Monthly Archives: January 2013

19-01-2013 In to Argentina

It was still cloudy and quite cool when I left Concepci贸n 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 馃檪
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聽Paso聽Pino聽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 Concepci贸n: 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. Concepci贸n 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 Concepci贸n

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… 聽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…. 馃槈
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 Concepci贸n. 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 聽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 Concepci贸n 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 !!!!!!! 聽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 馃槈
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掳 to -5掳 Celsius and possibly snowing. 馃檪

The trip for tomorrow will be to Concepci贸n, 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…. 馃槈

Leaving Santiago

15-01-2013 to Santiago

The hostel I stayed in, is best described as Bohemian. The facilities were very basic, as was the hygiene 馃槈
It was the first time I was actually reluctant to crawl beneath the sheets. Therefore I used my own travel sheet. Other than that (and the faint smell of cat urine in the room) things were fine.

ImageSpending an hour in the morning, drinking Bolivian herbal tea with Amandine, a french girl who worked as caretaker of the hostel, was not a waste of time… 馃檪
Eventually I did leave and found myself on perfect roads. Practically all of ruta 5 from La Serena to Santiago is 4 lanes.

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At a certain point however, everything came to a full stop. A traffic jam built up for about 1,5 hours. I manoeuvred the bike and myself all the way to the front and waited there until the road was released again. 500 meter down the road a truck combination had tipped over and people were cleaning the mess.

Notwithstanding the many toll booths, the journey went smooth from there on. In the hostel in La Serena, on internet I found custom maps of Argentina and Chile for the Garmin.聽http://www.proyectomapear.com.ar
These were spot on. Without a single mistake, the Garmin led me straight to the apartment building of Sebastian Brain in Santiago.
Sebastian travelled with 6 friends through Brazil in 2011. We met in a poussada in Salvador de Bahia.

He invited me to crash at his couch and took me along to a couple of friends that night. It goes without saying that this is hugely appreciated 馃榾

Tomorrow will be a rest day. As in: not riding but administration and maintenance.

14-01-2013 La Serena

Straight from the start this morning, I wanted to set a high pace. Cruising at 140 – 150 km/h the cool hours of the morning would be well spent. By around 11:00 I already had 220 km’s behind me. Time to fill up on gas. Not that I was in dire need of fuel, but the next fuel station was 188 km’s away. Better be safe than sorry. However this is something that puzzled me somewhat. In a country with such vast distances, one would expect more fuel stations, closer together.

By lunchtime I reached the coastal town of Cha帽aral. When I filled up and went to buy some lunch, a disturbing metal grinding sound, coming from the front sprocket area of the motor, caught my attention. It got me worried, because I could not come up with a theory as to what it might be, other than maybe the nut holding the sprocket in place could have come lose…..
After I finished my sandwich and drink, I started the bike up again and the noise was gone. I haven’t heard it since.

The road continued along the Pacific coast for some 100+ km’s with some amazing views. Also with some annoying detours, but that’s all in the game I guess.
I kept the high pace and therefore decided to push my destination for the day forward.
Here’s where one of the preparations proved to be a good investment; partly due to having reworked the seat and making it firmer, I could bear the pain in my butt and keep riding.

901 km’s later I finally arrived in a beach resort town, named La Serena. It reminded me a lot of the Costa del Sol in the South of Spain.
Today was not only the longest one day trip of this holiday, but the longest that I ever did on a motorbike!!!!
When I took my bike gloves off, I noticed that I have blisters on my hands from holding the handlebars firmly while hanging in the wind !!!!!
I could also really do with a good neck massage. 馃槈

Riding through town slowly, looking for a hostel (couldn’t find the camping) I was addressed in Dutch my a gentleman who, according to his own testimony, studied in Belgium when he was a much younger man. Thanks to him I was directed to a cheap hostel with room to put the XTZ inside.

