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Day 28 - Worlds End and The End.

We are at the Southern most tip of the world here in Ushuaia for the longest day. December 21st. Except for a few poor souls on Antartica we will enjoy the longest day of anyone in the world.

We had a gentle ride out to Worlds End this morning just south of Ushuaia. We looked out over the Beagle Channel, aptly named given we are Galapagos bound and of course this was Darwin’s boat, at endless islands and snow speckled mountain tops. There was not a vestige of human impact to be seen. This was simply raw nature as it has always been. Marvellous to see. It was impressive.

We soaked it up. We celebrated having enjoyed each other’s company for many weeks. We thanked our lucky stars that we had all arrived safely. And we got our passports stamped with a tacky penguin stamp.

We even managed a final altercation with authority which had taken exception to our drone footage arriving at our final destination.

We covered 7000kms on 19 bikes crossing the border between Chile and Argentina five times. We had 6 accidents and 3 injuries but all minor. Sam made 49 bike repairs but again all manageable.

This trip has been the equal of Africa 100 and 200. The scenery has been utterly breathtaking. Some of the riding has been just as challenging. The climb to 5000m on a day we covered 300km off road was very much up there. As was the ride into the dust storm and howling vortex. The people we have met have been charming. We have crossed deserts, rain forests and snowy mountain ranges. In the main we have had marvellous weather. The bikes have been miraculously reliable. And we have had a wonderful mix of hotels including a working farm and an abbatoire.

The best though was the company. Never a cross word and much laughter and banter.

A great trip. And a bucket full of memories.

Goodbye and Merry Christmas to you all.


Notes from Team - Terugblik - Reflections from Clogs.

We just finished our adventure, time for some reflections .

I am assuming you all read Jim’s daily blog so I won’t repeat the description of our journey.

I simply don’t have the same gift of eloquence as our master blogger and also because the finer details of the early days are already fading. This is not only age (I hope) but it’s is simply how our memory works. A random number of often seemingly irrelevant details still spring to mind but most others get consolidated into more general themes, impressions.

Number one must be the sheer magnitude of this region; desolate, ancient, derelict (borrowing words from the master blogger here). For most part still untouched. It actually triggered a very positive thought. We are now living with over 7 billion people on this planet. There is a general consensus that the world population will level out at 10 billion (with majority living in mega cities), well with still so much space available, we should be able to work it out. We just need to be a bit smarter and a bit more less destructive!

Second thought is very much about the team, the group. So yes, we might be a destructive, dominant species but we are also clearly very social animals. It is such good fun doing these trips together. Bringing people together and giving them a challenge, isn’t that what business is about?

Third thought is about exploring, traveling. For thirty days we didn’t know what to expect. Not only because Greg’s daily briefing (and the Argentinian weather reports) were mostly useless but also because none of us ever traveled through this region. Just being on the road, seeing the landscape change with many surprises around the many corners is very special. With all respect to Ben and modern media, I don’t think you can fully capture this in photo or video, another great excuse to keep exploring.

And let me finish this small contribution with some short thank you’s.

To Malu, Fran, Greg and Phil; a very professional, high energy team demonstrating every day that you really care about the job. You set an excellent example on how to approach work for all of us on this trip.

To Pat; you are so funny but also you are so committed to the task; the fifth member of the support team and an impressive handler of the Beast.

And the last thank you is of course for Sir Jim/James Arthur, the true leader of the gang. Many thanks for opening this continent up for us and for bringing us all safely from Atacama to Ushuaia, another unforgettable adventure!

Clogs (Leen)

Day 27 F**k, f**k, f**k!!!!

The biker team are illicitly sticking their alias stickers on the wall of the customs building as we leave Chile. We are talking grown ups with all sorts of important and influential positions in life. There is a joyful juvenile glee in their faces as they subversively fly in the face of authority.

We have just seen the King Penguin colony, a small diversion on the way to our last border post. If you recall that Monty Python sketch the Emperor Penguin is John Cleese and the King Penguin is Ronnie Barker. “I look up to him but down on him”. The King Penguin is only the second largest penguin in the world and as a consequence is not allowed on Antartica. That is the domain of Cleese alone. The Kings dwell on the land masses that surround Antartica such as Chile, South Georgia and The Falklands. When I say colony above I should say more ‘hamlet’. There are only 100 birds sat shivering and idle on a beach with 50kph winds. They don’t seem to have a lot on their minds.

It didn’t take long before the viewing experience started to diminish. They stand around for six moths of the year. I’ve seen a more active vegetable. Still one shouldn’t gripe, despite this being the choice over lunch. There wasn’t time for both. Pick up a Penguin did come to mind.

The riding has been unsensational today. Lots of dirt kilometres and it’s been pleasant enough. We skirted the coastline of the Magellan Straits for awhile which was scenic with the high winds whipping up a frothy surface. But generally the landscape has been simple moorland/pasture with the very occasional sheep grazing quietly.

In fact given the late nature of festivities last night it was sometimes tough to stay alert, or awake even.

George’s third decade was given a proper send off yesterday evening with surprise explorer garb for all and pith helmets for the VIPs. Following pisco sours at the Shackleton bar, dinner featured ‘surprisingly’ the finest speciality of the house…meat! In colossal quantities. But fabulously cooked. It’s still not clear to me why Ursula has not melted away in front of our eyes as she only eats green things. There aren’t any green things here. Only meat.

The border post is doing its usual thing. The customs folk haven’t got a clue. They just don’t do small villages of motorcyclists and trailers on the move with any regularity. And so it goes slowly. Glacially.

We have become accustomed to the fact that it simply takes time. Eventually they always get fed up and start stamping everything in sight and wave us through. Unfortunately this energy state always takes 3 hours to fire up. Hey ho.

We completed formalities at the border post at, wait for it, 5pm. Now this may suggest a late start this morning given the nature of last night but far from it. We kicked off the day with a ferry which necessitated bags downstairs at 7am. The ferry journey, pleasant though it was, meant our first kilometre was recorded at 11.30am.

Gregg announced at 5pm as we left the border post that we had a further 200 kilometres to go. This is a long way in the evening after a serious night on the tiles. But it gets worse. The wind had become violent. It howled across this flat land between Punta Arena and Ushuaia. We are in the roaring fifties here and it sure does roar.

It threw us around like rag dolls. The clouds raced past us at well over 100kph. You could hear nothing but this deafening scream in your helmet which completely drowned out any engine noise.

Every time a vehicle approached in the opposite direction intense concentration was required to avoid being blown into its path. I really dont like that. We were all keeled over at crazy angles.

We overtook a couple of trucks heart in mouth. It was so unpredictable. The wind would wane momentarily and suck you in towards the truck, then you would get hit with a tidal wave of air pressure as you cleared the front which sent you careering towards the verge. At 120kph!

There is one vehicle we hate with a passion. A double deck coach. It is a death trap to overtake. And needless to say today Sod’s law was in play. Gregg approached the rear of this bus and was being buffeted around visibly. I was behind him.

He went for it. He was sucked into the bus, then pushed out violently, but too violently to correct and was forced out off the road onto the evil gravel edge. I prayed. He held his line on the slippery gravel marginally ahead of the bus. Then a car appeared coming in the opposite direction. No way back to the road. The car flew by. Gregg edged back into the road still over 100kph. Jeez that was scary.Heart stopping stuff.

And shit now it was my turn. “F**k, f**k, f**k!!! “

I would say Gregg had a close shave but that would be challenging as the forest on his chin is now so dense it could hide a whole family of Darwinian finches.

Still it’s all in a days riding. It’s a boys tour. Plus Ursula. We have all arrived safely and the gin and tonics are lining up on the bar!!!

Time for George to open his presents. It’s been a hell of a day and my adrenaline glands are running on empty.


Day 26

Well it has been a quiet day today but given we have George’s birthday bash this evening maybe that isn’t such a bad thing.

We had a novel start pre breakfast. A guided tour of the abattoir. A Scotsman arrived 100 years ago and set things up. He canned and froze a million sheep a year. He used a local tribe for labour and brought out British machinery and building materials. It genuinely was impressive with steam boilers, power generation and ammonia refrigeration systems. Those were the days when Britain proudly made the best machines in the world. We saw Glasgow, Derby, Birmingham and London stamped in the cast iron machines. Nowhere did we see Cologne or Düsseldorf.

They baled the wool, packed the meat and turned the fat into candles and soap.

And it’s now a hotel owned by a Swiss group. And, frankly, one of the most meticulously well designed hotels that I have ever stayed in. And that is saying something. Quite a surprise in simple Puerto Natales!!!

We have cruised on tar roads this morning. Long straights with the odd bend. We travel at 130kph, a zone in which the bikes are very comfortable. There has been a stiff breeze with some manly buffeting.

The sun is maintaining a presence and the temperature is 16 degrees. We are at exactly the same latitude as London but no gulf stream!! Hence it is a harsher, colder climate.

And that’s it. We rolled into Punta Arenas this afternoon and took a cycle/run.

Oh and for background. When we last visited Punta Atenas we were just about to set off for the South Pole. 2011. We had a very special evening drinking pisco sours at the bar in which Shackleton holed up before returning to rescue his men that he had left on Elephant Island in 1914.

Tonight we return to the scene of the crime for George’s birthday. I hope they have enlisted some extra bar staff!!!


Notes from Team - Departing thoughts from Totti

Leaving the group yesterday in El Calafate was a real mixture of emotions. Excited to be going home to see Judy the family after nearly 4 weeks, but also sad not to be there at the end of this adventure and missing the friendship and camaraderie of the group that has developed over these past 6000kms as we crisscrossed The Andes.

The riding has been superb, a real mixture of some testing gravel and dirt, some of the most sublime bendy marble smooth tarred roads i have ever ridden on and of course the odd pot hole! Add to this the extremes of weather from perfect clear blue skies and 35 degrees, to torrential rain and 2 degrees and then gale force side winds just to spice it up a bit, made for never a boring day.

The sheer vastness of the daily changing scenery is some thing that will stay with me forever, always with the dramatic peaks of The Andes either to the left or the right. We almost gave up on taking photos, as it was difficult to capture the scale and remoteness in a single frame. Very few cars, very few people and very little wildlife. Just farmed sheep, cattle and llamas never too far away.

Naturally I will remember the wonderful wines from this part of the world, the Carmenere from Chile and the Torrontes and Malbec from Argentina being made to very high standards. I wont forget the bbq’d meat of variable quality, very little vegetables, lots of pastry sweet and savoury.

This is the 3rd motorbike trip with Jim, possibly slightly less wild and unpredictable than the previous African expeditions, but equally it has been so wonderful to have ridden the distance on amazing roads through a continent that i had never been to.

So thank you to Jim, Gregg, Phil, Manu and Fran you put together the most incredible adventure and i so appreciate the opportunity to have been part of it.

