Dakar 2013 – Day 18

Bariloche – 26 January 2013

The last day of our stay in Argentina was to be a day of sightseeing in Bariloche. We had decided to do a ferry tour of the Hauel Nuapi lake which was set at about 785m above sea level in the Andes of northern Patagonia.

Neil had some business to attend to and so decided to do his own thing after he dropped us off at the ferry some 20 km outside of Bariloche.








After a stop in the Bosque de Arranye we moved on to Isla Victoria where we were dropped for four hours. The idea was to have a lunch break and to relax on the beach for a while.












Dakar 2013 – Day 17

San Carlos de Bariloche – 25 January 2013

Woke around 7:45am after a good sleep in this Andean resort town. The cool air had helped the sleep but the noisy Main Street hotel had not. Neil and Gus had planned a trip fishing on one of the local rivers while Therese of us would do our own thing.

Mike decided to hire a bike and head for the mountains.






Meyer chose to take a drive around the peninsula and I chose to do some sightseeing in town and them do the same circular route that Meyer had followed.











When the fishermen returned we heard all sorts of stories about the ones that got away. It was only when we saw the pictures that we know that they had had a great day.









For supper we tried one of Bariloche’s famous grills and had positively the largest steak ever. After a quick stroll around town it was time for bed.




Dakar 2013 – Day 15

Buenos Aires – 23 January 2013

We had to meet one of Claudia’s colleagues at customs at 9:30am so it was a later start than normal. After a quick breakfast we headed down to customs with all of the necessary paperwork. Patricia joined us there a short while later and we took up our position in the short queue in the positive expectation that this was a mere formality and that we could pack our bikes before lunch and enjoy a free day in Buenos Aires.

The minutes ticked by. And then the hours. As the clock approached 12:30 we started becoming concerned that we would have time to pack the bikes at all today. We regularly tried to learn from Patricia what could be causing the delay. Her poor English and our poor Spanish meant that we never found out. But she must have worked some magic as we were called in individually to sign our documents shortly after 12:30. By 1 pm we were in possession of the final papers and were authorized to take the bikes to the port for loading into the container.


In customs with Patricia

Then it was back to the hotel for a final packing of our kit. Tents, dirty clothes and riding suits stained with the evidence of all of the bugs and butterflies that we had massacred in hile and Argentina were all stuffed into the large bags.

The temperature was somewhat higher than the previous day and so it was a relief to be able to ride the short distance from our hotel to the port in shorts and T-shirts. Again we needed a txi to carry the large bags of kit to the port. The traffic was crazy and the taxi driver was not sure as to the directions but, with the help of the local policia we made it to the port by 2:00pm.


They warehouse didn’t seem ready for us and so,it took around 30 minutes to actually wheel the bikes into the warehouse and out of the bearing sun. The day was hot and muggy and there was no air movement to cool us down once we arrived. As soon as they had figured out what was going on (with another call to the ever helpful Claudia) we were able to wheel the bikes into the shade although the temperature inside the warehouse seemed hooter than outside in the sunshine. No sooner were we inside the warehouse than the heavens opened for a short sharp shower. Thankfully we were not riding at the time. The rain only seemed to add to the humidity without cooling the ambient temperature at all.










We managed to find a taxi in the seedy port suburb of La Boca and we piled in headed for Avenida Florida where some of the guys needed to exchange currency. Mike and I didn’t want to do any shopping but had missed lunch and so found a small restaurant nearby and enjoyed a late lunch. Then it was on to the hotel to wait for the return of the others.

Around 8pm we all headed out to the Palermo Soho area to find a restaurant at Plaza Serrano on what would be our last evening in Buenos Aires. The evening was still hot and muggy and the guys were tired. After a nice meal mike, Meyer and I returned to the hotel ready for a good sleep, comforted in the thought that our trusty machines were in the custody of customs and ready for their return trip home early in February.



Dakar 2013 – Day 16

Buenos Aires to Bariloche – 24 January 2013

Our flight to Bariloche was only scheduled for late afternoon and so we had a morning free.

Mike, Meyer and I decided that it would be a good time to do the BA city tour and so headed down to the ticket office. It was a very hot day and difficult to choose between sitting downstairs in the cool comfort of air conditioning or upstairs in the open air where visibility would be better.















