Archive for the ‘Argentina’ Category

Iguazu Falls

Posted: October 8, 2012 in Argentina, Brazil
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I was now finally in Brazil. One of the very few American countries which requires Canadians a Visa. It’s also said to be one of the most diverse when looking at natural beauty, but that was left to be seen.

One major mistake was that I entered the country without exchanging any money. I thought I would do so in a town near the border. Well, in that town there was no exchange place and surprise, surprise, Brazilian bank machines only take up to 5 digits on your bank car pin. Mine had 6 digits. The gas station didn’t wanna take my credit car either for some reason so I was a bit pooched. I decided to continue till the first city and try my luck there. About 12km out of Rio Grande, I ran out of fuel… for the first time on my whole trip! Lucky me, I had a hose but unlucky me, Brazilians were not stoping as often as people in the other countries to come to someone’s rescue. There must have been 100 cars that passed by and even though I was showing them with my canister that I was out of gas, they would accelerate instead of even slowing down. Brought back memories of North American culture… Anyway, after a long while a nice gentleman with his mom stopped by and spotted me with a couple of litres of gas. I didn’t have any Brazilian money to give them and the only thing I had was a 50pesos from Argentina so I gave them that. They said they would keep it as a souvenir.

I made it to Rio Grande and found a bank machine that took my card there. Only one type of machine would work for me in all Brazil! It was called a 24hr ATM that dealt with a lot of different banks but could only be found in rare locations. I also spent a couple of days in Rio Grande but I don’t think I took any pictures. It was mainly raining and I hung out with some cool Argentinean guys most of the time. I think we even made it to the beach for a half a day between the rain.

From Rio Grande I headed inland to see the amazing Foz de Iguacu. They had been made into a natural wonder that same year so I wasn’t really sure what to expect.

It took me I think 2 or 3 days to make it. The roads going inland can be a bit boring with lots of farm land left and right. I took advantage of these lands to hide off the main road and set-up camp in the fields at night.

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And then I made it. The amazing Iguazu Falls. I camped on the Brazilian side one night and checked them out then I headed over to the Argentinean side as well.

Here are the pictures from the Brazilian side:

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And now… the best of 2 sides…. the Argentinean side!

The train that takes you in:

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Visiting the falls was a truly out of this world experience. I had never seen so many falls in one place. It was mesmerizing! The carnival was coming up fast though so I had to start heading towards Sao Paulo.

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Buenos Aires with Alejandro

Posted: June 25, 2012 in Argentina

After the sand dunes, I decided to try and get to Buenos Aires as soon as possible. When I was ready to leave in the morning, I noticed once again that the tire was down. It wasn’t losing air too fast though so I decided to try and fix it with a spray I had purchased. It actually worked well, although you have to be careful as the spray will inflate the tire to about 50 psi. The liquid inside will also become like glue pretty fast and will get your valve to stick. Either way, it seemed to work. I made it like that for about 60km and then started losing air really fast again.

I stopped on the side of the road by a bus station to hide a bit from the super heat. Lifted the bike on one of the side cases and did the same thing I had done for the past few weeks… fix it.

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In the bus station, there was poo in the corners. Not the best sight at all… but still better than doing the work in the sun. What kind of a person takes a dump in a bus station when there’s a whole forest behind it?!

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Later that day, I stopped in another beach town. I was actually looking for a tire as mine had cracked and that was causing the flats this time. I did get a great deal on the tire down south, but I have a feeling it might have been from a batch that didn’t pass inspection. The crack in the tire was pinching the tube. I couldn’t find a good tire but I did find a nice old man with a tire fixing shop.

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The gentleman was 84 years old and had been working with tires for about 70 years. He couldn’t hear a word of what I was saying, even when screaming really loud but when it came to tires, he had hands of gold.

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He patched the tire from the inside and I was able to get a couple more thousand km out of it.

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Then I rode up the coast to Buenos Aires. As I was getting close to the capital, the beach towns were getting more and more crowded.

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Finally in Buenos Aires. As I rode into the city, the bike started hiccuping. The valves were on their last breath. With the help of the GPS, I was able to find Alejandro’s place pretty easy. Not sure if you remember, but I had met Alejandro many months before in Costa Rica. He had invited me to stay at his place once I’d reach Buenos Aires.

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A couple of days later, I was able to get the bike into a shop. It wasn’t the Kawasaki shop as they were over loaded but they had suggested a mechanic who knew kawis even better than them. I was also able to find all the parts. New valves, valve seals, had the head machined, changed the distribution chain, new gasket… all for about 1100$ parts and labour…. OUCH! Meanwhile, Alejandro showed me around the city.

