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Posts Tagged ‘ Argentina ’

January 23rd, 2013 - Argentina – South on the 40

Patagonia is infamous for its winds but what you don’t hear about is that it’s not just Patagonia it’s all of Argentina! Since day one entering Argentina from Uruguay we have been in constant winds. It’s absolutely relentless and is driving Erin and me crazy. For the most part it’s not overly powerful but it always manages to be a head wind working against you. I think my neck is permanently kinked to one side from riding for a month everyday in these winds. For once we would like to set up our tent in peace without the winds trying to blow it away before we can nail it down. We would like to sit outside and enjoy a meal without dust being whipped in our eyes and food. Don’t get me wrong I love sand in my eggs just not every day.

After days of crossing Argentina East to West over flat dry fields the Andes Mountains were a sight for sore, dry, wind whipped eyes. First chance I got I headed off road down an old section of Ruta 40 heading towards Laguna Diamonte, a nature reserve up in the mountains. The road was bad changing from hard packed ground to sand or loose gravel without warning but that wasn’t the worst part. It had corrugation like I’ve never seen before, a wicked wash board-like pattern that was unavoidable. The ruts were deep and vibrated the bike so hard I thought every bolt in it would snap leaving me with a thousand pieces of BMW to fit back together. Erin hadn’t been expecting an off road excursion at all so with a road like this she was unhappy to say the least. We pushed on vibrating our way closer to the mountains and the closer we got the less I cared about the condition of the road. It was beautiful with just a few lingering patches of snow on the mountains and cold fresh air being carried down by the constant and ever so “loved” wind. We arrived at the park gate and to my utter and complete disappointment it was closed. The ranged told us that we were too early in the season and that the park opened in 5 days. 5 Days! Come on! So we ate lunch outside the gate then continued on our way heading south. It ended up being a long 326km day of which over 230km’s were off road with long sections of terrible vibrating corrugation.

One of the next stops on my list was Valle Hermoso, only 25km’s outside the town of Las Lenas. In the winter Las Lenas is a ski resort but in the summer it’s pretty quiet and is surrounded by the jagged rock faces of the towering Andes. The road into Las Lenas was pavement in poor condition, most likely due to the harsh winters but still a very enjoyable and scenic ride. After the town the road narrowed and turned into an awesome gravel road that wound its way into my personal classification of paradise. To date this is one my favourite places I have visited in Argentina. Unfortunately we avoided camping there due to the forecast of rain the next day but we did have a long relaxing lunch. Here’s a little video I had made to say hello to everyone.

The farther south we got on Ruta 40 the more motorcycles we saw and I was surprised that almost all of them were BMW. I can recall specifically the handful of other bikes I’ve seen in Argentina just because they stuck out so much. For the most part I didn’t understand the attraction of Ruta 40. Sure it had its moments in the mountains but for the most part it is long and flat with not much to see other than the occasional view of the Andes way off in the distance. Okay, I understand it spans the whole country North to South but come on… We tried to detour on side roads when we could which led us to some truly great places in the mountains and amazing camping spots.  One side road detour failed after running into a National park that wanted $10US per person just to pass through. It was significantly cheaper to back track and take the highway… I think the old days when Ruta 40 was an adventure are over. It’s almost completely paved now and the sections that are still gravel have a brand new paved road sitting beside them just waiting to be completed and opened. We would often hop the useless barrier and ride the new pavement instead of riding on the pulverising corrugation of the gravel road. The uncertainty of gasoline also used to add to the adventure. How many kilometers was it until the next service station? Even then, will they have gas today? Now, if you wanted, the longest section without fuel is only about 220km’s… even a gas guzzling Harley Davidson could make that stretch. However Ruta 40 still lived up to its reputation and gave me my first puncture flat in 57,000 km’s. Thanks for that one. Here’s the video of the flat tire just in case you haven’t seen it yet.

Even if Ruta 40 itself isn’t much of an adventure anymore there are always going to be places that branch off of it where you can find some adventure and natural beauty. For New Years we decided to head into Perito Moreno National Park which is an amazing destination and is rarely visited by anyone. I had a real feeling of excitement as we prepared for this adventure getting food and water ready for the days to come. The park has no glaciers or spectacular waterfalls to attract tourists and is a long off road detour without gasoline which meant we had the park to ourselves. Out of 115,000 hectares we were the only visitors in the park. We enjoyed the abundance of wildlife and turquoise lakes surrounded by snow capped mountains while camping for 2 days. This is also one of my favourite places I have visited in Argentina and did I mention it was all FREE. No park fees and no camping fees, just us, the animals, beautiful landscapes and our good friend the wind J

Perito Moreno National Park was our longest stretch without fuel so far, 430km’s, not bad for 16 liters of gasoline. Over a year travelling on our bikes and they still impress me with their ridiculous fuel economy. Argentina is an expensive country to travel in but its saving grace is camping. It has been one of the best countries so far for camping next to Canada.  As we continued south we were camping more and more wherever we felt like, we even camped beside a gas station. Why not? Free is free. The only downside was our showers were fewer and farther in between but more appreciated when we got them.

