June 01, 2005 GMT
Mate, Melanesa, Media Lunas y Muchas Suerte!

How happy standing on the pegs singing....

The morning i left Canada it was -25C (yes..BELOW zero). I was dressed in layers and would leave a trail of 'thrift store' clothes in the airports from Calgary to Toronto to Miami to Buenos Aires.
My i-net travel agent warned me that because i was flying one-way i could have trouble in Miami so she gave me 24 hours to change the ticket. I spoke to Amer. Airlines and even to the Consul General of Argentina in Canada and decided to go ahead. Sure enough Miami refused me a boarding card! Eventually i was allowed to speak to the most senior person and although she wanted to help she couldn't- so i had to buy a refundable (less $10) onward ticket...
After baggage claim, in Buenos Aires, the luggage is x-rayed by customs. They spotted the shock absorber and fork springs, asked the value and then wanted 50% duty! Welcome back to Argentina!
I was glad i had said it was worth $100 instead of $500 but told them i shouldn't have to and didn't want to pay. Three of them had a discussion but still said i had to pay and showed me the declaration form stating in clear print ..duty of 50% to be paid... I was so pleased to point out that it also stated there is a $300 exemption! Not sure if it meant dollars or pesos, because the same sign is used for both, but either way i was inside the limit. Another discussion and he said ''ok this time - just for you''. Ya right. Phew.

It felt nice coming back to a city and friends i know. Sandra and Javier had warned me that it was hot but ..crikey +35C. From one extreme to the other, i couldn't sweat fast enough.
At times the heat in the shop was unbearable and the buzzer kept interupting work. Javier said he'd like a shop off the main avenue to reduce the amount of stupid questions!


dakar motos.jpg


Sandra.jpg

Enrique drove me to collect my boxes from Sandra's house and drop them at my hotel. We then made a tour of the marinas along the river, with a stop at the American Airlines office for my refund, and then to see his bike and the boxes he made for his up coming journey to California.
After 5 or 6 days of organizing, visiting and just hanging around the shop i was back on the road!! Aaaaahhhh, it felt good.
I stayed at La Posta in Azul for a few days to visit Jorge, Monica and Penny. They were surprised to see me and of course we had an 'asado'. Jorge was fairly busy in his little parts shop and getting ready for the Rally he was organizing in 10 days time. He was quite pleased to see himself in BSH, the british bike mag i took him.

Jorge y Monica in Azul.jpg

On my departure from Azul i felt that the ''mission'' to Ushuaia had really, finally started...third time lucky? Lets hope so.
Acres of sunflowers and corn gave way to onions and then to scrub bush. Big Patagonian skies and the red flags of Gauchito Gil fluttering in the wind... lots of wind... too much wind. I am a 'stubble-jumper' myself so i can like horizons of 'nothing', but i never got used to the wind.
Gaiman is a lovely little town, an oasis of green. The Welsh settled here in the late 1800's, school children still have to study the language for one year. Bus loads of tourists come to town in the late afternoon to sample the ''Welsh Teas''.
My camp site was a quiet spot on the river with lots of shade. While crawling out of the tent i noticed my back was ''siezing up'' and my right knee was making a wierd ''popping'' when it straightened... the final straw came the morning i left town. As i pulled away from my coffee shop something distracted me making me look down to the right... look where you want to go... i dropped the bike down to the right!! It is suprising what embarrassed adrenalin can do for your strength but as i rode away my back was screaming.
I arrived in Camarones in time to ride the 25km out to the penguin colony for sunset but there was a strange sensation in my thigh and foot... they were numb. Instead i wandered up to the museum and along the rocky shore but still they were curiously numb.

