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Old 03-06-2013, 01:51 PM   #121
porkandcorn OP
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antofagasta, chile to san pedro de atacama, chile

tuesday, march 5, 2013

i was completely exhausted when i reached antofagasta. it was an uncanny mix of longshoremen, and miners from the surrounding mega-mines that dominate this area of chile. i hearty bunch of boys, not to be trifled with. toss in a casino culture, and you got a recipe for disaster.

i drove into antofagasta in the dark. i wish i drove out in the dark. the highway leading out of town was one of the most tortured, trash-strewn horror-shows i've ever seen. the mining culture has left this place bereft of concern for the environment. strip it down for all it's worth, and then throw it back in dirty piles. it was a stark contrast to the pristine andes, barely touched by humans.


vast nothingness, north of antofagasta, chile by porkandcorn, on Flickr

copper mining is enormous in this part of chile. the freeways are packed with company-issued, little, red pickup trucks with long CB antennas. they swarm the cities surrounding the mines. i was stuck behind a caravan of enormous dump truck beds that take up both lanes of traffic, passed flatbed semis with gigantic shovels for the gigantic machines that scoop up the copper-rich aggregate. there were trains 100 cars long entirely of sulfuric acid, used in processing the ores. the entire landscape for 100 miles north of antofagasta is decimated, destroyed, and left for dead. it was an odd journey out of town. the wind in the valley was intense, pushing me and the bike to extreme angles.


huge dumptruck bed, calama, chile by porkandcorn, on Flickr


huge shovel head, calama, chile by porkandcorn, on Flickr

there was a long steady climb to 10,000 feet at calama, chile just west of san pedre de atacama. it was barren, dry, the air full of dust for hundreds of miles. it's not for the faint of heart… one altitude related casualty - the pressure build up in my tent tube shot the rubber cap off the back of the tube… it's probably in orbit somewhere.


ruta 23, west of s.p. de atacama, chile by porkandcorn, on Flickr


popped the top, east of tuina, chile by porkandcorn, on Flickr

to the heart of the atacama...


valle de la luna, atacama, chile by porkandcorn, on Flickr


outro valle de la luna, atacama, chile by porkandcorn, on Flickr


tourist at valle de la luna, atacama, chile by porkandcorn, on Flickr


road into s.p. de atacama, chile by porkandcorn, on Flickr


valley east of s.p. de atacama, chile by porkandcorn, on Flickr

finally, i reached san pedro de atacama. the entire town smells like dust. if you set something down for 5 minutes, it's covered in it. therefore, i've set all my things out neatly so that they can all be covered in this beautiful dust.

this town is a nice surprise. when i rode in, i was thinking "oh great, another shithole where i'll pay too much for a bad room and bad food." the streets are narrow, all of them about 12 feet wide. all the buildings look like they are made out of mud. and actually, they are - with rocks. if you were to just drive through, your instinct might be to step on the gas.

but once you turn off the engine, and start walking around, this place is a treasure chest of oddities, beauty, sincerity, and excitement. it is the gateway to one of the strangest places on the planet, the atacama desert - which is, among other things, the driest place on the planet. (i'll work on getting some photos of the town soon...)


downtown san pedro de atacama, chile by porkandcorn, on Flickr


the main drag, san pedro de atacama, chile by porkandcorn, on Flickr

it's hot and it's cold. depends on your perspective. it's full of foreigners. i haven't seen so many people from so many different places yet on my adventure. just during dinner, i heard german, french, spanish, british english, russian, japanese, chinese, australian english, and many more i couldn't recognize. make no mistake, it's full of tourists - but in a way that's not offensive like so many places. everyone is swept up in the surreality of the place. everyone is a stranger, everyone is a local.

down every tiny street are doorways that lead into the depths of the maze. restaurants are 100 feet deep, bars even further. and the food is good. there are little stores tended by peruvians, bolivians, chileans. there are musicians roaming the streets, playing for change and deserving it.

i've not even been here 6 hours, and i'm already falling for the place. i'll be here for a few days. i bought some coca(ine) candy and coca(ine) tea for the elevation! can't do that in the states.

and beyond this city is a natural wonderland of epic proportions, which i begin to explore tomorrow. now, off to follow my ears to some music and laughter coming from somewhere nearby…

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Old 03-06-2013, 02:11 PM   #122
porkandcorn OP
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san pedro de atacama, day 1

wednesday, march 6, 2013

woke up at 9am. it's nice to be able to sleep in and not have to suit up for the next city. i've decided i'm going to stay here until saturday or sunday. talking to people, there is just too much to see to move along any sooner.

after an omelette at a little hole in the wall down the dirt street (they are all dirt streets), i suited up for a ride. i took the side cases off the bike, as i knew i was going off-road. the valle del arcoíris (rainbow valley) was the destination.

i back-tracked on the road that brought me into town yesterday. i had my eyes aggressively searching for the black, 5" rubber cap that rocketed off my homemade tent storage tube yesterday. a quick glance at the photo from yesterday near the s.p. de atacama / tuina sign confirmed it was still on at that point. so i drove almost to that sign today, about 40km further than the turn-off for valle del arcoíris. so i'm sentimental! it's part of my bike, part of me. i didn't find it.

