South America Revisited (Pegless to Peru)
July 30, 2012 GMT
Getting ready for the road again

We're heading back to South America, this November.

Since finishing the Two Pegs trip I've definitely had a sense of something missing. A need to hit the road again. We had plans for spending a large chunk of the winter in Spain and only taking time to come home if any work came up.

But with people asking me what I was going to do for my birthday this year, my birthday is in November (and I will be 50), we usually pick a city somewhere (warm) and hit it for a weekend with any friends who want to come along. I pondered for a while and realised that what I really wanted to do, more than anything else, was to ride a bike in far off foreign lands again. Warm far off places. Preferably for a long way and for a long time.

Jean agreed that since returning from the last trip, apart from a wander up the length of the Pennine Way and attempting to learn more Spanish, it had been a year of relentless hard work.

Ripping through South America last time had only given us a sense of how much more there was to see. I decided I wanted to get back to Peru and see places we had missed. Places like the Colca Canyon Colca_Oasis_Stevage.jpg
Deeper than the Grand Canyon.

Jean made no attempt to dissuade me, in fact she agreed quickly but insisted we go to Bolivia as well.

We are both now working as independent contractors, with the aim of being able to take off and GO when we want. Funnily, permanent employers don't really care for this.....

I was already self employed, but Jean has ducked out of a steady NHS job and has needed to put a fair bit of effort getting herself established. So a lot of working and not much 'going' has been the order of the day.

A quick check on bike shipping costs (circa 1850 per bike, each way) ruled out two bikes. As we are only planning a 3 month trip, even flying one bike seemed a bit steep. I weighed up renting a bike instead of flying one out. That also looked expensive.

Then I started to look into buying a bike.

Peru - Seemed possible, but main selection was Chinese small CC imports. And reports on blogs showed issues with leaving the country (and returning).

Bolivia - Again possible, and there seemed to be more Japanese models available. But *severe* issues trying to get one out of the country.

Argentina - Lots of bikes, all makes, reasonable prices. But you need to own the bike for 12 months before taking it out of the country.

Chile - Easy to buy, lots of choice, easy to get one out of the country. Just expensive.

My search took me to a Chilean Forum with bike sales I came across one from a Juan Riviera. Could this be the same Juan who was so helpful last time round ? The same Juan (and his father Juan Snr) that led to this blog post

Yes, it was.

I never wanted to own a BMW, I've never ridden a BMW (more than a couple of miles).

But sometimes things are just meant to happen.

At least it was built by Aprilia :-) (Under license for BMW)

I now appear to own this beast.

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The seat height passes the "Jean foot down test"

Juan is storing it until we get there, then we have to find somewhere to store it when we leave in January 2013. We will be returning, I still have the Carretera Austral to ride another time.

And there is still Paraguay, Uruguay and and all the other countries we failed to get to.

Once again we have a plan. Another loose plan, this one will start and finish in Santiago. Along the way we will try and do some train rides up/down and across the Andes.

I will be having another long bike ride.

It will also distract Jean from her latest scheme of walking the newly opened Welsh Coastal Path. Although this has already started.....only 830 more miles to go......

Posted by Bruce Porter at 11:32 AM GMT
October 29, 2012 GMT
Packing

It is different this time, packing, and feels all wrong. Normally when we go away we get the bikes out, fill the panniers and then either ride away on them or have them crated and join them a week later on some far flung continent.

Instead we found our selves presented with a pile of clothes and motorbike accessories on the lounge floor like this.

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The clothes were easy, they fit into 2 small "canoe" bags each (the small green thing under the piano leg).

Jean went to work on her packing magic, we spent the best part of a day gathering items, rejecting items and shoving items into two rucksacks.

This is the nice neat end result.

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Note how the piano also fitted.

A few minor items and necessities will be in the flight bag, with our helmets as carry on items. I checked the Air France website and we are allowed the bag plus "Accessories". These are listed as :- Handbags, Laptops, etc.

So, the helmets are etc. Or a hat.

The rucksacks weigh in at a mere 20kg each. So we will not have weight problem on the bike when we get there. Just an issue of how to get 2 x 65 litre bag contents into 2 x 35 litre panniers.

I can see a lot of re-packing and throwing away of stuff going in in Chile.

What feels wrong ? Not being able to put the things in a pannier and organise them. That and not taking any bike documents. It just feels wrong, wrong, wrong.

The last couple of days have been thumb twiddling. And trying to figure out what to do while hanging around Paris CDG airport for 5 hours on Wednesday.

Posted by Bruce Porter at 05:22 PM GMT
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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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)

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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.

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

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

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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.

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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
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.

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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.

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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.

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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...

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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.

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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

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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.

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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
December 01, 2012 GMT
Drug Runners

Why is it that you can spend ages choosing a good spot to get "that picture". The one that shows what a rufty tufty overland adventuring biker you are. Some nice gravel, rutted road, rocks and plenty of colour.

And then a little old lady comes round the corner on her scooter.

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Shortly after we left Tarija the tarmac ended, just in time for the climb over the highest mountains of the day. The next 40kms of dusty gravel took us over a 3800m pass on twisty ripio. This is a main highway, Ruta 1.

