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South America » Argentina » Neuquén » Zapala
November 8th 2009
Published: November 8th 2009EDIT THIS ENTRY

Ankara in reconstructionAnkara in reconstructionAnkara in reconstruction

The Ankara was still in reconstruction from our last visit in March/April
Here we are all safe and sound in las Grutas, on the Atlantic South American coast. Much has happened and below is a Blog from Gerardo, that should have gone in ages ago, but I failed to be able to connect to the internet at the time, so sorry it is a bit late. I am having a bit of trouble to down load photos on this connection, so will try and add them later.
Also is a Blog from Bones and also Mike, so make a cup of coffee and enjoy...Cheers, Rosco

Hola, en el inicio de una nueva aventura y ahora hacia mi casa.mi región, previa infiltración en mi hombro realizada por segunda vez. previo al inicio de un nuevo viaje por el facultativo y amigo Sergio Maclean. El viaje en avión como siempre aburrido, pero tuve que esperar a mi socio y amigo mas de la cuenta un atraso de 4 horas, pero todo bien, ya me habían entregado la camioneta en arriendo una Nissan 2009 y partimos hacia Viña del Mar, al Hotel Ankara, hotel con muy buen servicio de parte de la gente que trab aja aquí, pero increíble cuando estuvimos en marzo previo al
All hands on deckAll hands on deckAll hands on deck

Everyone helps to get the motos ready
viaje que llamamos High Andes estaban reconstruyendo el restaurante y recepción y hoy están en lo mismo y nos e ve cuando terminaran, dicen que antes de fin de año, no lo creo es una lastima porque realmente uno se queda por lo que era el Hotel y por su personal, pero deja mucho que desear.

Hoy Domingo visitamos Enzo & Martina, nuestros agentes de aduana, excelentes personas, y conversar como enfrentaremos la huelga que mis pares harán el Martes y Miércoles, ya que el Martes pensábamos sacar las motos, espero que no nos provoque mayores problemas, si no deberemos cambiar itinerarios, pero lo que pude ocasionarnos son atrasos en frontera. Concluimos que mañana Lunes 02 desaduanaremos y desconsolidaremos el contenedor y una vez llegados el resto de los miembros de esta aventura que lo harán aproximadamente a las 16 horas, terminaremos los documentos para presentarlos a primera hora el Martes y poder sacar las motos, para iniciar el viaje ya el Miércoles 4 de acuerdo a lo programado.
Gerardo

Blog from Bones
Writing this in Zapala, Argentina on 5 November. It seems like a month since we left New Zealand, not six days ago…….
Rosco and
Great day for itGreat day for itGreat day for it

Assembling the motos at the inland port.
I flew out of Auckland on Saturday 31 October, four hours later than scheduled - one can get sick of airports very quickly! However, eventually we were airborne (not upgraded as Rosco had fantasised), but as comfortable as one can be in economy, on a full plane. So, instead of arriving in Santiago at noon, it was late afternoon, with Gerardo waiting patiently with the chase truck, since 11.00am, to transport us to Vina del Mar and the Ankara Hotel.
Sunday was spent gearing up to take delivery of the motos from Customs, with the accompanying pile of paperwork sorted with Martina and Enzo. When the team of adventurers flew in on Monday, it was all go! Rosco & Gerardo met Barry Cox, Ian, Richard, David Vinsen (all RRR virgins) and their brother Mike, who along with Zane Lee, Keith Larkin (all from New Zealand) and Tom Nemeth from Luxembourg, survivors on the 2008 High Andes Adventure wanting more adventure in South America!
Motos were devanned and assembled ready for the 36 day tour, on Tuesday morning - while overcoming a general strike by Government Employees, including Aduana (Customs) on a brilliant sunny day - ridden back to Vina and
Welcom DinnerWelcom DinnerWelcom Dinner