it was about a 25km joyride on pavement to the turn-off for valle del arcoíris. as soon as i turned off the road, i was fighting my way up a thick riverbed, complete with large boulders, deep sand, river crossings up to my knees and a lot of swearing and sweating.


valle del arcoíris, mantacilla, chile by porkandcorn, on Flickr


valle del arcoíris 2, mantacilla, chile by porkandcorn, on Flickr

the fight was worth it, as arriving at valle del arcoíris was pretty amazing. i wish i could see that place at sunset or sunrise. like many places around atacama, there are thick salt crystal deposits everywhere. the mountains sparkle in the sun, reflected off millions of tiny reflectors.


salt crystal, valle del arcoíris, mantacilla, chile by porkandcorn, on Flickr


salt deposits 2, valle del arcoíris, mantacilla, chile by porkandcorn, on Flickr


salt deposits, valle del arcoíris, mantacilla, chile by porkandcorn, on Flickr


red towers, valle del arcoíris, mantacilla, chile by porkandcorn, on Flickr


red towers 2, valle del arcoíris, mantacilla, chile by porkandcorn, on Flickr


tourist and red towers, valle del arcoíris, mantacilla, chile by porkandcorn, on Flickr

you can see the green areas where the copper ore is oxidizing. the red areas are probably iron oxide. there was blue, yellow, and just about everything else. the white areas are crystals that are growing, because the ground is saturated with salt deposits.


close up salt deposits, valle del arcoíris, mantacilla, chile by porkandcorn, on Flickr


copper ore 3, valle del arcoíris, mantacilla, chile by porkandcorn, on Flickr


copper ore, valle del arcoíris, mantacilla, chile by porkandcorn, on Flickr


copper ore 2, valle del arcoíris, mantacilla, chile by porkandcorn, on Flickr

it was a challenging 4-hour journey, then back to the hostel to relax and maybe go for a run. tomorrow, i'm off to explore the volcanos to the east of town.

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Old 03-07-2013, 01:07 AM   #123
Jick Magger
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Just got caught up on this enjoyable ride report. I'm subscribed. Ride safe and keep the pics coming
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Old 03-07-2013, 02:43 PM   #124
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san pedro de atacama, chile - day 2

thursday, march 7, 2013

note: having some issues with flickr, but working on it. if there are photos missing, check back later. i'm fixing them as i see them and have a terse email into flickr about the problem.

it's another perfect, crisp, cloudless day in my little pueblo, san pedro de atacama. the best part of waking up, it coca in your cup… slight headache again this morning. i did attempt a run last night, and after about 1/4 mile i thought i was going to die. in portland, i regularly do 3-6 miles no problem on any random day of the year. my lungs were burning, and for the rest of the night, this morning even, i was still feeling it. some of it could be the pervasive dust, but most of it is the elevation.

for anyone following along, put this town and this general area on your to-do list. the town is great, the food here is great (after another night out and no less than a gourmet meal for 20.00 USD), and the people are super friendly. you could easily spend a week exploring the natural beauty that surrounds the area. accommodating include low-budget backpacker hostels for 10.00/night, luxury resorts for 250.00/night, and everything in between. this entire town is built for tourists, but in a very appropriate and non-offensive way.


rua licancabur 2, san pedro de atacama, chile by porkandcorn, on Flickr


very long market, san pedro de atacama, chile by porkandcorn, on Flickr


building at main plaza, san pedro de atacama, chile by porkandcorn, on Flickr


street at main plaza, san pedro de atacama, chile by porkandcorn, on Flickr


la plaza hostel & restaurant, san pedro de atacama, chile by porkandcorn, on Flickr


rua licancabur, san pedro de atacama, chile by porkandcorn, on Flickr


topacilla intersection, san pedro de atacama, chile by porkandcorn, on Flickr


deep restaurant, san pedro de atacama, chile by porkandcorn, on Flickr


another deep restaurant, san pedro de atacama, chile by porkandcorn, on Flickr

ventured off to the north this morning to get closer to the volcanos and mountains. opted for another terrible road. i'm chewing up my brand new tires pretty quickly on this stuff, but it's worth it. again, another day of almost no people, but lots of little lama-looking animals (i'll figured out what they are called eventually.)


laguna putana, north of san pedro de atacama, chile by porkandcorn, on Flickr


the climb to puritama, chile by porkandcorn, on Flickr


getting super high, near cerro sairecabur, chile by porkandcorn, on Flickr


high plateau, north of san pedro de atacama, chile by porkandcorn, on Flickr


volcan apagado, north of san pedro de atacama, chile by porkandcorn, on Flickr


volcan apagado in the rear view, north of san pedro de atacama, chile by porkandcorn, on Flickr


animales, north of san pedro de atacama, chile by porkandcorn, on Flickr


the road less traveled, north of san pedro de atacama, chile by porkandcorn, on Flickr
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Old 03-07-2013, 04:06 PM   #125
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are the skinnier ones and llamas the larger ones.

I used acetazolamide (I think the commercial name is Diamox or something similar) and it prevented the altitude headaches. Of course, you'll still be breathless puff puff puff

I'm home now and have to enjoy South America through ride reports just like the other inmates.

When Henry gets back, I'll start my ride report.

