Good days in the sun

Bandwidth, bandwidth, bandwidth….. Ok, that’s my excuse for not posting more often. Yes, it’s easy to upload the text of my posts but who really wants to spend time reading my blah, blah, blah?? The bandwidth intensive part of the post is uploading the pictures which just wasn’t happening in the last few stops. In a way it’s nice not having much connection with the outside world and we can enjoy the ride.

So far the trip has been amazing and all good. Yes, I know that travel trials and tribulations make for interesting and exciting reading in a motorcycle travel blog but so far it’s just been all good. I’ll try to recap a little here and add a bunch of pictures. The map below shows our days, each day in a different color.

GPS Route – Each color change is a day

From Valdivia we rode easy twisting roads into the foothills of the Andes where we took a circuitous route around Lago Ranco. We made a stop at a small waterfall and immediately were approached by a young family, could their children sit on our bikes? Sure!

I have to admit, cute kids and really nice people.

Stop for a quick lunch in the small city of Lago Rancho.

Healthy helping of Salmon for Dee Dee

After rounding the lake we rode south into Puerto Varas where we booked an Airbnb in a apartment building right on Lago Llanaquihue, the second largest lake in Chile. Our hosts Gerta and Gustavo owned a few units in the building and lived above the unit we rented. They were extremely helpful and had people waiting for us outside to show us to the underground parking garage. Once in the apartment we had a thorough tour of the amenities and when Gerta saw there wasn’t any coffee she ran to the store to get us a fresh bag of the local brew. After settling in we walked a few blocks down the beach to a brew pub for a few beers and some typical pub burgers. Before returning to the apartment we decided to Uber to the supermercado for some breakfast bananas, water and snacks for the next day. The Uber was super easy, as always, and cost $2.40 for a one way trip. We thought about making the half hour walk back but we came out of the store and it was dumping rain. I was about to call the Uber back when we spotted a cab parked at the street. A small tiny compact car with the driver’s daughter and her dog in the front seat. No problem, the driver insisted we could all fit in the back seat. Ha, with the women on our laps with bags of groceries we somehow fit and with suspension bottoming we made it back to the Airbnb.

Monday January 21

We woke to morning clouds but the overnight rain stopped before we loaded up and were on our way south. Up to this point we had reservations for the nights but the next section of the trip was full of uncertainty, we knew the pavement would end somewhere and to expect a lot of construction. It would be impossible to know when we would arrive at the next city or where we would stay.

It wasn’t long and the clouds parted and exposed some of the stunning mountain views of the Andes.

We were advised to take a little detour off the route to check out a local waterfalls.

It was nice but not the most spectacular thing we’ve ever seen. I would say we were all just a little underwhelmed. Maybe because the falls were on road that is the main tour bus route east over the Andes to the tourist town of Bariloche de los Andes. We had to pay for parking and an entrance fee and after going through the gift shop could make the short walk to the falls. Us and everyone else.

Try to pick out the gringos in this picture

South of the falls we took a smaller two lane road to the east that would save us an extra ferry crossing on the Carreterra Austral highway 7. It was a great road but soon turned into gravel with off and on construction work. Our first gravel roads of the trip. We were a little concerned how Michael’s Honda Africa Twin would do on the dirt with a passenger. We managed without issue in no small part due to Michael’s riding ability and his lightweight passenger (…. inside joke).

Nice roads to start and beautiful small towns.

Here is one of many construction stops, you can just see the “flagger” sitting in the little booth. When it is clear he would come out and turn the sign to green.

Motorcycles always go to the front of the line at construction backups which is really nice and makes sense. Since we travel much faster than the cars and trucks on the gravel roads we are well ahead of traffic and not slowing anybody down. In addition, we are not stuck behind smokey trucks eating dust and gravel and attempting dangerous passing maneuvers. This should be a standard procedure in the US like it is in Europe and almost everywhere else in the world.

Here is Deby at one of the stops, the Honda 500X is a good fit and seems to be an excellent motorcycle for her so far.