sunflowers.jpg

F-ing dogs! They were outside my window all night -it was their favourite shagging and fighting spot. Usually there were just three, their faces pressed against the window. Eventually other 'lesser' dogs would arrive and all hell would break loose. In the morning i noticed a few smears of blood across the glass.
Not a good sleep. Woof woof.
Gravel. Gravel is now my least favourite riding surface; it used to be sand but gravel has a higher pain factor. I get an uneasy feeling when fish-tailing in gravel, makes the skin crawl.
Anyway there were only a few patches of really thick stuff and it was such a pleasure to have hills and curves that i didn't have a care! I was up before the dogs so it was me and the guanacos out there.
My visit with the colony was in solitude as well; just me and 20,000 penguins. It was breeding season so lots of fuzzy youngsters roaming about... aaahhhh cute, and lots of honking parents. As i left the parking area two bus and 6 car loads of tourists were arriving, perfect timing.
Again the road was mine all mine.
How happy standing on the pegs singing 'Trench Town Rock'
...''one good thing, one good thing when it hits you feel no pain....so hit me with music...hit me with music now..'' Brutalize me with music Bobby.
Back in Camarones for a coffee and empanada in the hotel restaurant. The waiter was busy setting every table with a basket of fresh bread and bowls of what i thought was salsa. To top off a perfect morning the Dona of the hotel came over to give me a complimentary bowl. It was her creation, a marisco vinegrette - tiny whole octopus with onion, carrot and peppers in a tastey, spicey vinegrette. She laughed and told everyone in the kitchen my reaction ...ay que rico! mmmm! oooh que sabroso! mmmm! A tastebud orgasm.
On the journey back to the main road a guanaco lept onto the road only 20m in front of me surprising us both. His big round eyes seemed even bigger and full of panic. I could hear the sound of his hooves slipping on the asphalt until he finally got grip and ran off. Another close encounter of 2 wheels with 4 legs. How exciting.
Only 70km to the crossroads but a case of BTS hit me... Big Tank Syndrome. First time. (Ok second! haaaha) Actually i did make it to the petrol station but who expects a paper note on the pump - ''No Hay Combustible'' No fuel. Shit.
There were some lads in the cafe who said the next station was only 13km further. Ok not to panic i had a good 6 inches in the tank.
3km short and the reserve didn't kick-in. Swerving around to schlosh some petrol to the other didn't seem to work. I started to push - 3km - 3000 little metres. I gave up very quickly and tried to get a lift. Three cars pass and no stop. So i stand in the middle of the road and do a dramatic flag down, two guys hauling sheep stop.
At the station there is a Suisse F650 G/s with a brand new 40ltr tank, it's owner is Martin on an Alaska to Ushuaia journey. We chat for too long and then remember why it is i am there on foot with a helmet. Martin offered me a lift back to my bike and fuel from his monster tank. OK so he wanted to phfaph about with his cheap as china plastic pump to take petrol from one side of the tank to the other...por fafuckingvor! FINALLY just decant from his tank to a bottle.
The bike still isn't happy but i force it to the station weaving so the fuel covers the main stick. It did a big fart of black smoke. Oh my gawd. Filled up and let it run waiting for it to conk out again, but no.
By now it is late -5pm- I recommend Camarones as the nearest place for Martin and warn him about room 10. For me it is 180km to Rada Tilly. As usual the late afternoon winds are blowing hard. The pain in my leg is crazy, all i want to do is stop... why didn't i pitch the tent at the service station? So tree-less. Even if i did spot a bit of good ground or a bush to hide behind it's all fenced off anyway, so push on. Finally find the Rada Tilly municipal camping and set up next to a plum tree, it is 9:45 the sunset is flaming and i eat little yellow plums. How sweet it is. What a crazy day.


penguinos,-Camarones.jpg

These latitudes are living up to their name.. They don't call them 'The Roaring Forties' for nothing ... I swear if the helmet wasn't fastened the wind would have it off my head. Riding at a 45 degree angle is normal now, quite exhausting.
There is brief respite when overtaking a big truck, a few precious seconds to relax before emerging from behind the shelter and trying to cut across the nose of the truck back to your lane. A real battle not to be blown off the road... and this is only Route 3; Route 40, on the other side of the country, has a much fiercer reputation, con ripio. [Ripio = Gravel].
I made a detour, bucking a mean head-wind through the land of oil dippers, to Las Heras; truely ''el culo del mundo!'' But it is home to Fabian, organizer of the World's Southern-Most Bike Rally. www. .com.ar We had been in e-mail contact since my previous attempt at Patagonia and i thought i'd go say hello. What do you do in ''the butt of the world'' ?? ... you dance til dawn and sleep all sunday.
Since i was already half way to Route 40 i had an ever-so-slight temptation to go for it but stuck to my plan. My logic said i would have a better time on Ruta 40 with a tail-wind, which meant going south/north, not north/south.
So off i went, back to Ruta 3.
By late afternoon the wind had kicked up a few gears. I stopped for petrol in Tres Cerros and called it a day. I staked down the tent behind the YPF. (petrol station) Tres Cerros, as far as i could see, is just that - a petrol station - with a hotel, restaurant and cafe attatched.
Staying in the hotel was Laureano, a brasilian travelling south on a Honda Falcon 400. This being Argentina the restaurant wasn't open 'til half 9, we had a 3 hour wait for soup. We talked about the road and the wind; the melanesa, the media lunas and the suerte and looked at each others penguin photos! As you do.
Not surprising next morning the brasilian was already gone. Just as well, they travel fast and the pain down my leg had me stopping often to sprawl on the ground. As it happens we stay in the same hotel in Rio Gallegos and set off to Tierra del Fuego together.
Very rare that i travel with anyone. I had planned a side trip -only a few kilometres- to Lago Azul, a crater lake popular with the ibis bird. It was a wet morning, we'd only been on the road less than an hour.and we had a bit of muddy construction zone to get through. But Laureano was happy to come along - a good sign we would travel well.

