Day 11 – Puerto Tranquilo to Puerto Cisnes

Saturday, January 11th

Distance – 447KM 70% gravel

Heading back north from Tranquillo was nowhere near as exciting as our trip down. The weather was great but that pushed lots of dust up in the air. We were also a lot more disciplined about keeping everyone in view at all times. We stopped at the double bus again, just for coffee this time. As, we waited around two KTM riders pulled out of the village and when the saw us pulled a quick u-turn to come and chat with us. Apparently, they had been following the same route as us and had been told of the KTM gang traveling the Carretera Austral.

It turned out to not be the charging system on on Rob’s bike, it was the battery. It had been installed without its protective boot and had rattled a hole into itself. Mac’s bike now had to be started MotoGP style.

Dead KTM 990 battery.

We ripped up the last bit of pavement back into Coihaique. Martyn led us through the streets to the hostel he’d stayed at. The plan was to “borrow” the battery from George’s bike if it would fit.

Cannibalizing George’s DR-Z

The battery had the same physical dimensions. It was just a few amps short but turned over the KTM easily enough.

Street side mechanics.

At lunch, we were joined by one of the many dogs that had chased us around the square the last time we visited. I had often heard of dogs chasing cars but never seen it before. In Chile, and Argentina, it seems to be their pastime. What is funny was how all the dogs seemed to roam around freely, running in packs but having their own homes to go back to. Something you don’t typically see in England or the US these days.

Guess who’s coming to dinner.

A couple of hours up the road, we stopped for drinks and plonked ourselves in the shade.

Looking for some shade.

While there, a German couple rode up on bikes. The had been on the road for 18 months traveling down the Panamerican highway from Alaska. The had a 2 1/2 year old in tow. She had a trailer and a seat on her Dad’s handlebars.

Traveling family.

A few KMs up the road, we turned off the Carretera Austral and head for Puerto Cisnes. This is on the same fjord as Puyuhuapi where we’d stopped at the hot springs.

Bubbling brooks and majestic mountains The road into Puerto Cisnes had some great views however, on reaching town the sign that greeted us was a little worrying.

We on had a place sorted out and the bikes parked for the night. The restaurant was closed but Martyn sweet talked the owner into opening up for us. Given it is a fishing village, that’s what’s for dinner.

Parked for the night.

Parked for the night.
I think Puerto Cisnes is the pretties place we have visited to date. It could be a Norwegian or Scottish fishing village.

Once again, we were adopted by a local dog who had us throwing sticks down the beach.

Adopt-a-biker dogs.

The boats were works of art, if you didn’t look to closely.

Chilean fishing boat.

Sunset over the fjord.

A quick nightcap on the cabaña balcony.

Drinks on the balcony.

Day 10 – Day trip to Glacier Grosse and Puerto Guadal

Friday, January 10th

Distance – 193KM, 100% ripio

Given that Martyn cannot get down here until later in the day, we head off to see the local glacier. However, we don’t get off without a hiccup. Rob’s bike, will once again not start. The leads are checked but they are okay. The battery is dead.

Rob back in the battery case again

Given the high compression ratios and big pistons, these bikes are not easy to bump start. The guys came up with a brilliant way to start the bikes. Think of it as a two wheeled starter.

95hp motogp starter

The trip up to the glacier presented us with a waterfall to view.

Andean waterfall.
There was a bit of a hike up to see the glacier.  It was cool to see all the moraine that the glacier was leaving behind. Mixed in amongst the rock were huge chunks of blue ice.

Mac and Hoggy hanging out on the viewing platform.

Once we got back to town, it was of course lunch time. After lunch, Charlie, Simon and I rode out of town to the west, looking to visit the next pueblo. However, our estimates of 20-30KM were wildly off based on a guidebook map and a map of the whole country. However, the lake was beautiful and we just kept saying we’ll go a little further.

Puerto Guadal

Finally, we made it to Puerto Guadal with an obligatory stop for coffee at the Gringo Cafe.

El Gringo Cafe

We got a couple of picture stops in on the way back.

