Saturday, February 9, 2013

Peru and Bolivia videos

Our friend Mark (aka Radioman on ADVrider) 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:


[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)


 [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!

" what?"

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.

Transbordadores Austral Broom ferry from Pta Arenas to Porvenir
(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.

Leaving Porvenir along the Circuito del Oro

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.

Following the Bahía Inútil
(bordering Bahía Inútil (= Useless Bay))

Random gas station in a lumber yard, Russfín
(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)

Lumber yard gas station, Russfín
(this is the gas station)

yes, lotsa sheep, outside of reten Pampa Guanaco
(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.

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

Refugio de Caza y Pescar. Lago Blanco
(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!

(Pancho and Mike going fishing)

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

beaver dam and extensive damage, Refugio de Caza y Pescar. Lago Blanco
(beaver dam and extensive damage)

Beaver leftovers, Refugio de Caza y Pescar. Lago Blanco
(beaver leftovers)

Jill sees her first penguin up close, with no risk of getting bit.  At the Refugio de Caza y Pescar at Lago Blanco
(Jill sees her first penguin up close, with no risk of getting bit)

Terry with his first round of sticker accumulating complete
(Terry with his first round of sticker accumulating complete)

Our company at the Refugio de Caza y Pescar. Lago Blanco.  Pancho at left, 2 guys staying there, Roxane at head, don Horacio, another guy staying there (who was sitting by Jill with intention) and Jill.  They fed us 2 meals that were quite good and opened up their lodge to us.  A fantastic experience
(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.

the old limit marker from the Argentina side.  Interestingly, you see one of these in the heart of Futaleufú, which sits at least 5km inside Chile now.  Evidence of the border wars

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

Mike trying to make it to Argentina, Rio Bellavista.  This water was moving pretty fast and shifted the bike around a bit.  Thankfully it was low.
(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.)

Ushuaia is home to a strong reverence for the Islas Malvinas
(pulling into Ushuaia)

WE MADE IT!!  After nearly 2 years and ~32000 miles (over 50000 km) we can now no longer head south.  Jill's quote sums it up with simplicity...

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: " what?"

Us and TA at the Bahía Lapataia. WE MADE IT!! After nearly 2 years and ~32000 miles (over 50000 km) we can now no longer head south. Jill's quote sums it up with simplicity...

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.

fox and mountain, Bahía Lapataia
(this little guy was hanging out in the parking lot at Bahía Lapataia)

Fox face, Bahía Lapataia
(fox face)

view of Bahía Lapataia
(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.

Plaza Islas Malvinas, Ushuaia

view of Ushuaia
(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!

A Christmas present from Mike's parents sponsored a nice celebration dinner near the water at Christopher's in Ushuaia.  Bife de chorizo, merluzza negra, and a Malbec were appropriate choices for the location.

The bike back outside of the Hostal Cormoranes.  They let us park in their office for the days we were there.
(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).

view from Paso Garibaldi, Tierra del Fuego
(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!

a unicyclist on her way from Ushuaia to Santiago.  We shared a pair of sunglasses with her and a couple of alfajores, hopefully picked up her day a bit.  Riding a unicycle in Patagonian winds sounds unfun to me.
(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)

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

unicyclist on her way, Tierra del Fuego
(...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.

ferry at Primera Angostura.  Only 30 minute crossing and you buy your tickets on board, if you are so inclined.

Lighthouse closeup at Primera Angostura

view from camp, outside of Pta Arenas
(view from camp, outside of Pta Arenas)

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

view from our tent, outside of Pta Arenas
(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.

Roadhouse between Pta Arenas and Pto Natales
(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!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Do you like Perito Moreno?...

...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.

On the way to el Calafate

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.

Perito Moreno glacier

Us at the Perito Moreno glacier

Perito Moreno glacier

Perito Moreno glacier

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.

Glacier National Park
(on the way to camp)

View from our campsite in Glacier National Park
(view from the campsite)

View from our campsite in Glacier National Park

McDaniel's in el Calafate - a close substitute for McDonald's?
(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.

Mike with a creepy guy on the way to Puerto Natales.
(Mike made a creepy friend along the way, as usual)

Can you spot the fox?
(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.

Kitty loved sleeping on the bike at the hostel in Puerto Natales.
(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.

Zona Franca, Punta Arenas

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
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.

downtown Punta Arenas

boxing gloves, Punta Arenas

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...