My big ride - A Kiwified Dutchman heading South from LA

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Normlas, Sep 9, 2017.

  1. Normlas

    Normlas Been here awhile

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    My stay "down on the farm" ends up being a bit longer than planned as the bad weather that was promised eventuates and I get three days of solid heavy mist and light rain.

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    Thankfully my room is very comfortable and I am able to switch the TV to English giving me a good 20 or so channels in a language I can understand. I also get some stuff done on the bike every day including tightening and cleaning the chain, draining the carburettor bulb and cleaning and re-oiling the air filter, which really needed it! Unfortunately the WIFI is terrible and slow and keeps dropping out and there is no cellphone reception at all.

    Here's me trying to capture the feeling of this very authentic old farmhouse.

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    Thankfully, one of the 10 houses in 'town' is both a little shop and restaurant so I can get supplies and the odd hot meal. Clara, who owns and runs the place is lovely and supplies me with fruit and veges from her garden and hot water for tea and coffee all day long.

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    After three days the forecast says the weather is going to break but I still wake to heavy mist and light rain, nevertheless I decide to pack up and hit the road towards the city of San Juan about 4 hours down the road. The ride is beautiful once again and the weather improves as I ride, through cactus filled desert and through tiny little authentic towns, I am also of course back in the land of Gaucho Gill and pass lots of shrines to this local folk hero, this one made for a nice break stop.

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    On this typical Argentinian desert road, dead straight for as far as the eye can see.

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    I get to San Juan without issue and find an OK hotel on the third try and head into the city for a look-see. I still have some US dollars and am keen not to use the local ATM machines which are a complete rip-off so I go in search of a change place, which of course, like the rest of the city is closed until 5pm.... Everything being shut for 5 hours in the middle of the day is no way to run a country!!! I finally get my money changed, get an early dinner and head back to the hotel. I will head to Mendoza after here but am not feeling great in the morning so decide to stay another day and get some stuff done on the bike whilst I am here. The last few weeks I had noticed that my kick stand was not returning as well as it always did and I see that one of the two springs is broken, it still works fine but I am keen to hand the bike over in as good a condition as I can so find a local moto place and get it sorted.

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    $10 later and all is good again - new and shiny!

    I also get another key customisation done on the bike - something I should have done ages ago but just never got to - a free beer tomorrow in Mendoza to anyone who can spot this upgrade!

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    Mendoza seems like a very touristy and expensive town so I book myself and AirBnB for two days.

    One thing I have been waiting for someone to ask - and no one has, so I'll just post it anyway, is what is my fav music?? While I ride I listen to loads of very different music, I have over 5000 songs on my phone and they play at random, lots of classic rock from the 60's, 70's and 80's, but also lots of soul, RnB, reggea, blues and jazz as well as classic NZ rock and a few modern hits.

    If I had to pick one album that symbolised this trip for me that is actually pretty easy, it has been a favourite of mine for many years but really comes into it's own in Latin America.

    It is the sound track to the movie "Paris Texas" from the early 80's and is mainly slide guitar played by Ry Cooder. It is superb and I highly recommend you get a copy, take a few of your favourite drinks or drugs, lower the lights and play this on a very good sound system and loud - and let my know what you think, I absolutely love it. The album is simply called "Paris Texas".

    That's me for now folks, thanks again for all the nice comments and ciao till next time!!
  2. bubbanorth

    bubbanorth n00b

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    I see a new little hole in the bash plate!
    Arjun, it has been a great pleasure reading your report...I started reading just a few days ago. I gave been busy bookmarking all the wonderful places I would love to go, that ruta 20 seems like a real gem.
    I am sad to see your trip end, but look forward to your future writings. Please post in this thread if you start a new ride report so we can follow you there. Thank you for 'taking' me along on your journey.
    Normlas likes this.
  3. trevgale36

    trevgale36 n00b

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    Just a quick note to you before your trip is over.

