Patagonia & Tierra del Fuego Cappuccino Tour

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by rdwalker, Oct 14, 2010.

  1. Sidviscous

    Sidviscous Adventurer

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    Very nice report, looking forward to the rest.

    Like yourself I find it very difficult to schedule any serious time off for riding. We attempted to do a week in the Alps this fall with three riders but that fell by the wayside as schedule conflicts arose. Can't even get away for a weekend in West Virginia it seems. Our Alps trip was planned months in advance and still collapsed, I think from my perspective it would better to have everyone ready to go at a moments notice when the heavens align, we'll see. Sid
    #21
  2. rdwalker

    rdwalker Long timer

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    True, I have done that. Especially off-season, when the rentals are not as heavily booked.

    The problem is more with a greater number of riders, as a rental agency may not have enough bikes. I found that from late September through end-of-season and then May through mid-June are the best for that purpose.

    In case that helps: Munich is optimal for reaching the Alpine region from the north, Milan from the south. These cities may not be convenient to fly in - Frankfurt is a good destination, though it requires an extra half day of riding each way. It's a trade-off depending on your airline deal. If you'd like, I can send you rental contacts for these cites, PM me.
    #22
  3. rdwalker

    rdwalker Long timer

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    Beautiful, cool morning. We are traveling now out of Punta Arenas in northerly direction - away from Tierra del Fuego - toward another gem of the region: Torres del Paine National Park.

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    The plan is to stop at Puerto Natales, Roberto's base - for cappuccino, of course! - and make a loop to Torres del Paine, returning to Natales for he night.

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    After some spirited driving, feeling the effects of the strong winds, we stop at a roadside restaurant: Hotel Posada Rio Rubens. It's so in the middle of nowhere that its address is a mileage marker: Kilometer 183, Route 9.

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    Picture-perfect, elegant place, great food, nice atmosphere. I love that style of traveling! Enjoying the civilized high-life in an exotic environment. Can't beat that!

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    As we are nearing Puerto Natales, for quite a long while we are accompanied by a few horses galloping alongside. I guess that they have their fun, too, chasing our little KLR convoy.

    A perfect Patagonian image... Picture-perfect!

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    Arriving at the World's End Café Book Store in Puerto Natales. It is an important element of our trip. The Book Store (occasionally using the name 'Patagoniax') is the base of Roberto's operation and my contact point for making arrangements for the trip. The store's owner - Claudio Matassi - is a sometime partner in the outfitting and guiding business.

    Prior to the trip, I have seen many snippets of information and photographs of this place - we finally got there in person.

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    Cappuccino, eh? Roberto jumps behind the counter and does the honors.

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    Did I mention that I love maps? There is something exciting about pouring over a large sheet, tracing routes, discovering details, enjoying the feeling of adventure to come.

    The store has plenty to indulge my interests.

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    Enough with the coffee. The day is not over yet: we leave Puerto Natales and pavement; ride on gravel toward the looming peaks of Torres del Paine.
    It is a half-day route - seems simple on the map, but check out the satellite shot below to get the idea of the terrain.

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    While paying the park entry fee, Lewis is charming the Chilean clerk - a willing audience. He even got her to try a modular helmet!

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    As we ride deeper into the park, the landscape becomes ever more spectacular.

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    We dismount and explore a section on foot. I enjoy a suspended foot bridge, over a river full of glacial melt...

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    ...while Lewis enjoys a good cellular connection. ;-)

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    A classic meteorological phenomenon: lenticular clouds over the massif. These clouds form in the standing wave of high-velocity airflow above the mountains. While turbulent and not suited for general aviation, lenticular systems are enjoyed by glider pilots, offering strong and predictable 'wave lift'.

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    At every turn, we enjoy a different, ever more fantastic view of these amazing mountains. The towers ('torres') are possibly the most characteristic features, but the sights of valleys, rivers and lakes are just as breathtaking.

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    Torres del Paine are a part of the southern end of the Andes. The high cliffs and deep valleys were carved by glacial activity; even today, the glaciers cling to the steep slopes and the lakes possess the telltale greenish color of glacial silt.

