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!


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


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


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.



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.



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


Who needs yellow lines on the road really?



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.


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


… 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.


A big nail riped my tube up.


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.


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.


Nice spot… and once again, free.


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.


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


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


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


The surrounding views


The road


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.



A bridge from the old railroad.


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.


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.



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.


A nice campground I found on a peninsula.



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.




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.


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.



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!


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.


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


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


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.


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














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.


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





Seen some nice sunsets there.



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.


Nick, one of the woffers.


We were all watching the sunset off the cliff.


And here he is on the left.





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


North of Chile

Posted: March 20, 2012 in Chile

Once I passed the border line-up and got my papers in order I was ready to take upon the desert. First town was San Pedro de Atacama which sounded familiar but it seemed packed with tourists from all around so I didn’t stay. Prices were also pretty high up, especially compared to every other place I have been to, but I was going to have to get used to Chile’s high $$. Turns out that San Pedro de Atacama is supposed to be the site where they filmed the moon landing, but I still think that it was done in a studio and not under the stars. Either way, the moon like desert seemed to be attracting lots of people. I just wanted to get to the ocean as fast as possible since I hadn’t seen it in about 2-3 months.


I started riding, and riding and riding some more. There was no vegetation, only desert, copper mines and mining trucks everywhere.

Mining train



Finally as the night was falling I made it to a costal town with tons of tourists. I asked around if there was camping but couldn’t get any positive results. A few km down the road from the town, I found a HUGE lot, right by the sea with noone around… perfect spot!


The next day, I started riding along the coast. Just a few km down the road there was this “natural monument” as they call it here.


And then the dirt roads started. I had to go a few 100km on these as the northern part of the Chilean coast is not that developed. Looks like mining companies have a monopoly over the land.




After riding most of the day, I stopped for a few seconds to admire the scenery. A few meters down, there were temporary fisherman houses and one fisherman invited me from afar to go eat something. I was really hungry so I couldn’t refuse.

Seafood and potatoes, fried fish…. ahhh soo good and soo fresh!





The next day they took me out fishing.




This plastic yellow hose is used for diving. It just plugs into a home made compressor and into the regulator. Then they use rubber around the joints to keep it tight and the air from escaping. The better fishing is around 20m deep so they dive with this system to around that depth. There is no emergency bottle or any real emergency system at all.


The compressor system. A small motor is hooked up to a compressor and then to a big air container and then to the yellow hose from above.


First catch of the day. Not a bad day! Gotta go down a couple more times though.



A bit tired, but gotta go back in! Many fisherman do this as their job a few months a year. They come to this region where they build a temporary house on the beach on GVT land, fish for a few months then go home with the $$ for a few months. Then come back and do it all over again. BTW, did you notice the thick wet suit? The waters are freezing up here.


2nd catch of the day. The captain is happy, it’s been a great day and an incredible experience for me. Thanks again for the hospitality guys!


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.


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.


A super old tree


Cactus decoration in the restaurant


Did the zoom zoom road again


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.







Lots of mountains, little vegetation


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!


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



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



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.

North of Salta, Argentina

Posted: March 10, 2012 in Argentina

We set-up camp in a small town called Humahuaka I believe. Daytime it was nice and hot, but nights were super cold. Over 3000m altitude and kind of desert, but gorgeous.


For the next 3 days or so we rode around exploring the region, all the way up just a few km from the Bolivian border.















A small town at the end of a 50km road…



A couple of guys traveling on chinese 200cc bikes. Those things are great on these roads.


Layers and layers of goodness…


High up, close to Bolivia, there is a reserve hardly visited. We made it there and even the ranger wasn’t around. Mesmerizing place!







The next day, Yannick and I slpit up. He had to go down to Buenos Aires as his daughters were coming to visit for Christmas while I decided to head over to Chile and explore new territory.

Crazy French guy, Yannick

Posted: March 7, 2012 in Argentina

I made it to a city showing on the map as Salta. I didn’t know much about but it was a good place to relax as it was getting late and rainy. After looking at prices for hostels, I found out that there was a municipal campground available. Set-up camp, saw one of the largest swimming pools of my life (no water at that time) and checked out the city.

Some pics of the city:

Teleferic to go see the jesus. Paid for the ride when I could have made it up with the bike for free but oh well.



Views of the city










While relaxing in the campground, a crazy French guy showed up on a BMW 1200GS, Yannick. We ended up exploring the rest of the the northern side of Argentina together.


