Monthly Archives: January 2013

22-01-2013 Esquel

My alarm went off at the usual time and I got up at 06:30.
By 08:30 I was completely packed and ready to go while the amigo’s were still sound asleep.
Carefully I woke them up and explained that I did want to reach Esquel today and really wanted to get going. We said our goodbyes and I thanked them for everything.

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I continued the journey further along the lakes and enjoyed the views more than a little  😉

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After a while I noticed something weird when leaning in to bends…. my suspicion was that one of the tyres was running out of air… just when I was halfway between towns. Slowly I rode on and when I finally reached Bolsón, I decided to choose a fuel station with a tyre service.

A strange thing I noticed: Every fuels station since I got into Argentina, has long lines of people waiting to be served. Almost all of them have at least 2 pumps out of service.

While riding the bike in the sun, there’s usually enough wind to keep reasonably cool. It’s the waiting for fuel stations that really make you sweat  😦

The tyre service guy at the fuel station checked my tyres and the rear tyre was obviously low in air. He filled it up and I was confident again to keep going at normal speed.

About Bolsón, I have to say that it really is a nice place with an ambiance of hippy, surf and alternative lifestyle. It looked very relaxed. I had some lunch and left for the last stretch to Esquel.

When cruising to the edge of town, I saw the 3rd SuperTeneré like mine since I started this journey in South America. 🙂
At around 16:30 I reached Esquel and found a camping. I put up my tent and then went for the national park. Supposedly they have the tallest pine trees of the country.

The road to the Park was a joy by itself with a few awesome lookouts. Arriving at the entrance of the national park, I inquired after the trees, and they informed me that they were another 35 km further in to the park on 30 km gravel roads. By then it was 19:15, so I decided to turn back and do some groceries.

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Tomorrow will be a full riding day eastwards to the Atlantic coast.

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21-01-2013 7 Lake District, Villa La Angostura

At around 09:30 I left together with Daniello, Camila and ‘Ale’ (Alejandro) to find the route along the 7 lakes of this area. It was again beautiful weather and the scenery was great.

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After the first lake the road went in to the forrest and then turned into gravel for the next 30 km or so.
‘Eat my dust’ was very appropriate this time 😉

I felt more at ease this time and realised that the faster you go the easier it gets. You feel less of the bumps and the holes if you go faster. The only thing I did not master well enough, was rounding corners and bends in the road while keeping the speed……. Need to work on that 😉

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Finally the road turned normal again and we passed one lake after the other. At 16:00 we decided to find a camping and the Garmin quickly found one at one of the lakes: Villa La Angostura. We had a late lunch, set up camp and went for a swim later in the evening when most of the day-folk had gone.

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The camp site was very dusty (like the gravel road) and Daniello explained that this was all vulcano  ash that had covered the whole area about a year ago after an eruption of a Chilean volcano close to the border. What I had thought to be snow topped mountain tops were actually ash topped pikes.

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I realised that we had only done approximately 170 km that day because of the gravel road and the frequently stopping for photos.

This was 1 day extra than I foresaw in my planning, but it was a great day in good company.
Tomorrow the amigo’s head for Bolsón while I plan to travel another 160 km further to Esquel

20-01-2013 Junin de los Andes

After having had breakfast in Zapala, I put myself to work. Using Garmin Basecamp, I planned the routes that would take me to Buenos Aires and still see a little of Argentina with a few days margin.

The itinerary would take me a little further south still along the 7 Lake district to Esquel, from where I plan to head east to the Atlantic coast. From there I will head north and then inland again towards Cordoba then back to the coast, approaching Buenos Aires from the East.

It was almost noon when I left Zapala with still cool and cloudy weather. Not long after however it cleared up and I enjoyed a sunny rest of the day.
There was again very very strong winds riding over the highlands, but the scenery was beautiful, if not breathtaking at times.

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A few hours later I reached my destination for the day: Junin de los Andes, a nice quiet town along a beautiful river. Coming up to the camping I had found in the Lonely Planet guide, the owner informed me that the bathrooms were stuffed and not expected to be fixed that day. Across the street was another camping that would serve just as well, though not so full of character. Just when I was heading there, 2 other motorbikes with 3 Argentineans arrived and they got the same story. With the 4 of us we made camp on the other side. Although only the girl spoke a little English, we seemed to have fun and my efforts to speak Spanish were greatly appreciated.