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    Despite its size, this is a very fragile environment. A recent disaster that befell it in 2005 was a wildfire caused by a careless hiker's gasoline stove.

    The resultant firestorm engulfed 30 thousand acres of parkland and caused an international incident. The hiker was a Czech national - in the follow-up, Czech government and Czech conservation groups became heavily involved in restoration of the destroyed areas.

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    This is about the end of the tourist season. While the wind-blown snowfields in these pictures exist year-round, the rest of the landscape will also become snow-covered in just a few more weeks. February marks the end of the official summer season here; we are already into the first week of March.

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    Did I mention that it was windy? While taking this picture of rushing rapids, I had my only crash of the trip.

    I was standing astride the bike, camera in hand, when the powerful wind simply blew me down to the ground. I just could not gather enough strength to resist it.

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    Amazed, astonished, breathless... We leave the park to return to Puerto Natales - past the ever-present guanacos.

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    Why did the guanaco cross the road? Because...

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    Back in town. I have seen photographs of this sign many times - now I am standing here myself. I am still digesting that thought.

    Actually, I feel quite proud of myself: I have been - on a motorcycle, between the 2008 and 2010 seasons - as far south as about 55 degrees of latitude (Lapataia, Argentina) and as far north as 54 degrees (James Bay, Quebec or Cartwright, Labrador). Not in a direct ride, of course, but still not bad.

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    Checking into the (picture-perfect, of course) hotel in Puerto Natales.
    Rather strangely named, though: Hotel Lady Florence Dixie. Huh?

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    Guarded by a ferocious (OK, maybe not) house cat, Clementina. Eh, you! Wake up!

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    #23
  4. Haroon

    Haroon RIDE for PASSION

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    Thats a really wonderful adventure trip and thanks for taking us along the ride to places that is rarely done by riders from outside the Americas. Crisp logs and fitting pictures to go with it. Great work:clap.
    #24
  5. GB

    GB . Administrator

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    What an awesome adventure! Thanks for the report and all those stunning pics :thumb
    #25
  6. doring

    doring Aventuros

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    Thanks, nice report, very beautiful landscapes. Thanks for sharing.
    #26
  7. doring

    doring Aventuros

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    By the way, did you try the cappuccino in Napoli? I can't tell you a specific location (maybe Gambrinus) but most of the coffee is very good there, also pizza. I see that you are looking for the best cappuccino, I'm looking for the best espresso :), until now Napoli is the place. And if you go there you can enjoy Amalfi Coast as well.
    #27
  8. balm426

    balm426 Adventurer

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    Excellent report, thanks for the inspiration.
    #28
  9. rdwalker

    rdwalker Long timer

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    Hey, GB: thanks for the support (and for "sticky-fying" this thread).

    Although this is not a "hardcore" adventure trip, of the sort where the rider fights the natives and dangerous animals, lives on berries and maggots, hacks his way through the jungle..., etc., etc., it may appeal to the inmates who travel on limited schedule and want to see and enjoy exotic locales, while still availing themselves of the spoils of civilization (cappuccino being a symbol of that in my mind).

    It is always an Adventure, after all - and your ADV stickers did travel with us to Patagonia!

    I am ashamed to acknowledge this, but I never made it to Naples. My Italian adventures always took me to Milan and to the Italian Alps - great motorcycling venue, by the way.

    Same story with your home base: come to think of it, I last time I was in Romania was over 30 years ago.

    I think now it's time to rectify that: in near future, I should revisit Italy and go riding in your country. I understand that it is a great ADV destination.

    I still remember the Turkish coffee I had in Bucharest, sold by street vendors out of little carts, prepared in copper cups buried in hot sand. Do they still have these?
    #29
  10. rdwalker

    rdwalker Long timer

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    Let's continue... with the thoughts of Turkish-style coffee - out of a copper cup, very hot, very sweet - put into my mind by doring (see message above). Mmmm.


    Next morning in Puerto Natales. I love exploring my destinations very early, when there is a stillness in the air and the rays of the rising sun are just starting to warm the place up.

    Here the atmosphere was just as moody and nostalgic, quiet and deserted - with only an old lady sweeping the sidewalk and a couple of backpackers passing by.

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    And, of course, the stray dogs.

