Santiago and the start of the final leg of the Trans AM

Another couple of weeks have passed and it’s been a busy old time for the GlobeBusters crew.

Following the afternoon’s singing practice in Cafayate we continued south, through more beautiful scenery towards our rendezvous with the Chilean police for the ride-in to Santiago. Before then, though, we had a night in the ski resort of Uspallata where the problems with the F800GS I mentioned in my last post came to a head. Now I should explain that this bike is exactly the same model as mine – a 2009 grey one – only it has done some 12,000 miles less. But. It’s not been very well looked after to say the least, and when it joined the trip in Tucson it was evident that it hadn’t been serviced since it completed a trip in Africa the summer before. It even had the same tyres fitted. During this trip it has caused numerous problems, and Boonie the van-man has spent a good few days trying desperately to get it into some form of shape. But the neglect and the massively over-loaded wiring system proved too much and it failed to start once arriving in Uspallata and so was put in the van for the last day into Santiago. Here all the bikes were sent to BMW for a service, where the mechanic managed to get the bike started only to immediately switch it off due to the horrendous noise from the engine, declaring it officially dead. So the rider has now hired an F800GS from Sonia at Motoaventura and we’ve shipped the dead one home…

Santiago is a lovely city, but we didn’t get to see much of it, what with 3 (now 4) bikes to ship home, 6 new people arriving and 5 bikes to clear through customs. We arrived Monday, got the bikes to BMW and 2 to Motoaventura for new tyres, then on Tuesday managed to clear 3 bikes into the country (the riders needing to be present to sign their permits). Wednesday we took the dead bike to the freight point and drained the fuel from the others and disconnected their batteries (something we were only told about after we’d dropped them off!), then Customs went on strike for 2 days meaning we couldn’t get the other 2 bikes out until Friday. Thursday was another day of rushing here and there, sorting out bikes and also trying to get my haircut and riding suit repaired as the zip broke and my trousers split! On Friday we managed to get the remaining 2 bikes out (after just 6 hours at customs) and so were all set to leave again on Saturday.

Saturday’s ride was straightforward, a 300-mile run down the main pan-am south, and on arrviing at Salta de Laja I had the job of changing all 4 tyres on the GlobeBusters bikes for knobblies – under the supervision of Kevin and Boonie, who sat on the step outside our room drinking red wine and taking the mickey of my feeble efforts. But I succeeded, and despite a few marks on the rims (unavoidable as we don’t have any rim protectors).

Then on Sunday we hit the dirt roads up into the hills again. And that’s when the trip started to go a tad pear-shaped for some. First, one of the riders crashed in the loose gravel, severely damaging the R1150GS by bending the handlebars and smashing the clutch lever assembly and switchgear. After putting the bike in the van I continued to the lunch stop to discover several other riders had also had spills but with nothing more serious than a broken screen. After lunch I rode with one of the new guys who wanted to improve his confidence on the dirt, and then we ended up on a detour due to a road layout change. This was no ordinary detour, though, as we first rode up a hill that turned into a lava field and I got my bike stuck as the rear wheel sank up to the axle, then we rode through the national park on a narrow and quite technical trail. It was gone 8pm by the time we rolled up to the hotel, but he’d enjoyed the ride and the scenery was simply stunning (see my photostream for a few pictures).

Monday was also a challenging day, with some beautiful riding on more dirt roads by lakes, and we had another rider go down only this time he didn’t get away with it as he snapped his cruciate ligaments and so had to be repatriated from Bariloche. He wasn’t in any pain, thankfully, and it could have been much worse given the nature of the spill. So on our “day off” in Bariloche we had plenty to do, chasing paperwork to repatriate his bike and trying to repair the 1150. Unfortunately when our local mechanic contact came to look at it so we could sort out spare parts, he explained that the hydraulic clutch hose attaches to the back of the engine and to get to it requires stripping the entire rear of the bike down, a 2-day job in a workshop. So that bike is unrepairable, meaning we had to send both of them to Buenos Aires via truck before they get shipped back when we arrive. Sadly the rider of the 1150, who is completely uninjured couldn’t get a hire bike as they are all booked and so is now going to travel south by plane and bus, meeting up with the group next in El Calafate.

It also appears that the guy who dropped his bike and broke his screen has cracked a bone in his foot but is able to continue, opting to ride in the van on the days we have a lot of dirt riding to do in order to avoid further risk of injury.

When I started typing this we were in Bariloche and since then we’ve had 2 more days of riding on mixed roads, the first of which passed without incident. Today another rider has gone down, fortunately without injury or terminal damage to the bike – just another broken screen! So we’ve some more work to do when Boonie gets here with the van…

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