01 January 2004

Happy New Year!  Lois, Rachel and I spent the last night of the year here in Puerto Varas.  We had a nice relaxed dinner at an Italian place, then wandered into the center of town to see the festivities.  They had a band playing and a ton of people.  Then the band ended, and the mc came on and everyone started hustling to the lakeside a block away.  So we did as well.

There, they had a great fireworks show..  fifteen or more minutes, all over the lake.  Very nice.  We went to the casino afterwards, and I quickly lost the 2000 pesos I had won the night before.  So we called it a night.  The night started off not feeling like New Year's Eve, but after the fireworks, we all were in the spirit (pictures and videos are posted).

We started the new year this morning with a cold windy and cloudy day.  Lois and Rachel, having booked passage on a ferry for tomorrow 200 plus miles from here, were forced to get up and get going, although they didn't look too eager.  I got up, saw them off, then got back in my warm bed.  I have decided to skip returning to Santiago for now..  I can't seem to turn around and go back to where I have already come from.  So instead, I am heading out to a remote river valley east of here to camp at a mountain lodge.  I may take a 3 or 4 day horseback trip, or maybe not.  I think I will try to just send my computer back from here next week..  and save myself the trip up the freeway for a 1200 mile roundtrip to Santiago.  I just don't feel like it.  So, you may not hear from me while I relax in the mountains.. or I may get a bee in my bonnet and head north.  Who knows?

Anyway, I hope y'all have a Happy New Year.  See ya.

31 December 2003

Well, my new computer screen is not in yet..  so I am left waiting.  Lois and Rachel are finally heading south tomorrow, after picking up a DHL package and getting some work done on their bikes.  I am going to wander north back towards Santiago, where hopefully I will get my new screen next week, then turn around and head south again.  I am a bit miffed about having to go back to Santiago, and about having to wait for my screen to arrive there, but I don't really have a choice, so here I am.  Hopefully I can find some cool places to cool my heels for a bit.  I reckon it shouldn't be too hard.

28 December 2003

Well, found the motocross races..  Track was beautiful, with the volcano and mountains as a backdrop.  Very small races, and I think I might have to come here to pursue my motocross dreams.  I could have won the first race, and would have probably been in the top five of the second..  There were a few guys that were good, everyone else was not so good.  Anyway, pictures and videos are up.

28 December 2003

So, to catch up a bit.  Lois' bike was running well, and we head out of Pucon fairly early in the morning.  The plan was for me to ride to the house, drop off my stuff, then do the 70 mile roundtrip into Puerto Varas to the supermarket..  meanwhile, the girls, traveling a bit slower, would catch up with me at the house.

I blasted down the freeway, then turned off south of Osorno to take the back way into Ensenada, where our house was.  The road was stunningly beautiful.  One of the most amazing spots of natural beauty I have ever seen.  Huge snowcapped mountains and volcanoes in the distance, with trees, very green grass, and hordes of wildflowers lining the road.  Stunning.  Anyway, the paved road finally ended, and it turned to a single lane dirt road along the east side of the lake..  Equally beautiful, and it finally deposited me in Ensenada, after going past Volcan Osorno, this huge volcano that dominated the horizon.  I then headed up to our house, found it with no problems, and dumped all of my stuff.  This was the first time my bike was totally empty on the entire trip.  So I hustled off to the store, bought all the groceries, and arrived back at the house right after the girls had arrived.

I cooked a veggie pasta sauce that night, and attempt to get the wood fired hot tub hot.  Problem being, it takes a while anyway, and it was really cold that night, so after a while I gave up and decided to try again with a new batch of fire wood.  The next day we took a walk, trying to find the local waterfall.  The girls gave up looking after a few hours of walking, but I charged on and soon found the huge waterfall.  It was very cool, a large gorge with a trout river running through it, with several waterfalls cascading out of the forest over the ledge into the river.

Anyway, we then headed into town, and bought a few more supplies at the local convenient store, as well as sussing out that the store (with international phone) was open on Christmas day.  I made omelet's for dinner that night..  Christmas morning we woke up, I started a fire in the wood burning stove, and made myself a nice big latte with the espresso maker.  So much better than Nescafe, which is the norm throughout Latin America.

