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Photo by Mark Newton, Mexican camping

I haven't been everywhere...
but it's on my list!


Photo by Mark Newton,
Camping in the Mexican desert



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  #31  
Old 4 Apr 2018
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Join Date: Nov 2010
Location: france
Posts: 36
Chile: “Zanahoria”

A few kilometres out of the town of Chos Malal there is a monumental statue celebrating the halfway mark of route 40. We had made it halfway, but weather-wise had missed the chance to continue further South, where the cold of the Antarctic winter was already making its presence known. The crisp steel cut map of the Americas is upside down, markedly pointing out that South America is not Under any other country. The towering flag pole is also purposely curved possibly symbolising both the curve of the earth and the forces of the powerful winds that blow across the Southern part of Argentina. We turn West at Las Lajas, having failed again to withdraw any cash from the ATM. Our bank card is only recognised by itself in the cities where the international banks have ATMs. The local and national banks/ATMs flash up ‘invalid’ and cash withdrawals have been difficult in Argentina, however paying by card is acceptable at most supermarkets, fuelstops and restaurants. Our friends had kindly swopped some Arg pesos for Chilean pesos and we had a coin for the tunnel soon after the border crossing. As they had gone on holiday, we were invited to empty the fridge of consumables that wouldn’t last. A bag full of red cabbage, cucumbers, ham, apples, carrots and a gem squash were bungied onto the panniers, ready for a delicious vegetable supper stirfry. We climb from an altitude of 446m to 1900, passing through twisted upheaved boulders and a forest of ‘monkey-puzzle’ trees, watch Cranes and Herons mingling in a mountain top pool before reaching the barriers, where we are handed a scrappy piece of paper on which the guard has noted our time of arrival, plus make, model and registration number. We park, dismount, gather the all-important folder of papers and make our way to ‘Entrada’.
Check, Check, Stamp, Stamp: Immigration Done.
Next desk: Check, Check, Stamp, Stamp: Customs Done.
B wandered off to find a chair. His ribs are taking strain. In my best Spanish I explain why he needs a chair: ‘Costella Fractura’, I say and continue filling out two forms that have been thrust into my hand, one for each us but I fill out both, because B cannot really stand at the counter anymore. ‘Anything to Declare? No, No, No I tick all the No boxes.
And then there is the Bike Inspection.
“Espagnole??”says the nice man.
“No, Chiquito. Inglis” I say.
He says “Frutta?”
And then I get carried away, proudly showing off the extent of my Espagnole vocab: ”bebida, comedor, por favour, gracias, carne”. I proudly rattle off a string of words and turn to the seated B asking “what’s that funny word for Carrot? Zed something?”
Half listening he replies “ we’ve got carrots in that bag, actually we’ve got a lot of fruit and vege in that bag.”
Then it registers. He’s not testing my Spanish speaking capabilities, he’s asking me if we are carrying any fruit or vege. STRICTLY not allowed to cross from Arg into Chile. I grab the bag, hand it to him with many apologies “Sorry, Sorry, Non Comprehendo”. Out comes the lovely red cabbage and all our potential dinner, taken away somewhere. And then I get given the form back. I cross out the Nothing to Declare and tick the Yes, Fruit and Veg to declare. This form is now invalid.
Back to the office, new clean form: Name, Passport, Date of Birth, ANYTHING TO DECLARE? Yes, I TICK , ALTHOUGH THEORETICALLY SPEAKING NOW THAT THEY HAVE TAKEN IT AWAY I DON’T REALLY HAVE ANYTHING TO DECLARE. Better not push my luck!
I hand over the form, big apologetic smiles, we get the empty bag back and with helmets on, wave goodbye. The man at the Chile gate wants the scrap of paper we received an hour ago, which I stuffed somewhere? But where? Too many pockets, bags and wallets have been opened and closed, but at last it’s found and we are on our way.
“ Zanahoria” B shouts
“What?”
Zanahoria, That’s Carrots”
“Oh, Carrots” I say, “ Zanahoria, I remember that now”.
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  #32  
Old 4 Apr 2018
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Join Date: Nov 2010
Location: france
Posts: 36
Chile: “Hey, Youze look At Me”

