Banghazi to Tubruk

I left Benghazi around 8:30 am heading for Tubruk, my GPS had it as a 6 hour ride along the coast. About 50 km out of town a car pulled up beside me as I was riding along. The driver was motioning for me to stop and have something to eat with them. Now this happens a lot and I normally just wave and decline but this guy was politely persistent and kept pulling up besides me. He had 3 women in the car with him so I figured it must be safe enough to stop and I pulled in to a restaurant behind him.

His name is Raffa Mohammad and he is from Benghazi. He left the women in the car and we went inside. Raffa bought drinks and sandwiches for me even though I said I didn’t want any as I just had breakfast. We then headed outside for the photo op with the bike and everyone else in the car park. Raffa then gave me 20 Dinar (about 15$) for Benzine (Petrol). I insisted I didn’t need it but it was forced upon me. Raffa then enquired about my route and we bid goodbye.

About 5 km further along the road Raffa was stopped and flagging me down. I pulled over and he told me he reckoned my route wasn’t safe and that I should follow him as he was also going to Tubruk. He looked like a decent trustworthy guy so I decided to trust him even though I couldn’t find his route on my GPS.

We headed off the main road up into the mountains and out into the desert. After an hour we stopped at a gas station where he advised me to fill up as it was going to be the last station for 250 km or so. I filled up and went to pay with the money he had given me for gas earlier but he had already paid. We then headed off across the desert into the unknown. The road was good enough. There was not much to worry about except for the odd camel wandering about and traffic was light so the trip was very enjoyable. There were plenty of dancing dust devils in the desert to keep me entertained along the way. About half way through the desert we stopped again for lunch which I was not allowed to pay for either.

When we reached Tubruk around 2pm I was dropped off right at my hotel. Once again I have been amazed by the generosity of the people in this country. Tomorrow I will cross the border into Egypt. A crossing that apparently can take up to 9 hours to get through and cost as much as $300.

I will miss Libya and it’s people. I have found them to be among the most helpful and generous people I have ever encountered. The western media give Libya a bad reputation but once again I have found this to be a lie. Come see Libya and meet it’s people if you get the chance and you will be presently surprised. I reckon in five to ten years the country will once again be on it feet and a domineering player on the world stage. Libya, thank you for everything, I’ve had a wonderful time here and  I wish you all the best.

Advertisements
Posted in Libya | 5 Comments

Libya

I reached the border around 2 o’clock. It was chaotic with people everywhere. There were four lines of cars about 500 meters long heading out of the country. I skipped the line and shot to the front but that didn’t help much. Everyone else had abandoned their cars and were all shoving to get their passports stamped.

There were four booths with only one border control guard inside each. There were windows on all sided of these booths each of which was stuffed with arms holding numerous passports. It was total chaos. I headed for the biggest office I could find and just walked in and asked for help, there was no way I was dealing with that madness. The big boss man came and took my documents and decided there was something wrong with my Libyan visa. I sat there for two hours in the 30 degree heat while he sorted it out. I though at one stage that this was it I was going no further but then he gave me my passport and said have a safe trip.

Dreading the Q on the other side I mounted up and headed to Libya. What a surprise, there was absolutely no one there except my friend Masoud. Masoud works for Tidwa Travel (www.Tidwa.com.) agency and he helped me get the visa in the first place. He took my passport and had it stamped in seconds, I was also given water and snacks by the border guards. It was then off to sort the bike and get Libyan plates. This all took no more than half an hour. It was easier than going through Heathrow. We then set off at speed for Masoud’s house in the town of Zuwara about 70km away. I spent a great night here with Masoud where I was filled in on all the details of the past and present. Thanks for all your help buddy.

The next morning I headed for Tripoli. It was only a two hour ride from Masoud’s place. Traffic flows here at some speed; it’s not uncommon to see a blur go past squeezing through a traffic jam. The country has other problems to deal with at the moment and traffic rules are of no priority. Everyone here is very friendly and helpful so the chaotic driving works just fine. On the plus side I get to ride like a lunatic as well.

I arrived in Tripoli and met with Abdul a friend of Masoud. I then met with Abdul’s biker buddies and we cruised the streets of Tripoli into the night stopping for beautiful sea food and coffee along the way. You would not meet nicer people anywhere. The next day I changed the gearbox oil and with Hazam’s and the captains help we changed the seal in the final drive.

