Reaching the border post into Argentina, again all is simple and easy.
Once we head out into Argentina the scenery is beautiful. There are may ski lodges and chalets, along with lovely little shops, flowers everywhere and friendy people. It feels like you are in the Swiss alps!!
We head round Lake Nahuel Huapi which is beautiful and can see our planned stop for the night of Bariloche on the other side of the lake.
We roll into Bariloche and follow the road round the edge of the lake- it is lovely. Accommodation is quite pricey here but we manage to find a cheap hostal with secure parking.
Deciding to head into the town later for some dinner we find a busy cafe. The service is slow and dissmisive and we think it must be us because we are British. We were warned by people that there might be some animosity towards us beacause of the Falklands. After a while it becomes clear they are like it with everyone! The waitors are highly distracted by the football on the TV, it is clear that Argentinians are very passionate about the game. The food is worth waiting for and we both sample the Argentinian beef.
Then we go and do my favourite sport - chocolate eating! Bariloche is famous for it's handmade chocolate and there are hundreds of chocolate shops in the town offering every type you can imagine. The first shop has a pick and mix option so I set about getting a good selection, then we try another shop for some more.
The chocolate is really good and definately different on the palate with many unusual fillings that aren't the norm in Europe too. It melts quickly (a sign of quality) so we have to eat the lot.
Next day we head dead South following the 40 road to Esquel.
The scenery has started to dry up and is dusty.
Stopping just outside of Esquel for fuel we meet up with Doug, he is heading south after starting out in the rain forests of Brazil on his 1150GS. We have a good chat about bike travel and as we do so a group of Chilean bikers turn up too.
After a good chat we head back onto the 40 and down to the town of Gobernador Costa. This is a very small town with 1 hotel only. We knew it would be a bit grim as we are out in the middle of nowhere, the price you pay for the quick route to Ushuaia.
The Hotel is actually a restaurant that has some rooms attached. There is a dreadful smell in the Restaurant and we skip dinner and breakfast. There is alot of building work going on and we settle in for a noisy night.
Keen to leave the hovel we are up and out early heading down to Comodore Rivadavia.
This place is the pits too but we manage to find a basic Hotel- far better than the previous night.
Next day we head South on the 3 to Puerto San Julian. Just as we head out of the town of Rivadavia we get stopped at a Police checkpoint and are made to get off and take our passports into the office.
The grumpy Policeman takes our passports and asks us where we are going. I reply 'Ushuaia then returning to Buenos Aires then England.' The policeman looks blankly at Darren, completely ignoring me and asks again where are we going?
Darren says 'Ushuaia then returning to Buenos Aires then England.' He nods and stamps our passports then sends us on our way.
Darren thinks its hilarious that the policeman ignored me - I mutter under my breath that Argentinian men are all sexist pigs frightened of blonde women on motorbikes...
Finally out on the open road it is good to get going but ridiculously windy. The wind cuts across from the sea and it is all we can do to hold on. There are occasionally big gusts that blow us around on the road too especially after trucks passing us in the other direction.
The wind robs us of valuable fuel as the bike is working a lot harder to keep us in a straight line. There are fuel stops on this road but they are few and far between, several are locals selling fuel.
After a strenuous morning we reach a fuel stop with about 10 miles left in the tank. The pump assistant tells us they have no petrol (they call it nafta out here) and the next fuel stop is 140 kms ahead. I tell him that this is seriously bad as we have 10 miles left and are desperate for fuel.
He thinks for a moment then says there is a place we could try a kilometre down the road. It is a comedor and doesn't advertise the fact that they have fuel. We set off and a mile later pull into the comedor, I ask the local and he tells us to go round the back, where a cheerful guy is filling up a car from an oil container with a hose.
Thankfully he fills up our tank too but then won't accept our Argentinian money as the note is too big and he says he has no change. It was probably a ploy to get our money and after I offer to pay him intead in either US dollars, Peruvian Neuva Soles or Chileano pesos he suddenly finds the change and sends us on our way.
There is alot of fascinating wildlife on this road, mainly Emu's and Llama's!
