Jewells in America
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
Friday 18 November to Thursday 24 November 2005
Fri 18 Nov - 195 miles today to Esquel through more spectacular mountain scenery.
Sat 19 Nov - 180 miles today and most of it was on dirt road. We had to cross the border back into Chile to get onto the Carretera Austral (the Southern Road), a very remote region with only one dirt road running through it. The scenery is mind blowing. Huge snow capped mountains and azure blue lakes.
Sun 20 Nov - We woke up to rain and it rained all day. We only got to see maybe half of the views, but it was still awesome. Zig zagged the dirt road over high mountain passes and through almost jungle like scenery, past gauchos herding sheep and cows. Another great hotel, next to the river, with a huge open fire. Good for warming us up after a cold and wet day.
Mon 21 Nov - Weather was totally opposite today. We stayed dry the whole way. About 112 miles on dirt, with even more amazing scenery and roads. We have a journalist with us from RiDE magazine who is going to write about the trip. We stayed in log cabins on the lake, surrounded by huge mountain peaks.
Tues 22 Nov - A bit of a rest day as only 85 miles of dirt and a border crossing back to Argentina. We are really getting used to the borders and in Chile and Argentina they are quick and simple so that lots of us are happy to do them on our own. Still more great roads. This past week in Patagonia has been really amazing, with unbelievable roads. You have to be prepared to get off the beaten track.
Weds 23 Nov - Everyone was a bit nervous today as we start the infamous Ruta 40 down south. We did 204 miles on dirt: sometimes compact dirt, which was quite fast, sometimes deep gravel. We stayed on an estancia that night in the middle of nowhere, where we had a whole lamb roasted for us over an open fire.
Thurs 24 Nov - Another 210 miles on the dirt. Today was hard going with lots of gravel and some tricky bits. But finally we hit the tarmac again. All of us made it in one piece. It was a great challenge. We are spending 3 nights in El Calafate to rest up and prepare for the final week to Ushuaia.
Thursday 10 November to Thursday 17 November
Thursday 10 Nov - Bike service today and a general checkover.
Friday 11 Nov - Day at leisure in Santiago. Kevin and Julia gave a press conference at the BMW dealer, Williamson Balfour. We all went along too and had a super buffet.
Saturday 12 Nov - A ride out today with the local Chilean customers of the BMW dealer. We did a round trip of 200 miles, out to the coast and had a great lunch all organised by BMW.
Sunday 13 Nov - Left Santiago today for Salto de Laja, all the way the Pan American Highway. There are a lot of toll roads on this stretch, about 80p each time between towns. Hotel was fantastic, right next to the huge waterfalls.
Monday 14 Nov - 270 miles to Osorno. We stayed on the Pan Am and passed lots of vineyards. Spent the evening with a bunch of Chilean bikers in a great restaurant. Our first taste of enormous steaks in an all you can eat place.
Tuesday 15 Nov - 195 miles, 35 on dirt and crossing into Argentina. Destination is San Martin de los Andes, a fantastic road through spectacular scenery, called the Seven Lakes route. Had our first taste of Argentinian lamb: superb!
Wednesday 16 Nov - 151 miles today, plus 100 miles extra we did on a trip detour around the lake. Destination is Bariloche, a beautiful town on the shores of Lake Nahuelhuapi. It looks a lot like being in the Alps here. Loads of log cabins and lots of shops selling chocolate.
Thursday 17 Nov - A day off and we took the cable car up the mountains and had lunch in the revolving restaurant at the top. It had stunning views of the lake and snow capped mountains.
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
Monday 7 November 2005 to Wednesday 7 November 2005
Another big day - 550 miles across the Atacama Desert, with an absolute stunning sunset. With a big days ride tomorrow we should reach the rest of the group.
We arrive in Vicuna mid afternoon and we are together again as a group. Michael is still in Arequipa as he has to wait 7 days after surgery to fly, but he is in good spirits and his leg is healing very well.
380 miles into Santiago. We were met just outside the city by a police escort and they guided us into the city. It was fantastic. They stopped all the traffic and got us through the City very quickly. Santiago is our base for 4 nights, whilst we service the bikes and Kevin and Julia have a press conference here. It is a lovely city, very prosperous, clean and lively. It is a pleasant surprise for us all.
Best of all, we had the news that Michael is on his way home, flying with Air Canada via Toronto. He even gets Business Class. It is a big relief to know everything is fine – I cannot imagine what would have happened if we had been on our own.
The Diary: Saturday 29 October 2005 to Sunday 6 November 2005
240 miles to Puno on Lake Titicaca. The high altitude is affecting many of the group, with headaches and sickness. Today we were riding on high altiplano and bleak moors. We passed many herds of llama and alpaca. The highest point to day was 4,338 m. Off the bike and trying to move the bike around makes you feel really breathless.
