Facts and Figures
Jan 1st - Jan 12th 2010
Argentina Cont. Chile,† Argentina
Happy New Year (Probably a bit late by the time I upload this!)
Ushuaia (Torres al Sur)
01/01/2010 - Slept in but not feeling too bad considering! Just hanging around the Hostel for the rest of the day. Ken, Katie and kids (the American family) are catching an early bus in the morning so we said our goodbyes to them. Maybe meet up with them again somewhere on the road.
Howard and Mervyn & John and Isa are now in Ushuaia, will try to meet up with them tomorrow
02/01/2010 - Happy Anniversary to us, 1 year on the road.
Howard and Mervyn are staying at Camping Andino, not far from Rio Pipo where John and Isa are staying so we go to see them first. We found the campsite easily enough, just as we were pulling in we saw CJís bike parked in the entrance, the last time we saw him was at Rio Pipo and he was heading North after Christmas. He had gone to visit Annette in Rio Grande and then came back to Ushuaia, he has also picked up a young French lady to keep his back seat warm!!! After chatting to CJ we went in search of Howard and Mervyn, found their van ok but no sign of them, they said they would be on site all day. Asking at the office the guy there told us that he hadn't seen them leave and thought that they were still in the van. Another look and yes they are, hidden behind the blinds. We spent a couple of hours with them chatting about where we all had been since we last met.
Off to Rio Pipo again to meet up with John and Isa, but when we got there they were nowhere to be seen, either they have gone out or are catching a siesta. We leave a note and head back to the Hostel.
Sitting outside having a smoke I† spotted some familiar faces heading towards the Hostel, John and Isa. They had been in town all day, hadn't got our note but decided to check if we were in. They told us that they had seen Annette in town and she looked ok, in a bit of pain and needing drugs so Isa, who speaks Spanish , took her to a pharmacy to help her out.
Looks like we wonít be getting to see Annette before we leave.
Start Mileage - 23075
Ushuaia (Torres al Sur) - San Sebastion, Chile (Free camping behind Motel la Frontera)
Both woke up with stinking colds this morning, the perks of staying in a Hostel!!!
All packed up and went to pay for the extras we had accrued during our stay, two lots of dhobying and a couple of beers, on the house we are told, thanks Corrina and Alberto.
On the road just before lunchtime, not far to go today, just a couple of hours ride and we wonít be stopping for photoís as we got them on the way in. 16 degrees C showing on the bike as we left but it soon got colder crossing the mountains. A nice ride out all the way to the border. We met up with CJ† again at Rio Grande and rode together for a while till he put a spurt on and left us, we catch him up again at the border. He is trying to reach Punta Arenas tonight to pick up the French girls (sorry forgot your name) pushbike which is being delivered by bus, then they are heading to Puerto Natales to catch the boat to Puerta Montt. We also met up with Andreas and Phillip, the two German cyclists we met at Rio Grande the first time and in Ushuaia.
We were told that the free camping was on the Argentine side of the border but asking one of the cops there, the only place we could camp was in the truck park, might be difficult getting the pegs in!! Try Chile he says. While we were waiting and making our minds up what to do who should be walking towards us but Annette, she was heading into Chile to check out her bike and make arrangements to get it to Dakar Motos in BA. One problem, she has lost her passport, not sure if she has left it in Rio Grande or Ushuaia so she and her friend are heading backwards on the next bus Ö not having much luck!!!
We didn't have the same luck with the border crossing as we had coming down, there were a couple of buses in just ahead of us so we had some major queuing to do. About an hour later we are cleared out of Argentina and set to move on to the Chile border when the heavens opened, time to try out the wet weather gear we bought in Bahia Blanca.
Typical, as soon as we had struggled to get the gear on the rain stopped! And now another first, riding the ripio when itís wet, should be fun!
We made it to the Chile border, only 14 kmís, without any problem and asked where the nearest camping was. The border guard pointed up the road and said ďMotelĒ doh!
Tent up and into the restaurant for a coffee and to charge things up. Asking for a coffee, the guy behind the counter says ďSe, viente minutoĒ, then we ask for somewhere to plug in, ďSe, viente minutoĒ, so we sit down scratching our heads wondering why twenty minutes. Then the lady who owns the gaff shows up and she speaks English, we find out that the electric is on a generator and will start in twenty minutes.
