Where are we?

Monday, February 27, 2012


After having numerous 90F days coupled together with thunderstorms/road blockages/river crossings etc. north of Mendoza, then traveling south some 700 miles, we had unknowingly traversed in latitude from hot desert to the cool mountains & winds of Patagonia. It is like someone threw the switch & we are now into October like weather in the mountains yet it is still just late August in SA. We are now in Villa La Angostura in the lake region of Patagonia. We rode the 'Ruta de 7 Lagos' today thru the mountains...stunning views that reminds us of Switzerland lakes, New Zealand fauna & Canadian Rocky mountains....all combined. This area was settled by Swiss & Germans, so we had to stop for a latte together with 'to die for' pastry... Just to strengthen us for the journey thru the mountains...don't you know!

We treated ourselves to a lakeside hotel with a view overlooking the lake & a swimming pool(heated of course) & a jacuzzi in our room (you people need to understand the sacrifices we have made camping with all your favorite barnyard friends, air mattresses that won't stay inflated, riding our butts off 'day after day after day'). We deserve a little special treatment!!!

We intend to rest a full day before riding west(35 miles) to the Chilean border, then into the town of Osorno, then south to Puerto Montt...more on that later. The main message here is we have now experienced a great deal of Patagonia, we have penetrated as far south in Argentina as we intend, we are heading west to Chile, & life is pretty damn good!

Since the early 1970's, I have wanted to visit Patagonia...it is all I had envisioned!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

We crossed the Rio Grande where this large river cuts through lava with a channel of less than 20 feet. Our ladies at the super mercado. Lomo de Burro really does exist. Odd trees that grow in mountains; commonly used as ornamental at home.

Mendoza--Malbec Capital of western Argentina

We spent the night in Mendoza in a beautiful hotel. This is a huge city with dozens, perhaps hundreds of hotels, hostels etc. After trying several hotels and finding the rates prohibitively high, we opted for a smaller, but very nice hotel. Room at Sheraton was $700. As Jim walked into the parking area, he ran into Rick. We hadn't seen him since we crossed paths near Uryuni, Bolivia. Had a good visit, including breakfast the next morning. What are the odds of this chance meeting?

Rick stayed in Mendoza, and Jim and I headed south to San Rafael. This city hopes to be the next Mendoza. As we left the super mercado with supplies for camping, an American came up to me and struck up a monologue telling me everything that is wrong with the US and Argentina. This seems to be a common ailment of these ex-pats. They leave the US because it has problems, but when they get to their new country they find it too has problems.

He asked us to come out to his vineyard, drink some of his wine, swim in his pool and I am sure hear more of his monologue. We declined. and headed up the street for lunch. He followed us and introduced us to an American couple eating their lunch. Turns out the first American was a psych. major at Humboldt in the 1983 era and the other guy was educated at Oregon Tech in Klamath Falls, Oregon. Small world.

I got my question answered about the huge gas lines in Argentina. Seems as though when Argentina defaulted on their debt they also sold off assets including the state owned YPF gasoline business. A Spanish company purchased it and has been running it very profitably for years. President Kirchner does not feel they are investing enough of their profits in oil exploration. So she wants to nationalize it. YPF is fighting back by limiting how much gas they sell. (Not sure how this helps their position.) It makes me think of PEMEX in Mexico. The Mexican government took over all of the American oil interests in the early 1900s and has run it since. The complaint is that they are putting too much money into social programs and not investing enough in oil exploration. So there is no simple solution to short sighted politicians antics. Are there any obvious models in the US that we can pass along?????

From San Rafael we headed into the volcanic country that is beautiful. And we have continued to get closer to the Andes as we head south. Last night we stayed in Barranca at a private camp. We stopped at a super mercado that had everything we needed. After we went outside the two old ladies that ran it came outside to have their pictures taken with the gringos and their motos. I asked Jim how many Americans he figures we have seen on this trip and we feel it is around five or six. Not many motorcycle tourers, a few people on bicycles, but generally not tourists.

Tonight we are staying in Junin de los Andes. Our motel, first of the trip, is brand new and first class. It has three units. Feels excellent. Walked two miles into town for dinner and two back, so well exercised for the day.

