Recently in Argentina Category

For a border town, Ala Quianca rates at the top of the list. Most border towns in Central and South America (or Africa for that matter) are usually real cesspools and best when left behind in the rear view mirror. Ala Quianca was a very clean little town with some interesting buildings and we actually felt pretty safe there – but then, we had just left Bolivia.

IMG_1545We did encounter a minor problem when we discovered Argentina has different electrical plugs – what?! I didn’t read about that in the travel brochure – so we marched around town looking for some adaptor plugs and trying to figure out how to ask for them in Spanish. We finally found them at a little hardware store and we got all our little goodies plugged in for charging.

 

 

 

 

We got off to a liesurely start and once we found the south exit to town we started ripping down the highway. We pulled into our first Argentinian gas station and we all felt like we were back in the States – this place had multiple grades of gasoline, a real store that sold something other than oil, a little bakery, clean restrooms (with toilet paper!), and free WiFi. We filled up our tanks, grabbed some baked goods and surfed the internet looking for a place to stay in Salta.

After we finally got Wes to leave the gas station – we headed south again towards Salta. The entire morning was a very welcome eyeopening reminder that we had left Bolivia. The road sides were clean of trash, the cars were somewhat modern, there were a lot of private cars (versus millions of taxis), and the drivers were actually (sometimes) obeying the traffic laws.

IMG_1552We had some special roads marked on our maps that we had heard were great biking roads. One of those was Route 9 (Ruta 9) going into Salta. This thing turned out to be a single lane (maybe 1 and 1/2 lanes at times) which twisted back and forth, up and down and was a blast to ride. We initially thought it was a one way (going our way of course!) until we met a car – surprise! From then on we cut back on the speed and lean angles.

 

 

 

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We came across some water running over the road and decided to make a few passes thru it to take some pictures of each other riding thru it –

 

 

 

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We rolled into Salta with grins on our faces and came across a moto shop within a few minutes. Wes needed some parts so we pulled in to have a look. Wes bought a tire and some brake pads and John remembered he needed some rear brake pads as well so we picked them up.

With the help of the GPS we found the hostel fairly quickly but were disappointed to find they didn’t have any secure parking for the motos. So – we bailed on that one and began the riding around looking for a hotel plan. Eventually Wes and John just parked while Dan rode around to find a hotel. We found one and we all went to check in. When we rang the bell – a fat man with a dirty shirt and boxer shorts comes out to see us – we start talking to him in Spanish and he says “You Germans?” – “ah, no” – “You Americans or English?” – “ah, yea” – he then goes into perfect English with a New York accent. Starts telling us that he only rents for a minimum of 3 nights but he’d cut us a deal for 2 etc… and then he says everywhere is full. We decide to call bullsh*t on him and take off.

We found a decent place with secure parking out by the bus station – although the interior decoration of the hotel was vintage 1980’s porn movie…. but we were tired and ready for bed.

Cheers!

 

Leaving Salta we found the road out of town without too much trouble and enjoyed a great sunny morning.

P1010154We jumped on to Ruta 68 which we had read was a great road and we weren’t disappointed. The first 40 or 50 miles were not that spectacular but then we entered a series of canyons that were spectacular! – Very similar to the southwestern US in southern Utah and Arizona – the road surface was great and we carved it up till we passed a roadside canyon that was incredibly tight – we circled back and decided to hike up into it.

 

 

The entrace to the canyon was maybe 100 feet wide and the climb up into it wasn’t too bad – steep but not impossible. Once up inside we came to the end of it where there was this huge ampitheater kind of formation. Wes had the energy to climb up the steep floor and you can just make him out in this picture – it gives you an idea of the size of this thing. That’s him in the center bottom – and up above him a little to the right is the slot where the water pours into and creates the canyon.

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IMG_1586We rode thru miles and miles of canyons and rivers – the scenery was fantastic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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One town we came into had a series of interesting road signs – this sums it all up in one quick picture. This is about what its like riding thru towns in Latin America. In case you’re thinking this means something intelligent – it doesn’t – because these identical signs were all over the town.

