December 07, 2006 GMT
Pass the Salt, Please

Ok, we had overdosed on ruins around Cusco and had drank all the beer in the world famous Norton Rats bar so it was time to move on to our next destination, Lake Titicaca. The ride from Cucso to Puno was another one of those 14,000 foot roads with more beautiful scenery. Our first view of Lake Titicaca was not as breathtaking as we expected but the views just got better as we rode the shore of the lake.



We arrived in Puno and both of us were disappointed in the city. We had heard it was a very nice town but we just didn’t see it that way. Many tourists in town to visit the floating islands of the Uros but I had heard they had become floating souvenir shops, so we passed on that and headed down the road, across the border into Bolivia.



The border crossings so far in South America had been “bribe/propina” free. Not here. The border police, who are there to protect us from corrupt border officials and scammers, were the ones who demanded money. I ask why and was told that it was so he didn’t have to spend the next three hours thoroughly searching all our bags. Sal gave him 10 soles (about $3). He said 10 for each bike. I yelled “start searching”. He said move on out! A very small victory at best. Only 10 more kilometres to Copacabana. I, of course, expected to see white sand beaches with long legged girls in string bikinis, but much to my disappointment it turns out, that is another place in another country! :=) We had to settle for a very nice little town with some of the best sunset views over Lake Titicaca that you could ever want.



We arrived in Copacabana just in time for a bike/auto/bus blessing by the priests from the main Cathedral. I had heard about this elaborate ceremony and was pleased to be able to participate.





The bike is now blessed and so far the blessing is working perfectly (well, we still have that rear sprocket to worry about) :=) From Copacabana to La Paz was another great 14,000 foot road with even more fantastic views.



There was also a very scary ferry ride across Lake Titicaca thrown in just for the excitement. I figured if they could take these big trucks, two little motorcycles wouldn’t be a problem.








It was touch and go there for awhile leaving the dock as the wind and waves kept pushing us back. We did make it across finally after holding the bikes up with a death grip as the waves tried their best to push them over. Finally into La Paz. Went to a motorcycle shop north of town that I had read about on the internet travel blogs. Nosiglia`s Cycles took us right in and the KLR got fresh oil, filter, knobbies, brake pads, and would have gotten a chain and sprocket but they didn’t have the sprocket. Bought the chain to carry till I find a sprocket.



The next morning we headed to Potosi on another perfect road with absolutely NO traffic.



Later we wished they had saved some of the money for the road between Potosi and Uyuni because it was 120 miles of this (but this was the only straight section as we rode up and down over 4 different ranges of hills).



It took us 4 hours to do the 120. We did the last 20 by the light of the moon which is NOT NEAR enough for that kind of riding. :=) A replacement sub frame bolt (that vibrated out) and a chewed up (rear knobbie) and lost license plate (the next border crossing may be exciting) were the only two casualties of the road. Into Uyuni and straight to the nearest bar to celebrate cheating death once again. The next day we rode out onto the Salar de Uyuni! This was why we came this way and it was worth the effort. The Salar is the highest (12,025 feet, thank you mister Garmin) and largest (dunno) salt lake in the world. It is as flat as the proverbial pancake and you can see for many, many miles (see that there is NOTHING but salt).





Obviously, a major salt processing industry thrives here. The salt forms these very intricate multi-sided figures with some kind of very soft crust.



We didn’t even feel them as we pretended we were the world’s fastest KLR. Driving 100 mph was no problem (for Sal, at this altitude my KLR was only good for about 85). :=) Btw, the next time you put more salt on those fries at McDonalds, there is a possibility that I may have put tire tracks on it. :=) We also decided to have some fun with the camera. The riding, scenery, and stark remoteness’ were making us feel giddy!





We are back in Uyuni now. Will rest a day and head south (on more gravel roads) into Argentina. We plan to be in Mendoza or Santiago in a few days where we will take another break and look for that sprocket (if I make it there on the one I have) :=) There are many more pictures starting here (I apologize for the silly ones but it was just too much fun)! RickMcD.smugmug.com/gallery/1920143/41/115350018
More later from down the road!

Posted by Rick McDermed at 04:19 PM GMT
December 12, 2006 GMT
Mendoza, Argentina and Bike Service

Riding on the Salar de Uyuni and taking funny pictures was a lot of fun but little did we know that there was a BIG price we were going to have to pay. That price was the road south from there to Tupiza, Bolivia (where the map said paved road started again). The gps said it was 97 straight line miles. When we finally got there we had covered 170 of the WORST gravel roads (the map called them ”seasonal tracks” and they were that at best) that I ever hope to ride. It took us 10 hours (you can do the math again) and at least on my part a LOT of praying. The roads were gravel, sand, rocks, mud, and small boulders.





When we weren’t clinging precariously from the side of a mountain, we were riding in the bottom of a river bed



(yes there was a rain cloud hanging over us but it at least didn’t let go). When we thought it couldn’t get any worse we were detoured thru a little settlement called San Vincente. This is the little mining town where Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid held up a mine payroll and then were later killed. I got the picture BUT IT WAS NOT WORTH IT. :=)



Made it to Tupiza completely exhausted only to find out that the map was wrong and we had 60 more miles of gravel to ride to the Argentina border. That road was not bad though (NOTHING would have seemed bad after yesterday) and we made it to the border (and thankfully paved roads) in only about 2 hours.



