June 24, 2005 GMT

The problem of getting out of Coyhaique was finally solved by Fabiola (and she wanted rid of me, of course).

Oh Dear

She rang Luis, who runs a dairy truck empty to Puerto Chacabuco and thence on the boat to Puerto Montt. So, having explained that I couldn´t actually ride the bike to the truck because of the snow and ice, She arranged for Patricio (who, you may remember, brought the wreck back from the border) to come with his pickup and two rather nice strong young men to take the bike and boxes to the big truck.

Patricio used to do motocross so understands all about tying bikes down. Anyway, we found Luis and his truck; and we have to get the bike in backwards from the bed of the pickup, a height difference of at least a couple of feet. But now we had four nice strong young men, and Patricio understood about the sumpguard so everything went OK.

Next we found that the only tie-down points were on the ceiling. Hmmm. Patricio to the rescue again. We used the straps to hang the bike from the ceiling. It was in gear, and the front tyre was on the floor with the suspension almost completely uncompressed. Kooked OK to me providing Luisdidn´t do too much over-enthusiastic cornering (doubtful, given the conditions).

Patricio refused to take any money as he was so impressed by the rebuild, having had an intimate relationship with the wreck. I took a couple of litres of decent pisco round to him in the evening.

Next job was to get a flight; easy enough, Sky, 40-odd quid.

Airport closed. There´s no ILS (VFR only), so if there´s fog or low cloud there are no flights in so no flights out, mainly because of the proximity of a) large chunks of Andes and b) the Argentinian border (actually the airport eastern perimiter fence).

But Francisco made me go anyway just in case, and he was right (but only just).

So here I am in Puerto Montt, and I´ve just had a text from Fabiola to say that Luis is arriving in a couple of hours, hurrah.

Posted by Cynthia Milton at 07:01 PM GMT
June 25, 2005 GMT
Ab Fab

But don´t mention pecs right now. The physio (lifting pudding bottles) went fine, but they kept getting lighter. But I´d still rather have a full bottle in front of me than a full frontal lobotomy.

Enough already.

I nearly lost my Swiss Army knife at the airport because I completely forgot about putting it in my checked baggage. So I put it inside my helmet inside my little backpack. They spotted my ´waiter´s friend´ (which I´d also forgotten about) and confiscated that, but the knife survived. Phew.

The boat finally arrived at 7 last night. The port is very disorganised, and no-one knows anything. But eventually Luis came and collected me from the gate and took me into the bowels of the cargo ship where the bike was already standing on the deck.

Of course, it wouldn´t start. So I stood around being gassed by the trucks and looked forlorn, and eventually a couple of the crew helped me get the bike up the greasy wet steel ramps on to the dockside (I was getting in the way by then).

A couple of truckers waiting to board were hanging around, and they helped me try to bump start, but no dice. By this time the battery was down to starter relay clicking mode, so having indicated that I possessed a pair of jump leads they pushed the bike to one of the trucks and we connected it up. Still no go. Check for sparks. None, and plugs looking a bit second-hand anyway (they were OK in Coyhaique) so we cleaned the lead terminals where they go into the coil and put new plugs in and hey presto.

The one who insisted on doing the work asked if he could have a ride around the dock, so of course I said yes. He clearly rather enjoyed himself.

So I´m off northwards this morning. HURRAH.

Posted by Cynthia Milton at 07:03 PM GMT
June 28, 2005 GMT

Mario the Croatian driver was ever so pleased to see me and gave me a big hug. And the hotel have put me in one of the best rooms for the same price as before.

Ye gods, the difference 1300 miles north makes. I´ve been walking round in a T-shirt today, and the snowline is at around 5000 feet instead of sea-level. The bike´s going great, but I´ve had to do a few of those bedding-down tweaks you always need after the first few hundred miles. And I managed to get hold of a rivet gun and rivets to fix the VIN plate to the new frame. Shhh.

When you enter Chile you get 90 days (or thereabouts - sometimes it´s 3 months). Now, my time´s nearly up, so I´ve needed to extend both my immigration permit and the bike temporary import papers (Chile doesn´t recognise the carnet). So, this morning I went to the appropriate office and organised my Amplicación de Turismo, a surprisingly painless process apart from the $100 fee and the sudden lunge you have to make when your number comes up as the chap at the indicated window gives no more than 3 seconds before pressing the button again for the next number.

Next to Customs. No way, José. Or rather, all too mucho difficult even though the chaps at the border rather helpfully wrote an explanatory note on the existing papers about the accident. Bugger.

So tomorrow I head north. The problem is this:

a) All passes over the Andes north of here (except the one to La Paz) are over 10,000 feet (and one or two are as high as 15,000).

b) Only two are paved: the one to La Paz and the Cristo Redentor (to Mendoza in Argentina. In my present state I´m not going to attempt unpaved roads, especially in snow.

c) The Cristo Redentor, about 50 miles north of here, is closed due to heavy snow.

d) La Paz is not currently a recommended holiday destination, even by my standards (hey, Beirut, south Waziristan, you name it).

So it looks as though I´ll not be able to get to Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay or Paraguay unless by some miracle the situation in Bolivia improves. And because I can´t cross to Argentina I have to ride hell-for-leather to Peru (and get there by next Thursday), which is over 2000km from here with plenty to see on the way. Ho hum. But if I ride fastish (and the PanAmericana is actually a very good road) I should get to see the really interesting things properly, like the Atacama Desert.

Posted by Cynthia Milton at 07:06 PM GMT

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