Bed & Breakfast). The staff are great and it is a nice place with a Restaurant too. After the best hot shower in the world (probably) we have a nice meal then plan our final day tomorrow - Ushuaia.
I don’t get much sleep that night, the thought of what tommorow means keeps playing through my head.
I lay there listening to the howling gale and heavy rain and think that it would be nice to wait for better weather. But the reality is that we frankly cant afford to, we ride tommorow, whatever the weather.
Next day we are up early and ready for our official last day of the trip. The weather however is not playing ball and it is still torrential rain and low cloud.
We start out and follow the RN3 down, with the wind and rain it was pretty hard going. The temperature really starts to drop too and even with my heated vest on I was still getting cold from the wind chill.
We stop for fuel after a good two hours and Darren admits that his heated vest isn't working.
He is shivering badly so I get him into the coffee shop and warmed up with a hot chocolate.
What Em fails to mention is that I was shaking that badly that the first cup of hot chocolate ended up on the floor! And yes I did have my liners in, the heated vest has been tempremental since Alaska, Ems has been perfect so I guess mine was a Friday afternoon job.
We head back out into the cold and rain and the scenery starts to get more interesting with Lenga Forests and scary 'witch' trees covered in moss.
The road climbs higher and skirts the Fagnano Lake before heading higher still and through the Garibaldi Pass.
Unfortunately we can't see much from here on in and this cloud is thick and low.
As we start to head down from the pass I keep a close eye on the GPS, not far now, being an emotional idiot I start to well up, its cold and throwing it down with rain but I hardly notice.
I think back to the last 8 monhs and what we have achieved and try to savour the moment, its too much, I start to blub. Theres no reaction on the autocom, I check to see if its working by chatting to Em about what we have achieved, places we have seen and people we have met, little reaction – the sad reality is that for Em, Ushuaia is a place to get to so that we can go home, for me Ushuaia is so much more and this realization really hurts.
All I can say Darren is that this bike trip was the hardest thing I have ever done, I put my heart and soul into it from planning through to facing every challenge thrown at me with good humour and a positive attitude. Reaching Ushuaia for me was actually gutting as it was the end of the trip and the realisation of that for me was devastating. I was too upset to form words or think clearly.
While all this is on my mind, I round the bend and there it is, the sign 'welcome to Ushuaia' .
Finally after 8 months of riding we had made it, we park up where so many have before for the photo by the sign, we hug and pat each other on the back – we have made it to Ushuaia!!
We head through the town and get chased by various dogs until we turn off down to the Tierra Del Fuego National Park. This is officially where the road runs out, the furthest point that you can drive South.
We pay to enter the Park and follow the very muddy track along through some very pretty scenery.
There are also of tourists around, mainly old people from the Cruise Liners in Ushuaia, they are all looking very grumpy and not very happy to be in the freezing cold Antarctic capital.
Finally we reach the end of the road - and there is the sign, the one I had been dreaming about getting to in a very long time. It feels surreal to actually be here and we take a moment to take it all in.
There are some wooden posts in the way and we manage to get the panniers off the bike and squeeze it through the posts next to the famous sign.
The tourists are all staring at us in disbelief like we are mad as we take our photos.
I would rather visit this sign at the age of 31 knowing that I have ridden half way around the world to get to it than to turn up in a coach at the age of 80 with barely the breath to walk the 40 metres across the car park...
A Park Ranger turns up and proceeds to tell us we can't do this and we need to move now - Darren is having none of it and persuades the ranger to take our picture.
Like Em says it was a little surreal, but no one was going to stop me getting the pick of the three of us by the sign.
We had rode 30,000miles through 13 countries in just over 8 months and had completed our goal of riding from the top of the World to the bottom.
Heading back we bump into some bikers coming the other way- finally- we had wondered where they all were! After a brief chat we head back into Ushuaia to find a Hotel.
After driving round several times we find what looks like a great Hotel. We want to treat ourselves tonight and celebrate so need a Restaurant too.
The Hotel we find (Canal Beagle 4star) looks great and it takes me over an hour to check in. Whilst I am battling with paperwork Darren is busy getting beseiged by lots of people outside.
