The Reignition

A long press of the little grey button & after a few coughs the Husky roars back to life, thundering through Alejandro’s workshop. She has been reignited. She’s had a long timeout. 1y & 10M to be precise. In Punta Arenas (Chile), the southern most town of Chile, Alejandro has provided her shelter for this time. I’ve been forced to strand her for a while. Now we’re almost set to continue our adventure. First things first though; a recap on how we got here…

December 2019, the Husky & I jump back over to SA. First stop a petrol station. No queue whatsoever & I pay by credit card. It’s been a while! Everything is so easy. Joyfully I buy some fast food, which I usually don’t appreciate nearly as much. Riding on South, the roads are picketed with warning signs along the highway, warning not to stop due to high crime levels. It has been a while I’ve seen anything like this as well.

We pass-through to Bloemfontein to take a days break. While looking for the AirBnB we stop at a red light. I notice an unusual smell of burnt plastic. Turning around I notice smoke coming out of my luggage. Hastily I jump off the Husky, grab a bottle of water & pour it over my luggage. The smoke is gone, but the damage has been done. The Husky has lost her heat shield on the exhaust. The exhaust has burnt through the luggage holster & the dry bag & set my tent on fire. My Hileberg tent is now useless as it is covered with holes the size of oranges. The luggage holster & dry bags require some improvisation to be used again.

My burnt luggage
Patched up Luggage Holster
Patched up Luggage Bag

Back in Cape Town we’re warmly welcomed by Rolf & Sue & settle back in at their house. I’d been organizing shipping of the Husky to South America for several weeks, but unfortunately not found a suitable solution yet. Time is a crucial factor in negotiations with these shipping agents, so I decide to spend some time around Cape Town & do a short trip to Betty’s Town, while negotiations are ongoing.

There are three modes & three primary destinations for shipping to South America. The modes are sea freight in a shared container, sea freight (boxed) or air freight (boxed) & the destinations are Buenos Aires, Valparaiso or Montevideo. The costs are lowest for the shared container & highest for air freight. However, shipping times are inverse. As there is no direct shipping between Africa & South America, all containers are routed through Europe, hereby, taking 3 months or more. Air freight is scheduled to take 2 weeks. Among the destinations Montevideo (Uruguay) has the best reputation in terms of bureaucracy, the lowest expected/unexpected expenses & is suitable for air freight. I chose air freight to Montevideo to save time & book a flight there via Switzerland.

As negotiations with the shipping agent are not finalized yet, I leave the Husky back with Rolf & fly to Switzerland to replace some equipment & stock up on some spare parts, while continuing negotiations with the shipping agent.

A suitable shipping solution has been found. Rolf kindly delivers the Husky to the shipping agent & ensures she’s packed up safely in a wooden box. Now the Husky & I are both on our way to Montevideo, South America we’re coming!

I arrive about two weeks before the Husky & decide to take some Spanish classes while waiting for the Husky. English, German or French won’t do around here. Living with 2 Uruguayan lads, I get to discover Montevideo with locals & am lucky enough to be staying there during Carnival. Time flies bye & one morning during Spanish class the secretary walks into class telling me that the shipping agent has called. The Husky has arrived.

I immediately head out to the airport to set the Husky free. After finding my way to the agent in the cargo terminal at the airport, I find out that the Husky has arrived, but the official documents not. They have been sent separately via DHL & the agent has not received them. I have no idea where they are.

Luckily I have scans of all the required documents on the cloud & the agent suggests I give it a try. At first a friendly customs officer accompanies me through the process & organizes me an audience with the man in charge at customs. I notice a large picture of the Swiss alps hung up behind his desk. Upon explaining the situation, he grants permission to temporarily import the Husky w/o the official papers. This wouldn’t happen in other countries, at least not w/o offering a special incentive.

Quite a few more desks to visit. A broker taking care of other business lets me follow him through the process & ensures everything is done correctly. Again free of charge. We’re now on the ramp of the storage hall & a forklift comes out hauling a large wooden box. The box is opened & the Husky is in it. I couldn’t be happier.

I reassemble her on the ramp with some help of other clients waiting to claim their goods. Two men working at the storage hall are bikers themselves, one of them permanently referring to the other as “the turtle” as he’s apparently a slow rider. They organize the forklift again to lift the Husky in order to install the wheels. After two hours of assembly work, I’m told that the wooden box & the litter will be disposed of & that I’m free to leave. Helping others seems to come so naturally to people here. It has been the right decision to ship to Montevideo & I couldn’t have a better impression of Uruguay.

The Husky has arrived in South America

We’re free to enter South America together. What a great feeling! Although the shipping agent has left a minimal amount of fuel in the Husky, she won’t start. We start our journey in South America with me pushing her 2.5km to the next fuel station. Again, I believe she’s paying me back for the time spent in transit. DHL informs me that the documents have been routed to Montevideo US instead of Montevideo Uruguay. The documents have now been routed to the right country & we head off.

