Saturday, December 31, 2011

Friday, December 30, 2011

Enjoying the Coast

It´s an overcast day on the Chilean coast, and the waves crash with authority deligated by God.
Another Christmas has come and gone and I celebrated by making a trip to a small island just off  shore. The sights provided were of the unforgetable nature. Penguins, Sea lions, Dolphins, and innumerable species of Fowl.
My day on the water brought with it further appreciation for the absurdity humanity places on ¨being somebody¨, an endevor which is often intangled with nefarious calculation and great strife

From here, I will be heading Norte, into the driest desert on earth, the Atacama. I´ll miss my new buddy (Big Yeller). He has kept me company at the campground which has been home for the past 4 days, rarely leaving my side.

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Escape from Argentina and a Chile Christmas

My arrival to the Pacific coast of Chile last evening was slightly late for watching the sun set, however, its vestige still cast a warm hue over the city of La Serena. The Afternoon passed had seen the crest of the Pasa Agua de Negra, one of the world's highest passable roads (15,681 ft. according to my GPS), and the surreality of the environment there left me feeling as if I were traveling within a vacuum. The solitude of the Andes is a majestic thing and, following yet another seizure and release of my motorcycle by the Argentinian Government, I relished the serenity which they offered.

     The town of Las Flores, Argentina is more of a watering hole than a break in transportation, with internet, banks, and ATM machines, all being a little further down the road. Yet here, in this nothing, last chance for gas, town the officials leveraged their authority over me and sent me into the desert, short on cash and without a ride, seeking higher authority to appeal for my BMW's release. The whole ordeal was a case study in the impotence of bureaucracy. What purpose could they possibly have been serving? I don't think that even the customs officials knew what they were achieving, but eventually after sitting at the Aduana office in San Juan long enough (2 solid days), someone, somewhere, granted the release of my motorcycle. Thank God! Four days of uncertainty had left me a bit strained but, fortunately, unlike the last run in with the Argentinians, back in August, this time I'd not been shot at.

 I got my exit visa stamped on the 21st. The first day of winter back in Tennessee had little bearing on the temperature here, but 40 (104f) degrees C was made more bearable by my happiness to be back on the road. It was a long straight shot to the Andes and once I reached the twisty bits, the asphalt, much like civilization, disappeared into the upper regions of my mirrors. The ascent into a maze of rock saw the temperature and my anxiety both recede. I was once again dealing with obstacles which were more within my realm of patience and expertise.
     After about an hour in the mountains, as shadows began to grow long, there appeared a terrific sign across the road announcing the construction of  a great tunnel connecting Argentina and Chile. Much to my amusement, I though about the improbability of this project ever really getting off the ground (Cristina Kirchner (presidenta, phh, whatever) will never be seen as someone the Chileans can trust to jointly invest with). Aside from this product of wishful thinking, just to the to the left, there was another sign. This one made a more realistic promise. Campamento 30k. Knowing that the customs office in Chile was already closed for the night, this seemed the perfect place to set camp, so I took a rather long and rough detour deep into the mountains.

 With the light fading my motorcycle was met with an impassible barrier. My strong sense of curiosity led me to dismount and hike my camping supplies a little further in. The Mercury was dropping precipitously as I lugged my baggage to a suitable campsite just over 16,000' of elevation and hurriedly assembled my tent. The wind here was insufferable, and my habitation was thrashed about mightily. I worried that in this onslaught my tent wouldn't hold up, but it proved my fears unfounded. Though noisy, the Kelty Zenith 2 remained structurally sound ($60 at Target).

