Chile

Tierra Del Fuego – The Land of Fire

I only keep up to date with a few websites. One of my favorites is Chris Guillebeau’s site “The Art of Non-Conformity” which continues to strike a cord with my life. It’s all about thinking outside the box, life design, entrepreneurship, and travel. The other day he posted a photo with a direct message that encompassed my journey:

Do Epic Shit

Leaving El Calafate I decided to skip the famous Tores Del Paine national park and head straight for Tierra Del Fuego. First stop – Rio Gallegos, some 300 clicks away. I stopped only once during the whole ride at a small pueblo halfway in between. It was sunny, it was dry and the pavement was pristine  but this was the hardest section of riding to date. WIND!!! A very flat topography gave no where to hide from the relentless wind. I leaned the bike over more than 30 degrees just to ride straight. For hours my muscles strained to keep the bike going straight. My entire body was tense to fight the wind. My neck took the worst of it trying to balance my giant helmet head. It was exhausting. Every hour or so I got so tired and frustrated that I screamed into my helmet. “Is that all you got!” and “AHHHHHHH!!!!” and “Bring it on!” The small bursts of adrenaline helped keep me focused.

It was early in the day when I reached Rio Gallegos so I decided to press on. Shortly after the city I saw my first signs for Ushuaia. I’m getting close!

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I then crossed back into Chile (for the 3rd time now) and soon arrived at the Magellan Strait. Across this small channel is Tierra del Fuego!

Puerto Delgada 009

Puerto Delgada 009

One of the few buildings at the port is covered with travelers’ stickers.

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Time to jump on the ferry and motor through the rough seas.

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It’s official, I’m on the island of Tierra Del Fuego!!!

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The relentless winds continued as I rode to Cerro Sombrero where I stayed the night in a hospedaje. These are my favorite accommodations. Families rent out rooms in their homes. It’s a cozy atmosphere and a delight to speak with the locals.

After Cerro Sombrero there’s about 120k of ripio. I came across some rough traffic on the way.

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I felt like Moses parting the sea… (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ds9PAWTDHkY)

 

After the ripio ended it was time to enter back into Argentina. Yes, the island of Tierra del Fuego is owned half by Chile and half by Argentina. To enter the island you come from Argentina, then you ride through the Chilean side of the island, then you cross back into Argentina to hit up Ushuaia (it’s all reversed on the way back). Ridiculous… At the border I saw that my makeshift starter relay by-pass button was coming undone. So in the wind, rain, and freezing cold I gave into the weather and worked to rewire the system.

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 Tierra Del Fuego 008

I kept on. The pavement was a nice change but as I furthered south, it got colder and the rain picked up. At the last town before Ushuaia I warmed up in a gas station for a few minutes and decided to push on in the late afternoon to make Ushuaia. Before I could arrive, I’d have to go through a mountain pass with tops covered in snow. Locals told me there would be no ice on the roads. It didn’t take long to lose all the warmth I gained at the gas station. I climbed up the mountains and twisted through the pass. The heated grips didn’t work and I was extending and compressing my legs over and over to work the muscles and warm up my body. I felt like a kid on Christmas morning – so excited for the day to come. After more than 5 months and 20,000 miles I’m about to arrive at the southern most city in the world! I was signing out loud with craziness excitement “It’s the final count down, do do do dooooo…” and “It’s a long way to the bottom top if you wanna rock-n-roll!” Finally, shivering, drenched, and exhausted I arrived in Ushuaia. A fitting scenario for arriving at the Fin del Mundo (end of the world). I was so jumbled that I missed the famous sign welcoming visitors to Ushuaia. I stopped on my way out of town instead.

I made it!!!!!

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Kick back and relax!

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And a special end of the world dance! (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b-cqvXMnWn0)

 

I found a hostel, took a nice loooooooong hot shower and then got some dinner and a bottle of Argentinean wine to celebrate. WOOOOO HOOOOO! And then I passed out at 10 pm, ha.

