This is part of the ninth section of our around the
Complete Trip Overview & Map
Coming from the Eighth Section, Argentina
8/9/02 The last section of the trip begins with just 12 months left to the 100th anniversary in Milwaukee. We arrived back in Buenos Aires loaded with two tyres provided by Dunlop Germany and a large quantity of replacement parts provided at cost by Morgan and Wacker H-D in Brisbane, Australia. A warm welcoming by Enrique's family followed by a barbecue and wine on his rooftop.
9/9/02 We collected the motorcycle from Cesar's, kept under lock and key safely in his garage. Even after two months the battery was still capable of starting the motorcycle. Exhausted, we spent most of the day in our hotel room recovering from jet lag and repairing minor things on the motorcycle. The front blinker covers, etched and discoloured, replaced. Petrol cap and lock worn out, replaced. The neutral indicator light and a new bike cover completed an easy day.
10/9/02 One thing we never seem to accustom to is the lack of energy the first couple of days after arrival. The hectic departure schedule followed by the flight and the friendly welcomings zap the energy. Still we managed to fit the new Dunlop's at a tyre place, grease the bearings and do an oil change along with arrange with the H-D dealer to allow us to work on the bike in his workshop. Our noisy hotel positioned between the railway line and a major highway has raised prices since we were here last reflecting inflation since the currency crash. Whilst the peso has stabilized at about 3.5 to the US dollar the economy still seems to be contracting. We noticed a couple of business closures in our street and people indicate they are saving rather than spending with the fear of losing their jobs.
11/9/02 You could not miss the anniversary of 911. Any motorcycle that has been ridden for 300,000 km is going to show signs of wear let alone one that has been ridden fully loaded over some of the world's worst roads. We discovered the steering head bearings have become loose on the shaft meaning the shaft has to be built up and machined. There is some rust where dirt has built up in the cavity of a minor section of the frame requiring its removal and fabrication of a new piece of steel. The swing arm bushings need to be pressed out and replaced. H-D here have a machine shop nearby that can do this work so after we dismantled the front end, removed the rear end and pulled out the primary area and starter motor the bike looked a sorry mess in the workshop. Now it's waiting for the machine shop and wondering if the bike will go back together again. In the evening we were entertained by Monica and a group of her mainly motorcycle friends. A long day and thankfully the H-D shop doesn't open till 10 am tomorrow.
12/9/02 Over the years of travelling we have become minimalists, realizing that the majority of people in this world have few goods other than what they need to survive. We have few goods dictated to us by what we can carry on the bike but even when we go home and are swamped by an opportunity to re-materialise our goods, and under pressure from friends displays of materialism, we have chosen to remain minimalists, getting the most from what we own. The welding, machining and pressing was finished today and half the motorcycle reassembled. All did not go as planned and sometimes I wonder if us untrained mechanics do as much damage in the repairs as fixing. Still it is a great way to learn about the bike, a great way to learn about our limitations and self control if we break something that is only replaceable with an expensive air freight and a week's delay for a new part. Luckily this hasn't happened yet but we have another day of work on the motorcycle tomorrow.
13/9/02 A smoother day as the steering head bearings fitted and the front end of the motorcycle under its enormous fairing re-morphed back to its original look hiding the intricacies of wires, radio and air suspension. We finished in the early afternoon and over lunch had put on a computer slide show of our most interesting photos which helped the mechanics understand why the motorcycle looks like it does. Why some components are so worn and others need replacing.
14/9/02 With the motorcycle ready for a test ride and an invitation to a rally 120 km south of Buenos Aires, in spring sunshine we rode with a group of ten bikers to meet up with a further 60 at the rally. All ages of people with all aged and brands of motorcycles, many, mostly internet friends were meeting for the first time. This unusual group meets mainly in chat rooms, knowing much about each other but not officially meeting but once a year at this rally. A treasure hunt, enormous log fire, evening performances by a few members, sizzling steaks and spicy sausages with wine rounded off the evening.
