Monthly Archives: January 2014

Riding Patagonia

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lFXkQbPhavg?feature=oembed&enablejsapi=1&origin=https://safe.txmblr.com&wmode=opaque&w=250&h=141]

Here are some of the videos Oggy and Charlie shot on our Patagonia trip, unedited for the most part, along with a couple of my shots.

http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLUo0GxOdCNVtskD3KVmsw3LJM3G23E1-v

Day 18 – Santiago to Denver

January 18th 2014

Distance – 5493 miles as the crow flies

Travel time – ~24 hours door to door

This was a brutal travel day. After far too much beer, too many cocktails, and too little sleep, Martyn bangs on the door of the “Princess Suite” to wake me up at 3am. I can’t figure out how the shower works so it is a quick splash in the sink and I’m down for coffee. At 3:20 Martyn packs me off in the taxi and the trip home as begun.

Check-in is smooth with the exception of passports – the US does not want visitors without visas so I have to use my US passport, not my UK passport which I used here to avoid the “reciprocal fee”.

I hit the COPA lounge and stock up on liquid because for some reason I’m feeling dehydrated. Boarding is easy as I’m in the first group and have a window seat. I stash my gear and crash immediately to catch another couple of hours sleep.

On waking, I’m treated to breakfast and this view from the plane.

God’s Eye

The rest of the trip is pretty tedious. I catch up on some of the blog posts, I read the Bike magazines that Martyn has given me, avoiding the 900 page book I lugged around with me. I spend hours in COPA lounge in Panama City, where my flight is delayed for a couple of hours. MacBean breaks the tedium by Facetiming me from home. The lads had arrived home without incident and were trying to stay awake until a reasonable time.

Finally, my flight to Houston takes off and we arrive without incident. Immigration and customs is a breeze – all electronic these days. Given my delay, I have just enough time to grab a sandwich before the flight to Denver.

Lisa met at the baggage claim where my luggage has arrived this time. She gets me home by which time I’m acting like a zombie. As I walked into the house, I closed the garage door on her and had no recollection of doing it. I have to get to bed. It’s midnight Denver time, 4am in Chile. We are leaving for the Broncos/Patriots game tailgate at 9am the next morning.

Fantastic trip

Day 17 – Winding down in Santiago

Friday, January 17th

Distance – 0km

This is it. The trip is almost over. All we have left to do is hang out and get our flights home. The lads are leaving around 5:30pm this evening. I’m hanging out until 6am tomorrow.

For those of us who have not yet bought gifts, panic buying at the mall is the order of business. Martyn has come down with George to cram us all into the back of a Hyundai Santa Fe.

Clowns lined up to get into the mini

Off to the mall we went and once inside, we could have been in any western country in the world – Food court – check, Armani Exchange – check, FroYo – check. MacBean’s kids made out like bandits. Some lucky ladies in Manchester got special treats – Chilean hot sauce. I got a bottle of aged Pisco to fill the spot left by the missing bourbon bottle.

Peruvian lunch spot

Like England, the best cusine is not local. In the case of Chile, Peruvian food is the businss. We stopped by a great place with outdoor seating. The pisco sours came in goblets better suited as goldfish bowls. Putting two down left me with quite a buzz.

Ceviche and pisco sours

After lunch, we dropped the Bolly boys at the hotel to get their cab to the airport. I went off with Martyn and George – picking up beer on the way – to their house to hang out for the afternoon. We spent it drinking beer as Martyn prepped his bike to go off and watch the last special stage in the Dakar.

The Howorth’s place in Santiago

Behind the house is a beautiful little stream that I bet is a raging torrent when the snows are melting in the spring.

The Howorth’s stream

That evening, the Howorth’s took me to dinner at a steakhouse in Santiago. We started with cocktails and I had to have a caipirinha. The food, wine and company were all fantastic. I had grilled short ribs, quiet unusual. I also introduced them to a new name for the bollocks they ordered – Rocky Mountain Oysters. George’s girlfriend Luna came along.

