November 05, 2012 GMT
Back over the Andes

When planning to do some bureaucratic activity, like trying to obtain an official "tax" number and have vehicle documents put in your name, it is best not to arrive in the capital city on a national holiday. Especially one that occurs on a Thursday, so everything shuts down for 4 days.

Our friend Juan, who we are buying the bike off, picked us up from the airport and took us to our apartment.

The apartment is situated in the centre of Santiago and is very secure. To our right we have the city police station (Carabineros de Chile). With riot wagon.

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When we walk to the left we have the red light district at the next junction. All very civilized.

Each morning we are greeted by the sight of a different mangled wreck of a car dumped outside the gates by the police during an eventful night.

Soon after Juan had dropped us off we negotiated the metro system and went over to his to view the bike, and fit the lock set we had bought with us. Then it was off to see Juan (senior) for a meal, wine and talk (we stayed with Juan senior during the Two Pegs trip). We were treated to a full set of Chilean dishes: abalone salad, cerviche (raw fish), steak cooked on the BBQ, advocado salad, potato bread, and curanto (fish and meat stew). Juan senior had planned the meal to represent food from the north, middle and south of Chile. Its a big and varied country!

The time difference here is only 4 hours, but after a 14 hour flight, bike maintenance, wine and excellent food (mixed with the heat) it knocked us out over the weekend. We have managed to do just about all the free sightseeing things, which involved walking a lot.

Last time we passed through Santiago, it really was just that. A hectic few days of bike maintenance, planning and moving on. We saw very little of the city. Now I think we have rectified that. Santiago is large, by Chilean standards. Most of the countries 17 million people live here, or at least in the region. When it is not a holiday weekend, the roads are heaving, so it all seemed very calm and surreal to us compared to the last trip.

Like all Chilean cities it has a Plaza Des Armas as a focal point, and all activities and shops are centred here, about 2 blocks from the apartment.

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At least twice a day we have wandered in and soaked up the entertainment. We have listened to the obligatory pan pipe sessions, heard some flamenco music, watched the Chilean national dance (the Cuerca) be performed, and seen the Carabinaros de Chile brass band play, strangely they included "Africa" by Toto.

Buildings are a mixture of old and new.

oldbuilding.jpg

We have also enjoyed a return to the fruit and vegetable choices available here, avocados to die for. But above all chirimoya, custard apples. And we can get it as a yogurt style drink as well. The local market here is heaving with goodness.

Unfortunately there is no change to the stray dog issue, they wander the streets by day, sleeping where they feel like. People do not even appear to notice they are there.

sleepingdog.jpg

Tomorrow I start the process of obtaining my RUT (tax number), without which I cannot legally own anything here. Once that is done the fun of trying to get the bike in my name will follow.

Posted by Bruce Porter at 01:11 AM GMT
November 11, 2012 GMT
Progress, at last

"Sometimes you just have to go with the flow." (TM @ bdp 2010-)

Over the last week we have not really felt in control of anything going on with the bike. We just had to put our faith and trust in those that were helping us.

Very little happened over the holiday weekend but then things started to move on Monday. Getting a temporary RUT (tax number) seemed to go smoothly and quickly. We decided to get one each "just in case".

I (Bruce) was then able to get my 1st ride of the bike, picking it up from having a new rear tyre and chain fitted, and then riding it 30k to have the rear suspension seen to on the far side of Santiago.

Tuesday was taken up with queuing with Juan (junior) to get the documents changed into my name, we had not been able to do that on Monday because the office is only open from 0900 - 1400. After 3 hours we discovered that due to our RUTs being "commercial" ones we could not do a private transaction until we were on the system or had the "proper" card (these take 2 months to come through; we intended to pick these up in January on return to Santiago).

Catch 22, we could not own the bike because we were not on the system. We could not get on the system because we had not bought a bike or a car 'commercially'. Essentially had we been buying from a dealer, then it would have been "no problem".

Plan B was needed. We all went and consulted with a notary (solicitor), who confirmed he could produce documents that would let us take the bike out of the country with it in Juan's name. And more importantly he confirmed that Peru and Bolivia would accept the documents. Only time will tell if that is true.

We collected the bike from the suspension engineer and rode to Juan's (Senior) for tea. They are such an hospitable family, and like feeding us food that reflects their country. This time it was raw minced meat 'cooked' in lemon juice, oysters, salmon, olives from the north and fruit. Fruits we knew well like chirimoya, blueberries, strawberries; and nopales, a type of pricky pear which we hadn't ever tried before. Nopales are the fruit of a cactus, we believe same type as the nopalitas (strips of cooked cactus leaves) that we had eaten in Mexico, Delicious.