We opened our token gifts for each other..  I gave Lois and Rachel fake Chile license plates with their names on them (and one for me too) and travel packed wine glasses.  I received a naked girl towel (terribly cheesy) from Lois and a cheesy watch from Rachel.  Unfortunately, the watch was to die shortly thereafter when I hopped into the now hot hot tub with it.  I conducted surgery on the watch later, but it didn't make it.  Sorry Rachel.  The weather was crap, rainy and cloudy, but we made the best of it, and I was able to ride into town and call my parents, brother, and grandmother..  Everyone was spread out, but all appeared to have a good day.

The day after Christmas (Boxing Day as the Brits call it) was still rainy, and we basically didn't leave the house but for a short walk after dinner.  The next day we packed up and headed here into Puerto Varas to wait until Monday, as I have to contact Sony and see if they can ship my new screen here, Lois has to figure out where and when her DHL package will arrive, and Rachel needs a new chain and sprockets badly.

And if, things work out, I will be heading to MotoRancho this afternoon to watch the local motocross series run..  We'll see, I need to find out where MotoRancho is..  That's all for now, a quick summary...

27 December 2003

So, Christmas was nice, relaxing, and filling.  It rained a bit, so we spent much time hanging out in our cabin over the four days, eating and drinking.

I will write more later, but as my computer is still broken, I am stuck doing it in an internet cafe, and it's a pain.  So you'll have to wait.  But pictures are up.

22 December 2003

Well, sorry about the long wait for an update.  Hopefully y'all are enjoying some time off for the holidays, so are not checking here when you are bored at work..  But anyway, I severely injured my laptop the other day, managed to somehow break the screen, so I can see nothing.  I was in Santiago, so raced over to the Sony Service Center that they have there.  They were able to order the new screen from Kansas, and it should be there shortly after Christmas.  Of course, that means I have to return to Santiago after Christmas..  but at least I can get it fixed.  Right now I am paying to use a monitor at a internet cafe, which is a pain in the butt, but my only option at this point.

But, as a result, website updates might be a little scarce for the next little bit here.  So you'll just have to live without your Latin American fix for a few extra days.

Anyway, to update you on the events outside of the computer issues..  Lois' friend Rachel, a French girl traveling on a KLR250, showed up in Santiago late on Thursday, and she and Lois went off to the local port on Friday to try and get Rachel's bike.  They, amazingly, were able to get the bike off the boat, through customs, and get all the appropriate paperwork done in a few hours..  So on Saturday we intended to get up, buy a few things (Rachel's gloves were stolen out of her locked top box) and head south.  We managed to start to leave town at 4pm, and finally made it through traffic, construction, and whatnot by 5pm.  It was a very hot hour, with many stop lights, buses, and also one kind passerby who waved out of her window and yelled at me, so I rode up next to her and she handed me a nice Bomberos de Chile (firemen) sticker.  My people down here like me.

Anyway, we had an uneventful ride and evening in Curico, and headed out fairly early for us (8:30am) for a long day.  According to the map it was to be about 350 miles, and it turned into more.  After the first short leg (20 miles) I stopped for coffee, and waited for the girls..  for like 20 minutes.  So I figured something had happened, and went back the 20 miles, not seeing them.  So I turned around again and went back to where I had been waiting for them.  The whole time I couldn't see the other side of the road for about 300 yards..  And it turned out we had passed each other (me going the wrong way) in those 300 yards.  So the girls continued on, looking for me to be waiting at a restaurant, as we had left the hotel without coffee or breakfast.  They plugged on, as I was now way behind them.  Apparently there was a lot of bitching about me, thinking to themselves that I was some sort of task master bastard, making them do over 100 miles without coffee.  They plugged along, even stopped for gas and kept going, still thinking I was ahead.  Finally, on the verge of starving, they gave up and stopped a little fast food gas station.  Where I found them as I pulled up 10 minutes later..  Oops.  Anyway, we charged on and made it to Pucon, a small town on a lake and beneath a volcano.  Beautiful little town..