Abdul( the Captain) also put me up in one of his hotels free of charge for the three nights I spent in Tripoli. The next morning I joined about 20 riders from the Tripoli Classic Bikers Club and we headed for the hills about 80km away. Most of these guys ride Harley’s and are great fun to ride with. We spent the whole day riding and didn’t get back till late. I really want to thank all the guys for looking after me and especially Hazam for helping me fix my bike, Big E for constantly feeding me and The Captain for his generosity. These guys are some of the most helpful and kindest guys I have ever met anywhere. I am eternally grateful for ye’re help. I hope to see ye all again one day.

The next morning I got up at 6am but fell back to sleep not to reawaken until 8am. I was supposed to leave early as I was going to ride the 1040km to Benghazi in one day. I was advised this was the safest option as stopping in middle of the country is not advisable. I had to ride through a town called Sirte, this was Gadaffi’s home town and the place where he was captured. When I realised I wouldn’t make it to Benghazi I called the Captain and he advised me of a hotel inside a complex that is owned by an oil company. I made it 700km in total that day and reached the hotel. Riding here is pretty hairy to say the least. The cars swerve into your lane when passing just to get a better look at you. You can’t take your eyes off the road for a second so it’s very tiring.

I checked in at the hotel in the oil complex and parked my bike in the board room. When I turned to exit there were 4 foreigners standing behind me. “Man where the hell did you come from” the first guy asked, “you got some pair of balls dude” was the seconds reply. When I told them where I’d come from  I got “Don’t you watch the news man” to which I replied “Nope”. They then proceeded to try and tell me all the horror stories they had heard and had been kept prisoner by but I didn’t want to hear them.

These guys are expats that get flown in for 6 weeks stints, there were about 10 of these guys in total, some American, English and some Scottish guys. They all teach English to the Libyan workers at the base. There is a landing strip in the oil fields and that’s about as far as any of them had ever gotten from the safety of the compound. They were amazed at what I was doing and where I had come from. Lots of these guys had just come over from Iraq as well; I don’t think they left the green zone over there either. I told them they were really missing out on a wonderful country and its people, to stop watching the tabloid news channels of Fox the BBC and CNN and to get out and see the country for themselves.

Yes there are the remnants of war still scattered throughout the desert but the war is over, it was a civil war and the people of Libya want to forget about it and move on. I was stopped at many checkpoints on the ride to the oil compound but all the soldiers want to do is make sure you’re alright. Some take your details for your own safety, others just wave you through. Most of the time I have been stopped it’s because they want to help me. They force water and food on me at every checkpoint. At the end of the day I must have had 5 litres of water and 3 litres of juice strapped to the back of the bike. Also my tank bag was full of bread, snack bars and fruit. Honestly I have never come across a friendlier people.

I left the compound the next morning and completed the 400km ride to Benghazi by 1pm. I took a spin around the city and found a hotel but realized they didn’t take visa. I then had to go in search of an ATM. While I was at the first on a guy noticed me and asked if I needed help. He took me all over town trying ATM machines but none worked. He was really worried for me and even tried to give me money. I had US $ in a stash for just an emergency so all was well but really have you ever had a complete stranger offer to give you money, I haven’t. What a country!

Tomorrow it’s on to Tubruq.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Posted in Libya | 3 Comments

Africa bound/ Tunisia

The Grandi Navi Veloci the pride of the Italian fleet was scheduled to sail at 10 am. For some reason the passengers were requested to be there for 8:30 am. I can only guess that they wanted a welcoming committee for the ships arrival at 10:30. It departed over two hours later. The only good thing about it was that it didn’t sink. The crossing was calm enough but it still took 10 hours to sail 320 km. Man those things are slow.

As I strapped my bike down to the rusting floor I noticed that my final drive seal was seeping oil. Not much of a problem in the western world but getting parts in Africa might prove a little difficult. I spent the journey trying to track down a garage in Tunis that could help.

There was a chaotic disembarkation the minute the ramp hit the dock. There were heaps of trucks and cars loaded like trucks, their loads piled high on their roofs meters above them. I was luckily enough to be able to squeeze my way to the front and reach the checkpoints in the first few vehicles.

I had to go through passport control and customs. Neither were too bad but it did take an hour of going here and there filling out the forms. I must say the customs guys were very friendly and helpful so it really was a breeze.
I had pre booked a hotel in Tunis and barely made the 12 km trip before reception closed for the night. In fact the guy had been waiting for me to arrive so he could go home.

