Travelin' Light - Riding 2up through the Americas

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by csustewy, May 5, 2011.

  1. potski

    potski Wiley Wanderer

    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2007
    Oddometer:
    604
    Location:
    In the mountains
    Hi Guys..So, breweries along the way and you were in the bar EVERY evening :D:D:D You both deserved it I say !

    Bet you both had the trip of your lives; thanks for taking the time and effort to put this together for the rest of us. :clap:clap:clap

    Looking forward to hearing from "U" "Shuaia"......

    Ride safe both

    Cheers
    Potski :freaky
  2. potski

    potski Wiley Wanderer

    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2007
    Oddometer:
    604
    Location:
    In the mountains
    BTW, is that Guinness :evil:evil

    Cheers
    Potski :freaky
  3. csustewy

    csustewy Motojero

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2009
    Oddometer:
    550
    Location:
    back in Denver
    Hey all, thanks for the shout out!

    Tha Rick - I've seen your posts while lurking around the Rockies forum, hope to run into you someday in that neck of the woods.

    Steve - thanks for following along with us! It's been quite a ride.

    And Potski - you picked up on a theme of our time in Bariloche. We got outside some, but enjoyed our evening in a couple of watering holes. (Well, mainly one that had screaming deals on drinks. We kind of became short term regulars.) But those lakeside microbrews were tough to beat. That stout was quite Guinness-like, but even better, if that's possible. Although it may just have been the setting that made it so enjoyable.

    Now we'll do our best to get our virtual selves caught up to our actual selves.
  4. csustewy

    csustewy Motojero

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2009
    Oddometer:
    550
    Location:
    back in Denver
    Not far down the road lies el Bolsón, a town that was known for its hippie invasion in the 70's and is still known for its crafts markets on Tuesdays and Saturdays. We like it most because of this place:

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    (Camping at a microbrewery is tops! And they even give you a beer with each paid day. And they have nice showers, cooking space, firepits,... Can you tell we liked that place?)

    Walking through the town of el Bolsón itself was fine and all, a bit interesting but not overly impressive. Neither of us is (ever really) in the market for handicrafts, and the rest of town wasn't all that captivating, but comfortable enough. It does have the advantage of sitting in a beautiful valley.

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    (hippie inspired art)

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    (drunken school girl Xing)

    On towards Esquel we enjoyed the ride back towards the mountains.

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    (at the border leaving Argentina. Lots of backpackers/hitchhikers hanging out trying to catch a ride.)

    This time crossing into Chile was a little less painful than our first - we didn't have a sheepskin to lose, but still managed to forget that we had 3 peaches with us, so those got chucked. But an easy enough crossing that put us right into Futaleufú.

    Futaleufú is a definite favorite for us. The people we met were all super friendly, happy to see us, open to travelers. The valley teems with peaceful beauty that pictures just can't capture (but we'll show you some anyways). Our first impression was that it's the good kind of place that we would be happy to stay for awhile. (How that could actually happen is the difficult part...)

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    (los Coihues camping just outside of town)

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    (town plaza, now home to the region's only bank and provincial government buildings since Chaitén's ongoing destruction (due to volcanic eruption in 2008 and subsequent rerouting of the river right through town))

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    We went hiking in the new Reserva Nacional Futaleufú one afternoon. There are two main sections, Rio Chico and las Escalas, both of which are surrounded by private land, making access a bit challenging. Arriving at the ranger house in Rio Chico was easy enough (only 1 wrong turn) but the ranger was in town and the lady at the house (who turned out to be the ranger's mom and lived there full time too) was less than helpful in pointing us to the trail. Eventually we found enough help to find the main trail to an overlook, but didn't have the right pieces of information to find the full loop. When we returned we met the ranger, who was super nice, and gave us the hints we would have needed. Next time. Next time. But the hike we managed to take was still pretty sweet.

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    We then wandered towards las Escalas, which required a 30 min ride to the next ranger's house, or at least we thought it was the ranger's house. The road gave us a nice view of Hells Canyon, a notorious whitewater rafting destination:

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    The lady in the yard of the ranger house (not sure if she was the ranger, the ranger's mom, the gardener, or what) pointed us further down the road, and gave us some hints on how to get up to an overlook of the valley and a big waterfall. "Follow the red-topped poles through the field." So we parked with the sheep and did exactly that.