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Alejandro, thanks again for the great times in Buenos Aires and for the hospitality! I had a great time. A true brother!

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Riding north from Ushuaia

Posted: June 12, 2012 in Argentina

After spending a couple of days in Ushuaia, I started heading back north towards Buenos Aires. I have to say that the #3 must be the most boring road of my trip. About 3000km of straight desert paved road with incredible winds pushing from the side.

The unpaved part in Chile just after leaving Ushuaia. Only about 170km if I remember correctly.

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The ferry ride back. I passed 2 borders in 1 day, Argentina to Chile and Chile to Argentina.

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Somewhere a bit North of Ushuaia

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As you can see by the spare tires, this gentleman was heading south.

A bit further down the road I met these guys, and not in the best situation. The wind on the road around here is so powerful that in order to keep the bikes going straight, you gotta keep them on the side. It’s no big deal as the wind is constant so you just keep riding on an angle. The bad part is when semi trucks come from the front as they disturb the constant wind and create a pull. A few times I felt close to loosing the front end of the bike and got pulled onto the opposite lane. This gentleman had the wind from a semi truck throw him in the ditch.

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The ambulance came pretty quick but luckily everyone was fine. The bike on the other hand had some broken plastics and a broken brake lever. Still rideable so they kept heading south!

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These guys were going down to Ushuaia on these semi sport bikes with sports tires. They were a bit worried about the 170km of gravel road. I wonder how they did?

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Some views from the side of the road, already about 1000km north of Ushuaia.

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As I was riding up, I started to stop in every town and look for a replacement chain for the bike. The one I had on was a Chinese one I had bought in Chile and had lasted about 8000km, maybe even less. It was stretching, clicking and eating up my sprockets every km. I was sure to be able to find what I needed in Comodoro Rivadavia as it was a larger city. I went around to every bike shop in town and did find a chain well over priced at around 200$ but couldn’t get a front sprocket. In front of one of the stores I met a mechanic who knew a bike mechanic about 15km away. He drove me there, to a small town in the back of a house. True enough, there was a bike mechanic there working on all kinds of higher performance bikes. All he had for chains were Chinese or Japanese without O rings but no sprockets. My other problem I brought up to the mechanic was the cold starting of the bike. I had started having major problems starting up the bike after leaving it over night. It had got to the point that I would have to hold the starter on for 1-2 minutes before getting it going. This problem had started somewhere North of Chile but it had gotten really bad around Ushuaia because of the cold. I would be worried all night when sleeping that in the morning I wont have enough battery to get the bike going. Long story short, this mechanic was pretty sure that the valves were the problem. There was no way to get valves anywhere before Buenos Aires so they just had to last. No valves, a chain that was about to break, and a sprocket that was totally done. The next city was about 500km North and it was hard to tell if the sprocket would make it or not but I had no choice, I had to try.

500km later, as it was starting to get a bit late, I made it to Trelew and just at the entrance to the city, the chain started skipping over the sprocket. I had no choice, I had to find a chain but especially a sprocket here. I made it up to the center, asked around for shops and then asked around in the shops for the right parts. I had found a chain but no matching sprocket. The owner of the store was nice and started calling around. Turns out that just around the corner there was another store…

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Cesar, at Todhogar had ordered a KLR sprocket just in case a traveller might stop by someday. Even though I was ready to pay a fortune for the only KLR sprocket available in the south, Cesar just gave it to me for free along with a chain lube spray can. After being a bit nervous all day, Cesar had made my day with his help and generosity. Thanks again Cesar! By the way, he also had a HUGE variety of tires and accessories for larger traveller bikes. So if you’re heading south on the #3, this can be a great stop to stack up on tires, brake pads…

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I went back to the shop next door to have the chain changed. We tried to do it at Cesar’s store but couldn’t get the front sprocket off. Even though the mechanics here were closing down, they took my bike in and helped me out.

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Here is what was left of the teeth on the sprocket.

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Once the bike was done, I got out of the city and went to find a place to sleep the night. Just off the main road, there was a place with some trees to keep some of the wind out and I was able to set camp.

Not too far north, there was a National Reserve on a peninsula. The entrance fee was a bit steep at 25$ but I was told it was nice to visit so I did. The thing is that on a heavier bike it’s a bit hard to see the whole peninsula as the dirt roads are pretty thick on the gravel so I just went to check out the town and some of the outskirts but didn’t adventure too far. I was also running low on gas and the gas station in town was all out of fuel.

