Archive for the ‘Chile’ Category

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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So my last post had nothing to do with my ride down south. Instead, for the first time since I left Canada, I reached out to those reading this blog and asked for a “favor”. I asked everyone to take less than 30 seconds of their time and sign a petition in order to try and veto a new legislation passed in Brazil that would allow the deforestation of a large part of the Amazon. I looked at my stats and saw that out of over 200 unique visitors, 5 have clicked the link. I would like to congratulate and thank those 5 people for taking part. As for the rest, I would like you to take a nice deep breath of fresh air and choke on it.

Now back to our unscheduled free programing. I had split up with Matt and decided to stay on the Chile side to check out some more lakes and mountains.

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I passed Cochrane and still couldn’t find a spare tube. It was my last larger town for a few hundred km. I was getting a bit worried as I felt the punctured tire curse following me close. Oh well, I kept going. It was getting late and the sun had sunk behind the mountains. It was time to find a place to crash for the night. about 1km off the main road and just a few km away from Caleta Tortel I found a nice bridge with 0 traffic. I set-up camp and made fire.

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View from the bridge.

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Next morning I woke up all refreshed just to find my rear tire flat to the ground again. Took the wheel off, patched up the tube and I was on my way again. Like I said, the flat tire curse was following me. Back in the day I could have burned the witch for casting a spell but in the 21st century, I had to ignore the witch and just keep fixing the tubes.

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I made it to Caleta Tortel. It’s a village made out entirely of wooden walkways.

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All wooden walkways!

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I had to ride back to Cochrane about 130 km as that was the only road. So it was 260 km or so just to see this town. Well worth it though! It was time now to cross over to Argentina again through Paso Roballo, about 85 km east.

The scenery dried up really fast!

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The area all the way to the border is a private reserve. Nice to ride through but not too many wind protected places to pitch a tent. Somewhere about half way to the border, the owners of the reserve planted some trees and created a small area with tall grass and protection against the wind. It was like a small oasis. I even found some wood and made a fire. Perfect camping spot!

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I have to say that I had a great night sleep there! The next morning, I heard a motorcycle passing by. I looked out my tent and saw a gentleman on a scooter. I waved and went back to sleep. A bit later, I got up, packed everything and got back on the road. After about 30 min of riding, I saw the gentleman that passed me again. I was doing about 80-90km/h while he was struggling at around 10km/h on this softer gravel road. I stopped and we talked for a bit. He started his journey on this scooter from somewhere South of Peru. He has been on the road for about 8 months already! He was heading south, close to Ushuaia to see his daughter and decided to make an adventure of it.

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Custom made hard cases for a crazy scooter rider!

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I passed the border a bit further up. I didn’t even realize I was at the border till the police officer asked me for my passport. One guy takes care of all the paperwork there. He is the police, immigration and aduana all in one.

The view on the other side of the border.

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I rode all day with no problems. Lost the front a couple of times in heavier sand but saved it both times. Towards the end of the day, doing about 100km/h on the straight windy gravel road, I lost the back once again. By now I was getting used to it already. Took me a few hundred meters but I brought the bike to a full stop.

Flat tire, again….

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And the road I was on.

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The criminal… well, not quite, the witch is the criminal…

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Took the tire off and checked the tube. I already had my patch kit out and ready to go. The problem this time was that the nail had punctured the tube in about 20 spots by the time I stopped the bike so the tube could not be fixed. That was my last tube and the closest town was 80km away. I had a spare tube for the front wheel but it was totally the wrong size. The front was 21″ diameter and 90/90 while the rear was 17″ diameter 120/80. It was worth a try since it was the only option I had left. With the 21″ tube in, the tire was riding almost flat, but with enough air to be able to ride at around 20km/h. About 3 km away from the puncture site, I found an estancia (ranch). I went in and asked the owner if he had any tubes around. He pulled out some super old tubes that had no life left in them and said that’s all he had. I looked on the garage shelf and saw a box that said Michellin on it. I asked him what it was and he didn’t know, so I picked it up and looked inside. There was a brand new 18″ 90/90 tube. He charged me the price he paid for it as it was still marked on the box (60 pesos) and wished me luck. About 2 km down the road, the 21″ tube I had put in the back gave in. It was getting late and I was at the end of all my energy. A nice gentleman stopped on the side of the road and asked me what I was going to do and I told him I’ll just camp there and figure it out the next morning. He gave me some more than welcomed bread and water.

I set-up camp on the side of a secondary road.

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Shortly after setting up camp, I witnessed one of the most amazing sunsets.

