Sunday, December 31, 2006

Mendoza- Getting high and Parties on the roundabout

So we wheel it in to Mendoza mid-afternoon, in good time to source some accommodation. Or so you'd think. We did try a hostel but the owner was out and no one knew what the price of a room was so we tried the camp sites. One was miles away so we though we'd try the municipal one slightly nearer town. As usual, it wasn't too easy to find so for the second time we ended up with a police escort to a campsite. I think the police quite like getting asked to do stuff like this. No sirens or lights though.

Mendoza is yet another large 'grid pattern' city of the type that holds little appeal for me however it does have a very attractive park and lake to the west. Our campsite is located just outside this but not exactly within walking distance of the city. Now Argentineans like their barbeques and I mean 'really' like them. When we arrived, we were about the only tent on the site however here they don't use these places in quite the same way we do at home. It's a place for quite literally all the family to gather, drink, get merry and watch dad do the asado. So when we returned to the site about 11pm that evening after a frankly awful meal in town, the site was alive with families and kids running all over the place, music and general fun and games. Not exactly the recipe for a good nights kip in a tent then. And it wasn't just our campsite that was popular. No, the park was also full of people while barbeques were getting set up on roadsides and even the roundabout outside the campsite for gawds sake. And even more bizarrely, just to add insult to injury, a wedding party arrived about midnight bleeping horns and having a jolly old time till 6am. Even my earplugs couldn't drown that lot out.

So the following day was a restful one to say the least. A bit of bike tinkering and general slouching around was required as we watched our thermometer hit 49degrees in the sun. Not the sort of temperatures to do anything much really.

One of the reasons I came to Mendoza was to find the BMW dealer here as my newly replaced fork seals which cost me 40GBPs had decided to give up on me after barely a week and apparently these BMWs need something called a 'service' every now and again. We rolled up to the impressively clean garage much like those in the UK, and proceeded to be told that they didn't have time to look at my bike. They didn't look particularly interested in it either and I didn't have the time to wait so I understood, but only very slightly, how Ted Simon must have felt after he rolled into LA expecting some sort of fanfare from the Triumph garage.

Q. Whats the difference between a BMW and a Kawasaki?
A. Well, a BMW oil filter costs 90pesos while a Kwak one costs 15pesos- go figure.

We also managed to fit in some swimming here. Well, that is after trying about 3 different pools, we finally found one that would have us and we had about the first real exercise of the whole trip (apart from walking and picking up the bike now and again that is).

We had planned cross the mighty Andes again, this time our goal was Valparaiso, a coastal town some 300 or so miles away in Chile. Setting off from the flatness that is Mendoza, we followed the road as it wound its way up into the hills. On our right near the summit was Mount Aconcagua sitting at 6960m which is high indeed. In fact, it is the highest mountain, not only in the Andes, but in both the southern and western hemispheres.

Aconcagua- It´s quite high

I wish I could say I was blown away with the scenery but I think it´s possibly because you are 'in' them rather than viewing from afar, they don't seem that huge. Anyway, the scenery was actually pretty great all the same and when we came across the turn off to the Cristo Redentor monument before the Chile border, I couldn't resist it. The monument sits on one of the peaks and as we had to take the tunnel to cross the range, it looked like our best shot at getting a 'view from the top' so after a bit of gentle persuading Michelle and I set off up the gravel track. The road quickly deteriorated into mush due to the amount of water running down the mountain and the hairpin bends got even hairier the higher we went. I got up as high as 3600m or so when the road became totally blocked with snow and we had no choice but to start back downwards- but not before a bit of a snowball fight first though.

The end of the road at only 3600m, damm it!

Due to all this mucking about, as you may have already guessed, we didn't make Valparaiso by nightfall but got as far as a campsite near San Felipe around 8pm which seemed like a sensible time to stop for the night.

Gary Glitter, Chav Mahal and San Rafael
Monday 11/12/06- Saturday 16/12/06
I finally managed to get new fork seals fitted at Ctorq in Bariloche for 240pesos so we were able to leave Bariloche around midday. We took the route of the 7 lagos which was pretty nice, but once you've seen one lake...

Stopping briefly at San Martin de los Andes at another fairly non-descript campsite, our plan was to try and cover a decent few miles because we've been moving a tad slowly of late, Our plan was to make it to Chos Malal, basically somewhere on the map to stop. The scenery en-route was very reminiscent of westerns, total cowboy country in fact with several goucho's on horseback. As we were aiming to cover some distance, it was a listening to mp3s-on-shuffle day. Quite bizzare then riding through this landscape to hear 'what it is', that Mark Knopfler song about a Geordie night out in Newcastle.

Anyway, as usual when I have my earphones in, we got stopped at one of those rather pointless police checkpoints where they want to ask you where you're going and see your passports etc. Naturally I couldn't remember the name of the place we were going to but Chav Mahal seemed to cover it.

At the towns municipal campsite, we met the attendant who was incredibly efficient, though inevitably incredibly hard to get rid off. I noticed there had only been 5 other people staying there this month so I guess he was pleased to see somebody.

A fairly productive evening involved getting Michelle's spare tyre fitted and having a mini asado of our own with really tasty chicken. Michelle has a compact little folding grill which has been excellent and worth carrying as the meat here really is not too bad.

"I feel like chicken tonight"

Anyway, as we're munching away, this small boy on a bike shows up asking lots of questions but as usual, we do our 'no intiendo'. Not long after, a scruffy looking old guy with a slightly insane grin comes along with some keys. He's telling us something about the banos and we eventually work out he's some sort of night watchman so we're obviously in safe hands. He begins motioning at the bikes and is apparently suggesting we lock them together. I ask if there are likely to be any problems and his response sounds like 'yes, I'm your problem now', however he actually turns out to be fairly harmless although he does have a touch of 'gary glitter' about him when he is speaking to the small boy.

The following day, we were aiming to get to San Rafael however after a very tedious ride along some nasty stretches of gravel, we only make it as far as Malargue. On the way, Michelle's carbs flooded on a really remote road as we were taking some pictures and in the intense heat, it wasn't too funny however after what seemed a considerable while we got it running again. I think the scene must have amused the farmer who´s mud house we were photographing moments before.

It was an easy two hour ride to San Rafael the next day through quite a number of lovely vineyards. This whole area really is a major wine producing area so it woud be rude not to visit one or two wineries while we're here'. We got a pretty cheap room for 45pesos with cable tv and even a ceiling fan! We also found a local guy, Louis, to clean out Michelle´s carb and make a small screen to replace the last one that became ever so slightly 'detached' a few weeks ago. While hanging out at Louis's garage, a couple of local police popped in to say hello as they'd seen my bike outside. I initially bricked it as I tried to remember which one of my most recent traffic violations could have prompted this visit but it thankfully turned out to be a purely social one. One guy was in a car but the other was on a BMW650GS so he was keen to have a look at mine. I must say that the Police here really don't give their guys the best kit. He just wore a shirt with several radios and objects sticking out, light trousers with only boots for some protection and his open face helmet was all scuffed to bits. His scratched, matt black bike did look quite cool though and it even had ABS which was something.

