Starting in Buenos Aires we tried to get the bike from customs, which was against all expectations within two hours. When they realised we didn't speak any Spanish they provided us with an English speaking aid who showed us the right way through customs. Fantastic! No corruption or that kind of stuff.
An hour later we plod across Buenos Aires. And you won't believe it, but the first Western bike we come across is an Indian Enfield 500.... Owned by some Stevenson from England, so the hotel manager told us. What global bikes they are!
After that we ride further south along vast pampas (grass- en bush-terrain). Now and then we see some gaucho’s on horseback managing large groups of cows across the plains (Argentinian cow boys. Lots of birds, among which the nan-doe (kind of ostrich) and large animals like foxes and guanaco’s (kind of lama), skunks (not unknown to us) and the funny armadillo. Also now and then a farm with windmills for pumping up water. Looks a lot like the old wild west.
The tarmac changes now and again in gravel, though rough it is good to ride at 60 kmh.. the rocks reach ridiculous speeds, shot to the front between tyre and mudguard, catched again and re-bounced by the trailer and wham against our helmets or backs. Thecla as a rock catcher… ‘Ai, ai, ay! Damn….' ! We move around large rocks or over them making a wheely on the front wheel... After one of those large rocks the head of one of the cylinder head bolts was gone. Three cm s more to the right and there would have been a large hole in the sump. So in the next town we fixed a large barbecue roster below the engine.
After that we arrive in Patagonia, where we visit whales, sea lion, sea elephants and large colony of penguins. The landscape is still flat, monotonous without trees, warm and with a strong west wind. The little Enfield sounds like music in your ears. Against the wind fourth gear we can't reach fourth gear any more. Slowly the symphony of the engine is getting a little more aggressive and the pan-flute is overtake by the base guitar. Or is it the strong wind? No, now it sounds like hard rock. It must be the heat. As we stop it is clear that 3/4 litre oil has sprayed the engine breather on the mudguard and the trailer. Wow! First, let's put up the tent and have a good sleep. Probably a broken compression ring or something like that, which creates a lot of pressure in the sump. Let's see that we get to the first town or village.
After 180 km the rock music gets unbearable loud! Close up inspection shows the ring was transformed to aluminium paint. Probably the big end. That' not so good for a big begin of the journey. No point getting depressed! Acting is! On our question 'Where shall we do it?’ soon came an answer by a occasional by-passer. Owned an AJS in his youth and was going to a friend with a workshop. Yes, truly a workshop. But then of the open air type. Work floor is ‘natural elements’ (sand). The lighting system is the sun and the air-co the wind. Don't nag, there is a sign ' Workshop' on the premises. And lucky for us enough tools ad junk. So let's tear down the engine, under supervision of 6 stray cats, who sniff every bolt and mutter and check the threads. Everything is put in plastic bags against the dust clouds. In the evening the big end is out. Connecting rod seems all right. Piston rings also good. Only the floating bush and pin are a goner. A phone call to brother Peter and friend Bart from the spare parts department. There should be a floating bush and pin on the shelve at home. That was taken to the ANWB (Dutch AA) who posted it by mail. Jolly good! In the mean time we could camp at the neighbours across the road on their back yard. And a concrete floor as well. Three streets down we found someone with a lathe to fix the crankshaft. Enough shops for food, what more can you wish for.
Then we phoned for a week and a half between 'esperar' and 'mañana': wait and tomorrow. Sleeping in our bed under the sky. Wake up under a layer of dust. Getting out with a flat back of the head. Elbows, bottoms and heels like we were Pinocchio. Just before the weekend the package arrived. Quickly to Aduana, where under the surveying eyes of 4 civil servants the package was dismantled layer by layer. The seven of us stood there, anxious, waiting.... First two black soft things (huh?). What is that? That appeared to be two licorice. Then two sticks with boles on it. Yes, we recognise them... two lollies. Then the big end... jippy! Astonished came the question 'is that it?’