Some of the pictures of the peninsula

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It was interesting but not worth 25$ in my books. So I got out of there before it was too late and kept riding north. As it was getting late, I found a place on a side road to pitch up the tent.

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I was getting closer and closer to Buenos Aires. I had ridden about 2500km of the most boring road ever so I decided to check out some beach towns and relax with some beers maybe. The climate was getting hotter and hotter.

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I made it to a town full of dirt bikes and quads. Turns out they would go there not just for the ocean but also for the fun in the sand dunes.

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After riding on the ocean shore for a bit I decided to try my luck with the 200+KG bike in the dunes. I had never ridden dunes before so it was a totally new experience.

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So much fun! Even though the KLR is a heavy weight, with enough throttle I could ride the dunes without problems.

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Well, almost no problems… Had the bike stuck in the sand twice. Both times had to wait till quad riders showed up to pull it out.

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Making it to Ushuaia

Posted: May 27, 2012 in Argentina, Chile

I changed the tube with the one I bought from the nice gentleman in the estancia and I was hoping it would make it for 70-80km to the town of Gobernador Gregores. I had to pass through there anyway to get gas as it was the closest station. It’s a bit of a detour off the main road but most bikers have to go through there as the tanks in the bikes are too small, even with reserve canisters sometimes. The road was really windy with currents so strong that they would push you from one side of the gravel road to the other, just like a sailboat. Luckily parts of the road were being paved and although the access was closed, the workers didn’t mind letting the bikes through. I was of course worried about the tube blowing as it was larger in diameter than the wheel and narrower than the tire. I got lucky though and made it to town. First off, there was no gas at the station, something pretty normal on the Argentinean side in the south. The guy at the station said I should come back in a few hours so I went on a search for a new tube. I asked in every store in town and there was nothing to be found. I was also running low on cash and the only bank in town wouldn’t take my card. Close to the gas station I asked a guy who had a dirt bike parked in front of his house where he gets his tubes from. He said that there were none in town but told me to wait. After a minute or two, he came out with a brand new tube and gave it to me. I was still the wrong diameter but at least it was the width of the tire so I thought that it should get me at least till Calafate. He didn’t want to take any $ for it which totally blew my mind as I had only talked to him for less than a minute. Thanks again, it was much appreciated!

Now that I had a tube, I only needed some gas and I could ride out and try to make it for new years to Calafate, about 300km south. At the gas station, still no gas. The guy was nice and gave me some of the reserve they use for Ambulances and such. I filled up and noticed that the wind had got stronger. The young guy looked at me and suggested that I’d stay a bit as the winds were too strong. I decided to try and ride. Out of the gas station, about 500m down the paved road I couldn’t keep the bike straight and I was getting thrown from one side of the road to the other. I tried to turn around but the wind gusts were so strong that I couldn’t hold the bike up even with both feet on the ground. I waited for a few minutes and took advantage of a few seconds of slower wind to lift the 300kg bike back up. I turned around and made it back to the station. The young guy said that the wind gusts were at 120km/h and a few minutes later they got up to 150km/h. A few more people showed up and took refuge as well. While waiting, another German adventurer, Holger, showed up whom I had met a couple of days earlier on the road. I knew he was a couple of days behind and he also had a spare tube so if I wasn’t gonna make it to this town, I was just gonna camp one more night on the side of the road to wait for him.

Here’s Holger with his Honda TransAlp 650 twin. We camped in the municipal campground for free as it was too windy and late to get out of town.

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Next day, the mission was to try and make it to Calafate. It was the 31st and it would have been nice to party the new year in a place with some clubs and bars. On the way out of town, I went and bought a bottle of champaign and left it on the porch of the gentleman who gave me the tube for the bike, and hopefully he got it before someone else took it.

Back on the road, you could see traces left by the wind from the day before, such as this SUV that lost control and flipped over.

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A few km down, we caught up to a group of Italian bikers. They had shipped their bikes down from Italy along with a 4X4 and a driver for the car. They would keep all their luggage in the 4X4 and travel nice and light on their bikes.

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Some of the scenery along the way.

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Some friends we had met in the campground in G. Gregores.

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And more punctures! This was the 2nd one of the day. After riding like maniacs with the Italian group, at a short rest stop I noticed that my tire was low and it was loosing air fast. I checked the valve and it seemed ok so it must have been punctured. I changed the tubes and replaced the one from the estancia which was the wrong size anyway with the one I received from the gentleman in town. It turns out it was the valve even though I had checked it. The spring had broken on the valve. Oh well, no big deal, but about 60km down the road this happened. The tube I received from that gentleman had punctured. I took it out, patched it and a few minutes later back on the road. The tire curse was not giving up, but it’s all part of the adventure.