Enzo and Martina join us for our welcome Dinner.
loaded up for our departure on Wednesday. The first Rosco’s Rocky Road dinner was enjoyed by all - although the planned early night did not eventuate! (Too many Piscos for some! No names!)
Nevertheless, we were ready to roll at 8.30am - a long day on Ruta 5 (Pan Americano Highway) to clear the boring kms from under the wheels - 728km all up, heading south. Quite scary seeing bicyclists and pedestrians/whole families crossing the highway, or even coming towards you on the shoulder! Speed limit 120kph and lots of huge buses and trucks! Even fruit stalls along the way to tempt you to stop and purchase - just imagine all that on the Auckland motorway!
We passed by Rancagua, San Fernando, Curico, Talca and Linares, stopping at intervals - to refuel ourselves and the motos - before regrouping at Salto del Laja to view the horseshoe falls there. Spent some time chatting with Ian and Vanessa from England who have been touring South America for a couple of months already!
We all arrived within minutes of each other at our first stopover - Victoria, south of Los Angeles (no, not that one!). Another RRRA dinner at a local restaurant
Ready to go!Ready to go!Ready to go!

Outside the Ankara, Ready for our next adventure...
where the first recipient of the daily tour medal was Mike Vinsen, for running out of fuel! How many Copec service stations did you pass by, Mike??? There were several versions of the story, depending on which Vinsen bro was relating the tale, and we look forward to documenting other feats of adventuring over the next five weeks! It must be noted that Mike was still wearing the medal this morning at breakfast (rumour has it that he slept with it - I don’t think it’s real gold, Mike). Maybe he’s going to try and earn the medal every day of the tour??

Today was spectacular! We left Victoria at 8.30am, heading east through California (no, not that one!) and Curacautin, through Reserva Nacional Malalcqhuello, gaining altitude and seeing more than a light dusting of snow on the nearby mountains, stopping at the Tunel Las Raices to wait our turn to travel through the 4.6km tunnel, built in the 1930’s as a railway tunnel by Chile, to connect the Atlantic to the Pacific, but the railway was never completed (by Argentina). This is the longest tunnel in South America, and a real experience, even though the tunnel is now
Mike VMike VMike V

Ready to ride
lit and sealed - one way traffic only. The temperature continued to drop, and dare I say it, Rosco and I were quite smug (and snug!) that we were in the truck!
We followed our day sheet instructions and turned off into a wonderful side road (Reserva Nacional Lago Gualletue) with all the stuff we are here for! Picture book scenes with fresh snow overnight turning the 1000 year old Araucaria trees (a relative of our NZ Kauri giants) into huge Christmas trees, and throwing the huge fallen black trunks of trees into stark relief with powder white snow - all quite surreal, I thought. Lots of photos taken through this area today, no doubt!
This wonderful ride brought us out at our first border crossing at Paso Icalma (1298m), which all takes time - firstly through Immigration, and then Customs where the motos must be exported out of Chile, and then imported into Argentina some 10km. down the road. All in freezing temperatures……….brrrr! But I think we were very lucky with our traverse today - heavy rain was forecast on the Chilean side of the pass for this afternoon, and we could see thick grey snow/rain? Clouds billowing over
David VDavid VDavid V

Ready to ride
the mountain tops as we travelled, and the wind was almost tugging the short grey tussock grass out of the ground as we passed by. Very few signs of habitation seen, and no people at all.

Imagine, within 40km of leaving this area and heading back to lower ground, we could see our destination in the distance - I thought I was seeing a mirage - a multi storied building rising out of the nothingness - which turned into a fair sized town! And the hotel! We’re staying at a casino tonight, must be the flashest place in town! Everyone’s doing their own thing tonight, so I had better go and do mine!

So, the adventure has well and truly begun! Hasta Luego, Bones.

