Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Bergen, Norway, Northern Hemisphere

It would appear I may be addicted to my own blog. Does anyone know any numbers I can call for assistance? Does the Priory Clinic accept pining adventure motocyclists or only drug addicted supermodels? Surely there must be a gap in the market for the former! And is anyone actually reading this any more anyway?

I say all this because I must be the only person on Earth now who checks his own blog each day to see if there have been any changes. And all this despite the fact that the sole reason for the blog's existence is now being spoken about in the past-tense. But it all seems so very surreal as I sit here on yet another dark, cold, miserable, rain-soaked evening in Norway: the memories of the high plains of Bolivia, the rainforests of Central America, the desolation of Ruta 40 in Argentina far behind me. The reality of everyday life is no easy feat after such a trip and I'll be blantantly honest that I've found it tough adjusting to civvy street again. I mean really, what is the point of working from 9 to 5 everyday, or 8 to 4 if you live in Scandinavia? Where does it really get you? All I can say is that it provides the fuel for yet more adventure motorcycling!

There are upsides to fulfilling dreams, however. Matt and I got our 15 minutes of fame in the world renowned newspaper Upstream on January 9th 2009. What do you mean you've never heard of it? Read by sheiks and oil barrons the world over it did us the favour of making us look cool when in actual fact we are not! Click on the picture and see what you think. That's it folks, I promise!

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina: 441 kms (31449 kms)

There we have it, job done. We arrived in Ushuaia as planned at Midday on Sunday 21st December, 111 days after departure from Anchorage, Alaska. I have to say that I am completely overcome with emotion and to think that this adventure is all over will take days, if not weeks, to sink in. The last 24 hours to get to Ushuaia have thrown up even more adventures but they will not be disclosed here. You'll have to corner Matt or I in a bar some time and buy each of us a beer to find out the details.
Without getting too soppy I would really like to say a big thank you to all those who have contributed in making this the event it was: those that helped in preparation, the folks we met and extended their generosity to us on the way, and the involvement everyone has made through the blog. Hopefully they know who they are. A huge thank you goes to Anika for letting me loose to live out this dream. And one last 'gracias' must go to Matt. Despite his awful sense of humour we have remained sane throughout and had a complete blast from start to finish. Cheers, mate.

I guess the only other thing to say now is Happy Christmas / god jul / feliz navidad / frohe weihnachten to everybody out there. Matt and I look forward to catching up with you all in the not too distant future.

Until next time . . . . . . .

Saturday, 20 December 2008

MSF Fundraising

Matt and I got the ferry departure times from Punta Arenas wrong so we have a few extra hours to kill. We probably won't arrive in Ushuaia until early on 21st December, which was actually the plan all along.
Anyway, this is just a quick word about the MSF fundraising. Thanks to all those who have donated. I really appreciate the support. Unfortunately it appears that MSF have closed my account prior to trip completion but I have asked that it be enabled again and run until the end of the year. If you are having problems please try again from Monday 22nd December. If you still have problems email me at Thanks again.

Friday, 19 December 2008

Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia, Chile: 417 kms (30589 kms)

Given our nearing proximity to the southern most town in South America Matt and I have managed to come off the gas these last few days (pun intended) and enjoy some of the fruits of Patagonia away from our trusty steeds. This is probably a good thing for Black Yammy as she's beginning to show some serious signs of wear. We hooked up with Germay's answer to Ewan MacGregor and Charlie Boorman on Tuesday and left their good company Friday morning. The BMW boys from Mainz have entertained us endlessly, as I believe we have them, and as a party of four we've been to the spectacular Perito Mereno glacier, hiked to the base of the Torres del Paine, eaten some splendid camp grub, drunk copious amounts of vino tinto and endured yet more wind swept gravel roads. More importantly Matt and I have test-ridden a BMW 1200GS Adventure on a gravel surface and now know what we will do with any surplus cash once our respective bank managers are talking to us again.

But we still have two days in which to get to Tierra del Fuego and so must now focus on riding uninterrupted to the final goal. The bikes will require half a day of our time at customs before being shipped by boat back to Blighty so we intend on arriving in to Ushuaia on 20th December. Of course this has not gone unnoticed that this is a Saturday night, which can only mean one thing given 111 days on the road: party! Impecable trip planning I'm sure you'll agree. Ushuaia at this time of the year has become an impromptu get-together point for overlanding motorcyclists. We're not sure we really fall in to this latter category so we intend on drinking a lot and blending in. The next blog entry should come to you directly from the pointy end of South America.

