Day 218 – Rio Grande, Argentina to Puerto Natales, Chile

Day 218 – Rio Grande, Argentina to Puerto Natales, Chile      03/27/11      Mileage: 348

It was below freezing overnight and there was a lot of frost on the bike cover this morning. Last night Collin and Derek rolled into the hostal unexpectedly after having suffered yet another flat! They had hoped to get much farther but had to hold up in Rio Grande because of all the time it took to fix the flats.

In addition to the 3 KLR’s, there were two local Argentinians on an Africa Twin and a KTM 990A at the hostal tha night…

Well, the upside is we got to chat more and we also road together this morning until parting ways.

It’s a KLR covention…above at the Argentina border and waiting for the ferry to cross the Straits of Magellan below…

They were heading due north for Rio Gallegos and I was turning west to Puerto Natales and the Parque Nacional Torres del Paine. The wind was strong but manageable in the morning but got brutal in the afternoon. At least by then the road was paved so it was more frustrating than dangerous.

The strong westerly wind also severely cut into my mileage…and I ran both my main and reserve tanks dry 23 miles short of my planned fuel stop. Luckily I carry two extra gallons strapped to my passenger footpegs for just such an occasion. All gassed up I continued pushing ahead into the wind all the way to Puerto Natales where I got a room for the night. The hostal had a dodgy vibe, but the price was right at $10. Tomorrow it’s off to the Torres del Paine…which will be amazing to see if the weather cooperates…

Day 217 – Ushuaia to Rio Grande, Argentina

Day 217 – Ushuaia to Rio Grande, Argentina       03/26/11       Mileage:  138

Beto, Tracy and I were all a little slow out of the gate this morning after last nights festivities. We chatted over breakfast about possible routes north, swapped tales from the road south and talked about other adventures someday to be realized. But soon it was time for me to go as the road north beckons…and after packing the bike and saying adios to Beto and Tracy, a pointed the KLR out of town.

The weather was great and I could see so much more of the amazing scenery than I could on the ride in. My plan was to only ride as far as Rio Grande, so I wasn’t in any rush and a savored each mile.

I passed two other KLR’s on the side of the road so I stopped to say hi. Derek and Collin had shipped their bikes to Santiago, Chile, rode down to Ushuaia and their plan is to ride them home to Canada.

Collin was in the process of fixing his 11th flat in about 2,000 miles….crazy! They have a blog as well:  I have been extremely lucky in that department…and that’s all I’m going to say lest I jinx myself! Back on the throttle it was a windy last 100 miles into Rio Grande where I worked on the blog, grabbed some dinner and called it a night. Tomorrow it’s back into Chile to head for the Parque Nacional Torres del Paine…which should be spectacular if the weather cooperates….

Day 216 – Ushuaia, AR

Day 216 – Ushuaia, Argentina      03/25/11       Mileage: 0

Ushuaia is a long way to go for a photograph, but like life, it’s all about the journey and not where you end up. For me it’s been an amazing journey on many levels and I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity. The end, when it comes, will be bittersweet I’m sure. So after spending the morning updating the blog and returning emails, I walked around downtown Ushuaia and it really is quite a nice little town…a nice mix of local and tourist oriented businesses.

The weather is also surprisingly warm for being this far south and given it’s location on the water. Late in the afternoon Beto and Tracy (the couple I met in Machu Picchu and again in El Calafate) arrived at the hostal on their KTM 990. It was great to catch up with them and we celebrated our arrival in Ushuaia that night in an Irish pub in town. We had as many laughs as we did beers and Beto also had a celebratory fox hat that he was saving for the occasion…too funny!

Tomorrow, it’s back on the road, but this time it’s the road north…the road home…

Day 215 – Rio Grande to Ushuaia, Argentina

Day 215 – Rio Grande to Ushuaia, Argentina     03/24/11     Mileage: 171

It was raining when I got up this morning, but I only had a little over 2 hours worth of riding to get down to Ushuaia…so I waited for a break in the rain and then got on the road. The scenery was nice for the first hour but was really good the last 40 or so miles up and over a small mountain pass.