Robin (Totti)

Day 25 - Monumental Dicking About

We were slogging along on a mind numbingly tedious gravel road and I was thinking to myself that here finally was a day with nothing of note to write about. The road was embedded with protruding rocks specifically designed to trash your front wheel rim. Care was required. But at 80kph it’s tough to spot every one. We had 100 kilometres of this. I was desperately in need of a coffee but Gregg in front of me was determined to log up a decent innings before pulling over for refreshments. Suddenly there was a shout in my left ear which frightened the living daylights out of me as I was ensconced in my own small world. It was Cecil who had drawn parallel and hollered through the noise of the road, the wind and my vacant mind.

David T seemingly had hit one of these nasty boulders some distance back and had written off his front wheel. The rim was severely damaged and a write off.

So there you have it. The first happening of the day. We are now a largish group of bikers, down David, Philistine and Sam. They are doubtless putting the bike on the trailer. We are sat scattered around at a bleak little filling station at the terminus of the gravel road waiting for them. We desperately need the cruiser with its mobile cafe and serving girls. 🙂

Well it finally pitched up. And Pat  broke out the caffeine. We chatted and lolled around awhile. And then breezed through 50km to the border post where we have now almost taken root we have been here so long.

Incident two. We sped along the tar road for most of the way after coffee then peeled right for a short 4km on gravel to the border post. We dismounted and clustered the bikes and waited for the vehicles.

We waited. And waited and waited. We had only gone a short distance and the cars were quick on tar. What could possibly have happened? We have waited an hour. God only knows where they are. Puncture? Missed the junction? We can’t begin border proceedings as all the papers are in the vehicle.

We ask a couple of cars if they have seen the vehicles. No. So they must have missed the junction. We despatched Sam to see what he could do. There was no telephone signal. He had been gone 2 minutes when dust appeared over an entirely different hill. The vehicles rolled in. But now we had lost Sam. Leen was now despatched to find Sam.

The vehicles had taken the wrong turning and had travelled 20km off road for reasons so obscure we will never understand. Hey ho.

We have now started the border process and wait for it….a huge bus full of Japanese tourists has pitched up in this remote corner of Argentina on a gravel road and it is now total chaos in there.

You couldn’t make it up.

Oh and there’s more. We now have Philistine changing his front tyre at the border post for reasons that are not clear.  Generally that’s a one hour job. So in total now we have one hour waiting for the vehicles. One hour in the border queue and one hour mending the tyre.

And we haven’t started getting into Chile yet!!!

Ah and yet more. Between the two border posts we had a ride of 10km. We stopped midway for lunch as you can’t bring food into Chile. After 45 mins we carried on to the Chile border post. We still hadn’t seen the Philistine and his front wheel.

We commenced proceedings in Chile. After sometime we noticed that Ben our photographer was absent. We couldn’t find him. Had we left him by the side of the road way back.

Yes we had. We despatched yet another rider on a rescue mission. That would be me.

But get this. Ben is travelling in the cruiser. There are two girls in the front Pat driving and Kathryn. And Philip and Ben in the back. So how in gods name did they not notice they were a man down. Ben is six foot eight inches tall. Hardly inconspicuous. Not a shrinking violet. Get your head around how they didn’t notice that they had left their cameraman behind on the battlefield. It is utterly, totally, completely incomprehensible. But they did. Monumental dicking.

We had finished most of our riding at 9.30am with 200km under our belts. It is now 1600 hours and we are still not through the border post.

A pure and monumental dicking about day.

The bonus is the hotel which is a bit special called the Singularity. It is, believe it or not, a converted sheep abattoire. And it is seriously cool. Oh and we got our two injured bikers both back on bikes for the last hour on tar roads. They both managed well and finished with a beaming smile.

You really couldn’t make it all up.


Day 24 - Calving

I am sat on the upper deck of a private lake boat that we have rented for the day looking out at this surreal landscape. Turquoise waters, immense hanging glaciers and ancient forests.

If you haven’t been here you should remedy that situation. Check out Calafate on the map and you will see these neighbouring enormous interlinking lakes piercing the Andes in several fingers. It is the largest lake complex in Patagonia or Argentina for that matter. We are in both here of course.

We have taken a couple of short walks from the boat. We have seen these tortured twisted bonsai like trees with miniature leaves together with huge trees disappearing up to the upper canopy.

We have walked below glaciers and to a waterfall where 15 years ago the lake just above the waterfall broke. It turned the trees to matchsticks and rubble when it cascaded over. It was a scene of chaos and destruction at the base.

We had a splendid lunch set up deep into the fjord courtesy of our fine hotel. There wasn’t a trace or sign of mankind. That is rather special in the modern world.

And then the finale in the afternoon. It really ought to be one of the seven wonders of the world. An immense series of glaciers that pour down a common corridor to the base of the lake where they tower 70 metres tall as a giant white wall of ice disappearing into the water. There is no snow down here. The vegetation either side is almost tropical. The lake is turquoise. The ice wall is a series of pillars, church steeples and columns all in one. The gaping cracks and crevices are piercing blue. It is unlike anything any of us has seen before. It overwhelms the senses. And to cap it all huge chunks of ice break off and plummet into the icy water below. Cracks like gunfire go off every few minutes. It moves at two metres per day which seems jolly quick to me for something so indescribably massive. The tongue of the glacier is five kilometres wide, 70 metres high and 180 metres to the floor of the lake. Because it is moving so quickly it is constantly calving.

Just as we were departing a huge cathedral spire fully 200 feet high came crashing down and created a tidal wave below. My goodness what an amazing sight.

Argentina has taken us all by surprise by its sheer size and diversity of landscapes together with its remoteness and complete absence of human interference. It is a truly stunning country.


Day 23 - The Wind Howls

We are nestled behind a bank taking coffee. The table is up and Pats Cafe is doing a roaring trade. The sun is shining and white fluffy clouds are scampering across the sky.

We have just had a charming ride. Mainly off road. We started down the farm road for the first 30km. We now call this Death Valley. It’s actually very pretty with grass and wetlands to the left with mixed livestock and a steep escarpment to the right sheltering the valley from the scouring winds. We stopped briefly to gaze at the heap of poor coyotes on the way trying to understand the difference in priorities in the local farmers lives and ours. We passed the dead cows and shrivelled llamas. We drove through the last homestead where they were rounding up some wild but impressive horses. I couldn’t help noticing the three mountain lion skins draped over the wire fence. Tragic but very different values.

This short little ride at modest speed didn’t pass without incident. Nothing does here. We had a faller. We had a bike cutting out. We had someone lost. And we had a windscreen falling off. Hey ho.

After a short interlude on tar, following the farm track, we hit dirt again. And what a delightful road. Imagine if you will the Ethiopian Highlands or the more mountainous regions of Sudan or Saudi. We were in arid mountainous semi desert. All was beige and orange. Rock and sand. The road in places was gravel in others baked mud. The riding was just plain and simple fun. I am not sure if it was easier than normal or our skills have improved. But it was free from anxiety. Which is good. In other words you didnt fear for your life or your limbs. A pleasant change.

As already mentioned every day has its incidents. After coffee was no exception. We lost the vehicles. And we ran out of fuel. This is a poor combination as the jerry cans live on the trailers. We tried to flag down a couple of cars to enquire about our vehicles’ whereabouts but they weren’t having it. 20 hairy bikers is obviously not a comforting sight.

The vehicles pitched up finally after an hour. We were cold by then as the wind had picked up to storm force again. It wasn’t entirely clear why there had been a considerable wait but as the say ‘hey ho’ again and we refuelled the bikes to get us the last 70km to our destination Calafate.

By now the wind was howling. The wait meant we had missed the window of relative calm. Nick had a scary moment trying to overtake a bus as the wind grabbed him bodily and heaved him off the road. He backed off. We went through a couple of cuttings where the wind funelled and you could scarcely believe the violence in the wind.

And couldn’t make it up..Ursula ran out of fuel again. Someone who shall remain nameless put three egg cups of fuel in her tank.

By now we were fed up with waiting for the vehicles in this weather so Sam rigged a tow rope and he towed George on Ursula’s bike.

At the best of times bike towing bike is a hazardous affair but how they managed 30km of towing in this atrocious wind I shall never know.

The scenery here is the paydirt. It is stupendous. We have returned to the foothills of the Andes again. We came around a corner to see the most magnificent vista. A bright turquoise lake stretched from left to right virtually as far as you could see and set behind were the Andes in their full glory with an immense glacier dead centre. Scenery off the scale.

And similarly our hotel is raised well above the valley floor and has the most wonderful views of these turquoise waters and snow capped mountains.

We arrived to be greeted by Kathryn and Ben with beaming smiles and tonight we say farewell to Robin and Gisli.

Time flies when you are living. And we are doing a lot of living. To the full.


Day 22 - We have found Deliverance

Today was an experience I shall never forget. A first in my short life. The day’s journey was broadcast last night as a mere mornings ride. “It’s pretty much all normal road with a short section of dirt at the end” exclaimed Gregg.

We have veered East and are now deep in what we might think of as the pampas. The Andes are no longer in sight. Pampa actually is a region west of Buenos Aries. We are in a region called Santa Cruz.

This is a truly bleak landscape. Nothingness comes to mind. Desolate. It wasn’t helped this morning by the somber dark scudding clouds. It is semi desert scrub, flat in the main with the odd rise and fall and completely featureless. And endlessly inhospitable.

That was a taste of our first 130km this morning. We reached a scrubby little hamlet with a petrol pump and as it turned out a colourful corner shop ‘Argie style’ selling everything from stickers to guns to knives to lassoes. We treated ourselves to coffee. We had earned it. We had just completed the last 50km with a gale hitting us broadside. And we had been all over the road. It is unnerving not to be in control, the gusts sending you veering across the road. Prior to that we had been going downwind and innocently unaware of its potential for catastrophe.

Coffee downed we set off again in the raging wind. This time straight downwind on good tar. We were all cruising at around 140km an hour. The shadows of the clouds above were overtaking us. If you held your arms out there was no wind. It was an eerie sensation. But it was the easiest biking we had ever done.

We had a final 30km stretch on a gravel road. We turned right. And the wind hit us fully amidships with enormous intensity. It had become way stronger. 100kph sideways. We were keeled over at 45 degrees trying in vain to stay in the tracks. Deviation from these car tracks was hazardous as that meant soft gravel. You had four lives as there were four lanes of car tracks. I saw David K blown right across the road. He used all four lives in one. He managed to grimly hang on. His heart was clearly in his mouth. The first dozen riders were strung out in a long line before me all leaning crazily to the right. They approached a huge dust cloud howling across the road a kilometre long. One by one the bikers in front of me disappeared into the blinding dust. Then there was just me. I felt terribly lonely for a split second. And then in I went. The wind wanted to tear you off the bike and shred your clothes as it howled and raged. The bike was being thrown around like a child’s toy. The noise was deafening. Vision disappeared. And you were literally in a wrestling match with the bike which weighs in at 250kg. How we all stayed aboard I shall never know. I emerged the other side to see the other battered riders strewn out in front of me. All still in one piece.

