January 29, 2007 GMT
Gar'n Norf - Ruta Cuarenta

Lago Azul - near Rio Gallegos

The view of sparkling blue waters in the caldera of an old volcano was the perfect setting for a picnic. Now to find shelter from the icy wind on a clear sunny southern Patagonian summers day!

The tranquil setting was beautiful for a hike down to the waters edge where wary Upland Geese took thier young to a safe hiding place. This was a nice start to our trek up the ripio (dirt) road of the famous Ruta 40.

As the Crow Flies - El Calafate

The picturesque town of El Calafate on the shores of Largo Argentina is filled with tourists both local and foreign. A place where serious trekkers meet and the others... well... pose in all thier pristine trekking gear to hike from the lavish hotels to the trendy shops, bars and cafes.

'Is the water cold?' - Lago Onelli

It is also the base for thousands of tourists to visit the magnificence and splendour of the Glaciers National Park.

Iceberg from Upsala Glacier

Being the 'un-touristy' type of travellers we broke with tradition and took a boat tour to Upsala Glacier ($Peso210/person + $Peso40/person park entrance).

We packed a picnic and jumped on the high speed cat for an all day cruise of the lake and glaciers. Every peso was worth it.

Hanging Glacier

We passed countless icebergs, hanging glaciers, the Spegazzini glacier which has the highest front and finally Upsala glacier the largest, in this park, that converges on the waters edge.

Upsala Glacier

A visit to Lago Onelli where three glaciers meet at the lakes edge, continually breaking ice into the water creating an icey wonderland surrounded by a strange and enchanting forrest.

Natural Sculptures - Lago Onelli

Although our day was cloudy, windy, cold and wet it was most memorable especially as this part of the park is only accessible during summer and by organised tour boat.

Great weather for a Boat Trip!

Several days later we approached the massive glacier of Perito Moreno, second only to Upsala. The wonderful ride along the glacial lakes edge included views of the snow capped mountains in nearby Chile and spectacular green summer forrests.

Parque Nacional Los Glaciers

Glacier Perito Moreno is easily accessible from the boardwalk. We looked in awe at the 60 meter high deep blue walls watching with anticipation for huge pieces of ice cracking thunderously and dropping into the waters of the lake.

Glacier Perito Moreno

And so we continued on with near perfect road conditions along Ruta 40.

The near perfect road conditions

As the sun decended below the surrounding mountains we presently came apon a rise of low hills where the road ascended for perhaps several kilometres and then narrowed as we thrust further into the rolling hills.

It soon became apparent to both of us that perhaps we were on the wrong road as it narrowed further to become no more than what can best be described as a farm track.

Picking up Sam

Soon we descended into a narrow green valley of pasture land and rows of tall poplar trees. In the distance the tiny flickers of light from the approaching town of Gobenador Gregores appeared and to our delight after the continous jarring, corregation and gravel a paved road.

The paved road was to be short lived, of course being soley for the convenience of Gobenador Gregorians, yet we stayed in this town for three nights whilst Ming mended his bruised ribs caused by a slow fall in a deep trough of gravel.

"This tastes like grass clippings!" - Mate Time

After the first day we had apparently become a talking point of the town and in the morning of the second a car appeared at our camp from Channel 7 local news with the express purpose to interview we 'famous' international motorcycle travellers.

It was all quite amusing. The four of us Ming (USA - Suzuki DR650), Grant & Jules, and Sam (Ireland - KTM640) milled about uncomfortably as the camera scanned back and forth whilst Jules did an excellent job of story telling, in Spanish, for the group.

Star Bikes!

It was unfortunate that we were unable to view the segment not having the convenience of a tele, or maybe it was fortunate as we were quite the site with Ming suited in his normal riding gear of light rain coat and trousers, socks and sandals. Jules sporting spectacular motorcycle camping fashion with motorcyle jacket, black thermal leggins and riding boots, Grant complete with two weeks growth on face, shabby uncut hair and wearing jeans that were capable of standing by themselves. Only Sam looked the part, as he was leaving almost immediately after, decked out in full riding gear!

Sam heads off

On that same morning, with Piggy packed and us eager to move on, we donned helmets and jackets. Grant turns the ignition to on and with one stab of the starter button a resounding UUURRRrrrrr.... r ... r .. . eminates.

Oh... we seem to have a flat battery, must be the extra cool evenings. We unload and push start the bike surprisingly easily. After a short run the battery appears to have a healthier glow. It turns out that Ming is a bit of an electronics wizard, and therefore shall now been deemed 'Marvellous Ming'... by us at least.

'Get back to work and finish those dishes!' - Grant and Ming

After a brief visit to the workshop manual he checks, with our multi-meter, the charge rate on Miss Piggy which rather pessimistically reads low. We finally deduce that while the charging system with all lights off still, more or less, works (a new generator coil necessitating) the battery is indeed STUFFED!

At 98,000km on the clock we were kind of expecting the generator to need some service soon... just not on the Ruta 40! We were very disappointed, however, that after only one year of service the very expensive no maintenance battery had failed.

Canyon - near Cueva de las Manos

We continued north over the wind swept plains and rolling hills of Patagonia, which reminded us of the areas of Coober Pedy in Australia, except of course for the Ruta 40, which whilst servicable proved a little demanding two-up and carrying a load.

Eventually arriving at the small village of Bajo Caracoles we continued a further forty kilometers off the Ruta 40 where the remarkable 9,000 year old cave paintings 'Cueva de las Manos' stand situated in a wonderful series of volcanic canyons.

Cueva de las Manos

It was a lovely end to a long days ride and returning to the spot of a village, Bajo Caracoles, we were again to meet up with Hediki who we first met in Ushuaia.

As with all of the dirt section of the Ruta 40 the final stage to the town of Perito Moreno needed a conservative approach to riding.

Wide open plains of Patagonia - Argentina

Marvellous Ming showed his marvel by pushing Piggy first thing in the morning and prudently along the way we would find a small rise to park the bike for picnics and rest stops, though thankfully a bump start was not necessary during the day.

Roadside Stop

Staying several days in Los Antiguos, the cherry capital of Argentina, Chile and the Carretera Austral beckoned.

Posted by Julie Rose at January 29, 2007 06:34 PM GMT

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