The scenery change is instant , as if in a stage set change in a grand theatre, from brown desert to green hills, from arid nothingness to trees, bushes and lushiousness. We wind our way back down to 400 metres altitude, watch snowy peaks in the distance and then tunnel through them, handing our lucky coin to the lady in the booth, aiming for a Lonquimay, the first biggish town 100 kms from the border. We also need a supermarket because the Bike Inspection man at the border crossing took all our lovely fresh fruit and veg away. We had been told by another man at the Border crossing, in perfect English, “that there is no need for campsites in Chile as All camping is Free! You can camp anywhere,” he said, repeating “All Free”. We find the Tourist Information Office in the high street and ask about camping. Puzzled headshaking and many maps and phone calls later they find one 15kms away back towards Argentina. It’s been a long day, B’s first post-crash Riding Day and we’ve done 353kms. That’s fine. We shop, we go, we book in, and relax. It’s a fabulous site, next to a clear rushing river with fishies jumping and birds and ducks. Idyllic, in fact. Just what we need for 6000 pesos, which is really only £8!
There’s a couple lying on a picnic blanket on the river bank near us, clearly in love, by the way they were intertwined and two cars parked on the hill with a few other people gathered around a BBQ spit arrangement. We politely nodded as we set about the business of selecting a site, disgorging everything from the bike into a big pile on the grass before sorting it into tent, shopping, bedding etc and making our little patch for the night.
A short heavy set bloke wanders over “Animal” he says.
“Hola” we say.
A short dumpy lady wanders over “Animal” she says.
“Hola” we say.
They point to their mouths saying something like “Hate? Eight? Ate?”
Ahh, we deduce “Eat”
“ Yes, we eat animals”, we say.
And so we are invited to join this boisterous family of 4 generations of Chileans to a Sheep-on-the -Spit BBQ. We were given a welcoming promotional baseball cap and neck scarf each. The table was decked with yummy potato salad and rice salad and leafy salad. The wine and was never-ending. And the entertainment was a laugh a minute. The music from the car was turned up, Mama stuck a flower in her hair and the dancing began. Wielding a carving knife in her hand, between dance steps she dished up platefuls of tender meat. Who needs fruit and veg, anyway, Mr Bike Inspector?
Grandpa sat and watched silently. Brother knelt on the ground and raised his arms skywards exalting with index fingers pointing up “Dias, Dias”, then drinking a bit more and doing it again. Father just sat silently. Son and wife continued groping, eating and drinking. And then he found his English tongue “Hey, Youze Look at Me”, he called louder and louder as the evening went on. It got dark very quickly, the remaining sheep was divvied out in a container to us, and they all piled into the cars.
“Where are you going?” we called.
“Santiago, 3 horas” they replied and with screaming, shouting and waving out of the windows, were gone. We heard calls of “Hey, Youze Look at me” far into the night as they disappeared down the road.
The silence was deafening.
We crept into our tent and realised the temperature away from the fire was near freezing. Out came all the thermals, the jackets, the bike gear. Everything we could pile on top of ourselves to keep warm was used. We shivered our way through the first couple of hours then the inner cocoon itself plus the insulating tarpaulin took over and saw us through the rest of the night.
The grassy ground was not quite soft enough and B took some painkillers to help those ribs stop throbbing. I was on chamberpot duty with the disposable urinal from the hospital and the five camp dogs lay in a circle around the tent, keeping bears, lions and tigers away. Well we didn’t see any so they did a good job. Their reward was some left over gristle from the BBQ at the sunniest prettiest first Chilean breakfast where like idiotic children we started each sentence with “Hey, Youze Look at Me” before laughing all over again.
We discovered that Santiago was over 720kms away, so who knows where that mad family went and what time they got to where they were going.
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  #33  
Old 4 Apr 2018
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Join Date: Nov 2010
Location: france
Posts: 36
Chile: An Easy Day

