Facts and Figures
Dec 14th - Dec 24th 2009
Start Mileage - 21448
Miles - 292
El Condor (Los Trentinos) - Puerto Madryn (ACA)
Packing up took us a while today with everyone saying their goodbyes as the numbers dwindled, swapping contact details and getting invites to visit when/if we pass by.
We hit the road at 11:00, a few people still packing up and some staying an extra day. A lot of people are heading South to Ushuaia for Christmas so we will probably see a lot of them there if not on the way. We have met a lot of really nice people over the last week and made more good friends.
Our next stop is Puerto Madryn where we will stay for two days so we can get to see the whales at Puerto Piramides on the Valdez peninsular. We have been told that the 15th is the last day of the season and that all the whales leave the area, hopefully they aren't keeping an eye on the calendar!
A good ride down Ruta 3 to Puerto Madryn, not too windy but we had an occasional gusty stretch pushing the bike over. Paul from Australia caught up with us and passed on by, we signalled that we were pulling in for fuel and a cuppa but he was going on a bit further. We also caught a glimpse of Chris and Silvia as we pulled in for fuel, the rest of the ride was quite lonely not seeing any other bikes along the way.
We found the campsite recommended by Brian and Marie, a nice spot, sheltered from the wind with clean hot showers and electricity.
Puerto Madryn (ACA)
Whale day today. Speaking to the German guy camped next to us, he recommended taking an afternoon boat trip as there would be fewer people on the boat. 14:00 we set off for Piramides, about 100Km’s back up north. As the Peninsular is a national park we had to pay entrance fees to get in, we should have thought about that earlier and could have had the whole day there, not to worry, as long as we get to see whales.
Fuelled up then had a wander around the port before going to book the trip. The girl in the office said that even though the 15th is the date that the season is supposed to finish it is only approximate and guaranteed we would see whales, through the day other trips had seen up to a dozen whales with their young, so on that we booked the next trip in 30 minutes. The time came to get on the boat, 7 of us on a boat that could carry 60, loads of room to move about. 10 minutes after leaving the shore we spotted the first whales in the distance, so far much better than we saw at Hermanus Bay in South Africa, and it got even better as we pulled around into a small bay, at least 10 whales and all coming very close to the boat, you could nearly reach out and touch them. We spent over an hour watching them and took 240 pictures. I managed to get a couple of classic tail splash shots but no shots of them breaching the water. An amazing day.
Start Mileage - 21869
Miles - 51
Puerto Madryn (ACA) - Trelew
A hot start to the day 38 Deg. showing on the bike and it’s a struggle getting packed, do a bit then get in the shade for a while. All done by 10:00 and needing another shower. The liners have been in and out of our riding suits with the temperature changes here in Argentina, we only have 1800Km’s to go to Ushuaia, do we take the chance and remove them again??? Decide not to and suffer it a while longer, 450 Km’s to Comodoro Rivadavia our next stop.
We reached the outskirts of Trelew and the bike started playing up, first a little splutter with the engine stalling and restarting, then it gradually got worse. Losing all power I thumbed the starter to get the motor spinning again, ok until I give it some throttle then it dies again. I’m thinking it can’t be the heat, we had hotter days in Africa, could be a filter, we’ve had some dusty days but again not as bad as Africa. The bike starts and runs ok at tickover, but giving it some throttle just kills the engine, has to be fuel or electronic, please not electronic! I was going to turn around and make our way back to a fuel station we had passed back down the road, but as we had been stopped for a couple minutes and the bike seemed to be running ok again we decided to keep going……….. Cough, splutter and die and we coast onto the side of the road, it won’t even run at tickover now, not looking good. Have a cigarette and leave the bike to cool and settle down for a couple of minutes. No good, the bike is starting but cutting out, we are not going anywhere. Luckily we had broken down outside an industrial unit that makes suspension units for trailers, one of the guys came over and asked if we needed a “Mecanico”, yes please! So he goes back into the workshop to get a tow rope and his bike. All hooked up he tows us for 1.5 Km’s into town to the Yamaha dealership, even though they have a couple of bikes in the shop that they are working on they get onto ours straight away. Chris, the guy that towed us, explains to the mechanic what is happening with the bike then gets on his bike and disappears before we can even thank him. The mechanic asks when we last had the bike serviced and when it is due the next one then he asks where we last fuelled up, when we tell him Puerto Piramides, he rolls his eyes and says “Agua”, water in the fuel. It is going to take a while to sort it out and they are just closing for siesta, we get a lift into town to go for lunch and they tell us to come back at 16:30.