Into Argentina. We saw the sign that told us how much farther we had to go.



It is just over 5000 of those Kilo things (I think that is about a ton and half) :=) Argentina presented an entirely new and pleasing perspective. First, PAVED roads, nice scenery, light traffic, and higher speeds. I think the guys that design and build roads in Argentina are motorcycle riders. The road south from Salta to Cafayete HAS to be one of the PERFECT motorcycle roads.



Out of the mountains following a canyon with a rushing river in the bottom, no traffic, perfect curves, and perfect temperature. Ironic, huh, the WORST day of riding separated by only one day from the BEST day of riding. On south toward Mendoza, Argentina. For my friends in Southern California, it is very much like riding thru the Santa Ynez Valley only 1000 miles. Roads lined with nice fences and trees separating grape vines as far as the eye could see.



Very nice “fincas” with long driveways, lots of horses and horseman and wine tasting places every mile. If you like beef and wine (and I DO), this is the place for you!

I am having the bike serviced here (new chain, sprockets, and rear brake pads) and tomorrow (13th) we will start the big push for Ushuaia (after all we still have ton and a half to go). :=) More pictures starting here!

RickMcD.smugmug.com/gallery/1920143/31/116407437

More from down the road!

Posted by Rick McDermed at 03:17 PM GMT
December 21, 2006 GMT
Ushuaia, 1:30 PM Dec. 20th!!

We still had a LONG way south to go so it was time to leave Mendoza. We decided to set a course southeast toward the Atlantic side of Argentina. Sal and I both had spent a lot of time on the Pacific ocean in California and we wanted to see what the Atlantic looked like



(btw, it is very hard to tell them apart) :=) Ah, the Patagonia and the Pampas. It reminded me of a song about the gauchos riding the pintos along the Pampas trails. What the song DIDN’T tell you was that the gauchos were probably TIED to their saddles because if they weren’t they would have been BLOWN out of their saddles! :=) The WIND, it NEVER stops. Always gusting, swirling, blowing me and the bike first toward the gravel shoulder then reversing and blowing me into the oncoming lane. Somehow we survived though! Made it to Las Grutas,



a very nice town on the beach,




with some great sunsets!

Then to Camarones, 45 miles off the main Route 3 but on the beach. While there, we took a little side trip down a fairly good gravel road to see a Penguin colony. There were thousands of adults and almost as many babies.



Very friendly and unafraid of the crazy motorcyclists.




Can you tell which one is the indigenous one?

From Camarones on south down Route 3 for a couple of days. About 60 miles north of San Julian (where we were going to stop for the night and about 3:00 PM., the real excitement started when the chain departed. Actually it didn’t depart, it just parted (brand new in Mendoza but with a clip link vice riveted) and wrapped itself around the rear sprocket and swing arm. Things came to a SCREECHING halt as the back tire locked up while I was going about 60 mph.




That`s my skid mark from back up the hill coming down this way (the one on the right was aready there)! VERY exciting!!!!
Much to my surprise (and great relief), I was able to keep it from going down and rode it out to a stop. It was in the middle of the lane and unable to roll. Sal had already disappeared down the road. I flagged down the first car that came along and they helped me slide/drag it to the side of the road. They left and I sat down and cried like a little girl until Sal came back (couldn’t let him see me do that). :=) Two Australian couples came along on BMW´s and with their assistance we removed the back tire and untangled the chain. It was in several pieces so I left it on the side of the road (damn chain).



Sal towed me to a gas station a couple of miles down the road and there I was told that there were NO motorcycle repair shops in San Julian, I needed to go to Rio Gallegos (300 miles). I ask Sal to ask every truck driver headed south if we could get a lift for the motorcycle. The very first vehicle that stopped was a fellow and his girlfriend in a Ford F150 pickup that lived in – Ta Dah – Rio Gallegos. He said “sure load it up”.



They drove the bike and me (in air conditioned comfort), 300 miles to Rio Gallegos. He owned 4 bakeries in town and knew everyone so he called the motorcycle shop and told them NOT to close till we got there. Rolled in about 8:30 and they were waiting on the bike. They asked if I wanted it that night (they had the sprockets, chain and new tire waiting). Told them the next day at noon would do. It was ready at 12:30 and Sal and I made the final push to Ushuaia.



Crossed into Chile for few miles then back into Argentina (yup had to do the same border crossing procedures even though we would be in Chile only a couple of hours (we have to do it all again on the way back also). There ws another ferry ride involved but this time they knew what they were doing and it was big boat!



The last 100 miles to Ushuaia has to be some of the prettiest scenery you could ask for.





It looked very much like Alaska (trees, very low timber line, and snow covered mountains) only COLDER! :=)

Got to Ushuaia at 1:30 PM on Dec 20th.





The “braggin rights” were mine!! Just under 20,000 miles from home to Prudhoe Bay and then south to here. Haven’t figured out the next step yet, but I think it involves riding up to Buenos Aires or Santiago and flying the bike back to California. :=) I am sure going to miss not being with Julia on Christmas but she understands (at least she tells me she does) I KNOW it will cost me something (that Fiji/Tahiti cruise) :=) I’ll update again when I get back home. More pictures starting here. RickMcD.smugmug.com/gallery/1920143/34/118108836
Rick

Posted by Rick McDermed at 03:02 PM GMT
 


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