It’s a glorious Sunny Lazy day. We are camped next to a fast running stream with ducks and fish also enjoying the freshness. Taking it really slowly, we repack the bike and add more excess baggage to the already heavy bag on the luggage rack at the bottom. We want to get as much stuff as low down as possible ready to take back to France. We decide that today we will have an Easy Day. A short 140kms ride to Victoria, buy a Chile Sim card, find an ATM, replace the Phone battery which is playing up, and have an Easy Day.
Its 2pm by the time we leave, well rested and relaxed. Victoria is laid out fairly logically with a central plaza surrounded by a grid pattern of streets so locating the tourist info booth is easy but the girls behind the desk have no info about camping. Why camp? We have hostels, hotels, motels, but you can “camp for free at the rivers.” None of the 7 phone shops sell our particular battery, try Amazon or Ebay they suggest, but the ATM spits out some money and we get a Chile Sim, which is not much use without a phone.
On our ride from Lonquimay to Victoria we passed numerous resorts with impressive gates and beautiful wooden chalets (cabanas) displaying billboards for Thermal Spa Weekends and treatment, nestled in pine forest plantations. Very posh, very luxurious with nice lawns perfect for our tent! We also noticed plumes of creamy smoke rising up and drifting northwards. Mmmm, fire somewhere. And then there were more and more. We counted at least 10 more smoky clouds polluting the blue sky until the air became one big hazy yellow. It’s now 4pm and we head out of town towards the River, daring ourselves to do a bit of free/wild camping as the other option just didn’t want to happen in Chile. Without a phone/search engine, and a Navigator and tourist bureau that are campsite unfriendly, we are struggling. The smoke is denser near the river and with all the pine forests around we feel uneasy so we make a quick decision to hit the highway and ride as far away from Victoria and the fires as possible. National Route 5 is the way to go. It’s a double carriageway, fenced in on the sides and down the middle. We are being funnelled through 100kms of pine forests, the air behind us getting smokier with each passing minute and evidence of previous fires scarring the landscape, then 50kms of fruit plantations, then another 50 of vineyards. We fill up in Los Angeles (Chile) and check on the Navigator for a campsite, and it shows one at Saltos Del Laja, another 30kms away. Just as the sun is setting we find the turn off: a gravel road! No way, Jose! I am not going on that. I dismount and start walking, and B rides off into the setting sun. As the rear light disappears around a corner so does the sun. Oh well, better start walking. As B does not return, I assume there is a campsite at the end of the road, or he’s come a cropper. Fortunately it’s the latter and I find him, having unloaded the bike, and almost ready to return and pick me up. With head torch and starlight we park and pitch. It’s a warm evening and although the Easy Day developed into a 300kms ride, we are safe and secure.
It’s Day 24 since the crash and B is riding OK but finding it difficult to settle comfortably at night. Perhaps tomorrow will be an Easy Day. We try another tactic and punch Santiago (500kms away) into the GPS and ‘campsite along route’ option. Nothing. Oh Well, lets go Northwards and ‘worry about it later’.
National Route 5 is fast and fenced and tolled. We try a few turn offs, but the tarmac turns to gravel, so we u-turn and get back on the highway. It’s a long continuous straight 100 kms of agriculture, orchards and vines, then 100kms of pastures, wheat and corn, then 100kms of forests; a dark green never-ending tunnel with hazy skies. At a mini-city service station I look for a camping map. Nope. Only an expensive comprehensive book, of which we need the last 5 pages. No deal. We are going nowhere fast with this camping milarkey and by 5pm, 400kms later, we stop and assess the situation. Rancagua seems like a big town, big enough for a proper tourist info anyway. Leaving the bike is not an option so B pulls up on the pavement on the town square while I walk and search, finding two lovely policeman who are super-helpful. They have phones and google and quickly find a campsite for us 15kms out of town, Northwards. Yippee. With that sorted we can enjoy this marvellous town. Perhaps it is time to buy a new phone. We obviously cannot buy a battery through Amazon/Ebay and we obviously cannot be without a phone. Most city centres have a shopping mall and Rancagua is no exception. It’s large, modern and has everything we want, including a Samsung store. This time it’s my turn to guard the bike, watch the shoppers pass by, get photographed and explain ‘where we are from’ and where we are going’. It takes a long time to buy a phone in a foreign country with a British passport, but at last it’s done and of course, we are confident about camping tonight because the policeman gave us a name and directions. Except we just could not find the place. The Navigator showed a checkered destination flag, but it was at a point under the highway. We’d drawn a blank. Up and down the backroad from Rancagua to San Francisco (Chile). At sunset the lights of a Motel blinked Welcome. We are tired. We have had enough.
There are two big metal sliding gates, Entrada/Salida. We pull up in front of Entrada and it magically opens up then shuts itself behind us. There are rows of curtained parking cubicles with red/green light alongside. We find an open cubicle, green light on. We can stay here for 4 hours or12 hours or 24hours. A lady greets us at the door of the room, behind the huge PVC curtain, which I have now closed. The green light turns to red. The room is basic, the bathroom is clean, the décor is fluffy pink and charge is £40!! The concept is simple and there is a long corridor running central to all the rooms. Along this corridor, there are ‘kitchen hatch’ openings into each room with a two-way hook-and-eye system. We asked for a and biscuits, having not had supper. There was a knock on the inside of the hatch, we undid our latch and the little cubbyhole door opened and a hand appeared with said and biscuits. Latch duly clipped again, we were on our own. How weird. Next morning we are up and off, past other rows of shut curtains/red lights: Occupied. Open curtains/green light: Unoccupied. The Salida gate opens and shuts and we carry on the last 100kms to Santiago. There has go to be a campsite here, surely. Except we change our minds and go back to Rancagua to ask the Samsung people to set up the new phone properly as we have no data/signal. Also we think it’s a good place to replace the Chain which has started to clunk and is a bit pushme-pullme.
On the way back we spot the gravel track down which the campsite is, no thank you. Weird Motel was just right. Let’s have an Easy Day today. It’s a Business Day first though. First, to Samsung for the Phone, then we can google a Bike Shop, then a Tourist Info for Camping. We find secure parking underground and now can wander around together. What a lovely town and lovely people. The phone gets sorted, we have data! The Tourist staff delight us with t-shirts and a picnic satchel, but no camping information. The man at the bike shop sells us a chain and arranges for the repair man to fetch and follow to his workshop. This is Easy. We google a campsite ‘near you’ down National Route 5, and land up at an almost unattended field by a river. Just a tethered Horse, who wanders over to munch on our panniers as a friendly greeting. Whew! We found our Easy Place, 4 days and more than 100kms since leaving Chos Malal. B really needs to rest now.
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  #34  
Old 5 Apr 2018
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Join Date: Nov 2010
Location: france
Posts: 36
Chile: If I Were a Horse

Chile: If I was a Horse
This was what we had been searching for. A chance to rest B’s ribs and have a good night’s sleep. We were welcomed at Chita Que Lindo by a grey horse who fancied a munch on the panniers. B led him gently away on his rope and looped it around a tree beyond chomping distance. We delayed the unpack and pitch and, seeing another couple bathing in the pebbled lake, were encouraged to slip into our cozzies and do the same. We stopped at ankle depth: the water was decidedly too chilly for us. And then a big bloke on a small Honda putt-putted alongside our bike. With a huge smile he introduced himself as the owner, Alfredo. A convivial afternoon in the sun chatting with this charming man added to the fabulous ambiance: dappled light, dappled horse and dappled toes.
Alfred is a third generation Chilean descendant from grandparents fleeing WW2 and Czechoslovakia (as it was then) where his grandfather bought this piece of land. The land was subsequently split in two by the RN5 and the land on the other side of the highway was sold and now houses a very grand Hotel and Casino complex. It is such a contrast to where we are camping, back to nature with wooden picnic tables and benches, basic ablutions and a lake. Supper was a delicious bowl of Trucker’s Soup at the Trucker’s Stop on the highway next door to the entrance to ChitaQuelindo. “Any bikers out there? This is the place for you”. We were guarded by a few campdogs and had a really restful sleep. (The ribs are getting better). In fact we were so rested that after the tent was packed away and the bike loaded up, we sat awhile in the sun sipping our tea and gave upon the chit-chat for a while, just absorbing the peace and quiet and natural beauty. That is until I asked B “where did we sleep last night?” Looking slightly astonished he answered” Right there”! In my most senior moment ever I turned to look at the blank space where the tent had been and burst out laughing. I had been so far away from the Motorcycle Adventure Travel Zone it was a bit of a reality check. The charming Alfredo presented us with a memento flaglet when we waved farewell in the morning.
Our destination today was a Rodeo show the other side of Santiago in Batuco. We like the challenge of riding through big cities. We’ve ridden through most of the capital cities of Europe and Asia, so why not Santiago. We have found most cities to be bike friendly, providing parking above or underground, or alongside a pavement bistro/café. NOT SO in Santiago! No motorbike allowed, no motorbike allowed. We saw the signs everywhere. We started down an underground ramp, too late to stop, carried on, with yellow jacketed Marshalls speaking into their walkie-talkie shoulders, No! No! and after a few loops, pooped out on the Exit ramp. Nowhere to park. Nowhere to even stop. We even asked a policemen when we were at a red traffic light, No! No! No motorbikes!
“%^&*” we exclaimed to each other and left Santiago as fast as we could.
Batuco is an almost shanty town north of Santiago, but the sign to the Rodeo are big and bold and Professional. It’s the run-up to the National Championship. Alfredo had warned us that the Traditional Chilean Rodeo is not very nice. The idea is that the ‘driving’ of cattle is now a sport of regional pride and pain. Two horses bump a cow vigorously, squashed between their chests and front hooves, driving it into a padded cushion until it falls over. The horse gets just as much punishment with spurs and sticks being jabbed into its ribs by the riders. The paraphernalia that accompanies this sport must cost a packet and the heat produced by sweating horses, riders and anxious cow in the afternoon sun, encouraged us to leave after a few rounds. We went, we saw and the poor cow got conquered.
If I were a horse, I know which horse I would like to be: the dappled one munching sweet grass in the dappled light by the pebble lake.
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  #35  
Old 6 Apr 2018
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Join Date: Nov 2010
Location: france
Posts: 36
Chile: A Most Unholy Exaltation