The next day little Enfield purred like new in the sunshine. But still puking oil. Catch it and resend it tot the tank. With a quick pace in southern direction along Route 40, all gravel and dirt-road. Through a beautiful mountain area along the Chilean border. Nature camping possibilities everywhere. Only, halfway Patagonia the weather changed en turned the road in a slough. Slip, slip and the wheels keep jamming because of the mud and clay inside the mudguard. Wrestling to get it to a pool of water, to get them turning again. Therefore it was better to ride through water pools all the way, to keep the wheels spinning. We are sopping as we are. We should manage to the next petrol station. But, after a smart move to ride along the good looking part just next of the road, we manage to sink to engine level in the mud. Not going forwards or backwards. Ouch! Well then, put the tent up and see next morning. Spontaneously we got African visions. The only difference that in Africa there was always someone coming to our aid out of the bush. Here only a few sheep stood looking dumb at us. Like ‘what a hell of a weather, isn't it? Bèh! Bèh’! Yes, yes, but after half an hour some Argentinians with a 4 wheel drive came along. Cable, un dos tres and the Enfield was free again. And how strange it sounds, after one day wind and sunshine the road is again reasonable to ride. Although the trailer wheels shits large cow-dungs of clay on our backs and our helmets. That's something different from rocks. An hour later there is so much clay on the bike that the remaining 4 cm suspension is reduced to 2 cm, plus the mudguards have a coating of 1 cm clay. Every hole in the road the rear wheel locks. I catapult forward with my chin on the headstock. Thecla slides over my back. And when I get up, Thecla seems to sit in front of me. We exchange position like this regularly. Just kidding!
Arriving in the South, we let little Enfield have a rest and go hiking the beautiful nature reserves Glaciares, Perito Moreno, Fitzroy and Torres del Paine. In between we phone Bart to have him send some piston rings to Punta Arena, Chile. Because the breather looks more and more like a drain. There we'll take the ferry to Tiera el Fuego (Fire-land). Looks more like Tiera del ‘backs’.
Now the clutch has blown on two places, the rear wheel bearings are gone, the trailer wheel bearings rotten, luggage rack broken, so crackling and coughing with a queer line we arrive in Ushuaia. Here the road stops at the Beagle Channel, where Charles Darwin's evolution theory was formed about natural selection. British motorcycles died here one after the other. Not standing the road, wind and rain and other local diseases. Enfield had a kind of resistance build up, and could stand the horrific situation, although we had to flats before leaving the island. There was a 10 cm tear in the canvas of the tyre. Luckily we had 1 spare tyre. And some 110 km further the rear chain broke. destroying the closed in chain guard in the process. Get the hell off this island. Of course the boat had already departed, so we had to take refuge in a for bed sheep shed. Tent is not possible due to the ever blowing wind. One of the sheep protested bleating we stank, I think.
In Ushuara we came across the other Enfield rider. It was Greg Stevens, riding from Alaska to fire-land, from mid summer night on the northern hemisphere tot mid summer night on the southern hemisphere. Hefty peace of riding! And that while raising funds for Cancer Research Centre. Himself a cancer patient, lymphocyte leukaemia. He rode 37000 km across these continents. And he also had two times a run off big-end. To bad, we didn't get a chance to talk to him in Buenos Aires. When mounting the newly received piston is shows to cracks in the piston head. Damn, it has been to hot, then. Phone call to Brother Johan, who phoned Sander and he to England, who supposed to have a piston of this size. We shopped everywhere in Punta Arenas. Only a Toyota piston cam close. But we are going to try to get 2000 km north to let them post the piston to Puerto Month. Let's hope he will make it. The E-team has grown with my brother Johan ans he let us know that the ANWB would post the new piston to Puerto Month, 1000 km to the North. Well, now we had to choose between the monotonous pampas of Argentina on tarmac, or the beautiful Carratera Austral of Chile which is a 1000 km dirt road. Still we choose the latter, once in a while there will ride a truck, so, when the piston gives up we can go with such a truck.
