Lucinda has trouble coming to terms with the number of boats I sailed with in my past. And no, I don’t remember all their names.
So, while we’ve been waiting for Lucinda to be processed into NZ, we head off to Auckland harbour. It’s a nice harbor, but nothing special. Small, it’s hard to get a great shot
But as you’d expect there’s a lot of carbon, more than a few maxis, and lots to see, including a couple of AC45’s and dismantled Cup boats, which is a bit sad
Fays’ AC epic boat, KZ1, which Connor dealt with in the worst AC of all time
Then into a fantastic boat museum, which is right behind the viaduct events centre
Inside there are some amazing things. First a cold-moulded International 14. Not only World Champion in 1958, when I was 1, but one of the first cold-moulded hulls ever built. The hull shape is so full up front she must have been like a hobby horse. Imagine being the first guy to say to himself hey, why don’t we make that narrower and see what happens
This sexy R class 13 footer was built by Macintosh in 1981
She’s a dream of clean inside
Then there was a boat that I was so focused on getting detail shots of I forgot to take a photo of the whole boat, a clinker built X class from 1965, but I got this picture off the web
Then there was the tuning stuff.
Nice vertical rudder housing, cool for 50 years ago
Simple and powerful shroud tensioner. Not sure where the fine tune is. This is antique
Then they had slot control, for a wooden mast. Here is the deck fixture at the lower shroud. The bullet is hand made, click for detail
And it was tightened/loosened off this by the driver, on the floor. All great stuff for 50 years ago.
Then we went to see the Kiwi prize, one of the greatest boats ever built, NZL32, Black Magic. She was better to look at than I had imagined
And this was stunning. I could imagine Butterworth and Coutts at work here
They had a few small but well-done exhibits about the team and crew: Peter Blake, Coutts, Butterworth, Schnachenberg, Daubney, Fluery, household names now. It’s like King Peter and Knights of the Round Table and this weapon of a machine.
It was also nice seeing her among the dinghies, seeing as she was the revenge of frustrated trickle-up theory.
Well, it all starts here, at Dakar Motors in Buenos Aires. Rather than ship with a freight forwarder I met with in Santiago who didn’t inspire confidence, I crossed SA to the experts. It seems they handle 90% of the bikes flying in and out of Argentina and I had a special recommendation from Adam Shani. Also, they shipped for the famous ‘Radioman’ and the equally famous Sherri Jo Wilkins.
So I’ve been emailing them getting an idea of how it all works and I show up to get the paperwork started. For riders, the GPS coordinates are S34 32.474 W58 30.998. Here are Javier and Sandra, the owners
They’re hilarious. Anyway, Sandra is waiting for me with all the paperwork I have to complete and we work out a schedule. She has a complete printed itinerary of events (as it’s a bit complicated) including maps and names of various people involved.
The thing is that shipping to a first world country like New Zealand may be a corruption-free process, as best as we know, and no-one is going to intentionally try to ruin your day or your life, like they do for fun at Latin borders, but there are rules about stuff. For instance New Zealand has extremely strict quarantine requirements and the bike must arrive ‘as new’. Spotless. Same as your helmet, boots and riding suit. Plus there are regulations about bike fitness-for-the-road, etc.
First thing is to do a first-clean. Lucinda’s first pro-clean ever in her life. She likes it.
Back at the hotel we spend hours with toothbrushes, rags and sprays of various sorts finishing the job. Ditto the suit and boots in the hotel room shower.
Then off to the airport to be weighed
Air out of the tires, strapped down and palleted and off to a sniffer machine by forklift where they check her for drugs, bombs or firearms
Then off to pay for her flight. Cash only, $2100 US in Argentine pesos, about a 3 inch stack. This is always a weird thing, doing a transaction with a big stack of money, but the Latins of course are used to it and love it. Dakar’s fee for making all the arrangements was less than I expected.
That seems like a fair price for this distance
Then a few last days in Buenos Aires before heading off to the airport myself
We’ve flown into and out of a bunch of Latin American airports and sadly Buenos Aires International isn’t a great one. That prize goes to El Dorado International, Bogota.
