Saturday, January 29, 2011

Day 24 - Mendoza

Distance travelled (by bike): 3473 miles

Wine tasting. Setting off after some delays we found the bus, having had to change notes to coins, as coins are the only monies accepted. This we were told could only be done at the bank.  Collapsing on the bus we finally headed out of the city to hire bicycles and sample the local wine. Sun, wine and bikes, perfect day. Would like to tell you i'm now very knowledgable about wine and specialising in Melbac, but what i learn was soon lost due to more wine, sun and exercise.
Returning to Mendoza, still no word from BMW, tried ringing, but they had closed for the evening - suddenly very irritated, without any insight into whats happening with the bike it becomes apparent that no plans can be made until we learn more. I was going to head over to Santiago, but with no word form BMW this has been put on hold - A feast of empinaidas and wine helped curb the disappointment.

just becouse i found it funny!

without question the coolest person in Mendoza

tasting the wine - wrong way round - i know, but internet not good so am making do

 the vines

Day 23 - Mendoza

Distance travelled (by bike): 3473 miles

Leaving one hostel for another with better motorbike parking and free wine (as much as you can drink) we weaved through the city cursing the south american love affair with one way streets. On finding the hostel we dump the luggage and headed straight for the BMW dealer, who thanks to a phone call from the garage in Buenos Aires were expecting us. Along with hopefully fixing the problem it was time for the first tyre change. Bike dropped off we were hurtled through the city back to the hostel, by the services manager a demo BMW M3, with speeds touching 90mph, it was evident he enjoyed driving it. Business out the way and shaking off the nausea from the journey, we headed to look around Mendoza, which as most guide books rightly say has a very european feel. After doing the tourist thing and wandering through the city, with the heat raising, we returned to the hostel.
On returning we met a Belgium chap called Tom, (turns out he had been mugged in every city he visited) who insisted he knew one of the hidden terrace bars in Mendoza, he invited us to join him. We did, only to find that his mind had vacated his body some time ago and had no idea what was going on or where he was going. After strolling around for an hour enough was enough, we left him to walk the streets with his head in the clouds and most likely get mugged again.

 - sorry for lack of images, internet playing up

mendoza train station, though there is no track

Plaza Independencia - not pretty

entrance to the park

Day 22 - Malargue - Mendoza.

Distance travelled (by bike): 3725 miles

Leaving Malargue, and deciding to wait till the next town to fill up the auxiliary fuel tanks was a mistake. As we rocked up in the next town, a strangely familiar sign greeted us - no fuel. Doing some quick mental arithmetic, we calculated that we should be able to get to the next town and fill up there. It was getting hot, not wanting to hang about we asked a local the quickest way to route 40. This would have been excellent insider knowledge cutting valuable miles off the journey, sadly 20km down the dirt track he raid split, this the local didn't tell us, with no signs and no confidence in the gps we elected to turn around and follow the map.
As we turned of the main road onto more dirt tracks with desert either side, the fun began. The road was straight, as far as the eye could see, what you couldn't see were the ripples and bumps in it. After 60km through the desert the road weaved into a tunnel, on exiting we found ourselves on the top of a dam, with crystal blue water, been so hot the temptation to jump in was amazing, however the security on the dam had other ideas and off we drove.
On passing a sign telling us the next town was 50km the fuel light came on, Shane laughter, i winced. The idea of pushing a bike loaded with 200kg through the  desert was not appealing. On we drove. Then out of nowhere the bike stalls, and then again and again. After 40km Shane's really laughing, nearly resigned to the fact that we will have to push the bike. Both praying we steam on. Having found the ideal speed to power the bike, with all the weight its was carrying, whilst having some degree of control when driving through sand was 60mph on we went…as the bike continued to cut out we started to pray. Our prayers answer we saw the town, with the bike cutting out Shane shouted to turn around he'd seen the petrol station, 'sure its got fuel?' -'might do', so we turn around. Turns out it has no fuel, i'm furious…but turns out 1km down the road there is a fuel station. Setting off and gunning the engine, it cuts out, we cruise into the petrol station. The tank is 16 litres, the fuel pump said 16.4 litres when we had filled up.
Slightly delirious with todays adventure over, we head onwards to Mendoza. Having not booked anywhere it takes 7 attempts to find somewhere to stay, but it has a pool and cold beer…two very happy boys.
the dam in the middle of nowhere

other side of dam

the middle of nowhere, where the fuel light came on

the fuel station that answered our prayers

on the dam - very hot

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Day 21 - Bardes Blancas - Malargue