While outside I just can't believe the attention that the bike and I are getting. The cruise ship had docked some hours earlier and many of its passengers of all nationalities were now busy asking the usual questions, all of a sudden I felt very proud of what we had achieved.
We get into the room, cleaned up and then head out into the town for a wander round and for Darren to get his stickers.
That evening we head to the Restaurant and treat ourselves to a nice meal and bottle of Champagne.
We then sit at the bar till midnight and the Barman gives us free drinks all night to help us celebrate.
Ushuaia - End of the World, beginning of Everything
A special note from Darren.
The adventure is not over yet of course, theres the small matter of riding the 2000 miles to Buenos Aires to get home and we will continue the blog until we get on the plane, but I feel now is the time to say a few words.
Taking on something like this as a couple on one bike was never going to be easy, living with your partner 24/7 was always going to be our biggest challenge, I will be the first to admit that I am not the easiest to live with.
Em has always been what I would describe as a 5 star girl, she likes her comforts and its this that makes her achievement so much more. She has had to put up with numerous hardships, made many sacrifices on route and has taken them all in her stride, I can't begin to describe how proud of her I am.
We had to make some very difficult decisions at times, events at home meant that Em had to consider returning home at one point. It was at this point that I made the decision to continue on my own if necessary and this effected Em deeply.
Its for this reason that I just want to say this to my co-rider;
Thank you Em, for giving up what we had in the UK, for taking the chance and for allowing us to achieve a dream. From the organizing of the trip back home to the planning of the day to day you have been phenominal.
I am so happy that we were able to complete our adventure together, to see it through to the end.
I honestly could not have done this without you, what is more, I wouldn’t have wanted to.
Next day we head back to Rio Grande and the same route as yesterday, now the rain has cleared the Mountains can be seen and they are stunning.
We head back to the same Posada in as they were really friendly, its only now that we have wifi and get busy letting everyone back home know that we have made it to Ushuaia and are now on our way home.
Next day we are up early ready for the busy day back to the mainland and crossing the two borders with the ferry ride in between.
We set out and once on the gravel get to our first border post. The staff are really fun today and joking around with us. Once outside we meet 3 Chilean bikers on their way in and they insist on a picture.
Then we head back past the flamingos and stop at the Argentinian office. While we are in here I see the Exchange office staff I had chatted to on the way in and they call me Senora Emma- I can't believe they had remembered my name!
We hit the gravel and make really good time on it today.
Next challenge is the ferry and we pull up first in the queue waiting for the boat.
Whilst we are waiting two friendly brothers start chatting to us about the bike and trip. Fernando and Paulo are travelling on a holiday driving from their home in Buenos Aires to Ushuaia and back again in a week. Paulo is a photographer and asks if he can take our picture too.
The boat arrives and it starts to rain, the boys (chicos) kindly lend me their umbrella.
Once on the boat Darren stays with the bike while I sit inside in the warm chatting to the boys. I go to pay but the crew aren't having any of it and let us on for free.
On dry land again we head off and hit the second border post. This is a breeze again with friendly staff and no one around. Darren and I say to ourselves this is all too easy.
We were having a fantastic day, meeting lovely people, having fun, easy borders, free ferry etc.
I see a sign for a lake and deciding that we have time for a little detour we take a look.
It is very pretty and desserted.
Heading out from the Lake and back on the main road towards Rio Gallegos the road is pretty straight and boring. There are deep ditches on either side of the road too.
10 mins later we are heading along at our usual 55-60mph when I feel Darren back off the throttle and start breaking hard, I look over his shoulder and see a llama coming up fast, it has frozen with fear in the middle of our path, I just have time to think 'we are going to hit it' before the impact.
I don't remember much except being thrown off to the right as the bike pitches and we hit the ground. I land face down in the gravel with my arms outstretched above my head and skid backwards for a good 20 metres. I remember seeing the gravel up close as I skid through it.
I come to a stop and manage to get up on my knees, Darren runs over to me shouting are you alright, are you alright? It takes me a moment to answer, Darren slaps me on the shoulder and tells me 'well done for staying with the bike'.