Cameraman Ben was not so lucky. He was literally blown off his bike and got trapped underneath it. He still has all his limbs and roughly in the right place but won’t be riding for awhile. His leg was trapped and he had a proper shock. Gisli who some of you will know as our burly Viking said it was one of the scariest times of his life. We now have two riders in the cruiser, Philip and Ben, and two bikes trailered following crashes.

Pat, who is driving the cruiser, is now referred to as Florence.

We finally came down off the escarpment where the storm raged into a valley that was partially sheltered. And we arrived at our lodgings for the evening, a pleasant little farm.

Five of us got out the mountain bikes and went for a two hour ride down the valley with Gisli following in the cruiser. This was going to be a one way trip as the wind even here was too fierce to ride into.

The wonderful thing about getting on a bike is that you get to experience the location. You see the animals, the flowers the landscape close up and personal. And we sure did here. Up first was a dead llama just by the side of the road. Then two skeletons of dead cows. Then two baby llama strung over a tree branch. Then a day old cow dead in a stream. A hare in the road. A dead sheep in the road dried and parched. Another cow bloated with legs in the air. But then wait for it…we expected to hear the plaintiff notes of the duelling banjo echoing from the hills at this point….a pile of dead coyotes. Not just two or three nor even a dozen or two, no there were 50 dead coyotes all piled together by the side of the road. It was brutal. And macabre. It was without a vestige of sentiment. The farmers here have no tolerance of creatures that prey on their sheep. It is a policy of complete annihilation. Sadly they do the same with the magnificent puma.

Shortly after this heap of death in what we now call Death Valley we passed through another homestead. It looked like a horror movie. But honestly we have just become so detached from the realities of survival in some of the far reaches of the planet that we have become squeamish and obsessed by some of life’s trivia.

These people carve a living in a hostile environment and their Maslows Heiracrchy of Needs is a far cry from ours. Survival is high on their list. Ours has iPhones and facelifts.

I can’t get that tune out of my head now!!!


Postscript. I have just walked back across the farm to my room after dinner. The wind is raging like never before. It reminds me of that evening in 1987 when the hurricane devastated southern Britain. The noise is deafening. The end of the world is nigh.

Postscript Two. Firsts. First ride in such storm force winds. First time I have been keeled over but not cornering. First pile of dead coyotes.

Day 21 - Bike Carnage

The front three broke away from the crowd first thing in the morning. The town was a little congested given our later start and even the open road south of town had a few brisk commuters, but the three of us, Gregg, George and myself went past them like they were parked. After 20 minutes of high speed corners and overtaking we took a right onto a wonderful road devoid of any traffic. Robin had been flickering in and out of my rear view mirror on the major road but soon disappeared on this new road. We stormed along, three bikes in perfect unison glued together. The scenery was breathtaking the road pure. Bend after bend, babbling brooks, scattered trees and rocks flashing by. It was adrenaline primed sport. You needed to be totally focussed, slightly on the edge and all brain cells working on speed, approach angle and racing line. The controls must be automatic. Left hand clutch, right hand throttle and brake, left foot gears and right foot rear brake. These functions have to flow seamlessly and without using processing power. And then it all merges into a glorious experience. The feeling of being keeled right over maintaining perfect balance and driving into the seat of the bike as you accelerate from midway round the corner is indescribable. Trust me. It feels good.

We pulled up on the side of the road on the hour for a breather. Bikes rolled in after awhile. But no Robin who had been chasing the leading group. News came in. Shortly after the right turn he had hit a big crater in the road and his front wheel shattered 6 spokes and destroyed the rim. He stayed on. Thankfully. He hit it at 100kph exiting a bend. A wake up call for all of us.

The bike is on the trailer. Robin is in the cruiser. We did have another minor mishap when our Dutchman hit a robin. Fortunately it was flying at the time. Sadly not afterwards.

And one further minor casualty. We had a seriously below par dinner last night. Our first. I did predict potential consequences today. My remarks were prescient. But the victims shall remain nameless.

I have written this in bright sunshine at lunchtime sat beside a remote border post overlooking the lake where Mr NorthFace tragically froze to death. The views are wonderful. The water coming down from the mountains is turquoise due to glacier melt and the lake is bright blue. It makes a stunning contrast.

The border process is ticking along glacially.

Our only concern on the next leg is wind. The gusts are strong enough to blow a bike off track. This is manageable on road but off road this can throw you into difficult places particularly as we generally ride a narrow line down the car tyre track. Either side is often deep gravel which will throw you off the bike. Time to concentrate.

Evening. Well sadly that didn’t happen.

The afternoons ride was 95km of off road. Fairly straight runs with a few crests and small ascents but much of it rocky. As the more seasoned riders know you have to go easy on the bike when rocks are around. The bike after all has to get you to your destination and it is not indestructible. If you hit a rock at speed with the front tyre first the shocks compress. If the force is great enough they bottom out. Then the tyre takes the load. Again if the impact is too great you are into the rim. If this also has to absorb too much energy it deforms. We had three bikes, all GS 1200s damaged this afternoon. Oli Justin and David K have all damaged the front wheels.

The team are now laboriously removing the front tyres, taking the tyres off which is backbreaking as they are sealed in tubeless, then beating out the rim, adding an inner tube and then reversing the process. Poor old Sam has to manage all this as he is so much more experienced than anyone else.

And to cap it all Philip (Chilean Philip) ironically had a crash on the tar road which was only one kilometre long at the very end of the day. He did come a bit of a cropper and the bike did a 360 on its side but he has got away lightly with a limp and a bag of ice.

It never rains but it pours.

And we mustn’t have another day like today.


Day 20 - Lupins and Landslides

The clock has just passed 4500 kilometres. We have been gifted endless views that are unique in all our lifetimes. I am looking at one now whilst we munch our way through lunch overlooking a fast flowing river with big mountains dominating the horizon in all directions.But the uniqueness of this particular view, which otherwise could be the Chamonix valley, are the lupins. The whole valley floor, roadside and river banks are festooned in hundreds of thousands of lupins. More like millions and millions. Purple in the main but lilac, pink, salmon, and white sprinkle themselves around. It’s astonishing. I have never seen anything like it. We have been travelling through this lupin belt for 50 kilometres. There are even lupin fields full of browny-orange cows which is even more bizarre. 

The riding this morning has been sensational. We had one spell on a gravel road that climbed up over a mountain pass with countless tight hairpins both up and down that was simply a delight. This was followed by a new road along the valley floor with endless tight bends that linked synchronously together so we could throw the bikes from side to side. Just like skiing a slalom. Such glorious fun. 

We made an early start (6am) as we had a huge day in front of us, nearly 400km of which at leat 200 was unmade. And bad weather was forecast. Yes it brings to mind our ‘famous’ guide again, The Bok. It turned out that the weather was kind and the gravel road was a mere 50k. So here we are settling into lunch at midday with the day all but finished. Hey ho. 

The last hour or so was equally delightful riding. I had a couple of go pros strapped to my bike facing the rear. This, I must confess, does encourage more bravado riding but on this occasion I was filming the swarm of bikers on my tail who had obviously got wind of the filming opportunity and the potential of immortality cruising the bends knees (almost) scraping the tar. 

We are now settled in and off for a jog around town. 


Postscript. Less than an hour underway we came around a corner to be faced with immense devastation of the forest. It was totally destroyed way up the valley and along our route for a couple of kilometres. We couldn’t figure out what had happened. Until we looked way up the valley to the snow capped mountains. A portion of the mountain had cleaved off and created an immense landslide/avalanche. It travelled 8 kilometres and killed many people in the remote village where it came to an end. It happened almost a year to the day. The power of nature. Link below.

Day 19 - Of Piercings and Mr NorthFace

It was the glorious twelfth today. Some very fine lake fishing this morning for rainbow and brownies. Five motorboats and guides with each boat equipped with oars for gently exploring the banks where the fish hang out. Every boat landed a few except George and Oli who regrettably had a dumb guide. The scenery was almost as satisfying as the fishing. Overhanging glaciers above and rainforest below.

After lunch a mountain bike ride through Mr NorthFace’s enormous park. It was as good as any botanical garden that I have ever visited. It was wild virgin rain forest with a trail meandering through. Wild orchids, wild fuschia, wild honeysuckle. Enormous gunnera everywhere. It was Jurassic Park on steroids. Mr N owned 800,000 hectares of forest here before he tragically died in Patagonia in a canoeing accident. The land is now a national park.

And finally back to the lodge for a 40 minute jog through picturesque forest and mountain trails.
All in all a day full of fun.

One of the oddest moments was when one of the fishermen who shall remain nameless returned after fishing to the lodge with a very fancy earring. He had whipped the fly line into the back of his head and the large hook had set in his ear. The hook was fully through the ear. The line was cut on the boat so he could resume fishing but the toolbox soon came out on his return to the lodge a few hours later.<

The hook was neatly severed in two by Gisli with a pair of handy pliers whilst still in the ear so the barb could be extracted in the forward direction. There was a small yelp when the hook was tugged free but all seems to be well now and no serious disfigurement. All in a days fishing.

When on a journey there is always something happening.


PS. And…..I have just discovered Robin this afternoon took a hook piercing in his eyebrow and similarly had it snipped and extracted. So one eyebrow and one ear piercing. Never let it be said that we are not trendy bikers.


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Day 18 - Dynamite Road

“170km to the ferry. Of which 50km will be dirt”. That was the warning last night in Gregg’s evening address. “We MUST be at the ferry by 10am. There is only one each day. We are expecting stormy weather. Start time 6am”. After some gentle negotiation we settled on a 6.15am start.

We clattered along the next morning for 20 minutes on a semi wet tar road and made great progress. The views were wonderful. And difficult to describe.

Imagine driving along the West coast of Scotland on a coastal road along the edge of those magnificent lochs. Then layer upon this sheer mountain sides draped in rain forest. Huge trees. Dark green. Impenetrable. Imagine enormous ferns and giant rhubarbs leaves (gunnera) lining the roads mixed with wild flowers. And finally top that lot with hanging clouds gripping the forest foliage. And finally finally huge snow capped Fuji-esque volcanoes as a backdrop.

It was enchanting. And the loch that you have just conjured in your mind was the Pacific Ocean. It was mystical and haunting in equal measure. It was other worldly.

Whilst 6.15am is an unholy hour to begin riding in anybodies book we had sensibly retired early for once and were fresh, unlike the day before where we had been fighting fatigue. 20km into the journey we were buzzing merrily along and suddenly hit dirt. Rather soon we thought?? Still best to get it out of the way with. We cracked on. It started to rain. The dirt started to slide under our tyres. However we were settled and comfortable and we ate into the 50km. We emerged eventually onto a nice tar road. 10km further we stopped for coffee as we had made such splendid progress. We were doing well. 70 km in well under 2 hours. We had 95km to go. And time to spare. “No worries guys it’s all tar to the ferry now”bellowed Gregg. We resumed. The rain started to lash down. Bouncing off the puddles. Tough to see through the windsceen wiperless visors.