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We took care to wait at any bends when we saw any trucks or buses coming as they wanted as much of our side of the track as we wanted of theirs. The dust clouds they produced also reduced visibility to nil.

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As height was gained, some small black birds we had spotted from a distance became big black birds. Condors circled overhead. And then I managed to scratch another itch. We rose above condor level and were able to look down on them for a change.

By the time we reached Potosi, just under 4000m, Jean's headache she had been suffering since the previous days high pass was worse.

It wasn't until the next morning that the altitude sickness (soroche) hit me.

No problem, straight on to the local cure, Mate de Coca. A herb infusion made with coca leaves. We both felt much more cheerful after our "tea".

We hung around Potosi to see if we would become more adjusted, but headaches stayed along with nausea.

As we could not spend all day drinking coca we went on a drug hunt.

First of all we tracked down the other local popular cure and were really proud that Jean managed to ask for the treatment for soroche and was understood by the pharmacist. Until on the way out I noticed the large sign saying that was the main thing they sold here. 2 Gringos enter, it doesn't matter what they say, just get the soroche pills out.

Back at the Hostel we did a bit of internet research and discovered that all the pills contained were aspirin, something else we'd never heard of, and caffeine. I started taking them anyway.

Jean then came across some research about Ibuprofen being successfully used to alleviate the effects of mild altitude sickness. Off we went back to Pharmacy row, buying up their stocks of 200mg and 400mg tablets. They don't sell them in packets here, just break open boxes and dole them out in ones and twos.

I felt guilty as I walked out of each shop, sure that everyone was watching me stuffing them in my jacket. The 400mg ones were massive, they looked more like suppositories.

We are now taking a cocktail of drugs:- aspirin, Ibuprofen, coca tea, Jean's migraine pills. All along with our daily dose of Malarone (anti-malarial). We are not sure this is the right country to have so many drugs rattling around the panniers.

After a good nights sleep, and a fresh dose of Mate de Coca, I was ready to ride the bike and hit the road once more.

Posted by Bruce Porter at 06:36 PM GMT
December 06, 2012 GMT
Then and Now

While sitting out the altitude sickness in Potosi we mulled over what to do and where to go next.

Which was a bit daft really, as we both knew where we wanted to go. The Salar De Uyuni.

Nearly 2 years ago we visited it in the wet season and were mesmerised by its beauty, surrealism, and tranquility.

Some people say you should not go back to a place as it will spoil memories. Well, those people are wrong.

But the wet season was now just starting; if heavy rains fall on the mountains Lago Poopo overflows and fills the Salar. We could take the chance and see if it was still dry. But that depended on the road.

Back then, February 2011, the road between Potosi and Uyuni still had 60 kms of ripio, sand and mud (mainly on the steep hilly bits), neither of us fancied riding that 2 up.

But Bolivia has a great governmental road website, and there was an announcement on it that the fully tarmaced road had been inaugurated in August 2012.

How things have changed between then and now.

Back then, while riding the rough bits, Jean saw very little of the mountains and gorges that lined the route between the two towns.

Now she could sit behind me and soak it all in. And I could enjoy some great riding. The road was so good I wanted to go home and get my XJR1300.

Back then we rode through a small gorge below the road works.

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Now we rode over it in a few seconds; the small lush gorge is bypassed and unseen by people.

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Back then we had to ride across a sandy plain, with llama crossing signs.

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Now it is all tarmac. But they have a fresh sign.

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Back then we rode 22kms up the mountainside through mud.

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Now Jean has nothing but praise for the road builders.

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Back then the Salar was wet.

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Now it is dry.

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And I still can't get Jean to line up with the mountains properly.

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Back then we took a 1 day tour, 7 people crammed in a Land Cruiser.

Now we took a 3 day tour, 6 people crammed in a Land Cruiser. We shared it with an Italian who spoke more Spanish than English and 3 Bolivians. So, along with the driver/guide/chef we had to bring our poor Spanish forward.

We stayed in a Salt Hotel, visited lagoons, geysers, rock formations and mountains.

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Sometimes it is worth going back, and this time it definitely was.

    Bolivian Pictures

http://tinyurl.com/samii-bol

Posted by Bruce Porter at 10:15 PM GMT
December 11, 2012 GMT
Please sir, can I have some gas ?

The fuel can (OK, orange juice container) has finally been used.

Not because we are short of fuel, nor because there are no gas stations.

Quite the opposite, there are loads of gas stations here in Oruro, but no one will sell us any petrol.

This is not a racist thing, it is because the Bolivian government subsidise the price of fuel. Country wide a litre of petrol is 3.74 Bs (33p/0.54USD). 2 years ago they passed a law that all foreign vehicles would pay the full rate of 9.25Bs (83p/1.33USD), with the extra money collected going back to the government. However this has involved a lot of paperwork at the gas stations with 2 receipts needed (one for the listed rate and one for the difference), with the vehicle details and my passport number.

In the nationalised gas stations this is not an issue as they have all the paper work. It just irritates all the drivers in the queue behind. In the rest it has been pot luck if they will serve us, and what they will charge.

Some have just added a bit to the bill after asking "Sin facture?" (no receipt) and pocketing the extra themselves.