The two major attractions in southwest Argentina are El Chalten with the world famous Mt. Fitz Roy and El Calafate with the world famous Perito Moreno Glacier. First up was El Chalten. We battled our way through the head winds towards Mt. Fitz Roy which stole our attention from all the other beauty in the area including Glacier Viedma off to the south. We rolled into town and were not surprised to find it infested with tourists. Literally hundreds of backpackers roamed the streets like zombies moving from one hostel to the next searching for the best “deal”. Deal doesn’t exist anymore in a town like El Chalten so you better bring a fat wallet. Even the prices of gas and bread were jacked up… We attempted to take a gravel road out of town roughly 30 km’s to look for camping at a nearby lake. Unfortunately so did every other car in town, so 4 km’s in we stopped and had lunch on the side of the road then packed up and left. El Chalten is not a biker town, it’s a hiker town. If hiking or mountain climbing is your thing and you have money to spend then El Chalten is for you, if not then it’s still worth a ride in just to see Mt. Fitz Roy towering over you in all its glory.

Last on the chopping block today is El Calafate which much like El Chalten has been raped by tourism but for some reason I didn’t mind it. We managed to find free camping just outside town on a river which was great for the first night, then we rode around town and found a campground with hot showers and excellent wifi for $7 a person. I was blown away with the amount of bikers, cyclists, and backpackers in the next campground over, which was almost full and charged $20 a person! Every day we would attempt to ride to Perito Moreno Glacier but every time it would be engulfed in dark, thick clouds and rain even though it was sunny in El Calafate. Finally on our third day we just went for it and endured the misty rain. We knew it was going to leave a hole in our wallet but the real piss off was the fact that residents of the province paid $3 while everyone else paid $20. I went in telling myself to ignore the tourist factor and just enjoy the glacier but I couldn’t. It felt as though we were a part of a tiny ant farm with little walk ways and the constant jabbering of people and whining of kids just ruined everything. The rain didn’t help either. I tried to take photos but it felt like I was taking a photo of a photo, it didn’t seem special. If you have never seen a large glacier before then I highly recommend Perito Moreno but for Erin and I we had seen them before and in much better circumstances. Back in June 2011 at the start of our trip we stopped at the Salmon Glacier which is one of the largest in North America. We camped beside the glacier by ourselves for 2 days and could enjoy it in peace. Still to this day it was one of my favourite places I have ever been. Perito Moreno Glacier is an impressive piece of ice but its beauty and intimacy were stolen when it was turned into a cash cow.

Stay tuned, next week hear how Ride The World Together becomes Ride The World Closer Together as we are down to one bike…

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December 16th, 2012 - Argentina Insurance

At first glance Argentina is a fairly modern country with Wi-Fi pretty much everywhere, consumerism in full effect and a police force that is actually equipped with photo radar. Despite its progress into the modern world it is without a doubt just as much a part of Latin America as any of the lesser developed countries that we’ve travelled through. Now I don’t just mean that in a Spanish speaking kind of way, I mean it in an ass backwards, drawn out, take all day or days to do just about everything.

When we entered Argentina I asked a customs officer if it was mandatory to have insurance on our motorcycle. He said yes insurance is required and told me that we could purchase it in the next town. By the time we entered the town, changed our money and found a hostel it was too late to purchase insurance. The next morning was Sunday and this is where Latin America started to show her face. Throughout Latin America Sundays are days of rest, basically to nurse their massive hangovers, so nothing is open. In fact sometimes finding a super market just to get some food is a challenge. So when the party was bumping till 6 am in the street beside our hostel (slept through most of it) we knew we weren’t getting any insurance. Besides the rest of the guests being bikers the hostel was really just an overpriced dump. That combined with me itching to get on the road and explore Argentina meant we were riding on down the road with no insurance. We put in a good 400km day and were thankfully not stopped by any of the numerous police check points or speed traps. I guess the police are the only people that have to work on Sundays…