Traffic was heavy and so we decided that it would be best to,cut the tour short as we had to meet at the hotel before flying out to San Carlos de Bariloche where we planned to spend the last two days of our Argentinian trip.



Dakar 2013 – Day 13

Mendoza to Junin – 21 January 2013

With Meyers bike playing up he decided to make an extra early start and set off just before 6:0am. As breakfast would only be served from 6:30am we decided on a 7:00am start. The plan was to catch up with Meyer on the road.

After breakfast we set off on the longest single stretch of our tour. This would be 780km and probably some 12 hours in the saddle. We had agreed to increase the speed a little as we had much ground to cover. The road was good and the skies were clear. The air was cool and the temperature around 24degC for the first stint. We moved along briskly and noticed that our fuel consumption was higher than expected due to our increased speed. Due to our little sojourn to San Martin my bike had less fuel than the other three and by San Luis I was starting to be concerned about the remaining range I had available to me. At 30 km before Merceda my fuel gauge indicated that I had run out of all fuel as well as the reserve. Thankfully the bike motored on but finally stopped at the outskirts to the small town. We took sufficient fuel from Neil’s bike to make it to the next station indicated on the GPS.


Our experience is that GPS is less than 100% reliable in South America and so it was no surprise to,find an empty lot where the fuel station had been indicated. After asking directions from a very pretty lady we located a station and filled all the bikes. Just as we were about to continue with our journey Mike’ s developed a problem with the centre stand. Putting a few heads together and also a few cable-ties together we fixed the problem and continued with our journey.


On two occasions we needed to stop for a construction stop/go section where the road was being repaired. The stops were short and well handled.


As the afternoon wore on so the winds picked up and the buffeting was quite fierce at times. This was more noticeable as the carriageway became a single lane in each direction requiring us to overtake a number of trucks as we approached Junin. About 150 km outside Junin we also noticed that the size of the farms seemed to increase. Now we were passing very large well-kept farms with a variety of crops but especially of maize and soy. Once again we were driving through a number of flying insects and our bikes and visors were covered in the mess caused by the little insects.


We had elected more cattle ranches and although we had seen some, we had definitely not seen as many as we had expected of Argentina.


It was difficult to remain comfortable in our saddles after such a long day and our bodies were beginning to feel the strain of the many hours on the road. The buffeting wore down the necks muscles and the wind noise were a strain on the ears. So it was a great pleasure to see Junin in the distance. Meyer had beaten us to Junin by about 90 minutes and had found us accommodation at the Piedra Mora hotel in Junin. It was an added bonus that the had space for our bikes to be parked around the back out of site of the passers by.

Once the bikes were unpacked it was time forma quick swim or shower depending on personal preference. The temperature at 6 pm was still over 33degC. Then it was time to catch up and share stories about our ride and our adventure in South America over a cold beer. This was our last evening on the road and we would be riding in to Buenos Aires tomorrow to conclude our trip.



Dakar 2013 – Day 12

Puente del Inca to Mendoza – 20 January 2013

We all slept well in the relatively confined surroundings of a small pine clad room containing three double bunks. We learned that there are both snorers and very light sleepers traveling in our group! Life was good.

After preparing for the day and packing the bikes we headed for some breakfast. The skies were blue and clear and we had a great days’ riding ahead. Full of anticipation for the sweeping curves of the pass headed down towards Mendoza we set off. We enjoyed truly beautiful scenery as we wound down the pass high in the Andes mountains. The jagged black rocks in stark contrast to the soft flowing waters of the Mendoza river cutting its way down to lower grounds.

About 10 km after starting out we came across one of the many police control points that we had encountered along our route. And now, for the first time on this trip, we were stopped. Meyer was in the lead and couldn’t quite make out what was being requested. Eventually the official went into his office and returned with a wad of papers. He pointed to these papers as an indication of the item that he was looking for. We recognized this as a slip of scrap paper that we had received from a Chilean official at the top of the pass. It had appeared an insignificant slip of paper containing only our registration numbers but during the course of events at passport control now contained four or five separate date stamps. Once relieved of these papers we were free to go – except that Gus could not find his slip. The was no convincing the official despite our best efforts. Gus had to return to get the required document. Despite this incident we can only report positively on all our observations of police in both Argentina and Chile. They seem to prefer a light touch and only get involved if there is bad or dangerous behaviour.