The day ended with midnight ride back into the city. I don't like riding at night, or in cities. Having done it in Mexico City any where should be easier, bit I just don't feel comfortable unless I know the way well. But we made it in one piece. Even with a almost flat front tyre.

repairs1.jpg

We had Marco, a mechanic we had met via Couchsurfing, lined up to see the bike the next morning. He pointed out a number of things that needed fixing and gave us the bad news that he thought the head gasket needed replacing. We had to use his friend Omar, the Turk (no, I did not make that name up) to translate. Omar speaks fluent Spanish, excellent English, fixes motorbikes for a living working up the road and is married to a girl from Cardiff. No, I didn't make any of that up either.

That night Marco surprised us at 22:00 with a text that the bike was all done. We were shocked, this was Chile, things never happen that fast here :-)

It transpired that when he started to get closer to the engine to replace a missing exhaust bolt he realised the oil "leak" was just the unburnt gases marking the cylinder. Great, we were ready for the road ? No, he was not happy about the rear suspension, he felt it was too soft and a bit dangerous with a laden bike. It should be redone.

Marco rode me back out to the suspension engineer, I went pillion and was treated to the delights of Santiago style street riding. He explained the problems to the engineer and how I was not happy. He spent an entire afternoon dealing with all this and made sure that the right amount of gas was put in and spacers to stiffen the spring. He was also adamant that they should not ask me for more money as they have a different guarantee system here. You pay, you leave, you have accepted the work as OK.

Even then, Marco had not finished with me. He produced a list of all the spares he thought I would need and which tools. He looked through the tools I had brought with me and crossed a few off. Then he took me shopping. Making sure I was not ripped off, and getting discounts.

It never ceases to amaze me how full of good people the world is.

We collected the new paper work from Juan, with another twist. There had been problem with the copy of my passport so only Jean has legal permission to take the bike out of the country. Oh well, maybe we will call it her bike then.

Thursday night and Friday morning was a frenzied, frantic packing blur. At least by Jean. It is one of her strong points when it comes to fitting too much stuff into too small a space. Checkout time was 11:00, were on the road by 11:10.

packing.jpg

We didn't go far, less than 200k north. We are now sat in a cabin perched on the rocky coast over the Pacific with breakers crashing on the beach below. Warm sunshine, and gentle breezes.

lorraines.jpg

Also 5 dogs for company. But that is another story.

fluffyanddoggie.jpg

Posted by Bruce Porter at 02:24 PM GMT
November 13, 2012 GMT
First break down.

Fortunately it was not the bike, it was a friends van. We had been into La Ligua on an errand of mercy with Lorraine, who we have been staying with. As we left La Ligua I commented on the smell of oil and water coming from the van. Lorraine comfirmed it always smelt that way, so I stopped being nosey.

10k later on Ruta 5, the PanAmerican, the van spluttered and died.

breakdown1.jpg

We checked the radiator, no water. Handily there was a nearby dumpster with some empty plastic bottles and some houses on the other side of the highway. After some traffic dodging and chatting to a chica we had some water.

We refilled the radiator and tried to bumpstart the engine.

Nada.

No problem, we will ring the emergency recovery. But the number was back at Lorraine's.

Flag a police car down ? If only one would pass.

Jean and Lorraine started to hitch back into La Ligua and I waited with the van. It was starting to get hot.

Eventually a police car drove passed and pulled over. I'm sure my stilted Spaninsh was amusing to them as I explained that it was not mine; it belonged to a friend who was 'walking in the road'.

"Mi esposa y amiga, en la ruta con pies" (my wife and friend, in the road with feet)

One of the officers wandered around to the back of the van, as the door was wide open. I decided this was a good time to tell him that Gregory was in the back, and he was dead. That made him stop.

Gregory was a dog, and we had just been to the vets to put him out of his misery of gunshot wounds in 1 leg and the other broken a week earlier by a car.

I may have actually said, "in the back, there is a dog that bites" ("muerte" and "muerde" sound very much the same). But it was obvious Gregory was going nowhere,

Finally the girls turned up with a tow truck and the driver kindly dropped us all at the house of the dog's owner, Lorraine's friend. Where a burial ceremony took place.

The owner had been very confused when the local police (who are also friends of hers) called her to say that they had found a man with a white van and a dead dog on Ruta 5, did she know me ? They had worked out the van belonged to her 'gringa friend with the dogs' from my description of where I was saying.

We then had to walk 2kms back to Lorraine's with the shopping, through the bushes, trees and scrubland between the Pacific and the highway. Making the bags lighter by drinking the beer.

Finally an asado (BBQ), a sunset, and a dog (Luna)

lunasunset.jpg

Posted by Bruce Porter at 09:33 PM GMT
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.

cossedandes.jpg
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.
toolsout.jpg

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

ignition.jpg

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

seatlock.jpg
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.

sparecan.jpg

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 08:41 PM GMT
November 22, 2012 GMT
En busca del mar perdido de Bolivia

Bo-pengy (cousin of Pengy) awoke from suspended animation in the bike pannier in Argentina, and started the search for potential Bolivian relatives. As Bolivia ceded its coastline to Chile in 1904 after the War of the Pacific and became a land-locked country, this is likely to be an ultimately fruitless search.

pengypost1.jpg

Note to Gibbo: yes I have brought another b****y penguin! Hay uno problemo?

