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Category: Argentina

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South America 24 : Day 37

Go to South America 24: Day 29Go to South America 24: Day 22Go to South America 24 Day 1

Day 37: El Calafate

Afer a great day of hiking in El Chalten I rode to El Calafate, the town that is the gateway to the Perito Moreno glacier. A bit over 200 kms between the two towns and tarmac’ed the whole way. I found a hostel that had off street parking for the bike and had a private room available. It’s pretty basic with a minimal kitchen, however, it has heated flooring! Very nice.  After sleeping rather badly, I rearranged the loading of the bike for a return trip to the Perito Moreno glacier staying at the same hostel for two nights. The glacier is 250 sqr kms in size and together with the 47 other glaciers in the area holds 1/3 of the freshwater in the world! The glacier is nor shrinking or expanding meaning it is fed the same amount of snow as it is loosing, The glacier grows in the months of June through December and recedes between December and April. Glacioligists debates the reason for the glacier being in equilibrium with other glaciers in the world, often, shrinking.

The height of the ice at the highest point is 70m. The glacier advances two meters every day, and calves every minute and I heard several of these events giving up an almighty roar every time. Very impressive!After spending 3.5 hours at the site I packed the bike and rode back to El Calafate and the hostel.

Day 39: Puerto Natales

After the impressive glacier sightings, I moved on towards the south and Puerto Natales, which is the gateway to the Chilean “equivalent” of El Chalten, Torres del Paine. Along the way I see a lot of Guanacos which is a smaller relative of the domesticated Llama. There are fences 50m on either side of the road but the Guanacos get over them easily and often forage close to the road. They get to be 1.2 m tall and weigh close to 100 kg so you definitively do not want to hit one. I need to relax some more so I will definitively stay two nights at this nice hotel like hostel, Sendero.

I have plans to make a day-trip to Torres del Paine, but unfortunately, it’s raining quite heavily today and the forecast for the next few days does not look promising so I’ll spend my time in front of the Woodburner.

Day 41: Cerro Sombrero

With no good weather in the forecast for the next few days, I got on the bike and rode to Tierra del Fuego. It was a very windy day which made riding feel dangerous with the bike tilted over one way for all of a sudden the wind changing direction making the bike tilt the other way. Not enjoyable riding at all!To get to tierra del fuego you must take a ferry and I chose the shorter and more regular option leaving the mainland at Punta Delgado. While waiting for the ferry to arrive the wind was very strong and I was worried the bike would be blown over. Scary stuff you never think of when traveling in a car.After an hour the ferry arrived and it was really struggling against the wind to get to the loading position. On board the ferry without problems I had an hour for some refreshments before getting off on Tierra del Fuego.

I carried on until I got to Cerro Sombrero where I stopped to fill the tank. I asked the attendant the directions to a hotel and I found a really nice and cozy one, hosteria Tunkelen, and they had a room. I had dinner with a guy who is organizing motorcycle tours in South America. He was returning from Ushuaia after having guided a group of bikers on a 23 day trip. He would soon be guiding a group of Italian bikers organized through Dainese. This was his job! The envy of many bikers, I’m sure!

Hosteria Tunkelen

Day 42: Ushuaia

I was considering staying another day at Tunkelen hosteria and wait for a less windy day, but in the end I decided to go, It’s a 400 km ride, first through Chile and then Argentina. It was very windy until the last 100 kms, with the last 50 kms going through mountainous terrain over Paso Garibaldi, and, of course, it started raining and the temperature sank to 4C. It was so cold on the bike! But I made it 🙂

I rode around town to find somewhere to stay and in several places they were full, I finally found a 2-star hotel close to the center, Hotel Vitalia.

The Yamana people were the first inhabitants of the island and were, perhaps, in some respects similar to Eskimos, in that they lived in a pretty harsh environment. Apart from one difference – they didn’t wear clothes!

They used bonfires to keep warm and when Magellan came there in 1520 he saw the fires and named the island Tierra del Fuego! With more European influence the indigenous people started to suffer, wearing clothes meant that their hygiene got worse and many caught European illnesses such as measles and perished.

Eventually the Argentines settled the area and built a jail for serious criminals, which has now been converted to a museum where I got the picture of the Yamani people. Ushuaia is today a prosperous city of 80,000 people.Weather is mild with average -1 degrees in the dead of winter.Tourism is a big part of the economy with cruise ships often seen in the harbor.