At the other end we’ve picked TNL International to receive Lucinda. So there you have it, Dakar and TNL, no matter which way you go, east or west, and you’re in good hands.
Here’s Deanne at TNL Auckland working on the paperwork with me. She seems to handle everyone with a motorcycle as she knows the big names who have come through. As a result she knows all about bike quarantine, the WOF and all the hassles ahead
Then, 3 days later, because it takes that long in NZ, Lucinda has passed quarantine, is through Customs and is ready to pick up. A bit of a pain. I prefer corruption to bureaucracy because it doesn’t take as long and is cheaper.
Here she is, and she’s thrilled to see me. We maul each other a bit
Then it’s off to get a WOF, which is a certificate you need here which shows your bike is road-worthy. There are WOF stations scattered around Auckland
And here’s the inspector. He makes a long list of little things that need to be attended to within 28 days. Lucinda says bullshit, just three things and we’re already on top of it. Atta girl.
Then he says he has to take her for a road test. I look at him in horror. He’s only got maybe a 30″ in-seam and Lucinda, being the world’s most gigantic enduro has a 37″ stand over height. I ask him if he’s sure, he says it’s the law. He takes a while to figure out how he’s going to do it and I steady the bike for him as he climbs on. He takes it for about a 50′ loop in the parking lot before I catch him and he calls it quits. Scary.
Anyway, we’re here. It’s a major culture shock and we weren’t expecting to be this affected by it. Leaving Latin America has been hard. But this is the way west and we’ll get over it.
I’ve been to a few shows, I’ve seen it countless times in the street, and even tried it. The best show is at Tango Carlos Gardel. It’s the most formal, the least sensual but the show quality is excellent. So let’s start there. The stage is superb, with the small orchestra balanced on a perch above the dancers
And of course, there’s a lot of this
This is all very nice but it’s very formal and not very sexy. To see that you go to the clubs or the street.
So we headed to the famous and immense Sunday street markets. Our hotel is close to the huge obelisk, the centre of Buenos Aires
Past St. Martin’s with another Falklands Malvinas memorial set into the grass
Then due east
Through a few of the many parks
The city of love and sex
Then through narrowing streets. This is the classic BA shot, there are countless miles that look exactly like this
Past a cafe where music was pouring out into the street. A couple dance mid-morning, always a good time of day for this
Up high now, wife of mine
It’s the feet
When we got to the market it was miles long. It disappears into the distance, as you can see below. Hundreds of thousands are in the streets for futbol and hundreds of thousands for this, or anything they feel like really, like Eva Peron
You can be as individual as you like, just be well turned out
There were some stalls that were dense with specialty items, like old men’s watches
There are stalls of poster art and original retro photographs. You see them in a different light here. For example there are few or no porn magazines in the stores and sex shops are rare. Everything this way is re-calibrated. They don’t need it mostly except unless it’s artistic or whimsical. It’s not difficult to figure out the hows and whys
But anyway, elsewhere in the market – meat slicers for instance. Everything is here but I liked the red disks.
Or if your child wants to play with black baby dolls, here they are
Dying your hair red is the colour here, but not enough to be very common. This booth-owner wears it well
It was all pretty interesting and after 18 months here we’re getting an idea of where the boundaries are. They’re in very different places even. And some are very narrow that you’d never guess, some wide open that you might. But it works well and if there’s a happiness gauge, they’re ahead.
A little further along, Argentine folk music, and everyone nearby is dancing. They have bright handkerchiefs or something they wave
To the left is a video from here. I wished I could have joined them but it’s a traditional dance and maybe the wrong time/place to do that. Video to the left.
The thing about Buenos Aires is that there are a limitless things to talk about and photograph. It’s all so interesting and exotic. I have a ton of photos that I can’t put into blog context.
So back on market street
There was music everywhere on the adjoining side streets. Traditional
And in quieter corners, tango
Tango busking is everywhere. It’s always beautiful and always gathers a quiet respectful crowd. Every dance couple has their own movement, style, interpretation, and everyone appears thoughtful, even serious, about it no matter how formal or outrageous it may be. Video to the left of this couple. Traditional.
