Friday, November 28, 2008

On the road.

The bike arrived on Sunday (Nov 23) and customs/unpacking went almost perfectly – the clutch fluid all leaked out (bad) and we refilled it with tap water which works just as well. We’ll replace it later with proper fluid. Roadside ingenuity in its simplest form!

We headed out on Monday afternoon, got 35 miles out of Santiago, and Paul’s rear tire went flat. We broke out the tools and an hour later we were rolling again. The ride was fantastic – some 30+ switchbacks up over 10,000 feet. We exited Chilean immigration/customs, but could not get Paul’s bike thru Argentine customs due to a paperwork snafu (borrowed bike). 11:30pm we rolled back into Santiago, dead tired.

Video from Paul's HD camcorder, attached to his helmet...

Erin's first attempt at video footage from our digital camera...

Tuesday (Nov 25) we went to dept of justice then dept of ministry to get Paul's paperwork legalized, then to Argentine embassy to get legalized paperwork translated onto Argentina letterhead - Long story… Back on the bikes at 3pm for another late start to the 200 mile ride back up the curves (video coming soon), over the pass, past Aconcagua Mountain (22,825 ft), across the border, down one of the prettiest road/canyons, and into Mendoza. We pulled in to the main plaza just as darkness settled in. There was a hostel close by, and as we pulled through the gate we spotted several other travel bikes. “Hello Chris, hello Erin”. Huh??? It was Rich Humphreys, a traveler friend we had met in New Zealand back in 2001 after he road from the UK to NZ. Small world, and great to see fellow travelers again! Rich had become a fireman in NZ and was taking a year off to travel SA. We decided to turn in just before dawn, after solving many of the world's problems, with the help of inexpensive Malbec and a few reflective ales.

Wednesday morning we had breakfast with our Spanish teacher (2 weeks back in 2002) at her nearby home. In the afternoon we rode 140 miles through the pampa to San Rafael. Back in 2002 we spent several weeks here rebuilding both our bikes in one of the local bike shops. The small city has grown immensely, and it was great to pull into the bike shop to surpise everyone. The guys were shocked and their faces changed instantly from confussion to warm recognition and we were swarmed with big hugs and kisses.

In the evening we rode 10 miles to meet John & Annette at their finca (farm). They had also traveled around the world on two motorbikes. When they went back to England, they needed something different so returned to Argentina to buy a vineyard. The 35-acre farm was in foreclosure, and most of the agriculture was dead/dying. It’s taken nearly 3 years for them to get the grapes, plums, olives, peaches, walnuts and other plants healthy. It's hard work creating a working farm, and in 2 more years they will decide if they will stay or move on to another project.

We woke Thanksgiving Thursday to a rooster’s call then spent the afternoon in the shop making adjustments to the bikes. Parts were fabricated from scratch, and lots of mate (form of herb/tea) was shared. At 10pm there were 3 long tables that were brought into the work area and 25 of us shared an amazing asado dinner. More wine, more chatter, more laughs – life is good.