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The next day I relaxed, did some organizing, and walked around the city. The landscape is beautiful – “The land of fire” – a spectacular end to the horrendous Pampa.

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Old ship in the port.

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This is an active port with lots of shipping going on too.

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All afternoon I checked with every hostel and travel agency as well as the Antarctic Expedition Center for a “last minute” deal for a boat to Antarctica. Normal prices are $5,000 – $25,000 USD but at the end of the season they can be as low as $3,000 USD (still crazy expensive). Unfortunately, it looks like the last boat of the season left 2 days ago. I just missed it! Oh well… Next time 🙂

 Porvenir 003

The weather report for the next day showed sun in the morning and rain in the afternoon. Perfect I thought, so I took a boat ride through the Beagle Channel to view cormorants, sea lions, and penguins. Unfortunately, it was overcast all day (terrible light for photos). And go figure, the afternoon had beautiful blue skies!

Cormorant Island.

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Sea Lion Island.

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Sea lion island video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aucLny5c6hE

 

Lighthouse.

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PENGUINS!

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Penguin movie – watch them waddle! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q20ypwqZDtM

 

My Italian friends on the boat. Franco invited me to Italy to check out his collection of 15 motorcycles. Thanks for the lunch too! Next stop… Italy.

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Beautiful mountain scenery at the bottom of the world.

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In town I picked up some new stickers for the Micatech top box. Ruta 40! Ushuaia!

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I have decided to try and sell the bike down here in South America. Before leaving Ushuaia I made a SE VENDE (For Sale) sign for the front windshield.

 Porvenir 004

Then I left town, passing through the mountains and back onto the windy pampa of Tierra Del Fuego island. It was a long day riding through the strong wind. After crossing back into Chile (4th time now) it was a 140 kilometers on ripio to the port town of Porvenir. The next day it was a 2.5 hour ferry ride to the largest city in southern Patagonia, Punta Arenas. However, the ferry didn’t leave until 5 pm so I had a chance to hangout at the “dock” for a bit.

Fishing gear.

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Big chain.

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Strapped down for the ride.

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Although I’ve already made to the southern most city in the world, the adventure continues. Stay Tuned!

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Categories: Argentina, Chile | 4 Comments

Patagonia, Chile – Carretera Austral

Welcome (back) to Chile!

Border (Futalafu) to Puerto Puyuhuapi 001

I’m back in Chile again to ride the famous Carretera Austral. Here the road turns to gravel and the scenery comes to life. It’s cloudy the whole way and the rain holds out until the last 30 minutes of my ride.

Border (Futalafu) to Puerto Puyuhuapi 002

I spend my first night in Puerto Puyuhuapi – a tiny little village with a beautiful bed & breakfast (Casa Ludwig – ya, the Germans settled this port). Here’s the house as seen from the dock.

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The village is at the end of a gorgeous fjord.

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Before turning in for the night I was reading in bed and felt the house sway. The rain had just started and I figured it was the wind. It only lasted a few seconds and then it was gone. I thought nothing of it. However, at 4 in the morning I woke up to my bed shaking back and forth. I could hear everything in the house moving and creaking. It lasted for about 20 seconds. There was no mistaking it, this was an earthquake! I checked online the next morning and sure enough there was a 5.2 magnitude quake not more than a few hundred kilometers away. Fortunately, that fine German engineered house withstood the quake with ease.

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The next morning I packed up and headed out in the rain. I passed through beautiful scenery (that unfortunately was covered in clouds). Here’s a look at a waterfall in the Bosque Encantado (enchanted forest).

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My camera just can’t do this place justice (and the clouds aren’t helping either). I haven’t seen land this spectacular since New Zealand.

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Stunning valley.

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I get some pavement and a break in the rain and decide to push on to the small village (600 habitants) of Villa Cerro Castillo. I’m enjoying this tranquillo lifestyle. I pull into town and park the bike to look for a hospedaje to spend the night. I think I’m OK behind this truck – he’s going anywhere soon.

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It’s a quiet little village surrounded by enormous mountains and glaciers.

