February 14, 2006 GMT
A Tale of Two Rides

I've started the right-wrist-stripe again. All riders get this. For some reason your right cuff rides up a little and you end up with a brown stripe around your right wrist from the sun.

And I have to remove the sheep from the seat if the car park has a guard dog. Generally the dog wants either to eat the sheep or shag it. Dunno why, as it's already getting pretty disreputable. It really is very comfortable, though, even when it's hot.

Actually, lots of the animals here are rather interesting. I've seen lots of guanaco and ņandu, a few armadillos, various unidentifiable and flattish dead things being eaten by birds with which I'm unfamiliar, peregrine falcons stomping around hungrily, and rather strange large black beetles legging it across the road from time to time. They're quite large - you can spot them a hundred yards away. The ņandu are funny creatures. The chicks - if you can call them that as they're three or four feet tall - are looked after en masse by one of the dads while the rest of the dads and the mums go off foraging. They hang around at the side of the road looking for stray motorcyclists to leap out in front of.

So, yesterday was 440 miles, from Rio Gallegos to Caleta Olivia. A great ride. The wind was generally behind me, the bike's going really well (moving average for the day was 60mph), both fuel stops were there (Piedra Buena and Tres Cerros). I know the distance is right as I did it southwards with GPS. Mind you, it's pretty boring, as the pampa/steppe makes Norfolk look positively mountainous. A lovely ride, though, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Today I rode 282 miles from Caleta Olivia to Trelew (oh no, not Welsh cakes again). It was horrible. The legendary Patagonian wind was doing its worst, mostly from the left. No wonder the tyres wear strangely as you're hardly ever upright on a perfectly straight road. Every time a truck passes in the other direction, flashing and waving in the usual friendly fashion, you hunker down to mimimise cross-section, and still have your goggles and specs nearly blown off as you wrestle with the bike to keep it vaguely in a straight line and generally on the right side of the road. The temperature rose to 37C. On the approach to Trelew the oil pressure warning light kept coming on at low engine speeds (< 2000 rpm). Trelew is death by traffic light (felt just like Thatcham) so I kept the revs up to keep the oil pressure up. I knew the oil level was OK (I check that and the tyres every day), so it must have been the heat. The bottle of water on the pannier lid went from very cold to scalding in one hour, as I found to my cost when I stopped and poured some over my head. Ouch. I decided I'd better a) let the engine cool down a bit and b) buy some oil. The first two petrol stations in Trelew were closed, but then I arrived at a crossroads full of car dealers. On the fourth attempt the Renault dealer supplied a 4l container of 15/40. Good enough (I had to explain it's not a bike, it's a BMW, the engine oil doesn't bathe the clutch and gearbox as well, it's really a car, you know, all that stuff) so I waited a little longer, put about half a litre in and checked the level. Looked high to me, but there you are.

By this time I'm soaked. I've had to walk around in my suit carrying my helmet in this heat. So I went to find the hotel I was in before, mainly because I know it's secure shady parking and I know where it is. And as many such horrible days do, it ended well because the receptionist remembered me from two months ago so I didn't have to check in and could ride straight into the garage and then go straight up to my room. And have a hot shower and a cold Quilmes. And then come and tell you lot all about it.

Posted by Cynthia Milton at February 14, 2006 04:23 PM GMT

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