Into Pucon

Friday April 5, 2013, Pucon, Chile

Finally, with the original six MotoRaiders back together, we assembled on the day before Easter to continue our journey south to Pucon, Chile. I came out to a flat rear tire on my bike… not a good way to start the day. I couldn’t find any explanation for the flat so discouraged I just pumped it up and rode off.

The route from Los Andes to our destination for the day, Curico, was on a four lane interstate highway called ruta 5. We called it I-5 since in all respects it was the same as our interstate 5 except for the additions of toll booths every 50 or so miles. The 182 miles was so boring I didn’t even take any pictures. Because of the holiday we had reservations at what ended up being a nondescript but adequate hotel near the center of Curico. We learned that the main holiday is celebrated on Saturday and all the restaurants and most businesses were closed so we found an open supermercado and bought provisions for a dinner of sandwiches in the hotel lobby.

At the hotel I checked my tire and it was slowly loosing air so I set up shop in the parking lot and replaced the tube with a new one I had been carrying for the past 14,000 miles. The tube had a small hole but I couldn’t find any protrusions through the tire. One of those mysteries of motorcycle travel.

Easter Sunday we loaded up under overcast skies. 

We were all tired of the boring interstate so we decided on a route west that took us along the Chilean coast line. Fall was in the air, the terrain, the trees turning colors and the overcast, damp weather made us all a little homesick for the Pacific Northwest. 

The rocky coastline near Constitucion reminded us of the Oregon coast. 

This rock was a bird rookery, full of birds and white from bird droppings. We stopped and climbed around for a while. 

The fog, coastline and temperatures were just like the Oregon coast. 

A short ways later the pavement ended and we rode for a dozen or so miles on nice graded gravel. I felt like I was riding in the North Cascades. Except for these good ol boys. 

Bringing a load of potatoes into town. 

We found a nice little resort type hotel on a small inlet just outside the town of Buchupureo, Chile. A town so small there is not even a Wikipedia entry for it. Here is a picture I took from the deck of our cabana. 

We were glad to wake up on Monday to some clear sky. 

Monday we rode 170 miles along the coast to the small town of Canete. We arrived early enough to have time to walk about town. It was nice enough but nothing special. Monday was Jim’s birthday so Deby located a cake and we had a nice dinner to celebrate in the hotel restaurant.

Tuesday was the day we would finally make it to Pucon, Chile. The sister city of Lake Oswego, Oregon that was the destination of Dave and Keith’s ride 50 years ago.

We rode in more fall like weather and it was easy to see how southern Chile could be compared with Oregon. 

About 3:00 we rolled into town. 

It was fantastic for Dave and Keith to return after 50 years. What was a small town with dirt roads 50 years ago was now a thriving tourist destination. I told them that they should take credit for starting the tourist boom since they were probably the first American tourists to visit this out of the way town.

Here are some then and now pictures I stole from Dave’s blog post (you can check out his post HERE).





We saw a lot of things named “Oregon”. 

We learned that Oregon Pine seedlings were imported 40 to 50 years ago and are now used for most of the wood post and beam structures. Wow, what a connection!

The city is overshadowed by the towering, active volcano Villacarra

Dave and Keith said it was cloudy the whole time they were here 50 years ago and they never saw the mountain. This was the only day we were to see it as well. That’s smoke from the top of the volcano…..

Being in the shadow of an active volcano the city has a system of lights to give the safety status of the mountain. 

Hey … why don’t we have this in Seattle for Mt Rainier or Mt St. Helens?

On Wednesday we went out for a little ride around the area. Checked out the beach. 

Hiked to some waterfalls. Which included more riding on dirt roads…. the dirtiest person had the most fun? 

Keith and Dave were having a blast! 

Reaching Pucon meant the trip was winding down for all of us. Over the past few days we’ve been busy making preparations to have the motorcycles shipped home from Buenos Aries and we all booked our airline tickets home. Michael made his reservations to leave a week before the rest of us and Wednesday was his last night with us before he set off on his own for the east. We all went out for a final dinner with all six of us. Michael had a large piece of Lasagna! 

We had planned to leave Friday but checked the weather forecast and the prediction was for heavy rain and then a week of sun. As I type this it’s dumping rain out the hotel window, another reminder of home. Tomorrow we make our way across the Andes, into Argentina towards Buenos Aries. We haven’t exactly decided on the route as there are many choices and we may actually split up for a couple of days with Deby and I going on some gravel roads and checking out a hot springs resort along the way.

Still having fun!

Donn and Deby 🙂 🙂



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.


Peru to Chile into Argentina

Tuesday March 26, 2013, Cafayate, Argentina.

Whew, need to cover some ground here so hold on…..

Wednesday March 20th, 237 miles from Arequipa to Tacna in order to setup for a Thursday border crossing into Chile. We rode through some of the most amazing desert topography I’ve been in. 

Long straight sections. 

Into beautifully colored hills. My wimpy camera didn’t come close to capturing the feel of this place. At times I felt like we were riding on Mars. 

Thursday the 21st, we rode the short distance to the Chile border and actually had a pretty easy crossing. The country may have changed but the topology was very similar. The main difference was that we were within site of the ocean most of the time. 