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Packing up the next morning I had a break in the rain. Wonderful! Then just as I hopped on the bike it started to rain. Go figure… I battled light rain all morning. The gravel road was a little slippery and the views were tainted by thick clouds. I could see mountains going up the they were under cloud cover. It wasn’t until I looked up even higher that I saw some mountain tops poking above the clouds. All of a sudden I realize just how massive these glaciated peaks are and it’s a magical experience to be surrounded by such powerful land. Here’s a few shots from early in the day. Unfortunately, the camera can’t capture the dynamic range very well so I won’t be able to share that experience with you all. I’ll always carry with me the memories.

Stunning turquoise rivers and lakes.

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Earth at its finest.

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The attendant and I chit chat for a bit. I take off my riding gear. I ask if there is gas. It’s all good until he tells me that there is no electricity to run the pump. The next station is 70k down the road. 

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The rain breaks in the afternoon and the sun tries to peek through the clouds. Stunning mirror lake views surround me.

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Mountain berries.

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Yes, please.

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Incredible.

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I want to live here.

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There’s some road construction going on and cars have been backed up for hours. Again, it pays to be on a moto because I find a small path through a muddy stream. BRRRAAAAPPP and I’m on my way with locals cheering for me.

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The magnificent country continues.

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Here’s 2 video clips from riding on the Carretera Austral. (If you can’t see the video in the email, just click the link).

Video 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7kmhxgfyoBM

 

Video 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cCPuKSws31o 

 

I eventually arrive in the small colorful town of Chile Chico just a few kilometers from the Argentina border.

Here’s some route details for the Adventure Riders out there. After leaving Trevelin, Argentina the pavement ends. It picks back up about 100k south of Puerto Puyuhuapi around the town of Manihuales. There’s another 20k stretch of dirt road after that and then pavement again to Coyhaique and all the way to Villa Cerro Castillo. The unpaved section is far better than the ripio on Ruta 40 in Argentina. Just watch out for those deep gravel patches and trucks coming around the tight bends on the single lane width sections. I never went more than 300k without finding a gas station. Be sure to fill up at every station you see though because you never know if the next one will be out of gas…

Cerro Castillo to Chile Chico (around Laguna General Carr) is all dirt but for the most part it’s in great condition. About 8 hours to get here (with lots of photo stops). I almost skipped this part by taking a ferry across the lake. I’m glad I took the long way around, this was the most beautiful part.

More fun to come. Stay tuned!

Categories: Chile | 5 Comments

Northern Chile

Finally down at the low low elevation of 2600 meters (8,500 feet) I can begin to breath again. No longer does eating, showering, or even breathing make me short of breath. I’m in the town of Calama, an oasis in the middle of the desert. I decide to stay an extra day to regain more energy. It gives me a chance to try Chile’s national food “The Completo.” This hot dog has a bun so large that it can hold layers and layers of toppings like ketchup, mustard,  mayonnaise, onions, tomatoes, avocado, barbeque sauce, and only god knows what else. At home I’d expect to find something like this at a baseball game or at a street cart. But here in Chile you can also find it at fine establishments with eloquently designed holders.

CULTURE SHOCK coming from Bolivia. Life here is orderly and expensive. Gas, food, and lodging are all on par with US prices. I’m missing Bolivia already….

Although my appetite is coming back, I still can’t get a good nights sleep so the next morning I head for sea level. It’s a swift ride down through the desert. Passing through some road construction I see things that I haven’t seen since the US like road cones, traffic signs, and radios to contact the other end of the construction zone. And what’s even crazier… people are actually obeying! After 4 months in Latin America this is certainly an alien sight…

Northern Chile Desert 001

Continuing on I pass the Mano del Desierto (Desert Hand). Sadly, as I’m rolling up I start signing “Get your hands up, up, up! All my single ladies!” There’s a Chilean family on holiday and so we take the usual 987239847  photos together. First just the daughter me and the bike, then with the mother, then without the daughter, then sitting on the bike, then the with the daughter while the mother sits on the bike, then the daughter sitting while the mother standing, and so on… It’s fun.