Later that night we headed off to Bar 868, rated one of the top 50 bars in the world. But I’d give that claim to Ruta 36 which doesn’t appear on any list, the world’s only cocaine bar back in La Paz Bolivia, where 10 grams of the finest uncut Bolivian is $8 and a glass of the best Scotch $30. Or so they say, and I understand they’re stopped in the last few months. Bar 868 is unmarked and the doorman armed, always a good sign
But on the way there we pass more intimate tango on a busy street corner. Video to the left.
Lucinda and I have been to BA three times. The first time I wasn’t so sure about it. The second was better. The third time I wanted to live there. It’s old, refined, confident, and a world apart. It’s not totally gringo friendly, but nowhere that matters in Latin America is that we’ve been to. Maybe, for preservation of the great thing they have, this is a good thing.
The Guardian/Observer magazine lists seeing a River Plate/Boca Juniors match as the #1 of 50 sporting things to do before you die. The BBC (and others) call it the greatest sporting event in the world.
75,000 young futbol fans mostly between ages 18 and 25, both in control yet out of control is a huge sight and an unworldly sound. This is Argentina, and the team most revered and feared and with the most ardent fans is River Plate. Their rivalry with Boca Juniors, another team from Buenos Aires, is called the most intense in any sport worldwide.
The long and complex chants (and there are many, maybe 20 for River Plate alone) are sometimes shocking. One for example taunts Boca fans that they’re like ‘Bolivians who shit in the street’. Another is unprintable. They’re not social liberals and they don’t compromise.
The team name is in English. Like Boca Juniors. And they have an interesting way of chanting it. It goes like reeeva plate! reeeeva plate! It sounds beautiful and the streets and sky of Buenos Aires were tribal with it before and after the game.
Tonight River Plate are going for blood. It’s the Championship game, against Quilmes, Boca Juniors have been knocked out early, and it’s at home in River Plate.
The streets of Buenos Aires have been crawling with packs of lunatic fans all day
We arrive at the stadium about 3 hours early as advised. The tickets were hard to get, but since we aren’t about to see this again soon, we get good seats.
It’s chaos everywhere. We’re on one of three streets that are packed with fans at huge 300 foot wide line-ups. There are police helicopters overhead
We’re told that at all three entry directions the fans will be ‘processed’ by security in groups of about 1000 at a time. It will take a few hours. We are in a group about mid-wait. It looks like this
That’s the huge River Plate stadium ahead and another crowd coming from another direction in the distance. Many of the fans don’t have tickets and will listen to the game from outside. So maybe 100,000+ people here tonight. Impressive.
There’s another thing: all the fans are River Plate. They have banned competitive fans from games anywhere in Buenos Aires all year due to violence and killings. All fans have to have team ID, a sophisticated plastic card complete with holographic image, and there’s a central data base preventing you from getting multiple team ID’s. We’ve got tourist entry cards, so we’re exempt.
The waiting groups of 1000 are calm for the first couple of hours. They dance and chant quietly. See movie to the left, enlarge first.
We’re frisked at one of the two stations
Just as we’re through the crowd starts loosing it and throwing bottles at security. After we approached the next group we heard a roaring behind us and the crowd had broken through security and everyone started running. Video to the left.
So did we. An escort pointed us at a private entrance, with more security, and we were through quickly. Into the immense stadium. Our seats are perfect
The stadium is too vast to get a picture of the whole thing. Opposite it looks like this
And to the right like this
As the sun sets and the game is about to start the crowd goes crazy and dump their red and white cylinder things. Incredible. Video to the left
There are few girls here and fewer kids. But in our more secure seating area a Plate fan has brought his son to the game. He’s a terrific guy and a passionate Argentine, like all of them
The fans have a fairly violent salute they all do in unison when chanting. I’ll use our neighbour to illustrate. Bring the right arm right back
Hold it for a sec, then fire it forward as hard as you can
Finish with a sweep
His son is loving this: his dad brought him. For other things of great importance his mom will take him. Granny will dip strong coffee into sweet bread and teach him to chew when he’s a baby. Grandpa will oversee everything
Whenever there’s a bad call all the hands go up in a desperate wtf?