We rounded the third corner to find that the tar gave way to dirt. Surely a momentary blip. Our ‘famous’ guide had been quite clear! But not just any dirt. Goo. Thick mushy gloop. We had hit a construction project. In the remotest of places. But no ordinary project. It was large. We had lorries and man sized diggers coming out of our ears and a road that was fast disappearing. We skipped and slid our way around the obstacles. We hit workers with stop signs hauling us down. We waited and waited. Off we went again. The rain was intense. The road now becoming super slippery. Mud is the enemy. We wriggled past machinery and through enormous muddy puddles. We drove along sharp drop offs where the diggers had been at work. We hit more stop signs. More diggers. More lorries. More puddles. More drop offs. But still our snake of bikes kept going. The road turned and twisted incessantly. Following the contours of the fjord that we were skirting. Steep descents and sharp corners. A difficult combination. Braking for downhill corners was challenging. You just had to trust in the front wheel grip. Pot holes, greasy wooden bridges, boulders and rocks all provided challenges through visors that had long since lost visibility. Ursula had a near miss chancing that a big puddle was clear. It wasn’t. There was a rock under the surface.

It was fun. Despite the water creeping in everywhere, up sleeves, down necks, into the helmet and nestling in ones crotch (sorry! But it’s not a great felling and I needed to share it..) it was challenging, entertaining and engaging in equal measure. We didn’t think about the damp, the rain and the cold. We were being challenged and we were handing it back.

We rounded yet another bend. A man ran out gesticulating. “Stop stop!!!” We looked ahead. A small team of men were visibly stuffing explosives into holes up on the rocky outcrop above us. One had a bag of dynamite. One had a rod busily stuffing the explosive in a predrilled hole and another was swinging a couple of pieces of dynamite around his head on a rope.

We closed our visors….

But they decided to wave us through. Off we went. Time was getting short. Still 19 kliks to go. Had we been five minutes later the road would have been buried under rubble as would our chances of catching the ferry.

Only one ferry a day. Our schedule would be shredded if we missed it. More machines, more rain. More stop signs. We were powerless to halt the roadworks and get to our ferry. We queued up time and again while lorries were loaded by giant diggers which we then had to overtake on this treacherous road.

You couldn’t make this up. At the half way stage we thought it was all over. The tar road that Gregg assured us was a slam dunk never did materialise. We simply slithered our way through the second half to finally arrive at the ferry just as the last car was being loaded.

Still I have always hated queueing!

The ferry has been a delight. The sun came out and the temperature became quite balmy. We laid on the outer deck in the sun and dried out. The scenery was astonishing. Rain forest -coated islands with huge waterfalls and hanging clouds. Not a track, trail or road for the whole 3 hour journey. Impenetrable unexplored forests each a Jurassic Park candidate. I have never seen anything like it.

We followed this with a short ride, another ferry, and then a further three hours of riding culminating in a new road, dry skies and some high speed corners to cap off a great day. One of our best day’s riding.


Notes from Team

Thoughts from the cafe counter – Patagonia to Patacafe

The vistas from the pop up cafe have been spectacular. Snow capped, rugged mountains, craggy rock faces and mature vegetation – rather like our customers! They’re normally a polite bunch but put out a packet of biscuits with the coffee and it’s every man for himself. Wouldn’t happen on the London scene. Fruit is offered as a healthy option but they prefer the forbidden chocolate variety.

After a couple of weeks we flew in some very attractive waitresses for a few days to help with the rush.

Collectively known as wags, they really boosted our sales.

The pop up cafe rolls on and we are now back in Chile. Our enterprising F&B Manager used his initiative and opened up for us at the Chilean border whilst Malu and I were dealing with customs. We even set up shop on the ferry across the Yelcho Lake after we heard mutterings about the dreadful coffee being served on board. Today the cafe has a day off but I’ve heard rumours of the local one not providing hot milk or biscuits. Relaxed and Feeling smug.


Day 17 - Houston We Have a Problem

This is border crossing day and you think I am going to tell you that we have a problem. Well yes we do. We can’t get though. However we have a much bigger problem.

Imelda’s boot is coming unhinged. The sole is flopping off. He is inconsolable. And off games.

He scouted the earth for his boots and in the process bought considerable quantities of varying brands all of which were rejected in favour of his go anywhere Sidi Adventure rock and roll boots.

He is in crisis. He is sobbing. We cannot get him out of the corner.

That aside this morning has been appalling. We have spent 2 hours trying to extract ourselves from Argentina. An endless slew of officials and paper work and mindless dicking about. I won’t bore you with the details. Sleazy and Ben driving two of the bikes through, parking them around the corner, sneaking back and into a taxi and off to the airport. Hitching the two trailers behind the cruiser again. Etc etc. You couldn’t make it up. And toilets that you wouldn’t let your dog use. Never a good sign of anything.

Then a further 40km, believe it if not, (how does this work?) to the Chilean border post in torrential rain.

We have now been camped at this second border post for an hour and are making our way through a jumbo sized bag of crisps and drinking powdered cappuccinos. We are resigned to our fate. Justin is describing his music tour of Australia immediately after Christmas. Some are chatting about the Chelsea victory over City. And the time is ticking by without undue stress.

We completed formalities four hours after hitting the border. We then drove through beautiful countryside but couldn’t see a damn thing as we were in heavy rain and cloud. It was rather reminiscent of England. Lush green fields, milkers with full udders, full leafy trees everywhere and rain. Home from home.

Nothing much more to report. Great hotel on the lake but we can’t see it. Bikers all remained highly synchronous in heavy wet weather. I had a spell at the back and the moving snake of bikes before me as far as the eye could see was mesmeric.

Oh and we had the official team photo this morning at the crack, courtesy or our Army gentleman Cecil aka Imelda aka Chris.


Day 16 - Boys in Town

A leisure day today. As if they aren’t all!!

We have been joined by a new crew which has livened up proceedings. Oli, Justin and Philip eased into town last night. All between the age of 28 and 30-ish and quite inappropriate for your daughter if you have one. Needless to say after dinner they went in search of a club, and needless to say found one. A bar with live music. A number of ‘adults’ foolishly tried to stay with this programme. Not me.

They were all remarkably subdued this morning. It must have been the long flight. 🙂

Not much to report today. A good three hour bike ride on trails this morning for the majority. And Sam stayed to refresh worn tyres with Philistine and Robin at the hotel. This is seriously hard labour.

And a few of us sampled the local trout fishing after lunch in a fast flowing river from a rowing boat. Good fun, a scenic trip down the river, and a few fish.

And that’s about it. I received some updated designs for Projekt Grenadier today and I am happy to report positive progress.



Day 15 - Running on Empty

A leisurely 300km today. On mixed roads. We awoke to azure blue skies. Real blue. There is no pollution here. No fires, no cars, no factories, no power stations. The visibility is crystal clear. And the sun is really strong as a consequence.

We tootled off in a long disciplined line of 16 bikes with 3 up on the two trailers. We quickly hit dirt and had an exquisite two hours meandering through glorious mountain valleys, up, down and around. Just perfect biking yet again and stunning, more Alpine-like, scenery. There are not enough superlatives to do justice to the grandeur of this country and the photos simply don’t cut it.

We stopped for our customary coffee break in a delightful wild flowered meadowy clearing beside a crystal clear river. The cars rolled in, table out and Pat and Malu scurried around coffeeing.

There was much chatter and banter and as ever a few creative ideas. But there was a new thought. Three bikes on the trailer. Three blokes in the cars.

Gregg the famous guide was consulted. Yes he declared the rest of the day is fully on tar roads. Really quite a safe option. Following a little modest persuasion of the three newbies the whole team was mobilised ( excluding Will and Imelda of course…) to drag these big bikes off the two trailers.

Whilst the bikes were manhandled off the trailers spare gear was scrounged from all and particularly sundry.

And 30 minutes later we had Gisli, Charles and Big Ben aboard GS 1200s.

It was a sight to behold. A full army of bikes.

We set off at a gingerly pace but the new riders soon settled in….until…yes…10 minutes in, and 10 bends in, the splendid tar road ended. And what did we find yet another glorious gravel road. Certainly not the ideal terrain to introduce new riders to the monster 1200s!! With little choice at hand we just carried on as if nothing had happened and here we are, 100km further on, having a fine lunch, everyone happy and Gregg the famous guide making himself scarce.

We carried on for a further 100km to the hotel, the last 50km on tar. This last section was dreamland for the new threesome after 3 full hours of gravel roads. We throttled up and cruised the bends and straights at a handsome speed.

It was a special day. Fabulous riding. Stunning scenery. Wonderful weather. Every bike on the road. And both trailers running on empty.

You’ve got it! G and T time.


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Notes from Team

Thoughts from Sleazy: Time to leave the pack

Just trying to mentally prepare myself for a return to the pre Christmas hell of an overpopulated Southern England, the ongoing drawn out Brexit torture and ongoing economic collapse then recapping on the last couple of weeks adventure:

We started amongst the flinty aired clear high Atacama peaks, a line of semi active volcanos stretching south, leading our path like beacons from the twisted eroded arid reds and pinks of the desert and salt flats around San Pedro de Atacama.

We left in a scrum of burping exhausts and humming knobbly tyres crackling through the mud walls of the town and began to climb into mountains, high passes, the altiplano opening around us with vast far vistas. Easily covered on table smooth tar roads which sinuously unwound across and through the contours of the land. Every five minutes was a photo stop, then an excuse to wind the bike up to nearly flying speed around the sweeping bends dive in to catch everyone up and then repeat the process.

The strata of the Andes are kaleidoscopic, apart from the reds and warmer colours the mountains are green, sulphurous white and yellow, blue, grey, twisted and buckled pushed up on the conical shoulders of volcanos. Dusty valley floors sit at their feet covered in salt flats left by ancient stranded glaciers and minerals leached from the rocks around them by some rare moisture.

We climbed higher on easy graded dirt roads, suspension flattening out as corrugation took on a rhythm at 50 plus, bars jumping and skittering in loose hands, dust trails and a big grin as I remembered how to apply a bit of drift through the bends, then hesitate a moment before ploughing through a mountain stream in a gout of steam and spinning wheels.

The thin air began to thicken as we dropped once more down through Argentina, still high desert and a mixture of faultless tar and graded dirt, one minute skittering the rear wheel through shingle, the next holding on as we followed the yellow lines around a perfect series of bends, hips hauling the bike over and feeling the g forces balance with the sidewalls of our thrumming tyres.

Then heat again, no longer the hot sun and ever present altitude breeze of the highlands. Mesas, huge canyons cutting through the sheer buckled sediments, snow capped cones and peaks in the distance. Then vineyards, stacked thunderheads of clouds dropping heavy curtains of freezing rain on the wall of the Andes to our right, a day of unremitting miserable seeping rain, fingers and toes wrinkled cold and stinging with relief as the end of the day bought a large fire and we crowded round trying to scorch use back into our sodden gloves and boots.