For dinner I joined up with Olav, a biker friend, who I last met in Tibet close to 5 years ago. We’ve kept in touch via Facebook and as it happened we were in Ushuaia at the same time. Olav is here with a group of bikers and his friend Jeff also joined for dinner.
It was a very enjoyable meal where we discussed many world problems as well as the success of Taiwan in chip making and the incredible progress Singapore has made over the last fifty years.

Day 44: Cerro Sombrero

I stayed in Ushuaia for two days and then started on the ride back north. It was cold and very wet for a while, and later on strong winds. When I arrived at the hotel I was frozen to the bone and not even a hot bath could revive the circulation in my feet. Oh dear, the pleasures of adventure riding 🤔At dinner I chatted to a group of bikers and understood that one of the riders had crashed and was at the local clinic being checked out. He had no broken bones but was in some pain. Luckily, the group had a follow-along truck and he would be riding there rather than on his bike. I decided to stay for an extra day to thoroughly warm up and consider my plans.

In the morning I talked to my 8 year old girl and when I told her it was possible to end the trip and come home within a week she said, yeah!I missed you!

I have been told by many that the trip north along Ruta 3 is incredibly boring and 3000 kms in distance.Taking everything into consideration I decided to end the trip in Punta Arenas where the bike will be trucked to Santiago and then shipped to Singapore.

Day 46: Punta Arenas

The ride of the 200 kms was very cold and windy with a temperature at the start of 5c. There was nowhere to warm up until 160kms along the way, and I was really glad to stop for an empanada and hot coffee and warm up by a radiator!

In Punta Arenas I had to find a notary to make a power of attorney allowing my shipping agent to handle customs on my behalf when shipping the bike to Singapore. There are many notaries in every town and it didn’t take long to find one and get the required document.Then off to the trucking depot where I left the bike after packing all my bike clothes on the bike leaving me with only cabin luggage for the flights back to Singapore.

The next day I walked around town for a while before getting to the airport and the flight to Santiago.

The flight is 3 and a half hours reflecting the distance I’ve covered which was 6000kms! Quite a way.

 

 

Progress to Ushuaia and back to Punta Arenas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 47: Santiago

I landed in Santiago and found a Best Western hotel in the Centro area.  The hotel room is nice but the localtion not so great with no restaurents or caffes anywhere near.  Neither is the hotel at a safe area and I was told to stay inside after dark which kind of meant I had to have dinners at the hotel.  For the next three datys I did some sightseeing but saw nothing very exciting.  

 

After 3 days in Santiago it was time to get on the plane to Houston, followed by legs to San Fransisco and Singapore.  The last leg is a 17 hour killer flight.  Not much fun being stuck in a chair for that long.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

South America 24: Day 29

South America 24: Day 22

Go to South America 24 ; Day 1

Go to South America 24 : Day 37

Mirlo’s hostel in Futaleufu is nice, great kitchen and very comfortable bed. And I slept through the snoring, yay! A good night’s sleep makes all the difference!



Day 29: Puyuhuapi

I joined up with Felipe and Jorge and we ride together to a place along the Carretera Austral, Puyuhuapi. It’s a small town at the northern end of a fjord, ie. at sea level. The first 50 or so kms were on a dirt road but a much better one than the two I’ve seen so far. I’m kind of getting the hang of riding on these with the feeling of floating, and when the speed is 70 to 80 the bike skims over and loses the reverberations that are very bad when you go slower. Motorcycling is all about confidence and overcoming your fears.

 

Narrow bridge with nice scenery.


After 50 kms of dirtroad we turned south on Chile 7, which is the Carretera Austral.   This road was ordered to be built by Pinochet in 1976 and is 1270 kms long starting in Puerto Montt and ends in Villa O’Higgins.  Most of the northern part is tarmac while further south it is mainly gravel road which I got to experience the next few days.  But today’s ride on the Carretera Austral was all on paved surface so we could keep a good speed.  We arrived in Puyuhuapi early afternoon and discovered it’s located at the end of a fjord.  I decided to try camping for a night and we found a campsite with a roof cover. 

 

 

 

 

After unpacking and setting up the tents we went for a walk in the neighbourhood and we bought beer and was consuming it while sitting on a park bench. After a while the town police car stopped and the policeman came out and said that open consumption of alcohol was not permitted.   We sheepishly walked back to the campsite where we could down the remaining beer.  