Here is a Blog from Mike V
Ola,
Tuesday 3rd November:
The trip is underway!! After a very efficient clearance of the bikes through Chilean Customs and assembly within 2 hours we were underway. 2 flat batteries which Gerardo sorted by locating some new ones, (throw money at the problem) hardly slowed us down. We were back to the Hotel Ankara at Vina del Mar for last minute packing, a welcome dinner
Salto Del Laja Water FallSalto Del Laja Water FallSalto Del Laja Water Fall

Waterfall on our way in Chile
- much vino tinto and pisco sours consumed, then to bed in preparation for a big day tomorrow.

Wednesday 4th November:
Left Vina del Mar around 8.30am after 2 riders got separated leaving town the trip progressed to a big day of Expressways, tolls, straight slightly boring roads covering a total of 740kms to reach Victoria south of Los Angeles. A reasonably straightforward days riding with the only major interest - Mike V running out of Gas borrowing some from Richard who then also ran out!! After a little Kiwi ingenuity and a trip up and down the Expressway for a few kms to the nearest gas station we were back on the road. (Later this became the reason for the first awarding of the "merit" award for the day's highlight - proudly accepted by Mike V.

David was able to test the effectiveness of a tubless tyre repair kit when he pulled into a gas station and promptly got a puncture from a large nail. 30 minutes later he was back on the road and caught up to the group who had stopped at Saltos del Larja (spectacular waterfalls) just off the main road.

Tomorrow we
More TravellersMore TravellersMore Travellers

Ian and Vanessa from England
are into the real adventure crossing into Argentina via some windy gravel roads, with spectacular views. .......... More Later

Here is another blog from Bones..
Despite the traffic noise in Zapala, we slept very well. Tom was awarded the daily ‘medal’ for a sheep ‘incident’ at the day’s debriefing, knocking out (pardon the pun) all other contendors! Most of the team cruised the town on foot, eating at one of the local cafes, or patronising the casino where we were staying. A pretty flash hotel, as I mentioned earlier, but lacking in hot water for some………………….

Day 5 - another cold start with the adventurers well insulated against the biting wind - Ian was being very staunch wearing his motocross gloves though! Heading South East, we spent much time on deep river stone gravel, not so deep gravel and a section with just sharp rocks and dust………………
We crossed a hydro dam at Barragem da Hidreletrica de Alicura where we were stopped by a lone Policia. Can you imagine have your ID checked every time you crossed a dam at home? At that stage, we only had Tom in our sights and had lost the others.
We suspected
Las Raices TunnelLas Raices TunnelLas Raices Tunnel

Waiting our turn to ride through the tunnel
that they were wanting to put more kms on the clock, and when we finally all regrouped at an intersection much later, we were still minus one -(Mike, who obviously had wanted to instigate a ‘most kms travelled for the day’ award, had gone as far as Bariloche!)

The chase truck earned some brownie points as most needed to refuel at Camallo, but there was no fuel to be had here so Kiwi ingenuity came into play. We carry spare fuel, and this was rationed between several of the bikes, using a drink container with the bottom cut out as a funnel. Transfer complete, everyone heading for the last leg. We caught up with Zane, who did run out of fuel (perhaps he was wanting to find out how many kms he could do on reserve?) As we were refuelling him, who should turn up, but Mike! As Rosco said, with great relief “all my sheep are back in the pen!”

Our hotel in Ingeniero Jacobacci was very comfortable (and frilly!) and we all settled in quickly. The debriefing ran into the dinner, which just kept coming until we could eat no more, and most of us then
Las Raices TunnelLas Raices TunnelLas Raices Tunnel

All ready to ride the tunnel
just retired disgracefully to our rooms…………….David was awarded the daily medal for being the only one GPS assisted and still leading everyone astray for an extra 60 kms!

Slightly warmer this morning for the trek due East to the Atlantic coast and Las Grutus.
“Stay on Ruta 23 until Maquinchao, Los Menucos and Valcheta” sounds quite civilised doesn’t it? A wide gravel road, running parallel to a new road under construction, gave all the riders a long dusty ride for 155 kms. Refuelling at every opportunity, with at least 70kms. between gas stations. Snack stop at Valcheta saw local kids on bicycles arrive like bees around a honey pot, and all went away with Kiwirider stickers. Great PR!