Monday, 15 December 2008

El Calafate, Patagonia, Argentina: 256 kms (30086 kms)

Although Matt and I appear to have now landed in tourist central we have spent the last 48 hours on Ruta 40 in the middle of absolutely nowhere special. Ruta 40 has scarred us both, not to mention both Yammys, as we have riden almost 400 kms in the worst conditions we've ever experienced.

On Sunday night Matt's ability to speak a second language - I believe it's Spanish - came to the fore when he assisted a group of Israelis whose truck had overturned on the infamous Ruta 40 gravel. I would later find out just how unstable this surface is. Matt served as interpretor between the group and a hostel capabale of contacting the rescue services two hours away. If I had any ounce of decency I would forgive the fact that Matt then dropped his bike at the scene of the accident whilst relaying to the trapped, injured man that ambulance, fire and police were on their way, but I don't! Fall-down stakes score, Stuart 9 - 9 Matt.

For those unaware Ruta 40 is characterised by hundreds of kilometres of gravel that have been built up over time to form ridges parallel with the direction of the road. The key to riding this marble-like material is to find a groove between the ridges and stay in it. Unfortunately Ruta 40 is also characterised by a westerly breeze that can gust 100 kph, is strongest in mid-December and blows perpendicular to the road. Barely 20 kms into Monday's riding I was hit by a gust, mounted a perfectly formed ridge of marbles and Black Yammy is on the floor for the tenth time, my leg trapped under the bike's weight. As Matt piles in to rescue me he misjudges the balance of his bike and drops Blue Yammy to the ground as well. A Laurel and Hardy on Motorbikes comedy moment indeed. Despite being incapacitated under my bike I couldn't help but piss myself with laughter at the ridiculous nature of this whole motorcycling adventure. Fall-down stakes score Stuart 10 - 10 Matt with 5 riding days remaining.

And for those thinking of visiting Argentina in the near future be sure to save your pennies. In Ecuador it was possible to buy breakfast, lunch and dinner, a night's accomodation and a full tank of gas for $21. That same sum wouldn't get you 3 cappochinos in El Calafate. Unforgiveable even despite the breathtaking scenery we have riden through to get here.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Perito Moreno, Patagonia, Argentina: 342 kms (29420 kms)

I don't quite know what drugs him upstairs was taking when he came up with Patagonia but they must have been very strong. The scenery upon leaving San Carlos de Bariloche was spectacular and once again the weather has assisted our appreciation of what lay before us. But it seems that Argentina definitely drew the short straw in the picturesque scenery stakes as most of the good stuff can be found in Chilean Patagonia, which is unfortunately where we are not! In Argentina, once we departed El Bolson, we've had to put up with the rigours of riding Ruta 40, which traverses land devoid of contours for hundreds of kms. It would also appear that despite how south we have riden the current landscape has the appearance and characteristics of a desert, strange given that in two days time we'll hopefully arrive in National Park Los Glaciers. But it has been a thrill to ride hundreds of kms of gravel, the net result of which has thrown up new developments for TransAmericas. On Friday Matt mounted a truly amazing comeback in the fall-down stakes. On the banks of a lake in the National Park Los Alceres he dropped his bike, no doubt in awe of the superb scenery. Then, only 3 hours later, he dropped it again in spectacular fashion whilst negotiating a road under construction. He now has a pair of battered panniers and an ego to match. The score now reads Stuart 9 - 8 Matt. I'm now riding Black Yammy like a geriatric hoping he claws one fall back through a lapse in judgement. I may just have to contemplate sabotage as well.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Photo Update

Hi everyone. Matt and I will be heading south into Patagonia proper this afternoon (Thursday) but before this I've managed to upload a few of the images I took in Peru, Bolivia and Chile onto the web link to the right. I suspect this will be the last time I manage to do this so I hope you enjoy them. The new photos are from "2008-12-Peru (Machupicchu)".