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    After we ducked under a barbed wire fence towards an obvious trail that continued up the valley, we took a break. While sitting there a group of 4 men came walking up to look at the exact spot we ducked under. Two of the men were national police, one was apparently the land owner. The land owner was not happy with people coming onto his land. We found that out when we went down to confirm the direction with them. His 2 concerns were (1) that if hikers are on his land and get injured by themselves or by one of his bulls, what's he to do? and (2) that if people keep busting his fence his bulls may disappear. Those are valid concerns, not to mention the fact that CONAF officials (e.g. park rangers) are specifically instructing strangers to cross private property to access the national reserve. The policemen didn't seem to be responding to Miguel, the land owner, with much respect or even courtesy (yet another example of how things often work in Latin America). We spoke to him with respect, apologized for our mistake of entering his land, and did what he asked of us (told him when we were leaving his land so he could be sure we weren't hurt). I think that tiny effort (is it even really that?) helped us forge a bit of a relationship with Miguel, so he invited us to stay and talk with him after the policemen left.

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    (the cops flanking Mike, Miguel, and Jill)

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    (sitting on Miguels' porch drinking some mate. He liked to joke around and kept coming back to asados (BBQ's), vino, and chicha de manzana. He then offered to trade us some of his land for a 4x4 truck. maybe we will find a way to go party with our neighbor Miguel now and again. Too bad trucks are so expensive in Chile...)

    So while the whole trespassing thing suggests the authorities have some issues that they need to resolve with the population, it really turned out to be an enjoyable afternoon for us. (Partially because Jill's been secretly hoping to be invited to mate, and this was her first time drinking a mate in South America)

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    (Miguel's place, las Escalas, Reserva Nacional Futaleufú)

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    While Futa had cast a strong spell on us, we were still looking forward to continuing on and seeing what the infamous Carretera Austral had in store.
  5. csustewy

    csustewy Motojero

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2009
    Oddometer:
    550
    Location:
    back in Denver
    We had been hearing about the Carretera Austral, known for its amazing scenery, ever since we started thinking about this trip. It was a bit of a conundrum for us, an elusive thing that just existed somewhere in the southern part of Chile; we honestly didn't really know where it was. Well, we found it. And WOW! what a place. The scenery was jaw dropping. Absolutely stunning. We will do our best to downselect the photos that we took, and just display some of the highlights here, but be forewarned that this post is picture heavy.

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    (entering the Carretera Austral near Villa Santa Lucia)

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    (reflections from afar (we found some even better reflections later on...I've already failed at downselecting))

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    (the TA loved it)

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    (it's official. We had found the Carretera Austral)

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    (Mike caught a Nalca leaf that was this big)

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    (some more austral flora)

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    (a nice little campsite outside of Puyuhuapi)

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    (so much water along the whole route. And it was often some amazing shade of blue, green, or somewhere in between)

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    (The retired bus lunch stop in Villa Amenguai. Those 2 bicyclists were German, probably ~70+ years old, and pedaling their way around the Carretera Austral for 10 weeks. We saw lots of bicyclists in the area, these 2 were by far the most impressive.)

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    (We camped outside of Coyhaique where we ran into Bill from Alaska. He has sailed and traveled the world over, and was good company for our evening camping and morning meal. Since he was headed north, we didn't have the chance to ride with him)

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    (Jill taking advantage of the public mate)

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    (the Carretera Austral was actually paved for a couple hundred kms around Coyhaique, the regional hub. It was still fun riding!)

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    (TA with Cerro Castillo)

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    (the colors of these glacial lakes and rivers are incredible! This light green was common, as well as light blues, and darker blues, and combinations of greens and blues. Yet all still somehow crystal clear)

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    (dead forest)

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    (nearing Pto Tranquilo)

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    (even when you look straight ahead, beauty!)

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    (and this was our view from camp just outside of Puerto Tranquilo. Not bad)

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    (we took a trip to visit la Capilla de Mármol = "the Chapel of Marble")

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    (la Capilla de Mármol)

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    (this dog lives there)

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    (the actual Capilla de Mármol (this island is the actual "Capilla", the rest was just on the tour))

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    (Sunset and reflections, Lago General Carrera)

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    (Cemetary on the way up Valle Exploradores)

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    (Perfect reflection in Lago Tranquilo, Valle Exploradores)

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    Jill made friends with the little kitty pictured above at one of our campsites just north of Cochrane. In fact, it spent a good bit of time in our tent. Once it started exploring, heading straight towards our inflatable air mattresses with its claws, it got the boot. Too bad we didn't have any kitten mittens!