Before I got there, I turned off the engine to talk to someone and couldn’t get it started again: no electric pulse again. Again I had to take of all the luggage and look for the fault. This time it was de + of the battery that came lose. It was fixed easily. 馃檪

Tomorrow Santiago will be my destination. From today I did make a few photo’s:

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13-01-2013 Long ride

This morning I woke up quite a bit later than I had planned. Apparently Chilean time is 2 hours ahead of Peru’s 聽馃槮

It wasn’t until past 10:00 that I left. Getting out of Arica was not hard, and soon I found myself on the highway. In the distance I noticed 3 other motorbikes. Within 10 minutes I caught up with them. 5 Brazilians on 3 bikes heading for Iquique….. For approximately 2 hours I rode along until their turn off to Iquique. I decided to press on.

At first it was nice riding in the mountains. Eventually we descended and that’s when the wind was taking an interest. Strong winds from the side made us lean in to it the whole way. Even after I left the group and continued on the highway towards Santiago, it wasn’t easy at times. The winds were so strong that it felt as if the front wheel was being blown out from under me……

The scenery for almost the whole way was nothing more than sand and rock. 717 km 聽I rode today, to try and make up a little for lost time. The town that was my destination is called聽Antofagasta and everything around it seems to be asphalt. The town itself however is more like a mediterranean holiday place. The sand dunes outside of town show some remarkable patterns.

If I can keep up this pace, I can be in Santiago in 2 more days.
No photos of today, simply because there wasn’t anything worth stopping for.

12-01-2013 Exit Peru – enter Chile

Camping; it has been quite a while since the last time.
I had to get used to the cramped space and thin thin self-inflating mattress. We went to sleep early and this morning I woke early… around 05:15.

Because I had nothing else in mind, I packed the bike and was ready by the time the other 2 got up. When we were about to go, my SuperT茅ner茅 would not want to start. No electrical activity could be found. My hunch was the fuse box. When I removed the side cover, I noticed that one of the bolts holding the mass-strip to the frame lay lose in the side cover.

When that bolt was attached and the other tightened, there was electrics again and the bike started. However, Ben noticed another bolt missing and closer inspection revealed another discrepancy. I lost 2 bolts that hold the luggage rack and pillion steps. Re-locating one of the left-over bolts made the luggage rack firm and steady again.

We left the beach in a moderate fog. After 40 minutes it cleared and we stopped for breakfast in a nice little beach town. More and more people showed up to make it a day at the beach. After breakfast the sun came out and the temperature quickly rose.

100 km later we reached the border. The Peruvian side formed no problem what so ever and we were on the way to Chilean customs in no time. This took somewhat longer and about 5 different forms to fill out. Eventually we left this side of the border too and headed for Arica.

When we crossed the outskirts of Arica, I mentioned that I needed fuel and maybe a hardware store to find bolts and new duct tape and tie raps. Ben suggested I looked for that while they rode on and maybe we’d catch up on the road again. So here our ways parted.

In Arica I found a mechanic workshop. They couldn’t really help me, but I could leave the motorbike with them while I went into a wholesale store across the street. Here I found a couple of bolts that did not exactly what I needed, but they fit, so it would do for the time being.

Lesson learned: check every day for lose bolts. Also, aluminium cases serve sooooo much better than soft luggage that you can’t lock up.

In the store I also found a switch button for home appliances (lamps primarily).
After I used the bolts to tighten the pillion rider pegs, I went in to town to find a hostel or hotel. I really wanted a shower and I was really in need of internet to do financial stuff and such.
Somewhere close to the centre I found a hotel with room for the bike.

After a fantastic shower, I fixed the XTZ up with a new starter button, using the switch button from the store. Later I also acquired new duct tape and tie raps.

Tonight I will enjoy a bed and tomorrow a hotel breakfast, after which I will try to ride a few long days towards Santiago, while camping underway to save time and some money…..

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11-01-2013 Puno to Tacna

I did not sleep more than a few minutes last night. Somehow I just couldn’t sleep and lay awake and kept thinking about how I should repack what I have left, now that I can’t use saddle bags anymore.

At around 06:00, I got up and repacked the way I had thought about while being awake.