We did visit one winery. It was actually started in the late 1800's by French guy who shipped over all this wine making equipment. San Rafael didn't really exist back then and once he's set up his wine production, he spread the word back home and invited a lot of his French pals over to do the same and the town started taking shape. After our very informative tour, we splashed out on a 1GBP bottle of vino blanco and headed off to the large park at the other end of town. We thought we´d get some empanandas on the way but failed to find a single place that had any so we carried on regardless. To say it was hot is an understatement and I was looking forward to finding a large fountain or something to cool off by. Unfortunately the park turned out to be a huge disappointment. Walking past the gypsy camp at one end, it reminded me of a school playing field that had been allowed to become overgrown for about 10 years, and there were just a little too many large ants for my liking so we decided to skip it. It´s a rather nice town actually but like most of these places, nothing really kicks off and gets busy until later in the day when it cools down. The streets then come alive with families and people with shops open well into the evening. We met a few north American guys how seemed to think this was the place. One guy has a plumb farm outside town which sounds like rather a nice existence to me.

We stayed a couple of days in San Rafael before heading on to Mendoza. On the way, we took a small detour via Tupungato that was supposed to give a great view of the Andes however the weather decided to mess with our plan and placed some rather large clouds over most of them.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Break like the Wind
Friday 8/12/06 - Sunday 10/12/06
We had an easy ride to Bariloche, which is a bit of touristy town but pretty nice just the same. We found a great little hotel with double room, ensuite & breky for 50pesos a night so we were happy. After a walk around town we treated ourselves to some great coffee and cake and thus blowing any savings we'd made on the accommodation. We'd spotted a poster advertising tango lessons, so after a few good beers in a microbrewery, we turned up at the place in our best dancing gear, ie dirty cargoes and tee shirts. We were greeted by the teacher, Patricia, and were soon being shown the ropes. At first, we found it hard to stop laughing at our four left feet, but Patricia persisted and I had to dance with another lady who knew what she was doing while Michelle got a Harold Bishop look-a-like. Believe it ir not, by the end of the night, we could actually do the steps they'd shown us, ok, not perfectly, but we were pretty happy and had a great night too.Thankfully, there are no photos but we think we'll do it again somewhere else so by the end of the trip we could be tango'ing the night away.

On Saturday, we found out about a biker meet happening in town (which explained the hundreds of big bikes- doh!), so as we'd not seen any bike bigger than a our own for a very long time, we had to go along. We followed the parade round the local circuit here (Circuito Chico) which goes round the peninsula and although the views are pretty cool, some of the houses here are also prety cool, there's clearly some money in this town. The ride finished at the lake campsite about 16kms south of town where there was promise of beer and music. It really reminded me of a smaller version of the bikerfests I used to go to back home. It was hosted by the aptly named 'Wind Riders', who are I assume the local Hells Angels. They were a nice bunch though and there were games involving trying to knock over beer cans with tennis balls while riding past. And then the band came on. My god, they were bloody awful, but very entertaining to watch. A more tone-deaf singer I´ve yet to hear. More leather and studded wrist bands than Rob Halford could ever shake a stick at.

"Let there be sand!"

A bad egg in Chile
Wednesday 6/12/06- Thursday 7/12/06
We parted company with A&K yesterday as they were going to try the thermal springs in La Junta so we headed on and camped at Puerto Piedra by the lake. Really nice setting as the lake is surrounded by steep mountains. There was even a camp fire and shelter. We met a bunch of Argentinian fishermen who had travelled 2000kms to fish but apeared not to have caught anything. Oh well. I really enjoyed listening to some Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young on my MP3 player at night and being able to look at the stars without the light pollution we are used to, so much so that I nearly fell asleep by the fire. Wine also helps though which we'd managed to buy off the lady who owned the place. She slightly spoiled the experience slightly the next morning by trying to charge us more than we'd agreed and not giving us the eggs she'd promised. Her loss a I guess.

Our campsite view

A short ride and another border crossing later, we were back in Argentina and stopped in Esquel. We found a nice little house for 50pesos all to ourselves where we got all our much-needed washing done. From Esquel, we rode on to El Bolson as Michelle needed a new rear tyre. I asked the mechanic there to look at my now very leaky fork seals but when he asked a teenager at his garage how long he thought it might take, I was out of there. I'll wait till I find someone who at least looks like they know what they're doing. Michelle got a Pirelli MT21 for 250pesos though, about half what I had to pay for my Pirelli in Puerto Madryn but they tried to charge 50 pesos to change it! Remember I got charged 5 pesos at a YPF garage so we´ll take it to one of those.

We stayed about 14kms outside El Bolson at a German family's house who let travellers stay. We had thought it was going to be free but we soon found out that they now charged due to the number of people that stayed. We got a nice little pitch by the river anyway and they even had a couple of great little lab puppies too so we couldn't complain!

Puppy power!!

The Perfect Hosts
Monday 4/12/06- Tue 5/11/06
Being the hardcore travellers we are, we finally made it out of town by 3pm after doing a bit of internet/emails etc. We got caught in some shitty roadworks, we got fed up as the road had turned to gravel again and was killing our backs so we jumped onto the newly tarmac'd section. I came across a guy in a rather large road roller who actually swung his machine towards me in rage, this guy was livid. It was quite funny though but we got kicked off after that.
As it was pretty late, we needed to find somewhere to stop for the night and by another happy accident, came across a house which had some camping space and they did breakfast too- sorted. In the morning, we were treated to lovely home baked bread and really fresh eggs which tasted fantastic. I could have stayed in that kitchen all day. The owner was a really nice guy from Santiago who's up'd sticks and moved to the country with his wife. He'd built the house himself and although it had no electric power, save for a solar panel which charged a battery to power one light and a radio, it was one of the warmest and most homely places I've seen. He has a beautiful little 2 year old daughter who looked very cool in her floppy had and poncho. I even had to put on her shoes for her at breakfast which greatly amused Michelle.

The perfect hosts

We had a fabulous ride through the rainforest today, totally different scenery. The road climbs over a pass with incredibly tight hairpin bends that make the gps show the road like a mad squiggle. I enjoyed it so much that when I bottomed out my front forks on a deep pothole, I just didn't care, I'll get it sorted somewhere, somehow.

Rainforest, C. Austal style

Red hands, twisty roads and fat, heavy bikes
Sunday 3/12/06
We took a look at some caves which had painted hands dating from around 10,000 years ago. The place was acually shut but we rode up the tricky narrow and steep track anyway and let ourselves in, with the GS naturally falling over at the top of the last hill. I'd read somewhere before that the natural position for a GS is on its side and this trip is certainly proving that.

A GS on it´s side, earlier today

The hands were pretty cool though, Kristina works in a kindergarten so we deduced that the hands were most likely done by the 10,000 year old kids as a school exercise, most likely some sort of detention I expect.

´You need hands...´

We also came across a dead forrest that had been covered in ash from a volcanic eruption, quite impressive really. Andreas and kristina stopped to chat to a German woman on a bike with cool gaucho chaps. She'd been at a protest nearby as Pinochet had sold off parts of the valley years ago to foreign hydro electric companies who now wanted to dam the valley to build a hydro plant. I hope they win as it really is a beautiful place.

The gravel road finally turned back into nice, smooth asphalt again after god knows how long. Michelle and I enjoyed ourselves racing each other up a mountain pass with hairpins and great, wide sweeping bends, fantastic.

