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North to South America on a Honda 250

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Joris van O, Apr 26, 2019.

  1. Joris van O

    Joris van O Been here awhile

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    I'm doing some long days to get south before the weather turns for the worse. So not a lot of time to update the RR. The bike is at times taking a beating too, so keeping that on the road is my primary objective at the end of the day. I'm kinda limping it to Santiago now with a bald front tire, broken luggage racks and a leaky brake master cilinder. And although Chile is really modern and has Wi-Fi everywhere I'm not lucking out on my hostel choices. Every time the Wi-Fi sucks and the supposedly hot showers are cold (first world problems eh..). But there's a Wi-Fi signal when I hold my phone in one corner of the hostel room here in Copiapo so here we go.

    I could have gone straight from Medellin to Bogota, about a days ride. But I had given myself some extra days to explore the area north of Bogota. So instead of heading south east I went north east from Medellin, heading for Bucaramanga. The ride was again filled with great roads and beautiful vista's. On this stretch of roads I came across Robbie again, a Canadian riding a Triumph 1200. First met him in Mazatlán and later we went for dinner in Antigua.
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    Close to Bucaramanga I decided it was enough and pulled over at a hotel to check for availability. There was also a Colombian couple on a NC750, they just pulled over for a drink but we started chatting anyway. While I was telling them about my trip another couple pulled up looking for accommodation. Familiar faces, Hanne and Jasper from Belgium. We had Christmas together and they were on the Stahlratte too. Great! Jasper and I informed about room prices, got scared and then quickly went to a hotel across the street for cheaper options. We ended up sharing a 3 bed room. The Colombian couple invited me to stay at their place in Bucaramanga but unfortunately it didn't work out with my plans the next day.
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    Hanne and Jasper were heading south and I was heading north, to ride a little road made famous by The Grand Tour. If you haven't seen their Colombia special definitely look it up on YouTube. In the episode they drive their collection of misfit cars over this high rickety old wooden railway bridge. Jasper had figured out where it was and had shared the location with all of us on the Stahlratte. To get to this old railway bridge I needed to cover some dirt roads through the beautiful Colombian countryside.
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    After some dirt roads you get to the old railway route. The tracks have since long been removed but the gentle route through the hills still contains reminders from the old times. In the from of tracks reused to make bridges.
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    After a few kilometers finally it was there, the bridge! But damn.. No motorcycles allowed, now what?
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    It's Colombia, signs are just for show..
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    What I didn't know was that after the show they covered half the bridge with metal plates, making it a little less daunting. Still, would have made some cool drone shots (if I had one).
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    Ticket that one off the list, let's get back to the paved roads. The rest of the used-to-be railway didn't disappoint either.
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    Since it was still early I decided that after getting lunch in Bucaramanga I would continue to San Gil. Boy did I enjoy that 45A road! A complete change of scenery with the roads in the morning.
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    A quick stop at the Parque Nacional del Chicamocha for a look into the canyon. Sure would've loved to visit that Waterpark, look at the backdrop.
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    After a great day of riding I found myself a nice hostel with secure parking right in the center of San Gil.
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    The hostel in San Gil was pretty sweet so I decided to stay two nights. Gave me time to explore the surrounding towns a little. Main focus was the Chicamocha Canyon and the small town of Barichara. On iOverlander someone had put up a location for a viewpoint of the Canyon, it looked like a fun ride so get on with it. Without luggage the bike felt so much lighter, I was having a blast on these little roads.
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    The road ended at a small farm, a worn out old sign indicated the entry fee and a number to call in case no one was there. A luck would have it there was also a French girl hiking to the canyon. She called the number and 10 minutes later an old lady shows up and opens the gate for us.
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    Together with the French girl I walked further to the viewpoint. The pictures never do such a place justice, it was such a massive sight.
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    There's something red hidden in this picture.
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    Oi! There it is..
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    Alright I've seen the canyon, I'm getting hungry so let's get to Barichara and get some lunch. Found this great vegan place with really tasty food and a fresh juice as extra. Sat there for a while looking at all the different folks walking past, they probably thought the same about me sitting there.
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    Barichara turned out to be such a nice photogenic town. Definitely some tourism but not overrun or anything.
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    Of course there was also a good lookout point over the canyon.
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    I followed a winding paved road to the town of Guane, got bitten in my shoe by a devilish Chihuahua (aren't they all) and quickly returned to San Gil.
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    Where I visited the botanical gardens, to finish the day of with a walk.
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  2. Joris van O

    Joris van O Been here awhile

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    Haha :D Yes those Atc's are pretty sweet eh? Apparently a death trap on wheels when it comes to actually riding the damn thing.

