Shrinking The Planet – One Ride At A Time

Archive for November, 2012

Ride To The End Of The World – Fin del Mundo (Part 13) Video Shots

So you’ve seen a lot of pictures and read quite a bit of our story in the Ride To The End of The World – Fin del Mundo.  But sometimes, words and pictures take a back seat to being there.  Here are a few video shots that bring you on our ride to Torres del Paine’, hopefully putting you on the bike with us.

We had stopped at a rather remote border crossing at the Argentina/Chile Border.  The wind was way up and non-stop, in fact, it was so up, that the border guards stopped what they were doing, came out of the border facility with their cameras just to waive us through and wish us luck on our ride.  What an experience!

Wind at the Argentinian Border from Mike & Kim Botan on Vimeo.

You must also remember the moments I spoke about in Part 11 where my attention was divided by the beautiful mountains, winding road, pristine blue lakes and grazing guanacos.  Well let me take you there for a few seconds to see for yourself.

A Great View At Torres del Paine with Guanacos from Mike & Kim Botan on Vimeo.

Thanks for riding with us!

Mike and Kim

Ride 2 Adventure – Shrink the Planet One Ride At A Time

Ride To The End Of The World – Fin del Mundo (Part 12)

With the morning sun came a beautiful blue sky and chilling winds and a weak and mostly ineffective sun.  It was outright cold.  Kim and I wiped the chill from our faces which had been sticking out of the blankets all night and sprinted for the hot showers.  Running only as a chilled American can across the freezing and wind swept Patagonian landscape, we scurried to showers and nearly dove in head first.  Thankfully, the water was hot and it was not long before we were warmed up and ready to head back to our tent to put on warm clothes, eat breakfast and start the day.

Nicely warmed up, fed and wrapped in appropriate clothing, we started towards the Mirador Condor trail.  The sun had done some work and the temperature had risen into the 40s so it was a pleasant walk to the trailhead.  From the road, we could see holes in the sides of some of the mountains where the condors were nesting.  The opportunity to see the Andes Condors as well as the view from 2ooo meters spurred us on to make the climb to the top.

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The first part of the trail was through forested hills with tree branches blocking out most of the sun.  We could hear the birds chirping above us alerting others to our arrival in their neck of the woods.  As we wended our way to the top, we stopped to take a few pictures of the things that surrounded us.  Brightly colored flowers adorned the rising dirt paths as we made our way higher into the mountains.  Flowers and berries splashed with reds and purple dazzled our eyes while small birds flitted from one tree to the next.

I watched a small bird bringing a green worm to its family members as it nervously flitted from branch to branch, concerned about the welfare of his/her family as well as the dinner he/she had just brought home.  Luckily I was able to catch a few pictures of him/her as it jumped back and forth, eyeing us nervously.  We didn’t want to scare him/her too much, so we walked away letting it bring its dinner to its family assured that we were not there to interrupt their afternoon dining plans.

After about 30 minutes of walking in the forest, the path took us into the open and we found that we had already climbed fairly high from where we had started.  Below us we could see the Lago Pehoe’ campground and absolutely breathtaking views of Lago Pehoe’ and the surrounding mountains.  My words will do the sight no justice, you just have to see them yourself to believe it.  The pictures you will see here, really don’t come close to the absolute stark beauty of the scene.

I am learning that as I travel the world, each time I think I have seen the most spectacular sight that will never be surpassed, all I have to do is travel a few more miles and open my eyes to that which surrounds me.  It is said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and that may be true.  But having seen what I have so far in my journeys on a motorcycle, this beholder can only wonder how many more superlatives, how many amazing visions are left for one person to see in a lifetime.  For what I have seen during our motorcycle journeys, certainly could fill the lifetime of visions for many less fortunate than me.  For that, I am extremely grateful.

It was not much longer that we spotted our first black speck circling in the sky.  It’s wings were outstretched as it lazily floated on the currents of air rising from the surrounding mountains.  Tiny movements of its wings steered course corrections and it seemed like forever before it started to come closer to where we were.  It was too far away to be sure what kind of bird it was and since it was very high, we had no background reference to tell how large the bird was.

We patiently (or perhaps not so patiently) waited for the bird to get close enough to ascertain what it was.  As it got closer we could indeed make ut the fact that it was a very large bird.   Black with a white ring around its neck, it seemed in no particular rush to go anywhere.  Perhaps it was looking for its dinner, but it just soared and sailed on the currents rising from the mountainsides.  Soon another bird came into view and then a third.

Now there was some action as the three birds started to swoop up and down and dart amongst each other.  By now we could clearly see the white ring around their necks.  These were indeed Andes Condors and they had decided to put on a show for us.  Circling and sometimes diving, the birds put on an aerial show that was a delight.  We stood and watched them for about half an hour, but it appeared that the weather was beginning to deteriorate and we decided it was best to return to our camp.

With more than a little regret, we made our way down the mountain, through the little forest and back to our campground.  It was still fairly early in the afternoon, so what were we going to do for the rest of the day?  Well the campground had a playground for kids and we were feeling rather like giddy adolescents, so we hit the little playground area and took turns on the see-saw.  It is with deep regret that I must show you the photographic evidence of such foolishness, but I must tell you, we had fun!

After what seemed like hours in the playground which was probably more like 20 minutes, we returned to our tent for a quick nap and an late call for dinner so we could watch the sun setting on the Torres del Paine mountains.  As the sun dropped lower on the horizon, the mountains came alive.  Individual faces of the mountainside turned molten gold as the sun sank.  The intensity of the gold increased until suddenly, the sun dipped below the horizon and the faces of the mountains turned to grey again.  What an amazing show!

