Thursday, 16 March 2017
More than a year after the end of the South America trip; the road is calling again. A short trip of a couple of weeks or so up to Norway (via Holland, Germany, Denmark and Sweden). As after the 2012 trip, I didn't ride much for the year after South America. Having ridden through such incredible places, trundling around south east England always seems a bit dull. Norway sounds like the perfect antidote. As soon as the weather warms up........
Tuesday, 17 November 2015
Over the next few days, the weather became hot and sunny as I wandered around Buenos Aries. Now the riding had finished, it was back to playing tourist. So, I walked around town taking in the sights; the highlights of which were the cemetery of Argentina's great and good (surprisingly interesting) and the Japanese garden in the Palermo area. I rode on the, amazingly cheap for Buenos Aries, metro; sampled a few of the ubiquitous "Irish" pubs and generally relaxed.
It was time to arrange my and the bikes flights home. A last ride in Argentina to the airport for the bike crating and formalities. Although I was sent to the wrong place, wasting 2 hours in a fruitless wait for my contact at the airport. Once I eventually arrived where I was supposed to be; it all went smoothly enough and I returned to the city, bikeless. It feels weird being without my motorbike and at the mercy of public transport again.
On my last full day in South America; the rain returned. Apparently there are elections here next week; lots of noisy political rallies; tub-thumping and flag waving going on; never a good thing. So I think the time is right to leave South America behind and return to an English winter.
Friday, 13 November 2015
It all started so well........................ leaving Bariloche, the road was beautiful. Light traffic and great scenery, following a river and then past some of the bluest lakes I've ever seen. The road rose and fell as it wound its way east. I was having a good time.
Then, with a last look back at the Andes diminishing behind me, I dropped down on to the Pampas; the roads straightened and the gorgeous scenery was a thing of the past. I was riding through the flat lands, where there was no geography to necessitate putting bends in the road. For mile after tedious mile, the straight line continued; hours without a curve. These are roads that turn your mind to mush and your will to vapour. Roads that sap all the enjoyment out of motorcycling. On and on I rode and still the monotony continued. Stopping for the night in Neuquén and then Bahia Blanca with a thousand yard stare. Only halfway to Buenos Aires. Not many photos from these few days; just stare at a wall for a few hours and you'll get the idea.
For the next days run to Mar Del Plata (on the Atlantic coast), I plugged myself in to my (sometimes working, sometimes not........) iPod. What a transformation! The roads were the same, but my head was transformed. Amazing the difference a bit of good music can make. At least the weather had been good the whole way across the country.
Mar Del Plata; Argentina's premier beach resort. I had reached the Atlantic ocean. No time to dawdle though, as I was fixated on getting to Buenos Aires and leaving these tedious roads behind. Looking at the map, I always expected the run to BA to be dull. I just never anticipated it'd be quite this boring.
As I approached the capital; I could almost hear the road gods laughing as the rain started. The weather on this whole trip has been exceptional, just the odd shower the whole way. But I rolled into BA tired and wet, although I got to the centre more easily than I expected. I'd made it. Bogotá to Buenos Aires by bike. So, what do I do now?
The rain intensified in Buenos Aires as dusk fell. The national football stadium flooded and a much anticipated (though not by me) match between Argentina and Brazil had to be postponed. Maybe this is the road gods telling me its time to stop. Hopefully the sun will reappear tomorrow.
Monday, 9 November 2015
Pucon is a nice little place, very much a tourist resort, but pretty. It has the feel of a Swiss or German Alpine town, right down to the chalet style buildings and chocolate shops. Again, just one night there before carrying on south towards my chosen pass to Argentina. I rode smaller roads around one of the lakes, with superb volcano views (another blue sky day), before heading back to Ruta 5 with its alarmingly frequent toll-booths, from which motorbikes aren't exempt. The road was blocked at one point by some sort of demonstration; no idea what it was about. Lots of noise, banners and anger. They went down the lines of waiting motorists with a collection tin, to which most people seemed happy to contribute. I was soon on my way again though; my Pesos intact.
One last night in Chile in the non-descript town of Osorno; nothing to recommend it other than as a convenient stopping place before heading for country no.6: Argentina.
The following morning brought leaden gray skies and a fine drizzle started as I set off. It was only about 75 miles to the border, through great scenery. I saw little of this though as the cloud enveloped the landscape; if only I'd crossed the day before under the clear blue skies! Stamping out of Chile was quick and efficient and then it was a ride over the pass to the Argentine side. Snow on the ground and patches of thick mist in places; but as I started to descend; conditions improved and the sun even poked through at times. After clearing the Argentine customs and immigration, the road continued to drop and wind its way around some stunning lakes. Despite the weather conditions; this was the best days riding I'd had in a while.
Bariloche was the target for the day; beautifully situated on a lake shore. The town itself was a bit disappointing. Apart from the central square and one or two roads running off it; the whole place felt a bit tired and run down (or maybe that's just how I am feeling?). It is a tourist town and maybe its just early in the season.
Getting cash from the ATM has been a challenge; most don't seem to work and those that do have a maximum limit of about £50, with a £4 withdrawal fee. Maybe its just because it was a Saturday afternoon, but there were queues of locals at most ATMs desperately asking those who'd just used it if it was working.