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    (The bugs were so bad that helmets were worn at all times. Safety first. Man, those horseflies were unsafe.)

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    (Mike and TA waiting for the ferry at Puerto Yungay)

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    (It's about a 40 min ride, totally free, and even has a snack bar. We met some crazy Porteños on their way to boat to a glacier. Marcos, Maximo and Matias. Hope they made it...)

    The other side of the ferry was, you guessed it, gorgeous. The road was in good shape, maybe because of how few vehicles come this way since there is usually no way out (except every once in awhile when a river can be crossed, but with questionable aduana services available). We did, however, see an awful lot of bicyclists since they can ride/carry their bikes from Villa O'Higgins into Argentina. Even with the backtrack, we were glad to see this stretch.

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    (camping at Media Luna, just south of Villa O'Higgins. "Wild" horses woke us up, mostly because one of them had a cowbell tied to its neck.)

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    (Fin de la Carretera Austral!!)

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    (Villa O'Higgins. Thankfully it has a Petrobras station (which is marked up to almost USD 2 per liter))

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    (Just sittin' on a bench in full motorcycle gear... this is how we admired the view to keep the bugs at bay. Between Villa O'Higgins and Pto Yungay)

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    After ferrying back from Villa O'Higgins, we decided to check out Caleta Tortel, at the other end of the dead end road. It was an interesting town, all built on boardwalks.

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    (we found a nice spot to camp on the way, and appreciated the sunset)

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    (the cats liked Jill here, too)

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    (Mike dropped a glove into the water. Thankfully (1) a passerby notice it happen and told him and (2) it was within stick's reach of an accessible place on shore...it just took some off-boardwalkin')

    Then back up towards Cochrane we went.

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    <a href="http://motojeros.smugmug.com/Travel/Motojeros-Chile/27182364_vQHFHq#!i=2338226991&k=XRcM6TQ&lb=1&s=A" title="the ultimate general store, Cochrane"><img src="http://motojeros.smugmug.com/Travel/Motojeros-Chile/i-XRcM6TQ/0/M/P1040876-M.jpg" title="the ultimate general store, Cochrane" alt="the ultimate general store, Cochrane"></a>
    (the ultimate general store in Cochrane)
  6. Throttlemeister

    Throttlemeister Long timer

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    Oddometer:
    4,142
    Location:
    Okie near Muskogee
    Great pictures guys:clap:clap:clap You are on a good roll!
  7. VFR

    VFR Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2007
    Oddometer:
    872
    Location:
    Sunny (sometimes) SoCal
    Absolutely Amazing Scenery there!!! Thanks so much for posting those pictures. I'm sure it looked much better in person but that is hard to beat.

    Incredible trip, you two. Have fun.
  8. csustewy

    csustewy Motojero

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2009
    Oddometer:
    550
    Location:
    back in Denver
    Thanks for the compliments guys, but yeah, that area just naturally lends itself to some great photos. We are looking forward to heading back north through the same region...
  9. csustewy

    csustewy Motojero

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2009
    Oddometer:
    550
    Location:
    back in Denver
    We had heard about a free campsite on the way to the Chilean/Argentine border from Cochrane, so decided to check it out. The area was purchased by Conservacion Patagonia, founded by Tompkins, the former CEO of Patagonia clothing company. She and her husband, the founder of North Face, live in Chile and have purchased over 2 million acres of land in Chile in Argentina. They have turned most of this area into National Parks, and are currently turning the area between Cochrane and Paso Roballos into a national park called Parque Patagonia. The park in in construction right now, which is why the campsites are still free. They are also developing and mapping the trails, with the help of several international volunteers. We were surprised at how nice the buildings in the park are. Quite upscale actually. We spent two enjoyable nights at the West Winds campground and ended up meeting a really nice couple, Clara and Santi, from Buenos Aires, who we hiked with for the day. The hike was a bit longer than we expected, as we thought it would take about 3 hours, but ended up taking all day, to the confluence of the Baker and Cochrane rivers. It was worth the walk, and we were even able to hitchhike most of the way back.

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    (The ride to Parque Patagonia was really nice.)

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    (Guanacos were everywhere...)

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    (...including in the campsite.)

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    (Los West Winds campsite is free for now, and worth a visit.)

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    (Hiking with Clara and Santi)

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    (Our final destination - la confluencia.)

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    (This is inside the new guest lodge. Accomodations are plush.)

    From the campsite, the border is about 60kms.

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    (This is Flamingo Lake, where flamingos are reported to live. We didn't see any.)