Posted by Jean Porter at 09:47 PM GMT
A bit of Argy Bargy

Shortly after arriving at our hostel in San Agustin, and after filling the bike with fuel from the much needed gas station, we were told about the local football match that was about to kick off.

With nothing else to do that evening, we wandered down to the "stadium".

In a natural rock bowl the "crowd" ( a few hundred, but this was probably most of the town) was gathering. Cars and motorbikes were parked right next to the perimeter fence for a really close feel.

As it was such a big local event, there was a TV camera and radio commentary stations set up. One commentary "box" was up the rock wall.

commentry.jpg

With us still not knowing who was who, the match got underway. The team in white were the better and we assumed San Agustin side, as the team in blue were told to change their shirts 3 times before the game started due to colour clashes for the TV. We were just surprised they had 3 entire sets of kit with them.

As the temperature dropped, as in to 25 degrees instead of pushing 35, the game heated up. There were penalties (3), sendings off (2) and some scuffles.

kickingoff.jpg

When goals were scored rockets were set off, car horns blared and engines reved.

After a very tense second half the home side came through in the last minutes to win 3 - 2 (their goalie had been sent off). The (single) police officer in attendance had to escort the very vocal opposition goalie off the pitch at the end, before he got himself into further trouble.

Great entertainment for 10 Pesos (1.50/$2)

We have also found a way to lighten our load.

In the searing heat as we headed north I noticed that the bus and truck drivers were being more friendly, waving at us and flashing their lights. How nice.

Later at a fuel stop I noticed the bag containing Jean's waterproofs were over the rear indicator and went to move them.

It was the left rear indicator. The one over the exhaust. Which was of course just under the plastic top box, with the spare fuel in. Things may have got little warmer had a full flame erupted.

There was not a lot left of her waterproof overjacket and pants. Or her Cath Kidston bag (Jean - sob!).

Cath Kidston bag ! No wonder we have no space. I need to check what other things she has ferreted away.

Oh well, more room for the pillion. And another shopping trip needed.

Some picture Links

Chile - http://tinyurl.com/sam2-chile

Argentina - http://tinyurl.com/samii-arg

Posted by Bruce Porter at 10:36 PM GMT
November 27, 2012 GMT
2nd Breakdown

And this time it was the bike.

With perfect timing the bike died outside an hotel. I didn't know that it had until I came to move it to the car park an hour later. The ignition didn't even give a whimper. The man who I was meant to be following to the garage re-appeared as I was stripping the fairing to check the wiring.

It took longer to take the fairing off and replace it than i did to find and fix 2 loose wires. This may have been a record diagnose and fix time for me.

While I was leaking sweat profusely into my riding gear, Jean was keeping cool in the hotel. I was putting the fairing back on before she realised I had not returned from parking the bike and decided to come and look for me.

fairing-off.jpg

We had spent the day crossing into Bolivia and riding to Tarija, the scenery started very jungle like as we rose into a cloud forest, at which point Jean started to regret the burning of her waterproofs.

And if we run out of space the bra might be next...

cloudforrest.jpg

The road surface was very good, allowing for some decent riding, avoiding rock falls and potholes. By the time we reached Tarija, above 2 separate layers of clouds, everywhere was hot and much drier, which is handy as it is the major Bolivian wine region.

tarija-plains.jpg

We took an extra day here to improve the earlier evening fix and prepare the bike for the next stage which we have been informed involves 80kms of "ripio"/earth road during the 400kms and 2500m of ascent to Potosi.

I've had to work in the street, again, to do the rewiring. But this seems to be very normal in South America. It is also handy for meeting people. Jorges, who works for the police, came over as we were discussing a crack in the fairing and a missing headlight bolt.

After a brief chat about bikes and the shaking we are going to get on the road to Potosi, he rolled up his sleeves and organised a new bolt, some wire, and a candle to heat the wire and burn holes in the plastic. He then set about making a wire bracket to fix the fairing and secure the headlight properly

fairingfix.jpg

While the fairing was off I took the opportunity to check the coolant levels. Which are now OK.

For those that don't know yet, we had an issue with the bike being incontinent and over heating in the searing heat back in Argentina.

bike-wee.jpg

While investigating the cause i discovered the radiator was almost empty. There has been a lot of speculation about causes, some terminal, but we have decided it is just a thermostat issue in extreme heat.

A positive side to all these 'issues' is that in each town visited we have been able to acquaint ourselves with the variety of ironmongers, tool shops and mechanics. Each visit involving a complicated mime with various new mechanically related new words learnt. And much amusement for the consistently good humoured and patient locals.

Tomorrow will be a long day, longer if we get our petrol range wrong.

The winging it continues.

Posted by Bruce Porter at 05:43 PM GMT
 


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