27 January 2004
So, after the rain pouring down for two nights and most of one day, it cleared and I set off from Ushuaia. I had thought that at least with all the rain the very very dusty dirt road would be not as dusty. Wrong. When other vehicles passed going the other way, you are blinded momentarily, and have to hope there is nothing big in front of you... But I made the relatively uneventful journey to Rio Grande. I stopped here, and checked into a different hotel...much cheaper. Here I met Reiner, a German traveling on a Suzuki DR650.. However, he is not doing too much traveling, as he got involved with the girl running the hostel, and now he has been there for a month. It seems like he wants to get going, but the girl has become attached. He kept talking about changing his oil and she would be asking why? Anyway, I spent the afternoon chatting with Reiner, mostly about bikes, and fixing my front fender. He's a nice guy, and as I say, I think eager to move on.. In the crash on the Carretera Austral half of my fender broke off (and must have been lodged in the minivan, because it wasn't at the crash site) and whenever it rained or I went through puddles or mud, it slung the water or mud up into my face. So I walked around town and finally found someone willing to sell me an old front motocross fender. Unfortunately it did not fit my bike, and was slightly broken as well, so I put the two broken fenders together and now have one odd looking but functional front fender..
This morning I woke up and had breakfast, and both Reiner and Marcela (the girl) asked why I was leaving in such weather. Sure, it was a little windy, but I was on Tierra del Fuego, it is always windy there. Well, long story short, I should have listened to them and hung around Rio Grande another day.. The wind was insane. The first fifty miles was paved, a border crossing back into Chile, then dirt for a while, then pavement, a ferry, more pavement, more dirt, more pavement, another border back into Argentina, more dirt, and finally, more pavement into Rio Gallegos. For most of the first half of the ride the wind was ridiculous. The few times the wind was at my back, the dirt I was kicking up was passing me.. And I was doing about 40-45 mph.. The rest of the time I was fighting mostly a left to right crosswind, and the left side of my neck is a bit sore from trying to hold my head straight. Anyway, I made it here.
A week or so ago I received an email from Lucho Motos, where my friend Dieter stayed when he broke his collarbone and cracked up his GS. They said (I think, because the email was in Spanish), that if I needed anything when I came through to stop by. Well, that seemed nice, and Dieter had spoken highly of them, so I stopped by when I came to town. They immediately greeted me, knew who I was from my website photos, and asked what was wrong with my bike. I told them everything was great, I just stopped by to say hi. So they invited me in. Their shop and home are all one building. They fed me coffee, and invited me to spend the night with them and have dinner. Well, I'm not one to turn down a free meal, so here I am. I just wish there was something wrong with my bike, because this is the most well stocked motorcycle shop I have seen in months. They have welders, bike lifts, pneumatic tools, a metal lathe, drill presses, everything.
I mentioned that there were two women a few days ahead of me, and he immediately grabbed his guestbook, and showed me where Lois and Rachel had signed. Evidently Rachel had a problem with her chain, and she and Lois where here yesterday morning. I guess it must have been really windy for the girls as well, because it took them over 2 days to do what I did today.. but with the wind as bad as it was today, their little bikes would have been all over the place.. Oh well, I will get the full story when I catch them.
25 January 2004
The Antarctica idea is just too damn expensive. $1500 minimum to fly there for an hour.. Literally. You fly there, get off the plane, walk around for an hour, get back on the plane and fly back. Seems a bit pricy for that. The other option is an 11 day cruise for like $2500. So, no Antarctica for me. Oh well.
Next plan is leaving here tomorrow to hunt for penguins. Seems there are some up by Rio Gallegos, if not, I will have to head back towards Punta Arenas. I figured, of course without actually doing any research, that they would be down here. There are some, but not the hordes I am looking for..
Today has been a day of rest. I think I need a vacation from my vacation. Actually, I figured out that in the two weeks that led me to here, I rode 1900 miles, of which 1400 was off pavement. No wonder I'm a bit beat. So, since it was raining today, I decided to do nothing.