The Carratera Austral runs across a beautiful area of lakes, rough mountains, jungle and some picturesque village. Only, it already went wrong at the first pass.... very rough road and half way up Thecla had to get off and walk the rest of the way. Large clouds of smoke from the breather, up we went, hacking and puffing. Engine breathing expanded with a third bottle, plus some infusion tubes (good that there's a nurse around). At the next passes Thecla dismounts at the bottom and starts her stage upwards. I cool the little Enfield down at a river with wet towels and when the fever is down a bit, I plod up the mountain. At the top we reunite an rattle on. Take your time and you'll get everywhere!
When we arrive in Puerto Month it appears that the ANWB had sent the piston to Santiago… well then, another 1000 km north, but now with tarmac under the rubber. We visit a volcanic lake-district Osorno and Villarica and ride through a wine, vegetable and fruit area. Camping is very good in the wild or at a farm. It's amazing but we reach Santiago, and yes, there was a sparkling new piston waiting for us at the customs (+ new rear tyre). We had to pay a box with money to get him on this side of the counter. De computer was kaput and they asked for strange astronomical amounts.
With the piston came a new rear tyre because 19” was not available over here and the ANWB posted this for free. Close inspection showed that there were all bits of tyre inside the tyre, but a note explained: it were licorice again (joke of Peter and Sam). Hop into Santiago in search for the cheapest place to sleep… at aunty Martha's. The bike could go in the hallway, but not the trailer, so we tied it to a tree. Martha is a 65 plus lady who lives together with her Alzheimer mother in this house where we get a room. Her hobby is nagging and every day she thinks of more things we or her mother do to nag about. Her demented mother complains every half hour that her daughter is crazy and we couldn't agree more with her.
Hoppa, little Enfield opened up on the pave-walk and 'ouch', the cracks in the piston made friends and and the piston was nearly partitioned. Well, you need a bit of luck. And again, what is fantastic about it, there are lots of little workshops next to each other. Butcher, dressmaker, car demolisher, baker, turner, shoemaker, welder, grocer, gardener and also a honing shop. Every one of them in a 3 x 5 meter room. Honing the cylinder, piston a bit sawn in for the expansion and everything fits perfectly. Put together and plodding to Santiago. Yes, all the 18 HP are on board again!
We proceed the journey north along the beautiful coastal dessert, where swimming and camping are not possible due to the enormous smell or rotting. The natural phenomenon El Niño which warms the Pacific Ocean once every 5 years by reasons unknown and all fish are gone which results in millions of dead see-birds and animals. Cormorants, pelicans, penguins, sea lions and the lot.
After the coast we go south into the Aracaman desert. A moon-like landscape with vulcans, geysers, hot water wells, salt plains and soda lakes. Everything closely around the nice village of San Pedero. Further again to the Argentinian border where we will visit another two lakes. Miscantie and Miniques at 4500 m height. That will be a nice labour, because the higher you get the less oxygen there is and performance will drop. You ride with with 4 soft tyres not to feel every rock on the road ramming your molars to pieces. At 4500 m Thecla has to descent and walk the 500 m to the 4700 m high pass and so do I, and run along. Every 50 m we stop, in search of oxygen (which isn't there). After 5 minutes puffing for air we walk another 50 m, until you see green and yellow before your eyes with small stars and feeling high … ‘What are we doing?’ a high, far away voice asked. But eventually on top the answer comes soon. A round view over a lot of 6000 m high volcanoes. With azure blue lakes in a desolate landscape, another reason to get ‘high’. Here we should stay a couple of days. Going up is tiring, but going down is scaring. Right hand front fork leg is leaking and empty, so ducks over one shoulder. With the Koni on the left hand rear also leaking, tyres on half the pressure and de standard oval Enfield front drum brake you waddle like a duck through the rocks down.
Hoppa, North again to Chiquemata, where we visit the worlds largest copper-mine (700 m deep). Very impressive. Deep down you see Dinky Toys crawling, and on our level they become monster trucks at 6 meter height and wheels of 3 meter diameter. Out of the desert along the coast to the north to Arica where we plod in one day from see level to the Lauca National Park at 4700 m, and just like that on tarmac, so little problems there in first gear an a bit of patience. After the Lauca N.P. we enter Bolivia and visit the Sajama N.P. Here also magnificent volcanoes, hundreds of lamas and a bit of culture at last. And where we can take a small hotel now and then (everything cheap as paradise). At the first town, Oruro, we take a hotel with a parking lot and put the bike in a corner.
