December 13, 2007 GMT
WINDY WELCOME TO THE END OF THE WORLD....USHUAIA

Sarmiento looked a long way with little in between so we departed Esquel around 9.00am hoping to get to there in time for lunch. Road signs in Argentina are very inconsistent. You may pass a sign saying 160kms to the next town. Travel a further 10kms + on your trip meter than come across another sign saying 161kms to the same town??? We gave up trying to work out which was correct but always kept plenty of fuel on board in case it went a little pear shaped in the distance calculation. I might add that our maps were way out in comparison to the road signs as well.


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Ruta 40/20 South of Esquel

The road was paved other than for a few kms of road works with the wind varying from a tail wind on Ruta 40 and part of Ruta 20 to a cross wind when Ruta 20 hooked east . Nothing too unpleasant but the lack of sunshine made it quite cool. Wild life was scarce as was the number of trees. The landscape was arid to say the least although we did see a large fox scurrying across the road disappearing into the low bushes covering the stony plains. The roaring wind blowing us sideways as we arrived in Sarmiento was wild with the local dogs struggling to stand up in the gale. We rode through town looking for suitable accommodation but feeling decidedly uncomfortable retired to the roadhouse on the highway for lunch to discuss our next move away from the bellowing roar coming through our intercom.


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Ruta 26 Near Sarmiento

Comodoro Rivadavia was only another 150 kms further, according to the map, so we decided to escape the winds that blew so hard in this little lakeside village hoping to get some respite on the eastern seaboard of Argentina.


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Mechanical Chickens

The last fifty odd kms of this ride would have been the most difficult wind riding we have ever experienced. Gusts that would push the bike so hard sideways across the road caused great concern to both us and the other traffic sharing the road. The roar in our helmets was deafening but I could still hear Carol’s muffled scream as the bike was stood bolt upright while trying to angle through a bend. The countryside was dotted with those ‘mechanical chickens’ perpetually dipping their steel beaks into the earth sucking up the crude oil that is buried beneath. Comodoro Rivadavia is an oil town and on Saturday night any accommodation is premium. We arrived too late for the Tourist Office so we rode the city looking for a suitable room. Camping was out of the question as the wind had chased us into town and conditions here were as bad as they were in Sarmiento. Suffice to say after two hours of looking we ended up north of the city at a beach hotel charging a premium price. Secure parking for the bike consisted of being outside our bedroom window in a public car park. That night the wind blew so hard that our light nylon bike cover was shredded. Next day we moved to a hostel not listed in the guide book or sign posted. The Tourist Office had it on their books though and what a great little place. Secure under cover parking for the bike plus a kitchen. We enjoyed three almost windless days in C R doing touristy stuff and a lot of walking. Our main point for the stay was to meet up with our friend from Aus, Ron Markiewicz who was doing the final leg of an Alaska to Ushuaia tour. See his story on the HU site also. We enjoyed a great night with part of his group at a lamb asado. A night to remember shared with other motorcyclists riding this fantastic country.


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Ron's Black Mamba


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Comodoro Rivadavia


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Sheep, Rhea and Chicks

Wednesday the fifth of December we departed C R knowing we had plenty of time to make Ushuaia for our Antarctic voyage departure on the 14th. The road south was windy and the surface ranged between good pavement to rubble. Guanaco and rhea were plentiful along most of the windswept countryside and we watched guanaco jump the boundary fences with ease on our approach. Rhea hens usually surrounded by 6-8 chicks darted away in fear also. Rabbits were sighted frequently, and the odd fox seen slinking away looking quite well fed, probably due to the abundance of these introduced species. Along this road we crossed paths with two motorcyclists from Sao Paulo. Arriving at Puerto San Julian we shared lunch with the two Brazilians who were heading in the same direction but at a much quicker pace.


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Ruta 3 Between Puerto San Julian and Cmte. Luis Piedra Buena


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Camping at Cmte. Luis Pietra Buena

Cmte. Luis Piedra Buena provided a great little camp ground on an island (Isla Pavon) in the middle of Rio Santa Cruz. A light shower christened us as we erected the tent but that was it. A pleasant night, meeting a German couple traveling South America in a small camper. Reveling youngsters in the camp ground disturbed their sleep that night so they decided to move the next day to a nearby National Park


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Fox Sign

The weather was beginning to deteriorate as we rode south and by the time we had reached Rio Gallegos the wind was howling under a very dark grey sky. We had lunch at a large YPF garage on the outskirts of town and reluctantly left its warmth to head into a major head wind. The clouds dropped lower and the wind became very bitter. I felt we were heading for a snow fall but it was just a light shower of rain that chased us to the ferry crossing over Estrecho de Magallanes (Magellan Strait) at Punta Delgada and onto Bahia Azul, Tierra del Fuego. We raced towards Cerro Sombrero on the new concrete highway arriving late in the afternoon. The wind once again blew across our path with nothing to stop its cutting blasts. The area was void of trees and this little township was a welcome sight.


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Road from Cerro Sombrero to San Sebastian Chile

Hosteria Tunken provided a room with shared bathroom facilities. The two story building was all but deserted when we arrived, but that changed very quickly. An influx of workmen arrived just as we were relaxing. I had made the shower commenting to Carol how great it was. Sadly Carol missed out as the workers took over both bathrooms and devoured all the hot water. The problem occurred the next morning as well much to Carols’ displeasure. The rain and wind combination joined us as we departed for the Chilean border. We endured this for the whole journey (155kms) and the ripio road (gravel) added to our discomfort. The border crossings were painless and we sucked in the warmth inside the buildings. We did however; express more concern at the wild conditions as we watched three bicycle riders approach the Chilean border post, the last rider was blown off the road and into a ditch.


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San Sebastian Border Argentina


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Carol and the "Famous" Graciela


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Memorabilia Hostel Argentino Rio Grande

The paved road rejoined us at San Sebastian Argentina, a welcome relief after the extremely difficult conditions of the past few hours. Rio Grande was cold and our quick ride through town failed to find the popular Hostel Argentino so we headed to the Tourist Information Office to find its whereabouts. Funny.. we had already ridden past it a couple of times. Meeting Graciela for the first time we could see why this haven for travelers was so popular. We stayed in Rio Grande for three nights and during our regular walks around town we discovered a machinist who could repair our shredded bike cover.


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Lago Fagnano Outside of Tolhuin


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Ushuaia Centro


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"The Sign"

Reluctantly we left Rio Grande and headed south to Ushuaia telling our host that we would be back to stay on our return journey north. The road to Ushuaia was fantastic. Trees turned into forests, lakes and snow covered mountains pressed into view as we rolled along the winding road. The sun shone and the wind blew more than we would like but the sky remained blue as we dropped down into Ushuaia. A spectacular setting to say the least. A small coastal city surrounded by snow covered peaks, ships in the harbor and planes landing at the distant airport. The routine of heading to the Tourist Office netted a fantastic near new cabana for 100 pesos a night. Our hosts spoke English and were very helpful; however the cosy room was only available for three nights. Of the three days we were there only one was fine so we dashed out to the National Park at the end of Ruta 3 for the mandatory photograph. For the remaining night before our departure we moved to a little Hostel in town which was also closer to the port.


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Parque National Tierra del Fuego


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End of Ruta 3 in the Parque National


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Parque National Tierra del Fuego


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Ushuaia the most Southern City in the World

Antarctica awaits….

Posted by Ken Duval at December 13, 2007 10:50 PM GMT
 


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