January 05, 2006 GMT
Careterra Austral (1) New Year's Eve

Finally I left Argentina (probably for the last time during this journey) and entered Chile. After all the Patagonian flatlands I was really happy to enter the south chilenan landscape of huge forests, mountains and lakes. The weather was changing (worsening) and thick clouds were hanging over the immense and beautifully situated tourquoise-coloured Lago General Carreras, which gave it a particularly impressive aspect.

After being rather spoilt by the perfect asphalt road during the last two days and for maybe 1400 km, the chilenean road along the lake was rather shocking: Very rough gravel, partly not allowing more than 20 kph. But some 50 km after the border it got better and I could risk to catch a glimpse of the marvellous landscape without stopping or falling into the lake.

On my way I met a BMW Enduro training group: 7 men in their 50ies+, without time but with loads of money, riding on gravel roads on their new big BMW enduros from Bariloche to Ushuaia in approx 2 weeks. They carried no luggage but had a support vehicle behind (not a BMW X model !), a trainer, brand new equipment and probably loads of fun. They did in one day what I did in three... well I really took my time to enjoy and take loads of photos - I assume they could not. But maybe they had digital cams fixed to the bikes and to the escort car. ;-) The trainer, wearing a red BMW overall, was the youngest of all - and recommended a motorcycle repair shop on the way, where I could get my front suspension fixed.

On 31st, new year's eve, a german couple, Tanja and Martin, on Honda African Queens ;-) overtook me, we stopped and had a chat. They turned out to be on the road for 21 months, having crossed Canada, Alaska, California and several national parks in the US, Mexico, Central America, great parts of South America and now approaching the end of their impressive journey in Buenos Aires. They seemed to be really tough (especially Katja) and much better gravel road drivers than me. They slept most of the time in tents and Tanja, despite being significantly smaller than me, drove a bike at least 50 kg heavier than mine, significantly higher than mine and heavily packed. She had impressed quite some people on the road with her driving skills but however was dreaming of a less heavy bike.

We arranged to meet and spend the night in the next village, Cerro Castillos. Having arrived there, we had a very well improvised sandwich and some coffee in the village's only and recently opened internet café. The café was actually the owner's family's tiny private house and we had the sandwich in the living room and used their only bathroom. Before we left to pitch our tents on the nearby campground, they invited us for their new year's eve celebration with a Cordero (lamb) roasted the Patagonian way on an open fire. We started at around 9, brought some beer and wine and had a really nice evening with some really great people. Nivaldo - the host and father of the owner of the internet café - and Gerardo - a local who works in Arica, some 3800 km from here - had just returned from a 2-day rescue horse trip in the mountains. They had rescued a young israeli hiker who injured her knee and foot when crossing a glacier. Gerardo was not used to horse riding and his entire body hurt. But he was happy. They don't take any money for this service, just do it out of pure idealism.

Posted by Winne Lichtblau at January 05, 2006 11:23 PM GMT

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