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    Last visit to the World's End Café Book Store. This is the end of our riding adventure: we are leaving the bikes in the shop and Roberto will take us to Punta Arenas in his truck.

    We are soaking in and enjoying the place: cappuccino is good and Wi-Fi works well. Not bad for the End of the World, no?

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    Last minute souvenir purchases: Lewis is able to fulfill most of the shopping list for the personnel in his office. He certainly made the day for the street vendor.

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    Back on the road, now in the big seats of Roberto's truck. Returning to our departure airport in Punta Arenas.

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    Now, that we do not have to concentrate on riding, we can notice items of interest missed on the way up. For example, these: at first I was annoyed by what I thought was garbage dumped in big heaps alongside the roadways. Then, I realized that there was a design to them.

    I found out that these are roadside shrines. The bottles are important. They commemorate a woman, Difunta Correa, who was following her husband's military unit through the desert in the 1800's. She ran out of supplies; after many days, her body was found - miraculously, the infant child was alive, suckling on her breast even after death.

    The shrines are often set up by long-distance truckers. Visitors leave dollhouses, pieces of clothing and - most of all - pile up bottles filled with water to quench Difunta's thirst and to ask for her protection.

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    Chileans are expert road builders. Their long distance gravel highways are one of the best I have ever traveled. The surface is smooth and hard packed, with very little frost damage. The key is, obviously, depth of the street bed and excellent drainage.

    They learned their craft by connecting the widely spaced population centers of their long and empty country. Now, that they are more affluent, the roads are becoming paved - the surface is again very good, facilitated by the underlying perfect gravel bed.

    In the interim period, money was spent on paving only one travel lane, the other one remaining as gravel.

    This is one of the old roads, now abandoned: vehicles in both directions would be traveling on this single paved lane until they came to face each other. Then, the driver who was not in his lane would have to switch onto the gravel side. Presumably, traffic was light then.


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    Did I write already that it was windy?

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    As I mentioned earlier, the relationship between Chile and Argentina was not always friendly. Many territories in the region were disputed and there were often military skirmishes, sometimes outright war.

    A big confrontation was in the works in 1978. Just 3 years before venturing out to the Falklands/Malvinas, the Argentine military was on the verge of invading Chile. The attack was called off just a few hours before launch.

    While preparing for the fight, both countries extensively mined their border zones. Here the road winds itself near a Chilean-Argentine border crossing - many still active mine fields bear witness to the uneasy history.

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    Ironically, not too far from the minefields, a postcard-pretty sight: a lake full of pink flamingos.

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    We were here! Lewis is marking the spot.

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    #30
  11. tserts

    tserts Chaotic Neutral

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    :*sip*:tb:thumb
    #31
  12. rdwalker

    rdwalker Long timer

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    End of another great adventure, of a successful Cappuccino Tour. In the airport of Punta Arenas, we are splitting up: Lewis is flying for a few days to Buenos Aires; I am heading home.

    Here's to you all, who stuck with this ride report! Thanks for looking; I hope you enjoyed it.

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    A long flight back is ahead of me. The total time in the air is about 18 hours, thus I arranged to stop overnight in Lima, Peru.

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    For your entertainment, then, a few shots from Lima. I found Peru to be very different from Chile.

    Santiago, if not for the Spanish-language signs, would be quite indistinguishable from Central European cities. Lima, on the other hand, had a distinct South-American flavor.

    Upon arrival, I immediately traveled to the Old City, Centro Historico. This is the main square, Plaza de Armas – the yellow building with wooden balconies is the Palace of the Governor.

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    The whole Old City felt very medieval. I roamed the narrow streets, finally emerging at Plaza San Martin, with the South-American Building, Edificio Sudamerica.

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    Now this is a cute story: check out the statue of General Jose San Martin, an important figure in South America’s struggle for independence from Spain. At the foot of the pedestal is a figure of a woman symbolizing the Grateful Nation.

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    Have a look at the headdress of Lady Nation. According to the lore reported by the guidebooks - therefore, it must be true! :evil - the statue was built in Spain. The work order called for flames around her head, but the Spanish word for them is the same as the animals, llamas. The sculptors, perhaps considering the South American locale, neatly carved a llama poised on Nation’s head.

