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Month February 2014

Bariloche 2

The last flight of three from Ottawa – this is Buenos Aires. It’s nice walking outside to the plane, smelling the fuel, listening to the engine and walking up the ladder. I’ve flown on Copa, LAN and Aerolineas and the service on all is excellent.
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I spend another couple of days in BA, since I’m here and unlikely to return.

In Bariloche there was a biker rally the day after I arrived back. Here was the poster
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Which was inaccurate but who cares
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They were very friendly. This was a change from the generally aloof ways of Chilean and Argentinina motociclistas so far. More on this another time.
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As you may have noticed, German WWII helmets are the big thing. This isn’t a surprise, because of all places in the world you might find them, Bariloche might be it. Here’s a chunk copied from Wiki:

In 1995, Bariloche made headlines in the international press when it became known as a haven for Nazi war criminals, such as the former SS Hauptsturmführer Erich Priebke. Priebke had been the director of the German School of Bariloche for many years.
In his 2004 book Bariloche nazi-guía turística, Argentine author Abel Basti claims that Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun lived in the surroundings of Bariloche for many years after World War II. Basti said that the Argentine Nazis chose the estate of Inalco as Hitler’s refuge.
Grey Wolf: The Escape of Adolf Hitler, published by British authors Simon Dunstan and Gerrard Williams, proposed that Hitler and Eva Braun hid at Hacienda San Ramon, six miles east of Bariloche, until the early 1960s. Both these accounts are disputed by historians, who generally believe that Hitler and Braun died in the last days of World War II.Some credence to the theory of Hitler’s alleged survival may be drawn from the fact that there are no photos of the dead Eva Braun, and the few photos of the “dead Hitler” appear to be dubious snaps of a different person, albeit with a “Hitler moustache”.

About 200 of us went for a ride like this
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Met up with Santiago at the hostel start point out of town. I wasn’t sure if he was coming or not. Some photos below from my Contour video
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First the cops talk to the organizers
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Cool kid on his 50cc chopper came to see us off
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Off we go! Wow this is fun!
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Into the forest!
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Hi Santiago! This is cool!
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Past mountains and lakes
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More mountains
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Lots of bridges
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A lake beach
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Approaching Bariloche
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The passengers pull out cell phone cameras
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Into town. Every bike and car hard on the horn, bikes revving the engines. The sound was intense!
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Down to the park to tell big fat stories and show off
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The local leathers
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Saludos
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the canal

Back in Los Angeles, Chile, I mentioned that something had come up.

Something good. There was an original plan for my children to meet me in South America before I headed west. Then my middle child got a new job in Ottawa. So we all went there instead.

Lucinda and I rode further down the centre of Chile, weaving our way from near the coast to near the mountains. We headed east at Osorno and crossed the Andes, nearly crashing in a very big way, back into Argentina and San Carlos de Bariloche where I knew there was a trusted hiding place for Lucinda.

Then flew to Buenos Aires. After exploring for a few days, flew through Santiago and Toronto to Ottawa, where it was -20 C, in runners and a thin poly mid-layer.

It was a perfect place and perfect timing to be with my family, in the Capital, to celebrate with a million Canadians as the men and women won Hockey gold.

Now I’m back with Lucinda in Bariloche, planning the long ride down to Ushuaia, the southernmost town in the world.

Back-posts will be filled in below.

Saludos
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Buenos Aires

Imagine being in a situation where you’ve got to write a blog post ‘about’ Buenos Aires. You’d have to be an idiot to try it, so just two things

We’re on our way to the Gardens via the Subte (the subway, short form of subterranean because they couldn’t think of a better name at the time, but I like it). On at this station, and not a glamorous one
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Packed. This is your Buenos Aires crowd. You’re struck by the diversity. Hair colour! Wow, haven’t seen anything but beautiful black hair for a year. Very European
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The station at the other end
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So why waste post-space on a subway? Because it’s 101 years old. There were years when Buenos Aires was so rich, anything they saw they wanted, they bought, built or had shipped across the Atlantic.