Lake General Carrera (or Lake Argentina across the border)

The view back towards Puerto Tranquillo was stunning.

By the time we got back, Martyn had made it into town and packed off George’s bike. Rob and Mac had also swapped the batteries in their bikes to determine whether it was the charging system or the battery that was bad.

We were all set to get back on the road. However, given we had in effect lost a couple of days, the plan was to turn around and head back northbound over some of the roads we’d come down on.

Day 9 – Puerto Tranquilo – Rest Day

Thursday, January 9th

Distance – 0KM

After yesterday’s excitement and the need to reconnect with Martyn and George, no one is really on the mood to ride. We decide to head out to the Catedral de Marmol (Marble Cathederals), a local attraction that is reached by boat. First order of the day is breakfast and trash bags. I’ve decide that I will go old school and wear a bin liner before I get as wet as I did yesterday. Hoggy wants them because his dry bag isn’t. MacBean and I wander the town and run into the man who gave Martyn and George a lift. We explain who we are and thank him as best we can. The supermarkets, a stretch of the term super, are not open yet. We do find a bakery open and buy fresh bread, ham, and cheese. It makes a great breakfast.

After breakfast, the cop shows up again and a couple of lads head over to his house to pick up Martyn’s bike. Unfortunately for George, his shift lever has sheared the shaft and needs an engine strip down. His trip is done and he’ll be flying home. It turns out the cop is a world champion kick boxer; he just looks hard.


El Capitan Hoggy

In Martyn’s absence, Simon assumes the role of captain. I become the translator team translator. That will teach me to pick up the Spanish for Dummies book.

The cop tells us not to pay more than 5000 per person for the trip. I proud negotiate our rate down to this number from 6000 per person. The guide walks us a KM or so to his boat where we are joined by a couple of other people and off we go. The lake, which crosses the Argentina/Chile border is the second largest in South America. Needless to say, it is quite rough and the guide gently gets us to the Cathedrals in about 30 minutes.

Drifting through the arches.

The water has etched away the softer rock leaving sculptures behind.

This is the classic view that all the posters and guidebooks show.

Drifting through the caverns framed some amazing views. it was quite unnerving as the boat scraped over the rocks.

I think we were all still feeling the cold and damp from yesterday’s riding. Everyone bundled up and wore a beanie.

The guide was less gentle with us in the a way back to the dock. He had the boat flying along and slamming into the waves. I banged the heck out of my elbow on one wave and MacBean fell off his seat.

Plate sized hamburger

Even in George’s absence, we don’t go long without food. For the second day in a row plate sizes hamburgers are de rigeur.

Tranquillo really is that. Neither of my mobiles work and we have no wifi access to Skype with Martyn. We try an Internet cafe without luck and finally revert to a real phone call to figure out plans.

Martyn lucked into a hostel, thanks again to the cop. The owners husband is a truck driver who his to Santiago regularly. He will return George’s bike. Martyn arranges a pickup to take the bike to Coihaique and will ride down to Tranquillo with the pickup driver. George is getting on a plane and Kate, his Mum, will pick him up. Everything is coming together again.

Oxymorons. Reserve wine and instant coffee.

We close the day with dinner at the same place as yesterday. Only after they have served us coffee do we realize there is an industrial espresso machine in the corner. They just don’t use it.

Day 8 – Coihaique to Puerto Tranquilo

Wednesday, January 8th

Distance – 237km

Leaving Coihaique our trip could not have been going any better. The weather was great, maybe a little overcast. The roads were beautifully paved. Our route took us out of town and into the mountains. It was a little chilly up at the top but nothing to complain about.

Perfect motorcycling pavement.

We had to stop for pictures when we saw this. What a blast to ride, perfect camber and tarmac the whole way down.

The gang takes a break.

We are getting friendly after a week together; cuddles all around. We didn’t quite get the road in the background.