We ate in the restaurant rather than try to cook up in the wind, we only have soup and our dry food anyway, nice scoff but bloody expensive!
We were the only tent on the site when we arrived, but while we were waiting for the electric to come on we heard a familiar sound, a Dragoman truck and we were soon surrounded by little green tents.
Start Mileage - 23272
Miles - 195
San Sebastion, Chile (Free camping behind Motel La Frontera) - Punta Arenas (Hostel Independencia)
Woke up early this morning with the wind trying to rip the tent apart, this is the kind of day we donít want! No shower this morning either, the Dragoman lot had used all the hot water as they are on the road at stupid oíclock in the morning before anyone else is awake.
We stayed in the tent until 10:00 hoping the wind would calm down a bit, no such luck. No choice but to pack up and try to run with it. Taking the tent down, Lorraine is standing on a corner to stop it blowing away when a gust of wind takes the tent and her with it, we manage to catch the tent and no damage done. This is definitely not looking good, Iím putting on a brave face and saying it will probably calm down but really Iím shitting myself, 140Kmís of ripio in this wind!
Packed up at last and we are on our way, we are nearly blown over before we even leave the site. On the road there is a strong wind coming from the left, then the right, then behind, make your bloody mind up!† The front wheel keeps getting battered by the wind and is skipping sideways on the loose crap and all the time we are at an angle leaning into the wind. It wouldn't be as bad if it was constant, but every now and then, just to keep me on my toes and my clipper muscle working, there is a strong gust that takes me by surprise and it nearly had us off a couple of times.
We get to the first of the two sections of roadworks we encountered on the way down, although we were expecting it we didn't realise we were there at the time. They have finished the work they were doing and the two parts had joined up but I didn't see the difference in the road surface and hit it a bit too fast. There was a layer of loose gravel on the top about two or three inches thick, again the front wheel is all over the place and the wind is pushing across the road. I managed to control the bike with Lorraine screaming through the intercoms and survived again, a little bit wiser!
We had heard from a lot of people that they donít get much respect from the trucks and other vehicles they pass on the road which makes it a lot harder in the wind, but our experience today, especially with the trucks, is that they slow down and give us plenty of room to minimise the battering they are going to give us, there are obviously exceptions, mostly cars that thunder past us regardless.
We battled on, I need a smoke but there is no way we can stop, if we do the wind will have the bike over as quick as you like. Passing the 10KM marker we start to think that we are going to survive unscathed, but nature has a way of upsetting everything! The last 7KMís were not as we remembered, with a fresh lot of gravel dumped on it, loose stuff, very thick and the size of marbles, with a very small tyre track to follow and mounds of loose stuff either side. The bike doesn't like this and neither do I. Slowing down as much as I could to control the bike and still keep enough forward momentum to stop us being blown over we wobble our way towards the tarmac, thenÖÖ.. from behind us came a huge 4x4, I had seen him in my mirrors and was waiting for the overtake, as he drew level with us, not giving us much room and blocked the wind but as soon as he passed we were back in it, and it gusted at the same time. We took a huge swerve to the right into a pile of crap and the next thing we know we are heading for a ditch at the side of road, and in we go, dumping the bike on itís side, luckily I had managed to slow down on the back brake and it was only a fall rather than a crash. There we are, two foot down in a ditch, on our side and a pile of gravel to ride through to get back on the road and into the wind, the car that overtook didn't† even stop to see if we were ok. Another 4x4 coming towards us had seen what had happened and stopped to lend a hand, lifting the bike upright and pushing me out and over the ridge as I gunned the throttle then helping to keep us upright as we remounted. Not too soon we are back on the tarmac for the last 30 odd KMís to the ferry, still with the wind but a little more controllable.
That was definitely payback for the easy run down we had!!!!!!!
The ferries are running slow today and we have to wait an hour and half for it to come in, usually every 40 minutes. A full load on the boat so we dive upstairs to grab a coffee before the rush gets there. Because of the wind I decided to go back down to the car deck for some shelter, and get clobbered to pay for the crossing, we got away with it coming over because we stayed upstairs, ah well thatís the way the days going.
Another two and half hours of wind before we arrive at Punta Arenas, absolutely shattered and aching all over. What a day!!