More kms on a tarseal road that just kept reaching for the horizon and prompted much cloud gazing. Finally, over yet another hill, and there was the Atlantic Ocean! Nearly there! But wait, was that Tom taking another photo, or was he stopped for another reason? We turned back, and Disaster! Chain broken, Reg. Plate ripped in two, wiring to lights gone, and moto body looking like someone had taken to it with a sledgehammer -
I walked back down
Getting out some warmer gearGetting out some warmer gearGetting out some warmer gear

Ian sorting out warmer gear
the road and managed to find the other half of the Rego plate and a fuse block while Tom and Rosco decided the best course of action. Thank goodness we were so close to our destination - we left Tom looking after his moto and raced down to the hotel, unloaded all the spare tyres etc. Gerardo and Rosco went back to load the moto and find a repair shop - long story short, the truck has just arrived back, and I have it on good authority that the chain can be repaired, no problemo!
And so the adventure rolls on………………………….

Another Blog from Mike V
Hola,

Photo attached is Tom after he received his achievement medal for his efforts today -we turned onto our first gravel road - a small sheep ran out in front of him and he hit it - luckily he handled it well - didnt swerve or brake - the sheep seemed ok and promptly ran off not much the worse for wear. (Many resultant sheep jokes that could get lost in translation to Luxemburgish)

Today was a great days riding - 300kms (perfect distance) up and over the Andes to a
Welcome to ArgentinaWelcome to ArgentinaWelcome to Argentina

What we found on the other side
height of around 1800m maximum. Travelled through the longest road tunnel in South America, around 5kms - one way, controlled by traffic lights and a bargain for the 50c toll. We were surrounded by snow for much of the day, with snow actually on the road at the highest point. This made for an interesting day on some great gravel and hard packed sand roads. The scenery was spectacular with lakes, snow, mountains, monkey puzzle trees (which according to Barry our tree expert are a rarity to see) and a great contrast from yesterdays long straight freeways...

We had a Chilean border crossing to exit Chile and 12kms later an Argentinian border crossing to enter Argentina. Both relatively straightforward. Slight delay on the Argentinian side - as the Agentinian customs insisted on recording the serial numbers of Keiths and my cameras in case we failed to take them out of the country with us!!! They realised quickly there would be another 9 cameras to do and after Gerardo discussed the reality of the situation with them they decided just to deal with us and our Motos

Staightforward run into Zapala (losing altitude the whole way) After a few
Araucaria Trees and snowAraucaria Trees and snowAraucaria Trees and snow

A good slushy road
circuits of the town we found our Hotel which is part of a Casino - quite up market. Walked the town tonight with beanies, jackets etc (probably around 7 degrees) then found a traditional Argentinian Carne (meat) BBQ restaurant where we spent up large with Empanada entrees, BBQ meat and salad along with 4 bottles of red and a couple of glasses of white - $Arg60 - around $NZ20 each !!!!! Its a tough life but someone has to do it.

Today was the type of riding we came here for, winding gravel roads - challenging slushy snow in parts and wandering stock (ask Tom), interesting experiences with the 2 border crossings and a great taste of Argentinian dinning with the BBQ restaurant experience.

Thats it for now - more adventures tomorrow heading to Ingenerio Jacobacci south east of here on our route south.

Hasta pronto








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The highway into ArgentinaThe highway into Argentina
The highway into Argentina

This is what we came for
TomTom
Tom

Tom receiving the 'Merit Award' for the sheep incident !!


8th November 2009

Entiendo la mitad de lo cuentan cariños Rosi
15th November 2009

Well done Bones
I'm a bit late reading about your adventure and the updates, but I'd just like to sat that Bones has done a fantastic job writing about what you have all been up to. Well done Bone on tell us who are home about your travels. I look forward to reading the rest of the updates.

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