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Thread: Top of the World - a trip to the Andes

  1. #33
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    May 2007
    A Town in the County Down, Norn Iron
    Thoroughly enjoyable read. Great photos. Lets me 'escape' from the desk for a while when having a read about the adventure

  2. #34
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    Mar 2004
    Dublin mostly!
    Thank you very much for putting this together, mighty trip and mighty write-up!!
    Climate is what you hope for, weather is what you get!

  3. #35
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    Apr 2011
    Jamaica Inn

    Really interesting write up. Thanks for taking the time 'so far'........any more instalments?

  4. #36
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    Mar 2009

    Top of the World - a trip to the Andes

    26th March
    Mother’s Day. The postman managed to get my Mother’s Day cards to me - even in Argentina.

    We had a dip in the pool

    And chilled out in the hammock

    We needed to plan what our next step was going to be.
    Mont Ojos de Salado was the most obvious choice now, it is the second highest mountain in the Andes.
    It was halfway between the Argentinian and Chilean borders.
    We needed to buy a new tyre for the trailer and some provisions for a couple of nights at Ojos.
    There was a refugio at the first base camp there.
    There are in fact 3 refugios on Ojos. The first one, Refugio Murray is at 4,530. It’s just after Laguna Verde with the pink flamingos.
    Having made the plan to go to Ojos, we went back to the main square to people watch.

    Tinogasta had really grown on us by now. This was our third visit and we had figured out how everything worked. The main square was where everyone gathered.
    The kids rode around the square on their motorbikes and mopeds. Round and round.
    Then they’d swap places and ride around again. The girls posing for the boys and the boys for the girls.
    As the evening wore on, the cars would come out too and circle the square. Windows down, one arm out, music playing.
    Round and round they’d go. Then, when it got dark, we could see the leds on the bikes, in the rear mudguards or under the chains. Red ones or green ones. Jim decided he wanted orange ones, to match the bike, you know.

    27th March

    We packed up and left Tinogasta for the last time.
    The road north was very quiet. There are 2 graveyards in Fiambalá. One in the town and another on the outskirts.

    One for the rich and one for the poor.

    The customs guy had told us that they have maybe 100 cars a day on their busiest days in the summer, but at this time of year there were only about 10 cars a day going through.
    The road on the Argentinian side was so easy to drive, mostly straight, wide well surfaced roads.
    We arrived at the border well before 5pm. The border crossing was very straightforward.
    It only took about half an hour. The tarmac ended very soon after the border crossing and the gravel road began. Then the horrible ruts began. It took just over an hour to get to the turn off for Mont Ojos.
    We got to the Refugio and had a look around. It was quite big, there was a room with a big table and some shelves, several bedrooms downstairs and then a dorm room upstairs and another bedroom.
    The mattresses were in a bad way, but we put our mattresses on top and figured they’d be more comfortable and warm than being in a tent on the side of the mountain.

    We left the trailer with the bikes on them in the garage and drove up to the second refugio, Refugio Atacama, 5,300m.
    It was 22km away and it took us 40 minutes to get there in the jeep. There were some climbers there who told us that we didn’t need a permit to go up the mountain which was good news. We went back to Refugio Murray and when we got back there were 2 climbers there.
    They told us that we might need a permit! We all cooked dinner and sat around chatting all evening.

    We were wrong about it being warmer in the Refugio than in a tent. It was freezing! This was the coldest night we had spent up the mountains.

    28th March

    After a bad night’s sleep, waking up cold many times during the night. We went out onto the balcony to boil the water and have breakfast as it was just too cold inside. While it was cold out, the sun was shining so that warmed us up.

    The plan was that the boys were going to do a recci, come back with an idea of what the mountain was like and make a plan for the next day.
    Then Séamus said that I should go with Kev and Jim and he’d stay at the Refugio.
    I wasn’t really keen but I knew that if I didn’t go that day I probably wouldn’t get the chance tomorrow.
    I was really, really nervous as I knew what the terrain was like.
    There was deep, deep sand and many, many rocks! We set off early and after about 10 minutes I started to relax a little.