We reached the port city of Hornopiren about 3:00 in the afternoon after riding for 229 miles for the day. Hornopiren is the port city where we would catch the ferry for points south. I knew we were too late for that day’s afternoon ferry but stopped at the ferry office to purchase our tickets for the 9:00 AM ferry the next day. We parked in lot of the empty ferry office and went to procure our tickets. Michael went first and managed to buy two passenger tickets and one for the bike, easy. I was next and was told the ferry was full. What?? How could that be? They didn’t speak any English and so I plead my case in my best Spanish. It must have worked because they told me to return at 7:45 in the morning and there would be no problem getting us on the ferry. Umm, I’m pretty sure that’s what he said.

We went in search of a hotel and the first place we stopped was full. He recommended some cabanas down the road and we successfully negotiated a cabana for the night.

They let us park on the grass right in front which was nice for unloading our gear and watching the bikes. There were two bedrooms which we found out was the normal arrangement. One with a double bed and a second floor apartment with no fewer than three bunk beds. Michael and Dee Dee managed to get the double bed and Deby and I went upstairs to our bunks.

We took some time to walk around the small town and take a few pictures. It is a beautiful place.

Downtown Hornopiren

Classic Patagonia scenery.

You can see the morning ferry better in this picture.

For dinner we were directed to a part of town where they have all of these little food booths lined up in a row. Each booth has a separate meal. You go to each booth to see what they have and order what you want.

Not everything on the signs on the wall were actually available but you could get the general idea.

We walked one particular booth and saw a cooler with beer in it. When Michael went to ask if he could buy a beer, the kind Chilean woman politely told him no with a smile. This kind of thing seems to happen to Michael from time to time. We still laugh about an incident 6 years ago in Chile where a grocery story wouldn’t sell Michael beer but would for Deby! We never exactly figured that one out but here we were again. I was standing next to Michael and tried to help with my improved but limited Spanish. We learned that even though there was beer in the cooler she didn’t have a license to sell beer…. however…. if we wanted a “cup of coffee” she could pour the beer in a big coffee mug and serve him that. Ha, problem solved – una cafe por favor!

Michael and Dee Dee met some travelers who spoke English and were familiar with the local dishes. They recommended Michael and Dee Dee try a meal of various meats placed in a net and boiled in water.

Michael doesn’t seem too sure in this picture but assured us it was pretty good.

Inside the Cabana

Tuesday January 22

I actually had to set my alarm for 6:30 Am so I could be sure to have enough time for coffee, breakfast (oatmeal we brought) and get the bikes ready to be at the ferry terminal at 7:45. It started raining in the night so we had a short but wet ride to the ticket office where I waited in a short line. When it was my turn I was told they only had room for ONE bike. What? Ok, my Spanish really kicked in (actually Spanglish) and somehow or another they typed into their computer some more and produced two tickets. In ten minutes we were loading the bikes onto the big ferry for a 4 hour ride to the minuscule town of Caleta Gonzalo.

Here are the bikes safely tucked in out of the rain.

It was interesting to me that many, but not all, of the cars and trucks were secured to the deck but none of the motorcycles.

We settled into the seating area in a spot with 4 chairs facing 4 chairs. Deby and I sat side by side with Michael and Dee Dee across from us. After a while a couple from Santiago sat across from each other and next to us. Eventually we learned their names were Pia and Christobal (hope I spelled that right) they spoke English and had studied in the US. We spent much of the trip learning about each other and great conversation.

I took some time to wander around the ship and met a US couple that were travelling on motorcycles from Arizona to Ushuaia. They were on a pair of DR650s and were getting ready for the last leg of their trip. We traded stories and encouragement (Yikes, if you’re reading this I forgot your names… leave a message below, I want to know how you did). On deck was another American from Oakland, CA. Rob. Rob was an experienced motorcycle traveler and had been many of the same places as us and more. This time he was on a bicycle riding the Carretera Austral. Wow, good luck Rob.

The rain eventually ended and the views were stunning.

Here is a picture looking back at the ferry after unloading.

No more pavement for us, the road would be mostly gravel for the rest of the way to Chaiten.

Because of our ticket mixup Deby and I ended up getting on at the front of the ferry. Michael and Dee Dee came later and ended up at the back so when we unloaded Deby and I waited for our friends. Once on the road it was a narrow winding gravel road. It wasn’t raining but the road surface was wet. There was a long and very slow line of cars in trucks from the ferry inching down the road. When Michael and Dee Dee came off the ferry we fell in behind them and immediately Michael cut into the oncoming traffic lane and hit the afterburners. We fell in behind and soon we were passing dozens of cars and trucks at a time only tucking in when there was an especially blind curve, hill or the road was too narrow for us to pass. After about an hour we made it to the front of the line, whew!!!

