When we wrote last we were just about to board the Ferry in Puerto Natales, Chile. Wow, what a trip, it was definately the way to go as there are no roads in Southern Chile and the only other option was the notorious Route 40- a rough gravel road in Argentina running along the top of the Andes.
Pat and Luis enjoyed the break from driving and Belinda enjoyed the break on her bum! We sat back like a couple of oldies on a cruise ship and read, ate, slept, OK- we did party a bit too and Belinda even excelled at Bingo, though always yelling "Bingo" too late!!! The cruise was expensive at US$250 each, but we probably saved that much on maintenance on the bike, tyres etc!!
We arrived 3 days later at Puerto Montte, Chile and went straight to the seafood market and had the best feed of mixed seafood soup and Chillean Salmon- Yummo!! The scenery around the Chillean Lake District was awesome with gorgeous, quaint, German-style lakeside villages everywhere. Currently Chile is way more expensive than Argentina, so we splurged for our last night in Chile and had a lovely lakeside cabin with cable TV!!
Next morning we drove through wonderful scenery, crossed the Andes and back into wonderful Argentina. January is a terrible time to travel in Argentina as everyone else is travelling and the Cheilleans are over here too, cause its so cheap! We had a lot of trouble finding accomodation and ended up in a backpackers on the top of a hill in Bariloche. It was 11pm when we finally arrived there after checking heaps of places to stay- all completo- (full). We were following a guy on a motorcycle up a dark, sandy road climbing the hill to the backpackers, when the inevitable happened- we fell- first fall in the trip! Luis came around the corner behind us and thought we were getting robbed! He jumped off his bike in persuit of the robbers, only to find that there werent any!! Pat, with a little help from Belinda, picked the fully loaded bike up, swore a bit and we continued unhurt to the "bloody backpackers" as Pat called it. cont...
We moved out next morning to a lovely place in the centre of Bariloche and awaited the arrival of Luis¨s family, Oscar, Nancy and The Bustas!! We had a midday sleep in preparation for the sleep deprivation we knew we were going to get when the Notorious Oscar and Crew arived!!
Bariloche is a gorgeous ski town- a bit like Jasper in the Rockies in Canada. The next day our wonderful travel companion Luis left with his fantastic family. I hope they realise what a great son they have. Luis was the ideal travel companion- really easygoing, prepared to try anything, talk to anyone and would follow Pat anywhere- no questions asked!! All ten of us were crying at his departure- a part of us was going home- I am crying even as I write this. The only problem with travelling and meeting great people is the inevitable goodbye- but its better to "love and loose, than never to love at all ". Bye mate- we will never forget you.
For the next few days we rode, explored, ate and partied in the arms of "Oscar and crew". We couldnt keep up and "hit the road again" 4 days later in search of some sleep!!! We said goodbye to the "troops" on the side of the road- we didnt want the people at the hotel to think that all Australians do is cry!! We really enjoyed the company of our friends from Viedma- our Argentinian home- and were all in tears again as we rode off into the future and the final stages of our trip.
We rode about 200km per day, stopping at lovely little villages until we got to Valle Grande, near San Raffael. We met a great Chillean family at a service station and they told us we must go to Valle Grande. Well it was fantastic- a wonderful road following a Huge Gorge down to a lake and then a whitewater river. The river had many lakeside cabanas, rafting companies, ski boats- just our scene. We stayed for a couple of days "playing" in the water. We went down the river on a surf ski and it was awesome!! Pat had an out of control boat and tipped 3 times (maybe it was him that was out of control!!), Belinda yelled out "undalay, undalay" (faster, faster)- it was such a hoot!!
We are now in Mendosa- the wine capital of Argentina. We are getting some work done on the bike in preparation of selling it in Santiago in the next few weeks. With all these wonderful families we keep meeting Belinda is getting a little homesick for her wonderful family, especially her 2 year old nephew Daniel.
On our way to Ushuaia we diverted off highway 3 for a bit of a gravel run to El Calefate to see the famous Perito Moreno Glacier (well, famous in these parts anyway!!). It was amazing, one of the most spectacular sites we have seen, rivaling Iguassu Falls!! The Glacier moves 2 metres per day and ¨calves off¨ every 10 minutes into a large glacial lake. It sounds like a huge roaring animal and is mesmerising- Pat watched it for 4 whole hours and saw some amazingly large slabs fall off into the lake creating enormous waves!! We were lucky that day in that it was warm and sunny, with very little wind.
We then continued on good roads to Ushuaia- the most southern town in the world- or Ënd of the World¨as they call it here!! It is in a spectacular setting with snow capped peaks behind, a sheltered strait in front and more snow capped peaks across the strait. We stayed in a great place on top of the hill called Apart Alem overlooking the city and the water and we watched the cruise ships arriving daily from Antarctica and the sun setting at 11pm and rising at 3am (we didnt see to many sunrises!!) There was no TOTAL darkness in between- amazing.
Xmas Eve we had a party in our apartment and invited everyone from the top floor to attend, it was an international party with guests from around the world. Xmas Day turned out to be sunny and beautiful. We met a group of 12 motorcyclists at the end of the world sign at the end of the route 3 in the National Park. We saw 12 other motorcyclists in Ushuaia that had no meeting place or time for the annual traditional motorcycle rondevou in Ushuaia.
We stayed in Ushuaia for 6 wonderful days partying with motorcyclists from around the world. We met lots more in the next few days on the road north to Puerto Natales.
In this portion of the trip we were rather lucky not to experience the hazardous 150 Km winds known to frequent the Patagonian region in summer.
We arrived in a lovely little village called Puerto Natales, got a group of 11 together and had a fantastic New Years Eve dinner and party. We all said our New Years Resolutions. Ours was that year 2002 has been the best year in our lives and we want them to keep getting better every year!!
Tonight, we are getting on the ferry for 4 days heading north towards Puerto Montte through the fjiords and beneath the glaciers, heading towards some warmth!!
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