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Author Topic: Mr and Mrs Three Dawg's South American Adventure  (Read 957 times)

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Offline Three Dawg

Re: Mr and Mrs Three Dawg's South American Adventure
« Reply #20 on: May 06, 2020, 09:56:13 pm »
Sooo, Ruta 40. Argentina's iconic road runs down the eastern side of the Andes for 5000 km from La Quiaca to Patagonia. Unfortunately much of it is paved today, but there are still some tasty bits that aren't, and today we were going to have a 300 km full day on probably the best bit, from La Quiaca to a roadhouse called Pastos Chicos near Susques. It is one of the very best days I have had riding my GS. Fast in places, tricky and slow in others, the scenery was never less than epic. No traffic other than the odd mining vehicle, it felt truly remote, and it was here we expected our altitude to top out - quite something as we'd been riding at 12000+ feet since Ollague.

La Q to PC

No, me neither.



Stop after about 100km to empty the fuel bags.  Those things are so useful.


You just know you're in for a good day when it looks like this...


What is this dwelling made of - looks like an upside down 'coil pot' like we made at school in art class.



There is some water, even out here.  There were a few streams to cross and cool off the boots.



Church was in decent shape, rest of the village a ruin.  Looked like something out of a spaghetti western.


This little fella was the only living thing we saw in the village.

Apples, nuts, slurp of water and good to carry on.


Just great riding. Less traffic than Namibia - just the odd vehicle from the mines.



The highest point I saw on my GPS.  14662 feet is 4408 meters.   I think we'd been higher, but the electrical connection was failing, so I was turning it off to save the batteries for the end of the day when they might be needed to find our accommodation.


This is Rob's GPS which shows that we were descending at the time..


Getting towards beer o'clock now.  Sensibly the beer comes in litre bottles, saves a rapid reordering.



It took as seven hours or so (whatever Google maps said) to reach Pastos Chicos and I was done in.  The altitude was partly to blame, your energy just gets sapped so easily, especially off tarmac.



Plenty of evidence of previous visitors stuck to the windows.



When we arrived at Pastos Chicos I threw my gear into the room and headed straight to the bar for an ice-cold Salta beer.  Pastos Chicos was a bit of a dump, although the staff were cheery, but they had cold beer and gasoline, so the two main requirements for motorcycle touring were covered. Stand around too long and someone will probably slap a sticker on you...


Our next stop was the town of Salta, presumably the home of the beer I was supping at Pastos Chicos.  Unfortunately this meant rejoining the tarmac.  We were photographing some more salt flats when a German (or maybe Swiss judging by the 'CH' on his pannier) dude rocked up on a Triumph Tiger looking for fuel.   Judging by his waistcoat he'd been on the road a while.



Still, being on blacktop wasn't all bad - this road descended about 10000 feet in no time.


We had a couple of days in Salta.  It's a charming place with many colonial buildings and a busy square lined with restaurants.  All very civilised.




Interesting Buick - right hand drive - maybe an import from Australia?


Salta was a great place to take a break from the bikes, but after two nights we were ready to continue our journey south towards the Chilean lakes and Patagonia.
« Last Edit: June 03, 2020, 07:49:03 pm by Three Dawg »

Offline Three Dawg

Re: Mr and Mrs Three Dawg's South American Adventure
« Reply #21 on: May 23, 2020, 02:34:58 pm »

Heading south I was struck how many of the villages in Argentina reminded me of France 30 or 40 years ago. There seemed to be less inequality here, in sharp contrast to Chile where lots of people live in shacks out in the sticks. They (the Chileans) have plenty to protest about, but Argentina has problems too with spiralling inflation. Still, silver lining, our holiday was getting cheaper even as we rode. 

For some reason this place in Guandacol reminded me of some of the places we've stayed in Africa - it was on a farm, and beer on arrival on the verandah was just what was needed.  Lovely hosts gave us some big bags of their own raisins to keep us going on the road.  Perfect.

Not much of interest on this bit - just scrub and mountains in the distance.