Others have charged us the full 9.25 and failed to give the receipt. (so pocketing a large amount). If I didn't like the attendant I sat and waited until the paperwork was done, so all the money had to go where it should.

The further north we have come, and closer to La Paz, the bigger the problem has become. Culminating to the farce we have faced here.

None of the stations entering town would serve us, always refusing with a smile and saying they did not have the paper work. Eventually I decided to empty the emergency fuel into the bike and then walk with the empty 'fuel can' to the nearest gas station, once we had found it. We asked the Tourist Information office where we could buy some and the best they could come up with was "ask a taxi driver".

Eventually we found a gas station on the north of town, walked in with the 'fuel can' and asked to have to have it filled because "our bike was empty". The attendant took all our passport details, filled the container (5l) and then charged us the local rate. No problem.

The moral of the story is to park out of sight of the attendants and walk up with the container, about 3 times.

Now we had enough fuel to carry on. Hopefully the bike will start tomorrow, it would appear the left carburetor is leaking into the air-box. I'd rather be stuck in a nicer place than Oruro.

Addendum
The next day we returned to the same gas station on the bike as we left the city, after finally getting it to start..

The attendant was unable to serve us as he could not fill a foreign bike.I asked him if he would fill the "fuel can" again instead. This he was happy to do, once more at the local rate.

40 kms down the road to Cochabamba, at the crossroads with the La Paz road, we stopped at another gas station next to a military checkpoint. The attendant had no problem selling us any fuel for the bike, he just openly told us that it would be 6bs/litre. A small profit for himself.

The law would appear to have created a black market in fuel.

Posted by Bruce Porter at 11:21 PM GMT
December 15, 2012 GMT
Football, as an insult

While we were having dinner with our friend Jorges back in Tarija, we talked about football as well as bikes.

I was interested to know how good Bolivian football was and how their leagues compared to the the rest of South American and the world.

Jorge explained the size of the leagues and how the team names did not always reflect the city. For example "The Strongest" is a team from La Paz and "Universitario" is from Sucre.

He explained that just 2 teams won most of the titles and trophies, had most of the support and the money. All the rest were small and the lower league was a poor standard.

"Ah", I said , "just like Scotland".

At this his face dropped in shock, "No, no, not as bad as that. How can you compare our football to Scottish? It is an insult."

So, Brazil at the top, Scotland at the bottom.

While on a football theme we also went to a match in Sucre, Univeritario (Sucre) were playing San Jose (Oruro). San Jose needed to win to keep up their challenge on The Strongest.

Considering it was a full days journey over 3 mountain passes from Oruro to Sucre we were impressed by the away support.

supporters.jpg

Sitting in the stands we had a good view of any approaching clouds and noted the difference from back home. At home they appear on the horizon and move nearer. Up here they rise slowly over the surrounding mountains, gaining in size, like a foam over the side of the bath. Note the whole of that side of the ground was nearly empty. Everyone, apart from the away supporters who had to go there, crammed themselves into the shady side without the evening sun glaring in their eyes.

clouds.jpg

The game ended 0 - 0, we had 2 sendings off. One was a San Jose official and the other the San Jose reserve keeper while he was warming up.

The Strongest won the league by default. We had another cheap afternoons entertainment.

Food

We often stop at small roadside eateries and have the "guess what it is" soup.

The soups are all healthy stock based with potatoes, vegetables and quinoa. Usually with a piece of chicken or meat in it.

I was a bit disconcerted when I had what appeared to be a babies hand.

handorfoot.jpg

But on closer inspection it was a chicken foot.

Roads

While I am on a random drivel, this is an example of a Bolivian traffic cone, in a major city.

trafficcone.jpg

Posted by Bruce Porter at 05:33 PM GMT
December 19, 2012 GMT
We think the bike has had enough of the Altiplano

All the wings seem to have fallen off, maybe we should start praying....

We had no intention of going into La Paz, our plan had been to get straight through the traffic hell of El Alto as quickly as possible and find somewhere on the other side. But I was sidetracked by the thought of a nice cosy little hotel in the valley to the south of La Paz.

The day started well as we left Cochabamba; we found a gas station that had fuel, was willing to sell it to us, and only charged us the local rate. The ride back up over the mountains was in clear dry conditions allowing me to see some of the views as we wound our way back up to 4500m and across a series of ridges. At times the road was all there was, just long drops over both edges, the mangled crash barriers showing signs of being used effectively.

Nearing El Alto, a city that is perched on the rim of the canyon that La Paz sits in, the rain started and the road surface deteriorated due to an ongoing 'road improvement' scheme. The outskirts of El Alto were awash with mud, thick red mud and large pools of water. The rain had gone off and the sun returned to blaze down as we searched for the corect route into the valley.

Going through El Alto is the only way to get past La Paz and it is rammed with cars, trucks, buses, taxis and collectivos (small people carriers that stop frequently) all crawling, stopping and blocking the roads. The bike was overheating and I was tired after 6 hours riding, so I overruled Jean on staying up on the level and carrying on through. We managed to get some directions to the town of Mallasa, with no signs we had missed a turnoff 5k earlier, and headed in towards the rim.