Mike and Neil decided to return to passport control with Gus while Meyer and I continued. We were keen to make progress before further incidents with Meyers bike. So we pushed on.

Once again we were treated to spectacular curving countryside and great roads. After stopping for a picture opportunity we continued and then arrived at a small town called Uspallata. It seemed to be the hub of a number of outdoor activities. As this was a Sunday there were a number of street markets and parillas along the side of the town streets. There were stalls selling locally produced wares and the entire town was set in greenery under tall poplar trees. The town is used as a starting point for mountain biking, horse riding hiking and kayaking. Presumably it is also used as a base for skiing during winter time.

The previous evening we had simply followed our headlights down the pass from passport control before finding our hosteria at Puente del Inca. Now, traveling up the pass in the daylight the other three missed the turn to passport control and continued to the mouth of the tunnel before realizing their error. However, this mistake had given them the opportunity to see and enjoy the spectacular road that we hadn’t noticed late the previous night. After stopping at a craft stall they turned and heeded back to passport control where the friendly officials only took a few minutes to rectify the problem and send them on their way again.

Meyer seemed to have his bike under control and so we pushed on towards Mendoza enjoying the sweeping curves. The rate of descent leveled off a little and we caught sight of a large dam to our left. About 70km from Mendoza we started picking spots of rain on our visors but it was never enough to make us properly wet. The traffic also increased a little as we got close to Mendoza. Around 30 km from Mendoza the rain stopped and the skies cleared. Now the temperature climbed again. On the outskirts of Mendoza we saw vineyards and orchard in between other farm crops.

Meyer felt that a brief ride to San Martin would be worthwhile so that we could check out the town which seemed to be set in a green area. Unfortunately the GPS was deceiving and the place was little more than a small run-down industrial area. We returned to Mendoza to await the arrival of the others.

Enjoying a cold Coke at a sidewalk cafe set under the tree-lined avenues of Mendoza was just what we needed to end a great ride.

The others arrived around 30 minutes later and shared their little adventure with us s me made plans for the evening. It would be a night in the local Sheraton and then a nice Biffe de Chorizo wi an early night.

Tomorrow was the long 780 km haul across central Argentina and we would need a fresh and early start.






















Dakar 2013 – Day 11

Los Vilos to Puente del Inca – 19 January 2013

Hampered by an ailing bike the previous day Mike and Neil were keen to do some serious Dakar spectating today. The set off soon after waking and planned on being at the special stage by 8:45am.

Meyer made another attempt at repairing his bike while Gus, Daniel and I packed up at a leisurely pace. Gus was really keen to make tuna with noodles for breakfast and was very keen to have us try his cuisine. Daniel decided it was time for him to hit the road and after our farewells, he took off, bound for Santiago.

Once packed, I helped Meyer a little but there wasn’t much to be done. Now Meyer was actually battling to start his bike and the battery condition was weakening. With this potential problem in mind we decided to go on ahead of the others while Daniel and Gus would wait for the other two to arrive.

Our route would take us south to within 100km of Santiago and then we would turn east to cross the Andes again. We had been warned that rockfalls had caused the road to be closed in one lane and the authorities had decided that it was best to have traffic flow between Argentina and Chile during daylight hours and between Chile and Argentina during the night time. We had to be at the start of the tunnel by 4:00pm to take our place in the queue for the tunnel opening at 8pm.

Once started, Meyer battled to get his bike to rev. By opening the manual choke I was able to get the bike to rev a little and so I suggested that Meyer make use of the manual choke when his bike threatened to stall. With this little trick up our sleeves we headed south down route 5.

It was a really festive atmosphere. Being a Saturday the route was lined with Chilean spectators wishing to catch a glimpse of their Dakar heroes. Each flyover carried more spectators and flags and it reminded me to some extent of the atmosphere along the route of the Cape Argus cycle tour. There was a strong police presence but they seemed content to,let the crowd simply enjoy the moment. As we travelled down the highway we were passed by a number of support vehicles and Dakar competitors in all of the different categories. The trucks were the scariest of all. These awesome vehicles came past at speed with their large knobby tyres making a loud noise on the smooth tar of the freeway.