We get our tent up in the last spot in the Very small campsite and we are soon christened the castle, the biggest tent on site, all the rest are small backpackers tents, the owner must have been pissed off with us as he could have squeezed another four in the space we take!!!!
The kitchen is also Very small and hot with a big AGA stove in the corner. We couldn't get in to cook so used a little shed outside and our stove, quite cosy out of the wind and there were chairs and a table inside.
Punta Arenas (Hostel Independencia)
05/01/2010 - Recovery day, trying to get some feeling back into my shoulders.† Cleaned all the stones acquired from our tumble yesterday out of the bike and repaired one of the tankbag straps that had broken. We took a ride out to the Duty Free area which is supposed to have ďAnything you will ever needĒ, ok if you want tyres, lots of car shops and not much else that we could see. Back to the campsite still battling the wind which gusts between the buildings as you pass and for some reason always gets stronger when we are stopped at a red light!!!!
No room in the kitchen again so we use our own private shed again!
06/01/2010 - We were going to move on to Puerto Natales today, weather dependant! But seeing as we didn't get up till 10:00, and the wind was still quite bad we decided to stay another day. Just hanging around updating the website and laundry etc. We decided to just get a micro meal for tonight rather than battle for the kitchen or cooking up in the shed again, just our luck .. the kitchen is empty tonight! We had just finished our dinner when in rolls John and Isa, they had also had a long hard day battling the wind from Rio Grande, they just want some food and an early night, we will catch up with them tomorrow before we leave.
Start Mileage - 23475
Punta Arenas (Hostel Independencia) - Puerto Natales (Camping Josmar 2)
Slept in late again today but the wind has died down so no real rush. We had a 2 hour long breakfast coffee while we were catching up with John and Isa before they went in search of tyres and mechanic for some minor repairs. Saying goodbye to them we carry on packing up. Nearly finished with the packing and in rolls Andreas and Phillip, the two German cyclists that keep catching us up!!!! So more chatting to them. They had taken a lesser used border crossing from Rio Grande into Chile and were heading for the longer ferry crossing from Porvenir to Punta Arenas. Three days in bad weather and living off cup a soups and the like with no shops on their route, they are getting a bit tired. Andreas heard a vehicle approaching and slouched over his handlebars looking worn out, the guy took pity on them and gave them a lift for the 150 KM,s they had left to Porvenir.
We eventually get on the road at 15:00, stopping at a little coffee shop en route we decide to have ďlunchĒ, two coffees and two beef and avocado sandwiches, CLP9000 thank you very much! We wonít be eating dinner tonight then. A nice ride without any wind but it was quite cold most of the way. Lorraine liked the look of the Chilean bus stops so we had to stop for a picture.
Found the campsite, quite nice with individual spots and own fire pit, no electricity outside but there is a sitting room campers can use, and itís warm.
Puerto Natales (Camping Josmar 2)
Wandered around town for a couple of hours, bought supplies for dinner and that was about it for today.
Back at the site as we were cooking up, in walked Ekki (father of the German family we met in Viedma) he had seen us walking around town and spotted us at the campsite. He is having more trouble with his bike and is in PN getting it fixed. They are heading into Torres del Paine tomorrow and asked if we would like to ride in with them.
Start Mileage - 23628
Miles - 90
Puerto Natales (Camping Josmar 2) - Parque Nacional Torres del Paine (Hosteria Las Torres)
The German family met us at the campsite in the morning and we rode off together towards the National Park Torres del Paine. Another windy but warm day.
We missed the sign post for the Southern entry point to the park so had quite a bit of tarmac before hitting the 70+ KMís of ripio to the park entrance. I was leading and travelling at 80 KMH on the tarmac everyone seemed happy with that speed. As soon as we hit the ripio I kept up the 80 KMH but Ekki then opened it up and left us behind, more confidence and skill than me for that speed!!!! Ekki was waiting for us at a view point for Lago Sarmiento so we pulled in and took a couple of pictures and wondered if anyone would notice if we kidnapped the lone sheep that was wandering around which might have been a good idea if we knew then what we would find out later!. While we were there a crowd of Italians turned up, mostly on GSís and with a support vehicle!!! We had a chat with them before carrying on our way. After a couple of wrong turnings and a cow traffic jam we made it to the Hosteria, there isn't a lot of signage in the park. A nice spot underneath the Torres, hot showers and free firewood. Tents all set up, Fralka heads over to the shop in the Refugio returning with a loaf of bread and a look of dismay on her face, asking us to guess how much she had paid for the loaf ÖÖ CLP3500, nearly £5!!!!!!!!!!!!! We will be eating our dried food while we are here!