 

 

 

 

 

Felipe and Jorge cooked a vary nice dinner which we ate with a bottle of nice wine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tried to get some sleep  but people were talking loudly and laughing at 11.30pm, I got a bit upset so I got up and gave the loud people a talking to 🙂  Next morning I see a sign where it says quiet from  midnight so I felt bad about it.  Oh well.  Anyway, sleeping in a tent does not seem to be for me, I could not sleep at all!  I’m too used to a comfortable bed.

 

 

 

Day 30: Coyhaique

 

After some discussion over lunch we set off after 1pm, going south on Ruta 7 with the plan to go to Coyhaique.  For a long time it was a miserable day with rain and wet roads.  There was a long stretch of dirt road and a particularly challenging part was going up a steep hill with numerous very sharp switchbacks of treacherous gravel.  At one 180 degree turn my rear wheel slid quite a bit, I was alright but my heart skipped a beat!  After that the road was tarmac’ed the whole way and the rain gradually stopped.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We stopped at a few vantage points but with fog and low hanging clouds there was not much to see.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After crossing a bridge Felipe stopped and pointing back to a sign for a waterfall and we made U-turns going back to look at the beautiful cascaded waterfall.  Very nice!

After arriving at Don Tito’s guest house and getting installed, we met up at a nearby beer place before going to eat at a very busy restaurant.  I ordered something I didn’t understand what it was and it turned out to be raw beef on toast, it was actually very nice but I was afraid that I’d have stomach problems the next day

 

 

 

 

 

Day 31: Puerto Rio Tranquilo

I split up from Felipe and Jorge who had plans to do hiking for a few days and decided to carry on south after a very lazy morning. I slept really well at the Don Tito bed an breakfast and was in no rush to get going. 

After packing everything, I went to get Sleipner who was parked at an awkward place, where the host wanted me to park to make room for the cars of more guests.  Well, it didn’t go so well and I ended up dropping the bike in an enclosed space against the house making it very difficut to get a good grip to raise it.  I asked the host for help but we couldn’t right it.  He had to call a friend who came around and helped to get Sleipner rightside up.  No big deal, nothing broken on either bike nor me…  I thanked them both deeply for being so kind.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After all this I didn’t get going until noon and set off south on the caretera Austral.  The first 100 kms were easy along a nice tarmac’ed surface but then the gravel road took over.  The first bit was surface prepared to lay tarmac on which, as I said before, isn’t easy to ride on.  At one stretch a road planing machine had created a ridge of 30 cm of gravel and I chose to ride on the unplaned side but after a while there was no more road left and I was stuck on the side of the high ridge but couldn’t get through.  Fortunately, a car driver saw my trouble, stopped the car and came out to give me a push to get through the ridge.  Phew! If not I would have been stuck!  What a nice guy!  Two guys giving me much needed help in one day!  Amazing!  From then on it was all gravel road and pretty slow going.  However, rewardingly, the landscape was fantastic with amazing views.

After 150 kms of gravel road the time was approaching 5 pm and I was ready to stop for the day.  Fortunately, I came to a small, but touristy town, with a hotel and they had a room.  The name of the village had a poetic ring to it – Puerto Rio Tranquilo…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 32: Bajo Caracoles


I got up pretty early and did some work on the bike, some screws for the windscreen were coming loose and a bolt holding up the exhaust canister had come off so I used a temporary fix to hold it up.  Not so pretty but it’ll do!

After breakfast I managed to get going at 9 am.  I knew the road to the border with Argentina was not going to be fast or easy being gravel the whole way.  Some stretches were easy and some pretty technical.  The rutts are always bad when going uphill and there were a lot of those, the rutts are so bad that the traction control (before I knew how to set it properly) would kick in and almost make the bike stop and making it necessary to change down a gear.  There were road works in stretches making the surface very difficult to maneuver – but I got through.  The reward for my struggles was the amazing views.  After 4 hours I reached Chile Chico, right on the border with Argentina.  160 kms of gravel road in 4 hours gives an average speed of 40 kph, good or bad?  Who knows and who cares?

After a quick lunch I crossed the border and found very good roads and did 200 kms before stopping at Bajo Caracoles.  I used to use Booking.com to reserve a room but haven’t done that the last week.  I found that booking.com’s price is higher than what I can get on the spot and also I don’t know beforehand the road conditions and whence not how far I can go in a day.