Lunch consumed we went for a wander around town. (Trelew is a town that has grown up from a nearby settlement called Gaiman founded by the Welsh in 1874.) Check the link Here.
We checked out the tourist office to see about accommodation for a couple of days, not expecting a quick fix for the bike. The nearest campsite is 30Km’s away in Gaiman, which could be a problem getting all the gear on a bus or we have expensive hotels in town, have to wait and see what the mechanic says.
The heat is getting to us walking around in all our gear so we head for the Plaza and some shade from the trees, we must have looked like a couple of bums both fast asleep on the grass within minutes. A nice kip then it’s time to get back to the mechanics, they think it is definitely contaminated fuel and will take till tomorrow at least to strip the tank down, clean it out, refill and test it. While we are talking with the mechanic, Chris (our tow) reappears with his girlfriend Gabrielle, who speaks some English. The mechanic explains to them what is happening and Gaby translates for us then offers to put us up until the bike is fixed. People are great.
Back at Chris and Gaby’s house, showered and changed some phone calls are made and an Asado arranged for tonight with members of the local bike club, Ebrios del Asfalto, Drinkers for the Road! Another good night had by all.
Trelew (Chris and Gaby’s)
Chris called the workshop before going to work, they are still working on the bike but he will be back at 16:30 to take us in to see it, visiting hours!! The rest of the day sat waiting and watching TV. Chris picked us up and dropped us in town, we had to wait at Gaby’s doctors while she went for an appointment before going on to the workshop. 16:30 and the bike is still in bits, we won’t be moving today. Time is getting tight to get to our booked accommodation in Ushuaia.
Another Asado arranged for tonight for one of the club members birthdays but first Chris has arranged a bike for us so we can take a trip out to Gaiman. Unfortunately it wouldn't start, is there a theme forming here????? Eventually managed to fire it up but it was late when we arrived in Gaiman, everything was shut and it’s starting to get dark and we have to be at the Asado for 22:00. A quick spin around the town and then head back, we are the first there so get the fire going before the others turn up. Argentines eat late and party late! More good food and beer and we met more friendly people, one of the guys gave me his knife as a gift, a traditional Gaucho knife decorated with a Rhea’s talon. Chris has to work tomorrow so we finish up early (02:00) and head home in the wind.
Trelew (Chris and Gaby’s)
Didn’t surface till 09:30 this morning, we can’t do all these late nights and get up in the morning! Chris had arranged for Bati to take us out in the afternoon. He had worked in Miami for 3years and his English was pretty good. He took us to Gaiman in the daylight this time. We walked part way through the first train tunnel constructed in Argentina, visited the first house of the Welsh settlers in the town, and saw a park that took one chap 29 years to build from ‘rubbish’. We then visited the Tea Room that Lady Di had tea and stickies in! Next was the beach at Rawson. It is a beautiful beach, but a bit chilly today, so empty. Afterwards, he took us to his parents house for Mate. This is a traditional drink shared with friends and is a type of herbal tea.
Now visiting hours for the bike……. It is fixed, just needs to be put back together, manana!
Out to Valeria and Jorge’s for pizza in the evening. Valeria is taking an English course and she also had an online dictionary to hand, so we managed to communicate. Another enjoyable evening (and another late one!)
Start Mileage - 21920
Miles - 283
Trelew (Chris and Gaby’s) - Caleta Olivia (Alberto’s)
The guys had made arrangements for us to be met by another biker group (Motoratones, Motor mice) in Caleta Olivia tonight. The bike should be ready today and we are itching to get moving again. Chris came home from work with a load of cakes for breakfast, not being big morning eaters we tried to eat a couple before going to collect the bike. At the workshop the mechanic tells us that there was water and metal in the fuel and a couple of injectors were blocked, the fuel regulator had packed up and needed to be bypassed, should be able to get that replaced under warranty at Santiago, Chile or Mendoza, Argentina at the next service. The spark plugs had been wound in so tight at the last service that the mechanic didn't want to try to take them out. Oh, and a new battery. AR$ 1400 all in. Pack all the stuff that we left in the workshop and followed Chris back home where Gaby had made a huge pot of pasta for lunch. We were given a couple of club T shirts which we have to have our pictures taken with at Ushuaia.
We were finally packed at 15:00 and had an escort out of town from Chris and Gaby. Thanks for all your help guys.
Now we have 500Km’s to cover to get to the statue in Caleta Olivia for 20:00 when El Negro (Marcello) will meet us. Pushing on through the wind with only fuel stops and quick coffee breaks we made not too bad time arriving at 20:30 in C.O.