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We went fishing in the unbelievably clear water of the river that ran along side the campgrounds and later on cooked quite a bit of lamb and beef on a BBQ fire.

And drank plenty of Matte (herbal tea).

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19-01-2013 In to Argentina

It was still cloudy and quite cool when I left Concepción this morning. That did not last very long. After approximately 45 minutes, the sky turned blue and the sun was warm.
For an hour or so it was highway and toll roads, then the route went east. The 2 lane road was still fine quality and slowly rose in to the mountains. The landscape gradually changed to Alpine like with lush green meadows and trees and the occasional snow top in the background. What a scenery !!!! I loved it. Many campings were advertised along the roads; almost all with pool 🙂
The houses were a mixture of classic farmhouse (hacienda) style and more contemporary straightforward style. Slightly winding roads make this also a favourite motorcycle area. Some campings offered a lot of outdoors activity, like abseiling, rock climbing and cycling. In winter this must be a popular ski heaven too.

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When I reached the border just before the pass Paso Pino Hachado, the custom formalities at the Chilean side needed to be dealt with. That didn’t take long: in less than 30 minutes I was on my way across the pass to Argentina, 22 km further up the road.

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The border line between Chile and Argentina was instantly noticeable: the markings disappeared, the road deteriorated and there was even a part gravel road. On top of that, dark clouds were gathering above me but it was still dry when I reached the Argentinean border control. It took slightly longer but here too, I was done within the hour although the customs officer found it a little complicated to deal with a foreign motorcycle and the appropriate form. Nonetheless, there was no checking of luggage or anything; just the passport control and the temporary vehicle import: that was all. Yeah !!

When I left customs, the rain started. Fortunately it didn’t last, but the wind and the dark clouds did.

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Two more gravel bits, without warning, almost took me by surprise, but I slowed down in time. 112 km later I arrived in a town called Zapala. Looking for a fuel station I noticed long cues for both the fuel stations I found within the first kilometer …..
Would there be a shortage of fuel? Decent as I am, I waited my turn but there was no maximum quantity or anything, so I just filled up.
Next on the list, was finding accommodation. I asked around a few times, then decided to look in my Garmin. There it was: Points Of Interest -> Accommodation. A list of hotels hostals and campings. The hostal I chose was affordable, had WiFi and had parking space in a closed lot. The Lonely Planet will be my guide to decide where to go tomorrow.

18-01-2013 Concepción: how to proceed

Today I spent necessary time on internet trying to find more information on how to ship the motorbike back to Holland in 2 weeks. Flying it out by air cargo is 1 option. It is rather straightforward and doesn’t seem to have a lot of procedures involved. It is somewhat expensive though, but I will have the bike back with me in Holland around the same time as I will be.

Another option is again by ship. Roll-on-Roll-off has my preference, since then there’s no need to put the motorbike in a crate again. I managed to get in touch with a shipping company in Buenos Aires, who is preparing a quote for me.

Late afternoon I went out for a ride to the coast. Concepción is a nice city that has it’s focus on universities. They have 3 big uni’s in this place. The city is not built right on the coast but is connected via suburbs. Fishing and a naval base are the key features of the marine side of town.
The weather isn’t quite like summer as I hoped it would be. Overcast and fog was what I encountered when reaching the harbour. Some 20 or 30 km to the north there are some nice beaches, but I doubt the weather would be better up there.

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After I got back, I started planning routes that would take me to the last part of my journey. I hate to admit that I have been way too ambitious from the start. Considering the distance I travelled so far in the past 2 weeks, with some very long days, it seems possible to achieve the second part with approximately as many km’s to go. However, the southern region is not known for it’s outstanding smooth highways. Travelling an average of 500 km per day is just not realistic.
The time frame would be so narrow, that I couldn’t even afford a flat tyre or even a detour.
On top of that, I might have to drop of the bike in Buenos Aires 2 days before I leave. Another 2 days off the schedule.

