Madaru moto - motorbike adventures in South America

Day 43: Bikers come in all shapes and sizes. A quietly spoken, retired German banker called Herbert was leaving Villa Kunterbunt after a long journey on a BMW he has owned for many years; his wife on her own bike accompanied him most of the way. Here you can see him with Enzo and Martina:

Enzo is a short guy, but strong. He is a soccer coach too and always coming and going from training. Here he lifts Herbert's bag on his shoulders and escorts him to the colectivo corner.

There is an Irish biker, Conor staying at the Villa K. Conor is riding a Suzuki V-Strom; he began his ride on the east coast of the US, where he currently resides.

He said he was tired of people asking about his bike - anything over 250cc is fairly uncommon in Latin America, because they are often classed as 'luxury' bikes and heavily taxed - Conor hired a signwriter to emblazon his panniers with some basic info:

I got on well with Conor; maybe because we had a few things in common.  He spoke Spanish very well, having been an English teacher in Spain for a while. Here he is relaxing at Villa K. with Chris. 

Conor has his own interesting blog here

On the 29th I went back to Santiago to pick up my re-spoked wheel. I walked from the bus station to his workshop. near the bus station was a fountain with a kind of Chilean Hollywood Walk of Fame. The only name I recognized was this one, the singer Ricky Arjona:

This stencilled grafitti was seen on several walls; a bit cryptic for me

Some motorcycle police on their BMWs


Senor Aladino had done a good job, and said it came with a 1 -year guarantee. The wheel should be stronger than it ever was new. I was a happy man!

When I got back to Villa K., I looked closer at the spokes Aladino had replaced (they are now my spares). If you look  closely, you will see different head patterns. Seven would be different anyway, since they replaced seven in Ovalle. But some look like a letter A, others look like a letter V, others are plain, others look like something else. Why? I don't know. I hope the Chinese manufacturer hasn't thrown my bike together with a bunch of surplus, mismatched parts. But it certainly looks that way. I noticed when I took my rear axle out the other day the head of the bolt was a different size to the nut - 18mm vrs 19mm. Hmmmnnn.....

Here is the route the bus took:

And here the route I took on foot

Day 45: Conor leaves us, heading south.

My father had major surgery on the 30th. I called him by telephone the days before and the day after the operation. So far it seems the operation was a success. My stepmother wrote:

Just got back from the hospital, it's after 10pm, and am very happy to say, your Dad is doing great. He went to theatre about 1.30pm and only came back about 9pm, so he had a long time there. I saw Dr () afterwards and he is very pleased with how things went. He got all the cancer out, as well as the lymph glands. They will be sent to the lab and he'll get the results in about a week. The reason things took so long is that your Dad had a lot of scar tissue around his old appendix scar, and they spent a while scraping away adhesions...
But all went really well - he has  a few drips and tubes, and quite a big scar, but pain relief being administered through drains, and a morhine button he can press. Doc says he's fit for his age and should make a really good recovery. Hope this helps to ease your minds and of course he sends love to you all

So, for now, I can breathe a little easier regarding my dad. 

Speaking of fathers... another guest at Villa Kunterbunt is Chris, an American military vet who is on an unusual mission: to deliver his father's ashes to Ushuaia. His father died in a motorcycle accident years ago trying to get there. Here is Chris's blog, and here he is with his BMW

Day 47: I shot this gigapan of Villa Kunterbunt. Click on the image to view it as a "zoomable" gigapan.

There was also a young Swiss rider who arrived on a 150cc "Italika" bike he bought in Mexico, and rode it all the way here. 

The only problem he had was the chain wore out. Chris helped him put on a new one.

I liked the neat way Chris packed his bike - stark contrast to my 'Kunterbunt' style.

It wasn't long before Chris was off too. I am not 100% sure, but I think the sign above us is for selection trials for boys born between 1995 and 96, in Enzo's soccer region.

When Chris took off, he really took off! Maybe because he was pointing downhill, and he was anxious to get going, when he left he shot off as if connected to an elastic slingshot!

Here is a timelapse of me re-mounting the re-spoked rear wheel. A lot of adjusting, thankfully the rear luggage racks made elevating the chassis a lot easier.

I was now ready to continue my ride, but I was still waiting for my replacement Mastercard. Mastercard had advanced me plenty of money via Western Union, but I still wanted that little rectangle of of fantastic plastic. It had arrived at my father's house, and he had sent it on to Chile with a courier company I had never heard of. They said they had an agency in Chile and it would arrive within 7 days. I thought, if it doesn't arrive by Friday, then you can add another three days to that, due to the Easter break (when most guest-houses would be booked out anyway)...

A new biker arrived at Villa K., Jeff form the US, now at the end of a trans-Americas ride, shipping his bike back from Valparaiso. Jim was a mechanical engineer in the US Navy; now he tutors maths and also was a motorcycle safety instructor for a government body. 

Jim did me a big favour when, after I begged him and offered a generous price, he agreed to sell me his Hippo Hands. Hippo Hands are insulated covers that go over your bike hand-grips. These were extra large ones to allow for the bark-buster guards.  I had never seen them before but I have been told they are absolutely fantastic if you are riding in cold weather.  