 

 

 

 

Scenic views from today’s ride

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 32: Bajo Caracoles

 

Very basic hotel in Bajo Caracoles

 

The hotel in Bajo Caracoles was very basic and pretty expensive for what it was.  They can charge that much because there is nothing else for hundreds of kms.  I rode 200 kms from the first town in Argentina, Perito Moreno, and there was no human settlements anywhere to be seen. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 33: Gobernador Gregores 

This place, with the rather strange name, is around 250 kms from Bajo Caracoles along Ruta 40.  Asphalt the whole way apart from some short stretches of dirt.  I stopped to get some fuel and coffee and happily set off to go as far as I could towards El Chalten.  Unfortunately, I didn’t take a turn where I should have and rode a long way before I saw my mistake.  I decided to go back and hit very strong head winds making the return trip very arduous.

Back in Gobernador Gregores, I found a hotel and, later, had a nice meal.  After a good night’s sleep I decided to take a rest day, update my blog and  watch the F1 race – if possible.  After many days of riding I need to get my clothes washed and after walking along the street looking for a laundry place I reach the petrol station and I ask the lady at the counter where I can get my clothes washed, she says she can do it!  Amazing!  I can pick them up after 8pm.

Day 35: El Chalten

Woke up pretty early to start the trip to El Chalten.  I knew there was a bad stretch of road that could take a long time to navigate.  After 65 kms of tarmac I entered this infamous section od Ruta 40, named “Maldite 73” (Damn 73 in English) in the iOverland app, feeling pretty confident it wouldn’t be much of a problem.  It started pretty well but after some kms I entered a section with deep gravel, the bike started drifting, I couldn’t straighten it up and down I went.  Observing the bike on the road I found no damage on either the bike or myself.  There is no way I can lift the bike up myself so I had to wait for help to arrive.  This is a very desolate stretch of road and I had to wait 10 or 20 minutes before a couple of cars arrived and several guys came out and helped me righten the stricken “whale”.  After that I hopped straight on the bike and got going.  However, confidence always takes a hit when I crash and with that I tense up and also loose the feeling of the bike so I started very slowly.  Suffice it to say, the rest of the stretch, some 70 kms, was a nightmare 🙁  

Beached Hinda

 

The day before I met some bikers at Gobernador Gregores and they were going to ride 500(?) kms and at least one day extra to avoid the bad stretch, at the time I couldn’t understand why, but now I certainly could.  After close to 4 hours I got through the bad section and could run at normal speed until reaching El Chalten.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I quickly found a hostel, and at first, balked at the price it was charging, 3 times as much as the room in Gobernador Gregores for a worse room, but had no choice but to accept.  It’s still about the same price I would pay for any hotelroom in Sweden so really no big deal.  El Chalten is a resort town and they can charge a lot and people will still come.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Start of the trail

After a really good night’s sleep I decided to stay another day and go hiking to a lake with good views of Fitzroy.  After a few kms of the hike there was a viewpoint and I sat down on a bench and asked the woman sitting there where she was from.  Singapore she answered!  With that we started talking and her husband turned out to have been a professor at NTU (university in Singapore), who had just retired, I told him my wife received her PhD from there.  He immediately was interested to know which subject she had chosen and it turned out not to be his, anyway, it was a really nice conversation and we wished each other luck for the hike.

At another rest stop I ran into a group and they asked where I was from and I said Sweden.  A woman then said that the football team Boca Juniors had chosen their colors based on the Swedish flag ones.  OK, strange…  I then ran into a group of four americans and when I was told they were from Minnesota I said that people there were mainly from the no​rdic countries, I walked with them for a while until we came to a spot with amazing clear views of Fitzroy and we helped each other with photos.  After some more steps I could hear the beautiful language of Swedish being spoken and, of course, I started chatting to the couple discussing which route they should choose.  They were taking buses between various places and were full of praise for Argentina.

Once reaching the lake which was the goal of the hike, I got some very nice pictures of the famous “W”,  Mt Fitzroy, mountain, before starting the hike back.

In the far distance I could make out a glacier that was spilling out into a steep gorge.

Later I ran into a couple where the man was carrying their 8 month old baby sitting in a back pack, I saw the baby was wearing ear-studs and asked if they had made holes for them.  I was surprised to hear they made the holes while she was only 3 days old, apparently a common custom in Argentina!

 

After 13 kms I was back down and on the way to the hostel found a bar serving beer.  

It couldn’t have tasted better, fantastic!

I was surprised at in how good a shape I was in, and felt really good when passing people less than half my age 🙂  I must have recovered from the Covid infection!  

This was a fantastic day with gorgeous weather and a really nice hike – what a difference from the previous day!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Progress from Futaleufu to El Chalten.  1526 km in a week.

South America 24: Day 22

Starting new post after 3 weeks.

