Last Stop: Buenos Aries

Thursday April 18th, 2013. Buenos Aries Argentina, Amerian Hotel

Saturday night, with Dave safely on the airplane home with his broken arm, the paperwork completed for shipping his bike and a rider arranged to go with us to Buenos Aries, the final four of us decided to celebrate with some good Argentine steak. One of our cab drivers recommended Victors a nice looking place on the main square of Bahia Blanca. Like prompt Norte Americano’s we were waiting for the doors to open at 8:00 PM. I’m never sure about restaurants where we are the only patrons. 

I ordered a traditionally prepared steak, bife lomo. Steak with an egg on top, a slice of roasted red pepper and spinach buried under the ubiquitous papas fritas (french fries) that seem to accompany everything.  

By the time we were done eating, sometime well after 9:00 the restaurant was full and there was a line of people waiting outside. 

Somehow during the few days in Bahia Blanca we started to piece together that people seemed to know who we were. Someone at a pharmacy Keith talked to, someone at the hotel and others said they heard about the Americano’s visiting on moto bikes. Finally we found out from Juan that there was a story about the crash in the local newspaper. We probably got more attention in Bahia Blanca than we did in Pucon.

Sunday morning we made arrangements with Miguel to meet us for an 8:00 departure from the hotel. He arrived with his wife who was excited to meet us, take our pictures, hug and kiss us and wish us “buen viaje”. Somehow I didn’t get any pictures of that but managed to take a picture of the horse cart across the street. 

Our last big day riding, 384 miles through the pampas of Argentina. Moving time 7 hours average moving speed, 60mph, probably a record average speed and distance for the whole trip.

It was a beautiful day of riding, perfect weather in the 70’s with clear skies and relatively light traffic since it was Sunday. 

We had some pretty stiff crosswinds for most of the ride but it didn’t seem to bother us too much. The flag was an indicator of the steady breeze. 

Miguel seemed to enjoy riding with us. 

We arrived in Buenos Aries well before dark and checked into the Holiday Inn near the international airport on the outskirts of town. 

We arranged a room for Miguel, a flight back home the next day and had a nice dinner exchanging motorcycle stories despite our obvious language barrier. Thanks again Miguel! 

This seems like a good stopping point for this post. We’ve been in e-mail contact with Dave, he is home and seems in good spirits despite the fact that he needs additional surgery and will likely loose some range of motion in his arm. Overall not too bad since it could have easily been a much worse outcome. Dave had a blog update today where he discusses the accident and the trip from his view. You can read it HERE.

Next post: Shipping the motorcycles home.

Thanks for following. Donn and Deby 🙂 🙂

The Crash

Saturday April 13, 2013. Bahia Blanca, Argentina. Hotel Argos.

Dave is OK except for his arm which suffered some broken bones. I took this picture about an hour ago at the motorcycle shop Motos Fernandez where Dave stopped to take care of some paperwork before being driven to the airport for his flight home.

The crash happened Thursday about noon on the outskirts of Bahia Blanca, Argentina. I think it will be best to let Dave tell the story in his own words after he is home and rested. You can read his blog HERE. I’ll tell the story of how we managed to take care of Dave and his stuff.

I didn’t see the accident since I was the lead with Deby behind me, Dave in the middle and Keith and Jim were bringing up the rear. We were in relatively light traffic on a clear dry day looking to skirt the city of Bahia Blanca on our way to Buenos Aries. On our way through a roundabout Dave’s pannier made contact with a truck which caused him to loose control and dump in the median.

What happened next was a textbook example of how to do everything correctly at an accident scene. Every motorcycle rider should have first responder training and know what to do in case of an accident. Deby and I took a two day emergency first responder class before we left and we had the added benefit of having Jim along who is a doctor/surgeon. We all jumped into action to protect the scene, do a preliminary evaluation and call for help. Within minutes there was a complete response including police, fire truck and an ambulance to take Dave to a nearby hospital. Dr. Jim followed the ambulance to the hospital leaving Keith, Deby and I to deal with the motorcycle and the police. Thus began an incredible sequence of events where we each worked to get Dave and his motorcycle home.

