Our driver drove us the 16 km to the airport and helped us unload our gear, which now consisted of our motorcycle gear and even included my wallet. We had a 3 hour flight to Santiago, Chile. Since Argentina dislikes Chile, and vice versa, it’s impossible to get a flight to Canada except from specific airports and Santiago is one of them. Eliezer, who lives in Chile, pointed out an Argentinian license plate on one occasion. He said ” there’s a reason that there license is Black!”. The flight was uneventful as was the final leg of 10 hours from Santiago to Toronto. We landed early on Feb 11th and made our way home, with Michael driving our car. We decided to take our Argentinian doctor’s advice seriously and immediately booked an appointment with our family doctor. The appointment was set for 6 pm that evening.
Our doctor took no notice of the letter I gave her from Dr. Pasqualini and proceeded to book appointments for some sort of blood test which she said was needed to have a doctor examine my shoulder. I returned home dejected that she care so little for my health. Within an hour, I began to feel intense pain and within 2 hours, I couldn’t stand the pain any longer. We drove to Orangeville to the hospital emergency department. They provided me with oxygen and by 11:00 pm I was admitted. Interestingly, since I had spent time in a foreign hospital, I was actually quarantined and nurses had to don special clothes each time they entered. Even after the quarantine ended, I kept my large room. The admitting doctor insisted on giving me every test he could think of – EKG, CatScan for my chest, CatScan for my spleen, Xrays of my ribs from every angle imaginable, xray of my shoulder (after I insisted that I needed one). I began to get consultation each day from a nurse who had some experience with rib and lung injuries and she proceeded to involve me with breathing exercises. This lasted for four days after which the doctor agreed I could be discharged. That was they day when the nurse went over the discharge notes with me. She explained that I did have one broken bone – the shoulder. But, I also had broken my ribs on my left side – numbered 4 through 10, on the back and 3 through 10 on the front. That meant that ribs 4 thru 10 were floating and how they would heal was not known. I was given a breathing apparatus and told to use it religiously. I needed to continue to breath in to the apparatus to keep the lungs inflated while the ribs healed.
Heading home, my mind was reeling. I had been told that, given the damage to my chest, there is no way that an Ontario doctor would have allowed me to fly in an airplane. I had survived a second trip and didn’t even know I had been in danger.
There were lots of emails from my boss and my cohorts at work as I rested and on Feb 22, the precise day that I was scheduled to return to work , I actually began working a few hours per week. But the shoulder and ribs continued to provide me on continuing reminders of my escape from something worse, until well into June.
Our driver, Elliecer Reys, arrived in his SUV and we toured the town briefly for gas which had obviously arrived that afternoon. However, the lineups were long and we promptly took our leav
e. I had made accomodation arrangements for us all in El Calafate. Avoiding some of the major routes where he suspected we might hit roadblocks, we traveled on major routes that were full of loose gravel. At one point, we left the ‘old road’ to try the ‘new road’ but the new road was even worse with gravel so thick it made huge furrows. The pain in my side and shoulder made me hang on to the inside handles to suspend me from the constant jostling. By 9:00 pm, we reached El Calafate and noticed huge lineups for gas here as well but also large influx of tourists. My left foot had begun to swell immensely and we managed to phone the doctor back at the hospital. He directed the pharmacist to change my prescription. The next day, having overheard my conversation with Shari over prescriptions, Eliiecer had placed a phone call to Switzerland to his daughter who spoke English and was also familiar with medicine. So, on the second day of our trip to Puntas Arenas, his cell phone chirped and he passed the phone to me, his very surprised occupant. When she explained who she was and why she was calling, I reviewed my medication with her. It t
urned out that i had mis-understood what medication was for antibiotics and what was a pain killer. What a relief to have someone explain things to me so clearly – and all the way from Switzerland.
After 2 days, I asked Eliezer if we could take a side trip thru Torres del Paine National Park
and the Los Glacieres Park to see the mountains and the glaicers. He explained that the glaciers were in the wrong directi
on. But, after checking with his boss, he agreed he could take me to Torres del Paine for an additional charge. I hadn’t come all this way to pause even a second for an additional cost and so we headed into the very rough, but exceedingly beautiful park. Although many of my photo images were taken from the car window, they exceeded the beauty and ruggedness I had dreamed of. It was a wonderful day and we ended up staying the next night at Puerto Natales. In fact, we were somewhat early and Eliezer took us to the Singular Museum, a reconditioned old foundry that had been turned into a large Inn. The tour was successful and we photographed the birds in the harbour. T
he next day was a trip to Puntas Arenas itself, home for Eliezer and our arrival was planned to coincide with the bikers returning from Ushuaia. It was clear that Eliezer had enjoyed our company and he explained that whenever he got delayed due to gas-shortage strikes, he pulled out his book on South American birds. He gave me the book for our journey home.