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Two tire problem stops on the road but we still made it to El Calafate before night fall, not by much though. We found a camp site, rested a bit and went out to party for new years eve. Next day, relaxed with a big hang over. I split up with Holger as he was on a tighter schedule and I wanted to spend a few more days in El Calafate. I had to find a tube but everything was closed till the 2nd or the 3rd of Jan. and also wanted to check out the glacier.

Pictures of the glacier park

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After asking everyone around town, I found out that there was a guy selling bike stuff out of his garage. No one else had any tubes. I found the mechanic’s house and was able to get an 18″ tube (still the wrong diameter) for the inflated price of 120 pesos (30$). Better than nothing!

It’s good that I bought that tube too because a few km south of the city I got another puncture. Actually, I don’t remember if it was a puncture or if the patch had come off but I do remember being in the middle of nowhere with super strong winds again. The winds were so strong that when I had put the bike up to take the wheel off, the wind pushed over the bike on it’s side, on the kickstand side. I couldn’t lift it by myself but a nice old gentleman stopped and helped me. It was one of the hardest tube swaps because of the wind.

So now I was a tube short again but I was heading towards Punta Arenas and thought that they must have tubes there. Punta Arenas has a huge duty free market with a tone of stores… although much junk and not much good in those stores. Right before crossing the border though to Chile, I asked some guys on scooters if they knew anyone selling bike parts and they brought me to some guy’s house. He wanted 130 pesos for the same tube I had paid 60 pesos for in Bariloche, but he did let it go for 100. Now I just needed a new tire as my rear was getting really slim.

Right before Punta Arenas, I found a place to camp for free. Nice spot with some trees and a hill to keep some of the wind away.

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Then I went to Punta Arenas and found a Maxxis rear tire for 70$ (great deal!) as well as a front tube as I had no more front spares either. I bought a few more things for great deals at a Wall Mart like store and headed back south.

Here is the Ferry crossing from Puerto Espora.

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A truck had broken his rear axle getting off the ferry so we had to wait till they towed it with another truck.

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Getting closer to Ushuaia. Only a few km away, the scenery was starting to be nice again.

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And here is Ushuaia! I made it! The weather was a bit rainy and chilly while the town itself wasn’t that appealing.

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A few km up the road, there’s a small train you can take into a national park. The price tag was 160 Pesos (40$) for the train and another 80 (20$) for the entrance to the park so I decided against it. I did go check out the park though and for the 80 pesos I was able to get in and also camp for free, so it wasn’t a bad deal really… cheaper than Banff in Canada still!

Pictures from inside the park.

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Alaska… almost 18 000 km away…

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The end of the road

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Direction: South towards Ushuaia.

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The roads looked something like this

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Doing a good 100km/h on a great gravel road shown above, I lost the rear once again. I make it to a full stop and by this time I wasn’t surprised to have yet ANOTHER flat.

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Nail went in through the middle and came out through the side.

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Another tube left behind. Good thing I had bought one in Bariloche.

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I change the tube and try to inflate it. The SLIME compressor I had purchased at Wall Mart before leaving has kept me good company along the way but like most Wall Mart products, it was limited to a real minimum number of uses. I was able to fix it just enough to get about 5psi in the tire and make it back to town a few KM back. The gas station was closed and so were all the businesses as it was Christmas day but luckily they left the compressor running so I was able to get the tire back up to normal pressure.

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I rode all day and it was starting to get late. I saw a camping sign on the right side of the road and went to check it out. I was in a national park and true enough, there were nice camping spots but no one there. I tried to find a person in charge but there was no one working on Christmas day. So I camped and shot a few pictures. In the morning, I turned on the hot water heater and even took a nice hot shower. It had been a few days that I haven’t showered so I can’t tell you how good it felt to be clean again.

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Empty insect shells.

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Cooked up some spicy rice with dried mushrooms.

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Next morning, back on the road. Luckily, no forest ranger came by to ask me for $$ so I ended up spending the night for free by the nice lake where I had running water and HOT shower! Pure luxury…

A few km down the road, I met this couple. They were riding on 2 BMWs in the opposite direction. Had a short chat and we went on our way.

