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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    December 3, 2012 - The ride to La Paz started well enough. We meandered through some highlands and after taking a rickety ferry ride across a channel, ended back on the mainland of Bolivia.

    The ferry ride was a non-adventure, although initially it looked a tad more dicey than it actually was. It was quick and cheap. We arrived at the dock and basically rolled straight on to one of the many floats crossing to the other side.

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    After a few hours, the rain started and by the time we were thirty or so kilometers from La Paz, it started snowing. The temperature dropped quite quickly and in no time we were wiping ice and snow from our visor every few minutes. Dripping wet and covered in mud from all the road construction, we arrived at Hotel Fuentes in La Paz. After an initial hesitation, we got a reasonable quote for a room. Andy and Linda were here too and we made plans to go for dinner after we had showered and arranged all our dripping wet gear in a safe spot.

    La Paz is an ok place to kill a few days but it has little in terms of real sites.

    I wandered around Plaza San Francisco a bit but the photographic harvest was quite modest. A common theme on our trip has been the penetration of cell phones everywhere. In the city, out in the country, everyone seems to be connected to their smart or not so smart mobiles.

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    Poverty is still visible everywhere.

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    Where we were staying was right in the old "witches market", where all sorts of potions can be bought to cure all ails. Or you can buy dried lama fetuses as offerings to the gods.

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    La Paz and Bolivia in general feel a bit odd to me. I can't quite put my finger on it, whether it's the fact you need to pay three times the local price for gas as a foreigner, or the general attitude that foreigners are "targets". If you don't ask and agree on a price beforehand, it is always a bad surprise.

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    People are not very warm compared to other South American countries and are borderline unfriendly. We did have a few nice dinners with Linda and Andy at the top of a hotel overlooking the city.

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    The next stop is Uyuni, to visit the salt flats.
  2. Malindi

    Malindi Zen Adventurer

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    December 9, 2012 - We left La Paz and fought traffic for a good twenty five kilometers before we could get into third gear. Our first stop was Oruro, a necessary evil on the way to Uyuni.

    We found a dumpy hotel for way too much money, but it served the purpose. In the evening, we went for pizza and stumbled upon a place that only did pizza the right way. There was happiness in Oruro after all.

    The next morning we were rolling before sunrise as we feared the road to Uyuni from all reports we had read was a nasty one. To our surprise, we found a brand new perfectly paved road and made it to Uyuni early in the afternoon. For the first time in our so far eight month trip, we ended up in a town where there was no wifi service anywhere, so we were relegated to using Spanish keyboards on faded CRT monitors. Uyuni is a dump of a town, filled with tour operators, white tourists and very grumpy and unfriendly locals. The 2012 Uyuni smile contest produced no winners, only whiners.

    The local train graveyard is quite famous and we wandered over to shoot some pictures. There are a boatload more under the "Slideshows" tab.

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    The tour we booked was a three day jaunt into the Salar de Uyuni, massive salt flats and other unearthly terrain.

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    Some of the Salar is covered in water this time of year.

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    We didn't spend three days on a bunch of salt flats but visited a few other sites in the same area. The camera got a workout.

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    All in all the tour was a grand success and we didn't have to subject our bikes to a bunch of salt water. Instead, we got carted around in a Lexus 450 4x4 which certainly was very comfortable. Given some of the terrain, I have more respect for these things now as I always thought they were wannabe off-road machines. We climbed some hills I would not want to tackle with a Land Rover LT110.

    A few hundred kilometers of fantastic off-road riding put me at a very small border crossing a day or two later.

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    Before I cleared the border, I had to pay a two dollar bribe at the police station before I got my exit stamp. I asked for a receipt first and the only answer I got was that everyone paid it. I am done with Bolivia and its people. On to Chile.
  3. hardwaregrrl

    hardwaregrrl ignore list

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    Bummer that you met some unfriendlys....Glad the airhead is treating you well!:clap:clap:clap Thanks for the fantastic report and breathtaking photos!
  4. Malindi

    Malindi Zen Adventurer

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    December 10, 2012 - Farewell to Bolivia, onwards to Chile. The border on the Chilean side was easy, all of five minutes, polite nods and glances, a single piece of paper printed for the bike, a few signatures and I was on my way. On to paved roads, as promised by our Bolivian driver earlier.

    Alas, the reality was painfully different. The roads got worse as the day progressed and four hundred kilometers of gravel and broken up pavement later, I arrived in Calama. The sun was weighing on the horizon, but with only a mere hundred kilometers to go to San Pedro de Atacama, I pressed on. Who knew pavement could be so satisfying.