      The following morning wasn't an enjoyable one, I was suffering from a combination of food poisoning and altitude sickness. The blister pack of tuna I'd eaten the previous night had stayed with my motorcycle in Buenos Aries through the Fall semester but it was well within its expiration date. It was a mistake I'll not soon forget. It hurt to remain still, it hurt to move. I continually needed to vomit, however, there wasn't much to purge myself of. My eyes felt as if they were going to explode as I wrenched myself from the sleeping bag to trek for water.
    My strides, though forced at first, grew lighter as I went, and upon cresting the rise overlooking  my camp I was greeted by the sight of a glacier covered cirque which acted as a saddle, connecting the lines of mountains to each side of me. Though still feeling ill, I came to the conclusion that my long awaited, and seemingly elusive, hiking trip was to be made today. I filled my water bottle from the stream at the base of the glacier and began my ascent.
    At first, my idea was to skirt the left side of the ice formation, climbing my way up to the low point of the ridge and then hike up to one of the surrounding peaks. However, the glacier proved difficult to deal with and my plan was changed. Rather than first reaching the top of the saddle and moving on to the peak I would just just climb directly to the top. This approach wound up taking most of the
day. Careful consideration for routes and holds were required, and points of rest were frequent. Eventually, I did make it to the top, which didn't quite reach 19,000 ft, but the view was still very nice. The adjacent peaks were much higher, and didn't require the sort of climbing endured to get to this point, but with the sun beginning to set, and only water and cameras in my pack, I went off in search of a reasonably safe slide back down the mountain in order beat the sub freezing temperatures to my tent.
    Following another rough night camping, I once again rose with a splitting head ache. Slowly I packed away my camp and hiked back to the bike.

The trip up to and across the border brought sights previously unseen. The vibrant multicolored mountains were my companions as I covered the 80 or so miles back to civilization and I was left thinking about my two nights of isolation. It wasn't likely that there had been another human being within 50 miles of me. Certainly the harsh environment wasn't conducive to sustaining life, however, there was beauty in the freedom offered by this permissive, if unforgiving, land lord. Memories of my time in these mountains will persist long after my recollections of Buenos Aries have slipped into oblivion.  

  On a side note, just before reaching the customs/ aduana office for Chile I was stopped by a truck load of national police in their four wheel drive. After examining my passport, they told me that the Argentinians had reported me to interpol as missing. "Tres dios", one of the officers said while holding up three fingers. I mused merrily to myself, as the cops examined my bike. Only 3 days? Shit, man, I've been gone a hell of a lot longer than that.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Fun wizz zee Germans

Following the misadventures with my rear Continental, I happened across a few Germans heading north. Join the convoy? Oh yes.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The search for a summit grinds to a halt on desert tarmac

Well, it wasn't pretty but the repair worked well enough, I covered the 50 miles to the next town without further drama. In every tire's life a little pressure must fall.

From the mountains to the desert, wandering through Argentina

I have had an interesting few days. Currently I sit at a cafe in San Juan, about 200 miles from my motorcycle (there is a story here). I will be posting videos to document the timeline of events. Here is the first one, shot at the base camp of Mt. Aconcagua.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Two Dogs

There sat two dogs, one on each side of the U.S. Mexican border, imploring the border guards to allow crossing into the other countries.  The scruffy Mexican perro looked passively at the U.S. border guard and sheepishly asked for entry. The guard replied, "why do you want to go to America"? The not quite mangy mutt replied, oh you know, maybe I find a wealthy master. I could get a fancy collar and a nice food bowl that is always filled with the good food, that would be so nice. The border guard, thinking this a reasonable request, allowed the little dog by. On the other side of the fence the Mexican Border guard  looked in disbelief at the American dog as it asked for entry, replying, "Why in the Hell do you want to come down here"? To this the healthy looking mutt stared assertively at the guard and said "I Want to Bark"

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

High speed on the salt flats from a cafe in Mendoza

 I hang in limbo here in Mendoza, awaiting some information concerning a place to keep my bike while hiking, so, I thought I would edit video to pass the time. The Bolivian salt flats are not to be missed and it's a shame that I'm only now posting this, but better late than never, enjoy.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A full moon and an empty soul

