April 03, 2005 GMT
Cold and Wet

Several buses today have borne fresh-sprayed grafitti along the lines of īAdios Juan Pablo IIī.

Given that itīs also Sunday Iīm amazed anythingīs open.

Left Santiago yesterday morning and stayed at Temuco last night. Lovely riding day. Iīm now at Puerto Montt and should be able to get the ferry tomorrow night to go to Chaitén. Itīs that or go the long way round which involves at least three ferries and plenty of dirt road. And itīs foggy, raining and cold (think October in the UK). At least the radiators in the hotel are the sort you can lay your gloves and trousers on.

Non-foodies and vegetarians look away for the next para.

Steaks are stupendous. My chums in the UK know what a pain I am with fillet; has to be perfect, and very blue. Astonishingly, in Chile a blue steak is īal Ingleseī, which is difficult to believe as getting a blue steak in Britain is a struggle. So in any restaurant at all you can have a blue 12oz fillet with loads of salad (consists of avocado, huge toms, finely-sliced runner beans, rocket, corn, other stuff) with a bottle of very smooth merlot shiraz (Terra Andina is good) for, ooh, around a fiver. Awful, isnīt it?

Iīm bit at sea over mileage now as the figures were in the stolen notebook. However, I know Iīd done around 17,000 miles to Sydney, and Iīve done about 1,000 bumbling around Sydney and Santiago, so Iīm restarting the clock at 18,000.

Great to be back on the road again.

Posted by Cynthia Milton at 08:54 PM GMT
April 07, 2005 GMT

Caught the overnight boat (cargo ship which takes passengers) from Puerto Montt to Chaitén, it takes 10 hours, left an hour late after much messing around, so arrived at 9 this morning.

While hanging around on the dock I fell into conversation with Arturo and his girlfriend (his surnameīs Ellis as his dadīs British). Turns out his brother used to live in Thatcham, less than a mile from where I live.

I set off immediately, hoping to reach Coyahique this evening. Fat chance.

The Carretera Austral (Ruta 7, more or less the continuation of the Via PanAmericana) is one of Pinochetīs legacies (photos will be in the next batch). It starts beautifully, with around ten miles of decent tarmac. Then the sign we all dread: Fin De Pavimiento 200m. So the next 250 miles are going to be this (on average) badly-maintained fire road, are they? Super, especially as itīs raining.

I was burbling gently past some cows, which were well in to the side of the road, when one decided to have a go. I think it came off worst, as I found some blood on the footrest and it ainīt mine. I more or less stayed the right way up - good job thereīs pretty well no traffic.

Carried on burbling, then I was flagged down by a sort of ranger type in a serious-looking 4x4. He spoke slowly and loudly so Iīd understand. About 2km ahead there was a major landslide. Iīd have to stop, but he said it would take a maximum of four hours to clear. Super. I rode to the landslide, dismounted and lit a ciggy. Another 4x4 arrived and invited me to sit inside (dry and warm). Then Arturo arrived, and we all had a brew-up. One or two other 4x4s also stopped, and eventually a digger sort of thing arrived and started attacking the large rocks and upside-down trees. It was all pretty efficient really, and the whole thing was cleared (more or less) in two hours, so we were away soon after 12. At this point Iīd covered just 45 miles of the 250 I needed to do today.

The rain increased, that penetrating sort, not torrential but managing to get up and under all the GoreTex and stuff. And you know how impossible it is to get your gloves back on once the water has wicked up inside them because you couldnīt tuck the cuffs up your sleeves properly because you canīt when you have one glove already on and the other handīs wet . . .

So, I stopped at a place called La Junta (marked as a fuel stop on the map), filled up, and of course no way could I get my gloves back on. Thought of trying my summer gloves, but by this time it was half-past two with only about three hours of daylight left, and I was starting to feel my bits with the heaving Iīd been doing. I mean, when 300kg of bike starts slithering down an adverse camber towards a precipice itīs quite hard work persuading it to change direction.