Oh yeah...bring it on

We stopped off in Coyhaique and found a fantastic wooden cabanya, where Andreas, who's a bit of a chef in his spare time, knocked up a great evening meal.

The Perfect Saturday Morning
Saturday 2/12/06
So what did you do on Saturday morning then? Me? Well we broke up camp and continued along this valley which, I'll be honest, was just gorgeous. There's just something about riding in lovely sunshine and beautiful, rustic surroundings that really appeals to me. There were grins all around, I can tell you, though I'm sure my photos won't do it justice.

All Saturday mornings should be this good

Once we finally made it off this track on to the 'main road', this turned out to be the famous Chilean Carretera Austral (southern highway) apparently commisioned by Gen Pinochett which stretches for over 1,000kms from Puerto Montt to Villa O'Higgins. The route takes in snowcapped mountains, volcanoes, ice age glaciers, fjiords, turquoise lakes and even one of the largest areas of temperate rainforest. We stopped off at Puerto Tranquilo for the night, even meeting a couple of fellow overland bikers who for the first time weren't German but were from New Zealand and California.

Locusts, Imprisoned Armadillos and Good Roads
Thursday 30/11/06 - Friday 1/12/06

We headed off up Routa 40 again, but taking it easy thanks to the impressive side winds. The one notable thing about the road today was that it was infested with locusts. They just looked like leaves floating about behind the michelles rear wheel in front of me but on closer inspection, they were in fact locusts. Millions of them! They were jumping about all over the road and getting squashed under our tyres, I've really never seen anything quite like it.

We stopped for lunch by a deserted derelict building in the middle of nowhere as it provided some shelter from the wind. After we finished eating and had a wander about, we could hear a strange scratching noise coming from a oil drum which had a board weighed down by a heavy stone. Andreas and I took a look and lifted the makeshift cover and peered in. And peering back at us were 3 armadillos, one of which looked pretty dead. Thinking this was a tad cruel, I kicked over the barrel to let them out. One immediately ran away, the other stayed in digging about in the soil while the dead one turned out not to be dead but was barely alive. Michelle gave it some water which it seemed to lap up however it didn't look to great. We headed off and left them to their own devices, wondering who and why someone would lock up these creatures until they died.

It was a fairly dull ride as the landscape had resorted back to a bit of pampas again so the plan was just to cover some miles when we stopped to chat to a couple of large overland vehicles. You could be forgiven for assuming it is only Germans that do overlanding in Argentina however Andreas had a chat with them and we were told of a decent route over to Chile and the Carreterra Austral, where the scenery is supposed to be great and there is less wind - we were off. We stopped the night in a crossroads hotel called Bajo Caracoles which was quite literally the only place for miles around.

The next day, we headed off along Routa 39 to follow the route we'd been told about the previous day. We stopped off at Lago Posadas for a bit of lunch which was quite a pleasant little place. Realising we should have taken the turn off before Lago Posadas, we found what we thought would be a shortcut from the lake back over to the road we needed. As soon as we got on this track, and it was a track, it was the start of a tough but fantstic riding day of enduro riding consisting of steep rocky hill sections, narrow tracks and generally stunning scenery. Don't you just love it when a happy accident takes you off the beaten track. At one point, we came accross a gate which was locked, however realising that the fence to the side wasn't in great shape, we took a plank lying rearby, flattened the fence with it and rode over the plank.

Off-road kings and queens

Cool landscapes

We made the remote border crossing by late afternoon and after the usual formalities and a cute but lively small dog stealing michelles glove, we set off once more into Chile. As we were pretty knackered after the days riding and we were evidently not going to make it back to civilisation today, we found a pleasant spot in this beautiful valley by a stream to set up our camp.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Well we´re now in Bariloche trying to sort out various bike 'issues'. Will try to do a proper blog update in the next day or so. Apologies for the random order of my photos, can´t seem to sort that!


Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Oh that fecking wind!
Tuesday 28th - Wednesday 29th November
At El Chalten, we'd met a nice German couple, Andreas and Kristina who are travelling on an Africa Twin so we have decided to travel together for a few days as we're going roughly the same route.

The Germans are coming- Andreas and Herr Bertie

We headed towards Perito Moreno but as Michelle and I had run out of cash and were running low on fuel, we decided to detour to Gobernador Gregores, which involved going along one of the crappest roads so far. That and the bloody incesant wind (still going as I write) just never let up making progress slow and at times dangerous having been blown into the gutter a few times myself. Having stocked up on cash, we intend to resume our route north to Perito Moreno tomorrow, winds permitting of course!

Glaciers, Empanandas and Wind
Saturday 25th - Monday 27th November
We visited the Moreno Glacier today, it was simply breathtaking despite the number of tourists there. You can see it as you approach with its blue-ish tints and huge crevaces. We stayed for a couple of hours taking it all in and eventually headed off to El Chalten.

Morreno Glacier

Morreno Glacier, its rather large

The scenery was pretty cool, it started looking a little like a scene from a spaghetti western and eventually into something out of Lord of the Rings as the Fitzroy mountains loom in the distance all the way to El Chalten, growing ever larger as you approach. The road as usual, is pretty bad ripio but we eventually make it and find our way to the free campsite at the far end of the town. Its a very odd place as the town itself is very much like one of those western towns and you expect to see mothers dragging their kids inside and shutters being closed as you ride into town. The campsite is also pretty weird as there are loads of tents but no body there, some just wooden frames with sheets of plastic and others, older tents that appear to have been added to with, erm, more plastic sheets.

We had a great little trek up to Lago Capri the next day from which we got some fantastic views of Fitzroy itself.

´We like treking and we like to trek´

We were lucky though as the next day, the bloody wind just didn't stop so we just took a little walk round the town but had to abandon our plans for another trek as the weather looked like it was closing in, a great excuse to eat fresh empanandas in the tent and catch up on a bit of diary writing.

A bad case of wind

Herr Bertie vs Larry the Lamb
Thursday 23th - Friday 24th November
Leaving for El Calefate today. It's quite annoying that you actually get a better view of the spectacular Torres del Paine mountains from outside the park. Again, doh.

We got hit for the same expensive food at the border back into Argentina again but this time we shared a burger to save money- well times is hard you know.

Getting on the infamous Routa 40 then, we encountered yet more crappy gravel to ride on. As some of you may know, these roads require a heck of a lot concentration to avoid running into the deep patches of gravel so a lot of the time, you don't really have time to take in the scenery or whats going on around you.

Just in front, a couple of sheep and a lamb have narrowly avoided being turned into asado fodder by a truck which had no intention of slowing down. But out of the corner of my eye, I see another lamb quickly running from the same side, obviously trying to catch up with its mum. I try slowing down gently but its running straight for me so I have to jam on the brakes which results in me and the bike hitting the deck rather swiftly. As I pick myself up off the ground, I see the pittiful sight of the wounded lamb, quite clearly in it's final moments.