Have a great ride.
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Old 03-07-2013, 08:04 PM   #126
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san pedro de atacama, day 2.99999

thursday, march 7, 2013 - bedtime

this traveling alone stuff is complicated. every place that i visit, i have a deep desire to connect with the people around me. but for the most part, whether or not that happens is not up to me, the traveler. it is primarily up to those around me - and whether or not they feel the need to connect with another stranger who is more "a stranger" than they are.


Untitled by porkandcorn, on Flickr

it seems odd, but it's true. it's not always bad. sometimes, you have fantastic encounters with new people (like the riders from argentina, or the family than ran the beach bar in uruguay) that give you existential fuel for days or weeks. sometimes, a random stranger "throws you a bone", maybe sits down to have a beer with you, or just asks where you are from and where you are going. you really start to appreciate human contact for what it is - one person connecting with another person. it's a simple, but very important thing that i have taken for granted in my normal life back in the united states.

and other times, there is no contact - there is only yourself. you wander alone. you have only yourself to entertain, to blame for your loneliness, to thank for your courage, to admire, to speak to (in your head)…

it's an odd back and forth between being comfortable with your independence, and being tortured by it. here in san pedro, 99% of the people i see are traveling in pairs, in groups, with friends, with lovers, with family. and they do this for a reason - traveling solo is very, very difficult at times. it pushes you to the edges of your comfort zone, to a place where many of us prefer never to venture. i've been in that place for 2 months now.

i only mention this now because i was thinking about it during dinner - not because i'm sad, or feeling lonely. its just a very different existence - that's all. when i'm overwhelmed, i take a deep breath, and think about how fortunate i am to be able to do what i'm doing. i chose to travel this path alone. and i always come back to this place, willfully.

this is how i feel right now. maybe tomorrow, i'll feel different, better, worse - it really doesn't matter. i know that in some way, even if it is incalculable now, this experience is enriching me in ways that i'll only understand much later, after it's all done. i'm in the trenches now. the beautiful, exotic trenches of a foreign land on a real-deal adventure. adventuring for the sake of adventuring…

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Old 03-08-2013, 08:10 AM   #127
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Just got caught up on this enjoyable ride report. I'm subscribed. Ride safe and keep the pics coming
I'm subscribed also...incredible journey..keep it coming..and be careful out there
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Old 03-09-2013, 07:50 PM   #128
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san pedro de atacama, day 3

the scenery yesterday was incredible! look at these photos!


Untitled by porkandcorn, on Flickr


Untitled by porkandcorn, on Flickr


Untitled by porkandcorn, on Flickr

actually, this was the diarama i found at the national park entrance to laguna miscanti. here are the actual photos.


Untitled by porkandcorn, on Flickr


Untitled by porkandcorn, on Flickr


Untitled by porkandcorn, on Flickr


Untitled by porkandcorn, on Flickr


Untitled by porkandcorn, on Flickr


Untitled by porkandcorn, on Flickr


Untitled by porkandcorn, on Flickr


Untitled by porkandcorn, on Flickr

today, i left san pedro de atacama, chile for paso de jama, which took me over the andes. i'm now in purmamarca, argentina. in the morning, i will make my way to the bolivian border to the north.

i'm not incredibly motivated to post entries right now because the wifi connection is complete shit and it is taking forever to do anything. will post the photos from the jump over the pass when the connection is better. right now, i need to plan my general route through bolivia to santa cruz de la sierra.

also, i ate a llama steak tonight - i tastes just like a cow.
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Old 03-09-2013, 08:45 PM   #129
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san pedro de atacama, chile to purmamarca, argentina

saturday, march 9, 2013

as i usually am when i stay in a place for more than a couple of days, i was ready to leave san pedro for the next phase. it's part of the unspoken and unwritten schedule that i am trying to keep. in general, i know when i have to go. four months is a short time to explore eight countries - you can really only scratch the surface.

i was expecting a terrible road up over paso de jama, but it was in fact nearly perfect asphalt the entire way. i think i've become desensitized to all this natural beauty. even though i was passing majestic volcanoes, lagoons full of flamingoes, and eerie salt flats, i felt less of a desire to stop and take photos. i only did so out of a self-assumed responsibility to you - the blog reader.


llamas, climb to paso de jama, chile by porkandcorn, on Flickr


king of llamas, climb to paso de jama, chile by porkandcorn, on Flickr

i spent the additional time more deeply in thought. at the suggestion of my friend preston, i purchased the audiobook version of john steinbeck's "travels with charley". effectively, steinbeck admits to having the incurable affliction of wanderlust, and sets out to explore the united states he had forgotten. he travels with a poodle named charley.

hearing his first chapter description of this insatiable condition, i felt deeply moved, as i haven't been able to put it into words quite that well yet. and i agree, it is incurable. the piper must be paid.

so much time to think. hours and hours and hours on the road. today, i listened to no music. after a couple hours of steinbeck, i just zoned out as the kilometers zipped by. it is like a waking dream - all the thoughts that one would normally process in the subconscious are turned inside-out and brought to conscious thought. this must be why i'm no longer dreaming - there is no need for it.