The police insisted we follow them to the station with the motorcycles, most importantly Dave’s which was to be held for evidence. We determined that Dave’s bike was rideable and after some discussion I was elected to ride it to the station. One of the officers insisted that he was a motocross rider and would ride my motorcycle and lead the way. We didn’t seem to have much choice.  At the station we worked with the main officer who spoke no English. I didn’t catch his name and wish I would have because he seemed to go out of his way to be helpful. He interviewed Keith who was the main witness and asked me a bunch of questions before he let us go. I can’t really explain how we managed to communicate except to say that it was a combination of hand signals, drawings on paper and some use of the Google online translator. Finally, we were allowed to leave but were sternly told that we couldn’t take Dave’s bike or any of his belongings, all of which were being held for evidence.

I programmed the Bahia Blanca Municipal Hospital into my GPS and we went off to check on our Amigo. Dr. Jim was with Dave in the examination room and we were able to briefly go in and say hello. I quickly determined it would be better if we let the professionals do their job and waited in the hallway. Somehow in the division of duties it became my job to call Dave’s insurance company in the US and obtain authorization for treatment. It took awhile but I finally got through to his insurance company and a Spanish speaking doctor who I handed off to one of Dave’s doctors. They spoke for a long while and must have worked something out because they treated Dave and when it was time to leave the hospital they didn’t ask for any money.

With the situation seeming stable for the moment we set about our next task of finding a hotel. The ideal hotel would have been near the hospital but a quick assessment of the neighborhood suggested that we might want to be somewhere else. That’s when we met Pablo. Our normal protocol is to always leave someone watching the bikes when we need to go somewhere and the hospital was no exception judging by the people wandering around and the attention four big adventure bikes were getting. Deby was on guard duty for what ended up being a couple of hours and had extended conversations in Spanglish with all the curious people passing by. One of them was Pablo, who we eventually figured out was there because his mother was in the hospital for some type of surgery. Deby and Pablo had been conversing for at least an hour when I came out and asked about hotels. Pablo had a few suggestions but it was clear he wanted to know what type of hotel we wanted…. mejor mejor I told him using up one of my 15 Spanish words. He got the message and signaled us to follow him. We got on the bikes and followed him a few block on foot to his parked car. From there we followed him about a mile to the main square of town where he parked in front of the Argos Hotel, a modern multistory building with underground parking. Perfect. I thought he would just wave and drive off but no, he parked his car and insisted on going in with us to explain our predicament in Spanish and make sure we were able to get rooms. Amazing. We saw him the next day at the hospital and found out his mother’s surgery went well and she was recovering fine. He wanted to know about Dave’s recovery and how we liked our hotel. I should have got his picture… thanks Pablo!

Deby and I secured two rooms, unloaded our bikes and rode back to the hospital. By this time it became clear that Dave would be spending the night and he requested that we gather up some of his personal belongings from the police. Hmmm, I wondered if his shaving kit and clean underwear would be considered evidence. Keith, Deby and I decided to ride the 5 miles back to the police station and see what we could do.

Mr. Main Policeman was still there and after some discussion he agreed that we could take all of Dave’s belongings which were in a pile on the floor of his office and included one pannier that was torn off the bike, his large tail bag and the contents of the other pannier that had been strewn about in the road when the lid broke off. Not sure how we would transport all that stuff I didn’t want to argue and started carrying stuff out and strapping it on the three bikes.

I thought it might be a good idea to ask about taking the bike, his first answer was no. In the course of spanglish and sign language I found out they may need to keep the bike for several days! Yikes! I told him – no possibilo (adding an “o” seems to help in Spanglish). He looked at me and made a long phone call to someone discussing our situation. After he hung up he typed something into his google translator. It was a terrible translation and I could almost read it better in Spanish. It looked like we could take the bike and the “commissioner” authorized it’s release. Wow, I told him I would be back in ono hora! The three of us rode the 5 miles to the hospital to drop off Dave’s belongings. Keith decided to stay at the hospital and Deby and I had the task of motorcycle retrieval. We rode back to the hotel to drop off my bike and rode two-up on Deby’s bike back to the police station.

Silly me, I thought we would show up and be allowed to just drive away. Not. There was more paperwork to fill out including some kind of release / legal thing in Spanish I had to sign. They made copies of my passport and copied all my information onto the form. I still don’t know what that was about exactly but decided to take the risk. By the time we were done Mr. Main Policemen lightened up and brought up his Facebook page with pictures of him riding motocross races and his bike, it was pretty cool. I thought he sent me a friend request but I never received it… bummer, I would like to send him a thank you.

