Thursday, November 21, 2013

We are Bikers again.




Chile.
Distance ridden: 265 kms
Max speed: 148km/hr

Argentina:
Distance ridden: 4,800kms (approx)
Max speed: 160kms/hr (racing Lindsay)

Distance for my around the world trip: 86,828.6km

The boys bikes finally arrived. Enzo took us to the container Depot. Bikes assembled, both started first go. A good result seeing they had been in the crates for 10 weeks. Dale and Lindsay rode out in under 3 hours.

Finally, we all rode out of Valparaiso, 3 weeks late. The sun came out and the Garbo’s were back on the job. I can't say I had become fond of the place, probably more an acceptance. I still don't care if I ever go back.

Away by 1030, hoping to miss the traffic, no luck there. My GPS led us onto the highway, a not to exciting ride, which was good as it allowed us the acclimatise to riding on the right.

Our first taste of riding across the Andes. Fcuk me! Fantastic. Little traffic, great road surface and brilliant scenery. The first set of switchbacks had at least 100 hairpins. Lindsay said 45, Dale counted 37. Whatever, it was a tremendous ride. Several tunnels and many one sided land slide tunnels.

The pass into Argentina was 3,290 metres, the highest any on us had ridden. We were well above the snow line. My “Rooney” loved it. We were through the border in about an hour. Everyone was very helpful.Even the border guy, when I discovered a vital piece of paper had blown away. I think he just loved me!

Riding down the western side of the Andes was as good as going up. Hard to concentrate on riding fast and looking at the view at the same time. Argentina's road surfaces are the best.

Eventually found beds in a Youth Hostel in Mendoza. What a lovely, cosmopolitan city. Very European. Argentinian women are as beautiful as I remembered them from 15 years ago. Very nearly as beautiful as Sydney chicks.

The country has a bit of an economic problem at the moment. This is bad for the Argentinians, but great for us. Chile was as expensive as Australia or Europe to travel in. This joint is excellent value. Last time, 1 USD equalled 1 Argentinian Peso. Now it is 5.8 to the USD. Up to 9.6 if you have $US100 notes. Fortunately we did.

The ride south to San Carlos de Bariloche has been one of the best I have done. Fantastic roads, almost no traffic and scenery to die for. No Police either. Three days riding through the Andean foothills, snow capped peaks and the mountain range on our right. Rolling hills and plains to our left. Every morning around 10 or 11, gale force winds start from the west. This really is strong enough to blow a dog off it's chain. I am talking 30 or 40 knots, or more. It really becomes interesting when we have the bike leant over, powering through a corner and the wind hits. Either standing the bike up so it doesn't want to turn, or, laying her down so I nearly scrape the pegs. And my “Rooney” doesn't scrape her pegs, Ever.

We had about 60-70kms of gravel. It was a shitty surface with large river stones and big lumps of gravel. Some sand thrown in to make it more interesting. Not as bad as the Chita Road in Siberia, but up there. It takes me a while to get used to the bike moving around on a surface like this. In the end I really enjoyed it. Dale loved it immediately and took off like a cat shot in the arse.

At Malargue and Chos Malal we stayed in Hostels. All great value. Strolling down-town for dinner at about 7.30, had trouble finding restaurants open. Thought they had already shut. It took us a few days to realise the Argentinians eat late, about 9.30. The restaurants were all closed because we were to early. Pretty silly, eh?

We navigate and route plan by committee. Last night, over a couple of bottles of magnificent Mendozan Malbec (at $5.50/bottle) we worked out our route east and north from Bariloche.

I could stay in Bariloche for a week. It is surrounded by majestic snow capped mountains and is on the shore of Lake Nahuel Huapi which is over 400 metres deep and has the clearest fresh water I have ever seen.

Bariloche has a very strong German influence. Apparently many Germans moved here after WWII, the area supposedly sheltered Hitler and Eva Braun, Martin Bormann, Joseph Mengele and Adolf Eichman. You can even buy books on Adolf Hitler. Read into that what you like!