The next day I went in search of a bike shop that could help me with the repairs. On route I passed a cop on a BMW RT so I pulled him over and asked him where his mechanic was. After five minutes of him trying to explain where it was in French he gave up and told me to follow him. So off we went at speed cruising through red lights. The shop was closed when we got there because it was a public holiday so there was nothing I could do except tackles the repairs myself.

I managed to get some gear oil, drain and refill the final drive. I then went for a test ride of about 40 km to Cartage to see the Roman ruins. It’s still leaking but at least I knew there’s enough oil in it for a while. The ruins were in ruins, not too much to see.

The next morning was spent going from garage to garage to see if anyone could help but no one was able. I kept getting the same response”go to  Motoradd BMW”. No worries but the next one is in Cairo Egypt. I eventually gave up and went and sourced generic parts from a few shops. Thanks Adrian for your advice. My Botch job seems to be working so I just drove on out on to the desert highway and headed south.

I stopped overnight on route in a town called Matamata in the mountains of Tunisia. The people here live in great big holes in the ground. It’s an amazing place. They first dig a hole about 2 stories deep, they vary in dimensions but you get the idea. Then they’ll dig a passageway with steps down to the footing. Afterwards passages are dug into the sides of these holes forming rooms that they use for bedrooms, kitchens, bathrooms etc. On route I stopped to have a look at one of these places an old lad came out and invited me in for some bread and tea. I sat there with him for about an hour while he explained how he built the place. He initially spent 2 years building his home but extended whenever he needed to. The rooms are all carpeted and whitewashed and they remain at nice temperature throughout the year.

The next day I went and explored the nearby town of Matamata. George Lucas also filmed some star wars scenes here back in the day; the giant hole used for the movie is now a hotel and you can spend the night. From here it was off through the mountains, through some magnificent scenery and twisty roads for about 50 km before I was back on the main road and bound for the Libyan border.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Posted in Tunisia | 1 Comment

Rome to the colonies

So I said goodbye to Rome giving it my best regards, tipped my hat to Marcus Aurelius the last of the great emperors and followed a flashing ambulance right out of the city. I was headed for the ancient Roman town of Pompeii. This whole town was covered in up to 6 meters of ash when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD. I stopped only briefly without visiting one of the most popular tourist’s destinations in Italy.

I pressed on for Sicily as the sky darkened with rain clouds periodically unleashing their fury from above. I reached the ferry port of Reggio Calabria around 9pm and set about finding solitude of solace. As I passed the ferry terminal I noticed cars and trucks lined up along the warf. I went to investigate and wound up on the island of Sicily in a town called Messina. This delightful city has an abundance of hotels; unfortunately for me the first three I checked were full. I wish the fourth had been as well because I ended up staying there and it was some abomination of creation.

The room consisted of a single bed which was hiding in the corner when I entered. There was a wicker basket wardrobe and a sink nailed to the green and cream industrial painted walls. There was a buzzer next to my bed and a crucifix torturing Jesus above it. What sort of satanic insanity had this room previously seen were the last thoughts as I slipped away? I didn’t sleep for long as my insane asylum/convent was right next to a ramp that led trucks to the ferry. As they dragged their heavy loads past, their exhaust fumes filled my room. At first light I took off without even enquiring after breakfast.

The Island’s port of Palermo was only a few hours ride away. That’s where I depart the Continent of Europe so that’s where I went. It was a nice and relaxed ride through the mountains with their Mafiosi villages. There are mirror glass wearing Good Fellows hanging out outside pizza shops all over these sandstone towns.

I’ve had a great time riding around Europe but the adventure must go on. Tomorrow I leave the 1980’s and Italy behind and head for the Continent of Africa where the real adventure begins.

Posted in Europe | 5 Comments

On the road again.

It’s been eighteen months since I have posted on this site, eighteen months of patient waiting and planning but now I’m finally back on the road once more. Let me quickly fill in the missing past for you.

I returned home to Australia mid April 2012 only to discover I wasn’t ready to face reality quite yet. I stayed around for a few weeks before the urge to travel kicked in once more. I took off with a little backpack, destination Asia. I travelled around Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand once more, stopping in Thailand at a health retreat in the mountains of Koh Phangan (http://www.montevistathailand.com). Here I participated in daily yoga and meditation classes and had my insides flushed out routinely before being refilled with nourishing gruel. Here I was once again made ready for the world.