What to do? I'd read that if the animal is clearly in pain, you should put a rock through its head and I briefly scanned the roadside for a suitable blunt instrument but fortunately, the lamb stopped moving. Michelle had also stopped and had come over so we looked at the poor creature with saddness but she was glad me and the bike were still in one piece when it started moving again. With heavy heart, I again thought I'd really better do something when it then stopped moving for good. It didn't make a sound during all this time so I'm guessing it wasn't really concious. But the worse thing was its mum standing staring at me from the field. I´m really very sorry mrs sheep!

For the next couple of days, we stayed in a hostel in El Calefate, a bit of a touristy town. We got some much needed bike maintenance done including a oil change and getting Michelles Scot-oiler to work, which it hadn't done since starting the trip.
Park of Pain(e)
Wednesday 22th November
We're off to the Torres del Paine national park but caught out with a very expensive lunch at the Chile border. We also had to pay 15 GBP to get into the par- ouch, Chile is very expensive after being in Argentina and to make matters worse, the park office had run out of maps. There is a paying campsite for about 3.50GBPs but after all that, we planned to use the free campsite which is located at the far west of the park.

Bertie and Torres


Oh for a proper zoom lens

So after taking a look at the waterfall and taking in some of the nice scenery, the road to the free site turned out to have some roadworks going on. When I say roadworks, at home this road would have been closed but here (after having to spend a fortune to get in remember) the road was basically soil with cars and busses sliding back down the hill with little or no control, entertaining to watch but not when you have to get two heavily laden bikes up this hill. After laughing at this for a bit, it was our turn. My new knobbly tyres turned out to quite enjoy this bit but my clutch has still to forgive me given the burning smell coming off it at the top of the hill.

A little bit slidey

This park is really big by the way so it took quite a while to get to the turn off we needed, and of course the weather decided it had been too dry and it started to piss it down and the gravel road got incredibly lumpy, not great riding conditions. Add to this we had then to walk for half an hour with our camping stuff once the road ran out and you'll get an idea of our moods at this point. Anyway, at least we got a chance to wear our ponchos for the first time and there was no one around to laugh.

After walking for an eternity (ok, about 35mins), we came across the area marked out for the free camping and lo and behold, there was what we would call a bothy at home and luxury of luxuries, a pit toilet. Boy, were we in for a treat tonight. We actually ended up setting our tent up inside the bothy and also cooking there so it turned out pretty well in the end and at least we got to stay dry, and all for just 15 pounds.

Our house witha tent inside

Men with Drills
Tuesday 21th November
Awakening early, and pleased to find we hadn't been massacered in our sleepingbags, I set off on Michelle's bike into town with my rear wheel to get the tyre fitted by someone who actually knew what they were doing. Driving straight past SM Motos, I found a garage nearby with a rather bored looking man with way too many dogs who was evidently the tyre fitter guy. After a few of my best Pictionary moves, the man seemed to understand that this stupid gringo had tried and failed to fit this tyre and could he please sort his mess out which he duly did. Once he got started then I noticed that instead of seating the tyre on the outermost part of the wheel, he had it on the middle where there is a bit of a recess, and hence makes fitting the last part of the tyre a doddle- doh! after paying a whopping 5pesos (less than a pound) I returned to the campsite to find out from Michelle that we'd been charged 10 pesos for the pleasure of staying at the Jeepers Creepers Campsite, stuck my wheel on and get the hell out.

Tyre fun in the scary campsite

I got him to do the front one too and just when it was looking like we'd be leaving our beloved RG, guess what happened next? That's right, one of my front fork pinch bolts sheared off. The tyre fitter man just looked at me with either pitty or complete disdain, I'm not sure, though it turned out there was a metal works just across the street which would be open in a mere 2 hours straight after a lunch- thank gawd for that, we might make it out of here today after all. At 2pm, I timidly rode my bike with its loose front wheel over to the workshop and after performing a few more pictionary moves and confirming that yes, I was a stupid gringo who shouldn't be allowed anywhere near a toolkit, they set to work on my poor fork with a massive drill. My expression told the laughing man with the big drill that I clearly wasn't having a tranquillo moment however he reassured me that it was 'no problemo', and he was right. 1.5hrs later, I had an oversized bolt fitted and it more importantly, it was holding my front wheel on- many thanks to the very friendly and funny guys at 'Setra', they may even have restored my faith that RG might not be such a bad place after all.

The Setra boys

Tyre fun & Scary Campsites
Monday 20th November
I gave Sandra at Dakar a quick call in the morning and found out my tyres had finally been delivered to our favorite place, the dreary Rio Gallegos. We decided to head there today after a wander around Punta Arenas which seems like a nice place but being in Chile, the prices were much the same as at home so we didn't stick around too long.

Once we got to RG, our plan was pick up the tyres and hopefully get them fitted the same day, some chance! We arrvived at the postal depot where I'd been told to pick up the tyres and in keeping with past experiences of RG, I found it to be an empty warehouse being swept up by a couple of guys, who told me it had moved across town to a different address- magic. Anyway, after a bit of mucking about, we eventually found the right place and lo and behold, I was handed over a pair of Meztler Karoos, naturally after having to pay 80 pesos for postage.

I'd spotted a bike shop, SM Motos on the way into town so we went there in the hopes of getting the tyres fitted, and again, RG being true to form, the guy there was pretty unfriendly and wouldn't do them till 'manana manana'. Bugger that I thought, I'll do them myself at El Crappo Municipal Campsite, so one the tent was up and we'd had dinner, I set to work on my rear tyre armed only with a fuzzy recolection of a DVD I'd seen of Helge Perderson changing GS tyres in the african landscape without so much as breaking into a sweat. And do you know what? The Pirelli I took off had been put on back to front!

Anyway, to cut a long story short, after 1.5hours of blood, sweat and almost tears, I'd actually managed to get the rear tyre off and the new one mostly on but the last bit would just not go on. I thought I was going to wreck what was left of the tyre so finally admitting defeat, it was off to bed to listen to the weird noises and strange voices in this abysmal campsite which was odd as we were the only ones there. The toilet block with its broken windows, peeling paint, unhinged doors and flickering light bulb reminded me of something out of that horror film 'Saw'. Nighty night.
Ferry Pressure
Sunday 19th November
Today we decided to make a break for the mainland even though the ferry leaves TDF at 5pm, runs once a day and there isn't a ferry on mondays. Oh, and you need to book and we hadn't so no pressure then. We set off from Ushuaia to get to Porvenir at the north west end of the island. We made it through the border at San Sebastian by about 2pm which is essentially just a paperwork excercise getting passports stamped and filling in forms for the bikes. Then we had to leave the nice tarmac and hit the gravel road to Porvenir. The wind was also really strong today, the strongest we've encountered so far which really doesn't make riding on gravel any more fun but fortunatelly, it did die down shortly after we got onto the gravel. I started going a little 'snow blind' (if that makes any sense) and developing a '40 yard' stare whilst having to concentrate on the road surface so hard. I'm sure there was some nice scenery on the way if there was, I took little notice. We came across only two of as Rich had a bit of a buggered knee, about 10 miles from Porvenir at 4.30pm. There was no chance they were going to make this ferry and they looked shattered pushing their bikes up a long hill though I'm sure my shout of 'come on lads, put you're backs into it' really helped. Somehow, we got to the the ferry port at 4.45pm and drove straight on, despite not having booked, it didn't seem to have made a difference- being on bikes helped though.