Lost in some back streets the bike burped once and died. I turned to look at Jean, she was not amused. El Alto is not the most salubrious place and we were not in a better part of it. After failing to start the bike we grabbed the tools and went for a plug clean (not an easy job as part of the fairing needs to be taken off). This did the trick, and gave me time to spot some police and gather more directions.

Perfect, they pointed us in the right direction and the road dropped over the edge. El Alto finished, and the road plunged down with La Paz spread out up and down the sides of the deep gorge. The suddenness of the view is like peering over the rim of the Grand Canyon. All we needed to do now was to continue down and south at any forks in the road. But right at the bottom we got it wrong and we found ourselves heading north into the city, uphill on a road with no turn offs.

I was not a happy bunny, it was rush hour. Here comes La Paz after all then.

With some fancy maneuvering we headed back down and south, at every opportunity I checked the route with police, who then sometimes asked for documents as a matter of course, or they were just curious and wanted a chat.

Finally as signs appeared for Mallasa the valley became lush and green, my concentration slipped and too late noticed a speed bump. The bike took off and returned to the earth with a suspension crushing jolt. I heard a thump from the road, checked Jean was still behind me and then looked in the mirrors expecting to see a bottle water splattered in the road. The bike felt a bit light, and as I could hear Jean shouting "The Pannier" it was obvious why.

Pretty tough these panniers, I just wish they would stay where they were meant to. The bolt that holds it on had snapped, another job for the plastic tie clips.

Fortunately the hotel had a room. It also had a pool, and probably the comfiest bed yet. The view over the valley was not bad either.

mallasavalley.jpg

With only 200k to go the next day we didn't hurry. I cleaned the spark plugs again and checked the bike over, all the time with an eye on the clouds creeping over the rim. Dark clouds.

cloudovervalley.jpg

The climb back up (800m) was steep, and had more speed bumps. One was particularly high. I went over slow but heard a metallic clang and scape. Followed by more scraping noises, the side stand was hanging lose. Somehow the spring had come off. Luck was with us because we found it in the road, and racing against the storm clouds looming I managed to get it refitted just before the rain started.

It doesn't rain here, it flushes. The rush of water was pushing rocks off the valley walls and rivers coursed around bends. It was a relief to finally crest the rim and get back onto the level at El Alto. A short relief as it was back to the standing traffic, 4 or sometimes 5 lanes going nowhere. Now the rain was accompanied by hail stones. I suppose it kept the bike cool.

At this point Jean reminded me she still needed some new waterproofs.

From leaving the hotel to the outskirts of El Alto was about 30k. But 2 hours.

This time the outskirts were really awash, sometimes the water flowed up to our ankles on the bike. The sky was black and there were no gaps between the lightening flashes and the thunderclaps. People had to leap rivers between their doors and the road.

Finally the rain, hail, thunder and lightening faded. All we needed now was fuel. Nowhere had sold us any since the day before, 90k before El Alto. Every station we went to had either run out of gas or just refused to sell to foreigners.

Reserve was used, at least 40k earlier than expected due to the demanding riding, and the "fuel can" came out. Some maths and assuming we really do have 2 litres in reserve (I still have not been able to find the answer) I decided that if I rode economically we would have just enough fuel for the last 91k.

The road to Copacabana is punctuated by small ferry ride.

busonboat.jpg

With one more large hill to climb I had switch to reserve again, exactly at the mileage I had calculated, and we relaxed as the final descent started.

The gas station in Copacabana was out of fuel. They may have some tomorrow. We will be going nowhere for a while.

The wings have definitely all fallen off.

With just a possible 10k of fuel left in the bike, I am contemplating getting a bus into Peru with the fuel can and doing some reverse fuel smuggling.


.


Posted by Bruce Porter at 09:38 PM GMT
December 22, 2012 GMT
It's not for you, Peru

The day started so well.

The sun was shining, the sky was a deep blue dotted with white fluffy clouds and lake Titicaca shimmered.

titicaca1.jpg

On top of this we had a full tank of gas. The "maybe tomorrow" had actually happened at the only gas station in town. After joining the long queue and causing a longer one all the paper work was filled out for foreign vehicle fuel purchase ( 2 forms, 2 different rates, names and passport details). We managed to put 17.25 litres into a 17 litre tank. So, I don't think we even had that 10kms available after all.

petrolqueue.jpg

It was only 8kms to Peru, we breezed through the Bolivian immigration, smiled at the customs officers who 2 years previously had closed early as they saw us approach, and parked the bike in no mans land.

The Peruvian officials guided us through getting stamped in and pointed us at the aduana for the bike.

Then it all fell apart.

The bike is still in Juan's name, we have been traveling on a notary/solicitors letter giving us authorisation from Juan to take 'his' bike across borders. It specifically states "Argentina, Bolivia and Peru". This was not good enough this time. It had to be in the name of the rider crossing the border. It was against the law for it to be brought into Peru.

No amount of "how can we sort this?", "Is there something we can do?" (hinting that we were prepared to pay, but not use the word 'bribe') would make him change his mind. He was incorruptible, a credit to his country.

We had entered Peru, but the bike was "persona non grata".