    It's a bit sad to see things are starting to wind up for you. I have so enjoyed looking for your updates.
    I'd like to say how much I have enjoyed reading your reports. You are an excellent writer and your style is easily relatable, drawing in the reader with your inner thoughts and perspectives.

    I have spent many hours going right through everything you have written and its been totally inspiring. I can only imagine how many hours you have spent creating the posts and uploading photos.
    I guess its a great personal record for you as well to look back on in the future ? I'm sure there are stacks of people that have seen your posts that haven't time or inclination to write a thankyou message.

    You showed me to look again at various options with bikes (KLR seems totally logical for your type of trip - I had previously thought Beamer or Africa Twin)

    I have also weighed up where to learn Spanish and the best destinations in the Americas based on your trip.

    I could go on with how you have benefitted me but this isn't all about me.

    I'll continue watching on and will be looking at "Paris Texas" later today. If your taste in music as as good as your ride reports have been then it will be time well spent !

    All the best
    Trev
  4. oldbeer

    oldbeer Grandadventurer

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    A great thread indeed. With not much editing it would all make a pretty decent ebook. Especially with all those great piccies.

    Thanks mate its a pleasure reading and looking at your posts.
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  5. roadcapDen

    roadcapDen Ass, Grass or Gas, no free rides.

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    " We're all going to die
    The rhythm in the riddle
    Put the pedal to the metal
    Is the middle of the puzzle
    Put the peddle to the metal
    Is the rhythm of the riddle"

    Good stuff!
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  6. Normlas

    Normlas Been here awhile

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    You are correct!! There's a beer waiting for you in Mendoza today! Finally got that hole drilled through the bashplate to give easy access to the doohickey (cam chain tensioner) . I'll probably never get to use it but the new owner will appreciate it for sure!

    Thank you for your kind words Trev, one big reason for choosing the KLR is that it is a $4000 bike and not a $20,000 bike. So if the worst comes to the worst; a major breakdown / accident / fire / theft / urgent need to return home etc, I can live with walking away from $4000, not so much from $20,000. Remember that your bike is pretty much NEVER insured against theft, fire, an accident that is (or is made to be) partly your fault or a major breakdown on a trip like this.

    Other than that, I don't need to be a computer expert or to fly a mechanic out from Germany for a breakdown, it's a simple beast, no injection, no computer, chain etc etc.... And I have exactly the same bike at home so I know it fits me, what farkles I need and like and what it can do. I know I can pick it up on my own fully loaded (tried and tested many times!) and throw it around gravel roads pretty easily. It also doesn't care what kind of petrol you throw in there, I ALWAYS get the cheapest gas wherever I am and have had no issues whatsoever. It does burn some oil but the oil it needs it available everywhere (mineral and JASO-MA or MA2 rated for the wet clutch).

    Thank you ! I am seriously thinking to do just that and maybe try to self publish an ebook, I'll let you guys know if I get it done.

    Interesting but not the Paris Texas I am talking about !!

    Mine is much more chill :)

    Link to the wikipedia page for the movie is here

    Take a look at this, it's the intro to the movie and features the first song on the album.



    Ok, and now for some cat tax, Lisa just sent me these of our little fellow Mousey doing what he does best (and most) .... so cute!

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  7. Normlas

    Normlas Been here awhile

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    And now for a quick update.... No photos of San Juan I'm afraid as there really wasn't much to take a photo of, it's a pretty new town with an average plaza and bad weather.

    When I get up in San Juan I wake to grey skies, mist and light rain and it's cold, really cold! I am back to thermals, long pants and a sweatshirt....... real autumn weather.

    Unfortunately the light rain doesn't let up and within 20km of town I am also in the crotch funnel, thankfully the rain is not heavy enough for it to fulfil it's new name.... It's only a two hour ride to Mendoza but it's a pretty miserable 2 hours; cold, wet and nothing much to see other than barren desert.

    I get to Mendoza and hit the first YPF station I find for my now standard coffee and media lunas to find the first YPF station in Argentina with a cheap coffee machine spitting out a very average beverage and no media lunas - that's one point against Mendoza and I am just on the outskirts.

