Chapter 19
Chile, Argentina
Norman Reincarnated at the End of the World

Norman Reincarnated at the End of the World

Dangerous Goods

Hi Team,
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 it!


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....

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Good red wine


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.

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Royalty shops were TheBrightStuff shops

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 TheBrightStuff shops.


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 day...

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?'

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Bigggo Kaputtto

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.

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Characters from the Muppet Show


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 theatre sketch,

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,

Hang loose,
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 know.

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 a living.

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