We met up with bikers as they dismantled GPS and the like from their bikes and they looked exhausted. Many of them greeted me but there were clearly too tired to rap for long. We met them that night for a farewell dinner but, this time, I was exhausted and took an early departure. Some of the stories heard were of extremely strong winds, and grinding thru gravel. Some mentioned the glaciers which they found interesting but one thing stood out. Not one person I talked to said they were sorry it was over. They all seemed to look forward to being home, although some had extremely long airplane travels.
Shari and I ended
up staying one more day in Puntas Arenas. We paid Eliezer’s boss and left a largish bonus for our driver for delivering us safely. The manager of the travel business was so pleased with the money he offered to have a driver take us to the airport for free, and certainly he was true to his word. On our last day in Argentina, we toured a Naval museum, walked the streets looking for souvenirs but found little and rested up for our long trip on Feb 10. It was fitting that our final hotel was called Hotel of Dreams
I must admit that, other than surviving, this was not a good time. 6 days in the hospital and the stronger I became, the more troublesome I became to the 2 doctors that managed the hospital. One doctor had spent a little time in the Doctors without Borders and had learned some English and he seemed to become the target of my frustration. I didn’t understand the gravity of my ailment and I wanted to continue on my travels, although I knew motorcycling was out of the question. Shari, on the other hand, was a captive in a strange country with no understanding of the customs, no language and was still responsible for my primary care. We had only the clothes that we arrived with, which excluded my wallet. Banks would not accept Visa nor would they exchange US currency for pesos because Shari was not a bank customer. I received meals of a sort, although it became very obvious that the hospital was extremely poor and couldn’t afford much. I had a large tube attached to my ribs that discharged blood into a large gallon bottle. In all, it drained 1 1/2 litres of blood. The shock to the body from the accident had dramatically increased my proportions. I couldn’t believe how my entire body was enormous. I had Shari take pictures of what I termed ‘the Michelin Man” Each day, they doctors sent me for Xrays and I was told I had one broken bone, which from the pain in my shoulder, it appeared to be the Scapula.
I was able to walk the halls pulling my bottle-in-a cardboard box like a wagon in search of some area of the small hospital that might have wifi. One funny story revolved around me complaining during morning rounds that an orderly who arrived at 4:00 am to check the saline drip had caused me to have an asthma attack with strong after shave and the smell of smoke from his clothes. The doctor said “well, I smoke” and I explained that we was at the end of the bed and not right beside me. Well, I thought that I put my point across and that was the end. Until my mid-afternoon jaunt in search of wifi. I found a sitting area with skylights and comfortable chairs and settled down with my IPAD, when suddenly the doctor arrived and said ‘you can’t sit here”. Then he further explained “we (the doctors) smoke here”!!. Which they certainly did – smoke and shared a caffeine drink called Mate.
Shari and I desperately felt the need to contact family to let them know our status. The wifi was weak but still somewhat accessible. Shortly, the research technician who checked my blood each day, took an interest in Shari and, as she spoke some English, invited her to a shopping trip. That was quite an exercise and culture shock.. Then, Maria, who owned the the Hacienda that I was supposed to sleep at the night of the accident, contacted a local citizen, Ricardo, to come and help. He met Shari in the halls and offered English-speaking support. Ricardo had traveled a little and engaged a mentor to learn English. Wow, he retained a lot. He invited Shari to his home and made REAL coffee. On the last day, after tubes were removed, I was able to visit Ricardo and his coffee was a taste of heaven and he let us use his Wifi to connect to the world. I met another hospital worker – who also took a strong interest in recovery. Alejandro was the phyiologist/ respirologist and he came in to give me breathing exercises to practice each day. Finally, my doctor relented and said that I could leave on the following day. They agreed to provide me with a letter stating I was able to fly but they insisted i go home immediately and check with my doctor upon arriving home. Going home was kinda tricky since we were no near an airport with international connections. With a lot of help, I arranged through the head office of GlobeBusters, and MotoAventura to locate a driver who would come and fetch Shari and I, albeit at considerable expense. It wasn’t going to be easy as the driver lived 1000 kms away in Puntas Arenas and Argentinian cities and roads had gas embargoes everywhere. There was no guarantee that gas would be available at any city at any time. And, when gas did arrive, lineups could last for many hours, maybe days.. So, our driver filled up his SUV with jerry cans of gas and headed north. He arrived on Saturday afternoon, several hours late after being in the car for about 11 hours. And, to his chagrin, I wanted out of that town forthwith……………….so, with our few belongings that Shari had purchased, we headed out of Gobernador Gregores and towards El Calafate – a trip of 350 km that I thought would be a breeze but which turned out to nothing but.
