Patagonia – Glaciers and Gearboxes.

Riding out of Ushuaia, the winds were now not helping me at all and was getting battered by them most of the way to the border. I’d had enough of it by the time I got off the island and wanting a break from it all, I went back to stay at the same hospedaje not far from the Ferry. The winds continued and I stayed an extra day but I couldn’t wait forever and I had to face the wind again sooner or later. When I did move on, the ride to Puerto Natales actually wasn’t that bad as the wind was directly ahead of me, not a crosswind, but with the extra resistance it became apparent that the clutch plates were on their way out. This wouldn’t be a problem if it could hold out to Puerto Natales as I had spare plates and the everything needed to replace them, but I wasn’t sure it would make it. The rev counter was fluctuating by an extra 1000 rpm while I kept a steady speed. I arrived at the tourist information office where I met Joao, a Portuguese rider who lives in Sao Paulo and after lunch and finding a place to camp we went off to find a workshop. As I’m sure you know by now, I want to do all work on the bike myself and usually the problem is finding somewhere where I can work by myself. I was very lucky to meet Samuel, a mechanic in Puerto Natales, who had no problem with me using his workshop. We had a great afternoon swapping the plates and chatting to Samuel about the roads ahead. The campsite was incredibly cramped. Puerto Natales is the nearest big town to the Torres del Paine national park and is full of people either going to or returning from the park. Pretty much everyone in the supermarkets was loading up on food to take with them as the park is notoriously pricey. Me and Joao loaded up too, but ended up eating most of it the same night along with a bottle of wine and some beers. I had come up with a rough timescale for the ride ahead so that I could give Laeticia a time for us to meet again further north and I had only allowed for one day at Torres del Paine. Joao, on the other hand intended to trek most of the so-called ‘W’ route, and said to me, quite rightly, that he ‘doesn’t make schedules for such things’! We agreed to ride there together. Joao was only 6 weeks into his around the Americas trip and was fairly apprehensive about riding on ripio roads. We went to camp at free site by a lake but we were told that the best places were all inside the park. Up until this point I hadn’t been keen to go inside the park because of the 18000 peso charge (£25), but the weather was good, but windy, and knowing that many others had paid to come here in poor weather and couldn’t see anything made me think that it was an opportunity not to be wasted.

The park is very extensive, with many lakes and peaks and ripio roads connecting all the various areas together. We found a campsite, which wasn’t free as we had thought. All the free ones are several kilometres hike further up the trails and we had to pay if we didn’t want to be separated from our bikes. Torres del Paine is incredibly popular. Along from the campsite there were tourist centres that are effectively just hotels and judging by the menu, quite expensive ones at that. Me and Joao collected firewood only to be told that fires aren’t allowed (a tourist accidentally burned the place down a few years ago), and went to bed early to get up for the long trek the next day. Torres del Paine, means Towers of Pain in Spanish, and the main attraction is the 3 towers of rock at the edge of a lake high up in a mountain. For a man of almost 20 years my senior, Joao is very healthy and totally put me to shame by stomping up the mountain leaving me gasping for breath behind (thats what a year and a half of sitting on a bike does to you!). It took us all day to get up there and back, and it was totally worth it. The next day we rode to another campsite to be near the catamaran that would take us to the start of the Grey Glacier trail. The short ride was made difficult by fierce cross winds and riding behind Joao, I could feel my front wheel slipping in the gravel so I sped up for stability and passed him by. A kilometre or two further, the road had just been resurfaced and Joao fell off when a bus forced him to pass into some deep gravel. The views from the lake were amazing.

