Madaru moto - motorbike adventures in South America

DAY 34: Villa Kunterbunt has two massive dogs as pets, and only accepts motorbike riders as guests. Yet, the owners are not bike riders themselves! The next day a German couple, Claudia and Werner, set off. They formerly worked in Alice Springs to save their money for this trip; they weren't heading south they said, because it was too cold - and they are German! Villa Kunterbunt host Enzo was on hand to lend them a hand. 

 I went for a walk around Valparaiso, this is the view from a block or two downhill from Villa Kunterbunt.

This blue building has an amazing view of the port. My teaching friends from 1999-2002 will well remember it had a namesake in Cartagena's Calle Media Luna:

Souvenirs for sale nearby include these famous faces: Borges, Guevara and Allende - all left-leaning.

Plaza Sotomayo has some interesting architecture

The Hotel Reina Victoria had an architect with an English surname, according to this little inscription

Bar entrance sign says 'Only adults over 18 years' and 'smokers welcome'

This sign advises the premises are "not apt for smokers"

Valparaiso is full of graffiti, some of it borders on modern art.

This building appears to be clad with corrugated iron 

Day 35: I have been calling my father regarding his cancer tests. They were, unfortunately, positive, and he is scheduled for major surgery in ten day's time. He wrote me:

He (my doctor) has assured me that  recovery  under normal circumstance is very high and he has carried out numerous cases all with success. So it appears I will being having surgery and I am confident with my Doctor/surgeon. I understand this will come as a  bit of a surprise but please do not worry...

But worry I did. I made enquiries about going home, against my father's wishes, because he said 'there's nothing you can do'. When I emailed, the ticketing agency, asking if there was anyway I could bring my return ticket forward due to a medical emergency, they replied:

Thank you for contacting our Sales and Customer Care Team.  Please be advised that as per the fare conditions of airline changes are not permitted in your reservation for partially utilized ticket. Please let us know if we can be of further assistance. We would be happy to serve you.

As my credit cards had still not arrived, the only way to get home at this busy Easter period would be to get a relative to buy the ticket and for me to reimburse them on my return. An aunt of mine offered to do this for me. I would still be in trouble with the bike though, as it is in Chile on a temporary import paper. But after talking to everyone, and realizing Dad's treatment will possibly last for months or even years, I decided to just stay in Valparaiso, at least until after his operation.  

  My next priority was to get my spokes fixed. I decided that all of them should be replaced. Enzo told me there was a street on the other side of Valparaiso where there were some bike shops, so I walked there with a sample spoke and asked around. There were a few bike shops in one area, like this one, "Las Motos"

But, alas, no spokes of my type. 

There were some interesting bikes on the street in front of some of these shops...

Of course , when they asked "What type of bike do you have" and I replied "Ronco Demolition 250", they all scratched their heads. When I went back to Villa Kunterbunt, Enzo's wife Martina said I might have better success if I went to Vina del Mar, the city adjacent Valparaiso; so off I went on bus and foot, and spent the whole day trudging from one bike shop to the next. Along the way I saw this happy duo:

About the only success I had was in a Japanese motorbike dealership.  They had some thicker spokes that only needed to be shortened and threaded, but he only had about 3 of them in stock. The spare parts manager promised to make some enquiries and call me tomorrow.  So at least my long goosechase was not a complete waste.

Day 35: I asked Enzo about visiting "La Sebastiana", Pablo Neruda's house. He gave me an amusing lecture about how Neruda was not as he is portrayed; "a Communist with a gold credit card" was his amusing metaphor "the world needs money to function" he continued animatedly "many of these leftists are fakes living in luxury off the backs of the masses". Still, Enzo gave me good directions. He said it was too far to walk, but walk I did. Along the way I saw lots of interesting things:

The writing on the bottom of the birdhouses reads: "We only rent to birds"

The steep, winding road up to Neruda's house on a hill passed through a residential district. About halfway up I stopped at a corner store to buy a drink, and ask directions. Seeing my cameras, the woman urged me to take a taxi, as she said I might get robbed. But I didn't.

