Monday, February 28, 2011

Some Bike Stats

Daryll writes:

We are now safely in Buenos Aires, and our timing couldn’t have been better with us arriving at our Hostel around 1pm on Sunday afternoon.  I’ve been looking forward to a bed in days and couldn’t wait to put my head on an actual pillow – it’s the little things that make the difference.

Some bike stats. for all those bike geeks after arriving in Buenos Aires and 30,030km after leaving Vancouver:-

Angela’s Bike:
The bike had a set of Avon Gripsters that had about 2000km on them before we left.
The rear was changed to a Pirelli MT60 after 16,520 km.
The front was changed to a Michelin Sirac after 23,988 km.  This is what the store had in a 90/90 21” size.
The second rear was changed to another Pirelli MT60 after 11,817 km.  We could have pushed it for another 1500km, but had some time in Ushuaia, so had it changed.

Daryll’s Bike:
Also started with a set of Avon Gripsters.
The rear was changed to a Michelin Sirac after 22,148 km.
The front has just over 31,000 km and needs to be replaced.  I’ve been nursing it to Buenos Aires and plan on changing it out in South Africa.

As you can see, we got some amazing mileage out of the Avon Gripsters and will definitely use them again as a multi-purpose tire.  They do well in the dirt and stick in the wet. 

Both bikes have had 4 oil changes each and I’ve tried to stick to the 6000 km schedule.  They are now due for an oil change, but plan on doing that in South Africa.  I have used 15w40, 10w40 and even 20w50 as it’s all I could find for the oil changes.  The air filter was cleaned at every oil change, but I alternated changing the oil filter at every other oil change.  So only went through 2 oil filters per bike.

Chain & Sprockets
Angela’s bike started with a new set of sprockets and chain, so has just over 31,000 km and I plan on replacing these in South Africa as well.
My bike still has the original chain and sprockets on, so has about 38,000 km and is in desperate need for a change.  I have a set to change them out, but hoped that this can also be done in South Africa. 
I’ve lubed the chains every other day with Teflon wax that we carried and once that was done, started using engine oil.  It tends to make a mess, but our chains stay lubed.

I’ve kept up with regular maintenance of the bikes, but I do have to take them in to a shop in South Africa to have the valves checked and adjusted.  Still haven’t learnt how to do that, but hope that once they are checked and adjusted in South Africa, I needn’t worry about them for a while.  I will also change out the fuel filters and replace the air filter to a new one.  If we had to repeat this leg of the trip, the DR650 is definitely the bike I will choose for these conditions.  The bike performed well for us and was flawless.  I may consider switching to soft luggage to save on the weight vs.. hard luggage; however this is just personal preference.
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Friday, February 25, 2011

The People we Meet

Daryll writes:

As we continue on our journey north to Buenos Aires, we spent a few days riding and camping in the rain.  After a few days of being wet and the tent damp, my mood took a downward turn as it wasn’t fun anymore.  At one of the rest stops, we went inside the service station to warm up with a glass of hot chocolate each.  As we sat there contemplating on how long we wait and if the rain and biting cold wind will ever stop, we met a German couple (Drogbar & Dieter) who were traveling in their overland truck.  We got chatting and learnt that they were on the road for the last 10 years and have had various vehicles over that time. 

Dieter explains that this is their life and that they normally go back to Germany for their 6 week “vacation” every year.  It so happened that we were both headed for the same coastal town, we were planning on camping at the Municipal Campground and they were just going to park on the beach.  We decided to meet later that evening.  It was going to be 70km to this little beach town and we had to backtrack to get back onto the main route to continue north the next day so decided that we will fill up when we come back the following day.  Big mistake!

That evening, we fought with the tent to get it into the ground as the fierce wind blew in off the Atlantic.  Later that evening, Dieter had found us and had suggested that we join them for a drink in their truck after dinner as the only Restaurant in the town was closed.  We had a quick bite to eat and wondered over to the warmth of their overland truck and watched one of the DVD’s that Dieter had made off their trip across Russia, Mongolia, China and Tibet.  It was inspiring stuff to chat to the both of them over some fine boxed red wine.