My bike is taking on an evermore bizarre appearance with each accessory I add, but I don't care, I  like it! And I am sure these will save my fingers from freezing. Jeff said it was so cold down in Patagonia he used both heated grips and Hippo Hands, so I am sure I will find them handy (pardon the pun). Jeff also sold me a neat little tank bag with a transparent map pocket and a Buff neck scarf, something he said that kept his neck warm in the freezing winds of Patagonia.

While I was loading my bike I said to Jeff, 'look, it can handle the weight, and not bottom out.' He said, 'but it is bottoming out'. And, it was, just barely. He asked me if I had noticed if the bike 'bounced' after I hit a deep hole. I hadn't, but I really hadn't been paying much attention. Jeff advised me to adjust the monoshock to a stiffer setting as I was planning on going off-road down Ruta 40 later on.

To kill some time, I made a fly-sheet for my single-layer tent from green plastic.

Looks ok but not sure how it will stand up to the wind in Patagonia. Many bikers have told me the winds are so strong they can blow your bike over.

There were two German couples at the Villa Kunterbunt. Katja and Jens I had met before; they had passed through Sunny Days Hostal in Arica when I was there. Travelling much faster than me on their big BMWs, they had already been down to Patagonia and back. they too warned me of the high winds in Patagonia. Also staying at Villa K this week were Christian and Nicole, a German couple who had been travelling around in a new Land Rover converted into a pop-top campervan. The four Germans, and Jeff, were sharing a shipping container heading for the west coast of North America, organized by Enzo, hence the congregation. The Germans really cleaned their respective vehicles - they looked almost new, not nearing the end of thousands of kms of travel on gravel. We had many interesting conversations about our different views of the world, though at times Jeff and I felt outnumbered as Martina and Enzo liked to 'sprechen Deutsch' with the four Germans. 

One thing I am noticing about myself is I really like this biker lifestyle.  Although I had not really ridden a bike much since I was a teenager, now I am immersed, so to speak, in the long-distance biker world. And what a different, interesting world it is. When I see a biker now, I know I have a friend. He might be from a different country, a different language, different age and even the opposite sex; but we have something to share and gain from each other.  We exchange tips about road conditions and border regulations, eat together, sometimes even share rooms together, and then have a laugh about something or another.   In my case, everyone often has a great laugh about my super cheap, colourfully loaded, 250cc Chinese bike!

Here Katja and Jens' blog (in German but it has a translation button), and here are their bikes:

On Thursday my card arrived! Never have I felt so happy, to have my financial independence back. Nicely packaged with my father's distinctive left-handed handwriting:

I was ready to roll once again! But, I had a few last minute things to do.  First of all get on the phone to my bank and get them to lift the temporary block on my Mastercard (and remind them that my Visa card still had not arrived).  I also wanted to go to Santiago to buy some more motorcycle gear and also to meet Juan Pierre, a World Community Grid 'cruncher' I knew from the WCG forums. But when I got to the bus terminal it was packed with people and luggage, all escaping early for the Easter weekend, and the next available seat was in the late afternoon. So I didn't go, I had a haircut instead. While waiting for the trim, I read a newspaper story about the 'strange death' of 24 cattle. The carcasses were undergoing post mortems; poisonous fungi that grows on pumpkins or water contamination were two possibilities suggested by the article.

Walking back to Villa K I saw a few things worth photographing, like this cafe in Cochrane Avenue, calling itself 'The Power of God Cafe':

Passing a fire station, I surprised to see this:

The wall of the fire station was even more Anglo-centric. The Prince of Wales (in 1901, not the current Prince Charlie) was a patron. You can read a lot of firemen lost their lives in 1914 and 1953.

In Playa Ancha I saw this poster for the '2nd International Poetry Festival', with a sub-title, "Grito de Mujer" ('Cry of the Woman')

With the Easter break about to begin, I knew accommodation would be hard to find.  But I had my tent, and a good dose of optimism. Back at Villa K. I was also to suffer two setbacks. the first was when I fished my 'rugged' Pentax WG-1 camera from my daypack, which I do not remember dropping at any time today (as it also had my video camera in it). To my horror this is what it looks like now when you switch it on:

I loved that little 'shock-proof', 'drop-proof'' camera, which cost me a pretty penny or two.  It appeared to still be able to take photos, but with the screen out  of action, you are pretty much shooting blind.

The other setback was I had a bad toothache. It had been building up over the last few days, but on Thursday it was bad enough for me to buy some painkillers at a pharmacy. I thought to myself, "it will be ok in the morning..."

But in the morning it was worse, much worse. So bad in fact I enquired about which hospitals might be able to do an emergency extraction. Enzo took me around Playa Ancha looking for a dentist that might be open, but of course all were closed. At his local pharmacy, they gave me some strong painkillers. I also had some antibiotics left over from my foot in Arica. The painkiller had an immediate effect, and over the next two days the tooth seemed to return to normal. Martina said Monday is a normal workday in Chile, so on Sunday the 8th I was on the road again. 

My destination was as far south in Chile as I can ride safely on the day.

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Text and photos copyright  © Glen David Short 2012