The winds were even worse the next day when we headed off to get the catamaran. We parked the bikes next to a wooden rail so that they wouldn’t be blown over, or so we thought. The catamaran was expensive at another 18000 pesos for a return ticket, but with no trails directly connecting the two sides of the lake it was the only choice and it was a rough journey as it ploughed through the windy lake. On the other side, there was a refugio, campsite and the start of the 33km round trip to the glacier. With the wind in our faces all the way there, I was completely knackered by the time we got back to the refugio and we were shocked to hear that the catamaran back had been cancelled because of the wind. Nether of us had equipment to stay the night as all our camping stuff was on the other side of the lake. Many other people were in the same situation, but the park officials couldn’t care less and the refugio, which is basically just a hotel, would only offer rooms for 25000 (£35) or a camping mat on a floor for 15000 (£25). I was disgusted with the national park. How could something as simple as hill walking be turned into such a money spinner that treats tourists like cattle? Joao was tired and took a room, but I couldn’t bring myself to pay for a room since I was stranded through no fault of my own. My plan was to sit in the canteen, down a carton of wine, and see who would try to move me on (thats right, drink my way out of the situation!). There was over 60 of us in the same situation and I tried to get them onboard to my idea, it would have been fun, and a good excuse for a party. In the end I was helped by two american brothers who gave me a space to sleep in their tent. With no mat or sleeping bag I didn’t get any sleep but its just as well as I was awake to fix the tent when the wind blew it over (bungees saved the day). I was walking about again at 5 am, it was much warmer than lying around. More chaos ensued when the catamaran finally arrived and it couldn’t accommodate the people that had been stranded with the others. I shoplifted a cup of tea from the refugio in protest.

It was almost afternoon when we did finally get back to our tents. I was dead and could have slept there and then, but Joao was keen to get out of the park and I couldn’t blame him after the night we just had. The problem was that despite our best efforts, the bikes had been blown over by the wind, which while not really a problem for Joao’s BMW, my old Tenere leaks fuel when its on its side and I had no idea how long it had been over. The tank certainly felt light when I removed it to sort out a random wiring fault before we left. The only fuel available was back in Puerto Natales or another 130 km away in Argentina. Joao suggested we ride anyway, cos with two of us, he could get me some fuel if I ran out. An obvious luxury that I hadn’t thought of. Riding back out of the windy ripio in the park, I stopped to give Joao time to catch up when the bike stalled and wouldn’t start again. It was the wiring fault again. That is the bastard with intermittent faults, you can never be sure if you’ve fixed it or not, or if it was even the problem in the first place. I told Joao to ride on without me but he waited while I took the tank off in the wind and jiggled wires again. I got it going and we rode on through the border and to the petrol station with only half a litre left in my tank. From the petrol station, there were two ways of getting to El Calafate, our next destination. With a 100 km detour, it was possible to ride all the way there on asphalt or we could take the ripio ruta 40 north. Joao wasn’t so keen to do this but I urged him to take the 40. The southern stretches of the ruta 40 are famous amongst riders, not because they are nice but because they are a complete pain. Well maintained ripio is almost like riding on asphalt, but the southern 40 is famous for having deep gravel and large rocks, which can be pretty dangerous when combined with the mind numbing long distances without curves to keep things interesting. A lot of the 40 has now been paved and I wasn’t sure which bad bits were left and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. Actually, there is a rumour that the route of the 40 in the south was changed by various local governments because they pocketed the funding to pave the road and changed the names of already paved roads to be the 40 instead! The road wasn’t bad at all, leaving me thinking that the worst was yet to come and we made it to El Calafate for beers and barbecue. Not a bad days riding considering I hadn’t slept at all.

El Calafate is a tourist town, famous because it is next to the stunning Perito Moreno Glacier. I went to see it on my own as Joao needed to fly home to Brazil for a week on business. The glacier is awe-inspiring. Its huge and difficult to get an idea of just how big it is, it makes the tourist boats that sail next to it look like nothing. There is a constant sound of cracking and bits of ice falling and sometimes you can see it falling into the water.