The group hired a boat today and it took us to the floating reed islands of Uros on Lake Titicaca. The islands are man made and can be moved around the lake, even chopped in two if there is a dispute between families! It was fascinating.
229 miles today to Chivay, with 20 miles of riding on hard rutted roads, with pockets of deep sand. We rode at our highest point today – 4,800 metres. Very cold and bleak, but with stunning views.
165 miles today to Arequipa. Up early at 5.30am to ride to the Colca Canyon to see condors. Colca is the deepest canyon in the world and we saw condors soaring on the early morning thermals. The road on to Arequipa was a new road, with great surface and long sweeping bends.
Day free in Arequipa, a nice town with lovely central plaza.
The plan was to ride 290 miles to Arica in Chile. But 4 kms out of the city on a busy dual carriageway, Michael had an accident. A pedestrian just ran out in front of his bike and Mike swerved to avoid him and hit the central reservation of concrete bollards. Julia went with Mike to the hospital and the X-rays showed he had a broken leg. He was transferred to a private clinic and had to have a 4 hour operation to pin his leg, but thank god there were no other injuries. All was covered by the special adventure travel insurance we had taken out.
The group had to return back to the hotel, where they spent an extra 2 nights, whilst I spent the nights in the clinic with Michael. In the meantime, Kevin sorted out problems with police reports, recovering Michael’s bike and liasing with the British Consulate. The group had to leave on the third day after the accident with Julia, but Kevin, I and David Power stayed behind another day to take care of the police and paperwork. Michael’s bike was a total write off. The engine and gear box was split and the left pod ripped off. It was not worth sending it home, so we stripped it all for any accessories and spares, leaving just a shell behind.
Michael is still in the hospital but comfortable. Kevin, David and I left for Arica to try and catch up with the main group. Michael is being looked after by the British Consulate and another British biker, Cynthia Milton who is also in Arequipa is visiting him. The insurance company are sorting out a flight to get Michael home at the end of the week. It was a hard decision to carry on, but I have to do this for him and me.
We have now arrived in Chile. What a change compared with Peru. It is all very clean, orderly and efficient. We did 500 miles today to try and catch up with the others. It will take another couple of days yet.
The Diary: Friday 21 October 2005 to Friday 28 October 2005
Up early and took a boat ride out to the Ballestra Islands, a bird sanctuary and sea lio haven. The it was a 138 mile ride to Nasca.
Day free in Nasca. We flew in a 15 seater aircraft, nickname the “Vomit Comet”, to see the Nasca Lines. Lots of low leveltight right and left turns in 100 degree heat. Very disorientating and one of the guys was sick.
300 miles to Abancay. A long slow ride through twisting mountain bends. We climbed very quickly to over 15,000 feet. We rode across the Pampa Reserva and saw lots of herds of vicuna, llama and alpaca. It got very cold at the high altitude, even snowed a little!
125 miles today to Cusco. High altitude riding all the way. Very spectacular views through the mountains and could even see glaciers. As you come into Cusco you get amazing views over the city.
We took the train to Machu Picchu, reputed to be one of the top train journeys in the world through lush valleys and jungles. Then a short bus ride to Machu Picchu, the Inca fortress in the sky. Absolutely stunning. It was a long day, up at 5.30 am and not back until 9.30pm, but well worth it.
My birthday today and David’s tomorrow, so we celebrated it together. Had a group meal in one of Cusco’s top restaurants, with a live band and show. We both had to wear traditional Peruvian costumes for the whole evening, as part of our birthday party. A great day and I won’t forget my 21st in a hurry!
Our final day in Cusco and we all spent it recovering from the drinking from the night before.
The Diary: Thursday 13 October 2005 to Thursday 20 October 2005
305 miles today to Cuenca. Past the Cotopaxi Volcano on the Pan Am. Starting to get very scenic and mountainous as we head south in the Andes.
228 miles today with a border crossing into Peru. Rode past lots of banana plantations. The border was very chaotic and took us about 3 ½ hours. Big problem here with false money and we all got scammed.
15 & 16 Oct
250 miles to Chiclayo. Long straight roads through the Sechura Desert. No facilities here for miles and miles. had to watch out because of high winds and sand dunes drifting across the road.
Short ride across the desert to a nice hotel on the beach. Afternoon visit to Chan Chan, an ancient adobe Peruvian city.
210 miles, of which 65 miles was on unpaved roads through the mountains and a narrow canyon – Canyon del Pato. It was a very narrow mountain road, with many tunnels and there were landslides too. A hard days ride.
192 miles to Barranca. Descending from the mountains back to sea level. We visited the Chimbu fortress at Paramonga.
278 miles today ad arrived at a superb hotel on the beach. But to get there we had to ride around Lima, 3 lanes wide, but with 5 lanes of traffic! Lots of fumes and very hairy.