    Jim was in front, so I followed his lead. I knew there was a big really deep sandy bit as we had got stuck in it the day before in the jeep.
    We knew where it was and managed to avoid it. But there was still a lot of sand around and I was really struggling with it.
    We made it to Refugio Atacama, the climbers were still there.

    There was some bad wind forecast for the rest of the week, but they were heading up to Refugio Tejos that day.
    It was only about 3km away but was 500m higher.
    We wished them well and off we went. Then we came to some penitents.

    We couldn’t get past these penitents, so we had to go back a small bit and up over a ridge.
    We stopped and had a few biscuits. It’s really hard eating at this altitude.

    The next kilometre was some of the scariest riding I’ve ever done.
    There was a really steep hill, with deep sand and twisty turns with high drop offs at the side.
    We came over the brow of the hill and down a little valley to another climb. We got to Refugio Tejos, 5839m.

    We got off and went inside to have a look. It was much smaller than where we had slept last night.
    There was a bunk room with 6/8 bunks in it and a small sitting area.
    We didn’t stop for long, we got back on the bikes and started the last ascent. Up and hill, flat for a small bit, then up another hill.
    At the top, there was a wide strip of ice, with big rocks strewn across it, followed by a steep climb, not very far, but deep, sandy gravel with football sized rocks all over the place.
    I have to admit, I did lose my sense of humour here a bit.
    I got off the bike and pushed it over this bit as I was afraid to ride it.
    The boys couldn’t help, I had to do it alone.
    Once I got past the rock field, it was just deep sandy gravel, which is a lot less scary when there are no rocks in it. I couldn’t go much farther, we were nearly at the top of the peak we were on, so the best I could do was go as far as I could and hope it was high enough. I rode another 50/60m and then got stuck in some sand. I looked at the gps and it said 5918m. I had broken the world record! Highest altitude on a motorbike(female).
    I had my flag in my bag, so Kev got it out and we got some pictures and a video, woo woo woo!

    The ride back nearly worse as I knew exactly what I’d just come up.
    Deep, sandy ruts going downhill are no fun at all.
    We got back down to Refugio Tejos and Kev and Jim went off a different way to do a bit of a recce to see if they could get higher going a different way.

    I sat in the sun, but was actually quite cold as the wind was fierce. They were only gone for about 10 minutes and they came back and said they’d taken a load of pictures that they could inspect later for a route.

    So, we started back down the worst bit of the whole trip. I think I only fell off twice, didn’t hurt myself, didn’t even hurt my pride!
    We passed the climbers walking up to Refugio Tejos.
    It’s got to be really hard walking uphill in that altitude.
    We struggled to eat and breath, never mind walk miles. We managed to avoid the big sandy bit by going through another rock field.
    It took such concentration that I forgot to be afraid. After that it was fairly straightforward, reasonably flat so easier to stand for the sandy bits. Riding in and out had taken about 5 and a half hours.

    When we got back Séamus said that he’d been thinking about it and that we should go to the border and cross back into Chile.
    It was 24 hours since we had left Argentina and we had no permission to be here, we didn’t even know if we needed permission.
    We decided it would be better to go to the border and come back, than to stay another night.
    We left all our food in the refugio as you can’t bring food into Chile.
    We would go over the border and on to Copiapó for the night and then maybe come back and tell them at the border that we were going to Ojos and the boys could go for another ride.
    It was about 5pm when we left the refugio.
    When we got to the border there was no electricity, they weren’t expecting us and they didn’t really know what to do without electricity.
    No one spoke English, so we were guessing a lot of what they were telling us.
    They stamped the passport and came out and inspected all the luggage.
    They didn’t find the contraband irish teabags.
    The road surface was absolutely dreadful after the border. It was about 175km to Copiapó but it took almost 3 hours.
    We went back to the same hotel we had stayed in on our way to Argentina and booked in.
    We were all exhausted. I think it was a combination of a bad night’s sleep, the excitement and stress of the day and the long journey in the car.
    We went to a Chinese for dinner and it was definitely closer to dodgy than not.