Again I returned to Australia and to my beloved fiancée. This time I was able to settle back, I even got a job and pretended to myself that this was normal. Life continued without much to report for a year or so until I headed back to Thailand with fifty of our closest friends to marry the most beautiful woman I have ever met. We stayed for a month and celebrated until our livers had heart attacks before returning to Australia once more.

I was now determined to get back on the road and start my African motorcycle adventure ASAP. I had originally planned on riding from Cork to Nordkapp in Norway and down through Eastern Europe before hitting Africa by this has not worked out. I arrived in Europe a month later than planned so I have had to cut out Scandinavia and Eastern Europe for now. The weather has turned cold up north early this year and I really don’t like the cold.

So now the plan is to have a quick ride around Europe, head down through Italy and into Tunisia. From here I will enter Libya and Egypt before heading south along the east coast then across to Namibia and down to Cape Town South Africa. I reckon the trip will take between four and five months all going well. Trish is joining me in Tanzania for a month comes December so we’ll have to see what happens then. She is willing to get on the back of the bike but I fear we may not cover much ground. I can picture her in a taxi full of shopping following me through the dusty roads.

Right now I’m in a hotel in Rome Italy. I left a sunny Ireland eleven days ago aboard a ship bound for Roscoff France. From there I rode 1070km in one sitting to Pamplona Spain, not much to report along the way, the weather was cold and I figured Spain would be warmer so I just kept going. I explored the city for ten minutes before crashing out in a hotel. The next day took me to see friends of mine Aidan and Carmen in Barcelona. I stayed with them for two nights, explored the city, eat tapas and drank some beers. There was much rejoicing. Thanks for looking after me guys.

From here I rode through the Pyrenees Mountains and through Andorra. The mountain pass was cold but the roads and views were amazing. On the descent into France my back wheel started to slide all over the road. I thought the bearing in the rear wheel had given way as there is a little play in it so I pulled over just outside a little French village. You have never seen a man so happy to discover he had a puncture. I was delighted it wasn’t my bearings. I set about unpacking my bike to retrieve my puncture repair kit but decided against it. I had a good feeling about this and decided to roll slowly down into the village. To my delight the first place I came across was a tyre repair shop. I removed the wheel and had it quickly plugged. The whole incident only cost me an hour. I pulled up that night in Montpellier France, tucked into a giant steak and crashed out in some dive of a hotel.

From here I rode along the French Rivera to Monaco, I had a spin around and some lunch before heading to Italy and setting up camp. The hotels in Monaco were a little out of my budget. I had wanted to camp before reaching Africa just to make sure I had everything I needed, to my delight it seems I have.

The next ride was to take me up into the Alps to Bern Switzerland. The road was slow going along the coast so I had to jump on the motorway if I wanted any chance of reaching Bern before dark. The motorways in Italy are fantastic but pretty expensive. Petrol here is ridiculous as well, up to 1 euro 90 cents a litre. The trip to Switzerland cost me over a hundred euro’s in total but it was defiantly worth it. As I ascended the Alps the temperature fell rapidly. This crossing took me through a 6km tunnel and into Switzerland. The border checkpoint is actually in the tunnel. To my dismay I exited the tunnel and into Switzerland to find the place covered in snow. I didn’t hang around but got down and out of the Alps as quick as possible. I reached my buddy Andre’s place in Bern bang on six o’clock. We had dinner and many beers that night. The next day was spent exploring Bern with Andre. It’s a beautiful city which I would highly recommend visiting. Bern actually translates into Bear and they have three of these beasts in the city underneath a bridge. That night we went to an ice hockey game between Geneva and Bern, It was great to see a live game; Bern won 3-1 as well. Thanks for your hospitality Andre.

The next ride took me back into the Alps and through a 17km long tunnel before the road exited into Italy once more. Entering the tunnel the temperature was 6 degrees, in the middle of the tunnel the temperature was 34 degrees and I had all my riding and rain gear on, exiting the tunnel it was 5 degrees and I was covered in sweat. I pulled up in Venice that night. I went and explored a bit of the city but there’s far too much walking to be done in Venice and knowing as I do that I will have to bring my wife there someday I decided I had enough and got a night’s sleep, Venice can wait.