Sunday morning and there seemed to be some sort of charity fun run on in town; lots of people in fluorescent yellow shirts running around. It made me tired just watching it; so a Chinese for lunch and back to deciding "where next"? It feels like the trip is coming to a natural end; so I may head in the general direction of Buenos Aires and see how I feel as the miles roll by.
Thursday, 5 November 2015
It was a beautiful, clear, sunny day as I left Valparaiso for the short hop to Santiago. A bit short of the capital, the road went through a tunnel, as it emerged at the other side, the snow capped Andes re-appeared. A great sight. As it was a Sunday, traffic was light and I found my way to the city centre hotel I had booked easily enough. Bike securely parked behind a locked gate; it was time to explore. First impressions were good, but then the sun makes everything look better. Santiago is big, modern and more cosmopolitan than most of the places I have passed through so far. It also has an efficient and cheap metro/underground system (always the mark of a "proper" city!). The wide selection of interesting bars was a bonus.
The next morning dawned cold and gray and that was how it stayed all day, but it was time for work. The bike needed an oil change and after eventually sourcing some quality motorbike oil, I set about the task. I had the right tools (including a proper funnel, instead of a coke bottle), so the job was soon done. I rewarded myself with some Thai food for lunch; from a Chinese restaurant which, get this, was actually run by Chinese people! More half-hearted sightseeing in the afternoon (just killing time before I could get back on the bike) and some wrestling with the "where next??" decision. I needed some beer to lubricate the thought process....... Flannery's Irish Bar, that'll do nicely!
More bike maintenance the following day (rear brake pads). More sightseeing; more good food (Japanese today), a couple more beers and a decision was made. I was thinking of heading straight over to Mendoza in Argentina; but the weather was looking a bit dodgy and I'd heard good things about the Lakes District further south in Chile and stretching into Argentina. Also the weather looked better in that direction; so South it is.
A late-ish start the next morning and I hit Ruta 5 out of Santiago, through the central wine region of Chile. Again, a lot of long straight dual carriageway for much of the time, but the sight of vineyards, hills and increasingly lush vegetation under clearing skies made for a decent days ride to Chillan. This was an OK town, but no reason to stop there, other than to break the journey south to the Lakes. So, to Pucon on Lake Villarrica in the shadow of a perfectly symmetrical, snow covered volcano. Finally off the motorway and into increasingly dramatic scenery. Too much of Chile is head down, heading someplace more interesting. But maybe, hopefully, the Lakes region is it. I'm pretty sick of straight motorway riding. From here on in; it's small roads. Chile is the proverbial curates egg.......good in parts. But oddly "bland" in comparison to the South America I've travelled through so far. Roll on Argentina!
Sunday, 1 November 2015
It was several long days of riding through the Atacama desert. Long, arrow straight roads stretching to the horizon. From Antofagasta I stopped at the "Mano del Desierto" sculpture for the obligatory biker photo before an enjoyable ride under cloudless skies in the starkly beautiful desert. As the road neared the coast, a thick blanket of gray clouds appeared. Its better riding earlier in the day, before the winds pick up, the occasional wind-farm stand as testament to how windy it can get here.
Finally managed to find petrol and gratefully filled the tank with 95 RON and my belly with doritos and a snickers bar. I think the bike got the better deal. I ended the day at Bahia Inglesa, a tiny beach resort on the Pacific. Summer hadn't reached this latitude yet and it was distinctly chilly. An out of season beach resort is an odd place; very few people around, I was the only guest at the hotel and a power cut added to the eerie atmosphere making me think I was an extra in "The Shining".
The next day dawned cold and overcast. Another long day slogging through the desert under leaden skies made for a dull ride. I was praying for the sun to reappear; which it eventually did, only to hit the heaviest traffic I have seen for a while. More vegetation was gradually appearing; a mass of pink/purple flowers spread across the desert floor in places. Finished the day at La Serena, a pretty town of colonial buildings, all the more appealing as the sun had reappeared.
I left La Serena in the sunshine, but it didn't last long. All too soon, the clouds and low temperatures returned. This made for another long slog south. The road followed the coast for most of the day, past some good surf beaches. All empty. Dual carriageway and an overcast sky; not my ideal riding conditions. Few curves and the Andes are seemingly a distant memory. I'm having doubts whether I should continue south; its still early in the season and I think it'll only get colder the further south I get. I'm hearing reports that the pass near San Pedro to Argentina is closed again because of snow, and that is the most northerly pass, the ones further south could be worse. I may head over to Argentina from Santiago and ride north to find the sun again and warm my cold bones.
As I got closer to Valparaiso, the sun came out and the temperature rose. Looks like an interesting town; very "bohemian", lots of "artistic" graffiti and a drunk shouting abuse at a police van (who, sensibly, ignored him). An "Irish" bar, in name only. No Guinness, no Irish music and no craic; but an astonishing range of beers. Once the sun set, the wind rose and it got cold. South to Patagonia, or East to Argentina? I think I'll need a couple of days in Santiago to research and decide. I'm tired and a bit jaded at the moment. Chile hasn't been the best place for me so far; too expensive and, if I'm honest, a little bit boring. Probably more down to my frame of mind than the country itself. Overlanding on your own for a long time teaches you a lot about yourself; not always easy living in your own head for so long.