Mendoza, famous for it's wine is a fine city. It was stinking hot on the run in to town - 38 degrees according to Rob's on board computer. Mrs 3D celebrated here birthday there at a fancy restaurant. Total bill, including wine for the four of us? About 36 quids... This meal was the exception in terms of quality, I'm afraid generally the famous Argentinian steaks weren't up to much, but the empanadas were great.


Further south the going was pretty easy with the boards on the Ruta 40 signs ticking down.  Mostly tarmac, we just settled into a steady cruise on easy roads with little traffic.

We arrived in Zapala in torrential rain which completely flooded the road to our accommodation.  This was on top of disagreements between the two GPSs about exactly where we were supposed to be staying  which meant I wasn't at my most relaxed when we arrived.  Fortunately I found out that beer was available when I went to find the owner to apologise for being a grumpy dickhead, so it ended well.  The following morning we were woken up at about 6 am by two KLR riding arseholes who went up and down the stairs stomping around in their boots about a million times loading up their bikes.  I have seen removal trucks filled with a lifetime's worth of posessions in less time.  So back to square one in terms of my mood then. ::)

Fortunately the weather had turned again and once over the hills  south of the town we were able to get back on to the gravel in perfect conditions.  Happy happy.

Monkeying with tyre pressures.

The Battlestar Galactica cruises through having just lost its possum scraper, happily not needed as we encountered no possums, although I think I did run over something that looked very much like a pangolin. :-[

Another roadside shrine.

Or possibly just some creatively arranged fly-tipping.

Truckers often build these shrines to keep themselves safe. This one was going a bit far really.

And here we are in the very Germanic town of Bariloche. Famous for its Nazis and earlier fugitives such as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. At least the Germans left a fine brewing legacy. We came fairly close to running out of gas on this day; a mis-read map saw us hitting 235 miles before we found some. As it happened that was 19 litres to fill my bike, which meant I was getting around 55mpg. Not bad two up and loaded.

Bariloche. Nice place and clearly showing the influence of German settlers and also full of shops selling Gore-tex to hardy mountaineers. It was absolutely Baltic though - a wind that whistles through the Andes isn't going to be balmy, I suppose. Has a terrible effect on the bladder to - judging by these sculptures at least.

The German influence extends beyond the architecture, there is a strong brewing tradition in Bariloche and many good pubs. We didn't hold back, that would have been rude...

We woke up on our second day to find our street cordoned off and some sort of protest going on. Turned out it was the second anniversary of the police shooting of an unarmed Indian (Mapuche?) lad. I suspect the lady shouting at the riot cops was his mother. Very dramatic, but the rocks were thrown only at the police who hih behind their shields, squirting papper spray on anyone who got too close.

So, that was Bariloche: Beer and rioting. Bit like a Saturday night in Manchester then. Next we were heading south into Patagonia proper now via the town of Trevelin which is notable for it's Welsh settlers.  We made the decision to come off the main road and ride through the Los Alerces national park - a good move as we were back on unpaved roads as a result.

Some nice hard packed roads through the park.


« Last Edit: May 23, 2020, 02:39:18 pm by Three Dawg »

Offline Three Dawg

Re: Mr and Mrs Three Dawg's South American Adventure
« Reply #22 on: June 02, 2020, 05:52:07 pm »
Staying on a farm in the town of Trevelin (in part of northern Patagonia where the Welsh settled) we met a German chap called Elmer, who was on a year long trip to South America on his Africa Twin. He'd travelled with his bike from Hamburg to Montevideo and was planning to stop often and absorb the culture as he travelled. His bike hadn't been on the dock in Montevideo for five minutes before someone nicked his screen spoiler and auxilliary lights - one of the dangers of shipping by sea I think. Anyway, he wasn't phased by that, or by the fact that his AT was perhaps a bit big for him.  Of course, he didn't know what was going to be the major disruption in his plans, did he?  Hopefully he was able to leave his bike somewhere safe and will carry on at some point in the future.

Our next stop was our most southerly point - Puerto Puyuhuapi, and another border crossing.