[LEFT]Fortified by a Cactus at the Rodeo, we found a back road that circumnavigated Santiago and pointed us in the direction of the coast and the Pacific Ocean. It was already late, having waved farewell to lovely Alfredo and his horse, been unwelcome in Santiago, watched a Rodeo and clocked up 180kms, so when we rounded a sharp curve and steep hill down into the little town of Curacavi, we decided to call it a day. We bought basic supper/breakfast provisions at a supermarket and googled a campsite. How Lucky, one right here. And this is where the difference between ‘camping’ and ‘camping’ became apparent. One means ‘picnic’ and one means ‘pitch a tent for the night’. The one we found meant ‘picnic’. No amount of smiling and arm waving could persuade them to have us pitch our tent on their lawns. “Why do you want a campsite? All camping is free at the rivers”, said the nice Gary. Before we throttled him, he mentioned that they have very nice comfortable cabanas at a reasonable price of 15 euros. The bike was parked safe and secure right outside the front door to our cabin under a vine bearing the tiniest sweetest yellowgrapes. Perfect for breakfast.
We follow route 68 to the coast and experience the first of many roller-coaster rides that go round and round and down, down then up, up at all angles and speeds mostlyaccompanied by WIND. Wind that blows you forwards, backwards and even sideways. A northern wind is a tailwind, but turning to the left or right around the curves is another story. It’s head-on or a sideways whack. The ride into Valparesi is pretty damn terrifying, so when we got to Papadu the icecream, empanadas and a photoshoot of Pelicans restored our equilibrium. Fortunately the roads are wide enough to accommodate the buses and trucks that are ever present. The navigator showed a campsite (with a tent sign) at Les Molles, which would bring our day’s ride up to 238kms. Just about right. A few turns over Passovers and ramps found us at the entrance to the campsite: down a very steep gravel road, which got steeper as it went on towards the reception area. For some reason I have developed a bit of an aversion to gravel and steepness and with a pounding heart started the descent on the back of the bike. Halfway down, my fears overcame my bravery and I screamed “stop, stop, I have to get off”. Silly me. B can’t stop a bike halfway down a slope!! We pulled up outside reception, on the level, and I leapt off the bike. Shaking. Control yourself, Girl! After a few minutes of deep breathing and with a smile on my face I approached the lady at the desk. “Buenos, Camping, por favour” and made the shape of a tent and pointed to the motorbike. The reply was curt and to the point “ No”.
I stood there, shocked and speechless. Not exactly the reply I had expected. Doing a quick about turn I stepped out of her office, stood in the parking sandpit, raised my arms skywards and in a most unholy exaltation shouted very loudly “I HATE $%^&* CHILE, NO PARKING, NO CAMPING, NO MOTORCYCLES, I WANT TO GET OUT OF HERE”. Tantrum over, B and I set about searching on Google for a ‘campsite near you’: 30kms away! Perhaps!
Just as we resigned ourselves to another hour’s ride and search, the receptionist appeared with a phone in her hand, holding it out to me. “Hello”, I said and a male voice replied”Hello, we have found a site for you. It is at the end where we usually park the campercars. Will that be alright?”
“Yes, thank you”. I gasped, before he changed his mind. And so B rode about a kilometre down the sandy track passing tents, landcruisers, geodesic domes and I walked. I just want to feel the ground beneath my feet. We had a beautiful site, with a clear view of the pounding Pacific, albeit a bit windswept. Nevermind, we lashed our guy ropes to the fence and picnic table and watched the sunset. Peace was restored in the Niemann Camp.
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  #36  
Old 6 Apr 2018
Contributing Member
HUBB regular
 