By the time we were done it was close to 8:00 PM and we rode to the hotel in the dark. I was glad Dave’s turn signals and brake lights all worked even if they pointed in odd directions. I should have checked the headlight, it was on but pointed nearly straight down. We made it safely to the hotel to find Keith and Jim waiting in the hotel lobby. We all sat in the lobby evaluating the day, glad that for the most part Dave was OK and evaluated what needed to be done next. They still had their riding gear on to make one last trip to the hospital to bring Dave his cell phone so he could call his wife. It was dark, getting cold and we were all tired which is why it took us a few minutes to figure out it would be best to leave the bikes parked and take a cab to the hospital. Duh….

Friday April 14, 2013

8:00 AM was the meeting time at the hotel to plan the day’s tasks and divvy up the tasks for the day. Janice had arranged a flight for Dave to leave the next day, Saturday at 2:45 PM. He would fly to Buenos Aries and then catch a flight to Portland via Houston.

Jim and Keith’s morning task was to go through Dave’s belongings making an inventory and make sure we had everything. They then repacked his bags, sorting out what Dave could take on the plane and what we could ship home on the motorcycle. They went through all his paperwork and even bought a multi-sleeve folder to organize everything.

I had been e-mailing with Dakar Motos, the company in Buenos Aries who was helping us ship the bikes home. Sandra, who was helpful beyond belief told me what paperwork we would need to send Dave’s bike home without him. She e-mailed me some forms and told me they needed to be notarized along with notarized copies of Dave’s passport, and vehicle registration. We needed everything in triplicate.

We also needed to find a way to get Dave’s bike to BA, about 400 miles away. We split with Keith and Jim agreeing to meet later at the hotel. Not sure what to do I looked online for a nearby motorcycle shop and found one a few blocks away. Deby and I set off on foot for the shop only to find the building was empty. Not knowing what to do we kept walking down Brown Street. We were in an area where every other shop seemed to be an auto parts store or an auto repair facility. I had a feeling that it would be a likely spot for a motorcycle shop. After about 10 blocks and not finding anything we were about to turn around, I suggested to Deby we try one more block and then give up. Halfway down the block we saw this: 

Moto Fernandez. I looked into the dark windows, was it even open? I saw some motorcycles including a pretty new BMW F800GS. We opened the door and walked in. A sales person greeted us and I started conveying our story in sign language / Spanglish. Neccissito moto to Buenos Aries. Amigo crash… hospitale…. then sign language for a broken arm. Not much progress, but I was told to wait. Eventually the owner, Juan Fernadez came in, he spoke a few more words of English and we managed to get our story across. Finally, he asked us to wait and made a few phone calls. After the last call he conveyed he had good news, a friend of his could ride Dave’s bike to Buenos Aries on Sunday if we would buy him a bus ticket back. Yes! Then he said, solo uno problemo, mi amigo es 72 anos! Would that be a problem? Ha! It only made sense to have another 70+ year old person join us. It felt right so I told him yes and that we would all meet at his shop at 10:00 on Saturday. We couldn’t believe our luck in locating a rider and such a helpful person as Juan Fernandez.

We got back to the hotel in time to have lunch with Jim and Keith. During lunch we sorted out the paperwork we needed, placed everything into the multi-tabbed folder and made notes of what needed to be copied. Our next task was to get all the copies then find a notary on a Friday afternoon that could go to the hospital and watch Dave sign everything. We had 24 hours before Dave needed to be at the airport, his bike couldn’t leave the country without the notarized documents. It seemed doable.

With a binder full of copies of various documents including assignment of responsibility, and releases Deby and I hiked to the hospital so see if we could find a notary. At the hospital there was a most helpful intern named Katerina? She called a notary that she knew and had a long conversation in Spanish, the answer was no. According to her, all the notaries in the city were in a meeting all afternoon and even if there was one available they couldn’t notarize one of the documents because it was in Spanish and Dave didn’t speak Spanish. What? Dave tried to convince her, in Spanish, that indeed he did understand Spanish and what the document said. She would’t budge. In frustration I checked on my GPS and saw that we were not far from a courthouse and some municipal buildings. Deby volunteered to walk around and see if she could find a notary. She came back a while later with the name an number of someone that didn’t pan out. We were running out of options, it was late on Friday and Dave would be released at 10:00 AM the next day in time to to the to airport for his flight. The best idea had was for Dave to sign the forms, forget the notary, go to Buenos Aries and hope for the best.