Anyway, we woke up this morning, and eventually got rolling after a leisurely breakfast.  We were trying to cut south on some small roads, but I was only able to find a fun dirt road up to the local volcano.  So up we went.  Towards the top it got very rough and technical, and the girls baulked.  I continued up to see if it got any better, but it didn't, so we headed down..  Except towards the bottom Lois' poor little Serow crapped out.  She pushed it back to the hotel we had checked out of a few hours earlier, where we set upon it.  She checked the carb, I checked spark, and determined there was none.  With a new sparkplug, and me fiddling with the wires and leads, we got spark, and the bike is running again...  although I'm still concerned we didn't really find the true problem.  But, what ya gonna do?  So tomorrow we set off for our cabin with wood fired hot tub for Christmas.  Yee hah.

Anyway, I hope everyone has a good holiday, I will be taking a holiday from my holiday at a little cabin, with views of more volcanoes, where I will spend an inordinate amount of time drinking good Chilean red wine and sitting in the wood fired hot tub out on the deck.  It's a tough life.

16 December 2003

Well, the Honda shop was good. We ran into some problems, as they didn't have the correct BMW tool to remove the bearings, but with a little hammering and custom work, they came out.  The mechanic, Roberto, was good, a bit creative, and seemed to have a clue.  He was even able to weld one of my bag mounts after he was finished with the steering head bearings.

Anyway, the bike is good, steers well and is stable.  Tomorrow I've got to change the oil, check valves, possibly replace spark plugs, and tighten up a few loose bolts here and there.  Other than that, the bike is ready for the run to Tierra del Fuego.

15 December 2003

After our most recent round of beach camping, we headed south towards Valparaiso/Vina del Mar, two cities a few miles apart on the coast, about 75 miles from Santiago.  We had planned to stay at a mansion on a hill in Valparaiso, but the f'in streets there are all one way, and I don't have a friggin' clue how we were supposed to get to this hotel.  We drove around for an hour or so, finding some really nice slums, mangy dogs, and whatnot.  Coming down the hill on a one lane (yet dual direction) road, on a very steep hill with houses on both sides and 90 degree turns, I was amused to see a speed limit sign of 40 kms, about 25 mph.  The only way you could possibly do 25 mph on this downhill without crashing would be in a go cart, but the road was way to bumpy for one of those, so I guess that wouldn't be possible either.

Anyway, after finding 3 or 4 parallel streets that were all one way, the same way, and never getting any nearer the hotel, we gave up, and headed back to Vina del Mar.  Here we spent less time, but still a good 45 minutes trying to suss out a hotel with parking.  We finally found one, checked in, and took very very hot and powerful showers!  Best shower I've had in a long time.

We had dinner (I got a nice big steak, after eating a little too much vegetarian lately), and headed to bed.  Yesterday morning we got up and had a quick and uneventful ride on the highway into Santiago, where we now stay.

This morning, I headed off to the BMW dealer I had been corresponding with over email.  They were, as I should have known, as big a bunch of useless bastards as I have dealt with in a while.  They could fit me in maybe on Friday, but not before.  They said I should have let them know I was coming..  I told them I had, about a week and a half before.  That didn't seem to make any difference.  They did manage to find the steering head bearings and brake pads though, so I moseyed off to the Honda dealer, who said no problem, they can fit me in tomorrow.  And they had good oil, and a tire, and they gave me stickers (they sponsor Jeremiah Israel, a Chilean AMA supercross rider), and they were a real shop.  Hopefully they will do the work properly, then I'm all set.

But god damn BMW and their stupid corporate car and bike dealers.  The guy spouted off about how they serviced the bikes for the world record holder Alaska to Tierra del Fuego team.  I said, great, did you make them wait a week?  Anyway, rant off, screw BMW, buy a Honda.

13 December 2003

After day off in Bahia Inglesa, Lois and I continued to head south.

