The rest.

May 26, 2012

So, with a dramatic exit to Bolivia, we arrived into the Atacama desert in Northern Chile.
Our first stop was San Pedro de Atacama for food and fuel.

Throughout this trip, one thing that surprised me a little was the overall lack of significant changes between countries as we had ridden down. Entering country #16 on this trip showed the most significant changes. Gone was the abject poverty, the terrible roads, the appalling food… but along with it went the jaw-dropping high desert scenery, the feeling that we were exploring the unknown and then came swarms of tourists and the high prices to go with it.
In fact, if Chile didn’t have such wonderful people and if its scenery wasn’t beautiful of its own accord, I don’t think I would have a desire to go back.

Our bikes arrived into Chile all in a state of disrepair, Bolivia was brutal on them, mine had a chain that closely resembled a piece of bent wire, Kerman’s front, rear and steering head bearings were toast, James’ rear wheel bearings the same and Tim’s bike had sprung a radiator leak and was still having sporadic electrical issues.
We were happy to be back in civilization!
That was until we arrived to San Pedro de Atacama – what a tourist $@#^hole
We decided to leave immediately, but the border was impassable due to lots of snow across the road and they were refusing to stamp our passports or let our bikes leave for Argentina. That’s ok, we continued our general disregard for officialdom, lied and told them we were heading to Bolivia to get stamped out and had plans of doing wheelies in deep snow high in the Andes as we crossed.

We soon got a glimpse of what we were about to get ourselves into

And discovered some people that had obviously attempted to cross before the road was closed…

It was slippery here and there, but pretty good, and we were able to appreciate the beautiful scenery and lack of traffic

It wasn’t long till we were in Argentina, and it wasn’t long after that when Kerman’s bike decided to completely blow out his front wheel bearings. His noble steed soon became this:

I hadn’t been in Argentina long, but immediately I liked it. The country has a sense of vastness that reminded me of Australia.

We liked Salta, Empanadas to die for

and shops that would fix our bikes woes

Heading south from Salta, the scenery in Argentina left an impression, a positive impression.

We skipped some of the well trodden paths, in search of something “more creative”

On our way to Mendoza, it was evident we were closer to the end than the start, the first sign to the spiritual end of all our South American shenanigans… Ushuaia

However in Mendoza… I wanted to move in. Of all the cities we went to on the trip I definitely enjoyed it the most.
Wine.

In Mendoza, Tim, James, Kerman and myself parted company, to make a friends wedding back in Australia I had to push further south… and quickly. It had been wonderful to travel with all of them, but Tim definitely deserves special mention for being a great travel partner over the previous 5 months.

So the next 2 days took me to Puerto Montt, Chile, and my first 1000+km day of the trip.
A simple ferry ride down to Chaiten the next day had me at the start of the Carretera Austral, an incredibly beautiful part of the world. Even the weather was pleasant (which apparently is abnormal!)

I knew that our friends, Kevin, Andre, Mark, Glenn, Nick and Ivanka were within a days ride, and it was a beautiful days ride.
Until I got to this.

Apparently I had timed it perfectly to have three sets of roadblocks… and no fuel in any of the petrol stations. I attempted to coerce the protesters to allow me to pass, but with no fuel to buy, I knew I would probably be pushing my bike into the next major town where I might be able to find fuel (and locals told me that there wasn’t fuel either).
Apparently locals are protesting about the cost of living down here, and they are doing it by blocking supply of any goods (which of course makes it more expensive). Yes, a lot of sense at play. I later heard that I missed out on a good lot of fun in the next town with the others, queueing for 14hrs for fuel, getting rocks and tear gas thrown, burning power lines down, and lots of other stuff that constitutes a solid night out.

I on the other hand turned around with my tail between my legs, picked the next crossing to Argentina where I knew I should be able to buy fuel, but first I managed to quell my disappointment of not riding one of the roads that I had at the top of my list at the start of this trip by getting obnoxiously drunk on box wine with some Israli hitch-hikers, and a crazy Alaskan white water rafting guide.