    Then I battle heavy traffic for half an hour to finally find my AirBnB and be met by my somewhat oddball host, if I had to pick a psychopathology I would guess in the schizophrenic - personality disorder range....hmmmmm, ok then.

    But the room is OK and I settle in and head out for a look around, I had expected Mendoza to be a beautiful historic city full of nice plazas and museums and culture - I was wrong !! I head for five different museums and art galleries and all of them are either closed or being renovated, even the number one attraction on trip advisor - the Plaza de Independencia, is boarded up and closed for renovation for the next year, bummer.

    I end up having an early night hoping to have better luck the next day.

    My AirBnB is nice and central and right by the main cafe and restaurant street in the central city, first stop in the morning is my coffee and media lunas, with success!

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    I end up doing lots of walking and get around the entire central area and do find a couple of OK plazas but this city is nothing compared to Cordoba, Salta or Buenos Aires, to be fair I'm pretty disappointed.

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    One interesting feature is that most of the streets are lined with these deep irrigation channels which are left over from the pre-hispanic peoples who occupied this region. They are used to this day to irrigate the many trees throughout the city.

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    I do manage to find a couple of museums that are open including the local history museum which was excellent and the San Martin Historic museum about the founding of the city, which was decidedly average.

    Turns out the YPF gas stations, run by the Argentinian state via their Automobile Association, have been around for well over 100 years!

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    And here is general San Martin himself, the founding liberator of this city.

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    I'm back at my AirBnB by 3pm having pretty much seen the entire city and there's little to write home about, I am having a chill afternoon now and will head up into the Andes towards Chile tomorrow. I aim to stop at the recommended town of Upsallata, about half way up the Andes on the Argentinian side at about 2000m of altitude, for a day or two before crossing into Chile.

    I've already joined the MAI Chile WhatsApp group who will hopefully help me find some cheap digs in Santiago where I'll be for almost two weeks before I fly out.....

    All is good, but cold and grey, in Western Argentina, ciao amigos!
  8. Meatn'taters

    Meatn'taters Not any more Supporter

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    All caught up! Thank you for the great writing, photos and commitment to this RR! I too have learned much from your travels. Inspirational.
    Normlas likes this.
  9. atokad

    atokad wan⋅der⋅lust

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    :hide
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  10. wilfred

    wilfred juvenile delinquent Supporter

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    Great ride report,I binged it over a few days. I am looking into a trip to the tip of S. America from the states. Probably in December of this year. Also I spent three weeks On the South Island of NZ in January. Great riding lovely country. Cheers.
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  11. powderzone

    powderzone Been here awhile Supporter

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    It’s been great following along. Thanks for the dedication in doing this RR - it’s tough writing while on the road and sticking with it. Your trip I’m sure has inspired others to do the same. It’s inspired me to return to SA again.
    If you’re back home, hope the reintegration goes well.
    Cheers!
    Normlas likes this.
  12. Normlas

    Normlas Been here awhile

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    Thank you all again for your nice comments - it's a really good feeling to think that others are enjoying my report and being inspired by my travels, I hope my rantings are of some use to some of you guys on your own journeys.

    So I leave my somewhat unstable host at my AirBnB in Mendoza in the morning and the skies are clear but it's very cold and I am back in thermals and longs and still cold. As I leave the city the Andes come into view and the sight is simply breathtaking, this is the first clear day I've had in Mendoza and I didn't realise just what a beautiful environment it is in. This pass over the Andes is called the Paso International Los Libertados and is the biggest / most used thoroughfare between Argentina and Chile.

    Here is a Gopro video from just outside of the city as I head into the foothills of the pass.



    I slowly start to twist into the altitude and after an hour or so come across a beautiful lake and stop for a few pics, I would have stopped for more pics along the way but it was just so cold that I didn't want to stop.