At the Argentinian customs desk there was was a big sign in the office - Las Malvinas son Argentinas - and this was not the first one we'd seen.  Clearly the Falklands conflict is still something of a sore point  - there are loads of Avenue General Belgranos around in towns to remind the Brit traveller of one of the less glorious episodes in our military history (the sinking of a shonky old WW2 battle cruiser by a state of the art submarine).  Rob had clearly decided that the GB sticker on his pannier was not such a good idea, so had scraped it off by then. :o

The day started sunny, but after clearing Chilean customs (and a very thorough check to see if we had any food on us) it started to rain. Fortunately the gravel road was well packed so not muddy, but it did mean concentrating hard. That said, I was having a ball. The road wound through towering mountains that appeared and disappeared through the mist and rain, and the scenery in the valley reminded me very much of the farms that line the road on the west coast of New Zealand's south island. Unfortunately because it was slinging it down no one felt like stopping and taking any pictures. So I nicked a couple off Google Streetview...

Along here somewhere we came across two couples on Triumphs. One had a puncture in the rear tyre and had foolishly ridden on until the tyre had unseated itself. I don't know if Tigers have tubes (you DO NOT want to be changing a tube in these circumstances; actually as far as I'm concerned, in any circumstances, but then I'm a wuss) but if it was tubeless they were never going to get the tyre reseated with a tiny compressor. They didn't want any help, so we left them to it. Someone with a pick up would have come along, but in the lousy weather it all looked a little desperate.

Presently we joined the famous Caretera Austral, Chile's Ruta 7. To Be honest, all we wanted was to get to Puyuhuapi as by now even Rob's mega high spec Gore-tex Rukka was leaking.

Puerto Puyuhuapi is a modest wee place with a few restaurants (one on the water which was quite smart) a couple of supermarkets (well, grocery shops) and several hostals. I liked the place, but by gum it was wet for our first day. Clearly it rains an awful lot - I was constantly reminded of the sodden west coast of NZ - because as soon as we arrived the hostal owner had our gear hanging up on a large drying rack in the back hallway. The main compartment of my tank bag is lined with a dry bag so everything in there was fine, but I forgot about the top pocket so my document wallet was wet, as was all my money.

I handed all my cash to Mrs 3D, but she wasn't budging...

Eventually the sun came out and we went exploring. I liked Puyahuapi, it had a certain ramshackle charm, although I think the rain would bug me after a while. Or an hour.

As it wasn't raining Rob and I went to gas up in preparation for the ride north the following day.  I wish we still had gas stations like this in the UK.

While we were getting fuel, Rob noticed I'd picked up a screw in the back tyre.  It was fairly small and right in the centre so probably could have been left in (maybe...) but as it might be pissing down again the following day we decided to put a plug in it.  UK customs had removed all but one of my wee tubes of glue from my kit, so Rob donated his Bikeseal 'string' repair kit.   https://bikeseal.co.uk/product…plug-puncture-repair-kit/  It worked a treat.  The kit is very heavy duty (no nasty plastic handles) and the repair was done in a few minutes.  Bollocks to tubes.

Sadly the next day saw us heading north, and therefore back towards Santiago. The good thing was that it had more or less stopped raining, so we were able to enjoy the ride to Chaiten before a day largely spent on ferries.

Some of the Caretera Austral is still hard packed gravel, but more and more is being tarmac-ed


Chaiten was an interesting place. Some time ago the (previously dormant) volcano had blown it's top and basically destroyed the place. It was slowly being rebuilt, but it must have been a hell of a blow given that things must be pretty precarious economically at the best of times in such a remote location.

Mahoosive volcano just behind the church not visible.

The following day was beautiful.  I was so happy becuse we would be taking two ferry rides through what I reckoned would be some stunning scenery.

First up was a pleasant ride anlong good hard packed gravel to Caleta Gonzalo and the first ferry.


Straight to the front of the queue at the ferry terminal (natch), unfortunately Rob decided to cause a spectacle by falling off here. DOH! No harm done, except perhaps to his pride...

After about 45 minutes we arrived at the start of the next road section, about 20 minutes drive in convoy to the next ferry.