Sore head, and with an almost empty gas tank, I headed along a very quiet side road towards Argentina trying to maximize my economy. I got to the border, which was quite the relaxed affair.

Until I asked to be stamped out of the country that was. The police that were on duty were very friendly, but told me that I could not get stamped out… I was perplexed, and a little concerned, I had NO other option, in fact I had fuel for maybe 40miles… and the next town in Argentina was probably 20miles as the crow flies, which in these parts of the world means 6hrs solid riding.
I explained my predicament, and tried to understand why… after a while the police dragged me into their office and showed me a video on their computer of a torrential river and explained to me that you need to cross that river, and not even trucks were able to pass it.
After about 30 mins further of me explaining that I have no other fuel for any other option, and their suggestion of doing a 100mile loop to cross at another border couldn’t be done, they stamped me out, and mentioned something about a boat at the river that I might be able to use.

I headed off, with more than a degree of trepidation, the road was still quite good, that was until I got to this gate:

Which I discovered was the actual Argentinian/Chilean border. The road went rapidly downhill from here. I continued to spend the next couple of hours riding through deep mud and over massive river rocks, often dragging my bike when I would inevitably drop it. Sadly, no photos, as I was exhausted. There were rivers to pass

But nothing like what I had seen in the video the Chilean police had shown me, but still I could see why they wouldn’t let me pass.
I finally made it to the Argentian border post, in an idyllic location, and covered their floor with mud and river water.

The road from the border post to the next town was traffic’d a little more frequently, which is to say I did see one other person on it… with 2 horses… and he passed me.
Although there were some nice parts:

After 6hrs of riding to get the aforementioned 20 direct miles, I saw the oasis I was waiting for.

A petrol station. That was closed.
No biggie, they were just having a siesta, and the 2hr wait enabled me to do a stocktake on the damage the last 20miles had done to my bike.
Destroyed rear shock absorber (motorcycle riders will know how much fun that is to ride with)
Chain was now making noises that indicated violent death was imminent.
The mud had chewed out a seal on the engine

3 critical problems, and no way to solve them for almost 1000miles, 1000miles of rough Patagonian gravel.
On the plus side, I had fuel!

The day improved by the GPS sending me down a short cut, which started off as a good gravel road… and quickly turned to a goat track. I continued, crossing in and out of Chile a few times. Then it rained. A cold, windy, miserable rain that only Patagonia can deliver.
I guess some days just aren’t as much fun as others.

The next day I was on the infamous “Ruta 40”, bouncing and sliding on my 2 wheel pogo stick past road work trucks on loose gravel, and ending in this campsite with some good pasta and a bottle of Malbec:

That day was definitely one of the fun ones.
The next day was visiting the Perito Moreno glacier, which is definitely touristy, but being there before the bus loads arrived was also pretty damn fun.

Punta Arenas was the next stop for motorcycle salvation, in the form of the good man, bike magician and former Chilean motocross champion, Gonzalo.

(My bikes preferred environment… inside, in the warmth)

I had to wait a week in Punta Arenas as parts for my bike were flown in from Santiago, and was able to catch up with Mark, Andre, Kevin, Glenn, Nick and Ivanka as they came through. That was handy, as shenanigans could be had:

Skyping each other:

With my bike back and the front wheel pointing south, the realization that I might actually complete this journey was slowly coming over me. Exciting.

I made it.

The 3000 miles back to Buenos Aires seemed more like a long commute home now.
A long commute punctuated with some more bike troubles from the usual suspects (i.e. Andre and myself)

Interesting roads

and animals

Great BBQ

And the cool bike campground in Agua (Carole and Laurent joined us too!)

We made it to Buenos Aires

We stayed at the quite cool Kilca hostel and met the v.cool quasi-bikers Maffi and Niki, I sold my bike, took in the city (my second favourite behind Mendoza), and the proceeded to have quite a “going away” with “the gang”.
It was all wonderful, and all a little bitter sweet, as back I went to Los Angeles to hang out with friends, before returning to Australia. Decidedly less exciting.

