Friday, December 31, 2010

Feliz Ano Neuvo!

Happy New Year everyone!!

We left Antofagasta this morning, and only had a 320 km drive to San Pedro de Atacama. Enroute, we passed Calama, and we could see the largest open copper mine in the world, Chuquicamata.

Again we saw many enormous dust devils (sand devils) hundreds of metres high, from many  kilometeres away. One formed right beside us as we were riding. It was really neat, a mini tornado!
Atacama with sand devil

The landscape surrounding San Pedro is really amazing. There are many different colors of stone, such as purples, oranges, green, brown and black. There are also salt flats, geysers, volcanoes and canyons nearby.

Landscape surrounding San Pedro de Atacama 

Kitty Love

After getting the new tire fitted in the morning we headed north out of town. We saw valleys of sand and rock with mountains around every corner. There were a few big observatories (Astronomico La Silla) positioned on top of the hills, enroute to Bahia Ingles. When the sun heated up the land the wind picked up and this caused a lot of dust devils! There was only one oasis.

Haciendo Toledo enroute to Bahia Ingles
We arrived in Bahia Ingles and found a cabana. Bahia Ingles is a beach resort with white sand beaches. Little did we know, the cabana came with a lovely kitten! He was so affectionate and won our hearts immediately!

Scraggles on Lisa's lap
Beach at Bahia Ingles

In the morning we said goodbye to Scraggles the kitten and we were on our way. We made sure he had a full belly! He even tried to eat our breakfast before we had a chance. He was quite persistent, but cute! I moved a chair to prevent him from jumping on the table. So he decided to jump through the circular design on the back!! Unbelievable!

The weather was hot, 30C, once we left the sea and travelled inland. We stopped in Chanaral for some lunch and bought some donuts from a street vendor!

The were more rocky outcrops with sand dunes as far as the eye could see. No houses, no people, no animals, no bushes. There were a lot of mines along the way.

On the way into Antofagasta we stopped at Mano del Desierto (Hand of the Desert) for a quick photo. We arrived in Antofagasta and after searching for accomodation, we found a motel on the beach with the help of a lovely couple from Germany, Hardy and Christine. They were riding two up on a very nicely prepared and rare Moto Morino Granpasso 1200. They joined us and we had a supper of delivery pizza and beer!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Sweet Grapes

We left Talca and headed North. We passed through the vineyards of Miguel Torres. By the time we got to Santiago, it was getting quite hot, so we decided to stop at MacDonald's for a chocolate McFlurry. We were going to pick up a tire in Santiago, but we met a kind gentleman, and he told us that La Serena would have what we were looking for. So we headed for the Pacific coast.

We made it to Los Vilos and stopped at Hostel Conquistador. It was pricey, but we had the place to ourselves and great parking. Joaquin, the owner, was so hospitable. He brought us wine, cheese and crackers right away and joined us for a chat. He was so friendly and helpful, he felt like family. We decided to go out for a quick bite along the sea front and had our first pisco sour.

In the morning there was sea mist in the air. We had a wonderful breakfast provided by Joaquin and then it was time to go. Joaquin recommended we take the scenic route inland instead of the toll road straight north.

Condors were sitting on fence posts waiting for thermals. They are such big birds!! After half an hour, the land was starting to heat up and the condors were in full flight, flying right above our heads! There were many hills, passes and curves which made for good riding. The land is quite dry, with lots of cacti. We saw cacti lined fences!

Cactus fence and unused railroad
We passed many vineyards, famous for growing pisco grapes. The bunches of grapes were so big! We stopped to take some photos. It wasn't long before some workers on an old Tractor and trailer pulled up and one of the guys was holding up grapes! They wanted to give us two huge bunches, but we only had room for one. We couldn't believe how sweet and juicy they were!! Thank you Chile!

Vineyards along the road enroute to Ovalle
We arrived in La Serena and sorted out a rear tire for Sammy from Tonino Motos. The weather was clear skies and around 25C. Distance travelled to date: 6581 km.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Hot Chocolate

We left Puerto Varas Christmas morning. It was a good decision as there wasn't too much traffic. In the town it was nice to see Christmas trees decorated in front yards and parks with Santa's and trees too. It was strange seeing the Christmas trees, outside, with decorations... this would not happen back home, as everything would freeze! It was 12C, Lisa still needed her down jacket under her motorcycle jacket. By the afternoon it was warming up and the sun was shining... 20C.