The best thing all day was definitely my little interaction with one of the local boys in blue.  Or in this country, green.  You know, the coppers.  I was a bit ahead of Lois and caught up with a bunch of trucks hauling huge pipes (I had met them earlier, and we traded air horn toots as I passed them, but then we stopped for lunch).  Anyway, they had caught up with two trucks carrying a huge dumptruck in several sections.  They were going about 5 miles an hour, so of course I made my way past.  After I passed them, I noticed that all the oncoming vehicles were pulled over..  so obviously, there was someone ahead telling them to do so, as they could not yet see the big trucks.  Well, sure enough, there was a cop, driving slowly, lights and siren on, waving over the oncoming traffic.  I saw him as he saw me, and he immediately started waving with his hand, obviously not happy.  So I put on my stupid tourist face (not hard for me to do, I'm a natural).  I pulled up next to him and waved in front of him, asking if it was ok.  He replied, very sternly in Spanish, something or another, but not only do I not understand Spanish, but I couldn't hear him either.  So I said, sorry, what was that again?  He stopped, shut off his siren, and ranted again in Spanish.  To this I replied, hmm, well, so is it ok if I go ahead?  He slammed his fists repeatedly on the steering wheel, and started yelling 'No, fuck you, no no no, fuck you.'  Well now, even with my bad Spanish, I could gather that he was pissed.  Probably in large part do to the fact that the 'Fuck you' part of his tirade was in English, and that fact that 'no' and 'no' essentially mean the same thing in both Spanish and English.  Anyway, at that point I motioned to the back, and told him I'd just be back there..  So I hung back, he started up the siren and started waving traffic over again.  At which point, Lois showed up, having also illegally passed all the trucks.  I think once he saw there were two of us, he gave up..  With an angry hand gesture, he waved us past.  So we took off, me hollering a nice gracias through his window as I sped past.  I'm pretty sure he could hear the sincerity in my voice.

Anyway, we finally ended up in a major beach town, La Serena. Huge white sand beach with condos, apartments and hotels lining the waterfront.  Looked like Cancun ('course, I ain't never been to Cancun, so maybe not).  Luckily though, we were there in the 'off season', so things were pretty quiet.  We rented a small cabin at a hostel, 1/2 a block from the beach.  Lois headed off to the supermarket to fetch some food, and returned with a bounty.  We made some home made pasta sauce and pasta, graded fresh parmesan with my knife, and ate like kings.

After a very slow start the next morning (we were a little too excited about the ability to make our own coffee), we headed back to the supermarket for some admin chores.  It turns out this supermarket is the biggest damn store I have ever seen..  Bigger than the Costco in San Francisco.  Huge.  So I got a bit lost and confused, forgot what I was there for, and almost bought a blender.  After finally making it out of the store, Lois headed in (she didn't want to leave her unsecured bags unattended).  After her journey through, we decided to scrap the worries about her bags, and headed back in to use the internet.  There was only one computer, so while I waited for Lois, I had the key maker, also part of the store, essentially manufacture a new key for my top box (my spare broke a few weeks back).  We finally got out of the store about 3pm, and headed south.

We had intended to stop shortly and find some camping, but it turns out there is nothing in this stretch of Chile.  So, with extremely high winds, we charged on.  At one point we crossed a river gorge on a tall bridge, and I thought my head would be ripped off by the wind..  Damn near took me off the bike.  Finally about 8pm, we pulled into the only town for miles, and quickly found a motel.  We ate our picnic dinner of cheese and tomato sandwiches and had boiled eggs in front of the tv, as opposed to on a nice beach somewhere.

The next morning we woke up and spoke to the Chilean/German proprietor, and she said there was good camping in the next town.  So we headed off about noon, and had a long day of 28 miles until we found our campsite.  On the beach, with electricity and a fire pit.  And at the market, when we were buying food, we picked up a small teapot, so we can now make our own coffee anytime, all we need is a small fire.

09 December 2003

So, starting where I left off below.  After the campground host told us to watch our bags, due to the bad people who come by at 4 or 5 in the morning, we locked up our stuff, and called it a night.  Lois woke up in the wee hours and saw some people walking down the beach, so she spent the next few hours clutching her swiss army knife and glasses.  Of course we had no problems, but she was a bit tired.