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    (The Chilean border took about 5 minutes to get through. Not much traffic here, so that means no lines.)

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    (We also had several ñandú (or "Rhea" if you prefer English) sightings. Rheas are a lot like ostriches, but a little smaller and only found in South America.)

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    (The Argentine border took a little longer. Not because of the customs process, but because we got a flat that Mike had to fix. Luckily we were right at the Argentine customs building when it happened, so we could multi-task for some of the time.)

    From the border, we went to Lago Posadas in hopes of finding gas and some food, as we hadn't eaten all day. Come to find out this town completely shuts down from 12-5 for siesta. Luckily for us, we arrived after 4. We found a cafe that was just opening. We admit that the milanesa was delicious (anything would have been at that point, as we are not accustomed to missing meals), but the very friendly owner charged us 100 pesos (about $15) each. That is ridiculous! Everytime we forget to ask the price in advance this is what happens. Mike was able to talk her down, but we still paid more than we should have. At this point we discovered that southern Argentina was going to be a bit more expensive than northern Argentina was, and we already knew that all of Chile was expensive. Oh well, we got some gas and continued on, making it to Baja Caracoles to spend the night.

    The town is very sleepy, but has a lot of people stopping in, as it has a gas station and is located on Highway 40. It was a hub for gaucho travel in the '40's as well. We got our old tube repaired by a really nice guy who recommended that we camp at the police station. Jill asked the policeman if there was camping in town. He said no, but then told us we could camp next to the station. Perfect. We got all set up and then went to the hotel/grocery store/bar/gas station for a beer (we were even able to sneak a shower in the morning). A VW van pulled up with a Dutch couple, Janna and Erwin, and we ended up having a good evening hanging out with them to celebrate Janna's birthday. They backpacked through Central America and bought the bus in Chile, then traveled with it through Bolivia, Brazil, Argentina and back to Chile. They are now headed to Santiago to sell the van.

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    (Janna, Jill, Erwin and Mike with the bus)
  10. Dracula

    Dracula Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious

    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2011
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    6,284
    Location:
    here today
    Wow!! Classic! Thanks for sharing.:clap
  11. csustewy

    csustewy Motojero

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2009
    Oddometer:
    550
    Location:
    back in Denver
    From Baja Caracoles, we headed south towards el Chaltén, passing through Gobernador Gregores for some gas and food along the way.

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    (Gotta love the ñandús)

    We had been driving on gravel and camping for some time at this point, so we were both tired and not looking to ride long miles. Instead of pushing for distance, we stopped when we saw a good place to wild camp, set up the tent and still had time to relax a bit near Lago Cardiel. The two liters of water we travel with went quickly due to the surprisingly high temperatures we had in this dry environment. Lago Cardiel was calling. The lake looked super close, but it ended up taking about an hour to get to the water. Making the trek in flip-flops did not turn out to be the best choice since the terrain was full of stabby grasses and bushes. Once we made it to the lake, we discovered that this was not a typical beautiful Patagonian glacier lake, but was instead a murky, stagnant, brackish lake. And the filter didn't want to work. After spending probably an hour getting the filter to produce two liters of water, we made the hike back.

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    (Mike at the "beach")

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    (The sunset was spectacular over our perfect spot to camp.)

    Highway 40 is full of nothing until you get to Tres Lagos, where there is a gas station (although no gas when we were there) that has empanadas. Once you turn towards el Chaltén, however, you have this view to keep you occupied.

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    (this view of town isn't too shabby either)

    As mentioned earlier, we had been camping, often with no facilities, for quite a while and it was definitely time for a bed (and laundry, but that didn't quite happen....). Unfortunately, el Chaltén is a little expensive, but we were fine with spending a little money for a room. We even sprung for a private room in a hostel instead of a dorm bed. Classy.

    El Chaltén was established in 1985 and functions solely around tourism, as Parque Nacional de los Glaciares is extremely popular among climbers and trekkers. There is free camping in the park at some beautiful hike-in locations. We didn't really come equipped to hike-in to a campsite, so instead we took a couple day hikes.

    Day one was Cerro Torre.

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    (This person has the right idea with the "Drugstore" kiosko/bar trailer at the base of the trail)

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    (just another view)

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    (This was at the top)

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    (coming back down was nice too)

    Day two was Laguna de los Tres ("Three Lakes", more or less) hike, about 6 miles one way, but with a 1,200 foot elevation gain in the last hour, we felt like we did something at the end of the day. Lots of people on the trail, and this is also where climbers take off to climb Fitz Roy. It seemed like it would rain all day, but we got lucky and only got some periodic sprinkles.

