January 26, 2006 GMT
18th Jan 2006 - Lago Roco Nr El Calafate to past Tres Lagos Ruta 40

268 kms

You find your humble scribes at Km 53 after the YPS station at Tres Lagos on the Ruta 40, in the middle of bugger all, having had tea and with a lovely camp set up. The reason I mention this is for the benefit of others passing this way. There is little accommodation available for quite a way before and after here. This is also the fabled 'long bit' so far as juice goes. Some 340 miles between stations, unless you add 60kms to the route on a spar. Everyone down this way knows were these two petrol stations are - or needs too, as without them you're buggered to make the distance by bike - and in fact with many standard capacity tanks you would be too, this is one place the 43 liter tank will be used.

Anyway, back to the campsite. It looks like it's an old garage or homestead with a couple of fallen down buildings and some abandoned concrete hard standings. Another interesting feature is the recently dead horse with rigor mortise by the entrance. It's well down wind of us (could smell on road before seeing) and will detract from our presence.. There is a stream besides the willow hedging that protects the tent from the fair old breeze and as people have stayed before a bit of a fireplace that we are utilizing, all round very nice.

Theses places are few and far between - we'd been looking for 50 kms for anywhere we could pull in that had shelter from the wind and a source of water, this was the first place. The road has obviously been pretty bad in recent past (Niks blog said he's had an epic here a week or two ago) with heavy rain, but is at least dry now. But the weather was looking mixed earlier and hence our seeking out a spot rather than going endlessly onwards. This is a long stretch and not one to push your luck on. Since being here eating tea until now I don't think one vehicle has passed you'd be lucky to get immediate attention hereabouts !

I should say for those not in the know, the Ruta 40 is a classic for all the pre mentioned reasons, and always comes up in motorcycle travel tails, but don't go thinking it's some backwater track - This IS the main road over these side of Patagonia, the Ruta 3 on other side is main one used by HGVs etc I guess, but this is about the class of the old A1. Think London to Carlisle with petrol at each end, no real habitation between and all off road and you'll be having the right picture in your mind.

Well funny old day today as we had decided to head on up the road, but everyone else was staying for one reason or another, Andy to fly fish after the guy that gave us a fish for the asada last night loaned him his fly fishing gear - imagine that at home. Peter and Martina are trying to source a rear tire for his Tenere as a lump of tread has left the canvas well exposed, and Martin and Silvia left at 5am to see the glacier at early doors.

So, unbelievable as it sounds, we're about half way through our trip and today is the first time we've ridden on our own, we never expected to seek company, but have greatly enjoyed it and will miss it for know....but just up the road could be more friends united, or new friends !

You build up strong relationships quickly on the road and we both felt very sorry to be leaving, but we have 3 months left, and others no limits so we need to go at our pace occasionally.

The ride out was the usual mix of great gravel roads and horrendous ones, the variety is far from the spice, it's a fair old pain in the arse (quite literally)

This stretch, once past the road for Cerro Fitz Roy is blank, blank, blank. occasional fine sedimentary rock strata and glacial green rivers, or Rheas or Guanaco's but otherwise like the blandest dales views for hundreds of miles....the attraction soon wears off I assure you.



It's hard to explain how you view your existence in these places as the combination of the weather (strong side winds today) the lack of humanity in the form of buildings or even cars for whole portions, and the appalling road conditions get you thinking about what would happen if something did. Concentrates the mind somewhat I have to say.

The other surprise today was we dropped the bike. First time, and in fact not an accurate description - we fell off ! I was turning around on a very windy section with three piles of deep gravel between wheel tracks and I simply lost the ability to hold it up ! Of course I should have asked Bev to get off first etc but there you go. As our first spill I don't think it even counts in the bigger picture really does it !

Anyway it's great being here round our fire with a good spot, assuming no stampede of stock in the night or lunatics on the loose it'll be great, so much for all those comments on taking rooms. But we'll be due a spoil soon enough

Thursday 19th January 2006
past Tres Lagos Ruta 40

300 kms

Luckily woke to a clear warm day with less wind but still what you'd call a fresh wind at home.

Having failed to get any spread or the like for the bread we managed to get yesterday we had to have bread dipped in coffee for breakfast and then a fairly leisurely pack before off about 11.30 - very relaxed eh !

After we left we counted the cars and got to a whole 20 oncoming and 15 the opposite way in the whole day, which was about 7 hours of riding - you wouldn't want an 'off' out here....more on that later.

Frankly the scenery was bland until the end of the day, but seeing as the road was a bit mixed my vision was limited to about three foot wide by as far as a few hundred metres plus the odd glance further up the road. To see more I had to stop.