They even have this sign that tells you where to take the picture…though…that is one funny looking camera!

I would have stopped for more pictures, but I had this need to just get there! Once over the pass, it was a nice roll down a picturesque valley until the sign for Ushuaia came into view.

And that was it…7 months and 3 days after setting out from New Jersey, I was finally here in Ushuaia, the self proclaimed “Southernmost City in the World.” I’ve seen many pictures of it before, but the town is in a spectacular setting on the Beagle Channel surrounded by mountains…and is much nicer in person than in pictures….not at all what I expected.

And while Ushuaia might be the last town on the road south, the road itself, Ruta 3, continues another 20 kilometers into the Parque Nacional del Tierra del Fuego to the very end of the road….and after dropping my bag at the hotel,  that was my next stop. Just on the other side of town the road turned to dirt before arriving at the entrance to park.

The scenery was again much better than I expected and remember from the pictures. The trees were turning in the autumn weather and there was snow on the high peaks…it was spectacular.

Then, around a bend in the road the famous sign that I have seen in so many other pictures came into view…the literal end of the road south.

In English: 
Land of Fire National Park
Lapataia Bay
Republic of Argentina
Here is the end of National Route No. 3
Buenos Aires: 1,913 miles
Alaska: 11, 090 miles

If my eyesight was as good as Sarah Palin I might be able to see Antarctica.  😉  I took the requisite pictures, smoked a big cigar that Johnny O gave me before the trip and lingered for a bit to reflect and take it all in. Well, that was it…nothing left to do but point my trusty KLR north and head for home…

It’s official…

It’s official, I reached Ushuaia, Argentina earlier today….post for today coming soon….


Day 214 – Rio Gallegos to Rio Grande, Argentina

Day 214 – Rio Gallegos to Rio Grande, Argentina      03/23/11      Mileage: 248

I worked on the blog over breakfast and then went out to the auto parts store to be there when they opened at 9. They had the bulb in stock and I also got more electrical tape for the short in the tail light wiring. Back at the hotel I spent the next hour putting humpty dumpty back together…then packed the bike and split. With the late start, it was doubtful that I’d make it to Ushuaia given that there are two border crossings (out of Argentina into Chile and back to Argentina) and a ferry in between. The first police checkpoint I was stopped and asked to go in the building with my passport. I’ve been through dozens of checkpoints and have always been either waved through or asked 1 or 2 questions and sent on my way…so I’m not sure why this guy had a burr in his ass. Anyway, it didn’t take too long but it set the tone for the day. At the Argentina side of the border the immigration officer went to take a shit for 20 minutes as soon as I walked up with my passport. fortunately it took 30 seconds to cancel my bike import permit..usually it’s the other way around. Anyway, once done it was on to the Chile side were I arrived just after a bus. Super…more waiting. All that done I was off to the ferry across the Straits of Magellan.

I arrived and was told the next ferry would be here in 20 minutes, and sure enough you could see it making it’s way here. When the blue ferry arrived, some trucks got off…then some trucks got on…then the ramp went up and it buggered off leaving me and 5 other cars waiting there wondering what just happened?

Nobody seemed to know why as there was still plenty of room. WTF? So we sat there for another hour and eventually another red ferry showed up, but after they let everyone off, the didn’t start boarding for almost 40 minutes for what looked like some inspection or something.

Once loaded we set sail across the straits to the island of Tierra del Fuego, which took about 20 minutes.

Strapped in for the short but choppy ride across the Straits of Magellan…

Back on dry land I hit the gas still hoping to make it to Ushuaia, but that hope evaporated at the next border as soon as I saw the line waiting at the Chile immigration. It took 45 minutes to get my exit stamp…something that usually takes 30 seconds(unless the officer goes to take a dump of course). So after exiting Chile and reentering Argentina, I stopped in Rio Grande to look for a room and some dinner. Tomorrow, it’s on to Ushuaia for sure!

