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Santiago !

Written on: Friday March 28th, 2008

Peadar had to wait in Puerto Varas for parts to be sent from Santiago. I had already had my fork seals changed and new boots put on the forks and a new battery put in. So on friday morning I set off with the intention of making it to Santiago in one week to be there on the friday for a weekend in the city. There was still a lot to see before I got there. So in the next 7 days I was going to try get to 5 different National Parks
1 Parque National Vicente Perez Rosales
2 Parque National Puyehue
3 Nahuel Huapi Parque National
4 Parque Nacional Lanin
5 Parque Nacional Conguillio
All these parks are reasonably close to one another and Parque National Vicente Perez Rosales was only 20ks from where we stayed. I visited the main lake and walked for a short while towards Volcan Osorno, a snow capped volcano with good skiing during the winter. Then back on my bike and around to the other side where I took the long and winding road to the top where I took a walk around to see a small crater on the side of the Mtn and enjoy the view from way up there, then back on the bike and on to Parque National Puyehue. I set up camp and looked for the thermal pools. I was delighted to have finally gotten away from Puerto Varas and it was great end to the day to just lay in the hot thermal pools. They had an indoor and outdoor pool which had the same hot water heated by the volcano but I just wanted to lay by the river in the rock pools because to me the swimming pools just looked like a normal heated pool whereas I wanted the real natural feel.. You know ...natural'n'stuff, Deadly.
Early the next day I drove 18ks further up and into the park to the top of a different volcano and to where there is meant to be really good viewpoint, Ive become accustomed to the spectacular... I guess this one was ....alright. So back on the bike to get to another part of the park to go on a walk through a forest where there is a 800 year old tree. Now, the book Peadar and I both have on national parks is amazing, great detail etc...but it was printed in 1991.. and some things have changed since then. I arrived to find out the 'Grandfather' tree fell down in 2000. 800 years standing and it couldn't just wait 8 more! Later that day I crossed the border back into Argentina and into the third park. This is a park which is centered around one large beautiful lake but there are many other lakes here as well. I had been trying to get information out of people about whats the best to do here, where to go etc.. But it seemed quite hard to get an answer to the question, What 1 thing would you do in this park? The next day I decided on where I was going to go, well what sold it to me was how I was gonna get there. So I parked the 650 and rented a mountain bike. As I sped into the park the ranger told me walk it for the first k as there was a slope, I though ...Yeah, sure buddy for the next 5 meters past you, ya mean.. but his 'slope' was a crazily steep hill, so back to walking. What goes up must come down and soon I was bombing it across the forest trails. It was such a rush to be flying along with my old friend 'the bicycle'. T'was good to be able to bunny hop over tree stumps and things in my way. Not really possible on the Moto; though my bicycle-instinct(superpower) has made me try in vain when rocks appear all of a of sudden, like out of nowhere!..
I went flat out through the forest for just over an hour and got to the forest within a forest, if you get me.. Its called El Parque Nacional Los Arrayanes and is a huge cluster of a certain type of trees. Some multihundred years old. Even though it is already inside P.N. Nahuel Huapi, Los Arrayanes was created protect its forest of rare arrayán trees. I would have though it being in a national park was enough but I guess not, they are supposedly fragile and special that a wooden path has been made for the tourist to enjoy the view of the cinnamon coloured trees....  Of course I wouldn't have cared what was at the end of the trail cos getting there was so much fun.
When I had wandered round for a bit I went for a swim in the crystal clear waters of Nahuel Huapi Lake. I had noticed there were LOTS of Wasps round this forest, I think it is their International headquarters or something, but when I sat down to eat they were all over me. I like eating & it looked like a nice sambo. I wondered what to do, I mean I wasnt going to let them get the better of me but I didnt want to get stung. So I threw them a bit of tomato and summoned up the combined courage off the Lee brothers. All was OK. Again the ride back was hugely enjoyable. Once the bike was returned it was goodbye to peddling and hello throttle.