Did I mention that it was Dave’s right arm that was broke? Signing with his right hand was out of the question, could he sign with his left? Dave wanted to try so I gave him my notebook to practice on. It wasn’t pretty. 

Ok, forget that idea. Dejected and out if ideas we went back to the hotel.

Saturday April 13, 2013

Our 8:00 breakfast meeting was somber. We had no solution to the notary problem and had resolved to take our chances without one. Keith and Jim had Dave’s belongings sorted and packed for the plane and were going to go to the hospital to get Dave out by his 10:00 AM release time. Deby and I agreed to go to Motos Fernadez for our arranged meeting with our 72 year old rider, Miguel. I would ride Dave’s bike to Juan’s shop because he wanted his mechanic to look over the bike and make sure it was roadworthy. Good idea.

We got there at 10:00 and Juan’s mechanic set about checking over Dave’s bike and gluing some of the plastic back in place. While we were waiting for Miguel I casually asked Juan if he knew a notary and explained the problem. Yes! No problem! In an instant he was on the phone with his notary when he looked at me and said it’s not possible. What? Why? He explained that a notary in Bahia Blanca is not recognized in Buenos Aires. I recommended he call Saundra at Dakar Motos in Buenos Aries which he did and had an extended conversation. I have absolutely no idea what they said to each other but in my mind Saundra said that it’s a bunch of Bu!!$hit and just sign the documents. I couldn’t agree more, any signature was better than nothing.

Ok, the deal was on, Juan’s notary would meet Dave and sign the papers, it was 10:30 AM. We were at the motorcycle shop that is probably 7 miles from the hospital and Dave was scheduled to be released at 10:00. How could I get a message to Dave to come to Juan’s shop? Did he already leave the hospital? Were they on their way to the airport for an early check in? Maybe they found a notary at the hospital? I took a chance and asked Juan to call the hospital and ask for the Americano in room 4. Somehow it worked.

Dave, Keith and Jim all struck out finding a notary and decided to forget it and leave for the airport when an orderly came in to tell Dave he had a phone call. Dave got on the phone with Juan and was amazed to hear at the last minute a notary had been arranged if he could take a taxi to Juan’s shop. By 11:30 the taxi showed up with Keith, Jim and Dave. The timing was perfect, only a few minutes earlier Miguel, the person who would be riding Dave’s bike to BA arrived. Everyone got to meet among great excitement.

Left to right, Dave, Juan and Miguel

Miguel and Dave…. now how fast will this thing go?

Just now as I’m typing this I got an e-mail from Jim that they met the notary, got everything signed, found a pharmacy to fill his prescriptions and successfully got Dave to the airport to board the plane.

Everything is thanks to Juan Fernandez, he drove Dave and Jim to the notary and the airport and went out of his way to help make everything work.  I know that Juan was missing his son’s basketball game and spending a big part of his Saturday to help complete strangers. Unreal! A huge Thank You to Juan Fernandez!

So, tonight we will celebrate with a nice dinner and then get ready for a long ride in the morning. Is Dave’s bike really roadworthy enough to go 400 miles at high speeds? Will all the paperwork be correct for customs? I hope so. I look forward to hearing from Dave when he get’s back.

That’s all for now. The adventure continues…..

Donn and Deby 🙂 🙂









Pointing East

Monday April 8, 2013. San Martin de los Andes, Argentina Hotel Patagonia Plaza

As I mentioned in my last post it rained all day Friday in Pucon so we delayed our exit for a day and spent the day catching up on laundry, e-mails, route planning and napping. I managed one picture out the hotel window, nothing but rain all day.

We spent time with Keith, Dave and Jim trying to decide on a route to Buenos Aries. Keith is having trouble with his front shocks and wisely decided that he should stick to pavement. We looked at routes south and nothing really caught Deby or my interest so we essentially decided to stay another night near Pucon and ride into Argentina via the  dirt road and on a 1.5 hour ferry ride that Michael took the day before. Dave, Keith and Jim decided to ride south with plans to meet us Tuesday on the Argentina side.

On Saturday we made the grueling 30KM ride to the Hotel y Termas Huife Resort

It took us all of a half hour to ride the nice paved road to the resort. I was wondering why we didn’t go a day earlier. It was a little out of our normal price range but we justified it by calling it an anniversary/birthday gift and made up our minds to enjoy the stay. Adventure riding on motorcycles can be tough but we managed to have a relaxing day soaking in the therapeutic hot springs an enjoying the fine dining.