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    (One of the three lakes at the top)

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    (This is the second lake. Not quite sure where the third one is.)

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    (view on the way back to town)

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    (Fitz Roy with clouds...)

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    (...and without)

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    (Town)

    Our hostel, Albergue Patagonia, was a really great place to stay, and the staff was super nice. They let us store our stuff all day, then come back and shower and fix dinner before we left the hostel. We got out of town a ways after all that, and found a wild camping spot with a view.

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  12. Dracula

    Dracula Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious

    Joined:
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    6,284
    Location:
    here today
    Looks as if you set the tent on the road... very cool. Awesome pictures and report.
  13. Bonnie & Clyde

    Bonnie & Clyde Wishing I was riding RTW

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2006
    Oddometer:
    2,966
    Location:
    Gardnerville NV
    I Must get to Argentina, Chile, Puru, ASAP!


    Absolutely stunning scenery.
  14. csustewy

    csustewy Motojero

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2009
    Oddometer:
    550
    Location:
    back in Denver
    It does look like that, and it's even kinda true. But this road was just the path to check the fenceline, so luckily the risk of anyone driving into us was about 0.

    Definitely put those places on your short list! We continue to be amazed daily. Tomorrow we set off for a few days of hiking through Torres del Paine, which should give us some more incredible vistas...
  15. csustewy

    csustewy Motojero

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2009
    Oddometer:
    550
    Location:
    back in Denver
    ...And long walks in the rain?
    Thankfully, we didn't have much rain to walk in. But we did have some nothingness once we made it back to Highway 40.

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    Our main purpose of going to el Calafate, like most people, was to see the Perito Moreno glacier. This glacier is one of three Patagonian glaciers that are growing and advancing, is 3 miles wide, and about 250 feet tall. The glacier has major ruptures every 4-5 years and has smaller breaks and cracks several times every day, which are very audible.

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    After sitting around for several hours watching the glacier and drinking wine, it was time to find some free camping. There was a great campground called La Huala within the National Park, but on a different road than the glacier. There were no bathrooms, but the site was well organized with a beautiful view and lots of drunk Argentines in RVs.

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    (on the way to camp)

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    (view from the campsite)

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    (I'm sure this place has never heard of McDonald's. Or maybe they have the "Big Mic".)

    We left the next morning without finding a need to spend much time in el Calafate other than to get gas and some food. People were very interested in the bike there, and she was probably in more photos than anywhere else we have been. Leaving el Calafate we definitely felt the strong Patagonian winds that everyone talks about, even stronger than what we felt south of San Rafael. Up to this point, we have been extremely lucky with the weather with no rain and almost no wind. We still haven't seen the worst of it, but have now had a couple days of hard, cold wind getting down to Punta Arenas.

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    (Mike made a creepy friend along the way, as usual)

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    (If you look really hard in this picture, you should see a fox. There were actually two of them beside the road, but I was too slow to get a good shot.)

    We arrived in Puerto Natales cold, tired and in need of a shower. We found a good but expensive hostel in The Singing Lamb Backpackers , paying $20 each for a dorm room.

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    (The hostel cat loved sleeping on the motorcycle.)

    After a night in Puerto Natales, we headed to Punta Arenas on another cold, windy, boring ride. We hoped to buy lots of motorcycle and outdoor stuff at the free trade zone, but were a bit disappointed with the Zona Franca in general.

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    It seemed just like a bad outlet mall in the Midwest. Although Mike was able to get some cheap oil for an oil change, we didn't buy anything else there. Perhaps the best thing in the Zona Franca was the good exchange rate for Argentine Pesos, at over 7 pesos to 1 US dollar, it is the best you are going to get in southern Patagonia. You can find the cambios in the big mall near the Sanchez y Sanchez.