15/9/02 It had been one of those rallies that flowed smoothly without anyone seemingly organizing the event. Things happened without fuss and nothing was seriously planned so nothing could really go wrong. A relaxed rally, the type I prefer, where we can sit and observe without being too obviously the outsiders. A short ride home after a late start from the tents. Petrol and another meat lovers lunch broke up the highway ride to our hotel. We were out again at the pool pub in the evening rounding off an incredibly hectic week since our arrival back in Argentina.
16/9/02 A rest day, finally a rest. Just chores of washing and internet and almost hiding away from our friends here to get some time to regroup.
17/0/02 My excuse is it was the jet lag or simple tiredness. I had put the front wheel on around the wrong way (backwards) and one electrical connector had not been snubbed tightly under the fairing. We returned to the tyre fitting shop where in the past on our travels we have found them most helpful in letting us use their hoists to raise the motorcycle, usually for free, and along with adjusting the new steering head bearings corrected the other problems. Chilling out watching cable TV in our hotel in the afternoon.
18/9/02 The longer you stay the harder it is to get moving again. After about three days you have discovered the internet cafe, the laundromat, the restaurants. You know your way to the supermarket and fruit shop, the place for the best cakes and have made enough acquaintances to help solve any minor problems that might occur, life becomes relaxed and routine. The coffee shop owner expects and welcomes his new customers at 1 pm for lunch. If you don't move soon you will have a large enough circle of friends and a routine to fill the days and be permanently here. Our excuse for not moving today was it's raining. In no hurry, another day in Buenos Aires won't matter.
19/9/02 Finally underway down the 3, riding on roads we have never been on before and are never likely to ride on again. Not knowing where we will be staying tonight or where our next meal will be eaten. Where will there be petrol stations or how to fix the motorcycle if it breaks. No matter how long we have travelled, how experienced we are, these questions still flick into the mind occasionally, moreso at the start of a trip. We ended up at the "La Posta del Viagero En Moto" in Azul. A club house that has welcomed travelling motorcyclists for the last 10 years and highly recommended to us as a place to visit. We arrived unannounced and were warmly greeted by Jorge, offered two bunks and motorcycle parking in the basic but adequate, graffiti and memorabilia decorated, club house.
20/9/02 We could not have been more warmly received by the town if we were Peter Fonda (Easy Rider fame). A radio interview at 102.5 FM, free tickets to the Australia versus Croatia international volley ball match, (we will probably be the only Australian supporters) and an interview for the cable TV channel. In the evening about a dozen friends came over to demolish a whole "Mas-Rica", a lamb, slowly cooked, three hours over a wood fire. The hot coals skilfully arranged to deep cook without burning the outside. The lamb simply fell off the bone to melt in our mouths. Things here happen slowly without rush. Having a meal, the preparation together and the eating takes hours. A shower, starting with chopping the wood for the chip heater takes another hour, the pace is relaxed.
21/9/02 We had come for one night, have already stayed two and are committed to two more to see the international volleyball match. Whilst there is not much english spoken both sides use the little bit of each others language to get the message across. We watched the Australian team practice in the evening and had an opportunity to speak with them afterwards.
22/9/02 Jorge (Pollo) and a few friends asked us to join them on a ride north to a biker meeting followed by the spring rodeo. The rodeo, an enormous event with large numbers of people traditionally dressed in gaucho style. Black hat or beret, corduroy jodhpurs, wide belt brandishing a knife and long riding boots. Large racks of beef ribs, 160, slowly grilled around an enormous fire of Australian eucalyptus timber. The rodeo still aimed at the participants and spectators and not the organized money raising types of rodeo that have filtered into the U.S.A. and Australia. Wild horses blindfolded and tied to be released with a daring rider, one intent on remaining with the horse the other trying to dislodge its unwanted attachment. In the evening we had the volley ball crowd chanting "Aussie", "Aussie", with a slight Spanish accent as Australia played Croatia in the first match. The locals heavily supported Australia as the team's coach is Argentinean and comes from this region. Unfortunately our support was not sufficient to bring the team to victory tonight. A couple of commiserating comments between us and the team and best wishes exchanged as we separated to our own endeavours.