The ferry was interesting though, the guys had to tie our bikes down with rope which just about went through the bike seats and it was also jam-packed with people so we had to sit outside under some stairs to get out the cold wind. After a 2.5hour ferry ride, we arrived back on the mainland at Punta Arenas about 7.30pm. I'd read about a hostel that you could camp at however I cunningly didn't write down the address though I knew it was called Hostel Independencia. After driving up a random street from the port, we came accross a street called Independencia and after a brief ride up and down, we came across the hostel which was a total life saver. For 3GBPs to camp and use the hostel facilities, you really can't do much better.
Saturday 18th November
We were tourists today and did a boat trip on the Beagle Channel. It was a little expensive but we were glad we'd done it after seeing the wildlife including cormorants & sea lions etc plus we stopped off at the Isle Bridges where the Yamana people lived up to the 1880's, covered in seal fat to stay warm whilst living in wooden huts which were surounded by a raised ring that was formed from them throwing out all their seafood and shell debris. We also met a nice english couple on board who were just off to the Antartic for 12 days. We'd love to do that but at about 2k GBPs, it's unfortunately a little over our budget.

Look where you´re bloody going!

Is this the End of the World as we know it?
Friday 17th November
After speaking to the cyclists last night, we realised we had actually missed the famous Uhuaia sign you see in all the overlanders pictures so we decided to head back to Ushuaia today. It was cold so we made it in under 2 hours and splashed out and got ourselves checked into the Posada for 70 pesos for a double room, something of a rarity for us. Then it was over to the Tierra del Fuego National Park to take our pictures though it was a bit embarrassing telling everyone that we hadn't actually just arrived from Alaska but were only setting off. According to the sign there, it's only another 17k kms to Alaska...

Give me a sign! (the right Ushuaia sign at the end of the World)

It's really a very beautiful place and we stopped off at the small post office by the shore to get our passports stamped with the 'end of the world'. The guy who works there has one of the best views I've ever seen from his 'office' with a stunning view over to the island and about a dozen wild horses grazing outside. When I said this to him, he only grumbled 'all ze days, all ze days' in a low voice. I had a brick wall outside my office window for 9 years so he should think himself

Post Office with a view

Thursday 16th November
Good day off the bikes catching up on diaries, emails and much needed washing starting with 'breakfast in tent' delivered by Graceia- I do like this place.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Wednesday 15th November
Iain is going to head off on his own for a bit as Michelle and I have to get back to the lovely Rio Gallegos for these tyres. We quite fancied sticking around Ushuaia for a while but after a bloody freezing night in the tent and waking up to, yes snow, we thought we'd head back to Rio Grande today. After a slow start having to pop back into town and bumping into another overlander who was driving a land rover around the world, we headed off about 2pm in to the snow, oh joy. I must say, I have been pretty impressed with my Hein Gericke Cruise riding suit. It's been good in the heat so far whilst I'm now finding out what its like in the cold. As we head back up the Garibaldi Pass, the snow starts to get thicker, a lot thicker actually. Soon we are riding uphill in 1st gear with both feet on the ground and some trucks are having a bit of difficulty too which doesn't totaly fill us with optimism. We actually got to the top of the pass where needless to say, my bike (not me) found a patch of ice and promtly fell away from underneath me. There was no traffic a minute ago but now there were about 3 cars and a truck which just appeared behind us like magic. We got down to the really fun task of trying to pick up a fully laden GS in the snow in front of curious onlookers who were obviously wondering what the hell these stupid bikers were doing trying to ride in the snow. Amazingly, we got it upright again and within a couple of hundred meters or so on the other side, the snow just turned to mush and we were on our way back to Rio Grande, but not before being buffeted by some of the strongest bastard winds we'd encountered so far.

A GS practicaly begging to fall over on the ice

We headed straigh for Hotel Argentino but they were again full however when we asked where the campsite was, something we really didn't fancy, they thought we were asking to camp in their back yard and a few minutes later, we had our tent set up and the bikes were safely locked up in the shed- fantastic.

This place has a very nice living room area and after making some dinner, we ended up getting pretty lashed on various home brews brought out by the owner and one of their friends. It was actualy one of the best beers I've tasted and trust me, I've tasted a few. We got chatting with some english cyclists and listening to some ACDC, eventually getting to bed about 1am though I believe it went on slightly later than us lightweights could manage.

Tuesday 14th November
The riding down to Ushuaia has been nothing short of fantastic, the scenery has changed completely and we were now seeing snow capped mountains in the distance. We bumped into a chap we'd met in La Posta riding his Kawasaki Z650, a bike I used to own who was on his way back up. The road then ran alongside Lago Fagnano which was quite simply stunning after a couple of weeks of riding straight flat roads. It felt very alpine actually and the road then rose up to Paso Garibaldi and down a few hairpin bends towards Ushuaia where took the obligatory photos of our bikes next to the towns sign. We are now in the most southerly city in the world!

Er, the wrong Ushuaia, End of the World sign

We stayed at Club Andino, which is a great little campsite up the hill behind the town and is actually a ski centre in the winter. You can camp at the bottom of the piste or as we did, in the woods and there's a communal room with a fire and a stove to cook in too. Its very clean and well run however not for the first time, my guide book got it wrong and instead of 6 pesos per person, it was 12 so close but no cigar. And then followed one of the coldest nights I´ve ever experienced in a tent- brrrr...

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Monday 13th November
A quick call to Javier reveals that my tyres won't be here till wed or thur this week so we're out of here. The plan is now to get to Tierra Del Fuego today and we'll have to back track this way after we leave the island. We roll up to the ferry port in Punta Delgada and are eventually allowed on the ferry by the severly unhappy-looking official after letting all the trucks on first though. It costs us 22 pesos each and only takes about 20 minutes or so and soon we're on Tierra Del Feugo, quite exiting really.

The riding is also quite exiting. The gravel roads start quite quickly and soon we're battling to get past all the trucks that are just about the only things on these roads. I feel like I'm getting the hang of the gravel now and soon I'm tearing along at speeds of up to 60/70 mph. More than once do I think that it would really bloody hurt coming off on this stuff, but what the hell, it's great fun. Actually, this is one of the first days I've actually really enjoyed the riding. After having to stop at a couple of border check points as the island is split between Argentina and Chile, we make it to San Sebastian where I was reliably informed by a trucker that there is fuel here but there isn't. I check my map and it's then that it becomes clear there are two San Sebastians, right next to each other just over the border. The border officials are all very friendly and its really just a paper exercise getting things stamped and we even get new copies of our vehicle import documents which I wasn't expecting.