All roads lead to Rome so that’s where I ended up next. I got a hotel in a pretty central location and set off on foot to see as much as I could. In a few hours I saw all the main attractions but decided to spend another day here and see it all again properly. The next morning I went to the colosseum, the Spanish steps, the Trevi fountain, the Roman forum along with many other sites before finishing up in the Vatican.

I must say the Vatican is pretty impressive for sure but why wouldn’t it be when they have all the money in the world. My hat goes off to them in a big way. They have scammed the people of the world out of there hard earned money for centuries. People today give out about Scientology beliefs and practices but what’s the difference. One religion had been making up rubbish for centuries longer that’s all. L. Ron Hubbard who saw an opening and thought he could also do with some cash would have us believes we are all aliens trapped in physical bodies. Joseph Smith would have us believe an angel gave him some golden plates from where he translated the book of Mormon out of a hat. We think these people crazy but forget about the Bible stories. Stories like the one that tells of two of each type of animal being brought aboard an arc or the tale about the Garden of Eden with its tasty apples and talking snake. These two stories even imply we all descended from the same people not only once but twice. Just because these stories are centuries old doesn’t make them any more believable.  As I say my hat goes off to the Catholic Church, May God bless them.

Tomorrow I head for Sicily; how far I will get has yet to be seen.  I hope you will enjoy the ride.

Kev

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Posted in Europe | 3 Comments

The final ride in the Americas – Terra del Fuego – Buenos Aires

The ride from Ushuaia through Terra Del Fuego towards Buenos Aires was a mix of emotions for me. I was glad to be heading north towards sunshine once again but sad that this was going to be the last part of this ride. I just want to keep riding, I don’t care where, I could ride all the ways back to Alaska no worries, then just keep circling the earth for ever until I have ridden every road in each direction.

It was only a short 3040km from Ushuaia to Buenos Aires. We rode the 500km to Rio Gallegos in one day, most of it on dirt and gravel roads which were great fun to ride on through the howling winds of Patagonia. The wind has been kind to me all along, just the odd gust here and there but now they were making up for it by blowing me all over the roads. It reminded me of riding through the deserts of Iran but in Iran the roads are good. Here it’s downright dangerous especially when you try to overtake trucks and almost get blown underneath the wheels. Exciting all the same.

From Rio Gallegos the road was all paved, mostly flat and really boring. We averaged 500km a day sleeping most of the way to Buenos Aires and camped most nights. Thankfully the winds died down as the km fell. On route we diverted to see penguins and Orca whales in the national park on peninsular Valdiles. These whales snatch meals in the form of seal pups from the beach. Sadly though, we were a week or so early to see the Orca’s in action. There were plenty of pups playing in the surf but the whales hadn’t shown up yet. I have included a picture of a picture showing the whales in action in the slide show at the bottom. Nat Geo made a great documentary at this beach which is well worth a look.

The ride to the peninsular was interesting given all the rain in the area before we arrived. Parts of the dirt road to the coast had turned to mud so it was nice and slippery and great fun to ride on. My back wheel decided to pass my front out again in a particular bad section. Luckily for me I managed to stay on my feet as my bike took a mud bath. After this spill unbeknown to me my spare tires began to rub on my rear tire which resulted in me ripping some knobs off the rear tire and burning a hole right through my spare front tire. It was lucky I didn’t go too far before noticing. I was given full run of a tire repair place to change out my now destroyed rear, the shop was closed but the guy didn’t mind as long as I done all the work. From here we rode to a place called Azul and spent the night with a fellow biker named Jorge who left us camp in his garden, cooked up a massive BBQ and stuffed us all with meat. Thanks Jorge.

I’m now sitting in a hotel in Buenos Aires in the nice 30 degree heat. I’m going to be here for a while so I can arrange shipping for my bike and get to know the city and it’s people. So far it’s been fantastic and I’m actually learning to sit still again. Waking up in the same bed four mornings in a row is somehow strange to me. Every morning I feel the urge to ride, the urge to explore, the urge to get lost, to go some place new. On the other hand it’s been nice to have somewhere to lay my hat, maybe I’ll be able to assimilate after all.

Given all that’s happened in the last seven months I’ve decided to return to Australia for a while before tackling the African part of this trip. It will be good to spend some time with my family and friends and to have some time with my girlfriend Trish who has been very supportive of my trip. I know she’s only ready and willing to help me plan the logistics for the next leg of this journey. Your ground support has been great baby, thanks for everything.