24 January 2004 - Tierra del Fuego
Well, I made it... I left Punta Arenas with a leaking carburetor and a sketchy electrical system, caught the ferry, and disembarked at about noon. I spent the next 20 minutes in the parking lot fixing the carb, then, assuming the charging warning light was just a short somewhere, I took off and headed south. After 100 miles of dirt I hit the borders, made it through those, and then landed on pavement.. I rode south for another 40 or so miles to Rio Grande, and looked for a place to eat. I didn't immediately find a place to eat, but I did find Lois and Rachel heading the other way. They had made it to Ushuaia, but as the hotels were packed, decided to spend only one night as they were stuck sharing a room with two guys. Well, knowing that I would not make it to Ushuaia until 8 or 9, I decided to hole up in Rio Grande so I didn't have to look for a place to stay or set up camp late.. Lois and Rachel joined me, and after I spent a couple of hours successfully (yay!) hunting an electrical gremlin in my bike, we headed off to a great little Italian place with homemade pasta. Rachel and Lois had eaten here on their way down, so they knew right where it was.
Anyway, this morning Lois and Rachel headed north, and I headed south. Made it to Ushuaia, then headed to the National Park and the end of the road. Supposedly, the end of Ruta 3 in the National Park is the southernmost point on the earth you can drive to.. or ride to as the case may be. I don't know if it's true, but what the hell, I went there and got the picture. I then searched the town for an hour or two looking for a decent place to stay. My options seemed to be a dorm bed in a hostel and parking on the street for $7, camping in the rain and cold for $5, or hotel rooms for $60 or more. I was getting frustrated, when I finally found a hostel with a cabana in the back all to myself for $20. Little more than I like to spend, but I can cook my own dinner, and I am right close to down town.
I am going to look into going to Antarctica, but if it's too expensive, then I'm heading north again soon.
22 January 2004
No two ways about it. Ruta 40 in Argentina is an EVIL road (see the sign here). The devil and his minions were down here devising this hellish creation. It is gravel. And lots of it. There are tracks in the gravel where cars and trucks have swept off the loose gravel. You have to try and stay in these foot wide channels, as on either side are piled of loose gravel 6 or more inches deep. And sometimes, the track you are in just ends.. Fizzles out, and there you are, swapping ends trying to find your way into another track. Oh yeah, and there are bumps... lots of nice washboard, plus, just to keep you awake, they threw in cattle guards or cement bridges every 5 miles or so.. Course, to smooth out the washboard, you need to do about 70 mph, which then turns most of the cattle guards into jumps. (ed: jumping a fully loaded GS on gravel is not recommended). But, don't get me wrong, that's not all. There is wind, and lots of it.. So you have to keep your bike in this foot wide path of packed gravel while fighting crosswinds that threaten to blow you off. Oh yeah, and it goes on forever. And there is nothing. I rode on it for 175 miles today between inhabited buildings. No gas, no motel, no food, no nothing. It was awful.
I have never in my life ridden while afraid.. I now have. I was fully expecting to endo at 70mph at any moment. Not a happy feeling.
Finally, after doing 270 miles of dirt, most on the EVIL Ruta 40, I came upon a sign.. saying something. So I locked it up, skid to a stop, and turned into the driveway, almost throwing the bike into a big ditch. I pulled into the ranch and stopped. I didn't have the energy to get off the bike. Finally I got off and walked inside. Where a man asked where I was from. I said the US. He then started speaking perfect English, telling me he had rooms, hot showers, and dinner. And cold beer. I thought I was dreaming. He took me to my room, gave me a towel, and told me to take a hot shower, then come down for a beer. I thought I was going to cry. So I took the shower, and returned to the dining room to find a feast laid out. Apparently this was just the starter (cold lamb with mint cream sauce, home made goat cheese, home made pepperoni style sausage, fresh baked bread, home pickled assorted peppers). I took a cold beer, and starting munching. He came back out and asked me how I liked my steaks. I did have to stifle a bit of a sniffle here. I think this man might be God. Dinner (grilled lamb steaks, medium rare, boiled potatoes with butter and herbs, halved tomatoes with oil and herbs) followed, with portions big enough for five. I ate as much as I could, and it barely looked like I dented it... Then dessert (baked pineapple with flaky crust, smothered in cream and chocolate sauce) arrived. I was done.