Anyhow, we get to Rio Grande about 7pm and are keen to get some acommodation pretty sharpish. We were told about a place called Hotel Argentino so we tried there but unfortunatelly it was full up. Grace, the owner, was great though and spent about 10 minutes phoning around on our behalf and she got us a room in the nearby Hotel Atlantido. It was a tad more expensive than we're used to here, nearly 8GBP for gods sake but hey, I wasn't complaining and it had secure parking. Iain headed back to the hotel after finding a takeaway place so Michelle and I found a really nice little cafe place with an original 70's look and some tasty food, with several cerveza's of course.
Sunday 12th November
We made it down to Rio Gallegos where I'm supposed to pick up these tyres, and we'd met an Italian chap called Bruno who was riding a GS1100 so we ended up finding some accommodation in town together as it was starting to hail, not teriffic for camping really. After trying a few places which didn't have parking, Iain was approached by a woman at some traffic lights who said that she had a hostel so we followed her car there. it was pretty basic and the room Michelle and I got (the dubiously titled 'matrimonial' room) was one of the most depressing and cramped rooms I'd seen, having been chopped in half to make another bedroom. To be fair, it wasn't actually that bad and the showers was clean enough but when you turn up tired, cold and wet in a strange town, you're judgment can sometimes be a little impaired however I wasn't too taken with Rio Gallegos. The people here just don't seem as friendly as those we've met elsewhere although I could be wrong. I have to say though that pretty much everyone we've met have been some of the friendliest people I've met anywhere- Argentina really has been a pleasant surprise as I just didn't know what to expect before I came here.

Anyway, there was no word on the tyres yet so I'll check again tomorrow.
Saturday 11th November
We left our makeshift camp early about 8am and headed on down the road to try and make up for lost time. As this road is so bloody boring and straight with no real scenery to speak of, I decided that today would require my mp3 player on shuffle to liven things up so as I set off, I was treated to the classic sounds of early ZZ Top, Ry Cooder and even some Erio Morricone, all totally appropriate for this kind of scendery though I really didn't know what to think when the disco classic, 'Burn baby burn' came on.

The wind just got ridiculously hot too. Sometimes I'm putting in and removing my thermal linings several times a day as the temperature just isn't constant here at all. We even saw some pink flamingos in some of the salty ponds you see by the side of the road, after which I was treated to the entertaining sight of Michelle dancing away to her Ipod whilst riding in front of me- you know those nodding dog things you get in the back of people's cars where the head wiggles about randomly,, well...

At one gas stop, we met an american guy who'd ridden from Georgia and had come down via Mexico all the way to Ushuaia and this was him on the way back up. The trouble was, he'd only left the USA about 5 weeks before so he was basically tearing though the continent without really taking in any sights, just riding. Each to their own I guess.

After an 11 hour day, we eventually stopped at Puerto San Julian, but not before asking the obligatory man mowing his lawn where the camp site was and then all 3 of us riding though the edge of some poor sods garden to get to the right road. The camp site was pretty nice with a lovely bay, a great setting to make some pasta outdoors and Michelle and I took a stroll along the sea front looking at the stars, very nice indeed.
Friday 10th November
I got my new tyre though it ended up costing 530 pesos for a Pirelli MT60. I had been told that getting tyres for my bike would be a problem but it doesn't appear to be the case. I've ordered a pair of tyres anyway from Dakar to be delivered to Rio Gallgos next week so am a little peeved at having to spend this much on another tyre but hey, that's life and there's no point in worrying about it.

We stopped in one of the Welsh villages, Gaiman, but everything seemed shut. We were told by someone that there was a place there where this guy made lots of things out of old coke cans so with nothing better to do, we took a look. I must say, I wasn't overly impressed at the array of bizzare objects, one of which was supposed to look like the Taj Mahal, which had obviously taken years of this guys life to make but if that's your bag, who am I to say it's a bit shit. My favorites were the funny looking doll things that reminded me of Milky Joe out of the Mighty Boosh.

After a pretty dull, long straight ride along our favorite Routa tres, we free camped just back from the road so as not to be too visible to any passing psychopaths.
Thursday 9th November
We left Puerto Piramides after calling Javier at Dakar who told me about a place to get a tyre in Puerto Madryn so I drove slowly avoiding any more gravel roads and found a bike repair shop called El Gato on Espaniol st, and after a bit of pointing and motioning, I was quoted 490 pesos and was told they would have it by tomorrow so we rolled up to the campsite on the outskirts of town. We took a walk along the pier and saw yet more whales, these things are just ten a penny round here. Puerto Madryn is a bit of a touristy place but more like what somewhere like Benidorm might have been like in the 60's, without being too over developed yet. It's also got some really crap statues of some odd looking characters, not too sure what all that's about.
Wednesday 8th November
As we had got ourselves a little base for a few days, I thought it would be a good idea to have a bike ride about the peninsula without the panniers as the ripio gravel roads here can be a bit rough. We had plenty of water and food although it did occur to me that my pucture repair and first aid kits might have been a good idea too given the distance between Puerto Piramides and Caleto is pretty vast not to mention quite remote.

Anyway, we cracked on with the gravel road after giving up on a sandy stretch as the bikes are just too heavy and eventually stopped on a quiet stretch of road because there was a great view of some cliffs. Once we'd parked up off the road, we headed over to the cliff edge only to find the beach below literally covered in hundreds of seals sunning themselves, so we enjoyed our packed lunch with this fantastic view.

We headed on to Caleto where the orca whales are supposed to snatch seals from the beach, and whilest there, we got a right telling off from a couple of park rangers who told us we we weren't allowed to stop anywhere on the peninsula except at the few designated points. Aparently a tour bus driver had dropped us in it, the bastard. I suppose that's fair enough though given its a nature reserve after all.
We did actually see some orca's though, about 5 or 6 of them but they obviously weren't hungry and left the seals alone. There was one seal on his own who looked like he was being the guard dog, keeping an eye out for the rest but he needn't have worried. We also saw some penguins and llamas whilst out and about, so a good bit of nature was seen by all. Penguins just don't look right in hot sunny weather by the way.

Anyway, after 120 miles of pretty hairy but great riding on the gravel tracks, we made it back to Piramides, totally knackered and covered in dust, but pleased with ourselves. It was then I noticed that the repair on my rear tyre I'd got done before I left the UK had failed and was now leaking, smashing. I did manage to do a bodge repair on it which should hold long enough to get me to Puerto Madryn the next day, hopefully. I used the BMW repair kit and thankfully I had my 'Motopump´ with me which just plugs into the bikes power socket and got the tyre re-inflated in no time at all- phew!

Friday, November 10, 2006

Tuesday 7th November

Whale watching today! We booked up with one of the many companies here, the hilariously named 'Moby Dick', but at least this one had been recommended. There were only about 14 people on board so there was very little of the usual pushing and shoving to see the whales. And see them we did, dozens off them, all trying to get off with each other as its mating season. One or two of them even came splashing about right next to the boat with everyone trying to get their best 'david attenborough' type shots.

When we got back to the cabena, we spent about an hour deleting all of our crap shots of distant whales and anonymous 'fin' shots, though we did manage to save face and found at least 3 or 4 semi-decent photos out of the 1200 we took today.
Monday 6th November

After leaving our delightful campsite and only narrowly avoiding the amourous attentions of the owners rather friendly dog, we headed off towards the Valdez Peninsula on Routa 3.

And it was bloody freezing. We stopped to layer up with every thermal lining we had which helped but this is something we'll have to get used to the futher south we go. And then there's the wind. This also picked up today but is peanuts compared to what we'll get in the south. The landscape also changed again, stretching off for what seems like forever, and roads a bit like those Marlboro ads so we took loads of photos and video clips of us riding towards each other. Great fun and there's really no traffic to speak of either. At lunchtime, we stopped for another steak just for a change and after telling the waitress our plans to head south, she then spoke to a lorry driver who proceeded to piss himself laughing.