This ride has been a wonderful experience for me, a wonderful experience in simple, natural living. What I’m going to miss most is the freedom, the freedom to get up each morning, jump on my bike and ride off in any direction.  The freedom to ride all day set up camp and sleep under the stars. The freedom to go wherever, whenever I chose. The freedom from unnecessary possessions and unnecessary burdens. The freedom to get lost and the freedom not to care.  You quickly realize what the essentials of life are when your on the road, such as warmth when you are cold, shelter on a rainy day, food when you are hungry and beer when you are thirsty. You soon put material things in their proper place, realizing that they are there for use, but relinquishing them when they have served their purpose. You soon experience and learn to appreciate the great freedom of simplicity. Over all I’ll miss the adventures and the adventurers I have met along the way.

I hope you readers have enjoyed the journey as I have enjoyed writing about it. A big thank you to everyone for your support and encouragement along the way. There were two times that without it I might have thrown in the towel. Thanks to all the riders I’ve met and ridden with along the way, you know who you are. Hopefully it wont be too long before I ride again. I’m looking forward to sharing the journey already.

Ride on

Kev O’Keeffe

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Posted in Argentina | Tagged , , , | 11 Comments

Terra Del Fuego

After riding 70,000 km through 35 countries from Australia through Asia, the Middle East, Europe, North, Central and South America I have reached the end of the world,       Ushuaia Argentina!

The ride from Porto Areanas to Terra Del Fuego was great; It had a mix of everything thrown in. There was 100 km of dirt to contend with once we disembarked from the ferry. This was both exciting and dangerous and served as a reminder of what I’ve gone through for the last seven months whilst riding from Alaska to Argentina. There was also a border crossing to deal with down here. We had to cross back to Argentina to reach Ushuaia on the island of Terra Del Fuego.

From the ferry we were able to watch dolphins play in the wake of the boat as we crossed. This was a sign of things to come; this part of the world is full of wildlife. We camped in the wilds about 150km from Ushuaia, in a forest beside’s a river. I woke up early the next morning and found our camp site surrounded with grazing alpaca. They were soon scared off by a wild dog that appeared from nowhere, a wild hungry looking dog. He set off after a cria that was being carefully guarded by its mother. There’s also are all manner of birds down here, eagles are plentiful but they always take off before I can get a good picture.

From here we had to ride the last 150km through rain-soaked mountains. The fog was so ticked through the top that I could barely see the yellow line in the center of the road. It wouldn’t seem right to have good weather down here but that’s exactly what we arrived into town to find, the sun was there to welcome us. I had gotten split up from Mark and Andre on the way in and as I was waiting in town for them to pass I met a buddy of mine who happened to be walking past, Greg from Canada. I first met Greg in Alaska when I was returning from Prudhoe Bay; he has also ridden the same ride over the last seven months. We all went to the Dublin Irish bar to celebrate reaching another mile stone and we celebrated well into the night.

The following day we went as far as the road will take you to a point named Bahia Lapataia. This is the end of the road, you can go no further south than here without getting wet. The obligatory photo with the sign was taken before we went in search of some wildlife. From here the road goes north back to Buenos Aires which I’ll be taking in a few days. I haven’t ridden north in seven months, it will be good to have the sun in my face for a change.

Posted in Argentina | 11 Comments

Chile – Argentina – Chile

Crossing into Argentina was easy and hassle free, the process took 10 min at each side once we found the border. After entering we rode onto the first town and set up camp. The differences between the countries and people are immediately noticeable. I instantly liked Argentina. This is the last country for this part of the trip but I have to enter and exit the place a few times, 3 times in fact. In the morning we rode out onto the infamous Ruta 40 and headed south for a town called El Chalten. It was a two day ride on gravel roads but I loved every minute of it. Ruta 40 is being paved all the time and the adventurous dirt track that riders seek out is fast disappearing.  The dirt road is fantastic to ride (in parts). It meanders through the landscape rising and dipping as it goes. I was able to reach speeds of 140kph in parts. It can be quite dangerous though when you come upon deep gravel, it’ll scare you slow for a few minutes but then the excitement takes hold and off you go again. There is a new road being constructed alongside but the old road is still ride able for now. There is not much to see between towns here, in fact there was nothing to see between towns but you can’t take your eyes off the road for a second anyways. You’re all alone out there for around 400km, running out of fuel or breaking down would certainly be another adventure within the adventure.