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About 30 miles earlier I passed through the city of Antofagasta and I wasn’t really keen on stopping there. It’s noon and I’m just at the beginning of a long stretch of desert with no towns in between. I decide to push it for a long days ride the beach town of Caldera. All in all it’s some 450 miles on the day. Time for some real sleep – my first night back at sea level. 11 hours of sleep never felt so good! And finally, my throbbing headache is GONE!

But with all the excitement and joy I managed to break my sandal. I’ve had these sandals for over 12 years. I really thought they’d hold up better than this… They sure don’t make ‘em like they used to (over 13 years ago). So I walked with one sandal in hand  into the bank and back around town to the hotel. Why is everyone staring at me! Oh ya, I also have this ridiculously overgrown beard…

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Continuing south the scenery remains… desert. There’s some big equipment out there.

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Desert Panorama.

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Late in the day today I looked down to notice that my right boot and pant leg were wet. Upon inspection I found that my fork seal had blown out and leaked fork oil all over the right side of the bike and the right side of me. Great…

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A few more desert days on the way south (ya, there’s LOTS of desert here). I’m driving up a hill and pass a slow moving truck in a no passing zone. When I make it around the corner there’s a police man waiving me over. Here we go… It was a set up. Trucks crawl up this hill and I imagine that they’re always passed by traffic. The police sit at the top of the hill around the bend, with a clear view of the entire scene. This time I definitively broke the law and I tried a new approach. I pulled off the road and dropped the bike (on accident).  I pulled off my helmet and moaned that I was tired. I half struggled to pick up the bike and finally got around to making introductions with the police. They proceeded to explain what I did wrong. One man said I was getting a ticket. Then the other man pulled him aside and after some talking (they must have felt bad for me for dropping the bike) they let me go without a ticket!

As I pulled away I heard some loud clunking. Crap, I thought, my transmission is screwed. I take a better look at the bike and notice that it’s not the transmission. The chain is loose, ridiculously loose. So loose that I’m convinced something must have broke (axle, subframe, front sprocket, something). Nope, it’s just crazy loose. I also look at my rear sprocket in detail for the first time. They are both shot, dead. It’s only 30 miles to La Serena so I tighten up my chain and roll on. It’s clicking like crazy and I saw to myself over and over, “just keep going, just keep going” and I eventually make it to La Serena.

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The next day in La Serena I stop into Tonino Motorsports and those guys really hooked me up. Without an appointment, I stroll in mid morning and they get working straight away. A new fork seal, new fork oil, new engine oil, air filter cleaning, new chain and sprocket and fixing the heated grips. They even set me up with a FREE set of brake pads as well as a FREE (Chinese) front tire! All finished by the end of the day at a fair price (although parts in Chile are almost double the U.S. price!). Let’s hope this is the last mechanical servicing of the trip.

Old sprocket – very worn!

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Tonino Motorsports Crew

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South south south and I reach Concon where I stay at a small B&B. The owner is taking care of 3 children displaced from the earthquake. He invites me to dinner and I chat with the kids all evening. It wasn’t until 30 minutes into our conversation that I had to ask them to talk slower so I could understand. Up until then they thought I was Chilean and they are shocked to learn that I’m from the States. It was a fun evening learning about these kids and about the earthquake. I continuously surprise myself with how good my Spanish skills are! Granted, I’m still terrible but I was able to have a conversation for hours. Awesome.

In the morning I head to the Argentina border. On the way I pass lots of women on the side of the road selling food. I’m hungry and curious to see what they have to offer. Dulces (Sweets)! The woman gives me one as a gift and I buy a second. Delicious…

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I climb the stupendous mountainside up to the border. The official asks me if I felt the 7.2 magnitude earthquake that happened just 20 minutes ago. WHAT!?!? I felt nothing and good thing as I was riding up a precariously steep slope with prime rock fall… How do you like these curves?

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I’m off to my last new country… #15 – Argentina! Stay tuned.

Categories: Chile | 5 Comments

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