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Archive for March, 2010

Taken By Argentina

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Taken By Argentina

Futaleufú, 30-Mar-2010

Paula gave me some of her favorite music to add to my MP3 playlists (Zi, Eric, check “Amy Winehouse”) and I left Massoud, Paula, Justin and the whole family early afternoon, heading back to Argentina.  It felt good to be on the road riding again but actually all I was thinking about was Argentinean ice cream :).  I planned to stop in Villa la Angostura specifically to have some at this traditional ice-cream shop I knew.  And I had company on the road: I met a rider on a BMW 1200 heading the same way and we rode together up to Villa la Angostura.  I then continued 110Km further to reach Bariloche (Kilometer 11,476, Bariloche, 19-Mar-10 @ 20:00).  The 2nd thing I was craving was a good Argentinean asado and I treated myself to a top restaurant in Bariloche.  I was sitting 4 tables inside the restaurant enjoying my bife de chorizo when this couple walking outside suddenly stopped and started jumping and waving like crazy.  The whole restaurant was looking at them and I was thinking “those Argentinean”… but wait!  It’s Flora and Ale!  What an unexpected and funny encounter!  I invited them to an ice cream to catch up J  (what? you didn’t guess?!)

Next morning I hopped in Ale & Flora’s car and we all went to El-Bolson, 120Km south of here.  It was raining the whole day but in the car, sipping matte, who cares?  We visited the local artisanal craft market, bought some homemade cheese, alfajores, jam,… you name it, I tried it.  We also went to lago Puelo and picked & ate Blackberries while walking on its shore.

Bariloche is a beautiful city, although VERY touristy which greatly diminish its charm.  For example, on Lago Nahuel Huapi’s shoreline, for 18Km, nothing but restaurants, hotel, cabañas… how nice.  After 2 days of chilling cold weather with heavy rain, the sun finally started peering out again and I took advantage to do many activities.  Hiking is top notch here and a climbed a few ceros.  I also went back on 2 wheels – this time without an engine – and bicycled the circuito chico (I sneaked in to the famous hotel Llao-Llao for a peak but soon was escorted out by black suit security guards 🙂    AnywayZ, back to our Bariloche discussion, its early German settlers left many good traditions the best being a few micro-breweries (“Blest” beer being my favorite) and many restaurants which we happily savored with Ale and Flora.

Ale & Flora left on Tuesday and I finally got around to finding a mechanic for my bike; I did an oil change  and switched to my off-road tires.  In the mean time I hanged out at the hostel with the rest of the tourists, partying and enjoying the city.  On my 6th day, Wednesday 24-Mar, I was ready to hit the road…. Not too far though, only to El-Bolson (again) but this time with gorgeous weather and great company (Kilometer 11,613, El-Bolson, 24-Mar-10 @ 14:00).  I hooked-up with Annie, an amazing girl from Portland, avid outdoors-woman, funny and always smiling.  We chilled in the village, mellowing in its hippy atmosphere, mingling with its incredibly friendly people and savoring the delicious and healthy restaurants that abound (especially veggies).  We also went kayaking on Lago Puelo under a beautiful autumn warm day.

It was sad to leave Annie but our routes now follow opposite direction.   I headed south to the Welsh settlement of Trevelin where not only I wanted to sip a Welsh tea but also visit Parque National Los Alerces and see its majestic millenary trees (Kilometer 11,862, Trevelin, 26-Mar-10 @ 19:30).  I hooked up with 2 other Argentinean riders (Alberto & Luis on a V-Strom 1000 & a Kawi 650) and we headed to the park.  The Alerces are in a protected area, intangible and can only be reached via a 1 hour catamaran ride.  There, a guide took us around for a 1 hour hike, walking between these magnificent 1000’s year old trees (longest longevity species after the US Sequoia and Bristlecone Pine).  Kilometer 11,935, Parque National Los Alerces, 28-Mar-10 @ 11:00.  The road to reach the park was a 90Km gravel road and my new tires were just perfect, they made a huge difference!  I could easily reach 80Km/h on roads I wouldn’t dare hit 40Km/h before!  Wo-hooo! 😉  My turns were smooth and my baby was stable in acceleration and straight line.  Now I am ready to hit Patagonia roads.

But my good mood was soon squashed.  On my way back to Trevelin after having parted with Luis and Alberto, my bike headlights died.  Burned bulb or fuse I thought and kept riding.  But once at my hostel, the bike did not want to start again.  I pushed the start button but nothing, not a sound.  I was facing an electrical short or a cut line… but where?  I searched for a couple of hour with no luck.  It was sundown and I was faced with the daunting task of disassembling the bike to find the root of the issue.  Worst, I was in a small village and there are no mechanics for my bike.  I jumped on the net and logged in to the HUBB and asked for help, hints and debugging ideas.  I went to sleep facing a stressful next day.

Next morning I got a few replies from other travelers and started following their hints…. No luck.   However they led me to focus on my starter system and I started debugging.  On the bright side, my bike at least can start in 2nd (push start) so I had the option to head north to Bariloche (400K away) for a mechanic.  But I kept digging and soon I was onto something.  In the right handle bar electric case, inside the start mechanism box, inside the spring/cable push button, there’s another spring which pushes and closes the final contact to start the bike. Well, that spring was “soft” (i.e. not a spring anymore).   It took me another hour or so, some electric tape, pieces of rubber, crazy glue and a metal wire to work around the issue and finally, at 22:00, the bike started again.   Lucky to find the problem? Damn right.  But after a full day of work I am back in the game, ready to head south again.  The question was:  how long will my fix hold especially now I am facing 1000+ Km of bumpy gravel roads?