Today was the best road ride I have had for many, many years. About 460kms in a loop taking us around the lake to the Chilean border in the west, up north and back down to Bariloche. Amazing scenery, fantastic roads and almost no traffic.

Not one Highway Police Officer! My “Rooney Cycle” loved it. The Mitas E07 rear and Continental TKC80 front tyre have no right to hang on as well as they do. We rode way faster than we should have done in a developing country. Would do it all again! To me, this was about the best day ride in the world.

Then, great beer and and fantastic German food. Again.

Away from Bariloche relatively early, about 8.40, another lovely two day ride to Peninsular Valdez. The westerly winds were behind us most of the way. Good for fuel consumption and our comfort. Left the Andes behind and rode across a wide coastal plan, very much like the Nulabour Plain.

Lindsay pointed out I would have completed riding around the world when we reached the Atlantic Ocean, which we did at Peuerto Madryn. I had thought about this months ago, but totally forgotten it. No tears or screams like Charlie Boorman and Ewan McGregor, although we did have an extra bottle of Argentina's finest red that night.

My Garmin Zumo 550 decided to celebrate, by retiring from work. Back to navigating from paper, with help from Dale's “Tablet”. It snuffed it one kilometre from the end of my around the world trip. Weird or what?

We stayed on Peninsular Valdez for a couple of nights, a very large peninsular, a Unesco World Heritage site. We rode about 200kms around on magnificent gravel roads, rode much faster than we should of. Saw Sea Lions, Elephant Seals (about 200 at one beach), Whales, Lamas, and things that look like an Emu, only a little smaller. Nice, but a little underwhelming. Went to a private Magellan Penguin Sanctuary. I don't think there is anything like it in the world. We walked among many thousands of them. Saw mothers sitting on eggs and with babies only a couple of days old. Amazing. Absolutely amazing.

Had a couple of cold beers while watching the sun set over the ocean. This is about as good as it gets.

It was a boring, hard, hot, dull 3 day ride to Buenos Aires. Dangerous, as it turned out. First day was about 36 degrees, a big change from what we had become accustomed to. The wind blew its guts out from the west for nearly the whole ride. The air pressure wave from trucks coming the other way was like hitting a brick wall. Hundreds of times a day. We were very much at risk of being blown off the road all the time. Fortunately my “Rooney Cycle” has a new screen, which gives her superior aerodynamics.

We spent a night at Azul. Met Stella, an extremely attractive Argentinean lady, while we were looking for a Hotel. Met her kids, William & Christian, and her parents. All lovely. Next morning Dale went to the Azul University, as Christian's guest, as they were both studied the same scientific discipline. 

Dale had a near death experience. His closest ever. I was following him around a very large 2 laned roundabout, when a fcuking car came flying around the roundabout the wrong way, in Dale's lane. Dale swung left and missed him by about 400mm. He was completely in Dale's lane, so I was safe, only a little frightened.

Next day was my turn for my closest near death experience on a bike. I was leading. There was a line of trucks coming the other way. Some dropkick in a car pulled out to overtake. We were head on, both at about 100kms. He passed me in the breakdown lane, still flat strap. The prick nearly cleaned up the 3 of us. New undies all round. I was shit scared. Although some Argentinian car drivers leave a lot to be desired, their Truckies are the best.

This highway needed more bloody Cops! I thought I would never say that.

Eventually we made it to Buenos Aires. We got horribly lost. Several times. Cursed the bloody GPS. Many times. We pulled to the side of a toll way for a conference. A bike pulls up and asks where we are going. We pointed to an area to our right. Our Good Samaritan clenches his fist in a pistol shape, points it at me and pretends to pull the trigger. Tells us not to go to that area or we would probably get shot. He paid our tolls and led us to a safe area.