I wont go into too many details as I’m feeling a bit lazy but I’ll let the pictures do the talking…

I believe these were the roads and destinations











We followed the railroad at one point that’s supposed to be some kind of engineering marvel. This bridge for it is supposed to be something unique as well, but it didn’t seem all that special to me. Back in the day when it was made out of wood, well, that was I’m sure quite an achievement.













Zoom zoom zoom….




If only I had one of my old gixxers on these roads….


Welcome to Argentina!

Posted: March 4, 2012 in Argentina

For me it was a bit of welcome back as I had spent the night on the AG side of the border to get my Paraguay visa before. The plan was to ride through the north of Argentina all the way to Chile and then descend along the coast from there. I had to cover a few km before Chile anyway, somewhere around 2000 I think with all the detours I was going to do.

First 2 nights, camped at a recreational fishing campground. It was nice and relaxing.




And then in the municipal camping in Resistencia on the other side of the bridge.


Relaxed with some nice people by the river beach there and hung out all night by the boardwalk.





From afar, the campground looked calm, but locals would go there to cook BBQs till 4-6am sometimes and would blast music from all corners. It was hard to sleep even with my ear plugs.


It was time to leave and find some tranquility. There was a nacional park of Chaco not too far from there. In this region, nat. parks are a nice place to camp because they provide everything from electricity to showers and all for free.











From there, I tried to make it to another national park. In the mean time it had rained and the dirt roads had turned into mud. I did make it to the other park, but I had to ride the last 27km in the dark on a super slippery mud slide.

Once I got to the park, there was no one there. The gates were locked, so I camped in front of them.


I was watching a movie on my laptop on the ground and when I went to get up I saw a black stain running away from me. After grabbing my flash light I looked to see where it had run away to. The front suspension of the kawi seemed a great place to hide. If I wouldn’t have got up, he would have probably just finished watching the movie there by my side.


He was the biggest one I’ve seen yet.


The next day, had to take the mud slide back out but I felt a lot better after a good night’s sleep.



The bike didn’t agree and decided to rest some more. On the way in, I mede it without problems, but on the way out, I ended up dropping it twice, and every time I lifted it by myself… a 300 km tank sliding all over the place was no easy task.



I finally made it out of there and headed over to Salta. On the way I saw some guys working on a bike on the side of the road. I stopped to see if they needed anything and all they were missing were tire spoons to get the tire back on the wheel, luckily I had a couple.



Although Paraguay has huge amounts of land and a small population, most of the land is privately owned by few of the richer people. There are still a handful of national parks available to visit. I went and checked out the “famous” Cerro Cora. I was also able to camp there for free, and my understanding is that they even have beds for free if you go in groups.

Inside the park. It’s mainly dry chaco style vegetation, but still nice to walk around… in the 45 degree sunny weather! Bring lots of water!





I also checked out this other park but I can’t find the name of it. The road to get here is pretty challenging and you have to pay big bucks for EVERYTHING. Even camping was expensive and they didn’t even have a set spot to camp. I ended up camping by the guard’s habitations.


The commando team getting ready to go out on a 5 day mission in the forest. They go looking for poachers and drug growers.


Then there was Itaipu. It’s the second largest dam in the world when it comes to size and it stands in the first spot as to the energy generated. It is Paraguay’s pride, although they share the dam with Brazil. There is a lot of controversy around this dam as the GVT says that it produces a certain amount of energy for the Paraguayan people when in reality it seems that most of it is being sold to the other side of the border. Either way, corruption and propaganda aside, it was a really nice sight to see.






From the dam, I went into Ciudad del Este where they have a tonne of products duty free. The problem is that most of the products are total fakes. I even saw a perfect fake of the iPhone 4. What I was looking for were tires for the bike. Although there were a lot of people selling Pirellis, I couldn’t find the MT21s I was looking for. I spent all day, going through every store, having people call the stores around… etc. I ended up buying the MT60 rear for a decent price. The best place to buy your tires there for the best price is at the Pirelli dealership called Ferrari. Just ask around for Ferrari and people will point you to it really fast. No need to look around as the other guys buy the tires from Ferrari and then resell them at higher prices.

Around Ciudad del Este there are some waterfalls just a few km away. Went and checked those out too. I wanted to go see Iguazu but I only had a one entry visa so no way of crossing the border to Argentina yet.



Then I headed towards Missiones. The night was falling and I needed a place to crash. In a tire shop where I went to change both my tires, I met a guy in a small town. He said that there were a couple cheap hotels around but that we should go eat first. Sounded good to me. We went to a small restaurant and had a few beers and pizza. Then more people joined. At the end of the night, Carlos invited me to stay at his place where I could set-up my sleeping bag. He is on the right side of the picture. He’s a huge bike enthusiast as well and owns a couple of chopper style bikes. Thanks Carlos for the hospitality!