We rolled into Chiaten before any of the ferry traffic and went directly to a hotel Deby and I had stayed at two years ago. Good timing, they had two rooms left… you guessed it… one with a double bed and another with two single beds. Cash only. No problem. This time it was out turn for the double bed and Dee Dee and Michael checked into the room with the two singles.

Chiaten is a very interesting city. A nearby volcano erupted in 2008 and buried much of the city. Locals told us that they didn’t even know there was a volcano much less an active one so close to them until it blew. Read more about it here:

We went for a short walk about and went to a section of town that the preserved with buried houses.

I took a picture nearby with Deby and the huge gunnera plants that are everywhere here. Many are much bigger than this.

One of the staff at the hotel rode this motorcycle. Wow, you could carry a family in the trunk!

Ok, I’m going to break here but hope to have another post soon. Remember you can follow our progress HERE.

And if you want to look through more pictures click HERE.

Thanks for following!

Donn and Deby

Day 1 Riding!

On our last trip to Patagonia we had to wait one month in Buenos Aires for our motorcycles to be delivered. This time…. one day! Oh, yea. Of course, we were not waiting for OUR bikes all we had to do was take a cab to the offices of Ride Adventures in Pucon where they had our bikes shined up and waiting.

But first….. the trip down. Wow, it is a Looooooonnnnnggg Waaaaaay Doooooown. Deby and I arrived at the Seattle airport at 10:00 AM on Wednesday January 16 for a flight to Houston. We arrived in Houston with just enough time to meet Michael and Dee Dee who flew from Idaho, drink a beer and jump on the all night plane to Santiago, Chile. From there we negotiated the organized chaos of retrieving our luggage (a lot of it) and getting through customs in time to make a local flight to Temuco, Chile. We landed in Temuco about 3:00 PM where we jumped on a shuttle van for an hour and a half ride to our Airbnb in Pucon. We arrived there about 5:00 PM on Thursday. So, how many hours was that travelling? How many hours sitting on planes? What ever that adds up to it was many many more hours than the number of sleep hours I had during that time. I could hardly sleep at all. In Pucon we managed to stay awake enough to get a couple of beers and some food at a corner restaurant and crash at 10:00 PM local time. We made it.

Dee Dee made a friend at the airport in Temuco. They really don’t see many tall women with blond hair around here.

Friday was a day off. We spend the day being tourists walking around town and hanging out at the beach.

Michael’s first order of business was to find the beer. He’s a professional.

We walked around town and took touristy pictures. Here is Deby and I with Volcan Villarrica in the background. This volcano is always steaming and is the most active volcano in South America. We were told at night you can sometimes see a red glow at the top. We went to check out the black sand beach along lago villarrica.

Deby went for a quick dip… it was really cold.

Here’s a good picture of Michael with Dee Dee and Deby

It was an amazing day, the weather was perfect, about 90 degrees and lots of sun. It’s the peak of the summer season here so the city was crowded with vacationers. It seems like everyone was from Chile, we didn’t hear any English spoken at all.

At 4:00 we took a cab to pick up the bikes about 20Km east of town. Here is where we first saw the motorcycles we would be on for the rest of the trip.

Two Honda Africa Twins for me and Michael and a Honda 500x for Deby.

We couldn’t believe the beautiful location Ride Adventures has for their shop, wow, look at this view from the parking lot.

It took a couple of hours to inspect the bikes, complete the paperwork and make some small adjustments. We then reviewed the route and Ulli, from Ride Adventures had some great alternate route suggestions. Thanks Ulli.

Here we are, almost ready to ride!

We managed to ride the 20Km back to Pucon with no incidents. Strange, bikes, strange city, lots of weekend traffic. Yes, we were on high alert but arrived safely by about 7:00 PM and tucked the bikes away safely in the secure underground parking of the Airbnb (muchas gracias Monica!). We poked around with some re-packing on the bikes but eventually needed to get out for a walk in the warm evening. We ended up at a rather nice restaurant very close to the Airbnb and sat down for dinner at 10:00 PM which is definitely the appropriate time to arrive at a restaurant in Pucon. It was packed and we got one of the last tables right next to the road.