    It is fun to imagine the great unveiling ceremony. A total consternation - then some important dignitary declaring that this is exactly as desired in the first place; after all, llamas are native to Peru!

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    Turning to motorcycling: the cops in Lima seem to prefer cruiser bikes, mostly Hondas.

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    Speaking of cops: I came across this K-9 patrol. The dog was particularly mean and nasty looking. To my amusement, the policeman who noticed my interest, smiled and made the pooch do tricks. How’s that for tourist hospitality!

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    Once out of the historic, well-maintained district, I walked into a chaotic, busy shopping area. Come to think of it, this is how I imagined the whole city prior to my arrival.

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    Main streets are clogged by commuter buses. The “touts” are leaning out of the doors and yelling the destination, while the driver slowly cruises along the sidewalk. If you know where you are going, you just jump aboard. I stayed put.

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    To be fair, Lima is not only composed of medieval palaces and crazy, crowded streets. There are also new sections, very much on par with what you would see in North America or Europe. This picture is taken along the Miraflores beaches: shopping malls, high-rises, paragliders in the air... Very modern, but still very exotic.

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    While enjoying Lima's ocean-side views - last cappuccino of the 2009 Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego Cappuccino Tour.

    Cheers! And thanks for following along!

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    #32
  13. rdwalker

    rdwalker Long timer

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    Thanks!

    But... I give up:
    &#927;&#953; &#945;&#965;&#964;&#972;&#956;&#945;&#964;&#959;&#953; &#956;&#949;&#964;&#945;&#966;&#961;&#945;&#963;&#964;&#941;&#962; &#949;&#943;&#957;&#945;&#953; &#945;&#957;&#945;&#960;&#959;&#964;&#949;&#955;&#949;&#963;&#956;&#945;&#964;&#953;&#954;&#959;&#943;. <-hidden truth in here..

    ? :huh
    #33
  14. tserts

    tserts Chaotic Neutral

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    I couldn't write yesterday, my son was sleeping next to me so I just clicked on the smilies. Top ride report, lots of useful info as well, thank you so much for all this! :clap I guess it's not uncommon, someone else mentioned earlier that he does espresso tours, our center of attention is beer, beer consumption is a key element of our travels and we value the combination of taste, location and company in our own "beer tours"...:freaky

    About the sigline, the trick would have been to machine translate it but now that I told you you ruined the joke... :lol3

    Now the important stuff.. I usually spend years setting up, farkling and optimizing my touring bikes and the end result is a reason to travel as well. You mention you have a GS, how does it work for you leaving your perfectly looked after, state-of-the-art beauty at home and then visit amazing twisty roads at the most exciting places with an inferior steed? I am truly interested to hearing your answer as travel time is becoming more and more scarce and distant destinations are impossible to even think about visiting... The same goes for medium distance trips. We have a dream to ride North Spain me and my wife, but it's just 6 - 7 days (with the return trip) to even get to Barcelona and get to the good stuff. Cost-wise it might also be more economic, especially if one rents a cheapish thumper, like the KLR... So how well does that work? Do you still enjoy the riding part on a rental bike that might have many shortcomings?

    Finally could you share some estimates about the rental costs for the bikes (and guide separately) of that particular trip?

    Thank you again for taking us to the end of the world! :clap
    #34
  15. quicktoys2

    quicktoys2 ADVrider junkie :)

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    Thank you for taking the time to share your ride with us. Nice pictures and report.

    I was wondering if you have chosen the winning Cappuccino of this trip, and in which country and town that would be.

    Soto
    #35
  16. rdwalker

    rdwalker Long timer

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    OK, I did machine-translate - and apparently I did spoil the joke... :rofl

    Regarding bikes: nothing wrong with the KLR's. Not inferior, just different. Obviously, they are slower (which may not matter on gravel) and have less carrying capacity. Still, these are very competent on a mostly off-pavement adventure tour. A lot of people swear by the KLR - after all, this was the original universal adventure machine. I even know of a local couple here who do some serious riding two-up (!) on a well-equipped KLR650.