He runs back to the bike and I look round trying to take it all in. The llama is still in the middle of the road and I think it is dead, then suddenly it shakes into life and jumps to it's feet before running at me for a second then back down the road. A car passes us at this point, not even slowing down through the carnage left on the road.
Both my hands are really hurting and I remember thinking 'my left hand is broken'.
Well we did say the day was going too easy, as we left the lake I was feeling good about the day, its then that I spot the Llama coming out of the ditch to our left.
I get off the throttle and start to break just in case, sure enough the animal bolts across the road, the ABS is now working hard as I try to scrub off speed.
Just as it gets to the middle of the road the animal freezes, shit! Theres no time to get off the brakes and try and swerve, I just pray it moves.
The impact is hard, I guess we are still doing around 50mph as the front beak of the bike forces itself under the belly of the Llama. The front subframe breaks as the animal is forced up smashing through the oil cooler, light, clocks, GPS, mirrors and screen. The animal now makes impact with the bars and my hands as my head impacts its belly, Beamer now has too much weight on the front wheel and it tucks to the left and we go down.
I assume this is when Em comes off, I stay with the bike as we slide on our side through the gravel on the side of the road. Eventually I let go and the bike spins away from me, desperate to get to Em, I put my foot down thinking I have stopped, I hadn’t, I flip up in the air and eventually come to a stop.
I look back up the road and see Em on her knees, shit shit shit, running up to her I start to shout, I need to hear her say she is ok, please let her be ok.
Em manages to say she is ok, clearly in shock but ok, “your face is bleeding” she says ‘don’t worry its fine I answer’, just head butted the stupid thing. Once I hear Em say she is not badly hurt my thoughts turn to the road, our panniers and bits of bike are everywhere and cars are just whizzing by.
I get to my feet and start helping Darren with the clean up. There is alot of stones and bike strewn in the road so we pick up bits. Several cars pass us as this is happening and I gesture to them to slow down, to which they ignore, thowing stones up at us as they pass.
Once we get our kit to the side of the road, I realize its only a matter of time before the adrenaline wears off for both of us and we need to get the bike on its wheels before the pain kicks in.
Em mentions that her hand feels broken, I know her pain threshold is seriously high so admit to myself that she is probably right. Its only now that I do an assessment of myself, my hands are not right and I am finding it hard to breath as my ribs on the right side are painful.
Its amazing how the brain works in these situations, instinct kicks in and we know that first we have to see if Beemer is ridable, if so then we need to ride to a hospital and get checked out. I look down the road at the bike, its lying on its right side and my first thoughts are that its history.
Em and I haul the bike up onto its wheels and manage to put it on its stand, this takes a great deal of effort as we are both in pain. The ignition is still on but with no clocks left I cant tell if we have electrics, I go to thumb the starter but its not there. Looking down between the forks I find it and press the button – nothing, Darren you idiot think – its still in gear, reaching down I select neutral and try the button again…Beamer fires up.
Unbloodybelievable, even after that she fails to let us down, a quick assessment tells me that the forks look straight and the brake and clutch appear to work – its ridable. I get the gaffa tape out of the back box and attempt to make the mess at the front safe, its then that a Pick Up truck passes us then stops before reversing back to us.
The driver is a really nice man and insists on helping us. He suggests that we put the bike in the back of his truck and he drives us to the nearest town of Rio Gallegos. He drives the truck down into the ditch then reverses back so that his tailgate is nearly level with the slope. There is about a foot in height to lift the bike onto the back and all three of us struggle to lift it in. We are then joined by a Bolivian guy who happens to be cycling by (we had passed him about an hour ago and waved) and he joins in the clean up, helping to lift the panniers into the truck.
Just then the boys (chicos) we had met on the ferry come past and stop, they ask the driver where he is taking us, he says he is taking us to the hospital first then a hotel. They say they will meet us at the hospital and head off.
The driver (I don't even know his name) gets us into the truck and gives the Bolivian guy a lift too. He puts his pushbike in the back and then climbs in the back to hold our motorbike up steady as we set off.
It takes about half an hour to get to the hospital, the driver speaks to the staff and gets us sorted. They ask only for our passport numbers and details. We meet up with the boys there too and they decide to go off and organise a hotel for us while we are getting looked at.
