And so it begins...

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Malindi, May 2, 2012.

  1. Malindi

    Malindi Zen Adventurer

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    January 8, 2013 - We left Chile with the idea of arriving in a grand country, once the fourth or fifth richest in the world. What we found was a hollowed-out shell of its former self.

    Our first stop in Argentina was the town of Perito Moreno, a dusty outcrop on the intersection to Routa 40, the infamous road to the southern most areas of the continent. Looking around for a place to stay, we were shocked at the prices quoted for accommodation. We ended up in the smallest room on our trip so far for the princely sum of US$64.

    A trip to the supermarket was reminiscent of my time in Yugoslavia, months before the war broke out a few decades ago. From the doom and gloom on people's faces, the near-empty produce and bakery shelves, it was clear this country had been brought to its knees. We fled the next day, south along Routa 40 towards El Chalten, at the foot of Los Glaciares National Park.

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    Although some of Routa 40 is paved, long stretches, hundreds of kilometers on end, are very badly worn gravel roads. It made for a back-breaking day. We covered five hundred and ninety kilometers to El Chalten and arrived exhausted. There, it took us a few tries to find a place that had room.

    The Argentinean time-warp continued, with cars from my youth dotting the streets among the fancier tourist-funded vehicles.

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    El Chalten is a place of contrasts. You can either pay $7 for coffee and eat decent steak at a fancy restaurant, or you can go to the local supermarket and get candies in lieu of change. Credit card usage is discouraged due to inflation.

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    Here again we found empty store shelves most of the time. I lucked out once and arrived when supplies arrived, with people mobbing the store and virtually emptying it out in a matter of hours. One guy bought all the yogurt that came in, about fifty liters of it. It took him and two buddies to carry it all out.

    Argentina has all sorts of esoteric exchange controls which make life complicated and expensive. Locals can't use a bank card outside the country without incurring significant penalties. The official exchange rate at the time we were there was 4.8 pesos for US$1. The black market rates in civilized settings like restaurants was 5.6 pesos and on the street around 6.8. And then there were the lineups to buy gas.

    Economic insanity aside, the natural surroundings are spectacular.

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    Our first hike was to Laguna Torre. The weather was debatable with intermittent rain and cloudy views. I took a few pictures but none survived a critical look later on. The next day was rained out and we stayed inside, using the meager bandwidth in our hostal to browse the web.

    Day three was a success, as the weather cleared up and we hiked for about six hours to Lago de Los Tres and back.

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    In the evening, I wandered around town a bit and bumped into this.

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    I had inadvertently found Nacho, the VW Van owned by Brad and Sheena, a couple I'd emailed with a number of times months ago.

    The next morning we met up with them before heading out.

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    The evening before, I'd asked where they were heading next, and it turns out they were shipping the van to Asia around the same time we were planning to fly our bikes to Australia. In mere minutes we'd changed tack and decided to share a container with them. After enjoying a cup of coffee with them, we rode on to El Calafate.
  2. slide

    slide A nation in despair

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    Was that orange car some sort of Citroen? It vaguely has those lines but I've never seen one like it before.
  3. Malindi

    Malindi Zen Adventurer

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    It's a Citroen Diane 6 Ricambi
  4. slide

    slide A nation in despair

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    Hmm. I wonder if we can get good deals on other, higher end Citroens. Some of those are going for major bucks here in the States at auction.

    Sounds like the Hand of Fernandez is heavy on the land. Socialism triumphs against humanity again!
  5. Malindi

    Malindi Zen Adventurer

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    It's insane.... I'd never invest money in this country...
    :poser
  6. slide

    slide A nation in despair

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    No sane person would. However, if you do see a forlorn looking Citroen Maser...
  7. Malindi

    Malindi Zen Adventurer

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    January 10, 2013 - El Calafate in and of itself has no real appeal, except that it is drastically warmer than El Chalten due to its location. The main reason tourists flock to this place is the proximity to the Perito Moreno Glacier.

    It took us a while before we realized this place had been so trampled by tourists that $20 for a dorm bed seemed like a good deal, if you could find one. We reverted to our new tactic, which was to totally avoid any accommodation which had been infected by either Trip Advisor or Lonely Planet. To that end, we found it was best to ride the city grid and stop at the small mom & pop hostals. In short order, we scored a decent place for less than half the tourist price.