Out of El Calafate, I went 250 Km north to El Chalten, another popular stop on the Argentinian Patagonia circuit. Now this town really only exists for tourism and nothing else. I imagine it is completely dead, and quite possibly under several feet of snow in the winter. At the campsite I met a Kiwi traveller called Nick. Nick had travelled a lot of South America on motorbikes too and he and his chilean girlfriend had bought a small 4×4 to travel down to Ushuaia. I accompanied them on the popular trek up to the view point of the Fitzroy mountain range. Nick told me the the ruta 40 north of Tres Lagos was pretty bad and that the pass I was looking for from Villa O’Higgins wasn’t passable either. For those of you who are interested, I later found this website detailing all the passes into Villa O’Higgins. Looks like Paso Rio Mosco is only passable in winter when the river is low, but really who would want to travel in Patagonia then?

The weather had been great for all the trekking but it was miserable for moving on. It had rained all through the night before I went to hit the road again. As I arrived at Tres Lagos the asphalt ended and instead of riprio there was a muddy mess that made the small town look really depressing. I rode through several big pools of muddy water as I road around the town looking for the petrol station. When I finally found it, I asked the women behind the counter for the condition of the 40, ‘Muy mala’ she said and recommended taking the ruta 288 east instead because it had been raining for 3 days and the ruta 40 was a mess. I looked at all the stickers from other riders who had passed through and thought I’ll have a go at it anyway. As I was riding towards the start of the road two cars came towards me from ahead. The driver of the first was shaking his finger at me and I stopped to talk to him. He told me that the road was impassable and that he had just doubled back after going 100km in because he couldn’t get through the mud. This time I listened to sense. The guy’s car looked like a little SUV, certainly not a car I would have thought to have had problems with mud. I turned around and went to go the other way when I lost the back wheel (which was completely bald) and I dropped the bike. I don’t even how I hadn’t noticed that it was that muddy cos I’d ridden through it once already and I was sliding around just trying to stand up, let alone pick the bike up. Some guys in a car came and helped me pick it up. I got back on to ride when I saw that the clutch lever had completely broken off. Panic bells were ringing inside my head. I didn’t have a spare lever, the crash guards on my handlebars were supposed to protect them and had done so through all the numerous offs and drops I’d had so far. The guard was still rigid and I still I have no idea how the lever came to break. I pulled the lever away from the cable as hard as I could so that I could pull off in first gear and get back to the petrol station. What was I going to do now? Tres Lagos was such a small place as is El Chalten that its was out of the question finding a spare nearby, so that left me 4 options; 1) Find a place to stay and get one sent, which in hindsight, would have been the most sensible thing to do. 2) Wait for assistance from other riders who may have one, 3) ride with a bodged clutch to El Calafate, where I knew there was a shop selling spares for chinese bikes or 4) ride on to Govenador Gregores which was a similar distance but in the direction I was going anyway. I super glued the lever back together and in stupidity and impatience, I chose the last option and rode on north.

Through the years, many riders I’ve met have told me that they don’t use the clutch other than for first gear. With my clutch lever held on only by glue I thought that this would be the way to go, a decision that was to cost me greatly. The 288 wasn’t much better and was a muddy mess for the first 5 km until 100 km of so-so ripio followed by 30 km of mud and water. If I ever needed a clutch it was here. I bumped into some other riders going the other way, one of which was on a CBR1000 sports bike. His mates were all on BMW GSs and were laughing at the difficulty he was having. Unsurprisingly the lever broke again but without stopping, I made it onto the asphalt road and rode all the way to Govenador Gregores where I juddered to a stall outside a petrol station that had long been closed down. It had become apparent the town was nowhere near as big as I’d hoped it would be and everyone I asked told me that I wouldn’t find any spares there. Not being able to stop without stalling was a real pain and when I found a camp for the night I went about trying to rig up some sort of bodge repair. With the lever completely broken from its pivot, pulling it just made it move away from the handlebar without pulling the cable. I found that with a rock jammed between the lever and the hand guard, i could still get leverage out of it and I continued on the next day with this arrangement.