    29th March

    Because we had stayed in this hotel before, we knew where everything was and how it all worked and we all connected automatically to the wifi.
    We were going to decide over breakfast whether we were going back to Ojos or not.
    Having looked at the photos and chatted back and forth we decided we were finished on the mountains.
    It wasn’t an easy decision as although all of us felt it, nobody wanted to be the first to say it.

    Having made that decision we then had to decide where we were going to go and what we were going to do as we still had 2 weeks til our flights home. Many people had suggested Bahia Inglesa as a place to go to chill out and relax so we left for there after breakfast.
    We found a lovely hotel, with a fabulous view, right on the sea front.

    It was fabulous. So nice that we booked a second night here.

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  5. #37
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    Sep 2009
    Excellent tale Mide.

    Well done on the record.

  6. #38
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    Mar 2009
    Thanks guys for all the comments only really one instalment left!

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  7. #39
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    Mar 2009

    Top of the World - a trip to the Andes

    30th March

    Séamus and Jim decided that they wanted to go home a week early so they changed their flights. We had another lovely day chilling out in Bahia Inglesa. It was exactly what we all needed.

    31st March

    We started the trek back to Santiago. We got as far as La Serena and again, stayed in the same hostal as we had stayed in on our way up.

    1st April
    We arrived back into Santiago, back to Hostal Casa Matte.
    We had a few days in Santiago as we had to organise shipping the bikes, so we did some sightseeing.

    We went up on the cable car to see the big statue at the top of the big hill.

    We went down the the funicular

    We made some more new friends, caught up on the whereabouts of the new friends we had made a few week previously when we had been there last.

    There was lovely camaraderie in the group of bikers there.
    The second night there, we had a communal bbq, which turned into a massive piss up!

    The next night Tamaaki, a Japanese guy there, cooked a japanese curry for everybody there. It was delicious.

    Then it was time to pack the bikes up and get them to the airport.

    Again, Cristian from Hostal Casa Matte was a great help. His friend, Julio, owned a shipping company.
    Brett, the Australian we had met the first day we arrived, had used him to ship his bike to Oz.
    Catharine and Israeli Les were having their bikes shipped to Arizona, Tavo’s 1200 GSA was going home to Mexico (he had actually been on a short trip with Julio who also rides a 1200GSA) and Lyndon Poskitt had his shipped to South Africa.

    We were sitting in the kitchen in Casa Matte and this guy walked in, he's a Spaniard touring the world. He and Kev recognised each other.

    Turns out they had both stayed in a Hostal in Ulaan Bataar last August.
    Small world!!

    Séamus and Jim packed up and we headed to the airport with them and the bikes.

    It was sad saying goodbye to Séamus and Jim. We'd spent 4 weeks together, in very close proximity.
    We'd spent most of everyday together, 10 nights up the mountain in tents, and there wasn't a cross word between any of us. There were no huffs and puffs or sulks. All in all, I think we made a great team

    Kev and I spent the last week touring in Chile. We didn't travel far from Santiago. We went to Valparaíso. We stayed in a fab hotel, very modern and funky.

    It had a rooftop terrace

    Boat trip around the bay!

    Then up to Maitencilloanother fab Hostal.

    The owner of the Hostal suggested we go north just past La Serena to an island that had penguins and dolphins living on and around it.

    Another boat ride.

    Our last stop off was in Los Vilos. Another amazing hostal

    Best breakfast of the whole trip!

