Published: March 11th 2008March 11th 2008
Neat and tidy
All present and accounted for...
After a lively welcome dinner (muchos Pisco Sour, Vino Tinto & Cervaza) We finally got our bikes cleared Thursday afternoon and followed the truck with the container to a dusty yard where they were unloaded and we spent a couple of hours assembling them. We left there about 4pm for the 20 min trip back to Vina del Mar to collect the rest of our gear from the hotel. Unfornately due to unforseen teething problems (got lost & and a person who shall not be named ran out of petrol with no emergency condom for fuel transfer.....fortunately saved by another team member who refused to use his condom but had a plastic bag which did the trick) so it took us around an hour.After sorting our gear at the hotel we left around 6pm for the 400km trip North. Passing through beach suburbs between del Mar and Con Con we saw similar stuff to NZ, apartments, restaurants but all with a very South American Flavour. We saw guys out surfing and people swimming. After an uneventful trip (passing hundreds of huge trucks) mainly on Tollways, with a brief stop at a gas station for food and fuel we arrived
Tom resting after baptisim !!
at the small fishing village of Tongoy.We checked into our 1950s style hotel overlooking the bay where there were dozens of small fishing boats at anchor. A quick Cervaza and then to bed for a well earned rest.
We awoke the following day to breakfast on the deck overlooking the idyllic setting, managing to negotiate the language enough to get hot coffee and a nice breakfast. A quick tour of the village before leaving took us along the beach which forms part of a road complete with parking spaces outside the beachside restaurants, and a tour through an open air market seemingly selling everything imaginable from food to clothes, fishing gear & hardware & much much more.
We then journeyed further north to Coquimbo where we visited a huge 93m high cross built on a prominent hill. This cross is gigantic and we went up inside it by lift to see the plaza that was created with 10 large tile squares to represent the 10 commandments. The next level allowed us to view bronze busts of Chilean Cardinals and also the last and current Popes. Meanwhile the view which was spectacular provided a great example of the living conditions
High in the Andes
Cool dip anyone ?
of the locals (not good) who apparantely paid for the whole construction with the exception of a gift of a cross for the alter from the Catholic church. In the church itself the floor around the alter was made from Lapis Lazali which apparantely this area is famous for (Whilst the locals who footed the bill eat in dirt floored kitchen). Ain´t religion great! There was also a museum paying homage to the church for allowing the locals to destitute themselves to construct this huge monument! (my interpretation.)
After this by mistake we split into 2 or sometimes 3 main groups as we made our way NE towards Ovalle and then Andacolla for lunch. Where ever we go in the smaller towns we end up being a passing attraction from many interested spectators.
After some basic spanish we managed to understand enough of the instructions form a friendly local and found our way to the lunch stop in the small village of Andacolla. Then onwards and upwards to around 2000m over a mainly rocky dirt track for around 100km, passing huge cactus many of which were in flower. Great fun if you weren't on a big BMW - they
A Tired 1200GS
Klause resting his moto
found the soft sand patches tough going with around 7 low speed tumbles. Eventually we arrived at our lodge in the Andean foothills at Hotel Distante and it was....but a beautiful lodge, in an unbelievably scenic location. Unfortunately our chase truck had bounced off huge boulder, punctured 2 tyres and broke the rear spring centre bolt. It was Lance´s (the driver) shout that night. We had a great meal at the lodge with some great local wines.
The following day (#3) we left Hotel Distante and rode past kms of vineyards, many growing on very steep rocky slopes which didn´t look as though it could support any sort of vegetation. We started climbing into the Andes towards Paseo de Agua Negra (Black Water Pass) At around 80kms from Vicuna we had to go through Chilean border control Police & Customs .... very important that all your documentation is correct for yourself and Moto otherwise you could be stuck there chatting to the guards/officers one of whom had an AK47 slung over his shoulder! However Klaus our German ambassador proved that its not what you know but who you know as he left most of his docs in the truck
which was still being repaired in Vicuna. A Customs officer spoke German so Klaus with no paperwork other than his Passport was through. Later he won the stunt of the day by "spinning out" in soft sand. Given he is riding a 300kg with luggage BMW GS1200 this is no mean feat. Just unfortunate he ended up in a horizontal position!! We climbed steadily for around 40kms on a windy gravel road with drop offs that made you weak at the knees, passing bright red, purple and pink Mountains (leeching minerals?) and 2 Glaciers. Eventually feeling light headed and weak in the legs we reached Paseo de Agua Negra at a height of 4780m (around 14000ft) Getting on and off your bike at this altitude is a major effort as is walking down the road and back to get a good camera shot - you feel like you have just done a 10km run! Spectacular scenery as we descended in what was now Argentinian territory, again windy gravel roads with huge drop offs...maybe 1000m plus in some places. On the way up and down we passed small shepherds & goatherds "crofts" built of rocks and sticks gathered formn the surrounding
Mix altitude and alcohol and any thing can happen!!
are these people are living in some of the most inhospitable territory imaginable. Eventually arriving at the first Argentinian official outpost where a friendly policeman inspected our passports and waved us through. A further 30km on we encountered the formal entry into Argentina where they made us complete forms, stamped our passport & then came out to look at the bikes and posed for our photos. On the road to our destination of Chilecito Graeme (String) won the dipstick of the day award for not tighteneing his battery terminal sufficiently during bike assembly. We solved the problem on the side of the road fortunately outside a local bar! Chilecito is another small town with varying living standards, run down hovels to some quite smart houses. Checking into our hotel early at around 4pm allowed us time to do some basic bike maintenance and watch the local teenagers racing around the streets on motor scooters until one unfortunate T boned a car at the intersection outside our hotel...much excitment with spectators police attending but no major injury. Later we found a Wine Bar/Restaurant which was really nice with most hospitable husband and wife owners. They decided their English was not good
Highway in Argentina
Lance and Zane negociating another river
enough so they phoned a friend who arrived to translate (his Grandparents were Irish) and as luck would have he owned a vineyard so supplied a couple of bottles of his wine gratis. This is typical of what have found so far in both Chile and now Argentinia... the people go out of their way to help, translate or whatever. The meal at the restaurant was great, the wines local Malbec, Cab Sav & whites were first class, the Cerveza flowed freely and at the end the bill came to ARG40 Peso or about $NZ18 each including a decent tip!!! (Meanwhile outside there was huge storm starting..thunder, lightening and heavy rain could have an effect on the next days ride which involves some river crossings.)
Day #4 everyone up bright an early to experience 2 minor earthquakes during breakfast, continual rain and the news that the local police have advised that the rivers are too high for us to cross. Minor route change and we head out in continual rain and dropping temperatures to eventually start down a 80km gravel road to our destination at Andagala (According to our host of the previous night pronounced Anda th th th
Where are my bag pipes?
th th la .....refer The Translator Catherine Tate show)
After one of the best off road rides I have ever experienced (albeit on an officially designated road) where we were covering high speed sections, slower bits, dry river bed crossings and some torrents we arrived at Andagala to check into our exceptionally nice historic hotel for a gear & bike hose down and some more Cervezas. Our casualty list today was myself ... minor slip off when doing a hollywood slide and Tom, Alan and Alec who all decided in the most tricky river crossing to take a bath. No damage, no injuries but many laughs lots of bullshit in the bar and anticipation of a completely different route than planned tomorrow as we cannot cross some of the rivers due to the heavy rain.
Hasta Manyana. Mooy Bueno!!
There are more photos below