After dinner, we returned to our tents for another night of blanketed but cold sleep.  Tomorrow we would be heading to Tierra del Fuego (the land of fire) in earnest.  We’ll take you there in part 13.

By the way, if you don’t know, click on any one of the pictures in the gallery below and it will open that picture into a full size picture and then you can click your way through the remainder of the pictures in either direction in full size.

Ride 2 Adventure – Shrink the Planet One Ride At A Time

Ride To The End Of The World – Fin del Mundo (Part 11)

The gravel was a welcomed friend, a not so old acquaintance with whom we were about to re-rekindle that solid friendship from days recently passed.  Having the gravel under our wheels increased the excitement and intensity of the ride.   Along with the relentless and chilling Patagonian winds, we once again felt like we were “adventurers” heading into unknown territory.

We rode for a few hours on the plains of Chile to rising winds and rising terrain.  The wind was chilled and the air crystal clear.  Even though we could not yet see them, we could tell we were approaching tall mountains and the cold air that flowed among them.  Still, it was an enjoyable experience and only made us more anxious to see what lay ahead.

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We had seen peeks and glimpses of the spectacular mountain range in the distance and even stopped to take a few “tourist” like pictures when we had a clear view of certain sections.   We posed and smiled, with and without our bikes like we were the first people to have discovered this marvelous sight.  In retrospect, it might have been a bit silly, but we were really enjoying ourselves and the preview of the beauty that is Torres del Paine.

After a few hours of riding, we came upon the entrance of the Torres Del Paine National Park and paid a fee to enter. It was not much, but it would be worth every peso that we paid.  The gravel roads winded their way around and over mountain passes, exposing beautiful views of Torres del Paine.  It was not long after we entered the park that we first sighted our first herd of guanacos.

What the heck is a guanaco I can hear you thinking.  Well they are llama like animals and they are to be found throughout Torres del Paine.  Sometimes solo, but most often in small herds, they graze casually beside the roads and on the mountainsides, quite happy to watch you as you watch them.  It was quite exciting to see so many of these animals in their natural habitat and not be fearful of man.  It seemed that with each bend we rounded, or each crest we reached, there was at least one guanaco lazily grazing nearby.  It was a marvelous experience.

But this experience was only the beginning.  For as we passed each guanaco, we also rode closer to to the Torres del Paine mountain range.  Soon a competition for our attention began.  Our attention was divided between the twisting gravel mountain road, lazy guanacos grazing at the roadside and our view of the approaching Torres del Paine mountains.  As we rode closer, towering mountain spires conspired to steal our attention from the road and place it firmly on their granite majesty.

The closer we got, the more we were amazed by the scene.  But then we got another treat.  As we neared Torres del Paine’s towering spires, mother nature decided to up the ante with lakes as blue as any we had ever seen.  They were sprinkled all along the road providing the perfect frame to Torres del Paine.

Transfixed as we were by all the surrounding sights, we soon came upon our stop for the next three days.  The Lago Pehoe’ campground.  We’ve camped in a lot of places, but we must say that the views nearby Lago Pehoe’ were unsurpassed by any other place we’ve ever visited.  Just over the trees of the campground stood the Torres del Paine mountain range fronted by the multi-hued blue Lake Pehoe’.

It was not long before we arrived at Lake Pehoe’ Camping campground.  We rode in and found our “camping” spot.  Once again, it was excellent.  Our digs for the two nights of camping were to be “permanent” metal framed geodesic dome tents set off the ground on large wooden platforms.  This was as far from primitive camping as you can get.  Inside the tents were two bunk beds with equipped with a mattress and a blanket.   We even had a flushing toilet facility and showers and a sit down restaurant outside.  Wow, was this terrific!

There were not many people in the campground so we essentially had the place to ourselves for the first day.  It was already a quite chilly day, and the clear skies bode for a cold night.  But with these amazing surroundings, we were happy as can be to be in such an awe inspiring area.    We decided to go for a walk along the gravel road to take in some more scenery and get a better look at Lake Pehoe’; it was well worth it.

We wandered the road staring at the mountains and gawking at the lake.  They seemed to compliment each other so well that as I snapped each picture, I didn’t think it could get any better, but every few minutes we walked brought a different angle or scene to see.  It was unbelievable, but the views and scenery were in fact getting better.

I turned the camera on some trees and flowers for a change and even they seemed spectacular in these surroundings.  How could this be?  Were our senses just heightened by our surroundings or was there in fact just more beauty around each and every corner?  I had no answer for this question, but I happily kept snapping pictures and enjoying the amazing walk we started.

By the time we returned to the campground, other travelers had arrived in their machines.  This time they were not on bikes, but were in elaborate 4 wheel drive vehicles and they were on a 147 day circumnavigation of six South American countries.  Mostly from Germany, they had already covered Bolivia, Peru, Chile and Argentina and had Brazil and Uruguay yet to cover.  We chatted a bit and then went on our way to dinner.

After a good dinner, it was time for bedtime and we turned in for the night.  It was quite cold, but we were secure in our tent and we bundled up as best as we could.  It was still an enjoyable night.

The following morning we decided to take another walk, this time up into the mountains a bit.  Our goal was to see the famous Andes Condors.  So we headed over to the Mirador Condor Trail where we will take you in Part 12.

By the way, if you don’t know, click on any one of the pictures in the gallery below and it will open that picture into a full size picture and then you can click your way through the remainder of the pictures in either direction in full size.

Ride 2 Adventure – Shrink the Planet One Ride At A Time