04 January 2012

20 Horses and a December to Remember


Location: Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina
Distance ridden from Medellin, Colombia: 12,500km
Days from Medellin: 32
Rest or repair days: 3 (Cusco, La Paz, Christmas in Patagonia)
Km per day: 390
Police extortion incidents: 2
Times they got money from me: 0
New parts: timing chain, bearings, rear suspension, tires, chain
Camping nights:  16
Highest Pass: 4818m (15807 feet)
Bees stuck in my helmet: 2

This was one tough ride.  The little 20hp Suzuki ran strong despite extreme abuse and carried me to the very end of the road down here in Ushuaia.  I can't make it to Cape Horn (the southernmost point in south america) as it is an island, but this is good enough for me.  600 miles from Antarctica.  The details of ''what next'' elude me.  But I guess life is to be taken one step at a time.  So I will just worry about dinner tonight and the rest will come.  Here is a photo essay of the journey, starting in Ecuador.  Ecuador northward is already posted in December.

Hello Ecuador. 

The fog spilled so fast down the mountain, that sometimes there was a tunnel of clear visibility  just over the road.

cheap gas in Ecuador!  prices in US dollars per gallon

when your shortcut crosses a bridge of mud and sticks, it is time to reconsider

when your shortcut heads into the desert, you know it will be really good or really bad.

when your shortcut spills out into endless dunes, it is time to swallow your pride and turn around.

plenty of sand traps in peru's backroads to check your speed

lovely neighborhoods in the wasteland.

gas prices in peru.  in Nuevo Soles per gallon

peruvian flags, burning trash, blowing sand, and a dead straight road for the next 2 days.  this will be lots of fun at 50mph

Darude's Sandstorm came on my ipod as sand whipped across the road.  well done, random function.

more blowing sand.  i sat through a week of it, so you can sit through 2 pictures worth

it's so boring that people get in these horrendous accidents just for something to do, i guess

lots for sale.  Own your own home!  Near the beach!

Peru has these female traffic cops that wear sexy equestrian apparel and ride motorcycles.  I didn't see any riding crops though.

The only way through Lima traffic is median enduro riding.  very fun.

the best part of Lima is leaving.  and heading back into the Andes

They need Panthro to fix that thing up!

The world's highest railroad crossing.  4818m.  Light snow.  Heavy fog.
 Just before reaching the top of the pass, I stopped at this adobe cafe looking for something hot to drink.  The abuela was dressed traditionally, with a gentleman's hat, and about 8 layers of wool sweaters and skirts.  She had the traditional waist length twin braids.  I enjoyed the warmth of wood fired coffee and the authentic flute music of the Peruvian highlands as I looked outside at the wind, rain, and fog.  I marveled how such an authentic experience can't be bought or sold-- it is the gift to the independent traveler.  Just then, the radio crackled into the next song, Berlin's Take My Breath Away.  I caught grandma's eye and realized it was time to pay my 25 cents and hit the road.  Only much later did I realize that my encounter was more authentic and far more memorable as a result. Maybe I'll stop back in on my way north...  good coffee.
After a breakfast of quinoa, two cute gals asked if they could take my picture.  I get this all the time (which I attribute to  the fact that Chuck Norris vaguely resembles me).  I was not prepared for the two children they pulled out of the bundles on their backs and plopped into my arms.  Wow I am not ready for kids.

The peruvian highlands are full of rough and precipitous dirt roads.  the 200 was perfect for these roads.  it turns tight, rides light, stops quick, and goes faster than you would ever want.  light on gas too.

not much of a guardrail here...

a silt rich side stream dumped into the green river, changing it to a muddy red.

scenid, dusty, rough...  rolling through the heartland of the shining path

one town had enough dead rats lying around i found it notable.  here's a couple

corruption capitol of peru, or so they told me.  go figure the cops kept stopping me.

welcome to enduro camp.  come prepared.  4100m

horses are welcome at enduro camp.  good morning!

about here i noticed my rear bearings and brakes were both nonexistent.

so i did a number on my timing chain engine braking for the next few days

hidden inca towns

the houses blend into the landscape

roads wind along the mountainside

¿como te llamas?

cultivation takes place on every surface

the towns look close on the map because they are.  it just so happens that the road is 100km of twist

Peruvian switchbacks, with a town in the distance

Hello Peruvian Andes!

The agave grows down here too!

Granny sips some fresh juice while running errands

this car/truck thing is AMAZING!

The whitewash and adobe wear away, leaving red streets, red roofs, and red walls. 

Donkey looks on while man carries heavy load of corn.

altiplano.  farming at 14000 feet.

this family was living in their land rover and touring south america.  the hot water heater has a heat exhanger with the engine coolant.  very cool!

