M/Cing to SA: (Temporarily) stuck at the foot of the Andes

Two Days in and Fred Demonstrates Amateur Hour Again and Again

I believe bad things can happen while traveling and one shouldn’t always expect “holiday fun” type experiences. Shit happens and you just have to deal with it.   So I was OK when Now Voyager was way-laid at sea.  I was cool that we’d have to rent a bike and leave NV behind if we wanted to Chase the Dakar.   And I just manned-up when the bike didn’t have a wind-screen, my helmet was 2X sizes too big, and we didn’t have half our gear at any one time or place.  Ditto for the 500 mile ride through the pampas at night and in the rain.

But now, I’m getting scared that this trip could end badly before we ever get our legs.  One bad move after another has me thinking that KR (and especially me) are amateurs at this travel thing.  We’re making basic mistakes that are having significant effects.   Could this be a precursor of one or both of us getting hurt?

The latest round of bad moves started the first morning of the Dakar Chase.  Once we got our bags into our room at the Estancia La Paz, I realized that we had left behind our map case.  The case with all our good South America, Argentina, Chile and Brazil maps in it.  We couldn’t even find our way back to Buenos Aires without a basic map.  A sleepless night ensued but we found it the next day.

No sooner had I breathed a huge sigh of relief and the next pig-headed, dumb, amateur move by Yours Truly occurred at 1:00AM the following morning when we needed to split our belongings into two groups:  One set was to go back to BA and await our return and the other smaller set was to go with us for our ten day excursion Chasing the Dakar.  So, off we go north toward the Dakar and where do you think our passport, money and important papers go?  Yes, south to some guy’s closet in BA.  This will cause a significant problem because we can’t get over the border from Argentina to Chile without passports.  So a 6 day Dakar tour has been cut to two.

You’ve got to start wondering whether the Travel Gods are trying to tell you something when the next time we stop I notice that the exhaust has burned a hole through the bag we have strapped on our rented bike.  A strategically placed hole as it has burned through both – yes both – of KR and my hi-tech motorcycle jackets (they’re hot when it’s cold, cold when it’s hot) before we ever got a chance to wear them!  I’m not making this up.   Oh, and did I tell you that KR’s purse got a hole blasted through it too and she lost a bunch of stuff inside?

So, here’s our situation as of  Noon on Wednesday, January 5th 2010.     Because we have no passports, the Dakar group has left us behind in Purmamarca, Argentina, which sits at the foot of the Andes.    Our passports are theoretically being delivered by Jim Hyde as he races to catch up with his group.  Jim has had his own set of  troubles thrown at him from the Travel Gods and has always reacted in a positive, “how do we fix this” attitude”.    IF and when we get our passports, we will ride the Rented Iron Duke Dos south again toward Buenos Aires looking to hook up with Now Voyager.   We will then spend a couple of days packing, repairing and re-configuring before we head out of BA towards…… who knows.

First glimpse of the race is up close. We stop along Hwy 9 somewhere south of Tucaman and encounter the Dakar racers speeding by. Hundreds of people are lining this dirt road waiting for them to fly by. Which they do, and close!

One of the leading competitors flashes by. This is the best shot I have of them as they were coming too fast and too close.

Typical race watch wear when the track is two feet away

KR is becoming quite the action sport photographer

Gas stops along the race route become a chance for the locals to get their pictures taken with all the racers… including us: )

It doesn’t take long for all of us to get into the swing of things too. Here KR signs her autograph on a T-shirt.

It’s hard not to smile, wave, beep your horn, touch hands and generally have a great time when you’re greeted with this reception town after town. This is a typical crowd shot from KR’s camera as we enter San Salvador de Jujuy in northern Argentina. The crowd pressed in so much we had to stop and start signing autographs! This kind of reaction from the poeple of Argentina and Chile make the Dakar a truly memorable experience.

Pampa Adventures arranged some truly spectacular hotels for us. This is the Sol San Javier nestled in the mountains above Tucuman, Argentina. We couldn’t really enjoy it too much as we didn’t get there until 9:30PM and left at 8:30 the next morning.

Summit at the summit. Trying to herd 16 motorcyclists with varying skills and styles is a tough job. Here Kevan tries to reinforce the “trail rules,” a set of guidelines that you are suppose to follow to watch-out for your fellow rider. Non-rule following would make for some long days and unnecessary confusion. Yes, yours truly was part of the problem.

The next day included an hours worth of dirt road. This was KR’s first dirt road experience in more than a decade. I was rusty two-up on the dirt as well and this caused both of us some scares 🙂 Yet, by the end of the stint we were feeling much better about it.

Three faces of my lover: On the left, this is what 12 hrs on the bike looks like, ending at 9:30PM up a winding road in the dark. Middle – 30 minutes later prior to dinner. Right, after her most scary day on the bike, we’re relaxing at the foot of the Andes.

Local color. I’m making my transition from International Man of Mystery to Andean Trekker.

The hotel in Purmamarca where we’re staying for a couple of nights, the Casa de Adobe. 

Why is this Llama hiding? Because he ended up on our dinner plate last night. Not sure why KR suggested this — her heart-felt caring for this shy critter or her sometimes sick sense of humor. You decide 🙂

7 replies
  1. Sam and Jill says:

    Glad that 1. you didn’t actually lose it 2. You found out before you hit the Chilean border patrol 3. It burned through the Jackets instead of KR’s rear end 4. You get to stay and drink in beautiful Case Adobe. See…it’s all good.

  2. Katie says:

    Thanks for posting all your info! In one of your pictures, I got a glimpse of my husband Cliff at the long rectangular dinner table! Know all of you are having quite the adventure! Appreciate all the updates! Fondly, Katie Gunter

  3. FHW says:


    My wife Karen has a good shot of Cliff that I’ll send once we stay at one place for a more than an hour. fw

  4. Chuck Brown says:

    WHOA!!! I just found your site after losing it. What a hell of a note. I should have been there with you. Sounds like a lot of individuals doing their own thing on this tour. Not like our great group. Did Nacho and Dario lead as before? I’m sure you will work things out.
    Best to you both. Hang in there.

  5. Peter and Aneth says:

    Amazing trip. Thanks for the enjoyment you have bestowed upon us. Hope all continues to go well.
    Aneth and Peter

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