    The next day, we rode to the Perito Moreno glacier. I never suspected I'd spend $20 or so to simply look at a glacier from a distance, but it certainly was worth it.

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    The glacier constantly moves, and standing there and looking at it, you could hear the occasional explosion, with huge building-sized pieces tumbling down and crashing into the water, the thundering sound delayed due to the distance.

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    Depending on the angle of view, the light changed dramatically.

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    Our next stop was Puerto Natales, Chile, the jumping off point for Torres Del Paine.

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    Given that the weather had yet again taken a turn for the worse, we decided to skip riding three hundred and fifty kilometers of gravel roads to potentially see a nice mountain view for $38 each. Did I mention that this part of the world was not cheap? Our bikes and bodies were in South America, but our minds were already in Asia, the crossing with Brad and Sheena firming up as the days went on. We were a day or two away from hitting Ushuaia, the lowest point you can ride to in the Americas.
  8. Malindi

    Malindi Zen Adventurer

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    January 16, 2013 - Punta Arenas (Chile) was our next stop. It's main appeal is the tax-free zone, where Jan needed to buy a rear tire. Out of the three stores that sold motorcycle tires, he found only one that fit the bill. And even that one was a heavy knobby.

    My main goal here was to collect as many dollars as I could from various bank accounts before we moved on to Argentina. Partially because we needed to pay the container in dollars, but also to have the option to change money on the black market in Argentina. The official rate is 4.85 pesos to the dollar, but the street rate is 5.6 or 5.7 in the south and 7.3 in Buenos Aires.

    We ended up in Ushuaia quite late the next day but lucked out and found a place to crash quickly. The next day we made the obligatory stop at the end of the world, or at least as far south as you can take a vehicle.

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    Ushuaia surprised us in that it is actually quite a nice town. It has a sizeable harbor and an international airport. The surroundings are quite different from the ride towards it. It's surrounded by mountains and lakes.

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    Having made it to the bottom, we now faced seven days of emptiness to get to Buenos Aires to meet up with Brad and Sheena. From Ushuaia, we covered 3,305 kilometers in seven days to get there. Non-descript towns film-stripped past our visors and we stopped in a few to crash for the night. The only advantage of Route 3 is that it's paved, so we were finally done with gravel roads. After the fourth day of riding, we finally saw a tree instead of endless desert shrubbery. This place makes the emptiness of the Canadian prairies look like Disneyland.

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    We stopped by Dakar Motos in Buenos Aires and chatted with Javier and Sandra. Initially, we had planned to fly the bikes to Australia using their services and my new Visa card was mailed there. We talked for a few hours. They are good people in case you need some assistance in BA with your bike or are looking for shipment options.

    The next day, we met Brad and Sheena and on the 26th we took residence in our digs for the next two weeks in Buenos Aires. It was a stunning apartment with all the trappings, marble staircase and picturesque elevator included.

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    Buenos Aires is the city of Tango. Immediately, upon arrival, this place felt like home and will be hard to leave.

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  9. Malindi

    Malindi Zen Adventurer

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    February 4, 2013 - On the day King Richard III's bones were verified by comparing skeletal DNA to a 17th generation relative, we returned from the port with our vehicles, defeated. All this because the power, which apparently went off three days ago, had yet to be repaired at the warehouse where our container stood waiting for us. Since our customs broker arrived five minutes before the agreed upon time, we thought everything was going smoothly, but no. South America still stumbles around in the Dark Ages at times.

    For the past ten days or so, we've lived at the apartment on Caseros in San Telmo. It's comfortable and you easily fall into the routine of South American life. Restaurants by and large don't open till eight thirty and people still arrive in droves till well after ten. Barbeques reign in a country where Vegetarianism is smiled upon as some weird psychological disorder.

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    Reams of old and tattered little cafes line the streets of San Telmo, all occupied by the locals enjoying their morning coffee, newspapers and cigarettes. The city still has not lost its disorderly comfort which reflects its soul. Tourists are not too common yet in San Telmo as it was not a safe neighborhood up until recently. It feels a bit like Paris twenty or so years ago, streets littered with dog crap included.