A nice ride down the Ruta 3 through some desert and coast roads. As we pulled into C.O. a car overtook us sounding his horn, we thought he just wanted to take a photo but overtook us and switched on his hazard lights, it was Marcello and Maite. They had been waiting by the statue for us but because we were late had started to head up R3 to find us, lucky we didn't stop elsewhere! We followed the car to the outskirts of town where Marcello had arranged for us to put the tent. Tent erected in quick time, we are bundled back in the car and taken to Marcello’s house attached to his mothers Rottiserie. Pizzas, burger and chips and beer all supplied free of charge and a great night had with Marcello and his wife Stella, Maite and Miguel. More gifts, Motoratones club T shirt and a traditional Poncho made by Stella, more pictures at Ushuaia. After the food we were taken back to the tent and met the guy that owns the place we are camped, Alberto and Russo, both members of Motoratones. Alberto is having an Asado for all his friends tomorrow lunchtime and are expecting us to stay for it. We try to explain that we still have 1300Km’s and two Border crossings to get through and only 3 days to do it. A big fire was lit and we sat around chatting till around 02:00. Alberto gave Lorraine an old Tehuelche knife.
Another windy night.
Start Mileage - 22203
Miles - 445
Caleta Olivia (Alberto’s) - Rio Gallegos (Atsa Camping)
Woke up and packed before any sign of life from the house, Alberto had told us to help ourselves to coffee and the showers but when we went into the house Russo was crashed out on a mattress on the floor. Not wanting to wake anybody we left it and wondered how long to give them before we set off. We were about ready to go when there was movement so we had a coffee with them then made our excuses and left at 11:00.
Alberto had given us a few options of where to stop if we weren’t going to make Rio Gallegos.
We have had a really good couple of days that we wouldn't have had if we hadn't broken down. Again the kindness and generosity of people astounds us.
A hard ride today, not much wind again but gusty in places, lots of wildlife on the roadside, Guanaco’s and Rhea’s, but no time to stop, we are trying to make Rio Gallegos.
We arrived at around 19:30 and started looking for a campsite, the satnav gave us a location for ATSA camping but we couldn't find it. Asking in a fuel station if they new where any camping was they told us 30 Km’s back the way we came. I tried the satnav again and it gave us a different location f or ATSA so gave it another go, this time with success, or at least we found the sign for it but no entrance, looks like it’s closed down. Lorraine happened to hear voices and looked through the fence into next door and there it was, the campsite. Around the block to the entrance into a nice campsite, lots of space and a campers kitchen. We asked out of interest, because we are the only people on site, if it would be possible for us to just throw our mats down in the kitchen rather than put the tent up, no problem, bonus!
Start Mileage - 22648
Miles - 234
Rio Gallegos (Atsa Camping) - Rio Grande (Camping Club Nautico)
Two border crossings, 1 Ferry crossing and 140Km’s of Ripio to get through today. Lets just see how it goes. We have been told that it is best to get to the Border crossings early to miss the tourist buses who have priority and could cause us delays. We still have 122Km’s to the first crossing so probably means an early start. As it is nice and warm in the kitchen we decide to take our chances with the buses and leave at our normal time. We got to the first border and no buses, 30 minutes later we are cleared and into country number 19, Chile, albeit only for a short while. Next is the ferry across the Magellan Straits into Tierra del Fuego, they run every 40 minutes so we are bound to have just missed one. We arrived at the ferry and our luck is holding, there is a one just coming in, the book says the crossing is US$25 per vehicle, nobody even approached us for money. Off the boat and into Tierra del Fuego. We have 22Km’s of tarmac and then we are on the ripio, which we are not overly sure about. No need to have worried, it was really good for around 120Km’s, with two sections of roadworks, at the first we were held up at until the bulldozer had got half way through then we were directed to drive slowly in it’s tracks, easy. The next stretch of roadworks was a bit different, again we were held up until the grader had gone through and sort of levelled the surface. The grader wasn't as heavy as the bulldozer and didn't compress the dirt leaving some nice tyre width grooves filled with loose dirt, front wheel hits one and the back wheel hits another and we are all over the place, just managing to keep the bike upright. The last 7Km’s before San Sebastion is bad washboard nearly all the way to the Argentine border, my hands are tingling with all the vibration. At the border there are again no buses and we sail through in less than 30 minutes. The wind has picked up again while we were clearing the border, this time quite strong. The bike would have blown over if I wasn't watching it, the wind was rocking it on the side stand, glad we are back on tarmac in this wind and not the ripio!
