Saturday, 19 April 2014

San Rafael ….. Hotel CalifincaRita

John and Annettes, Finca Rita, San Rafael, ex travellers settling down into an un-normal life, we had written to them days prior warning them of our invasion, Bevan from Phoenix had done the same and for some unusual reason Lorraine gave them the heads up saying good people, we believe her email was hacked.

Arriving to the Finca we were welcomed in with open arms and shown to our room (and never let out) , we unpacked Maya as we were planning a canyon ride during our two night stay….well we told them two nights as that is (WAS) the plan.

Settling in we went into town with John and on the way back we visited one of their friends who sells wine, we bought a box of 6 as Ellen had decided that we would probably be there longer …best be prepared.

2.30 something am we finished chatting over a coupla wines (Mr Duval I believe we are in the same trouble makers camp ) … next day was work …. hmmm cruzey start then eh, in order to stay at John and Annettes they like to get help on the farm, this saves travellers money and helps out big time on the farm with many hands makes lite work.

The weather had been a little off and the grapes sugar level too low thus harvesting was off the list at this point, weeding, everyone's favourite job was on tho.

Sugar testing the grapes amidst piss taking and coffees

Sounds bad, no, bit of grubbing and pulling out of the stringy bloody thingys ready for collection to the fire heap, good exercise.

For me it was a time to exchange muscle group use and get some exercise having a good sweat with exercise other than picking Maya up outa the snow.

Ellen and Annette were picking up the Walnuts so everyone was busy and reuniting at lunch stops for an energy top up of good food and some good ol BS.

Now John and Annette take things at a leisurely pace not burning out knowing there is a big job on hand so this makes for good fun, chats and a chance to fix the world. (if it is not done overnight with wine)

During our stay I had a tussle with three big guys out on the farm, every one of them looking down on me the odds were gonna be interesting and I knew it would be a fight.

I took the first swing and got a good strike bringing the first one to the ground while the other two looked on, there was a tussle over the second one followed by the third, next thing I know all three were on the ground and the victory was mine, I felt triumphant with that David and Goliath thing….then Ellen said come on man they are only weeds ….

They were big tho

Back to the tractor work we loaded all the defeated weeds onto the trailer, not just the three big guys but all his mates too, this was done over 15 - 20 loads, we always took the time to wave to the girls when we passed them which we thought was quite friendly like.

The Canyon, Canyon De Atual

We were unchained and allowed to play, Canyon De Atual and back our ride for the day. We confirmed it was the same one that Martyn and Jaime from Chile had just ridden and one point in the canyon there was a rock fall, the rocks however the size of a car, given they had seven bikes but more importantly seven blokes they manhandled the big girls over the trials course and carried on.

The colours did not disappoint

Not knowing if the road was blocked or clear we prepared to turn around if and when it would be required.

Taking in the canyon we were served jolly splendid views (in John and Annette English accent), reaching the last power station the Peligro tape (danger tape) was up across the road …so we rode around it and sure enough approx 1 km up the rock fall was still there less maybe 2 rocks, still no way for us to pass, lunch stop then, that was our turning point.

There was a rude guy there doing the fingers ... he was dressed like me

We were here

Photo shoot and return to home base admiring the canyon from the new perspective which did not let us down.

Bit of rock climbing too...all a bit easy without snow on it

Cool views

A play in the puddles on the way back

Back to the farm to shower up and wine up ….good times.

San Rafael is a nice town with all the services, the screws had fallen outa my sunnies (note Paso Sico) so an optics shop took care of this with two new screws, we also wanted a fuel filter for Maya, this again was easy to get and with enthusiastic help from the moto shop all of who were very keen looking at the orange mammoth parked at their shop.

4 nights on the first box of wine and it had gone ….. very hot here with the snow and rain, Annette went back to the wine seller, he said but the Kiwis bought a box only 4 night nights ago… yeah says Annette, at least we are supporting the local economy.

1 Week On

Well our two nights have long past and we didn‘t leave cos we weren’t allowed to (actually by choice), finding ourselves banned from the gate it is like Hotel California here where you can check out any time you like but you can never leave, John and Annette appreciating some bloke help getting the weeding done and some chic help picking up the Walnuts with the Asian contingent doing an excellent job.