Neruda's house was very interesting, and had a great view. Neruda was a collector of the eclectic. The most interesting things for me was an early map of the Americas, the "Gran Mapa de America" which had anthropological illustrations and descriptions. Of special interest to me was an illustration on the side of this map of the mysterious towers used by the Incas to calulate the months. Note the Chileans name "America" in the singular, not "the Americas" as we say in English; when I lived in Colombia, I was surprised to learn that high school geography, as taught in Colombia, counts North and South America together as a single continent. But there are valid historical reasons behind this, foremost of which is the first maps to apply the name "America"  placed them on the coast of Brazil.

Unfortunately, no photography was allowed inside, a rule vigorously enforced by guards in each of the rooms.  But here is what the building looks like from the outside:

And here is a quick Gigapan I snapped of Neruda's house and he view he had from San Sebastiana (click on the image to view as a Gigapan):

In a small park near La Sebastian there was a statue of the man

So I introduced myself

On the way back I passed another example of a building clad in corrugated iron 

Back in down-town Valparaiso, I saw one of their quaint electric trams had broken down and was marked Fuera de Servicio, "Out of Service"

Being a former electrician, I could not resist to check out the motor-drive system. It was dated to say the least, but on the other hand simple to repair and maintain.

The other day I saw the driver of one of these trolleybusses jump out and pull the conducting rods back into contact with the overhead power cables; he used a long, insulated pole, and looked as if he had done it many times before. Before you laugh at the antiquity of this bus, check out this video I shot of an old trolleybus rescuing a modern bus on the streets of Valparaiso:


Throughout Chile there are many memorials to this intriguing Scotsman, Thomas Cochrane, a kind of Naval mercenary who helped Chile win its naval battles; a man who lived a full and adventurous life to say the least

Because the Valparaiso is the port for the capital Santiago, there is a huge navy base  here. So it follows there are many bars catering to sailors. This one (situated in Cochrane Street) has an amusing sign out the front: "Bogart Cafeteria and Sexy Bar"

I loved the architecture of Valparaiso, which has survived more than its fair share of earthquakes.  Here is the crest of the office of El Mercurio, a Chilean newspaper:

Yet on its lower floors you can see where it had been paint-bombed

Just a block or two from here, I could not resist taking a snap of this barber relaxing in his own chair

There was this facade, the remains of a building destroyed in the earthquake of 2007.  Click on it to view as a gigapan.

The inside of the facade was supported inside by metal frames; evidently a restoration is planned.

Here you can see a memorial to people who died in this street during that terrible quake.

Five years on, and there are still a lot of damaged buildings in Valparaiso which have not yet been rebuilt.

Near here was a the "Bolivariano" bar-restaurant, whose window was covered with a poster espousing solidarity with indigenous autonomy and land rights.

After walking all day I decided to try out one of Valparaiso's famous funiculars. This one saved me most of the steep walk up the hill on which Villa Kunterbunt was sited. Despite its gaudy paint job, over 100 years old, but still in working order. Click to see the video


The ticket booth, turnstiles, boxcar and mechanism are all antique

Old turnstile counter had brass numbers

A pharmacy I passed in walking home in Playa Ancha,Villa Kunterbunt's home barrio, or suburb.

My last chore for the day was to walk back to near the top of the funicular, where there is an amazing view of Valparaiso's bay. Here I set up my tripod, Pentax Kr, and Epic100:

and shot this gigapan:

I asked at Kunterbunt if the guy in Vina del mar had called regarding my spokes; he hadn't. So I called him, he hadn't yet found any, but promised to call me the next day.

Day 36's wanderings:

Day 37: Being a sunny day, I went up to the top floor of Villa Kunterbunt - something that from the ground looks like a virtual turret - to check out the view. If you stay in this room this is the view you have from just one of the windows:

Enzo's German wife, Martina, collects these dolls:

There was a German biker called Kendy staying at Villa Kunterbunt. He was nearing the end of his trip around the southern half of South America; on his tank bag he strapped a small whip. He told me it was for frightening off hungry wild dogs that would surround his tent in certain  parts of the countryside.