Luna, Kate, Martn, and George

The next morning as I dragged myself out of bed at 3am to get the taxi to the airport, it came to me that I’m really not very bright. Drinking all day and staying up late in preparation for 24 hours of travel is not very smart.

Sad to leave but ready to get home.

Day 16 – Puerto Varas to Temuco

Thursday, January 16th

Distance – 354km

This is it, just 300 or so clicks of pavement left to go, getting us back to the KTM dealer, Roland Spawater, in Temuco. Martyn was supposed to be up and out early for his 1000 clicks back to Santiago. We are flying the last leg from Temuco to Santiago. The G&T’s last night took care of that.

After Martyn gets off, we pack up and load the bikes. Our plan is to head into town, grab breakfast, refuel, and head north. Two out of four is not bad, I guess. We headed into town, skipped breakfast and fuel, finding ourselves on the highway entrance. The only problem is we don’t know which one to take. They are signed for the next towns not the direction. Puerto Montt was like Blackpool so that should have been south, so we head onto the other entrance and set-off.

The first service exit really does not have any services so we loop straight back on and keep going. Another 40kms down the road we pull off at another intersection, Mac’s fuel light has just come on, mine flips on too, Simon’s has been on for 18kms already. Surprise, surprise – the skinny boy with a heavy hand uses the most fuel. We plan on a steady, fuel economical run to the next service station. 20kms down the road a bright and shiny Petorbras shows itself and we all head in.

The breakfast is surprisingly good – $3 for fresh scrambled eggs, toast, coffee, and juice. You’d be hard pressed to find a deal like this in the US or England by the motorway.

After breakfast, we head out north again, planning one more stop before Temuco. With about 120 clicks to go we pull off, add as splash of gas to the tanks, and grab coffee. We chat with one guy on a Super Tenere which is huge in comparison to the KTMs, then it is off to Temuco.

We reach Temuco without incident but don’t quite make it to Spawater. We have to pull onto a square and dig out the guidebook to figure out where we are. We were within spitting distance and quickly head over to find Spawater. It is after one and we figure they would be out to lunch so we just reconn and the go and grab lunch ourselves. The gate is still open so we pull in and park the bikes. The manager asks us to come back at 2:30 to check in the bikes, as they are about to head to lunch. He recommends a place down the street, so off we trot for beer and grilled meat. Our riding time is over.

Bike check in goes without incident. We unload, change, and set the bikes up for review. The inspections are cursory and the wheel dings we’d been concerned about are overlooked.

Well used KTM Adventure

The bike looks a little dirtier than on pick up.

Dust and bug spattered front end

This is how an adventure bike should look.

Square wheels anyone?

If you look carefully, you can see the misshapen rim on this picture.

KTM Adventure ready to be washed

Those dirt roads can certainly tear up a rear tire.

After inspection and the collection of the guarantee credit card, we book taxis to the airport. We arrive early and figure it is better not to check our luggage yet so there is less chance of it being forgotten and not making the plane. It’s off to the bar for the most expensive beers of the trip to date. We make the flight and off to Santiago without issue.

On the other end, we make it back to the Hotel Acacia without incident and check in. Its almost 11 and everyone is hungry, so we set out for food. Who would have thought that in a city like Santiago, everything closes early. Every bar/restaurant within walking distance, is closing as we arrive. We are out of look and head back to the hotel to raid the mini-bar. My trail-mix saves the day once again as I break it and some snack bars out.

Day 15 – Hornopiren to Puerto Varas

Wednesday, January 15th

Distance – 165km, 50% ripio

Ferry – 30 minutes

Some of the lads were up and about early and sorted breakfast for us. Martyn, Simon, and I were moving a little slower. George had got Martyn a cool, little iPhone speaker for Christmas. We’d spent a late night listening to 80s music and David Bowie washed down with a little Johnnie Walker.

Breakfast Guest

The owner of the cabaña had a couple of Jack Russell terriers. One that would not come anywhere near us and this little fellow who ate his weight in scrambled eggs.

Fishing boats at low tide.

