April 09, 2003 GMT
From West to East

Riding the Caretera Austral in the daylight was much more fun than in the dark, a little faster and time to look at the beautiful scenery. After the town of Coihaique, we rode north on tarmac at first, then back to gravel. It was a reasonably good road, but narrow with lots of traffic. On a nice straight stretch I decided to ride as close to the verge as possible, got a little too close and dumped the bike!

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How did that happen and where did all that mud come from?


Ah well about time I suppose. Apart from a sore knee, I was fine. As usual, it was my carrier that suffered the most. The latest repair had broken and we had to strap up the whole thing before I could continue. At least this time, I took it all in my stride, confidence intact for a change.

The road was being repaired on a large scale, closed for 4 hours a day, for serious maintenance. Luck being on our side, we arrived just as the road was being reopened, it was like a bad obstacle course, and my idea of hell. Stretches of deep earth, deep gravel, steep inclines, narrow bridges and lots of huge road building vehicles.

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Waiting for the construction crew to do their stuff

We made it through without incident and kept riding towards the Queulat National Park where we wanted to visit the hanging glacier. The lost time in the road works, meant riding in darkness again and we eventually decided to camp just off the road as there was no sign of the campsite.
The next morning after 20kms or so we came to the campsite and glacier, more wedged than hanging, but a nice walk nevertheless.

The road was pretty good after the village of Puyuhaupi and we rode almost to the border, the only thing we had to be wary of was the livestock roaming free on the roadside. They didn’t always stay off the road and with Dieter in mind we rode very slowly.

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Motorbike cowboys!

Another early border crossing in the middle of nowhere, our last for a while. After the hassles and time spent at borders in Central America, we really appreciate the efficiency of the Chile and Argentine borders. As we rode to Esquel and on to Bariloche, it felt like a Sunday instead of a Monday, the banks and shops were closed and people were out picking rosehips. Later we found out it was a bank holiday – Malvinas Day.

Bariloche was a nice town, lots of money here! Big houses, fancy shops, expensive restaurants. A nice change from the last few days! It was a good place to relax for a couple of days. I spent a lot of time on the computer and Arno spent his time looking at the chocolate shops, that is when he wasn’t fixing things on the bikes. We did get time to have a ride around the area though, and see the beautiful scenery.

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Scenery around Bariloche and Llao-Llao

Tearing ourselves away from the comforts of civilisation, we rode towards the east coast of Argentina. The wildlife was calling and we wanted to see some penguins, seals and sea lions before they all left for warmer waters.

Peninsular Valdes was flat, windy and full of sheep. We rode to the east side of the peninsular, avoiding the herds of guanacos who like to show off their fence jumping skills, to see sea lions and penguins. Then up to Punta Norte and sat waiting for the orcas to come and feast on the few seals that were lounging in the danger area. It was obviously a mackerel day however and the seals lived to swim another day. It was a windy ride back to Ruta 3 where we had the wind behind us for a pleasant change.

The road was boring apart from the people we met. I was surprised to see motorcyclists still heading down to Ushuaia. One couple stopped for a chat.

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All wrapped up for the chilly south

Cicero and Lourdes were from Florianópolis and had a month to do a round trip down to Ushuaia, up through Chile and back to Brazil. They were both on a Honda 350 with minimal luggage and a wicked paint job. Email addresses exchanged and photos taken, we were off again, northwards, destination Viedma.

Posted by Sian Mackenzie at 12:21 AM GMT
April 25, 2003 GMT
Diego’s Armadillo

It had just stopped raining when we pulled into town, but Oscar still came to meet us on his bike. He is a member of the Horizons Community in Viedma. We visited his place, met his family, then were found a great place to stay just up the road.

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Oscar and Arno making noquis

Over the next few days we met a variety of interesting people. Oscars family showed me around the twin towns of Viedma and Patagones while Arno worked on the bikes. He got my carrier practically rebuilt and his head bearings replaced, with the help of Oscar friends. He seems to know everyone in town.

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Discussing how to get the head bearings back into the bike

After a week or so it was difficult to leave, so warm had been our welcome. We had promised to be in Azul by Friday to meet up with Yuki again and attend a bike meeting. Real friends were made in that small town and with luck we will return there on our way back to BsAs. By the time we had said all our goodbyes it was past lunchtime and by dark we had only made it just past Bahía Blanca. Instead of sticking to Ruta 3, we took one of the secondary roads and camped behind a dangerous goods checkpoint.

In the morning, while adjusting the chain on my bike, we noticed the rear tyre was flat! Pumped it up using Arno’s clever gadget and hoped we would make it the 80kms to the next fuel station. The air stayed in but the petrol station had a Gomeria, so we decided to play it safe and get it fixed. We took the wheel off and got the professionals to check out the tube. They couldn’t find a puncture, but we put a new tube in, just to be sure.

While we were putting the wheel back in, another rider pulled in for fuel. He came over for a chat and told us he was on his way to a bike meeting. Not the one we were aiming for though, this one was just another 80kms north. He invited along and as we had a day spare, we decided, why not?

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Diego, with Moto Guzzi and Armadillo.

When we got to Coronel Suarez, the whole town knew in which direction to point us. We signed in and went to put up our tent. It took awhile as we were surrounded by other riders and lots of kids who bombarded us with questions and asked for autographs.

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So, this is what is like to be famous

Our German number plates caused some interest as there were 3 villages nearby populated almost entirely by descendants of Russian Germans, who arrived at the beginning of the 1800’s. It was surprising how many people still spoke German, even after 150 years.

We escaped from the crowds and had a wander around the campsite, checking out the other bikes. A Transalp looked familiar, yes it was one of our friends from Viedma with another couple of riders from the town that we had met. Small world!
There were lots of smaller old bikes such as Gileras and Jawas, as well as the more conventional Japanese road and trail bikes.

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This group had mostly small bikes all self restored

The next morning we had to be on our way toward Azul. Again it was early afternoon before we got away, just couldn’t resist a lunch invitation and a chance to look around the German villages. It was a nice ride, until it started to rain, and rain, and rain. By the time we got to Azul we were dripping, literally! We stopped by the campsite where the bike meeting was happening, it was extremely soggy there, so decided to go on to La Posta, where we knew Yuki would be. It was a Friday night and the place was buzzing. We got out of our soggy gear, got to know everyone and ate the first of our Azul asados.

The weather improved and the next day we went back to the bike meeting with Yuki to have a look around and a chat to other riders. We also took part in the ride around town to the plaza, where all the bikes parked and the riders partied. Due to the weather there were only around 350 bikes present. A combination of bad weather and the economic situation, said our friends. Two years ago there had been over 3000 bikes!

After the weekend, things calmed down and there was room in the garage for Arno to do some work on the bikes, oil changes and routine maintenance. We stayed at La Posta for over a week, making new friends, local and international.

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Jorge and a couple of familiar faces outside La Posta del Viajero en Moto.

Azul has become a stopover for riders from all over the world, Jorge has made a wonderful place for us to hang out for awhile with like minded people. If you pass through Azul, stop, say hello and spend a night or two.

Posted by Sian Mackenzie at 12:36 AM GMT
 
 

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