    San Pedro de Atacama is a dusty crop of life in the middle of the desert, wise to the tourist dollar. A simple room with shared bathroom was $26, the highest price encountered on this trip. And that was a cheap place. However, the surroundings were worth it. I rode the bike out to Valle de la Luna and waited for the sunset the next day.

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    I didn't venture much further than Valle de la Luna and took it easy the day after. Aside from the church, there really is nothing of esthetic value in San Pedro.

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    The next stop was Taltal, a whopping six hundred kilometers further south, but this time all on smooth pavement. The famous hand in the desert needed its picture taken. Sadly it's defaced with all sorts of graffiti these days.

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    Taltal is an odd little place, half town, half shanty town. Some attempts to spruce it up, such as a decent Plaza de Armas and even a few small sections of malecon, overlooking the water. The hotel I stayed in looked more like a comfortable living room with some quarters surrounding it. It was quite busy and very casual.

    A walk around town scared up an odd sight. A German-plated BMW sidecar bastard.

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    I must admit I don't get sidecars. You're combining all the negatives of motorcycling and automobiles with none of the benefits of either. Beauty in madness I suppose. Tomorrow I'm off to La Serena, where I'll pause for a few days.
  5. Malindi

    Malindi Zen Adventurer

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    You're welcome! Yeah, Bolivia wasn't too friendly. Chile is a lot better. Glad to be off the plateau. Been on or around 12,000 feet for weeks now. Back to sea level.
  6. slide

    slide A nation in despair

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    Why is there a hand in the desert? What are those high pressure hoses attached to in the front of that sidecar?

    BTW, I said that once about sidecars & the owner said they have the advantages of both bikes and cars. Change your frame; change the game.
  7. Malindi

    Malindi Zen Adventurer

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    It's called art
    Oil cooler
    Not this thing... Just look at those tires. It's bastardized.
  8. Malindi

    Malindi Zen Adventurer

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    I've added the Garmin Mapsource files for each country. Most are tracks as ridden, some have waypoints of hotels and repair shops. For the US, some exist as routes and tracks. By default, the end of each track is a hotel where I stayed the night. Enjoy. http://www.nohorizons.net/2012/countries.html
  9. OldPete

    OldPete Be aware

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    Put on meditation music and read your thread for a second time. :clap
    A modest request, more portraiture please.

    Long ago in England three wheels were road taxed as motorcycles this encouraged sidecars and three wheeled cars like Morgan.
    One of the better outfits is offered by the Dutch, EML Sidecars.
    Back in the day the provider would commute via motorbike and only use the chair for family outings.
  10. Malindi

    Malindi Zen Adventurer

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    December 23, 2012 - From Taltal, I rode to La Serena and paused for a few days. It was a comfortable and warm stop. Interesting conversations with pair of New Zealand lawyers, just starting on their careers, lasted well into the night a few times.

    La Serena is a beach town, so I made the obligatory pilgrimage to the beach to observe sand and water, personally unmoved by the combination that makes people flock to such destinations.

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    A walk around town resulted in a meager collection of pictures, although the local museum had a few worthy items.

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    From La Serena, the road continued south to Santiago. The main road in Chile is quite nice and doesn't differ in quality from anything you would find in North America or Europe.

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    Gas is about as expensive and a diet pop at the local Shell Select convenience store sets you back about $1.5, similar prices to back home. The only thing vastly more expensive are the hotels. Travel is certainly not getting cheaper.

    Santiago was the next stop. An earlier inquiry led to a decent hostal where I parked the bike for a few days. One of the pursuits was a new tire. After twenty one thousand kilometers, it was time to retire the Shinko rear tire. It had another few thousand kilometers of life left on it, but finding a decent replacement further south might be less convenient.

    Santiago disappointed a bit in that I had a more romanticized view of it somehow. It's just a big city with a few decent buildings and a nice fine art museum.

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    In Santiago I met up again with Jan who was temporarily distracted by a woman he'd encountered in Columbia and we rode on further south, direction Chillan and Villarrica.
  11. RoninMoto

    RoninMoto Wanderer

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    Great pics!

    Is that a shrunken head? :huh
  12. Malindi

    Malindi Zen Adventurer

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    Thanks!