We spent the next morning in a small town trying to get insurance but despite all efforts their company couldn’t insure foreign motorcycles. So down the road we went again passing too many police for our current lack of insurance. The next city was fairly large with big car dealerships and huge well known super markets but once again Latin America rears her horns. In previous countries visited it was common practice for stores to close for an hour to eat lunch and most likely take a nap (siesta). Now all of a sudden stores are closed for 2 hours plus. We even rode by places that we closed from 12:30 to 6:30! In our case the insurance places seemed to be closed from 12:30 to 3:30 and of course we arrived right around 12:30… We needed insurance so we figured we would just relax and have a really long lunch. By the time 5 o’clock rolled around we had visited 4 different insurance agencies all unable to insure foreign motorcycles. We were now hot, sweaty and pissed off that we had wasted an entire day with nothing to show for it. With increasing winds and dark clouds on the horizon we called it a day and got an overpriced hotel for the night. I don’t see how anyone could afford to travel in Argentina without camping…

We had heard from another biker that a company called ATM Seguros, which is a motorcycle specific insurance company, could insure our bikes. The problem was they are only in capital cities… So off we go again with no insurance this time heading for Cordoba city, the capital of Cordoba. We covered 520 km’s of hot flat terrain past many more police officers to arrive at ATM Seguros right as they’re closing. Lucky for us the lady working there was very helpful and stayed late to process our insurance. But hey, this was Latin America things couldn’t be that simple… The actual insurance papers and card had to be received from the head office in Buenos Aires and would take 48hrs. We told her that we did not want to stay in Cordoba, so to alleviate any potential police problems she filled out a manual copy of our insurance. She stamped it, signed it, stapled her card to it and put it in a plastic sleeve with the company logo. She said if it looked official enough the police would leave us alone. She then explained that she could mail us our real documents anywhere in Argentina.

With our insurance problem somewhat solved we took off out of Cordoba city and into the nearby hills. We spent a few days camping and exploring the beautiful mountain roads. Thanks to the higher altitudes the air was cool and with the sun shining it made for the perfect riding conditions. Now heading in the right direction, south, we were in search of a camping spot on a lake to relax for a day. After riding down Ruta 9, one of the most spectacular tiny mountain highways, we finally arrived at an awesome lakeside FREE campsite. We had put in some long hot days in our attempts to find insurance and this lakeside camping was our reward. We cooled off in the water and lazed around in the shade all day. Then, when the stars came out we shared a cold beer and called it a day.

There’s more to come from Argentina as we start exploring the Andes Mountains.

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December 10th, 2011 - Broke down in Vallarta

Finally ready to leave the town of Sayulita, we loaded up the bikes and headed south once again. Having taken 6 days off we were eager to ride and decided to go straight through Puerto Vallarta and continue down the coast. Just as we cleared the metropolis that is Puerto Vallarta my bike died. It’s rather depressing to sit on the side of the road with your trusty motorcycle which was now nothing more than an oversized luggage rack.

With the help of a Mexican mechanic we quickly identified that one of my coils was beginning to fail and therefore continually blowing my main engine fuse. The mechanic charged me eight dollars which I gladly paid as electrical problems are not my specialty. This was a steal of a deal for two reasons: 1) a shop in Canada/US wouldn’t even look at the bike for less than $60 if not more and 2) the man worked ridiculously fast unlike some mechanics that seem to work on their own time. After a half a dozen phone calls my new coils are on route to Puerto Vallarta and Erin and I now have some time to explore this beautiful ocean front jungle.

Free of the initial negativity of the situation we realised that we had broken down in a perfect location and in fact my lifeless bike was a blessing in disguise. We continue to meet amazing people who truly reflect the kindness and the spirit of Mexico. We have been given a wonderful place to stay, so far for free, and have been invited to join their family for an outstanding chicken dinner. The city and the area surrounding Puerto Vallarta also has a lot of beauty and culture to offer which we would have missed had my bike continued to carry me south. We’ve also come to the realisation that we won’t be making it to the southern tip of Argentina this season.  With high mountain passes some above 15,000ft and the southern geographical location of Argentina, the summer months for a motorcycle are only Dec-Mar. So instead of trying to rush we are going to keep our focus on where we are and enjoy the moment.

Our freed up time in Puerto Vallarta has also given us a chance to look into some of the not so distant logistical hurdles like our choices for crossing the Darien Gap from Panama into Columbia as well as the seemingly overwhelming task of obtaining our Brazilian visas. I feel completely relaxed and stress free about the whole situation, I mean what’s the bad side? We have to spend yet another year travelling and exploring beautiful cultures before our window of opportunity opens up again in southern Argentina… it’s a hard life.