I would also like to thank everyone who has taken the time to make comments on either the blog or the photo database. Maintaining this blog gives me a lot of pleasure but that is only half the story. To come back a few days later and see what people have written and how the entry has been received is the other half. Like I say, thanks for making it a pivotal part of this adventure. We still have 10 days to go to get to Ushuaia so don't go shy on me just yet. Cheers all. Stu

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

San Carlos de Bariloche, Patagonia, Argentina: 350 kms (28454 kms)

On Tuesday we officially rode to the end of the Pan American Highway as tarmac stops for this lengthy road in Puerto Montt. The crowds of well-wishers and the anticipated firework display failed to materialise as we both discovered, as we suspected, that we are in actual fact two nobodys on a nice jolly through the Americas. We've riden a staggering 3044 kms in 4.5 days to get to the end of the road and neither of us ever want to have to undertake such riding again as my arse, without its plush Airhawk suspension, is currently feeling rather numb. Due to our impecable planning the ferry leaving Puerto Montt to take us on the Carreta Austral, our intended entry into Argentina, was fully booked. We had to unfortunately double-back 100 kms on the Pan American Highway to enter through a different border crossing. This alternative point of entry, needless to say, was just as breathtaking (see above) producing scenery very reminiscent of Norway and Britain's finest M11 to Cambridge, on a good day! We passed through the Chilean Lake District and the start of Argentinian Patagonia to finish the day in S.C de Bariloche. Matt studied Spanish here two years ago so arranged to meet a few friends in a bar. Having spent the last 70 days in Matt's company it came as no surprise to me that nobody turned up! At least his recommendation for a tasty steak bore more fruit. It was also refreshing to see in Argentina that Visa and Mastercard were acceptable forms of currency. In Chile both Matt and I appeared to be black-balled on entry as we were hindered at every turn in our attempt to spend thousands of Chilean pesos.

On Thursday we will stock up on supplies for the onward slog to Ushuaia as we anticipate a great deal of camping and sleeping under the stars. Bring it on :-)

Monday, 8 December 2008

Pitrufquén, near Temuco, Chile: 821 kms (27820 kms)

Another incredible day on the Chilean Pan Americana that will be remembered not just for the shear distance covered in one sitting. The scenery has changed drastically this Monday from the early start in the desert north of Santiago through the wine region south of the capital to the pine trees and wheat fields in the south. We additionally sailed through Santiago on the autopista centro at 110 kph today, unheard of for a weekday one would imagine, due to the anniversary of the immaculate conception of some dude we've seen a great deal of throughout Central and South America. We couldn't have picked a better day to ride as the weather has been simply stunning: 25 degs C with blue skies and little fluffy clouds. What's more is that the daylight hours are getting far longer, mighty peculiar, for me at least, given that it's mid-December! And as if all this wasn't enough our first fuel stop of the day was marked by a Yammy drop when I went to rest my bike on a sidestand I hadn't deployed. After 95 days of riding I would've hoped I at least have this part of riding a motorcycle dialed. Matt mounted a strong come back in the fall-down stakes on the Bolivian altoplano but I continue to throw away the trophy unnecessarily. The current score now reads Stuart - 9 vs 6 - Matt, for those interested.

Puerto Montt is just around the corner and should be achieved Tuesday afternoon.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Quillago, Chile: 432 kms (26999 kms)

It wasn't until 1400 on Sunday that we finally manged to draw ourselves away from the hypnotic pull of La Serena and its delightful beaches. The resulting ride to a small town just north of Santiago was one of the dullest we've had to endure save the sight of a full 'moon' on a bridge against the afternoon sun. Matt never saw this strange phenomenom as he'd riden off ahead of me only to appear suddenly from behind me! Go figure.

En route I also got my fourth puncture of this trip which is the reason we now find ourselves short of the big smoke. We had planned to stop in Santiago and service the bikes. This is no longer necessary as we changed tyres, oil and filters on Saturday in Coipapa. We are now going to concentrate on getting to Puerto Montt which will thus give us the maximum amount of time required to get to Ushuaia on 21st December. One thing the puncture on Sunday did prove is that we can now change a tyre with Mclaren type efficiency and speed. This could prove useful on the last leg on rough road from Puerto Montt to the southern tip.

Also, as a side project to TransAmericas, we are on the lookout for a happy Chilean as almost everybody we've met in this beautiful country, especially fuel pump attendants, has been miserable as sin. We'll keep you posted.

Friday, 5 December 2008

Taltal, Atacama Desert, Chile: 795 kms (25894 kms)

This Friday I surpassed my personal best for distance covered on Day 4 of TransAmericas by a staggering 120 kms. The only chance I ever have of bettering this could be on Saturday as we are still 1110 kms from our next goal; Santiago.

