January 23, 2010 GMT

January 17, 2010, Esquel, Argentina.

Christmas was well celebrated with our friends Tony and Hazel in Esquel. We had a real Christmas dinner, even champagne for breakfast. This would be the last treat for a while. The plan is to go South, following the Caratera Austral in Chili and routa 40 in Argentina, all the way to Porito Moreno (an enormous glacier). It means we have to wild camp a lot and eat noodles..
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The Caratera Austral showed me one day 12 waterfalls in one view! Yellow bushes and blue lupines in front of emerald lakes and rivers made it all look like a postcard picture. The road was often full of potholes and deep rippio, but my eyes were everywhere and popping out all the time. We saw a hanging glacier and a huge waterfall with a rainbow.
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On the way to Coihaique Tony and Hazel took an exhausted push biker with them in the car. He had hurt his leg. When he had a look at the sidecar he called Andy 'a road worrier'.

We could not find a good place to stay in Coihaique, but some off road riders let us camp on their racing circuit. It came with a great view on the mountains and a little guard dog. The next morning the dog proved it's value, it chased an angry bull away, who had planned to run over our tents and to shit on our bike. So the little brave one got our last chorizo sausage.
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One night we wild camped in the woods next to a green blue river. Tony, an expert in making fires, created a nice camp fire and cooked for each of us a super sized steak.
Hazel wanted to do her wash and asked me for a toothbrush. I should have given her Andy's.

New Years Eve showed us a magic full moon on the run down camp site in Cocrane. In front of another great camp fire we toasted each other, our families and friends and we all got a bit wobbly from the Chilean wine and other spirits. By the time we started to sing our national anthems it was time to go to bed.

On the first day of the new year we drove through a fantastic park to the border to get back into Argentina. That's where we all saw our first condors. Guanaco's and rea's ( birds that look like the South African ostrich) everywhere.
At lunchtime I sat down in the grass and then I found out that my bum was full of spikes, my behind looked like a hedgehog. Andy de-spiked me.
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Also we were lucky to see an armadillo. We stopped the bike and it was still sitting in the middle of the road (trying to hide) so we could have a good look.

Travelling with us must be sometimes very hard for Tony and Hazel. We travel most of the time through very remote area's with bad, bumpy and dusty tracks. The Patagonian winds are very, very strong, so to build up the tent is a challenge.
Often it's difficult to find some civilization with a supermarket, a camp site or a bank. But we see beautiful scenery and visit extraordinary places. A highlight for Tony and Hazel was seeing the Porito Moreno Glacier, which showed them the blue beauty only for them, at the end of the day, when all the tourists were gone. They saw ice bergs floating by or popping out of the water!
They studied a lot of wild life and followed the mighty condor with their eyes.

One evening we couldn't find a decent place to camp. We were in the middle of nowhere, hundreds of miles away from everything, but we found a derelict building surrounded by some bushes. Andy and I call these places 'Hotel Patagonia'....It was full of dry cow shit, to Hazel's big surprise. After some comments she invented a shit shovel out of a rusty iron plate and cleared the area, so they could build up the tent!

Tony must have been a boy scout or a pyromaniac in his former life. The campfires he builds are pyramid shaped to start with and burn like hell. Always good to warm up Hazel's cold hands and feet. He is also specialized in houte cuisine camping cooking. Give him some noodles and a bag of cheese sauce and it will taste great!
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We met old friends along the way, like Richard from Germany. We stayed together on a camp site in Cuzco. He had written the mileages he had done on his bum, made a picture of it and had send it home as a Christmas card. We also met Tony (with his sidecar) and Ina again, just before they had to ride through a very difficult part of ruta 40 with deep rippio, in very strong winds.
While we were on a camp site in El Calafate. near the glacier, we heard about other travellers with a sidecar... A TRIUMPH TIGER!!!!When we met we found out that it were Thomas with his Astrid from Germany. We had met Thomas 3 years ago when he travelled on the caratera Austral with a solo bike. It was super to meet them and from that moment on the boys were upside down under the sidecars to study and discus every part.
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The 6 of us got on very well with each other, so we travelled together to Mount Fritzroy and beyond.
From Passo Roballos you can follow a small track along the border to Los Antiquos. It's only doable when it's not raining and it's one of the most beautiful tracks in Argentina. The mountains are gorgeous! Together we had to rebuild the track a few times, so Tony and Hazel's car could get through as well. All day long we were stunned by all the different types and colours of mountains.