Heading South we pass through Nueva Helvecia targeting Buenos Aires. There are countless former Swiss colonies in Uruguay, Argentina & Chile. The patriotism being portrayed here is staggering. I don’t meet any Swiss German speakers though.

Two days in Buenos Aires (Argentina) & our direction shall be West towards the Andes. Entering Argentina was a piece of cake & everything seems so easy in South America so far. No visas, no CdP & shorter waiting times.

The area between Buenos Aires & Mendoza (〜1’000km) at first seems rather flat, dull & tiring for motorcycle travel. However, in Portrero (San Luis) a gentleman named Chopo stops the Husky & myself while looking for a campsite. Asking what we’re looking for in perfect English, he then suggests we stay at his house for the night. Together with Chopo & his friend Hugo I discover the beauty of this area, eat excellent food & make new friends. Really always a different way of discovering a region if you know locals. Thank you Chopo & Hugo!

We tackle the final stretch to Mendoza & continue our journey South on the famous Ruta 40, an almost 5’200km long road/track along the Andes. Taking some detours away from the Ruta 40, the scenery along the Andes is staggering & changes completely every few hundred km. Lush green, dry desert like, mountainous, flat & sandy. All interchanging continuously.

Arriving in Bariloche, a tourist destination famous for it’s lakes, mountains & skiing. This place reminds me of parts of Switzerland & Canada. There are great views, good accommodation & restaurants with delicious food. A great area to take a few days off.

There’s a KTM dealer here & I need some advice. The Husky has started to leak oil & I can’t find out from where. I drop in at the shop & the lads immediately start inspecting the Husky. It’s highly difficult to find out where the oil is coming from. Even when cleaning the oil & riding for a few minutes, everything is smeared with oil again immediately afterwards. We decide to replace an o-ring on the output shaft & seal the clutch slave cylinder better. Martin the mechanic does the replacement for a symbolic price. I find out that he’s of Swiss decent & simply happy to help.

The Husky is still leaking oil

The Husky & I continue our journey South. She’s still leaking oil. A mystery & I’m concerned about her well-being. On my way I pack some more reserve oil & we target Rio Gallegos, shortly before the border to Chile.

During one of the many oil refills I lose the oil cap; it simply disappears. Looking around for a solution in a small town (Huiliches), I come to the conclusion that it is impossible to find a suitable alternative around. I’m directed to Carlitos. Carlitos is the man who finds a solution for everything. And he also does for my issue.

The man who finds solutions; Carlitos making a new Oil Cap
Custom Oil Cap (White Plug right)

Passing through Colonia Suiza & Parco National Los Alerces we shoot southwards. Aside of constantly checking & adjusting oil levels, I get to repair the Husky’s front tire 2x. Additionally, chain & sprockets are wearing quickly. It being usual that the wear accelerates over time, it seems unusual that this chain & sprocket set is lasting much shorter than my first one had (〜8’000km less). Currently we really could use a lucky streak.

Covid19 is becoming the main topic in the media now. Argentina is said to be closing its border soon. Having to exit Argentina & shortly ride through Chile in order to reach Ushuaia (Southern most city in Argentinian Exclave), we’re now in a bit of rush.

We’re in Rio Gallegos & tomorrow is the last day the Argentinian border is open. I decide to shortly exit Argentina, blast through Chile & re-enter Argentina as long as it’s possible.

It works & we cross both borders the same day, riding into Tierra del Fuego & landing in Rio Grande (Argentina again). The Husky is losing more&more oil & the rear sprocket has become dangerously spiky. I had planned on replacing it further more North in Chile, but this won’t get us far anymore.

The Husky & I are both not in the best of shape & I decide to make a plan in Rio Grande. Other motorcycle travelers are in the same situation & there is a lot of debating going on. It is now the news hits that Chile will be closing its border the day after tomorrow as well. Is it better to be stuck in Argentina or Chile?

I decide Chile is the better option & head back towards Chile together with Joris (Dutch Motorcyclist) & Leonie (Geman Motorcyclist). Rough winds from all directions & incredibly cold & tiring riding. When taking a break in Cerro Sombrero (Close to the border to Chile), the Husky won’t start anymore. I find out it must have something to do with the power supply.

Joris tows us to a mechanic for construction equipment. The Husky’s battery voltage is low & she’s not charging. It must either be a lose connector, a defect stator or voltage rectifier. I leave the battery there to be charged over night.