Somewhere out there a game’s playing
Quilmes can only watch and River Plate kick in a goal every 10 or 15 minutes. They’re getting killed. The stadium is a riotous and massive human happiness exhibit.
It get’s darker at about half-time
Lots of smoke
With River Plate up 5-0, riot police roll in and form a perimeter
River Plate win, the crowd goes crazier and there’s huge fireworks show
We leave before the crowd. I didn’t want to leave, ever, and I think at the moment the obvious thing I’ll never forget is the singing/chanting. It was from the depths of their soul and never stopped for a minute
But outside it’s pandemonium. The non-ticket fans are trying to get to the stadium. They’re held back by separated lines of riot police. We have no idea how we’re going to get through
There are fires burning ahead and the noise of the crowd is deafening. We move off to the side, and not feeling like there’s a good strategy for getting further in the face of it, we move behind a riot truck along with a bunch of police, who are hiding there. This is not the first time I’ve seen Latin police behave realistically in the face of impossible odds
They don’t like this and tell us forcefully to get away, so we move across to the other side of the street, not having any choice
The crowd is taunting the police. Not 30 seconds after we get to the far wall the police make a decision to bail, and run to the same wall, and the crowd explodes through. It was an amazing sight and sound. I’m concerned we’re going to get trampled but we’re able to hold tight for the few minutes it takes for the wave of fans to rush past. The police are either hiding, or running with them. It’s nuts.
As we move further away there are vendors out cooking carne for the mob
The welcoming smell of burning chorizo.
God I’m hungry I think, but later, we don’t know what’s ahead
Finally we’re through into semi-sanity
And a few hours later we’re home.
There were 300K people on the streets tonight. The atmosphere in the stadium was beyond description. These are Argentines. They went to war against Margaret Thatcher having full knowledge they had zero chance of winning. The country has been eaten alive by corrupt government and in 2002 defaulted massively on their debt. Plenty has gone wrong. But failures don’t define them, tonight does.
The next time River make it to the finals I’ll be back
Whether it was the broken valve in Mexico, an entry refusal at a border or Lucinda’s electrical issues, people have been there to help. That’s the nature of the moto brotherhood. In the order they happened, the local riders who helped us along the way. I rode with them all.
Julio Hartmann, Guatemala. Julio is the godfather of long-distance riders in Central America. He’s been riding motos through CA for 30 years. We became friends in Antigua and he helped me navigate an extremely difficult issue with local bureaucracy and at one point went far beyond what I could have asked for. We rode his favourite route together through the Guatemalan mountains for a few days towards the Mexican border.
Eddie Ferrel and the Thomas family Panamanians. I met them in Nicaragua them at a hotel after crossing the notoriously difficult Salvador border. We’d all been through the ringer with extortion attempts and Lucinda’s electrical problems were beginning to show up. Although we couldn’t resolve the problem, Eddie kept working on it, teaching me as he went for the following days as we all rode to Imotepe together. Later Eddie and I met up in Panama where he gave me a grand tour.
Alvaro De Rivero, Peru. Alvaro and I have been scheming to do a hard leg somewhere in the world together. We had almost continuous business and ‘life’ discussions and agreed on most things. He helped apply local leverage to BMW Lima when they dropped the ball and he stayed with the problem, even to the point of extending his stay in Arequipa until it was resolved. We became friends in Lima and met up later to ride the altiplano and Colca Canyon together.
Santiago Autilio, Argentina. Santiago and I have one business point of interest beyond the scope of this blog. I met him in Bariloche on the recommendation of Helge Pedersen. Santiago and his wife Maria stored Lucinda in their home when I flew back to Canada for 10 days. He’d done the Carretera Austral/Ruta 40 route to Ushuaia and we went over the map and strategies together, giving me graphic descriptions of how brutal the ripio was going to be! I rode my only bike-rally of this trip with him.