We had, yesterday, a long ass ride.  About 330 miles, with supposedly nothing in between.  So we started with full tanks of gas, and I strapped a five liter water bottle filled with gas onto my bike.  We set off, and about 30 miles in, I stopped to pour the gas into our tanks.  Lois pulled up a few minutes later, hopped off her bike, and I immediately noticed that there was oil all over the right side of her bike.  Uh oh.  I quickly surmised that her oil filler cap was missing.  When she had checked her oil that morning, she had either not put it back in or not put it in properly, and it jumped ship.  Either way, she had been riding for 30 miles with little oil in her motor.  I put in about 1/2 a liter, which meant she had about 1/2 a liter in there..  Luckily, she had a spare filler cap.  We fired up the bike, and everything seemed ok, so we carried on.

The next problem was we started into some altitude, where Lois' bike suffers.  She started going slower and slower, and I had to wait longer and longer.  It looked like it was going to turn into a long day.  We finally came back to civilization on the coast, some 250 miles and 7.5 hours later.  Lois was horrified to see on my GPS that while she had been on the bike for over 6.5 hours, I had only been on mine for 4.5..  the rest of the time I had been waiting for her.  But I had a book and plenty of water, so it was no big deal.

Anyway, we finally found our way to Bahia Inglesa, a protected white sand beach on the Pacific.  We are camping again here, on the beach, and are taking a day off today to rest..  We have ridden for four days in a row and six out of seven, so we needed a break on the beach.  Tomorrow we will head south, and in a few days be in Santiago, where I need to get some work done on my bike (steering head bearings).  There is a BMW dealership there who claims to have the parts, so it should be fairly easy.  Until next time...

07 December 2003

A quick update on the last few days...

We left Iquique and headed south along the coast.  It is pretty barren here, what with the big Atacama desert surrounding us.  We had about 300 miles before the next decent town to stay in, so we had considered just camping on the beach.  By about noon, that had become the plan.  Early in the afternoon we hit Tocopilla, a small fishing and fish processing town.  Not so nice, but nice enough to pick up some supplies.  It was a bit of a challenge, as everywhere in Chile closes from about 2 until 5 for siesta.  I can certainly get behind the whole siesta idea, but it makes it challenging to get anything done during those hours.  We were able to pick up some cheese, bread, tomatoes, cookies, and a few bottles of wine though.

We headed south some more, and found a nice spot about 15 miles/24 kms south of Tocopilla.  We parked our bikes, more or less pitched tents, and cracked open a bottle of wine and some cheese.  We spent the afternoon mucking about tidal pools, checking out dead seals, and drinking the aforementioned wine.  We climbed up some rocks to watch the sunset, and as we got up to leave, I managed to drop my camera (about 5 weeks old) down the rock cliff.  It bounced about 5 times as it fell the 20 or so feet..  The cover came open, the battery and memory card came out, and I thought for sure the camera had died.  I scrambled down the cliff to survey the damage.  It was dented, scratched, and a little abused.  But to my amazement, it still worked.  The lens, while scratched, comes out, zooms and everything.  The flash works, and the view screen is unharmed!  Amazing, but then right now we are firing on all cylinders.  The bikes are working, we are finding good spots for food, sleep, etc..  And we are a bit concerned about the other shoe falling..

Anyway, we ate dinner, tomato and cheese sandwiches, and drank the rest of the wine, while we listened to old country and bluegrass favorites.  As it turns out, Lois is a big fan, so we listened to some of her favorites from my mp3 collection, Merl, Johnny, Webb, and more.

This morning we woke up early, ate a banana, and hit the road.  We stopped at a few beaches, then found a good spot in the middle of nowhere for coffee and breakfast.  A very colorful cafe on the side of the road, with coffee, milk (which is sometimes absent) and eggs and toast.

We took a slight detour around noon to try and find a lighthouse.  We were sort of unsuccessful, but found some nice (and somewhat challenging) dirt roads.  Very reminiscent of Death Valley, which much of the Atacama is.  By early afternoon, we were into Antofagasta, where we stopped to check email, and find out status of our plan to rent a cabin/house in southern Chile for Christmas.  We found a campground on the beach slightly south of the city, and spent the night listening to more music and eating more tomato and cheese sandwiches.  But we switched to beer this time.

