Friday, July 15, 2011

6/28/2011 - Aero Mexico Flight 756: Goodbye Forever

I'm currently sitting at 40,000 feet somewhere over the pacific ocean. It's still hard to believe I'm zipping north at five hundred miles an hour; essentially erasing six months of southward travel by land. I can honestly say I'm not looking forward to going back home. Only for one reason: life down in South America was but a dream. For the last year I've been on my own discovering and living out my own dream and personal legend. Now it's back to the daily routine of everyday life. I realize it's not so bad, but since I've gotten a good taste of what could be, I'm always going to be hungry for whatever the hell I want to do next.

Apart from sweeping generalizations, actual events have occurred since I last wrote. Funniest was getting another ticket. Apparently, I crossed a double yellow on a curve to pass a truck. I don't remember exactly, but since I've paid zero attention to double yellows since Mexico, he was probably right. Regardless, I still argued with him because these assholes are just plain wrong in so many ways. I don't know why government would hire so many goons to hassle their own people. Anyway, since I know the consequences are absolutely nothing, I just let them give me a ticket so I can be on my way. The best was when the cop straight lied to me and said I should pay the two hundred dollar ticket now, or else I'd have double the fine at the border and wouldn't be allowed to leave. Sí, señor. I'm totally going to pay at the border. (Shyeeah right!) Now give my fucking ticket so I can get continue on living my life.

That was my first day back on the road solo. The second day, which I assumed would be my last day by motorcycle, was of course another cliché. After a terrible night camping thanks to a bunch of stupid cows and a thunder storm. I manage to hit the road early knowing I had about 500 miles (800k) to reach Buenos Aires. It was a Friday and I was rushing to my good friend Mariana's birthday party. At about noon I'm going my usual slow and steady when my chain snaps off. I know immediately what's happened, so I roll over to the shoulder and assess the damage. I smile at La Chupacabra, just like old times. Without hesitation, I stick my thumb out and start walking back to town. An hour and a half later I've got the new chain installed and I'm heading south stupidly determined to see my Argentinian bestie. I ride in the chilling night air, but somehow make it in time to reunite and drink Fernet with all my Argentinian friends. It was definitely nice to be back in my South American home.

Once back in the city it was business time. And by business time I mean time to get home because I'm broke. Within a week, I have a buyer (sucker) for La Chupacabra and I'm headed to Uruguay to sell my bike between borders. Just one problem: I've lost the document (title) to my bike and have to drive through a stretch of road ridden with notoriously corrupt cops. I get a sick feeling because I know there is no way to sneak by a dozen checkpoints with out my documents. I'm so damn irresponsible that at least this "adventure" (AKA inability to plan and organize) always stays interesting. I'm forced to leave without even a forged document because of time constraints. I was feeling pretty cocky six hours later when I managed to slip by the first eight or so checkpoints. Then about twenty miles from my destination, I'm flagged down. I took a second to calm my nerves, then cheerfully start bullshitting with the two officers. The most disarming thing in a situation like that is confidence and a big goofy grin. They buy all my crappy forged documents, and before I know it we're chatting about which country has the hottest chicks (Colombia). What a one eighty from the week before. I politely tell them I have to go, and ride into town just in time for a palm treed peppered sunset.

The following day was spent forging new title documents so we could do some border trickery. Thanks to it being Saturday and an always fun siesta time a simple task took me and the buyer a whole day. On Sunday we head for the border and I leave Argentina with the bike in my name, and we switch the papers between the two desks of Argentina and Uruguay. The bike checks into Uruguay in his name and it's sold. Definitely way easier then shipping my bike anywhere. And I sold it for three hundred less then I bought it. I won't mention how much I money I threw into parts and repairs. Anyhow, I spent a grand total of thirty minutes in Uruguay eating some Sunday barbecue and chatting with locals about soccer. Then we returned through the border without a hassle, and once I returned to the hostel it was over. I had a emotional moment holding my girls handlebar for the last time, but sucked it up and said goodbye forever to La Chupacabra. Six hours later, I'm back in Buenos Aires to wait for the inevitable plane flight home.

Once back in Buenos Aires I had very little to do and see since I'm so familiar with the city. Last thing on the list was to see a soccer game of the most loved team in the country: River Plate. I made the safe choice, and decided to watch the last game from home because too much was riding on the game. The game was tortuous to watch because the most popular and expensive team in the country was getting their ass kicked by some no name team. It was the last game of the season and if they tied or lost, River would be essentially sent to the minor leagues. The minutes rolled on and River folded under the pressure and tied. Imagine the Yankees being sent down to a league where you couldn't watch the games, and they'd have to move out of their big fancy stadium. Yes, it is a big deal. Riots after riots ensued, making the recent hockey riots in Vancouver look like gentle peaceful resistance. They burned the opposing teams bus to the ground, players from both teams had to be protected by an enormous security / special forces teams. Grown bearded manly men were bawling their eyes out. Soccer is much more than a game to Argentinians. The fiery passion is a staple for their society, and translates effectively through the people. Just don't go to a game wearing the wrong jersey.

On my last full day in South America I went to a huge street fair in the city. I bought a few things I had wanted, but mainly tried to enjoy the colorful culture that I was emerged in. While traveling slowly on a bike you get to see the cultures change quite gradually. When I was walking in the heart of the city, I saw a great mix of Latino culture. Mexican paintings, a Peruvian flute player, girls selling Colombian coffee out of a huge metal backpack, black Brazilian guys beating samba on the drums, and plenty of sad Argentinians forgetting the game and just trying to enjoy the fair. A casual observer could have easily mistaken the cultural variety as wholly Argentina. But when you see the cultures melt together slowly with the gift of time, there's a great cultural awakening. Apparent is the loving and welcoming warmth of strangers across borders and languages. The Latino community is a wonderful culture with a variety that expands across two continents. I've been truly lucky to have had the chance to explore, meet people and places that have helped me grow and understand things far beyond words and simple definition. Being part of this wonderful planet is truly awesome, and I would be happy and blessed anywhere along that almost endless road. Except Honduras; fuck Honduras.

Taylor out.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

5/27/2011 - Iguaçu, Brazil: Is This Real Life?

I swear I'm so jaded towards driving in foreign countries. Broke down at night in the ghetto of the biggest city in Southern Hemisphere. No biggie. See some guy with a gun ask for mechanical help while I'm trying to fix my bike. Whatev. Driving through downtown on sidewalks or between lanes without a clutch, meaning I can`t start or stop with Teresa on the back. It's definitely exciting, but yeah, shit happens. All I do is figure out a temporary solution. Then keep on going. I'm pretty sure it's not healthy, but fuck, I've been doing this for ten months. I don't have a whole lot of surprises left to uncover. I know I sound like a cocky douche, but join me for a week, and I bet you'd talk about it for two months. It's just the day to day life here. I can guarantee I wouldn't have such an exciting life back in my cubicle. But hey, I'll enjoy it while it lasts.