Join Date: Nov 2010
Location: france
Posts: 36
Chile: A Most Unholy Exaltation

Fortified by a Cactus at the Rodeo, we found a back road that circumnavigated Santiago and pointed us in the direction of the coast and the Pacific Ocean. It was already late, having waved farewell to lovely Alfredo and his horse, been unwelcome in Santiago, watched a Rodeo and clocked up 180kms, so when we rounded a sharp curve and steep hill down into the little town of Curacavi, we decided to call it a day. We bought basic supper/breakfast provisions at a supermarket and googled a campsite. How Lucky, one right here. And this is where the difference between ‘camping’ and ‘camping’ became apparent. One means ‘picnic’ and one means ‘pitch a tent for the night’. The one we found meant ‘picnic’. No amount of smiling and arm waving could persuade them to have us pitch our tent on their lawns. “Why do you want a campsite? All camping is free at the rivers”, said the nice Gary. Before we throttled him, he mentioned that they have very nice comfortable cabanas at a reasonable price of 15 euros. The bike was parked safe and secure right outside the front door to our cabin under a vine bearing the tiniest sweetest yellowgrapes. Perfect for breakfast.
We follow route 68 to the coast and experience the first of many roller-coaster rides that go round and round and down, down then up, up at all angles and speeds mostlyaccompanied by WIND. Wind that blows you forwards, backwards and even sideways. A northern wind is a tailwind, but turning to the left or right around the curves is another story. It’s head-on or a sideways whack. The ride into Valparesi is pretty damn terrifying, so when we got to Papadu the icecream, empanadas and a photoshoot of Pelicans restored our equilibrium. Fortunately the roads are wide enough to accommodate the buses and trucks that are ever present. The navigator showed a campsite (with a tent sign) at Les Molles, which would bring our day’s ride up to 238kms. Just about right. A few turns over Passovers and ramps found us at the entrance to the campsite: down a very steep gravel road, which got steeper as it went on towards the reception area. For some reason I have developed a bit of an aversion to gravel and steepness and with a pounding heart started the descent on the back of the bike. Halfway down, my fears overcame my bravery and I screamed “stop, stop, I have to get off”. Silly me. B can’t stop a bike halfway down a slope!! We pulled up outside reception, on the level, and I leapt off the bike. Shaking. Control yourself, Girl! After a few minutes of deep breathing and with a smile on my face I approached the lady at the desk. “Buenos, Camping, por favour” and made the shape of a tent and pointed to the motorbike. The reply was curt and to the point “ No”.
I stood there, shocked and speechless. Not exactly the reply I had expected. Doing a quick about turn I stepped out of her office, stood in the parking sandpit, raised my arms skywards and in a most unholy exaltation shouted very loudly “I HATE $%^&* CHILE, NO PARKING, NO CAMPING, NO MOTORCYCLES, I WANT TO GET OUT OF HERE”. Tantrum over, B and I set about searching on Google for a ‘campsite near you’: 30kms away! Perhaps!
Just as we resigned ourselves to another hour’s ride and search, the receptionist appeared with a phone in her hand, holding it out to me. “Hello”, I said and a male voice replied”Hello, we have found a site for you. It is at the end where we usually park the campercars. Will that be alright?”
“Yes, thank you”. I gasped, before he changed his mind. And so B rode about a kilometre down the sandy track passing tents, landcruisers, geodesic domes and I walked. I just want to feel the ground beneath my feet. We had a beautiful site, with a clear view of the pounding Pacific, albeit a bit windswept. Nevermind, we lashed our guy ropes to the fence and picnic table and watched the sunset. Peace was restored in the Niemann Camp.
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  #37  
Old 3 May 2018
Contributing Member
HUBB regular
 
