Friday, March 25, 2011

Until Next Time...

Well, that's about it. We, and the bikes, made it home from Santiago without incident and with no surprises. We landed in Vancouver on Sunday morning and headed straight to Air Canada Cargo. The bikes were there and the guys there were really good but warned us that Canada Customs may not be available to clear the bikes until Monday. That wasn't great news but we headed back to Canada Customs at the main terminal hoping for the best. We lucked out because one of the girls in the office that day usually works in the commercial section that was closed on the weekends. She cleared us no problem and we headed back to get the bikes. For anyone following this story for the bike shipping info, it cost us another $100 dollars to Air Canada for handling the shipment. It was another reason to ship both bikes as one shipment. Shipped on seperate waybills it would have been $100 each.
We put the bits and pieces back on the bikes and inflated the tires. Then Neil and I shook hands and thanked each other for the ride. (Yes, I made sure I thanked him for helping me pick up my bike numerous times.) Then we went our seperate ways.
All packed up and ready to leave Air Canada Cargo in Vancouver.
Back in the Bike Cave a little worse for wear after 26,000 km but still worthy.
So, yeah, that was a damn good ride. Thanks for following along.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Goodbye Motos

We ended up picking a good location to hang out in Santiago de Chile. We were very close to downtown in Barrio Paris Londres. It turned out to be very inexpensive compared to other parts of the city. Probably half price for food and drinks here. That's good because it took a few days of internet searching to find someone to get our bikes home. I figured it would be cheaper to have them go home on a boat but it was difficult finding somebody to forward them and those that would were getting too expensive. We eventually found E-Plus Cargo here at the Santiago airport who would forward the bikes to Air Canada for shipping to Vancouver. We went out to the airport on Wednesday to meet the people at E-Plus and get a feel for the company so we would be comfortable letting our babies go with them. All was good so we returned to the airport Thursday morning and spent pretty much all day getting the bikes ready and all the paperwork done. All the people at E-Plus were great as well as the cargo handlers at the airport. It ended up being a little less than US$2300 per bike to get them home. Not too bad I guess considering how far it is and the preparation involved.
Parking spot inside the hostel. They were very accommodating.

The street outside the hostel. Very quiet and relaxed around here.

Our home for 6 nights in Santiago

Starting the export process at Aduana (Customs) at the airport in Santiago

Stripping the bikes down to make them smaller. Windshields, mirrors and panniers all had to come off and be packed in tight around the bike on a pallet. We were being charged for volume so every centimeter counted. We also had to drain fuel (had to siphon it out the top of the tank, yuk), disconnect our batteries and let all the air out of our tires.

The cargo handlers did a nice job of securing....

...both of our bikes to their pallets.

A little bit of shrink wrap to keep fingers out.

In the warehouse and ready to go.

Making the final payment. About $2,300,000 in Chilean Pesos
 After making the payment we headed back to town on the bus and Metro system. They have an awesome transit system here. By the time we got home it was time for a late dinner

The MetroRed in Santiago
I had to put this in because I think Chile has a cool flag.
On Friday, after getting tickets to get our sorry butts home, we spent the day being tourists. We used the Metro again to get across town to the bottom of Cerro San Cristobal. Its a small mountain in a big park right in the city. We took the tram up and saw the zoo and then up to the Santuario del Cerro San Cristobal. It's a giant monument on top of the hill overlooking the city.
Close to downtown Santiago

The tram up Cerro San Cristobal, built in 1923 I think.

At the Zoo. They seem quite social. Anyways...

Even the real ones look fake.

It was a pretty nice zoo as far as zoos go. There were lots of trees and the hillside setting made it interesting for walking around as there was always a different view of the city.

I thought this was kind of funny. The Evolution of Mankind.

View of the city from the zoo.

Santuario del Cerro San Cristobal

Looking west from the Santuario

And looking east across the city towards the mountains.

There is a lot of green space in the city

A little bit of street entertainment

One of the many moto parking lots downtown

3000 pesos for two 750 ml bottles of very good wine. That's about 6 bucks US.