Anyway, the next day I had another long batch of EVIL Ruta 40.. so I got on the road relatively early, and started off. I had intended to go to El Chalten to check out some supposedly bitching mountains.. but the road was too much, as the welded piece of my fairing had broken the day before.. and there was a huge sandstorm that I was trying to ride directly into. I had finally seen some pavement, as they are paving the road to El Chalten.. but it's not open yet. Nonetheless, I drove over the barrier and headed up, in heaven. Unfortunately it only lasted for about 5 minutes, when the pavement stopped, the bad road took over, and the sandstorm kicked up. So I said screw it, turned around, did the pavement again, then hopped back on EVIL Ruta 40 for the final push to El Calafete.
I made it there, set up camp in the municipal campground.. and headed off for some grub. When I got back to camp, I found that my tent was filled with dirt. The wind had picked up in my dirty campground, and everything was covered in dirt. Oh well. I went back out to fix a problem I've had since about Honduras.. My butt. Picked up a nice sheepskin, cut it a bit, screwed it into my seat, and my butt is as happy as could be.
The next morning I headed off to see Glacier Perito Moreno. It is pretty damn impressive... Essentially, it's a huge ice river coming down from the Andes. Very cool.. And a bit cold too. The leading edge is pushing into the lake, and sometimes it covers the entire lake. They say they expect it to do that this year. The leading edge also cracks and breaks regularly, with huge splashes as the chunks fall into the water, and huge cracking sounds.
After returning to El Calafete, I checked into a different campground, and set to work on my bike.. After 1200 plus miles in the last 9 or so days, less than 150 on pavement, some things were broken again. Took the fairing brace thingy out again, which is a pain, brought it to a welders, and had him add some extra strength to it this time.. Maybe it will hold out, of course, I don't intend to do EVIL Ruta 40 again, so hopefully it will be ok. At that campsite I met an English bloke, riding a R1100GS. Retired from the British Post Office, and now he is just messing about in South America until he gets tired of it.. Nice.
The next day was incredible. Rode a small bit of pavement so I could get to the next section of dirt, then crossed back into Chile, and headed to Torres del Payne National Park. It is unbelievable. I had a campsite with a view of the mountains, and also kept walking up to the top of the hill to get the entire view. Incredible. In the morning, there were brief rain showers, which provided great rainbows. Truly magical.
Shortly after I left the park, my charging light came on, indicating a problem. As I was on a dirt road with 50mph winds, I decided to just keep going. So I made it to Puerto Natales, and had lunch then set to work on the bike. I replaced the rotor and a fuse, and everything appeared perfect, so I left town and about 10 miles out, I hit a bump, the fuse blew, and the light came back on. Damnit. What the hell, I kept going and made it to Punta Arenas. After a quick call to Scottie at Desmoto (becoming so common that Lance almost dropped the phone laughing), we agree it is probably some short somewhere.. so I need to go searching for it. But I don't have the energy right now. Maybe tomorrow, as I have 2.5 hours on a ferry to kill..
Anyway, only days from the end of the world now.. Ushuaia and Tierra del Fuego soon!
17 January 2004
Wow. Amazing scenery.. Day after day, mile after mile. Lakes, rivers, mountains, forests..
Anyway, I left Coyhaique, and rode to Puerto Rio Tranquila. Checked into the hospedaje, hung around, then saw an Africa Twin going to the store. So I nervously said hello, thinking he would be one of the boring bikers. But he seemed a nice fellow, and invited me out to there campsite just past town. So I grabbed some dinner and then headed out there. They, Bob, Peter and Mirko, an Englishman and two Germans, had a fantastic campsite right on Lago General Carrera. They had a fire going, and we had a few beers. When we ran out of beer, Bob decided to run into town and get more. I decided to run into town and check out of my room. The woman was fairly surprised to see me at 11pm checking out.. but she cut me a deal. So we went back and continued to tell lies around the fire.
The next morning we headed our separate ways, as they had come from Tierra del Fuego at New Years. TDF is a traditional meeting ground for bikers at New Years, and there were 20 or so there. And Bob, being the fun loving Brit that he is, set up a speedway course in the campground, and they had big bike races. Sounds like fun!
I ended up in Puerto Bertrand, a sleepy little village on Lago Bertrand. I spent a relaxing afternoon walking about town and reading by the lake. This morning I woke up and continued south to Cochrane.. then right through Cochrane and down to the end of the road, Puerto Yergey. Again, beautiful scenery and well worth the 160 mile round trip on bad dirt roads down there and back.
