Santiago – Patagonia

We rented an apartment and spent two nights in Santiago. We had to get supplies for the trip south as this was the last major city. It’s a nice city as cities go but I’ve had enough of concrete jungles full of busy people. I did notice that Santiago is a lot quieter than most cities which is nice. It’s also hot, dam hot. We took our bikes in for service with BMW Santiago, what a waste of time that was. They were the nicest people you could ever meet but they didn’t do what was asked of them; they even gave us the wrong tires because they didn’t have the ones we were looking for. A word of advice if you ever have to go there bring your own lube; you’ll need it when they present you with the bill. The morning after we picked up Glen who is joining us on the journey ,shopped around for more bike parts and headed south.

From Santiago we headed south along the Pan-Americana for as long as we could stand it. It wasn’t very long at all before we were all drifting about the road and falling asleep on the mindlessly boring piece of highway; we turned off as soon as we could and ended up camping in an orchard along a river bank. The owner of the property is a biker himself and was happy to tell us where to camp down by a river. The next day we collected as many apples as we could carry and headed off along the coast before camping on a nice beach (or so we thought). That night after a dinner of pork chops and lots of apple sauce Andre heard a noise and got up to investigate only to discover his spare tires and Marks tools had been stolen. It was lucky Andre heard them and scared them off as we all had unlocked stuff left on our bikes. That morning we searched the bushes along the beach and demanded to look in our neighbors tents and cars but we had no luck.  Our neighbors were mostly immigrant workers brought in for the seasonal farm work. When we first set up camp we thought they were holiday makers but they were far from it. Whoever stole the stuff was long gone by morning. We later discovered that they had stolen Andre’s machete as well, it was just as well Andre didn’t see the guys and give chase. Following this we had to search for more tires for Andre, we need to carry spares because of the remoteness of the route we are taking down through Chile. It was then onto the lakes district riding around volcano after volcano before heading to Porto Montt and catching the ferry into Patagonia.

I have been looking forward to Patagonia since leaving Alaska and it hasn’t disappointed me yet. We had to catch three ferries and ride on fantastic dirt roads to get into the heart of it. First stop was a little town of Chaiten. This place sits at the base of some volcano, not a good place for a town. It was covered in ash from an eruption four years ago. A river of ash flowed through the town and buried half of the buildings. The government tried to get the residents to leave but most objected and wouldn’t budge. This resulted in the town being half abandoned and falling into disarray. Because of the weather we couldn’t camp. The guest houses were all full so we ended up sleeping in a shed for two nights while waiting for the weather to pass, luckily there was a nice wood burning stove inside so we could dry out all of our soaking wet gear. From here we rode on more dirt roads towards Coihaique stopping to camp a night along the way.

I have encountered countless protests on my travels through Chile. There are road blocks throughout the country especially in Patagonia. The people are protesting against a variety of things, the government is trying to build a dam in one area so the people block the roads and disrupt no one but themselves and a few tourists. I completely support these people’s protests but they have to organize and do it right. They have to do as the French do and block the capital Santiago with their tractors, bring the city to a standstill not their own little towns, which does nothing.  The government wants to build a dam and flood a valley full of houses to create a hydro electrical plant in one of the windiest places on earth where a wind farm would be the better option. Governments are the same all over the world I guess, full of corrupt baby kissing useless lying morons.

Other places they have been protesting about lack of facilities and infrastructure. The blocking of fuel trucks from the roads has become a problem for us. We spent 14 hours in a Q for fuel in a town of Coihaique from 9am to 11pm. The local people block fuel trucks from reaching the fuel stations, forgetting that they are the very people quing for the petrol every other day. We were in the Q from 9am along with hundreds of other cars; the fuel truck showed up at 4pm after somehow getting through the demonstrators but then they all showed up and blocked the vehicles from getting access to the fuel stations. Fires were lit all around the station and heaps of tires were burned while the cops just stood by and watched. They’re protesting about protecting the environment by burning tires and filling the skies with poisonous toxic smoke. Makes a hell of a lot of sense really.

One of the fires got so big it melted the overhead power lines and the whole town was cast into darkness. The protesters, now really excited by the darkness turned into rioters and on their own petrol station. It was being powered by its own generator and it lit up like a space ship landing in the night sky. They pelted it and all surrounding cars with rocks, breaking windows and smashing up the petrol pumps. We were a few hundred meters down the road and unaware of what was happening until the cars ahead of us started to flee as the protesters came our way. By the time we realized what was going on it was too late, they were upon us. We were parked behind a truck and slightly obscured from view when they passed us by; we looked like we were fleeing and luckily enough most rioters didn’t really notice us. The ones that did shouted abuse but kept walking. They were being forced down the road by teargas firing riot police. We then had to ride towards the petrol station through the police and tear gas to get away from the rioters. I copped a mouthful of this very delightful stuff on the way, I wasn’t sure what it was until I had tears streaming down my face and a sore throat. I reached the station to find it severely damaged, full of rocks and smoking tear gas shells.

The next morning we got up early and went in search of fuel, another station had received a shipment through the night and we were able to fill up after quing for a short hour. We rode about 5km out-of-town before being stopped at another road block this time set up by a load of truckers for some unknown reason. I’d had enough of this by now so rode right to the front and told them to get the hell out of the way. They produced a board full of nails and threatened to put it in front of the bike, Nick and Ivanka then came to the front as well, we were all a bit pissed off and let it be known, this must have had an effect as they let us through. We then rode on to the town of Porto Tranquilo before being stopped again on the way in. We wanted to camp on the other side of their town on a lake so we had to wait a few hours here; we passed the time cooking some soup and lying about in the sun. We camped in the shadows of ice-covered mountains that night before waking up to one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. The lake was lit up with the morning sun along with the snow-capped mountains surrounding it. We rode around this lake General Carrera on a dirt track passing through ice fields for most of the next day before being stopped at another road block ten km from the Argentinean border.

This was the last one; we could take no more so we crossed out of Chile and into Argentina at the town of Chile Chico. We couldn’t go much further south trough Chile without having to double back anyhow. We have to re-enter Chile to get to Ushuaia but hopefully there won’t be any road blocks that far south.

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