Somehow we lost Lindsay. I was the only one who new the name of our hotel. Dale and I eventually found the hotel and emailed Lindsay the address. He was already in a McDonalds waiting for our email. Smart, eh? Thought we had managed to give him the flick. No such luck.

Our new best mate Ed (from horizonsunlimited.com) had found us a great hotel and let us park our bikes in one of his garages. We went for a meal and beers with him and his friends Caroline and Jo. At the usual Argentinian time of 1030pm. Great night. Solved a few of the worlds problems.

I had forgotten how much I like Buenos Aires. The girls are almost as good looking as Sydney's. Unfortunately, people here have to be paranoid about security. With good reason. I parked my “Rooney” on the footpath outside our Hotel. I woman came to me, looking worried. I asked if my bike was in her way and said I would only be couple of minutes. Turns out she was worried about me leaving my “Rooney' unlocked, even for such a short time.. We travel on the underground train. Ed gives us our security instructions. Single file, him at the front, me at the rear. Hands in pockets and try and keep away from people. All part of the adventure. I love the place, but couldn't live like this.

Ed took us to the Garmin agent. Quite an adventure. I purchased a new Garmin Zumo 500 for about $1,100. Many hundreds more than at home. And for the old model. Navigation will be easy again.

Dale downloaded maps from the net. Damned things didn't work. Lucky he knows his way around a “google machine”. Many hours later he has loaded maps for the whole of South America. I emailed Brian at GPS OZ in Mona Vale (www.gpsoz.com.au), as usual he came through with good advice.

Ed took us into town to buy tickets for the ferry to Uruguay. We walked into the closest bar for a drink and a meal. Surprised to see so many attractive, provocatively dressed single girls. Turns out we had stumbled into a Hookers pick up bar! The only thing we bought was one drink each. Honest, not even any food.

Argentina has been great. Buenos Aires has been great. Even the Taxi Drivers are good blokes. Ed is the best.

Tomorrow a boat to Uruguay.

Chris.
 xx


The Boys get their bikes. Eventually.


 Was it 100, 45 or 37. Who cares!



 3,290 metres.


 Route planning by committee



My "Rooney Cycle"
















That would be the end of our Round the World Trip.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Bike? What Bikes? It turned into a road trip in a Dongfeng S30

Distance travelled: 4,550 kms
Foreign tourists spotted: 9
Max Dongfeng S30 speed: 160 kph

The Thursday before we left was a bastard. I slipped getting off a Harbour Cat and belted my knee and my shoulder. Luckily Mick (aka MMM) put ice packs on it. Or should I say, iced Sweet Pea & Corn packs on it.

Mates came and went, stayed and slept, all weekend. I love that. A meal at the RSL, over many schooners of Coopers we told more than a few lies. My house was full, people sleeping everywhere.

Ali & Uiti drove us to the Airport. 0500 is to early after a big night, let alone after two big nights!

We flew from Sydney to Santiago with Lan Chilli. A terribly mediocre and over rated Airline. Trying to get a cup of water was like trying to extract teeth. Even for Airline food, it was bland. They ran out of beer.

Taxi for the 100km trip to Valparaiso. Good value, I slept most of the way. 1st night we slept for 15 bloody hours.

Enzo & Martina are our Valpariaso agents. They let us stay in their wonderful old eclectic, chaotic, ramshackle 3 story home. Complete with 3.75 metre ceilings. Adventure Bikers come and go. Mike from the U.S. on his KLR, who has just spent 6 months in the Antarctic. Peter & Mischka from Berlin on a pair of Yamaha 650 Tenere's. All great people.

Our time in Valparaiso was busy. Getting the Rooney through Customs took a full day. Without Enzo, it probably would have taken a week. Stewart in Melbourne, as usual, has done a brilliant job. Errol's bike crate has died, this was its last trip.

Valparaiso is a city of 300,000 perched on hills and cliffs that reminded me of Anzac Cove in Gallipoli. In Valparaiso they like to see the air they breath. There is an absence of public toilets, for both man and dog. The place stinks of piss and there is dog shit all over the joint. I mentioned they needed a couple of days rain to wash it away. Martina said they needed 100 years of rain to do it. They only have 331 mms of rain per year.