paso de jama, chile by porkandcorn, on Flickr


volcanos lincancabur and juriques, pasa de jama, chile by porkandcorn, on Flickr


getting really high, paso de jama, chile by porkandcorn, on Flickr


Untitled by porkandcorn, on Flickr

i noticed my breathing was very deep, that my body was very relaxed, and i was very conscious of these facts without any effort. it's due in part to the requirements of riding the bike on unfamiliar roads. your forced into a laser focus to maintain your safety. another part is the passing, epic scenery - the big skies, the mountains, the vast salt plains. and yet another part is the lack of normal life, of work, of typical modern stresses.


salar de aguas calientes, chile by porkandcorn, on Flickr


salar de quisquiro, chile by porkandcorn, on Flickr

i don't think one needs to go to the extremes that i have to achieve this state. you could do it at home, you could do it on a drive around town. you just have to make the time to get outside of your head for a moment, and forget the past and the future if only for a short time.


praying he can ride with me, san pedro de atamaca, chile by porkandcorn, on Flickr

i was pleasantly surprised by two very cool twisty passes on the argentina side today. the first was good. the second was amazing. up one, down the other.


route 52 pass again, east of susques, argentina by porkandcorn, on Flickr


route 52 pass, east of susques, argentina by porkandcorn, on Flickr

the cuesta de lipán was mind-blowing. i was descending for a least 40 minutes - back and forth and back and forth and back... it drops about 6000 feet over approximately 10 miles of spaghetti. at the bottom, the canyon opens up to a myriad of colors.


gps zigzags, cuesta de lipan, west of purmamarca, argentina by porkandcorn, on Flickr


cuesta de lipan 2, west of purmamarca, argentina by porkandcorn, on Flickr


cuesta de lipan, west of purmamarca, argentina by porkandcorn, on Flickr

i was expecting to stay in san salvador de jujuy, argentina, but i couldn't resist the charm of this little town that i ended up in - purmamarca.


church at bottom of cuesta de lipan, west of purmamarca, argentina by porkandcorn, on Flickr


purmamarca, argentina by porkandcorn, on Flickr


purmamarca, argentina 3 by porkandcorn, on Flickr


plaza at purmamarca, argentina by porkandcorn, on Flickr

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Old 03-10-2013, 12:07 PM   #130
GastonUSAChile
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thursday, march 7, 2013 - bedtime

this traveling alone stuff is complicated. every place that i visit, i have a deep desire to connect with the people around me. but for the most part, whether or not that happens is not up to me, the traveler. it is primarily up to those around me - and whether or not they feel the need to connect with another stranger who is more "a stranger" than they are.


it seems odd, but it's true. it's not always bad. sometimes, you have fantastic encounters with new people (like the riders from argentina, or the family than ran the beach bar in uruguay) that give you existential fuel for days or weeks. sometimes, a random stranger "throws you a bone", maybe sits down to have a beer with you, or just asks where you are from and where you are going. you really start to appreciate human contact for what it is - one person connecting with another person. it's a simple, but very important thing that i have taken for granted in my normal life back in the united states.

and other times, there is no contact - there is only yourself. you wander alone. you have only yourself to entertain, to blame for your loneliness, to thank for your courage, to admire, to speak to (in your head)…

it's an odd back and forth between being comfortable with your independence, and being tortured by it. here in san pedro, 99% of the people i see are traveling in pairs, in groups, with friends, with lovers, with family. and they do this for a reason - traveling solo is very, very difficult at times. it pushes you to the edges of your comfort zone, to a place where many of us prefer never to venture. i've been in that place for 2 months now.

i only mention this now because i was thinking about it during dinner - not because i'm sad, or feeling lonely. its just a very different existence - that's all. when i'm overwhelmed, i take a deep breath, and think about how fortunate i am to be able to do what i'm doing. i chose to travel this path alone. and i always come back to this place, willfully.

this is how i feel right now. maybe tomorrow, i'll feel different, better, worse - it really doesn't matter. i know that in some way, even if it is incalculable now, this experience is enriching me in ways that i'll only understand much later, after it's all done. i'm in the trenches now. the beautiful, exotic trenches of a foreign land on a real-deal adventure. adventuring for the sake of adventuring…
Interesting. The feeling I think is pretty much the same everywhere you go, doesn't matter if it happens in the U.S. , Chile or other countries. It is you and the others.
Part I think must be because of the language barrier and the other what others are open to engage in a conversation. Riders on a trip, move to fast from place to place, always giving them only 48 hours in between to stop and settle foe a while. We are strangers on a bike, souls on the run and others have this perception of us.
Chileans among other societies and not really open to strangers, not because of fear. They are like that because of their education, I think it has to be for respect to each other, people just don't talk with strangers on the streets. European way of being I think.
Tropical societies are far more open with others. Just watch them on a party and how loud the music it is, you know immediately. Just go to Boston and then Miami, you know it!
It is true that in these days, lack of human interaction is becoming more and more the norm. People are in their phones, facebook, ear plugs, and secluded on their computers. Too busy with themselves.
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Old 03-10-2013, 09:10 PM   #131
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purmamarca, argentina to tarija, bolivia

sunday, march 10, 2013

chile on friday. argentina on saturday. today, bolivia. always happy to be back on the road. and bolivia's first day did not disappoint. i wandered into another marathon off-road session of hair-raising mountain roads.

