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Old 03-23-2015, 05:17 PM   #1
clintnz OP
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Clint & Rosie ride Patagonia

It was time for another decent adventure. Southern South America looked interesting. So the planning began, an attempt to learn some Spanish was made, rental bikes were booked, gear was packed, & we were off to catch a flight to Santiago, Chile. We had 5 weeks off to try & see a good chunk of the Cono Sur.

My parent's old farm was in a fairly remote spot, Te Whaiti, on the edge of the Urewera National Park. The only airline flight to pass overhead there was always going in a funny direction, towards nothing but the wide open expanse of the Pacific. We worked out that it was the flight from Auckland to Chile. On the 31st of January, Rosie & I were on that plane.

Flying direct was good but it makes for a long day. We had a basic apartment booked in central Santiago so after a wee snooze we had a look around town.

The next day we had free to look around town a bit more so we went for a walk up Cerro San Cristobal for a look out over the city. A day & a bit in a big city is enough for us so after that we were looking forward to getting out to those big mountains we could just make out through the smog.

Our transport for the trip was to be a pair of Honda NX400 Falcons. Hired from Ride-Chile. These are made in Brazil & aren't too common outside South America. The motor is based on the old XR400.

So the next day we got a taxi to Ride Chile HQ & started setting up the Falcons with our gear. Not being fans of the hard cases supplied we had brought over all our own normal touring kit & a few extra straps & proceeded to attach our luggage to the racks on the bikes.

Also provided with the bikes was a fairly excessive range of spare parts... 'where you're going... it's like Africa down there man, they got nothing!' ...which we also crammed in. Then after some paperwork we were ready to hit the road.

Having never navigated through a city with a GPS before I thought given I was on a strange bike, in moderately heavy traffic, in a big unfamiliar town & riding on the wrong side, it would be a good time to learn, so a point was entered into the Zumo & off we went through the guts of Santiago. The GPS actually did ok & got us out of town without too much drama.

The destination for the day was Argentina. Our friends Andi & Ellen have been travelling down through the Americas, from the top, for a couple of years, we've been following their epic ride report all the way. When it turned out that we were going to be around the same place at the same time we organised to meet up in San Rafael on the 2nd day of our ride.

To get to Argentina we took the highway north a bit, leaving a trail of frustrated motorists in our wake as we fumbled around at every toll booth trying to work out what the hell a 500 peso coin looks like. Then it was off up Passo Cristo Redentor de los Andes. After passing a 5km queue of trucks waiting to get into Chile we started to get into some much welcomed cooler temperatures, and camino sinuoso - twisty roads. The below bit is known as Los Caracoles - the snails - I'm not sure if that is because it almost spirals around like a snail's shell, or if it's more about the speed of the trucks going up.

This pass is the major route over the Andes between Chile & Argentina in this area. The main road cuts through a tunnel after los caracoles but on the map we had spotted the interesting looking old road winding up high over the pass proper:

Camino muy Sinuoso!

And by high I mean 3800m, or a good 1000m higher than I'd ever been outside a plane. And higher mountains all around. It was a spectacular road & we had a great day to enjoy it. We had no idea how the altitude would affect the bikes, but they puttered up the hill no worries.

The border is right at the top, but the border post is down the other side. Feeling a bit short of breath due to the altitude we didn't mess around on top too much & got going into Argentina.

After re joining the main road we came to the border post. Being on a major route they have sensibly combined both countries customs/immigration/biosecurity into one station. Unfortunately there was a 1km queue, about 3 wide, going into this station. Lunchtime.