    Thanks! Had a great birthday on the Salar de Uyuni!

    Great article! In Europe a lot of schools used the Nighthawk/Twofifty. I guess the north American market has a greater demand for cruisers hence the use of the Rebel. But the same principles apply, such a forgiving easy bike to ride.
    roadcapDen likes this.
  3. Joris van O

    Joris van O Been here awhile

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    I could definitely have stayed longer in San Gil and explore the area in depth. But as always, there's more to see. So I went to Berlin.

    WAS?! DAS IST NICHT MÖGLICH.
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    This was Berlin in Colombia of course. I did go see the Cascadas Las Gachas. Not really a waterfall but a bunch of natural perfectly round pools with a trickle of cold water flowing through them. And lots of local tourists as it was still holiday season.
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    Also finished this book that I picked up at the hostel in Cartagena. Really good read, it's from a dog's perspective. Sounds weird but really, give it a go if you get the chance.
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    Had lunch at a roadside restaurant, and made a friend of course. The view wasn't to bad.
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    Buzzing along to my destination of the day, well multiple actually.
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    First one was an ancient solar observatory near Villa de Leyva. They also had a lot of fallus shaped rocks. Not sure what they had to do with solar observation though (see who has the longest shadow :D)
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    Pitched my tent at Hostal Renacer, super nice place just out of Villa de Leyva and met some other overlanders.
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    On the hunt for cheap dinner and drinks in this somewhat overpriced (but beautiful) town. The main square is apparently the biggest square in all of Colombia.
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    Back at the hostel /campsite, they had puppies! Carry me away..
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    I had put some clothes on a bench outside to dry during the night. But in the morning I was missing one sock.. I had a sneaking suspicion who did it, but I never found my one sock back.
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    There was a 'short' hike up to a Christo statue on a hill above Villa de Leyva. In need of some exercise I imagined it to be a walk in the park. Gaawd, for such a short hike it got me good. Went frickin straight up the hill..
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    Once back down it was a short walk to the Casa Terracota. An almost organic looking house designed by architect Octavio Mendoza.
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    Inside, just as interesting.
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    A walk back to the hostel and that was Villa de Leyva. Another place where you can easily spend much more time, so much more to see and to do.
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  4. nails1

    nails1 Been here awhile

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    What a great post.
    We all probably got Eglė's article about travel burnout, "usually, around the six-month mark". Are you starting to feel that? (No matter what you might answer, I'm still gonna be wicked jealous.)
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  5. Joris van O

    Joris van O Been here awhile

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    Thanks! Yeah Egle hit it on the head. Couldn't have described it better myself. Am I doing all the things to fix it? No :) But Chile offers a welcoming change, very different then the other countries in South America.
  6. nails1

    nails1 Been here awhile

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    I just read your Cape Town thread. What's more fun, Africa or South America? (I realize your personal experience has been a lot different: diff bikes, solo vs group, &etc.)
    Now reading about Montenegro. Thanks for posting.
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  7. NSFW

    NSFW basecamp4adv Super Supporter

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    as always, i'm envious. my 2 German friends left without me (i was riding somewhere in Asia for the last 45 days) and now they're in Peru. hopefully, 2022 will be the year since this year and next, i will be in EU.

    thanks Joris for the update.
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  8. Joris van O

    Joris van O Been here awhile

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    DISCLAIMER: ZERO MOTORCYCLE CONTENT :D