One of the best parts about driving. I stop and rest whenever and wherever I want.
Ok, so besides absurd things about driving a crappy motorcycle through favellas and such. I did make it to beautiful Rio De Janeiro. Second to last thing to do on my original list of South American activities. (I love activities!) I'm at first shocked by the gorgeous ride in. Then I'm super shocked by the enormous price tag. Thirty bucks for a hostel where I've got to make my own bed and share the mosquito ridden room with eight other people. You've got to be kidding. But you can't really camp on the beach, so I just suck it up and pay the man because, really, it is a cool city. As far as natural beauty no other city on the planet can beat it. Rio is nestled in between huge shear rock faced mountains with green forested backsides. The biggest one containing probably the most popular statue on the planet. (Jesus!) Also there's super nice beaches with exceptionally beautiful water (ladies). As well as a vibrant nightlife and culture. You can definitely see why the 2014 World Cup Finals and 2016 Olympics are going to be held here.


The lone surfer in Rio De Janiero

Ipanema Beach in Rio. I love the chick on the right, btw.
The big four tourist things to do is: big Jesus, crazy stairs, street party, and an aerial tram ride. I did the first three, and had a ball doing such. I drove up Corcovado and gave that big Jesus a hug. (Ok. I hugged his pedestal. I'm not 200 feet tall. Geeze.) It was a cool statue, and yeah pretty damn big. The best part was the great views from the top of the mountain. Again, a really beautiful city. I even saw a monkey and a huge toucan. I mean is this place real life? It's like a fucking movie. Anyway, I did get to tourist attraction number two: the Lapa Steps. The story is some goofy guy with a weird mustache apparently got bored and decided put tiles on the staircase to his apartment. Twenty years later he's an artist and people send him tiles from all over the world to use on the steps. Now the whole thing is famous and really pretty cool. You can tell he really loves placing tiles because there are cool patterns and tiles everywhere. Definitely a nice place to snap a few pics and spend an hour or two. Third is a street party. It had street food, cheap beer, and was outside. How could you not love it? I met a bunch of really cool Brazilians, while Teresa on the other hand, met lots Brazilians dudes who knew only enough English to hit on foreigners and be generally creepy. All in all a fun night.

Could it be anymore colorful in Brazil?

Teresa and I with the goofy Artist in Lapa, Rio De Janiero.
Brazil does a bunch of things right. Like women's swim wear, soccer, and barbecue. All you can eat barbecue cut from a giant sword. Yes please. And all for like eight bucks. What a steal, when a burger is like five. I can say I've eaten quite a bit of trucker style roadside barbecue, and good thing I'm leaving soon because I'm not mature enough to handle all you can eat. I really would become a fatty.

As luck would have it. Teresa has a friend she met in Central America that lives in São Paulo. She and her boyfriend invited us over and we were happy to oblige. Upon on arrival, I'm welcomed into a huge apartment complete with a puppy, and before I know it we're heading to the beach to the mysterious 'jungle house' for the night. The road out of São Paulo is a generally awesome road engineering wise. We drove over tall bridges and through long tunnels as we dropped about 4,000 feet to sea level. Then a quick two hours later we got to the jungle house aka ´jungle mansion.´ Four stories, plenty of rooms, barbecue, and sweet mosquito free outdoor patio. Our Brazilian host Daniel proceeded to cook us up various barbecued delights as we sat, drank, played with the puppy, and chatted.

The following day we woke up to a beautiful sunny day. A five minute walk later we were at the beach ready for a swim. For some regrettable reason Teresa and I decided to swim to some near rock island. Things always appear closer when you´re not swimming. After, we left for some açai smoothies and a nice car ride through the beach cities Teresa and I rode through a week previous. This time it was a fantastic day outside and much more enjoyable. Too bad I was kooked up in some car and not leaning into the turns with the bike. But for once it was nice to sit back and let somebody else drive. We spent quite a bit of time on the road, but since it was one of the most amazing drives I`ve been on I didn`t complain. Even when Mano the puppy got carsick and thew up multiple time. We sat in the shade as the sunset behind us on a private beach drinking beers and enjoying the company. It was a nice day driving, even without my motorcycle.

Chasing the rainbow.
Eventually we make it back quite late to São Paulo. After some great sleep on the comfy couch in the living room Teresa and I woke up to take a self guided walking tour of the city. You can really see the difference between Brazil two major cities. Rio is very touristy, while São Paulo is all business. A very easy comparison is between California`s two best cities San Francisco and Los Angeles. Rio De Janeiro is fun, easy to walk around, and has easily seen culture and tourism. All while slapped on a naturally beautiful landscape, a lot like San Francisco. While São Paulo is huge, business orientated, contains a massive sprawl of people, and has it`s own culture, but not as easily discovered by the normal tourist. I think of it a lot like Los Angeles. I can tell you though that the comparisons stop only at comparing Brazil upon itself. Because I saw some crazy things there that you`d never see in Los Angeles.

Our Paulisto guide took us on a driving tour to see the Red Light District. Now, I`ve seen the world famous Red Light District in Amsterdam, seen the easily approachable hookers drinking alone at bars in Las Vegas. But São Paulo easily takes the cake. On a long stretch of what would be considered normal residential street. There are hoards of prostitutes dressed in pretty much nothing. And when I say pretty much nothing, I mean only high heels and fish net stockings. Absolutely nothing else. They`re walking by gas stations, chatting with the friends, or potential Johns on little motorcycles. It was a free awesome show. I think the rest of the car got embarrassed when I would yell out the window "cuanto custo?" (how much?) to any random girl (or potential dude). It was fucking hilarious. I was driving on a street that was seriously out of this world. If you think the string bikinis worn by normal Brazilian women are bold. Just imagine what their whores look like. Wow.

As time kept marching on so did Teresa and I. She was able to extend her stay an extra week, but we still had to get to Iguaçu to see the waterfall then patiently wait for her un avoidable departure. Three days later, I`m pushing my bike uphill on a normal Sunday trying get my dead bike to safety for the night at our hotel. The next day I got a nice push to the nearby mechanic to clean out the electric systems and replace the spark plug. Finally time to see the greatest waterfall in South America. We take a quick twenty minute drive to the national park and falls. Pay the forty dollar entrance fee and take a nice easy hike to near the waterfall. It`s fabulous, and a gives a stunning view of the hundred or so drops in an almost 360 degree view. The next day we went to see the Argentinean side. Even with a huge unpaid ticket my bike and I were granted access to Argentina. I was honestly pretty nervous and worried, but as always I just tried to charm everyone. And since I was back to Spanish I was happy and chatty with all the officials. I don`t even know what I was worried about since they coudn`t even work their printer. I mean if they can`t figure out how to print, how the hell are they going to figure out I got a ticket and make me pay or generally mess with me. Let`s just say I`m glad it`s not the future where all the systems a will be connected, even in unorganized third world countries.