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September 23rd, 2011 - The bees, trees, and a dead cow

lemon24 250x166 The bees, trees, and a dead cowWhen I find a road that is not on the map, my first reaction is to always roll on the throttle and ride straight for it. This time I found a road that was not charted, was reasonably short, and from the GPS Topo maps, it seemed to be passing through some beautiful landscape. Little did I know that this 50km section would prove to be one of the most isolated, hottest, and sandiest roads in entire Argentina. Read the rest of the story…

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September 1st, 2011 - Cafayate, Argentina

cafayate8 250x187 Cafayate, Argentina We finally woke up early, took hot shower at the fire station, and headed out due south for Cafayate. We went five blocks and I was hungry already so we stopped for one last salami and bread in Salta. We only had 250km to go and it was early in the day so I wasn’t too concerned about the time. At one of our stops, there was an all familiar shrine built for someone who had died in a car accident. In most of South America, when people die on the road, their families build a little shrine for them on that spot. Read the rest of the story…

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August 27th, 2011 - Salta, The Beautiful

salta15 250x187 Salta, The BeautifulWe left Dragones and all its glories behind and headed west again towards Salta, the Capital of Salta province. The first thing I did was to find an empty jug and fill it up with extra gas just in case. The next was finding a shoe store to fix Lourdes’s boots, but we never managed to find any; they were either closed or the locals sent us on a wild goose chase. In northern Salta, we had to turn south at a junction that split the road in three. One went to Bolivia, one to Chile and the one we took went south for the wine country, a 2000km Read the rest of the story…

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August 23rd, 2011 - Travelling Solo By GP

Tomorrow will make one month that I have been travelling solo and I often get asked “Do you get lonely?”.  Although I do miss my friends and family and think of them often I can honestly answer that “No, I don’t get lonely”.

It is hard to get lonely with wifi available everywhere so I can skype and read e-mails from my friends and family. It is also hard to get lonely when you meet so many interesting people. It seems that interesting people are everywhere if you just take the time to start and conversation.

On my way to Alaska in while camping in northern Alberta I met a father and son from Winnipeg Manitoba, travelling across Canada by car. The son had just got his drivers license and they were taking a road trip so he could learn to drive. What a bonding experience they will have and by the time it is over the son will be the best new driver in Manitoba.  I was too into my own adventure to think of getting their contact details.

A few days later I met Isaac, a Mexican guy who flew himself and his bicycle to Alaska and is now riding to Argentina. I pass a lot of people on bicycle and can’t help but admire their endurance. Isaac has a real passion for bicycling and for adventure. Also travelling alone we had much in common and lots to share. Unfortunately he was heading south and I was heading north, and we travel and much different speeds. Now that I am heading south I am going to try and meet up with him again. Check out his blog at http://www.2wheeldream.com/

About a week after meeting Isaac, while in the Yukon, I met another father and son team from San Francisco. These two were riding vintage motorcycles and were on their way back from Alaska. I was able to ask Denis and Dominic about the road conditions and other interesting places to visit. They were very helpful. This time I got their contact details, turns out they have a real passion for vintage bikes, check out their web site at http://www.sfvintagecycle.com/  I will definitely stop by this place when I get to California.

I made my way to Homer Alaska and that is where I me Jane Rose. Jane is a retired librarian who is now travelling in her van, solo. I almost had her convinced to come to Prudhoe Bay with me. She would take her van and me on the bike. Unfortunately, there were flaws in our plan and Jane had to back out. You can read about this and her other adventures on her website at http://www.datatamata.com/

When I stopped in Coldfoot AK, going north to Prudhoe Bay, I was lucky enough to meet Hilton and Tony. Long time riding buddies, Hilton from Texas and Tony from New Zealand, these guys were great fun and I ended up spending the next four days with them, riding to Prudhoe and back to Fairbanks. Check out their blog at http://greatarcticadventure.wordpress.com/

Stopping in Coldfoot on the way back from Prudhoe Bay, Hilton, Tony and I met Kevin. Kevin had flown his bike from Australia to Alaska and was also riding to Argentina. We had great laughs while trying to decipher each other’s accent. Kevin and I were both camping that night and when I visited Kevin’s campsite he was quite excited to tell me that just ten minutes earlier he had seen his first bear. The bear had been spotted near my campsite so needless to say I was not as excited. Check out his blog at http://exploreplanetearth.net/

And just last night I dinner with another motorcyclist I met here at the Motel. Doug was riding with a group but due to a necessary clutch repair on his BMW GS, he had to separate from his friends. He is also riding to Argentina later this year. I am still waiting for the link to his blog and will share it with you when I get it.

I have also met many other people without blogs but with interesting stories. Like my cute Alaskan waitress who shot a seven foot Grizzly Bear back in the spring, or Iris and Sean with their pet rat, and who can forget the Russian girls in Anchorage, or Bruce and Lena who took me in and treated me like family.

So, it is hard to get lonely when I am rarely alone and when I have so many interesting people to talk to.

Dennis and Dominic 250x187 Travelling Solo By GPHilton Tony 250x187 Travelling Solo By GPIssac 250x187 Travelling Solo By GPJane 250x187 Travelling Solo By GPTour guides1 250x187 Travelling Solo By GP

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