As the guy in the Vina del Mar dealership never called me back, I spent most of the day on the internet looking for a place that could help me replace my spokes. eventually I found a man recommended as the 'Mr Spokes of Santiago'.  Finding the address on google maps I was able to pinpoint everything from the closest metro station to the Santiago bus terminal. So, rising early, on day 37 I made my way to  'Mas Motos'  by collectivo, shuttle bus and walking:

Inside I met Senor Aladino, who, after I showed him a smaple spoke, and he telling me Japanese spokes are stronger than Chinese spokes of the same gauge, assured me he could modify some thicker-gauge Japanese spokes and replace them all.   I was a happy man!

At Santiago's main bus terminal this antique racing car was on display:

I would have had a good night's sleep knowing my spoke problem was close to being solved, except that at about 4am my bed started shaking. In my half woken state, I realized it was an earthquake, but strangely I never fully woke up. I only remember thinking - "that was quite a long earthquake". And it was - about  5.2 on the Richter scale, centred in Valparaiso:

I asked Martina why the guest house had such an unusual name: Villa Kunterbunt.  From the outside it looks more like a kindergarten than a biker's lodging house.

And a pig-tailed girl with mis-matched leggings painted on the front gate:

She explained it is quite famous in Germany and Scandinavia, Villa Kuntebunt translates as 'motley house' or 'hodgepodge house'; and is the abode of a fictional childrens' character called  Pippi Langstrumpf,  or 'Pippi Longstocking'.

The house is around 100 years old, and has a great central staircase:

But it suffered badly from earthquake damage, some cracks in my bedroom wall were evident. I have some friends who would never stay in such a place, but I loved it - gave the place character.

Here  is the backyard/ BBQ/guest's dining room and kitchen area:

It seemed to be in a friendly neighbourhood but Enzo warned me not to walk further uphill more than a few blocks as it became a little bit dangerous. He said his immediate zone was safe. But he did have a high fence topped by barbed wire.

The Tesser family had two teenage children and also two huge dogs, one of them a mischievous Afghan who urinated and chewed on anything and everything.  This is what remains of a new screwdriver.

...when he wasn't  barking to his litter brother who lived next door, or fighting with the other dog, that is.

 I decided to take the wheel to Aladino rather than ride Atwakey and leave her there for several days.  It would be quicker and cheaper too. Hunting around Villa K., I found some bricks and pieces of wood, and was able to jack up the bike and wrangle the wheel off.

Monday I caught a bus back to Santiago, with my rear wheel in a woven plastic bag and entrusted it to Senor Aladino's workshop.

Bye bye back wheel!

Aladino told me he was very busy, but would have it fixed in after 3 working days days - in other words Thursday. A bit of a delay, but I am still waiting on my replacement credit card, and as my father was undergoing major surgery in a couple of days, I felt it prudent just to wait for news of how that went.

I walked back to the bus terminal, a walk of several kilometres, that took me past a hospital. There were TV crews parked outside.

Closer inspection revealed there was some sort of tribute being held.

The tribute was for someone called Daniel Zamudio. 

Although I had bought this morning's newspaper at the bus station, I had not paid much attention to the articles in it, so the tragic significance of this scene escaped me for the moment... but more on this topic later. 

I continued walking west towards the bus terminal, and spotted this motorbike with a neat trailer.

It got me thinking, maybe I could get one of these for my bike. But its system of attachment did not look too safe.

This bike had an AC/DC theme

Check out its rear fender and number plate frame

Chilean Police on their official police scooters.

All around town there were groups of university students begging for money. The Chilean education system has been in crisis this past year, with student strikes over moves to introduce and increase school and college fees. Many of the students dressed like these guys,  for a more  dramatic effect, I suppose.

Poster railing against a proposed ant-protest law.

Back in Valparaiso, near the lookout at the top of the funicular, I saw another TV crew. This one appeared to be for a travel/lifestyle show; the host had an Australian accent, but I didn't recognize him; in any case, I don't watch much TV, especially those kinds of programmes.

Back in Villa Kunterbunt I re-read the day's newspaper and was shocked to read a story about Daniel Zamudio, whose name I saw at the hospital earlier today. He was a young gay who had been beaten by a neo-Nazi gang so badly he was only kept alive by a machine. Four of his attackers had been arrested. According to one report, the attack happened in a main thoroughfare, over a period of 5 hours. Although he had been in hospital for almost 3 weeks, he was not expected to live.

An online article later reported in English:

Daniel died the next day.


Text and photos copyright  © Glen David Short 20