Amazing Iguacu from the Brazillian side.

Powerful Argentinean side.

Truly stunning.
If you had to see it from one side. It should be the Argentina side. The power is mesmerizing. Teresa and I packed a picnic of sandwiches then stood and had lunch in awe,. Watching the unimaginable amount of water step down and fall hundreds of feet into a mist. The sound and force kept us there in wonder for a good hour or so. Definitely a natural wonder of the world. At that point I realized: that`s it. I`ve seen everything I wanted to see in South America. There`s nothing left. The reality and finality of the best vacation of my life started to set in that night. I couldn`t help but be kind of bummed, and especially since Teresa had to leave the next day. It was getting to me. When I said my absurdely sad goodbye to Teresa at the airport I was done. Ready to get the fuck out, but not so fast. There are still some things left to do. Then it`s almost time to buy that ticket home.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

5/15/2011 - São Sebastião, Brazil: Fucking Portuguese

Brazil is fucking huge. It's the fifth largest and most populated country on planet. Bigger then the continental United States, and the only (worthwhile) county in South America that doesn't speak Spanish.  I entered in the south from Uruguay and I'd compare it to entering the US for the first time in Minnesota and heading towards Detroit. Yeah it's America, but it's not really a highlight you'd want to see if you only had a month. Whatev, it's still Brazil either way. I've just recently found my first hostel and actual tourists. I definitely entered into in the real daily life of Brazil.

The biggest and most annoying difference is obviously fucking Portuguese. It's always fun to be in a foreign country, attempting to speak the language. Communicating with hand signals and using simple words in whatever language that might be understood by the other party.  But it's only fun when the consequences are minimal. Like getting chicken soup instead of a delicious sandwich you see some other guy munching on. Or trying to understand that the hotel wants to give me free coffee in the morning. It definitely stops becoming fun when your stuck in some downtown trying to stop traffic and pull over to diagnose another bike problem. I eventually conclude that the gas I recently bought is making the bike sputter and die. After a few exciting miles of high rpms, pushing, and nearly getting hit by a bus, I finally will the girl to a motel on the outskirts of Rio Grande. (Pronounced Hee oh Ghan gee. See what I mean, that language is fucked up.) Anyhow, Teresa and I settle down for the night. Then I start trying to figure out how with no internet and possibly no functioning bike I'm going explain my problem to somebody so I can switch out the tank of gas.

Again, leaving it up to chance and circumstance, I'm rewarded. The guy living right next door to the hotel is a mechanic and has a shop right there. And! He speaks enough English / Spanish / Portuguese that we can understand eachother well enough that he offers to syphon my old gas out and drive me to  what he calls the best gas in Brazil. Awesome. After a few hours in the morning we've rid my tank of crap, and gone to buy a few gallons of real gas. He was even able to weld some parts on the bike back together. What a guy! And all for the price of keeping the crappy gas. Sometimes things work out quite nicely. But as I soon realize, Portuguese is not Spanish, and I'm going to be driving through a foreign country scrambling to learn the language as fast as possible. I can definitely see how speaking Spanish has been incredibly helpful thoughout this journey. Bring it on, I'm always ready for something new.

Honestly, nothing really noteworthy happened after crossing the border, since the south appears to be nothing but industrial cow land with an abundance of people and big lack of things to do and see. There was some really interesting roadkill, but that´s about it. I was pleasantly surprised when I arrived late on my birthday to the popular tourist destination of Ihla Santa Catarina. It's a sweet little island with plenty of attractive beaches and water sports. I stayed at a great hostel, and despite the moldy room, had a great time. It was a perfect place to spend a few days after a week solid of motorcycling. I had a great book (I forget the name, but its that one about that chick with a dragon tattoo), and some good company. So all in all a great time, it's just too bad the weather wouldn't cooperate and make me a hot sunny day. I've had some pretty shitty weather on this trip: driving through Central America during the rainy season, or getting hailed on high up I'm the Andes. But nothing compares to the crappy weather in Brazil.

Once I finally left for Rio De Janeiro, I got hopelessly lost in Curitiba. (Yep, sounds just like it's read: Coo eeh CHEE bah. Ugh. Fucking Portuguese.) But I eventually made it out just in time to avoid the biggest city on the continent: São Paulo. My plan was to stick to the coast all the way to Rio. Turns out it was an excellent idea as the scenery and cool little cities were fucking spectacular. The beaches were the most incredible I've ever seen in my life. It's just too bad that it was rainy and cold. It was like flirting and getting along great with a gorgeous girl all night just for her to ditch you and go home with some douche bag. Bummer. You just can't imagine seeing crystal blue green salty waves crash on big long sandy beaches. All just out of reach because it's rainy and too damn cold to swim. So annoying! At least the drive was super fun on a motorcycle. Tons of twisty turns compounded with a diverse natural scenery. Only seven percent of the Atlantic rainforest remains untouched from development. And I was lucky enough to drive through the little remaining environment that's even more diverse than the Amazon. A very cool three days, but easily could have been a lazy week on the road. Oh well, got to take the bad with the good outside on a motorcycle. Until next time buddies. Boa noite!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

5/4/2011 - Chuy, Uruguay: On The Road Again

Well, the adventure is definitely back on. After an incredible weekend spent with friends in Buenos Aires. I said my goodbyes and hit the road. My Danish friend Teresa has flown the atlantic so that we could tackle Brazil and Uruguay by motorcycle. We spent a week as tourists in Buenos, but on a cold rainy Sunday I knew it was time to finally leave the big city and head into the country. We ate my favorite pizza at Kentucky's then packed up La Chupacabra with Teresa's giant backpack and took off. We didn't even make it a block before it fell off, but on take two, with a lot more bungees we made it work. 

It wasn't long back on the road until I was getting hassled by the cops. Not even a hundred miles in, I'm flagged down and asked to see all my papers. Oops. My B. I forgot to forge a new date on my expired insurance. This is going to be a while. The cop (of course) was a total douche and never had his story straight about the fine / bribe or other consequences. His first asking price was $550! American! Fuck that. I'll be dead before I pay that absurd amount of money for not having insurance. We go back and forth for an hour or two, and he backs down the $320. I mean if I'm going to have to pay a crazy amount of money, I'm at least going to make the cops life miserable for the next few hours. Anyhow, since he wouldn't take the $100 cash bribe, I'm stuck with what appears to be a legit ticket. It's got all my real information and I even have to pay at a real bank. I finally get all my documents back and leave. Now I'm in a real pickle. Pay the absurd amount of money or risk it, and hope all their computer systems aren't connected and I'll be able to exit and enter back into Argentina. After some helpful tips from my favorite information source (dudes who pump my gas), I'm stamped out of Argentina and stuck at the border in Uruguay. 
Notoriously corrupt cops. I wish I would have read the warnings on the internet before hand. Oh well.
Turns out not having insurance is a big deal in Uruguay too. I was able to smile and sweet talk the lady into letting me leave Argentina, but the old guy in Uruguay. Not so much. How I've made if this far, I'll never fucking know. Anyhow, he sees right through my half assed, newly forged insurance document, and won't let me in without coverage. He's genuinely concerned and offers up some solutions, but there's one big problem: no company in bordering Argentina or Uruguay will sell a foreigner insurance. I still give it a try, so I hitchhike back into Argentina and for three hours I go on a wild goose chase for the elusive MercoSur insurance. It's eight at night and all the companies are about to close, so I've got one last shot at insurance company number six. If this doesn't work I'm going back to the border to beg the old man. Luckily, it's a nice guy at home and he understands my situation. He starts bitching about the policy in Uruguay, and about how him and his family had all kinds of problems last summer. Now I'm thinking "all right this guy is getting fired up. He might actually help me." Which he eventually does by giving me a really good forged document. Of course he couldn't just sell me insurance because that would be downright logical. I swear sometimes things are just so fucked up down here you'd swear the whole country is just plain retarded. 