Sammy getting a much needed wash for Christmas
Our Christmas cabin

Chile had changed since the last time we were here. The flowers along the roadside and in the fields are in full bloom, with colours of purple, pink, yellow, white and orange. The Andes and volcanoes highly visible against the clear skies. We decided to camp and headed to Curacautin. The rivers nearby were filled with children splashing and playing; enjoying the balmy Christmas in the water. The campsite was tidy, with lots of hard pine fencing and buildings. There was a lovely river rushing by, with fish jumping in the evening, taunting Lisa as she likes to fish but doesn't have a rod! We had the campsite to ourselves which was a bonus! There were only cold showers so we both opted out.

Views of Chilean countryside

The morning was damp, but the sun quickly dried out the tent. We spoke with Jaqueline on the way out, letting her know that the wild roses growing in the campsite are the Provincial flower for Alberta and pointed it out on our license plate. 

Enroute to our next destination, we noticed more and more touring motorcycles heading south and we waved and they returned the gesture. The air was cool, but by the afternoon, Lisa was almost passin out from heat. This has been the hottest day yet! Lisa, was still wearing her motorcycle pant liners and long sleeve wool icebreaker, found herself wanting to fall asleep on the back of the bike. A quick roadside stop at the next gas station and those liners and wool top came off! Two layers left for Lisa... it's a record!

We asked the attendant the temperature and he told us 35C!! No wonder why we were both suffering and searching for shade at every stop. How we both would of loved those cold showers now! We made it to Talca, by early evening and returned to a hostel that we had stayed at before. We unpacked the food, but there seemed to be this brown goo everywhere. Grif's chocolate bar had melted and leaked everywhere! Lisa offered to hop in the shower and take the tank pannier and back pack with her. Her offer was quickly taken. Too messy for photos!

Next stop was the Jumbo Store... similar to a Walmart. This is the first one we've seen and it had a lot of stuff. Lisa has been on a hunt for peanut butter since we left Canada, and we both thought, this would be the place to find it, and so we did!! Too bad we didn't know this store existed three weeks ago!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Feliz Navidad!

In Puerto Natales catching the Navimag Ferry to Puerto Montt. We headed down to the port at 8 pm as Grif had to sort out some customs and Navimag paperwork for the ferry trip. We met two older Finnish guys who were both riding Chilean Yamaha XT660’s with gas cans mounted on the pannier frames. One of them had an accident on the ripio (gravel)  piste in Tierra Del Fuego and had dislocated his shoulder and cracked a few ribs. The cowl and headlight was held together with duck tape and one of his plastic panniers was cracked and held together with straps. He was finishing his trip in Santiago and the other guy was continuing on for a month more.
We unloaded the gear off the bike and carried it up to the cabin, then Grif went back to ride the bike up the ramp. We met Niels, a Tour Guide and Driver for Kumuka (another overland company similar to Dragoman. As it turned out, we both knew a few of the Dragoman guides. He only had 9 pax on board for the trip North. We are glad that we managed to score a cabin all to ourselves as they are quite tight for two people – let alone four, several glasses of wine later and it was time for bed!
The ship left the docks at 530 am, and it was raining. Grif heard the engines start up, but he wasn’t going to get up for photos quite that early. It is nice to be onboard the ship for a few days and get to see a different angle with some spectacular scenery. When you are riding the bike on the ripio with two people on board it takes a lot of concentration choosing the best line and looking out for rocks, pot holes , Sheep and Guanacos, with just quick glances of the scenery, the only time you  get to look around and appreciate it is when you stop to take some photos.
We have passed through several narrows in the channels and Fjords this morning, one only 80 metres wide. The ship sides were close to the rock walls and we caught glimpses through the rain clouds of spectacular hanging Glaciers – imagine being on the Icefields parkway in Canada, but on a ship…

So far the meals on board have been substantial, if not a little bland, but they have to cater for all tastes.
Wednesday morning we held position for a couple of hours just offshore from Puerto Eden, a small fishing community in the middle of nowhere, no roads or airfields, just the sea, so they rely on the Navimag ferries route running close by to help deliver supplies and pick up and drop off people who need to get back and forth to the major ports and beyond. The weather was pretty bad today, with a few short breaks in the rain earlier, though as we sit in the bar onboard ship  there are some patches of blue sky appearing in the grey sky.
We are currently leaving the shelter of the lower archipelagos and heading out to skirt the edge of the pacific for about 12 hours before heading back into the lee of the Northern group of islands and inlets tomorrow morning, so the swells have started and are at about 3 metres, just enough to make the Evangelista slam into the odd swell here and there and they will increase during the night.