Wearily we reach Rio Gallegos after feeling like we have been sandblasted by the wind all day. The town has a weird feeling about it and we feel rather self concious here. Finding a hotel in the main town we get settled in.
Later that evening we head out a few blocks to a Bakery I had spotted on the way into town. It is an amazing little place full of lovely things and the smell of fresh baked bread is delicious.
We don't get any sleep that night due to a loud Nightclub again not stopping until 5am. They certainly like to party here.
Next day is a big one as we plan to get onto Tierra del Fuego today.
After checking our guide book for the details of the day we need to cross 1 International border, then take a ferry to the island, then 100k of off road, then another International border before reaching our planned stop at Rio Grande.
Leaving Rio Gallegos very early we reach the first border from Argentina into Chile.
This post is already quite busy (8am) although it is pretty civillised with clear signs and helpful staff. I also stop to change some money here so that we have Chilean pesos to pay for the ferry. I have a good chat with the staff in the Exchange Bureau and they are very interested in our travels.
Heading further South we follow the road along 40 miles and stop abruptly at a line of cars and the end of the road - this must be the ferry stop then!
We check with the office and the next ferry is in an hour, so we wander around to kill some time. A friendly man in a truck asks if he can take our photo as he is a journalist. After posing for the shot we notice the cafe windows. They are covered in biker stickers - we decide we need to stick our blog details on the window too and after finding some glue in the back box we get our card stuck on.
The ferry arrives by this time and we are made to wait at the side of the road until everyone else is on. For some reason they must like to put bikes on the back of the boat. There are no straps to hold the bike down so Darren stays with the bike while I find the Pursers Office and pay.
After 20 mins it's time to get off - only problem is that a coach has got stuck trying to get off and is grounded out.
It takes nearly an hour for the ferry crew to free the trapped bus by moving the ferry back and forth and using wooden chocks under the back wheels to try and lift it up. At one point a truck is used to try and tow the bus but this doesn't work either. Finally the Coach gets free and everyone on the ferry gives a loud cheer.
Once off the ferry we are all eager to get going. The Journalist we met earlier is ahead in his blue truck and suddenly veers onto the verge, we slow down and see that he has hit a llama. Luckily there isn't too much damage to his truck but the llama is definately dead.
After a short section of tarmac the road turns to gravel. Big chunky gravel and the dust blocks everything out too which really doesn't help.
After about an hour of bumping up and down I am desperate for the loo, so we have to pull over. There is no place to shelter here- no trees - nothing, I manage to find a slight hollow in the ground to 'hide' in but still manage to flash my backside at some poor trucker. Think I am a proper biker now as I didn’t even blush…
Feeling better we continue and manage to make it to the second border post, crossing back from Chile into Argentina. This post is really relaxed and there is no-one around at 4pm in the afternoon which means no queues.
The stretch of gravel road between the two offices is very pretty and we see some flamingo's.
We stop for fuel and nearly get blown over, the weather has suddenly turned very blowy and grey, we are going to get wet soon.
Sure enough the rain starts just as we hit the tarmac, but it's not long till we get to Rio Grande our stop for the night. We take a wrong turn once in the town and end up riding by the Army base and giant Maldivas/ Falklands Memorial complete with F1 Fighter jet.
At this point, I should add, that so far in Argentina we have stayed at two of the towns that hold the garrison from where the Argentinians launched their campaign on the Falklands.
We are riding a British bike with UK plates with dirty great Union Jacks stuck all over it and yet we have experienced absolutely no hostility. In fact the locals are very welcoming and friendly, the warnings that we had been given were frankly rubbish.
We pull into a nice looking Posada (Bed & Breakfast). The staff are great and it is a nice place with a Restaurant too. After the best hot shower in the world (probably) we have a nice meal then plan our final day tomorrow - Ushuaia.
I don’t get much sleep that night, the thought of what tommorow means keeps playing through my head.
Posted by Darren Homer at September 13, 2008 03:56 PM GMT
I lay there listening to the howling gale and heavy rain and think that it would be nice to wait for better weather. But the reality is that we frankly cant afford to, we ride tommorow, whatever the weather.