Join Date: Nov 2010
Location: france
Posts: 36
Border Crossing : Chile / Peru

Leaving behind the fishy smells of downtown Arica, we book out of the much more pleasant smelling Hotel Avenida. Knowing that the money will be different again we hand all our Chilean Pesos to the receptionist in part payment and settle the rest by credit card. Well, that's one way to keep the wallet less confused. We start the early morning 10kms ride to the Chile/Peru border and arrive in good time, and nice and relaxed. We've heard that it takes a long time, so were not particularly worried about the long, long queues that line the road. I amble ahead of the line to see what is happening and the kind security man let us through ahead of the cars, out of the already hot sun. We park up, find all the paperwork, cover the bike and secure it with disk lock. There are lots of people wandering around and the security man advised us to watch our belongings. I cannot exactly remember the order of events, but the Customs Booth sent us to the queue at the Immigration booth, who sent us to another room where we presented the bike papers. A charming man whose only English consisted of the word 'Wonderful', stamped and copied and declared the bike 'Wonderful'. We then joined the Immigration queue again and whilst waiting I chatted to the lady in front of me. Our turn came and we presented all our papers, except for the one we should have filled in before getting to the desk. That was the Transport one that a man was 'selling' at the entrance for 1000 pesos. It was a compulsory form and we didn't have 1000 pesos. We had paid the hotel bill with all our money. And there is no ATM at the border post. Stalemate. We can't buy the form and we can't get any money and we can't get through the crossing without the form. I spot the friendly lady from the queue just coming out of the Transaction booth and dash over the demarcation line. Please can you help, I beg, explaining about the form/lack of money. "It's a gift" she says as she hands over 1000 pesos (50p)! I thank her profusely, and as she drives off in her car, we continue with the immigration and customs performance. Note to self, next time keep a bit of local currency!! We've already been through 5 paperwork process/booths and are very glad to get back to the bike, glug some warmish water and set off. Only to be stopped a few metres down the road at the barrier. This time we had to unpack the whole bike and get every bag scanned, which involves a lot of bungee untieing, mesh unhooking and velcro unsticking. Grrrrr. Especially as B still finds it sore to lift, push, carry, etc. and this feels like a one woman weight-training program. We haul the bags into the scan room and back out to the bike and reverse the process of loading everything on again. We had arrived at 10 am, it was now 12h30, or so we thought. The nearest town on the Peru side is Tacna, and the 53kms ride there was pleasant enough, just desert and more desert. It was easy to find the main street and whilst B rested on a parkbench in the shade, I wandered around looking for a Telephone shop to buy a Peru Sim Card, and a shop to get a map of Peru. No maps for sale, but a nice lady in a tour shop gave me a little tourist brochure with a map on. That'll do. We are ready to leave town and ride to Moquequa, a mere 150kms away. It's now 3pm, we should be there by 5pm. Except that it's NOT 3pm, it's already 5pm. The clocks changed by 2 hours when we crossed the border. What a weird feeling to have lost so much time by stepping over an invisible line. We decide to give up and find a place to stay. There's a happy Red Umbrella beckoning us to stop for a coffee and a 'bookings.com' search. Luckily there are plenty and we choose one the other side of town, except that we can't get there. The town is blockaded off-limits to traffic. It's fiesta time. After many u-turns and round-abouts we are back at the Red Umbrella having a re-Search. This time we find a whole house just around the corner for a fabulous 14 euros. Done. Having lost 2 hours we had a very early night, the clock said 10pm, our bodies said 8pm. Looking at our little Tourist Map, we opted for inland Route away from the PanAmerican Highway along the coastline. We woke up well rested at 6am, (body clock 4am), departing leisurely at 10am (we thought) for a 150kms ride to Moquegua, fuel stop and an afternoon ride of 266kms to Puno. We calculated that the fuel stops were at convenient intervals and there was enough time to enjoy the day. What we didn't calculate and what the Tourist Map didn't show was the enormity and elevations of the mountains, coupled with the ferocious unpredictability of the weather. This time, the PLAN and REALITY misfired horribly. But that's another story.
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  #38  
Old 3 May 2018
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Join Date: Nov 2010
Location: france
Posts: 36
Peru: Up, Up and Almost Away

