M/Cing to SA: Hitting the reset button in Santiago

Bad habits are (thankfully) returning. The often-used refrain, "well it seemed like a good idea at the time," is applied to FW's singing and swinging on the roof deck of our hotel. He couldn't resist the sounds from the Beatles tribute band that's rock'n this neighborhood of Santiago. It's good to get back to normal: )

We chill in Santiago before hitting the road again

In the last episode, we’d just made an escape from the clutches of an Andes tunnel and were safely ensconced in a luxurious Santiago hotel after depositing our not-so-trusty steed at the repair shop.  That was “only” three nights ago, but gladly seems like a year.  KR and I have decided to hit the reset button on all fronts:  our  karma (KR just bought me a Chilean “keep the negative energy away” rune, travel (all forward motion has stopped), reliability (we’re going to prove NV’s reliable before venturing out in the Atacama), and tension (we’re getting into the swing of Santiago).

Before the full report, here’s the headlines:

  • The Santiago BMW dealer had Now Voyage for two days. It still checked out OK on their hi-tech computer diagnostic tool, so I insisted they change the thermostat, check whether the water pump was working, and then put him back together.   Always agreeable, the folks did just that and NV has passed his first test — rush hour traffic through the heart of Santiago.  Being a total wimp, I’m most excited about the wash job.
  • Our plan now is to take at least one day trip out of Santiago to test NV’s reliability. I’m skeptical whether NV is fixed to say the very least.  Many of you have offered good ideas on what the problem could be, but as of this writing, there is no solid proof on any one hypothesis.  Thus the test.
  • We keep meeting the small group of people who are “adventure riding” around South America.  We’ve told you about the wonderful group from Brazil we (tried) to tag along with, well we met two guys from DC twice as well and finally had dinner with them the other night.  It was terrific hearing their story and getting info on the road ahead.  It’s a small world when it comes to BMW motorad riders it would seem.
  • After staying for two nights in the incredibly luxurious Radisson hotel (I assure you its a Radisson like no other one you’ve seen in the states) on the chic-chic east side of Santiago, we’ve moved to a hotel/hostel on the Western side of town.  The differences in hotel and surroundings could not be more pronounced, but each is great in their own way.
  • We’ve formed some early impressions of Argentina and Chile after only three weeks. Most of us Norte Americanos view South America as one big, poor, third world country and that couldn’tbe farther from the truth when talking about Argentina and Chile.  These are wonderful countries that are modern, incredibly stylish (from life-style to art to architecture to fashion)
  • We’re having a great time just barely scratching the surface of Santiago and Chile.  If Now Voyager would just cooperate a little, we’d be ready to get out groove back.

The situation as of 5:00PM on Friday in Santiago. KR and I are planning on a test ride tomorrow somewhere south of Santiago.  If all goes well (i.e. NV doesn’t overheat), we’re set to head west to Valparaiso and then north along the Chilean coast.  Right now we’re having a great time in a neighborhood somewhere on the west side of Santiago.  Keep all body parts crossed that we’ve solved NV’s overheating problem.  If we haven’t, then I”m pretty much out of answers…

Williamson Balfour BMW dealer in Santiago. WB is one of the largest BMW dealers I've seen anywhere. Everything is perfectly laid out and clean. This is the motorad service department, about 5 miles from the huge car and moto showrooms. All our hopes are pinned on Pedro's deft hand at overheating repairs. Luis, the Service Manager posing with the "fixed" (again) Now Voyager hopes to never see me again. Many people feel that way of course, but we both hope never to have to cross paths again.

The Radisson on the east side. Ohhh, how we loved the Radisson! But at $160/night, we couldn't afford to stay long. The east side is reflective of a bigger phenom in Chile -- the place is economically rocking and rolling. Down the street from the Radisson were Porsche, Aston Martin, and Jaguar dealers. Santiago looks like its a 5 million strong economic powerhouse. There's a much bigger story here -- how and why -- that I don't quite get yet. Argentina has more resources and is much larger, but the most common car in BA is a 1960 Ford Falcon replica. I can't wait to visit the 800 lb. Gorilla of South America, Brazil.

Sophisticated hotel selection and navigation method. KR's process starts about an hour before we need a hotel. From a combo of our ONE guide book and a quick Internet search, she locates some cheap and "interesting" hotels/hostels. She then gives me some general directions and we get on the bike and start our ride. Navigation equipment includes page ripped from said guidebook and on-the-go directions. It can be a touch stressful, especially since we've never been to any of these neighborhoods. First two hostels were either torn down or full.