Neils' guide book. It served us well but it's done.
So, here we are on Saturday the 19th of March and we're all set to get on our plane back to Vancouver tonight. It will be nice to see the family again but I'm not really ready to go home. It felt really good to be on the bike when we rode to the airport for the last time the other day. I could have just kept on going; still not sick of it after almost 26,000 kilometers.
Somebody made the comment that we made it to our final destination without too much drama. That's true. There were a few trying or exciting times but all in all it went pretty good. We had very few hassles with people or the police. It pays to be polite and treat people with respect.
We were also having a good laugh about readjusting to riding at home. There's a few things we can't do at home that we have gotten used to here. For example:

Passing even when there is oncoming traffic as long as it looks like there is room for the other guy to move over. They almost always do.
Passing the police doing well over the speed limit and on a double solid line. Well, they did it first so...
When stuck behind a slow moving semi-trailer truck climbing a hill, passing on the inside of the curve at a switchback.
Lane splitting at traffic lights until there is no road left. Sometimes five or six lined up on a two lane road.
Going where ever you want as long as nobody with a gun tries to stop you. Even then there could be exceptions.
Always go to the front of the line-up.
We didn't do it but the limit seems to be about five people to a bike.
I could go on.

I'll let you all know how things end up in Vancouver. Hopefully the bikes get there safely. Well, us too but we can take care of ourselves.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Santiago de Chile