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Meanwhile, 3 guys on BMWs showed up. I thought I was saved. They must have spare tubes! Sadly, they were riding on tubeless tires… We talked and laughed a bit then they went on their way. While talking to them, I saw my tent flying away. The wind was way too strong to keep it anchored in the soft sand so I moved it onto the secondary road and slept right on the road. You can also see my bike with the back tire totally down.

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As the sun was setting, the most incredible rainbow showed up. It was the biggest one I had ever seen, going from one hill to the other. I couldn’t capture it all with my camera lenses.

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Fixing the tire next morning.

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More desert and flat tires to come…


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…

South of Santiago

Posted: May 3, 2012 in Chile

After spending only a couple of hours in Santiago to take a look at the center, I took the highway towards San Antonio on the coast. On the way I met a few riders and they invited me for lunch. My KLR had a hard time keeping up to their highway speeds on their BMW, KTM and Honda but they were nice and slowed down to wait for me. Thanks again for lunch guys and really nice meeting you!

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Patricio in the middle but I don’t remember the gentleman’s name on the left.

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While riding after lunch, I saw this statue along the road…

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I made it to La Boca. It was circled on my map so I was going to check it out. A nice small town with an incredible view of the river meeting up with the ocean.

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There was a campground in town but why pay for a dirty space next to a house when you can camp for free by the ocean with no one around.

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No one bothered me so I had a great sleep. Next morning, more riding…

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Who needs yellow lines on the road really?

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Camping in a deforestation site once again with a sweet view. A few people driving by asked me if I was the security guy for the site.

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Next morning, get up, pack up and ride… again…

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… but it wasn’t going to be an usual day. It was day 1 of the curse to come.

I was going about 100km/h on a nicely paved road that was ending and becoming gravel and rock. The my wheel hit the gravel road, which was going on a steep decline, I loose the rear and bike goes all over the place. I’m able to stop safely and surely enough, I’m on the rim. The hill is too steep to take the wheel off so I slowly get the bike down to the bottom of the hill about 1\2 km down.

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A big nail riped my tube up.

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I am thinking, no big deal, I have the spare, which was my thick tube I used for about 40 000km. A nice drunk old man passing by helps me get the tire on with the spare tube. We forced it a bit and pinched it too. Had to use 2 patches and hope they hold.

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Well, 60 km down the road, I started losing pressure again, about 90 % of it. This time I was 3 km to a town and it seemed possible to ride with only 10% or so pressure in the tire. In town, all the tire shops were closed. I waited in front of a mechanic’s door for about an hour. I wanted to vulconize the tube instead of using patches. I was thinking that my 2 patches came off. It was actually an old patch so the mechanic vulconized it. I asked around town and locals told me that I could camp by the river close to town.

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Nice spot… and once again, free.

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Next day, after riding for another 60km or so, I started losing air again. This time I was close to a city and if I kept adding air every 10-15 minutes, I could ride like that. I needed a tube really badly. At a Yamaha shop, I was able to get a really thin tube for about 15$ but it was the best one in town. I had it changed and thought that was going to be the last of my tyre problems for a while.

UFO land?

Posted: April 22, 2012 in Chile

While at Felipe’s beach house, we talked a lot about UFOs and such. He collects meteorites and he’s been a huge fan about Unidentified Objects since he saw one from up close in a scary situation a few years ago. The best part was that I was heading into interesting territory around that part of Chile which was supposed to be even more interesting than Area 51.

Heading inland, there was a lot more vegetation appearing in the valleys.

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A nice man made lake due to the construction of a dam.

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It looks like a kiwi, tastes similar to a kiwi but it grows on a cactus.

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Finally, I made it into the “UFO” sector around Vicuna, just a few km east of La Serena. It’s called the Elqui Valley. Nothing looked out of the ordinary. No one was wearing tinfoil hats, there were no souvenir shops selling alien dolls or anything at all you would see in touristic UFO places. It was a calm desert with a bit of green in between. What was a bit out of the ordinary was the number of observatories around. Supposedly there isn’t any rain there or clouds but the desert is hundreds of km in diameter there so why would the Russians, the Chinese, the Europeans and Nasa all have small observatories cramped in a little region? I’m not sure if it has to do with the sky or with the fact that this is also supposedly the most energetically charged place on earth. Close by, there’s supposed to be a mountain where around 3000m altitude, if you leave your car in park and get out of it, you can see it slowly move on it’s own. I didn’t quite make it to that point but many locals have confirmed it’s existence. I was somewhat hoping to see something unusual in the sky but all I saw was the sun during the day and an incredible array of stars at night. On the other hand, many locals have told me about a ball of light similar to the sun they have seen coming from afar, stoping and then flying away really fast. The sightings of the “flying sun” are not that common since the locals which have lived there all their life have only maybe seen it once or twice in their lifetime.