Day 213 – El Calafate to Rio Gallegos, Argentina

Day 213 – El Calafate to Rio Gallegos, Argentina      03/22/11      Mileage: 209

I spent the morning updating the blog and doing some maintenance on the bike. The headlights and tail light were out due to a short in the wiring that was blowing the fuse…seems all the washboard dirt roads the last few days took their toll on the bike wiring. I couldn’t be bothered with tracing it down at the moment though….that could take hours to find. So I packed the bike and split without the lights…which I really won’t need unless I get caught out in the dark. On the way out of town I bumped into Beto and Tracy who I met at Machu Picchu back in Peru! It was great to see them again and we chatted for a bit. They were just pulling into town…so hopefully we’ll catch up again…perhaps in Ushuaia! Back on the gas it was all business down the pavement to Rio Gallegos…battling the west winds the whole way.

I decided to stop in Rio Gallegos and find a room with a good spot to work on the bike as finding that short could require taking a lot of the bike apart. After finding a room with parking out back, I unpacked and started looking for the short. The factory wiring to the headlight is pretty bomber and well protected running inside the main wiring harness from the fuse and battery to the front of the bike, so I started with tail light as it is much more exposed running under the rear fender. After 30 minutes of looking I found a short in the tail light wiring where the power lead and ground wires had rubbed through..but when I put another fuse in it popped as soon as turned the ignition on…crap. Two shorts…what are the odds…so I started looking at the headlight wiring. It’s mostly buried in the main wiring harness and it’s doubtful it shorted inside the harness and if it did it would be damn near impossible to find and fix without destroying the harness.

The leads to the headlights looked good so I tried another fuse just for giggles and it was fine…but then I noticed the low beam connector was not fully seated, and when I seated it the fuse popped. Huh…so I took out the headlight bulb and sure enough one of the posts in the bulb had bent and was touching the other post causing the short-circuit. Damn…I never saw a bulb fail that way…but I’m glad I found the second short and it only took about an hour total. It’s too late to get a new bulb now, so I’ll have to do that first thing tomorrow morning at the auto parts store. That done I scared up some dinner, worked on the blog and then called it a night…

Day 212 – La Herreria to El Calafate, Argentina

Day 212 – La Herreria to El Calafate, Argentina      03/21/11       Mileage: 293

The wind…it hounded me all night and was blowing so hard I can’t believe my tent is still in one piece…score one for Mountain Hardware. So while it did not cave the tent in, it did however fill the inside of it..and cover me with a fine powdery dirt that was able to get by the fine tent mesh. My sleeping bag, helmet…everything had a layer of dirt on it…and my boots were filled with it…just f–king grand. So with the wind still howling out of the west, I broke camp and continued south on Ruta 40. The road surface was loose gravel….which by itself can be slippery, but it’s fine. But when combined with a 40 mph cross wind…it royally sucks. The loose gravel offers little traction, so the wind essentially has it’s way with you, blowing you and the bike several feet left or right at will….whether that’s off the road, into an oncoming truck or into the 6-12 inch deep gravel berms that will throw you down in heap. This goes on for hour upon nerve racking hour of desolate road…and might be the only time on this entire trip where I actually would have preferred to be at work…that’s how much it sucked!

In the misery I wasn’t compelled to stop and take pictures…but I did take these two token shots….

The misery ended with the beginning of the pavement as the wind is then much more manageable. I rolled into and through El Calafate on my way to see the Perito Moreno Glacier….one of the first places I knew I wanted to see when planning this trip. It cost $25 to get in, but the sight before you does not disappoint.

To give you a sense of scale…look at the people at the bottom of the pictures…incredable!

