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Old 04-21-2010, 12:08 AM   #1
Compass Exp
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Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: South America
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Default South American Ride Review

21st century Conquistadors....

We all know the feeling “one day” I will ship my bike to a far away exotic destination and live the adventure, “one day”. Only problem is work commitments and a growing family. One day seemed as remote now as it was thirty years ago.

It was now or never, but like all great plans, things change. Instead of that one year round the world motorcycle adventure reality set in and so began my search for a reputable motorcycle tour company who offers short rides to my “must ride” destination, South America.

Two months later…..

The flight across the Andes was simply breathtaking. Spectacular snow capped peaks disappeared off into the distance in a maelstrom of tormented rocks and vast valleys. My spirits soared as I anticipated the upcoming ride.

I had eventually settled on joining an Australian company, Compass Expeditions, on there 14 day Conquistador ride from Santiago, Chile to Cusco, Peru. OK it’s not quite a one year round the world ride; however it’s a lot better than watching everyone else have all the fun on pay TV.

The small group of seven bikers gathered at the four star hotel and far from being thrown the keys to the motorbikes and told to “follow us” we were given a comprehensive bike briefing along with an introduction bike ride around the leafy suburbs of Santiago. Our ride leader Leo and “team Colombia”, Micho and Danny, (Colombia being their country of birth), took safety very seriously.

Fully briefed with the expected rideday conditions, re-grouping points and detailed maps we were soon in the rhythm. What a magnificent feeling it was to be riding out of Santiago on new BMW F 650 GS Twins with the snow capped Andes on our right and the Pacific to our left. The anticipated moment didn’t disappoint.

The days were spent effortlessly cruising the legendary Pan American Highway, a highway that stretches from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska to Ushuaia, Argentina. Huge picnic lunches were prepared by Team Colombia or wonderful local restaurants were chosen. At night dinner was included at some incredible restaurants and the trend of fantastic hotels continued.

I can hear the moans now “how soft is this guy”, but to be honest after a full days riding it was always a welcome relief to roll into an excellent quality hotel and get treated to some fine dining with a few beers or red wines to see the day out. “The restaurateur is coming out in me now”.

The ride progressed ever further north on Ruta 1. This was an amazing road that wound and twisted its way along the stark and remote Chilean coastline. The road ran so close to the ocean that any decent size wave would have knocked us off our bikes, I was sure.

A detour to Alto Del Carmen provided all with some riding memories to last a lifetime. We never managed top gear as the paved road snaked it way through narrow canyons and olive plantations before eventually coming to a halt at the plaza de Armas in Alto del Carmen.

The ride continued on into the Atacama Desert, the worlds driest. We packed away any remaining wet weather gear with great confidence as it hasn’t rained in the Atacama for 400 years.

Riding the Atacama isn’t what I expected, instead of flat featureless plains that stretch on forever, the Atacama is home to huge sand dunes, yawning valleys and UNESCO world heritage sites, everyday somehow managed to get better than the last.

Reaching the Peru/Chile border it was as if someone had had drawn a line in the sand. As soon as we entered Peru the desert sands gave way to stands of Eucalypt, wandering Llama’s and lofty passes.

We visited the stunning Peruvian city of Arequipa, spectacularly set at the foot of the snow capped El Misti Volcano, before climbing to over 5000mt pass deep within the Andes, (it is amongst these very mountains the mighty Amazon begins it epic journey) . We were on our way to the world’s deepest canyon, Colca Canyon to witness the giant Condor as they glide on the warming thermals in the early morning.

Two days of utterly stunning and remote dirt riding ensued as we took the “short cut” to Cusco. These days were spent at over 4000mts riding amongst dormant volcanos, bizarre rock formations and relentlessly climbing and descending fantastic passes. Even the late afternoon snow storm couldn’t dampen our spirits, it was biking nirvana.

The road and rail links into the legendary Machu Picchu had been destroyed by recent flooding and we all waited with anticipation to see if we could reach this “highlight”.

Four days before our scheduled arrival into Machu Picchu a limited rail service was re-established. As the worlds touring companies clamoured for the few tickets that were available the boys from Compass Expeditions came through securing enough for the entire group. We spent a magnificent day riding the Sacred Valley of the Incas and walking amongst the epic ruins of Machu Picchu. It was an appropriate location to end this incredible ride.

The BMWs proved faultless and were more than enough for the prevailing conditions, even with two people on them. Compass Expeditions had on hand a stock of BMW spares that would make most BMW dealerships blush. The preventative was astounding and was performed every night.

The crew of Leo, Daniel and Micho clearly loved what they did and were true ambassadors for the company.

My choice of who to ride with had been vindicated; the food was superb, varied and plentiful, hotels were excellent and there were no nasty surprises. Yes, it was 351 days shorter than my thirty year old plan, but it was an adventure, no doubt, and besides I am not twenty years old anymore. I will definitely be back on board a Compass BMW, Patagonia is looking good.
Motorcycle Tours in South America - BMW Motorbike Expeditions in Australia - London to Magadan Motorcycle Tour*-*compassexpeditions.com
Attached Images
File Type: jpg Sacred Valley s.jpg (36.4 KB, 2 views)
File Type: jpg llama crossing.jpg (15.3 KB, 1 views)
File Type: jpg Machu PIcchu.JPG (50.1 KB, 1 views)
File Type: jpg gs.jpg (56.4 KB, 1 views)
File Type: jpg condor s.jpg (15.2 KB, 1 views)
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Old 04-21-2010, 05:46 AM   #2
RoosterBoots
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Join Date: Feb 2010
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What a ride! I grew up in Lima, riding Hondas and Lambrettas on the desert highways of the Atacama. I remember riding to Arequipa in the back seat of a Plymouth Valiant, the Mountain passes towering above us and the edge of the highway dropping off into a river canyon hundreds of feet below, and then suddenly...snow!

The Andean scenery competes so viciously for your attention, I cannot imagine trying to stay together with a group of bikes. Kudos to the ride leaders for not losing any of their customers to wanderlust!

Roo
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