The next town along was Perito Moreno. I’d been there before on the way south. It was small but could possibly have had spares for motorbikes. The ride north on the 40 was mostly asphalt, but there were some sections in construction that has sand and deep gravel but I passed through okay. I stopped for fuel at Bajo Caracoles and had trouble putting the bike in neutral. There were 4 riders there from Russia who I had met in Torres del Paine. They told me that they passed the section of the ruta 40 north of Tres Largos the day before and that the road was good. I was a little annoyed to hear this cos I had wanted to do the road myself but as a rider on my own it would have been stupid after such warnings not to. Since then I’ve heard several different reports about this section of the ruta 40 ranging from it being closed (Joao), to it being great fun (Fletch). They passed through at different times so I’m sure that they are all true, it just depends on how much its been raining I guess. There were other roads that I wanted to see too, like Paso Roballo, but with a busted clutch, bald back tyre and several days of rain I just wanted to get back to asphalt or ripio at least, but that wouldn’t be for another 100 km or so. The remaining part of the 40 was in construction and although it had been paved, it was blocked off and I followed other vehicles onto the muddy service road at the side. Again I have to say that I think that my off-road skills improve every time I have to deal with poor conditions but just when I’m starting to feel like I’ve got the hang of it, I fall off and usually without warning. This time was no exception. I had overtaken everything with confidence, accelerating through the mud and water to take the weight off the front wheel and prevent it from slipping, when I planted into the floor on a bit that I didn’t even think was bad. Perhaps any motocross riders out there have the same problem? The drivers of the cars I passed came and helped me pick it up and then left and soon I was the only vehicle on the mud. I rode on for a while but then I noticed the cars were all using the new road. Had I missed a sign or something? I waited for a pass through the mud and got onto the tarmac. It was like being in Africa again. The road was brand new tarmac but every 5 km or so there was a barrier of earth blocking it off that I had to ride around or over the top. It reminded me of riding with Lilio and Sangue Bom from the Amigos da Picada in Angola, although this time at least it was in daylight!

Arriving at Perito Moreno I saw a crowd of bikers on BMWs at the petrol station. ‘Sos Andy?, Andy Palmer?’ With so many riders heading south in summer it was only a matter of time before I met someone who knew me. Erik is a friend of Paulo’s from Villa Carlos Paz and he was leading a crowd of bikers on a tour of Patagonia. The other riders were interested to know how bad was the 40 and I got side tracked talking to them about the road that I completely forgot to ask if they had a spare lever I could buy from them. I found a campsite in Perito Moreno. After two days of challenging riding I wanted a shower, grilled meat and some wine. The site attendant, Jose from Chile helped me get my asado together but I ended up eating with him in his house too. He said that I wouldn’t find a lever there either, but later as I went to leave, an attendant at the petrol station told me that there were motorbike spares in town. However being in Argentina at 1pm, everywhere had closed for siesta and I didn’t want to stay another day, besides my bodged stick-and-rock repair was holding up great and I could use the clutch as normal. I decided to go back to Coyhaique. I’d find a new lever there for sure and I could also to get a tyre sent down from Santiago. I had missed the best opportunity to buy a new tyre by not going to tax-free Punto Arenas. I passed back through Chile Chico but took the road around the south of the lake instead of taking the ferry again.

The road around the lake took me to Puerto Tranquilo where I bumped into Murray and Carmen, a rider couple from Oz and Venezuela that I had met at a petrol station in Ushuaia and Carlos, a rider from Argentina who plays harmonica blues. We went together on a boat trip to see the Capillas de Marmol caves. I was going to ride to Coyhaique with Carlos, but my bodged clutch lever had worn away against the rock and was barely functioning again, so I rode off without stopping for pictures. I randomly met Carlos again outside the Coyhaique Tourist Information Office and we went to find a campsite together. At the campsite I met James, another rider from the UK. James had arranged to meet up with another Brit who lives in Coyhaique and serves as a contact point for overland travellers through the Horizons Unlimited website. Tim has been living in Coyhaique for 16 years on and off. He married a local lady and has an Anglo-Chilean family. He first came to Chile as part of the Operation Raleigh program and works as a carpenter out of the workshop in his house. Tim was kind enough to offer us the use of his workshop while I was waiting for a tyre to be flown down from Santiago. The gearbox was worrying me. I had found a lever in town but now I couldn’t find neutral with the engine running and it would jump out of second gear. The clutch-less gear shifts had worn something and I thought it best to open the engine and have a look. I went as far as removing the engine from the bike but chickened out on completely opening it up. Tim’s workshop was super-equipped but without the necessary gaskets to put it back together again I would have took up his work space for just too long. Still, with the clutch cover off I couldn’t see any damage and an oil and filter change showed no pieces of metal either so I put it back together and left it as it was. The new oil had seemed to make the problem go away and the bike was back to shifting as it should do.