Once again, we were surrounded by beautiful images. The fishing boats make great studies. I wish I’d more time to set up some HDR shots.

Roadside repairs yet again.

Once again, we had electrical issues with MacBean’s bike. This time it wasn’t the battery. At some point a connector had been wrongly routed and snapped. The mechanical geniuses took care of it again.

This was actually our second stop to fix things. I was the culprit the first time around. Going into a downhill blind left hand bend, I locked up the back wheel got the bike sideways and low sided. In doing it, I sheared the bolt that holds an eccentric that itself holds the rear brake pedal in place. I wobbled the bike around the corner without a rear brake and we stopped to assess. First, we trudged back around the corner to hunt the eccentric and amazingly found it in the dirt. Next, Charlie used his genius to remove the snapped bolt. Then one bolt from the air box later, we were back in business. I was quite upset to have fallen off here. Earlier, I had ridden in sand, forded a river, and been chased by a pig all without incident. It was probably a case of over confidence.

Charlie and Martyn taking the air.

The road today, again, required a ferry ride. This time just 30 minutes. The ferry workers lined us up to leave first. Martyn was a little slow getting his gear on and held up the driver behind him. Feeling brave, the driver honked on his horn and shouted abuse a Martyn, and nudged his back wheel. Martyn may be small but he’s feisty. Off the back he got, walked to the car window, and told the driver to get out. Surprised at the fluency, and the furiosity, up went the windows and down went the locks.

Once we regrouped, it was a quick rip down the highway to Puerto Montt. Our plan was to get lunch here. Montt is the biggest town we have seen since leaving Temuco, maybe even Santiago. It had the feel of a Chilean Blackpool. We spotted a place with potential and popped our bikes up on the curb. An Argentinian tourist and his son tried to cut off MacBean and Charlie and the started shouting at us. This got him a mouthful from Martyn in return. At this, he jumped out of his car and grabbed a tyre wrench from his trunk/boot. This brought howls of laughter from all of us as we took off our helmets. At this point, he seemed to rethink things and jumped into the car and sped off. All the time, his wife had been sat in the passenger seat looking away from the whole affair. When he got in, he got a mouthful from her. The parting shot was the son girl throwing a ½ full water bottle at us – more laughter.

Next up was the store manager next door to where we parked telling us that we’d be towed. That was enough to get us heading out of town; Bye-bye Blackpool, hello Cleveleys. A quick trip north brought us into Puerto Varas.

Lunch was a lovely affair on the restaurant terrace overlooking the lake and another snow-capped volcano. The sad thing is, is that this is virtually the end of the road. Tomorrow, we have to turn the bikes back in in Temuco.

Charlie’s improvised shower.

Stevie and Tree, Martyn’s guests from Santiago, were in town and booked us a cabaña. Unfortunately, when we arrived the power was out so most of us had cold showers. Charlie devised his own hot shower.

1. Boil water on gas stove.

2. Mix one pan of boiling water with four of cold

3. Pour into garbage/dustbin bag

4. Stand under bag suspended from balcony and poke holes

Nature’s amazing show

We met up with Stevie and Tree, Martyn’s friends who we had met in Santiago at the first night barbeque, for dinner at a great restaurant down the street. Here is the view we had as we enjoyed dinner. Stevie and Tree were heading south on their way to Ushuaia. They are putting their sprinter van on a ferry and cruising most of the way south. When they get their, they plan hop a flight to Antarctica if it is available.

As this is our “first” last night of the trip, we stop into a bar on the way back. I had a couple of green chile pisco sours – excellent choice – served in a champagne flute. The buckets of gin and tonics a couple of the lads downed were not as well received the next morning.

Day 14 – Chaitén to Hornopiren

Tuesday, January 14th

Distance – 75km, 100% ripio

Ferries – 30 minutes, 4 hour

In this area of Los Lagos, the Carretera Austral becomes discontinuous and your transportation becomes bi-modal. There are sections of road connected by ferries. Today, we have two ferry rides to enjoy, a short one of five miles or so in Pumalin Park and a longer one from the other side of the park to Hornopiren.