i was a bit nervous about the villazon border crossing. i'd heard mixed reviews from other travelers. but actually, it was very calm, organized and more or less efficient. i actually had my argentine moto import documents this time… so getting the ok to leave argentina was a 5-minute process. the bolivian customs officials were in love with my moto, and wanted to talk a lot about it. that's the only thing that slowed down the import/immigration process. i was through the border in an hour, and into bolivia.


the border, villazon, bolivia by porkandcorn, on Flickr


muchos documentos, villazon, bolivia by porkandcorn, on Flickr

right away, it's apparent that bolivia is not swimming in money. the border town was a stark contrast, even to the cash-strapped north of argentina. the roads in the town were in complete disarray. piles of dirt and mud on the south bound lane crunched traffic to one lane, and even then you are driving over trash, and through deep mud puddles. i got completely covered in red-brown sludge up to my knees within the first 5 minutes of being in bolivia.

but i was very excited to be there. i'd been traipsing all over chile, argentina, uruguay and brazil for 2 months. i was ready for something new. and i got it.


north of villazon, bolivia by porkandcorn, on Flickr

after about 20km of pavement, the road east that led to tarija, bolivia was a disaster. you've heard the description previously - of dirt, big rocks, sand. this one was worse. and i learned a lesson about googling my route the night before. the lesson is: do it. the paper map showed a relatively straight, meandering road through what i thought were gentle foothills. very wrong.


google ruta 20, bolivia by porkandcorn, on Flickr


mas curvas, ruta 20, bolivia by porkandcorn, on Flickr


ruta 20, bolivia by porkandcorn, on Flickr


muchas montañas, ruta 20, bolivia by porkandcorn, on Flickr

bolivia lived up to it's reputation for carved-out, mountain-side roads that put the fear of jebus in your if you look over the edge. one mistake, one lapse of concentration, and no more fritz.


long way down, ruta 20, bolivia by porkandcorn, on Flickr


it's just as steep going down, ruta 20, bolivia by porkandcorn, on Flickr


another bus, ruta 20, bolivia by porkandcorn, on Flickr

the photos really don't put the depth into perspective. it's far, far down. if you look very close at the photos, or click on them to pull up the larger originals, you can see the little tiny roads above and below the spots the photos were taken. it's amazing to think that these roads twist all over this country, through all the mountains… and they have a lot of mountains here. seems like that's about it, until you get to the amazon basin.

i never think i am going to make it to my goal/destination, but so far i seem to be good or lucky. route 20 was about 3 hours ride. very exhausting, both mentally and physically. but absolutely beautiful.


muchas mas curvas, ruta 20, bolivia by porkandcorn, on Flickr


river at halfway point, ruta 20, bolivia by porkandcorn, on Flickr


mountains and river, ruta 20, bolivia by porkandcorn, on Flickr


tiger in the wild, ruta 20, bolivia by porkandcorn, on Flickr


ominous clouds at the river, ruta 20, bolivia by porkandcorn, on Flickr

i also dropped the bike again - trying to get another photo, which follows the tip-over shot... unbelievable. very stupid. and very heavy to lift by myself. i had to take off the duffle bag, the rear case, and even then had to summon the superman in me. (hence, i had time to take a quick photo to remind myself to be more careful next time.) as you can see, i did use the kickstand.


another photo related spill, ruta 20, bolivia by porkandcorn, on Flickr


climbing up again, ruta 20, bolivia by porkandcorn, on Flickr

route 1 was turning out to be a bit easier, until a thunderstorm formed above me on the way down into tarija. there is a gap in photos from this time. that is because i was getting hammered with rain and lightning. at one point, lightning struck so close to me, and scared me so much, that i almost ran into the rising wall on the right of the road thinking that i was swerving to avoid the strike. the air was thick with ozone from the bolt. adrenaline was coursing through my body. i might be an idiot, but i was enjoying the terror. i was sticking to the wall, as visibility was not amazing, and the run-off from the rain was causing wash-outs in the road on the "cliff" side. you'd stick close to the wall too…


another set of mountains to climb, ruta 1, bolivia by porkandcorn, on Flickr


clouds over tarija, ruta 20, bolivia by porkandcorn, on Flickr

i rolled into tarija just as it got dark. i had researched places to stay with a trip advisor app on my iphone, but the idiots that designed the app don't allow you to cache data so that you can pull up the info when you are not on wifi. so again, i looked for the central square, or in this case, squares. i picked one. turned out to be good. i saw motorcycle parking right next to a restaurant with outdoor seating. i hadn't eaten since breakfast, because i forgot to pack some snacks for the road. not a lot of food options in bolivia on the road like there are in chile, argentina. another lesson learned: pack snacks. always.

so i held off on looking for a hotel, and snuggled up to a filet mignon with rich, mushroom cream sauce and papas fritas. also the requisite glass of regional wine, which tarija specializes in. the waiter said the best hotel in town was across the street. i got a bit lucky with my landing in this town.


i wish everything was this clean, tarija, bolivia by porkandcorn, on Flickr

porkandcorn screwed with this post 04-20-2013 at 10:18 PM
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Old 03-12-2013, 02:30 PM   #132
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tarija, bolivia to villamontes, bolivia to santa, cruz bolivia

tarija, bolivia to villamontes, bolivia

monday, march 11, 2013

thanks everyone for you birthday wishes. feliz cumpleaños para mi!