    Asking around for tires took us to RecaSur in Zona Franca, which had some moto parts, but more for offroad bikes. They directed us to Alejandro Lagos, who Mike had seen mentioned on the HUBB and ADVrider, as the guy to go to for anything moto related and who also rents BMWs. It seems that he took over the MotoAventura shop from a guy named Gonzalo who was highly recommended. Maybe Gonzalo is still around town (in fact, Gonzalo's shop, MotoEscar, still has a sign up at Carrerra 666, but we never saw the shop opened...), but this Alejandro guy was not our favorite. While he did have tires in stock, he was very expensive. Additionally, he was a bit condescending and wanted to charge a hefty fee (~US$45) to change the tires himself. Given that, deciding not to have him change the tires was easy, then it was easy to decide to give him as little money as possible when he wouldn't let me change my own oil - with oil and filter purchased from him - without paying him extra, claiming the expense of having someone take the used oil away. Throughout Latin America (hell, even in the states), shops have let us drop the old oil without any problem, including the shop we found in Santiago and RecaSur here in Pta Arenas, and the workshop at our hostel, and almost anywhere else. At most of those shops, we haven't bought a thing, sometimes we just buy a filter (~US$5), and other times the oil too. To be asked to pay to leave old oil was too much. On top of that, Alejandro strongly insisted that the wrong model HiFlo oil filter was the correct one for the TA, even though Mike told him the correct code for the same brand (okay, okay, maybe the one he was trying to sell could have worked, but it still isn't the right one). But I'll stop ranting now. We bought (an expensive at ~US$110) MT-60 front tire from Alejandro anyways, and took it to the gas station to change it (to use their free compressor).

    The good moto shop experience we had was at Pablo Paredes Motos Honda shop. They had an MT-90 rear tire in stock for ~US$140 (much less than any of Alejandro's offerings), let me work in their shop, brought over tools, grease, tire lube, anything I needed, usually before I asked. They even told us to stop sweeping up after we finished working, that they were going to sweep the whole shop and not to worry about it. The guys in the shop were that helpful, and the woman running the parts side was maybe even more so. She knew what she had on hand, offered to order anything else necessary, and was genuinely interested in making sure we were all set. We even ended up stopping back in there on the way north to pick up a chain. Granted, this chain was expensive as it was Honda OEM, but I don't have any problem giving money to such wonderful people (and in full disclosure, I did ask around for cheaper alternatives, but no other O-ring chains available). They were fantastic. Highly recommended!

    Pablo Paredes Motos
    Magallanes 330
    Punta Arenas
    Fono/fax: (56-61) 224239
    Cel: (09) 92267148
    Emal: pablo_paredes_motos@yahoo.es
    GPS: S 53 deg 09.370 min / W 70 deg 54.033 min

    The 4 days or so we hung out in Punta Arenas was more than sufficient. Of course, in our usual way, we managed to include a Sunday in there, when nothing can get done. So we got to know the downtown streets a bit.

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    And, we also finally got caught up on the blog after being about a month behind. We'll see where our next installment takes us, but there aren't too many points further south...
  16. csustewy

    csustewy Motojero

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2009
    Oddometer:
    550
    Location:
    back in Denver
    The ferry direct from Punta Arenas doesn't run on Mondays, building yet another full day into our time in that town. We were ready to get to Tierra del Fuego.

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    (The TABSA ferry was a nice boat, took about 2.5 hours to cross, and cost about 30 USD for the 3 of us.)

    Porvenir is a small town that has a gas station and a couple of small shops, as well as a few places to stay. But we only took advantage of the gas station and continued on.

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    There is a 115 km loop known as the Circuito del Oro (= Gold Loop) where many gold seekers set up during the late 1800's, continuing today. The ride was beautiful and the best part is that we only passed a few other vehicles that whole way. The majority of them (+ 1 helicopter) happened to be in one convoy for the Prime Minister of Croatia. There is some strong connection between Croatia and Punta Arenas that we never quite figured out.

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    (bordering Bahía Inútil (= Useless Bay))

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    (finding gas at Russfín took us into a timber facility, where we had to ask around to find the actual pump. We also met a chef who had worked all around the world and was super nice. Random)

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    (this is the gas station)

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    (We were vastly outnumbered by sheep, on our way to reten Pampa Guanaco)

    Talking with the Carabinero at the Pampa Guanaco stop about 15km short of Argentina, he pointed us to a nice spot to set up a tent - Lago Blanco. The ride there was nicely wooded, and we had heard that the camping area was protected from the wind.

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    (Mike and TA thinking about camping, but the strong, cold winds said otherwise. On the shore of Lago Blanco)

    The wind was strong and a bit chilling. We saw a sign to a refugio just 1 km away, so we figured it worth a question to see how much it would cost to have a roof. That turned out to be the best decision we made in awhile!