We get looked at by a nurse and she takes one look at my hand and says that it's definately broken, then they take us through to get xrayed on the places that hurt.
My knee and left hand and Darren's ribs and hand are swollen.
As Em is getting xrayed I take a good look at my left hand, its very swollon and I don’t like the look of my thumb. How the hell am I going to ride the bike if I get put in a cast? Maybe not one of my better ideas, but as I go into xray the lady asks me to put my hand on the slab, I put forward my better right hand just in case.
The diagnosis is everything is fine except Ems hand which is indeed broken and needs to go in plaster. The driver returns at this point to tell us that the boys have found us a hotel and that he has taken the bike there for us and parked it safely round the back and that the boys will be coming to get us in half an hour.
We have no words to express our gratitude to this man for his amazingly generous assistance, I give him a big kiss and Darren gives him a hearty handshake.
What do you say to a man that you owe so much to? I didn’t know either, after Em gives him a hug I shake his hand and don’t let go until are eyes make contact and its then I just say thank you.
That’s one of the biggest things I will take from this trip, my faith in human nature is restored and some. We have been helped by so many people that I resolve that from now on my outlook on helping a stranger will change.
Next it's time for me to get plastered and after an excrutiatingly painful five minutes of trying to pull my wedding rings off my swollen finger with soap and Darren holding my arm while the nurse pulls my fingers it finally comes off.
They tell me that I will need to get to a hospital in Buenos Aires before I fly home to get the plaster cut off then send us on our way.
Once outside we wait 15 mins for the boys to arrive. They have lots of stuff crammed in the car and managed to make a small space for me on the back seat but Darren had to squeeze in the front with them.
We get to the Hotel and get checked in, the hostel is very welcoming and the guys show us where the bike is situated – right by the back door. They had taken our panniers up to the room too. These had been open since the hospital as we hadn't thought to lock them shut at the time. The kit in our panniers was probably worth more than they earn in a year alone, a refreshing change from England where if it's not tied down...
On getting to the room the guys ask if they can take us to dinner that evening, surely we should be taking them out? But they insist and make a grand gesture of inviting us, so after a very painful shower each we head off for a really enjoyable evening in their company, before saying our goodbyes as they are leaving early in the morning.
Por neuestros amistades los chicos - Paulo y Fernando - Muchas gracias por sus amabilidad.
Neither of us get much sleep due to the aches and pains – any of you that have ever fallen from a motorbike will understand – everything was so stiff next morning, we looked like a couple of oap’s walking around.
The hostel was great, but the reality is we need a hotel with wifi so we can get organized so we take a walk around the block and find a very good hotel with all the facilities we need. After checking Em into the room I tell her to try and get some sleep as she looks shattered. I then walk back to the hostel and check us out, with everything back on the bike I realize its going to hurt trying to ride.
I swing a leg over but cant seem to pick the bike off the side stand, I put my lid on and try again while gritting my teeth, I cant descibe the pain.
Sitting on the bike I start Beemer and it then takes me 5mins to get my left hand to work pulling in the clutch, I could really do with the adrelaline kicking in again.
Its not the smoothest of starts as I pull away from the hostel for the 5min ride to the hotel, I am getting some strange looks from people but I guess both the bike and I look a mess. I get parked in the hotels secure car park and its all I can do to get off the bike.
While struggling with the luggage a porter appears and he speaks perfect English, we have a good chat about music and his home town and also discuss the trip. I then explain that my hands are damaged and he insists that I just go to my room and he will bring everything up – top lad I'm very grateful.
We spend a couple of days in the Hotel, getting ourselves together and doing some research.
I speak to our Travel Insurance Company to get some help getting home - they don't want to know and make ridiculous requests for copies of our travel documents faxed across to them instead. I am totally disheartened with the lack of support and interest shown in helping us out at such a time by the Insurers - even after spending 800 quid on a top notch policy which was now virtually useless.
We set about trying to fathom out how the hell we are going to get 1) myself who can't ride or drive, 2) Darren who could ride but not a great idea and 3) a broken beamer who is ilegal to ride at the moment but could be fixed and ridden, 3000k up to Buenos Aires on a very limited budget at this point and in the shortest time possible. Then once at BA we need to organise getting beamer shipped home and ourselves on a flight.
