Three BMW GS 1200’s arrived with one couple on one of the bikes and the other two GS’s had solo riders. These guys were from Colombia and on a 38-day tour to Chile and back.
The husband and wife were covered in white dust. I later found out that they had come off on one of the salt traps.
Once the customs guy had finished lunch, he dually completed the paper work and I was issued the temporary import license. I was then free to leave.
I rode along another corrugated, sandy gravelly road and was making good pace when I came around a corner and hit a really deep section of sand. It was between six and twelve inches deep. The front end of the bike started to wash out and I managed to right it only long enough to scrub off some speed before Winston and I came crashing to the ground. I was pleased there was no damage to Winston only a few scratches to the plastics.
There are no petrol stations on thisroute andd I was amazed I had managed to travel 420km on a tank of petrol. The high altitude and thin air really help get good mileage. The downside is you lose a lot of power
There were no money exchangers at the border so I arrived into Calama with no Chilean Pesos and only 20km of fuel left in the tank. I spotted a petrol station and hoped they had an ATM machine. I was in luck; they had a machine. I got my cash out, filled Winston up with fuel and then headed for a campsite that was showing on my GPS. When I arrived at where the campsite was supposed to be it was waist ground in a rough looking industrial park, in fact I had a pack of dogs chase me out of the place.
Of all the counties I’ve travelled I’ve never had a problem with dogs chasing me while riding. It wasn’t until I got into Bolivia and Chile that I’ve experienced this. Maybe it’s the high altitude and thin air that sends them a bit loopy. It’s not just me they chase, its cars and trucks. There are plenty of dead dogs on the side of the road to prove that metal will always win out over flesh every time.
Day 506 Friday 23rd January 2016.
I headed west towards the coast. Not long after leaving Calama I saw the first large copper mine. The hills around this area are green, but not with grass, green from copper oxide. You can smell the copper in the air.
I clocked up over 600km today. So far on this trip Chile has been very light on towns, there’s been very little traffic, which is just what I like. The downside to this is you really have to plan your petrol stops. There are reasonable distances between petrol stations.
Now that I’m at sea level Winston is back to his powerful best, this is at the expense of the amazing mileage I was getting at high altitude.
There is always some kind of maintenance or repairs you have to do on your gear and bike.
Day 507 Sunday 24th January 2016.
I headed through very baron deserts with no real landmarks until I approached Serena. Here there was a place to camp. When I arrived, the campground was gone and in its place a block of apartments.
I headed off around the coast looking for other camping spots. I found a few more camp grounds but they wanted too much. It was more expensive than the USA so I carried on through some streets that were covered in thick powdery sand. It was deep enough to make the back wheel sink and give me another nice work out.
I ended up in Tongoy at an empty camping spot. The owner charged me US$10. The camp spots were concrete platforms. As my tent is not free stastanding,had to pitch it in the sand between the platforms.
I cooked up dinner, made coffee and shared it with the owner. Later in the evening the owner got some wine out, lit a fire outside and we ended up watching music DVDs for the night.
Day 508 Monday 25th January 2016.
It was an uneventful ride into Santiago. Santiago is a modern city. In fact, Chile is on a par with the west. It’s a real step up from the likes of Bolivia. Because of this, the costs are higher.
The reason I headed to Santiago is to get Winston looked at by the Triumph dealer. It appears that the problem I had in Mexico is on the way back.
The guys at the shop were very receptive to my arrival and said they would have the bike sorted by 6pm tomorrow.
I used their Wi-Fi to source a B&B via Booking . com and headed off there for the next two days.
I relaxed at the B& B and waited for the bike shop to contact me with the progress. They did contact me to say the new cam chain tensioner did not fix the problem and it would be finished tomorrow.
Day 510 Wednesday 27th January 2016.
I ventured out today to see if I could exchange my Bolivian Boliviano’s for some Chilean Pesos. I was getting a bit concerned because I had over NZ$150 in notes and the banks and money exchangers I had been to the previous day would not exchange the notes for Chilean currency. I got caught out in Burma with their currency and I I still have the worthless notes.
After walking a few kilometres around Santiago, I finally found a money exchange that would do the deal.
To celebrate I got a well needed haircut. The last one I got was in Columbia and that was NZ$2, US$1.20. By comparison this was hideously expensive at NZ$11, US$7.50.
The woman who runs the B&B is a bit of a strange women. She knows I can’t speak Spanish and persists in nattering away to me in Spanish. I don’t know how many times I have said “no Espaniol, English. She is a female version of Basil Faulty.
I received the email today telling me Winston was good to go so I will pick him up first thing tomorrow and head for Argentina.
Day 511 Thursday 28th January 2016.