It was very busy in Los Antiquos because of the cherry festival, so we drove another 50 something kilometers to a town, also called Porito Moreno, for a camping spot, fuel and food.

To cross the border back into Chili was not difficult. We all ended up on a camp site in Chile Chico and had a last meal together with Thomas and Astrid. They wanted to go South and we had to go North. Tony cooked steaks on the BBQ and I made chips on our stove.
No more the Tiger in front of us, or in my mirror, looking backwards......
We all enjoyed Thomas and Astrid's company very much, so it was hard to say 'Goodbye'.
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Back on the Caratera Austral we met several other bikers, also Chris and Sylvia, who are travelling South.

Tony and Hazel wanted to travel a bit faster, their time is running, the hire car has to be back in Bariloche soon. So on a spot somewhere in the bushes on the road to Coihaique we had our last camp together and we all got quite drunk around the fire and talked till late in the night about all kinds of aspects of life (well, that's what I think we did...).
The plan is to meet up again in Bariloche.
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On our own again.
One night we found a fogon (a shed) where we could stay for the night. A good spot for a shower, the wash and a big warm fire. The shed gave us some shelter against the howling wind outside.

The 14 of January, Andy's birthday. He had forgotten all about it ( a result of his age), till I started to sing the Happy Birthday Song in his ear!
We are still on the Caratera Austral, on our way to Futalafu, to cross the border into Argentina again.
Andy wants a big Argentinian steak.
I want a shower. Hopefully we will find this in Trevelin or Esquel.

This bit is written by Hazel, especially for friends and family...

Each day is a new adventure here in Patagonia. We came 4 weeks ago to meet our friends Andy and Maya and share their travels down through Argentina and Chile. We expected warm sunshine and fantastic scenery. Well the scenery has been breathtaking the weather not so good. The typical Patagonian wind is merciless and in the first part of the journey we had unseasonable rain. Never the less we are experiencing an amazing country, good and bad. South America is the most definitely a country of opposite extremes. The weather in the North sizzling hot and in the South freezing. The scenery on the Caratera Austral beautiful and in some stretches of campo (country side ) BORING! The people though are always the same lovely and helpful.

We camp wild most nights in 'Hotel Patagonia' (as Andy and Maya call it). This means anywhere we can find to pitch our tent free. Hopefully with a bit of shelter from the wind. When it gets too wet or cold for me I would give a 100 pounds for a cabana but most of the time that is not an option. One particular night I slept with five layers of cloth on and was still freezing! (But it's a challenge and something to tell my grandchildren).
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Hotel Patagonia's 'rooms' are not only draughty and cold, but they can be smelly. When we stopped at a ruin in the middle of the camp one night Tony and I were sharing the 'cow pat' 'room' with Andy and Maya. Before we could pitch up our tents we had to shovel all the dried s....! to one side. So much for my friends back home thinking I was going on a glamorous South American holiday. If they could only see me!!
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The best thing about these tiring days travelling sometimes 200 kilometers is that at the end of the day Maya sits down crossed legged in front of her 2 burner camp stove and cooks us a delicious meal from the most meager ingredients. The things we have seen here have been worth every mile. The vastness of this land, the size and variety of mountain ranges. The wildlife (in particular the condors) makes your soul soar.
Tony and I took a day tour to the Porito Moreno Glacier and it will live in our memories forever. The sight of the turquoise blue ice bergs in Lago Argentinia ...wauw...! Then as we neared the wall of this natural wonder, the variety of blues in the cracks and crevices was such a beautiful sight. We gasped in amazement as parts of the Glacier sheared off and plunged into the water sending small tidal waves to the boat. Cracking and booming sounds echoed from somewhere deep in the Glacier. It was just awesome. To toast this fantastic trip we had a whiskey with ice cubes, actually from the Glacier, standing on the deck thinking this is life in glorious technicolour with surround sound!
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And we still have 2 more months here. Now we are travelling North and eventually on to Peru. We have Andy and Maya to thank for allowing us to share their special life on the road. For opening our eyes to this beautiful country and a trip we will never forget.

Posted by Maya Vermeer at January 23, 2010 06:03 PM GMT

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