Casa Matte, where we spent our last few days before flying home is a beacon for bikers. Cristian, the owner made the decision to just host bikers and it has paid off, there is a large community and they drop in and out for a few days or even weeks at a time. Its a great base to fix a bike, get some legal stuff done or sight see around the city.
When we left three months ago, it was quiet, Chile’s tourism was markedly down with the reports of riots. When we got back there it was standing room only! Bikes were jammed in the driveway, along the front and in the workshop area. We got to meet loads of people. Violetta, a Bulgarian, was waiting for her bike which had got delayed in shipping and had been there for a while. A young Japanese was trying to get his paperwork sorted to buy a bike, a Swiss biker was selling his and an Australian couple were trying desperately to sell theirs so they could return home. Half a dozen Germans were coming and going too. Busy!
There were a few evenings of socialising, and a few afternoons too!
We met Howard! We had seen him on our first day in Santiago, we arrived as he left but he had given us loads of tips and advice in just a few hours and we were very grateful. We were sitting in the garden and he walked in. We were very surprised and it was great to catch up again.
One day was spent running around the city on my bike with Mike, an North American who was doing a long term tour on his BMW. A string of bad luck had left him with no radiator and forks that were shot. We spent a very hot morning and even hotter afternoon visiting shops until we found out about a suspension specialist who had the parts and could rebuild them. One street in particular has dozens of bike shops and yes, they literally strip the engines on the side of the street with customers sitting on the step of the shops, patiently waiting for a rather dubious standard of repair.
Another chap we met was Haydon, an Australian who had been riding solo, mainly around Argentina for 8 months. He arrived and immediately we hit it off, chatting about his life on the road and his bike Lucy, he is the second owner to take her on the road. Lucy was unwell, gasping for breath. Haydon had been doing his best and had an idea of the problem. I was able to confirm his suspicions within a few minutes, worn piston rings that were so bad, he was riding with the choke on all day to keep her running.
It was quite profound for us to find that we are now feel like seasoned travellers, at least in Chile and Argentina. On our first visit to Casa Matte, we were soaking up every tip we could in preparation for starting our journey. Back there again, we were full of help for others. Clair has great experience in organising day to day stuff and how to deal with money and loads of tricky little details. I was able to offer help about travelling and bikes. All those years messing around up to my elbows in engine oil have proven very useful and it felt great to be able to share what I know. It was really nice to be able to give back to others what we had received freely.
Our prime reason for being there though was to give our bikes a good look over and make sure we had a list of parts to bring back with us. It turned out to be a comprehensive list. the ride has taken its toll on the bikes and they are in need of a full service, new tyres and one of my fork legs was in need of a rebuild. I blew it out on Ruta 40 when we were on our way to Ushuaia and by this time it was in pretty bad shape. Not as bad as Mike’s but pretty bad. Both bikes had melted the plastic covers on the shocks! I had fitted dust covers and can only guess that the shocks got hot and the heat couldn’t escape resulting in the cowling being destroyed.
After a few days though, the bikes were cleaned and stored and we were off in an Uber to the airport for 24 hours of travel to get us back to our van, the Boat, once again on Carl and Siobahn’s driveway.