Fine, nothing for it but to go back to Bolivia. We went back to the immigration office and requested an exit stamp.

"No, manana (tomorrow)", said the previously helpful official.

"Que ?" I said, "manana" he replied".

"Why? Why not?" I repeated. "Tomorrow" he reaffirmed. Legally, once stamped into Peru you have to stay for 24 hours before you are allowed to leave again.

I explained about the bike sitting in no mans land, the wrong side of the barrier, and that we needed to return to Bolivia. "No, manana".

I may have sworn a bit now.

Coming over all British, we decided it was best to ask a policeman. We marched purposefully over the road in our bike gear, introduced ourselves and explained what was happening. He indicated it was not a problem and asked us to follow him to he "Justice Police". Here we had our visas stamped with a 'negated', returned to 'Mr Manana' who now happily stamped us out.

So now us and the bike were in no mans land.

Great, but what if we have similar problems 500m down the road getting back in Bolivia ?

The Bolivians were surprised to see us back so soon, but once we explained how the Peruvians did not want our money and that we would spend it here instead they stamped us back in. The customs had not processed our bike paperwork yet and happily handed it back as if we had never left.

What now ? Stop over at Copacabana and make new plans ?
Head up the east side of the Lake for 2 days to see if we can get across at the little border post there ?
Try for the main border crossing, Deseguardero, about 6 hours ride, and be refused again ?

Jean stated the obvious, the sun was out, and there wasn't any rain: "lets head for Chile and get past El Alto while it is dry".

There was no doubt the bike could return to Chile, but the crossing was more than a days ride. And of course we had to face El Alto for a 3rd time. Have I mentioned how much we hate this part of the route ?

Armed with a freshly filled 'fuel can' in Copacabana (same gas station, no form filling today) we hit the road.

In the dry El Alto was much easier, Jean rode shotgun banging on the side of collectivos that tried to muscle in on our space while I performed 'imaginative' manoeuvering in non-existent gaps and joined in the ignoring of red traffic lights. A doddle in the dry, without rain and hail, a mere 40 minutes.

The fuel situation raised its head again, once more we were being refused gas. But we persisted, popped into all the gas stations we passed, and eventually managed a fill before we got to our days destination at Patacmaya. So in a 100k radius around La Paz no one would serve fuel to foreigners.

Patacamaya is a small town on the main La Paz to Oruro route, with the road to the Chilean border bisecting it. We had noted previously it had 2 gas stations and a lot of Alojamientos (small, cheap rooms for rent).

Neither gas station had petrol.

It is 380kms to Arica, 190Kms to the border. We filled our tank with the spare fuel.

We walked the entire length of the town asking for a room, everywhere was full. We were beginning to think this was a racist thing until we realised all the truckers in town and the workers on the new dual carriage way also needed somewhere to stay.

Finally we found somewhere with a room, and parking for the bike. The room opened straight onto a wet dirt yard (the 'car park') with piles of rubbish at one end. It was a bare concrete floored room with 2 beds and a window covered with a stained plastic curtain. The shared toilet next door to the room was also a public one. The yard was shared with dogs, cats, chickens, and flies. The flies would dart into the room as soon as the door opened to escape the heat. There was no electricity in the entire town. We had an early night.

patacamaya.jpg

At 0530 we were awoken by knocks on doors and shouts of "arriba, arriba", we assumed early morning wake up calls for the workers.

By 0630 we were packed and on the road, it was already busy with people everywhere, boarding buses and collectivos. Neither gas station was selling petrol still, this may have been because there was still no electricity and they could not pump it.

Stuff it, we knew that there was a gas station at the border from our previous trip. If it had no gas, or was not there anymore we would see how far we could get. And if needed, hitch down to Arica for more fuel.

It was time to ride economically again. I could manage 250-280kms on a tank. After the border it was all down hill.

Once more we were lucky, the skies were clear and the ride across the Altiplano towards the snow capped mountains and a smoldering volcano was smooth and easy for the bike. Also the gas station was open and would sell to us.

smokingvol.jpg

For a final twist on our descent from 4700m to sea level, over 200kms on twisty poorly maintained roads, the bike decided to pop a front fork seal and spewed oil all over the front tyre just before the Chilean border post at the top.

Now we are at the beach, in the warm and dry, with a bike that can't go anywhere until we find a mechanic prepared to repair the fork 3 days before Christmas. But at least the bike has a tank full of petrol.

It looks like Xmas in Arica. Not a hardship.

Posted by Bruce Porter at 03:54 PM GMT
December 29, 2012 GMT
Clipped Wings

On Christmas eve we watched our bike fork seal being repaired on the roadside by the only bike 'mechanic' in town, with the aid of a hammer and screwdriver. General opinion was not to attempt the job ourselves, as we did not have the proper tools or workshop environment. We have plenty of screwdrivers, but obviously the big hammer was our missing specialist tool.

Then we saw Father Christmas ride past on his sledge while doing the samba (he speaks Spanish as well).

On Christmas morning one guest cooked pancakes for everyone at breakfast and Santa left a goodie bag for each of us.

goodiebag.jpg

We checked the fork seal, it was still oil tight. We had viable transport again.