Go back to posts covering days 1 to 21

Go to South Maerica 24, Day 29

I rode Ruta 5 south from Talca through Los Angeles to Victoria where I took a small road to Curacautin.  Ruta 5 is a great road to cover distances in short time with a speed limit of 120 km/h.  At some stretches the limit is reduced to 100 km/h but no one seems to lower their speed.  It’s a toll road and at regular, but large, intervals you need to get off the highway and go through the “Manual” payment gates and for a motorcycle the charges are not very expensive, for the 350 km I paid roughly the equivalent of 5 usd.  Ruta 181 from Victoria is a scenic road going through a very hilly landscape and as I get closer to Curacautin I see several volcanoes towering over the landscape in the distance. Amazing! And the first scenic moments I’ve had on the trip!

My progress so far:

As I walk around this and other towns I can’t help but notice streets and areas with the name “O’Higgins”.  This doesn’t sound very Chilean or even Spanish so who was this man?  It turns out that he  is considered the father of independent Chile.  He had Irish and Spanish ancestry  and he was instrumental in freeing Chile from Spain in the early 1800s.

O’Higgins

I walked to the central plaza of the town and found the tourist bureau and had a chat with one of the guys. He told me there are 4 volcanoes in the vicinity of the town and that there are ski lifts at two of them.  They have little snow in the town but 12 meters (!) at the volcanoes in the winter.  The Llaima is the 2nd biggest volcano in Chile and it last had an eruption in 2009.

I first had thoughts of riding to the Laima volcano which is about 30 kms away from the town but after thinking of the hassle of gearing up I decided to take a taxi to a nearer waterfall, “Salto del indio”.  I got an “uncle”, as they say in Singapore, to drive me there and wait for me to walk to the waterfall and back and return me to the town.  It’s a really nice waterfall and well worth the trip.

 

 

 

Day 24: Pucon

Rode on a beautiful local road that led to Ruta 5, along here for a while and then off towards Villarica and Pucon.  The two towns are located on the south side of lago Villarica and to the north of Chile’s most active volcano, Villarica. It’s holiday season in Chile and this is a big tourist area with queues of cars and very slow going.  I was behind a police car with flashing green lights between Villarica and Pucon, very irritating,  Not sure why they had the flashing lights on the whole time – but I guess to calm the traffic with noone doing any overtakes for the whole stretch.  I found my hostal, a big house with many bedrooms sharing two bathrooms.  Not ideal.  But with a comfortable bed and that’s the most important.  An American guy from San Fransisco was staying there and we had a long chat about the state of US politics…. He worked as a bartender for a year to save up money for a year’s trip in South America after finishing his degree.

For dinner I walked up the road to a modern restaurant playing loud music and showing various sports on large videoscreens.  What is the Chilean typical type of food?  Empanadas, of Churasco style beef?  No, it’s italian! Every other restaurant is Italian and they’re all serving pizza.  And the pizza I had was really nice and huge.

 

 

 

 

Day 26: San Martin de los Andes

After a good night’s sleep it’s time to evaluate the day’s options.  Should I stay in Pucon another day and wait for the volcano to be vivisible?  Unfortunately, it’s cloudy and I can’t see anything of it and the weather prognosis is not good for a clear sky, so I decide to ride eastwards and cross into Argentina.  After the usual ineffective and annoying packing of my stuff I set off.  As I get closer to the border the road goes steeply uphill and suddenly the volcano on the border becomes visible.  The sight is absolutely amazing.

Lanin volcano

 

The border crossing is fairly staight forward with return of Chilean temporary import permit and issuance of new for Argentina.  Still takes about an hour.  The road on the Chilean side was fantastic but as soon as I get into Argentina the road condition is awful, very bumpy gravel road where it definitively feels like the fillings are going to fall out of the teeth.  This lasts for 10km or so and then glorious asphalt all the way to Ruta 40 and then onto to San Martin de los Andes where I’m staying for the night.