The definite highlight of this trip came out of the people I met on this trip, both the very generous locals I met in every country (except you, Bolivia!), and the great fellow travellers that I was able to ride with on this journey, so in no special order, thanks Kerman, Kevin, Andre, James, Mark and Maggie, Glenn, Jess and Jessie, Henryk, Stephan and Natalia, Carole and Laurent, Mike and Tank, Daan and Mirjam, and safe riding. Tim, again, a great travel partner, and best of luck in your future adventures (he’s heading to West Africa, any luck you can send him too might be appreciated and needed!).

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At the start of this trip, if someone asked me which country I was looking forward to the most, the answer would have been simple. Bolivia.

I caught up with the guys in La Paz after being unimpressed with Cococabana, but quite impressed with the lake it resides on. I also experienced a strange phenomenon, something that we would encounter a lot in Bolivia, petrol stations that would refuse to sell us petrol. Its because we are extraterrestrials or something like that.
Instead, fuel needs to be bought from drunk locals in small towns.

We did the usually running around in La Paz, complete with very good Lebanese food.

The boys conjured up some route through Bolivia that they felt would be lots of fun, and keep us as far away as possible from those pesky sealed roads.
So there was a little of this

Quite a lot of this

This

And this.

Some silly blue plastic bags with people inside of them.

We also encountered funny old ladies

Bolivian Public Transport

Snow and hail. (which we rode through as it was coming down, but the photos don’t do the act of stupidity justice)

Slop for breakfast.

and inpassable rivers

The scenery so far had just been incredible too.

Bolivia was living up to expectations.

Due to aforementioned impassable rivers we had to detour and go on some roads that had been designed for transportation (and were sealed!)
Which was handy, my bike frame had split in 2.

While I pieced my bike back together, the others decided to take the “scenic” way to Uyuni, famous for being next-door to the Salar de Uyuni, the biggest salt lake in the world.
Just for something different, the boys encountered another impassable river and had to turn back, we met in Uyuni – dissapointed that the lake was covered in water which meant that we couldn’t ride our bikes on them (if we wanted our bikes to make it to the bottom that is), so we joined the rest of the tourists in the 5,000 odd landcruisers (rough count).
First we visited some old trains, and I decided that I want a train graveyard in my next house.

We then went to the salt flats

Where we did the standard issue silly photo routine.

Unrelated, Kerman also got to meet Mario and Luigi.

We had heard from our hardened adventuring friends that the road we had planned to take south from Uyuni was tough, their report:

But decided to follow in their footsteps anyhow.
We left Uyuni, then the chain on my bike started to go.

The riding was incredible though.

You would look one way, and see silly shaped rocks

The other way, amazing snow covered mountains.

We found ourselves stopping so often, just to take pictures.

It was epic, the scenery, the riding, even the weather was holding up and I got to share it all with good friends!

We found a good campsite, and called it a day.

But first some dinner

Before taking in the mesmerising sunset.

We started the next day with a meeting with another crazy frenchie

If the riding and scenery made the day prior one of the best days of the trip, well it made this one the best.

I think Kerman agrees that its pretty good.

Then my chain breaks again.

After a little roadside repair, we see some more crazy rocks

Postcard landscapes

And rotting meat just hanging around inside a house.

Typical Bolivia really.

Kerman even found a lake named after his bike.

We saw some crazy rocks off in the distance.

Campsite.

Dinner.

Sunset.

Next day…

Bolivia wasn’t quite complete, we hadn’t infuriated some officialdom yet. Well here is the border guard who got a little miffed when I decided to just ride over the small border wall when he wouldn’t let us out of the country.