Plan B about getting a bus into Peru was ditched. We decided that if the bike could not go in, then neither would we. After dossing around on the beach body boarding, over Christmas and boxing day, we packed all our things and told the hostel owner we were leaving. "We'll go north, south, or be back here later".

peruthatway.jpg
Arica, looking north towards Peru. Just 20kms away.

Our first stop was the main customs office in town.

My Spanish is good enough now to be able to explain what we wanted to do, get the bike into Peru with the authorisation letter, and ask if it could be done or if they could help.

"No", "you need the person named on the document to be with you". That was it, no more.

He went on to explain that there is an agreement with Bolivia and Argentina to allow passage on notary letters, but not Peru. So many stolen vehicles go there that Peru changed the law.

The upshot was that they would not even let us leave Chile across that border with the bike, as Peru would not accept it.

Game over, our wings have been clipped.

We would not continue any further north. The mistake was all mine 2 months ago, when we could not get the bike documents changed to my name that day; I should have started the longer process, then we could have collected the documents here in Arica. My impatience to get on the road has finally caught us out.

The Colca Canyon in Peru can wait for another day, another trip. Even though it was the main target I listed at the start of the 'plan'.

So it was south across the desert to Iquique,
desertroad.jpg

On the way to Iquique there was a moment of 'deja vu', as the fuel went to reserve and we pulled over in the same place as 2 years earlier to pour the spare fuel in the bike. Arica to Iquique is 330kms, no gas stations in between.

Iquique, another town with beaches and surf, to sit down and think about what to do. Our problem? Chile is the most western and most expensive country in South America on our trip, our budget does not extend to 5 more weeks here.

We could go back to Bolivia, but after a month there, and with the rainy season in full flow but not the petrol, we don't fancy that.

Argentina ? To get to any bits we would like to see involves riding across a lot of flat, hot pampas. We have seen enough of that.

Wild camping is an option to reduce costs, we still have the tent but it's a pity that the sleeping bags and mats are 200k north of Santiago. But we have been assured by 2 cyclists heading north that the beach is warm and the sand is soft for the next 300k south.

Iquique, lodged between the Pacific and the desert.
iquique-dune.jpg

Chile Pictures - Part2 http://tinyurl.com/samii-chile2

Posted by Bruce Porter at 01:05 AM GMT
January 03, 2013 GMT
A quiet New Year

We left the hustle, bustle and booze of Iquique behind to head back up into the peace and quiet of the desert. The party crowd had arrived for the new year which meant the town and the hostal had stepped up a gear.

The owner of the Sunny Days Hostal in Arica, Ross, had suggested the Oasis of Pica, back up in the Atacama desert would be an ideal place to chill out and relax while we sorted out how to spend our time in Chile.

The camping gear finally came out as the cost slashing started.

firstcamp.jpg

A shady site in a mango orchard near the oasis was sandy, so despite our lack of sleeping bags and ground mats the saving of around $30 (20) a day was not to be sneezed at. Apart from a hot spring fed pool, a constant 40C, the town is renowned for its oranges, lemons and mangoes.

picapool.jpg

At $4 (3) for a large bag of locally grown oranges, we set about making our own squash machine (1 cup inner, a metal plate, and a lot of muscle). Small ripe mangoes fell off the trees every time there was a slight breeze, so we could eat these for free.

orangejuice.jpg

Lying on our bike jackets for padding, we both fell asleep early in the warmth of the night.

We both awoke in the early pre-dawn hours as the desert temperature dropped; by dawn we were fully dressed in bike gear and all our clothes to try to keep warm until the sun came back up.

As the town was quiet and peaceful on New Years eve, and nothing seemed to be going on, we had a couple of beers, put all our clothes on in advance and went to bed.

In the middle of the night a long air raid siren went off. We had a moment of concern when we tried to decide if this was the local earthquake warning, but then all hell broke loose and there was a cachophany of explosions. Ah, so it was just new year then. I have never seen or heard so many air bombs in once place before. This went on for around 20 minutes, then silence ensued once more and we went back to sleep. Later on we woke again as the earth shook, the tent rattled, and sand shifted as we really were treated to another earthquake, at least there was no danger of a tsunami this time.

That is 4 earthquakes I have experienced now, all while I've been asleep. Just once I would like one when I'm awake.

it was still dark when the Chilean youths turned up, put up a tent, got the beer out and proceeded to talk through what was left of the night. They were still going when we left at 10:30 the next morning.

Did I say we wanted a quiet new year?

And just to celebrate, the right fork seal was leaking again.

forkseal2.jpg

We descended from the desert back down to the coast and headed south. As we bimbled along the spectacular coast road we eyed up all the beaches and the clear blue water until finally we could take no more and rode the bike down on to the beach. Jean got off, tested the sand to make sure the bike would not sink and that we would be comfy. Then we set up camp.

I'm 50, and I have finally been "wild" camping.

As the day wore on the people thinned and by the time the sun went down we had a large stretch of beach to ourselves. The moon was late out, so apart from the stars there was no light and once more we settled down to another sleeping bag-less night of peace, broken only by the lapping of the waves.

Until 23.45 when a large Chilean 'redkneck' family turned up in a truck, selected a spot 5 metres from us and set up camp, with stereos blazing, lights shining and voices crashing.