The glacier was calving off into the lake and the sound of 5 story tall ice blocks tumbling into the water sounded like canons firing…it was unbelievable! I stood there and watched (and listened) in awe at what was one of the most amazing natural wonders I’ve ever seen. Afterwards I headed back to El Calafate and found a room, some dinner and a few beers. Tomorrow it’s back on the road south…

Day 211 – Paso Roballas, Chile to La Herreria, Argentina

Day 211 – Paso Roballas, Chile to La Herreria, Argentina      03/20/11      Mileage: 237

With dawn came a great sunrise which I lingered to enjoy before breaking camp and getting back on the road.

The scenery was great and I had the road, little more than a rocky two-track, to myself.

In two hours I was at the Chile border outpost where the officer had me and the bike processed out in 10 minutes.

Quite a nice setting to work for the Chile border officials….

 A few kilometers later I arrived at the Argentina border post and was processed in almost as quickly. Crossing between these two countries, even with the bike, is completely free and aside from the formalities pretty easy.

Continuing on the mountains gave way to more of a desert landscape but it was still enjoyable to ride through.

Soon I arrived back at the famous Ruta 40 where I hung a right and continued heading south. The landscape was now more open and without the protection of the mountains the strong westerly winds were free to hound me at will…easily moving the bike 2-3 feet sideways on the loose gravel. With nightfall rapidly approaching I began to look for a good spot to bush camp…which I found about a 1/2 mile down a rutted 2 track.

Tuna wrap…which I washed down with hot chocolate and whiskey….good eats!

I found a nice spot for the tent, once I kicked the dried cow shit out of the way, and I was once again treated to great sunset.

Another great day on the road south….

Day 210 – Coyhaique to Paso Raballos, Chile

Day 210 – Coyhaique to Paso Raballos, Chile      03/19/11       Mileage: 214

It absolutely poured all night, so much so that it woke me up several times which almost never happens. Around 9:30 the rain let up, so I packed the bike and continued south on the Carretera Austral.

Aside from a few rain squalls, the weather steadily improved as I rolled south and eventually gave way to sunny skies with just enough clouds to make for good pictures….I hit the jackpot! It seems my waiting a day was the right move after all, and I was basking in the warmth of the sun and glad to not be drenched in the cold driving rain again.

The scenery went from great to unbelievable as I rode along the aquamarine waters of Lago General Carrera, the largest lake in Chile. This is what I came here for, and I would have disappointed to miss out had the mountains been obscured by the rain and clouds.

This one day made it all worth it. Late in the afternoon I stopped and setup camp on a small bluff and enjoyed an amazing Patagonia sunset…a fitting end to a memorable day of riding on the Carretera Austral.

Tomorrow it’s back into Argentina and onto the famous Ruta 40…

Day 209 – Coyhaique, CL

Day 209 – Coyhaique, CL      03/18/11      Mileage: 0

Kyosti and Joachim had decided to take a more direct route back to Argentina, while I chose to continue farther down the Carretera Austral before crossing back over to Argentina. They wanted to get an early start and I wanted to use the wifi for a bit, so we said goodbye and they were off.

It was great riding with them for the last 3 days…we shared a lot of good stories and laughs and I’ll miss their company. I went to work on the blog, but before long I could hear the unmistakable sound of rain on the roof of the hostal. Crap. Given the weather and that the blog was still over a week behind, I decided to stay one more night to get caught up….and hopefully the weather will be better tomorrow morning…

Day 208 – La Junta, CL to Coyhaique, CL

Day 208 – La Junta, CL to Coyhaique, CL      03/17/11      Mileage: 166

The hostal barely had heat so none of our gear was really dry. We certainly weren’t going to stay, so we packed the bikes and grabbed a quick breakfast of yogurt and fruit on the way out of town.

Part of the road that ran along a fjord was under construction, so they had a ferry take you around the construction zone…nice!

The rain was coming down but it would occasionally stop to lift your spirits even if only for a moment…and a picture.