These guys gave us 100%. They’re generous and resourceful and I was lucky to have met them. Look them up, buy them a beer and ride with them. Gracias mis amigos.
One traditional is to do lists after a long ride. They’re a useful source of beta for other riders. Lists were useful for me 2 years ago when all of this was just an idea.
There’ll be more cool lists over the next couple of weeks, maybe.
We’re wrapping up North, Central and South America. Today here’s a short list of some of my favorite rides, by country, in the order they were done. Disclaimer: some countries saw more extensive riding than others.
This is a list of roads, so mostly not scenic photos.
Nothing to report. I raced across.
Texas Hill Country. Various routes. I’d never heard of it until I was told about it locally. 100’s of miles of fantastic dirt rides through rolling hills and rivers and a huge biker social scene. I had my first good river crash here. Spent an extra week. I’ll be back. Specially printed route maps are available locally. Not blogged yet
Texas Hill Country is Texan in a big way.
The people, the trucks, the cattle, the fantastic and unpredictable dirt roads, and all of those rivers, the whole thing. Fantastic.
Yes, the southwest is spectacular, and I loved it, but this was right at the time.
The track up the side and around Xinantecatl, Mexico’s second highest volcano and into the caldera at 15,000 feet, just short of the summit at 15,500. Intoxicating. I was lucky to ride this with Helge Pederson and Fred Bauer. Photo from video on blog
About half way up with Fred
Runner up would be the paved road from La Trinitaria to Las Guacamayas. Mountains, waterfalls, tunnels and hot jungle. A border road, I got the most intensive shake down of the whole trip so far by Mexican police here. A lonely and stunningly beautiful road
Mexico is huge I didn’t even scratch the surface. Next time.
Acul to Chancol. Remote, indigenous, dangerous. Magic. Rode here with local legend Julio Hartmann
The reason to be here was to ride a ride less travelled, through a Guatemala untouched
Paved! Wow what a fabulous road. The Hummingbird Highway. This road is high-speed twisties through jungle with skinny bridges to fire through. Enough said
Belize doesn’t have many roads. But no cops either
The loop from the PanAm to Alegria and back, paved road up, dirt road down. The best twisties in Central America up until this point. Up the side of a volcano to a village perched on a ledge and to a lake with a monster in it. Amazing, remote. Around the lake
Most people tear through Salvador. It’s not an easy country to get a handle on. I loved it from the first moment I saw the ranch and horse culture and did some excellent loops into the country
Doesn’t count – I just blasted through it border to border
My own route, improvised one day trying to ride around the north shore of Lake Nicaragua. It turned into an adventure. Unlikely bridges, water crossings, a tiny ferry, brilliant dirt, sand and mud. And the sense that no bikes had done this before. My most challenging and satisfying riding day up until this point.
The second muddy lake. I got stuck in the mud once and got dangerously deep a minute later. Fun. Pic from video on blog
Great little bridge. No cars beyond this point
There’s a route map on the blog
Lots of great roads in Costa Rica. By far my favorite was the road into and through the Osa Peninsula, the most untouched area in the country. Take the Puerto Jiminez road from the PanAm and head on to Carate, the end of the road. Crocodiles, snakes, monkeys and mud. A jungle ride
Tiny roads beside crocodiles
And ends up beside the ocean. Where you can’t swim because the sharks are aggressive
One of my favorite rides in Central America
Although Panama isn’t known for epic riding I had a few that were excellent. But the standout was the last half of the road from Volcan to Boca Chica. Paved twisties through stunning countryside. No good road shots, sorry
Like Osa in Costa Rica, as remote as you can get in Panama. Fantastic small villages en route
Boca Chica was one of the best destination towns in Central America
I really didn’t do a good job of riding in Colombia although we put good miles in. I just wasn’t feeling very adventurous at the time. It was the beginning of South America and in retrospect I was over thinking the whole continent at this point. So we just cruised around, seeing the things that had to be seen. The best routes are backcountry and I just didn’t get there much.