I climbed out of the tent and stood, gobsmacked at what was going on, only when I started shouting did they acknowledge I was there. As politely as I could, I pointed out there was a tent, a motorcycle and some sleeping people. Could they not move further down the beach, it was a big beach.

They moved all of 5 metres. I swear they had 6 fingers on each hand, and webbed feet.

Earplugs in, blindfold on, back to bed.

Did I say we wanted a quiet new year ?

With the morning, the heat came back. We packed and carried on south, a long day was planned and we wanted to get back into the desert so we could visit a national park (and camp again). Unfortunately the bike had other ideas. In a bleak spot it spluttered and died, from 100kmh to 0, very quickly.

With the lights switched off we were able to bump start her. Our investigations at the side of the sand blasted highway showed that the charging system had failed. With no idea of how much further the bike would run before the battery was completely discharged. The nearest large city, Antofagasta, was 100kms away, so we wished for more 'wings' and rode on.

As we pulled into a gas station in Antofagasta to ask directions for a mechanic, the last remnants of life trickled down the wires and she sparked no more.

While rummaging under the seat, in a vain search for a loose wire, we were approached by a man who just happened to know a bike mechanic, "Give me 20 minutes, I'll be back with him" and off he went.

Ricardo, the mechanic, returned in a large red truck (I still have truck envy) and confirmed my diagnosis.

"Its broken, the alternator", he said.

"Can you fix it ?" I asked. "Do you want a new one?" "No." "Can it be fixed?" "Yes, but it will be 2 or 3 days, how long have you got?"

"2 or 3 days, or as long it takes" I replied with a grin.

Now, once again we are in the hands of a mechanic that we have only just met, this one at least has a proper workshop and a decent set of tools. I have not seen any sign of 'special tools' like a big hammer or a screwdriver yet, so have asked him to have another go at the fork seal.

With no power in the battery to run the engine, Jean was replaced as my pillion so I could ride (carefully) to his workshop.

sparebattery.jpg

Posted by Bruce Porter at 01:14 AM GMT
January 15, 2013 GMT
Saying good afternoon to Ricardo

For 4 days we attempted to say good morning to Ricardo, the mechanic. Unfortunately he never arose before midday, and on a Saturday it seemed 15:00 was his waking hour. Our hostal was conveniently next door but one to his house and workshop, so we could just put our heads out to see if he had surfaced.

Antofagasta is a 'working' town, and we had exhausted all the sights by the end of the 1st day (it does have an excellent train museum). The hostal , which was full of road workers, did not know how to deal with gringo tourists. We were there 2 days before we realised it was possible to pay extra for breakfast. Which was handy, as nowhere in town served any before 09:30.

When booking a room we always ask "with breakfast?" . The response here was "no", not "no, you can pay ARS1800 extra for that".

With breakfast finally acquired we were told that "only bread and cheese is available". Until the 2nd, slightly nicer receptionist, asked if we would like eggs.

bike-fixed.jpg

On the 4th day the bike was ready, the alternator rewound and fitted, however it wasn't until 14:30 that the receptionist thought to tell us that Ricardo had called in the night before to say the bike was finished. But as Ricardo had not surfaced at that point, it didn't really matter.

5 days in Antofagasta. It made the 9 in Punta Arenas waiting for Jean's bike to be fixed on the last trip seem a doddle.

With all our previous efforts at saving money by camping on the beach blown on the latest bike repair, we decided not to wait for the fork seal to be replaced. Bright and early the next day we pulled the bike out of the garage and I pressed the starter.

Nothing, well OK, a slight "whirrrrr". I had seen it running the previous evening, evidence that the alternator was working, so just bump started it down the handy hill. Then we elicited some help from a couple of passers by after filling with gas and failing to start again.

After 50kms we stopped for a 'safety' gas top up before another long Chilean desert stretch between gas stations and steeled ourselves for another session of bump starting. But the starter motor now worked fine.

250kms later I noticed oil all down my right leg when refilling in a bleak, sandy, windswept and desolate place. By now I had lost all sense of humour. Luckily it was just the alternator inspection port not tightened properly.

So, with the starter motor working, the battery being charged and confidence in the bike building, it was back to camping on the beach. At least the sand would soak up the oil from the front fork leak.

As much as I enjoyed camping next to 'Tracy Island' , and was impressed at the way they hid the Thunderbird 2 launch area from the mainland.........

tracyisland.jpg

........I decided I would like a sleeping bag and ground mat, as the beaches were becoming more stony, so we made a long run south back to Lorraine's (just north of Santiago) to retrieve them.

beachhut2.jpg

Here we said a final farewell to our much loved Argentinian 'fuel can', note how it can be compressed to save space when not in use.

juicecan.jpg

Coincidences happen all the time when out on the road, like bumping into people more than once. As an example at a campsite in the Parque Nacional Pan De Azucar we encountered a Dutch/Chilean couple, hitchhikers, last seen 600k away on New Years day in Pica (the Oasis in the Atacama).