The last 40 miles to Coyhaique were in a downpour the tropics would be proud of, so we decided to seek out a hostal (with heat) to dry out our gear and regroup. The rain ended late in the afternoon as we wandered out for dinner. Hopefully tomorrow will bring better weather so we can enjoy riding what is surly one of the most spectacular roads in the world.

Day 207 – Futaleufu, CL to La Junta, CL

Day 207 – Futaleufu, CL to La Junta, CL      03/16/11      Mileage: 237

It was raining on and off in the morning and it didn’t look like it was going to stop. We had breakfast and waited for it to let up, then packed the bikes and headed west for the Carretera Austral…a remote, mostly dirt road connecting the towns in the far south of Chile in Patagonia.

The quaint if not so bustling town of Futaleufu…

The scenery, when we were able to see it through the driving rain and low clouds, was spectacular. Some of the rivers were a turquoise blue that I just could not capture with my camera.

You can actually see the rain coming down in these pictures…

We pressed on through the rain and cold but eventually cried uncle and sought refuge in a small rustic coffee house on the Austral. We were chilled to the bone and drowned like rats, and thankful to be out of the weather. The owner stoked up the wood stove and made some hot tea and coffee while we listened to the rain pounding on the metal roof.

We tried to dry our gloves by the fire as our hands were suffering the worst from the cold.

Fresh steaming gloves hot off the stove….

We sat down and laughed at ourselves and thought at moments like this…why can’t we be like normal people and go vacation in the Caribbean and sit on the warm beach…washing down conch fritters with fruity rum drinks. Well, that was a good laugh but it was only a temporary relief from the misery ahead, as the rain if anything was only getting worse. So we thanked our host for her hospitality (and heat) and we put our gear back on and went back out to finish what we started. The owner gave us the name of a friend in La Junta that ran a hostal, so that was now our goal. Needless to say I did not stop to take many (and by that I mean any) pictures, partly because the scenery was largely shrouded in rain, fog and clouds, but mainly because I couldn’t be bothered with stopping to take the 10 minutes it would take me to get my soaking wet numb hands in and out of my drenched riding gloves to work the camera. We finally arrived in La Junta and ended the misery when we found the hostal.

The owner turned out to be bat shit crazy, and we would have told her to shove it and left were it not such a pain in the ass to re-pack the bikes. Over dinner we had some laughs (mostly at her expense) and shared stories from the road, the craziest of which I’ll summarize here. Back in Quito, Ecuador… 5 men armed with guns and knives broke into the apartment where they were staying, held them at gunpoint, made them get down on the floor and tied their hands behind their back…then robbed them. HOLY SHIT is all I had to say…in addition to they are lucky to live to tell the story…

Day 206 – San Carlos de Bariloche, AR to Futaleufu, CL

Day 206 – San Carlos de Bariloche, AR to Futaleufu, CL      03/15/11       Mileage: 237

After running some last minute errands, I packed the bike and pointed the KLR south out of town. The scenery was epic, the weather was fantastic and all was right with the world.

I stopped for lunch in the small town of El Bolson which had a nice vibe and a great setting below the towering nearby mountains.

 Even the gas station in El Bolson had a nice view…

A month ago I would have stayed just to have a better look, but I need to keep pushing south if I’m going to beat winter to Ushuaia. On the far side of El Bolson I caught up to 2 other riders and we pulled over to chat. Kyosti and Joachim are a father and son team from Denmark and have been on the road since August and also started in NY! We were heading the same direction so we saddled up and hit the road together.

We stopped for gas in Esquel and then continued to the Chile border, passing more amazing scenery along the way.

