Day 7 – La Junta to Coihaique

January 7th

Distance – 318km

It is hard to believe that we are almost a week into the trip. After a fantastic breakfast at the hotel, we had to stop by and see the monument erected by the local people to Pinochet. Apparently, he is quite revered locally for driving the building of the Carretera Austral. He realized that in order to fight territorial claims from Argentina, he needed to populate the south, and that means infrastructure. Today, the road is mainly ripio, gravel. However, they are replacing great chunks with pavement.

Monument to Pinochet

Our second flat happened today. This time George was the unlucky one. Somehow he’d picked up a thorn which was barely visible and caused the issue.

Improvised centre stand.

It takes a lot of concentration to break the bead these days.

Once the tyre was taken care of, it was a quick rip down to the Puyuhuapi hot springs. The water flowing from the spring is 80 degrees Celsius.

Puyuhuapi Fjord from the termas.

The weather was grey and cool for most of the day. A lot of rain was coming down on the mountain tops and creating great waterfalls.

Waterfalls like Hawaii

At times it looked as though we were in a rainforest. Great riding and the KTM’s where fantastic.

Ripio through the mountains

Day 6 – Trevelin, Argentina to La Junta, Chile

January 6th

Distance – 204KM, 90% gravel

The clouds over the pass should have been a warning that the day would not be the clean sailing as we’d had to date.

Clouds over the Andes.

Just as we started to roll away, Rob realized he had a flat. Everyone had a job; Rob and Martyn levering the tyre back on; Simon delivering coffee.

Changing tyres.

MacBean hard at work keeping the front end off the ground.

A KTM unicycle

Off we went and hit the dirt. At our first stop we noticed a problem with George’s bike. The rear light was hanging off.

Field repairing a DR-Z rear light.

Martyn and Charlie fix the rear light while George rolls the cigarettes.

Duct tape fixes anything.

My wife would be proud. If it moves and shouldn’t use Duct Tape. If it doesn’t move and should use WD-40.

A view from a bridge.

We had to stop and see this view. Unfortunately, it was the precursor to our next problem. Rob’s bike would not restart.

Diagnosing a dead KTM

It turned out that the battery lead had fallen off and once reattached, everything was peachy.

Once we reached Chile, we reached the Carretera Austral, the Southern Highway. It has mainly sections of gravel interspersed with areas of pavement. The gravel is bring replaced in places by pavement and is being graded constantly, giving rise to uneven areas and ridges. George got a bit out of shape on one of these and had an off. Other than a bruised butt, ego, and bent shift lever, everything was okay. I had my own moments crossing the ridges.

Dirt devils

After a long day chasing everyone in the dirt, we turned up in La Junta pretty grimy.

Where is my dinner?

The Espacio Tiempo hotel had a friendly cat with its own table.

Salud!

Cordials after another great day riding.

Day 5 – Villa La Angostura to Trevelin

January 5th

Mileage – 416 km

The cabañas we stopped in Villa La Angostura seemed to be run by a crazy Argentinian cat/dog lady. The next morning all bikes evidenced a cat’s close attention.

Cat prints on the seat.

The culprit shows herself as we loaded the bikes.

Inquisitive cat.

Where the proprietor had us park the bikes was the animals litter box and her husband’s orchid bed. She said to park anywhere in the area but to avoid the one orchid, which Oggy proceeded to ride over.

Given the shortage of gas in Argentina, any station with gas was worth a stop. Not half bad with views like this.

Argentinian gas stop

I wouldn’t mind working at a gas station with this view. Even after a week of the lads calling it petrol, I’m still calling it gas, another sign of my Americanization. At least I’m doing it with a partial Burnley accent.
A quick stop for facilities and to let George ride one of the big bikes into our next stop.

Our, my, dinner choice was probably not the wisest. The waitress did not seem to be happy doing her business, a complete contrast to the night before. Having never had fat tripe before, I had to try it. I probably don’t need to try it again.

As you can see, fat tripe is the deep fried intestine of some grossly overweight animal. Luckily, I’d ordered a potato tortilla, which was a tortilla in the Spanish not Mexican sense. An omelette loaded with French fries.

Part of the discussion tonight is where to go next. Today, we had ridden a section of the famous Ruta Cuarenta (Route 40). Our plan was to do a couple more days and reach El Calafate. However, the wind howling down from the Andes was making us re-think the plan. Two more days of hard-ridding on an arrow straight road leaned into the wind, is not our idea of fun – that does not include the return trip either. Everyone agrees, we should head back over the Andes and into Chile for more fun.

Day 4 – Pucon, Chile to Villa Angostura, Argentina

January 4th

Distance – 349km

A few weeks ago, I saw pictures of Martyn and George out for a ride. The caption said something along the lines of. “Out practicing for our Patagonia ride”. There the two of them were, riding a dry river bed. I expressed my concern and was told not to worry. There are only long straight gravel roads to worry about. All I can say is “What a lying bastard.”