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    The road is thankfully pretty quiet and enjoy one of the nicest passes over the Andes that I have had, the plan for today is to get to the Mountain village of Uspallata, at about 2000m and just on the Argentinian side.

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    Here is the second part of the Gopro video of that ride, at about 10 minutes I come across a big line of traffic stopped at a police control stop and I decide to cut on the inside and get past the big queue, inducing a few slow trucks, as you do on a bike.... Unfortunately, the cops at the control post are not impressed at my move and give me a short telling off, and then pull me over and let a big line of the cars and trucks past while they make me wait - just to be dicks really.... I hit the queue at about 9:50 in this video.



    They don't hold me for long and don't even ask for paperwork and I manage to pass the line of other vehicles pretty quickly and enjoy empty roads and beautiful scenery.

    I get to Uspallata after about 3 or so hours and the place is only small but full of hotels and hospedajes and it doesn't take me long to find a pretty nice place right in the centre of town for just 500 pesos a night (about $11 USD), including breakfast and very secure garage parking.

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    Unfortunately the wifi is terrible and when it's working it doesn't reach my room, that's my excuse for not posting for so long anyway!! I get out to explore the town and find a nice little eatery and destroy this huge and excellent steak sandwich in quick time, possibly the best sandwich I've had in Argentina!

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    The border with Chile is only about 60kms from here and I get busy online trying to find a place to stay in Santiago for the time I have left before I fly out. I get in touch with Gonzalo, the miner / biker whom Steve and I had met in Cusco many months ago and who looked after us so well the last time we were in Santiago. Gonzalo then offers to let me stay in the downtown apartment of his uni student son who isn't there much and who has a spare bedroom and a parking garage - score!! But he has someone staying there until Thursday so I have a few days to kill before I can go . I'm pretty happy with my hotel in Uspallata as it's a lovely little mountain town and Argentina is quite a bit cheaper than Chile so I end up staying there for 6 nights. The head cold I've had for a while now is also proving hard to shake so some quality chill time is had.

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    On my last morning there I'm sitting outside having a coffee watching the village slowly come to life when I hear these tiny little cat calls and go to investigate as I've not seen a single cat since I've been there, just loads of free-roaming dogs. I then see a tiny kitten pop out of a drain on the side of the road and head straight out into the road. This little guy couldn't have been more than a month or two old and I quickly scramble to the rescue, stopping the traffic and managing to coax the little guy into my hands, where he quickly settles down and start purring, so this is clearly not a wild cat but rather someone's pet.

    I walk back into the hotel and show the owner, who has been an awesome host and she immediately melts - a fellow cat person! She says she thinks she knows the owner and quickly takes over, making a little bed with a saucer of warm milk and some snacks for the little guy :) - my good deed for the day is done!

    I head back to my room and slowly pack up getting ready to hit the road one more time - my last ride of this trip !! It's about 4 hours to Santiago reaching the pass at the top of the Andes which is just over 4000m here. The weather is clear and thankfully not too cold, the winds are strong but this is normal for here apparently.

    My head is kind of spinning and I am not sure how to feel, partly excited, partly sad and partly curious to see what life has in store for me now.......

    Thanks for following along everyone, more to come soon.
  13. pepelopez

    pepelopez Been here awhile

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    Colombia
    Beautiful work man, it's going to be sad when you leave, we've been enjoying looking over you shoulder for the last few months, but on the bright side, we are getting the bike ready and making weeklong practice trips around Colombia to get the wife comfortable on the long trip to chile, thanks again for your RR. send some picts of NZ when you get home, she wants to know you made it back safe. cheers.
    Normlas and powderzone like this.
  14. Normlas

    Normlas Been here awhile

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    That's awesome man, if you send me your WhatsApp number by PM then I will hook you up with your first South American MAI group (if you're not already a member) it's an awesome way to get help and meet locals throughout your journey, as you will have read on my RR.
  15. Normlas

    Normlas Been here awhile

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    So I thought I would start this update with some closing thoughts on Argentina, an awesome country even though it's 70% empty..... The people have been great, as is the food and some of the riding. The Spanish is also one of the easier versions to understand - as opposed to the Chileans who are probably the hardest to understand.