The new tyre arrived but I stayed the weekend in Coyhaique anyway. I met a lot of the other ex-pats who live there on a boys night out pool tournament. A wealthy few are lucky enough to be able to live in Patagonia for the summer but then returning to the northern hemisphere for summer there too. Coyhaique has loads of dogs wandering the streets during the day, and they aren’t too fond of motorbikes. I got bitten by one with only 3-legs as I pulled away from the traffic lights. I would have ridden off faster but the bike had slipped out of second gear giving the mutt a chance to strike. Thanks to steel toecaps I didn’t need a rabies shot, but I hadn’t been having much luck with the animals of Patagonia. A cat at the campsite in Perito Moreno was intent on putting it claws through all my waterproof kit and a dog had ripped my sleeping bag in Puerto Tranquilo while it was airing out on a washing line..

Riding back north on the Carretera Austral I had a few places in mind that I wanted to stop and see. I’d shot through on the way south but made loads of mental notes of good places to stay. One such place was Puyuhuapi, a small town with hot springs located at the end of a fjord. I pulled up at the tourist information and met Nick, another Brit rider who was on his way south. We decided to camp together and found a fantastic place to free camp on the beach behind the petrol station. Nick is traveling on a 125 cc Honda, the smallest size bike I’d seen anyone touring on so far. Throughout my trip I’ve started to appreciate the benefits that smaller, locally-sourced bikes would bring and it was great to hear Nick’s stories. On his own, he has passed many areas that I probably wouldn’t have had the balls to go solo. The bike’s small size makes it great off road, and very easy to pick up fully-loaded. He has crossed deserts with it and despite its low power, he was only slightly behind my bike on the ripio roads of Carretera Austral. True he cant travel as fast and its very underpowered for some mountain areas but it hasn’t really been a problem for Nick. You can see his blog at Tales from the Saddle. For me, I still love my Tenere, although I would definitely like to try something smaller. If I travel in South America again I’d like a Honda Tornado 250cc dirt bike. They’ can be brought brand new for about $5000 USD, resold easily and they are common everywhere, so carrying parts really wouldn’t be needed. They aren’t very powerful either but lightly loaded they would probably be economical and good fun in the dirt. Eddie, another Brit who I met in Mauritania at the start of my journey has just crossed 5000 m into the Bolivian altiplano on a 110 cc 4-speed Suzuki city bike he bought in Santiago, proving you don’t even need a dirt bike to take on the dirt! (Check out his BLOG). All good ideas for future trips – To be added to the ever increasing list!

Nick is at one end of the huge spectrum of different types of riders you see in Patagonia. At the other end, there are people who cannot afford to take years off from work and have paid about 7000 Euros (about the same as I spent to cross Africa) for a 2 week trip as part of an organised tour of the Carretera Austral. For their money, they get to travel on very new rented BMW GSs, with a 4×4 support vehicle and mechanic and they get to stay in luxury in pre-booked hotels. There are also loads of people who like David, have bought a bike on a whim and are enjoying the adventure on the road. There are so many of us riding in Patagonia. South America has to be the most popular place in the world for adventure motorcycling.

