After four days of progress north seeing nothing but flat pampas stretching from one horizon to the next, we finally reached the Welsh region of Patagonia at Trelew and decided to have a two night stop.
This meant that we had a chance to visit the largest penguin colony outside of Antarctica. Much to Jean's joy, although we are in the last 2 weeks of the fledgling season before they all migrate north to the sea off Brazil, there were still penguins to be seen.
Lots of penguins.
At the entrance as I was paying I heard Jean shout "look... penguins! "
I turned but all I could see were small bushes.
Both Jean and the park ranger stood next to me said "there, there, there , there ......."
The landscape was dotted with them.
Unlike our previous colony visit while in Punta Arenas where we saw 50 to 100 penguins, here there were tens of thousands.
The ranger made sure we understood that we had to stay on the path, keep a metre from the penguins and not to touch them, someone should have told the penguins all that.
They lolled about n the path, they walked across it and one pecked at me as we tried to cross a bridge that had been built to protect their walkway.
With all the wildlife we have seen on this trip living in their natural environments we both doubt that seeing creatures in a zoo will ever be the same again.
As we left the park we bumped into Cindy and Gert who we had last seen in Puerto Natales after spending 4 days with them on our boat trip to Puerto Natales.
A few minutes later on the dirt road out of the park we encountered Beto and Tracy who are also doing a long bike trip, who we last saw 2 months ago at Huacachina and the sand dunes in Peru.
Despite all taking very different routes, in different time frames, it never cease to amaze me how we keep meeting the same people.
Jean's big day out then continued with a side trip to a Welsh tea shop for a slap up "all you can eat" afternoon tea.
I think it is fair to say that she was a very happy bunny by the evening.
As I've already mentioned this part of Argentina is a flat and windy landscape, the wind was (and still is) blowing from the west causing us to ride with the bikes at an angle, much as if we are constantly turning left. At the end of each day we have stiff necks due to angle we have held our bodies.
At one point in the middle of nowhere I decided to stop and take some pictures so I could convey the emptiness.
While fumbling to get the camera out I dropped a glove, which immediately blew away. I quickly realised that I could not get off the bike as the wind was so strong it was starting to blow it over.
No matter how I tried to position the bike, it was never going to stand on its own. So there was only one thing for it - "lets go off road!". I had to ride across the pampas and stop next to the glove, stamp on it, and then show Jean just how flexible I was as I bent to pick it up while holding the bike upright.
It did mean I was in a good spot to get a picture of Jean though.
But still not out.
After all the bad roads we have crossed :- The gravel, the mud, the sand and the ripio.
A roundabout on tarmac in Argentina is the scene of my worst spill so far.
Its not as if I was going fast, around 35mph (60km/h for any Canadians still reading).
We were going straight on, I entered the roundabout , looked to my right to see if any vehicles were approaching from the next exit and then .......
.... sky, road , roundabout, bike, spin.
The back end just broke away, the bike went down on its left, I completed at least one 360 degree spin (Jean thinks it may have been two) and then pushed myself away and span on my back like a turtle with the bike close behind.
I think Jean was relieved to see me sit up, I was relieved to see that Jean had not followed me.
The first two cars that followed just steered round me and carried on, the third stopped to help us pick the bike up.
Once again I am grateful to the panniers supplied by Vern at Project VND , because they prevented my leg from being caught under the bike as it slid and spun, and enabled me to slide clear.
I've sprained my ankle, my shoulders feel sore and have crashed tested the Kevlar in my jeans and the padding in my jacket. I can report that all works fine.
The bike has even more scratches and dints in the left pannier, the indicator needed more gaffa tape and the bars have bent. Also my nice muffs that keep the rain off are no longer on the left.
A few straps that hold on kit have been torn, but we had extras.
We can only assume I hit a patch of oil, oh well 21500 miles (34000 kms) gone, just another 187 miles (300kms) to manage before we catch a flight to Europe.
On the road all kit is useful, however some kit is more useful than others.
By far the most useful and utilised is gaffa/duct tape for its ability to stick anything back together again.
However we carried and collected a few other items that have been invaluable to us.
The Washing Machine
Clothes were mostly washed by jumping up and down on them in the shower while applying Dove soap, but sometimes a more thorough wash was required and there was not always a handy launderette in some remote places.
The solution (as suggested by pannier man, Verne) was to utilise one of our waterproof packing bags.