    When I first got to Argentina about 6 or so months ago their currency was trading at about 23 pesos to one NZD, as I just left it was trading at 29.5 per NZD which is just a crazy devaluation of their currency in such a short time. I heard on the news the other day and they were talking about 30% inflation JUST THIS YEAR !! Which is also just crazy high when most countries have an inflation rate of around the 3 to 5% per year and this is just in 5 months!!

    So why are they doing so badly ? When you ask people they pretty much all say the same thing - corruption of their politicians, and to be fair they have had a few bad eggs, some of which are locked up right now, but if you ask me there are more complex and integrated - country wide issues that are at least partly to blame - just my guess of course.

    Argentina is doing the worst of all the countries in this region it's neighbours; Chile, Bolivia, Paraguay and Uruguay are all doing OK and have stable economies and currencies - so why? Well I think it has to do with basic entrepreneurial-ism and business sense, as I've bitched about on here before, most of Argentina is closed from 1pm to 5pm, after which they might open businesses for 2 or 3 hours in the evening, except for the banks which don't open in the afternoon at all.

    When I was in San Juan a week or so ago, my hotel was right across the road from a very large secondary / high school, with hundreds of students milling around in the morning and at lunch time, when they go home for lunch. Now in NZ, any corner shop near a school selling junk food, sweets and sugary drinks does very well from the students, especially before and after school and at lunch time. Now in San Juan there were three such shops right by this school and they were all closed for the hours before school starts and closed at lunch time, there was even a lunch cafe on the same block and that was closed at lunchtime with a sign saying they will open again at 3pm??? WTF Argentina, that is no way to run a business. One morning when I returned to the hotel at around midday after getting some work done on the bike I went out for some lunch and walked around 4 different blocks and NOTHING was open, the bakery was shut, the corners shops and even the lunch cafe - and it was lunch time !! ?? I ended up only finding a fruit shop open and had a few bananas and a pear for lunch - there is something very wrong with that mentality if you ask me, and none of the neighbouring countries have this type of work ethic (or a tanking economy) - it's typically Argentinian. So if you ask me as an outsider looking in, they need to take a serious look at themselves and their work attitude and not be so focused on blaming their corrupt politicians......just my 5c worth.

    OK, rant over :) - back to the riding!

    So I leave Uspallata in the morning, after my kitten rescue, and it's a beautiful day, clear skies and a crisp temperature as I slowly head up and over the Andes. The Argentina-Chile border is right at the top around 4000 m and only about 60kms from where I start. I fill up at my last YPF station in Argentina as gas is cheaper hear than it is in Chile and hit the road.

    My head is still just all over the place as I slowly come to grips with the fact that this is my last real riding day in the Americas, after over one and a half years on the road.....the thought is sobering and a little scary.

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    Here is the Gopro video of me as I start the ride from just outside of Uspallata.



    The ride is pretty and the roads are quiet. I am a little worried about crossing into Chile as when I entered Argentina from Bolivia a couple of weeks ago I had that issue with my import permit not having been cancelled and this was an issue from the Chilean-Argentinian border back down near Ushuaia. I cannot afford to have issues entering Chile as I have a fixed date to fly home and I have to get to Santiago in time to get all the necessary paperwork, bike stuff and organising done.

    The ride continues to be awesome as I climb up and over the Andes for the last time and go through some very impressive tunnels, right through some big bits of mountain. Here is part two of that video all the way to the border station.



    The border here is in a combined building which is always nice, so all the leaving Argentina, cancelling my TVIP, entering Chile and organising a new TVIP is all done in the same building. Thankfully no eye lids are batted as I leave Argentina, even though I notice that my Argentinian TVIP has the wrong plate number on it (rookie mistake, should have spotted that at the Bolivian border). And crossing into Chile also occurs without issue and I make sure to get the maximum 3 months tourist visa for me and a 3 month TVIP for the bike, so the new owner has time enough to get the legalities sorted when he arrives in July. The only hiccup was the final customs and aduana check where they spot my salami and make me eat it on the spot - but no worries there, was very tasty and a good time for a mid morning snack :)

    And suddenly, after just 25 or 30 minutes, I am through my last border crossing with the bike......