The next morning, we packed up early and headed to the gas station to re-fuel for the day’s ride; only to learn that the YPF was out of gas and wasn’t expecting any for another day.  So we had another hot chocolate to warm up and asses how far we could go on the gas we had.  Another customer had suggested that there was a gas station 60km north of where we were.  We could do 60km, but the next town was 170km away, and we certainly couldn’t get both bikes the 170km.  I drained about 3 liters of gas from my bike and added it to Angela’s bike to make sure that we didn’t have to stop on the highway in the rain and wind and try and transfer gas from my bike over.  We rode slowly hoping that the gas station was open and had the precious liquid that we were looking for and it did and once we filled up, the fear of being stranded in the wind and rain had disappeared and we were in full riding mode.

Over the next 2 days, we made good time and decided to push on to a town called Viedma.  This one is to all those bikers that are reading this that are planning a similar trip in the future.  Don’t stay in Viedma as there isn’t a Municipal Campground there anymore.  We found this out around 5pm, after doing about 500km that day.  It took a while to find the spot and after asking for directions twice, both a police officer and a cyclist directed us to an open lot, that resembled a campground, but was now a construction site for a new highway going through the town.  Darn it!  I asked a few kid riding their bicycles in the open lot if there was an alternate camping spot, and they had suggested that there was one 30km back the way we had come.  I was reluctant to give up that quickly as I would have noticed camping as we entered the town.  This campground used to be along the river, and there was two rowing clubs in the vicinity, so I decided to venture over to one of the clubs as there was people milling around to see if we could camp on the grass surrounding their club house.  I ended up speaking to the President of the club and the Coach and they were reluctant to let us camp and also suggested the camping 30km south of where we were.  They had said that they will get into trouble with the police if they let us camp on their property – weird, oh well. 

As I walked towards Angela and the bikes to give her the bad news, that we need to come up with a new plan, they called me back and offered us a spot where we could set-up the tent for the night.  It was perfect, the club was shutting down for the evening, so we had the entire area to ourselves and watching the sun set over the river was peaceful.  The Coach, I think he was said that he lives at the back of the building and was leaving and will come back around 10pm.  I thought fine, we would be asleep by then. 

As we were preparing dinner, a biker pulls up and comes to talk to us.  As it turns out,m he was one of the rowers that was there earlier in the evening and had come back to talk to us and offered to take us for a ride around the town.  As we had a long day, we declined, but we spent some time chatting non the less.  Guston had purchased his Honda 250cc 4 months ago and it was shining, so you know he took pride in his ride.  Before he left, I gave him a sticker and in return, he took off his bike key from his key chain and handed his key chain of a saint (not sure what saint it is) to me as a gift.  That’s just the type of people we meet every day. 

After dinner, we watched a movie on the laptop and called it a night.  It must have been a couple hours later, I hear a rattling on the tent and a guy yelling at us.  Oh no – could it be someone yelling at us for camping here.  As I open the tent, Angela hands me her headlamp and I realize that it’s the Coach.  It’s now 11pm, he’s just got back and wants us to move our bikes inside the building were the kayaks and canoes are as he says that they will be safer.  I really wasn’t going to argue with him, so we quickly pushed both bikes inside the building and he had said that he will leave the door unlocked so we could get them out in the morning.  Yup, that’s going to be safer.  He was really nice and asked if we already had dinner and then suggested that we could use the stove in the club house for breakfast.  The next morning, I pull the bikes out and bid farewell to another new friend.

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Gravel N’ Guns

Angela writes:

So apparently deep gravel and I are not the best of friends either…
While riding through southern Argentina we have ridden several hundred kilometers of dirt roads without issue – through Chile on Tierra del Fuego, to Torres del Paine, up Ruta 40 to El Calafate -  yet we had heard from other riders about some atrocious gravel roads further north. When we decided to take a 200 km dirt “short cut” from El Chalten to HWY 3 we learned what these other guys were talking about.