Afterwards I grab a cab back to the border. I put on my best Oscar performance and act super excited and confident that I was actually able to purchase insurance. And after a quick scan and some handwritten documents I have access to Uruguay. Score! Yet again, I'm forced to break the golden rule and drive at night in search of money, food, and lodging. We had failed to eat the entire day, so at nine at night we finally sat down for some savior empenadas, coke, and beer. After dinner we were off to find a place to stay in the little Uruguayan border town. We eventually come upon a cheap looking motel. Little did we know, but we were in for a treat because we stopped at a famous Telo.

Camping in Uruguay.
Telos are massively popular here, and since it's low season and hostels are closed, it's the cheapest option for a bed to sleep in. For the nightly price of twenty bucks total we got a sterile clean room, plastic wrapped everything, including sheets and towels, as well as classy 70's porn on the tv, and mirrors everywhere. I'm just glad I wasn't sad and alone, because having a friend there was like being a kid in a candy store. After a fun night I was awaken early the next morning because of the annoying wake up calls and threats of having to pay for additional hours of usage. Oh well, onward an forward to the famous Uruguayan beaches. 

Giant hand in Punta Del Este, Uruguay.
Getting back on the bike after two months off took some getting used too. Only a couple hundred miles into a days ride I'm already pretty sore and ready to get off the bike. So I take it pretty slow, and proceed to take plenty of roadside naps in the sun. Always eventually getting back to riding to wherever it was I was going. Uruguay was pretty relaxed. It had great sandwiches, and like most places had some really nice and charming people. But since the beaches were frigid cold we moved on to the last country I plan to visit here in South America: Brazil. 

Thursday, March 31, 2011

3/31/2011: Buenos Aires - Status Update

Life is all but too easy here in Buenos Aires. I´ve got a great home, shitty job, and a pretty stellar group of friends. It´s just like real life! It´s all very new, but reminds me very much of my so called normal life back in the States. I think it´s because I actually have a job again. Fuck working. It´s really hard for me to adjust to this job. I´m working as a front desk lady in a cool hostel, but oh my god is it boring sometimes. At least when there are people out and about it makes the job much more enjoyable. But really there´s only so much time you can watch House and stalk ex girlfriends on facebook before you get bored. It´s funny that even though this is a shit job, I still find myself taking this it way too seriously. I get offended when a coworker or boss points out a flaw in my work, or when I´m anything less than a model employee. Not really the point of getting a brainless job, so I´ve decided to stop giving a shit, and pursue my original goal in South America: have the time of my life. Soon enough I´ll be done with this high paying monkeys job and get back on the road. I´m getting the stir crazy, excited feeling about getting back on the bike. I´ve somehow talked my Danish friend Teresa into coming back for round two on the bike. Hopefully I can keep the bike on two wheels this time around because we have plans on visiting the largest country in South America: Brazil. I´m pretty excited to see her again, get back on the bike, and try embarrassing myself speaking Portuguese. Should be fun.

Meanwhile in Argentina, I´m finally picking up their ridiculous accent, and I´m really getting into the big city life. I remember in Panama City I spent two days running around doing motorcycle related errands. By the end I pretty much accomplished nothing but waste my (extremely valuable) time. Here is Buenos it´s a different story. I went to change my oil, get some parts welded back together, get a car wash, and fix some bolts. I had to drive four blocks, and it took all but an hour or so. I fucking had those errands scheduled in for a whole day, now I guess it´s time to kick back with a beer. It seems pretty typical here that when I want to get out of the apartment and run around the city for a while it takes me like ten minutes to complete my tasks because everything is so damn close. It´s a good and bad sometimes because I only work three or four days a week, and I´ve become some lazy bum hanging around the apartment for way longer than what´s healthy. Good thing this is a very cool large city with plenty of places to explore, or else I´d think I go effing crazy staying in one place for so long. Let´s just say I do a lot of people watching / walking around different neighborhoods.

I´ve been lucky enough to meet some good people here too. My besties / roommates took off for a quick concert in Salta while I was stuck at work for a few days. I was pretty jealous when they left because it was the first time my job forced me to miss out on some good fun. I was left in this city ready to make my own good time. I had the weekend off, so I called up some friends and met some more cool expats. I was being lazy since I went to an English bar and hostel to see some live music. Not really Argentinian, but whatever it was still a good weekend. Time to get back to my albeit boring life here in the big city. More stories to come as soon as I hit the road again. Chau.

Monday, March 14, 2011

3/14/2011 - Buenos Aires, Argentina: Car Jacking Trannies

Ok, so I know I´ve been incredibly lazy with this whole blogging thing. And I´m pretty sure I know the reason. It´s because I haven´t really been doing anything incredibly interesting. After the ridiculously long ride from near Ushuaia to Buenos Aires, I´ve been on a break. So honestly, I´ve just been fucking lazy. For the three weeks I have been living in Buenos Aires, I don´t have a whole lot of stories to tell. That said some fun / sad / awesome / boring stuff has happened so I´ll get to it.

After arriving to Buenos Aires, I immidiately felt at home. I knew I was going to like this place. It´s dubbed the ´Paris of the South´ which I think is a pretty apt description. Aside from the generally friendly people (Parisians are notoriously rude) and incredibly tall buildings everywhere, there are a lot of similaritites. Like the great food (sandwiches!), coffee culture, public transit, and high desinity living. And from what I remember when I visited Paris a few years ago, I loved it. Therefore, in a place where I can (well almost, I guess) speak the language, and know a bunch of great people, I know I should be content here for a few months.

A couple of weeks ago in the early afternoon heat, I get into a hostel looking for a party or a few new friends to meet and hit the city. It was a long lonely week on the road. I was stoked to be around people again, but the hostel I stayed at sucked. I don´t know how it happened, but everybody in this particular hostel was kind of unfriendly. Wierd, but I´ve met so many people that live here, that I just hit up some old mates and we grab a drink the next night. It was nice and low key, but they clue me in on how they got jobs and an apartment in the city. The plan starts developing, and the next step is to get out of a hostel and save some money by couchsurfing.