Four more days in Argentina and then it over the Andes to Chile. Seemed funny to pull out our last map of the trip. As I have said before, this trip is interesting and a lot of work. Fun is not a word that comes to mind, but both of us are loving it.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Gauchito Gill

Upon entering Argentina, we noticed dozens, and now hundreds of red roadside memorials. Many of these are substantial huts with locks on the doors. Lots of red flags surrounding them. I showed a picture, and said I would do more research. Well, I didn't do any research. Instead, my faithful daughter, Karen, emailed me and told me these are memorials to Gauchito Gill. If you want to know more about GG, do a google search. I read the article, and I must say, I am not sure why this guy rates any recognition.

A Little Catch Up

Since leaving Salta, we went to Concepcion and over the mountains to Andalgala, Belen, south to Chilecito, west to Villa Union, south to San Jose de Jachal and then south to San Juan. All in four days, a lot of rain and a lot of mud.

We had WiFi only one night, but it was too weak to do a blog update. There is not a lot of uniqueness to these days, but they were filled with challenges that left us exhausted.

From Concepcion we rode into jungle like vegetation, climbing steadily before dropping down to Buena Vista for the night. Their breakfast was pan and tea!! We then had an abrupt switch to desert for the ride over to Belen. Jim and I agree this gravel, I should say rock, road coursed with muddy crossings was the longest 50 miles of the trip.

When we got to Belen, we were certain the worst was behind us. We pulled up in front of a cafe for lunch. They apparently saw gold and ripped us off for about three times what the meal should have been. But we were no longer hungry.

From Chilecito we crossed a low range of mountains, but the rain was heavy and the road was gravel part of the way. Incredible down pour!! What we didn't understand was this weather was part of a huge thunderstorm that would plague us for two days. We camped with thunder and lightening to the north. We joked about where we set up camp because it was so hard to discern where the water would go if it rained. No rain.

The next morning we packed up dry, and set out for Villa Union. About mid day we entered a big valley that we found had four significant rivers all at flood stage. For a couple of hours everyone was sitting and looking and waiting for the water to drop. Finally a mining pickup went across and then the flow started.

We crossed this one and the next, but the third looked too high. We also heard that two motos had been washed down stream. So we retreated to the desert for another night.

Morning brought blue skies and a complete cessation of flow in the next two rivers. Lots of sloppy mud, but we're used to this.

We ate in Villa Union and headed south again. A short distance out of town we started crossing streams that had carried huge amounts of gravel and water. Lots of highway damage. We must have crossed 50 of these water courses. Had we continued the night before, we would have never been able to cross these water courses.

Onward to San Jose de Jachal. Not a great town, but better than its name. Just before we got there we had a couple of mia cortas around bridges that were out of commission. "@@@%&$^&**, the SPOT is gone." Jim had been struggling with the lousy mount for the SPOT for the entire trip. He called Mike Stevens and Mike told us the coordinates for the last beep. We then knew that it had to be less than a half hour's ride from there, as it beeps every half hour. After a diligent search by your team, we pronounced the SPOT AWOL.

We then did a grueling 100 plus miles to the beautiful city of San Juan. This city is clean, affluent, beautiful. We feel it would rival any US city for quality of life. Only problem is after going to several nice hotels that were full, we ended up in a hostel. Jim says the bright side is if we average in the last two nights of camping with the hostel we are at $4.00 per night. Actually we slept fine and made some of our dwindling supply of Starbucks.

Today we are looking for a hot spring with good camping where we can spend two nights and dry out some more. Ciao.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Across the Andes again, and we are tired.

We finally got Dave's leak fixed. Let's all drop to our knees and thank God we don't have to hear about this anymore.

But before we drop this, Hugo was a master. He had a tool manufactured that solved the problem. My cost was $120, but I am sure that this is a bargain. No more leak!!!!!

We camped out last night. As we pulled up to a policia road block, Jim headed off his quirery by asking, where can we camp. He pointed toward the town square and off we went. Big pool to wash in. Look in the background and you see the walls of the pool.

We were camped out once again, so needless to say, Jim and I slept like babies.

Today we rode 168 miles, but it was a tough bunch of miles. Some have asked how far we ride. Well, we ride between 100 and 300 miles, but closer to 150 miles. Things are tough here in South America, not just for the indigenous. Jim and I work hard to keep our bikes moving forward.

We apologize for the SPOT. It is not a perfect system, especially if we don't change the batteries.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Salta & More Photos

We left Pumamarca & dropped 6,000' on a freeway into Salta(I am breathing much better!). We received info re. a mechanic who may be able to diagnose Dave's leaky shaft drive. Spent the day working with him/staff together with phone consultation with Alex-BMW South Sound to conclude: put it back together...put a diaper on it, keep it full of oil & ride! We expect to leave Salta this afternoon.

