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 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….

Day 196 – Chanalan, CL to Valpariso, CL

Day 196 – Chanalan, CL to Valpariso, CL      02/05/11       Mileage: 571

Alex had some things to do this morning so I hit the road south solo. I was on the gas to make miles and the weather and road were both working with me for a change. The road ran along the coast in a few spots and it could easily pass for the Pacific Coast Highway in California.

I’m still carrying the blue gallon jugs for gas that I bought from the little old lady in Bolivia…..the best 80 cents I ever spent.

Nightfall began to catch me as I turned off the Pan American for Valparaiso. The small road I was on ran along the coast and by what surely must be the Malibu of Chile with spectacular houses perched above the South Pacific.

I also caught a spectacular sunset before pulling into Valparaiso. I found a room and crashed soon after, worn out from the long day in the saddle…life is good…