About 2 hrs later we made it to the first desk, after plenty of time to revise the paperwork & procedures required for what was our first ever land border crossing with a vehicle (outside EU ones which don't really count) So of course the first thing they wanted was something we didn't have 0 Donde? Donde es Donde? WTF? Where is where? With our minimal español it took us a while to work out, but apparently if you go through the tunnel like a normal person, (rather than some dodgy back road like we did) at the exit is somebody giving you a bit of paper with a stamp on it. Called a donde. Given the queue behind was now about 2km, the prospect of going back for this was not appealing. However, to their credit, the border guys called the boss over & procured us a donde with only minor grumpiness. After a bit more faffing around we got through all the bureaucracy & were on our way.

The upside of all the waiting was that the afternoon light was now starting to bring alive the colours of the mountains & it was a glorious ride down into Argentina.

With the day getting on we procured a bottle of Argentino vino in Uspallata & pitched our tent at the Ranquil Luncay camping ground just out of town. Not a bad campsite either. We cooked up some dinner & that was the first day of riding done.

Stay tuned for more.
'03 KTM 640 LC4 Enduro

The wilderness, the desert - why are they not crowded
.................................................. .....with pilgrims?
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Old 03-23-2015, 06:44 PM   #2
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Cool, subscribed.
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Noobs guide to racing.
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Old 03-23-2015, 08:02 PM   #3
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Old 03-23-2015, 08:51 PM   #4
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Enjoying the ride report
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Old 03-23-2015, 11:49 PM   #5
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Oooh, I'm in with a grin and subscribed for more.
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Old 03-24-2015, 12:30 AM   #6
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I've been waiting for this...

Riding Falcons - In Ted Simon's original book when in Chile he was told to beware of the Black Falcons, which he assumed were some gang of outlaws. It was some time before he realised the Police drove black Falcons. I got a copy from the library and read both his books again - Chile is not mentioned at all, like he never went there, and no mention of Black Falcons.
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Old 03-24-2015, 09:01 AM   #7
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In for more
'06 KTM 640 Adventure
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Old 03-24-2015, 09:13 AM   #8
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Sounds like an amazing trip, looking forward to more!

I rented an NX4 Falcom in Peru and rode it to Machu Picchu. Loved the bike.


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Old 03-24-2015, 01:56 PM   #9
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Old 03-24-2015, 06:05 PM   #10
clintnz OP
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Thanks guys!

Sorry to anyone viewing on tapatalk for the bad formatting in the first post, shouldn't happen again. Anyway, back to the nefarious adventures of the Black Falcons MC...

We made a fairly lazy start to the day in Uspallata, making a few adjustments to the bikes & luggage, & eventually got going south on ruta 7. This was a really cool ride down through the hills alongside a river & through lots of tunnels. At Potrerillos we made an unsuccessful attempt to get some Argentino pesos from a cash machine then turned off onto a gravel road 'short cut' on the way to San Rafael.

After that we came out of the hills for our first run on the Ruta 40. The 40 is the main route south alongside the Andes in Argentina, it has something of a reputation for beautiful scenery but also many remote areas, high winds & in previous times large sections of the track were pretty rugged - especially further south. Nowadays it's mostly well paved highway. We would be on & off this road all the way down through Argentina.

Out on the flat lands we needed to chew up some miles to San Rafael, so stuck to the highways. On arrival in town there was a bit of confusion as we hadn't been online to get the message that Andi & Ellen weren't at the spot we had been given detailed instructions to find. However got that sorted, they had lined us up some bunks at the cool hostel Aventura in town so we arrived there to a very warm welcome.

So we caught up over a few bottles of mighty fine Argentino vino, & a great dinner cooked by Ellen. We all enjoyed the chance to speak 'Kiwi' for a change

There was a group of Argentino travellers in residence also & they had a proper asado - slow cooked wood fired BBQ - going in the fireplace at the back of the hostel courtyard. These guys were really friendly & as all the various meaty delicacies came off the grill we were offered samples which were enthusiastically accepted (even though we'd had dinner) Yummy stuff!

The next day we ran a few errands in town to get stocked up for the next few days travel & to find a cambio. Andi & Ellen had given us a few great tips during the planning stages of our trip, one of which was to avoid getting Argentino Pesos from banks or cash machines, instead bring $US & change it at a cambio or money changer where the rate is significantly better. With all that sorted we got loaded up.