Then on… as we left the deserts, the mediterranean poplar and cypress green valleys and headed up into the alpine regions of jurassic monkey puzzle forests and high meadows of rickety fenced livestock knee deep in lush grass, beside willow lined granite clean rivers. Dark faced Gauchos with slanted berets and an easy way of sitting on their crop maned horses are herding goats and sheep, unfazed as our mob of dusty urban desperados chewing dust on growling grunting bikes hurtle by to who knows where and who knows why, they wave a casual hand in acknowledgement.

A final day of outstanding riding, swooping through spectacular landscapes down the Rio Aluminé to San Martin sitting by its lake, tyres singing over another outstanding piece of fast dirt and the end of my road for this trip.

Walking around town and seeing Papa Noel with all the little Andean children last night reminded me that it’s time to fly home and face up to Christmas once again.

Well it’s been great riding with you compadres, both old and new. I hope the rest of the journey is as rewarding as the first part has been. Two and a half thousand miles so far, (we think the distance from London to Iraq) and another two and a half to go – by the time you finish you will have gone from London to Bangladesh, – time for a curry!

Justin, look after the white bike, remember to pump the tyres up every day after any dirt, keep it upright and the traction control off.

Great roads and no speed cameras, have fun everyone.

May your travels be happy, your luck stay good and as the great Dave Allen said ‘May your God go with you,’


Day 14 - Monkey Puzzle

We have just stopped for mid morning coffee in a lovely green valley. The ‘travelling village’ has shown up in its entirety. The table is up. Pat and Malu are busily recycling cafetieres and dishing out dozens of cups of coffee. And oodles of biscuits. Naughty but after a solid two hours of off road we have temporarily dispensed with health rules.

The morning hiccuped to life. Despite a town of 16000 inhabitants in remotest Argentina,many of whom earn a living in oil and gas, they only have one petrol station. Consequently there is a constant queue around the block. We clever chaps however yesterday evening booked a 7.30am priority slot. Or so we thought. Sadly the manager had not told his worker bees. “To the back of the queue please”. This took some considerable time. And frustration. We finally exited town only to be hauled down by a policeman. “I want to check your licences”. He writes down every single licence number and licence plate number including all four cars. Time ticks by on our 416km day!!

Three kliks out of town we turn right onto gravel. A good road but super fine dust. Great dust clouds billow up from each bike leaving a 200m trail per bike. We turn the first corner and spot a large bus ahead. Impossible to overtake as its plume of dust is as thick as porridge and as long as Britain’s new aircraft carrier.

Why are the gods against us this morning? We followed it for mile after mile.

Eventually having eaten a bucket of fine dust each we get past the bus and simply revel in this wonderful road and scenery. Just a blast.

And that’s just the first two hours as I sit here leaning against a cattle fence waiting for Pats cafe to move into gear and writing the blog. We are deep in cattle country here surrounded by big mountains.

The riding continued to be splendid. And the scenery got better and better.

Mid afternoon we rounded a bend and saw our first fir trees, or what looked like fir trees. This was becoming ever more alpine-like. High snow capped mountains, grassy valleys with endless cattle and now gentle forestry.

However, up close and personal, these fir trees turned out to be….wait for it….monkey puzzle trees. Thousands of them. Dark green and upright and in this landscape very much the shape and colour of fir trees.

Then we took a new section of off road through a secret valley. It was like entering Lord of the Rings. Weird monkey puzzle trees everywhere, a crystal clear river, mountains dotted with snow patches at our level, and finally great swathes of pure white sand on either side of the valley. Argentina sure has some scenic offerings.

We drifted in late afternoon in positive mood and got out the sports kit.

The hotel sits on a wonderful lake with a bar that’s difficult to refuse overlooking the water.


Notes from the team

Thoughts from the WAGS: A day in the life of a WAG

So what is it like to be a WAG and observe a herd of middle aged men on motorbikes in Argentina?

Well, firstly it is like watching a road movie from the back of our car, but then real.

Men in fancy suits, looking for an opportunity to preen – bearded chins held high – pass the windows of our car, checking their reflections as they roar past, chests puffed out. We try to recognize them by their helmets. Gives us something to do.

Secondly it is like going on safari. We get up early to get in our vehicles. We drive and see some wildlife. We point out the species by their buffs and motorbikes. Oh look, there goes Jim! He is the only one in red and therefore recognizable as the leader of the pack. There are his two cubs. They follow eachother on the field, they compete for speeding. They all have beards and compare them like a troup of gorillas. They all look the same.

And then they stop for a drink, like a herd of elephants assembling at the river to drink water. They are thirsty. Slowly we approach them in our vehicles and watch. There is Pat, their gamekeeper, putting the kettle on and there is Malu, their ever smiling local guide, handing out biscuits and candy. Sweet.

And then, what’s that? We see a blond ponytail coming out from underneath that red helmet. The pack of men have captured a girl. And she is with them riding her own bike. It’s always interesting to see how nature works.

We WAGS are here just observe.

Or are we?

We join the group on their way. We smell sweat, testosterone and competition. Like watching a rugbymatch, or a boxing ring. We girls disperse among them and try to blend in so we won’t be eaten. They all rub their beards. It’s dusty everywhere.

Suddenly they prick their ears.

What’s that sound this group of females is making? They are so loud!

But they do like us. And invite us on the backseats of their bikes. It’s nature, we mix, and match.


Day 13 - Patagonia

I am sat in the corner of a small pretty garden at the rear of our modest hotel in a remote mining town. The sun is baking down. Quite yesterday’s contrast. In front of me on the lawn I have a WAGs yoga class plus George aka Peachy. On my right I have the lads smoking and drinking class in the shade at the bottom of the garden. Mars and Venus. We have just been running and cycling.

Today was simply splendid all round. 300km of wonderful gravel roads and newly made tar roads, glorious weather and the most breathtaking scenery so far. We are in mountainous country so the roads weave through valleys, over passes and across high plains. There are no people , no villages and precious few cars. Everyone we do see waves, be it in a truck, riding a horse or in a car.

We saw our first condors today plus another couple of gauchos herding horses.

And that’s about it. Three of the girls went pillion when the off road was finished for the last 150km and frankly on the 1200s you really don’t notice. They are so powerful. I have instructed Sophie not to tell her dad what speed we reached….

Oh and we now in Patagonia. Look it up. It’s all of the southern part of South America.


Notes from the Team

Thoughts from Pronker (David T)


To get the chance, once aged over 50, to develop a new skill is a life time opportunity not to be missed

To have the chance to develop several such new skills, and then not only practise them, but to use them in extreme situations is mind blowing.

But is has happened

Learning to sail and then participating in a Class leading crew at Cowes week

Starting to seriously ride a road cycle bike, and immediately navigating the Grande Route from Geneva to Nice

Learning to ski off piste, and then finding oneself heliskiing in the most wonderful powder in the Canadian Rockies

And of course, obtaining a motorbike licence and within 6 months travelling from the Atacama Desert across the Andes to the Mendoza wine region, with 16 more days to go before Ushuaia.

I feel exhilarated. Excited. Proud. Tested. Happy.

Thanks Jim, what opportunities!

Day 12 - Biblical

This was the worst. Without question the worst day’s motorbiking I, or any of us, has ever had. The weather was biblical.

We kicked off with a little drone theatre at 7.30. Ben flew the drone through hotel reception and out over the bikes as we left in a two by two procession.

15 minutes later it started to rain. And the sky darkened. Generally being of optimistic ‘glass half full’ nature the team drove on with high expectations of the sun bursting through the now dark green clouds. It never happened.

We waited until we were thoroughly wet (!) before donning our waterproofs. Those of us I should say who had waterproofs. Only half the group. Not sure how this happened as we are on our way to some very cold wet places in the south of Argentina.

The rain lashed down. It was too much for the prototype Belstaff gear, which will have to be beefed up for severe weather. The temperature dropped and the wind increased.

We had 40 km of road to start. We had to be very wary of standing water and aqua planing.

But that turned out to be the least of our worries. We took a right onto the dirt. The first section was muddy and as slippery as an eel. Not a comfortable feeling. Thankfully this gave way to gravel which is less slippery. But the car tracks which we normally keep to were full of skatey water, and the slightly elevated bits were loose thick gravel. A tough choice as neither was a comfortable feeling.

It then took a big turn for the worse. The grader was out and working. It had scraped and mixed the surface flat but it was super greasy. This was like trying to ride on a skid pad together with helmet visors that were tough to see through in the downpour.

We stopped and caucused. Safety rules the day. Always. We decided to return the 25km back to the road. This turned out to be a wise decision.

We slip-slided our way back to the road for over an hour.

We were rewarded with a wonderful brand new road and no cars. Although this was suspicious as this area of Argentina is significantly more populated we cracked along in torrential rain making great progress.


We came to a Spanish sign which whilst obscure to us Brits could be interpreted to mean that the road had not been completed. We flagged down a local but he wasn’t at all clear. Then another local pitched up and a police car. Together with our cruiser and Toyota with trailers. And then the two WAGs cars. And of course our 16 bikes. There were more vehicles than at the village fete. Consensus eventually emerged. The road was not finished. The gravel detour that was also available could have deep water crossings in this torrential rain. Advice: retrace our steps once more.

We did. All the time getting wetter and colder. Another hour going backwards.

We hit the main road, eventually. The main road took a much longer route than our original 270km.

We set off again. Now many riders were waterlogged and properly cold. The rain was incessant bouncing off the tarmac. Cars and lorries threw up great plumes of spray making it hazardous to overtake. And the threat of standing water was ever present.

We stopped for fuel at 1pm. Dripping and cold to the bone. Malu our wonderful local guide found a cafe that would serve pasta to a group of sodden bikers.

This helped restore heat and morale. We got to 3pm in the cafe with still 170km to go. And the weather worsening.

We reluctantly set off again for the hotel stopping every 30 minutes and trying frantically to do warm up exercises. People were going blue. The temperature dropped to 5 degrees. The wind was now gale force. The rain was sheeting down.

The last stage was hideous with a 40knot side wind, water on the road, poor visibility, and everyone chilled to the bone.

As I keep saying you couldn’t make it up. It was a real test of gear be it BMW, Klim, or our new. Prototype Belstaff. Some boots were soaking, all gloves were sodden and much of the stuff simply wasn’t waterproof.

We pitched up finally at the hotel all safe and in one piece and lit a huge log fire and drank hot soup.

We have now had tornadoes, snow, baking sun, storm force winds, and torrential rains. Everything but the pestilence and a swarm of locusts. Biblical in the extreme.

I keep saying, you couldn’t make it up.


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Day 12 - Addendum from the F and B Department

Almost as if by divine intervention after yesterdays rant about the lack of vegetables on the table, we were treated last night to the most unique vegetable cooking method I have ever seen.

