CHILE - South America

USHUAIA        CHILE         BOLIVIA

John Green & Annette Taylor on road  to Ushuaia 27-12-02

GS Convention near Ushuaia - Bob West, John Green, Gerry Tiernan and Annette Taylor


Ushuaia national park 25-12-02
hotel in Puerto Natales 29-12-02.jpg
cerreto near Calafate 29-12-02

While initially we had thought that we'd hang around Ushuaia until the new year because of it being the Mecca it is for world bikers then our experience at the lack of a coordinated meeting point led us to decide that we would be as well to start our journey north towards the States. Certainly we encountered more bikers there than anywhere on our travels but the lack of a meeting place made it a hit and miss affair. Consequently on the morning of the 27th. we headed back over the spectacular pass that leads to there and made our way back along the dirt road to RioGrande. Just a few miles before the dirt road ended we were delighted to bump into John Green and Annette Taylor and spent a good hour talking. As you can see from the photos Annette is on a similar bike to our own and therefore it was of interest to us. They landed in Texas and had made their way down from there over a period of 7 months. From Rio Grande, we made our way across the island to the Magellan Straits to reach Puerto Natales .This dirt road which is the one where John is pictured going thru the flock of sheep proved to have a good surface so we flew along. The whole southern area of Chile is characterised by fiords and dramatic mountains and was a very picturesque area to go through. While in that region we visited the national park of Torres Del Paine. No doubt it was a combination of the beautiful scenery and the slow speed over the gravely roads but we were probably too late in crossing the Argentinian border that evening. We were told that there would be accommodation after 50 clicks but when we reached the would be hotel in gathering dusk on an increasingly deteriorating surface it proved to be no more than a petrol station. We were left with no choice, therefore, but to head towards Calafati which was still some 120 kilometers away. This particular section of Route 40 is marked as inferior dirt road and it proved just that. While Bob had no difficulty and sailed off into the distance both John and myself struggled particularly with the deep gravel. It was while negotiating a hill with preciously such a surface that I came off. I had moved off line as John was directly in front of me and my front wheel caught deep stones and down I went. Fortunately because of my slow speed it was more of a step off than anything else but it holed my rocker cover where it caught against the deep layer of stones. It's perhaps a measure of the difference in the quality of the material used in the B.M.W. bikes today that I believe that had that happened 20 years ago the rocker cover would not have holed from such a harmless fall. As the hill was so treacherous John was concentrating so hard that he hadn't realised I was down and my intercom had pulled out as I stepped off the bike.By the time he realised that I was no longer with him and returned I had already managed to get the bike up but it certainly proved another very convincing reason for taking a light load, especially off road.


Torres del Paine national park 30-12-02
Torres del paine N-park 30-12-02
Perito Moreno glacier 31-12-02

Strangely enough it was just after that accident that we both really had what could have proved serious accidents. Indeed before my fall John had a couple of very hairy moments as the bike was blown off course into the piled up gravel by the strong gale force winds that gusted unpredictably across us causing him to go into serious weaves. It was an indication of the hill we were on also that when he came back to me it proved very difficult for him to get back up it with the result that I thought he had now fallen off as he was no longer behind me. At any rate we got going again but just a few miles further on I was blown off course at about 50 kilometers an hour and literally the bike went over one side and as I put down my leg it pitched me to the other side where I righted it with the other leg. How I stayed on I don't know but maybe it was shock but all I could do was laugh at it as it would have looked very funny to any bystander, something I could see in my mind's eye. At any rate we both made it through and it was a welcomed sight when some 20 kilometers later we spotted Bob's light waiting for us at the junction with the paved road. It was now 11.30 at night so it was too late to go on especially as Bob's lights were bad and it would be also imprudent to risk it with my bike in case there was further unseen damage.
Bob, who had been waiting there some time, had already sussed out accommodation and in the process of asking for an hotel nearby, of which of course there was none, was offered beds by two brothers who worked for the oil company and who used this glorified shack as a sleeping station when up in this remote wind swept area. That night we spent in El Cerrito was as enjoyable and satisfying as any spent in those first class hotels we stayed in along the way and in many respects better as it was adventures and different from the comfortable routine we were used to. The next morning revealed that in addition to the holed rocker cover, that the headlight fairing had come loose of its rubber bushing and that my pannier frame had cracked again. The headlight fairing was simply pushed back home into it's housing while the pannier frame would easily hold to the next town. I had taken hard sealing plastic with me so we were easily able to seal the crack in the rocker cover thus sorting the only serious problem and were soon on our way to Calafati. Coming into the town John spotted a welding shop and he himself re-welded the pannier frame making it even better and stronger than new by first welding a bar inside it. The standard B.M.W.pannier frames are indeed not up to the job in the first place and really need the Touratech ones to complement any heavy load.