God these roads are so straight, you find yourself going into a daydream with the endless monotany of it. It's quite amusing to see the signs warning you of a bend coming up and it turns out to be a turn of about 5 degrees- hair raising stuff you'll agree. Fuel here costs about 1.3-1.9 pesos a litre, which is about 35p. We really need to remember to fill up whenever we see a gas staition though as the last couple of days, I've been on reserve by the time we found a pump.

We made it to Puerto Perimides on the Valdez Peninsula by about 5.30pm and after deciding that the campsite looked crap and we were cold, we found a nice little cabana for 120ps a night (about 20GBPs) which has its own toilet and shower, something of a luxury. We also met up with Mike Anderson again and had a pretty average meal and a lot of booze- that man can fairly put it away! He's a bad influence I tell you.
Sunday 5th November

We headed off early to Viedma but still had about 25kms of dirt track to cover before getting back on the main road so in addition to enjoying the riding, we took a few videos of us riding in the dirt to make us look really hardcore- not sure if it will convince anyone though.

On the way south, we came across a bit of traffic at a roundabout so being motorcyclists, we pushed our way to the front only to find that a lorry carrying tins of paint had shed it's load o the roundabout. There was paint everywhere and some poor buggers in CSI style overalls cleaning it all up. We made it to Viedma quite late on, and got some directions to the campsite. As usual, we could't find it but a passing local policeman noticed us blocking the slip road and came over to give us a verbal bollocking or so I thought. He actually gave us an escort to the campsite which was quite amusing however I think he was actually a bit embarrassed to take us there as it was a total shit-hole of a campsite with toilets that would make you retch though what do you expect for 4pesos each (about 80 pence). In honour of Guy Fawkes, we made a campfire and enjoyed a couple of botles of red- this adventure motorcycling business is really hard I tell you.
Saturday 4th November

We got ourselves packed up early but before we left, Jorje cut back Iain's side stand and welded on a new plate as it tended to fall over in the wind- not a terribly useful property in a bike. Jorje didn't even want paid for his efforts but we left our contibution in the little wall mounted box anyway which one of the previous guests had put up.

We headed down Routa 76 towards Ventana, stopping to watch a classic car rally drive past with all sorts of cars including old Mercedes and huge American fords etc. The landscape even changed, becoming green and lush resembling at times a sort of Swiss resort and then at other times reminding me of East Lothian and Aberdeenshire for some reason.

We stopped off in Saldungary for some provisions and after being told off by a friendly policeman for parking the bikes on the wrong side of the road, we headed off down a gravel track to the reservoir south of the town for a bit of free camping. We drove off the track on to the grass and set up camp next to the reservoir a bit away from the track but there was no one about anyway. It felt great to be away from the main roads and in the wilderness. You could see hundreds of birds flocking over the reservoir and landing in the reeds nearby. It gets dark about 8pm so we got busy with the cooking and enjoyed a bottle of wine while watching the wildlife. It was a full moon and very bright but you could still see the stars. I'm only used to seeing the stars in the northern hemisphere so will need to learn what the constellations are down here. That night, the wind went slightly mad and the tent felt actually started to bend inwards quite a lot which gave us some cause for concern but amazingly, both tents remained intact and the bikes were even still where we'd left them.
Thursday 2nd - Friday 3rd November

So today we are heading off from Dakar to a place to stay called La Posta in Azul, about 320kms south of BA. Just after 9.00am after sorting out our luggage, thanking our hosts and doing a round of photos outside, we were off!

At about 11.30am, we'd come back to the same junction in Florida we left 2 1/2 hours previously after getting lost on the ring road. Using the GPS, I finally managed to route to a road just on the edge of BA and eventually we were on the right road to Azul, Routa 3.

Once out of the city which took quite a bit of time, the industrial areas eventually fell away and we started seeing more greenery. Once out on the open road, we settled into a relaxed pace and believe it or not, we were cruising at a fairly ferocious 50mph all the way. It was pretty much all farm land around with school kids in a sort of white outfit were dotted about at the end of farm tracks, presumably waiting for the school bus. Truck drivers were honking their horns at us and unlike the truckers at home, were generaly giving us the thumbs up.

We stopped for lunch at a filling station which was quite frankly in need of a clean but it was cheap enough. We arrived in Azul about 4.30pm and again using the GPS and a system of ever decreasing circles in the towns grid system, we arived at La Posta.

La Posta is an unusual place owned by Jorje (nicknamed Pollo or chicken due to the number of them in the back yard) and is run on a voluntary contribution basis. Jorje is really friendly guy who just likes to help bikers out and the place consists of a grassed area where travellers can camp and a kitchen/dormitary area next to his workshop with 3 beds. Once we'd set up our tents, who should come back from the shops but our mate Mike Anderson- it really is a small world. The shower, as usual, turned out to be quite interesting- you need to light a wood fire in the boiler to get hot water, so think of that next time you turn on your instant shower with your fancy hot water!

We stayed here a couple of nights and spent Friday wandering about the town which has a nice relaxed feel about the place. There were some other interesting characters staying in La Posta- a german guy who has been cycling around the world for the last few years and another german chap called Michelle who was also motorcycling around South America.

In town, we kept hearing the frightening sound of Phill Collins on the radio and when we got back to La Posta, the radio was also playing the mighty Collins so naturally we just assumed he'd died or been assassinated but alas, it just turned out to be the slightly dodgy 80's local radio station here. On Friday night, we were invited to an Asada (barbeque) to celebrate Monika, Jorje's wifes birthday. A whole lamb was delivered and Jorje set about getting the asada ready and soon the subject of our evening meal was grilling away nicely in the workshop. About 20 people, mostly Jorje and Monika's friends and relatives showed up and about 10pm, we sat down at a couple of long tables with all the rest and were treated to a huge meal. Jorje, ever the host fed us till we literally couldn't eat any more.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Wednesday 1st November
After sorting out a bit more of our kit in the morning, Iain & I went into town on our bikes while Javier was working on Michelle's bike. Using the GPS, we managed to find the street of bike shops recomended by Javier as Iain was looking for some warmer gloves. We were also looking for some sticky-backed velcro to stop the pannier padlocks banging about.

I got landed with the task of tackling the haberdashery while Iain went in search of some 'steptoe' style long-johns. I'm not too sure what the ladies in the shop thought of me standing in line in my bike gear, but after performing some convincing charades and narrowly avoiding to buy 10m of the stuff, I managed to complete the task. We then went to a little cafe nearby and got a cracking chicken lunch for 20pesos (about 4 GBP).

So it was time to head back through the mid afternoon BA traffic which looks like total chaos but somehow it seems to work. Thank God for the GPS as there's absolutely no way I'd have got us back to Daker. When we got back to, Javier had pretty much finished with Michelle´s bike and she was well pleased with the result.
Tuesday 31th October
Spend day sorting out our luggage, we had some good steak sandwiches outside for lunch again. Also collected our laundry from the small place up the road for $7pesos. It was very hot today, about 35deg C though my sunburn doesn't look quite as bad, well I think so anyway.