The first days ride to El Chalten was appropriately 500km on dirt roads. It was a long and exciting day. All riders were split up throughout the day as we all rode at a different pace. Mark and myself reached the town of Tres Lagos first and managed to get hold of the last 20 liters of fuel (10 each) in town.Without this we could go no further as the next day’s destination was 180km away through more deserted landscape. We found a little hostel with  some serious heating, had dinner and called it a day.

The next morning Mark and I headed off to the Fitz Roy mountain range and the town of El Chalten. The road from Tres Lagos is paved and dull so we made good time. Here we met up with Andre again and went exploring the mountain side. We even climbed a little to get a better view of this spectacular mountain range. This is a place most people come to hike for days on end but after climbing Machu Picchu we made a rule to never stray too far from the bikes again. After all hiking is just a fancy word for walking and walking sucks, especially up hill.

The next morning we set off for the Perito Moreno glacier a mere 300km away. What a sight this was. I rounded a bend to be greeted with the biggest chunk of ice I’ve ever seen. It was so impressive I over shot the road and almost rode off a cliff. This 250km square ice formation, 30 km in length,  is the world’s third largest reserve of fresh water. It is one of only three Patagonian glaciers that is growing, the face of which averages 74 meters in height. We stayed for about 4 hours watching huge chunks of ice calf and fall in to the lake below causing huge waves. It’s a sight that must be seen if ever you’re out this way. From here we retreated back to the town of El Calafate and camped for the night.

The next morning we set off in search of a mechanic (Andre is with us again). This search has brought us back into Chile to the town of Porto Areanas. We have been here two nights already but ride out tomorrow, once again aiming for Argentina and the town of Ushuaia at the ends of the earth.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Posted in Argentina, Chile | 5 Comments

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Posted in Chile | 1 Comment

Bolivia – Chile

We left Potasi after a hearty breakfast of bread and jam and headed for the Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flats which sit at 3653 meters above sea level and covers 12000 square km. It was only 200km away which made for a very enjoyable day. The roads were great, well most of them, the last 30km were dirt but great fun to ride. About 15km out-of-town Andre’s chain snapped and left him freewheeling out of control. Luckily mark had a rope and was able to tow him our final destination for the night, the town called Uyuni.  It’s another beautiful town with beautifully designed streets and fine architecture. Sorry I’m lying, it’s another fine shithole defiling the surface of our planet. Before you enter town you’re greeted with what I first thought to be the city dump, unfortunately it wasn’t, it was just another few square km full of plastic that was most likely thrown from car windows. There are actually signs on the busses here telling people to throw their rubbish out the window and not to litter on the bus. We spent the night here planning our next adventure, it’s going to be a 3 day ride through deserts, volcanoes and mountains to Chile.

 

We headed out onto the salt at 5am, a little early for me but well worth it once we were out there. We had to take a 4×4 out there because the salt would wreak the bikes(we met a French type who brought his brand new bike out there. It was completely wreaked after one day. The salt had corroded everything including the wiring). I’d never seen anything quite like it before. Afterwards we headed out-of-town along a dirt road for about 200km before setting up camp in a field surrounded by lama and alpacas. We spent a cold night drinking beer sitting by a lama dung and plant root fire.

 

The next morning we headed off for a lake Colorado, a two-hour ride on the right road but a six-hour ride on the “road” we took. We ended up riding through the Arbol de Piedra, a Andes desert. I was taking the lead riding through sand, rock, gravel and washboard roads when I noticed one of my camera’s missing. I turned back to look for it, luckily enough  about five km back there it was lying in the middle of the track I previously had ridden. Since I hadn’t passed any of the others on my route back I figured they must have gone around the other side of the dunes so I turned around and gave chase. Unbeknown to me Andre had just broken down at the bottom of the dune I had just turned around on; I was now chasing shadows through this high altitude isolated plateau. I rode on alone for hours not knowing where I was or whether I was even going the right direction. My GPS had gone flat again and I couldn’t get it going and my back up GPS(my phone) also shat itself. How do these things always know when to break?

 

I was now following the deepest tracks, just hoping I was going the right direction. Next thing there’s a hail storm and being above  4000 meters it was fairly cold and miserable up there. I was beginning to get a little concerned for my life to be honest, I had enough water and food to last me 24hours but if I had an accident or ran out of fuel it could be days before I was found. Nevertheless and having no choice I pressed on through the cold. All of a sudden I came across this “stone tree” and a 4×4 with a few Colombians inside. I knew where I was when I saw the tree, I was in the desert riding the track we were told not to take.We had originally wanted to ride this track but were sternly advised against it.