I was right, the scenery was amazing, and it was just warm enough in the sun to stay up on top and enjoy the mountains as we trundled sedately along for three hours or so.

That's Hornopiren the mountain dominating Hornopiren the town, or next overnight.

We stayed in a very strange (and potentially lethal due to the stairs) house on stilts overlooking the harbour. - the ferry is pulling away in the background. Funny place Hornopiren, we went out to the local supermarket and were served by a lad wearing a carboard box on his head like a hat.   Well, I suppose you have to make your own entertainment in such a remote place. ;D

« Last Edit: June 02, 2020, 06:25:51 pm by Three Dawg »

Offline frankmac

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Re: Mr and Mrs Three Dawg's South American Adventure
« Reply #23 on: June 02, 2020, 07:46:29 pm »
Stunning scenery and excellent commentary. Thanks for sharing.

The South Americans seem to love a protest (where I'm sure there is plenty to complain about).

Offline Three Dawg

Re: Mr and Mrs Three Dawg's South American Adventure
« Reply #24 on: June 03, 2020, 06:16:16 pm »
The following day started very wet, which was a bit of an issue as they seemed to be tearing up the road everywhere making the riding very dodgy in places. Once again I was thankful for my TKC80/E07+ tyre combo.

We were heading for Puerto Varas, a nice looking place on a lake, with another ferry ride along the way to entertain us. I managed to leave my lights on while we waited for the boat, but fortunately was able to bump it on the slipway ramp. On the other side we wound around the coast which in many ways reminded me of west coast Scotland.  Once off the ferry the weather cheered up considerably.

Anyway, apart from a near dead battery, what should have been fairly straightforward day turned into a bit of a mission. Rob and I had slightly different maps loaded in our Garmins - we both used Open Source Maps, but perhaps different versions. I was also having problems with the charging cradle on my unit, which is a bit rubbish really - two tiny pins which succumb eventually to the vibes and dust on a trip like this. Also, I'm ashamed to say there was some human error involved - I had been succesfully using the Booking dot com coordinates for our overnight stops, but on this occasion I keyed in something incorrectly, with predictable results. We got separated because of a disagreement between GPSs, and then I nearly ran out of juice on mine while lost in the back blocks of Puerto Varas.:rolleyes:

Eventually I realised my mistake and re keyed the coordinates and we made it to town to find that for about the fourth time there was a cock up in our reservation.:cursing: I was getting sick of this, and had noticed a nice looking four star hotel on the waterfront so was ready to bail out and let Amex take the pressure, but eventually after a bit of faffing around we were given a slight upgrade and decided to stay.

Puerto Varas turned out to be a pleasant little place with some nice craft shops, good bars and some really buzzy restaurants. It also had a VERY eccentric museum...

There was nothing of note in the museum, apart from this super creepy picture...

...and assorted junk.

We found a funky bar which did the best Pisco Sours of the trip.

Over the next couple of days we would duck back into Argentina to S. Martin de Los Andes, and then out again.  Good job the borders were fairly well organised.  This was good riding through the mountains with occasional stretches of gravel.

Crossing the border into Argentina we were slightly puzzled by the completely stripped look to the land and trees. It was only after a while that I realised this was as a result of a volcanic eruption. Must have been a hell of a thing. You can see the ash next to the bikes in the first pic.


Scenery was still on top form, and the view from our hostale wasn't too shabby either.

SMDLA was a grand little town, clearly a place for outdoor enthusiasts. However, after a long day in the saddle you need a bit of a feed, and the town's restaurant industry is happy to oblige.

After SMDLA it was our final border crossing and back into Chile, heading for the town of Pucon.  More great riding through Arucaria forests and past volcanoes.

Pucon lies on a pleasant lake in the shadow of an active volcano. It's another town full of little shops selling outdoor activities like white water rafting. I liked it. We managed to find a cool little bar on the lake shore for a cold one.  Spotted a US registered 1200GS with a 21" front wheel conversion, something I hadn't seen before.  Looked good, but tubes, well, you know...

Pretty odd place to add a light, on the fork bridge, but he was well equipped in the pannier department - Mosko's are great.  Bike was using Excel rims - maybe these were done by Woody's?