I don´t know if I´ve said it before, but is the best website on the internet. If you like to travel you should be on it. Really, I´ve met so many wonderful people through that website that I can´t begin to compliment it. Anyhow, once in Buenos I hit up a few surfers, thinking I´ll have to move around for a few weeks, before I can find an apartment and settle down for a bit. Again, I get incredibly lucky when the first surfers I hit up turn out to be totally awesome people. I was greeted with an ice cold beer on a hot humid afternoon, and all three of us hit it off immediately. I originally asked to stay for three days, but after a couple of weeks, I´m still living with them. I don´t even know how I managed that because I killed thier cat. Ok, not really, but thier long hair persian cat did commit suicide. The official story is that Duncan the cat watched a pigeon from the kitchen window. Then at one point jumped out of the window, caught the bird, and fell twelve stories to his death. It was a pretty hectic morning searching for him, and investigating the crime scene.Ultimately the sad truth was discovered, and miraculously Mariana and Sol took the news rather well. They are truly fabulous and geneours people. Even today after my first real day of working a graveyard shift. They brought me home a giant cheese burger from Burger King. How fucking nice! Just incredible people. Not to mention funny, witty, and all around delightful to be around. I have no idea how I´m going to thank them when I leave. What a great network for giving me an avenue to meet such cool people.

Alright, so the original plan when comming here was to get a job, because honestly I`ve had so much fun that I blew all my money. I had already made the decision that I´m not ready to come home yet, because really it´s like as soon as I start looking at plane flights, fun time is over. I´ve got to go back to California, get a job, find an apartment, blah blah blah. Fuck that, that´ll happen in a few months when I´m so home sick and broke, I´m forced to take my claws out of this continent and retreat. So intermitienly between naps, tv, and poking around with my guitar. I do look for jobs, and somehow successfully landed one. Thanks again to craisgslit, I found a job working nights at a little hostel nearby. It´s pretty chill job. I work the graveyard shift, so the hardest part is keeping myself entertained when nobody is around. I was describing it to my dad, and I told him that I´ll work for three nights at about seven to nine hours and I´ll make almost exactly as much money as I would working two hours at my old engineering job. I think it´s hillarious, it really puts things into a great culture perspective. But really it is an unfair comparison, because rent isn´t a thousand dollars a month, and I´m not working my ass off nearly fifty hours a week. At least I´ve got some income now, but it´s not enough to survive. I was basically relying on my tax return in hopes that I´ll get a lot of the taxes I paid back. After plenty of bitching, my old company finally sends the paperwork to the correct address. I was able to do my taxes, and it´s great fucking news. Since I only worked three quarters of the year I dropped down a few brackets, and I´m getting enough of my money back to go to Brazil. I´m so stoked! Thanks Uncle Sam! It was so relieved.

After being gone for so long, I´ve become homesick plenty of times. I really do miss family and friends the most, but there´s a lot I miss about my own culture. Burritos, burgers, sushi, and pho are pretty high on the list too, but there are plenty of other things. Like local live music, driving in a familiar place, my favorite bar: The Press, more food, and living in a place where I can zip to the mountians, big city, or beach all within a few hours drive. I remember in La Paz I was watching ´Cops´ on TV, and I was stoked when they pulled over some cross dressing car thief on the 10 freeway right near where I went to college. I was hanging with Teresa at the time and was like "yeah! I used to drive that freeway everyday! And I used to live just on the other side of those bushes in the dorms!" Then proceeded to bore her with stories of college and home. I´m sure from that show she got a great impression of my home town, but whatever. It was all pretty silly, but anything that brings back good memories of places and things at home are more than welcome. Even if they are car jacking trannies from Pomona.

That said, I was ready for a nice taste of America. Good thing one of my favorite punk bands, Rise Against, is in town. I´ve seen them before in San Diego with some great friends. It was such a fun road trip, and concert that there´s no way I´m missing this show. Of course, I´m lazy and forget to buy tickets. So the night of the concert I show up, and pay an extra five bucks to the bouncer, and sneak in.  The opening bands are actually tolerable, and when the main attraction comes on the crowd is really pumped up. I´ve been to a bunch of concerts, but these kids are really crazy for this band. So, like any good American I jump right into the mosh pit, and yell all the lyrics at the top of my lung along with everybody else. After about the third song I pat my pocket and realize some really bad news. My camera is gone. I was wearing jeans in which the camera has never fallen out before, so I´m guessing it got stolen in the action. Who knows, but what´s certain is there is no way of getting it, or more importantly any of my pictures back. Fuck. Only thing I can do is enjoy the great show, and take out some frustration jumping around in the pit. It definitely works, because I´ve come to peace with my camera being gone. I was pretty pissed for a while, but looking at the bright side, I saved a ton of great pics on this blog and people tag me all the time in pictures on facebook. Also, now I get to go back to traveling the way I love. Without a camera in front of my face trying to capture a memory I´m already trying to memorize in my head. So I feel it´s not the worst loss, but it´s still frustrating about the pictures. Oh well, shit happens. Anyway, the show was fucking great and since I didn´t let it bother me too much, I had an amazing time. The band played great, played new songs, and it was loud and rowdy where I watched the show twenty feet from the band. Then in true concert style, I got a knock off tee shirt on the way out and walked home sweaty and tired. It was fucking great to get my taste of English speaking American culture. That should hopefully hold me over for a while.

Monday, March 7, 2011

2/17/2011 - Buenos Aires, Argentina: Walking Uphill

Captain's log February 13th, 2011. Location: Piedra Buena, Argentina. Today's activities: ate, drove motorcycle straight for a number of hours, ate again, gassed up a few times, then went to bed.

As you can probably tell from that awful first paragraph, the days where I´m driving in desolate Patagonia are long and boring. The distances are vast and the towns are small and rural.The only thing this land has going for it is the nature. Otherwise this place would suck and be overpriced. Luckily for the residents, the outdoors are simply stunning during the summer months. I´ve gotten a good chance to see it while driving through and even (gasp!) taking some long distance hikes.

While in Ushuaia, I met some very cool Argintinian guys at my hostel. That night I join them in the kitchen and learn the sacred art of drinking beer and making empanadas. After they´re cooked and being served up, we make a bunch of new friends. It´s surprising how fast you can win new friends with little fried doughy pockets of awesome. As our table is filling up everyone is invited on an overnight hike through Tierra Del Fuego national park. Like usual, I´ve got nothing planned, so I accept the invitation and begrudgingly wake up early the next morning to embark. The group is now up to nine people: four wild Argentinian dudes, three responsible and friendly Israeli girls, one super fun Swiss guy, and one unprepared American.