Crossing the border back into Chile…

We found a nice little hostal for the night in the tiny town of Futaleufu just over the border and then wandered out for dinner. There were only 2 restaurants open so we chose the one that had a pretty extensive menu. We sat down and began looking at the menu and noticed X’s next to many of the items on the menu. We asked the waitress if the X’s indicated that they did or did not have that item as it was not clear…and neither was her answer. So I order lasagna, which did not have an X, but the waitress said, “no hay”…which means they don’t have it. Next I tried ordering a burger, which did have an X next to it…but she said, “no hay”. Joachim and Kyosti tried ordering as well with similar results. I asked if she could just tell me what she DID have and we’ll choose from that. So, she went to the kitchen and returned 10 minutes later and said they have lomo (meat) with potatoes or soup. I asked what kind of soup, but she didn’t know and once again returned to the Kitchen to find out. Tomato soup, perfect…I’ll take it. Joachim and Kyosti went for the lomo and we added a round of beer to the order. 15 minutes later she returned and said, no hay lomo. We started laughing hysterically…and they amended their order to tomato soup as well.

Our “no hay” dinner….

So, with a menu of at least 50 items on it, it came down to they had tomato soup, bread and beer….which was fine with us and we got a good laugh out of it as well. Such is life in the remote area’s of Patagonia…

Day 202 – 205 – San Carlos de Bariloche, AR

Day 202 – 205 – San Carlos de Bariloche, AR      03/11-14/11      Mileage: Local miles

I spent the last few days mostly getting caught up on the blog, running errands and drinking my body weight in cheap (but very good!) Argentinian wine.

 The hostal had a pub downstairs and it was always full of partying travelers, so that was good time! They also had a big traditional Argentinian assado Friday night which was great. 

Meat, it’s whats for dinner….  😀

I took a day trip on the bike out to tour the west end of the lake on some spectacular roads, passing by the famous Llao Llao Hotel which is situated in an amazing setting.

You can see the Hotel Llao Llao on a hill in the middle of the picture….

I’m not sure what kind of birds these are, but they were big!

The famous Hotel Llao Llao

I also went up to have a look at the Catedral ski area and rode to the top of Cerro Otto with a great panoramic view of the whole area.

The view from the top of Cerro Otto…

Bariloche is a great place to relax and spend some time for sure. I also bumped into Alex yet again, which would make it the 4th time in 4 different countries. He saw my bike out front when he passed by and stopped in to say hi…too funny!

I also went to the Honda dealer to borrow a 27mm socket and breaker bar to change out the drive sprocket, rear sprocket and drive chain as it was starting to show signs of significant ware.

 They offered to wash the bike for free, didn’t charge me for using their tools and moved some of their bikes out of the way so I could use their patio to work on my bike…..great guys!

Looks good as new!

Tomorrow it’s back on the road south and back over the Andes to Chile to ride the Carretera Austral…

Day 201 – San Martin de Los Andes, AR to San Carlos de Bariloche, AR

Day 201 – San Martin de Los Andes, AR to San Carlos de Bariloche, AR      03/10/11     Mileage: 126

In the daylight my stealth campsite ended up not being so stealth, but it was still free and nobody bothered me. I rode back a few miles to San Martin de Los Andes to have a better look around and some breakfast which I found and quaint cafe.

I really like San Martin…I wish I could spend more time here…but I need to keep moving south. The road to San Carlos de Barlioche from San Martin passed by some spectacular alpine lakes and the scenery was great despite the light rain that was falling.

More lines for gas…..and this station is in a very wealthy resort town….so it’s not a money thing….

I saw these maps for sale and it dawned on me I just crossed another off my life list….to go to Patagonia…

Looking acorss thelake to San Carlos de Bariloche…

I rolled into Bariloche mid-afternoon and found a hostel thanks to another biker who came up to me and told me where he was staying. Brian is from the UK on his BMW F800 and is doing nearly the same trip as me…it’s hard to believe we didn’t bump into each other until now! I settled in and tried to update the blog but the internet at the hostel was pretty bad. At night I wandered out for a look around, some dinner and a bit of fine chocolate which is one thing that Bariloche is famous for.

San Carlos de Bariloche at night….

