November 21, 2012 GMT
Crossing the Andes

I went up into the Chilean Andes at the youthful age of 49, and came back down the other side into Argentina at the start of my next half century. Crossing the Andes was significant for us, back in 2011 we stayed on the Pacific side all the way down, with jaunts up onto the Altiplano, but never actually crossed them.

That is one itch scratched.

At the top of the pass, with snowy Aconcagua peeping in the background.

The final bit of the pass over to Argentina from Santiago has 29 hairpins, rising near to vertical from over 1500 metres at the end of the valley floor to 3100 metres. Jean had her eyes closed most of the way up as I pointed the bike at each apex and wrestled it round. It was a good job she didn't know I had my eyes shut as well.

The drop down the east side was spectacular but much more sedate, following the river with multi coloured, proper pointy mountains flanking either side.

On both sides of the Andes so far, we have spent much of our spare time on buying missions for extra things, like sockets needed for the nuts to remove the panniers. We had a farce getting the bike into a small hostel when they would not let us leave it outside. It was too wide to fit through the doors and we needed to remove a pannier. That was a bad time to find out we did not have the necessary 10mm socket.

A relation of the owner magically appeared with the correct sized socket. We then eased the bike through the ornate doors and past the antique brass handles.

South American men love to get their tools out.

The bike is challenging the amount of tie clips we have brought along. So far the ignition is held on with one.


And the seat has been bodged open as the lock has broken.

Observant people will note the judicious use of electrical tape on some dodgy wiring.

This is the new ignition and seat lock which we bought on Ebay at home and fitted when we got here.

Actually we think a suspension repair man in Santiago snapped a key in the seat lock and did not tell us.

We have now gone all local with spare fuel supplies, we have given up trying to find a proper petrol can and have resorted to buying what looks to us like a 1 gallon orange juice container. The Ferreteria owner insisted that 'this is what we use for petrol here'. I had another mispronunciation episode as I tried to buy a bidet for the petrol instead of a "bidon".

Armed with our orange juice can, sensibly nearly full to allow for heat expansion and packed neatly in to our top box, we ventured north into the sticks to a small town called San Agustin. The town is in an area famed for lack of petrol stations. And no one in our hostel in Mendoza could confirm or deny if there was one there or not.


We don't know the capacity of the tank on the bike, it doesn't tell us in the bike manual, I really should look it up, but guessed we had enough to get there after the last possible fuel stop at the last big town, San Juan. With 120 kms on the clock, and 114kms to go as we turned off the main road we shrugged at each other and said "stuff it, lets just go for it".

We are operating on a wing and a prayer, but as we are both agnostic just the wing will have to do.

Posted by Bruce Porter at November 21, 2012 08:41 PM GMT

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