As part of the Argentinian BBQ legend – Francis Mallman’s Seven Fires Concept of using 7 different wood-fired cooking methods, the chefs buried root vegetables in a canvas cloth in a kind of cooking sand pit all day, they were opened up for dinner in perfect condition….. so maybe a Vegan could survive in Argentina after all!!

Day 11 - Frying Tonight

The clouds have rolled in. There is more snow capping the Andes. This morning we went for a hike. Everyone came bar a handful who had had a bit of a night of it the night before.

We drove up into the mountains on rough trails. Dumped the cars and set off with a couple of local guides up a remote canyon. The WAGs chattered away. Charles and Jo have joined the party and we caught up on recent news. The path got steeper. And the canyon became narrower. We clambered over loose boulders and stepping stoned our way up the large stream. We could see an impressive waterfall some distance ahead. We arrived at an impassable section. Vertical wet slippery rock for maybe 50 feet. The terminus. Or so we thought.

But thoughtfully (!!!) someone had put in a Via Ferrata up the left hand face. Steel wire and steel foot placements.

One by one we scurried up this dodgy looking climbing improvisation. And then it got to Charles and Jo who, let’s just say, are no longer spring chickens. There was no stopping them. We had guides all over the place ensuring there would be no false step on either part and miraculously they both appeared by the waterfall. Impressive. I certainly wasn’t comfortable. To slip was definitely a ticket to the Pearly Gates.

An hour later we returned to the vehicles. A contingent had decided to run back to the hotel through the mountains. 21km. And a bunch of us went cycling.

It was all going swimmingly until the skies turned black and a massive thunderclap echoed around the mountains. Gregg, David K and I shot down the mountain on bikes ahead of the storm. The runners did their best.

Now the scary part.

There were some absolutely massive lightening bolts. One grounded 100 metres from the runners and the ground erupted in flames as the huge dose of energy hit the scrub. A bit close for comfort. It would be a little disappointing to have motorbiked South America off road only to be fried by lightening.

So that’s it we are still all here and well. And not fried.


Day 11 - Notes from the Food and Beverage Department

Its really just meat, meat and more meat……….to say that the Argentinians are not big on vegetables is a massive understatement. I really cant imagine how a vegan would get on in this country! We are now on day 11 and even as a bunch of mostly committed protein loving carnivores, we are starting to hanker after a nice salad!!

Having said that the beef has been delicious and we have also tasted llama, goat, pork and lamb. On a couple of occasions when we have been staying in simple hostelries I have ended up cooking the meat on their famous Asada barbecues, which involves burning logs for the charcoal in one section that then get transferred to the cooking area. Its a great way of cooking and we have had a lot of fun improvising with the ingredients and utensils available.

The other evening I ended up cooking for 20 odd with only a shovel to work the Asada with!

The other speciality that we are seeing a lot of are Empanadas, these are pastry cases like mini Cornish Pasties that are filled with all sorts of tasty stuff, obviously quite a lot have meat inside but also cheese, ham, tomatoes and herbs.

Of course I must make mention of the wine – we are currently staying at a beautiful resort called The Vines, deep in Argentinian wine country, the warm days and cool nights of the Uco Valley produce some of the country’s best. Malbec is of course what the area is really famous for, this grape originally from Cahors in South West France has now become synonymous with Argentina, they have really made it their own. The best is really good, dark intense juicy wine, but some of it can get a bit jammy, its very alcoholic too!…

But its not just about Malbec, they grow many different varieties here and are not afraid of blending. So far we have tasted Torrontes the indigenous light floral white, excellent Chardonnay and Viognier and great examples of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Syrah. Yesterday a few of us went to a stunning ultra modern winery called Diamandes where we were royally looked after with an excellent tour and tasting.

There is no doubt in my mind that this would be a great area for a wine trip’.

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Day 10 - A Pat on the Back

It was like stepping out of one story book into another. We have ridden 2000 kilometres through Namibia-like arid semi desert. Unproductive, uninhabitable land. We rounded a corner this morning, I kid you not, having climbed 600 metres on gravel switchbacks and there before us was this green verdant land of rich pasture. As far as the eye could see. The magnificent snow capped Andes to our right and endless green plains ahead.

We saw our first herd of cattle. Let’s face it if you think of Argentina then beef is one of the first things to come into your head. But we had travelled the length of Europe in Northern Argentina and hadn’t seen one. As we gently descended on our gravel road we came across vineyards. Swiss-like immaculate vineyards. In fact the whole area had a Sound of Music quality to it (I know Austria!!). But the juxtaposition of snow capped mountains and green fields has an Alpine feel. We are still at 1500 metres.

The day started a little leisurely with a 9am kick off. We only had 150km of riding. Mainly road, a little gravel I quote Gregg.

And so it came to pass that Virgin Pat got to ride on her first motorbike. Someone gave her a white helmet the size of a spaceman’s hat and a spare Belstaff jacket. Have you got the title yet? Yes it was me who got a Pat on the back.

I put my extra strong earplugs in and off we went. But our delightful road soon gave way to proper gravel. Which is really not de rigeur in the biking world. However ignoring this very sensible code of not taking a pillion off road we went slipping and sliding up a steep escarpment and around many hairpin bends.

It all ended well with a happy smiling ‘Pat on the back’.

And finally I have to report that we have been blissfully unaware that we have been enjoying deafening silence the last few days. But no longer. The WAGS have arrived and volume levels have risen several notches. We are all now ensconced in a wonderful vineyard lodge. Our most luxurious stop yet.

We are just back from a 45km bike this afternoon. Some of the boys went running. A bit of gym to finish and then a well earned….yes, gin and tonic!


Day 9 - A Quiet Day.

Today was the quiet day. Only 300km, mainly on tar roads. And probably not much to write about.

It was 9 degrees and clear when we set off at 7.30am. The temperature was set to be hot by midday. Like yesterday. We can tolerate a little modest suffering from the cold in the early morning because this country quickly heats up. If you overdress it becomes suffocating.

90 minutes later we have risen a thousand metres, we are in dense fog, and the temperature has dropped to 2 degrees. It is intensely cold. And we are properly underdressed. We stop and wait for the cruiser. We need hot coffee and extra layers. It doesn’t show. We wait and wait. The day had started with a flat tyre on the trailer which Gregg and Philistine had laboured over in the early morning. Perhaps it had recurred. We waited 40 minutes by which time we were frozen. We were expecting to be baked.

We carried on. Eventually we emerged from the fog and stopped on a bridge for a breather. Nick shot off ahead to set up for some filming. We followed on ten minutes later. After half an hour we came across a football match. This was the largest group of people we had seen in Argentina. 22 plus 10 spectators. Someone noticed that Nick was missing. We hadn’t passed him but there had been a fork in the road way back where we had stopped on the bridge. He must have gone the wrong way although Gregg had been clear with instructions. Philistine elected to go back and search. We continued. We arrived in a town 10km further on and refuelled. Whereupon we found Nick who had simply driven on and on. We had now lost Philistine who was looking for a non existent Nick. We also met up with the cruiser. They had taken a different route somehow despite the same map app and had overtaken us unknowingly. We were looking behind for the cruiser which was ahead and they were looking for bikers ahead which were behind. You couldn’t make it up.

Eventually we got everyone back together and finally finally managed a hot coffee and packed lunches. Philistine had put an extra 80 km on the clock looking for Nick.

So much for my quiet day with little to write about.

We have had great riding today. Some absolutely brand new roads with no traffic and perfect bends and some perfectly manicured off road gravel. Normally this would constitute ecstasy amongst bikers but we are now taking it in our stride.

Here are a few surprises for me about Argentina so far.

  1. Generally local people don’t understand a single word of English.
  2. The roads are brand new.
  3. There are no cars on the roads.
  4. The mountains have no vegetation.
  5. The mountains are immense.
  6. There is no wild life.
  7. Every mineral known to man must be in these mountains as they are so colourful.
  8. It is arid.
  9. There are virtually no inhabitants.
  10. The first 2000km has been through very inhospitable land.
  11. The people are small.

We finally arrived to our delightful hotel at 6pm. But not before being hauled in at a police checkpoint 10km up the road because they had spotted Sleazy and Shorty filming by the side of the road and considered this dangerous. For some reason. It soon became chaotic as 16 bikes turned up plus two big cars replete with trailers. Eventually the police gave up and waved us on. This was mild stuff compared to the ‘Border Bitch’ so we were very chilled, not to say amused, about the whole affair as the errant pair were given a dressing down in Spanish.

Hey ho. G and T time. For a change. 🙂

Day 8 - A Town called Desolation

This town that we are staying in should be called Desolation not Rodeo. There is nothing remotely ‘rodeoey’ about the place. My name is better.

The wind howls constantly. It must be blowing 100kph. It is picking the water off the lake in great spumes and throwing it up in the air. We can see two island in the middle of this bright blue lake with a 50metre gap between. The surface water is surging through the gap like rapids on a great river. The mountains which surround us are utterly devoid of any vegetation. Just scarified sheer rock faces of every colour much of it dark and foreboding. It is a lunar landscape. Unremitting. Impossible to survive. You would go mad if you lived here.

The village of Rodeo has grown thousands of closely planted poplar trees to shelter from the dry daily storm force winds. This in itself looks alien.

Imagine that remote colony on Mars where people are locked down in a desolate man-made town on the edge of desolation, and the hot wind howls interminably. Totally inhospitable. Hold that vision. That’s Rodeo. It is unthinkable that anyone could live here. Living hell.

It is one of the surprises of Argentina. The northern end of this country is quite hard, in places totally unliveable. I had expected something a little gentler and agricultural. Instead this is Namibian. Hot, dry, barren, mountainous, arid.

Six of us went on a 60km bike ride on mountain bikes this morning as we have been motorbike bound for days. The route was a triangle. The first side took 2 hours. All uphill on loose gravel. Uncomfortable and grinding as it was like cycling through a quarry. Featureless piles of rock and gravel lined each side of the track. Little scenic reward for two hours work. The next side was more interesting and mildly downhill. Gisli and Pat came in the cruiser and dished out coffee and biscuits at the two corners. The third side was beyond hideous. We cycled directly into the teeth of this howling wind. There were times it stopped you in your tracks. It was exhausting to make any headway. The noise was intense. We ground on for an hour and a half and made 9km. Then Gisli came to the rescue over the horizon and drove the cruiser in front of us to cut down the wind. We all pedalled around the lee of truck sheltering partially from storm force winds. We struggled back eternally grateful to the initiative of the cruiser team of Gisli, Fat Pat and Philistine. We had been out for a full six hours.

The other guys went for a 15km run. And then wait for it George and Imelda went windsurfing. The local surf guys didn’t believe they would survive particularly as they had no rescue boat. But they did and I believe we got some epic footage for the film. Order your tickets now.

G and T time. I am in my little cabin writing this and it sounds like the whole contraption is going to be hurled into the sky at any minute. The noise of the wind is deafening.