The few things that happened during the ride where a bit limited but we did get the odd wildlife sighting. There were many rheas about at times. A single or pair of birds look after the whole brood as a crèche sort of affair. We saw about three groups of young with a parent bird crossing the road or hightailing it up the verge. Quite comical birds and a worthy distraction - the necessary slowing allowed me to see that much !

There are also Skunks hereabouts, we have seen (ahem, and smelt !) them twice, but not alive. they live up too their reputation dead at least we can confirm !

We did actually see a couple of other places worthy of being able to wild camp, ie some wind break and water, but they are very few and far between, very. there were also a couple of estancia's offering services, but all bar one were around 60 or 80kms off the road, which is not too helpful when you're stretching out your meager fuel as far as possible.

The main event of the day was exactly what we didn't want, and fortunately didn't directly affect us.

In the middle of nowhere - like anywhere on this road isn't eh - were a Parguayan 4x4 and an Argentinean one, and two Brazilian bikes (Honda 250's, made there I think). We slowed to pull up to check all was well, and clearly it wasn't. One bike had gone down and the rider was sat propped against the car in discomfort.


Honda Rider Accident

He had obviously come off, and as we stopped and dismounted to see if we could be of any assistance it was obvious he had been hurt. His bike was mashed around the indicators and instruments and bars and he had gone down heavily. He had a full face on, but had still sustained what might be a broken nose, and a quite a bad cut to the back of his head. Some of folk on bikes routinely ride around without lid´s on and I always wondered how they can do it - particularly on repio. Maybe if they´d been here they´d think twice....or not.

So even with the right gear on he had suffered quite a knock.

It turned out the Argentinean lady was a nurse, but whether for litigation purposes or whatever, she hadn't been much help. The poor guy was in the wrong position and going into shock from what we could see.

Bev immediately made use of her first aid training (and the reason I had wanted to do it also) and got the guy into the right position and checked him over.

Possible broken nose it seemed, and the wound on the head was cleaned and Bev tied bits of his hair together to try and pull the skin together.

The guy almost immediately started to recover and come out of the shock. The other people there though well meaning had not inspired his confidence and so left him in a bad way. After this happened the 'nurse' got out her equipment and took the poor guys blood pressure which was a bit pointless as it would be a bit false and now real help.

There was no sign of any further head injury luckily, just bruised ribs and a few knocks. The nose was flowing fairly well though and I wouldn't want to don my crash hat and ride another 150kms, but needs must.

As it was a long day ahead, and all was in control now, we were able to leave as nothing more we could do, they would continue after some mechanicals. In fact we met them at the petrol station village not more than half an hour after we left, not hanging around these guys.

Obviously they were grateful and Bev was happy to help.

As we left it felt a bit of emotion as - though I never forget - it brings home the dangers out here.

There was a lot more 'nothing' before the end of the day, but still a couple of surprises.

About 50kms before the village was a solitary hotel (I thought it was abandoned at first, but not) that would have been great to stop at excepting we were all day battling with the fact the skies were a bit leaden and at times showers were heading right our way, nearly all missed us. The one that didn't, we caught the edge of it, was sleet ....good God eh ! It was as we passed the place so kept going.

The first half of Ruta 40 today was pretty poor, but most of the second half was pretty excellent. Our average speed for the 300kms odd was about 65kph which was very reasonable considering the mixed conditions. You have to make progress on stretches like this, but you can't compromise safety, especially two up (we see very few folk two up, only one English couple so far)

The end of the day brought some great distant views of the mountains and I think the one our hosts in the Lake district (Arg) recommended. it was one of the nicest and littlest visited - no wonder as it was 100kms off route in the middle of the stretch. Shame to pass, but best plan with weather etc taken into account.

The village here is miniscule, but attractive in an obscure way. a petrol station, a hotel (full) with supplies, and a hostel with camping. Camping was 12 for both of us, a bed in a four bed room 40 (£8). as we wanted to guarantee some peace and a good night’s kip I tried in my best lingo to get a deal. In the end we got the room for just us for 50 or £10 so not bad, breakfast is about a quid each and evening meal £3 each and we can even have wine, which we might!

A hard days ride, but interesting in some ways you'd prefer not to encounter, and our first day by ourselves (well day two actually). We could have bunked up with the Brazilians and saved a small amount, but one snored so we said no thanks to that. There was room at the inn for them anyway so no problems, if no space we would have sacrificed our comfort as matey boy must be in some discomfort really.

A great day I guess, but an odd one all round.

Posted by Simon McCarthy at January 26, 2006 07:13 PM GMT

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