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    (Refugio de Caza y Pescar at Lago Blanco)

    Standing in the parking lot we spoke with the caretakers, Francisco (Pancho) and Roxane for awhile. Asking how much a bed cost (~US$30/ppn) caused us to quickly turn the conversation back to free camping by the lake, among other things. After chatting for a few minutes, they invited us into the kitchen/lodge to see all of the stuffed (as in shot and stuffed) animals. Inside was the owner of the land, as well as 3 other guys who were retired from ENAP, the national petroleum company, staying there for a week or two. Then they invited us to coffee...and bread...and fried ham. And when Francisco mentioned that we didn't want to pay, the owner said that he didn't mind, we could just tip Pancho and Roxane instead of pay him. Perfect! So we gave them a good tip the next day, still half of what we should have paid, but got 2 meals, a snack, and multiple rounds of coffee with it. Not only that, we got to spend some time with Pancho and Roxane who were fantastic!

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    (Pancho and Mike going fishing)

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    (The walk through the Refugio de Caza y Pescar took us across this very strange terrain that was deep, soft, and squishy)

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    (beaver dam and extensive damage)

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    (beaver leftovers)

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    (Jill sees her first penguin up close, with no risk of getting bit)

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    (Terry with his first round of sticker accumulating complete)

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    (dinner with Pancho (at left), Roxane (at head of table), don Horacio (to Roxane's left as she sits, viewer's right), and others)

    The next morning we finally got out of there and made our way towards Argentina.

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    (Luckily the river was low, allowing us to cross to Argentina)

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    (Even with the water low, it was moving pretty good and shifted the bike around a bit. Nothing more than wet socks on the Argentina side, though. Which we changed in the Migración building.)

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    (pulling into Ushuaia)

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    After nearly 2 years and ~32,000 miles (over 50,000 km) we can now no longer head south. Jill's quote sums it up with simplicity: "so...now what?"

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    We had arrived at the park at 8pm, when entrance is free. It was also nice because there was not many other park visitors then. We met a few people from Ushuaia (who take advantage of the after 8pm effect, too) and saw a few animals.

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    (this little guy was hanging out in the parking lot at Bahía Lapataia)

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    (fox face)

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    (view of Bahía Lapataia)

    Ushuaia is home to a lot of reverence towards the Islas Malvinas, as this town was greatly affected by losses during the war with the Brits in 1982. The Islas Malvinas are a touchy subject throughout Argentina (don't call them the Falkland Islands), but especially so in Ushuaia. The unsuccessful war was launched by the military dictatorship in Argentina as a way to bolster patriotism, improve the economic state (perhaps just distract from it), and show their power. I don't think the war accomplished any of those goals. Scary thing today is that Christina (current president of Argentina) has made mention of the Malvinas, as if she were considering an invasion for the same goals. Please teach us a lesson, history.

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    (view of Ushuaia)

    We had a wonderful celebration dinner at Christopher's - a bottle of malbec, a bife de chorizo and some merluzza negra. It was tasty!

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    (The bike back outside of the Hostal Cormoranes. They let us park in their office for the days we were there. The staff at this hostal was some of the nicest we have run across, and while the price was high, it was reasonable for Ushuaia (US$16/ppn). They even gave us a nice private room with bathroom for the price of a discounted dorm bed. Score.)

    After about 5 days in Ushuaia, some used for errands (including an only partially successful attempt to mail a box of souvenirs home that taught some lessons, including: even though the post office is open until 5 does not mean that they send boxes until then, that stops at noon; sealed foods cannot be sent; the customs office down by the water has some nice staff and some not-so-nice staff, but they have the power to release a shipment after noon if you lean on them hard enough), other days used to wait out the wind and weather, we were ready to move north (still a strange concept).

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    (view from Paso Garibaldi)

    On the way we caught up to this French unicyclist, living in Vancouver now, attempting to make it all the way to Santiago in the next 6 months. That is quite the undertaking!

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    (she had just lost her sunglasses that day, so we gave our extra pair to her, and we gave her 2 alfajores for later. Hopefully those small gestures picked up her day a bit. Not that she needed it - she was in great spirits - but unicycling through Patagonian winds still seems crazy to us)

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    (we forgot her name, something with 2-3 syllables that starts with "An". But whatever, here she is getting going...)

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    (...and on her way!)

    Crossing back into Chile at San Sebastian was much different than Paso Bellavista. It was much more built up, there was a lot of traffic on the road (for us, another guy said it was light that day), and the officials weren't as interested in chatting (less bored, I guess?). But it was smooth. Then onto the ferry, which is less than a 30 minute crossing here. It is also free if you forget to find the person to pay.