The people are lovely and friendly, as are the many, many stray dogs. In fact, Chile has the friendliest stray dogs I have met. We found some good bars. Got very drunk one night with some Chilean Navy guys. They had all served on 'Esmeralda', Chile’s magnificent 4 masted sailing ship. Great blokes, great night. Lousy head the next day.

Valparaiso has a network of funicular railways. Unfortunately, the drivers, and the garbage collectors, were on strike. One night we could not find a restaurant open. We had rum & coke and dry bread & chips for dinner. Next day we discovered the cities water supply had failed, so all restaurants had to close. We don't speak Spanish, so no one could tell us.

Would I go to to Valparaiso again? Not if I could avoid it. Did we have a good time? Hell yes. Why? Good people and good food equals great times. What else do you need. Enzo, Martina & their kids are fantastic.

Lindsay & Dale's bikes took an unexpected holiday in Korea, so will not be ready to be picked up until 4th November. We hired a car to tour Southern Chile for two weeks.

Our car is a Chinese made Dongfeng S30, only 3 weeks and 3,000kms old. One thousand and six hundred cubic centimetres of rippling power, with very little torque. Twin air bags, ABS, the largest boot I have ever seen in a small car and a really nice gear change. Reasonably economical as well. Not much else going for it. Poorly built and I don't think she will live to an old age. I don't think we would either if we pranged her. The suspension is already stuffed. Lawrie and Graham had a Dongfeng winch engine many years ago. I don't think the quality has improved. She was not built them to take what we have planned for her.

We take turns in driving, day about. The front passenger's job is to make sure the driver is on the correct side of the road. We have all spent time on the left. Some more than others! It is hard to judge how close to go to the right hand side kerb. Lindsay did the best, he drove for about 50 metres, with the bloody wheels on the right side footpath scattering women and children. And, he tells me, he is the most qualified driving person in Australia. God help the rest of us.

The Chilean road network is fantastic. Very little traffic either. Many, many times a day we comment on how good the roads and tracks would be on a Bike. The Chileans are good drivers.

Yesterday we had our first argument, could not agree on what day of the week it was. We had to consult our hotel Manager. He was not sure either. I think this means we are relaxed and in holiday mode.

At first we could see snow capped mountains to our left. The terrain is steep. Around Valparaiso and Santiago there is little vegetation. Nearly desert. As we drive further south there seems to be more vegetation every kilometre. We have driven through beautiful Aussie Eucalyptus Globulus and Radiata Pine forests. I think there are probably more Eucalyptus trees here than in Australia. The gravel roads are mostly in very good condition. In some areas we could be in Australia.

Our hotels have all been good, a couple fantastic. Everyone is friendly and helpful. The people and the dogs in Chile are probably the happiest and friendliest I have encountered. Last night we slept about 5 metres from the beach, the view from my bed was stunning. Today, things are not so good, we are probably 10 metres away from the sand.  

We are having a day off in Valdivera, went on a brewery tour this afternoon. At Kunstmann Brewery (yes, that is their name) they use the same no chemical method of brewing as is used in Germany. We had to try a few of their magnificent brews. Just woke up after a long siesta. I think we are Kunstmann addicts now.

Today we caught a ferry and ended up in Northern Patagonia. Fcuk me !! This place is amazingly beautiful. Magnificent waterways and snow covered mountain peaks all around. Dale gave our Dongfang S30 a real workout over a 100 or so kilometres of gravel road. Although more expensive than we had planned for, Chile is definitely worth it. And no tourists.

Lindsay said “it is like being in Noosa, but without all those p----s from Victoria.” I have family in Victoria. I like Victorians. Fcuk him.