When everything was packed on the bike, and after we had our breakfast, I noticed that the button of the electrical starter was missing from my bike!!!!
Puno did not like me being there it seems. 馃槮
Luckily Ben spotted the button on the ground and I found the spring still inside the handle bar unit.

Every time I stop now and turn off the engine, I need to dig up the button and spring to get it started again and then put the 2 away safely. I will think of a better solution once I’m in Chile.

We left in the rain, but it cleared up frequently. We managed to find a route that would take us straight to Tacna, and thus avoid having to cross through Juliacca again. We also bypassed Arequipa and saved a lot of time.

The route took us over some of the highest passes of the area. At 4622 meter or 15.164 feet my faithful XTZ was struggling and lost a lot of power due to the thin air. It got cold and on the side of the road there was snow. At a certain point Ken and Ben wanted to have a break.

I was fine and they told me to ride ahead; they would catch up. So I did, and after another couple of high mountain passes, the road got dry and I speeded up. What a joy to ride the winding roads.

After a while, the rain got back and lots of it. The temperature rose, which made me realise I was getting lower and closer to the coast. When I rounded a few last corners the rain was behind me and suddenly I noticed that the bike had regained it’s power. I was down to 2000 meter.

I warmed up quickly and my gear seemed to dry out like in a dry cleaner. I stopped for a break and to dry out in the sun some more. Just after I started to ride again, Ken and Ben caught up. We reached the coastal highway and we were practically back in the desert. Strong winds, dust and heat. Ben and Ken didn’t feel much for staying in Tacna.

So today ends with camping on the beach. Early tomorrow morning we will head for Arica in Chile. Hopefully the border crossing will not take us too much time.

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10-01-2013 Puno and Lake Titicaca

At 07:30 this morning, I was all ready to go and so were Ken and Ben Kriederman, the 2 American BMW riders. We decided to ride together to Puno and maybe further. After breakfast the hotel manager showed us a route to bypass Cusco. We had no need to visit Cusco again; it would only cost a lot of time to find our way through the city.

The weather was sunny and the road was dry. We made excellent progress. After a couple of hours, Ben pointed to the side of my bike. The rain cover of the right saddle bag had come lose by the wind and melted partly by the exhaust muffler. When I tried to tear it off, I ripped a tear in the bag itself.

Fortunately I was not without Duct tape, so the bag was repaired swiftly.

After a bite to eat, Ben suggested I’d ride in front. When riding last, one always goes faster, in order to keep up. Now that I rode up front, I kept the same speed, but for the other 2 that was faster than before. I was “hauling ass”, as Ben put it. I couldn’t really help it: the road was in excellent shape and the curves were long. It was a joy to ride there.

The altitude got higher and higher. The clouds got darker and darker.
We tried to out-run the rain, but it caught up with us just before Juliacca, the last big town before Puno.
Of all the Peruvian places I’ve seen so far, this is the filthiest and crappiest shit hole by a long shot.

We finally made it out of there and when we reached Puno at the Titicaca Lake, it stopped raining.

Looking for a hostel where we could park the bikes, we saw 3 other BMW motorcycles parked. Ken and Ben recognised the Colombians, Eduardo, Fernando and Daniel who owned the bikes, from the dealership in Bogota where they had their bikes serviced. The 6 of us had lunch. One of the Colombians was being hailed to look at the bikes. He came back with one of my saddle bags. The other was cut off and stolen鈥︹

That, of course did not amuse me at all鈥 The stolen saddle bag (that I fixed earlier today with Duct tape) contained a few tools, a pair of shoes, an air compressor, tie raps, Duct tape and oil to lube my chain.聽The bag they left, contained the more valuable stuff.

All together we decided to search for a safe hostel. Thanks to Eduardo, we found one, where we all could park our bikes. We changed quickly and hurried over to the lake to catch a boat to the floating islands of Lake Titicaca. They consist of layers and layers of reed (thatch)聽and on each island live a maximum of 5 families.

After this interesting excursion we had a simple meal for diner and had lots of fun. Tomorrow we plan to go to Arequipa, or maybe even Tacna, which is the last town before the border with Chile.

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