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    (view from camp, outside of Pta Arenas)

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    (beautiful sunset with lots of depth and texture, outside of Pta Arenas)

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    (view from our tent, outside of Pta Arenas)

    On the 3 hour ride between Punta Arenas and Puerto Natales, we took advantage of a few stops to just get out of the wind for a minute.

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    (this roadhouse was a common bike traveler stop)

    Now that we are back in Puerto Natales, we have a few days to find a backpack and get sorted for a hike in Torres del Paine with some good friends. We are looking forward to it!
  17. Dracula

    Dracula Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious

    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2011
    Oddometer:
    6,284
    Location:
    here today
    Awesome, great pictures and the smile on your faces says it all, priceless! :clap
    I am not sure I'd be able to pick up again a regular office job after doing such trip without going into deep withdrawal, but whatever you decide, keep doing what you do as I think it does you good.
    Love the TA gypsy queen looks decorated with all the attached luggage.:deal
  18. potski

    potski Wiley Wanderer

    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2007
    Oddometer:
    604
    Location:
    In the mountains
    Hi Guys,
    Congratulations..can it really be two years since you set off; time flys as they say. Your photos especially the ones around Fitz Roy are some of the best. Shame you had bad vibes from Alejandro on the last leg; still you touched lucky with Pancho and Roxanne and pals.
    How do you both feel to be there?
    What have been the highlights and most prominent memories?
    So does the TA go or ???? What now ?

    Cheers
    Potski :freaky
  19. csustewy

    csustewy Motojero

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2009
    Oddometer:
    550
    Location:
    back in Denver
    Hey Dracula - thanks for the congrats! Yeah, the whole back-to-the-office thing doesn't excite either one of us right now. But something's got to bring in a few bucks for us soon. I have a feeling we'll head back to the states in a couple of months and just figure out what will work out for us from there.

    HA! I love the TA gypsy queen, too. (And that may be my new favorite description of her...)

    Hey Potski! Thanks also for the congrats. Yeah, it is hard to believe it's almost been 2 years. Wow, time really does fly. The sensation of starting to move back north for awhile is still setting in. It feels strange, but good. In fact, both of us are ready to stop packing up our same saddle bag every day and enjoy some of the finer things in life (like having access to a couch to sit on),

    As far as most prominent memories, let me get back to you after some more processing. So many good ones, so many beautiful places and wonderful people.

    The good news is that we are now planning on returning to the states with the TA in tow!! Details have not been worked out (or even considered at all), but we are sure something will work out. We just can't part ways.

    We just enjoyed a 10 day hike through Torres del Paine, and are now leaving to retrace some of the Carretera Austral...
  20. csustewy

    csustewy Motojero

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2009
    Oddometer:
    550
    Location:
    back in Denver
    Our friend Mark (aka Radioman) put together some nice compilations of his riding in Peru and Bolivia. We happened to spend a bit of time with him across those 2 countries. Here's a link to those videos so you can catch a glimpse:

    PERU:

    <object width="560" height="315"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/YXNXCiw5tj0?hl=en_US&amp;version=3"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/YXNXCiw5tj0?hl=en_US&amp;version=3" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="560" height="315" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></object>

    [LINK to his video post in his Ride Report]
    We met Mark up north, but didn't ride with him until Cusco to Aguas Calientes. We did take a few of the same roads, though. Here's a breakdown of our overlap:

    - 00:17 Huanchaco, where we met Mark, but then split ways until Cusco
    - 01:04 we make our brief debut, followed by an intro to Ollantaytambo and stills of Machu Picchu
    - 02:03 Ollantaytambo, riding through
    - 02:31 on the way to Sta Teresa
    - 02:55 we left the 1st hostel the same way (which happens to be in Potosí, Bolivia, but no matter), but weren't with Mark in Arequipa (03:10 until end of video) ​
    BOLIVIA:

    <object width="560" height="315"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/m-s6ic5TKFE?hl=en_US&amp;version=3"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/m-s6ic5TKFE?hl=en_US&amp;version=3" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="560" height="315" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></object>

    [LINK to his video post in his Ride Report]
    We were with Mark for most of the riding that we did in Bolivia, but split ways after the Salar de Uyuni. Here's the breakdown of this video:

    - until 04:18 we were with Mark, and the video is really well labelled, so just watch it​
    Thanks Mark! Your videos are well composed. But most of all, thanks for letting us join you for a small segment of your South American travels! We look forward to following your trip through New Zealand!