(I also forgot that Kerman’s bike is kickstart only… so his getaway wasn’t as rapid and he got caught by the guard… but was able to escape when the guard had to open the border gate for a bus)

Bolivia wasn’t perfect, the towns typically were covered in rubbish, the food was terrible, and unlike most of the other countries we have been to on this trip we found the people to be miserable sods, however the scenery (and the riding) was simply outstanding.

The rest of Peru…

February 26, 2012

Ok, back to Peru. As a posse we left Nasca… Nick and Ivanka, Andre, Mark, Tim and myself. It wasn’t long till we also caught up to Daan and Mirjam too.

The road from Nasca to Cusco was described by our mechanic in Lima as his favorite in Peru. I could see why.
Daan, Mirjam, Tim and myself decided to stop in a nice spot to do a little bit of camping.

And the next day we headed to Cusco. Once we arrived we did a spot of marketing.

Our activities in Cusco involved seeing some old bricks (boring!) and much more fun, feasting


(best ceviche I have had)

We parted company with Daan and Mirjam – was great riding with them

Tim and I decided to take a long loop to go to Machu Pichu, and were rewarded with quite the ride.

Machu Pichu was quite enjoyable, which we shared with our 5,000 closest friends

It was more enjoyable however to freak everyone out by dancing like idjits around it.

(video courtesy of Nick and Ivanka)

Here I would part company with the rest of the crew as my bike needed love, in the form of new luggage (my former luggage had reached the point of dissrepair), and thanks to Giant Loop for getting it to me. No thanks to Fedex for it taking 10days longer than it should have.

Kerman, James and Tim did a ride around southern Peru

Peru was over and done with. Bolivia to come!

A little teaser

February 17, 2012

Sorry for the lack of updates! We are eating and drinking our way around the wine regions of Argentina (Mendoza), and doing well. My (less than a month old) Laptop decided to die, which has made it difficult to upload photos, its getting fixed at the moment, and as soon as it is we hope to head to Chile.

Needless to say, Bolivia was quite epic. We stayed off the beaten track where we could and the scenery and trails were astounding. We rode with Kerman and James through Bolivia.
All the bikes took an absolute beating, I snapped my frame, Tim destroyed his electrics and flooded his engine (with water, not fuel!), James destroyed his front and rear wheel bearings and Kerman, front and rear wheel bearings and his steering and brakes!

Here are some teaser photos

More is coming

February 5, 2012

Just a short note to let you know that we are ok, in Uyuni, Bolivia, and the i-nets have been too slow to upload pictures. More to come, probably once we hit Argentina or Chile.

Race to Dakar

January 17, 2012

We entered Peru through the most remote border we could find, and stumbled onto Mike and Jason who we had met in Medellin rocking the old Honda dirt bikes, and their evening conversations of “Did you fix your panniers, adjust your valves or sort out your intake leak?” “Nah, checked my tyre pressures and drank some beer” were a good laugh!

The boys found a petrol station that was being built where we could camp, with a motocross track next door!

We took in some epic roads:

We saw some old bricks as we walked around the ancient site of Keulap, the official at the gate laughed that we would be the only people at the site, unlike at Machu Pichu, where there would be 4-5thousand

Before finding some more epic roads:

We wanted to head to Canyon del Pato, so we crossed some cool desert

Where I decided to have a nice crash when my front tyre blew out at 75kph on rough gravel

It did a number on my bike, and turned my right knee into patella pate, but we pressed on:

The following day, we planned to do a loop around the Cordillera Blanca mountains.

My GPS got a little ambitious, and we soon were crossing rivers

Passing pumpkins

We discovered, as the trails gradually vanished beneath us that we had found a walking track, we were forced to turn around as we couldn’t fit our bikes on it any more.
We headed towards the coast, and to Lima. Lima didn’t really appeal to us, outside of it housing mechanics to fix the steering on both of our bikes, once that was done, we headed off.
We headed south to Pisco to catch up with Mark and Andre

Took in the delights of a typical South American market

Some work was done to the bikes

(police siren)


(grafiti)

Off to Nasca, where we found a terrible spot to camp:

And then we went to watch the Dakar rally competitors come in!