Some of the best views in the park are only accessible by hiking, 3 - 10 days. We are not hikers by any means so the best sites will have to be viewed by us on ďDiscovery ChannelĒ. There are still some nice views to be had just riding around the park so that will have to do us.
Parque Nacional Torres del Paine (Hosteria Las Torres)
10/01/2010 - A rainy start to the day stopped today's run out on the bike and the German familyís hike up to the Torres where they were going to camp overnight and hopefully if the weather was good see the towers turn pink in the sunrise.
We sat under the tarp out of the rain until 14:00 playing games. Now the weather has brightened up we opt to head out for a walk (I thought we were just going to the Hotel for coffee!!). The walk turned into a mini hike, following the trail up to the Torres, a 9 KM hike up some really steep and rough terrain. Lorraine failed early, blaming it on her cold!! but I plodded on a bit further. We met a lot of people on the way down that had camped up top overnight and were carrying some big back packs, but a couple of guys we saw, nearly running down at full pace were carrying some huge packsÖ. Why?? We thought they were either punishing themselves for some reason or maybe Chilean Special Forces on a training run!!
After a couple of hours, and what seemed to me 30 KMís, I thought we must be nearing the top, however, turning a corner we saw a sign post showing where we were and how far we had left. We had only covered 2.4 KMís Ö shit! Ekki and Fralka carried on for another half a Kilometre to the Refugio, I could have gone on but I knew that if I did my legs wouldn't be able to get me back down so I turned around and followed Tabea (the youngest daughter of the German family) who then decided to run back down .. Oh to be young and have lung capacity!!
I met up with Tabea, Lorraine and Rebecca (the oldest daughter) at the bottom and went to the hotel for the coffee I thought we were going for in the first place, then decided that we wouldn't bother as it was the same price as the bread!!! Checking the room prices in the Hotel was another shock Ö.. US$4,500 per person per week, that could keep us on the road for at least 4 months! Eventually got our coffee in the refugio for a more reasonable price.
We thought we might get a better view of the Torres from the top of the hill behind the site so Lorraine and I went off for another ďlittleĒ hike. No better a view though but nice and quiet on the top.
Cooked up our gourmet meal of packet soup and pasta.
11/01/10 - Another crappy start to the day. We are going to go out for a ride around today but will wait and see how the weather turns out. Ekke and the family are off to hike to the Mirador el Condor, weíve done enough hiking for a while so decline to go with them. About an hour later the weather changes for the better so we set off for a ride around the park. We rode the 7KMís out of the campsite to the Park entrance and got held up by a van crossing a narrow bridge, very slowly he inched his way across with barely a fag papers gap between the bridge and a new paint job. He made it with no damage and we carried on riding along the opposite side of Lago Sarmiento than we had entered the Park by. Just as we were leaving the picture spot for the lake the wind started up again. We carried on to Lago Nordenskjeld and passed a French couple on a tandem struggling uphill and thought we had better not stop to chat as they would never get going again. We were going to head out to the Mirador that Ekke had gone to, but the wind got worse and worse so we decided to visit the largest waterfall in the park then call it a day, glad we didn't go to the smallest fall!! On the way back we bumped into the French couple again, this time we were in a bit of a sheltered spot so decided to pull over for a chat, I think they were glad of the rest! While we were pulled over, Ekke and Fralka pulled up behind us, the weather had turned to bad for them to do the hike so they were heading back to the site as well.
The Germans (unknown to us) pulled up at the bridge to take some photos and we carried on back to the site. After 20 minutes and they hadn't arrived, we thought we should maybe go back and check on them, then we heard them in the distance, all was ok.
Another meal of packet soup and pasta, we know how to live huh!!??
Start Mileage - 23755
Miles - 224
Parque Nacional Torres del Paine (Hosteria Las Torres) - El Calafate (Camping Ovejero)
Back into Argentina today.