As luck would have it, thereīs a jolly nice wooden hotel here ( has been draped over radiators all over the place - in fact, the hotel owner insisted on this and a big pot of coffee and a sandwich before heīd do anything about checking me in properly. Thatīs hospitality.

April 12, 2005 GMT

I spent a couple of nights at La Junta as it was pissing with rain. Left and set off down the Carretera Austral for the 200km to Coihaique (or Coyhaique depending on whoīs spelling you see).

After about 50km I came round a bend (carefully on the loose scree) and there was a row of a dozen big trailies - 2 1150GSs, 4 F650GSs, a Transalp and a bunch of Yamaha XTs, together with a 4x4 pickup. It was a group of Dutch and Belgians doing an adventure trail holiday, on bikes hired in Santiago.

So, of course, I stopped, and we all did the Ooh Aah stuff. I asked if I might ride with them to Coihaique (hereinafter known as CQ) and they readily agreed. Just as well, really, as at one point there was a nice big muddy puddle and I succumbed to the inevitable (I have a very close relationship with muddy puddles, generally of the upside-down variety).

So we had a lovely ride to CQ, and there was a room available in their very nice hotel just the other side of the river from the town. At dinner and during the post-prandials I enquired whether, for a consideration, I might join them as that way I could ride the route it was not possible to do on my own. They voted unanimously in my favour so I became one of the group.

Next day (Friday) we set off for the border (about 30 miles), did the out-of-Chile thing, rode a mile up the track to Argentina and did the into-Argentina thing while scoffing buns and coffee (oh, the advantages of a backup truck).

After this the rule was to ride at our own speeds, but regroup every 30km, and the truck to be sweeper. The track was reasonable gravel track, but with heaped gravel in betwen the tyre tracks. It was also very windy as weīre now east of the Andes and on the Patagonian plain. I was running nicely at around 50mph; a gust of wind caught me and forced me on to one of the heaped gravel bits; the bike went into a bad weave which I couldnīt control, and of course slowing down is absolutely not an option. There then loomed a sort of stone parapet at the side of the road, and the bike was heading for it; I really couldnīt do anything about it so I hit it. I remember hearing my collarbone break, and then I was on my back on the ground facing back the way Iīd come and the bike was behind me. I was pretty scared at first as I couldnīt breathe - this was presumably because the punctured lung deflated suddenly and the other one was taken by surprise. But I
tried to breathe slowly and it got a bit better.

One of the Dutch (Ron, I think) ran over and asked if I was OK, so I said No. We established that my legs were OK, and Iīd already managed to open the front of my helmet (a System 4). They managed to get me to my feet, and gently remove my helmet as we were by then fairly sure my neck was OK as I could turn my head no problem.

They put me in the truck, and even found my specs which had flown off but not broken. Skip the truck driver took me back to the Argy border with Roberto the local guide on his 1150GS and did the exit stuff for me, then down the road back to the Chilean border where they got me out and sat me inside the office next to the stove. I was feeling pretty second-hand by then. Skip took my keys and Carnet and said heīd go back for the bike, get it out of Argentina and back into Chile for me. Meanwhile the Carabineros put me in their pickup and took me to the local clinic where a male nurse checked me over, inserted a drip and put me on oxygen. He very carefully listened all over with his stethoscope - there were all sorts of strange noises and he was clearly pretty worried. I gather from Francisco that they were considering sending the helicopter for me, but eventually a Paramedic ambulance came out from CQ and they brought me to the hospital here. Itīs the only one for over 600 miles. This whole thing took about 6 hours.

Once in the ER I was checked by Dr. Hernandez (Francisco) who speaks excellent English, so I was able to explain what happened and where I hurt. Had the usual X-rays and stuff, and they took me to a room and helped me get the rest of my bike kit off. I had to stay on the drip and oxygen overnight. They were checking everything once an hour, and I had to explain that my blood pressure is normally this low (110/60) although at one point it dropped to around 95/50 which is a bit low even for me.