Into the Botanical Garden. It’s mostly in poor shape.
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So we walk over to something I’m curious about: the glasshouses
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They’re in disrepair, but still wonderful things. Built in 1889 they were at one time the finest in the world
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Another, smaller one
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And that’s this rider’s contribution to the collective posts on Buenos Aires, a place/subject too big to tackle.

And when you’re a few weeks behind on posts you need to engineer this kind of bullshit.

Saludos
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to Bariloche

The day’s track
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What an great day this was.

We started out heading east into the country towards the Andes to cross back into Argentina at Cardenal Samoré
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Past the big lake at Puyehue
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There’s something about the road that makes Lucinda want to run fast so we do
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Past more of the islands
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And begin our climb up into the misty forest, past rivers
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and waterfalls
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We pass Arbutus-like trees with ghostly white flowers
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And after 100 miles reach the Chilean exit border. I should have taken more pictures of the forest but we didn’t want to stop, just ride.

The border at Cardenal Samoré isn’t much, but it’s fast. I’m through with my visa into aduana (customs) in 10 minutes. Aduana is an amazing 20 minutes, the guy takes in stride my crazy Guatemalan title without a blink
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And we’re through, headed to the Argentinian border post 40 k’s away.

We start climbing rapidly. The strangest thing – the mountains turn to sand. It’s surreal in the mist
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I’m wondering how this can be
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Sometimes it looks river washed, but we’re almost at the peak
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Another 20k further on, on the descent, huge granite peaks appear and it all makes sense, kindof. We’ve passed through a massive sand gulch and couldn’t see the peaks around us in the clouds
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A flipped 18-wheeler. Must be a Peruvian driver, they’re the masters of truck flipping
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Speed again down the beautiful road
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A good vegetation shot. Very high ferns, mixed trees. Exotic
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Rivers flowing into Argentina now. This pic is worth a click because the beauty is very hard to describe
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To the Argentine border. Pretty fancy for a small crossing
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Park Lucinda inside, immigration is a breeze, they scan my reciprocity barcode, and aduana once again don’t look concerned about my Guate plates, and we’re through in less than 30 minutes. Amazing. Maybe a new record, or tied with La Mesilla at Mexico/Guate.
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And off we go.

But next comes the closest we’ve been to a trip-delaying trip to hospital since Mexico. Giving Lucinda a little gas at some point the rear goes a bit sideways. I’m surprised because although the surface is damp and we’re on the nearly useless but long-lasting Heidenau tires, nothing seems out of the ordinary. So I gently clutch/gear down, not trusting the brakes, to a halt and look down closely. The road surface is as polished as glass
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The mist in the air is just enough, with the shiny road surface, to defeat the damn Heidenaus. A dutch rider lost his front and literally flipped it outside of Santiago just a month ago in similar conditions on Heidenaus. God, they’re evil. But what choice is there if you’re doing up to 8k between changes? Some people, on bikes not as greedy as Lucinda get 20k out of them…

I head off again, trying to ride in the least slick tracks on the road. But no, a mile further down, on a steep section, doing a reasonable speed Lucinda goes sideways and flips left/right violently for 100 feet before getting straight. Jesus, that would have been a big highside I think. I click my blinkers on and crawl downhill until the slick surface runs out, feeling like an idiot and cursing the tires.

Another lake on the east side of the Andes
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We had some time to burn thanks to the quick border, so rode down to the shore.

Gin clear
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Vivid colors that we were to see much more of
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Further down the road we see this
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Get off the bike with a smile
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Yup, another variety of Mutisia
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The ride down the east side is very different. The forest is thinner, the moodiness is not so much in the air as in the trees
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The ride is beyond words
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Lower, a river
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A glade
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Then we’re out of the forest and cross maybe 30 miles of this
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Down to Bariloche, a tourist town with an interesting history
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But before stopping we go to the lakefront, where it’s blowing a typical Patagonian gale
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Translucent breakers
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Then we head off to meet Santiago, a friend of Helge’s, who I emailed a couple of weeks earlier about storing my bike. I’m early and bump into this guy, Diego, on a very cool older Suzuki 800, a huge bike for Argentina. Wow what a beautiful bike. By luck he’s a riding partner of Santiago’s
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Diego has a comic shop!
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He’s a long distance rider and follows the community on the web. He’s also got a bit of a crush (along with every other rider on the planet) on Anna Grechiskina. She’s got I have a dream tattooed the length of her forearm: her dream is to solo from her native Ukraine around the world on a KTM 990. She’s currently in Asia sorting out some problems. OK, here’s why her site has more daily hits than everybody else’s combined
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Christ, I’ve lost my train of thought.