SUNDAY 18th MARCH
In beautiful sunshine, after a long good sleep, we leave The House aiming to complete the 159kms to Moquegua before lunch and filling up with fuel. The afternoon's ride of 266kms will empty the tank again, but be enough to get us to Puno, where we will stop for the night. Sounds reasonable? I mention to B over our lovely picnic lunch in the park, surrounded by palm trees and greenery, that my heart is notably racing, but put it down to a 'midday sugar slump' and gobble a few extra biscuits. We note on the Garmin that the elevation is 2000m above sea level, which is acceptable. Feeling better by refueling ourselves and the bike we then get lost finding our way out of town, round some diversions caused by a previously burst river and rockfalls.The Garmin didn't know about the disruption and got as confused as us with all the re-routing. It was time to follow our 'nose' so we ignored the GPS, went back into town and followed everybody else out of town. After all there really is only one road to Puno. This cost us valuable time and to this day we are not even sure if the time on the GPS had adjusted to Peru clock. With a full tank, we climbed and climbed up the twisty curvy hairpins,with stunning views both up and down.
We anxiously watched the elevation rise to 3000 metres, knowing what had happened in the North of Argentina (Land of a Million Colours). The arrival time indicated 7pm, which we calculated to be do-able, or perhaps we hadn't taken into account that perhaps the GPS time was incorrect and was more likely to be 9pm. We carried on, there was nowhere else to go, except back. The sun was still shining until 3500m when a dark mist enveloped the mountainside. The temperature dropped from 27degrees to 14degrees, then 9. The visibility reduced from way ahead to about 9 metres, which is about just enough not to go over the edge or get bumped from behind. B carefully picked his way around the corners searching fora stopping place.We desperately needed to get our warm inner liners and raingear on. There was absolutely nowhere to stop. The narrow road, dense mist, reduced visibility , on coming sporadic traffic and traffic behind us made it impossible. Elevation rose to 4533, then 4678. We daren't stop as we knew we would be short of breath. The recognised advice is get down to safe levels, so we just kept riding, assured that Puno would be lower. At 2degrees we found a little patch of grass by a lake and pulled off. It took ages to unfurl cold fingers, unzip the bags, shake out the suits and get warmer, all the while under laboured breathing and wobbling, shivering limbs.
The skies got darker and darker. Our watch showed 5pm, but it was nearer dusk. At 4570 m B saw a light on in a building up ahead. He stopped the bike, stumbled off, staggered in through the door and declared himself unable to carry on. I followed behind to find him shivering uncontrollably. Action mode kicked in and I stripped the bags off the bike, as well as the clothes of B, replacing wet with dry. The cafe that he had entered brought us boiling water for the flask and hotwaterbottle. I made some instant packet soup from our supplies and placed his soggy feet on the hotwaterbottle. The lady owner quietly set about re-arranging her chairs and tables to accommodate all our gear. We nearly filled her place with sleeping bags, thermals, wet jackets, helmets,trousers and gloves. B shivered and shivered for a long time. I was still in full rain gear, balaclava and helmet, keeping warm by rushing around. By nightfall, B had calmed down a bit, so before getting myself into dry clothes, I ventured out in the cold and mist to cover the bike. It was parked just off the road, so I turned the bike cover shiny side outwards, wrapped the hi-vis jacket over the handlebars and clicked the disc lock in place. This mundane task required a mammoth effort, being so short of breath and unsteady on my feet.
When I got back to the cafe, the lady handed me a key and beckoned for us to follow her to a 'hospedaje' next door. I left B sitting at the table whilst she helped me carry all the belongings across the puddled pathway, then we supported him as he dragged himself down the path into the roomand collapsed on the bed, covering him over with about 5 soft and superwarm alpaca blankets. With a huge sigh she then indicated that the bike was not in a safe place, so I undid all the covers and locks, roused B from his cosy slumber, helped him 'foot' the bike up the ramp and into the room. The bed and warm clothes were calling me very loudly now, so finally I took off my helmet and raingear, ready to settle in for a warm dry safe sleep.
Cuddling up to B, whose shivering had subsided, I heard him say "I can't feel my left thumb". "You're probably lying on it a bit funny," I mutter from beneath layers of soft warm alpacas. The next few sounds were a blurt of incoherent noises. That woke me up. "What's going on?" I barked.
Panic set in. I ordered B in a slightly hysterical tone. "Sit up, what's your name? Count backwards from 10. Stick your tongue out". It veered to his left.
Pouring the remaining hot water in the flask over a bunch of dried Coca leaves and shouting " Drink this", I fled out of the room across the path to the now shut cafe.
Only the stars lit the way, but I found the metal door and beat upon it with all my might, screaming " Doctora, Doctora" . The man owner of the cafe, still wearing his construction workers suit, bedecked with reflective stripes, unbolted the door, took one look at me and grabbing his torch, ran down the road. In the pitch black of the night, lit only by stars, he looked like some bizarre X-Factor contestant as he zig-zagged from door to door. I rushed back to B, sitting and sipping the coca tea, in between counting backwards from 10 a bit more coherent now. the response time beat all records and within 5 minutes, the door opened and 6 people filed in. A Doctor, a Nurse, a Pharmacist, a Psychologist
and two Onlookers. Where on earth had they come from??
Startled, surprised and utterly distraught I proceeded to explain his symptoms in my best spanish and sign language. After assessing B, confirming no allergies, HBP or diabetes he was given a shot in the bum, anti-nausea tablets and a supply for 3 days of mega Aspirin. Cost 2 euros.
Wonders will never cease and it was with another huge sigh that I cuddled up to B again as he tossed and turned and moaned all night. Our room had no heating, it was full of wet clothes and a bike, but somehow the alpaca blankets kept us warm.
So where are we actually? This was my mission to find out the next morning, after the longest coldest most distressing night ever.
We are in Titire, a rescue station at 4700m, 104 kms short of Puno. It is a centre where the construction workers live at the midpoint between Moquegua and Puna, where the Alpaca skins are collected and dried, where the ministry of Health has a service centre which covers a huge are, providing rescue missions to one and all. I wander over to the 'hospital' to collect some Paracetomol for my raging headache and spy out the facilities: a Trauma board, Obs and Gynae room, large radio and aerial station. There is No wi-fi here.
In between resting my limbs and catching my breath, I lay out the clothes in the cold sun, give B his medicine and snuggle under the blankets again. This goes on for 3 days. It's exhausting.
We have a food supply of 'smash' (dried potato flakes), tin of tuna and soup. B is tempted to try a little bit and i sample the soup that the cafe lady brings over. I find the Bach Rescue Remedy Drops in one of our bags and liberally dose the PGTips tea. I wander down the street tofind a group of ladies keeping warm on the tarmac and knitting with alpaca wool. I give in to temptation and treat myself to genuine handmade authentic hand crafted straight from the heights of Peruvian culture Gloves, in exchange for a few 'sol' and a photo.
We are surrounded by snowy-capped peaks which account for the cold and the perfect conditions for farming alpacas. I watch the locals set about their out their daily tasks, but need to rest every few minutes. B sleeps and sleeps. When we left the hospital in Chos Malal, we were given a disposable plastic peebottle. Once again it came in handy. For girls, it's not so easy, however our cooking pot transformed itself into a pee pot. The only loo facility was a 'long drop' amongst the rubble behind the building, protected by black plastic bags nailed to a wooden frame. I prefer the cooking pot.
TUESDAY NIGHT 20th MARCH
At sunset, I hear a roar of motorbikes and braving the snow, rain, mist and dark, pop my head out of our room to see about 6 bikers dismount and stumble in to the one other cafe in Titire. Curiosity got to me and the fact that here was human life on bikes, I wandered over. "Hellos" were exchanged and I thought this would be a good motivator for B to get up and strong. One of the blokes helped me to get B over to the social gathering, where we chatted, drank soup and watched them shiver and shake. They too had ridden from Tacna, been caught in appalling conditions, but were going to dry out, warm up and continue to the 104 kms in the cold and rain and dark to Puno. All from Argentina, we had a merry time and were sad to see them go. I think this was the turning point for B as the next morning he declared himself fit enough to ride again, at least knowing it was all 'downhill'. WEDNESDAY 21st MARCH
Sunday seems a long time ago now, when we had set off from sunny Tacna. so much has happened and being cut off from contact and communication with family and friends was not a good feeling. I did make it my daily task to switch spot on, send a location beacon and goodnight signal, knowing our virtual guardians are watching us. It's a misty 11 degrees when we mount the bike and with trepidation set off to find a better level of 3500 metres at Puno.

photos on 2up2wheels.blogspot.com
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  #39  
Old 16 May 2018
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Join Date: Nov 2010
Location: france
Posts: 36
Peru: The Angel in the Pink Wellies