Perito-Moreno glacier 31-12-02
John on way to glacier 31-12-02
Glacier 31-12-02

Calafati, on the Argentinian side of the Andes, is the gateway to the Glacier park that boasts the Perito Moreno Glacier as its main attraction, it, in fact being a world heritage site. One of the few advancing glaciers in the world it was an awe inspiring sight to see this huge moving river of ice. Even from 8 kilometers distance it looked huge and beside it as enormous pieces regularly broke off crashing down into the water below it was like watching the birth of a landscape. In Calafati we bumped into our Brazilian friends who were on the same course north as us. We spent New Year's Eve in Calafati and the next day headed north. Twenty miles out of town we turned off onto Route 40 which is unpaved for some 600 kilometers north of here. As ever Bob was ahead in the distance while John and I moved at a more cautious pace. About 30 kilometers into the route John came down in deep sand which piles up on the inside of the bends.A few kilometers further on the same happened to him again and this time he twisted his ankle. As a consequence of this and since there was still some 600 Klms. of it still ahead which would necessitate having to use your legs from time to time to steady yourself we decided to turn back onto the paved road and head back via the eastern side by which we had come down. Personally I was just as happy as I did not enjoy the weight and handling of our bikes on the poor surfaces but for Bob it was obviously a disappointment. Bob, with his ability and more suitable Suzuki 650 was looking forward to this section. As I said already the Basic is not the most suitable bike for this sort of road though I acknowledge that there are many people out there taking it over even far more difficult terrain than we encountered. Objectively though it lacks the sort of front end feel and good suspension that you need to have to deal with these type of roads. I also realise that my assessment is coloured by my ability or lack thereof but for what its worth its a point to reflect on if your contemplating a lot of off-road riding. As John's leg was still causing him trouble when we reached the point for heading towards the Chilean Lake District which again would have meant using it a lot over poor roads he prudently decided to head up by the Argentinian side. Bob who had heard good reports about this region decided to give it a try and would meet up with us later in Santiago. As it happened the route John and I went proved fortuitous as from Esquel on it was a beautiful region as well as having good weather.


Sheep farming
Bikes service in Santiago BMW centre 8-1-03
Santiago Centre 9-1-03

Above Epuen you would have sworn you were somewhere in the Alps and the road was a well surfaced winding ribbon through it all as it took us to Baraloche .That this area is so popular with Brazilians is not surprising. Perhaps the nicest area of South America we had been in was on leaving Baraloche heading through Va La Angostura on the way to the Chilean border. This area was every bit as scenic as Interlaken or anywhere you care to mention in the Alps but with brilliant traffic-free roads. On crossing over the mountains to the Chilean side, there was an incredibly dramatic change of scenery in a short few miles. Due to higher rainfall from the Pacific on this side, we were suddenly confronted by green fields and an agricultural landscape very like in Ireland. The trip north towards Santiago was along motorway and fairly non descript. An unavoidable aspect of the trip has been the fact that by the time we have reached practically every city it has invariably been rush hour at the end of the day and coming into Santiago was no different. Any city is a nightmare in rush-hour traffic but this becomes doubly so when you don't know your bearings and why Gabriel leading us out of Buenes Aires was so appreciated. We knew the name of the area in the city we wanted to go to as it was where the B.M.W. dealers were located and we wanted an hotel convenient to it. As we thought we were going in the wrong direction John radioed to me in the lead to turn around. This involved a dodgy and illegal move of u-turning at a junction against on-coming traffic on a dual carrigeway. No sooner had I moved out of the slow lane to cross over to the intersection, however, and before John could signal me on the intercom a car had come up at high speed and caught me broadside sending me flying down the road. I really was lucky from a number of respects though and came out of it with effectively no damage. In the first place at the speed he came up I could have been killed had he hit me on my body. As it was the pannier which John made took the entire brunt of the crash and its an indication of their strength that they also withstood it. Being totally seam welded as opposed to spot welded as are most panniers they are built like the proverbial s***house and certainly got me out of trouble. I caused quite a deal of damage to his car, however, and that proved the costliest aspect of the incident for me. Along with numerous panels being damaged I also broke his windscreen as I must have hit it when he sent me flying since my arm felt a little sore. The upshot of it all though was more inconvenience than anything. We had reached Santiago at the end of a long 600+kilometer day and were already tired. We now had to head off to a police station and while they were all, including the guy who hit me, very nice it involved hours of hanging about. It was very late consequently when we got to bed that night but perhaps one more of those incidents that make a trip memorable forsan at haec olim meminissi juvabit and all that! The next day after we rode our bikes around to the B.M.W. dealer I had to head off down town to sort out the legality of the crash. Since the accident was my fault essentially and not having insurance I felt the most expedient thing to do rather than the other option of going before the judge was to pay for the damage which amounted to 1200 dollars. Still it could have been worse. As my friend Tom used to say, you could have lost the turf and the donkey in the bog! Our tales of woe in Santiago didn't end there, however.