The German family were already 2/3rds packed when we got out of the tent (a bit different from Viedma!!). A couple of cups of coffee and we are ready to start packing up, we were nearly finished, just needed strapping to the bike, and Ekke et al were ready to move on South hoping to get to Punta Arenas today. We said our goodbyes and carried on with the packing, we will probably meet up with them again somewhere on the road.
12:00 and we are ready to move hoping to be in El Calafate for around 17:00. the weather is good and no wind .. WooHoo!! Charging along the Ripio at 80KMH to avoid the hand numbing rattle of the corrugations. We had gone about 20KMís when the wind picked up again, with a vengeance. We are now hitting a top speed of 30KMH if we are lucky, the corrugations are the worst we have had yet and once more we are being blown from one side of the road to the other, we have 63KMís of this, mostly Ripio with two small stretches of tarmac to the Chile border before we can stop. A couple of near misses with the ditches and we arrive at the border at Cerro Castillo unscathed. Our map says there is a fuel station here, I hope so as the bike says I have about 70miles left in the tank, not enough to get to Calafate. We rode around town for a while and found the fuel dump, which was closed and by the advertised prices very expensive. There were a couple of Chilean bikers heading the opposite way so we asked them where the nearest fuel was, 50KMís they said .. We can make that.
Chile Border post cleared very easy and we have 8KMís of Ripio to the Argentine Border Post, the wind still trying itís best to have us off. When we get to the Border there are a lot more vehicles and people waiting to be processed than we had seen at the Chile side but, clearing back into Argentina took only 30 minutes, we thought it was going to take forever. 6KMís more of Ripio and we are back onto the Ruta 40, a tarmacced bit!! 40Kmís to fuel at Tapi Aike. Pulling into the fuel station it takes all my effort to keep the bike on the stand while the attendant fills the tank, job done I stick the bike in the most sheltered spot I can find and dive inside for a coffee. Our plan was to take the Ruta 40 (Ripio) from Tapi Aike until it meets the RP5, the wind is getting worse and we are not looking forward to it. We got talking to the guy that owns the fuel station, he speaks fluent English, he said that this year the winds are the strongest he has ever known (and heís not a young guy). He highly recommended that we didn't take the 40, he says it is a bad road when the wind is low and today would be suicidal to attempt, there had been a fatality just an hour before we arrived and a few more in the previous weeks. We didn't need much persuading that it would be a hell of a lot safer to do an extra 70KMís along the RP7 and then cut back onto the RP5.
An interesting snippet from the fuel station owner Ö.. The wind is that bad in these here parts that the border collies they use for herding the sheep loose their bark with the wind and dust.
Coffee consumed we set off into the wind again, it seemed to have died down a bit with just an occasional gust to remind us it is still there. There is absolutely no wind as we do the last stretch of the 7, about 5KMís, but as we got to the turning point where we leave the 7 and turn 180 degrees onto the 5.ÖÖ FUUUUUUUUUUUUCK!!! We are getting hit from the left, the right, the front and the back, and it is the strongest wind we have had yet, with the wind coming from the front I have to knock it down to 3rd gear more than once to keep the bike going forward. We are leaning into the wind coming from the left then it changes direction, the bike nearly hitting the deck we are leaning over that far. Experiencing going around a right hand bend while you are cranked over to the left is something else! A Transalp passes us, two up, going in the opposite direction, he is nearly scraping his pegs with the lean angle. We both manage to flash our lights but neither of us are going to take a hand off the bars to wave, we leave that to the pillions!! At least he is nearly out of the worst of it, we still don't know how long we are going to be punished.
The battering carries on for 120KMís or so, my wrists, elbows and shoulders burning from the effort to keep the bike upright and going. Truckers and bus drivers on this stretch weren't so thoughtful either and most didn't slow down which was an extra battering we didn't need. Even worse when we passed a convoy of four trucks, pass one and get blown away with no time to recover before the next blast hits us, by the time the fourth truck passed we were really lucky not to get blown off the road.
About 30KMís outside of El Calafate as we start to climb into the mountains the wind drops a bit (and the temperature, down to 6 DegC) and I realise how much I ache! Pulling into a Police checkpoint just outside town I can barely move my feet off the pegs I have been gripping the bike that hard with my legs and just manage to get the side stand down before the bikes weight succumbs to gravity.
We arrive at the campsite and I need a coffee and a lot of smokes before we even start to put the tent up.