The last couple of days have been on gravel roads, driving through incredible forests, past fantastic mountains. We have been on three vehicular ferries, the largest 74 metres, which steamed for 3 1/2 hours through fjords over 450 metres deep, the other two about 35 metres. The two smaller ones had Schottel propulsion systems.

Lindsay was driving the 60kms from the last ferry to Chaiten, he thought he was in the Australian Safari. The poor new Dongfang S30 did know what had hit her.

The Chaiten Volcano erupted in 2008, covering the town on volcanic ash. It is now mostly a ghost town, very sad to see. The abandoned buildings all have about 1 metre of mud (from the ash) in them. Peoples lives, just buried, left where they were in 2008. The river changed course and cut a swath through the town.

The butcher had two calenders his wall. One dated 25th October 2013, the other still on 2nd May 2008. He still sold a good steak though, cut straight from the carcass while we watched.

Today was my turn to drive the Dongfeng. We went about 100kms south to Puerto Cardenas at the head of Lake Yelcho, with a couple of long side trips up tracks to look at glaciers and other stuff. The boys are now arguing over which volcanoes we actually saw today. Fcuk me, who poured the Bourbon. And I don't like Bourbon.

They have finally agreed our favourite volcano is Corcovado. A beautiful, majestic, classically traditional volcano. Dale went to University. So he is able to tell us she has been glacially eroded.

Our 3rd favourite volcano is Michinmahuido, she is a glaciated stratovolcano, lives about 15kms from here.

We swam in 38 degree thermal springs, fed from Michinmahuido Volcano. How good was that? It was so good we went back the next day.

Back to town, down to a beach, that did not exist before May 2008, we shelled peanuts and drank Escudo beer out of 1 litre bottles, while we walked the beach. We could see our three favourite volcanoes, including Chaiten, which continued to spew hot gases into the atmosphere. I have never slept at a place less than 10kms from an active volcano. The Chilean Government are building a new town 10kms north of here, as they don't know when old Chaiten is going to blow again.

Dale says Lindsay and I are old, and he is not, yet.

Dale cooked a great steak dinner. Michelle would be proud.

Was this a great day? Fcuk me, yes!!

Our time in the Chilean Patagonia has ended. The area was stunningly fantastic. I would like to come back here again. It is bloody amazing! Any takers?

We caught a ferry over to Quellin on Isle Grand De Chiloe yesterday. The views of the snow covered mountains on the 4 hour trip over would bring a tear to your eyes. I haven't seen anything like it before.

Our 80 metre ferry was berthing stern first (a Mediterranean moor) and nearly backed over a smaller vessel which was in its berth. Our lines were being run. The smaller boat ran over one of our vessel's mooring lines. What a shit fight. I got some of it on video. Doesn't happen at CQ.

This area happens to be the Pacific Salmon farming Capital of the world. Previously, the best fish I had eaten was a very large Salmon, cooked by the Intrepids, over a campfire, in the Russian Far East. Most nights we eat magnificently cooked Salmon, at a very reasonable price, in nice little waterside restaurants. Frequently followed by a bottle or two of excellent Chilean red. Last night was no exception.

We are heading back up to Valpariaso for Sunday. Hopefully the boys pick up their bikes on Monday.

Isle Grand De Chiloe is quite mundane after the countryside we have been driving through. Roadworks and traffic, looks a little like Russia at times. Tonight we are. in the capital, Castro a nice enough town although I think we have been spoilt.

I had hoped to lose weight on this trip. Unfortunately, driving in the Dongfeng S30 is not conducive to this. Today we had 4 meals. Breakfast. Beer with our large meat n veg soup at lunch. A large bucket of coffee and a slice of the best, richest chocolate and caramel cake ever, for afternoon tea, and the best Salmon meal yet for dinner. With a bottle or so of red. Bring on the bikes and some more exercise.