The road from Cali to Pasto stood out as special
Or the Hobbit-land road from Giron to Medellin
I think part of the reason I didn’t get the most out of Colombia was because of the hype. It’s many riders (those that ride CA and SA only) favorite country. Later I talked to a very experienced rider who lives in Guatemala about this, because after, say, Peru I found that hard to believe. He said it’s popular because it’s easy and fun. I wouldn’t be in a rush to head back. Except to hang out in sin city, Medellin.
The long ride over the Andes from Quito to Coca makes me smile like a fool whenever I think about it. Not a well-travelled route, we came out by canoe. We’ve crossed the Andes a number of times and this is one of my favorite crossings. The descent for a couple of hundred miles into the Amazon was an experience I’ll never forget. One of the top ten rides in South America. At 13,000 feet, green
And down into the Amazon
This was so spectacular that it could be in a scenery list, but the ride was incredible. Nothing else in Ecuador compared to it.
My favorite riding country by a wide margin. I spent two months riding here. It had everything. I have a little canned speech for people interested in riding in Latin America but are put off by all the hassle and grief: Just go to Peru. Fly the bike to Lima and ride for 60 days.
Picking the best route, when It had 20 brilliant routes is hard. But the most memorable is the classic Canyon del Pato.
60 miles, single lane dirt, 35 narrow tunnels. Unrelenting, 100’s of feet of drop-off, epic exposure for hours in a canyon with no guard rails and weird sandy sections. A well-known rider said this maybe one of the best 60 miles in the world
Peru is rider heaven. This is short because I want to do a full retrospective on this, my favorite riding country. Which may or may not happen.
The classic is the Lagunas Route and I didn’t do it. I rode to the start at Uyuni, saw the flooded Salar and used that as an excuse not to attempt the Lagunas 400k of sand solo. I was late in the season and it was raining for an hour or two everyday. If I hadn’t been solo I would have done it without hesitation. You’re going to fall on this route and if you fall bad rescue just isn’t happening. My biggest regret of the trip so far. Next time.
So there’s a good back-up route for best route in Bolivia; Death Road! The most famous road in the world. 200 to 300 people fall off the edge every year.
There’s a particular buzz that comes from riding on a narrow, shitty, unprotected and wet soft-shouldered road with a 2000 foot drop beside you. Not for the faint of heart, this route would be exciting to even walk. The only thing that stops it being completely epic is that it’s over in a couple of hours and that it’s not technically hard
The desolate ride up onto the altiplano from Potosi to Uyuni was a fantastic ride
The route was notable for its loneliness. I didn’t see a soul on the road or off. Wonderful.
Chile / Argentina
I’m putting these two countries together, as the same route goes through both.
The classic route in South America – Puerto Montt to Ushuaia via the Carretera Austral and Ruta 40.
A typical Carretera shot
A typical mid-point Patagonia shot
A typical Ruta 40 shot
A typical Tierra del Fuego shot
It’s 2115 miles one way, but of course you have to reverse at least some of it, so a minimum of 2310 and in our case 2477 miles. This is one of the world’s best routes. Difficulty depends on the rider, obviously, but maybe 500 miles for us was difficult, often because of the famous Patagonian wind on loose and deep gravel. Many sections of it are extremely remote, so a crash solo would be disastrous. A very experienced rider friend of mine told me that Gobernador Gregores to Tres Lagos scared him and it scared me. It was so hard I didn’t think I could finish it, but had no choice.
This may have sounded a bit dramatic, but it was dramatic. I hope I have other adventures ahead like this.
So for riders not wanting to do a whole South American epic but want to do this route, there’s a simple way: Ship the bike to Valparaiso, Chile, by boat or Santiago by air. If you take the PanAm down to the route start from here it’s about 3 or 4 days. Then Puerto Montt to Ushuaia will take 2 or 3 weeks. Reverse partially by boat from Puerto Natales and the return will take 14 days total.
So to ride one of the best routes in the world might take 5 to 6 weeks.
Well, I only did one route, Colonia del Sacramento to Frey Bentos, but it was a beauty. If I ever come back to SA I’ll spend more time in this wealthy and ultra-civilized little country.