The next morning when Thecla wants to get something out of the trailer it is submerged in sand. A few cubic meters at least. ‘Ah, yes, the trucker didn't see your bike’ the hotel manager told us. Can happen, if tomorrow morning the sand is gone. After three days only one bucket of sand was gone and the thread of not paying our hotel room didn't work, so we had to dig our bike out ourselves. Well, two nights free of charge. From Oruro we rattled to the south to Uyuni across the Alli Plano (a plain about three times Holland at around a height of 3800 m). Now we know what those stroked lines mean on the map an why distances are not in km but in hours. Ditch in, ditch out. With about 10 cm dust and a tyre that screeches into the mudguard, due to the shortened rear chain. But is is also beautiful to see the fabulous Salar de Uyuni. A salt lake as large as the Netherlands at a height of 3800 m. With 80 kmh we plod on this endless white (it looks and sounds like snow, but the grip is perfect).
Very surrealistic is the island hovering in the middle. Grown with 6 m high cacti. Of course we had to camp one night on the salt plains. In the morning cooking an egg, throw it on the floor and eat it salted. From Uyuni we went to old colonial towns Potosie and Sucre. Then to Santa Crus, again a battle for little Enfield. Stone, rocks, deep dust and sand. Up and down again. And a lot of walking for Thecla. After this there was a lot of oil from the breather again and the engine behaved lousy. After inspection the cause was found, an oxidised ignition cable at the coil.
In Santa Cruz we saw that the Brazilian Pantanal nature reserve was not far and there was a train connection to the border. And because Bolivians take everything with them in the train we took the Enfield. It had to be weight first and discovered that the total weight of the Enfield us included was over 500 kilogram! A lot for only 18 horses. But should do.
At Carumba across the border and we did a three days tour through the Pantanal N.P.. The Pantanal is under water most of the rain season and during dry periods there appear sumps and pools with a bit of jungle in between. The left behind fish attracts lots of animals, like storks, jaboris, kingfishers, water-deer, water-pigs, giant otters, capibara, toucans, rhea, ara, alligators, nose-bears, monkeys, piranhas and even some prehistoric giant ant eaters. A really fabulous area, about three times the size of the Netherlands. It was here that we saw that the Faz de Iguazo waterfalls were not far away. Only just another 1000 km south of the Argentinian border. We're just not getting north. But the roads are good here in Brazil and reasonable flat. We can use 4th gear again. Brazil looks very relaxed, sensual, swinging and friendly. People seem very interested and social. The like to have a chat. The only thing is that it is expensive over here, which forces us to cook our own meals and camp in the wild. Which is al right in the jungle, at a farm or gas station.
We took a look a the waterfalls from the Argentinian side, where more jungle is. And beautiful butterflies and cheeky nose bears, who are by the way smaller then 60 cm, but they climb on the Enfield to steel the candy from the tank-bag. Banditos! Close by are the Stapu damms with one of the worlds largest energy plants which supplies enough energy for the whole of Holland. 18 Turbines stand roaring. We proceed our journey north along cotton-fields, sugar-cane, coffee, fruit and even rubber plantations (of Michelin), funny, ay?
After Cuiaba we visit the northern part of the Pantanal now cosy on the little Enfield, another adventure on its own. They constructed a dike with a length of 150 km through the swamp, but with a dead end. Every other km a bridge. Of the loosely put together type, of which a third was in a despicable state, forcing us to reconstruct the bridge an even then the rear wheel or the trailer slides between the planks. Thecla is walking most of the bridges and functions as a third trailer wheel. Every bridge has a beautiful view over the area because of the lack of trees and bushes. And to make things even more exciting it there is an abundance of alligators. When you arrive plopping they stare at you in amazement. Sometimes they lie in our path and it looks like Daktari. Birds flare up screaming, Capibaras splashing in the water, Alligators shooting away and down below the smiling Piranha’s. After about a hundred of those bridges it became a bit to much and we decided to camp at a farm en perhaps proceed tomorrow without the trailer. Finally we had to come back again.