Therefore, however sad I am about this, I decided to head for Buenos Aires in a more or less straight way. Tomorrow I will head south a little and cross the Andes mountains and the border in to Argentina. From there I will see what route may be interesting in the 2 weeks I have left.

17-01-2013 Arriving in Concepción

Leaving Santiago was pretty straight forward, thanks to the Garmin maps I downloaded in La Serena. However, it seems that they are really very complete. When requesting a nearby fuel station, it sent me over a small dirt track just outside the ring of Santiago. So close to the capital of Chili, and yet the smallest dirt track is documented…  peculiar i.m.h.o.

At the fuel station I cleaned the bike roughly with a high pressure water gun. This was quite over due. Now that the dirt was off the tail light, it must be a little safer to ride…. 😉
Roads are still excellent but not all drivers are. On this trip particularly, many people seem to think it’s perfectly normal to stay in the left lane, driving way under the speed limit while the right lane is completely empty. On all the other trips, it happened, but rarely. On this trip it seemed to be the new habit !!

Crossing through the valley of San Fernando, it got really hot again, and that makes me drowsy. Also my camel bag ran out of (cool) water, so I’d better stop. At a small fuel station with cute restaurant, I filled up and parked in the shade. For lunch I had a solid meal which costed all but around US$ 3,-

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After having filled the camel bag with cold water, the journey continued. Slowly the landscape transformed in to more woodlands and the air became cooler, fresher. There were more hills and everything felt like spring.
This must be the beginning of the green south of Chile.

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The wind had increased and it was definitely cooler when I arrived in Concepción. The hotel I found in the Lonely Planet was hard to trace in the city. However, in the same street where supposedly that particular hotel should be, I found another one that was affordable and I could park the bike in front, somewhat hidden.

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The room was sort of crappy and the shower doesn’t work like it should be, but it’s dry and affordable, so it’s fine.

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Around diner time I called Juan Paolo to consult where we would meet. At 22:00 he picked me up and we had a good night in the city, catching up with Katia and Daniel, whom I all knew from Brazil in 2011.
They convinced me to try the Pisco-cola, a Chilean drink that, like Pisco-sour in Peru, had it’s main  ingredient, the Pisco grape, as base. The Pisco-cola is distilled like whisky as opposed to the Peruvian Pisco-sour.

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Next on the agenda, is evaluating how many days I have left and therefore what is realistic in planning to travel. I will also check out a few sights in Concepción that Juan Paolo recommended.

16-01-2013 Taking a break in Santiago

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Sebastian’s couch is very comfortable and I slept well. After breakfast I went out in search of a box and sticky tape.
After this successful mission I went back to the apartment and packed the box. Mostly clothes and a few other items fill up the box and then I went out to find a suitable courier or post office. Apparently, shipping prices hugely differ from one office to the next. It varies from US$ 60 to US$ 440 !!!!!!!  8,5 kg Luggage are on their way home to Holland.

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2 Blocks from the apartment building I noticed a few motorcycles together in front of a building with the Union Jack of England on it. This appeared to be a Triumph dealership with workshop. There were several people inside that spoke English, so I carefully requested a little help for my Yamaha. “Not a problem”, they said.

Within 5 minutes I returned on the bike and explained to them that I suspected the nut holding the yoke and front end to be not tight enough. The mechanics tested it and assured me that it was fine. For the 2 bolts that I put in place as spare after I lost them back in Arica, they had the proper replacement. Technically the XTZ was complete again.

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It must have been an hour later when I left, after having a great time talking about travelling and showing them my improvised starter button, which they all liked very much. I should patent it, according to them 😉
For their time and the bolts, they charged nothing and even the coffee was totally free !!

Back at the apartment building I parked the bike back in the parking garage and there I removed the cover of the front sprocket in order to check wether or not the nut securing the sprocket in place, had not come off. Fortunately it was still solid as a rock. Another re-assurement.
Santiago is a city I like !!

The evening I passed enjoying sushi and the warm weather of summer, knowing that back home it was around -2° to -5° Celsius and possibly snowing. 🙂

The trip for tomorrow will be to Concepción, another 600 km journey. The XTZ will have 8,5 kg less to carry and it will be less bulky in luggage. It get’s more minimalistic every week…. 😉

Leaving Santiago