 

 

 

IMG_1590We pulled into Belen after riding thru a nice canyon with a little river at the bottom. Belen wasn’t much of a town and we just picked up some groceries – rode back up the the canyon and found a place to camp.

Cheers!

 

 

 

 

Our campsite was great except for some reason there were 3 streetlights out in the middle of nowhere and this being Argentina instead of just about any other country in Latin America they actually worked and we slept in bright light. For breakfast we had some little cupcake things that were made sometime in the early 1990’s and had been sitting on the shelf in the grocery store since then. We broke camp and got a bit of a late start.

IMG_1602The road weaved thru some random canyons and kept heading south.

As we continued south we rode down Ruta 40 – and across some very boring and HOT country. It was well over 100 degrees and the road was mostly straight but it dipped down into an Arroyo every 1/4 mile or so – and each of them was covered with sand wash and small to medium sized river rocks. This slowed us down quite a bit until we got the crew that was clearing the washes – and from then on it was clear sailing.

 

 

 

IMG_1598After Dan had not seen Wes in the rear view for a while he slowed down too give him some time to catch up. John got curios and turned around – they decided to head back and find Wes. Well, he was on the side of the road and his front tire was flat. Great – in the hot desert sun. We quickly setup a tarp and helped him pull the wheel, lever the tire off and replace the tube. We were probably on our way in 30 minutes but Wes’ thermometer indicated over 110 in the shade so it was toasty.

 

 

 

 

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We rolled out of the tire change all stewing in our riding gear from the heat. Set our sites on San Juan for the night and twisted the throttles to make it before dark. As we came into San Juan there was a guy driving next to us and using his camera to video us – he drove along almost hitting cars and speeding up, slowing down to get just the right shots. He pulled to a stop and came to talk to us. Where are we going? what are we doing here? – the usual questions – when he heard we were looking for a hotel, he said he would take us to one and we should follow him. We started calling this guy “the mayor” cause he was full of information and prompting his town. He took us to the town square and pointed out  the church, the fried chicken place and all the highlights.

A nice hotel was across the square and we pulled in to check the price. They were having some all night party and the rate was reduced – we were going to be on the 4th floor and the party on the 1st floor so we said, no problem. Turns out the party was a 15 year old birthday party – which evidently is a big deal here.

We parked the bikes in the basement garage – where Wes and Dan changed Wes’ rear tire with a new one he bought in Salta. After getting cleaned up – we walked around looking for a restaurant for dinner and found a big outdoor BBQ place and we had some serious meat dishes – fantastic steak and kabobs.

Cheers!

 

IMG_1615We had some great weather to ride out of San Juan – warm and sunny. And some awesome roads albeit a little straight in some places.

 

The flatlads gaveway up to some hilly wine country with lots of vineyards and some gorgeous estates.

 

The rest of the day was pretty much just ride and gas and repeat – until it was time for finding a place to stay.

 

 

IMG_1628We were kind of in the middle of nowhere and it was getting late – so we decided to ride up a small road that ran along a river with the hopes of finding a spot. The wind was howling and we probably covered about 20 miles up the road looking for a spot – we were almost to a small town and figured we would just hit the town and find someplace to stay. John decided to check out one more little side road and he found an awesome campsite that looked protected from the wind – at least a bit.

The little canyon was about 20 miles from Chile and we were at probably 5,000 elevation.

 

 

 

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Wes went for a firewood run using his KLR pick-up truck to bring back a load.

 

 

 

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We had a great fire, told a few stories and even the wind died down a little bit so we could sleep that night.

 

Cheers!