Tomorrow I had east into Argentina, then turn south on the infamous Ruta 40 to TDF. Have not seen pavement for days, and I probably won't see it for another week or so. Yee hah!
14 January 2004
Woke up this morning and it was sunny! Had a cup of coffee, and walked a block to the welders.. Got my main headlight/fairing support piece welded, and came back and started to reassemble the whole front end.. Had to remove the speedo, tach, headlight, fairing, then the handlebars, top triple clamp and steering head.. but after a few hours, and another two trips to the welders, the bike is back together and more or less straight. The crash bars are not exactly where they are supposed to be, and one of them I just welded on instead of the bolts that would not fit, but it will work. The left bag is still bent, but appears to be solidly mounted, so it will work. And the steering is good, the headlight points more or less straight ahead, so I am as happy as could be.
Tomorrow I am off to the south and Lago General Carrera.
13 January 2004
So, I set off this morning with steering head bearings that wouldn't turn.. making the bike handle very very poorly. It was difficult to keep the thing on the road, let along dealing with all the potholes, puddles, etc. Oh yeah, and it was raining. And, I woke up with a bit of the runs.. So it was a glorious morning.
The potholes got worse and worse, and weather improved marginally, and I stopped a lot for quick dashes into the woods. The bearings definitely loosened up.. The whole fairing/headlight/front fender group is about to fall completely off, but what the hell.
Anyway, I made it to Coyhaique, the biggest down around down here, after 100 miles of dirt and 60 of pavement, ah, glorious pavement. I averaged less then 25 mph for the dirt and pothole section.. I am now going to try and fix the fairing, and re-grease the bearings and see if that works. If not, I can probably get bearings shipped down here from the Santiago BMW dealer... even though they suck.
12 January 2004 - Carretera Austral and Crash
So, the Carretera Austral. It is a dirt road heading south through Chilean Patagonia. Started in 1976, it was finished in the 90s. Before that, there was no road that went through this section of Chile. And it is amazing. Stunning scenery. Untouched, with only a few small villages here and there. Unbelievable.. And I have days and days more of this.
One small problem I had yesterday was some jackass in a minivan. I was in a straightaway, heading to a slight uphill and left turn, when a van coming the other way, crested the hill on my side of the road (there is only about 1 1/2 lanes here...), going way too fast. The driver saw me, panicked, and swerved to his right, which of course, sent the van sliding sideways towards me.. With nowhere to go, I was forced further and further to the right, until I was attempting to ride through/over a large pile of sand and big soccer ball sized rocks. Well, my bike don't like that, and the rear end fell to the right side, off a rock, and kicked the front end out into the van.. I managed to have slowed it down a fair amount, but still hit the back of the van pretty good. I ended up on my left side, facing the way I had come.. The van driver slowed down, then took off. Bastard. Obviously heard me hit him and saw me go down, but decided since it was his fault he would take off.. So he did.
Luckily, I am completely unhurt. No bruises, not even a scratch. My bike faired slightly worse. Left valve cover got a big hole, and oil poured out.. And the crash bars, which hold the headlight and everything straight, were pretty well bent up. I was quickly able to JB Weld (yeah!) the valve cover, and that appears to hold fine. I took apart some of the crash bars to I could ride it, then rode into town, Puerto Puyuhuapi, where I had intended to stay anyway.. I took things apart, and looked for the town's welder to get back from driving his bus route to weld up one of the supports.. I could not find him, so gave up, had dinner and met a cool British couple. We had dinner, drank some wine, and called it a night.. This morning, after sleeping in, I went back at the bent crash bars. I was unable to completely get them back to normal.. but they are usable now, with a slightly sketchy rigged up brace to hold the right side on.. The biggest problem now is that the steering head and/or bearings seems to have been damaged. They turn very slowly, and hold firm wherever I leave the handlebars.. Not great, but I don't have much choice but to ride it. Hopefully they will be ok until I get to Buenos Aires.. where there is a dealer. Problem is, that is more than 2000 miles away... Oh well.