And then, missiones. Went and checked out the famous ruins.







Chairs were set-up in one of the rooms. I asked and was told that there was going to be a rock concert that night. They offered me to set-up camp for free and a free entry to the concert. Sweet deal!


Turns out that it wasn’t a rock concert but a chorus, classical music along with Opera at the end. It was a unique experience that I surely wasn’t expecting. Totally incredible!




The next day, I had a choice to make, go back and see everyone in Assumption or cross the border to Argentina. I still had a few Guaranni left but not enough to make it to the city, so I would have had to get some more out at a machine. That wouldn’t have been the problem, but I didn’t wanna have to deal with the corrupt police around Assumption again so I decided to cross to Argentina. The thing is that the police were generally nice to me in most of Paraguay, but around the capital, they become like sharks and a tourist bike filled with stuff looks like gold to them. Either way, I was going to miss Paraguay. Drinking Terere with it’s super chilled out people, adventuring on chaco dirt roads, and of course, my family from the botanical garden.

Paraguay, North of Concepcion

Posted: February 19, 2012 in Paraguay

Once the bike was fixed, thanks to the guys at Metalcar, I headed back up north to check out the chaco in more detail. Of course, just a few km out of the city, I got pulled over by the transit cops. They said that I was going over 40 in the town and that they had a radar set-up. They were pulling over EVERYONE and the radar story was pure BS. While waiting and arguing with them on the side of the road, I noticed that they tried to pull over a Mercedes but the guys just flew past them and they did nothing about it. I only found out later that you can just keep going without stopping as these police are a total corrupt joke and they don’t even have guns. Either way, they took my paperwork and wouldn’t give it back till I would pay a fine. First they wanted around 250$, then I kept laughing at them and kept saying no and that I don’t have that kind of $, so they went down to 150$, then 100$ and finally I paid them 25$ to leave me alone. Either way, like I said in the post before, Paraguay has the nicest people I have met but the crappiest police.

So heading north. Went to Concepcion where I stayed at a nice little hostel on the side of the river and took the bike apart once again, but just the outside as it started choking on the way there. I think it was just bad gas, but I did reroute a couple of tubes, fixed a corroded wire in the wire harness that was hardly touching anymore, and added a missing breather tube to the carburetor. From Concepcion, I went up on the dirt roads shown on the map below. The map isn’t that accurate because in reality point B and C connect through a small dirt road.

Picture of the bike all done and ready to leave.


On the dirt roads north of Concepcion, I met this guy.


Sucks for him though, since he was going to be the guest of honor to dinner that night and there was monkey on the menu.


The roads looked something like this.


And the bridge… well… seen these in old western movies…



Super dry Chaco




You know how I said above that point B and C actually connect? In order to get on that road, you have to ask for a key from a post where they have a guard during the day. You can also camp at the post without any problems. Also, if it rained, don’t even think about taking this road. For me, it had rained just over 24 hours earlier and I waited those 24 hours in a town nearby. I soon realized that 24hours were not really enough as the first 7 km or so on the road were pure mud and puddles. I almost ended up in the ditch a few times trying to go through the puddles and having the bike just go sideways. After the first few km, the road became nice and sandy where I think that the wetter ground was actually in my favor.


I had to stop for about 10 of these gates, maybe more. Stop, open gate, get on bike ad ride it to the other side, get off the bike, run back and close gate, get back on bike.


Not too much traffic around here.


I had almost forgot that before getting through the first gate and this cool dirt road, I had broken off one of my foot-pegs. I was doing about 70-80km/h on a nice wide dirt road when I hit a rock with the skid plate, frame and the peg. The peg got broken off as if the bolts were made of plastic. I stopped the bike and went back looking for my peg. I rode without the right peg for most of the day as noone had a welding machine around to get the broken bolt pieces out. Finally, towards the end of the day, I found this mechanic in a small town. He welded the broken bolt pieces out within minutes.


He had quite an impressive tool collection, so I took advantage to change the sprocket which had more than half it’s teeth broken off.


I camped in a close by national park by the guard’s office… but there was no guard. There was this guy though keeping me company.


I had running water there so cooked up some rice.



Remember how I said that these roads were impossible in case of rain? This is what they look like still after 48 hours of heat and sun.



The roads described above took me about 4 days to do including the 24hrs I waited after the rain. Totally worth it!