I look into hiring cars, the idea is to hire a pick up truck like the one used to get us to the hospital and strap the bike in the back. This is dependant on Darren being ok to drive with his bad hands. We estimate getting to BA would take 4 days driving long hours.
Rio Gallegos is an average size town so we spend several days walking the streets and speaking to various hire shops who have nothing available. The Hotel suggests we try the small local airport, so we catch a taxi there the next day. That afternoon I phone the Hertz office to see what they can do.
They have a truck that they can hire us from tomorrow, I go through all the details on the phone, it can be dropped off ie. one way hire in BA but costs alot more. They quote me about 1000 pounds sterling, plus a huge deposit guarantee - it's money we haven't got but we have to find it.
We agree the price, get packed that evening, all ready to leave first thing in the morning. Our plan was to check out but leave the bike and all our belongings in the carpark, whilst we head over to the airport, pick up the truck and come back for the bike. Somehow we would try to lift the bike into the truck with a pole through the front forks- it wasn't going to be pretty but we'd manage somehow.
Arriving at the Hertz office in the airport next day and no-ones there. We wait around for a good hour until finally someone turns up. After trawling through paperwork we then have to give our credit card over so that they can take the 2000 pound deposit guarantee which you get back once dropped off in BA. The money is definately there in our account but would there stupid system agree- of course not that would be too easy.
The card gets refused 5 times in total and Darren and I are exasperated. It is so very hard to think clearly, especially when you are doing this all in Spanish, trying to translate what I think they are saying back to Darren, then asking another question- it is so confusing.
I have to take a moment outside the Airport to completely lose it and sob for half an hour. I can't describe to you how utterley helpless, totally frustrated and alone I felt us to be at that point. Why does this have to be so hard?
Darren persuades me to go back into the Office and speak to the Hertz guy again.
Our card gets refused a 6th time then the Hertz man has a suggestion...
He reckons that he knows a friend that for say 800 quid would drive us and the bike in a truck from here to BA..no deposit crap we just have to pay for the fuel.
I have to check several times that I have got my translation right but he says- no problem speak to my friend on the phone, calls him then hands me over to him. His friend speaks good English, confirms everything and agrees to meet us in 10mins at the Airport.
10mins later a brand new black BMW (the flashiest car I have seen since leaving the UK) pulls up and out jumps our man. We discuss the deal - it seems to good to be true - he says he has someone ready to drive us to BA now, he will help us load the bike, cash upfront obviously, we pay for the drivers expenses and fuel.
We decide to go for it and are promptly taken back to Rio Gallegos to the workshop/ business of our man, where a black truck is then driven over to the Hotel and the bike is loaded on along with all our kit.
We then head back to the workshop and the bike gets strapped down really hard on the back using the spring in the front forks to keep her from moving around. Darren double checks everything and is happy as you can be with other people manhandling your bike around. Our man turns out to be a total dick but he is helping us out so we can't complain.
After a fiasco trying to draw our cash out, we finally manage to pay the man and leave. It is about 4pm in the afternoon by this point. Our driver is a 65 year old man who speaks no english - well at least we don't have to worry about making small talk.
All I can say about the truck ride was it was the worst 3 days and 2 nights I ever spent in a truck.
This 65 year old man drove us for 28 hours straight - I kid not- at around 85-90mph the whole way.
It was truly terrifying and something I never want to do ever again in my life.
Night time was the worst- it was pitch black and the fear of hitting an animal was still pretty raw for us both. We took it in turns to catnap so that at least one of was watching the road and could try to do something. I remember sitting in the back with my hand in agony thinking, please god don't let me die in this truck.
Our only stops were for toilets and drinks and food. The driver repeatedly said he didn't need to sleep, he had done this route a thousand times being a long distance trucker.
As we neared BA the driving got worse and after some particularly hairy overtakes we told him to slow down, which he did.
The driver doesn't know BA at all, so we drive around various places looking for Hotels. We head for the Airport thinking there had to be somewhere nearby. Nothing.