Last day to make it back to Chile. The charged battery gets the Husky running, but she’ll only run as long as the battery charge lasts. We blast back towards Chile, stopping for ferries, gas & the border, each time praying that she’ll start again. We’re flying through vast open plains, wavering in all directions, caused by bumps in the road & wind blasts coming from all directions. It turns out one battery charge lasts for about 200km with 5 engine starts & we make it up to 20km before Punta Arenas. I had decided to take a break & wait for my fellow travelers, who are riding at more appropriate speeds on 125cc & 250cc motorcycles. Now the battery is flat & Joris tows us the rest of the way into Punta Arenas. At least we’ve made it back to civilization.

We book an AirBnB for the 3 of us & I start troubleshooting on the Husky. My measurements indicate that the stator must be the issue as it has an electrical short to the negative pole. No way of finding a stator here.

In the meantime restaurants are starting to close down & the military has started to control the entrance of stores. Slowly panic is coming up among travelers. Many are tirelessly trying to book flights, which is almost impossible because booking systems are continuously breaking down due to overload & flights are being cancelled one after another. I register with the Swiss embassy & closely follow developments.

It’s starting to look like this pandemic may be with us for a few months. There is no way to continue traveling within Chile, as all roads North lead through Argentina & the ferry heading North is not taking foreigners anymore. I decide to find a way home & leave the Husky back for a while. Not an easy decision to take.

Leaving the country with a temporarily imported vehicle registered in Chiles customs systems (linked to passport) is not that easy. Many motorcycle travelers are simply stranding their bikes by giving them to customs, which will then auction them off. Not an option for the Husky. I need to find a good solution for her.

Through a French traveler I get in touch with Alejandro. Alejandro is willing to store the Husky for a monthly fee. By giving him a publicly notified authority to deal with customs in my name & transferring the temporary import of the Husky (not the ownership) to him, I’m free to leave Chile. A difficult moment leaving the Husky back & not knowing when we’ll reunite.

The Swiss embassy gets in touch with me & informs me that a repatriation flight from Santiago to Zurich is being organized in a few days time. I manage to get a seat on this flight & book a flight to Santiago.

Only 2 flights leaving Santiago today. Travelers are greeted by the ambassadors of Switzerland & Germany at the airport. Systems have already been shut down & boarding passes are issued by hand by the staff of the embassy. On my way home much sooner than planned. Who knows for how long.

Handmade Boarding Pass

Arrival at an empty airport & driving home in an empty train. I great my parents from a distance, grab a few items & borrow the car to go to quarantine for 2 weeks. Most generously Ronald & Susanne offer me to stay in their apartment in the mountains for a while. It’s perfect to enjoy the beauty of the Switzerland & settle back in. It’s so beautiful, comfortable & relaxed here, I end up staying for a month. Thank you Ronald & Susanne!

The estimated few months turn out being 1 year & 10 months. Temporary assignments & temporary housing keep me afloat. I’m determined to free the Husky again as soon as possible. It’s now January 2022 & it seems possible to enter Chile again. All that’s needed is a vaccination certificate (approved by Chile), a negative PCR test, insurance confirmation & some filled in forms. I book a flight for the end of January & stuff my bag mainly with spare parts & equipment.

Zurich – Madrid – Santiago – Punta Arenas. Around 29h of travel incl. 4-5h of queuing due to stricter immigration requirements. I’m back to Punta Arenas & looking forward to reuniting with the Husky. The gear I had stored at the AirBnB is still around & the Husky is still in her winter sleep at Alejandros’ workshop. A good start.

A lot of work to be done on the Husky. I get to work in Alejandro’s workshop for a daily fee. Not easy to discuss tools, motorcycle parts & tasks in Spanish. I change her oil & filters, replace chain & sprockets, seal the output shaft & clutch slave cylinder, change the front tube & replace the stator & voltage rectifier, as well as the battery.

A long press of the little grey button & after a few coughs the Husky roars back to life, thundering through Alejandro’s workshop. She has been reignited. We head out for a test ride.

Burnt Stator

We charge down some gravel roads & feel incredibly liberated. The engine is running fine & the battery being charged. I’d almost forgotten how good it feels darting down rough tracks on the Husky. However, to my disappointment she’s still losing oil. I want to get this fixed before I move on. Back to the workshop. Back to square one.

Some research & I decide my last option is replacing the o-ring on the starter motor. This means removing the auxiliary tanks, the fairings, airbox & throttle body again. My fourth day working at Alejandro’s workshop. He now suddenly commands some English & we communicate in “Spenglish” in its most elaborate form.

Back to the workshop
Back to square one
Definitely some oil under the starter motor
Replacing the o-ring on the starter motor shaft
Mission accomplished
The Husky set to continue our adventure

I replace the o-ring on the starter motor with a slightly thicker one & reassemble the Husky. A short press of the little grey button & she roars back to life, thundering through Alejandro’s workshop. A short test ride confirms that we’ve managed to seal the oil leak. The Husky has been reignited. Our adventure too. We’re set to head North.

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