Out lunch stop was a couple of buses pulled together to make a diner. Fortunately, the views were spectacular and the weather great because we hit at their busies time. It took us 30 minutes to get coffee. One thing that is funny about Chile is the coffee. Everyone loves and serves Nescafé instant. The double bus diner.

Lunch was a huge homemade burger the size of a plate with avocado spread on top.

Cats seem to like sitting on the KTMs wherever we go. Dogs are everywhere too. Here at the dinner, they had an old, one eyed Heinz looking for scraps and treats.
After lunch, we came to the end of Tarmac ½ a mile on from the dinner. I was immediately struggling int the gravel and could not figure out what had happened. It seemed as though a few hours on pavement had made my forget everything. Turns out that I wasn’t the only one with problems. The road was marbly and strewn with babies heads. Later, everyone complained of the same issues as me.
The weather deteriorated over the rest of the day, clouding over and then turning to rain. It did help with the dust but not the visibility. After a while, I was running with my visor up and having my face stung. At one point, Martyn stopped so he and George could put on rain suits. I hadn’t brought mine figuring the Kilimanjaro would suffice. That was bad planning on my part. At points, I would stop to drop my arms and let water pour out of the sleeves.
Martyn, George, and Simon decided to use the stop as a cigarette break. After a little grumbling about be cold and wet, they told us to carry on and they would catch up. It was a poor decision all around, and led to disappointing experience. After 30 minutes or so Simon caught and passed us. A while later, in the midst of a full on downpour, MacBean stopped under a tree offering respite from the rain. Having seen Simon, we excepted George and Martyn at any moment. After a 10 minute wait, we decided to turn back. Rob and MacBean took the lead and raced up the track passing a pickup after a kilometer to two. Martyn jumped out of the truck and waived me down. George had come off his bike a couple of corners prior and a “caballero” had stopped to help. George was quite a bit worse for wear and they were talking him to the clinic in the next town, Puerto Tranquillo.
I went off to find MacBean and Rob while Charlie went to survey the bike damage. They had stopped a ways up the road and turned around when I reached them and gave them the news. We pulled all the gear and fuel off Martyn and George’s bikes spreading it around between us. As we were doing this Simon showed up. He’d stopped a half mile further on and then driven back and forth looking for us, thinking we were playing games. We set off as fast as we could given the conditions and heightened safety awareness.
Shortly after a turn off for Puerto Murta, we flagged down a cop with lights on to ask how far Tranquillo was – 25km. Little did we know he was off to see George and Martyn who had been diverted to Puerto Murta. Arriving in Tranquillo, we found that they were not there but were now in Murta 30km back the other way. We refueled and turned around and headed back out like drowned rats. I was as cold and miserable as I had ever been. I could only think of one worse day, when we’d been caving and got stuck in a flooding cave.
Finally, we reached the posta (clinic) in Murta to find George in good spirits and Martyn relieved. George had a concussion and they were transporting him back to Coihaique for observation at the hospital. There was no way for us to make the return journey to Coihaique. There were also no rooms available in Puerto Murta, so we would have to return once more to Tranquillo. In the middle of the clinic, I stripped down and grabbed dry clothes from my bag and felt much better.
The weather picked up as we head back and had stopped raining by the time we hit town. We found a cabaña after hunting around a while. There were a group of BMW riders we’d run into in La Junta and Coihaique and another threesome we’d met at the bus lunch who were helpful in finding us a place.
We knew it was going to take a while to sort everything out, so we paid for two nights up front. The place had two wood fired stoves which we got cranking and soon had our gear laid out and steaming. After showers, tea, dry clothes and knowing George was well, we were soon in high spirits.
The policeman who’d been to the accident site, picked up both motorcycles and brought them to his house. He stopped by the cabaña, which was next to the police station, to tell us.

Protective Alasatian

On the way to dinner, we walked passed a yard and saw to bikes in it. On a second look, we realized they were George and Martyn’s and he had his German Shepherd guarding them.

Tranquillo is a small town but we managed to find a small place with decent food and good wine. The Breckenridge whiskey made an outing that night as we got back to our steaming sauna accommodations.

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.


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


– 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.