As Meyer and I passed the crowds we were frequently waved at and given generous applause. I must believe that we were mistaken for competitors. However, it was good to wave back at the crowds and the atmosphere was cheerful and festive. Riding alongside some of the competitors also gave us the opportunity of capturing them on video with most riders and drivers quite happy to give a wave or thumbs up as they went past.

About 120km before Santiago we pulled into a service station to refuel. Not knowing where the next fuel stop would be we wanted to be prepared for a long haul. It was also a good time to stretch our legs. Once again we chatted to other riders who were following the Dakar and were pleased to wet riders from Argentina, Chile, Brazil and New Zealand. While we were stopped we also bumped into the Imperial Toyota team. Giniel de Villiers team mate, Duncan Voss, had been forced to withdraw on the second day. The team noticed our flag and chatted to us as they made their way to the finish, at least happy in the knowledge of having one of their cars on the podium.

Just 100km short of Santiago we left route 5 and turned east towards the Andes. The temperature shot up despite the fact that we were climbing. We rode through a number of very pretty small towns set in some beautiful countryside with well manicured equestrian ranches. The ranchers seemed to be affluent. The roadside was lined on either side with tall poplar trees and we also passed the odd vineyard in amongst the paddocks.

The road became steeper and more twisty as we progressed towards the tunnel and, with about 30km to go, we found a small fuel station and convenience store. Despite our bikes being fairly full, we took the opportunity to use up any remaining Chilean pesos on fuel and cold water. With the temperature near 40degC we kitted up and continued our journey. Just 5km further up the pass we came upon a queue of cars and that is where our journey went on pause. It was 3:30pm.

A local police car indicated that all vehicles should park as close to the right hand side of the road as possible. There were no trees to offer shade and the tarmac seemed to ooze heat. Fortunately a light breeze picked up later in the afternoon. Some of the drivers would remain in the air conditioned vehicles with their engines running. Other would get out and walk around chatting to others in the queue. I sat on the curb very grateful that I had remembered Meyers warning to bring a small travel umbrella for the harsh sun. At one point a young guy from Argentina came and introduced himself to me. Agustin was a student traveling with his family back from a vacation in Chile. We chatted for an hour or two about the trip, our families and his dreams of becoming a photographer. Thankfully his good English compensated for me poor Spanish and it was a real pleasure to meet him. This is surely one of the joys of motorcycling – the opportunity of meeting complete strangers while traveling around.

Meyer took the opportunity to re-tension his chain. Once done there was not much more to be done and so he lay on the roadway in the shade of his bike and waited. And we waited and waited. 4:30, 5:30, 6:30, 7:30 pm. At 8pm some of the people returned to their vehicles and started their engines. But this was false hope. Finally at 8:30pm, sun still shining, the line of vehicles began moving slowly forwards. Once again Meyers bike played up and it cut out once or twice causing us to lose our place in the queue. By the time we got to the toll booth all bikes were together again. We paid the toll and were about to move through when Meyers bike cu out completely. With a dead battery and a dead bike we had to move out of the way of the many vehicles impatient to get to the top of the pass. Thankfully Meyers bike has a kick-start lever installed. He used this to good effect as he built up a sweat trying to get his bike to work. Nothing doing. Then as he let out a loud curse word the bike fired and we were back in business. Using the choke once again to increase the revs we got going. By now more than 50 cars must have passed us and the sky had grown dark. We headed up the narrow twisty pass. I counted some 30 switch back turns as we wound our way up the steep single carriageway pass to the tunnel at around 3000m above sea level. Once on top we went through Chilean passport control which was nothing more than an official scribbling our registration number on a small scrap of paper and then handing the sheet to us with a direction to,continue on our way.

We continued on for a few kilometers when we reached Argentinian passport and customs. Here the vehicles were split into three queues and the busses into a fourth. The going was very slow and the air cool. We arrived at the control point around 10pm and it reminded me of the old days of waiting in the queue to purchase entry tickets to the local drive in cinema! Around 40 minutes later we found ourselves at the head of the queue and were directed into a large covered area. We pulled up next to a booth and presented our passports which were duly stamped.