I passed a petrol station on Ruta 40 with queues not too long.  I have seen youtube videos with km long petrol queues in this area so I thought I’d better fill up while I can.  So I joined the que and had some left over pizza while I was waiting, it took 20 mins to get to the front of the queu and get my fuel.  Didn’t mind much having a break with some food while waiting.  I met a couple on a bike where the guy had spent 5 years going around the world on a Yamaha Tenere 660, he would park his bike for 6 months somewhere and do someting else and return and continue his travels.  That’s one way of traveling but I don’t think I could do it that way, especially if the travel to and fro is 35 hours and time difference of 11 hours. That’s a killer and a recipe for contracting Covid 🙁

 

 

 

 

 

Day 27: Lago Puelo

Ruta 40 from San Martin de los Andes is called the route of the siete lagos (seven lakes), but not only does it pass a bunch of lakes but also goes past a number of mountains through a windy and beautiful road.  A pure joy to ride on a motorcycle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As

As I was getting closer to Lago Puelo I noticed a number of motorcycles parked by a restaurant, so I slowed down and went back to see what this was about.  One guy was outside the restaurant for a smoke and he told me they were on their way to Ushuaia, they were from Santiago and had two weeks of vacation to be used for the return trip.  They were going to make it from there in 2 days which is close to 1000 kms per day!  Kind of crazy.

It took me a while to find the cabana I had booked for the night since I didn’t have internet.  I stopped at the YPF petrol station for a drink and used their WiFi to figure out where the place was.  Once I got there, there was noone to receive me and I had to wait for some time before the owner showed up. I wasn’t very happy and it didn’t help that the cabana was very basic.  Well, well, Booking.com isn’t always good…

 

Day 28: Futaleufu

Today I really feel like taking a break, I have been riding for 4 days straight, but the place I’m staying at isn’t so nice so I decide to carry on south.  Much of today’s ride was easy going on a high plateau with straight road allowing me to keep a decent speed for a quick 200kms.  The last 50 kms before the Chile border was another bad dirt road, it looked like it was being prepared to be tarmac’ed, it was very bumpy, dusty and, in places, with deep gravel giving that unpleasant floating feeling.  Of course, if you go on an adventure like this you must be able to take the bad as well as the good, otherwise you might as well not go.  Anyway, the unpleasant stretches are the ones you tend to remember, no?

Border crossings are always tedious and I wonder why they are necessary. It’s always a formality with forms being filled for the bike and passport being stamped.  Are Argentina and Chile so different, what are they afraid of?  The nordic countries have had no border formalities for as long as I can remember and now the same with the Schengen countries.  I can’t remember this having caused many problems.  And there is some cooperation between most south american countries through the Mercosur agreements and one result of this is that I can get vehicle insurance that covers most countries on the continent on a single policy.  Maybe in the future it will happen…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Futaleufu is a beautiful small town surrounded by mountains and only 10 kms from the Argentinian border.  It’s being presented as an adventure center with hiking, river rafting and mountain biking.  It has a nice square in the middle of town where there was some activity last night – being a Saturday.  Today I went for a hike in beautiful weather with clear blue skies and temperature in the low 20’s.  It’s the first hiking I’m doing since the Covid infection so I don’t want to push it too much but am happy with a 6 km walk.

Mirlo’s hostel

Here in Futaleufu I’m staying in a hostel called Mirlo’s hostel, it has an outdoor kitchen where I can cook food and make tea whenever I want.  There are also people from a lot of different countries and most of them speak good English so we’ve been able to communicate well.  It’s nice with company and I much prefer it to staying alone as I’ve done so far.  Only problem is snoring – one guy in the shared bedroom snores really bad so I had to sleep with ear plugs.  Only downside…

In the afternoon two guys on a BMW GS arrived.  They’re going the same way as me tomorrow so we’ll ride together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Progress since Curacautin, 900km in 4 days, pretty relaxed…

South America 24

South America 24

 

 

 

 

 

 

Go to Day 22 of my trip

Go to Day 29 of my trip

Go to South America 24 : Day 37

Day 1: Valparaiso

Getting here

I arrived in Valparaiso a couple of days ago after a 35 hour trip from SIngapore. Very, very exhausting! I rented a flat through airbnb and it’s quite new and spacious enough for one person with beautiful views of the surroundings and Valparaiso bay.

After 14 hours flying from Singapore to San Fransisco there is (of course) a line for immigration. After 30 minutes I’m waved forward to see the officer. He looks at me condecendingly – how do you dare enter my country and I’m not going to make it easy for you … Finally, he asks me when was the last time I was there and luckily I remembered and with that he let me through. After getting my bags and re-checking them I enter the queue for security. After a while I’m at a small open area and I’m asked to form a couple with the next person and walk through the area. My other person was an Asian woman and she possibly didn’t get what the officer was saying and, apparently, our march was not good enough and were sent back to the queue to do the march again! Bizarre! The 2nd time was good enough and I was let through to the security scanning. Oh well, quite an amusing experience, I had plenty of time so it didn’t bother me…

The flight from San Fran to Houston was delayed because this was the first day the 737/9 Max was allowed to fly after being grounded after the Air Alaska door blow out incident and there was not enough people to get the planes from the storage area to the gates. Luckily, we had a good tail wind and landed in Houston in time for my flight to Santiago, but only half an hour before the plane was supposed to take off.