The Israeli girls are smart and well prepared for the trek. They´ve bought enough food and got a map of our route. It´s a fifteen mile (25k) hike split between two days. It doesn´t sound so bad. As we leave around eleven, I´m thinking we´ll be there relaxing at camp around five. Not exactly what happened, because as a large group we need to take plenty of snack and tea breaks. Whatever, I love snacks and tea, so I don´t mind the frequent stops. We do need to get to camp, so we all decide to hurry up at the hardest and steepest part. Then some funny shit starts happening. Poor Nikolas fell and got caught on a cable crossing on this shady river bridge. He was a bit bruised up, but generally ok. The best part was Josiah caught it all on tape. We must have watched that thing laughing hysterically maybe twenty, thirty times.Then German slips and falls into a river getting himself and his sleeping bag wet in the process. Ouch, going to be a cold night. Then as the trail steeply declines I go knee high into mud. Thank goodness for my absurdly high motorcycle boots. Of course a few people fall down, (always funny) and one poor German girl we met along the way got caught into some deep mud. It was like quicksand dragging her down. But eventually we all successfully make it to camp at Laguna del Caminante. We set up camp, and since it´s bitterly cold. We all gather some wood and proceed to make a huge bonfire right in front of the "no fires" sign. (That´s right, I like to live dangerously.) The fire is hot and comforting, so we all pull up stumps or logs and bond for hours over nature´s TV.

Excellent excellent people.
Tea and snack break. Score!
Great people in a great place.
A little "Into the wild" at the other side of the planet.
The next morning. I´m somehow one of the first people up. I see an adorable little fox hanging around the campsite, so I chase it and snap a few photos. Little did I know, that bastard stole our breakfast. Later we find our milk and salami missing with the fox nowhere to be found. What a douche. I guess putting the food under the tent´s rain fly wasn´t enough. Oh well, in eight hours we´ll all be home and we can eat whatever we want. Too bad we have to go over a mountain and a whole forest full of fallen trees. After only six hours (felt like twelve) we all make it back to the main road and call a cab home. Thank goodness that was over. I mean it was some wonderful nature, and the campsite and company were fantastic, but in motorcycle boot and a shitty little backpack I was happy to be off my feet for a bit. Three short days later, I left on a four day, fifty mile (85k) trek through Chile´s jewel national park: Torres Del Paine. I don´t think I´ll ever know just what the fuck I was thinking.

It took two long days to reach Puerto Natales, Chile from Ushuaia, but when I meet up with my old pals from the earlier trek, it makes it all worthwhile. We spend a night and a day farting around the little city trying to get a game plan for the hike. The Israelis are again responsible (must be all that army training) and attend a hour lecture on what´s in store. The lecture is in Hebrew, so I take it upon myself to find some other Americans and start pregaming for the Superbowl. My plan works excellent. I get to watch Ben Rapelessberger and the Steelers go down before I start packing. I know it´s four days long, but figure it´s some walking and a lot of downtime camping. So I don´t bother asking many questions. I just follow the pack and load up on the bus.

It´s a couple hours by bus and boat, but we all make it to camp number one. We set up camp and then hit our first trail. The hike is called the "W" because it´s roughly that shape on the map. (It looks more like a saggy ass, but that´s not really an appealing name.) Anyway, the main draw is the impressive glaciers,lakes, and cool rock formations. Four hours later the group has somewhat split up because some members are more psyched then others. At the mid point, I get a fantastic view of my first glacier. It´s nice to take a break, and have a laugh at some poor kid who fell part way into the frozen lake. I eventually get down to the lake to eat some glacier ice (high quality h2o) and throw rocks at bigger pieces of ice. We all enjoy the fruit of our first days hike, then turn right back around and head back to camp. During the walk back I come to the realization that this is a hard core hike for those well prepared tourist adorned head to toe in North Face gear, carrying two hundred dollar walking sticks, and eating only lightweight military rations and power bars. Looks like my ripped jeans, motorcycle boots, and borrowed backpack made for a midget will just have to do. I make it back to camp at dusk just after ten.

Day two starts off at six thirty in the morning, and is much the same as the previous day. Lots of walking, but new fabulous nature. It turns out to be the of the easiest and therefore least spectacular day. Then comes grueling day three. Fuck. It´s about thirteen hours of hiking with a fully loaded backpack. Luckily the weather is nice and hot, so I take a much needed bath in the lake. (BTW glacier water is cold.) Then at lunch time after an extremely delicious lunch of crackers and tuna. (Sarcasm) I enjoy a nap riverside in the sunshine. As I´m groggily waking up, I see a random familiar face. It´s Arielle! What are the chances? This is the fifth country we´ve met up in. I just fucking love random fate. So we chat and catch up for a bit, but as we´re walking in different directions we hug and say farewell yet again. Maybe I´ll see her in Brazil.

Only six more hours of walking uphill until we get to camp. It´s a good thing I love walking uphill. (If only I could do it on the way back too!) Apparently I looked uncomfortable, because Doron offers some help by saying the backpack I have probably adjusts for height. So at the next stop, I´m able to adjust it from five foot little girl to six foot man. What a difference! I get some new energy as I feel I can cartwheel and hurdle mountains with the new fit and comfort. Too bad, there´s only like four total hours of carrying it left since the trips almost over. Anyhow, camp is actually set up in the daylight and dinner is cooked up early. Then since everyone is obviously pooped; we all easily drift to sleep awaiting the grand finale the following day.

Somehow everybody wake up on time at three thirty in the morning. It´s a steep one hour walk in the dark to reach the Torres (towers) Del Paine. It´s stunning to watch the sun rise and watch the monstrous rocks change colors. It definitely made the whole hike worthwhile. Afterwards, I´m surprised to discover that the Israelis didn´t think it was spectacular enough. Apparently in the prep talk, they were told that the colors were supposed to be more vivid and awesome in the morning sun. Totally shocked I decide to stay with a few survivors to see it again the following morning. I guess those crazy chicks were right because the following day as I´m sleeping and avoiding the cold wind. I´m awoken by oohs and aahs. Those huge rocks are legitimately golden in the morning light. Truly amazing. I´m glad I stayed the extra day.

Some much needed relaxing on day two
Fighting the wind for a slightly better view.
Meditation with Leo near the Glacier.
Once back to civilization, we all enjoy a healthy portion of cookies, pringles, and chocolate milk.We were all so happy to eat something besides tuna, rice, or soup. Later that night, we all gorge out on some homemade Jewish dishes then partake in some excellent Chilean wine as a reward for completing one crazy ass hike.

Sadly (like always though) I´ve got to leave my new friends and book it to Buenos Aires. So we all say our goodbyes with hopes of reuniting later in the capital. I´m essentially out of money, (come on, uncle Sam!) so I´ve got to get some place where I can land a job and hopefully relax for a bit. Buenos Aires sounds like the right place, so I start the fifteen hundred mile (2,800k) journey early and plan on making the straight boring shot right there in hopefully about five days.