Day 200 – El Zampal, AR to San Martin de Los Andes, AG

Day 200 – El Zampal, AR to San Martin de Los Andes, AG       03/09/11      Mileage: 397

I lingered a bit in camp this morning to write a bit for the blog and enjoy the nice setting over a morning coffee.

Packed and rolling south on the dirt I recall laughing inside my helmet at just how fortunate I am to be right here right now….man I’m lucky bastard. The scenery was great and always changing and eventually I hit the pavement again which allowed me to ramp up the pace.

I used the last of my pesos to buy gas in a small town I passed by…enough for around 2 gallons. I was now out of money again until I can find someplace to change my dollars, which I figured I could do at Las Lajas or at worst Zapala.

Nothing but skin and bones….  Actually, that hide might make a nice rug…

 Well, when I arrived in Las Lajas the bank was closed (I guess bankers keep the same shity hours everywhere) and all the businesses appeared to be closed…maybe the power was out…not sure, but the place was half deserted. My next chance was Zapala which turned out to be a half descent sized town. I went straight to the bank but it had closed at 1pm…despite the fact that it was 3pm and still FULL of people. Those poor fookers have been in there waiting for at least 2 hours now! WTF?

Here’s a picture of the “closed” bank and all the people waiting and waiting….crazy.

I asked a nice gentleman in a suit where I could find another bank, money changer….anywhere that would change dollars. He said I could try the gas station, but he didn’t think they would either. He offered to change what he had on him which was a nice gesture, but he barely had enough for 1 tank of gas, so I thanked him and politely declined. I went across the street to a restaurant and as luck would have it he would take and change dollars…sweet! So I had a lite lunch and paid with my crisp $100 I’ve been carrying from the motherland. So now with a full belly and half full wallet, I set off to get gas. The first gas station was out of gas, and so was the second. So I was told there was one other gas station in town, and when I arrived…this is what I saw…

Yes folks, that is what an hour and 15 minute gas line looks like. And no, this picture is not some third world banana republic or the US in the 1970’s, this is modern day Argentina. WTF?! It’s weird, some towns seem to have plenty of gas, others almost none…haven’t figured that one out yet. So now with a full tank to burn, I continued south battling the west winds the entire time.

I rolled through the quaint town of Junin de los Andes and then I was on the hunt for a stealth campsite. It proved pretty hard to find as there were cattle fences that ran on both sides of the road…or I would have just ridden off into the bush. I kept rolling and searching and eventually came to the super cool lakeside town of San Martin de los Andes. Wow, what a great little town…too bad I had to roll through without stopping. Fortunately a few miles further I found a descent little stealth spot just off the road. Tomorrow it’s on to San Carlos de Bariloche where I’m going to splurge on a room and have a long overdue shower.

Parting shot: Rolling in the twilight….

Day 199 – Uspallata, AR to El Zampal, AR

Day 199 – Uspallata, AR to El Zampal, AR 03/08/11 Mileage: 434

I was up early, broke camp and was on the road around 8 and rolling south towards Mendoza.

My stealth campsite actually turned out to be pretty picturesque in the morning…

The vineyards around Mendoza with the Andes looming in the background…

I wanted to have a steak and a bottle of red in Mendoza, but the road south beckons and it will have to wait for the way back up. Eventually the vineyards around Mendoza gave way to open rocky desert and I was making good time.

I took a detour up to Las Lenas, another well-known ski resort, and had a nice lunch and a beer.

Let the good times roll indeed! But why is that sign in english?  lol

Back on the road I continued south across the scenic but barren landscape.

These cute donkeys stood and watched me watch them for quite a while…

Nightfall finely caught me and I stopped and bush camped along a river….another great day on the road south…

Day 198 – Valle Nevado, CL to Uspallata, AR

Day 198 – Valle Nevado, CL to Uspallata, AR       03/07/11       Mileage: 221

I made some coffee and walked out a bit further on the outcropping just in time to catch the sunrise over the high peaks of the Andes.