Valparaiso – the city

Valparaiso is located on a large bay of the Pacific ocean and is very hilly. My flat is 700 m from the flat area closest to the water and at 90m elevation! Hard work to walk from the stores to the flat. It’s a pretty disorganized place with houses placed nilli-willi, here and there.

The town is known as a bohemian and arty place and there is a lot of nice street art everywhere. The variety of styles used is just one of the reasons Valparaiso has become famous for its street art, with artists creating original pieces and styles, but also utilizing common techniques such as wild-style, graffiti, character, piece, mural, and stencil.

After the long flights and the jetlag I was not surprised that I caught a cold which quickly got worse, but with antibiotics and prednisolone it seems I’ve been able to stop it from being a long term illness and I’m on my way to recovery. Phew!

Yesterday afternoon the electricity and both the flat WiFi and 4G signals went off for several hours which meant I could not communicate or get any updates on what was going on. On top of that the water in the flat stopped, quite an interesting situation. Around 10pm there was an earth quake about 100km from here. The building was shaking so much that doors rattled in their frames and the movement was very noticeable. It was an interesting situation but not really scary and today I can’t see any destruction in nearby ram-shackle buildings.

In the picture on the left I’m close to Vina del Mar.

The motorcycle is still not here and I will have to wait for another week before I can set off on my travels. It’s been delayed several times and is now 3 weeks past the original date I was given. My agent here says this is very unusual, typically ships could be 3-4 days late but rarely 3 weeks! Oh well – my luck! In the mean time I’ve been thinking of what name to give my Honda Africa Twin, when I look at videos of motorcycle adventurers they always have a name for their steed, “Bumble-bee”, “Alaska”, “Ronin” and even “Greta”. After a lot of discussions and committee meetings the name is going to be “Sleipner”! Sleipner is the 8 legged horse that “Oden”, the most important of the nordic gods was riding, according to Snorre Sturlassons stories.

I didn’t realize how serious the wildfires are. It’s been declared a state emergency and thousands of acres have been burnt and at least 10 people killed. Vina del Mar, the adjacent town has issued several evacuation orders for various parts of the town and the nearest one is only 10 kms away from me. It’s getting closer to home and I might even be evacuated, although my landlady says I don’t need to worry.

Wildfire smoke

Friday was a terrible day with very strong winds driving the fire towards Vina del Mar and thousands of homes were destroyed. So far, 64 people are dead but there are 100s of people missing and feared dead as well. Today, Sunday, there has been little wind and the sky looks slightly clearer. However, live TV reports show the fire still consuming and moving towards the center of Vina del Mar. Friday and yesterday I received many emergency messages on the phone of evacuations in some districts in Vina del Mar but today I’ve gotten none so maybe things are improving. There are some reports saying that the fires were started deliberatly but I don’t think this has been proved.

My agent, who will help me get the bike out of customs when it arrives, told me his mother in law’s house was burned to the ground and she escaped with nothing but the clothes she was wearing. Terrible. The agent keeps wooden transport cases for motorcyclists who have shipped their bikes here and the boxes were all destroyed by fire. His house is safe though, but I saw on the news that his area has a curfew at night. The fires are considered the worst catastropy in the country since the earth quake of 2010. Today, Monday, there is a strong smell of smoke in the air so I guess the wind must have turned towards the town of Valparaiso. (Valparaiso is also the region in which the wild fires rage and where the town of Vina del Mar is located.)

I don’t see any more news with fires and I believe most fires were put out by Sunday. The latest figures are 112 dead but more than three hundred missing. Pictures of areas in Vina del Mar look acopalyctic with nothing left but concrete walls and steel beams, I saw one figure that 40000 homes have been destroyed or partially destroyed making them uninhabitable. What a terrible catastrophe!

The boat with the container with my bike arrived at the docks at 5pm yesterday afternoon. The containers need to be unloaded and taken to a depot before their contents can be released and I’m not sure how long that process willtake.

As the picture shows it’s a huge ship which can take 20,000 containers and it must be a logistical problem to find a particular container? But I’m sure there are good systems that make the job easier. So fingers crossed that I will get the bike before the weekend!

I’ve not had enough energy to update the blog for a few days – my chest infection is worse than I first thought. The motorcycle is ready for collection but I don’t feel strong enough to even ride it from the port to my airbnb apartment. Oh dear!