Ending up in a very rough looking town we manage to flag down a taxi driver, Darren jumps in with him and we follow behind in the truck. After rejecting his first choice of Hotel, finally the beaten up taxi and myself roll up to what looks like a top quality B&B, Em is just behind in the truck and before too long she works her magic and secures a room for the night.
Meanwhile the driver, taxi driver and myself unload the bike from the back of the HiLux and dump all our kit on the driveway of the hotel. We then say are thanks to our driver and he gets on his way, not before wishing us well on our journey.
First thoughts are of a shower and a meal as we have not really eaten, showered or slept in the last 28 hours. I ride Beamer into the undercover parking area and we take our kit into the room. This place is great, clean and hot water plus everything works.
After getting showered (how good did that feel) we go through and get a meal in the lounge and I treat myself to a large beer, while Em treats herself to a large pudding before we get to bed for some much needed rest.
Next day after breakfast I set about emailing James Cargo to let them know we have got to BA so we can arrange the bike transport. We also email home to let everyone know we are safely in BA and are hoping to arrange flights within the next few days.
The reply from James Cargo later that day brought good and bad news, there contact out here had let them down and they advised that maybe we should consider airfrieghting the bike home, bugger, the good news was that they could recommend some contacts for us to try - but it meant we were starting from scratch.
Unfortunatly its now too late in the day to contact anyone so we will have to wait until after the weekend, we spend are time generally getting our act together so that there will be no delays on getting home once we can 'push the button.' We check flights and times, costs and transfer money from one overdraft to another to ensure we can pay for everything.
I also head over to the airport which is about 10 mins ride away to find a cashpoint, I get some funny looks from the other road users - I guess Beamer and I do look a bit odd, all busted up.
The bike rides fine thankfully and once at the airport I park up and find a hole in the wall. With the cash we need to pay the hotel, I then take a good look around the airport sussing out where everything is - hopefully it wont be too long before we fly out of here. Before leaving I pick up two cheap holdalls for us to use as hand luggage on the way home.
Once back at the hotel, I explain the aiport to Em, she is still in pain with her broken hand, I cant help thinking that the cast is too tight as her fingers look awful. We consider taking the cast off, but reason that with luck we will be flying home within a week so will cut it off before we fly.
With all the organising monday morning comes around quickly and we make first contact with Lufthansa Cargo. Things look promising as the organiser is really helpful and suggests we could possibly get the bike on a flight this Sunday (remember its monday today!). Whats better is the cost of the airfrieght is less that we were quoted to ship the bike home? Before too long email forms are completed and we are booked to take the bike to cargo on wednesday to complete the paperwork and clear customs - result.
While Em trys to relax by the pool as best she can with a cast on, I prep the bike ready for frieght basically repacking everthing and ensuring what needs to stay with us is in the holdalls and that everything else is squeezed into the panniers.
Waking up wednesday morning I know its going to be a long day, normally I rely on Em with the Spanish to help us through borders, customs etc.
Today I am on my own as Em can't ride, so I get our documents together and ride out to the airport. After parking the bike close to the entrance to cargo I walk to the office to get the nessessery papers required to enter the cargo area, after that I walk into the cargo area and into the offices of Lufthansa Cargo. The people here could not have been more helpful, despite my limited Spanish we get through the paperwork and I then take the bike to the weigh station before onto a second warehouse for customs.
I get a rollocking for taking a photo of the bike in customs (security) and for a minute thought I might lose the camara, thankfully all turned out ok.
The final part of the process again was easy thanks to very friendly officials, there was of course the usual paper shuffling and windows to queue at, but the whole process was very efficient. After a final pat on Beamers nose I walk off to get a taxi.
Getting back to the hotel, Em too had been busy with more research into flights home - with Beamer dropped off we could now book our flights. Ten minutes later we are confirmed on the afternoon flight leaving Thursday - another result.
We decide to cut off the cast at this point and manage with bandages until I can get my hand looked at in England. It's not pretty..
As we start to email family at home with our travel plans I turn on the tv to the music channel and up the volume. Its all quiet until the next song comes on and I struggle not to burst into tears - The Clash, London Calling "your not not wrong, I thought".
"The calendar is magnificent!"
"I just wanted to say how much I'm loving the new, larger calendar!"
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