We finally arrive here, the Hotel Del Patio in the Bellavista section of Santiago. Rather plain on the outside, the lobby has a funky modern style to it. What's really weird (as in really good and how can we get so lucky kinda weird) is the place is located above a plaza full of shops, restaurants and nightclubs. Walk down the stairs and you're in the middle of a Thursday night party. My kind of place.

Our hotel is the barn-like structure above the courtyard.

Brotherhood of the Wanderers. I first met Vadim (left) and Gintaras at the Mendoza BMW dealer. They live in DC and have ridden their GS's from DC all the way to Mendoza. They're planning on going to Ushusaia on the tip of SA,before going home. They've been on the road for about four months. Vadim is a financial consultant and Gintaras works in renewable energy. Anyway, we next spot Gintaras at the infamous toll station we're stranded at. He pulls over and helps as an interpreter with one of our various rescuers. The next day we bump into him at the Santiago BMW dealer and decide to have dinner. The restaurant is one of Santiago's most famous and expensive. Great conversation and food make for a memorable evening.

Just another house in the Bellavista neighborhood. This one has been converted into a bunch of shops. Bellavista use to be a rundown, high crime area before being renovated into a very stylish place chock-full of interesting restaurants and houses.

Searchng the skies for an answer... FW tries to find a satelite for his FindMeSpot satelite tracker. It's been lost lately as well.

Party animal. KR would argue this is more of a return to "normal."

We’ll, of course, keep you informed as things unfold.

10 replies
  1. Chuck Brown says:

    How long will you stay in Santiago, although, you may be gone by now?
    Love the photos and all. I’m sure you luck will change.

  2. FHW says:

    We just arrived in Valparaiso today and will stay at least another day. The bike worked during our 80 mile ride. Keep all body parts crossed.

  3. Maria says:

    Maybe NV has her own agenda…maybe she wants to be star in the remake of VOYAGE OF THE DAMNED!!! Ruh Roh….. is NV a she or a he?

  4. Joy says:

    Fred – 2 clues to the vehicle question you raise.

    1) Ford Falcons have a dastardly past. They were used by the police to transport people to Argentina’s secret prisons. Creepy eh?

    2) Argentina taxes the hell out of imports so cars, computers, etc. cost the same amount in Argentina that they do in the US – even though the exchange rate makes them much more expensive. Also there are virtually no bank loans so all cars (and houses for that matter) must be bought in cash, typically in US dollars.

    Here’s to better luck in the days ahead 🙂


  5. ryan says:

    The Falcons were built in Argentina until around ’94. Outside of BsAs, they are even more common than Peugeot and Renault cars. No one surpasses FIAT, since they are the best, besides Jaguar, of course (I only say that FOR FW’s benefit.)

  6. Peter says:

    Saturday night and all alone here in LC. C’s with the better half off in the desert.

    Have much time to kill so catching up on my reading. One down and a couple more to go.

    But first, a news flash for you. Ya know that weekly meeting of 120 guys I go to? Well there’s this 60 year old there who always shows up on his BMW. Looks just like you and so this past Thursday I asked him if he’s ever read RT.com.

    He’s not only read it, but says he’s ridden with you before. Was even on the trip we all took through the San Gabriels. Wish I could remember his name. Next time. Hasta lavista.

  7. FHW says:

    It IS a small world, no? We end up meeting people more than once over quite some distance while riding in Argentina and Chile. I like the folks at the Southern California BMW Owners, which we’ve ridden a lot with as tune-ups for our trip.

    I’m glad you like the pictures. KR does much of the photography, so if you find one you like, let me know and I’ll tell her.

    Take care


  8. FHW says:

    I’m still trying to figure out the economics of Argentina, Chile and Brazil. I guess I could actually do research, but that would be like work… As for automobiles, I’ve observed:
    – Lots of old (like 60s era) cars in Argentina in combo with lots of new small Puegots, VWs, Hundyais, etc. Haven’t seen the same kind of old Falcons and Fiat 500s in Chile yet
    – Both Chile and Argentina have lots of drivers of new compacts that haul ass on the autopistas. Both of these I’m sure relate to what brands have manufacturing in each country.
    – I saw an Aston Martin int he streets of Santiago and most of the luxury brands have dealerships there. Nothing similar in Buenos Aires.

    As for motorcycles, there are tons of small (less than 200ccs) m/cs used as basic transportation. M/cs perform the same role here — as family transport — as they do in Nepal/India, but not as many of them. Have seen whole families (father, mother and two kids) on a 100 cc m/c going down the highway:)


  9. steve says:

    I’m so glad to read that you are now able to enjoy your trip, rather than wrestle with and worry about the motorcycle!

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