I've taken the liberty of a small detour northwards before turning south again; there's a Horizons Unlimited Travellers' Meeting near Viedma next weekend, and as I missed the Mexico meet I'd like to go and maybe join up with others heading south to Ushuaia.
Talking of which, half the world is on its way there - just yesterday I met John and Olwyn from Kings Heath in their camper van at one stop, and six chaps in three 1950's Austin Healeys rumbled in as I was having a sarnie at another stop. I reckon around Christmas there'll be more foreign-registered vehicles in Ushuaia than locals. Should be a good party.
Let me explain about roads here, and how lonely they can be. Let's take a major route: imagine riding/driving up the A1 from London to Edinburgh. Around half the route is paved, some of which is pretty good and the rest dire. The rest is varying degrees of ripio ball-bearing. There may be anything up to two petrol stations, one of which adjoins a (derelict) cafe. It's possible there's a small town, but it's more likely to be some way away from the main road. Oh, and you'll see maybe 20 other vehicles during the ride. The wind is unremitting and it's almost impossible to find anywhere sheltered to stop.
When I finally escaped (again) from Coyhaique I had a wonderful send-off. Having managed to book the ferry (around seven quid all in for the two-and-a-half-hour crossing) so there was no excuse for being kept in captivity any longer, as it was a holiday on Thursday the family piled into the Nissan Patrol Shed and we barrelled down together to Puerto Ingeniero Ibañez on Lago General Carrera (Lago Buenos Aires if you're this side of the border). While picnicking on the quayside, blow me down if Patricia and the girls and Rodrigo and Pauline arrived, also for a picnic. I reckon they were really making certain I was actually leaving this time. But it was great to have them all there waving to me as the "ferry" sailed.
Once on the other side at Chile Chico it was about 10km of ripio to the border, where formalities on both sides amounted to all of ten minutes, and the Argentinian customs chap recommended the hotel they stay at in Los Antiguos, which is at the border and Argentina's cherry capital. And the next day it was glorious virgin tarmac all the 230 miles across the pampas and through the oilfields to the deep turqoise Atlantic Ocean.
Today I'm in Trelew, although as it's Sunday everything's closed and the population go to chapel; but I should be able to get myself a Welsh tea with proper Welsh cakes this afternoon and I'll report back on how they compare with the ones Yoshi's mum makes.
As I rode across the isthmus to Peninsula Valdés to see the killer whales I saw in the distance the unmistakeable form of a wheelless bike and a man doing a little light inner-tube wrestling.
It was Patrick, Swiss, Honda 400 trailie. So I gave him a hand and we rode together to the campsite at Puerto Pirámides where we met Adriano, Italy, Africa Twin. There followed a couple of days of chilling out by/on the beach with a little light eating and not-so-light drinking. Adriano's on a time limit so left for Ushuaia on the second day, and Patrick has to get back for work in Bahia in Brazil.
So I continued north to Viedma for the Horizons do. Well, furtle up my bits with an exhaust spanner, I rode on to the campsite and there were no less than seven UK-registered BMWs, including a 1200GS and a 100GS outfit looking like a grown-up Wasp outfit. The rest of the gathering were variously US, Mexican, Australian and Argentinian on a variety of machinery.
On the Sunday rideout we went to see the sealions, then to a farm (lots of ripio) for a lamb asado. That's where they split the body down the breastbone and spreadeagle it on huge spits over a wood fire. Fabulous. Anyway, the farm was owned by Julian (also a motorcyclist), and he handed out fresh sheepskins to anyone who wanted one. I think I ate part of the animal mine is from. He cut them more or less to size for our saddles with a fearsomely sharp knife and explained how to prepare them with soaking and salt and soap.
Everyone had ripio stories similar to mine, and I was rather relieved to find that far from being a wimp and a girly even the rufty-tufties like Martin and Alan (R1150GS each, from Marlow) had decided life's too short and are avoiding it where remotely possible, even if it means big detours.
So I'm back in Trelew, and riding south with Bev and Fritz on their 100GS and Nick on his 1200GS. We'll probably spend Crimble in Rio Gallegos and be at the end of the world for New Year (along with everyone else). Our sheepskins are drying out in the hotel car park.
The Strait of Magellan is awesome. The little roro ferry crosses Primera Angostura from Punta Delgada in about half an hour for less than 4 quid, surrounded by frolicking sealions and penguins.
Tierra del Fuego is also awesome, starting out as desolate pampa and becoming mor mountainous and green as you go south. Much of the road is ripio, but mostly the Chilean kind which is much easier than the Argentinian. South of Rio Gallegos (on the mainland) you have to cross from Argentina to Chile, then the Magellan Strait, then back into Argentina 50 miles north of Rio Grande on the Atlantic coast of Tierra del Fuego. The seafront at Rio Grande is lined with Heroes of the Malvinas memorials - this was a major air and naval base during the war.
The first sight of the Beagle Channel is off the scale.
And if you stopped every time you saw another big bike going north or south you'd never get anywhere. The most notable encounter was with Michel Marek the Mad Pole (first words "You must be the English lady" as he'd met the Austin Healey mob in Ushuaia).
So, I've finally made it to El Fin del Mundo after a ride of 33,167 miles in 16 months. And it was worth every mile.
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