10 January 2004
I woke up late, messed about, and finally found out the ferry schedule from the island to the mainland and the Carretera Austral heading south. So I set off, in crappy cloudy weather. It soon started to rain, and I arrived in Castro, the town on Chiloe where the ferry goes from. I had intended to spend the night here and take the ferry the next day, but rain and clouds do little for a town's appeal, so I hopped on the ferry out of there that night.
The ride was uneventful, boring, and long. But I finally arrived in Chaiten last night about 12:30 in the morning. And of course, it was raining there too. So I drove about on the muddy dirt roads, looking for a place to stay. Finally, on my third try, I hit pay dirt, and found a place that was open and had a room. So I checked in and called it a night.
One nice thing about Chile is the term for gentleman is caballero, which means cowboy. So everywhere you go people great you, as 'hey, cowboy.' Very old west, and I like it. Also, the cops are called carabineros, which means riflemen.. Very appropriate I think.
09 January 2004
So, after waiting around all morning for my computer, I finally called my man at Sony, who let me know he has accidentally put the wrong city name on the package. I went to the local office of TurBus, the courier, and found that they had the package at their office in this city, which was conveniently on my way. So I packed up and set off, picked up my computer, a few blank CDs, grabbed some gas, and set off at the crack of 6pm. Headed south to Chiloe, a big island.
It wasn't far, but I did have to take a ferry.. which is always fun, as long as they are not too long. After the ferry I quickly made it to Ancud, and set up there for the night. I was very happy to finally have my computer back, and spent most of the night in my hotel room listening to music. I had missed music...
07 January 2004
Well, my screen for my computer arrived, and I sent the computer back to Sony in Santiago last night. Supposedly, it was to get there this morning, they were going to work on it, and send it back for arrival here tomorrow.. We'll see if that actually happens.
Anyway, a few other stories from the last week.. One, in order to get back across the river where I drowned my bike, I had to get creative. There was small suspension bridge for people, but I was skeptical about that. Not only was it weak, but it swayed dramatically, and I didn't want to drown my bike in the river again after a 15 foot fall into it. So that was out. I walked up and down the river, trying to find a better spot than my first failed attempt, but there was nothing doing. The shallowest part was still about two feet deep with an unseen but wicked current. So I talked to the German guy who owned the place I was staying, and he offered to get his truck and bring me across. Of course, his truck was a crew cab Nissan, so had little space in the back, and was quite high due to the 4wd and the big tires. We walked around his property and found a hill he could back into, all I would need to do is ride down the hill into the back of his truck, over, of course, a rickety plank that bridged the 2-3 foot gap between the hill and the tailgate. We measured my bike and his truck, and determined that if I took the it in at a diagonal, both wheels might fit. So I rode it in, and it barely fit. I then sat on the bike as he drove down the bumpy sandy single lane road, and then across the river. Almost dropped the bike in the back of the truck a few times, but we made it. But, there was no suitable place to unload it, so we drove around for a bit, then found a hill we could back into. That of course, meant doing the same thing we did to get it in, only reverse. But alas, my bike doesn't have reverse, so we had to push and shove and push and heave the bike backwards up a hill over the rickety plank.. But it worked, and my bike was across the river. I left it there for a night, then the next day carried all my bags and whatnot across the river and mounted them on the bike to leave. It was a pain, but it worked, and my bike was dry.
Something that is really cool down here are the birds. Near Cochamo there were tons of water birds, but everywhere else there these brown hawk/eagle birds of prey. They are good sized, maybe 18 inches tall, and have an amazing call. I have been trying to get a decent picture of one, but they don't sit still for my camera. Evidentially they are not to keen on being close to people.
When I was in Ensenada the other day, camping, there were four guys working on the campsite, fixing up fences, building fogons (sort of pavilion type rain shelters) and whatnot. They stopped to talk to me about my bike for a while, then asked how much it was. A normal question, which I answer honestly, somewhere around $3000 or $4000. They explained that it was very expensive in Chile, then asked what the minimum wage in the US was. Turns out they make the equivalent of about $5 a day here, and this is not a terribly inexpensive place. Chile is quite developed, and I was surprised they made so little. Of course, they were not exactly skilled laborers, and they were working sort of as handymen.