The riding at first is really tough, because of the high winds. It feels like I´ve got the bike leaned over to thirty degrees just to bear straight in the sixty mile an hour side wind. Then there are the trucks that roll by every minute. If I forget to duck under my tiny windshield, I get slammed with a huge wake of wind. It snaps my head back and pushes me to the edge of the road. Scary shit when, you´re trying to do anything to escape the awful boredom of the long straight drive. It was a constant battle, but after two days the wind eventually died down. Thanks goodness for that, but too bad there are still three boring ass days left. In the five days the scenery changed exactly twice, and every town (except Puerto Madryn) looked the same. Some runned down shitty version of Barstow. Though I would have stabbed a puppy for Barstow. At least they have an In-N-Out. Eventually after plenty of roadside naps, shady campsites, and plenty of boring hours singing and talking to myself on the bike. I do in fact make it to the big city. It´s time to settle down, get a job, and take a much needed pause from this crazy ass adventure.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

1/30/2011 - Ushuaia, Argentina: El Fin Del Mundo

As you can probably tell from the title. I made it to the so dubbed "end of the world".  It was far from an easy road to get here, but that´s probably most of the fun. Anyhow a ton of stuff has happened, since I last updated this thing. So I´ll go into recap mode and lay it out.

I got to Futaleufú (yeah, don´t worry I can´t pronounce it either) on a cold rainy afternoon. I was only there to go white water rafting, so I hit up all the tour companies to find a ride. Two boring days later I have one booked. Lots of things just seem to work a lot slower here in South America. Anyhow, I meet some really fun other Americans and we stay the night at the beautiful lodge right on the river. It´s a stunning river, a gorgeous blue turquoise in the deep water and crystal clear in the shallows. It´s the first time in my life where I just drank right from the river. Awesome, because rafting does make you thirsty. After a quick safety lowdown from our old river rat guide, Josh, we´re on to the first rapids. Its fucking great, hitting waves and just trying to stay in the damn boat. We hit a few class III´s and are ready for the class IV´s and V´s. These are gnarly waves, that if you don´t hit just right everyone is coming out of the boat. Josh yells at us "adelante, adelante!" (Forward, forward) Then we dive in, the waves are crashing on us as we´re gaining speed. Massive six foot waves crash over the boat as we´re barreling and dropping down. I´m so excited that I don´t want a break I just want to keep going and keep tackling these waves. What a fucking blast. Then during the quiet parts of the river, it´s some of the greatest scenery I´ve ever seen. I´m super happy I stuck around that little quiet city without even a ATM to do it.

All geared up. Complete with styling pink helmet
The mighty Futaleufú
The guides looking for the best route through this class V rapid.

After the rafting I head out on the Carretera Austral in Chile. It´s Chile´s Route 66 and during the summer it´s packed with mountain bikers, hitchhikers, and motorcyclists. It´s by far the most beautiful road I´ve ever driven on. It´s what I would imagine Alaska to look like, except without all the scary bears. I´m excited to spend a few days on the road camping and seeing the sights. I was not disappointed. The driving was on a pretty well maintained dirt road, and the lakes, rivers, and mountains were all just stunning. I´d drive for twenty minutes, then I´d have to stop and take a quick photo because it was just too damn cool to pass up. The best night camping was in the Quelat National Park. I found a little dirt path to a gorgeous river that was surrounded by snow capped mountains and even a glacier. I got there early, so I had plenty of time to relax, read, catch some fish, and make some kick ass dinner. If you´re in the right mind set camping alone is awesome. Not minding the solitude, I was in heaven for a night. It´s funny camping by yourself, because sometimes the littlest things freak you out. I usually camp as far off the road as possible, but sometimes somebody could find me if you just stumbled down some little path. The funniest example was one morning when I woke up, I heard a loud purring sound outside my tent. I thought fuck, do they even have cougars or pumas here? I figured yes, so I tried to wait it out, but after fifteen minutes of this sound it was time to get up and do something. So I get dressed, and open up my knife and mentally prepare myself for a cougar-knife fight. As I´m about ready to get out of the tent, I hear the loud purring and I see the shadow of a pretty big bird hit my tent. It was a fucking humming bird or something. What a douche bag. I got all worked up for some stupid bird. I have to say that when camping alone you´re somewhat vulnerable to other people and things. But for the most part, I´ve only had great experiences. It´s only when you let your mind wander, that you can work yourself up and imagine a harmless humming bird is a ferocious man eating cougar.

The legendary road
Worlds best campsite
Lago General Carrera
Some random stop along the way
Sunset on this trout filled river
Mountains in Quelat National Park
A view from above of Cohaique, Chile
I took about four of five days on the Carratera to get back into Argentina. I crossed near the second largest lake in South America, Lago General Carrera. It was such an awesome ride, too bad the road was absurdly dangerous. I´d be flying straight, then some blind curve would come out of nowhere. I ate shit pretty good once. It wouldn´t have been so bad, but I just happened to land in the one thorn bush around. I was pissed because I ripped up my riding jeans and got pricked up pretty good. I think the pictures are pretty hilarious, and they probably explain it better.

Notice the track in the middle from one idiot motorcyclist going way too fast
Boom. Comeupins. Right into a damn thorn bush
Once I got into Argentina (I think I´ve crossed back and forth like six times already, goodbye spare passport pages), I was ready to buckle down and head south. I could feel how close I was to my goal, so I just started booking it. I met some good bikers along the way, and it was probably the funniest when we all happened to cross paths for the last time. I was cruising along on this slightly muddy highway. Then all of a sudden, I hit the worlds slipperiest mud. I instantly flip a one eighty, and smash up my panniers (again). So as I´m cursing the weak ass bars that hold them on, and start processing how I´m going to fix them temporarily so I can make it to the next town. I see the two Austrian guys I met last night. They hit the mud and instantly hit the floor. Then while they´assessing their damage, another American and German both eat shit. I was pretty angry at the time, but looking back, it was fucking hilarious. It´s like some asshole put ball bearings on the road and was just waiting for a bunch of bikers to come by and have a good laugh. Oh well, a bit later I was able to strap my bike back together thanks to the new tie down the Austrian guys gave me. Then I pretty much had to walk my bike for then next five miles, but I made it out of there. Only to run out of gas down the road. (Sometimes it just never ends.) Luckily, while I´m opening my gas tank to look inside, (as if more gas would magically appear) I´m saved by some other biker with some spare gas. I felt pretty awesome when I arrived in Calafate. It was a long fucking day of riding.