(the trucks being particularly cool)

You could get (surprisingly) close to the vehicles as they rushed by

The next day, using a little charm, and a whole lot of the “act like I should be here”, we blagged our way into the Bivovac, for a tour around

and a free breakfast

Now, its off to Cusco, and Machu Pichu.

Ecuador

January 13, 2012

The gods have been conspiring against us recently, and limited our ability to fill the internets with tales of our tom-foolery, Tim lost his camera, and the final nail got driven into my laptops coffin, either way that is all miniscule, and we both hope you had a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

We arrived into Ecuador late, and the next day made our way to Quito, a very nice colonial city where we had to get some work done our motorbikes before we planned to head to the beach to join fellow motorbikers Mark, Andre and James for Christmas. On leaving Quito, I noticed that Tim and Glenn who were following me had Houdini’d themselves out of my mirrors, so I turned around I found them on the side of the road having a polite discussion with some of Ecuador’s finest.

Glenn explained to me that they had pulled him over, and were going to impound his bike and give him a fine because his license plate ended in a 9, and on Friday’s all vehicles with license plates ending in 9’s and 0’s were not allowed on the road to alleviate congestion.
If the police officers weren’t so serious, the situation would have been quite hilarious.
Then we discovered both Tim’s and my bikes license plates ended in 0’s.

They wanted to impound all of our bikes, but first have us ride to the local police station to get fined. We collectively decided to go on strike, and I got my book out and had a good read and watched the entire Ecuadorian Police force come to see what was up with these crazy motorcyclists that weren’t obeying their instructions (I counted 11 police at one point, and I think there would have been around 20 different officers that were needed at some time or another to keep us crazy travellers at bay). Eventually a big-wig came in the back of a police 4×4 and common sense prevailed, we got let off without a fine or impounding our bikes.

We were also given a nice little leaflet advertising that we couldn’t ride our bikes

Off we headed to Montañita, the beach town Mark and Andre had picked out, the road there being quite impressive – the locals inform us that their current government has been very progressive in furthering the infrastructure of the country (are you listening Honduras and Venezuela?)

The coast line was also very picturesque

We found Mark and Andre, and James joined us a little later.

We had a great time with them all, Mark and Andre cooked some great beef and fish, and Montañita is a really nice little tourist town, could happily spend a couple of weeks (or months!)
Boxing day came, and with larger stomachs, Glenn, James, Tim and I planned to head up to Lago Quilotoa, a Lake in a volcano crater, 4000m up (~13000ft), and on the way there we thought we would share with Glenn and James our typical navigational wizardry – which is, get the best maps and GPS tracks, and then go down roads that aren’t on either of them.

We encountered the typical cows:

Villages

Well paved roads:

And fires:

My bike also revealed its party trick of luggage distribution to everyone too, cementing the death of my laptop and my camera lens – and it did so in spectacular fashion, on hitting a pothole it launched my rear box off my bike, into the back of my head – richocheting off my helmet onto the road in front.

Did a good job of bending my bikes rear frame in the process

Pretty sure the extra strong bolts I bought for the frame just paid for themselves though.

We made it to the Lake, then across to Baños (a town, not a toilet!), it was here that Tim and Glenn swapped bikes briefly and discovered an issue with Tim’s steering (which apparently has been there since Nicaragua!)
We headed to Cuenca to celebrate New Years, and get it fixed.

Before watching them attempt to burn the city down

and the nice parade the following day

James caught up with us in Cuenca, and we all decided to head to Peru together, while enjoying a nice roadside Pizza, a Dutch couple, Daan and Mirjam that are riding around the world rode past and stopped. We caught up with them later that day and rode together.

The next day was the border crossing, its fair to say we were crossing at the “less travelled” border

Daan and Mirjam both had a tumble in the mud, we symathized by getting out our cameras

And now we have Peru (and the Dakar!) to look forward too!

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