After dealing with Mrs Basil Faulty at breakfast it was time to get a taxi to the Triumph shop. When I arrived, Winston was ready and waiting. He was all clean and sounding good. It appears that my Chetamul monkey had put one of the cams in upside down and the shims that they had fitted were pretty rough.
I must say that the Triumph dealer in Santiago is a credit to the Triumph brand. They really went the extra mile to get Winston fixed and me on my way as quickly as possible. This is what you get when the dealership only deals with Triumphs unlike some of the other dealers around the world who deal in many European brands.
I left Santiago and headed to the border following route 7. At the border the queues were massive, it took four hours to get through. I met 5 Brazilian guys on a 30-day tour, most were on Beemers, one on a white Tiger 800XC and another on a Kawasaki Z1000 touring bike. They spoke great English and it was nice to spend a couple of hours chatting.
GO TO ARGENTINA Day 511 Thursday 28th January 2016
Crossing the Argentinean / Chile border was a breeze. I was through in less than half an hour. Today I did over 550km.300 of that gravel. The roads passed through mountains, around lakes. The gravel was in various states ranging from a bit bumpy but mainly smooth to having more corrugations than the skyline of an outback tin shanty town. Every now and then there would be a lovely bit of smooth seal just to remind you how good it is to ride.
I spent another night camping. This time the breeze was cool. I spent a couple of hours over at the neighbours. He’s from Brazil and is taking a year to cycle from Colombia to Ushuaia.
It was more gravel roads this time there was plenty of roadworks and lots of traffic kicking up monstrous amounts of dust. I looked like id spent the day in a flour mill.
Not long into the ride I hit some very big pot holes and deep corrugations. Winston bounced around like Mr Been on the dance floor. It was that bad that my ABS and Engine warning light came on. I pulled over to check out what the problem was. I checked the rear brake callipers and made sure all bolts were tight, they were. I did notice oil at the base of my rear shock. I put my finger in the oil and looked at it closely then sniffed the oil; it was hydraulic oil. It looks like these roads have claimed the shock seal. This was a real dilemma as I have to do thousands of kilometres on more gravel roads.
I started Winston up, the engine warning light stayed on. The engine was running fine in fact it sounded really good. I rode on for a while to see how it went. The ABS warning light stayed off so I carried onto Puerto Guadal by the lake at a camp. I was in a bit of a dilemma. I had no internet so had no idea where to get the shock looked at let alone fixed. I thought the obvious place was at a Triumph dealer. I knew there was one in Buenos Aires, which is nearly 3000km away. I was hoping that there was one closer. Tomorrow I will nurse Winston to Chile Chico which is a larger town by the Chile / Argentina border, there I should be able to get on the Internet and have some better idea where I need to head to. I’m not keen riding with an engine warning light on. I have no choice, I’m in the middle of nowhere. Here’s hoping it’s not a major.
The road was better than yesterday but still very corrugated. I felt the life draining from the rear shock and heard loud banging noises every now and then. I’m hoping the shock doesn’t collapse on me otherwise I’m in big trouble.
There was hardly anyone on the road today so dust wasn’t a problem; in fact, it was the opposite as it started raining. There were still some beautiful views on the way. When things are bad, focus on the positive.
I arrived at Chile Chico in the rain, wet and cold.
I found an internet café, jumped on the Triumph UK website to find the only dealer was in fact in Buenos Aries, Dam!
I have to find someone around here to try and fix the shock. I found a mechanics workshop that had dirt bikes. It was closed until 3pm for lunch. The campsite I pitched my tent was 100 metres from the workshop and I was so pleased the guy that ran the camp spoke English. I asked him if he could come to the workshop and speak to the mechanic on my behalf. He agreed and at 3:30pm we went to see him with Winston. The guy was really into Moto X, his son who was 7 was the Chilean Champion for his age and number 2 in Argentina.
He couldn’t fix my shock but he knows a guy that can in another town 480 km away. He contacted the guy and the guy said he had the bits to fix a Triumph shock.
The mechanic gave me the address and directions which way to go to stay on sealed roads.
Tomorrow, I head for Comodoro.
The campsite became very crowded during the day so I moved Winston near the end of my tent. I twisted the handlebars to put the steering lock on when I heard a large crack type shattering sound. I thought I had gotten the plastic clasp for the tank bag caught. When I checked it out it was fine. It was a mystery what the noise was. All would be revealed two days later.
The campsite was so loud last night that the noise didn’t stop until 3am. I long for the campsites I stayed in, in Australia, Canada and the USA. At 10:30 pm it is quiet time and well enforced. All the other places outside of these countries seem to have disregard for other patrons. It must be a cultural thing because the westerners are never the ones making the noise.
Day 519 Friday 5th February 2016
I left the camp tired and headed east on nice sealed roads to the border. The crossing from Chile to Argentina was a doddle again.