Pumalin Park from Google Maps

The Chilean government has plans to extend the road but are fighting with the American environmentalist Douglas Tompkins who owns the land.

As we left Chaiten, we came on an interesting sight. The road went from 10 meters wide to 100 meters wide. For a moment, I thought we’d come to the end and needed to turn around. It turned out to be a runway. The Chaiten airport had been destroyed in the eruptions and a temporary one had be constructed on the highway

As it turned out, there were flights due to come in shortly, so we stopped to watch the spectacle. As the planes neared, cones were pulled out across the road at each end of the runway. That didn’t stop the local dog mind you.

Wildlife control?

Once the track was clear, the first plane came in nice and smoothly throwing up less dust than we typically did on these roads.

Chaiten International

The last plane to come in was a pro. The first two planes had overshot the airport entry and had to turn around. The last pilot dropped out of the sky as smooth as peanut butter and turned directly into the airport – three nissan huts and a portapotty.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9nNkyEKdFho]

After we had left, it was a quick jaunt to the ferry port. We went through some amazing territory where there was evidence of the volcanic flows from the eruptions. It looked like most mud flows and flooding but could have been lava flows in some places.

Rather than risk missing the ferries due to mishap, we had given ourselves plenty of time to get to the landing. It turned out to be too much but we had wonderful vistas and a fantastic restaurant to hang out with.

Ferry landing

This was the only time this trip that I wished I had a camera with a telephoto lens. The Fuji X100S took some amazing photos. These are all JPEGs taken off the raw files with no conversion. However, its 23mm lens was no way to pick up the condor that was circling about us even as massive as the bird was. It was sharing carrion with a bunch of turkey vultures and was three times the size of those birds.

There’s a condor here somewhere Waldo

The condor circled over and around this peak for hours.

Bobo flies

“A man was wandering through the jungle with a guide when he was swarmed and bitten by massive flies but his guide was untouched. He asked his guide, ‘Why are you not being bitten? What is your secret?’ His guide replied, “Sir, those are the bobo fly. They are know to bite ugly people.’ Disgruntled and thinking there would be no tip for the guide today, the man angrily shouted, ‘Are you calling me ugly?’ ‘Oh no sir. But there is no telling those bobo flies’, replied the guide” – Charles Holmes

De-boarding

The ferry is de-boarding the passengers from the opposite journey we will take.

Boarding

The lads are off and getting the bikes on board. The ladies all nicely stood on their center stands reaydy for the voyage.

Pretty maids all in a row

The ferry certainly had a familar feel to it. Getting into the lounge, I was overcome by deja vu.

It was when I went to the toilet that I recognized why it was so familar. It was a re-purposed Greek ferry. I could have ridden this back in the 80s going between the Greek Islands.

The poor-man’s cruise is under way. It could not have been a better day to enjoy the ride from Pumalin to Hornopiren.

A set of likely lads

We met a group of Chilanos who were drinking maté in the traditional manner. A flask/urn for the leaves, a flask of hot water, and a silver straw. Here is Simon giving it a shot.

Hoggy tries Yerba Maté

I think Charlie would have been diagnosed with ADD/ADHD if he’d been born 20 years later. Here is Cap’n Holmes making sure that we are going in the right direction.

Charlie steers the ship

As we approached Hornopiren, the volcano become more apparent and was beautifully lit.

Volcano Hornopiren

Sunset over the fjord as we approached the port for end of our ferry ride.

Sunset on the fjord

It was late when we got settled into the cabaña and off to dinner. Here are more fishing boats at low tide.

Chilean fishing boats at low tide

Day 13 – Puyuhuapi to Chaitén

Monday, January 13th

Distance – 197km, 80% ripio

Unlike yesterday, we got a pretty quick start out of Puyuhuapi after an unusual breakfast. The cabana made a porridge of barley an apples along with homemade bread and the ever present coffee.