A punte too far

I must admit the first part of the road was great gravel to get into the swing of things. Then it went to dual track with boulders and “baby’s heads.” Needless to say, we turned around at this point as it did not look like the way to the border.

After my brilliant negotiation of the rocks, boulders, and bridges on the way up, I managed to forget Walt’s first lesson at motorcycle training “Look where you want to go not where you don’t want to go. Crossing the last bridge I looked at the point I wanted to avoid and dropped the bike.

A bridge to China

A quick pic after getting my bike right side up and doing quick pannier repairs.


Pie and coffee for lunch.

Quick stop for coffee, kuchen, and handle bar adjustments.

Ready to cross the border.

Great view for the first border crossing leaving Chile.

Ready to enter Argentina.

From here, it was a quick run into Villa Angostura. Experimenting with a little more speed in the gravel, I got caught in the “marbles” beteeen two tracks and had a wonderful head shaker.

Interestingly, there was a gas shortage and we had to queue for almost an hour. Apparently, the health workers were on strike and blocked the refineries. Unlike days of old Argentinian police are stand offish and do not clear blockades.

Queuing for gas

Today was Charlie’s birthday. We serenaded him for breakfast. And then treated him to a bang up dinner.

Roast lamb for two

American size meat portions in Argentina.

Charlie’s cake

Only one candle for Charlie to avoid the fire hazard given his advanced years.

Charlie makes a grand entrance

Charlie does his best John Wayne impression.

A toast to Charlie “The daft old ***”.

Day 3 – Santiago to Temuco to Pucon (Chile)

January 3rd

Distance

– Santiago to Temuco 680km as the crow flies.

– Temuco to Pucon 120km all paved.

Travel Time

– 4 hours to Temuco

– 90 minutes to Pucon

Easy flight out of Santiago down to Temuco. Odd seeing the mountains to the left and flying south. Beautiful volcano view from my window seat.

Chilean volcanoes

The teams dress sense wasn’t all up to snuff as we waited for luggage in Temuco.

Sartorial Simon

Now we are getting to why we are here, off to pick up the bikes. However, we are in for a rude awakening – Latin American time. As we arrived at the dealership, we found the place closed and bolted for lunch. A couple of phone calls and bollockings from Martyn in perfect Spanish with a Lanky accent got the manager back there sharpish.

All clean and pretty and only 1800 km on the clock.

Two hours later, after completing all the paperwork etc., we were off on our way to Pucon. It was a quick rip down a paved highway and a great intro to the 990’s feel.

Posing by the volcano.

Once, we had the lodging sorted off for a quick walk around town and off to dinner. Being in South America, it could only be one thing – steak.

Good looking rib-eye

Great outdoor dinner location.

Day 2 – Old buddies and “Chilaxin”

January 2nd

Distance – 0

Travel time – 0

Santiago, Chile

The genesis of this trip started about a year ago when MacBean called Martyn and asked him to set up the trip. Martyn and Mac became riding buddies over 30 years ago while in school. I’ve known Mac even longer. We met at Cub Scout camp. Mac and some buddies came out a couple of years ago and followed the Dakar with Martyn.

MacBean and I “studying”

Thirty years on, we look a bit different. Mac is still not in focus.

Martyn remembered my whining as a kid for rides on their bikes so he decided to ask me along. When I agreed to come along, thanks to my wonderful wife, he told me “Keep your gob shut and we’ll surprise Mac.”

I don’t have an early photo of Martyn but here he is today.

I’d arrived earlier than the lads from England, so I got to take a nap and hang by the pool. When they arrived, Mac was a little disappointed because he thought the “celebrity” guest might be Charlie Bormann and his first plan was to punch him. Fortunately, I’m bigger than Charlie and Mac likes me.

The rest of the day was given over to beer, barbecue, and getting over jet lag.

Rob – Manx GP rider, Simon – Mr BMW, Charlie – birthday boy

Martyn’s son, George is the seventh rider on the trip.

 

Here are a few pictures from the barbecue Martyn and his wife hosted.

Day 1 – Denver to Santiago

January 1st 2014

Mileage – 5493 as the crow flies

Travel time – ~20 hours door to door

Today was a day of contrasts and tedium, 32F and snow leaving Denver.

Baggage loading – Denver International

Three airport lounges and three flights later, I arrived in Santiago, Chile with temperatures in the high 70sF at 6 in the morning.

Martyn picked me up with perfect timing as I walked through customs. There was only one snag, no luggage. My bag made it as far as Panama City.

The luggage situation should have been no surprise. At check in for my flight, being unable to check in online should have warned me, the agent could not find my reservation. Once they did, they asked if my final destination was Panama City.

After a promise of delivery the next evening, it was off to the hotel Acacias de Vitacura.

The view from the room at the hotel Acacias de Vitacura