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    Here is the final 5 minute Gopro video (until the battery runs out) of me leaving the border and hitting the famous switchbacks as I head down the other side of the Andes and towards the big city.



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    The ride is nice and uneventful and within 3 or so hours I find myself battling the big city traffic before I get to Vicente's apartment near downtown - that's Gonzalo's son. It turns out to be on the top (19th) floor of a very nice and new apartment building and I am welcomed in and settle down. Here's the view from the balcony.

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    Santiago sits in a huge valley between the Andes and a smaller mountain range and they have a big smog problem, something Steve and I were warned about but didn't really notice on our last visit, but from up here it is very obvious and the city is consistently covered in a thick haze

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    It's Friday afternoon and Vicente tells me he is going to stay at his Mum's place for the weekend and leaves me to it. There is a huge mall and supermarket right next door so I head out to start getting through my to-do list. I don't get much done other than get my Chilean SIM card reactivated and charged up and some shopping done, it's nice to have a kitchen at my disposal and I cook up a huge feed of mushroom and beef ravioli - yum!

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    The next day and I start getting stuff sorted, start to empty the bike and get through three loads of washing, including my riding gear and crotch funnel which REALLY needed it!

    My to-do list here includes a lot of bureaucracy including getting a power of attorney sorted, printed and witnessed by a notary, getting my ownership papers copied and the originals sent to the USA via DHL to the guy that is helping us with the ownership change, change money, sort out my plane ticket etc etc. I am also keen to get the bike in as good a shape as I can including getting an oil and filter change done and giving her a good wash and oil/lube etc.

    But on Sunday most things are shut here so that will wait for tomorrow when I aim to head into the central city and get a big bunch of those things sorted.

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    I've crossed another date line and lose an hour and it really messes with me for some reason and I sleep poorly, so today is a chill day.

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    I get some more shopping done, find some engine oil and get some supplies to cook a big feed for Vicente and myself for tonight - the least I can do as a small thanks for letting me stay here.

    So that is me for now, all is good in Santiago and I am at my final destination!!

    A big time of change is coming my way as this epic journey comes to an end and it's both scary and exciting.
  16. SOLOKLR

    SOLOKLR Back to work

    Joined:
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    Green Valley, AZ
    I hate seeing this end, as with many of the rides I follow. A few key things really make me smile, on the end of this.
    1. You have had one hell of an adventure, I humbly thank you for taking us along.
    2. You are finishing this healthy, with body and bike intact! (Both eyes too!)
    3. A final testement to your character in the way you are sorting out the bike for the next guy, good on ya!

    Safe travels home, and on your continued adventures.
  17. MrKiwi

    MrKiwi Love my Tranny Super Supporter

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    One and half years, you have my admiration, well done.

    This has been one of my regular reads for most of that time, so it is sad to see it ending. I have enjoyed reading about your travels.

    It is cold back here.
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  18. Bacchusman

    Bacchusman n00b

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    Normlas, fellow kiwi here..

    Your first hand account after weeks? in a country is greatly appreciated. No agenda or axe to grind. Some rich anecdotes and fairly detailed wrap that you would be hard pressed to find elsewhere

    Almost worth the price of a sub so cheers ...or whatever the argies say when they raise a glass :photog
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  19. radmann10

    radmann10 Derf Supporter

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    Nice RR and photos, thanks for taking us along!
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  20. freebirrd44

    freebirrd44 freebird

    Joined:
    Dec 20, 2013
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    omg I just found this today and just got caught up (hours of fun, skipped some of the Go Pros), and its today that you finished riding! Do let us know what comes next and how it feels to be home! Thankyou! Thankyou!
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