And finally, to touch on the south of Chile in general. It is awesome down here. The natural beauty is unmatched. Volcanoes, lakes, rivers, trees, mountains.. all stunning. And it is civilized. They have shops, restaurants, bike shops, casinos and everything, but at a much smaller scale then in the States. The Cochamo river valley, where I stayed for a few days, rivals Yosemite in beauty and evidently climbing. I met two German climbers who were climbing faces that no one had ever climbed. The first person to climb seriously down here was only about 6 years ago. And someone decided to build a road up this whole valley to develop it, but the road was stopped, and the valley remains totally natural. I wanted to go up the valley, but the horseback trips were a but pricy. Anyway, I am rambling, but the fact that development was stopped impressed me. So, any of you people who want to see some great natural beauty, come on down to the lakes region in the south of Chile. You will not be disappointed.
06 January 2004
So, much has happened.. But first, let me remind you all to watch and cheer for my friend Charlie Rauseo in the Dakar race. After five stages he was 56th out of 190 entrants. Rock on Charlie!!!
Anyway, I left Puerto Varas and headed for the Valle Rio Cochamo, a secluded valley not far from here. I made it there no problem, but had to cross a river to get the final hundred yards. I, being the smart fellow I am, got off the bike, scouted out the river, and decided on the best place to cross. Turns out that wasn't quite the spot.. I got halfway through, the bike started to bog out on the water it was sucking on, and then the rear bags started to float, which lifted the rear off the ground, and the current took the back away. Over the bike went.. In the deepest and strongest part of the river. I struggled to get it upright, but the current was too strong, so I continued to wrestle with it for about 10 minutes, getting nowhere. Luckily a local fellow and his wife were there for a picnic, and eventually they found me, and came in to help. With more struggling and pushing, we got the bike out of the river.. It was clear to me it wasn't going to start, so I didn't even try, just pushed it up to the campground. I spent that afternoon and the next day taking apart most of the bike, drying it out, as well as hanging up my clothes, maps, and everything else that was soaking wet. Late the next night, I got the bike fired up, and everything seems ok.
I spent another day there, mucking about, and in the late afternoon decided to take a walk up the valley. I was moseying along, with the two dogs who lived at the camp, and walking through various gates.. There were cows about, but no worries, I continued along the river. After one particularly wet and muddy section, I came around a corner and found myself staring at a big cow with horns. She mooed at me, and I stood there. Then she charged. I ran. I was quite surprised, as cows are not usually aggressive, but this one seemed pissed. I ran for a few yards and looked back, and the cow was still charging.. Damn. I kept running, back around the corner, where I came upon two other cows, blocking the road and mooing at me. With the one behind me still hot on my tail, I had to choose quickly... So I darted to the right, through the trees and brush (and thorns). I had no idea cows could get so pissed. I continued to dodge through the dense underbrush, cutting my legs, as I heard the cows mooing angrily and one of them coming through the brush after me.. So I kept going, finally got the gate and darted out. I ain't never had cows after me before, and I'm thinking maybe it was the bright red jacket I had on... don't bulls chase red?
Anyway, the next day I left, and went back to Ensenada, where I had spent Christmas. I camped on the lake, and worked on my custom tire rack (as the metal one bent and broke the other day). And I also impressed myself with my camp cooking.. Sausage, onions and potatoes, all cooked on wood coals with a teapot and a small fry pan.. Anway, after waking up yesterday I went into town and called my guy at Sony, who said the part was not in yet. So I left and went to Petrohue, a small village on another lake not far from Ensenada. Beautiful lake, with a black sand beach from the volcanic rock Volcan Osorno has shot out. Problem was, the mosquitoes were insane. I had to spend much of the afternoon (and we have long afternoons, as the sun does not set until about 9:30) in my tent, listening to the rain.. well, not rain, it was the mosquitoes bouncing in between my rain fly and tent, and it sounded like rain. There were bloody thousands of the little buggers, trying to get in and eat me. But they couldn't. Whenever I had to get out of my tent (like to cook dinner) a swathed myself in DEET and had to move around a lot, or they started swarming me. It was nasty.
And today, I woke up, and headed back to Puerto Varas for laundry, internet, and maybe a bed.. I've camped for the last five nights, and could use a hotel room.
Hopefully my new LCD screen will show up soon in Santiago, and I can get my computer fixed. I am ready to move on!
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