That evening we had a bit of a meat feast.  I've already helped myself to one of the black puddings and a kebab in this pic, but this little lot was supposed to serve just two.  Now I like a steak, but this was just silly. :o  I know some of you will be wondering what I'm on about...

Another day, another volcano.  Turned out you could take a rough cinder track quite far up Pucon's volcano.  It was a little technical in places, but without luggage and fairly in the groove by now we made it up just fine.

When we got back to town late afternoon there was a small demo to skirt round.  Noisy, but not threatening.

On the recommendation of the hostale owner, we went to the local Italian.  What a treat!  The owner was super enthusiastic about her food, and rightly so.  Bibs on to save extra washing...

« Last Edit: June 03, 2020, 06:24:10 pm by Three Dawg »

Offline frankmac

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Re: Mr and Mrs Three Dawg's South American Adventure
« Reply #25 on: June 03, 2020, 06:42:01 pm »

That evening we had a bit of a meat feast.  I've already helped myself to one of the black puddings and a kebab in this pic, but this little lot was supposed to serve just two.  Now I like a steak, but this was just silly. :o  I know some of you will be wondering what I'm on about...

Wow, that is intimidating but looks delicious.

More incredible scenery.

Offline Three Dawg

Re: Mr and Mrs Three Dawg's South American Adventure
« Reply #26 on: June 04, 2020, 05:59:43 pm »
Yeah, that's the problem - you're beaten before you start.  :o

Anyway, this is the last leg, heading north towards Santiago.  The ride north from Pucon was nothing special - a lot of slabbing along Ruta 5, the Pan American Highway. Towards the end we managed to come off the main road and rode through pleasant landscapes, but compared to what we'd seen earlier in the trip it was a bit low key.

We did however stop in one place which had some pet ostriches (never quite found out why) as well as a fine waterfall, and also a place with traditional style Mapuche cabanas. I managed to avoid dressing up as an Indian, thank gawd.  I felt a bit bad as the owner was passionate about her culture, but the others took part. :biggrin:

Who the hell is Inspector Fernandez, and why does he have his own exit off the highway?

Traditional Mapuche (style) dwellings.

Our final destination was the port of Valparaiso. If you ship your bike here it will most likely land at this port.  This city is known for its funky vibe and street art - seemed like a great place to wind down before we headed back to Santiago.  Reminded me of a cross between San Francisco and Lisbon.  We rented a rather lovely Italianate vila overlooking the centre and the post in the distance. It even had a garage.  It may seem a bit extravagent to have a house like this, but at the beginning of the trip we were supposed to be three couples, but our friends pulled out for family reasons.  Massive mistake in retrospect eh?  Anyway, the deal for the house was done, so they had to cough up unfortunately.

The street art is amazing - you can come to an arrangement with the local artists so if you give up a wall or a garage door then once it's been painted it will be left alone. Very civilised. Around where we stayed there were loads of funky little shops, bars and restaurants. We loved the place, and werelucky enough to be given a guided tour by the guy who owned the house.

Cool street art.

Managed to pick up a small art work ourselves - the artist was off to a good start sporting a Joy Division tee shirt.

Valparaiso was the home to the famous poet Pablo Naruda.  His house was fascinating and had a great view over the city.

There was a bit of protesting going on, and on the second evening we came out of the restaurant to find armed riot police on the street, but they clearly didn't think we posed much of a threat and let us pass without any hassle.

We managed one last run out - up the coast through Vina Del Mar to Zapallar for a spot of lunch at a restaurant recommended by the guy who owned the villa we were renting. Villa Del Mar is all highrise apartments and more than a little like the Costa Del Sol, and you shouldn't take that as being a compliment. The traffic wasn't good at all, but we made it. Kind of wonder if it was worth it as although the restaurant was in a lovely setting, once again the food was indifferent. Saw some pelicans though, not a bird I think I've seen in the wild before.

Zapallar is full of fancy holiday homes - this is from the restaurant. Nice.

Allegedly the smart side of town.  Not my cup o' tea at all.