Arrived at Rio Grande and another problem with co-ordinates on the GPS means a bit of running around looking for the canoe club we had been told about that we could crash out in upstairs in the gym and park the bike indoors. We found it after a bit of traipsing around and asking some local cops. From the outside it looks a bit of a dump but inside it is warm, clean and tidy and free internet.
Start Mileage - 22882
Miles - 133
Rio Grande (Camping Club Nautico) - Ushuaia (Hostel Torre al Sur)
Hung around the canoe club for most of the morning chatting with the German cyclists we met there and the guy that runs the place.
Final day and the last push, shouldn't be too bad if the wind stays away and it is tarmac all the way.
The scenery is changing, from desert, flatlands and coast line to lakes and the jagged peaks of the snow capped mountains. The weather is also changing, glad we didn't take the liners out of the suits as the temperature is dropping by the mile. We were recommended to stop at the Panaderia (Bakery) at Tolhuin for our lunch and had some nice Empanadas.
Riding along past Lago Fagnano and over the mountains, we kept stopping for pictures and a two hour ride turned into four, one of the best rides so far.
Now we are here, Ushuaia, the Southern most city in the world, Fin del Mundo, End of the World. We are staying here until Jan 3rd 2010 so hope to meet up with some of the other people we have met on the way while we are here.
Checked emails and found that Markus and Nick are already here, staying at Rio Pipo campsite, we will pop in to see them tomorrow.
We got directions to the nearest supermarkets from Ken and Katie and their two kids Virginia and Theodore. A choice of two, one on the same street as the Hostel but a fair walk away, the other closer, two blocks down hill but 112 steps to negotiate. We thought the steps were the best option. Getting back to the Hostel shattered after climbing back up the steps, we had to have words with the family ….. there were 117 steps not 112 as the kids had counted.
Ushuaia (Hostel Torres al Sur)
23/12/2009 - Lie in today. Lorraine took advantage of the free breakfast, I just had coffee and fags! As usual.
We wandered into town mid afternoon to try and source a few bits and pieces, we failed on most things but managed to find a printer who could quite cheaply knock us up some calling cards as we are nearly out of stickers, come back on Monday.
Sussed out the local buses that run from town to Rio Pipo campsite. We had seen a lot of white mini buses with “Linea Regular” painted on them parked in what we thought was the bus station, AR$40 each was the quote, we decided it would be better to ride the bike to go see Markus and Nick and do without alcohol, would be a struggle but I aint paying over a tenner for a 4KM bus ride. Asking at the tourist info later on, we found out that there is a proper bus service every 15 minutes, last one back at midnight … WooHoo, alcohol!!
Arriving at the campsite we find that Bjorn and his girlfriend Danielle are also there, a nice little re-union, Paulo from Brazil also showed up but disappeared just as quick, a nice guy but does his own thing! Markus cooked up a really good sausage and pasta meal for us all.
There are a lot of Germans on site and it is their tradition to have the Christmas meal on the 24th the same as the Argentineans. We have all been invited to join in with them in their Asado, bring our own meat and knock up a couple of salads.
24/12/2009 - As we were closer to town, we volunteered to buy the provisions for tonight and tomorrows meals (we are having our own Christmas dinner on the 25th)
Shed loads of food bought for not a lot of money, we headed to the campsite. Just after we arrived at the campsite Nick came over with some bad news. He had received an email from Annette, one of the bikers we met in Viedma. Here is what she sent:-
Looks like I won't make it down to Ushuaia for Christmas either. I woke up in the hospital in Rio Grande yesterday after being in intensive care for five days.
I still don't know what happened other than I was heading to Ushuaia on the 19th Dec and almost made it to San Sebastian. Apparently my bike is near the border of Chile and Argentina.
Still better to happen 200km from the end than 200km from the beginning.
It was lovely meeting you all. I am wishing you all the best for your trips and I hope they are as much fun as mine was - but finish a bit better.
Lots of big Suzuki DR650 hugs to you all,
Follow my motorcycle trip across the Americas to raise money for Caza Alianza a Latin American Children’s Charity.
Not good news at all.
After a beer or two we got on with the prep. All the tables were laid out, Asado lit at 18:30 and we left the campsite owners son to cook everything off.
An excellent evening apart from the news.
Our thoughts are with you Annette.
We left the campsite in what we thought was plenty of time for the midnight bus, but by 12:20 there was no sign so we started the long hike back. When we got to the Hostel the Christmas celebrations were still in full swing, so we joined in for a while as the walk had sobered us up a bit.