23/9/02 Riding again, across the endless flatlands of the Pampas, recently flooded by unusually heavy rains and still slowly draining into its rivers. Thousands of water birds are preparing to nest, feeding in the drainage canals dug alongside the roads. A beautiful spring day with a tail wind and sunshine. The kind of day you always look for when riding. Mar del Plata tonight.
24/9/02 A beach side city that reached its prime many years ago and is certainly not bustling on this out of season spring day where the economy is struggling. This one industry (tourism) town suffering. We promenaded the coast on another beautiful day.
25/9/02 The legendary southern Argentinean winds are already on us. Fighting a 40 km/hr head wind all day. The coast road to Miramar then inland along the 3 to Bahia Blanca, an industrial city. The swampy flatlands gradually giving way to cropping and slightly undulating dryer conditions.
26/9/02 Left the Pampas and crossed into the Patagonia taking route 22 then route 251 to the small coastal town of Las Grutas. A quiet town rapidly developing as a tourist hub for the inland farmers. We are constantly amazed by the prices of things here. We took a one bedroomed fully equipped modern apartment fronting the ocean. Pods of dolphins play and pass by, sea lions hunt for small fish, the occasional penguin and many other sea birds fish, all visible from our first floor balcony. We are paying just $US 7.00 a night, unbelievable. The locals aren't travelling though, with petrol prices about worlds average, with the weak peso, to fill the motorcycle costs more than a night in this apartment.
27/9/02 We stayed another day to see the sea lions and dolphins feed and play. In the afternoon a right whale with calf rested offshore, rolling and playing, showing their white underbellies and fins skyward. A walk at low tide revealed swimming pools cut into the rock shelf where tourists play later in the season. Along the cliffs ocean cut caves occur. It is easy to see why this place would be popular in summer.
28/9/02 Headed further south across flat scrubby countryside with little to look at other than the sheep grazing and a couple of herds of wild guanaco, a relative of the llama. Puerto Madryn is supposed to be the entry point to Peninsula Valdez but we found it to be a large industrial town and unappealing so followed the coast road to Puerto Pyramides. Here along with a couple of busloads of tourists we watched more than 20 Southern Right whales and calves play, rest and feed in the calm waters of the bay. From headlands you could look down as they came close to shore slowly moving past. At times they came within 50 metres of the beach much to the thrill of us onlookers. They moved slowly and relaxedly as if they knew we wanted a good view. Over 600 of these giants come to this bay, 20% of all this species in the world, their numbers growing slowly each year. As we rode the 70 km to Puerto Pyramides there was not one time where we could see the ocean that we couldn't see whales.
29/9/02 Busloads of people arrive all day during the whale season, to be boated out to the whales, just offshore in the same bay. Predominantly mothers and calves now, just bonding and feeding, lying on the surface, rolling over, bodies entwined, occasionally leaping or doing head stands with fins in the air. We watched the boats come and go in the morning from a high point, sitting in the sunshine out of the wind. In the afternoon a mother and calf came within 20 metres of the coast, just near us. In the evening, the small town is empty, left to the locals and a few overnighting tourists.
30/9/02 A loop of the peninsula is 250 km of ripio (rolling stones). The surface is made up of varying sized, generally small, round river stones. So with the Dunlop's slightly deflated and a tank of the now cheaper fuel (from here south the fuel is 60% the price of the north) we headed out. Hares and an unusual looking large rodent called a mara were spotted early. A quick look at the large salt lake and onto Punta Delgada. Here elephant seals come in twice a year, to mate or moult. Now with pups, we saw lone bulls with harems of 60 or more cows while other lesser bulls had only one or no cows with which to mate. You could approach as close as you dare, about 15 meters before you gained their unwanted attention, as some of the bulls weigh 4 tons. Another colony exists below the cliffs leading up to Punta Cera. About 40,000 come to the peninsula each year. Here viewing from the cliff tops we spotted two Orca whales, a male and female, moving slowly up and down the coast. It being high tide, and where Orca are known to beach themselves to snatch seal pups we were hopeful of seeing such an event. Unfortunately the Orca were content only to move around just offshore while we watched for two hours. The elephant seal pups right at the waters edge getting splashed on the hot afternoon, safe. We continued round the headland to see a few herds of guanaco, more sea lions and elephant seals. Quite an amazing but tiring day.