I headed north through the park and looked for somewhere to camp. I ended up 20ks off a side road at the beautiful Lake traful. I was camped 5 meters from the lake at night the moon came up over the lake and a horse decided to pose for me by the lake. I met three other bikers two Germans and one yank there, they had rented motorbikes from Santiago ($75 per day) for a few weeks and were cruising round with their wives following in a rented pickup truck. It was the 23rd, so I was 5 months on this trip! During a recent skype conversation my mates I mentioned that even with only 5 months gone it would have taken me until 2014! to accrue this much AL, interesting thought. The next day I was heading toward Park National Lanin, while I didn't want to stop in town I needed to go online and the very first Internet sign I saw was in a chocolate shop. Shit internet, great chocolate! I'm sure theres a lesson to be learned there somewhere.. Again I had to pick just a sample of the parks lakes as most were off side roads.
The first was right by the road so no detour needed, quick powerNap on the lake-beach... then as I was going I dropped the bike when doing a slow turn over uneven ground; this is the most frequent cause of dropping my fully loaded heavy heavy bike. People were like 2 foot away from me and didn't even seem the slightest bit interested in helping, but Ive picked it up on my own plenty of times now, so off I went. Having enjoyed the thermal pools so much in the other park I decided to pick the side road along a lake with thermal pools at the end. What a mistake, the road was terrible, potholes out of nowhere and loose rocks and well it was just bad. The Thermal pools were privately run by SPA Treatment people (Posh and expensive) .. so after I walked about looking for free, by the side of the river style thermal pools for a while I headed back down the terrible road. I left Park Nacional Lanin and stopped for petrol before heading on to find a campspot on my way towards the 5th park.
There I met a guy who was travelling in the Opposite direction, Alaska to Argentina... doesn't really have the same ring to it ; ) He is a reporter from the Netherlands he had intended to make it in 1 yr ...he was now just approaching 3.. I joked that if I go by the same ratio I wont be in Alaska for over 4 years, I had a coffee with him and talked about life on the road and Bolivia which he loves and where he is going to end up living, then when I was heading off it was almost pitch black and it all went downhill pretty quickly.
Three reasons not to drive your motorbike in South America at night:
1. U might miss a turn and take the wrong road then have to double back - CHECK
2. U might be unable to find a camping place because it is dark and you only have a headlight and you can only see off the side of the road by pointing your bike there, not practical really - CHECK...
3 If the circlip that holds on your front sprocket breaks and they Sprocket is shot off to the side of the road you wont be able to find it in the pitch black countryside - CHECK
So when I got a little lost and couldnt find a campspot I finally gave in and decided to go back to town to get a cheap hotel room.. 5 miles from town the front sprocket came off and I was stuck there, at least till morning, I hoped. And as luck would have it there was a nice bit of flat land by the road. The next morning I found the sprocket quiet easily and after a failed attempt to secure it I ended up using a piece of wire, like a Coathanger to hold it on. After a few short tests I was absolutely overjoyed that I was able to go on into town by myself as I had imagined having to call a truck to pick me up or something. Then over some breakfast with my Ipod on I danced ecstatically to Mr. Spring by the side of the road with my eyes closed, only to open them to see bemused passersby. Man that stuff is danceable. Back in town I consulted linden to see if he reckoned, like myself, that there wasn't much pressure on that clip and that my Coathanger might do me to Santiago. He reckoned NO, not at all! I was thinking of getting a piece made but happened to find a Circlip, so I never got to test the coathanger strength, probably for the best.
Drive ,drive, drive, .... nice scenery etc .. Then on to the border to go back into Chile, where I managed to use my Jedi Mind tricks to make the customs guy who wanted to look in the bag with all the fresh food look in another bag [They dont really like u bringing this stuff across borders, but I do,] ...Waving hands in convincing way, "Here is the food bag with all the FOOD in it, you can see when I open it that it is only sauces and non fresh items, sir." The next park was Parque Nacional Conguillio and the 5th in 5days. I arrived very late again bordering on pitch black. I went toward the sign for camping but couldn't find the sites to set up so I just stopped where I was and set up. The park is a really amazing place. They shot the BBC´s Walking with Dinosaurs here and you can see why, the place looks and feels ancient. I got up early, brewed some coffee and walked over to a lake and saw the morning fog disappear. Standing there on my own it was at times a creepy place and if I you permit me to use this word without being suspected of being in a cult, it is a 'special' place.
I went down to the ranger station and got all the info I could about the park and the massive eruption two months previous. I was in Patagonia and I heard about the eruption and this place became an instant must see. The eruption was the biggest since 1955 (which flowed for two years) and the first eruption since 1994.
News Report : Jan. 2 - The Llaima volcano in southern Chile has erupted, spewing bright lava and sending up a huge plume of smoke.