    The reason that I had to be in Bogota by a certain date was because my parents were flying into Bogota to meet me there. A d would then start their own month of travel around Colombia. I was super stoked to finally see them again after 8 months or so. Quickly get to the Airbnb in Bogota then!
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    I arrived in the afternoon and they would arrive late at night after two long flights, from Amsterdam to New York to Bogota. That was if US border security didn't fuck up. Everywhere else in the world you can just get on another flight without going through customs. Well not in the USA. The two hour layover they had on JFK wasn't even nearly enough to get through customs and on the next flight. So they missed it, and the next available flight was two days later. Ahh.. Get your shit together United States. Gave me some time to do laundry, catch up on some stuff and walk around though.
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    Two days later they did arrive in the evening, and it was so good to be able to hold them close again. We talked and talked until it was way past midnight. They also brought some things that I ran out of or needed replacing, like earplugs and chargers (and Dutch cookies). After a good night sleep I made them some breakfast and we were ready to see something of the city.
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    We visited the Military museum, which was free. Best thing is that most museums in Bogota are free, or super cheap. And if you're over 60 you get free entry as well. They had some airforce objects on display like this engine, really nice to see. But can someone please explain me why the camprofile has such a sharp angle?
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    The occasional church..
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    I finally could take pictures of other people now, people I knew!
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    As Bogota is situated at 2500m above sea level we took the cable car up to Montserrat, which was absolutely fine with me.
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    Another full day of activities! This time we went to see the famous gold museum and did a Graffiti tour. Both are highly recommended on the different websites about Bogota. Well, uhm.. There was a lot of gold and gold objects at he gold museum :D
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    And a lot of graffiti and/or street art. Apparently graffiti contains only written messages and street art are drawings and murals. Needless to say to most works have an anti government message. Most, but not all! Some are just artists presenting their work. Some include their Instagram name so people can find them online.
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    A few months ago there were protests going on in Bogota (and all of Colombia). The riot police arrived at the scene and tried to disperse the crowd using stun grenades. One of the protestor, an 18 year old boy got hit in the head, fracturing his skull. He died two days later in hospital. This changed the course of the protests. As a commemorance you see lots of little works of him everywhere.
    https://www.google.com/amp/s/colomb...at-changed-colombias-anti-government-protests
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    Some guys practicing and dancing in the park.
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    Some doors..
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    On a bit of a cultural tour we also visited the Botero museum. Famous for his 'fat' people paintings. I thought his work and the museum was pretty good.
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    I thought these two were nicely framed pictures.
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    Back to our airbnb and out for drinks, look at some street magic and warm ourselves at the fireplace.
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    Lastly a visit to the botanical garden and the adjacent park. Still the holiday season in Colombia so everyone is hanging out in park, doing sports or exercising.
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    DC950, Astrid - Woerden, Cal and 13 others like this.
  9. Animo

    Animo Been n00b awhile

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    Awesome stuff, as always :thumb
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  10. Joeboblglt

    Joeboblglt Adventurer

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    This has been and continues to be a fantastic ride report. Much thanks for taking the time and sharing with us. Your parents look like such fun people and it’s easy to see where you get the personality that comes through in your writing. Looking forward to the next post!
    Safe travels and cheers to you!
    Joe
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  11. jowul

    jowul Been here awhile

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    Lets give the United States some slack :lol3 I know that at least Chicago has an International Transit Terminal where you do not have to go through immigration for your next flight, say on to Canada :happay
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  12. Joris van O

    Joris van O Been here awhile

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    The Americas, without a doubt! But if you want a good challenge, adventure and no tourists? Go to west Africa :D

    Haha, it will still be here in 2022. And your EU plans don't sound to bad either.

    Thanks Joe! They sure are fun people and I'm so glad I have them (and how they raised me and my two brothers). Little bit of background though, my dad passed away almost 8 years ago and since a couple of years I have another dad. And I think we couldn't have been more lucky.
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  13. olderigetfasteriam

    olderigetfasteriam Long timer

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    One of the best ride reports I have read. Thanks for sharing. Your parents look like fun, must come naturally to you.
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  14. Joris van O

    Joris van O Been here awhile

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    Seven days in Bogota, I was starting to get a feel for the place. It's rough around the edges, but there are many interesting places and many things to see. But the tourbus that would take my parents around Colombia left early in the morning, that signaled that it was time for me to get on the road as well. With a heavy heart I had said goodbye (for who knows how long it would be until I would see them again). But in the back of my mind was their travel schedule, and maybe things would line in a few days time. But for now it was time to retrieve the bike from the payed parking, load up and head to the next destination. On my way to the Cocora Valley I had multiple stops along the road, enjoying the view. I think the bike looks pretty sweet with all the stickers accumulated over the last months, next to it is Nevado del Ruiz. Notice the Chinese LED lights getting a bit brittle.
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    On my way I passed through Armero. This little town was wiped from the earth in 1985 when a sudden eruption of Volcan Nevado del Ruiz send Lahars (landslides causes by melting glaciers (thank you Wikipedia)) rushing down into the valley, killing 2/3 of the 29.000 population. The majority of the town is buried, but you can still see the remnants of this catastrophe everywhere to this day. There's a little museum with photographs of the town. Also two aerial shots, one before and one after the tragedy.
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    From Armero I zoomed north a bit to Mariquita to start on what is known as the longest ascend/climb in the world, the Alto de Lentras. Famous for cyclists, climbing from around 500m above sea level to about 3700m altitude within a distance of 80km. Much easier on a motorcycle of course.
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    Just after the pass starts the Los Nevados national park. And the entrance is above 4000m, higher than the bike has ever been so a good place to see how it will perform. Imagine a 250cc, breathing through a paltry single 26mm carburetor and then take away half the oxygen supply (gutless would be the right word). Pictures taken at 4030m.
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    Still, made it in time to Salento for a cold brew.
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    Next morning it was time for a little hike through the Cocora Valley, with its mega high wax palms. Altitude considered, it was quite a challenging hike at times.
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    Halfway through the hike I met two Dutch girls, so we continued on together. Stopping for a looksie at the trout hatchery, and for a cup of coffee.
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    Early night as tomorrow would be another long day. Riding over a cloud covered pass, roadworks turned to absolute chaos when no one was able to see who was going up or coming down. Cars and trucks were lined three to four thick, blocking all traffic hoping to be first through the non-existent gap. Luckily on a bike it wasn't to hard to navigate through, just a 30km lanesplitting session.
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  15. roadcapDen