    It is indeed. There are a few of them sprinkled around museums in Ecuador, Colombia and now here. Pretty spooky stuff.
  13. Malindi

    Malindi Zen Adventurer

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    December 29, 2012 - A few days of rain in Santiago set the scene for the next week. An uneventful ride to Chillan and Villarrica over perfectly straight roads ended in rain.

    In Chillan, the only mildly amusing event was a dinner at the local fire station. The place operates as a restaurant and serves quite decent meals for mere peanuts, at least by Chilean standards. Our next stop was Villarrica, where we arrived at the start of a rainy afternoon. Despite inquiring here and there, we failed to find accommodation that wasn't stratospherically priced, although the town itself was dead, not a tourist to be seen. So we pressed on to Pucon, a tourist town twenty five kilometers further.

    In Pucon, we found a place just as the heavens opened up. And the rain continued for three full days. Not just a wee bit of rain, but volumes sufficient to drench you in a few steps. Although there were some gaps, the rain didn't let up much. On day three, we managed to go for a walk during a break in the weather. We walked past a unguarded gated community and ended up in a nice enclave. It could have been West Vancouver, with huge houses tucked away in the greenery, out of sight from the main road.

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    From Pucon, we rode on to Puerto Varas, which is beautifully located on a lake with a volcano towering in the background.

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    When you are traveling, you sometimes doubt the sanity of it all. Talking to others, mostly non-travelers back home, does not help this feeling. But just in case you get the idea that riding a motorcycle around the world, without a single hotel booking, map or guidebook strikes you as foolish, rest assured there are always people out there crazier than you.

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    The car above is an '80s or so Polish copy of a Fiat 500. It's propped up on the curb because the driver just changed a wheel bearing. A few feet further we found a 1957 Jawa, all of 250 cc, single cylinder.

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    Also present were two Trabants.

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    Note the ingenious fuel lines coming from the tanks strapped to the roof. Did I mention all this stuff was two-stroke?

    From Quellon, we took the night ferry to Chaiten to start on the Carretera Austral. We ran into a few more overlanders and I ended up chatting with Kobus (from liferemotely.com) and his wife Jessica. Jessica's write-up was the one we used to help us with the convoluted process of shipping the bikes from Panama to Colombia. It was good to be able to thank her in person.

    And if you think riding a motorcycle across the world is expensive, try this on for size. A full-size truck with all the trappings.

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    We stayed in Chaiten for a day to relax, do laundry and repair an electrical problem. A walk around Chaiten puzzled us at first, as there were so many abandoned houses. A little inquiring and some web research filled in the blanks as to what happened here. In 2008, a volcano eruption wiped away half the town, with the balance of the residents being resettled for a year elsewhere.

    The signs of destruction are still visible everywhere, with houses buried in runoff from the volcano.

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    And then we hopped onto the Carretera Austral.
  14. slide

    slide A nation in despair

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    Are those guys in the Trabants sponsored? Or are stickers just what they do for kicks?
  15. RoninMoto

    RoninMoto Wanderer

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    Is it these guys?!?!
    <iframe width="640" height="360" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/qkjeITBmdxk?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>
  16. Malindi

    Malindi Zen Adventurer

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    Sponsored, for some of it.
  17. Malindi

    Malindi Zen Adventurer

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    Yup
  18. Malindi

    Malindi Zen Adventurer

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    January 5, 2013 - The Carretera Austral started off nice enough. Beautiful pavement and great vistas. Fifty kilometers from Chaiten, the road as we knew it ended and gravel started. It was the start of a long and sometimes painful experience.

    The unending battering we and the bikes endured came with lots of spectacular highlights and the next six days proved to be very much worth the effort. Our first decent stop was Puyuhuapi. The weather was ok, the vistas not too spectacular and the lady who ran the hostal was muttering at every turn. In some ways the surroundings looked very much like British Columbia in spring or fall.

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    The road varied - a lot. This is the butter-smooth six lane highway variety of the Carretera Austral.

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    On day two, the weather cleared up quite a bit.

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    The pictures below give you a good idea of what the general vistas are like while riding the Carretera Austral.

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    One of our stops was Puerto Tranquilo, where we visited the Catedral De Marmol, a marble structure in the middle of the lake, surrounded by lots of caves.

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    After six days, we were ready for a change - and paved roads, so we escaped via Cochrane and Chile Chico to Argentina.
  19. slide

    slide A nation in despair

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    Was there much traffic on that gravel road?
  20. Malindi

    Malindi Zen Adventurer

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    10-20 cars per hour I guess