Before leaving Norway I had been looking forward to riding through the Atacama Desert but nothing could've prepared us for just how large this place is. It seems to go on forever and we have subsequently discovered a gap in the market for young persons looking for a career break: sporadically positioned gas stations on the Pan Americana in Northern Chile. They are few and far between. Today we rode 346 kms between fills as there was nothing in between save a very dry, hot and sandy environment. Staying awake in the heat of the desert is not easy, especially as the Pan Am is almost entirely straight. Ironically the hundreds of ornately designed makeshift graves that adorn the verges of the highway made to people that have died on the road are keeping us focused.

We also passed through the Tropic of Capricorn that means little to me other than another photo oppurtunity. And, as the sun set, we found ourselves in a quaint little Chilean beach town where we have discovered western style characteristics in people back on the menu: snotty little kids with attitude! Oh how we already miss the barren plains of Bolivia.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Huara, Pan American Highway, Chile: 270 kms (25103 kms)

We have arrived in our penultimate country after three days of high drama in Bolivia that will be almost impossible for me to summarise here in full. So here's the concise version, if you can call this concise!

Our intention in Bolivia had always been to visit the vast salt flats of the Salar de Uyuni and then leave the country to the west to rejoin the Pan
American Highway in Chile. On my expensive, and what now transpires outdated, map this looked a relatively easy task on 'all year, all weather' roads. However, had it not been for the three new friends we met in Oruro, that conveniently included a motorcycle guide, we would probably still be riding around Bolivia looking for the exit. We all hooked up on Tuesday morning and rode south for 2 hours until the asphalt ceased to exist. We would not see it again until 500 kms later on Thursday afternoon at the Chilean border. The track to the salt flats, as our clothes, bikes and lungs will testify, consisted mostly of dust. It was simply everywhere. Smatterings of gravel, sand and partially constructed roads were thrown in for good measure. But riding off-road to Salinas, located at the northern extent of the salt flats and our goal for Tuesday evening, was nothing to the sensation of riding our own bikes across the Salar de Uyuni Wednesday morning. It was the closest either of us have ever come to being an ice-breaker and constant messages were required to our heads to fight the feeling we might just fall through the salt! From Salinas we left our new found friends to continue on our own. The first 25 kms went swimmingly well until Matt fell and I simultaneously discovered a flat front tyre. A hasty repair was administered before it punctured again 70 kms later whilst lost looking for a track that didn't seem to exist (see left). We were literally miles from anywhere in an area where food, water and fuel are all rare commodities. We had enough of all three but it was impossible not to stress, especially given our dependency on our trusty Yamahas to get us out of the country. Tracks lead off in a myriad directions and all were of a dubious quality. At various points whilst trying to find the border crossing Matt fell an additional 2 times, myself once and we spent an impromptu night camping in a deserted town in -7. It took a further 100 kms of riding through sand, dust, over the Salar de Coipasa salt flat and endless deserted Bolivian towns before we found the Chilean border, restaurant food and, most importantly, shiny black tarmac.

On hindsight it was a truly classic experience but you would've had trouble telling the both of us that at the time!

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Yunguyo, Lake Titikaka, Peru: 622 kms (24019 kms)

Check out the distance covered today! Feeling suitably refreshed after 9 hours sleep Matt and I got a little carried away riding on Sunday. The fine weather, great scenery and good quality roads played a large part in the mile munching. We are now at the last Peruvian town before the border with Bolivia and will cross on Monday morning. The day has seen us ride vast tracts of the high altitude southern Peruvian plains, topping out at one point at 4400m. We then traversed the edges of the mighty Lake Titikaka, which was as beautiful as you would expect given the snow capped Bolivian mountains to the east and a menacing stormy Peruvian sky to the west that has unloaded on Yunguyo tonight with avengence.

Following on from Matt's first official road kill a few weeks back when he hit a small bird, which I regretfully forgot to report, I almost went one better on Sunday when a lamb ran out in front of me. Of course it wasn't intentional and I honestly didn't have visions of a Sunday roast in my horizons, although that really wouldn't go a miss right now! The little thing obviously couldn't decide where it should run given the vast expanses of the Peruvian altoplano and opted instead to make a bee-line for Black Yammy. He definitely hit my front tyre, probably ricocheting off my left pannier as well, but luckily for all animal lovers out there, and our attempts to get to Ushuaia, I saw it run off onto the hard shoulder where his mate, who attempted harry kiry with Matt's bike, was hopefully waiting to comfort him. Given the amount of road-kill we've seen on this trip an event like this was going to happen sooner or later. Luckily it wasn't serious.

