The final leg of our trip, rounding off almost 2 years and 70,000km on the road. We take the long way through Eastern Europe and find a treasure trove of amazing sights, warm people and staggering motorcycling roads.
After the many deserts we've travelled through - and it's amazing just how much of the planet is desert - it comes with eye-popping delight to see the vivid greens and vast waterways of Europe and Scandinavia. The lush grasses of Britain and Ireland; the Highlands of Scotland; the fjords of Norway and the endless trees of Finland. Accompanied by spectacular scenery, we reach new goals and new extremes.
Our last days on the grand continent of Africa but she just won't let us go without a couple more flat tyres and encounters with the police. Nevertheless, ahead we have our reward.....green grass and roads paved with bacon butties..
A lot of independent over-landers have a love-hate relationship with Ethiopia. Why? From the cradle of humanity and glorious scenery, to hostile kids and being robbed in the capital - it can be an emotional rollercoaster. We were glad to ride into Sudan and into the sweltering deserts of the Sahara - and experience its friendly people. It too had its challenges - but they came from raw nature.
We continue our journey through Africa, trying to catch up on the blog when internet speeds are enough. Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania and Kenya, each one has a different flavour and we don't like the taste of them all. Nevertheless we take some time to explore each and try to adjust to being a target of attention where ever we go like never before.
From the sweltering heat of the Kalahari Desert to the drenching rains of Zambia; from passing elephants on the roadside to seeing baboons on the street; and from bad hair cuts to 50 cent lunches - we're starting to feel the real Africa.
From the deserts of Nevada, a date with Elvis in Vegas, across the great canyons of Utah, meeting real life cowboys, crossing vast prairies for days on end .... we're racing across the States to try and get to Toronto before winter to ship the bikes to the southern hemisphere . . . Winter is coming . . . will we make it in time?
A rather long entry this time around, we've been go, go, go since getting back on the road again and not much time to write. We manage to ship out of Lima and into Canada, meet lots of new friends and ride some of the most amazing roads. Sit down with a cup 'o tea and Jaffa cake for this one and enjoy.....
So, we have time to kill while my wrist heals. We have a few admin type things to do like chasing quotes for shipping the bikes; planning how best to use this time; filling in the insurance claim; checkups at the hospital, etc etc. But we have plenty of time just to be tourists in this capital city, kick back and relax for a few weeks.
Leaving Valparaiso involves riding down the narrow network of cobbled streets towards the harbour and through Viña Del Mar to get to the highway. We are heading for Antofagasta, 1300km north, and it's good to be back on the road again!
We're making a beeline for Valparaiso. It's on the pacific coast about 1000kms north and we decide to ride it over 4 days, riding every day. Anything above 300km we just find too much and couldn't do it every day for a few days. I've got a toothache top right which is persisting, so we plan to stay in Valparaiso for 4 days so I can get it sorted . . .
We are entering the lakes district of Chile and there is so much to see. We pick a route that will take us around several of the lakes and into several National Parks. There's not so much 'ripio' (the South American term for a gravel / rock road), so we enjoy perfect, twisty serpentine roads for most of the time, but never fear we still manage to find the ripio when it's around.
Following a nice rest day in Gobernador Gregores, we have 360km up Ruta 40 to Perito Moreno (same name but not to be confused with the glacier we visited a few days ago). Arriving in town we pull up to a likely looking hotel with a driveway around to the back, where we can pull the bikes in away from the street.
There's about 130km of the usual wind and pretty flat landscape on the way to El Chalten. We turn off Ruta 40 then the scenery gets more interesting and, low and behold I'm nearly reduced to tears again - this time with something resembling pride in my chest cavity - it expands with an emotion - I'm not quit sure what it is - awe? disbelief? excitement? But this is what we see and it is in front of us for 90kms on the road to El Chalten.
Our first great milestone in our journey - "The End of the World" in the furious 50s is complete and now it's time to head north, destination Alaska. We head back to Rio Grande along the same lovely roads and scenery and spend a night there just on the outskirts of town. There's a great little Italian restaurant around the corner, El Chesare, which we're fortunate to have experienced.
Following a brilliant stretch of road and scenery, at the end of a straight, is the grand entrance to Ushuaia which welcomes visitors through a giant wooden facade and.....straight into a police checkpoint. The standard questions are asked, but the irony of 'Where are you going?' seems lost on them here at the end of the world.
Uh oh - I'm starting to get a sore throat like Jeff had a few weeks ago. Last thing I need - I hate having colds. Oddly, like with Jeff, it feels better I eat.
We've got enough fuel to get us comfortably half way to Rio Gallegos, where we know there is a petrol station at Corpen Aike. There's a queue so we have lunch first. Some Brazilian bikers come and go, and come back again -
We travel a short easy distance to Gaiman, a Welsh settlement in Patagonia. It was established in 1865 by group of 150 Welsh people wishing to protect a lifestyle that had become endangered in their native Wales. I blame it on the English!
Getting out of Azul was an easy affair. We use an App called Navmii on our iPhones which saves us carrying an additional device. Navmii makes use of the iPhones inbuilt GPS, so we don't need an internet connection all the time for navigation.
We head for Bahia Blanca 337km away. We're on Ruta 3 which is part of the Pan-American highway. The road so far consists of long, dead straight sections and a more or less featureless landscape. It makes for tiresome riding. As we will find out soon, this is to continue for another couple of thousand kilometres.
Time to leave Fabio and Yvana in Buenos Aires and head South. We spend yesterday doing the final packing and getting rid of stuff that's not absolutely essential - like 20 pairs of knickers - what was I thinking?! We need a tardis really, but manage to find a spot for everything. The farewell party see us off - thank you Fabio and Yvana for your hospitality and kindness.
It's finally the day to collect our bikes from customs at Buenos Aires international airport. It takes about 8 hours all up and that is good going by all accounts (and compared to three Italians who had been trying for a week to clear their bikes). We had magnificent help from Sandra at Dakar Motos http://www.dakarmotos.com/argentina.htm and it would have taken us a few days for sure, without her.
Melt in your mouth steak, oozing atmosphere, great service, fine wine ... this won't happen very often from now on, but thanks to a great Christmas present from Jim and Lauren we have enjoyed the best steak Buenos Aires has to offer.
Fabio offered to take us to where he grew up in Tigre (pronounced Tee-Grey). Turned out to be a lively and vibrant place we thoroughly enjoyed. First there was an impromptu bike meet, seems like it started a couple of Saturdays ago and is becoming a regular thing. There was a really interesting mix of bikes.
So the disarray continues - sorting out medical insurance at the airport, leaving instructions to sell my car - thanks Em you're a legend, and finding more random stuff in our luggage - more bull dog clips, square plastic basket, and a bottle of champagne.