I stayed in Puyuhuapi for an extra day to walk some trails with Nick. It was a good day for it but for the next week the weather was awful and had I have known I would have left sooner. The rain was constant and I waited another day in my tent, hoping it would get better, but I had to leave the next day rain or shine as I had made plans to meet Laeticia in El Bolson. At first, riding the Carretera in bad weather was merely a shame that I couldn’t take in the scenery but after a few hours, I was cold and not enjoying it. Ripio holds up well to bad weather, but there were now areas of maintenance that were not there when I passed before that were muddy and required a lot of concentration. My boots stopped being waterproof ages ago and even the gore-tex socks given to me by David had started to let water in too. My feet were painfully freezing so I stopped to put on my over-boots. I climbed back on the bike only to come crashing down onto the floor. I had no idea how what had happened and I was swearing at the top of my voice into the rain. I got the bike almost upright when I noticed that the side stand had completely broken off. Arse! I had been trying to get the bike upright before an approaching truck arrived. It always reassures me that I can pick it up in times like these, but seeing the side stand on the floor, I just put the bike back on the floor again. There was no way I would have been able to get back on it by myself where I was without a side stand. All the trees I could have leaned the bike against were away from the road at lower levels that would have been very difficult to get the bike to and get away from. I would have had to have ridden the bike unloaded to a bridge, which luckily there are many on the Carretera Austral, and then carry the bags over after, so I was very happy to accept the help of a passer by. Luckily though there were posts, bins, and signs outside the various border buildings at Futaleufu and fences and street lights in Welsh-Argentinean town of Trevellin where a Chilean welder fixed it for me. I rode the last 3 hours through Esquel to El Bolson where Laeticia was waiting with loads of red wine and a steak dinner. It had been a long ride and I had been much colder than I thought on the road. I was in the shower for half an hour before I stopped shivering. I’m going to have to give my kit a rethink before riding into the high-altitude middle Andes in winter.

El Bolson is touted as being Argentina’s hippy capitol, but to me it just looked like any other Argentinian small town except that it has a market selling tat run by people with dreadlocks. It certainly didn’t have any anti-supermarket protests going on as is common around my way. Still the place is very beautiful with loads of lakes and mountain trails to explore, but it rained hard for the first 4 days and other than hanging out at Lago Puelo for a couple of days we were ready to move on shortly after the weather improved. 100 km north, San Carlos de Bariloche is one of the best known cities in southern Argentina. Its hugely popular as a resort for both the summer and the winter when the skiing season starts. Laeticia got a bus over from El Bolson and I went ahead to go and find somewhere for us to camp. Joao had completed his business in Brazil and was now there too. I went to meet up with him at the ‘El Yeti’ campsite, 7 km west of the town. Joao wasn’t there when I arrived, but a friendly Argentinian biker was camped next to him and told me I’d found the right place. As I was chatting to him, the owner from the campsite came out and seeing the flags on my jacket asked me where I was from. ‘Inglaterra’ I responded and I was told that I couldn’t stay there and that English are not welcome in the campsite. I was gobsmacked, but I certainly didn’t want to stay where I wasn’t wanted. I went back into town to find the tourist information and see what other places where available. The staff at the tourist information where shocked too, but also found it funny that the owner would be like that. ‘He’s very old’ they told me and directed me to another place. True I wasn’t worried. Propaganda road signs aside, I have been asked about the Falklands and the war by Argentinian friends, but just because they wanted to know what I thought, not to start an argument. Argentinians are some of the friendliest people in the world, and we all agree that politicians are bunch of lying arseholes!

I went to stay at the Petunia campsite a further 7 km along which was much nicer anyway and had views of the lake, friendly staff and was full of all the Brits that had been turned away from El Yeti! I met David and Jane, two Brits who had driven their Land Rover Defender around the world for the last 3 years, passing both the east and west coast of Africa. Laeticia arrived and Joao came to join us for an asado. As well as the motorbike travellers, there were many 4 wheeled travellers too, Many with 4x4s like Jane and David, but a surprising amount travelling with huge converted trucks. We met one guy from Venezuela who had a truck, bigger than my old flat in UK, that had a KTM990 adventure and a BMW650 Dakar strapped to the back. Talk about a home from home!