Next we moved to customs. It was rather strange to us but the booth contained two customs officers, one from Chile and one from Argentina. When we crossed the San Francisco pass into Chile the customs personnel seemed to be in training possibly ahead of the Dakar caravan that was moving into the country the following day. The officer attending to me seemed very unsure of things and apparently never gave me an import paper needed for Chile. Now, on departure from that country I was caught short. The officer was addressing me in a raised voice and despite my protestations seemed to believe that I had received the papers. After a while, and on seeing that all of the others had the necessary papers, he waved me through. As I moved to the Argentinian side of the cubicle he took one last opportunity to moan at me again. I continued to smile and apologize to which he replied that all was okay(!?).

Argentinian customs took a little longer as the supervisor was the only person able to attend to us and he was on lunch as it was near midnight local time. We took the opportunity to find some confess and sandwiches from a local stall and then waited. By 1am we all had the necessary papers and were given the approval to enter Argentina.

As the road was dark and twisty with poor road markings we chose to stay at the first lodging we could find and not to press on through to Mendoza. We headed down into Argentina and within a few kilometers came upon the s,all village of Puente del Inca. On the roadside was a ski lodge and the keeper was still behind the counter at 1:15am. He confirmed that we could have a single room with three double bunks and a shower and within minutes the bikes were unpacked. Everyone was tired and it didn’t take too long before we were all in bed. We were sure that Gus was asleep before he leant over to put his head on the pillow.

That had been a very long day and we were very thankful for these lodgings.

















Dakar 2013 – Day 10

La Serena to Los Vilos – 18 January 2013

Neil and Mike had met one of the rally organizers the previous day and had managed to obtain the exact coordinates of the special stage for today. As a result they had decided to go back to the bivouac on the northern side of the city to watch the passing of the rally.

Gus wasn’t keen and so it was decided that Daniel, Gus and I would continue on down to Los Vilos. So, as the three of them set off heading north, the three of us planned to head south. Gus, having missed breakfast was still hungry and so went back into the hotel to order something to eat. Around 30 minutes later the three of us took off, heading south.

It was a slow comfortable pace and another pleasant and moderate day. A one point we stopped at one of the many roadside vendors. They sell soft drinks, cheese, bread, salami and fresh fruit at their permanent stalls situated on the shoulder of a dual carriage freeway. One has to take a little care when pulling over or when other do so as the speed differential can be great. After a drink JD some photos we were on the road again.

Around a 100 km before Los Vilos we came upon a wind farm where exceptionally tall wind turbines had been installed to make use of the wind in generating electricity. The clear skies immediately clouded over and the headwind picked up significantly. In just one kilometer the temperature dropped from 28 degC to 19 degC. We were also a lot closer to the coast now than we had been for some time.

It was really chilly and we even had a light sprinkling of rain as we travelled on towards our next stop. Around 20 km before Los Vilos I spotted a camp site right on the beach. We pulled in and enquired as to space. Gus was very keen to camp again and so we decided that his would be home for the night. With the bikes offloaded Gus and Daniel headed into Los Vilos for provisions and I set up my tent. Shortly after they returned we had word from the others. Meyers bike was still giving trouble and they were slowly making their way to the campsite. They arrived just before sundown and Gus immediately started making a fire as the others set up their tents.

It wasn’t long before we were ll enjoying a cold beer in front of a blazing fire. Daniel was becoming more vocal and amused us with stories of his travels. Gus had steak on the fire and we all enjoyed ambience of the fire, the sounds of the waves nearby and a moderate temperature for the evening.

Most of us turned in around 11 pm but Mike and Gus were enjoying themselves and chatted by the fire until the early hours of the morning.

It was a great campsite and we all slept really well.











Dakar 2013 – Day 9

Copiapo to La Serena – 17 January 2013

By the time that we were awake Meyer had been out to the store to buy a few rolls for breakfast. He added these to the excess meat that we had brought back from the restaurant the previous evening. There was a mountain of food and both Gus and Neil were keen on some tea. Gus, always ready to camp, pulled out his stove and Neil his kettle and before we knew it the water was on the boil. In the mean time we also requested coffee of our hostel keeper and she obliged with six piping hot cups of coffee. We sat in the garage adjacent to our bunk room and chatted about our ride so far. There was no hurry as La Serena was an easy ride down the coast. It was good not to be rushing. We had decided not to go back the 60km to watch the special stage of the Dakar but rather to watch them in the liaison stage.