Ellen per usual made sushi and Chinese pies all going down a real treat, nice to share her skills with Annette so she can make the same if we ever get to leave.

Sushi expert at work

Forward planning for Moto GP if we can get in, with prices looking spendie I might have to settle for a big TV at a hotel somewhere … time will tell.

In between Charlie that we met at Lorraines arrives, he was on his way down south and wanted to come back up to John and Annettes on Thursday, it was explained to Charlie that yes today was indeed already Thursday ...Charlie's plans changed slightly and he ended up staying three nights with us, wine, chats, ride, good times.

Laural, Hardie and their trusty Asian sidekick

With Charlie’s help on the farm we loaded the rest of the weeds onto the trailer and took em to the heap, onya Charlie great to have the extra manhands.

Me driving the tractor, John and the two dogs relaxing, Charlie practicing being Japanese and taking photos

Now the favourites, three Kittens, the dodgy one that is the shit stirrer trouble maker has been called Kiwi ... right on!!!!

The final day came, we had finished the big part of the weeding so set to for destination La Falda to meet up again with Dan and Sara.

So we ended up leaving 14 days after our intended two nights, new amigos and lots of work done to help Johna and Annette, sampling of local wines, good times, talked BS, fixed the worlds problem and named a cat ....mission accomplished.

Busy fixing the worlds problems

The sustenance we used to fix the world

So if you want to do this, help your budget, help John and Annette on the Finca, help sort the world out and just generally enjoy yourself while earning your keep contact them, as ex travellers they know the needs of us homeless buggas, also John has a good dose of tools and contacts, they are running out of kittens to name tho so get in soon.

Thanks John and Annette, San Rafamily ... we are looking forward to coming back in a few months

Link to contact them,

A poem written by Annette for the Finca

High on a snowy highway, It’s so cold I wish I had some hair
We were on our way to Hotel Finca Rita
Recommended by Bevan and Claire
We saw the farm and heard the ringing of a bell
This could be heaven or this could be hell
Greeted at the gate by five dogs, three kittens and a cat
And some strange woman wearing a cowboy hat
They all showed us the way.
As we heard voices around us say
Welcome to the Hotel Finca Rita
There’s a lovely room at Hotel Finca Rita
Such a lovely place
With loads of camping space
There’s no such thing as television or internet
You don’t Google, you just have to ask Annette
John and Alana filled up the food cupboard with Asian spice
And all the homemade dinners are very nice.
The alarm goes off at 6.00. The barn opens at 7.00
I lay in bed thinking “I hope I can stay here until eleven“.
Asadon in hand, we are just clearing away weeds that are higher than me
Oh how I wished I had not stayed up drinking all night until 3.00!
Ellen helped harvest the walnuts during the day and cracked them at the night
I had a dream she had my nuts in a cracking device and awoke with a fright
The day it rained Johnnie and I sat watching the Isle of Man TT and much more
But relaxing was not on the cards, cracking of the walnuts was in store
At the sound of the church bell
She really had to tell
I had asked Annette to just bring me some wine
She replied that Ken and Carol had drank it all back in 2009
And still we heard those voices say
Welcome to Hotel Finca Rita
There’s a lovely room at Hotel Finca Rita
Such a lovely place
With loads of camping space
The first weekend we killed the duck
Oh boy was it bloody hard to pluck
Ellen made Peking Duck, Sushi and Chinese dumplings
Next things for the pot are the poor goslings
George and Mildred oversees that the goslings come to no harm
So next time you see me I will probably only have one arm
After two weeks we found ourselves running for the door
Had to find our motorbike, but it was not parked where it was before.
Relax said Johnnie Green, your motorbike is not around for you to retrieve
You can check out anytime you like but she will never let you leave.
Welcome to Hotel Finca Rita
There's a lovely room at Hotel Finca Rita
Such a lovely place
With lots of camping space.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Santiago To Malarque To San Rafael

Having got our big service and things sorted we left Santiago, with good advice from some fellow riders we avoided the main drag.