Gerry bike as good as new after a car hit him 10-1-03
Cerrito Hilton
Over looking Santiago 11-1-03

As I said we left our bikes into the B.M.W. dealer to get serviced and fitted with new tires. The Santiago agency of Williamson, Balfour is your quentisintial car cum dealer type of outlet, i.e.a very impressively clean and upmarket dealership. There is no question but that they were exceptionally courteous and nice people to deal with but then again that is what is expected from this level of up-market dealership. Other then the cost which was as were expecting, expensive, we were initially happy with our service. What unfolded subsequently as we rode the bikes north, however was anything but pleasing and yet no more than our late night ride, seeing us having to stay in the hut in El Cerrito ,there was something valuable in the experience,of which more annon. While we were in Santiago for that week, Bob in the meantime had been up through the Chilean lake district, had crossed back over into Argentina at Baraloche and come up to Santiago on the eastern side of the Andes and by all accounts it was an epic and memorable diversion.


Santiago centre 11-1-03
Blowing the horn vina del mar 12-1-03
Bob & Gerry in Vina del Mar 12-1-03

The problems I alluded to as regards our service with Williamson Balfour surfaced as soon as we left our hotel the morning we headed out of Santiago. We had collected the bikes the previous evening and through our own faults neglected to take them for test rides or, especially in my case, even to give them a visual inspection. No sooner had I pulled out of the hotel car park than a number of problems surfaced. Firstly the gear change which had been notchy and which I had listed for their attention proved almost impossible to engage. Since we were literally next door to the dealership the problem was not apparent in the short distance I had to travel the previous evening. As we headed down the road I then noticed that there was something hanging off the shaft drive. This turned out to be the jubilee clip on the drive shaft's rubber boot. Since we were still within a mile of the shop we naturally turned back. Being a Saturday morning, however,there was no one other than sales men about and we were offered no help. As Bob commented though had we been customers looking for a mechanic to check out some new 745i they would have been very quick to call one in. The fact that our problem was apparently minor and that they knew they'd never see us again, however, obviously influenced their response. My contention though is that irrespective of the seeming importance or lack there of there is an obligation on all these companies to treat everyone equally especially when the work has been unsatisfactory and they have received substantial money for that work. As it was the broken jubilee was easily substituted with a tie-wrap and as for the gear-change if it was an internal spring that had gone then hanging around there over the week-end would do nothing for it anyway. Off we set again then with only an ever increasingly difficult to engage gear change to contend with and made our way to the coast at Valpariso. After about an hour into the journey, though, another problem surfaced when the bike started chugging at high speed. Meanwhile John's rear brake was locking so the following morning in the hotel car-park we spent some 4 hours working on bikes that had just been serviced and for which we had paid very substantial money.
With regards to the chugging on my bike that is still an on going problem as fiddling with the settings on the carbs has not rectified it so its more than likely an electrical fault the most probable being a HT lead. The final and most serious problem we had with our Santiago service happened some three days after leaving the city and again to my bike. I had supplied them with pads for the Harrison 6 pots we have up front and heading out of Tocopilla for Iquique John behind me noticed something drop off my bike. What it was, was one of the newly inserted disc pads and had John not spotted it, it could have proved disastrous as it would have left me without any front brake at a point where we were a day from heading up into the Andes. As it was I was lucky that the fluid hadn't come out of the piston.We used a screw for the lost pin that had obviously not been fitted correctly and it sorted it out perfectly. All of these experiences has left me with a far more weary and healthier attitude to some of these B.M.W. dealerships in particular the car linked ones. Our experience with Trefco in Cape Town couldn't have been more positive but many of these car linked ones and indeed ones that are solus bike dealers also are more to do with the world of rich people and all the psychology that involves than they are to do with what service should essentially be about. I see the whole episode, however, as something positive for it has headed me in a far more independent direction and what a journey is about at one level.

USHUAIA        CHILE         BOLIVIA


Bob West at Lake Torres del Paine 30-12-02

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