1/10/02 It's hard to leave a place that has offered so much, but on a cloudy cold day it is easier. We visited the Welsh town of Gaiman. Apparently a group of 153 Welsh Protestants left their homelands in 1865 and made the first permanent settlement in the Patagonia. They still try to keep up traditions in a few small towns in this area. We took a boat trip out of Rawson to see the piebald dolphins. These small black and white dolphins seem to hang around just offshore and we managed to see many animals, some choosing to run with the boat but they only surface briefly making them difficult to photograph.
2/10/02 It was another 220 km (return) of ripio. Unfortunately it was raining and the smooth river stones slippery when wet, making progress slow to the penguin colony. We still arrived early, two hours before the tourist buses, to have to ourselves half a million nesting Magellanic penguins. This is the largest concentration of this species in the world. Brought here by abundant food and good nesting sites they breed from now till February before heading up the Brazilian coast for the winter. Unafraid, they allow us to approach while they go about mating and nest digging. The stony hills dotted with burrows and small tuxedo dressed animals guarding entrances. A dry road back to Trelew and speciality of the region for dinner. Patagonian lamb, almost fat free, slowly cooked on an open fire, crisp on the outside and succulently tender inside.
3/10/02 The conditions seem to have changed as the Andean mountain range and the Atlantic Ocean get closer together we are getting wind from one or the other and both cold. Spring hasn't arrived here with the trees still leafless and what little grass exists between bushes still brown. Travelled through the oil towns of Comodoro Rivadavia and Caleta Olivia. Here most of Argentina's oil is produced making it self sufficient in the substance. We stayed in a basic hospedaje restaurant at Fitz Roy.
4/10/02 A drizzly change came through overnight and the ride to Puerto San Julian was wet and never above 6 degrees. This is the place where Magellan first landed in South America on a trip that was to result in the first person's circumnavigating the globe. The landscape moved from one plateau where nothing much grew to a height of over one metre to another plateau of the same. Luckily we had a tail wind as our expected petrol station half way was closed and we had to ride slowly to make the 350 km's needed from the tank. Puerto San Julian is a pleasant town on the water trying to eke out a living from tourism and is thus friendlier than more touristy towns.
5/10/02 Started in sunshine, moved to cloud, rain, sunshine and finally it snowed before we arrived after 650 km to El Calafate. They say in Iceland if you don't like the weather, wait five minutes. I guess it's the same here. Strong head winds and 4 degrees didn't make things any more pleasant with the Widder heated vests working flat out. At least the day ended with a tailwind. The winds here seem to come from all directions, the only thing certain is they will be strong. We saw a few hardy salmon pink flamingos on the many lakes and thousands of upland geese pairing up for the spring breeding season. It has been unusually wet this year, with the road cut in many places by flooding lakes and washed out bridges and culverts, potholes or even sections destroyed by being waterlogged.
6/10/02 We have been riding for six days so on the seventh we rested. It had snowed heavily on the surrounding hills overnight and was still raining in town this morning with an icy fresh wind coming off the snow. A couple of walks and internet occupied the day.
7/10/02 40 km of asphalt plus 40 km of dirt road brings us to Perito Moreno. A 30 km long glacier with a 5 km wide face across Lake Argentina and rising 60 metres above the lake. We took the lake boat to view the sheer cliff like face from water level and were lucky enough to have sunshine so the deep blue of the ice could be seen as the sun reflected light between the glacier's cracks. In the afternoon we viewed the glacier from the boardwalk and were rewarded with its almost constant creaks and groans and large chunks of ice falling into the lake. The glacier is advancing at the moment and it's ice falls have dammed up the Braza Rico arm of the lake preventing its waters from flowing into the main lake and causing water levels to start rising. Back to El Calafate for the evening.