Half of the flats of the apartment block I’m staying in are airbnb units. It’s easy to spot by the key-boxes outside the doors. When you arrive you’re given the code to open the box and get access to the keys and gain entrance to the flat. Airbnb has certainly come a long way from it’s beginnings of an air-mattress on the floor for rent! Now people are investing in apartments for rental via airbnb. I’m not sure if the founders of the company saw this development from the start. The founders are billionaires by now – so it must haev been a good idea they came up with! So airbnb is good when it works and everyone involved in a transaction are honest. I’ve heard stories where a flat is booked and paid for but it turns out there is no flat! I wonder how much homework airbnb does to ensure a property is legitimate before it is advertised and booked.

Valparaiso grew rapidly in the 1800s because it was the first major stopover for ships sailing around South America.. It was an important city with the continents first stock exchange and spanish language newspaper. Immigrants from Europe came in droves to enjoy the stable and mild climate and favourable economic conditions. The 1900s did not turn out well for Valparaiso because with the opening of the Panama Canal there were not many ships stopping by the port and whence the city’s port based economy shrunk. The city’s fortunes have changed somewhat in the last few years with it becoming a tourist atraction with thousands of visitors every year.

Valparaiso is located by a bay of the Pacific ocean and in very hilly terrain. The plain by the shore is a few hundred meters in width and then the steep landscape takes over. To ease traversing the city many “ascensores” (elevators) were installed in the late 1800s and early 1900s and, today, sixteen of them are still in existence and are now declared historical monuments. Of the sixteen, seven are currently in operation including the “Ascensor Cordillera” .

Day 16: Cartagena

My Airbnb was running out and I didn’t feel like extending so I found a small town on the coast, Cartagena. I had picked up the bike the day before, got it through customs and paid exorbitant amounts of money and rode it back to the flat through the twisty and undulating roads of valparaiso. Quite the experience!

First day of packing took a lot of time and I realize I brought too much stuff. Finally getting everything on the bike and cleaning the flat I’m on my way! Great feeling.!

The roads leading to Cartagena are in beautiful condition with flawless asphalt and road markings. Some parts are flowing twisty turns, a pure joy on the bike not having ridden for many months.

After an hour and a bit I reach the town and find my accommodation. Not the Ritz, but it’ll do.

The beach is bustling with people as is the beach promenade. Must be holiday times in Chile.

The climate is Mediterranean or better so no wonder people are flocking to the beach!

I’m getting worried that my health isn’t improving much so I ask the server at the restaurant if there is a clinic nearby and she shows me how to get to the local one. After registering and waiting it’s my turn and I show the positive covid test from a week ago. The nurse quickly does a new test and it comes back negative! Phew, what a relief! The doctor listens to my chest and declares my lungs limpio (clear). He says I have pharyngitis and prescribes some medication. The nurse gives me a shot in the bum and I’m free to go. I ask where I should pay but am told no cost! Amazing. Same for the medicine.

Cartagena is a beach town that’s seen better days. Many of the buildings along the strand promenade are delapidated with broken windows and doors and others are in sore need of a lick of paint.

Before lunch the place is completely dead, no people, no cars but most days drenched in fog. There are no restaurants open until 10am so impossible to find somewhere for breakfast. A lady told me that people don’t eat breakfast… Not sure what to make of that.

Day 20: Talca

After recovering for 4 days in Cartagena I felt strong enough and ready to hop on the bike and go towards the south. I started easy, doing 300km and ended up in a place called Talca which is located in the central valley. The temperature here is 10 degrees warmer than along the coast, the summers are very dry, but there is good irrigation in the spring and with fertile soil the region is home to Chilean wine growing.

The route getting here took me through some villages and on several locations, at traffic stops, there were firemen collecting money from passing cars. Weird. Are the fire fighting squads underfunded so they have to beg for money?

I then got onto ruta 5, the Panamerican highway, that runs north-south through the country with a lot of traffic. I stopped at a petrol station and talked to another biker and she said that in the summer the vacation periods change on the 15th of the month with one lot going back to work and another one starting their two week vacation. So I just happened to hit the road at the changeover.

Talca, founded in the 17th century, looks like a prosperous town. As I walk around the town I can’t but wonder why there are so many pharmacies? It was the same in Cartagena, are Chilean people not so healthy, or what’s going on?

Pharmacies and churches

Smiling lady served me coffee.

Go to day 22 of my trip.

South America 24: Day 29