After a long night with the ship pitching and yawing quite well in the Pacific Ocean, the Galley was remarkably empty of passengers for breakfast!!! We had a nice break in the weather for the morning on the Evangelista and were able to see the surrounding islands and inlets clearly, it is truly a spectacular area, reminiscent of the Fjords of Norway, the large amount of rain over the last few days produced lots of waterfalls off the mountains adding to the beauty of this area. By lunch time we had swung back East into the archaepelegos and back into the low cloud  rain and wind, so it was back inside for a while with not much chance of seeing more dolphins.

The final run into Puerto Montt passed quickly and after the ship had docked we had to wait a while to get the bike out as the freight needed to be moved first. The crew moved a couple of rows and waved us out after 30 minutes. We said goodbye to the 2 Finnish guys who were heading to Valdivia. After weaving through some traffic we finaly hit the short stretch of highway 5 north and peeled off  into Puerto Varas. Grif needed to do an oil change, so we hunted around for some oil for a while and eventually found some - at a price though, then looked for a Hostel. We could only find ones closer to the centro which were expensive for a room, so as we have wheels we looked on the outskirts of town and got lucky with a private Cabana with kitchenette and bathroom for the same money. We headed back into town and got the bike handwashed, picked up groceries and came back where Grif spent Christmas Eve working on the bike and Lisa cooked a scrummy supper washed down with some Escudo cerveza with the local owner and family.

Merry Christmas to all Friends, Family and anyone reading....

Monday, December 20, 2010

Sailing North

We spent the morning in Ushuaia, sight seeing,and Lisa bought a alpaca wool beanie (toque)…now called the happy hat (for obvious reasons).
We left Ushuaia and headed to Rio Grande. As we went up the pass, it was rainy, cold and windy. We stopped half way en route to Rio Grande to warm up had some hot chocolate. Once again in Rio grande we found ourselves struggling to find food at a decent hour. Restaurants don’t open for dinner until 8:30 pm… we found Posada de la Sauces, the House of Sauces, or something like that. They served nice lamb and steak, and graciously took us in before they opened.

From Rio Grande we made our way through Argentina border and Chilean border and back across the ferry. We stopped for lunch and saw a motorcycle coming down the road. It was Yuki!! We were glad to see him and wished him well!
The wind was bad again and we could see storms brewing in the distance. With the strong winds, we knew it wouldn’t long before it hit us. We decided to go to Punta Arenas, rather than travel another couple of hours into Puerto Natales. The accommodation was terrible, but the nicest lady ever. She also had a litter of kittens so that really made me a sucker!  We found a great restaurant, very posh, by the sea front, Casa Viejo, with one of the walls of the restaurant in a shape of a wooden ship and it had cut outs to store lots of wine, my kind of restaurant… wonderful! I had a Cesar salad with yummy dressing, olives and chicken… the greatest croutons. We headed out first thing in the am.