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_1640We broke camp early and were on the road by 8ish. The morning was cool – maybe cold. We headed south on route 40. We knew some of the road today would be gravel so we  got an early start. We made tracks on the pavement and were just flying along down the straight and smooth pavement. The Air was crisp and we were feeling good…

 

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After the road turn to gravel we came upon this canyon with a cool green river in the bottom. It was shortly there after that John’s day went bad.… All of the sudden a big grinding noise came from the rear end. So I stopped and found the chain guard had come loose. Then it caught on the tire and got jammed between the tire and the swing arm. I tried in vain to get it loose but in the end I had to remove the rear tire to get it free. With the rear tire reinstalled I took off to try to catch up to the others… After another 30 miles of gravel I got caught out by a big patch of silt. I mean this stuff was deep and about 200 feet long. I was going about 40 mph when I hit it. After hitting the steering lock both to the left and the right, The back wheel slid out from under me and I was down…. I was sooo covered in silt/dust i could not see. I also had plenty of silt in my mouth. I tried picking up the bike but it was angled down hill and just too heavy for me to pick up. After taking off the bags, I was able to right the rig and get it out of the middle of the road. After a quick inspection I found just a broken turn signal and some dented pride. I reinstalled the bags and got going again. After getting going, I was pretty pissed off about falling… Then I reminded myself what the guy we met in Mexico had said,”when times get tough remember you are the luckiest SOB’s he’s met in some time” Thanks Jim!!

Another 40 miles off gravel and I arrived at the pavement where Wes and Dan were waiting. After a little ripping on me for crashing we cruised the rest of the way into Zapala without any more trouble. Found a cheap place and called it a night…

Tomorrow we ride south…

 

We rolled out of Bariloche in some cold and rain – riding up into the lake district towards Chile. The road bent to the south and we rode through some fantastically rugged country with gorgeous lakes and snow capped peaks all around. It looked a lot like the North Cascades Highway in northern Washington. I was raining too, Just like Washington.

About 100 miles out of Bariloche – the road dropped down onto the planes of Patagonia and got very boring. The winds were gusty and coming from just about any direction – for some reason they would be blasting you from the right side for 20 minutes and then the road would turn to the left and just when you thought the wind would be at your back, it would somehow be blasting you from the left.

We really did’nt take any pictures today as the scene is just like all the other desert scenes we’ve been through.

We wound the speed up and just pushed our way thru the weird winds for several hundred miles of nothing-ness.

The town of Sarmiento was a welcome sight and we got there about dusk – found a nice little hotel in the middle of town.

We walked all over town looking for a place to eat – some places were closed for some reason and we tried one pizza place but it was just weird inside. The guy running the place had a greasy shirt on and there was a “customer” sitting at a table – just sitting there, no food and no drinks. Now, this didn’t really seem odd till you realized he looked just like the creepy guy from the movie “No Country For Old Men” – the three of us quickly agreed that we would like to eat elsewhere and left. After finding the other pizza joint in town we sat at a table – the only customers in the place. The guy comes over and we ask for menus – “no menus, we have pizza, hamburgers and stuff” – we went thru the questions about the pizzas – “how big are they?” – “do you have ???” – etc… eventually ordered a couple of pizzas, some beer, and some water. The pizzas came and they were forgettable… we ate them and had more beer – eventually we asked for the check and the guy just says “120” – no check, just that’s the bill…. you’d think he had a fancy place or something – he was probably on the take and didn’t want the gringos to see the menu/prices…

Back in the room, we cranked the heater up and hit the sack.

Cheers!

The Day started out great. We got going early and ripped south down hwy 3 at 80 plus. It was an awesome morning. With little wind and we were feeling good about closing in on the final push to Ushaia. We really had no worries.

Then….. I relaize Dan was no long behind me. I pulled over and waited, thinking he must have stopped for a potty break, picture, something… After a while still no Dan. I turned around and headed back about 6 miles to find him on the side of the road. Hands on hips staring at his bike with no sidecases and shaking his head….