With long stretches between gas stops we had to carefully manage our fuel. Michael ran into a problem because the attendant didn’t fill his tank completely at one of the stops. Good thing we carry a couple of extra gallons. 

Again, more amazing scenery. Words or pictures really can’t capture it, well, at least mine. I would highly recommend this route. 

After 235 miles for the day, we found a place in the unique city of Iquique, Chile. I added it to my list of large resort cities I’ve never heard of. Interesting place, huge high rises and expensive hotel rates to go with them.

Friday the 22nd marked the 33rd wedding anniversary for me and Deby. We rode 144 miles from Iquique to Tocopilla Chile where we happened on a pretty nice hotel, the hotel Bahai. More riding along the Chilean coast which was bigger than life.

We stopped to take a picture of this small fishing village, the white stuff is salt.

Long lengths of road and mountains. 

We celebrated with some happy anniversary wine thanks to Michael. 

Saturday the 23rd we turned east into the mountains in preparation for a Sunday border crossing into Argentina. The route for the day took us from Tocopilla 172 miles, to the tourist town of San Pedro.  A large section of the trip followed a power line corridor into the mountains. 

Then more long straight sections. 

Before we came into the foothills of the Andes. 

For some reason we had advance warning that the hotels in San Pedro might be full so we made online reservations at the Casa Don Estaban Rural. The problem was that the road to the hotel was closed due to construction. In our effort to find a detour we ended up on a loose gravel road in someones back yard. While negotiating a U-turn, Deby’s front wheel slipped out and the bike fell on Deby’s ankle. Just then a person from the hotel appeared, I think he heard the commotion and knowing some motorcycle riders were looking for his hotel came over to help. We were within eyesight of the hotel but it was a long drive around several blocks to get to it. He drove around with his car lead us. We lifted the bike off Deby but it looked like she had a sprained ankle so she rode in car and we took turns shuttling the bikes to the hotel.

Back at the hotel we immediately applied the first aide we learned in our class, RICE, Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. Oh, and beer. 

We expected the worst, perhaps her ankle would swell, turn black and blue and she wouldn’t be able to ride for a few days. Later in the evening the proprietress came over. She knew no English and we only had a couple of words of Spanish but she managed to convey she was a “medico” and specialized in natural medicine. With permission she treated Deby’s leg. 

She made a concoction of this plant. 

Soaked a cloth in the fluid and wrapped Deby’s leg with it. She told us to then wrap it with an Ace bandage and leave it on all night.

Sunday the 24th we woke up wondering if we would be able to ride. To our amazement and the credit of natural medicine Deby’s ankle looked great with only a little swelling. On  with the boots and off we went headed for the Argentina border.

The Argentinian border crossing was one of the easiest we had for the whole trip. We had been clued in by our riding partners, who were a few days ahead of us that we needed to print an online form with a barcode to show at the remote border. We also found out that we needed to check out of Chile 100 miles from the border at a small office in San Pedro. We lucked out and had all our paperwork correct and managed to get across the border in record time, less than about 45 minutes.

More desert riding. 

Michael rounding a corner. 

We came to a Salar and met 6 other adventure riders. We had a great time hanging out and taking pictures. They were from Buenos Aries and were using their vacation to ride the area. We knew we were coming into a great riding area by the huge increase in motorcycles we started coming across. 

We decided to ride together down one of the best canyons I’ve been in. 

About 4:30 we all stopped in the town of Purmamarca. We didn’t realize it was one of the top tourist stops in Argentina, once we stopped and saw how beautiful the town was with the colorful mountains surrounding it we decided to spend the night. 

I didn’t take this picture but you can see the town with the hills behind it. Total miles for the day was 259 fantastic miles.

Monday the 25th we rode south towards Salta and on to our final destination, the town of Cafeyate. A tourist destination on the famed ruta 40 in the heart of the Argentina wine region.

Along the way we saw signs for a hot springs so we took a short detour for a soak. When we parked the bikes we had the first signs of fall. 

South on highway 9 was some of the most twisty road we’ve been on this whole trip. 

After Salta we came across this stop with close to 10 adventure motorcycles parked. We had to stop for a break. It was a group of riders from Uruguay and Buenos Aries who were up riding for a week. During our stop at least a dozen other motorcycles rode by. We knew we were in one of the best riding area in Argentina. 

After lunch we continued south into the Quebrada (Canyon) de Cafayate.  Lonely Planet describes it as a “Martian-like” landscape. We didn’t expect to be totally awed by this fantastic place. It was like riding through the Grand Canyon. My pictures just don’t do it justice. 

Some more pictures are HERE.

We rolled into Cafayate and were lucky to find a room in the mostly full touristy town. This morning we woke up and decided we needed a day for recharging batteries, doing laundry, and wine tasting so it was a day off from riding.

Tomorrow we ride south on the famous ruta 40 and hope to catch up with our amigos who are only a couple of hundred miles ahead.

To see more of my Peru Pictures click HERE.

To see more Chile pictures click HERE.

Argentina Pictures are HERE.

So far Argentina has been the most amazing, I might say it’s my favorite so far but that may be because we’ve just had three days of the most incredible riding ever.

Thanks for following, we love the comments and e-mails!

Donn and Deby 🙂 🙂