We had been advised by the very helpful proprieter of the Hotel in Abancay to take the River road along the Valley to Puquio as the only other road out was treacherous and full of landslides. He described, with the help of google maps, the route along the river for 150kms then a bit high up and over the mountains before arriving in Nasca, where the altitude was better. We are given hope that the next few days of the 1000kms ride to Lima would be easier on our lungs and arms. The first ‘easier’ bit was a continuous 30 minute steep downhill ride to get to the river bed, but we got there and could breathe a bit better and relaxed into a leisurely winding ride alongside a raging river. A few challenges broke into our relaxed frame of mind, namely washaways. Riding along the valley road, we crossed about 5 causeways which got progressively deeper as we got nearer to the river itself. The causeways are cement dips in the tarmac where the gushing mountain waterfalls cascade over. That’s fine if you are a big truck. The biggest washaway presented more than a challenge for me. I leapt off the bike and we watched for some time as the bulldozer moved tons of wet earth out of the way. A truck went through. A car went through and B lined up ready to go through. Everytime the bulldozer scrapped and moved the earth the watery pit was becoming deeper. It was B’s turn to move through. I video’d the whole performance which took an alarmingly long 3.40 minutes. 30seconds in to the crossing B almost lost his footing, as the gushing water hollowed out the earth where his feet were. He had to keep moving. The bulldozer man was revving up to shivvy B along and the Yellow hardhat man was blowing his whistle furiously. I was just screaming hysterically.
Then came along an Angel in the Pink Wellies. She marched across the pitted water-filled remnants of the road, grabbed the side panniers with one hand and the back pannier with the other. She steered B, holding him up first this way, then the other, as with their 4 feet they manoeuvred their way across the raging river, shin deep. Three and a half minutes later they were on the other side and the bulldozer carried on. The yellow hard hat man got me a lift in a pick up and I was driven through eezy peezy. By the time B and I were re-united the Angel in the Pink Wellies had plodded her way back to the starting point. How could we say Thank You? While we were faffing around, shaking wet boots and calming down, she strode over again, this time wading knee deep. Big hugs and thanks you’s and a fistful of Pesos did it for us and her.
The valley road at 3200m went on and on for over 100kms, with magnificent gorges and canyons and plateaus. By the time we got to Piquio, the mist had covered all the landscape and even though it was only 1pm we found the one and only hotel, parked the bike, stripped off wet boots and socks, snuggled up in a warm bed and, being a Sunday, found FI on Radio Five Live to listen to the AUSTRALIAN GRAND PRIX.
Puquio is a tiny bus stop town. Huge tour buses and coaches zoomed through on the one and only route joining Cusco to the Coast. By 6pm the stalls were set up and the restaurants opened, all in freezing mist and muddy conditions. We had delicious spaghetti and chicken soup, with goats cheese topping. On returning to our hotel, we discovered two more bikes in the parking garage: Two Honda XR 250’s ridden by the lovely Linda and hubby Mike. We had a great evening in the lounge swopping stories and the bestest moment was being introduced to an App called ‘ioverlander’. Exactly what we had been looking for: a live app, continuously updated, by overlanders for overlanders. I felt a huge weight disappear from my stress levels as any type of overlander information appeared; from regular campsites to wild camping, with prices, and recent updates. Fantastic.
Getting out of Puquio was an uphill adventure of 55kms of curves rising back up 1000m to 4600m again. We daren’t stop, just keep going along this beautiful plateau for another 100kms. The temperature dropped to 13degreesand in amongst the Pampas we spotted leaping creatures called Vicunas, a short haired long necked wilder version of the Llama. Large signs instructed all motorists to HOOT continuously to scare them off the road. The weirdest thing is that they are so well blended into the Pampas that up to 10 metres away they are ‘invisible’, that is until they leap. We blew our hooter continuously so they would leap away from us. It sort of spoilt the magnificence and beauty of the amazing ‘top of the world’ peace.
Before the descent into the Desert Ride to Nasca we have a picnic and enjoy the sun and stare in wonder at the winding road we must now take to get to the coast. What goes up must go down. And down it went all the way to a large patch of sand and wind. We rode across this sandpit for another 100kms on the straightest road ever, with the wind trying very hard to push us over. The buses and trucks also did a good job as every time they passed we were whacked sideways by the wind and landed a few more inches nearer the edge of the road. Everything here seems to be in the extreme category.
We find the Nasca Lines and climb the towering steel stepped structure to for a bird’s eye view. I buy a little stone, engraved with a replica humming bird.
At ICA we stop for an icecream and put our new App to the test. Yeah, a hotel within budget, with a pool and breakfast just around the corner. Such simple Luxury after a gruelling 10 days of testing us almost to our limits.
Lima is in sight! where we are staying with the family of our wonderful doctor friends/rescuers from Chos Malal. It is with huge thankfulness that we arrive at their house and get a glorious welcome. Suddenly our world has become normal again. We get introduced to a Camu drink (Red Berry) for breakfast and spread Peruvian Butter (mashed Avocado and lemon) on our toast. We shop at an Inca Market for goodies to take home and hear that our baby Grandaughter has been delivered safe and sound.
Lima is a green goddess in the middle of Sand, fed by 5 permanent rivers. The gardens of Lima are filled with bird sounds and visited by beautiful hummingbirds, busily drinking from the honeysuckle. I present our fabulous friends with a thank you and memento of our stay with them.
We need to return to France as our 90 days insurance/trip is up, but will return within 3 weeks to carry on.
As I write, I must explain that that didn’t happen. On the day we were due to fly back to Peru, B was rushed into hospital here in France for an emergency operation. He is now recovering, with absolutely no bike riding for 6 weeks. Travel plans are on hold.
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