The dirt and gravel  road we began taking had 3 dirt tracks on it. The track were the width of car tires.  Surrounding these tracks on either side was 6 inches of piled gravel and the shoulders of the road were 6 inches of piled gravel as well.  Not a lot of room for error! The first 10 kilometers that we travelled on this road went well, we concentrated hard on staying on the narrow dirt tracks.  Of the 3 tracks Daryll was riding the middle and I was riding the far right track. When I noticed some deeper gravel covering my track I decided that as soon as I could manage it, I would switch to riding in the middle track behind Daryll. When I hit this bit of gravel it bumped me up into the 6 inch pile of gravel and I decided well now is my chance to get in the middle track. Instead of smoothly transferring into the middle, I fish-trailed deep into the gravel pile and ended up swerving onto the far left track but not under control!  I think my bike swerved from left to right a few more times and eventually I ended up on the ground on the right side of my bike and ripped the right pannier off before I came to a stop.  I tried to get up from under the bike but my right leg was stuck. I waited for something to start hurting on my body but luckily I was complete okay, just had to look over the bike.  I was only going about 35km/hour so it wasn’t too bad of a crash. Daryll noticed my wipeout in his rearview mirror, stopped his bike in the middle of the road and came running back to me. I gave him 2 thumbs up letting him know I was okay but his adrenaline had already started pumping. He lifted the bike off my leg so I could slide it out and then we both struggled to heave my bike up out of the gravel and on to it’s kick stand.   Since the bolts holding my pannier had bent as it got ripped off the bike, Daryll had to strap it back in place to ensure it wouldn’t rattle too much and slip off the bike. Then when we tried to start the bike it wouldn’t start.  While I had been lying on the ground I checked to see if gas was leaking from the tank, it wasn’t but I did notice air bubbles going into the tank. Daryll figured out that gas had been leaking into my air box so after he drained the gas from the vent hole, the bike thankfully ended up starting again.  Since we still had 190 km to go on this terrible road and the wind hadn’t even started to push us around yet, we decided to take the longer way around to HWY 3, a paved 450 km road.  I’m glad we had the experience on this type of road so that we understand the perils that other riders talk about when they don’t have alternative routes. I’m glad we had another option.

The next couple of days were back on pavement, following the highway along the Atlantic coast took us back up north fairly quickly.  We camped in some sites we had used on the way down to Ushuaia so it was nice to be in some familiar towns. It made finding the gas stations, the grocery stores and the municipal camping – our stable destinations- much easier after a long days ride.

When we arrived at a campsite in Rada Tilly we met a nice local couple who appeared to be packing up their campsite even though it was late in the afternoon.  Daryll and he talked about the bikes for a while, while the guy poured cups of cerveza for both of them.  Later the lady came over to talk to me and told me how she used to work making fishing nets. Then she explained in broken English that she, her boyfriend and her 5 year old son were leaving the campsite and were going to find another one. The reason that they were leaving was because her husband was coming from a nearby city, after he discovered their location, and he was bringing his gun.  She had contacted her lawyer and he suggested that they flee to another campground immediately. I was going to ask where they were headed as we have become quite the experts on Argentinean campsites but I figured the less information I had the better!   After another 30 minutes of pleasantries, while her son watched cartoons on their laptop in the truck, they departed for their next “safe haven”.  That night Daryll and I watched for a “man with a gun” to wander through the campground but all we saw thankfully was a “man with sunglasses”.  We often wonder what happened to the trio and wish them well.

New photos added to the Argentina photo album.
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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

North to Buenos Aires

Daryll writes:

Sorry to keep everyone in suspense over the last 2 weeks; however we are still camping (30 consecutive nights and counting) and find wifi few and far between.  We have been updating our little map and stats section though if you wanted to check up on us.

While in Ushuaia, we stayed at Camping Los Andinos that overlooked the city and had it's own ski hill.  Angela drummed up the energy to walk up to the top while I lazed around.

The campsite also happened to be the hang-out for many overlanders including cyclists, motorcyclists and 4x4’s and we were fortunate to meet Andy and Gosha (, a Polish couple riding 2-up on a Suzuki V-Strom 650.  They flew to Buenos Aires and were heading north after Ushuaia to Alaska and then across Asia back to Poland.  We spent a few wonderful evenings with them and another biker from Venezuela.

Gosha & Andy
After 4 glories warm and sunny days (unusual for Ushuaia), we bid farewell to our new friends and Ushuaia to make our way north.  It is 3079km from Ushuaia to Buenos Aires; however we were planning a few side trips in between and headed to Puerto Natales, Chile on our way to Torres del Paine National Park.    There are two different ferries that one can take to leave the island of Teirra del Fuego, the apparently free ferry that we took coming onto the island or the paid ferry that lands in Punta Arenas.  We took the apparently free ferry – or that’s what I like to think.  It rained for our night in Puerto Natales and a thick mist hung over the air as we packed up the next morning and were hesitant of spending two nights camping in a National Park based on the current weather conditions.  We decided to take the risk and gamble on the weather improving and boy it did.  As we rode into the park, we were greeted with some of the most magnificent views of the Torres (Towers).  We camped for the two nights with warm days and cool chilly evenings with some of the most amazing scenery around.