However the strangest one of the trip (so far) happened following a day out with Lorraine, trying and failing to find a suitable wild camping spot with her 3 dogs.
dogcamp.jpg

As we pootled back down Ruta 5 a blue Range Rover overtook us then slowed down and hands waved out of the window. I pulled alongside and saw the beaming face of Juan, our friend we had bought the bike off.

Camping gear reloaded, we turned north again, the front fork still oozing oil. The Elqui Valley, stargazing, wine tasting and Pisco Sours our targets.

Posted by Bruce Porter at 02:02 AM GMT
January 27, 2013 GMT
Si, yo hablo Espanol, pues yo no hablo Chileano

Camping with sleeping bags and ground mats is the way forward. After our nights in the desert and on the beach, using our bike clothes for padding and warmth, in future it's ditch the sleeping bag and take the ground mat.

We enjoyed one last blast out into the Elqui valley, in the foothills of the Andes, tasted Pisco Sours (brandy, lime, sugar, ice), supped wine, star gazed and also navel gazed.

Then we shot back down south to Lorraine's and managed to see the final stages of the Dakar rally (formally the Paris/Dakar but moved to South America in 2009 after security threats).

dakar.jpg

The last few weeks have been a wind down, apart from the fork seal the bike has been working well.

We relaxed at Lorraine's (Author and Photographer) cliff top beach house on the Pacific just north of Santiago. Days were spent doing DIY.

diy.jpg

She is a brave woman letting me lose with a power-tool on a wooden house.
holesinhouse.jpg

We walked dogs, and ate seaweed
seaweed2.jpg

We cooked steak on the beach.
beachsteak.jpg

And drifted around in a raft drinking beer (2 more things my mother told me not to do).

Then we came back to Santiago.

Apart from needing to fly home from here, we wanted to meet up with Juan (Jnr) and Juan (Snr) again. And hatched a plot for a group visit to the Carretera Austral in the future.

Then there was the small matter of arranging a sale of the bike, using Marco, the mechanic who helped us 3 months ago. Hopefully we have managed to set the ball in motion for him to "own" the bike and sell it on our behalf (and then send us the money :-) ). He will be fixing all the minor issues (especially the fork seal and valve adjustment) and making it pretty again.

If anyone is interested, there is a very good BMW F650 Funduro with an excellent running record :-) for sale in Santiago.

And the title of the blog post ? That led into a rant, but I decided not to finish on one. After all we have had a great time. Sometimes the bike seemed to conspire against us, but that was just part of the trip and it often led to meeting people as well as new route choices. Originally we intended to keep the bike, and use it again on another trip. Plans change, we have new plans, that still involve riding motorbikes in foreign lands.

I would and probably will buy a bike in another country again. It all adds to the adventure.

We never made it to The Colca Canyon in Peru, one of my main targets, and now I know how Jean feels about missing Bryce Canyon on two trips to the USA. I'll just have to go back and try again.

The time has come to switch hemispheres again. Today it is summer, on Friday it will be winter.

Extra Snippets

OK, a small rant or two after all ......

Toilet cisterns - I seem to have been a traveling plumber. One of the first tasks to be performed at many destinations has been to lift the cistern lid and reconnect the flush mechanism. Or, in at least one case, fit a whole new handle.

Toilet rolls - The appearance and quantity of them was, as a general rule, inversely proportional to the cost of the establishment. The cheaper it was, the more likely there would be a whole roll supplied. In slightly plusher establishments there seemed to be a strict 1/2 roll only rule, if you asked for more only a 1/2 role would be proffered. The exception to this rule was the Sunny Days Hostel in Arica, Chile. With three full rolls supplied!

Toilet bins - And then what do you do with the used paper ? You place it in a bin, fair enough. But why do so many places insist on those small round bins? The ones with a flip lid, usually already overflowing. You have to carefully maneuver the used paper into it and quickly remove your hand with out touching the already encrusted surface, before it snaps back and spits the paper out.

Coffee - Sometimes, like the toilet rolls, the supply of coffee at breakfast could be feast or famine. For example, in Cafayate, Argentina the following occurred :-

Day1 - The hotel owner (we called him 'Basil') poured us coffee, came back shortly afterwards and offered refills, but not needed as cups still full. Then never came back again once cups were empty.

Day2 - Catching on to him we drank the coffee quickly so that when he returned with his refill pot he was surprised when we said "yes please". As his pot was actually empty he disappeared to "make some more". We sat and waited for a long time as he peeped from the kitchen occasionally until eventually, about 30 minutes later, he returned with fresh coffee.

Day3 - He poured us 1/2 a cup each each and asked "enough?". We asked for full cups, which he reluctantly poured out, then disappeared to never be seen again.

Stats

Number of times Jean rode the bike = 2 (once to bump start it, and once to ride it into a hostal).

Countries visited = 3 (Chile, Argentina, Bolivia)

Countries refused entry to = 1 (Peru)

Number of breakdowns requiring mechanical intervention = 7

Number of punctures = 0 (my favorite one)

Number of times chain adjusted =0 (yes, 0 in 10,000kms)

Items of clothing set on fire = 2 (The waterproofs)

Number of times bike dropped = 0 ( I was on my best behaviour)

Number of new Spanish motorcycle words and terrns learned = many.

Posted by Bruce Porter at 02:35 AM GMT
 


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