The weather was good in Bariloche, but the cold mornings made it hard for us to get started. Laeticia had booked a bus ticket to go back to Buenos Aires and we took the bike on a few trips taking in the ‘Circuito Grande’ and other views. We were thinking about riding over to Chile for a day, but with my gearbox being even more suspect, I didn’t want to risk it. It had started locking-up when wheeling the bike backwards in neutral. Laeticia left to go back to UK and I went north and back through the Andes to stay the night by a Chilean volcano I had seen on my way south. My plan was to cross back through the Andes another 3-5 times before getting to Santiago to load up on supplies and try to get my gearbox seen to. I was on my way along Lago Ranco to cross back to Argentina through Paso Hua Hum when the gearbox finally gave up for good. 1200 miles after the oil change in Coyhaique, the rear wheel locked-up as I was descending a muddy road.

It wasn’t a great place to stop. There are beautiful views all around the lake but the bike had chosen to die in a the middle of a building site. The traffic had been reduced to one way, with waits of up to 30 minutes between traffic being allowed through. A road worker helped me move the bike out of the way so it wouldn’t get hit by one of the work trucks. The nearest town was about 20 km away, and I spoke with two workers in a 4×4 who said they knew the owner of the workshop and they would call for help. That was easy I thought, and I fell asleep against a fence. Two hours later and still no rescue party so I decided to start asking again. It was my incredible luck that the first person I approached was another Yamaha rider, who agreed to help me and had space on the back of his truck. Mario owns a construction company and had been in the area with an architect friend from Santiago to look at some sites around the lake (prime real estate, especially once the road is completed).

He took me back to his house in Panguipulli for supper, gave me a bed for the night and the next day we went to the city of Temuco to find a workshop. Most of the workshops were not interested however, especially since I wanted to do the work myself. Mario went into one hard-to-find workshop and came back telling me that they didn’t have space there either but that there was somewhere else with a cover that I could work on the bike. He sent me in enquire. I started to explain who I was and my situation when another guy, also called Mario said he had a place for me. The two Marios set about transferring my bike from one truck to another. I was pretty confused as to what was going on. I had only caught part of the conversation between the two, and I was concerned about having to stay in a city with all my luggage and no way of moving any of it. It was possible that I would have to stay in Temuco for many weeks to get the bike fixed and I really didn’t want to have to pay for an expensive hospedaje. I explained this to the second Mario and asked if he knew anywhere where I could free camp. He told me that he lives in country so I could stay there if I liked. I said goodbye to the first Mario and thanked him for all his help. We drove out of town to Mario’s place which to be fair isn’t that far out of town at all. Either I hadn’t understood him correctly or he didn’t say, but when we arrived there I was super-surprised to see that Mario lives in an adventure park, complete with swimming pool, climbing wall, rope slides, an enduro circuit, horses, paintball and much more. The first Mario had suggested that I offer him some money but Mario didn’t want any. He just said that I can help him with things around the park. He sorted me a place to sleep and made me a workshop in one of the stables.

This is one of the rare occasions where I’ve been able to write my blog completely up-to-date. I’ve been staying with Mario for over two weeks now, and since I still haven’t sent for the spare parts yet I’m likely to be here for a few weeks more. Mario is a great guy and we’ve become good friends. He has a very busy life running the the park by himself and I’m happy to be helping him out. I opened up the engine at a workshop of one of Mario’s friends and confirmed that I need to replace the 5th gear pinions (so a lesson to all, USE YOUR CLUTCH!). Its going to be a long wait before I can ride the bike again, but its a good thing for me to learn to wait, especially when it was my own impatience that got me into this situation in the first place. All in all I’ve landed on my feet once again and I’m going to make the most of my month off the road. I may backpack around for a few weeks to see more of Chile but so far I’m having fun in Temuco. Stay tuned for the next episode where I’ll be getting ready to ride north into Bolivia. Ojala!

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2 thoughts on “Patagonia – Glaciers and Gearboxes.

  1. It’s been a while since I’ve visited your blog – but it’s a great way to dismiss a wet spring day here in Blighty! Glad to hear it’s still an adventure and that you’re well and in one piece… good luck with the gearbox.

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