On Saturday Francisco looked at me again and said he thought they could no nothing much more and that I was clearly pretty healthy and that they would discharge me. Thatīs when they discovered that I was in fact on my own (they thought I was part of the Dutch group). So Francisco said he wasnīt happy about me being alone in a hotel, rang his wife Fabiola, and insisted I come and stay with him.

So here I am with four broken ribs and a broken collarbone. They are all lovely people. I was even taken to a BBQ party on Saturday night. Fabiola has been brilliant, taking me round to do the necessary paperwork and see the orthopod (who says 4 not 3 broken ribs).

Last night the bike arrived back from the border courtesy of Patricio and his pickup (I had to go to a notary to do an authorisation), and this morning we went to the Customs office and retrieved the Carnet and the panniers and top box. Everything is there - even my bunch of keys. Itīs fantastic, and the Chileans have been so helpful. The Customs Director came and chatted to me about it all and asked if I was happy with their service; blimey, what do you think?

Iīve just sent Phil a few pix of the damage Iīve been able to photo so far - front wheel/disc is history, forks extremely bent; headlight intact, in fact most stuff intact, even indicators and plastic numberplate. The boxes have suffered a bit (see pix) but Patricio is convinced they are repairable.

When I get a chance Iīll do a full assessment, but for now itīs looking good.

Iīm completely overwhelmed by the messages and your willingness to help out; the only snag, of course, is that now I HAVE to finish this ride, donīt I? And I will if I possibly can.

Posted by Cynthia Milton at 05:32 PM GMT
April 15, 2005 GMT
Mending

Amazing people. Everything is in the process of being sorted, up to and including a new frame. And Iīve ordered a new screen and tankbag in the UK to be sent direct to Phil to go in the crate.

Many, many thanks to Phil the Boxer Man for all the organisification heīs doing for me. I must owe him several crates of Paddyīs by now (incidentally, it was on optic in the bar in Phnom Penh).

And I had a call from Gustavo Johnson in Bogota (Colombia) whoīs the main man for BMW in S America. Heīs very good-looking - he sent me pix of himself with his bikes (he has a yellow 1200GS) and his Land Rover Defender 110. How about that for coincidences? Heīs going to help with getting new tyres for me from Santiago.

Iīm still feeling very bruised and second-hand. The ribs seem to be healing nicely, but itīs the collarbone which will take the time. Hurts a lot. Very difficult to get out of bed and to get dressed and undressed. But the local Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot/Shiraz medicines are a great help :-) especially as the good ones can cost as much as two quid a bottle :-)). Wonīt be able to claim them on the insurance, though, despite being prescribed by a doctor.

Posted by Cynthia Milton at 06:56 PM GMT
April 19, 2005 GMT
Local Hero

It appears Iīm a bit of a local hero around here.

One of the orderlies at the hospital is the wife of the Customs man at the border who looked after the wreck until Patricio collected it for me, and apparently they get so fed up with treating tourists with twisted ankles and broken fingernails that I was the biggest excitement since they finished the road to the airport. Francisco has a bit of a reputation for refusing to speak English or French to a tourist unless theyīre really hurt. Iīm flattered.

Anyone living here who has an ordinary car is just showing off. It means they have it just for getting around town, because if you want to go further than that you have to have a 4x4. Everywhere is within walking distance here - if you drive it takes twice as long as most of the roads are one-way because theyīre so narrow and everyone drives the aforementioned 4x4s. The central square (the Plaza de Armas, as everywhere else in Chile) is actually pentagonal, which is confusing because there are 10 roads leading from it.

Anyway, looks like Jess fancies a working holiday in Patagonia, which is really helpful as it means we can do the bulk of the dismantling before Reg and the bits arrive, and we can sort any gotchas if Iīve missed any broken bits.

So, Iīm still feeling rather sore and have to move carefully, but consumption of plenty of medicinal fluid is helping.

Posted by Cynthia Milton at 06:58 PM GMT
 
 

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