 The wide strips of land along the straight roads of Argentina are mostly desolate and lacking in points of commerce, however, they lend themselves to amazing rest areas, though not of the typical fare. Every 20 miles or so the main route passes beaten paths which lead into small but dense patches of mature hard wood trees. During the day these offer travelers some respite from the sun, and I passed many families picnicking, some under the watchful eye of Difuta Corea whose shrines were prevalent on my journey (several of these were comprised of plastic water bottles, thousands of them, she had died of dehydration), and generally enjoying a simple existence which didn't reek of poverty. Much like these Argentinian simpletons (no offense implied) I too was looking for utility maximization as I rode through the night. The full moon was giving quite a stare when I pulled from the road in search of a spot to camp, there wasn't a cloud in the sky. This wasn't too surprising, though this was farming area there are only about eight inches of rain per year here. I decided to forgo the tent and simply toss the sleeping bag atop one of my tarps, taking a moment for pictures before retreating for the night.
   The thunder came loudly at around 2 AM, and from a deep sleep I was somewhat slow to respond. This was going to be bad, I thought as I weighed my options . I had yet to test my tent's rain worthiness and was worried it would not be not up to the task at hand, but looking for another, more suitable, place seemed out of the question, the storm was moving too fast and it was angry. The lightening had struck something in the distance which had sparked an inferno, a towering glow shot out of the ground in stark contrast to a black cloud drenched sky. This should have been of major concern to me as I was camped under an outcropping of lightening rods, but my groggy condition led me to be more worried of the imminent prospect of myself and all my possessions becoming drenched to the core. The patter of rain was overwhelmed by the gusting wind as I assembled my tent on a mound just behind the bike. Upon my entrance into the domicile light precipitation was quickly replaced by a relentless barrage of rain, joining the vicious wind, which lasted well into the day.
    There are lessons to be learned here (I noticed the following morning that all the trees around me were charred,but obviously not dead, from a previous lightening/soaking attack) and they leave me a bit apprehensive about my next endeavor. The weather here is clearly a capricious beast at times and under the right circumstances can be the death of you, as Difuta Corea found out first hand.
      My next goal is to reach the summit of Mt.Aconcagua, though by comparison to the peaks in Asia, it's 23,000 ' are easily achievable, the swings in weather are often deadly. My life to this point has been an interesting mix of charm and failure, my fuck-ups have yet to cost me anything more than progress (as defined by prevailing B.S.)and girls. My chances to succeed here are pretty good, and as achievement and love pass me by (or by default, exclude me), what do I really have to lose?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

From the air to the asphalt, the long road to Mendoza

  After landing yesterday I was a bit disheartened to learn that Argentina has what they call a "reciprocity fee" which is only applicable to Americans, Canadians, and Australians. I didn't have to pay this when I crossed into Argentina over land in August so I was a bit blindsided by the attack on my wallet, $150 gone forever. This was small change in comparison to the parking fee for the bike which came to a staggering $1,000. My compulsion to run up on the curb and around the booth was tempered a bit by my desire to avoid the police on this trip. I did some negotiating and got the charge down to $750.
  I was happy that my bike was where I'd left it but there were a few things needed to get it running again, fortunately I'd brought all of them with me, much to the TSA's chagrin. The trip to the salt flats had a lasting impact on the BMW and the brake pads had rust welded themselves to the disks, eventually WD40 and a screwdriver did the trick and the old girl was rolling once again.
  I spent the remainder of the day in Buenos Aries drinking cheap wine on the river front as a steady stream of pedestrians strolled by. Of particular interest to me was the popularity of skates here, there were hundreds of  people of all shapes and sizes rolling around, perhaps it has something to do with most of Argentina being as flat as a pancake. I've become well acquainted with this geographic (non)feature and as the photo illustrates my path has been following a straight line. This won't be the case for long though as the 1000 kilometer trip to the Andes is almost over. I'm looking forward to higher elevations and lower temperatures that Mendoza will bring.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A return south

  Earlier tonight I finished my last exam of the semester and I'm trading my regulated industries book for a map of Argentina, the flight from Atlanta leaves at seven tomorrow night. My bike has been at the airport in Buenos Aries for over three months now and a I desperately hope it is still where I left it.
   I wanted to edit and post a a cool video tonight, however, I am suffering from diminishing marginal returns and this brief clip is all I could muster, it's still pretty cool though, documenting a a first in my life.
   My next post should come from Argentina, though I have no idea what is in store for me it will certainly be more interesting than horizontal mergers, network externalities, and vertical restraints.