After three very pleasant days in Valparaiso, unfortunately the ride back to Santiago was just slabbing it to get there, a bit of a damp squib to end on really, although we did leave town via the rough bit way up on the hill.  This part of town made the news a few days after we got back by being extensively damaged by fire.

Onne back at the shipping depot we hooked up with Julio who organised putting the bikes on pallets ready to fly home.  Normally I'd ship as it is often cheaper, but in this case there was very little in it as Julio seems to have found a deal with Aero Mexico (I think) to fly the bikes.  We had to make sure the tanks were fairly empty and disconnect and remove the battery, mirrors, screen and in my case, the rack extension.  It was 36 degrees on the tarmac doing this, hot work.

Job's a good 'un

Back at the airport hotel we celebrated a successful trip with a couple of bottles of bubbly (Team Dawg tours likes everyone to come back in one piece!), and then the following day it was the loooong flight home. The Andes looked great from above, but riding them is really where it's at.

The bike should have been back before Christmas, but got delayed somewhere along the way, so it didn't get back to me until after New Year.  No matter, I'm not so keen on biking that I would go out in the Scottish winter.

So, South America. Good place to ride? Oh yes, superb. Some of the driving left something to be desired, especially in the cities of Argentina (they don't like gaps between vehicles in the same way as nature abhors a vacuum), but mostly it was easy going and very little traffic. You could do this whole trip on a road bike if you wish, but the mighty GS or something similar is useful for when you have to do long stretches of gravel like Ollague to Uyuni. We had no issues with the bikes other than Rob's key and my puncture, although my GPS charging cradle stopped working (a known fault) and my headlight assembly vibrated loose a few times. My TKC 80/Mitas E07+ tyre combo was great and after 6200 miles both tyres still have a little left in them. Getting the bikes to Santiago was expensive, but once there things are cheap, well if you are paying in GBP. Our accommodation ranged from about $25US to $100US a night, with about $50 being typical. I think fuel was about 80 pence a litre. Everyone was super friendly and tolerant of our pathetic attempts to speak Spanish. Wine is cheap, as you might expect, and there are plenty of different craft brews to try, although the ever present Cristal is pretty drinkable for a mass produced beer. Despite all the civil unrest we never once felt threatened, although I think we were lucky finding a window of peace in Bolivia. The riding kit was tried and tested, but I would ditch the linings for my riding suit and take an extra thermal layer and an oversuit if I was heading to Patagonia again, that place is properly wet!

Now, where to next? Nasty viruses notwithstanding, yer a long time dead and there's no pockets in shrouds... :biggrin:

« Last Edit: June 04, 2020, 06:34:14 pm by Three Dawg »
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Offline ChrisL - DUSTRIDERS

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Re: Mr and Mrs Three Dawg's South American Adventure
« Reply #27 on: June 06, 2020, 11:47:17 pm »
Stunning places you've seen and rode!! :thumleft: :drif: :drif:

Offline Three Dawg

Re: Mr and Mrs Three Dawg's South American Adventure
« Reply #28 on: June 07, 2020, 11:11:55 am »
Glad you liked it.   Funny ride really - big spaces, stunning scenery and plenty of gravel like Africa, but then a very European feel to the towns and cities.

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Re: Mr and Mrs Three Dawg's South American Adventure
« Reply #29 on: June 07, 2020, 11:13:50 am »
What would be next for the 1100? Eastern Europe, Mongolia?

Offline Three Dawg

Re: Mr and Mrs Three Dawg's South American Adventure
« Reply #30 on: June 07, 2020, 12:53:02 pm »
Well, funny you should say that - I've been looking at some videos from rides around 'The Stans' ie. Tajikistan, Kyrgistan.  There is some epic riding there and the local officials are getting more used to tourists, but that would mean travelling in our summer, when in normal times we should be flat out work-wise, so I don't know (yet  >:D) how I would swing that.  Most likely is Morocco - Mrs 3D is very keen and the riding looks good in spring or autumn. :ricky:
« Last Edit: June 07, 2020, 12:53:38 pm by Three Dawg »