tarija to villamontes by porkandcorn, on Flickr

i left the hotel fairly early, wondering how many hours the mountain crossing would take. the hotel staff was ecstatic about my stay, and the postcards that i gave each of them. we took photos with about 9 different cameras, among them my own. they were extremely nice people and i was happy to put a smile on their faces with my unlikely stay.


staff from hotel victoria, tarija, bolivia by porkandcorn, on Flickr

today was another hard-fought 250km-day. however, the roads were in better condition than the previous day. there were even a few brief sections of random, perfect pavement, which made absolutely no sense in the context of the mountain roads. i definitely wore down the sides of my tires - probably a thousand hairpin turns were navigated, and a thousand cows, pigs, horses, dogs and chickens were avoided. the roads were fun, and the scenery today looked and smelled more like jungle than previous days.


no more pavement, north of tarija, bolivia by porkandcorn, on Flickr


river view, cañon de pilcomaya, route 11, bolivia by porkandcorn, on Flickr

after a while, my neck, back and shoulders were burning from the endless curves. it was a fairly uneventful day, and i managed to take a few photos without the bike falling over. i was sideswiped by a semi - he grazed my road cases, even after i courteously moved out of his path. they will run you over and not think twice about it if you don't get out of the way. i showed him what an extended middle finger looks like, and he deserved to know.


vista, route 11, boliva by porkandcorn, on Flickr


typical view, route 11, bolivia by porkandcorn, on Flickr

entre rios, bolivia was my halfway point. had a very tasty steak, with a fried egg on top as is customary here and in other south american countries. i also put some coolant in the bike - the level was getting low. the people in this town where very, very friendly and accommodating. yes, very exciting. hey, i can't cross the andes every day!


restaurante, entre rios, bolivia by porkandcorn, on Flickr


restaurante san martin, entre rios, bolivia by porkandcorn, on Flickr

there was an interesting canyon just before i arrived at my target for the day. some sections were so narrow that i required men at posts along the road to control opposing traffic by CB radio. apparently, motos don't count, because both i and a car were surprised to encounter each other around one of the curves.


rocks, cañon de pilcomaya, route 11, bolivia by porkandcorn, on Flickr


wall of rock, cañon de pilcomaya, route 11, bolivia by porkandcorn, on Flickr


overhang, cañon de pilcomaya, route 11, bolivia by porkandcorn, on Flickr


raging river, cañon de pilcomaya, route 11, bolivia by porkandcorn, on Flickr

villamontes is a small river town. kind of a dump. not much to do or see, but i drove around for 20 minutes and finally found a hotel with air conditioning (but no wifi). it's humid here, and there are mosquitos. it's a pretty lavish birthday suite - i'm thinking 4-star. (if the scale was 1-50). but the moto is secure and the mattress doesn't have bugs (i check them all.)


señor parrot, hotel villamontes, bolivia by porkandcorn, on Flickr


luxury birthday suite 2, hotel villamontes, bolivia by porkandcorn, on Flickr

it's 9:30pm but it feels like midnight. going to sleep early tonight… i'm cashed out from the last 3 days of riding. i've now spent 37 interesting years on this planet earth.

-----------------------------------------------------------


villamontes, bolivia to santa cruz, bolivia

tuesday, march 12, 2013


villamontes to santa cruz by porkandcorn, on Flickr

i decided to celebrate my birthday today, because villamontes left very, very much to be desired. i woke up at 7:00am, itching to leave for santa cruz, bolivia.


good beer, villamontes, bolivia by porkandcorn, on Flickr

today's ride was an extremely boring affair. a more or less straight shot north. 450km of humid, parched, sun-baked savanna. as i went north, the heat, humidity, and especially wind, increased. the summer sun is baking the amazon basin to a crisp, and the wind blows it all here. there was no vista to be had the entire day - i was locked in on both sides by trees and forests that lapped right up to the road. no change in elevation - about 900 meters all day. a steady stream of cows, dogs, and sheep wandered about the road and roadsides, occasionally wondering why i was intruding on the areas in which they decided to stand, possibly sleep. i was kind, but i think the truck drivers that followed would not be so kind. there was also a steady steam of animal carnage all day. i wanted to warn the animals, but they don't speak spanish, portugues, english, or motorcycle horn.


cows, route 11, bolivia by porkandcorn, on Flickr

to be honest, i have to admit some uneasiness here in bolivia. i had received mixed reviews from other motorcyclists, other travelers whom i've met along the way. even my bolivian host, whom i'm about to meet for dinner tonight, warned me out of concern not to "not trust 90% of the people i meet here." there must be reasons for this. and although everyone i have had personal contact with so far has been very nice, i still maintain a certain trepidation.

i guess this is what prejudice is - having no experience, but having yet having an opinion. and it is amazing that when you have no experience to base your opinions on, how little it takes from others to help you build that prejudice. it takes a very strong willed-individual to resist this information. i'm am not as strong-willed as i would prefer to be. i can see why racism, xenophobia, and classism exists, based on what little it takes to affect pre-judgement of persons, places, or entire cultures.