I asked him whats up? And looked at his bike… He said – “the f*cking masterlink broke – I was running along at 85 mph and heard a “chabang” – pulled in the clutch and the engine died right off – coasted along looking for a nice place to pull over and listening to the silence and tires whining….. when I pulled over and got a look the chain was still on the bike and there was oil oozing out from behind the countershaft sprocket cover”…

He had spent a few minutes opening every compartment in his bike looking for tools tiill he remembered they were all on John’s bike… so he decided to just relax till John came back.

IMG_1690We pulled the tools from John’s bike and set to work - first we took off the countershaft sprocket cover and saw the chain was super wedged in behind the countershaft sprocket… we tried prying on it, putting the chain on the rear sprocket and trying to rotate the wheel, then putting a little rod we had for leverage on the wheel – then we just sat there and looked at if for a while. John said something like “that’s wedged in there and we’re not going to get it out” – We talked about getting the bike back on the ground and pushing it backwards or something – then Dan said “I’m going to go take apart that fence and grab a fencepost” – about 10 minues later he came back with a steel fence fence post and we stuck it into the rear wheel and used the swingarm for leverage – after 2 or 3 tries we freed the chain from the super wedgy… only to find the chain had fractured the engine case and that was the source of the oil leakage. John said “we’re done dude”. To top it off, Suzuki in their infinite wisdom had placed the clutch actuator shaft/rod right next to the countershaft sprocket – sort of daring the chain to break and blow the rod apart – which, of course, it had.

IMG_1698We talked about it and decided we needed to pull the left engine case cover. But we didn’t have enough oil to refill the engine. We thought about laying the bike on its side but we’d lose the gas out of the tank. So we decided we needed to just lean the bike over far enough to get the case cover off without losing the gas. We took off the left side case, propped the bike on one of it’s own side cases and we used the fence post to hold the rear end up.

 

 

 

 

P1010249Once we got the side case cover off we saw the extent of the damage. The engine case was busted badly, the side case cover was busted and the chain had sheared off some wires. The wires used for the neutral switch and the wires used for the battery charging system…. Of course the clutch actuator rod was blasted apart like a bad guy’s car on the “A Team” TV series.

Looking at the case – it was apparent the pieces couldn’t go back in there cause they were bent too much – even the side case cover had a hole the size of a quarter in it.

We again sat there and talked about it. What did we have, what didn’t we have etc. Dan said “We’re going to fix it and I’m riding it into town on its own power”.

IMG_1695We had some quick steel putty witch is like JB weld. So we set about cleaning the oil and chain spoodge off. Dan mixed up the putty and we built it up as good as we could. This stuff is allot like play dough in that it holds its shape, However when it cures it is like steel. You can file or drill it.  While the quick steel cured, we repaired the wires, we had a 12volt soldering iron with us. So those were a pretty easy reapair. After the wires were fixed up,we then filed the putty where the mating surfaces of the cover and case go together. So they were smooth and matched up as well as can be expected. We both were happy with the fit of the cover, So we applied some silicone sealant we had. (Dan had bought some to glue some decorative thingy’s on his bike, good thing too!) Anyway we reinstalled the cover. We had an extra masterlink for the chain so we reinstalled the chain.

Now with the push rod for the clutch smashed into many peices. We had no way to make the clutch work. But thats ok, you can ride without the clutch. In town is pretty tough, but on the hwy no problem. Most bikes shift just fine without the clutch if you do it right. More importantly though, the clutch push rod goes into the engine through a seal. Without the rod the motor will just pump oil out the hole….. We found a small bolt that fit into the hole and we wedged it in place with part of a hacksaw blade and some safety wire…. We test fired the engine and we had NO LEAKS!!!!

Looks as though we were good to go!  We loaded all of Dans crap back on the bike and gave him a running push start. He was off and running again…Total repair time about 4 hours on the side of the road.

Every so often John would ride up along side and have a look at the repair area. No leaks. The repair was good. We cruised the 60 miles or so to Rio Gallegos with no trouble.