Once the bikes were packed we hit the road. It was a bright sunny morning with moderate temperature expected all day long. Daniel also decided to ride with us unsure as to when he might pick up with Carlos again.

Apart from a few wrong turns as we negotiated the one-way streets and early morning traffic we were soon on the road heading south on route 5. Meyer led the way once we got out of town and set the pace at around 100kph as this seemed to be the best pace in order to prevent his bike from stalling.

Mike stopped to adjust his music player and soon our group was split into two. Daniel, Mike and I were riding together while Neil, Gus and Meyer were in the leading group. We stopped a few times either for a comfort break or because Meyers bike was playing up. At one such stop Meyer and I continued without stopping wishing to keep going due to ten slow pace. The others would likely catch us before too long. With this bike plying up yet again and wishing just to stretch our legs we stopped along the coast still waiting for the others to catch us. We waited and waited but they didn’t come. I suggested that Meyer wait at the stop and that I backtrack to see if something had happened. Just then the other group arrived. Apparently they had not seen Meyer go past and decided to backtrack to see if they could find and assist him. All a good lesson to stick together and to pay attention to the rider immediately behind you. Anyway no harm was done and so we headed on into La Serena.

As we approached the outskirts of town we could see the newly constructed bivouac that would be home for the rally that evening. Flags of different countries as well as sponsors were flying around the perimeter of the encampment. There was a real sense on excitement and anticipation in the air. Many bikers had travelled up from Santiago and we chatted to a number of them as we refueled the bikes near the bivouac.

We had been warned that accommodation in La Serena would be difficult to and Neil was experiencing this as he called hotel after hotel in an effort to find a bed for the night. Instead of having everyone play follow the leader through the city it was decided that Meyer would attempt to fix his bike at the service station while a smaller group went head to look for lodging.

I stayed behind with Meyer and we moved to the back of the station to try to find a quiet spot where we could remove the fuel tank and carburetor of the KTM. No sooner had we started than we had to move as a tanker wanted to refill the fuel tanks of the station. Once out of the way we continued with our efforts. The fuel tank came off easily but the carburetor was snugly seated in a small and inaccessible area of the frame. We battled a while until Meyer noticed that a vacuum pipe had become dislodged. We reconnected the pipe and checked all other fuel and electrical connections that we could find. The began the process of putting everything back together again. An hour later Meyer fired up the bike and reported that everything was fine. We washed up in the local bathrooms and then returned to the forecourt where they had a convenience store as well as a little fast food restaurant. Some cold water to combat the heat of the day and a seat in the shade was the perfect recipe as we waited for a call from the others.

Sound 40 minutes later Meyer got the name of our hotel from Neil. He plugged it into the GPS and we set off on the last leg of our journey to the hotel in Coquimbo, a small town right next to La Serena. In a few minutes we would be able to enjoy a cool shower and a drink with the boys.

That was not to be. The GPS showed three separate locations for the same address and these were 20 km apart. We choose the most apparently correct one and headed for thy hotel. It wasn’t the correct one and for the next two hours Meyer and I rode backwards and forwards in Coquimbo as we tried to find the others. Calling them didn’t help much but we finally found a beach bum who could speak some English. We were directed back to where we had come from and given some visual clues as to the location of the hotel. Fifteen minutes we pulled into the reception area of the hotel where our fellow riders had already checked in, showered an dead a few cold drinks.

A cool shower and cold drink and all of the troubles were forgotten. Besides, it seemed as though we had fixed Meyer’s bike. The rest of the trip would be trouble free.

Dinner that evening was in the hotel restaurant and access to wi-fi meant we could catch up with the blog and emails after such a long time of being off the grid.

A few of the others decided to visit the hotel bar for an after-dinner drink. Great to be in a comfortable hotel again












Dakar 2013 – Day 8

Fiambala (Argentina) to Copiapo (Chile) – 16 January 2013


Meyer woke us early in a gentle fashion. He jumped up, turned and the lights and shouted ¨Wake up guys- no more sleeping!¨ Gus swore that he had been awake all night (although we wondered about that) but none of us could claim a full 8 hours.

