Before being enlightened with the latest from the Life of TheBrightStuff,
a few messages from our sponsors:
Originally my plan was to fly the bike back to the
UK and later this year drive London-Kathmandu. However, the old
goat is now staying in Chile. Why? I will spare you the full story,
but basically the nice people from Swissair Cargo, with whom I had
arranged to fly the Ex home have suddenly (i.e. last week!!!!) decided
to join the embargo on 'Dangerous Goods' (uhuhuh m/cs are daaaaangeroussssss...)
out of Santiago.
Time/ patience/ money is now in very short supply
to arrange other shipping possibilities. It is not such a big deal
however. I will return in a few months and see some more of this
-beautiful- continent: Bolivia and the rest of the northern Andes,
which were too wet when I passed by last time, Colombia, which was
allegedly too dangerous and Brazil, because everybody has told me
such super things about the place. Will head off home for a while
to replenish funds.
Many thanks to all those who wrote congratulating
me on finally reaching Ushuaia, the southernmost town in South America.
The deed was done a couple of weeks ago. Cheers!
That's it. Now on to the drivel:
Norman is Dead, Long Live Norman
Yes, Norman lives again!!! It is actually NormanMarkII,
but from now on the new wooden Malawian Togolosh ('good luck devil')
that once again adorns the Ex's front mudguard shall be called 'Norman'.
You might recall that the old Norman was forcibly removed in some
cr*p Mexican hovel.
Well, an excellent bloke, Kevin van Blerk of Cape
Town, South Africa, went way beyond the call of duty and using the
internet and other convolutedly cunning means, organised me a new
Tog (they are apparently not called 'Togoloshes', but something
else, but who cares!) from Malawi. He then sent it to Poste Restante,
Ushuaia, where I picked him up. Norm even managed to get his pic
taken at the 'end of the road'. Thanks Kevin, I really appreciate
So what happened between Santiago and Tierra del Fuego and here?
('Here' being a hostal in Villarica, about 800km south of Santiago).
Brighty strutted his stuff in the Argentinian and Chilean Lake District,
got washed out on the Carreterra Austral (also named 'Carreterra
Augusto Pinochet U', after some peace loving chap, formerly residing
at Her Majesty's Pleasure), got a major pain behind the eyes in
the Patagonian Pampas, pretended he was riding a Harley Davidson
Hardtail, spent 2 weeks as a Scottish buser and hitchhiker while
avoiding mentioning the 'W' word, got to Tierra del Fuego and had
his bike rammed by a truck on the ferry back from Puerto Montt.
Never a boring day....
I'll tell you something: The highlight of my time
in Chile and Argentina has been the cheap and good red wine. Apart
from a few scenic highlights and meeting some reliable Chilean-Germans,
this whole part of the world is pricing itself out of the market.
Here, not only do you have Third World service (not really that
bad if you are expecting no better), but you have the pleasure of
paying, at times (particularly in Argentina), higher than 1st World
prices. I suppose, only a country that has tolerated military dictatorship
so recently would be capable of looking you in the eye and charging
the equivalent of 4 US$ for a cup of instant coffee or nearly 5
bucks a gallon of gasoline.
I can't say I will never return here (I will: to
Chile to collect my bike, and to Argentina from where I might ship
it home). It is nowhere near as bad as Egypt (a complete impossibility
anyway) but there are lots more pleasant landscapes, cultures and
people north of here: in Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia and Brazil.
In the north they also speak something resembling Spanish (or Portuguese
in Brazil). Trying to communicate with the people here is like attempting
to converse with a chimpanzee with a frontal lobotomy.
After changing the diode board on the Ex and manufacturing
something to affix a car shock absorber to the old leaking one,
I finally head south out of Santiago. It was necessary to draw something
more than a diagram to explain to one chap at a service station
that I required a refund for services not rendered (I refuse to
pay for a cold shower). We had a frank exchange of opinions, I reminded
him of what it was like during the military dictatorship and he
returned me my money. The event was reminiscent of a British TV
series, set in a hotel owned by a gent named Basil in Torquay that
employed a waiter allegedly from Barcelona you know.
There are many lakes in the 'Lake District'. This
probably doesn't come as a great surprise to most of you. To me,
neither. No I am not drunk! A pleasant 10 days was had driving around,
grilling steak, drinking vino tinto and doing not much else. If
you arrived on a spaceship in this part of the world and didn't
know whether it was Chile or Argentina, all you would have to do
is look at the women: short and chunky = Chilean, slim and beautiful:
Argentinian. However, remembering the chimp comparison above and
knowing that you have to look like Che Guacamolevara and drive a
BIG car, I was pretty much at a loss with both.