Dan hit almost every light on the way into town (and ran a few red lights to avoid having to start without a clutch!) and we stopped at the first gas station to fill up and figure out where to go to get a clutch rod ordered/made/cobbled so Dan would have a clutch.  While then this dude comes up and starts chatting us up. He knows our bikes are V-stroms so he is a biker. We then tell him about our troubles, needing parts etc. He tells us to follow him and he’ll take us to a bike shop. Cool! so off we go. Dan using the starter button to get going from a stop. He would just have the bike in first gear and hit the button. The starter was strong enough to turn the engine and move the bike forward. Then bingo she would light and off he’d go..

IMG_1708Anyway we got to the bike shop. SM Motos in RIO Gallegos. It didn’t really look like much from the outside and we were a bit skeptical…. But after going inside we saw they had a proper repair shop and more importantly a guy who knew his shit and was willing to help. We pulled the clutch rod from John’s bike and showed it to him. He dropped what he was doing and started searching his shop. He found a rod that was very close. It was a little too big on one end but he set about turning it down on the lathe in the corner. We stood there in disbelief. We had been in his shop for about 30 minutes and he was MAKING a part for us.

 

 

IMG_1707It turned out to be a bit more of a job then planned, but in the end we left his shop at 8:30 that night with a working clutch and new chains on both bikes. He charged us about $60 bucks US to make the part and he spent about an hour and half making it…. After closing the shop he then led us to a hotel and wished us luck.

This is the kind of bike shop that most shops in the US have lost sight of. “sure we can order that part, It’ll be here in 2 or 3 weeks. How would you like to pay for that?”  If you are ever in Rio Gallegos and need anything for your Moto, Please go spend some money at this place.

BTW my buddy Erik wrote on the very cover that got broken, “Unbreakable top kit” at the going away party… It turned out to be a cruel joke on the side of the road while we were trying to fix it!! Thanks E! We owe you one!

Dan threw down on the best hotel in town after our tough day. We ordered room service, watched a bad movie on TV (Passenger 57 with Wesley Snipes… “Always bet on black” – paaalease…) and talked about how feak’n bad our luck was, As well as how freak’n good our luck was…..

Tomorrow we ride south!!

We lazed around in the fancy hotel in the morning – not wanting to get out of bed – and looking out the window at the rain pelting down… finally dragged our butts out and got on the bikes and underway about 10am.

IMG_1712Our route today took us south into Chile – and we’re entering the last fold on the map of Argentina…  Once in Chile we had to make our way to a ferry and cross the Straights of Magellen onto the island of Tierra del Fuego and then across Chile and back into Argentina…

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_1713Well – the run from Rio Gallegos to the Chile border was fast and wet. – maybe an hour or so – then things ground to a halt. Checking out of Argentina took a long time – we just slogged our way thru the lines, dripping wet and leaving a water trail thru the immigration/custom lines. Finally free from Argentina we took off into no mans land for the Chilean border. These guys were only slightly faster than the Argentina guys – after leaving a trail of puddles in the border offices we were free to go and set off into Chile.

 

 

 

IMG_1715We shot down a concrete two lane road that was an awesome road surface – even in the rain we were doing 60 mph – after a short ride we came to the ferry crossing area – just as we rode up to the back of a truck, that truck rolled forward and onto the ferry and we rode right behind it and onto the ferry. I don’t think we actually fully stopped at all – good timing. The ferry deck  was wet and steel – and we could see the water was rough – so we stayed down with the bikes to hold them up. Good thing because there was some rock and roll going on during the short crossing – maybe 30 minutes. We all got cooled off standing there with the wind and the rain… unfortunately we couldn’t see much during the crossing because the sides of the boat were maybe 10 feet above the deck.

The ferry hit the other side and we were about the last ones off the ferry up the slippery ramp and rolling on more good road surfaces. The good road came to an abrupt end and we found ourselves on a seriously crappy gravel/dirt road, in ice cold rain, with zillions of trucks and cars whizzing about. The potholes were all full of water and it was very difficult to gauge how deep they were or if they weren’t really potholes but former black holes now sucking the water out of the sky – and us with them if we were unfortunate enough to ride into them.

