December 21, 2006 GMT
Great Weather For Yachts

(27th December)

After a couple of Asados (traditonal Argentinian grills) at our campsite on Peninsula Valdez, it was time to go.

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Bruno demonstrating how to do Asado properly

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Pete, Hame, Mark, beer

The weather changed a bit, which was a shame as I'd wanted to dive - apparently if you are lucky you can chare your dive with sea lions and dolphins...anyway it got windy and a litttle cooler and the dive boat stayed in. As we left Peninsula Valdez the wind came up more, and it stayed with us for most of the next week as we headed South.

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With the bikes constantly leant at an angle against the wind, we rode South with Mark and Aasha, covering the 1800km to Ushuaia about a week.

(See www.markaasha.com for more pics of this week)

As we rode South it got colder... and then colder still. Some days we could feel the change over only a few hundred metres, and every day saw us donning more layers until we were all much bulkier - or that could have been because of all the fab food we'd been eating!

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Aasha sporting the latest in 'bikewear'

On the way to Ushuaia we stayed in small 'cabaņas' - self catering accommodation, or cheap hostels or hotels. Some had better beds than others!

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Hame's banana bed

As we were on the move every day we didn't want to be packing up the tent every morning. Accommodation is generally quite cheap, we've been paying about $10 US a night (about five pounds), usually with breakfast, but our preference is still for camping.

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Squeezing Bertha in behind a guesthouse

We met some great people and felt welcomed wherever we went. The best welcome of all was from Graciela in Rio Grande (Hotel Argentino) who handed us a glass or homemade cherry liquer as we arrived, freezing cold after a wet ride into Tierra Del Fuego.

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Welcome to the Hotel Argentino

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An early Happy Christmas with (L to R) Aasha, Val and Graciela,

After leaving Peninsula Valdez the wind was quite hard work so we only rode about 150km before stopping in Gaiman, a small village originally colonised by Welsh migrants in 1865. Nowadays Gaiman has several Welsh themed guesthouses and tea rooms; we sheltered from the wind and had a huge cream tea before bedding down for the night in the Dyffryn Gwyrrd hotel.

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Hame found a fellow rugby bloke, the owner of our Welsh hotel

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Cream tea house

The next morning the wind was more manageable so we hopped on the bikes and headed to Punta Tombo, site of the World's largest colony of Magellenic Penguins. 175,000 breeding pairs come here every year for the summer months, and they were everywhere!

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We wandered around roped-off paths between burrows, sat and watched them launch themselves into the sea and watched as they waddled across in front of us. The penguins were utterly charming and not at all bothered by our presence. They even came to check out our bike!

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A local checking out Bertha


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Bertha had another visitor a little further down the road, a baby guanaco.

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Guanacos are related to camels; they are very common in this part of Argentina and we passed several groups (anyone know the collective term?) of them grazing near the roadside.

We've seen flamingoes, hares, a fox, lots and lots of species of birds (Carol and Neil, we need you!) as well as domesticated animals on the many Estancias (big farms) we've passed.

We met a man who'd walked from Santiago, on the road 3000km from Santiago.

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There are lots of other bikers heading South for Christmas and we've seen a fair few cyclists. I've thought lots of times of my good friend James who cycled from Alaska to Ushuaia a few years ago, and I now know for sure what I've suspected all along, he is barking mad! Some of the roads are sooooo long and featureless, the mountains are huge, you really would have to be quite mad to attempt it on anything without an engine. Jamie, we are amazed. You are a legend.

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On the way we stopped to help Rick, who'd ridden form Alaska on a KLR and whose chain had snapped, almost sending him off the road. He stayed on, and left a 50m skid mark. Hame and Mark, the engineers, got straight in there and managed to unwrap the chain from the sprocket. Luckily for Rick he was near a service station and the story ended well when he got the bike on a truck to the nearest town.

The changing weather gave us a few good rainbows...

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The end of my rainbow...

In Comodoro Rivadavia we were on the way to the shops when we passed a couple of policemen looking angry. On the way into town we'd seen several groups of young football supporters looking a bit like they wanted trouble. About two minutes later we heard shots, and looked back to see the policemen chasing and shooting at the football fans, who's turned out to be rioters. Four police cars followed, and all the young guys scattered. We went and hid in the supermarket and did our shopping until it was safe to go back up the road!

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Bertha on the ferry to Tierra Del Fuego

We were really excited to get to Tierra Del Fuego. It's a place we'd heard about for years and since we left Malaysia back in April, Ushuaia was our destination for Christmas.

For most of the previous week the roads had taken us through very flat, very barren landscape. As we rode further South into Tierra Del Fuego, we were suddenly up in the snow-capped mountains, riding through sleet! It was magnificent scenery.

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Brrr!

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We had a great week with Aasha and Mark

We rode into Ushuaia, a little chilly but happy. Mark and Aasha weren't mad enough to stay in a tent so we left them at their guesthouse and rode out to the National Park, about 20km South of Ushuaia, almost at the end of the world...

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Our camp at the end of the world (with tame bunnies)
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It was cold, we were very glad we'd upgraded the sleeping bags in Australia to big fat down ones which kept us warm as toast. At night it has been about four degrees!

On the way to the park we'd bumped into Grant and Julie who we'd last seen in Viedma. At the park were about 20 other bikers of varying nationalities; Kiwi, English, German, Japanese, Swiss, American and ourselves. It was good to catch up with Jason and Pete who we'd met in Viedma too, and Californians Val and Adam. We decided to have a traditional Christmas dinner, cooked on the fire.

There was a bit of deliberation about how to cook the chickens - the boys had designed a spit roaster out of bits of metal and jubilee clips. We had a great laugh trying to make it work, everyone got involved with bits of string, screwdrivers and ideas. Being fuelled by beer and champagne didn't help, but it was fun. Eventually we gave up on the whole spit idea and with the help of a long spikey thing cooked the chickens straight on the fire, along with loads of vegetables wrapped in foil.

We were quite amazed when the meal turned out to be delicious, not burned to shreds as could easily have been the case! Here are a few pics taken throughout the day:

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How to roast chooks
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Grant keeping the smoke out

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Cooking up a storm

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At last it was ready

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Gabi - I managed to find something to dance on!!!

Hope everyone had as much fun as we did. Hame and I had a quiet moment and raised our plastic cups to our families and friends in distant places....Happy Christmas.

There were a few sore heads the next day, but we managed to ride down to the sign which says you have reached the end of the road...

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Here's the latest of my high-tech maps.
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How we got from Aus to here

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The last couple of weeks - 5400km or so

Bertha has been running well, the only issue being a slightly leaking front shock, despite the recent rebuild in Melbourne. Hame gave it a good clean and made a shock sock, and it seems to be holding up for now.

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We plan to stay on in the national park for a few more days, celebrate the new year somewhere in Ushuaia, or just by the tent perhaps as it is such a beautiful spot. After that we have a few weeks before meeting my Mum and Stepdad a little further North, so we have decided to try and improve our Spanish by going back to school. We'll camp in Ushuaia and enrol in Spanish classes for a week - we need it! There are a few snow capped mountains to climb too, Hame is itching to get up there.

We're really enjoying moving more slowly for the time being; from here it's a slow ride North...

(Emma)

Hotel of the week!
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Posted by Emma Myatt at December 21, 2006 07:24 PM GMT
 
 

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