On the way to Osama, we did spot the volcano but it was surrounded in thick cloud and didn’t make much of a picture. We were met at the airport and, along with others, loaded into a van and ferried to our hotel. It was there that we learned that our MotoAventura company was not our tour guide but another company called ‘GlobeBusters’. Despite GlobeBusters efforts, they had been unable to deliver the package of information to us. This made for a lot to digest, and it was then that I noticed little things going wrong – just silly stuff. Like the hotel had given us each a voucher for one free non-alcoholic drink, but surprisingly, it didn’t include tea or coffee. We met the group
and went to supper at a nearby restaurant for a great group meal. The next morning, the drivers of the bikes were taken to MotoAventura who supplied the motorcycles. Lots of paperwork including payment of insurance. It seems that the bikes were only covered for damage exceeding $5000 US. We were liable for anything less than that. Just before leaving Toronto, I had paid the remaining amount due – paying by direct bank transfer, which turned out to be bad mistake as it was not covered by any insurance. There was one other issue – one of the panniers didn’t close properly but since it did, with difficulty, close and looked to be water-tight, I accepted the bike. It was a 2016 BMW R1200GS but it had huge dints in the exhaust header pipes which were noted on the acceptance sheet. This didn’t bode well for the kind of roads we would soon hit. By mid-afternoon we were on our way to Villarrica, Chile, 229 kms away. . One of the other bikers had kindly loaded my GPS SD card with the map of the route, with all the waypoints. Apparently, we didn’t travel as a group but instead followed
the GPS which, with any luck, got us to the next evening’s lodging. With more luck, you might find people lingering at a lunch spot too. Well, that was the next problem. I got stopped at a red light, missed the next turn and travelled most of the day alone, wondering if we were still en route. Saw lots of gravel and farmer’s fields too. Fortunately, we spotted some bikes in Villarrica or we would have missed the hotel too. Border crossing the next day was an adventure with all of us getting an experience looking for the paper we were given when we arrived in Chile. Our lunch stop was a bit confusing in San Martin – no specific meeting place designated. Our final day’s stop was San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina. There was a paved road option on the way which we took and were glad we had. Third day we all stopped at Butch Cassidy’s hideout and then continued to Futaleufu, Chile. It t
urns out, Chilean’s have large lineups to get across their borders despite their procedure for being more organized. At least 3 line-ups required. It seems every town or village in Chile has a main street called O’Higgins and that’s where our hotel was. The fourth day, Jan 28th, we were on our way to Coyhaique, Chile. We were now on the famous Carretera Austral route which had a lot of twisty roads and a fair share of gravel. Where there is gravel, the
re is a lot of washboard so enjoying the beautiful scenery is a bit of challenge. Shari and I are traveling alone but we know Thomas is following somewhere behind us in the truck. We stop at a site for a river view and 2 tourists offer to take my photo. I have new glasses that automatically tint and so I take off my glasses. That’s the last time I remember seeing them. When we arrive for lunch, I have to unpack my spare glasses to continue riding. Jan 29th – more and more gravel and more twisty roads – we only travel 266 km today but all but 90km are gravel. The paved sections seemed to well done, however, just not near enough of them. Our d
estination is Puerto Guad
al and we continue on the Carretera Austral. There are a lot of hairpin turns, and with a passenger behind me, the turns are not easy to navigate. At one turn, the bike is stalling out and I ask Shari to walk a few paces. Getting on and off is not easy for Shari. The pannier on the left isn’t mounted properly and it takes a while to dislodge her left foot. Shari doesn’t say anything and I wasn’t aware of the difficulty until later. There are frequent stops for road construction and I’m following a white pickup truck from stop to stop. They are de-limbing a lot of trees and the gravel roads are potholed from heavy truck traffic. At one stop, the flagman waves the pickup truck ahead but within a few metres, he stops him abruptly as a huge truck is speeding down the hillside. The pickup slams on his brakes, I do as well but my feet won’t touch the ground as I’m suspended between two mounds under each tire.. I shout to Shari that we are going over and she calmly says ‘OK’. Workmen rush to help right the bike and we continue on. I ask Shari if she’s OK and she says she may have dislocated 2 fingers “but, it’s OK, I straightened them”. I turn absolutely pale from guilt.