05 December 2003

Well, it was a tough day yesterday.  Lois and I spent about 4 hours sitting on the beach, eating and drinking.  We were pretty tired after that, so we headed back to the hotel for a refreshing dip in the pool.  That motivated us a bit, so we worked on the bikes for a few minutes before heading to dinner.

However, in that few minutes I was able to put the finishing touches on my major bike improvement project.  Check out the new video to see the sweet modification.

We had an uneventful but nice ride to Iquique today, and tomorrow head down the coast towards Santiago.

04 December 2003

Well, after a bad week with Amalia crashing, Lois and I heading back and forth to the hospital, my bike's charging system having multiple problems, Lois' bike having serious issues stemming from the altitude and the bad mechanic she had in Cusco, and finally Frank getting pissed at me for some unknown sin, Lois and I finally left La Paz.  Amalia's boyfriend had arrived from London, and she was released from intensive care on Monday, so we felt safe leaving her in good care.

We had planned to head into southern Bolivia, but because of our very poor attitudes, and the fact that we were concerned about Lois' extremely underpowered bike making it through the sand and gravel, we headed west to Chile instead.  It was a long slow climb to the peak of the Andes at almost 16,000 feet (5000 meters), as Lois' bike at times was down to about 5mph.  Her top speed was about 30 mph.  Which was why I don't think she would have had the power to ride through foot deep gravel.

We finally made it to Tambo Quemado, the border town, about 5:30pm..  The town is a dusty and windy stop on the side of the road, and neither of us really wanted to stay there..  There was no visible hotel, but we were told there was a hotel..  we decided to press on.  We made it through the borders and over the crest of the Andes, and began our descent..  It started getting dark, and with that, cold.  I was leading, and saw signs for a small town..  I checked the guide book, and found that supposedly the national park had lodging in this town.  I waited for Lois, we discussed it, and decided we needed to try it.  Darkness was falling, and the next town with a hotel was about 2 hours away.  So, we turned down the small dirt road, and headed to Parinacota.  I stopped in the main square and asked a man at a small booth/store if there was a hotel.  No, he said, but there was a hospedaje (cheap hotel).  Sweet!

He took us around the corner, and found the man who owned the hospedaje.  We got in, took a quick look, and decided to stay.  We had our own little house, with bathroom out back, living room with wood stove, and a few benches.  We had to park in the house, down a few steps, so I backed both bikes down a makeshift ramp, while Lois got to work on the fire.  I then scampered off to the booth I originally stopped at, as that was our only chance for food.  I picked up dinner, which consisted of bread, potato chips, cookies, and a coke.  It was perfect.

The house was very cool, the village was great, and our attitudes were fantastic.  The negative attitudes of La Paz and Bolivia were gone, and life was good again.  We spent the night having dinner, playing cards, and listening to music.  The village, Parinacota, Chile, has only six families living in it, and has a very old church.  It is at an altitude of 14,500 feet (4500 meters).  According to the guidebook, the church is 17th century.  According to the man who got us the place to stay, it is "muchas muchas anos (many many years)" old.

I awoke the next morning and headed out to find coffee and breakfast.  I knew someone in town would be willing to sell me coffee and eggs..  Sure enough, Dona Francesca had both, and I was directed to her small house.  I got my coffee on order, and then returned and woke up Lois.  She got ready, and we had our coffee and scrambled eggs and warm bread.  We then walked around town and checked out the church, which had original drawings/murals all over the walls.

We headed out, and did a little more dirt before hitting the main road.  We descended quickly, and both bikes started to run better.  I felt like I had a turbo on mine..  I could now rev over 4500 rpms without it bogging out!  And more impressively, Lois' little Serow was able to do about 55mph!  She had not seen that speed in weeks.

We finally descended into a river valley which runs out to Arica, Chile, on the coast.  Riding down the valley, we could finally see the Pacific Ocean, and both of us were excited.  We entered Arica, got gas for Lois (who had been on reserve for miles and miles), I got some air for my tires, and we headed to the hotel I stayed at last time I was here.  A little more expensive this time, but the place is very nice, with a pool and everything.

We have an administration day today.  Need to adjust the carb on Lois' bike, find a new watch battery, and do a few other odds and ends.  Off to Iquique tomorrow, then points south probably right along the coast.


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