Oh, so Diego and I review her progress
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You can follow her progress at
Anna’s Facebook page or Anna’s website

I meet Santiago and his wife Mery at their store. Santiago and Diego have ridden the Carretera Austral to Ushuaia and I grill both for route beta
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When I emailed Santiago asking if he knew of a safe home for Lucinda while I flew back to Canada, he said no problem, he could do that. So imagine my horror when I met him at his home and he told me to ride the bike around back of his house, ride across the lawn, up an embankment onto his deck and through double doors into his kitchen/dining room. In his kitchen for nearly two weeks? Well to make a long story short he strongly insisted and I hoped the gift I brought back from Canada for him and Mery was sufficient. They were generous to an extreme.

The next day I flew out of Bariloche
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two days to Osorno

The first day’s uneventful track to Temuco
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The second day’s much better track to Osorno
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Some lack of energy in the Chilean agricultural valley let’s you down. It doesn’t provide the rich smells, colors or pastoral comfort that you might expect. After thinking about it for a while, it’s just that: the green isn’t green, the gold isn’t gold, you can’t smell a thing and you don’t have the urge to roll around on the ground. Not even the season can be blamed. Oh well.

Here’s the way it went to Temuco. Cattle
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Best foot forward
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Miles of this
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A good blue flower by the roadside. Not cropped so you can see how close it flowers to the crown relative to plant size. This flower shape hinted of the huge prize to follow the next day
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Through an agricultural town, big rain threatening
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Always fun to watch
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Another good Chilean river. Stuffed with big trout they say
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Into Temuco
DSC00438The next day we went on a wandering route to a few of the lakes between the Pan Am and the Andes.

Maybe it was because we were moving further south, towards a wetter climate, but for some reason everything greened up suddenly
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The first lake we arrived at
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A seawalk with every contraption imaginable in special lanes. Very festive
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The Andes to the east
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Behind the town I came across the unique sight of two sidecars with German plates. Sorry to say I lost the piece of paper with their names and email addresses on it, very bad form in this small community. So if you’re reading this (they have this website address) I sincerely apologize. Please drop me a note!

I looked in one of the sidecars when she opened hers. Luxury! they have everything I guess you could possibly need. No wonder.

They’d shipped their bikes to Buenos Aires from Germany and had just arrived. They have another pair back home, one presumes the newer pair for the easier European riding. These two were strong-looking and experienced.

His rig, box full of stuff, great guy
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His wife and her ride
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Winding roads, encouraging speed
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Pretty lake views
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Miles of this roadside
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It had that settled-turf look you see in Europe, that only comes from being trampled, grazed and fertilized by decades of cattle and sheep
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Lucinda waits while I pee and look around
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Very nice, very old. More on why in a following post
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The next lake at the town of Panguipulli
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Looking back at the town
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Back into the countryside with the Andes beyond
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Across a fast flowing river. The color looked like glacial
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Looking down from the bridge at the colour
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Later, another river through an oxbow valley
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Then extraordinary luck – native Alstroemeria. I’d been hoping to see this. Possibly the most common grocery-store cultivar worldwide! The two principal varieties come from here and Argentina
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Then, no more than 10 minutes later, beside the road, a shrub with pink bursts flashed by me. I turned around
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I’d had a trigger from reading years ago. Just the briefest of glimpses had dug deep into my memory and retrieved a single memory of an image I’d seen maybe 30 years ago in an RHS book I still have. I remember where the image sits on the page, everything. I couldn’t remember where it the world it came from, but the name was easy to remember: Mutisia. And here we are together at last.