Leo had suggested a route through Paso Vergara then turning left over a shortcut pass.

The first part of the ride we railed down the main road turning off into shingle towards the border, this is a mining road so pretty good nic allowing good speeds.

Reaching the Chilean border we clocked out per usual, with the weather looking unusual and the wind picking up we rode the 17 km to the Argentine border only to have the beady eyed customs guy saying we did not have the paperwork we needed??? WTF????

The Chilean guys had taken our paperwork so we were told we had to go back to the Chilean post to get the correct papers, I was unhappy as it was full of sandpits and the wind was horrific making riding bloody hard, the wind was ripping up sandstorms and twisters with speeds that were fast enough to pick up stones and throw them at us bouncing off us and Maya.

Making it back to the border and chatting with them they said no we do not need the paperwork and the Argies were wrong, to be fair I was starting to get agitated, in the end they gave us a photocopy and wrote to the Argies saying they don’t need it but here it is with our stamp.

That night we stayed at the border in the bottom building which was droughty and cold ...but dry.

As the evening progressed the weather tipped with very heavy rain, as the rain slowed down ... the snow settled in .... ouwh no.

We listened on wondering if the road was going to be washed away or passable, the temperature dropped like a stone testing our sleeping bags...which passed the test.

As morning appeared it was clear that the weather storm had created a few issues for us.

The pass up and over to Argentina was looking ominous with smatterings of snow which were slowly getting thicker and more drifts.

It wasn’t long and my riding ability was being tested with 100 - 300 mm snow on the racetrack, being we were climbing the pass it was as slippery as an eel and very hard work.

We ended up cleaning off nearly two km of road down to dirt to gain traction, I did try and play the snow off but the snow won .....Maya tumbling to the floor and me “I spray the snow with heidenau and walk away”

Yes this is the moment of the get off, I just wanted to check the snow on the left

House and some contents off to reduce the top weight we picked her up.

The method was to clear the rest of the road at least where the steeper parts were then ride the middle in the fresh snow as the traction was good there.

The top nearly in sight

It was easy sailing with fresh snow and almost flat

Cresting the pass was good however we had 2 - 3 km along the top before heading down .....this is where we got stuck in a 300 mm deep section about 100 meters long and slowly but surely we ran out of traction and we started to head up the last dreaded section.

We had almost decided to turn back when a Landy Discovery turned up and said we had clobbered the worst and there was less.

The road started improving which was a godsend

Although the raod was still 200 - 300 mm deep in places without vehicle tracks etc it was easy enough to get through

Managing to wrestle Maya to the crest we decided to take there good advice and continue on into Argentina making it to the border building again less than impressed with them... they knew this and were being a little less obnoxious, for me it was a lesson in anger management as I was want to smack the beady eyed idiot however I wanted more our paperwork so we could continue.

Finally getting our entry stamps and the piece of paper was still useless to them (and they knew it but sensed I was NOT riding back again) they let us pass, turns out the aduana is not there so it would have made no difference if we had ignored them and carried on.

In order to calm nerves Ellen fed me to keep me “out of their way”, lunch over we carried on playing bulldozer, at one point the drifts were half way up my my boots on the footpegs, we bashed through them one by one with Maya getting in at pace and chugging out the other side.... so much for less snow however to be fair the guys in the Discovery had stayed at the thermals so did not know the snow depth where we were heading.

Eventually we made it out of the snow laden ground, our new found challenge was the sodden clay from snow melt which saw some scary tank slapper moments and us weaving across the track.

Finally we got down onto dry ground and corrugations ( I will never whine about corrugations again) which made life easy other than the usual teeth chattering but not from freezing conditions or snow this time.

All bar one bad sandpit with wind it was nearly plain sailing

The valley down was a cruze to the aduana with some stock moving moments, the aduana normal and friendly, TVIP and stamps we set off to Malarque, the road getting better and better turning to tar ... almost felt like cheating!!!!

Arriving in Malarque we found a hostel with a bed, pillows and hot shower..... very nice I have to say.

With a good kitchen we knocked up a good feed and quit the night early.

After a big sleep we wondered off to destination Finca Rita, John and Annettes in San Rafael.