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The roads turned purple

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Even though the roads were nice, mainly gravel and I was having a blast riding on them, I couldn’t stop thinking that I didn’t have a spare tube anymore for the rear tire. What would I do if I’d get another large nail and blow this one too? Coihaique was coming up and I thought I’d be able to find one for sure. It was a large enough city with Wall Mart type looking stores so a tube shouldn’t be a problem. Well, I was wrong.! There was one motorcycle dealer in town and only had the wrong size tubes for my bike. I tried every store in town but no luck. The next larger town was going to be a few hundred km south. While running around, I did meet Matt. He has been traveling south as well from the US. He did most of the trip on a bicycle in Central America, then crossed the Darien Gap in a Canoe and in Colombia decided to get a motorcycle so he bought a used Suzuki DR200. He wanted to get to Ushuaia before New Years, doing all South America in 30 days I believe… he succeeded! Crazy guy!

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We found a nice green place to camp for the night with spectacular views and some trees to keep the wind out.

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The next day, we split up. Matt made a left at the bottom of this windy road towards Argentina, meanwhile I continued south through Chile. He wanted to make it all the way to Ushuaia for NY, meanwhile I was aiming closer to El Calafate.

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Lakes and Mountains

Posted: May 5, 2012 in Argentina, Chile

The nicest part of Chile and Argentina was starting to appear. Lakes, mountains, volcanoes and vegetation all around. Gorgeous scenery.

The following picture was taken in Villarica. One of Chile’s most active volcanoes.

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This picture was taken in Pucon. I spent a few nights there exploring the surroundings. Nice lakes and a few hot springs.

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Crystal clear water and not too cold either.

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One of the hot springs.

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A lake close to the border with Argentina.

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Volcano at the border with Argentina. It’s here that I realize I was running low on fuel. I calculated and there was no way I could make it to the first gas station. I had 2 extra litters in a container and somehow I made it on fumes.

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Welcome to Argentina! Not too far from the border, I found a free camping spot in a National park right by a lake.

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What you see on top of the mountain is ash.

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A short time after I set-up camp, 3 Colombian backpackers showed up, Daniela, Mariana and Juan. We spent a few nights there by the lake admiring the horizons full of ash, the nice mountains and the crystal clear lakes.

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Ash storm?

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Ash, ash and more ash…

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I made it to San Carlos de Bariloche. I didn’t stay in town as it looked a lot like Banff back home. Really touristic with many overpriced stores. Just a few km down the road, there was a swiss colony and I ended up staying there for a few days to wait out the rain and the cold that was passing through. The nice lady from the campground, Anna, let me stay in a cabin for the same price as camping which was really nice since the temperatures at night dropped to around 0 degrees C. She also gave me a nice warm blanket to take with me on the way down to Ushuaia as my Big Agnes sleeping back doesn’t hold heat anymore. On the way out, I stopped again in Bariloche to get some brake pads for my bike, a new tube and to change the front tire.

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The views from south of Bariloche.

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Christmas day, I camped at the border with Chile. The ruta austral going down to Ushuaia passes a lot back and fourth between Chile and Argentina.

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Cooked up a nice steak.

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On the way to the border, I stopped at a store and bought a multi tool along with a boiling pan.

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A cute insect. It’s really friendly once you catch it.

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This scenery and water color reminded me a lot of British Columbia back in Canada.

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More lakes and mountains to come…


I was heading towards Chile. A few hundred km were ahead of me, most of them crossing the tall Andes. The idea was to get into Chile and ride down along the coast. I was excited about crossing over into another new territory.

On the way, I met another motorcyclist and we rode together up to the first town to have lunch.

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He was riding this Honda 450 with a passenger and bags. I had a hard time keeping up with him on my 650 pinned all the way.

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A super old tree

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Cactus decoration in the restaurant

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Did the zoom zoom road again

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And a few km down from the zoom zoom road, I met up with a couple more bikers. We rode together for a while up to a salt lake and then we split up.

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Lots of mountains, little vegetation

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Argentina border crossing. The Chile border is 160km down the road. I slept in a possada here for cheap as I arrived late at night. If you want to sleep there, ask around because there are no signs up for possadas and there is only a hotel that charges an arm and a leg. The food is also not too bad in the only restaurant available. Dress warm!

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Feeling lightheaded and cold, I rode through these gorgeous sceneries.

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The white stuff is snow while that shiny stuff in front of the bike is ice.

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The crossing was fun. I wish I would have stopped to take more pictures, but I had 3 sets of gloves on and handling the camera was a bit tricky. Soon enough, I rode down a steep mountain and there was the Chile border waiting with a huuuuuuge line-up for me.