8/10/02 Back to Rio Gallegos and we were advised the dirt road south had been chopped up with the constant rain and trucks, but was now dry, but with rain forecast tonight might again be impassable. So we headed straight out to 55 km of dry chopped up dirt to the border. An easy border crossing with no payments necessary. From there to the ferry crossing across the Straits of Magellan to the island of Tierra del Fuego, the Chilean government had laid a new concrete road and were still building it 35 km's on the island side. Our plan to get to San Sebastian for the night was however foiled by the repairs to the ferry ramp which resulted in it taking four and a half hours to cross, landing just after dark and having to stay in a construction workers bunkhouse in Sombrero for the night.
9/10/02 It did indeed rain overnight but had cleared by morning. In cold sunshine and fog we splashed our way over the 120 km of potholey dirt road to the Argentinean border. Again an easy border crossing with no payments necessary. From there the next 180 km to Tolhuin was paved. The bleak coastline giving way to hardy trees as we headed inland. The first trees we had seen for days. A further 60 km of good made dirt past glacial lakes and through the mountain pass with fresh snow down to the roadside. The last 40 km into Ushuaia paved. Ushuaia, arriving on a sunny afternoon, situated right alongside the Beagle Channel, (the bottom of the island) and surrounded by snow capped peaks is a magnificent sight. The colourful houses, boats in the harbour and crisp air all add to it's appeal. With both the Argentine and Chilean governments working to improve the road the less than 250 km of reasonable dirt (even after all this rain) and the natural interests along the way make this place a must visit.
10/10/02 Early morning fog cleared to patchy sunshine as we rode the last 20 odd km's to the end of route 3. Now at the southernmost point we can ride. Over 17,000 km's direct from Alaska but for us sightseeing along the way, over 60,000 km. At a latitude of 55 degrees south it is nowhere near how far north you can ride at over 70 degrees north in Alaska and Norway but still seems as remote and isolated. National Park Tierra del Fuego at the end of the road has beech trees, peat bog swamps, scenic coastline and many species of birds plus great walks on a sunny day.
11/10/02 Still sunny and with no wind and only three days left before the end of the season we went skiing. The new ski field about 30 km from town overlooks the rocky peaks of the surrounding Andes. Kay chose not to ski but to just admire the scenery from the mid station. I joined the less than 300 other skiers on the spring snow with no lift queues, doing more runs than someone who hasn't ski-ed in 10 years should and ending the day with aching muscles.
12/10/02 The town turned out for its 118th birthday with every club or organization from pre school age to the nursing home crowd walking in the parade. Veterans from the Falkland/Malvinas war to current serving military. Flyovers of various planes and a stunt plane exhibition. We leave here tomorrow having enjoyed the rest in a beautiful town too popular for its own good. Its popularity has bred greed with almost every restaurant bill we had incorrect, padded out and separate prices for residents and tourists for some attractions. Why where there is money does it create greed while in small poor country towns the people are most generous.
13/10/02 The chair lift at the edge of town took us to great views over Ushuaia and the Beagle Channel. The walk further up to a small glacier still covered in melting snow with small avalanches occurring all the time from the surrounding mountains. We headed north, out of Ushuaia back tracking, the turn around point behind us. Between the mountain peaks is a wide open valley of peat bog, used in winter to take tourists on dog sled rides. The dogs now kennelled for the summer, the snow melted and a river running down the valley where we walked in the afternoon before taking a cabin for the night.
14/10/02 The treed landscape around Ushuaia disappeared
and as we again entered the treeless grasslands the wind returned battering
us all the way to the border.
Move with us to Chile ,
or go to our next visit to Argentina
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