Some pictures of the mountains and valleys:

A waterfall in the desert

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The surrounding views

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The road

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Camping by a local man made lake. Nothing beats free camping with this kind of view! I also met a nice lady who had a house nearby and liked to go out fishing at night on the lake. She said that one night she also saw the “flying sun” a few years ago and it scared the hell out of her.

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A bridge from the old railroad.

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One of the 3 long tunnels created for the trains back in the day. You couldn’t really see the end of the tunnels and there was just enough room inside for 1 car. Before entering, I’d flash my high beam and sound the horn in the hopes that someone from the other side would hear as there wasn’t enough room for my bike and a car to go through. One of the tunnels was also curbed so there was no way at all to see if someone was coming.

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Back on the coast, I stopped for a bit to watch some 4X4 racing. These guys were racing through mud, sand dunes and small rivers.

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I think this last guy got me and the camera soaked. The automatic aperture on my camera stopped working afterwards and it took me a couple of hours to figure out that I could disable the automatic and set the camera on manual. For a little while, I thought the camera was done.

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A nice campground I found on a peninsula.

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A couple of days later, I went to meet Felipe again at his other house in the mountains not too far from Santiago in Quebrada Alvarado. Nick had come down with Felipe as well.

Here’s nick playing with lizards.

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And here’s Felipe, not too happy about finding out that his neighbor had installed an orange pole right in front of his window, destroying the amazing view he had from the living room window.

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Thanks again to Felipe’s great hospitality, I spent a few more days there and then I went up to Santiago. I just rode around the city for a couple of hours in the center and then got out of there, heading back to the coast.


I kept riding south while admiring the rocky ocean on my right and the really slowly changing desert scenery on the left. It was a great feeling hitting up some of the dirt roads the Dakar was gonna fly through a few weeks later. Most of the gravel and beat down hard clay back roads were in great condition and with my heavy, low powered and loaded up KLR I was able to hit around 100-120km/h so I can’t imagine the speeds those Dakar guys are able to reach.

Small fishing towns along the way.

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At some point, a couple of BMW GS650s showed up making gestures trying to talk. So we stopped and we talked. Turns out that Jan and Remi were from Alberta, Canada as well. They had rented a couple of bikes and were doing most of the Western side of South America in about a month time. We rode together for a short while and then split up as they were trying to get to Santiago as fast as possible while I was still hitting up the coastline smaller roads. It sure was a nice surprise to meet some Albertans on the southern side of America!

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It was getting late, but I made it back to the coast from the main road where I split up with Jan and Remi. It was time to find a place to sleep. Lots of empty beaches with much free space to camp were in front of me but I thought I would ask about camping in the town of Chanaral de Aceituna since it looked nice and calm.

At the campground, a kid told me to ride to the other side of the town as the lady in charge of the campground was living there. So I went, asked for the price and it was around 16$ for the night. I looked at her and said that it was quite expensive. She agreed with me but that was the price the town had set for the municipal campground. She then offered me to set up camp for free in her back yard but I didn’t want to intrude so I thanked her and said that I’ll just go sleep on the beach. She told me to wait and made a phone call. Afterwards, she said that Felipe was waiting for me and that I should go talk to him. Well, OK! I thanked her and went looking for Felipe. After asking around for directions, a nice lady got in her car and showed me the way. Felipe was living in a nice big house, overlooking the ocean about 300m from town.

I talked to Felipe for a few minutes and he offered me to sleep in one of the 2 domes he had constructed for almost half the price of camping. I had never slept in a dome before, especially not one that overlooked the ocean so that was an offer I couldn’t refuse. I was thinking of staying for a night but ended up staying for a week and the host became one of my best friends on this trip.

The view from Felipe’s house… and also from my room.

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One of the 2 domes he built. This one was his bedroom, and connected to the rest of the house.

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View of the desert on the east side of the house. As you can see, vegetation was finally starting to appear.

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This is the 2nd dome, my house for the next week or so. By far the coolest place I stayed in on this trip. The windows you see on the right side are overlooking the ocean. It felt like I was in a spaceship in there.

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Since vegetation was starting to appear in the desert, I took a bit of time to try and shoot it.

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Work in progress at the bottom of the cliff by the ocean. A nice and simple structure decorated with bamboo. In the middle, a fire pit.

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Felipe on the right, Fabiola, a friend of his on the left.

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Seen some nice sunsets there.

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After a few days, some woffers showed up. Travellers who will work in exchange for stay and food. We were a decent group now in the house. There’s Felipe in the back.

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Nick, one of the woffers.

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We were all watching the sunset off the cliff.

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And here he is on the left.

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I spent one of the most relaxing weeks of my trip there. Thanks Felipe!

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