Here is a page from the menus, I circled what I thought was interesting. For sure, you want to order off of this page if you want to Maintain Your Figure.

But if you want real adventure in dining you want to order the “Tabla de Carnes.” There is a translation in English.

If your wondering about the prices, they use a period instead of a comma to delineate thousands. Tabla de carnes is $15,900. That’s pesos…. so around $20 USD.

Here’s Deby’s plate, brazed brisket… she said it was really good.

We had an outstanding night. The outdoor section was loud and boisterous. We were as loud and rowdy as the best of them. To add to the fun these drummers entertained the crowd from the street.

Finally, at midnight the restaurant started thinning out. I had one last bit of business to take care of inside but needed to find the correct door for “men.” Let’s see…. oh yea, this must be it…..

With that we carefully walked the block to the Airbnb and called it a night.

Saturday January 19.

Hmmm, I didn’t take too many pictures. I was busy navigating (since I’m the one with the GPS) and getting used to the bike. We took off bright and early to beat the heat at 10:30 am. Oh, well, with the late night and packing the bikes I thought that was pretty good. Here was our route.

A total of 176 miles to Valdivia. We took the long route recommended by Ulli which took us along the coast. The temperatures that were in the 90’s in Pucon dropped into the 60’s with fog as we neared the Pacific Ocean. I felt like we were descending into the fog of the Oregon coast which would make sense since we are at about the same latitude south as Oregon is north.

Here is Deby with her Honda 500X, so far she really likes it. Below is my Honda Africa Twin, Michael and Dee Dee are two up on a bike just like it.

We had a nice lunch stop at the Mobydick restaurant in the small port town of Queule Mehuin.

We ended up at the Hotel Entre Tilos in Valdivia. A real nice place, Deby and I stayed there last time we were here in 2017. It was a great wrap to a perfect first day of riding.

So far so good. The bikes are working perfectly, the weather is ideal and the roads and scenery are beautiful. Ahhhh….

So here we go. I hope to post as often as possible. Remember you can click the “follow us” tab at the top to see our real time location. Thanks for all the comments, we love them. I want to answer them all but if I start I’ll be spending my evenings on my computer instead of out exploring this great part of the world.

Hasta Pronto amigos!

Donn and Deby

We leave in a week

Wow, thanks for all the comments here and on Deby’s Facebook page. I hope this is an adventure worthy of everyone’s time. You just never know….

So, what’s the plan? Well, like most things it started out simple and became more complex. That’s OK, I’ll start at the beginning.

Because of Michael’s “win” of a free tour we are going with an outfit called Ride Adventures – Tours and Rentals. They specialize in adventure motorcycle tours around the world taking people on grand adventures in amazing places. But…. they have one, select, very special tour in the United States. Guess where???? WISCONSIN! What? Most of you probably know Deby and I grew up in Wisconsin where we met and moved to Seattle after college. We learned Eric Lange, the founder of Ride Adventures is also from Wisconsin, small world.

Michael’s free tour was one of the more basic self guided Patagonia tours they offer so Michael decided it would be worthwhile to pay for an upgrade to what they call “The Patagonia Experience“, a 14 day motorcycle tour.

Deby and I have been to some of these places and so has Michael on our first Motoraid trip in 2013, we are really excited to go back and further explore the area. But there is more…. besides me and Deby, Michael invited his friend Chris. We’ve met Chris a few times and rode together on enough trips that I can say he will be a fun riding partner. He is a very interesting person, Michael calls him Dr. Science because of his technical background prior to retiring from Boeing.

Chris and Michael on our September 2018 trip

Dr. Chris Science has a full blown race car simulator that he hand built in his basement. Michael and I went to check it out this past spring and it is amazing!!

Michael in the simulator

Chris can describe it in more detail but all I know is that it’s really realistic and I could never make it as a race car driver. Chris is pretty good at it.

OK, that sounds like a reasonable plan, two weeks on a prescribed tour complete with reservations at really nice hotels along the way. Then I get a call….. it’s Michael. “Hey Donn, what do you say we fly down a little early and just rent some bikes?” Ummm, sure! So now we are flying down 10 days before the “official” tour begins and Michael’s wife Dee Dee is coming with us on the back of Michael’s bike for this part of the trip. This will be fun. We first met Dee Dee when she flew to Cusco, Peru in 2013 to meet us on our first South America trip. We took nearly a week and explored the area and did the 4 day hike to Machu Picchu. We’ve all been good friends ever since.