Anyways, I've also managed to upload a lot of new photographs to the web link to the right given that in Yunguyo on a Sunday night there isn't a great deal to do except watch Steven Seagel films in Spanish. The new pictures start at "2008-11-18 - Ingapirka". Enjoy the new shots.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Machupicchu, Peru: 0 kms (23397 kms) sightseeing

Despite three months on a motorcycle, not one iota of training and copious amounts of alcohol it appears that my fitness levels are still quite high. Today we've been to the lost city of the Incas, Machupicchu, hiking to the ruins from the small town nestled at the bottom of the valley, Aguas Calientes, and thus avoiding use of those damned touristico buses belching out fumes and kicking up dust. Both Matt and I have two functioning legs so why not use them. Shame 2300 other people didn't feel the same way. "Quite" high altitude hiking in a baking heat has taken it's toll though, and we've decided to spend Saturday night in a quaint little Peruvian town called Ollantaybambo, which is a tad difficult to pronounce after a few celebratory cervezas. No surprises to hear that Machupicchu was far better in real life than the photograph most people associate with it. We even scaled Waynupicchu that can be seen in the background of the picture to the right. But, as has become the norm on this trip, the day wasn't without incident as Matt's ability to fall ill prior to big days out has continued. Here's a time-line of todays events:

0400 - wake up in Aguas Calientes (1919m)
0430 - depart hostel
0431 - Matt chunders!
0435 - Matt & Stu finally on the path skyward
0530 - Matt chunders again!
0550 - Stuart summits Machupicchu (2250m)
0610 - Matt summits Machupicchu
0748 - Stuart commences climb of Waynupicchu
0749 - Matt commences climb of Waynupicchu
0807 - Matt & Stu overtake the Japs
0809 - Matt & Stu overtake the Americans
0821 - Matt & Stu overtake the French
0835 - Matt & Stu overtake the Dutch
0850 - Matt & Stu summit Waynupicchu (2496m) - cue much rejoicing
0958 - depart Machupicchu
1120 - arrive Agua Calientes
1215 - beer!

Sightseeing is pretty much over for TransAmericas. All we need to do now is "haul arse" south, as the good ol' Yanks would say. We still have a very long way to go and only 3 weeks in which to do it. Whose stupid idea was this?

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Cuzco, Peru: 316 kms (23303 kms)

When Matt and I sat down a few weeks ago and mapped out our remaining time in South America day 86 between Nasca and Cuzco involved 450 kms of riding, very much attainable given our current form. Google Map confirmed this. Imagine our surprise when we exit a gas station in Nasca to see a sign stating "Cuzco 660 kms". Overindulgence the night before and a blazing heat was not going to help the cause of getting there in one day. And after 3 hours of tight turns on bad roads any remaining chances of getting to Cuzco before the sun went down had been shot clean out of the water.

We'd been told by various sources that this new route had been paved but that didn't marry with what we found. By the time we arrived in Puquio, 160 kms east of Nasca, I was in a foul mood as the remaining distance in similar conditions would take several days to ride, time we simply don't have. Imagine my mood 5 minutes later when a motorcyclist pulled out in front of me on a dusty diversion in Puquio, traversed the entire width of the road and leaving me nowhere to go except the sidewalk. Black Yammy takes another tumble, covers the pavement in water coolant and my nogin bounces off the side of someone's house! I don't know what choice of motorcycles or helmets you readers make but I can strongly endorse Yamaha and Arai respectively! Both bike and rider came out unscathed although the fall-down stakes now stand at 7-3, which pretty much hands Matt the victory trophy, save a complete loss on Matt's part on how to ride a bike. He did try and high-side just shy of Cuzco and twitched on the slippery cobbles in the city but the score remains the same.

What we found after Puquio, however, will remain with us forever: 500 kms of the best asphalt through the most amazing scenery. And we had it all to ourselves. For hours on end we passed nobody and we could comfortably use both sides of the road like it was our own private race track. The thin air and perfectly engineered corners assisted ridiclous speeds and untold grinning inside our helmets. Knowing full well we wouldn't make it in one day we spent Wednesday night camping by a river cooking up a feast in ready preparation for a continuation of the same. Although I've said it many times before these were two amazing riding days, very much in contrast to the other days of riding we've had. It seems a shame that, ultimately, both Matt and I will forget little pieces of what a fantastic experience it was to ride between the two cities of Nasca and Cuzco high up on the Peruvian plains.