After resting up for a day, we headed on to El Calafate to visit the Perrito Merino Glacier.  At the campsite, we met Dan and his wife who we had originally met in Bariloche and a South African biker (Pieter) who had purchased a little 250cc bike and was riding around Argentina for a month before selling it and heading back home.  Hope to see him in East London when we travel through.  El Calafate is a quaint little tourist town, with the main attraction being the Los Glaciers National Park and the Perrito Merino Glacier being the feature attraction.   The day after arriving, we were up early and rode our bikes to view the Glacier.  The entrance to the park was pretty steep at US$25 per person, however was well worth it.  We got there pretty early (our trademark at touristy sites) and beat the tour bus’s.  In the park, there are walk-ways that run along the face of the Glacier.  It is 5km wide and 60m high above the surface of the water and is constantly advancing and spectacular to see up close and personal.  We walked around for at least 3 hours and it was like being in a freezer.  It was chilling to the bone.  We were lucky, we had our motorcycle gear to keep us warm and as we walked along the walk-ways, the cracking sound of the Glacier breaking off could be heard.  The Colombian Icefields in the Rockies (Canada) is no comparison to this monster.

New Photos of Chile and Argentina added to the photo albums.
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Thursday, February 10, 2011

The End of the World

Daryll writes:

After leaving the dusty roads of Chile behind us, we were back in Argentina and on the paved Ruta 3 on the island of Tierra del Fuego and had about 200km to go before reaching Ushuaia, the southerly most city in the world.  The road literally ends here.  Riding to Ushuaia is one of the goals for many adventure bikers as it is as far as the road goes.

After spending several days seeing the same flat, dry pampa, we were very surprised as we were about 100km away from Ushuaia.  We climbed a bit, enough for it to get cold again and with snow capped peaks, half green forests and turquoise colored  lakes, our goal had come into view.  It seemed to be just a port town at first, however as we approached the towns Centro, it’s charm and character became evident.  Located alongside a calm bay and surrounded by snow capped mountains, we had reached the southerly most city in the world.  It had taken us 5 months and just over 25,000km.  We found a nice campsite overlooking the town and set-up camp knowing that we would be here for a few days to take it all in.

We rested for a day, before taking a short ride into the National Park of Teirra del Fuego to where the road ends.  We had learnt that it’s best to enter the park prior to 7am as there isn’t any guard on duty, and thus saving the $16 per person entry fee – we are on a budget you know.  So we were up at 5:30am and as we rode into the park, the sun started to rise and lit up the mountains surrounding the park.  We past one biker on his way out, as we got closer to the end of the road and the famous sign that is must do on every travelers list that comes here.

We spent some time both in the park and taking a ton of pictures, but it hadn’t really sunk in on where we had ridden and what we had accomplished.  We were excited on our achievement, but that’s as far as it had gone.  It was only after I made this short clip did the emotions kick in and me choking up as I watched it and Angela breaking down into tears.  We were really at “The End of the World”.

The End of the World from One World 2 Explore on Vimeo.

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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Winds of Patagonia

Daryll writes:

San Carlos de Bariloche is one of those towns that anyone visiting will fall in love with.  We did!  It reminded me of being in the Swiss Alps.  The town resembles any small town you would find in the Alps.  We wondered around the town on one of our rest days and tried some of the amazing chocolate that can be found here as well.  The camp ground that we stayed at also had it’s resident St. Bernard to entertain the campers and after spending three warm sunny days, having steak and wine for dinner for three consecutive nights, we had to say goodbye to Bariloche and continue our journey south through Patagonia.  Before we left though, we did manage a short side trip to admire some of the amazing lakes southern Argentina has to offer.

Many of the YPF Gas Stations have free wi-fi; however we’ve just been having bad luck in trying to connect to these and in probably 9 out of 10 attempts we are able to connect to quickly check emails before having to get back on the road.  Hence the lack of response’s via email and failure to update our blog.