When we pulled into the parking spot for our room we parked next to a BMW R1200 with Chile plates. Later at dinner we met the couple on the bike, Edwardo and Francine. Francine spoke very good English so we struck up a conversation about motorcycle travel and the best routes in the area. We found out that they met Michael two days before at the ferry, small world.They originally had plans to return to their home in Santiago on the Chilean side of the mountains but after talking they decided they liked San Martin so much they wanted to go back. They even knew a “shortcut” through the mountains on a gravel road that would get us to the ferry sooner. Hey, why not! So we made plans to leave the Huife hot springs at 9:00 for San Martin.

We didn’t have reservations for the ferry that Michael recommended but Edwardo and Francine seemed confident we wouldn’t have a problem on a Sunday morning during the off season so off we rode on a cool fall day.

Remember this picture of Volcan Villarrica I took a few days earlier?

Here’s what it looked like Sunday morning after a day of rain in Pucon. 

Plenty of new snow in the mountains, fall was in the air. It was a great day of riding, we returned to Pucon, then west to Villarrica before we turned southeast towards the mountains. The road immediately turned to gravel and stayed that way for the next 90 miles through the Andes. 

The rains from the previous days was enough to keep the dust down but the road was not too muddy. 

Our tour guides were fantastic although I couldn’t exactly figure out how someone could ride an R1200 (not GS) with Tourance street tires with two people full out on gravel roads hitting 50 to 60 MPH and still waiting for us at the turn offs. Edwardo was a rock star on that bike, we later learned he had a lifetime of experience riding enduros. Fun.

We arrived at the Puerto Fuy ferry dock almost exactly at noon which is what was recommended for the 1:00 ferry, the only one that goes east all day. This ferry is part of highway 203 route to Huahum Pass into Argentina and transverses Pirihueico Lake. We made it on with room to spare. As usual, Deby picked up most of the flinging mud being in the rear. 

Edwardo and Francine with Deby and the bikes on the ferry. 

It was a long ride on a beautiful lake, I only counted three houses along the whole route that must only be accessible by boat. 

It reminded me a little of some of the lakes in the North Cascades of Washington State. 

A crazy thing happens when the boat docks at the eastern shore, it’s only 9KM to the Argentina border on a gravel road and everyone wants to be the first on there to get in line. Of course, Edwardo and Francine were first and left us in the dust. We hauled A$$ and were third behind a pickup truck that was determined to beat us. Seriously, we were easily doing 60mph on loose gravel trying to keep up. Deby called it Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.

It was not problem getting across, probably the fastest border crossing yet. I loved the remote crossing in the middle of nowhere on a gravel road. 

We still had more gravel to go before our destination, I think Edwardo slowed down a little for us so it was about 5:00 when we arrived in San Martin. We stopped at this scenic overlook of the city where they took our picture. 

Here is a closeup of the city over our shoulders, a major ski resort town nestled in the mountains next to a lake. When we got into town they had a favorite hotel picked out and even negotiated a discount rate which was pretty reasonable for a 4 star hotel. I like those guys, they know how to travel!

On Monday, Deby and I decided to spend a day exploring San Martin. Too often we arrive at these fantastic cities and check into a nice hotel only to get up early to leave the next day. Edwardo and Francine tried to persuade us to ride with them north on some more dirt tracks, it was really tempting but for some reason I was ready for a day off. Wait… didn’t I just spend a day at a hot-springs resort? Hmmm, must be getting tired. Reluctantly we said goodbye to our new friends. 

Instead of beating ourselves up on dirt roads we explored the town, took care of exchanging some money, washed some clothes, did a little shopping and since it was a beautiful, sunny fall day we packed a lunch and rode into the mountains for a short hike and picnic. For variety, Deby decided to ride on the back of my bike. Instantly she remembered why she likes riding her own motorcycle. Here was her view. 

It was a fun ride. 

We found a nice picnic spot. 

Overlooking a beautiful valley full of fall colors. 

A nice spot for a short siesta. 

Before we rode back on a nice paved twisty road. 

We came across some local wildlife. 

Beautiful fall colors…. it’s weird having fall in April. 

The road winds around the lake before dropping into San Martin, seen in the distance. 