Salta is a beautiful, organized city of ~600,000. We are very much enjoying the more organized society & excelllent food & ammenities. Just downloaded my recent photos to Dave's IPad. Hope you enjoy the visuals!

Photo catch up

Jim on the flooded salt flat. Lots of red sanctuaries in Argentina, all with red flags. All with padlocks on door. Don't know what they are.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Villazon to Purmamarca

Loved Bolivia and Peru, but this is Argentina. As we left Villazon and headed into the desert at 11000 feet plus, we were struck by the prosperity of Argentina. As Jim said, we saw our first wire fence for controlling animals.

We turned off the main north-south highway and rode 60 miles of gravel laced with water crossings. Nothing but llamas, dogs and their masters (indigenous women). After we tired of dirt travel we turned onto pavement and went back over a range of the Andes topping out at 13000 feet plus before dropping to Paramarca at around 8000 feet.

I met two bikers from Peru nearing the summit. I flagged them down so I could praise them. They are 21 and 24 years old. I met them at 12000 feet, and I asked them how many times they had rested coming up the hill. The response, "one other time." Skibbs, these guys are tougher than we ever dreamed of becoming.

Staying in a first class hotel tonight. Very nice for a change. Next door is an Aussie that we went to dinner with. What strikes me about her is that she is extremely well travelled and she seems to understand the role of the US in the world far better than most Americans that sit inside our vast borders and think up ways to run the world. Enough.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


We loved our time in Bolivia, but it was hard after we left Freddie's in Cochabamba. This was do to rain, mud, lousy hotels, no electricity in the entire town of Uyuni, and the list goes on. Overhanging all of this was a slight brake malfunction on Jim's bike and my continuing oil leak from either my gear box or final drive.

The mechanic that was supposed to be just south of the Bolivia/Argentina border has vanished, so tomorrow Jim and I will drain the final and refill so that we know what we are dealing with.

Jim and I were pretty proud of ourselves when we took his front brake apart and fixed the problem. His brake shoe is a wreck, but that is for another day.

Enough on the mechanics of obstacles to forward motion. As we progressed from Potosi to Tapiz we got into progressively more beautiful country. This morning the red rock country reminded us of New Mexico or Arizona, only we were in a valley at almost 12000 feet. Probably the high point of the day was no rain. But the rivers were still very high and choked with Bolivia's agricultural future--mud and silt. Bring on another hundred goats.

The low point was crossing the border into Argentina. We found, what we thought was a mia corta, open only to motos, no cars. We shot down a few dusty streets and the polite cop told us to park right in front of the emigration office. Then we saw the line. There we two hundred people, mostly indigenous, waiting to go to Argentina. I got into line and told Jim I would wait the first hour.

What amazed me is how quietly all of the people waited. No grumbling, no pushing, no ill-will. I think this is really a sign of a people that have low expectations for life. After three and a half hours when we got up close to the window, I looked in to see that there was only one person processing papers. Worse yet, they had a TV with a US soap opera with Spanish translation playing in the background and kept looking over to see the action. When it was my turn, I showed papers for Jim and me, and the whole process took two minutes. If there had been an ad, I am sure there would have been a delay. The indigenous people, who were most of the crowd, actually took quite a while longer.

Once we got to the Argentina side we were whisked through in an efficient process. There was no entry fee; they only charge this to touristas coming in through airports---$130 bonus!!!!! The customs people were polite, and efficient. And then we were off; total time at border was 4 1/2 hours, 80 percent of this waiting for the soap addict in Bolivia.

New software for my GPS, so we could search for a hotel. Found one .2 miles from customs. Ahhhh, we are so done for the day.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Remember with Blogger we have no control over the order of photos.

From Potosi to Uyuni was beautiful pavement and slippery mud. When bus slid off of road everyone got out and pushed only to watch it sink deeper.

The beautiful hotel in Sucre shown as we loaded for our departure. The secure parking was two blocks away. A skinny kid ran beside us for three blocks on one way streets and then packed our bags back to hotel. When we left we opted to load in front. Why kill off another kid.

Finally, my pet peeve is raw exhaust. Hoping my chest condition improves when I return home. Seems much worse than Mexican trucks and buses. Is that possible?