Javier worked most of the day sorting out Michelle's slightly over-engineered pannier racks, cutting off and chamfering some of the projecting lower sections. Javier also found the KLR's own toolkit above the rear wheel. Sammi who is a Finnish guy (who has been travelling round South America for the last 2 1/2 months on an Africa Twin with a huge 43L tank) went over maps of Argentina & Chile with us and gave us some very useful information about the road and fuel situation of some of the places we're going to. Michelle made Fahitas (?) for tea.
Monday 30th October
Cleared bikes today (!) which ended up costing $605 pesos and was slightly more than we thought. We arrived about 10ish and the bikes were eventually cleared by by about 4.30pm. Sandra helped us all day otherwise we'd have been stuffed- and for helping us through the entire process, she only charged us $100us each which was quite frankly a bargain. All we had to do was sign various papers where we were told to and go from the warehouse to one office to the next. It then cost us $75 peso for the truck to bring the crated bikes back to Dakar and $45 peso for forklift to take bikes off truck. We all helped out taking the crates apart and brought the bikes round the back of the garage. It was hot work but ultimatelly satisfying as we now had our precious bikes and can finally start thinking about moving on.

Again I got very sunburnt as I didn't put on any sun cream on today-typical Scot really.
I made some fairly good chicken fried rice and we got a bit pissed on a couple of bottles of $5peso wine and a litre of beer. All in all, a rather good day.
Sunday 29th October

Michelle, Iain and I went to the huge Uni supermarket in BA which is apparently the largest in South America where we bought some supplies for the road and I got some sleeping pills to hopefully give me a full nights sleep as I've really not been sleeping too great since I got here. Thankfully it seemed to work and I got pretty much a full nights sleep.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Tue 24th Oct
(Thanks to Javier who has kindly let me use his pc for my first little update)
After a frantic morning running around town getting the last minute stuff done, I eventually caught my flight from Edinburgh but not before it was delayed thanks to a really well timed fire-drill just after getting through security which required emptying the entire airport on to the service area outside for about 30 minutes and then bizzarely, the whole lot of us had to go through security AGAIN. After all that, I asked at the gate when the plane would actually be leaving and was told in a tone that said 'you insincere bastard' it would be a little bit late as 15 kids in wheelchairs had to get off the plane first.

Anyway, I thankfully did meet up with Michelle & Iain in Heathrow for a flight at 7pm to Madrid. Cool ceiling in Madrid airport.

We caught the flight to BA at about midnight which had some pretty lousy air stewards. There was a right sour faced one who wouldn't give me coffee when I asked her for some and when she did, it was just the last dregs.

Nice to see a bit of Latin American humour

we can understand in Scotland

Wed 25th Oct
So.... 12 hours and no sleep later, we finally arrived in Buenos Aires at about 8.00am. And it was grey and raining and not exactly the 30 degress we were expecting but hey, we'd finally made it.
Our plan was to stay at Javier & Sandra's place,'Dakar Motos' as we'd heard nothing but good stuff about them Horizons Unlimited. And what could be easier than getting a taxi from the airport straight there, I mean we had the address written down and everything. Anyway, about 2 1/2 hours later after a tour of some of the most deprived areas of the outskirts of BA, the driver who refused to acknowldge that he was hopelessly lost, stopped to ask a few local men who had no idea where Dakar Motos was either. After a bit of pestering from us, he gave in a called Javier. After a couple of more calls, BA's shittest taxi driver stopped at some lights when we spotted a guy on an Africa Twin. As we hadn't seen a single big bike on our tour so far, we new this guy would be bound to know how to get to Dakar so we drove over to him, and who should it be but Javier himself. Aparently he'd gotten a bit tired of speaking to the driver and had thankfully came out to rescue us.

After a tour of the premises and gawping at all the traveller's bikes there were stored there, Javier ordered us all some great 'loma's', steak sanwiches. We all grabbed a much needed shower and headed into to town for a look around the downtown area. After getting ripped off in, ironicaly, a pirate theme bar, we headed back to Dakar and Michelle made some rather tasty enchiladas and after chatting to Tom and Christine (, our new German room-mates who are doing a 10 month tour of South America on a pair of Africa Twins, we got a much needed early night.

Thursday 26th October 2006
After a good sleep, and seeing it was a gorgeous day, we headed in to town and get the most cheesiest pizza we'd ever seen which consisted of cheese, more cheese and for a bit of variety, some cheese. Aparently this is how you get them here so you have to request half cheese unless you really want to throw up.

We'd arranged to meet up with Sandra at 2.00pm as she is thankfully helping us with the labourious get out bikes out of customs and went to the shipping agents office to pay $235.00 each for the handling charges and then managed to get our bike insurance all on our own. Feeling rather pleased with ourselves, we caught the tube to the San Telmo district which we liked a lot more than the hectic downtown business area. It was a lot more laid back with quaint tree lined side streets and shed loads of antiques shops.

After a bit of coffee in Plaza Dorrego, we took a stroll towards La Boca which is aparently where Tango was invented after the blokes in the brothels got bored of waiting and started dancing with each other- aparently. We passed the Boca Juniors football stadium and the area changed into colourful, tree lined streets with brightly painted houses with balconies, shutters and lots of old women with small ugly dogs.

We wound up our little tour on Caminito, which is one of those streets they put on postcards. It was actually a little bit touristy though and the smell at the port reminded me of the crap farms (waste water treatment plants) we had to do surveys of so we headed back to Dakar where Tom & Christine had made one of the best lasagne we'd ever tasted.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

After setting some of the greatest minds I know the task of working out what above message and rather nifty drawing on my mate Cal's send-off card actually meant, more than one person has now reached the conclusion that it actually means "I hear you saw off 6 or 7 months with a bike". Cal- we salute you!

Anyway, Friday's leaving party was so sucessful that instead of getting on with clearing my entire flat of all my worldly possessions, I spent most of saturday lying on the sofa doing my best 'Barry White' impersonation down the phone to people. I even brought my camera out especially but decided I'd rather concentrate on guaranteeing the rest of the weekend would be a right-off by drinking for 11 hours straight than taking pictures. Oh well, one day I'll learn not to do that. Thanks again to George for providing us with a great meal and for all my mates and family that turned up- I do believe a great night was had by all!

Somehow on Saturday though, I managed to buy the double mattress I needed to get for the spare room for the incoming tenants. I say 'somehow' as it took a few attempts to actually get to Ikea. I'd borrowed some straps to tie the mattress to the roof of the car (cheers Colin) however in my fuzzy state, I drove all the way to Ikea and then realised I'd left them in the office. I thoroughly recommend not having a hangover when going to Ikea on a Saturday, especially when you have to go there more by necessitiy than choice. Incredibly, when I got back to the flat, the mattress was even still attached to the roof of the car- amazing.

So as it turned out Sunday was actually the big flat clearing day, and thanks to Iain, my sister Anne and aunt Sheila (who kindly offered the use of her attic space to store my stuff- I think she's regretting that now!) my flat is now pretty much deviod of all my things except furniture.

So all that's left to do tomorrow is clean the entire flat, cart all the remaining bits and pieces including my trip luggage over to my mums place, hand back what remains of my company car to the office and go and get a devils haircut.

Oh, and remember to get on the plane on tuesday!