I caught up with some Argentinos riding down from Las Vegas.

Cusco Peru has Norton Rat's Tavern, a biker bar with a book full of entries by motorcycle travelers.

The kids dress like their parents. 

more altiplano on the way to lake titicaca

lake titicaca

lake titicaca
entry fee for Americans: $135.  Average Bolivian monthly income: $85

A new country always brings the risk of accidentally ordering weird food. It is french fry and onion soup with steak, egg, and hot dog on top.  garnished with olives and mayo.  WTF?

enter Raul, street motorcycle mechanic.

change is...  to live better.  night in La Paz, Bolivia

the shop floor is sloped from years of accumulated grime and motorcycle parts

they swapped this worn out timing chain for a new one, but in the process left off my engine mounts, stole my new sparkplug, and let rain get into my carburetor.  why they removed my oil filter seal when i told them not to touch anything other than the timing chain eludes me.  well done, gentlemen.  it took a second trip to get everything sorted out.  i guess that is why you will stay street mechanics.

In Oruro, Dante let me stay at his house and generously helped me change my rear tire.

You know me, always headed out into the desert...

llamas of Bolivia

in case you didn't notice, there's a big crater over there

no really, a big meteorite made this divot.

the continuous washboard roads finally launched my keys out of the ignition.  but i luckily heard the metallic jingle and returned to find them.  phew!

hours and hours of riding over washboard.  enduro riding at its finest

beware!  glare hides llamas!  shortcut north of Uyuni

coming over a rise, i looked out over the world's biggest salt flats.  Salar de Uyuni.  It took my breath away.

and you thought all the houses looked the same in your suburb?

there is a dirt ramp that takes you out past the soft salt to the hard surface

riding across the salt at sunset was surreal.  a highlight of the last year for sure.

riding across the Salar de Uyuni!  a rare video treat!
the salt has dried over the years to form a hexagonal pattern

there is an island in the middle that is actually an old coral reef.  now inhabited by 900 year old cacti and llamas

at dawn, i could see the rest of the ride would be wet...

there were two suns staring me down

i had to stop frequently to scrape the salt off the moto to stop it from overheating

intense glare as i rode the mirror

you can navigate by following the jeep tracks in the salt

once out of the flooded region, i found some tourists to snap my picture.  the jeeps can't ride the salt or it destroys them.

international display at the salt hotel

i might as well be riding in the american midwest right now

that can't be good

pressure wash, followed by a thorough coat of machine oil

more desert.  more ambiguous junctions

little house on the altiplano

a lonely place to die

typical bolivian campesino town

i dropped into this unusual mining town in a canyon.  a receptacle for old vehicles, i enjoyed the 15 cent ice cream cones and admired the relics

little boys pretend to drive this old International KB-series

A series one land rover with a jeep inspired grille?

winding out across the desert

i came across some zinc miners.  they work without gloves or respirators.

i joined them for a game of soccer in the desert at dusk.

welcome to enduro camp

heading for argentina and coming down out of the Andes

washboard and a verdant valley

am i in utah?  here my speedometer broke :(

bolivian home stretch

i swear they make some strange food in bolivia

welcome to argentina!  ushuaia only 3000 miles away!

What you should have been doing with all those America Online CDs...  making an awesome christmas tree!

welcome to enduro camp

northern argentina

finally out of the tropics!  it seemed like a lfietime ago when i crossed into the tropics way back near Mazatlan, Mexico

Now that is some food!  complete with espresso.  I was ashamed to have the thought that the salad didn't look real.  we come from a industrial food country, and when food looks how it should (red tomatoes, green lettuce), we are shocked.

thought i would swing by the gay hardware store, maybe pick up some spare nuts and bolts...

headed for cafayate, south of Salta

welcome to enduro camp...

you know you have been on the road long enough when you think your boot is a great place to set your sandwich.

Argentina and Chile have the best depictions on their road signs!

Why the Ruta 40 is famous, I don't understand.  The road is a brutal, brutal ride.

Enduro Camp.  Seeing how far I can get into Argentina without showering I guess.

Dawn patrol

stone reinforcement and guardrail on an old inca road

never seen one of these before.  would be awesome to race Dakar in that!

at the hostel, they wisely had me park with all the other trash.

a night out with other travelers

That is Aconcagua, 22841 feet.  The tallest mountain outside the Himalaya.  For all you dreamers...

washboard and sand....

rolling through the Pampa, I decided to ride at night to catch up with my friend Ted. I took a nap in the bushes, keeping my helmet and gloves on to stay warm and cozy in the thorns.  I cranked my ipod and chewed coca leaves and starburst as dawn came.  At a gas station, wolfing down a 2-day-old sandwich, I nearly choked when I realized I had lost my license plate in the last 12 hours!

watch out for dinosaurs!  RAWR!!!

i noticed some weird clouds on the horizon... a rainstorm?

it became an ash cloud from a volcano!  that's great for the motor, i'm sure.

but i broke through the other side for a glorious intro to Patagonia

Patagonia.  I have arrived

In Bariloche, I got to work at the decal shop, supervising the creation of a counterfeit plate.

they even had the perfect reflective yellow in stock!