We made our way north along the Carretera Austral retracing our steps past La Junta where we had spent an night on the way south. A little north of La Junta, Martyn stopped an pulled over. He then turned around and went 300 meters back down the road, stopped, put down his side stand, stood on his pegs and looked out of the hedge. Inquisitive beings that we are, we all turn around to see what was going on. I was hoping for the pudu deer, turned out be just another hanging glacier.

Hanging glacier north of La Junta

We took a quick trip of road to see if we could get closer but the official parking lot was just off the road so we turned around and headed back north. We soon reached the point where we had joined the Carretera Austral on our way south, Villa Santa Lucia.

Classy picnic spot

We stopped for a quick drink at the same store we had on the way in from Futaleufu and the Argentinian border. It was definitely gritty and matched our attire after 4 hours in the dust.

Chaitén

A little way north, we hit tarmac which ran until we turned off on the road for Chaitén, where we turned west to head towards to the coast. Chaitén is an interesting place. It was overcome by its namesake volcano in 2008 and covered with ash in a similar fashion to Pompeii. At one time it had a population of 1000s; today it is in the 100s.

Buried minivan

Walking around town you see some amazing sights like this half buried minivan.

Buried house

Nearby was this abandoned house, itself half-buried in ash from the volcano. Only one person died in the aftermath of the eruption as they were being transported on a ferry evacuation.

Dumping ground for ash

The beach goes out a lot further than it used to do. It was covered in ash and also became the dumping ground for ash from the town.

The still smoking culprit

The volcano is still active and you can see the emissions from the town today. The volcano erupted again in 2009 and set pyroclastic flows down the mountainside and destroying the forests. We saw some of the results north of town as we headed out.

The liberators street.

In every town, there is a street named after Bernado O’Higgins. I just love the Irishness of the Chilean liberator.

Small bathtub

After a long day of riding it is nice to soak in a tub. Unfortunately, I’m quite a bit bigger by the average Chilano.

Day 12 – Puerto Cisnes to Puyuhuapi

Sunday, January 12th

Distance – 96KM, 90% ripio

We got a slow start out of Cisnes. The concept that there are no stores, restaurants, or petrol stations open on a Sunday morning is quite foreign – Nosotros somos los extranjeros. Still, it gives us time to chill and relax on a beautiful morning. When we get to the restaurant for breakfast, there are bunch of locals getting loaded. Nice to see the world works pretty much the same no matter where you are.

Early morning clouds burn off

There is another glacier close to our route north, and Martyn has not seen one yet, so we decide to make a detour to see it. This is our first view. It is much more impressive than Glacier Grosse.

A hanging glacier.

As you get closer, it becomes even more impressive. The blue ice is stunning.

Hanging glacier.

No matter how old we get, it seems funny to goose someone right as the picture is being taken.

Mac gooses Hoggy

It turns out that there is a small boat that takes you out for a closer view of the glacier. This is Chile and a lunch break is a must so service is suspended for an hour, even though there is a line waiting. We decide to wait, sunbathe, and amuse ourselves.

Selfie in front of the glacier

For some reason, Charlie has a goal to introduce his testicles to fascinating sites; I think he missed out on playing rugby as a lad. Given that he couldn’t get close to the glacier, he decide the melt water would do instead.

Charlie introduces “the lads” to a glacier

The reason you can’t get to close, is that pieces a are calving off the glacier all the time. Here you see a big fall coming off. Even a couple of miles away, the noise is deafening.

Ice breaking off the glacier.
Up close, the glacier is even more impressive.

Glacier and glacial lake.

I think we make the picture.

Up close to the glacier.

Our battery glitches are not over yet. The missing case is causing the new battery to rattle about. The rag we’ve used to stuff it has worked itself loose. An old inner tube is pressed into service to stop the rattle.
Fixing the battery rattle
Puyuhapi was settled in late 1800s and early 1900s by German settlers. Evidence still abounds. The street names are all German – apart from the obligatory Bernado O’Higgins street. Lots of buildings look like they were transposed from the Alps. At night, we follow a group of 10 Germans to dinner. We figure they are sure to have researched the best place to eat – nothing like a bunch of Englishmen stereotyping Germans. We are not wrong – the food is excellent.