Distance travelled (by bike): 3468 miles

Waking up to been watched by geese was a shock, after sleeping on the dusk floor of the barn it didn't take us long to pack up and head off. It was decided as we were so close to some ancient caves, which housed fossils it was a must. 16km drown dirt tracks we arrived at the Park rangers station, where after paying we were issue with helmets, head torches, put in a group of 6 and lead up the rocks to the cave entrance. The caves were well worth the visit, without stringent health and safety rules we crawled, ducked, swung and climbed through cave after cave, with only the head torch for light and a guide showing us the way. Anyone taller than me would have struggled to contort their body into positions allowing them to manoeuvre through the cave system.

one of the fossils

assending into the cave

still further we venture

Back to surface and reality, today we cross the mountain pass to Chile. As we wind up through the mountains the landscape becomes more breathtaking, after about 70km i mention to shane that we are the only people on this road, but we decided that after the last few days this is common and we drive on. 40km further we come across construction work been done on the highway, we follow diversions and carry on…The GPS bleeps that we are now in Chile…really! - We park up the bike and Shane starts talking to a construction worker, who points to the Chilean flag on his jacket and tells us, yes we are in Chile. Turns out the border post for Chile is 10km further, but the Argentineans had decided to close the border, it seems , without telling anyone. After lengthy discussions we decide to turn around as having not signed out of Are gentian the Chilean border guards would probably tell us to go back anyway. Back we go…irritated and hot. We drove onto Malargue which was only 110km from Bardes Blancas.

the entance to the caves

the border marking

whats left of the border post

about to desend into the caves

hearding the goats along the mountain roads 

the goat hearder

more gravel roads

Day 20 - las Lajas - Bardes Blancas

Distance travelled (by bike): 3248 miles

Left Las Lajas early to try and beat the heat along ruta 40, sadly it was 39 degrees by 11am, we were been cooked alive in our bike gear, nothing else to do but stop for a few hours and rehydrate. Rehydrated we headed back on the road…then the motorbike starts to cut out - am fuming! This happened for about 80km on gravel roads, but along the way we met part of a biker gang. I thought one member  was going to kiss Shane after he said that Argentinians were better than Chileans (we have found them to be much more friendly) but he refrained and simply gave him the biggest hug I have ever seen.  He then invited us to party with them if we ever pass through Cordoba, its a thought.

me loaded up with some of the bikers

Looking at the map and deciding that the dot named Bardes Blancas would be a good place to stop on we stalled. Arriving at the dot, it turned out to be a cluster of 6 houses, very deceptive map. The age old problem of fuel was soon the focus of all attention. Fortunately the local mechanic had two barrels of prime fuel and he was willing to sell some, problem solved. We ended up sleeping in an open fronted barn, complete with ducks and geese, this was in the back of a restaurant, which turned out to be one of the most expensive places to eat and some of the worst food in argentina. Only one thing on the menu…some kind of meat that was battered, fries (which seem to be the staple diet) and a tomato salad, working out at a cool £15 (not including booze).

a common sight

in the bin where we stayed

the stable/barn

ready for bed in the barn

relaxing after the days ride

Day 19: Meilpeuco - Las Lajas

Distance travelled (by bike): 2876 miles

Picture perfect view when stepping out from the tent, sausage sandwiches for breakfast, this is the life. Leaving Meilpeuco we headed 80km north through the Conguillio national park. The main attraction being a snow covered 3500m volcano that only had erupted 3 years before. The eruption gave the park a very distinct appearance having left left incredible metamorphic scars through the landscape. To add to this there were countless crystal clear lakes scattered throughout the park. The lakes a beautiful mix of green and blue were so clear that the ground was still visible at quite a depth. While we were there it seemed rude not to swim, hell, it was cold!!! That cold that neither of us were quite sure we were still men afterwards. Refreshed, back on the bike we carried on. Passing through the longest tunnel in south America (4.5km) - a true highlight! Rocking up to Las Lajas to find somewhere to eat and sleep.

the volcano in the distance, the ash and dust it left behind in foreground

the tracks leading through the park

one of the many crystal clear lakes

jungle of monkey puzzle trees
shane, about to brave the frozen water to impress a random woman sunbathing

Mary, protecting the tunnel

cleaning the dust off my visor


the tunnel!!

through the tunnel!!