One afternoon, by complete fluke, while freecamping
at a beautiful lake, two Swiss bikers, Roland and Walter, on XT600
and XTZ660, last seen in Peru, appear. We were in the middle of
pretty much nowhere, a kilometre down a dirt track leading from
a hardly used gravel road. A pleasant evening was had.
I spend 6 or 7 days heading south on the Carreterra
Austral. It is meant to be beautiful. Wouldn't know myself. It chucked
it down pretty much all the way. I have encountered more pleasant
things than getting soaked to the skin and freezing my tits off
while driving dirt and rocks and mountain passes on a motorbike.
On one day I had to pass one stretch very early, because between
9 am and 3 pm the road was closed for dynamiting. Needs must.
On another day, at a small hamlet aptly named Puerto
Tranquillo, I stop for lunch and a chap engages me in a conversation.
I find out that Prince William was there a couple of months ago
(on some sort of Op Rally thing) and !!!!!! bought a chocolate bar
at the one and only shop! Well blow me away, Royalty shops were
I was happy to head east over the next mountain
range to Argentina. Choosing the little used Cochrane to Baja Caracoles
route the Ex and I had some fun. You should try it some time: Wet
muddy limestone track on a fully loaded (read 'overloaded lardey')
bike: Do a 180 degree pirouette and end up front end in a ditch.
I wanted to give it up and take the long roundabout road instead,
when I see the only vehicle all day. The trucker says the trouble
is only this short up hill bit and suggests I drive through the
field next to the road. Good advice. Much better traction here and
he is right: It is much more solid over the rise.
The views are pretty special and the weather holds
up, although the WIND has arrived. 'Velkom to ze real Patagonia'.
The border is in the major middle of nowhere. Taking switch back
corners in deep gravel in a howling gale is not fun, but I manage
not to fall off.
Run over an armadillo
The 'ripio' (gravel) has started. Unfortunately
I run over an armadillo, a dinosaur looking like rodent. I am sorry,
but on a sweeping corner you do drift and I'm stuffed if I'm going
to swerve and fall off for a little animal. Poor fella though....
The only vehicle all day; -and only 2 relatively narrow wheels-
and he ends up under both. Maybe this caused what happened the next
In Patagonia the wind blows all the time. That is
24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It never stops. The Pampas is flat.
Although I didn't realise it at the time, this must have been the
start of the 'pain behind the eyes' land. The region has nothing.
So desolate. Nothing but scrub (sharp stuff too, that pierces the
bottom of your tent and wants to puncture your inflatable sleeping
mat), dirt and wind, as far as the eye can see: No traffic. The
main 'highway', the 'Ruta Cuarenta' has about 3 cars on it all day.
Why? Because nobody lives here. Every 150-odd km there is somewhere
to get fuel, otherwise diddlysquat. Apparently there is less than
1 person per square km in this area of thousands of km². How
the few people who survive here ever arrived is totally beyond me.
When riding in a straight line the wind seems to be ok, but there
are a few wobbles and swerves on the deeper gravel, but I never
fell off.... Probably concentrating pretty hard. After leaving Baja
Caracoles, it was getting a little cold, so I stopped to put on
my electric vest. Imagine to my surprise: The rear shock had snapped.
That is 'Bigggo Kaputtto' and causing me to utter such gems as 'Oh
pooh...' and 'Now what?'
Even being on the main Route 40 meant nothing. There
was no traffic. I lashed the whole thing together and limped on.
At the junction where the road went off 72km to the left to Gobernador
Gregores, I decided to head there. Nowhere else to go. I saw no
vehicles all the way. By the time I arrived, the car shock had lost
all its oil too.
Gob Greg is a seriously cr*p no horse town. Why
do people want to 'live' here? I doubt I would last a week. It is
'shocking', to coin a pun. Desolate, like the surroundings. Another
pun was the street sign 'Malvinas Argentinas'. I became Scottish,
met a dufus type mechanic, paid a lot of money and about 5 hours
later had a shock construction of sorts.
The following day, I barely drove 35 km, before
everything broke. The old shock had snapped into 3 pieces, the car
shock holder sheared and I am in seriously deep trouble. Und jetzt?
Jetzt ist die Kacke wirklich am dampfen! No car is going to come.
I lash my big tyre lever to the whole assembly, so the back end
is supported a little at least, and head back, very very slowly,
1st gear all the way, for 5 hours, back to Gob Greg. My mechanic
seems bemused to see me.
An executive decision is made to park the bike in
mateyboy's mate's shed, leave and hope that a friend who is arriving
in 16 days, 1200km away in Punta Arenas, can bring a new shock absorber
from Europe. I really could not face staying, waiting in Gob Greg
or dealing with DH Hell or whoever as well Argy-bargy customs.
TBS learnt how the other half lives
For 2 weeks TBS learnt how the other half lives.