Some wild horses were nearby as well…

I lingered a bit to take it all in, then packed up and continued up to the Valle Nevado ski are to have a look. As a die-hard skier, I’ve always wanted to ski in South America in Chile and Argentina, so even though it’s not ski season I’m still drawn here like a spanning salmon.

The resort sites on a knife ridge with spectacular views in every direction…and it’s only an hour ride from Santiago…pretty cool.

I also swung by La Parva on the way back down to Santiago.

Back in Santiago I went to draw out more pesos but three different ATM’s said there was a problem with my card…damn! So I stopped into a Starbucks and used the wifi to call my bank, and they said my card was disabled because a merchant I bought something from(they couldn’t say which one) back in the states got hacked, so they disabled every credit and debit card ever used at that merchant. I know that’s for my own protection, but what a pain in the ass for me. I only had around $8 in pesos left which wasn’t going to last long…Chile is as expensive as the US. The banks were already closed, I couldn’t change any of my US dollars….so I decided to use my remaining pesos to buy gas and head for the border into Argentina….country number 16. It took about 90 minutes to get there and the road climbed up a scenic mountain pass past the ski area of Portillo.

Now that is a twisty road!

The immigration and customs for Chile and Argentina were both in a combined building in Argentina…..brilliant! When you pulled up, you gave your passport to the Chile official who stamps you out, then they slide it over to the Argentina official sitting right next to them, who stamps you in…20 seconds tops! Same for the customs, an official from each country sits right next to each other, so they processed the bike in and out at the same time. There were no money changers at the border, so I continued down the valley to the town of Uspallata….a cool little place that seems to be a base for trekking, rafting and other outdoor activities.

 The bank was already closed, so I tried to change money at 2 pharmacies, a gas station, 2 restaurants, a market and the casino…and nobody would change or accept US dollars. Next I went into a hotel and they said no as well, but I pleaded my case. They said it was illegal to change anything other than Chilean pesos, which I had none of either, but in the end they helped me out and changed $100. I thanked them for breaking the law and now I had money for gas a food. It was already dark by this point, but I rolled south in search of a stealthy place to camp. The road was pinched between cliffs and a river so finding a spot to camp proved difficult, but I did muscle the bike down onto a small embankment about 30 yards from the road by the river. I’d like to be farther from the road, but at least I was well hidden given the pitch black darkness. I had a quick bite to eat and then crashed.

Day 197 – Valparaiso, CL to Valle Nevado, CL

Day 197 – Valparaiso, CL to Valle Nevado, CL      03/06/11      Mileage: 111

I’m a beer man for sure, but I like wine as well so while in one of the wine regions of Chile, might as well sample the goods! I packed up and left Valparaiso feeling like I had missed out, but I’ve got to get south and I can’t do everything….maybe I’ll catch it again on the way back north. It was a short hop over the coastal mountains to the Casablanca Valley to the Casas del Bosque vineyard.

It was a nice place and I signed up for a tour and tasting. The tour was brief but informative but the tasting was the highlight for sure (of course?).

This is their aging room….they were even playing classical music to entertain the wine…

They brought me and the two other guys on the tour into their tasting room which is really nice….in fact way too nice for a smelly biker. But, they let me in anyway and I sampled the goods, including their most expensive wine, the Private Reserve Gran Bosque.

So after my high zoot wine tour, it was back on the bike heading for the mountains to check out Valle Nevado and the other ski areas near Santiago. The road snaked its way from downtown Santiago up a picturesque canyon before turning into countless switchbacks.

Slicing through downtown Santiago…

Ahhh…home sweet home back in the mountains…

Nightfall was coming fast so I decided to camp up here in the mountains. A few miles from Valle Nevado I saw a rutted track heading out towards an outcropping and decided to have a look.

I couldn’t decide which sunset picture I liked best, so I put them all up and let you pick the one you like best…

It turned out to be an idyllic spot complete with another amazing Chilean sunset. I’m one lucky bastard for sure….