Found a camp site, set up the tents and went hunting for food. This been Latin America, and sunday, and the time about 6.30pm nothing was open. We waited it out till 8, we were told this is when the only restaurant that served on sundays would be open. It was, serving one dish, fried chicken and fries, but it tasted good! - back at the campsite we met a Scottish lady called Pauline had cycled from the UK through Europe to Portugal. Then boarded a cargo ship to Buenos Aires she has been cycling for 2 months solo in South America so far!
The Argentinians love their music, each car in the camp site was competing to see who's stereo would go louder, this lasted till about 2am when either they decided to call it a night or the car batteries went dead.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Day 18 - Puerto Montt-Meilpeuco

Distance travelled (by bike): 2600

Setting of from Puerto Montt on any other day would have been easy, but with the rain and wind today it was a stubble. Ploughing through the traffic and hitting the open road, relief, the sky ahead is blue! A diversion through Osorno to check out a bike for shane proved to be a blessing in the form of a curse. We reckon the guy selling the bike (who happened to be one of the oracle police), which eventually turned up, must have been high when he advertised it. It most certainly not as pictured, described or priced… scrap would be more of a fitting description. Anyhow while pretty despondent with the indication that buying a decent bike in SA would cost most of Shanes body parts the experience helped him to realise that bike travel might be better left to when he has actually held a real job for some period of time. So it would seem i might have a warm seat and a cuddle buddy on my bike for some time yet…

one of the reasons to visit orsorno

Leaving Osorno and a disappointed policeman we headed north, then  east towards Argentina with another of our famously rash but brilliant decisions. As we ventured into the interior it became evident from the looks we got that not many travellers, never mind gringos, used these roads. Meilpeuco was our destination, on the edge of a national park. Truly stunning scenery as we weaved through the countryside. Arriving at Meilpeuco we found a campsite run by the chief of one of the native tribes, the Mapuche. An amazing place to camp, the chief talked us through the tribes culture, meaning and rituals which was fascinating, he even let us try to play the instruments used in the ceremonies. Down side is that its right next to a river and both shane and i are been eaten alive!!!

somewhere along the road

cows on the road!! - yep i nearly hit one!

Day 17 - Puerto Montt / Rest and recuperation

Distance travelled (by bike): 2200(ish)

Rest and recuperation day in Puerto Montt. Puerto Montt is not a picturesque town, nor a particularly nice one, home to all the bums and homeless along the coast, but for the purpose of catching up on emails, recharging batteries, and generally kicking back it suited just fine. After a leisurely day of not doing particularly much (apart from phone the UK to wish JJ happy birthday), we decided to go out to eat in one of the local cafes. We were the only gringos in the establishment, and ordered what turned out to be the most enormous and tasty hamburgers known to man. Each burger was over half a pound of meat with onions, guacamole, chilli source, lettuce, tomato, pickles, hot peppers and mayo..a man sized feast. Feeling equally sick and full, a pool bar was spotted. As we ventured up the stairs it became evident that this was locals only, not perturbed we got a table and started to shot some pool. The table was not flat, the balls not round and the queues not straight, but whatever, we played on, this was until the lights over our table were deliberately turned off, it seemed the locals wanted rid of us. So we played on…eventually we got the message and made our exit. We were told to get a taxi back to the hostel as the area we had to walk through was rough, but been stubborn and looking rough ourselves we strolled through, no worries. 

the highlight of Puerto Montt

Friday, January 21, 2011

Day 16 - Chaiten - Puerto Montt.

Distance travelled (by bike): 2200 miles(ish)

Not much to report - Had to be at the ferry ramp for 8.30am, even though the ferry left at 10am. 
the ferry

bike strapped down, the porn king didn't want to be in the photo

When we were loaded and strapping the bike down we met one of the crew who, when he found out i was english, wanted to know all about the UK, turns out he is obsessed with english women (or maybe there reputation abroad) and pornography.

Settled in for a leisurely 7 hour cruise from Chaiten to Puerto Montt. 

On disembarking we had to drive 50km to catch another ferry to Puerto Montt. We heard that there was one ever half hour, and if we hurried we might catch one before dusk…challenge accepted. We made it, easily, just in time to have a chat to the senior policeman about the journey and what we throughout of Chile so far, while is junior did all the work.

not impressed with shane...

shane and the local police

On to the next ferry and into Puerto Montt in time for a late Dinner...