Day Seven - Losing Credibility

Ask any of the riders today and they will tell you that the mountain pass this morning on a brand new road with super tight bends carved into the mountainside, and the mountain pass this afternoon through black mountains on a road that wasn’t there when the recce was carried out a year before, are the best two rides of their lives. Now this is going to sound a bit ripe when I have euphorically described the last two days as the best riding days on planet earth. Hence the title.

But why were they so mind blowingly good? Because of a number of reasons. Firstly they were brand new roads with a perfect ‘Swiss like’ surface. The bends were pure. They were perfect biking trajectories. They were slightly cambered. These roads were sophisticated. They were wide. There were no cars. I will repeat that. There were NO cars at all. It was like a test track just for us and our big powerful motorbikes. And the scenery was stupendous. This place is Namibia on steroids. The mountains are massive. And there are countless mountain ranges inside of the Andes. All sitting near the same fault line.

We had two glorious sessions on mountain bends. As a consequence our confidence and skill level has increased. The trick is to corner smoothly. But it’s easier than it sounds. There is a harmony between the angle of lean and the force throwing you out of the bend. If you get it right it is an intensely satisfying feeling. When you can see the exit of the bend you can accelerate quite strongly but this obviously needs the lean angle to increase. It feels like you are scraping along the road.

The day finished with a twist. Ursula has been struggling a little with the pace of the other bikers. But on the last session of 25km she was determined to keep up. Which she did just about at the back of the group. With just 5 km to go we exited a narrow cutting on a summit, rounded a corner, and there in front of us was a huge blue lake against dramatic black mountains. We all pulled over to admire the view. We had only been there a few minutes when Ursula came steaming by. Sam was by the side of the road waving her down. But she was so concentrated on the road that she neither saw Sam nor the modest 15 bikes parked by the road.

And off she flew. We finished a our viewing and then gently made our way to the small hotel. But of course no Ursula.

A search party was despatched. She was found some kilometres beyond the hotel forlornly waiting at a junction. We all wondered what would have happened had there not been a junction….

Happy days.


Notes from the Team

Robin: The Bikes

These BMW GS 1200’s were absolutely made for everything we are encountering in Argentina…..On both Africa trips we used its baby brother the F800 which at the time we thought were brilliant (and indeed they are) but this latest version of the 1200 is in a league of its own. Its a big bike weighing 260 kg but once moving feels incredibly nimble and sure footed. Nothing seems beyond its ability particularly when in expert hands – on road, off road, sand, gravel, rocks, slimey water crossings. There’s a good reason why this is the all time best selling motorbike. Since 2004 BMW have been tweaking the basic design but this latest version including assisted gear assist, hill start, cruise control and endless permutations of riding mode is an absolute dream…….not to ignore the fact that in full off-road kit they look bloody cool too!

Day 6 - The Tee Junction

A big day ahead. 470kms. The third long day in a row. We gifted ourselves an extra 30 mins in bed this morning with a leisurely 7am start. However we had made the school boy error of not replenishing our tanks the night before. So it was off to the filling station first thing. What could go wrong? 😎 Hope for the best plan for the worst. We failed on this front. When we arrived the fuel truck was plugged into the underground tanks and the gas station was closed.

Miraculously there was another filling station in the town AND it was open. We were lucky.

The snake of 16 fully fuelled bikes headed south on Route 40 which runs the entire length of South America. It was all going swimmingly, apart from wild dogs racing out of driveways, until, if you excuse the pun, we came to the bridge…..well actually it hadn’t been built yet….so things continued swimmingly as we found our way to the rivers edge….and, as there weren’t many alternatives, went for it. Only Kneegate Will had a mild ducking. But he’s young, and entirely dispensable.

The road continued along the edge of an impressive mountain range to our right, the road itself being down on the flood plane. Every kilometre or so the road would dip into a flood gully. Clearly when there was a storm in the mountains water would cascade down into the flood plane and tear across the road. Hence the myriad of gullies to take the flood away. Inevitably one or two of these bear traps would catch you out if you were not paying full attention and as the bike lurched into the dip your stomach would hit the roof of your mouth then your chin would hit the handlebars. After doing this twice you didn’t make the mistake again.

We stopped awhile after 150km for tea. We waited and waited but the cruiser never arrived. There was a deserted farmhouse just off the road. David K peered through the dilapidated doorway and found a sheep’s head, wool and all, swinging on a piece of string threaded through its ear. Lovely.

We abandoned tea as the cruiser was slow and decided to seek caffeine in a town called Belen at the half way stage which is where I am now sat writing. This last section of road before lunch was glorious. Wide sweeping bends on a brand new road with no traffic. We tanked it for an hour at high speed round endless perfect bends. Imelda swears his eyebrows as well as his knees were scraping on the tarmac. For such a hardy biker he has been complaining incessantly about chafing from his braces. He’s just gone to buy cream….

More to come this evening.

Well evening has arrived and we are safely necking cold lagers in the comfort of a nice but simple hotel.

But this afternoon…you just couldn’t make it up. That was yesterday’s saying. But equally relevant this afternoon. Now concentrate.

Imagine 16 motorbikes arriving at a T junction. A huge deserted T junction. We have just come up the ‘leg’ and we have to choose left or right. Our satnav says right. And off we turn.

Now step back a moment. Immediately before lunch we refuelled. It’s always a bit chaotic with so many bikes. After lunch as we set off on the second half of the journey, 3km in, I discover that whilst the attendant had made a pretence of filling my bike he had not refuelled it at all.

I had only 90km in the tank. We decided to plough on, stop at 90km and refuel from the jerry can in the cruiser. What could possibly go wrong?

Back to our junction. That was at 80km. We turned right, and went 7km then stopped to wait for the cruiser. There was no mobile signal.

The cruiser didn’t show. Suddenly Gregg leapt up. It had just dawned on him that there was a route to our destination going left at the junction as well as right. Had the cruiser taken the other route? He hared back to the junction at full lick. As did George. At the junction Greg retraced his steps back down the leg in case the cruiser had not arrived. George carried on across the top to chase it down if it had already gone through. George carried on for 35km at Mach one. No cruiser. Gregg 15km in the other direction. No cruiser.

It turned out that after the junction there was a right turn after 5km to our destination of Chilecito. George not knowing this had carried straight on.

In that small fraction of time the cruiser had sneaked through all these bikes trying to track it down and was merrily ploughing on to Chilecito. And it had all the fuel on board.

The rest of us sat baking in 32 degrees by the side of the road. We decided all to return to the key T junction. The last 4 km I travelled on 0km in the tank.

When we got there with nothing and nobody in sight we got a fleeting phone signal. We managed to patch through to Gisli and send a locator. 50 minutes later the cruiser turned up together with the various search parties.

And off we went again. After 2 hours marooned.

The rest of the ride was quick. We averaged 130km/hr. until we were hit by a downpour. Oh what fun.

I am writing this in the comfort of my room as the thunder rolls across the hills that surround this town of Chilecito and the heavens pour down.

The day ended well but we could easily still be stuck 200km back out of fuel with the cruiser here in Chilecito.

In summary.

My bike didn’t get filled. We went right the cruiser went left. Just before I ran out of fuel. George didn’t know about the subsequent right. The cruiser wriggled through all the bikers unseen. We went back to the junction. We hit an intermittent phone signal.

You couldn’t make it up.

Great barbecue tonight. Meat for starter. Meat for main. Welcome to Argentina.


Day 5

For those of you who have heard the mantra: ‘Maximise the number of days that you never forget’ then this day, for all of us, is firmly booked in that category.

Motorbiking down South America is one thing but to brave the mother of all mountain passes to reach 5000 metres on a motorbike is entirely different. It is something you would only do once in your lifetime. And for a good number of reasons. Firstly there aren’t many roads that reach these rarified heights. Secondly it requires an expedition. And thirdly it’s very technical riding with no room for error.

Everyone made it. Remarkably no one bailed because of the altitude. The previous day we met a small group of German bikers at the border and half of them had not been able to cope with the altitude on this summit ridge. So very remarkable indeed.

The scenery again was breathtaking. The road snaked up and snaked down with dozens and dozens of hairpins in each direction. Most with proper drop offs. Descending hairpins is an acquired taste as the bike gathers momentum in the steep corner, and if you brake (which you sincerely want to do!) the weight goes on the front wheel which then slides and there is generally a terrifying fall waiting on the outside of the bend. It is a masterable skill though and is perversely enjoyable when accomplished.

The ascent started at 6.30am prompt. We hit the summit at 8. We had coffee well down the other side at 10. In that time we saw no other car. Just a twisting gravel road and astonishing scenery.

The two backup cars with their mighty trailers both made it over too. Gisli driving the cruiser was greeted by a flurry of snowflakes on the summit. It was minus one on top.

The rest of the day was off road gravel tracks with an infinite number of turns. We must have rounded a thousand bends each with its own wobble on the grit or sand. One becomes impervious to that unnerving sensation of the bike shifting on the road and you just trust in the gyroscope to keep it upright.

We covered 300 kilometres of mountainous off road in 11 hours of biking. I am not sure we have ever done more when you think much of it was very technical riding at high altitude. The last few hours were tiring and we had to really concentrate particularly as our speed crept up. But the first six hours were sublime.

And we will never forget. And particularly David K who went swimming in two of the many river crossings and punctured his engine on a rock. Nothing that a bit of glue won’t fix.

All in a days biking.