For an epic story, with some great pics, I recommend you check out Andi & Ellen's ride report here on ADV from the top Their account of the few days that we travelled together starts around here

The day's first objective was to go have a look at the Canyon Atuel. It's a bit of a touristy area & I had a bit of a giggle on the way at all the 'turismo aventura' rafting operators touting for business alongside what looked like a very tame river. Not much to excite a bunch of Kiwis there so we carried on up a neat twisty little road to the top of a dam.

(Andi's pic)

...then checked out some of the local Ass

The road being a bit rough in places didn't seem to deter everyone & their grandma punting wee city cars through there, but the scenery was great - a different funky rock formation around every corner.

Coming out the top of the canyon we got back on the highway & made ground south over the pampas. The flat scenery only interrupted by the shine of the odd salt lake.

After the little town of Malargue we got into more colourfully rocky hills & then to Manqui Malal where we got a small but suitably cheap cabin.

We sneaked an illicit guide free look at the local waterfall (trickle) then kicked back with the maps & a few cold ones to plan the next couple of days ride.

'03 KTM 640 LC4 Enduro

The wilderness, the desert - why are they not crowded
.................................................. .....with pilgrims?
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Old 03-24-2015, 06:55 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by clintnz View Post
Great report Clint, subscribed!
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Old 03-24-2015, 09:53 PM   #12
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Nice! I'd always wanted to do the r40 (even having lived there most of my life) never managed to do it (read envy ). Hope you had a good time (seems you did)

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Old 03-25-2015, 12:19 AM   #13
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Old 03-25-2015, 11:34 AM   #14
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Old 03-26-2015, 04:16 PM   #15
clintnz OP
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The next day we set off south down ruta 40 again.

The main road here goes through some really cool landscape with colourful strata, volcanos & a few curves & gravel detours to keep it interesting.

It's such a different landscape to anything in NZ.

(Ellen's pic)

As the highway stared to come out of the hills a bit we pulled into the town of Chos Malal & eventually located the gas station. In Argentina you pretty much always need to queue for petrol, as the attendant has to pump everybody's fuel (not allowed to do it yourself) & take everybody's money. So, given it was a fairly warm day we were pleased to see a clear forecourt. But no... As we pulled up to the pumps a woman started nutting out at Andi & Ellen who were ahead of us Turns out that on a hot day nobody wants to queue in the sun, so rather than a line of cars you have a random array of cars parked in whatever spots of shade there were back up the street... a bit like the cars parked everywhere else in this dusty little town... obvious to the locals of course, but not to these gringos

(The line was a bit more obvious by the time this pic was taken)

Gassed up & with the lesson in free-form Argentino queuing technique complete we turned our attention to where to go next. Just after we had ruled out taking an interesting looking inland diversion due to uncertainty about fuel supply, a Swiss traveller on a 1200 BMW rolled in. We had a chat & he informed us that he had just come that way & there was fuel, plus it was a neat ride. Plans changed back & we set off towards Norquin.

(Ellen's pic)

(Ellen's pic)

The Swiss bloke was right, it was an enjoyable cruise.

As the area was scenic, sparsely populated & the weather was great we decided to look for a wild camp. First we got stocked up at a little town along the way.

Of course as soon as you start looking for a camp all the promising spots disappear, but eventually Andi spotted a sandy track heading off the road which led to a nice little sheltered site.

So some gourmet camp cooking got underway & we again marvelled at just how good cheap Argentino vino tinto was ...watched the moon rise ...& played around with cameras & torchlight...

(Ellen's pic)

'03 KTM 640 LC4 Enduro

The wilderness, the desert - why are they not crowded
.................................................. .....with pilgrims?

clintnz screwed with this post 03-26-2015 at 05:20 PM
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