He became a hitchhiker. He had to hitch. There are no buses into
or out of Gob Greg. Why should there be? I was in good spirits until
I meet friends from Quito and Cusco, Tilo and Catherine, on their
XT600 heading north up the Atlantic coast road. I had been waiting
3 hours for a lift and they, having been to Ushuaia are again heading
north. A few hours later I think I also spot Volkmar, the German
biker with whom I drove through Central America. Also north bound.
My luck does change and I meet a very pleasant couple
from Wyoming, where it was an advantage that none of us can really
speak chimp-lobotomy-Spanish. 2 days after parking the bike I am
at the 6km wide, 50 meter high, 30+km deep Perito Moreno Glacier.
The thunder and roar of tons of ice falling off the front is impressive,
even for my cynical opinionation.
A bus ride leads to Mt Fitz Roy and the cathedral-like
Cerro Torres. For much of the year these peaks are shrouded in cloud.
I am blessed with a cloudless sky. One morning I rise at 5 in order
to walk to get a view if the whole iceless face of Fitz Roy at sunrise.
The postcards show it 'sort of' glowing and shrouded in slightly
fluffy cloud. I had it in ruby red, no cloud and with a full moon
setting above it.... Yeh mannnnn, yuh know, not bad really....
The weather in Torres del Paine Park was less kind
at first. 48 hours were spent camping in a rain and snow storm.
I had already given it up, when I decided to spend just one extra
night in the park. At dawn the precipitation stopped, the clouds
began to lift and by midday I could see the huge granite pillars
after which the park is named, in their full majesty.
Within 36 hours after meeting Dan at Punta Arenas
Airport and picking up the new shock (THANKS DAN!!!! - as well as
my air ticket back to England and a chocolate Harley Davidson from
Tini...), I travel by bus and hitched the 1200km back to Gob Greg
and am affixing the offending article and repairing the damage caused
by riding with snapped shock.
A day and a half later, on 24 March (A year and
a week since arriving in Cape Town) at 7pm after 2 borders, 1 ferry
and 1100km, half of it, nasty ripio, a sign at the Argentinian border
that says 'les Malvinas son Argentinas', I drive into Ushuaia. (Since
NY NY the bike had done 46464km and about 75000km in total since
London.) It was a bit of an anticlimax. I was alone. All the other
bike travellers had been and long gone.
The setting of Ushuaia is actually quite pleasant
with its tree covered hills, mountains and fiords, particularly
in comparison to the barren nothing that is the Pampas. After a
day of chilling and drinking a bottle vino tinto costing less than
a $$$, affix Norman Mk II and I visit the National Park to take
the obligatory pictures in a multitude of poses at the Fin del Mundo/
17 something thousand km to Alaska sign.
I cannot face the drive all the way back north and
decide to 'treat' myself to a ferry ride along with the truck loads
of stinking cattle and sheep from Puerto Natales to Puerto Montt.
I will forever remember the journey because of:
a.) the kitchen staff who served
up food while dressed like characters from the Muppet Show's operating
b.) 4 men running into the port
engine room, each carrying a fire extinguisher and the ship arriving
18 hours late, with only the starboard chimney stack generating
smoke (when enquiring about this, we were fobbed off with some BS
that not even a retarded donkey would believe),
c.) further BS trying to get my
bike pannier repaired after a highly talented Chilean trucker reversed
into my bike and
d.) trying to persuade striking
(why they should stop work is beyond me; this act assumes that they
were previously gainfully occupied) fishermen in Puerto Montt that
I should be permitted to cross their picket line.
You have guessed it: I was more than pleased to
leave Puerto Montt. Not having driven all the way north and hence
not witnessing the gradual change in scenery made the contrast between
the Pampas and the pleasant rolling hills of Chiloe Island all the
more stark. I am again back in the land of the living.
Now it is time to hang out, wait for the flight,
get the bike sorted and dread returning home. It should only be
for a few months as I only have a 6 month Chilean 'Temporary Import
Permit' on the bike and the 'bike-rumour-tree' recons that if you
overstay, the pleasant, reasonable authorities arrest you. Now that
would be a laugh. I think not.
Will be in touch as and when,
CB, Norman and the Ex-Missus
PS. Two questions have been asked recently:
1. What next? Answer: see above.
2. How has your journey changed
you? Answer: Don't know. I won't spout any self gratifying psychobabble
about how I've become a better person. (I always was wonderful,
kind and loved fluffy kittens. Every man I meet thinks I am the
Messiah and all women want me to father them a multitude of babies...:-)
). It is probably easier to ask people who knew me before and have
taken the trouble to stay in touch during my absence. They will
I have met some superb people who have helped keep
the show on the road. My parents Rene and Inge have been amazingly
supportive. Without them none of this could ever have happened.
I have regained my faith in humankind and learnt that falling off
motorcycles really does hurt a lot. I can also definitely say that
riding a bike around splendid parts of the world beats working for