Back in town we went for a walk and saw these birds in a park. We’ve been seeing flocks of parrots and I finally got a picture of one. 

We saw a lot of these birds that look like small hawks but walk around on the ground. Not sure exactly what they are but they were pretty cool. 

And finally, we had been seeing a lot of these birds that seemed like a shore bird but were walking on the grass picking out worms. None of these birds seemed to spooked of me getting close with my cheezy little camera to take their picture. 

Tomorrow we leave for Neuquen where we plan on meeting, Dave, Keith and Jim to finish our journey to Buenos Aries. Michael, who is now our advance scout, sent us the following describing the city:

“Much easier riding but boring, ended up in Neuquen which is a large but not pretty city, plus dust storm going that night, crappy old hotels but they have a WalMart! “

Most people we’ve meet wince when we tell them we’re riding east to Buenos Aries. Really? They ask, where are you going to stop along the way?

The adventure continues…. at least for another 12 days.

Donn and Deby 🙂 🙂

Check out Dave’s blog about his last few days HERE.


Into Chile – the longest crossing yet!

Wednesday April 3, 2013, Pucon Chile, Hotel Vientos del Sur

Has it been a week already? Geesh, I must be getting lazy in my blogging duties. We’ve had some great days riding and a couple of adventures along the way. I left off last Tuesday in Cafayate Argentena where we spent an extra day catching up on laundry, some bike chores and a day of rest. Wednesday morning, Deby, Michael and I saddled up our steeds to ride south. Dave, Keith and Jim were still a day or two ahead of us and we were hoping to get in a few miles to eventually catch them before Pucon. We were in the middle of Holy Week in Argentina, which is a major holiday and we heard from our advance scouts, that hotels were full in every city. With that in mind we made reservations at a casa in Chilecito, Argentina. According to my GPS we rode exactly 300 miles between hotels. I realize now that I only took a few pictures from the day. Here’s one from a beverage stop at a small town. 

We had a room booked at the Cabana la Martina which was a short distance from El Centro. It was a nice country stay in a stand alone cottage with a full kitchen and two bedrooms, perfect. Instead of making the ride into town to look for a restaurant, Michael and I went to a nearby supermarket and bought provisions for dinner and breakfast. We dined under the stars at a picnic table on the grounds. We bought fresh bread and sliced ham and cheese from the deli to make sandwiches with a side of potato chips.

For breakfast, (because Ethan wants to know), we had yogurt with granola, bananas and coffee. A perfect way to launch the day. Interesting thing, yogurt comes in a plastic bag here and is really thin. Perfect to be used on cereal. 

Thursday we continued south towards our destination of San Juan. Again, we went online to try to make reservations and everything was full. We finally booked what I thought was two rooms at the San Juan Hostel. Wrong.

The ride towards San Juan started out great, winding through some red mountains. 

It wasn’t long before the pavement ended. 

I don’t know why, but it was fun riding on red dirt. 

As usual, the road was cut into the side of the steep mountain. 

I’m glad it wasn’t raining because it would have been slick. 

Somehow after this we lost Michael. When it’s the three of us we don’t always ride within sight of each other and he had the information on the hostel reservations so we weren’t worried until we arrived in San Juan and there was no sign of him. While we were waiting I went to check into the hostel…. hmmm, not two rooms as I thought but two upper bunks in a small room with about eight bunk beds. That wasn’t going to work.

The person running the hostel spoke decent English and was nice enough to make a few phone calls. Even though all the hotels were full he found us a private room in a hostel down the street. It had a shared bathroom but Deby and I could have our own room for $35.00 USD. We jumped at that and left a message that if another biker showed up to send him down the street.

We got unpacked and the first thing I did was fire up my laptop to check Michael’s SPOT. Sure enough he had just set off a “check in” from the main square of San Juan. I grabbed my helmet to go find him and as I walked out saw Michael standing next to my motorcycle. That was easy!

The next day was Good Friday. We had a message from Jim, Dave and Keith that they planned to be in Vina del Mar just on the outside of Santiago, Chile. Concerned about finding a hotel on Good Friday I went online and booked rooms for the three of us in Valparaiso which is close to Vina del Mar. We checked the miles and it was about 350 miles and included a border crossing, yikes! The previous crossing into Chile from Peru was easy and only took about a half hour so we hoped that would be the case again and headed south to the Paso Los Libertadores crossing between Mendoza, Argentina and Santiago, Chile. You can click on the link to read about it.