Next day off again. Why? The further you go, the more animals there are and we haven't seen enough of them. At the good bridges Thecla keeps on the bike. At the bad ones she gets off. And of course it has to go wrong (you think afterwards). At the 5th bridge Thecla says ‘I rather get off the bike’. We stop, I stand on my left leg to let Thecla get down and .... crack! says the beam under my foot. Down we go the three of us. For a bit we saw ourselves falling in the water, but we keep hanging on one leg. The engine screams to maximum revs. Alligators shoot away, the tank-bag spit some old spark-plugs and sunglasses into the water (a hearty meal for the Piranha’s). White and uneasy on the legs we put the Enfield on its tyres, all together everything went not to bad. Thecla was just getting better after a week with an inflammation of the eye, but was down depressed again…. This was a bridge to far!
We decide only to trust our own legs for the time being. From Cuiaba we take the BR 364 to Porto Velho. The way is mostly through the rain forest with now and then a small farm. From Porto Velho we take a stretch of the Trans Amazonica to Guajara Mirin. A cosy town where transportation is about 80% lightweight motorcycles of mopeds. At night it is a pleasure to sit at the plaza with a cool drink and look at the mass of parading, snoring motorcycles. Here we look for a freighter to Trinidad, some 600 km south in Bolivia across the river Mamoré (a parent of the Amazone). This became the Maria Isabel a push boat with three pontoons loaded with empty Coca Cola crates. About 6 days sailing through the rain forest. The Enfield located between the crates and ourself on a few beams in the middle of around 30 Bolivian passengers on the front deck. And it was incredible, such a broad river, but after five minutes we had a collision with a piroque with 3 people on board. We could pull two on board, but the third was clamped between the two boats. Horrific. But after a while he was saved and not hurt to bad. After this it became more relaxed, the passing rain forest, screaming and nosy monkeys, birds, alligators, capibaras, turtles and regularly pink river dolphins. One of the passengers brought an antenna, another a small TV. Everything is put together and together we watch the opening game Brazil - Scotland of the World Cup Soccer.
Everybody is focussed on football... and the next day it results in a game.... when we more at a village to load and unload goods there is a field, and crew and passengers go on land for a one hour game of soccer against the villagers. After the game all go on board and we sail along, champion! Three days later we remove for all certainty the cylinder to check the piston for cracks (the oil puking is caused by something). But all looked well, only the two compression rings were exchanged by two old ones Bart had send us.
In Trinidad you think that's it, but then the Enfield has to get to shore. Caused by low water the pontoon couldn't get close to the shore, we got there by the piroque and the captain will think of something. From our place on the shore we see seven of the crew lowering the Enfield in the middle of the river of the pontoon into the 60 cm wide piroque one meter lower and all seven sitting on the Enfield rowing to the shore. Bugger! All goes well, just. Yes, and then? In Trinidad you're in the middle of the Bolivian rain forest. And because only 4% of the total road-net had tarmac it means that the other 96% is in such an awful spooled away state, that people tend to ride next to the road, if there is room for it. Over here, in the rain forest it has not. A truck is stuck in the mud. To get around they chop some trees and bushes and try that way to get around the truck. Causing another pool where cars get stuck. Then it rains and all traffic halts. People from a neighbour village see business and try to sell food and other stuff. And soon it all looks like a cosy market. With the little Enfield it's always possible to find a track somewhere. We unhook the trailer and rattle between, mud, cars and trees.
Because there is no traffic any more animals are using the track as a tanning-bed. Cows, horses, donkeys, snakes, pigs, alligators. Sometimes an emergency brake because some pigs wont move, 'what the hell are you doing in the middle of the road' ' road? this isn't a road, just a nice muddy pool….gnmpft!’ And, don't go into a discussion with a pig, because you'll loose the debate. Then there are lots of rivers to go through... with a pontoon or a canoe to the other side. There isn't any cay because there is no point when the river differs 15 m in height between rain and dry season. Well now, in the dry season it's like slay riding, trailer unhooked, 15 m lower 4 pontoons... Enfield on its panniers, sliding down with three people. Plop, on the pontoon and wrestling to get up again on the other side. Of course there is a small market with cool drinks in front.