We’ve been riding solid for seven consecutive days and only managed to cover a distance of about 2,250km.  We would be up at 6am, have breakfast, pack up the tent, pack the bikes and be on the road by 8am.  We found that the earlier we got going, the more distance we could cover in the morning as come afternoon, the wind would pick up and we would barely get anywhere.  It was slow going and the wind at times was brutal and many times I had to fight with the bike to stay on my side of the road as the wind would push me into the oncoming lane.  I could safely cross the yellow line and steer the bike back onto my side but it was a different story when there was a semi-trailer heading towards me.  Off the throttle and brake and pray that I can get the bike back onto my side before the semi. creates another wind blast pushing me off in the opposite direction.  We’ve been on Ruta 3 coming south, so most of it has been paved , except for 110km of ripio (gravel) in Chile.  Steering the bike back onto my side of the road on pavement is slightly easier as compared to trying to do it on a gravel road with distinct tracks.  We were down to 20km/hr at times on the dirt section just trying to stay upright.  We had been warned by other travelers that had done similar trip’s that the wind can be bad, but nothing can prepare you for the relentless wind and cold.  For the past week, I’ve been wearing the following:- base layer thermal pants; Gore-Tex pants liner, riding pants and on my upper body: short sleeve wicking t-shirt; long sleeve wicking t-shirt; heated jacket; fleece; Gore-Tex jacket liner; riding jacket – yup, that’s 6 layers on my upper body and I would still be cold on my hands.  Even with the heated grips, my fingers would get numb after a while and when we would stop for a break, I would try and warm them up against the bike’s engine. 

Winds of Patagonia from One World 2 Explore on Vimeo.

After the first day or two, the scenery was the same, just open fields of pampa with lots of sheep grazing the lands.  At one point we had to stop in the middle of the road to wait for a herd of sheep to cross the road.  The funny part is that the sheep were being herded by a guy on a dirt bike and and dog in the back of a pick-up truck – how things have changed.  We are in the height of summer and I can’t imagine how these small towns survive over the long winter with all the snow and wind that they would get.  It is cold in summer and I really don’t want to be here over the winter.  We are lucky to live in Vancouver with such a moderate climate.  As we left the open plains and headed towards the coast, the Atlantic Ocean came into view.  The wind continued to be merciless.  Our fuel economy was dropping so much so that Ang can normally do 440km before switching to reserve, on one afternoon, she went into reserve at 320km and almost ran out of gas.  Thankfully, there was a gas station a few meters away.

Along the road, there are road signs warning of strong winds that are depicted by a tree blown over.  I am yet to get a picture of this because it is just too dangerous to stop of fear of having the bike blown over.  We’ve been camping since leaving Mendoza, normally staying at municipal camp grounds.  We had to stop in a small town (Caleta Olivia) as the next town was too far to continue for the night, so were forced to stay at one of the most expensive private camp grounds thus far.  I guess the benefit was that we set up our tent next to some vines and we met two Welsh couples in their overland vehicles, so we had a good chat to them about their decked our trucks.  I’ve decided the next trip we are going to take is going to be in one of these.

We had to take a ferry to get onto the island of Tierra del Fuego and part of the island belongs to Argentina and another to Chile.  We spent most of the day on ripio and even though the Argentinean border was 500m away, the next town was another 88km away, we decided to set-up our tent behind a barn – free camping is always good.  Alberto and Naomi – you would be proud of us, dedicated campers now.

Between a year and a half or two years ago, I met Michael Madill from Alberta on the HUBB as he was prepping 3 DR650’s for his wife, son and himself for a similar trip.  Our bikes are set up almost identical.  We had communicated several times whilst traveling; however had never met up as they had left two months prior to us and were always ahead.  As we crossed onto the island of Tierra del Fuego a few days ago, I see 2 DR650’s coming towards us.  Really didn’t think it would be them, as there should have been 3 bikes; but as they passed, we knew that we had finally met.  We all quickly made u-turns and stopped safely for hugs all around.  We had never met before, but we were like old friends.  Michael, Jing and Sean were heading north after spending a few days in Ushuaia.  Jing had encountered horrible headwind a few days earlier and had crashed, but not too seriously injured and was riding 2-up with Michael.  Her bike needed some work done before they headed north again.  We spent about 45 mins chatting, and could have spent the entire afternoon sharing stories about our journeys south.  We hope to run into them again over the next week.

New photos added to both the Chile and Argentina photo albums.
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