    As a matter of fact, until recently my focus was on sport-touring and my main bike was a K1200RS. At the time I also had KLR650's for local playtime, so that I have been very familiar with these machines to start with.

    Recently I am much more into long-distance adventure-touring (typically, into Canadian provinces, north from where I live) and that includes some very serious highway distances. That's where the R1200GS excels: I can ride hundreds and hundreds of miles in high-speed comfort and then still have a competent gravel bike. (Last month, I set my personal record: 900 miles in one day, returning from James Bay on the GS).


    What I am trying to say is that a KLR may not be the best choice for the significant distances we cover here, but I would not hesitate to ride it again if my adventure playgrounds were close-by - such as, for you, ferrying from Southern Europe to North Africa, as an example.

    Also, in certain locations KLR-type bike may be the only choice. Patagonia is very expensive; Motoaventura, a big Chilean touring oufit, was offering F650GS in US$200+/day range, plus $300 delivery to Punta Arenas.

    For your Spanish trip, you may indeed want to look into rentals. Last summer, I rented an R1200RT from Iberian Moto Tours in Barcelona - it was not very expensive and the service was good. They do have smaller bikes as well; I needed the RT because that time my wife joined me for a few days of exploring the Pyrenees. With the very inexpensive intra-European flight and rail connections you guys have, renting a bike may be the right choice.



    Regarding Patagonian costs: our deal with Roberto was somewhat unstructured. As I recall, we paid US$100/day for each of our bikes and somewhere in the range of $200/day for him on his bike. Accommodations (generally $50-80/room), food and fuel were paid separately. Keep in mind that this is what I remember right now - may be wrong - and that these were 2009 prices.

    It's in the ballpark, though. In late '07, we rode in South Africa; over there we paid in the range of US$1200-1500 per rider for 6-7 days rental of R1150GS with accommodations and another $1500 for the guide.
    #36
  17. TwilightZone

    TwilightZone Long timer

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    Great report... Chile sounds like a nice place to be.
    #37
  18. tserts

    tserts Chaotic Neutral

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    Thanks for the reply, I never really meant "inferior" in a literal sense, I was more refering to the difference of comfort, performance and farkles between a new GS and a rental KLR... I believe those bikes are very decent and their popularity agrees with that statement.

    I can see that you "buy" your time in order to get what you are after, airtickets alone cost a fortune to South America, add to that an overhead of $200 per day (bike and shared guide), and you still have to pay everything else regarding the stay. It still sounds expensive, but in the end, you did something epic, you rode to the end of the world, I believe that for someone who has the ability to spend a few extra money and who has a decent job that forbids multi-month absences, it is certainly worth it than staying home and reading about it from other people's RRs... :clap
    #38
  19. FotoTEX

    FotoTEX Long timer

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    Great Report. I have been to Chile but never as far south as you went. On my bucket list. Especially Torres del Paine area.
    #39
  20. doring

    doring Aventuros

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    What can i say, amazing trip. From here it looks for me that you went at the end of the world, wild and mysterious as it can be. I'm happy for you. Also the report was interesting, I heard about Malvine conflict but I didn't know how it started. It's surprising for me and pity that Argentina and Chile don't have good relations, they share one of the most beautiful part of the world.
    I hope you will never find that great cappuccino, keep searching and do amazing trips :))). I'm glad that you were here in Romania and you enjoyed it. I'm sorry to tell you that it's very hard to find that turkish coffee these days. I never tasted it, I was a child when that coffee was on top. After Ceausescu's regime fall the romanians embraced the american and italian style of making coffee, but we are not so good :). You can try the wine instead, it is very good and we have a lot, sometimes is cheaper than water :) (I never buy this one). If you plan someday to come here I will be glad to help, and if I have time I can join you. It is a very beautiful country and for you will be more interesting to see how it changed, or not, in all these years. It's hard to compare Romania with Argentina and Chile, Romania looks like a bug on the map comparing with those two countries (the only common thing is those stray dogs) but you can find interesting stuff here also, like this :):
    http://www.220.ro/auto/Top-Gear-Pe-Transfagarasan/vprFlfI3CO/
    http://www.bmw-motorrad.ro/inchiriere.html
    #40