South America for us started without the motorcycles: we have left them with the shipping company in Germany and took a flight to Rio de Janeiro with a plan to explore Brazil with just a couple of backpacks on our shoulders and no specific plan before the cargo ship named “Jack London” reaches the coast of Chile and delivers our motorcycles. For about four weeks we were exploring the east coast of Brazil, slowly moving south towards the magnificent Iguazu Falls and then, to the wine country in Argentina and further west to Chile, until we reached the colorful city Valparaiso, where, on the 1st of December we received our motorcycles and got ready to head to the legendary Patagonia and on to the famous „End of The World“ – the southernmost town in the world – Ushuaia.
Chile welcomed us nicely: green grassy valleys, decorated with picture-perfect snowy peaks of volcanoes in the horizon, friendly local huasos (Chilean type of cowboys) and magical turquoise-colored lakes spoiled us with countless photo-oportunites along the way. The more south we moved, the less people we met and the choice of available roads narrowed to one – Chilean route No. 7 or the famous Carretera Austral (or Southern Highway in English) – one of the most spectacular roads in the world. For almost a thousand kilometers we winded South through Chilean Patagonia, crossing river fords, bumping on rough gravel roads or pushing through the cold and rain, and at that time it felt as it was absolutely the best thing one can do with their life!
The scenery changed dramatically when we crossed the border into Argentina – the green was changed with yellowish brown, the rain was changed with clear blue skies that barely ever give away a drop of rain and the mountainous Chilean landscape gave way to the neverending dry Argentinean steppe, dotted with rigid dry bushes here and there… Meanwhile another world-famous travelers‘ route, the longest road in Argentina, Ruta Cuarenta (or Route 40 in English) was leading us to the southernmost city of the world – Ushuaia. A day at the “End of The World” (as Ushuaia is called) was enough for us to feel what it‘s really like – we had all the seasons of the year in just a few hours: a short time of warm sunshine which followed after a cold rain, but soon gave way to hail and snow again…
After returning to the north or Argentina, we crossed back into Chile and through the vast Atacama desert headed into Bolivia, where we experienced a rather strange feeling riding on the white surface of the largest salt-flats in the world: it felt as riding on the snow, except it wasn’t slippery… By that time we had already mastered some basic knowledge of Spanish language and those skills proved to be priceless for tackling everyday search for decent fuel in Bolivia – tourists pay triple for a litre of poor quality petrol there, but gas stations often don’t have it or their employees don’t feel like doing an extra work to reprogram the filling station for the foreigner’s price and simply tell you that there is no fuel or that the system is faulty and they can’t sell you any. Nevertheless Bolivia left the brightest memories in our minds – being still very remote and beautiful land with authentic traditions, different from anything we were used to.
Next country to explore on our way was Peru. In terms of local traditions and everyday life, Peruvians are not much different from Bolivians, except in Peru you’ll meet many more caucasian people, who either live there, or are visiting the county as tourists and travellers. Peru has a lot to offer – from the ocean coast, which is loved by surfers, to hot dry desert, to green misty Andes mountains, to the hot tropical Amazon rainforest. Some days we would start the ride on the coast at pleasant 25 degrees Celsius and a fresh ocean breeze, head over to the desert which would heat up easily to over 35 degrees, then, in just a couple of hours from the start of the ride, we would start ascending the mountains, with thick rainclouds hanging over them and the temperatures would drop dramatically, sometimes as low as 5 degrees with rain. The mystical cloud forests high in the mountains, combined with the legends about the glorious Inca civilization which was once ruling here and the simple life of local people herding their llamas in the current time, give Peru a unique feeling which we really enjoyed while traveling there.
Meanwhile Ecuador, even though the rural life there is still very simple, has a much more modern feeling than Peru and Bolvia combined. The lush green valleys of Andes mountains here, dotted with beautifully maintained farms and cows grazing calmly, would sometimes remind us beautiful Alpine panoramas of Europe.
Finally we reached Colombia. A country we had mixed feelings about back when we were planning the route through South America. Colombia still has the vibe that was created in the past. And dangerous times are not yet completely over – we were warned by the locals to not stop for the first 200 kilometres after crossing the border from Peru as the risks due to the activity of the ongoing guerrilla fights are high there. However, apart from the official army soldiers, who are patrolling on all the bridges and in other strategical areas, we have seen nothing but the ordinary life in Colombia. And despite all the fears and doubts we had before visiting, it’s a country which won our hearts! The people here were not only friendly and helpful, they had somewhat a festive vibe all around them – the food, the music, the culture and traditions – everything feels like a celebration. A celebration of life! And add this to the perfectly curvy roads all along the Northern Andes mountain range and you will have a country which is a dream to ride your motorcycle in!
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