A short while later the bikes were packed and we headed from Medinatos to Fiambala. The roads were extremely busy as crowds of spectators and officals travelled to their chosen locations for the Dakar special stages of the day.

We arrived just a few minutes after 6am and topped up the fuel tanks of our bikes once again. Every drop would count. As we were about to move off we caught the first few drops of rain. The skies were heavy and grey as we headed west to the San Fransisco Pass. It was a magnificent ride with the gradient being quite gentle initially. From time to time we would pass a bus or be passed by other motorcyclists of Dakar support vehicles trying to get ahead of the event. The passport control would be closed the next day so as to allow the Dakar competitors full access to the pass. The temperature drop was most noticeable. From some 26 degC in Fiambala it was now around 20 degC at 2500 m.

The big story of our trip was that we would tour South America and enjoy the Dakar experience. We didn´t know what the little stories would be and those would be the stories that would forever be part of our experience. One of those little stories was the mechanical problems we were experiencing. Around 3000 m Mike´s bike again cut out, and this time it refused to go any further despite our coaxing and cajoling. Mike cleaned every electrical joint he could find but still the bike wouldn´t fire. As a last gasp effort we removed the cowling to take a look at the battery terminals. Here we found that the positive termional had worked itself loos and after a quick tighten all was well. The really amazing thing was how many other bikers stopped to help or chat. At one stage we must have had close to 20 bikes on this barren stretch of road – certaily some of the most wonderful riding and scenic roads I have had the joy of riding.

As we climbed so any remaining greenery disappeared until the only scenery was rock and snow. Harsh terain but very beautiful. We continued our climb until we reached Argentinian passport control. The line was long as all of the bikers, travellers and support crews queued to clear immigration and customs. We met riders from Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, UK, Chile and Argentina while waiting our turn.

Once through customs I found a small depot selling fuel. So much for our concerns about sufficient fuel. We continued on to Lago Verde (Blue Lake) which was truly beautiful.

The road changed quite significantly once we clearded Chilean customs and soon we were on some pretty rough (rocky) dust roads. We enjoyed this as it was our first taste of off-road riding in South America as all of the other roads had been paved and in fairly good condition. Eventually the rocks become gravel and we could open the throttles a little. Beautiful roads, clear skies, 120 kph – good to be alive. Cresting a rise in the road I found my path closed by a bike on its side with a biker underneath it. I braked hard and slowed just before I saw the thick talcum-like patch of sand. I stopped and ran over to help the rider who, to my surpise, turned out to be Carlos. Together we lifted the KTM 990 and he dusted himself off. It was then that I first really noticed the lack of oxygen. All I had done was lift the bike but I could hardly walk back to my own as I panted for oxygen. While we were standing there we saw one or two other riders fall and so decided to wait for Gus, Mike and Daniel so as to warn them. Gus made it through the sand without incident while Daniel only had a few wobbles. On we went.

Every now and then we would hit another sandy patch, some of them catching us by surprise. Daniel battled a little as his GS 1200 Adeventure was fully kitted out and very difficult to lift once he had fallen in the sand. Mike played a great roll of being team member and helped a slowing Daniel through to the tar road where the others waited so that we could once again assemble as a group.

The tar only flattered to deceive and before too long we were once again on dust roads. The roads were good and didn´t have too loose a surface and so we could travel at decent speed in spectacular countryside, especially where the road descended by switching back on itself in steep descent. The final 30km or so was fairly flat as we simply raced down the valley towards the mining town of Copiapo.

Neil had cut his tyre and so needed to stop ot KTM for a replacement. Many bikers stopped in and chatted as we waited for the repair to be effected and eventually Carlos and Danial also arrived. Daniel had travelled slowly for fear of falling again while Carlos was forced to slow due to a mechanical issue which the KTM mechanics immedately attended to despite it being around 76pm. Spanish TV also arrived and there was a real buzz of excitement and anticipation around seeing the Dakar competitors.

Lodging that night would be another single room, but this time with three double bunks. We also had space to park our bikes off the street.