We got an early start and made some really good time including a fast bypass around Mendoza where we turned west into the mountains. Beautiful weather and great stretches of road greeted our day. 

By 1:30 in the afternoon we had gone almost 200 miles and came to a small mountain resort town of Uspallata, only about 50 miles from the border, we were feeling pretty good about completing the last 100 miles into Santiago and catching up with the rest of the group. Just as we were leaving town I saw three big motorcycles coming towards us, hey, that looks like Dave! Then Jim and Keith! What were they doing going the wrong way? We stopped and had a small reunion on the side of the road, we hadn’t seen them for a few weeks ever since we split so we could hike Machu Picchu in Peru. They had turned around because a gas stop on their GPS didn’t exist and they needed to return to Uspallata to get gas. Glad to be back together we agreed to wait at the border for them.

The time stamps on my GPS and camera documented the rest. It wasn’t long after Uspallata that traffic came to a halt, it was 2:00 PM. As far as we could see down the mountain road cars were stopped. Thinking it was a construction delay (part of it was) we did what is common for motorcycles to do in Central and South America, we rode past all the parked cars. I’m not sure but I think we rode for at least 2 miles and passed hundreds of parked cars. I was starting to feel a little guilty. Eventually we came to the entrance to a long tunnel between countries. That must be it. We “filtered” to the front of the line where  the cars were stopped at a toll booth. No cars were passing through. I somehow managed to ask and determined that there was no toll for motorcycles and we would just have to wait for the tunnel to open in one hour. I wasn’t sure why it was closed but went back to the bikes to report to Deby and Michael. When I got there Jim, Keith and Dave were in line with us. They too had passed the line of cars and parked near the front with us. The hour went quickly as we got caught up on three weeks of riding stories. Eventually the tunnel opened and we went through. On the far side as we exited the tunnel traffic was stopped again. What? I looked ahead and as far as I could see down the twisty mountain road cars were stopped. They were only letting so many cars through the tunnel at a time so cars wouldn’t be stuck idling in the tunnel. We came to a snow shed that was probably a half mile long and was full of stopped cars. Somehow after we passed cars on the shoulder and rode to the entrance an official person moved a cone and told us to ride on a gravel road along the side of the tunnel. Wow! We must have passed another hundred or so cars!

Here you can see the snow shed way in the background, it was full of cars. 

This next picture was taken at 4:48PM. 

After the shed we were within sight of the border crossing but as we got closer there were police patrols watching for people cutting into line. I fell back and let Keith take the lead. When the police stopped him I pulled in behind a car to watch the outcome. Sure enough, Keith and Jim were being turned around. Surely they wouldn’t be sent back the many miles through the tunnel? The came back to me and tucked in with us thanks to an understanding driver behind us. We resigned ourselves to sitting out the final mile in line as the clock ticked towards sunset.

By 5:15PM we were a little closer. 

Since we had plenty of time to discuss the situation with the travelers around us we learned that on the Argentina side there was road construction and they only let traffic go West from 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM and East during the nighttime hours. Holy cow! It was nearly 6:00 PM and we were barely moving towards the border.

This picture was taken at 6:44 PM, we were almost cleared to enter Chile. 

The border crossing is at 10,400 feet, it was getting dark, cold and we had prepaid hotel rooms in a city 150 miles away. Just before 7:00 we were set free by Auduana and Michael, Deby and I raced down the mountain to try to get through Santiago into Valparaiso, in the dark before we dropped from exhaustion. Dave Keith and Jim didn’t actually make reservations anywhere so they were going to ride and hope they found a place to stay in the peak of of the holiday week.

We made it about 40 miles when we came to the town of Los Andes and saw a nice looking hotel on the right. We rode past it and then I stopped. After a brief pow wow we decided to turn around and see if by chance they had any rooms. I was in the lobby negotiating our fate when our three amigos pulled into the parking lot. Great minds think alike.

Yes, they had rooms, we were in. We settled into our rooms and then met in the hotel restaurant, together again finally, and spent what was left of the evening swapping tales and catching up.

I’m sure most of the cars we passed never made it across the pass that evening, we barely did. Perhaps that is why the hotel had rooms? We’ll never know, but I was glad to eat the non-refundable charge for the Valparaiso hotel.

Next…. the final stretch into Pucon, the destination city for Keith and Dave’s trip 50 years ago.