So, what makes Mutisia so interesting is that not only is it an extraordinarily beautiful climber but that it grows as an epiphyte, growing over and eventually killing its host shrub. As far as flowering epiphytes go, this is unique. That it should be so beautiful is one of botany’s ironies, and an interesting thing to consider, generally
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Later an orange Alstroemeria
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A hedgerow of them
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To the third lake
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Rain
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Islands
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We rode down to the water. It rained a few minutes later, the few families left quickly
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A long and great day. It ended in Osorno, which I wouldn’t recommend as a stop. Except I had to.
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Saludos
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erratum

I’ve been doing some reading about Chile’s native plants and came across something interesting.

Back on November 8 in Peru I saw this on the altiplano and guessed incorrectly it was Raoulia. I’m sure you caught my error.
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On November 25, on the way to Colca Canyon, I took this pic at about 16,000 feet of what I thought was a monster Raoulia and mentioned I’d never seen a picture anywhere of one so huge
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It isn’t Raoulia at all. This fellow may be over 3000 years old. It’s one of the longest lived plant species in the world. It’s Azorella compacta.

two days to Los Angeles

Day one to Talca
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Day two to Los Angeles
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Rather than follow the highway down to the next major event, we took a wandering ride through the countryside, which is a good word to describe the civilized landscape. South of Valparaiso it’s dry
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Small farms mostly
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Lots of Eschscholzia californica 
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Plenty of horses
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As unexciting as the surroundings are the road’s wide open corners encourage high speed.
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And being in Latin America, speed doesn’t seem to matter. Or at least it hasn’t so far. The car drivers in Argentina are the fastest drivers I’ve ever seen, anywhere. We been up on trumped-up charges for bribes (four on the road, two at borders) but not one legitimate speeding ticket since we left the States, no matter how fast we blow by police. I’ve heard Chile may be different – we’ll see.

Later, vineyards everywhere
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This may be the beginning of one, not sure
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The rivers so far in Chile have been beautiful. Big, slow, healthy-looking
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It’s super hot. Over 100. Kids are jumping off bridges here
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Sploosh. Yes, I’m running out of content. This is Chile.
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Past a lake with holiday homes
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Through small towns
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Time to find a lunch spot. Here we go
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At the side a woman is peeling corn and stacking the wrappings for humitas
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Later, another good looking river
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Miles of cornfields (at this point I guess I should point out that if Chile posts are a bit dull, my apologies, but this blog’s primary purpose is to be my daytime travel journal so I can remember where I’ve been when I’m 112, come what may) so – back to the corn
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Some of the vineyards have impressive main buildings. There were many of these back in Argentina.
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Then into Talca
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The next day we head back off  #5 onto the country roads again. I hope you’re as excited as I am.

Riding through a conifer forest. Our first since I can’t remember, maybe even the US
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There’s enough cash around to build sculptures by bridges
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A huge almost dry river plain
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Then another with more water
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Past the city of Conception. We don’t stop.

A salt water estuary at the ocean
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Can’t find a nice spot for lunch and so have a McNIFICA instead.  ! Que hamburguesa! The first time I’ve been here since the fall of 2012 when I was desperate somewhere. Life has gone to hell since leaving Bolivia.
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Into the country again
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A decent dust devil
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Yet another nice river
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And into the town of Los Angeles
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So, let’s look at the big picture. This is the least interesting place since we started this ride. Less interesting than any part of the States. I think there was one dull day in central Mexico. One dull day on the PanAm through part of Panama. That’s it. It’s been an incredible ride, nearly everyday, even when it’s been miserable or grim it’s never been dull.

There are three ways south at this part of South America. The east coast – I hear that’s mind-numbingly dull. Then there’s Ruta 40. At this point it’s all paved through La Pampa, which is completely dull.

But I’m fully aware that at points ahead this is going to look like paradise.

So we’re going the best way. The good news is ahead a few days. But there may be a shortish break – something significant has come up.