    Although there are no great sites in Buenos Aires, the city is overall very pleasant. There are curio items to visit, such as the El Ateneo bookstore. Its circular interior and domed roof are spectacular.

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    Street art is plentiful too.

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    One of the more spectacular things I saw in Buenos Aires is La Recoleta Cemetery. People take their family graves seriously here and a lot of them are the size of small houses. Most of them have space for a lot of coffins in the basement.

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    On our second visit to the warehouse, we were luckier. The power was on and with unusual swiftness, our two bikes and the VW Van were processed through customs.

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    A sealed container is always a happy sight.

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    Now we have a few days to relax and poke around the city before we all fly in different directions prior to meeting in Kuala Lumpur in early March.
  10. slide

    slide A nation in despair

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    Why did it take you 7 days to ride 3,000 kms? That's less than 450 kms / day which seems darned slow if you weren't enjoying the scenery.

    Who is the nice looking girl holding up the container?

    How were the bikes secured within that container? It looked as if they were just supported by their main stands.
  11. Malindi

    Malindi Zen Adventurer

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    You sort of have to follow what's available. In a lot of places there is 250-300 kms between towns and gas stations. And 600 kms in a day when the wind is blowing 50-60 kmh all the time is no fun.

    Sheena, wife of Brad ... www.drivenachodrive.com our container mates and flat mates in Buenos Aires.

    Thin heavy duty plastic straps, torqued to pianowire tension... seems to be holding them up just fine.
  12. Theshantha

    Theshantha Adventurer

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    Wow... what a nice report. you excellent talent in photography. what is your camera?

    Thank you very much for sharing very nice pics & info.

    Cheers... "Bad roads bring good people..."
  13. Malindi

    Malindi Zen Adventurer

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    March 18, 2013 - A whirlwind of events over the last few weeks flipped my reality around and firmly put riding around the world by motorcycle on the back burner. In short order I found myself in Vancouver, Seattle, Portland and Beatty, Nevada.

    After visits with a number of friends, some time in Death Valley and a few quiet walks around Stanley Park, it was time to hop over to Asia. Kuala Lumpur didn't disappoint. As elsewhere in Asia, a lot of daily life takes places on the street. Endless food stalls selling unidentifiable goodies made up for the searing heat and humidity.

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    Malaysia is certainly different from more northern Asian countries. Muslim, Buddhist, Christian and other faiths intermingle and seeing a distinctly East Indian Hindu guy walking hand in hand with a Muslim girlfriend is not an uncommon sight.

    New construction is slowly metastasizing throughout the city, with remnants of how it used to be still visible here are there.

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    One of the first visits was to the Petronas Towers, once the tallest buildings in the world, and still quite impressive.

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    A walk around town resulted in visits to the butterfly park and the Islamic Arts Museum.

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    The Islamic Arts Museum in particular was a worthwhile visit. The architecture was understated but refined.

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    How small do you want your Koran?

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    The main hall.

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    The bikes are still in container jail, with an expected parole date of March 19th. Our shipper on this end has never before received vehicles from abroad, so it promises to be interesting and a "learning experience" for all involved.
  14. Malindi

    Malindi Zen Adventurer

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    I use a Nikon D700.
  15. ata

    ata expat in the jungle

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    it works really well

    in

    :beer
  16. Malindi

    Malindi Zen Adventurer

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    :rofl Half of the problem of photography is the gear. Throwing money at the problem will get you better pictures no matter what I think. The real artists are those who can capture life in all its beauty with a point and shoot. That would not be me...
  17. ata

    ata expat in the jungle

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    agree you
    it´s all about the right time to do the pic showing just what must be shown and that can´t be improved with photoshop
  18. nachtflug

    nachtflug infidel

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    wow:eek1 holy cow what a place. took me awhile to realize the 2nd picture was one big picture. looks like it came right out of the Frida movie. Love to get in there with a tripod and shoot some long shutter shots with that light. That place is cool!
  19. Malindi

    Malindi Zen Adventurer

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    I can see why :-)
  20. nachtflug

    nachtflug infidel

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    I swear these are opening up even bigger at work on my 17 inch flat screen than at home on my 27 inch IMac. wierd.

    What camera were these taken with?

    got any more shots of this place? it really is a fascinating place and the natural light makes it even better. talk about ambience.