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Day Four

The team has now been sat in customs at over 4000m, in the most desolate landscape imaginable, for more than an hour. We have been processed by three officials so far but now we have uncovered the nightmare bureaucrat. The fourth official is a lady who will not accept that Jim Ratcliffe is the same person as James Ratcliffe. The bikes are registered in the former name, my passport in the latter. We are currently at stalemate. We have ridden 250km in temperatures well below 10c and are a trifle fatigued. Not only that but Ursula had a puncture which took the best part of an hour to repair. Whilst some of us are used to border crossings it still raises the blood pressure. The lady clearly believes that we have mugged a guy called Jim Ratcliffe and have stolen 16 motorbikes from him and then driven them across the Andes.
We started the day at dawn. The group was disciplined and all were saddled up at 6.30am on the dot. There had been the odd unspoken but disgruntled murmurings the previous evening at the prospect of a 5.15 wake up. But this is why. Shit happens. This is a Jim—James thing. One the team had not foreseen. But there is always something.
It is midday and we have some time in hand. That said the rest of the journey is on wild unmade roads and we have no idea what sort of progress we might make.
Whilst perched on this skinny little bench facing the customs kiosk listening to the heated debate about Jim and James I might as well describe this mornings ride.
It was bitterly cold for the first couple of hours. After that we ascended and it got even colder. Fingers were numb despite hand warming grips and cores were chilled. No one was adequately dressed but we tackled that issue at the tea break 150km into the journey overlooking a magnificent salt lake. Layers were added. Winter gloves came out.
Refreshed, thawed, and caffeined-up we felt liberated. This was the worlds most perfect biking road. Not a car. Not a cloud. A perfect tar surface. Beautiful bends. Staggering scenery. One just couldn’t help oneself. We stormed along at speeds I never reach in a car. We were an elegant snake of big bikes seemingly linked with elastic and evenly spaced blazing through the high Andes. Quite a sight. And exhilarating in the extreme. The new 1200’s are brimming with power and are wonderfully stable around bends. We passed small groups of wild llamas grazing on scraps of vegetation and a small fox crossing the road.
Two hours have clocked up now. We are still pinned down at the border post. Endless bureaucracy. There hasn’t been another car through in this time either way. We are alone with the border officials at exactly 4300 metres in bleak arid desert. We, believe it or not, have two border ‘helpers’ here to assist with the officials paperwork. I have no idea if this is a help or a hindrance.
The sun beats down. It is directly overhead. Shade is disappearing. The air temperature is sub ten. In the sun it is baking. There is a cool breeze. The brightness is blinding. The clock ticks on.
Nick has broken into song. ‘The border crossing blues’ echoes across the arid plain. Bodies are scattered on the gravel, on the concete, leaning on bikes, leaning on the building. Seeking out shade. And all the while Nicks plaintiff song wafts over the semi conscious team.
Approaching 3 hours. It’s like a scene out of Th Good Bad and the Ugly. A road to nowhere. A few beaten up drifters with nothing to do. Dust and heat. If a new guy comes into town he ain’t gonna stay long.
Things have just taken a turn for the worse. The ‘woman’ has told us to put one of the bikes on the trailer. This is not a trivial task. Phil the rider will cross the border in the car. We will then get the bike off the trailer. And he will continue riding.
But wait. She has now insisted that the land cruiser take both trailers over the border we are now having to unhitch the trailers. And then hitch one trailer onto the back of the other trailer. You couldn’t make it up.
And wait again, she has now said she is going for lunch and will return in an hour. There is now no shade at all. We crossed the Tropic of Capricorn this morning. The sun sits directly overhead.
If we hadn’t been so frazzled it would have been comical. A full four hours baking in the sun and we finally squeezed through.
It’s now the evening. And we all arrived safely at 7.15pm. We certainly filled up the day.
We had the most wild off-roading for four hours imaginable following the border post. We had sand and more sand. The nightmare of every biker. Hairpin after hairpin. Precipitous drop offs. We summitted at 4650 metres before descending the most dramatic canyon with steep gravel hairpins every 100 metres. They were first gear corners. On some the sun was blinding and you could see nothing. Some had sand and the wheels just slewed straight on. We had several fallers but fortunately on the sand not near the drop offs. The two Davids I believe and Kneegate succumbed to gravity but came out unscathed.
Everyone was chuffed at the end and proud to have made it through such a day when we had the kitchen sink thrown at us for 14 hours.
When we rode Africa 100 we had the Big Five days that stretched us to our limit. Today would certainly have been a contender.
Easy on the alcohol tonight as we are up high and tomorrow is 5000 metres. A gentle headache is beating somewhere at the back of my head. I am sure there will be some stories to tell tomorrow.

Day Three - On a High

Quiz Time. Two questions. Have you ever been to 4300 metres? Have you ever jogged at 4300 metres.


If you haven’t I wouldn’t recommend it. Your lungs simply cannot find sufficient air. They are clawing for oxygen molecules and gasping with exertion. And that’s simply because there isn’t much around. It is unnerving. You worry whether you will ever get your breath back again. There is, I believe, about 60% of the normal level of oxygen at this altitude.

But the ride up was stupendous. The most breathtaking scenery imaginable. And brilliant broken roads. This was certainly one of the best days riding that we have ever had. We took 3 and a half hours to reach the high plateau on gravel roads. It was a good test of bikemanship. For those who have not larked around on these off road boys toys the main difference from a conventional road vehicle is that the tyre is not in contact with anything firm. It is in contact with ball bearings of varying sizes be it gravel, small rocks or sand. It takes some getting used to but the bikes themselves are remarkably stable in these conditions. If you are looking for homework look up ‘gyroscope’. This is what prevents us falling off.

Ursula regrettably did have an ‘off’ on a very sharp hairpin on the steep ascent and was a bit shaken. Fortunately the tea stop was shortly after the incident which helped calm the nerves.

We encountered some wildlife today. Wild llamas roamed the high plains and flamingos decorated the salt lakes. A sight few of us had ever seen. Always fun to see new stuff. We even bumped into a couple of cheeky coyotes.

Today was merely a prologue for the main event tomorrow. Acclimatisation to altitude and a good run out on Andean mountain roads was the goal of the day. That said it wasn’t a walk in the park, we covered at least a couple of hundred kliks on tough gravel roads. The destination was a high plateau with geysers, hot springs and fumaroles. Very impressive. We all took a dip in the hot spring and the lodge had kindly hauled lunch 100k up the Andes and set it all out under jolly umbrellas.

A fantastic ride. And great spirit all round. Tomorrow is a big day. 350km all in and rising up to 4000 metres, plus a border crossing. That is not the gentlest of openers for the Worlds End tour!

Now for packing and then a beer in Main Street!



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Day 2 - A Buoyant Team

We bobbed. The whole team. Heads, arms, feet out of the water. A bizarre sensation. It reminded me of that silly joke. What do you call a man with no arms or legs in the sea. Bob.

We had waded out into a salt lake. Dead Sea in density. And it was memorable for another reason….the sights we could see as we slowly oscillated round in a circle. We could see mountains of all colours in all directions. We could see mountains with snow on them, 6000m high. We could see active volcanoes. We could see Andean flamingos. We could see Imelda’s rather nasty shorts. We could see blue cloudless skies in the worlds driest place. We could see girls in bikinis. Thats the Atacama Desert for you.

We had just cycled 20k on a spiky gravel road. An hour and a half. All of us except Sleazy and Totti who had elected for motorbiking. Destination Salt Lake. And it was fun.

The cycle back needless to say eventually became competitive. Conversation ceased, heads went down, and tooths were gritted. KneeGate Will was flying. Everyone indeed was in surprisingly good shape. No one lagged. Ursula is clearly a dark horse.

Lunch had been earned. We were back by midday. They know how to cook here. We were fed well.

Following lunch we had a cruise around Main Street. This small town is called San Pedro D’Atacama. It resides deep in the desert. But is popular. Main Street was buzzing. Some very cool shops and bars but in almost shanty like buildings.

There was one odd, baffling sight. Along the centre of one of the pedestrian offshoots from Main Street was a washing line with many garments hanging. Each had a tag. We assumed it was a trendy shop display. But each label had a name and an age. The garments were different. A blouse. A dress. A shirt. Etc. Most had what looked like dried blood on them. Slightly disturbing.

Hey ho. Onto more jolly matters. The afternoon ride. All 16 bikes again. 1600 hours. 30 degrees Celsius. We headed off out of town looking for an off-road trail. The first attempt was ridiculous. Fine powder sand. We sent Imelda in. Toast. He disappeared in plumes of dust his wheels spinning crazily. Bike and rider separated. We dragged him roadside and took stock.

Our second attempt was a glorious off road route through towering bluffs and bizarre rock formations. Everyone eased in and a couple of hours later they were much more comfortable on surfaces that move (!).

The only hiccup of the day was Gregg’s bike which conked out in the mountains. A team has gone to retrieve it this evening.

Gin and tonic time!!!




Day One - KneeGate goes viral

Tom Cruise expresses his ‘need for speed’ in Top Gun. I need to gently ventilate.

Thursday was a key milestone this week. Everything needed to be complete. E mails were piling in at a frantic pace. Not to mention well wishers on WhatsApp.

It was all go. There were the INE0S ‘deals’ that had arrived all at once like London buses, the building projects from Iceland to Hampshire to garages and houses in London. There was clothing for the America’s Cup team, radiator grills for Grenadier and just a little miscellaneous stuff in our modest chemicals and oil and gas corner shops. On top of that there was the small matter of packing. Everyone had finished packing a week ago. I hadn’t started. There had been no time. And finally Christmas shopping. But that was where Friday came in. Contingency Friday was to be a full on speed shopping day. There was no time for contingencies.

Well anyway that was the finely thought out plan until KneeGate exploded onto the scene.

Alarms started flashing mid Thursday afternoon. Fresh Emails started to trickle in followed by WhatsApp’s. A couple of phone calls followed on. William had bruised his knee falling off a bike. Good Gosh. For those of you who don’t know William he is the youngest in the party, passed his test a mere 8 days ago and lives at home. “He needs medical treatment!” was the cry. It will be weeks before he can ride. He needs scans. And a hospital visit. He won’t be coming out to Chile. Quite impossible. The emails turned into an avalanche. The WhatsApp’s into a tsunami. Everyone was involved. My secretary was calling. His father. His mother. His physio. My driver (!!!!). Even Baba on reception. My phone started to glow as the microwave density of this deluge of media hit my iPhone transistors. I expected Trumps administration to call any minute. My head could not take much more. I called Sam to ask him to sort it out. I left a tortured message with George for him to sort it. I emailed our Olympic runner John Mayock to get him to sort it (god only knows why) and finally his physio.

At 1800 hours I shut down and hit the bottle. I had 3 gin and tonics. I had failed to complete any of my key Thursday tasks. I didn’t switch the phone on again that day.

Friday morning was hazy. My head hurt. I had done no packing. I had bought no presents. And everything had gone eerily quiet. I discovered I had no suitcase. My new motorbike gloves were too small. It wasn’t going to be a good day. And there was radio silence from the KneeGate masses. No one was speaking to me. The whole day was a mess.

Fast forward to today. Here in this hot desert landscape. Someone had clearly ‘sorted’ Will. Don’t know who. He had not been left behind in traction in some London hospital after all. When I met him I was expecting a pale complexion, a weak smile, bandages, walking aids. But no KneeGate Will was jumping about like a spring lamb. He was like one of those continental footballers that recovers miraculously when the ref runs off. He rode today like a local. As if his mother had had a dalliance many years ago with Valentino Rossi. As if he were born to a bike. Not a grimace, not a whimper. Two solid fine legs.

(To his credit none of the KneeGate business was anything to do with this strapping young 24 year old. )

Hey ho. I do feel slightly better now.

Mars. The scenery here is like Mars. Not a stitch of vegetation. Arid. Dusty. Hot and windy. Dust devils permanently on the horizon. Mountains in all directions. The colours are all mineral. Every shade of green, reds, magenta’s and lilacs. Rocky red outcrops protrude from endless sand. It truly is majestic scenery.

We are 16 bikes today including KneeGate Will who rode the whole 100k. Easy riding through the hot dry air. Everyone rode at ease and seemed comfortable with their new machines. I have a new GS1200 BMW that just purrs along effortlessly.

No dramas today. We kept well away from the big copper trucks and we are now settled into a comfortable retreat in the desert for a touch of acclimatisation. We went for a short run this evening gasping for air (3000 metres here) and abruptly U turned after 3 k when a large dust devil headed our way. When I say large think of a 10 story building, wide and high.

Gin and tonic time. Wash away the dust and the receding memories of KneeGate.