Laureano, lago azul.jpg

We crossed into Chile, stopped for a welcome bowl of soup and then ferried across Magellan's Strait! Estrecho de Magallanes- smooth, only 30 minutes and free - we tried to pay but were waved away. Gracias.
A long afternoon of 'ripio' (gravel).
Shadows were lengthening as we finally crossed back into Argentina at San Sebastian. Another brasilian pulled in also on a Falcon 400, he had ridden down from Campinas nr Sao Paulo in 7 days! Louco!! He rode with us for awhile but had to blitz off to Ushuaia that evening. We stayed the night in Rio Grande. I could barely shuffle the 5 blocks to the farmacia for painkillers/anti-inflams. Washed them down with pizza and beer.
Laureano called me a 'bruxa' (witch) when i stopped to collect road-kill hawk feathers! It has been crazy communicating- he speaking only portugues and me a poor mix of spanish and portugues. At times i've not understood a word, other times acting as translator between him and the locals!
Uuushuuuiaiiiaaa.... USHUAIA. Finally made it; third time lucky after all.
On the recommendation of Willie -yet another brasiliero- we go to camp out at Kawi Yoppen, a mountain refugio. The wooden bridge is wide enough for bikes but not cars. Marcelo says we can sleep upstairs and goes to light a fire for hot showers. It is a tranquil spot and i rest for 3 days.

mate and lupins -Ushuaia.jpg

I forced myself into Ushuaia one more time - it is very touristy- i meet up with Laureano and Willie at the '' fin de la ruta'' sign in the N'tl Park. There is snow in the wind.
Willie leads me back to town and the hospital emergency rooms so i can finally talk to a doctor, albiet in spanish, about the pain and numbness in my leg. Diagnosis: a pinched scyatic nerve... crikey. Prescript: anti-inflammatories and rest. Too cold to do any resting down here, so it's north to the sun!
Laureano left by 9am to get all the way to Rio Gallegos, i only wanted to get to Rio Grande so i took it easy.
Ushuaia is the biggest 'been-there-done-that' thing i'll ever do. Therefore the decision not to go up Route 40 came easily and i even vetoed plans to see the glacier El Calafate. A jaded canadian in pain...yeah we have ice and mountains too. All i could think of was a brasilian beach.
The only disappointment was not to meet up with Jeff coming down from Cusco on his Norton Commando.

An oil change in Rio Grande, a pit-stop in Tres Cerros and a new front tyre in Comodoro.
The wind was coming from the east bringing a nasty cloud from the sea, forcing me to creep through 50km of fog. Could see where vehicles had pulled off and got stuck in the mud. I needed to get my clear glasses on so had to pull off too ... nearly a bit too far...nearly got bogged in the mucky stuff.
The service station was packed-out, this was serious fog. The YPF guy said it was all the way to Trelew. 200km! There was a temptation to pitch the tent but i pressed on, as it turned out it was only 50km more before i left that nasty cloud behind.
Arrived to the Gaiman campsite under threatening skies but got set up before sunset in the dry. I took a couple days here to wash me, my clothes and even the bike in hot soapy water -quite a treat (for the bike). I ate up the last of my Route 40 ''emergency rations'' and treated myself to coffee and palmeritas at the Siop Bara Cafe.

I had heard the name Miguel Angel Domingez once or twice; Wolfgang, in Peru, had it on his list of helpful motorcycle people; Jorge, in Azul, gave it to me and said he was like a brother to him. So i went into Puerto Madryn, the gate way to Peninsula Valdes, and called in. Miguel was out, but his friend Mario let me in. No advance warning, bit of a cheeky monkey i just showed up.
Before long Miguel came limping back from the doctors, he was a little worse for wear after a crash and so was his Tenere! Miguel is your man if you want an 'out-back' journey on the pegs. His sticker says it all: Viajes y Travesias en Moto. Huellas del Sur.
This is defenitely a yard for Yamahas, Mario's bike is a Super Tenere and there is a 3rd Tenere with a brasilian plate in the yard belonging to a Suisse guy named Daniel. I discovered we have friends in common when i spot Chris and Erin's everpresent sticker in his 'guest book'.
The bar'b'que was lit and Mario made his special chicken cooked in a 'wok' over the fire with veg and wine, believe me it's yummier than it sounds. Their friends joined us and i was soon lost in the rapid cross-fire of the argentine accent, no wonder all the letters are dropped- so they can get more words out faster! Usually for me more beers equals more spanish... but not even beer helped me this night.
Breakfast was at lunch time; bread, dulce de leche and mate (... siempre mate!!)


Miguel, Pto. Madryn.jpg

I pushed on. Four days riding and i was crossing a 50m high bridge over the Parana, a wide and silty river. Although the bridge is 5km long the wetlands stretch on for well over 50km to Victoria. The municipal camping is on the river at the end of the port, so lots of mosquitos and fishermen. Next morning i was awoken by, of all things, a cattle drive. Gauchos, dogs and cows; whistling, barking and mooing... not sure which was doing what...

On to the border! A slightly strange because i had to cross the river Uruguay - into Uruguay - to do the Argentina customs. Both countries' passport control are in the same building, their counters are side by side and their flags are both stripey blue with a yellow sun... What's a border crossing without a bit of confusion eh?!

Chau amigos!! Hasta la proxima vez un beso.


Posted by Jo-Anne Smith at June 01, 2005 01:10 AM GMT
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