Today we got our ambitions mixed up with our capabilities. Again. Unfortunately, that's a regular occurrence with me. The local volcano at Lake Llanquihue is the Osorno Volcano. Dale, our navigator supremo, discovered we could drive a fair way up. We decided we would drive, then walk as far up towards the crater as possible. We think we are Volcanologists now. Out of the Dongfeng S30 it was about 3-5 degrees. Luckily I have my BMW Rally Pro 3 riding jacket with me. As well as being about the best riding jacket, it makes a great trekking jacket. We set off at a brisk pace. It was bloody cold. The wind was strong enough to blow a dog off it's chain. It started to rain. We trekked upwards. It started to sleet. Onwards and upwards, over the first ridge. The rain & sleet got heavier. Great weather to push on to the next ridge. The wind picked up. Lindsay estimated it at 40 knots. A little conservative, I think. The temperature dropped, Dale's estimation was well below zero, minus the wind chill factor. We thought we were going to be blown off the bloody volcano. We had a quick little conference and decided we were coffee shop soft cocks, not volcanologists and better head down. The sleet stung our faces, our hands were frozen. My BMW jacket kept me warm and dry. Thank fcuk. It was a shitty coffee, but hot. Dale wants to go back tomorrow and try again. Fcuk that for a joke.

Australia has Meat Pies, Chile has Empanades. They are a little like a Pastie, only better. Healthier than a Aussie Dog's eye as well. They are pastry, rolled over and filled with mince meat, onion, an egg and spices. Just to break your teeth, they usually have an Olive thrown in as well, complete with the pip. The best ones are made by little old ladies at road side stalls. I love them. And the little old ladies who make them. They are all happy. Today we had Empanades De Salmon. They are the grouse. There is nothing better. We had three each. And then desert.

Our hotels have been excellent, although a little more expensive than we had planned. Except one, it was only OK. All have had free Wi.Fi. I will never pay for Wi Fi in a hotel again. Ever. I will try never to stay in one without it.

One night we had a fantastic Cabernet Sauvignon with our Salmon, BBQ'd if I remember. Only $30.So good we had 2 bottles. A few evenings later we had the same fantastic bloody wine for $12. How good was that. Tonight we had it with our evening Salmon for $10. How good was that. We decided to buy a bottle to take back to our Cabana, Lindsay wanted to buy it at a bottle shop. We argued. He won. How much? Just under $4.00. For the same fcuking Cab Sav! We are still on a steep learning curve. Now we are paying $3.50 for 1 litre! Not to bad either.

Back in Valpariaso again. It is all happening at Martina and Enzo's place, all except the boys bikes being ready to pick up. That should happen on Wednesday. Anyway, this place is fun. Our mate Ian is staying here, learning Spanish, while waiting a few weeks for Kitty.(his R100GSPD) She also had taken a holiday in Korea. Hans from Germany is staying while his broken collarbone mends. Max is cleaning and polishing his DR650 (complete with the full list of Vince Strang options), after 9 months in South America, before she is shipped home to Avalon.

The Chilean people are beautiful. I can't explain it, except to say they all have personality, and it rubs off on their stray dogs. Lindsay and Dale are excellent to travel with, both very positive and great fun. Dale is similar to Adam in a lot of ways, they can both read a map better than I, or almost anyone. Lindsay is, well he is Lindsay. One of a kind. He takes Austro/ Chilean relations to a new level!

We have become fond of our Donfeng S30. Although I am not thinking of swapping the Commodore for one, she is OK. I wouldn't like to be the poor person who buys ours when the rental company has finished with her. I hope they don't notice the shiny gravel blasted under sides, or the belted in door sill. These things happen when rally driving in Patagonia.

And after nearly 3 weeks, the Garbos are still on strike in Valpariaso. And the joint stank when we got here.

Take care,
Chris.
xx

A quiet, dog shit paved street in Valparaiso.

The view from my bed.


                                                                  Fresh Empanades

                                                                  Our Dongfeng S30


Corcovado Volcano, our favourite.



 Does it get any better?
Chaiten town, soon to be abandoned.
The beach did not exist before 2nd May 2008.