Stopping for gas at a service station on the primary route south toward Puerto Montt, I drew the usual crowd of curiosity seekers, each with their own individual gasps of wonder, fear and envy when I shared with them where I was from where I was going. Of course, they were all armed with recommendations of places to see in Chile which I eagerly noted. Mentioning my plan to visit Pucon, each converser elicited the same reaction: “Pucón? Que linda! It’s one of the more popular summer outdoor destinations for Chileans coming from Santiago, Concepcion, Valdivia or elsewhere.
Pucon could be to Chile’s lake district what Bariloce is to Argentina’s. Though much smaller, the streets are lined with restaurants, cafes, tourist agencies and shops. Vans and busses toting river rafts, kayaks or backpacking tourists eager to relieve themselves from the monotony of day long bus drives, Pucon is an outdoor adventure haven. For me Pucon meant finally getting away from the monotonmy of Chile’s toll route (5) and experiencing more fun riding and better scenery. Winding around the nearly 40 mile road off the highway, I soon found myself passing through the tourist town of Villarrica and then onward along the tree-lined shore of Lago Vilarrica with the giant active Volcán Villarrica towering above.
This weekend the town was espicially chocked full of athletes eager to try their hand at Pucón’s annual Half Iron Man. Now I’m not sure what that makes you – if only half. But having no hopes to be a triathlete nor iron man, I just cruised the town looking for a decent place to stay. That’s when Guido. Cruising down O’Higgins, named for the man who liberated Chile and the main strip in Pucón and likely the main strip nearly every Chilean town I spotted another motorcycle traveler. Pulling over I was happy to meet Fast Guido, or Guido Wagner from Switzerland. Standing just under six-feet, about forty-years old he sported a pony tail held together with rubber bands that ran down his back to his behind.
Guido left his home in Switzerland after quitting his job at a large pharmaceutical company in Spring of 2005 in order to travel the world by motorcycle. Tackling Southern Europe first and then onto Africa, he got as far as South Africa when a warthog jumped out of the shrub and straight into his motorcycle sending him tumbling and sumersaulting over the pavement. A broken hand, seriously torn and separated shoulder ligaments, among other unfortunate injuries, Guido had to return to back to his home for nine months of recuperation. So needless to say we had more than a few common experience from which to begin our day and night long endless conversations on travel, motorcycles and rock and roll music.
Standing aside his bike he flipped out a lever and jumped on it with confidence and agerssion. Good god. He’s side jump starting his KTM 640 Adventure. Later and without prompting he came forward and volunteered that he’d never buy another KTM motorcycle again. He had a long list of problems and he was most seriously fed up with the incompetence of the KTM dealer network he encountered in Europe, Africa and in South America. With nearly bald tires and a bike that wouldn’t start without a kick, he was hoping his luck would change as he headed north to another KTM dealer in Chillán. When I asked if he’d buy a Beemer after sharing my recent BMW dealer experience he shook his head. Nope. His next bike would likely be a Honda or other Japanese model.
Several beers and a meal later we exchanged notes on pending routes. He’s headed north and wants to be in Alaska by July or August. And me heading South. Armed with waypoints, phone numbers and emails of contacts we parted ways the next morning as he headed north and I made my way toward Puerto Montt in hopes of convincing the folks at Navimag to find space for Doc and I on the boat to Puerto Natales.