Okay, I guess it could happen. One of the Navimag ferries running from Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales did run aground in the middle of the night a few weeks ago. It did manage to make it into port to off load the passengers but not without some difficulties as they had to do it under Coast Guard escort and with only one engine. It was a rude awakening for the poor passengers as they had to assemble at their muster stations in case the abandon ship order was given. Fun at 3:00 am.
We were at the dock to watch the ferry land around 1:00 pm and it took until about 8 pm or a bit later for them to unload. We loaded at 9 pm and got settled into our rooms. The loading was interesting as we all got on this large open sided elevator to get to our deck. Foot passengers and motorcyclists at the same time. There were about 80 passengers total and about two thirds or three quarters of us were foreign travelers. The rest were Chileans. The ferry is a lifeline for the remote communities and all kinds of cargo gets carried including cattle and sheep and horses. It's a working boat.
This is the Puerto Eden of the Navimag Ferries. The other vessel that shares this run was still in dry dock for repairs after running aground.
At the dock unloading in Puerto Natales. Access to the upper deck is by a large elevator. You can see the semi-trailer trucks on the upper deck here. Try to get a feel for how big this boat is. I have a comment later about it.
While we waited in Pto. Natales we watched this boat being returned to the water. They're just hitching the beaching gear to this truck. The bow and stern rig are attached together with ropes only.
Even the locals stop to watch. There is a diver standing in the water near the bow of this boat. He was attaching the beaching gear to this boat beside the boat ramp.
Carefully backing into the water.
Almost done. They just have to remove the ropes as the boat comes afloat.
All done; with the truck dragging the beaching gear ashore.
This was us crammed onto the elevator to take us to the upper car deck of the ferry. There are no sides or safety fences and the lift mechanisms are mostly exposed. Watch your toes and fingers!
He looks impressed. Four of us in this room was cozy.
We slept (or tried to sleep) while the ferry workers loaded the rest of the vehicles. This took most of the night and we were finally underway about 6 am. Breakfast was set for 8 am to be followed by a safety briefing. It started out as a nice day but the weather deteriorated quickly to nasty winds blowing between 60 and 70 knots. It was windy enough that the Captain would not permit passengers on the outside decks.
Dawn on the morning of departure from Puerto Natales
I think this was our narrowest pass at 80 meters wide
The cargo of a working ship. Lots of cattle and sheep. One of the regular passengers was on the ship last year in very rough seas when three cows were washed overboard from a truck like one of  these. That's right.
Nasty weather ahead but it looked nice from here.
Great scenery
More Patagonia icefields
Very nasty outside with winds around 70 knots
Getting our safety briefing. We were a captive audience. Literally; as were weren't allowed outside.
Everything with wheels on it was securely strapped to the deck and some of the semi-trailers on the top deck were strapped to keep from tipping over.
Still quite windy but probably down to 40 knots or so.
It was fun and interesting to meet and chat with other travelers. There were lots of backpackers and a few cyclists. There were people from Australia, The U.S., The U.K., New Zealand, Russia, Switzerland, France, and of course Canada. Some had been traveling for years and others were just starting long trips around the world. I had to admire the cyclists who had already traveled most of South America. Pedaling a loaded bicycle across those mountain passes and the pampas in those winds would be a test of your mettle.
The ships crew does their best to keep everyone entertained with daily briefings in Spanish and English as well as bilingual talks by naturalists who informed us of the different types of flora and fauna in this area of Patagonia.
The food was basic but good quality and they even catered to people with special dietary needs. And there was a cash bar.
The weather improved enough late on the first day so we could take a little side trip to see a glacier. I can't remember the name of it though.
A dusting of fresh snow reminded us that the seasons are changing
This is the small coastal town of Puerto Eden that our ship is named after. We stopped here to pick up and offload some passengers and cargo on the morning of our second day.
This ship has been stuck on a rock here since 1963. It was carrying a load of sugar from Buenos Aires to Valapraiso, Chile. The captain sold the cargo illegally in Uruguay and hoped to scuttle the ship here to collect the insurance. What a boob. The wreck is now a navigation aid we're told.
We even got tours of the bridge when they weren't too busy up there.
During the second day the passengers were being mentally prepared for the open ocean portion of our voyage. We were told that seas are normally 4 to 5 meters but we could expect higher due to the weather. They will cross in 9 meter seas but they have had to wait in sheltered waters as long as 2 days.
That evening around 6 pm we hit the open water and it got fairly rough. Some people were sick within half an hour. It makes it more difficult to concentrate on not getting sick when you can smell someone else's vomit. Both Neil and I survived with no ill effects and I even managed to have a few beers with Pete from the UK. There was a poor showing at dinner though.
I had never been on a ship in a rough sea like that. Going to bed was interesting as at times I felt almost weightless in my bunk. Fortunately I was just the right length for the bunk and my head and feet kept me braced from sliding around too much. When we changed course into a following sea the ride got a lot better. In the morning, in calm seas, we were told that the seas during the crossing of Bahia Penas had been about 7 to 8 meters. There was a full turnout for breakfast.
The third day was uneventful and we had nice weather and calm seas. We did get word from the captain though about the devastating earthquake in Japan. There wasn't a lot of information but we were told of the tsunami warning. We would be in sheltered waters when the tsunami was forecast to hit the Chilean coast so there was no worry for us.
We even had a little party for our last night on board. These were some of our new friends.
A little more festive than the previous night. Thankfully.
We awoke on the fourth day (Saturday, March 11) in the harbour at Puerto Montt. We weren't permitted to dock until the tsunami threat had passed and spent the morning loitering in water deeper than 100 meters. I think we were unloaded by around 11 am.
Near the loading dock in Puerto Montt
Puerto Montt
The unloading process and a last wave goodbye.
Looking down through the elevator to the lower vehicle deck

We then got on the Pan American Highway Ruta 5 and headed for Los Angeles to spend the night. We were headed for Santiago by the most direct route as we weren't sure how long the seal on my final drive was going to last. Hopefully it would last for the 1200 or so kilometers we needed. We hadn't done much riding on the Pan American and while it was nice it was a little boring. Two lanes in each direction bypassed most of the towns enroute but did pass through lots of farmland and managed forests. There was lots going on here and it appeared quite prosperous. On Sunday we passed through more of the same and we rolled into Santiago fairly early and were in a hostel by 5 pm.
Now we're on the hunt for a ride home for the bikes. Santiago is a good place to hang out though and it's not too expensive. Last night dinner with 2 beers and a bottle and a half of wine worked out to about US$33. Our hostel with beakfast is US$60 a night. Not bad.
So, we are nearing the end of our trip. There will be a few more posts to wind it up but that's all for now.
Talk to you in a few.