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.

ImageImageImageImage

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.

ImageImageImageImageImageImage

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).

ImageImageImageImageImage

Advertisements

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.

ImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

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.

ImageImage

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.

Image

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.

ImageImageImageImageImage

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,-

Image

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.

ImageImage

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.

ImageImage

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.

ImageImage

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.

Image

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

Image

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.

Image

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.

Image

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.

Image

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:

ImageImageImageImageImageImageImage