This one is dedicated to someone who will only be named as BRC.  Thanks for the inspiration!

Ted and I rode out of town together, and I promptly towed him back due to a blown fuel pump membrane.
wildflowers out = spectacular sneezes in the helmet.  try to get the faceshield up in time!

Ted on his KTM 640 Adventure.

speed lines?  VROOOOOM!

back on gravel and headed for the great southern highway

here is where my romance with coca leaves ended.  agricultural products are not allowed!

christmas eve in futuleufu, chile

i wanna jump in!!!

i think i'll make a coffee table book: Pastries in Patagonia.  Any takers?

Danger: Fire and Brimstone!

i love the signs.  here my camera fell out of my pocket and a 40km backtrack found two cyclists who had picked it up in the dust.  thank you!

arrival in villa amengual at sundown for a night on the porch and catching up with Sylvie 

we went for a Christmas cruise and found this hole in a cliff above the River Cisnes at Devil's Bridge.  We decided we should catch a trout through the hole and Sylvie set to work with her tackle

Sylvie.  Ready for anything.

Suzuki DR200 and tree.  Patagonia

Christmas dinner.  Trout and pasta.  

beetle invasion!

giant beetle attacks helmet!

violets, blue sky, and a brick road make for great riding

enduro camp

where is a DRZ400 Supermoto when you need one????

Cerro Castillo

headed back into Argentina, it gets browner immediately

In the desert, a great place for the bike to die

removal of the chain cover showed a cut wire in the charging circuit.  splice and go!  i  lost a bolt in the sand, but had a spare in stock!  dad would be proud

this hopping border is still computer free.

after 70km of loose gravel and wind, i sat down for a chocolate bar and noticed my licence plate fell off again!  shit!

an hour later, i found it in the sand.  what a day.

more Ruta 40 at sundown.
Follow your dreams and you too can wake up alone in a culvert on your birthday in the middle of  windswept desolation.

the motorbikers down here sure love to put stickers on closed down gas pumps...

999km from Ushuaia.  I had wanted to get photos of each thousand mile mark, but the 5k, 4k, 3k, 2k, and 1k were all missing!  It's like I had been there before :)

Happy birthday to me.  Thanks to Anita for accomodating my obsession with finding some cake.

I'll have that to go...

Ruta 40.  empty road for 5000km.  sweeeeeet.

down here, you will find that the Germans take their RVing seriously.  MAN battle camper...

This is me burying my rear tire at the Straits of Magellan

The ferry to Tierra del Fuego.  kinda unreal to be here.

''end of the road''

chile has refugios, little huts to shelter you from the weather.  bunk, table, fireplace.

The Falklands are Argentinian!

getting closer!  wait, something is farther than ushuaia?  i must go there!



Liberen los secuestrados ya!!!!!!

I had to take a lap around the sign in my undies.  I think that distance to AK must be as the crow flies...  Remember, always wear good boots, gloves and a helmet!

Great success!

Representing Belmotos of Apartado Colombia!

celebrating new year's with several kilos of meat on the fire.

these japanese riders are clearly having a good time

toasting hot spiced wine for midnight....  and rum and coke in the other hand.  oh dear.

here's to 2012.  Let's make it a good one.

sunrise.  ushuaia.  january 1 2012

still carrying that pirate flag, jeff!

confession...  i met some arctic explorers and we are gonna fix up old snowmobiles and ride to the south pole...  saty tuned!


Geoff Cotter said...

South Pole? Unbelievably heroic.

I'm borrowing your calories/$/oz charts for a nerdy event that I'm giving a somewhat humorous guide to bike touring for. you will of course be fully credited for your important research.

Lawrence said...

The mystery vehicle you want to race in the Dakar is a wwII era Chevrolet Quad. They were used by the allies to haul artillery pieces through the North African desert.

Great travel advemture.

Mele Guerrero said...

Saludos desde Mexico, que barbaro que buen viajesote !!!!!!

Jeferson L. Ferreira said...

Great trip. Greetings from Brazil.

dd_traveler said...

<3 seeing the pics, as always! south pole envy :)

Dave said...

Thanks for the pics and the comments. They help to frame the next 25,000 km of my journey.

Ashten said...


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