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The Journey




Guiness
 
 

January 1999


ECUADOR
Its took more than month after horse accident before I was able to climb on the bike and stay in my trusty saddle for more than 3 hours per day. Along with the pains I was endlessly happy to be on the road again. All weak and spoiled from the warm hospital, I got sick again on the very first day of riding. Exhausted, with a high fever and bad cough again I had to stop and recover. The doctor said pneumonia. Time was speeding by. My Christmas in Ushuaia was further out of reach.

I was recuperating at a snails pace but I hadn't lost the hope of reaching the very end of South America by the end of the year. Even though many people understandably doubted it at the time.

PERU
The Peruvian border was a hell. When I checked with the Peruvian embassy in the United States I was told an entrance visa was not required for Slovene citizens. Period! Guaranteed! Well, the border crossing itself showed a different face: "...back to Ecuador and return with the visa..." was the suggestion of the female immigration officer (I can't remember ever getting anywhere with female bureaucrats...).

Of course, I complained and made a request to talk to the manager. I was hopping a man would show up. At the end of my repertoire of tricks, the tears convinced him and I got the transit visa for the boring ride throughout long coastal desert of Peru. And not to mention the traffic in Lima, the most terrifying traffic experience ever. So far anyway. It was a hell but somehow I made it.

Nicer faces of Peru were seen further south, in Nazca, Colca and Tulcan. In the last one, an excellent, old fashion dentist made me three fillings for just 100$. Great job, compared with some messy character in Connecticut, USA, charging me 350$ for job that still hurts after 5 months...

BOLIVIA
Once I was in Chile I couldn't stop thinking about a detour to Bolivia. I spent some great time on Lake Titicaca being hosted by renowned transoceanic balsa designer Paulino Esteban and his big family. It was nice but too short.

CHILE
Fast travel through interesting Chile. "Do not believe him if he offers you cherries in December, girl...". I remembered an old, Slovene song. Without waiting for anybody I bought fresh, delicious cherries myself and enjoy privilege of consuming them in December. In Slovenia we eat them only in June.

ARGENTINA
I made it from Bolivia to the most southern tip of South America in just seven days. The price was high: 3 crashes in last 2 days, 1 flat tire, 1 totally destroyed saddle bag, 1 broken screw at the bottom of a spring and for first time in my life I was nearly ready to drop everything and go home. Over 1000 km per day, more than 15 hours of riding daily, the Patagonian wind and gravel made me cry and curse (mostly at myself as the trip itself was my idea). I made it to Ushuaia on December 24th, ten minutes before eight in the morning.

Still in tears I parked the bike on top of the hill, overlooking the southernmost town in the world. Looking over a gorgeous chain of mountains and Beagle channel did not help. I cried some more. Only this time they were tears of joy.

Then the whole world changed it seemed, and everything started to work out for me: I found the mechanic, a spare screw, got a new tube to replace the old one, found someone who made me the new saddle bag. On top of that I met the guy who got all upset after hearing I had no plans for a Christmas dinner. He offered me an empty house as my temporary home and a festive dinner with his family. Since their ancestors were Italians, the food was perfect and close to the meal I would have enjoyed at home if I had been there to enjoy that, my favorite holiday.

On that day something else happened, the guy that I stopped yesterday to ask if he could help me put the bike on its center stand (so I could later fix my flat), introduced me to an unusual man. He was Slovene, residing in Ushuaia for 50 years. From the next day on, he and his family have been taking care of me, as if I was the member of the family. I got a warm office and gained a lot of weight there. Much Slovene food, as you can imagine. Even at the End of the World, New Year's celebrations were the same. I made it to the campground where all the motorcycle travelers in the area converged in order to meet a dozen of freezing, wet souls.

More so than January 1st it was January 4th I was looking forward to. One very special day. I couldn't sleep for a week leading up to this day. I was all excited as I finally found somebody who was willing to take me and my bike to Antarctica. The end of a year and a half long nightmare during which I had been directed to hundreds of inept, uninformed or uninterested bureaucrats with no idea how to get my Red Boyfriend to Antarctica. One Danish captain had an answer...

January 7th 1999. We boarded the Disko and sailed to Neco harbor, Antarctica. It was around 4 p.m. and I was nervous as hell. Bad weather came along with the captain's permission to land my motorcycle. I could barely see the landing place from the boat. A couple minutes later my Beemer was hanging high above the tiny zodiac boat waiting to be brought to icy Antarctica.

Nerves rose higher and higher as I was finally able to at least see the water and the paddling penguins. Fortunately there were smiling faces of the crew, full of hope and enthusiasm who without exception gladly participated in bringing the bike to the shore. And keeping me sane, with answers to all the worries and "ifs" crossing my mind before this important, hard and dangerous but impressive and memorable event.

It was cold, close to zero Celsius. Big, smaller and enormous icebergs floated around us. But there I was, just moment or two away from the event I had been working on since I left my home in June 1997. After the bike was safely loaded in the zodiac, we reached the land in just a couple a minutes.

The landing was wet, mostly because of the tears I couldn't hide after all the efforts to land in that impressive place. My favorite animals didn't complain. They were curiously looking at the funny, red, metal visitor making a strange noise. Penguins are not exactly familiar with the sound of a motorcycle engine.

When the windiest, coldest, driest desert in the World, highest in average altitude and most southern continent, held us in its lap, all the fear was gone. After tons of photos and only a short distance under the tires we had to return to the ship to finish the voyage, and a very special part of my trip and motorcycle history overall.

I am going to continue slowly and carefully now. I believe we passed the hardest continent. Now we are heading toward the last 3 continents before seeing home and finishing the report for Guinness Book of World Records...


SPECIAL THANKS TO:

CORIS - medical insurance; Who kept me going, and always answered the phone. They let me know I'm not just a number. I am a respected customer. And If I have a problem they will solve it.
M/C DISKO - Danish ship and her captain Mr. Frantz Jensen; to allow on board my bike and me, the "crazy Slovenian woman" (as he told me a million times during the voyage). It was a pure pleasure to join his boat and an outstanding crew.
THE CHAIN GANG - to all the members and especially the founder Steve Johnson who "donated" the great idea of T-shirts. Your support was priceless. You kept me going when times were rough and life was tough. You kept our dreams alive.
MY MUM - who patiently listened when I cried on the phone on Christmas day when I made it Ushuaia, all alone, broken, tired and homesick. You give me strength and don't judge my actions.
MY SLOVENE FAMILY ARKO IN USHUAIA - to bring Slovenia close to me and be my family when I missed them both.

And to all of those ANONYMOUS individuals who picked up my bike on the unpopulated Argentinean pampas where the wind blew at 150 km/h and the gravel was many times stronger than me.
 
 
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