The next day we headed from Punta arenas to Puerto Natales. There was great scenery, but huge rain clouds.  At one point a huge wall of white was ahead of us and was getting closer by the second. We decided to sit it out. We found a bus stop where we parked the bike up next to the shelter (there were quite a few along the road). We sat and ate cookies and chocolate, wishing we were in a coffee shop. We tried to warm up as well as it felt like 5C! After half an hour or so, we were back on the road with blue sky ahead… and a cafeteria 500 meters down the road!! Ugh! If only we’d known!
In Puerto Natales, we found a great pizza place, Mesita Grande. Had the best pizza, we bought two!! We spent most of the afternoon deciding what to do. Do we try to go north on Route 40, with the wind and rupio? We had heard from a couple of other bikers and locals that there was a lot of corrugation and high winds and the wheel ruts had deep windrows of gravel on either side. One Swiss biker with a Honda Africa Twin said he fell off at 80 km/h! Another Chilean with a KLR 650 warned us that the route was in rough condition. These conditions with the strong winds would make the ride very difficult for two up. Although route 40 conditions can change daily with graders, we felt it best that we don’t do it. If Grif was solo, he wouldn’t have a problem, but with such precious cargo, we decided to book ourselves on a couple of tours and take the Navimag ferry to Puerto Montt. This would save many days of travelling on the bike and potential delays due to weather and road conditions.
 We also met a Canadian couple from Vancouver, Chris and Angela and chatted for a bit. Chris recognized the Alberta plate so came over to talk with us. There are many hostels in Puerto Natales, a mecca for backpackers. The town is very touristy!! We found a lovely hostel, Las Carretas; Very nice décor and tranquil. Suprisingly, Chris and Angela decided to stay there as well. Lisa spotted a down sweater jacket on the way in to town, so went back to the store to check it out. Succumbing once again to the cold temperatures, it was a quick purchase!
The next day we headed to Torres del Paine National Park. Unfortunately, the Towers were in the clouds, as they are most of the year, but we saw lots of wildlife. We saw the Andean deer, mother and fawn, which is quite rare as there are only 60 in the park and the driver had only seen 3 since 1969. We also saw condors, red fox, huemul (emu), pink flamingo, and guanaco.  After the barren Argentinian plains, it was a treat to see so much wildlife in one day!! We hiked out to Grey Lake view point to see the glacier. It was extremely windy; having to hold hands in order not to drift apart. Enormous chunks of glaciar fall off and are blown down to the end of the lake.
 After we got back to town, we went to eat at Pico de Carlitos, where they grill smoke mutton in the window!! We opted for the roast chicken and papa fritas (French fries)!
The following day we headed out at 6:45 am, ouch, for El Calafate and the Perito Moreno glacier. We had food for lunch and dinner as we wouldn’t be back until 9-10 pm. At the border into Argentina, the aduana (customs) took passengers fruit and wanted our ham sandwiches! Grif asked if he could eat them right away. They said okay. Since this hadn’t happened before with any other Argentinian border crossings, we were very surprised. We have had ham before but this time we didn’t have it in a package, since we made up the sandwiches that morning before we left. Grif ate one of the sandwiches and we kept the other three and crossed into Argentina.
During the long drive of over 300 km to El Calafate, it was interesting to see the changes in the landscape. On the outskirts of Puerto Natales, there were several high escarpments with groups of 3-5 condors cruising the thermals, effortlessly. As you go further inland it changes into more of a tundra with wetlands in the valley basins and a big increase in the number of livestock. Some of the estancias (farms), are over 20,000 hectares with imposing houses and outbuildings where the gauchos (cowboys) reside. Elevation gradually increased after the border to over 250 m and as the road descended once again, to El Calfate, we had excellent views of the river valley and Lake Argentino surrounding the town, and the mountains around Perito Moreno, including Torres del Paine, which were shrouded in a thin veil of cloud.

Perito Mereno Glacier

Boat in front of the Glacier

We met up with Claudia, our guide for the afternoon, who was very informative and helped Lisa identify some of the flowers she had taken numerous photos of.  We left El Calafate and headed toward the glacier, about another hour out of town. The front face of the glacier cuts across where two lakes meet. As the glacier pushes up against the shoreline an arch is formed in the ice where water flows to balance the two lake depths. The glacier is enormous, breathtaking. The front face is 4 km across and ice depth beneath the water is over 250 m and 40 m above. It stretches back as far as the eye can see, the size is difficult to comprehend. It is one of the most spectacular natural formations we have ever seen and makes Columbia Icefields look like snow in your back yard.  The Perito Moreno Glacier is constantly changing and moving. In the couple of hours that we were there, we witnessed two big pieces fall off the front of glacier into the water creating big waves and ice debris. The loud bangs of the glacier moving, pushing and falling, is amplified by the face of the glacier.

We spent a bit of time in El Calafate as well. A neat little town, much like Banff with tourist shops and well groomed main street. There were a group of bikers from Italy and one from Colorado. We had passed them before in Terra del Fuego.
Today was errand day; trying to sort out things out for the ferry. We booked the ferry by directly visiting the office at the harbour. We met a really nice booking agent, which booked us in a higher class cabin for a cheaper price, also booking us into a cabin all to ourselves. He said the ferry was only at 40% occupancy. We had our clothes laundered, packed up the bike and stocked up with 4.5 litres of wine (you can get 2 L boxes, but we opted for 3 1.5 L for less than $4 each). We figured the days will be quite long on the ferry… we may not wait until 5 pm! We also managed to skype with Grif’s family which was a nice treat!!  
We will be on the ferry until Dec 24 and will not have internet access.
To everyone, Merry Christmas! Feliz Navidad! We are not sure where we will be for Christmas. We will have some time on the ferry to do some planning.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

In Ushuaia

The wind was pleasant when we left Rio Grande. It made for a wonderful riding day! There were trees and bushes, which we hadn't seen for a long long time with the mountains of Tierra Del Fuego in distance. We stopped a few times for photos!! We went over a pass; it had recently snowed! We made it in to Ushuaia in time for lunch, then off to the National Park for some sightseeing.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Bike on its side again - wind at over 110 kmh

We left Rio Gallegos yesterday (I call it Rio Gale), known for being the worst place for high winds. The winds were not too bad yesterday, gusts up to 74 km/h. We tried to get fuel before we left town, but the gas stations were running out of fuel. There is a problem with the YPF gas company and the local administrators. This is putting pressure on the other gas stations, causing line ups of over 2 blocks in Rio Gallegos, but not as bad further South at the moment.