when i ride, i wave at everyone. i'm forcing myself to be the consummate traveler. but in contrast with other countries i've visited so far, most don't wave back. i'm met with hollow stares from dark, confused, faces. the eyes are eerie and piercing. me on my moto, even passing quickly at speed, seems a very strange thing for them. entire towns watch me pass through, necks turning heads, eyes following further. all activity seems to stop for that moment. out of curiosity, i watch them watch me. sometimes, i get angry and wonder why they don't have something better to do. other times, i laugh and smile, willfully accepting my status as 'circus freak show.' even the small children, toddlers know that i am not a normal thing, and they stare too. i get the feeling that people's lives here are very hard.

last night, at the hotel, the 28-year old son of the hotel owner offered to accompany me to dinner when i mentioned to them it was my birthday. i held a slight distrust of him from the start, as his deep-set eyes, and my pre-education mandated. but willfully accepted the otherwise kind offer. we went to his favorite neighborhood grill. the conversation was courteous (en español), but his eyes darted around aggressively at those in attendance, and those arriving - like he shared this deep distrust as well. i smiled, asked lots of questions. he responded kindly. but there was a divide between us. the same divide i have felt since arriving here.


rolando and birthday boy, villamontes, bolivia by porkandcorn, on Flickr

some of that may be that i'm riding around on a gilded stallion. my motorcycle is probably worth more than the entirety of most of the towns i'm riding through. that puts me at an immediate disadvantage for trying to connect with people. at times i feel guilty for my success, for my luck in being born in the USA, and for my ability to wander the continent for 4 months without working. i keep seeing people walking the same roads that i am riding at 130kph. they are walking with 100 pounds on there back from one pueblo to the next, a seemingly impossible journey from my perspective zipping by. what could i possibly have in common with them, in order to connect on a basic level? nothing, other than the fact that we are all humans.

and now i'm in this oasis, los tajibos hotel, immune for the moment from the un-ease that i've been feeling. at times in the past weeks, i pondered leaving bolivia off my schedule. and it's for this reason alone that i most needed to come here. i want to put my full effort into fighting the prejudice that i came here with. i want to find that impossible connection.


the real birthday suite, hotel los tajibos, santa cruz, bolivia by porkandcorn, on Flickr


piscina, hotel los tajibos, santa cruz, bolivia by porkandcorn, on Flickr

porkandcorn screwed with this post 03-13-2013 at 08:42 AM
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Old 03-12-2013, 02:50 PM   #133
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ADVrider forums: What does the OP Mean?

what is this curious "OP" designation that has showed up next to my ADV handle? anyone?
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Old 03-12-2013, 03:33 PM   #134
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Thanks for taking me along for the ride.
Nice pics!
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Old 03-12-2013, 06:50 PM   #135
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some trouble with the tiger...

warning: long-winded motorcycle maintenance-specific diatribe follows.

now that i'm in santa cruz, and have a little down time, i need to come clean with something. i haven't lived up to my own promise to be completely honesty in this report… i... have been having some issues with the triumph. having put this bike on a pedestal, i have been hesitant to tarnish it's perfect image in the mind of the reader. it is because i love the bike so dearly that i have done us all this disservice.

on my way to the hotel the night after the 1st photo-shoot tip-over in bahia inglesa, chile, the tiger was stalling whenever i pulled in the clutch, and RPMs were under 1500. at first i thought that it was only re-adjusting to the altitude change - that morning i'd been at nearly 16,000 ft, and that evening i was at 00,000 feet. then my mind wandered to the tip-over - had i done something horrible in that moment of carelessness? was it a passing hiccup in the fuel or air filtration systems that needed some time to work out? was it a bad tank of gas that i burned through in mendoza and forgot about? or was something more terrible and unconsidered developing?

i'm a novice at motorcycle maintenance. i can perform basic tasks very well and studiously. i can look for obviously mechanical issues with wheels, shocks, brakes, cables, etc. but when it comes to engines, and especially high-tech computerized masterpieces like the tiger's 800cc triple cylinder - it's all dutch to me (as they say - no offense to the dutch.)

so i waited a couple of days.

it got worse. effectively, the bike did not any longer know how to idle. whenever i would pull in the clutch, RPMS would drop and the bike would stall. this was particularly frustrating (and embarrassing) when i would come into towns during the day or at the end of the day, navigating confusing and often chaotic traffic. every time i came to a stop, if i didn't feather the clutch and roll the throttle a bit to keep RPMs up, the bike would die. every stop sign, every stop light, turning corners - you get the idea. not only was i already a spectacle coming into town, but now my fancy captain america bike was dying, and i would have to restart it, often with a high-pitched rev of the engine that was required to instantly get the RPM past the point where it would just die again. more turning heads. fun stuff.

and worse, it has also been dying when i round mountain corners, having to downshift to slow the bike and conserve precious break pads. or downshifting to prep for an uphill climb. in these higher speed situations, sometimes the bike was stalling, and it would lock the wheel temporarily - sending the rear wheel out from under me in a hair-raising skid. not fun.

it was also stalling off-road on these shitty dirt and rock paths - where every 5 seconds, you're grabbing clutch to navigate the chaos, work around a rock, prepare for a sand-trap, or a million other scenarios.

