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.

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 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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