It wasn't too long before we had to exit Argentina and enter Chile. The Chileans are very careful and hand out big fines if you have fruit or vegetables and don't declare them. We had picked up an apple and a couple of carrots for our lunch stop, that we hadn't eaten yet. We should have ate them before going into the border office, as once we declared them, they were gone! The Customs Agent (Aduana) took them away and wouldn't let us eat them on the spot. Not only did he confiscate our apple and carrots, but he walked away with my packaged olives as well! Even after he told us that they were okay to take into Chile. Grif called after him, but the Agent ignored him. So Grif went up to his face and told him that we wanted them back. Cheeky!! We did get them back, but kicked ourselves for not eating the other stuff before we crossed the border. We had forgotten how fussy they are in Chile about fruit and veg.

Our next stop was the ferry across the Straits of Magellenes. The water was rough, white caps everywhere. We quickly ate our sandwiches and I went up onto the viewing deck. Grif wanted to stay with the bike and make sure that it wouldn't topple over from the high waves. Grif came up shortly after, soaking wet! A big wave came over the boat and completely drenched him!

After the ferry ride we stopped an hour later for gas. This was the first chance we got, not getting any before we left Argentina, we needed to get some, even though we had 5 litres left, two Italian guys on big BMW bikes were down to their last litre !!!  Since we were now in Chile, there wasn't a gas problem.

We made our way across the border again, back in to Argentina. We saw quite a few foxes along the way (to add to our wildlife sightings). We made it to Rio Grande and found a hotel, albeit expensive. We travelled 397 km. We went to a Carrefour, the first of the trip (big French supermarket chain). What a treat, we found whole wheat buns!!

In the morning, we checked out of the hotel after having breakfast. The winds were howling throughout the hotel and Rio Grande. Knowing that we had ridden on other gusty days, we thought we would give in a shot. We barely made it out of town... possibly the last traffic light and went down.Gri'fs legs were down, but the wind was just too strong to hold the bike upright, damage assessment: sore bums and Grif's pannier is a bit more bent than it already was... luckily we were only doing about 5 kmh..... That was our hint, turn back and do not travel. We picked up the bike as it took both of us to pick it up against the wind, and Grif turned the bike around. The wind was so strong, I had to help Grif get the bike off its kickstand because of the wind, and not to mention his dodgy knee and shoulder!

We went back to the same hotel, but it was fully booked. We were able to park Sammy there and walk around on foot to find some other accomodation. Trying to walk around town was difficult. I would pick up my foot and realize that the wind would carry it right into Grif, as if I was intentionally kicking him... At times I was almost blown off the sidewalk and had to stand at 60 degrees. We found a much cheaper place with great parking, one block from the ocean and very cozy!

So today is a catch up day, until the winds subside tonight... then we're outta here tomorra!!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

In Rio Gallegos

We rode 375 km today, but had a late start since we had to pick up our lunch and do some sightseeing in Puerto San Julian. Our daily routine has us pick up slice ham and fresh buns from the Supermarket or Panaderias.

It was windy all day. We didn't have the wind behind us... maybe for one minute only! A lot of leaning and sore necks! Its cold; I have 6 layers on including my heated jacket!! Its about 10C. We passed a lot of guanacos, pink flamingos and large birds, similar to emus or ostrich. There are no people around, just sheep and guanaco and few birds. There are scrub plants that cover the land and all the land is fenced. Pretty barren.

We stopped for lunch at a YPF (Gas station) and met some other riders. We got some good information about what routes to take. We would have hoped to make it farther today but the sky was looking dark and I didn't want to head into rain for another 300 km, so we called it a day, but first Pizza and Beer!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Rain Beach Hail - All in One Day

It was a long day, we rode 566 km after being stuck in Sarmiento It was raining when we left. We said good bye to Liz and Phil... after they gave me kisses on my helmet.

We made our way to the Atlantic and the rain had eased off. It was still pretty cool at 9C with a strong wind, but we managed to have a nice lunch by the ocean on the beach and saw a pair of Commerson's Dolphins swimming  close to shore. We continued to head south and could see a huge storm getting closer and closer. There was horizontal hail and high winds, the worst Grif said he'd been in, ever! Good thing he told me that after we made it through!