    roadcapDen Ass, Grass or Gas, no free rides.

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    EPIC!!!
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  16. Joris van O

    Joris van O Been here awhile

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    Three tomatoes are walkin' down the street. Papa Tomato, Mama Tomato and Baby Tomato. Baby Tomato starts lagging behind, and Papa Tomato gets really angry. Goes back and squishes him and says: "Ketchup!". (I've recently watched Pulp Fiction..)

    But yeah, catch-up is what I have to do with this ride report. Here I am still lingering around in the northern part of South America, while I am actually in the southern part of South America :D Reached Coyhaique today after another long day through various weather types. But boy oh boy, they weren't lying when they said the Carretera Austral is beautiful!

    Sooo... Where was I? Riding from Salento over some misty and cold high mountain pass to Ibague and further south to the Tatacoa desert.
    Once down the mountains it wasn't all bad, very pretty actually.
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    At one of the many roadwork holdups I spotted a foreign plate. This rider was from England and also on his way south to Ushuaia.
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    To get from the highway to the Tatacoa desert you can either continue south for a while and take a bridge over the river and then come back up north. The alternative is to take a ferry across the river and be dropped of fairly close to where it starts to get interesting. I opted for the ferry. When I rocked up it was empty, alright I thought.. Just have to wait for a few other vehicles then.
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    You fool! That's not your ferry. Here's your ferry. The guy didn't need any help and reversed my bike up and over the ramp onto the little boat in one swift move.
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    A few miles of dirt roads got me to the interesting part, the desert (which is not an actual desert because of to much rain).
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    There it is!
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    Riding back and forth across the one road leading through the park I finally decided that the best way to see it was to take a walk. So back to the main attractions, the red desert. And what a fascinating place it is.
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    After the walk I had one cerveza to enjoy the view.
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    All these bumpy roads did work their magic on my pannier racks though. Oh well, find a welder again.
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    Packing up camp, there weren't many people around.
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    En route to my next destination I was looking for a place to have breakfast with a half eye, as the other half was focused on finding a place with some chain oil. It so happened to be that next to this little motorcycle shop was a metalworking shop. So I had them weld up the broken rack while getting oil.
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    On my way to San Agustin.
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    See, with a bit of careful planning I was in theory able to meet my parents for the second time. I knew where they were staying, I knew the bus they were traveling with. And I found both, but I didn't find them..
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    I asked if I could camp at their hotel but that wasn't allowed, so found a beautiful hostel just around the corner. Had the room all to myself.
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    Later I went back to their hotel to ask where this large group of Dutch tourists was. A woman told me they were visiting the archeological site, so I went there and sat down at the entrance on watch duty. After a while they showed up and by hiding behind some cars I was able to surprise them. Yay! Reunited again.
  17. NSFW

    NSFW basecamp4adv Super Supporter

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    :clap
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  18. nails1

    nails1 Been here awhile

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    The most beautiful photos yet.
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  19. Joris van O

    Joris van O Been here awhile

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    Oh.. There's even more to come!

    Now in El Chalten, but the wifi here on the campsite won't cooperate (loading a page takes ages, so I'm not even gonna try pictures) so no updates tonight unfortunately.

    But.. It's absolutely stunning here. And the weather is in my favour, as is the wind which I haven't experienced yet.
  20. 1854cc

    1854cc n00b

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    looking forward to your pics of the Marble Caves, that is I hope you had time to stop there on your travels.
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