The road was crappy – and it got worse as we rode on. We had about 90 miles of this stuff to cover and it started taking its toll. Wes’ rear brake pads fell out of his bike (of course those were new maybe 1500 miles ago) – and tempers were flairing a bit.

After about 3 1/2 hours we got to the end of the gravel/mud without any casualties and we were ready to do the Chilean border drill again. This time we were frozen solid by the time we got there and soaking wet. John went to grab some money from his “100% waterproof” pocket on his jacket  – only to find that it was full of water – maybe someone put the pocket together backwards at the factory? To make things just a little bit worse, somehow we had arrive at the same time as 2 HUGE busses full of touristas… and of course we got in line behind all of them – so standing there in line, dripping, getting colder…

The Chile border went pretty smooth after waiting thru the lines – then we rode about 5 miles to the Argentina border thru some deep sloppy mud that was heavily rutted by trucks. Argentina welcomed us with another wait for the busses/tourists – but they were quick once we got to the border agents. We hit the gas station across from the border offices and took off for Rio Grande to get to bed.

We had some trouble finding a place in Rio Grande – several hotels were full, some were insanely expensive, (maybe they didn’t like us dripping on their floors?). We ended up staying at a nice little hostel – Patagnoia Hotel – the night shift lady had the big old iron kitchen stove cranked up high and she helped us dry all our gear off and made us a nice cup of Argentina mate tea.

The entire process of checking out of Argentina, checking into Chile – drive for 150 miles or so – then check out of Chile and check into Argentina seems like such a waste for everyone involved – but then, you can’t argue with governments. We didn’t cover much mileage today but we covered 2 border crossings, a ferry, and 90 miles of gravel/mud road.

Tomorrow – we have a short run to Ushuaia – going south of course – maybe 135 miles…

Cheers!

After all of the heavy rain yesterday we feared the worst for our run to Ushaia. But when we stepped out the door of the hostel we were greeted with partly cloudy skies as well as partly sunny skies!! We only had about 130 miles to go to the end of  the road….. The road was smooth and the wind was light. Spirits were high as we clicked off the final miles south. As we got closer and closer to Ushaia we were rewarded with some of the most spectacular scenery we have seen on the entire trip.. Amazing snow capped mountains with fall colors on all all of the trees. Glassy lakes reflecting the mountain peaks.

15,000 plus miles and we reached the farthest point you can ride south in the world!

I’m going to let the pictures do the talking….

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Thanks everyone for riding along with us and for some of the great email's and comments we’ve received. Of course the journey is not over yet. We still have to ride 2000 miles north to Buenos Aires. Figure out how to get the bikes home and all that sort of thing. So we’ll keep the blogs coming and I’m sure some kind of party will be in order when we get home.

Tomorrow we ride NORTH!

Ushuaia, Argentina

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IMG_1782We forgot to mention in the blog from yesterday Dan had more problems with his machine. After we got back from riding out into the National Park. He said his bike was making a grinding noise. An inspection of his rear wheel found bad wheel bearings. So we set about taking the rear wheel apart. With bearings in hand he headed out on my bike to find some replacements. The first shop did not have any, the second shop did not have any but the owner took him to a bike junk yard and there they found a used set. Our bad/good luck continues!! They seemed ok and with out any other options we repacked them with fresh grease. Installed them and the the rear wheel seemed good to go. Time will tell.

We then we went out for a “Parrilla” Argentina BQ. Its a pretty cool deal. They had a glass enclosed area with a huge fire going. Some super old crusty dude working all kinds of different meats. A real veggie’s nightmare! Anyway we ordered a couple of the best steaks on the menu. The parrilla master heads back into the kitchen and returns with a couple of massive chunks of beef. Throws them on the fire and we put back a couple of beers watching our steaks cook. They turned out to be the best steaks we’ve had on the trip. We ate like kings, Had a few more drinks and called it a night.

Cheers!