A surrounding wilderness park was covered in ash, forcing the evacuation of dozens of tourists. No injuries or damage was reported.
The place is covered by Aracaria (sometimes called Monkey Puzzle) trees which have old mans beard lichen hanging from them. Again really old looking and then of course there is the volcano which I was heading to climb after a quick 2hr trek up to a viewpoint opposite the Volcano. The eruption in January melted one of the glaciers on the side of the Volcano (I know, who put that there?) and the runoff started rockslides. A large canyon was cut in the side of the mountain and the road north out of the park to be destroyed in parts and is now impassable. When I went back to the ranger station before climbing the volcano who was there but Enbarr (Peadar's bike). We both knew we wanted to come here but Peadar thought I was still in Argentina at this stage. I waited for a while and then as is often the way when writing overly long notes for people they show up to mock the work you have just put into communicating with them. AND... it turns out that last night Peadar was in the camping site 20 meters away from me reading his book by his roaring fire on his first night after being set free from the parts delay. So when he heard a bike pull in late at night while he was looking for wood in ... the woods he turned off his head torch and returned quietly to his fire. He though it was some german biker he had seen earlier and just wanted to read his book and relax on his own...[   ...Well I later found out he also only had two squares of chocolate left, I know where the real motive came from] and who knows if he had known it was me, would he have shared the chocolate? Well I don't care cos I would have had to share my beer.
We trekked up the side of the Volcano and anyone who knows volcanoes they are just like walking up big piles of sand. One step forward, half lost in the light pebbles and dust, I had to start counting my steps in sets of 100 to keep focused and speed up and I wasnt even going to the top or anywhere near. The next day I wanted to see the other side of the Volcano and Peadar said he would just head on. It was good to see the other side where the new lava flow had formed in January and the new cone that was created inside the main cone. I also saw the gigantic 1955 lava field but some section of the road was terribly steep and covered in boulders, ok large rocks and sand, and it was a nightmare, fell twice in 20 meters then ended up just engine off and siting on the bike walking it down the hill slowely, after this I was soon on the 600k motorway to Santiago. Getting late, I had to stay in a motel and I had my own garage door for the bike! The room had a real strange hole in the wall, like one of those dumb waiter things which was how the staff delivered a socket adaptor I asked for... quiet wierd. Up early next morning and on into Santiago. It is a great city! I found a hostel, we had both agreed to a list of 3 to check when we got there, secure parking and availability being the only requirements. I was surprised that Peadar was not there first. By the time I got back from emailing him where I had checked in he was there and he proceeded to tell me about the hell he had been through to get here. His brand new chain came off on the motorway, so a very quick pullin into the side lane and then it was late so he checked into a motel, no he was not in the room beside me. The next day as he was packing up his stuff his helmet and gloves were stolen and he had to obviously go to by new ones immediately.
Anyway Santiago in a nutshell,
Arrive, Unpack-showers-beers-food
Best JazzClub in South America (Deadly. Jazz, its like the guys are playing as one band and at the excact same time fighting for centre stage, but what the hell do I know bout that)
Museum (Al in spanish, so one of those ones where u just look at everything without learning tto much, they had a bit of everything in there)
Viewpoint to see city, by accident
There will be blood - Was there any chance of him not getting that Oscar?
Beers in a local bar with some girls from the Hostel
La Feria Nightclub for some Quality Techno (..and despite my best efforts I fell asleep....Surprised anyone?...I had tried so hard, but i got back up later and danced like mad till 5)
Sleep late,
Double Cinema
Juno, Great movie
The Valley of Eleh
Got one of those haircut things Des is always telling me to get,
not all their cracked up to be really.
A higher viewpoint of city
Tuesday we left for Argentina and Mendoza where we passed the highest mountain outside the himalayes, Aconcagua. Check out the photo of the set of hairpins we had to cover to climb high over the pass. The pass is so high our bikes became sluggish, something we will have to remedy for the high plains of Bolivia. We arrived late to Mendoza and set up camp in a great campsite 6ks outside town.


From Mam and Dad on Mar 28th, 2008

Hey Ste where are the pics we need them, keep safe

From Willy Wonka on Mar 29th, 2008

We are the Music Makers and we are the Dreamers of Dreams!

From Phoebe on Apr 13th, 2008

hey that pic of the horse in moonlight needs to be entered in some sort of photography competition. Great stuff.