In Puerto San Julian we found the Ocean Hotel, after I sent Grif to the wrong door... it was a Psychologist's office! Good thing HE can read Spanish, cuz I can't! (maybe we both should have gone in for a session!)
 We strolled down the street a couple of blocks to find the El Capon Restaurant. We had the most delicious Argentinian steak and chips (french fries) ever!!! Washed down with a litre of  cold beer. Definitely in my top three best meals! Absolutely wonderful.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Stationary Due to High Winds

Today we decided to stay put as there are winds reaching 60 km/h. Yesterday we were able to do over 400 km, some of the time the wind was at our backs. With the road having curves and bends, this always wasn't the case and near the end of the riding day, we had the strongest gusts. We were blown all over the road a couple of times, luckily there was no other traffic.

On the way to Sarmiento, we saw pink flamingos in some of the roadside ponds... and dead animal carcasses on fence posts. We also were lucky to see some Guanaco. These are Argentinian llama type animals.

Sarmiento is a small town, with a huge emerald green lake nearby. There is only one hotel that had parking so we settled in. There were a couple of pedal bikes also at the hotel, with lots of stickers from different countries all over them. We met Phil and Liz from London, England whom are touring around the Americas. They've been on the road about 10 months. They also, found it too windy to ride. We went out for dinner with them and had vegetable ravioli and a potato tart... and of course cervesas!

Today was a catch up day. Sleeping in, doing jobs on the bike, giving Grif a haircut and doing laundry... in the shower because the sink leaks, and an afternoon nap(for Lisa!). Do I have to wait until 5 pm to drink some vino tinto? NO!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

In Patagonia

From Santiago, there were vineyards as far as the eye could see. A very good bottle of wine costs $4.26. Beer is cheap as well. You can get one litre for under $2. The country roads are a nicer ride than the toll roads with fields of wildflowers, trees and livestock. There is lots of farming and rows of agriculture, from cherry trees to canola.  Fuel is expensive! We are paying $1.50 per litre at best and it gets more expensive the further you head south.

Grif’s knee is getting better slowly. There is still a bit of swelling. My neck and shoulders ache from the riding but I am hoping my body will get used to it!

The Chileans seem to like gourmet hot dogs! These can be found anywhere, and are called hot dog completo! They are hot dogs with lots of avocado and mayo smeared all over it… try to imagine, there is more avocado and mayo than the hot dog itself, they fill up the space between the rest of the bun and the dog… then add ketchup and mustard! The pizza is so amazing. All hand made with lots of toppings! Of course you can’t forget the picante sauce!

We travelled to Los Varas and stayed at a campground just east of town. It has a beautiful blue lake, beach and views of surrounding snow capped volcanoes and the Andes. It is our first night camping… but its $35/night. The location is amazing, with clear blue skies and a beautiful back drop.

Next we travelled on gravel in Chile today, making our way up to Entre Lagos, the last town before crossing into Argentina. The Chilean gravel (ripio) roads around the lake were under construction, with deep loose gravel  it was slow going. We made it to the Chilean Argentinean border in the late afternoon. We met up with Yuki, a Japanese guy that bought a Honda 150 in Santiago and is travelling around SA. He had problems getting into Argentina as his insurance only covered local Chile and was not international. Yuki had to head back to the Chilean border at 630pm and hopefully was able to buy the correct insurance and continue.

The first views of Argentina were spectacular. Wildflowers - pinks, purples and yellow - and mountains everywhere! The first little town reminded me of Banff, quite touristy and lots of shops! It started to rain, so we geared up and made it to Bariloche by 8 pm.
We left Bariloche and travelled to Esquel. We had our first taste of wind as the land became quite barren with no trees! The last 80 km was brutal, pushing the bike sideways with gusts well over 40 km/h. Our average speed was 66 km/h, slowing down for oncoming traffic and cars passing us. We were quite tired, so we found a hostel and went out for pizza and beer!! My favourite!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Chile South

We are currently in Osorno, heading to Puerto Octay today.

Both of us are getting accustomed to riding putting in 300 km - 500 km per day. The south of Chile is very green and lush, compared to the dry arrid region of Santiago. There are also volcanos in the South, still covered in snow, with smoke coming out the tops!