    We went back to Casa Matte again as Sascha was meeting us there to pick up the jeep.
    Met more new friends

    Sascha was actually meeting someone that day and sold the jeep. He's hoping to buy another camper type jeep with the intention of renting it to overlanders.
    He has a fb page and website called Pickypalla. He helps people with routes when they travel to South America and also sells some fabulous photos.
    We couldn't recommend him highly enough if you're looking to rent an overland vehicle

    We got a taxi to the airport to begin our long journey home. The taxi mans sister lives in Dublin and when he heard we were from there he called her so we could have a chat with her

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  8. #40
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    Nov 2008
    Brilliant write up - what an inspiration.
    Congratulations on the record and many, many thanks for the RR

  9. #41
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    Mar 2009
    We came home, and life quickly went back to normal. Séamus was tracking the bikes and let us know when they'd be home.
    They were flown to Germany and then came by truck to Ireland. But there was a truck strike that delayed them for a week or so.
    Eventually, they were in Dublin Airport but we'd no idea where. Séamus rang around and found them about 4 days after they arrived. I was free to go out to clear them through customs but kev would have to come out with the van to actually collect them.
    The storage guys were lovely, handed me the paperwork and pointed me in the duration of the customs office.
    I had to get the paperwork stamped and drop it back to the warehouse so kev could pick up the crate.
    I arrived to the customs office and handed in the papers. The woman had a look, asked some questions and said that the man who 'knew how to do this' wasn't there right now and I'd have to wait half an hour for him to get back. There was no one else waiting, no room full of officials working busily. One guy, in the whole of Dublin Airport, who 'knew how to do it'.
    I sat down and waited, another woman came out and said that because I'd used an agent to ship them out, I'd have to have one to ship them back. Séamus had already talked to the agent who'd shipped the bikes out and he said there was no need to use him as it was a straightforward process! He said there was nothing for him to do.
    I told her this, she looked confused and walked away.
    Eventually, Pete came out. He was probably the rudest, most arrogant man I've met in a long time. Most unhelpful. But, because I was dealing with a civil servant and he could make it as easy or hard as he wanted, I didn't lose the head.
    He said that he had to do a visual inspection, he wasn't sure when he'd do it, but that I could ring later and see if it was done, and if not then I could ring a little later again and see!
    I went back down to the guys in the warehouse to tell them that I had no paperwork to drop in as customs wanted to do a visual inspection.
    He threw his eyes up to heaven and said to his mates in the back that 'customs are at it again, delaying people because they can.'
    It's outrageous really that we had trouble with customs bringing our own bikes into our own country. ☹️

    The visual inspection was done and we got the green light to go pick the crate up

    Séamus and Jim came up that weekend to pick up their bikes.

    Til the next time guys

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  10. #42
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    Mar 2015
    Blog Entries
    Amazing adventure, congratulations.

  11. #43
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    Beautiful Essex.
    Fantastic write-up, thanks for taking the time to do it.

  12. #44
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    May 2008
    Chester, England
    An enjoyable read indeed. Very well done to all.

    And, record apart, what really shone through this RR was that there are some bloddy nice people out there who are more than willing to put themselves out to help.

  13. #45
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    Jul 2007
    Timișoara, Romania
    Great RR with wonderful photographs - what an adventure. Thanks for taking the time to prepare this.

  14. #46
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    Last time I met Seamus he was doing this

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    On this one I think

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    With these

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  15. #47
    That's short for Pumpernickel Click here to find out how to Subscribe
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    Jan 2006
    Oxford, UK
    Wow, Mide, what an adventure - and what a wonderful report!

    Thank you very much for taking the time to tell us about your trip, the challenges you faced, your camaraderie and your experiences in such an honest way; I thoroughly enjoyed your report. - Four months through South America on a DRZ

  16. #48
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    Jul 2006
    Star Corps
    Great to read the full write up Mide. Brings back a lot of memories. Its always difficult to explain to people who haven't been there how difficult it is doing ANYTHING at 6000 metres, let alone hauling bikes. I think you did that better than me.

    So how high did Kev actually get?

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