I crossed yet again into Chile to the village of Futaleufú, Kilometer 12,088, Futaleufú, 29-Mar-10 @ 20:00.  Futaleufú River is world renowned for its rapids.  It’s equivalent to Colorado or Zambezi Rivers (check Raft Top 10) and Olympic teams from around the world actually come here to train.  I came off season and only Josh, a 50+ US guy who runs “Futaleufú Explorer” outdoor services, was offering to go.  This guy is hip, a little “different” 😉 and all he wants to do is hit the river regardless of the money (well, he still charged me U$D20 more than normal rate but I was alone).  And he’s so good, he’s the only one ready to navigate a raft by himself down these rapids and he gladly accepted to take me for a ride.  But we needed a kayak for safety reason in case someone (i.e. me) falls and needs to be rescued.  So we jumped in his van and went knocking on a few of his kayaker buddy’s doors until we found Jaime, a Spanish kayaker who was also relishing the challenge.  So we were set and we went to the river.  Just to look at Futaleufú river will give you a rush: non-stop, back to back (little time to relax), class IV and class V rapids.  Riviere Rouge (Red River) in Ottawa will be ashamed to even show up to the party if Futaleufú is present :).  After a few pointers from Josh and training through the first runs we started hitting the rapids sweet spots.  “Terminator”, “Toboggan”, “Puma”, “Tiburon”, “Cazuela”,… we tackled them head on.  These are fierce white water rapids and I was bouncing left, right and center and even Josh fell on me a couple of times; an exelerating experience.  We were shouting in victory every time we successfully crossed one.  And then came the icing on the cake:  Class V rapids.  Just approaching them gave me chills.  We first hit “Mas o Menos” and then by far the best run: “Casa de Piedras”.  What a rush! We needed to follow a curved path, zigzagging between huge boulders, bouncing off high waves while rowing hard to stay away from the rocky shores.  I loved it and by that time, Josh and I were so in tune we just hit the rapids perfectly, in line and in sync with the wave movements, navigating skillfully left then right then head on through the run.  Sweet!

Back to Futaleufú, my hostal señora (owner) cooked me (I was the loco who went on the river with Josh) a delicious lamb meal and I went to sleep exhausted.  Tomorrow my llama show continues through the Carretera Austral (Ruta 7).  It’s going to be beautiful scenery yet very tough off-road riding.

Ride up!



Photo Album

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Volcanoes, Dinosaurs, Lakes and… Massoud

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Volcanoes, Dinosaurs, Lakes and… Massoud

Valdivia, 18-Mar-2010

The first night back in Mendoza (after Aconcagua) we went for an all you can eat asado. Bad idea! Roy and I both ate way too much, we were sick the whole night. I even thew up… But next day we were up and kicking and since it was Friday night, we hit the clubbing scene and continued the celebration. We were actually still out on Saturday morning @ 3:30 during the big earthquake in Chile. We were in a taxi going from one boliche (i.e. club) to another when the taxi started shaking. The driver screamed: “Esta temblendo, esta temblendo”. I didn’t catch what he was saying, I actually thought a car hit us from behind and I turned around to see: no-one. We were close to “Wish”, our next club, so I paid the taxi 11 pesos (and took my time looking for spare change) then exited the taxi. The earth was still shaking. We went to the sidewalk and by that time many residents were rushing down to the streets, some of them half naked, other clinging to their kids or to a purse/bag. Next to me, a door opened and a whole family rushed out. Me, still not fully catching the danger, said to them like a kid: “It’s shaking!” to which they replied: “yes… now get out from under the balcony and rush to the middle of the street”…duh. It lasted that long, a good 50 seconds. But thankfully, everyone and everything in Mendoza were OK.

The chicos left that same Saturday morning back to Arequipa and I lingered on in Mendoza with Jessica for another week, relaxing, enjoying the wine, satisfying my craving for ice-cream and experiencing Vendimia (wine harvest) festivities all over the city. I also took care of some bike business: I bought the mandatory bike insurance, first for 1 month but a few days later changed it to 4 month (my return plane ticket to Montreal expired thus now I have no “return date” :)). I bought new tires, oil, filter, chain lube,… and shipped them to Bariloche, a city further south which I plan to reach in 10 days or so. These new tires are for off-road riding and I desperately need the extra traction when Routa 40 enters Patagonia where it becomes gravel & sand, with rain and ferocious winds… mommy :(.

Bad luck hit immediately: My GPS died on me. Bummer, I had Argentina’s map and it was just perfect navigating in the big cities. Kilometer 8,610, Mendoza, 3-Mar-10 @ 13:00: Daniel (manager of expedition to Aconcagua) told me about the parks around Malargüe and that was my first target. My road skirted San Raphael and after passing by Canyon del Atuel, I arrived to Malargüe Kilometer 9,078, Malargüe, 3-Mar-10 @ 18:30 where a thunder and hail storm met me as I entered the city. The next day, I took my bike out to visit a few nearby attractions (Caverna de las Brujas, Castillo,..) but the following day I booked a tour to Parque Payunia as recommended by Daniel. And what a sight! The park is home to the biggest concentration of volcanoes per Km2 in the world, 830 of them. In our park visit, we go off-road, riding on red, grey or black volcanic gravel, viewing 20 or so volcanoes. We were lucky; our guide also took us to a restricted area which she too wanted to visit as no one goes there. There, we witnessed a beautiful volcano formation, saw lava bombs, walked by volcano gas escape holes and climbed a lava river bed. Pictures say it all. This was such a unique experience; all I need now is to see a live volcano!

Next: Dinosaurs (after pics below).


Mommy !!

or click on “page 2” below to see dinosaurs.