We have completely blown our budget, as prices for hostels is ridiculous! Tonight we hope to camp although it is very cloudy and getting chilly the more we head south. Tomorrow we head into Argentina!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Leaving Santiago with Sammy

After spending five days in Santiago, we are on our way. The motorbike arrived yesterday morning.  The customs process went extremely smooth, considering there was a strike and no one was working! The door was locked so we sat outside with our gear and waited. No more than 5 minutes went by and a customs official addressed us and within half an hour we had our temporary importation!! We had to pay the freight company $60 usd and the Cargo company $80 cad to get Sammy.

The biggest problem was that Grif forgot the key for the disk lock, so I had to do a 2 hour round trip on the bus and walking! I don't know much spanish, so I had some hurdles!

We celebrated last night with pizza and beer at the local bar!

We are heading south to Talca this afternoon, hopefully! We are still packing and repacking...

Friday, November 26, 2010

Heading South....again

We are currently on our way to Santiago, Chile, starting a long 20+ hours of flying and loitering in airports from Edmonton to Toronto, with a 7 hour lay over, we now wait until our flight South.

The bike was crated and dropped off at Edmonton airport last week and should currently be on its way to Miami, where it will be flown to Santiago on Monday. Miami is a bad transit place for 'dangerous goods', they tend to get bumped back as they have a lower priority, so we are expecting some delays before the bike arrives in Chile, but it will give us time to relax and enjoy the city and some warmth. Last week with the windchill it was down to -46 degrees Celsius around Edmonton - the 3rd coldest place on Earth!!!

The bike crating went quite smoothly, we used a crate from a Yamaha cruiser and with the front wheel, mirror, screen and front mudguard removed it fitted in well, with some room at the rear for the wheel and the panniers. Big thanks to Barry at Alberta Cycle in Edmonton for helping us out with the crating - its much easier with a fork lift!!!

We have used Carsons , based in Vancouver for shipping the bike, I wouldnt say that the shipping paperwork went smoothly, but its done, with a few hiccups and we shall see if they come through with the ETA or if we are going to be staying in Sanitago for longer than we expected.....

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Plan....Revised

So after 3 weeks, some healing and head scratching, looks like we have sorted out the new plan. The bike is  financially a write off by the insurance company, anyone who has had a bike accident knows that it doesn't take much damage to do this as labour to rebuild a bike is so expensive, but easily rebuildable by me, so new parts are on order, I've already straightened the panniers with a hydraulic jack and they are in Calgary having the holes welded this week by Dave at Fusion Welding - who luckily also rides a very nicely prepared DR650!!! The frame has been laser checked for alignment at Anderwerks and is OK to rebuild.

As Lisa's time off work is not flexible, I have to fix the bike up and get it inspected as soon as possible. We are renting out our place starting next week, we our getting kicked out of our home!!! So we are going to head up to Edmonton and stay with Stan and hopefully crate and fly the bike from Edmonton airport to South America, either Bogota, Santiago or Buenos Aires. Then carry on with the trip. This should not cost too much more than me riding and flying it as per the original plan.
I have also got to get some new riding gear pretty quickly, which might be fun this time of year, we will see what I can find.

This means that come March, we will either fly the bike back to Canada or I will ride it back North - which I prefer as I have missed out on riding it South, but we will see what the Boss says...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Down but not out....

So here we are a week plus later....its easy to be embarrassed at only doing 461km from home before having a bad accident, (Maybe thats some sort of overlanding record ???) I hadnt even got out of Canada - by 20 km - but life is more important than that. Who do I have to thank after this ?

Firstly a huge thanks to Lisa for heading down and being there when it mattered that first night, I was in shock and badly beat up and knew it, Lisa helped me scrub out my wounds with Salt water (Ouchy!)  and get them dressed up properly - Thanks Babe - you are my better half and I Luv You Loads XXX

Stan, Lisa's Dad who dropped everything and came down to Southern Alberta on short notice to help out with a Sled trailer borrowed from  Brad and Beth (Lisa's Brother and Sister in Law)
an  0430 start and a very long day to help us out - words cant thank  you all enough....

I looked at my riding gear again tonight with my good friend Keith (Thanks for the chat Bro!) over a few Rum n Cokes and it makes me realise how close I was to breaking my legs/arms/back or much much worse, my riding gear was totally ripped to shreds - Id take 10 off road hits over that one asphalt crash at speed - its a killer, literally. Big thanks to Arai Helmets, Sidi Boots and Acerbis/BMW riding gear.