consequently, i'm using both the starter and clutch way more than in normal riding situations. so that made me nervous about burning out either one of those prematurely - and in some odd corner of the world a million miles away from a qualified tech, much less a triumph tech with triumph parts for this very rare south american steed.

it got really bad in san pedro de atacama, chile. and i was out on exotic day trips to places even SUVs couldn't get too. needless to say, i didn't have a lot of confidence in the bike at the time and it was causing stress when i should have been having a care-free time exploring.

i put in a call to brant, my service tech at cascade moto classics back home in oregon. brant began to patiently, and very skillfully help me diagnose the problem over a series of skype calls over a few days. but remember, we are talking about me describing something over the phone and him having to make education guesses based on the symptoms i'm describing.

brant and i narrowed the stalling/idling issue down to a couple likely culprits: the MAP sensor (manifold absolute pressure sensor hooked up to the bike's computer), and the idle stepper motor (a servo motor that physically controls the bike's idle in various situations.) the MAP sensor is just a little air pressure sensor below the gas tank that is hooked up to a couple hoses and tells the computer whats going on. it's the same exact sensor (interchangeable) as the barometric pressure sensor, which is located under the battery and just reads ambient pressure from the air around the bike. i checked the MAP sensor as i was instructed - hoses in tact, in good condition, and connected. electrical connection in tact. i checked the barometric pressure sensor too - although it's a far less critical reading. all good.

brant suggested pulling the battery connection to do a "hard re-boot" on the bike's computer. i did this, and heard the idle stepper motor doing it's little dance upon re-boot, attempting to find its min and max limits. i did this battery disconnect/reconnect a few times, and each time, the stepper motor would take a different amount of time to do it's thing upon re-boot - like it was confused. like it was failing. so in my head, i had found the culprit, since the MAP sensor has no moving parts and the stepper motor is a complicated little server motor with lots of fragile moving parts.

at one point, after a hard re-boot, the stepper motor found it's limits, i started the bike, and the idle was completely perfect. like nothing had every happened! this was a break through, and in my mind, i had found the culprit. a smoking gun!

i knew that in a week or so, i'd be here in santa cruz, bolivia, so i quickly pulled the trigger and had the nice folks at cascade (thank you liz, janice, and randy!) fedex a stepper motor to my future (and current) hotel. i also had them throw in an oil filter, and a set of rear brake pads - i knew i was going to pay through the teeth for the shipment to bolivia anyway.

so now, the plan is to swap out the stepper motor here in santa cruz, and hope that the factory settings are close enough to tolerances to achieve an improvement in idle performance. ideally, after a swap out, the bike should be hooked up to a computer to set the exact min and max tolerances. the closest triumph tech is in sao paulo, brazil, and i'm not going back to brazil.

but wait - there's more!

after all this, i've noticed another issues developing: the clutch seems to be going out. if i hammer the throttle in gears 2-5, around 5000 RPM, the clutch will engage much like i'm feathering the clutch lever, and the engine will rev without any torque until the bike speeds up a bit, RPMs drop, and the clutch un-engages.

is this due to all the clutch work i've had to do over the last couple of weeks to "manually" idle the bike in various situations? is this a premature clutch wear-out? is there not enough play in the clutch lever, causing the clutch to engage when it should not? all to be determined this week.

hopefully, if the clutch plates are shot, i can find an after market replacement here in santa cruz. otherwise, i'm likely going to be filling the deep coffers of fedex with another parts shipment to la paz, bolivia or lima, peru.

all this leads me to the downside of being a triumph tiger pioneer. this is a new bike - it's only been around since 2010. here i am in south america, and there's not a ton of options if parts specific issues occur that do not involve expensive shipments. even bmws are more common down here, have available techs and service locations, and most importantly - parts. a 2012 triumph tiger is a rare, rare bird in these parts.

but this is an amazing bike, and i'm still in love with it. perhaps even more so now that she's come down from her perch on the impossibly high pedestal that i've built for her. now she is more human - flawed like i am, imperfect. now i can relate more to her, and begin to develop a realistic relationship. leave to me to anthropomorphize a pile of bolts, rubber, and electronics, but maybe she has feelings too. i've been through my ups and downs - why shouldn't my bike be able to have a bad day, or days, as well? it would be insensitive for me, or for any of you reading to expect that a machine as complicated as this to power over 20,000 km of south american terrain without having some bad days.

i'm proud to be a triumph tiger pioneer, an early-adopter. someone has to clear the brush from the path. despite the risks, i feel it's worth it. i really do love this bike, for a variety of reasons that i've already exhausted in other entries.

anyway, my friend here in santa cruz, has a connection with a bmw / dakar mechanic, and i'm going to meet him tomorrow to see if he can help me resolve one or both of these pressing issues. the new stepper motor is in bogota, columbia, making it's way closer to santa cruz. and hopefully, i can find an aftermarket clutch kit if that is really what is going on with the clutch.

phheewwwww. feels better to get that off my chest. for both my sake and my baby tiger's…

ps. while i'm at it, triumph needs to re-engineer the plastic-to-rubber ratio on the turn signal housings to include more rubber. the stupid things break if you look at them sideways.

porkandcorn screwed with this post 03-13-2013 at 06:04 AM
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