Saturday, January 30th, is a day not to forget, although I’d like to. We leave Chile and head back in to Argentina with La Angustura as our destination. The Argentinians have been ordered to pave the major tourist routes and all of the roads appear to be under construction. We are to travel over 500 kms today. Iti’s all I can think of is Shari’s discomfort. She had been taken to see a doctor who determined at least 2 fingers were fractured and her right hand is in a splint. By agreement, Shari will travel in the truck when there is gravel. We are nearing the end of the day when we hit the final 42 kms of gravel. Shari and i stretch our legs as we wait for Thomas and when he arrives
, I ride ahead alone. The gravel doesn’t seem too bad but the sun is at a low angle. I’m wearing sunglasses inside the helmet which helps with the sun but makes seeing somewhat difficult due to the polarization. I approach a small h
ill and as I get closer, I pick up signs of thick gravel. The right side of the road is in shadow and normally I might go to the left where my visibility is clearer but it’s on a hill and I decide to give it a bit more throttle to climb the hill. The bike starts to wobble and the more I try to control it, the wobbling gets worse. I’m now on my left shoulder and I can feel pressure building up on the my sternum. I’m saying to myself, ‘this is not good’. I try to extricate myself from the bike when Thomas and Shari arrive. It’s a good 1/2 hour before I can climb into the passenger side and I hold onto handles as Thomas drives the insanely – bumpy road into the Hacienda. The owner arranges for a bed for me to be helped to and I’m stripped of my motorcycle gear, which includes my wallet. An ambulance is called – I think I’m going to the next stop en route, which is El Calafate but instead they take me to Gobernador Gregores. The doctor is the driver and one of the few nurses is my assistant. The next 42 kms, I will hardly forget. Shari is sitting on my hips and the nurse is pushing on me and the sides of the gurney to keep me from bouncing at each bump. I’m calling out in pain. When we arrive, I hear a doctor speak in English that he wants me to position myself for Xrays. There is no way I can do that and that’s all I recall.
We are on our way at last. First surprise was a piece of paper at Immigration that had to be shown each time we left Chile. Of course, instructions weren’t given and turned out to be an important paper for sure. Taking the on and off bus was a great day to spend the time on our first day. Santiago seemed like a city with a lot of construction and lots of poor areas we were told to avoid. Had quite an adventure trying to use a power bar with a power adapter so that I could charge multiple devices at one time. I took out the power on the whole h
otel floor and house-keeping had to come up and restore it. Day 2 we arranged through the Concierge to hire a driver and Chenier, the interpreter and Sergio his driver arrived at 9:30 am. He agreed to take us to do some wine tasting and also to Valparaiso. Enroute, we stopped for Pisco Sours and eventually got to a the Casona winery in Casablanca valley. We tried Primus and Ritual wines – all 4 wines were excellent. Valparaiso was somewhat rundown as it was recovering from tornadoes and a tsunami but the graffiti on all the buildings was
fun to photograph. Vina del Mar was better off with a lot of building of high rises going on. We had so much fun with Chenier we asked him to take us to the mountains. He promised to show us the famous Andes Condors. So, next day, we headed east this time to a mountain ski resort. Apparently Prince William had skiied here a year or so previously. We stopped to have coffee in the Andes lodge at Valle Nevado.
There were beautiful Californian Poppies all along the road which turned out to be nothing but switchbacks for many miles. After hiking the hills near the lodge we travelled part way d
own the hill until we spotted the Condors. It was definitely a Kodak moment. Upon returning to Santiago, we still had plenty of time to go for hikes in the city and take the funicular to the top of San Cristoball Park and walk down. That was a LONG walk – thought it would never end. I’m guessing we walked more than 15kms but nice scenery along the way. This ended another very pleasant day. Tomorrow, we had to leave for Osorno. We were advised to sit on
the left side of the plane so that you could see the active volcano as you descend.
Despite the fact we already had passports, there was a lot of preparation. Moto Aventura had confirmed we would go on the trip but couldn’t confirm a date. We were therefore unable to book flights. We also couldn’t book any other travel after the motorcycle tour to Patagonia. We wanted to visit Buenos Aires, see a concert in Gualeguaychu and visit parts of Uruguay, perhaps Montevideo. We most definitely wanted to photograph the Iguassu Falls. Still there were other things we could do. We researched medical vaccinations that might be needed (there were none) and tried to map out the route we would follow based on very loose description in the MotoAventura website. Finally, In August, a departure date of January 24th was given and in late August we asked to make a down payment of $5000 US. We began to book other flights and talk to an acquaintance in Buenos Aires regarding booking of his apartment. For the longest time, I research going on a hike in Peru, ending up in Machu Picchu. Despite at least one company urging me to go, I was warned that February would be the rainy season and all trails were closed except for one. Finally I broke off discussions – I wasn’t sure I could make the hike and my wfie certainly couldn’t. I made a decision I needed a new helmet and better quality armored pants. We made packing lists and decided we also needed new bags to carry our gear and minimize airfare costs for extra baggage. By early January,we were talking to family who had already been to Buenos Aires and making arrangements to meet Friends in Buenos Aires after our motorcycle trip. Finally, we were all packed and ready. The arrangements were to leave early and spend 4 days in Santiago Chile before flying to Osorno to start the motorcycle tour.