Sammy the Suzuki taking such a beating REALLY hurts, Id spent every moment of my spare time for the last 5 months or so, to prep it, thousands of dollars and hundreds of man hours to make the bike perfect for our trip, but at the end of the day it is still just pieces of steel, aluminum, plastic and rubber - nothing more, its insured and we will go through that process.

 Has it put me off riding ? NO, my resolve to do a bike trip is as strong as ever - for me its not just a mode of transport, but a passion that will not be suppressed by a setback like this.

8 days later and I feel  I have had the worst ever game of Rugby Union, I dont bruise easily and yet Ive still got some pretty severe bruising and probably a few scars to come as well as banging up my right shoulder and aggrevating my already dodgy left knee, but walking away from an accident like this makes you appreciate every breath you are able to take.....

Live Your Dreams

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Sammy the Suzuki Took a Beating

Day 1 and no more. The trip quickly came to end when the phone rang at home and call display showed 'RCMP'. My heart sank.

I was extremely happy to hear Grif's voice on the other end, but remained calm. Wind gusts while riding at 110 km and he went down hard. Sammy cartwheeled. The bike was a mess and Grif's gear (helmet, jacket, gloves and pants) got ripped to shreds. We managed to get the bike home with my Dad's help and took Grif to the hospital to get checked out. Everything should heal.

Sammy is going to the Insurance Adjuster and we'll see if we can try again...

Monday, October 18, 2010

D Day

D stands for departure! It was a teary goodbye, but I tried to hold it together. It was quite windy this morning, a very brisk wind. Grif was having second thoughts about clothing choices and departing with his Buffalo jacket! A few last minute things to do and Grif was on his way. Once he's out of Canada it'll be much warmer.

Grif is on his way!
I have lots to do to keep me busy, but I am already looking forward to skyping tonight!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Hit the Road Jack.....

So the bike is all packed up and ready to go - apart from my toothbrush, heading out on Monday 18th October across the border to the USA. It's starting to get a little chilly in Canada, down to -5C or so overnight, but no ice around yet, so its time to split. It's Lisa's Birthday on Tuesday and I feel bad for not being around to celebrate, but I'm sure she will manage to have a drink or 2 or go to Monod's to buy herself something!!!
I'm aiming for Great Falls, Montana tomorrow but we will see how the first day goes and how long it takes for the aging body to get used to long days in the saddle - I'm guessing quite a while!!!
Cheers, Grif

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Plan....

So the plan is for Grif to ride solo from Canada, through the US and Central America to Panama, where I will either put the bike on a plane to Bogota or a boat to Cartagena, Colombia, there I will make my way down to see Russ a top bloke who I know from Dragoman Overland - we worked in Central America and Mexico for 6 months together.

Lisa will fly in mid November and we will have 3 months to see as much as we can - Lisa and I are keen divers and would love to head to Galapagos for a few days - however, this is quite an expensive side trip, so we are staying flexible with the possibility of booking something last minute if things look good.

Other than that, we are going to play this trip by ear and not try to set things in stone - my previous travels have shown me that setting tight deadlines through the whole trip - especially through Latin America, where 'Mañana' rules can make things difficult.

The only deadlines we have are when Lisa arrives in Colombia mid November and leaves from somewhere in South America to head back to Canada at the beginning of March.

Riding the bike back into Canada is not possible in March - the roads around here generally have an inch of sheet ice over them, so we are also being flexible on possibly leaving the bike in South America somewhere for the next trip - or flying it to Edmonton and trailering it back home


Friday, September 24, 2010

Getting There.....

So Ive been putting some of the final modifications to the bike, including case armour to protect the engine from being damaged if I drop it on rocks and an Aussie made B&B Engineering bashplate which is a lot better than the Happy trails one we had on there - much better protection.

Still to put on are the Pro Taper bars and heated grips - when they arrive, change the front brake line for a steel braided one so the front brake has a bit more bite and better feel, to finish up the electrics with the Gerbings wiring for Lisas heated jacket and gloves, mount the power outlets on the bars and in the top box for charging things on the road, change out the chain set, pads, and oil change, mount the tool tube when it arrives in place of the small original one, possibly add a scottoiler...and a few other things to do Im sure, that should keep me out of the bar....


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Summer 2010

My husband came up with this wild idea to travel "2 up" to South America. At this point in my life I figured, why not, sure let's go! With lots of dosh and refurbishing, we are almost ready to go. We purchased a 2009 Suzuki DR650 and have given it all the trimmings. This also meant many trips into Calgary but with summer stocks dwindling, we have had many challenges. We are very familiar with the post office staff, as we are ordering online at a phenomenal pace. Customs Canada loves us as well!