For the rest of the time we plod quietly from village to village where everything is cool and friendly. Indians are always in for a party and it happens all the time. Cause is often a Christian saint or something like that, which people use to get to dance, drink, eat coca leaves and with enthusiasm and no shame. But in the end its purpose is to get Pacha Mama (mother earth) in a good mood. For harvest, health, fertility, no earthquakes or land slides and so fort. Virtually Pacha Mama is most important.
What we are beginning to see is that she displays a genuine powerful spectacle in the rain forest. Only touched by a track and now and again a small patch. Riding along she sprinkles you with mud and dust, so to colour you like the earth you ride on, then she opens her muddy mouth to hold both wheels and you get stuck But the three of us wrestle ourselves free, and again she tries to throw buckets of dust into the air-filter to slow down breathing and speed. So clean up. But then she will give you vibrating bumps to loosen all bolts and to get back to earth all parts. So double the nuts, place strings, wires etc.. But her strength is so overpowering that she'll get parts to crack and pull us down to earth. So welding, more bolts, nuts and rest. At night we park the Enfield close by the tent. Unnoticed all kinds of liana, climbers, runners and strangle vines try to get to this somewhat clear piece of forest. When we get up in the morning it already is partly united with the greenery. Some places, richly muddied, show small germinating seeds and we have to pull hard to free the Enfield from her hands, then a quick start and go, ‘ouch’, cry the liana around the exhaust and... gone! Wow, that was close! In the middle of the day she provides such a steamy, sticky, hot weather that we have to stop and cool our heads, where oil drips off. With strange noises and animals Pacha Mama distract our attention not to see the large hole in the road and hoopla, there we are again, lying in mother earth's lap. Quickly away from this hole of unknown honesty and power, to La Paz, but before we arrive there she takes care of an unsympathetic height of 4700 m and withdraws all oxygen and forces us to push. Ouch!
At last, the alti plano, but now we know that we will pull the shortest straw and she'll get all her base material back us includo. In La Paz we help the Enfield to revalidate, welding, better the construction and supply the trailer with a piece of hard wood. Oh yes sorry… we are against chopping the rain forest, but it seemed that the trailer had the same insatiable mouth as Pacha Mama, which later turned out to be a 50 cm tear in the bottom spoiling our things.
Another wrestle to get to the worlds highest capital at 3800 m. Because here is the alti plano still at a 4100 m. Picture of Bienvenido La Paz (welcome), which was confirmed by two dogs biting us in the legs. We proceeded our run along lake Titicaca where we visited some islands. We do some hiking in the Andes.
Via the Bolivian Copacabana we enter Peru, from Puno to Cusco where we visit a few Inca ruins, of which the fabulously beautiful situated Machu Picchu. Back to Puno from where we plod west across the alti plano and for the first time reach 4700 m without having to push and walk. The little Enfield runs champion an puking oil is over after the replacing of the piston rings. During the day about 35 degrees Celsius, at night around minus 21 C. It doesn't bother him. Ram that piston and go.
Along beautiful salt lakes we arrive in the volcano area at Arequipa, which is dominated by the perfect coned Misti volcano. We visit Colca Canyon with its nauseating depth of 3200 m, where normally you can view condors at all times. The first hour we only saw hummingbirds. Fascinated by these little birds we started to see a condor sailing by at a distance of 15 m with a wingspan of 2,5 to 3 m. Fantastic! Completely impressed walking along the canyon we get a free acupuncture treatment, 'cause a cactus concealed its prickly arms in a nice soft bush, ‘tshuckk~’ in the legs!. We just discussed the that they were nice long tooth picks. Now we have some broken tooth picks in our legs (which results in strange swollen knees), we change to double driving.... I manage the brakes and Thecla changes gears, should work. Well that's it for now. The plan is to plod north along the coast to Ecuador. Little Enfield was completing the clock (another 100000 kms) in South-Peru for the third time.
Across the continent of South America