 

I had a chat with the Colombians and found out I was only about 40km away from a ranger station. I had been on the wrong track all day but at least I had been going the right direction. I made it to the ranger station and enquired about my friends. It had taken me 6 hours to ride 90km through this desert. Luckily I only fell off once and didn’t do any damage , although to be honest I almost fell off a dozen or more times, one time at speed.

 

About an hour after I had arrived at the range station a 4×4 came in and told me they had passed my friends that two of them had broken down but were now moving again and two more were about an hour back. I headed off back into the abyss once more and about half an hour later I came across a worn out Nick and Ivanka. We decided not to go back any more because we could easily take a wrong turn and miss the other two and end up getting lost again ourselves. Instead we headed back and tried to find accommodation for the night. Soon enough Mark and Andre arrived looking a little worse for wear as well. They had to repair Andre’s bike in the middle of the desert , to repair it they had to dismantle half the bike as well. Andre was lucky not to have to abandon it out there. We then had to cook our own dinner in a “hotel” you wouldn’t sentence a dog too. It was defiantly one of the hardest and most rewarding days riding I’ve ever done. Everyone had taken a tumble throughout the day; we were all glad it was over, nobody was looking forward to the next day when we would have to do it all over again.

 

The next morning we left Laguna Colorado and its multicoloured flamingo filled lakes and set out through the desert again, this time all staying together. The first thing we came across was a mountain side of geysers. We had great fun throwing a flip-flop into one and watching it shoot 50 feet up into the air. Words of advice don’t dry clean your motorbike pants in a geyser when you’re wearing them, they can get a little hot. There were bubbling mud pits all around as well and believe me when the sign says mind your step you’d better mind your step. I had one hot foot for hours after stepping in some hot mud. Luckily for me I was wearing bike boots.

 

After this we came across a thermal hot spring beside a Laguna so we had lunch and a wash. It was good to be clean again even for a little while. Next the track headed back into the cold desert where the rains once again came a calling. Before long we came across the border and check point of Bolivia. The border post was the most isolated one I’ve ever came across. It sits all alone in the middle of the bleakest mountains imaginable. The guy stationed here must have butchered some royal family to get this post.  Thankfully it was the quickest exit I’ve had out of any country. We were out of the Andes and free of Bolivia once more.

 

(Bolivia is one of the most spectacular countries I’ve ever visited. It’s full of wonders and natural beauties that will along with the altitude take your breath away. I was really sick of taking pictures on the last few days; every head turn deserves a snap. On the other hand the towns and cities are among the most disgusting I’ve ever seen and frankly the people are quiet miserable as well. While the rest of the world is going “green” Bolivians are throwing rubbish from their car windows. We need to educate these people and get them to reuse and recycle before they destroy the country. No country belongs to any man or group of people, the world belongs to us all and we need to protect it. It’s not the people of Bolivia’s fault, they have little education. Maybe our carbon taxes should be directed to helping these people, to educating them, to get them to put catalytic converters in the vehicles and stop pumping toxic fumes into the atmosphere, to get them to stop burning and recycle, after all; we all breathe the same air. Aren’t there failures ours as well? We will all suffer in the end if it’s not sorted out soon.)

 

The ride out of Bolivia and out of the Andes was almost straight down, about 5km from the Bolivian border we reached a sealed road and descended into Chile rapidly. As km after km fell the temperature rose dramatically. By the time we had reached the bottom and a town called San Pedro the temperature had risen 25degrees (from 8 to 33). Entering Chile was straight forward although it took about two hours because of the que. We found a campsite, had some dinner and a few beers and called it a night. Another hard day in the saddle over with.

 

We were now in the Atacama desert of northern Chile. There’s not much here but sand and mining company’s. There are some mines 15km long, they’re literally moving mountains here to get at the shiny bits inside. We’ve camped most nights in Chile so far as there is little else to do besides ride and eat in this part of the world. I’m writing this from inside my tent on a beach about 200km north of Santiago. Tomorrow we enter the capital to get some work done on the bikes; to get them ready for the final assault southward, the journey to Ushuaia.  

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Posted in Bolivia, Chile | 3 Comments