Donn, Deby, guide, Michael, Dee Dee
At Machu Picchu, Peru

“Oh Donn…,” Michael says, “since you’ve been there before could you plan our route?” Well, I suppose that makes sense in a way.. So, I made a rough plan.

Route with Dee Dee

I have this mostly (sort of) planned out, at least the first few days. We leave Seattle on January 16 and arrive in Santiago, Chile on Wednesday the 17th. From there we take a small plane to Temuco and then a shuttle to Pucon, Chile where we pick up the motorcycles.

Coincidence #1: We randomly sign up with a company founded by a guy from my home town in Wisconsin.

Cocindence #2: Ride Adventures tour company’s South America base is in Pucon Chile. Pucon is the city that became the sister city of Lake Oswego Oregon in the early 60’s and for that reason became the destination of the 1963 Motoraid trip by Keith Thye and David Yaden. When we re-created that trip its 50th anniversary with Keith and Dave, Pucon was our ultimate destination. What does that mean????

From Pucon, the trip with Dee Dee will take us to Valdivia, Puerto Varas and then points south on the famed Carretera Austrel. At some point we will cross the Andes and ride north to San Carlos de Bariloche, San Martin de los Andes and then a new route north before cutting east over the Andes and back down to Pucon. What could go wrong?

For those of you who want to know, and I know who you are…, Michael and I are both renting the Honda Africa Twin 1000cc, Deby will be on a Honda 500x and Chris (I think) is on a BMW F700GS. These are all pretty reliable motorcycles but for the most part we will be responsible for breakdowns. I’m packing my own tool kit.

I’ll try to get another post out before we leave with our preparations. Thanks for the notes and for following along.

Donn and Deby

January 2019 -Were Back!

What the? Where have we been? I’m continually amazed at how many people I run into that mention how much they enjoyed following our blog. Sure, mostly people are just nice, but it does mean a lot to us and those comments are truly appreciated.

I’ll skip to the good part. We are leaving in less than two weeks for a return to South America! So many people have asked to follow along via this blog that I decided to dust off my WordPress skills and give it a shot.

As you may recall the whole thing started with our original MotoRaid trip in 2013 with Keith Thye and David Yaden. That trip was documented in this blog (Click HERE or the tab on top). Keith immortalized both his 1963 trip and our 50th anniversary trip in the book, The Whole Story, that can be purchased from his website here:

There is a back story to our return and it’s probably worth telling…..

It started with this guy…

Mr. Michael Hansen in 2013

We met Michael Hansen on the original MotoRaid trip in 2013. Over the years we’ve kept in touch, and without our meaning to, became good friends with Michael and his wife Dee Dee. Michael and Dee Dee live in Idaho but we’ve managed to schedule numerous visits and motorcycle trips together.

Last June (2018) we attended the Touratech Motorcycle Rally together in Plain Washington with a small group that attends almost every year. We camp in a back corner and keep a little bit to ourselves but have a huge amount of fun.

Scenic stop at the 2018 Touratech Rally

When we checked into the rally we were each given 4 raffle tickets, over the course of the event we had the opportunity to visit the variety of vendors onsite and if we liked their product we could drop off a ticket with that vendor. I like this idea because if your ticket does get drawn at least you end up with something you might like. One of the vendors was an outfit offering tours of Patagonia, Deby and I immediately dropped all eight of our combined tickets into that bucket. Hey, we had been back less than a year from our last trip there but why not try!

Michael, who is very well known for being, um.. let’s say, frugal, decided to drop in only ONE ticket and save the others for who knows what… a t-shirt? Ok, you can guess what happened. It’s towards the end of the night and we’re standing around with some cool beverages not far from the fire. On stage there are a couple of the organizers picking tickets out of a big bucket. They save the big Patagonia trip for last…. out of our whole group and a combination of probably 20 tickets we haven’t won anything yet. With way too much drama (just like this paragraph) they draw a ticket and call our Michael’s name! Holy Buckets! We’re all jumping around laughing and slapping high fives. Suddenly it struck me… I turned to Deby and said in my most calm and serious voice, “this is gonna really cost us”.