All these ups and down have really made me feel a lot like a pregnant teenager. I´ve been all emotional with my mechanical problems and I´ve somehow developed a strange addiction to cookies. My bike was in serious need of parts, and when this idiot mechanic couldn´t fix my bike. I was in a pretty low valley. I wanted to punch this dick who said "we can´t win" and just gave up. Leaving me to put my back together alone. I made some calls home which definitely cheered me up, but the next day I had some tough choices to make. Play it safe, and take the easy / boring road and wait while my parts (new chain and rear sprocket) are bring shipped. Or risk it and head straight for Ushuaia in hopes I´ll make it there and they have my parts. Of course I risk it and head onto the desolate, windy road south. I was miraculously rewarded for my (probably dumb) move though. As I´m just passing through this city of maybe five thousand, I see a Yamaha dealership. I almost passed it up because I´ve been looking for these stupid parts for over a month in countless cities and shops. I turn around convincing myself that I´d really regret not looking, just in case they do have my parts. I walk in and within minutes I have my parts in hand. I was so fucking excited! You wouldn´t believe the joy some ridiculous fucking sprocket could give me. So I head off all cocky and confident, because there´s nothing stopping me now. The very next day my old chain and sprocket wear out for good. I loudly grind to stop near a gas station, and am ready to get to work. It seems only fitting that I have to work on my bike for four fucking hours on my last days ride. Eventually with the help of a few local industrial shops, I´m on my way. With my new parts installed I´m ready to hit the road. I was so fucking happy because getting stuck in Cerro Sombrero, a small town in the absolute middle of nowhere, was now out of the picture. Next stop: Ushuaia!

Oh so fitting on my last day to Ushuaia
I was warned way back in Panama that the last three days drive to Ushuaia wasn´t going to be barrel of monkeys. It wasn´t as bad as I was told though. Yes, there was what seemed like gale force winds and long empty stretches, but really it wasn´t so bad. It was a bit dull fighting the wind, but when I started rising and getting into the forest, I started getting pumped up. A short giddy ride and exactly six months later I pulled into the golden sun drenched city on the ocean at sunset. Fuck yeah! What a fucking trip, I´ve gone through so damn much to get here. There´s been so much that´s happened that I can say it´s the best decision I´ve ever made. (Well, second best. First was not getting married.) I´ve gone over mountains, across deserts, through so called dangerous countries, driven through all kinds of shitty weather, made and lost friends, ran over a dog and hit plenty of birds, fixed my bike more times then I´ll ever care to remember, all to persevere and keep trucking on no matter what the road threw at me. It´s definitely one my biggest accomplishments. I can truly say it has been the trip of a life time. Now what?

Monday, January 31, 2011

1/16/2011 - Valdivia, Chile: Reverse Vampires

An hour into cruising around Santiago, I´m tired of being lost, so I bust out my GPS (compass) and start heading South. I stop in for some giant empanadas and get some proper directions out of the city. Once I´m on the freeway I start getting a little more enthusiastic about Chile. It´s by far the most developed country in South America, and is nothing but a first world, well organized, and well governed country. Its a long sliver of a place, but it thrives on its vast and greatly managed agriculture. Don´t even think about bringing a banana across the border, you might as well have a fist full of crack. The agriculture is highly regarded and for good reason. Unlike Argentina, they in fact have fruits and vegetables. It was awesome stopping in for a snack at a little stand on the side of the highway. While eating a peach, the shop owner comes over and gives some mystery fruit, which I rather enjoyed. Then when I went to pay, he wouldn´t accept any money. What a country! Beautiful landscape, great wine, stellar empanadas, and free fruit. Sweet!

A rare healthy snack
When it wasn´t raining (which it did a lot) the terrain and camping were fabulous. Crystal blue virgin rivers and somewhat untouched forest (Chileans do love their chainsaws.) It all makes for a really enjoyable drive. The only downside is this one specific type of bug. While I´m off discovering new cultures and landscapes. I also get to discover evil little animals as well. The colihuacho (literally translated to fag) is the worst creature I´ve encountered thus far. They´re about the size of a bumble be, but are like little reverse vampires on the hunt for only human flesh. They don´t care about cow patties or whatever the fuck normal bugs are concerned about. So as the sun was setting one would find me, bite me, or buzz around me waiting to land on me and attack. It was no use trying to shoo it away. Those evil fuckers are persistent. There were only two options: let it bite me or kill it. Obviously, I grab my weapon of choice (a empty two liter bottle), and head into the sun so I can see its shadow then seek and destroy. I look like an idiot, half battering my self, half swinging at nothing. Eventually I manage to give it a good whack and kill it. I´ve never felt so satisfied killing another living thing. By the time I left one campsite, I was up to about ten confirmed kills and maybe half a dozen wounded.

The next few days I spent riding hard through long, cold, and rainy days. I was nearly frozen and soaked to the bone, so I stopped in Valdivia. It was a bit off the Pan-Am, but I needed shelter quick. I was lucky to find a budget room with hot showers and a garage. I stayed a few days because frankly, I was tired of the fucking rain. So in between spats, I ran out and did some touristy things. The best was this awesome little fish market. What made it so special were these humongous lazy sea lions. About six of them have gotten smart enough to realize that there´s always a free meal at the market. So probably by chance they swam fifty miles upriver and found a new home. It was fun watching them fight over fish scraps. And also just stand in awe of their enormous size. They looked the size and shape of a thousand pound football. Other than that, it was a cutesy little quite town at the start of Patagonia.

Lazy mofos
My first taste of the Futaleufú
I wanted to avoid taking a ferry, so I had to jump back into Argentina for a quick stint. On my way back over to Chile. I met some very nice and very enthusiastic older German guys. They were on a tour through Patagonia on some Yamahas geared more towards dirt. They were fascinated at how far I´ve come on my own. I loved the ego boost so I chatted a while with them. Then one guy, Dan, was really interested in my bike because he wants to start a tour group in the States and buy a dozen. (Nice. Another business option.) We all process our border paperwork and hit the road. They finish early, so they´re a bit ahead of me. I was glad to be back on pavement, so I let the throttle rock. It was a fun twisty, hilly two lane road. Only a few miles in, I hit a nasty spiral right hand turn that seams to be getting sharper and sharper. I give the breaks a good squeeze, and maintain complete control as I drop into a quick hard left. I notice the damage right away. There are two bikes crumpled on the side of the road. Two of the four guys just went down. Hard. I pull over and help the guy whose worse off. He´s badly shaken up, and has already fallen down after standing up. We all help him up, and soon enough he´s got his mind straight. He was wearing all the right safety gear, but still got pretty banged up. He´s going to need a lot of stitches and down time. The other guy was pretty well off. Just some bumps and minor cuts. It was a nice reality check for me because I´ve got way too much experience for that to ever happen to me. (Foreshadowing. Yes, I think so.) As the ambulance comes and I start helping load what´s left of the I bikes. I feel very well put into my place. Easily could have happened to me. Needless to say, I took the rest of that days drive a bit slower. It was only another twenty minutes until I hit my destination of Futaleufú. (Don´t worry, I can´t pronounce it either.) I´m only stopping there to white water raft on (according to my google search) the best river in South America. Tell you all about it later. Ciao!