Here, we see Jean loading our towels in, we would then fill it with water and add detergent. Next the bag would be sealed and strapped to a bike for the day. The water would then be heated by the sun and the bike motion agitated the clothes.
At the end of a days riding we simply drained the bag, rinsed the clothes and dried them. This method is highly recommended for jeans and shirts.
The coffee maker (sock)
We came across this useful item in Panama with the help of our friend Norman.
All you need to do is add ground coffee to the sock and pour on water, perfect filtered coffee each morning. And then it folds flat.
The washing line
Well, we have to dry things out.
The Bike Stand
Unfortunately we don't have a photo of this highly useful, multi purpose item in action as it has now been left in a book exchange.
We had aftermarket main stands fitted to our bikes so we could work on the rear wheels and chains more easily. However they didn't raise the bikes high enough to free the back wheel. So the Lonely Planet Guide to South America was just the right thickness (opened at the 'Columbia' page) to place under the stand and increase its height.
Thats two continents down, at least one to go. No more bikes have fallen over recently.
It has been a quiet week, especially with me limping everywhere.
We spent most of the week sleeping and socialising in the garage at Dakar Motors, who have a workshop with a 'hostel' attached.
Basic, but functional, and shared with other bikers and travelers.
We managed to fill one night, along with about 40,000 others, at an Iron Maiden stadium concert.
The next few days were taken up with arranging to fly the bikes to Madrid and running around drawing large sums of money from all our bank accounts as the freight companies would only deal in cash.
This of course set alarm bells off at the bank and our cards got blocked.
We last saw the bikes on Monday, rumour has it we may get to see them this weekend in Madrid.
We made the effort to put some weight back on by eating steak, a lot of it. And I can finally say that the best steak of the trip has been here, a whole side shared between four of us.
We counteracted this with some new transport in case our bikes fail to reappear.
The Americas by numbers
Distance = 21571 miles/ 34800 kms
Countries visited = 16
Punctures = Zero / zilch / none / nada
Oil Changes = 4 per bike
Chains changed = None
Tyres = 2 rear / 1 front (Both bikes)
Extra tools bought/acquired = 1 large spanner, 1 electrical wire stripper/cutter, 1 electric tyre pump
Breakdowns due to electrical problems = 3 (Bruce)
Broken suspension = 1 (Jean), rear shock
Dropping/Crashing Bike = 5 (Bruce) , 3 Jean
Injuries, Bruce = 1, sprained ankle from most recent crash on roundabout.
Injuries, Jean = 1, dog bit leg in Bolivia.
Hospital treatment = 1 (Jean) in Peru, persistent intestinal infection.
Items of new clothing bought / acquired = 4 (Jean), 5 (Bruce)
Items of clothing thrown away = 4 (Jean), 4 (Bruce)
Most bulky yet rarely used item = Coleman petrol stove.
Penguins seen = 1000's
We left Buenos Aires in the autumn and 12,000k later arrived in Madrid in the spring. It took us 12 hours in the air to travel half of what took 7 months on the ground.
The steak in Argentina is as good as its renowned to be. We shared a slab with Cindy and Geert at a parilla (BBQ restaurant) in Buenos Aires.
My first impression of Bueno Aires was that it was quite similar to Madrid. But now I've had a good look at Madrid again I don't think this is true
Buenos Aires is like a much loved and well used designer shoe, all scuffed around the edges but worn with attitude.
Madrid is like a well cared for vintage shoe, stylish and immaculately kept.
Continuing on the shoe theme, here are our feet on the centre of Spain marker in the Plaza Del Sol, Madrid.
We managed to leave Buenos Aires without any (more) mishaps, and arrived in Madrid at 05:30. As it was dark we could see straight away the moon was back the right way up, and waning in the correct direction. The bikes flew to London before joining us by Sunday.
In Argentina drivers would look at us as they failed to hit us, back in Europe they are looking at their mobiles.
We aren't going directly home, but faffing about in Spain and France before bimbling back through the UK and have just spent a few days riding north of Madrid with Mike and Moira who came out with Aidan and Angela to meet us.
Yesterday I gloated about the bike chain life, today we had them changed. By a Spanish motocross champion at a KTM dealer. Apparently they were rotten.
We are now in Alicante and will make (slow) progress north from here, I doubt I will make any/many more blog entries now we are back on home turf.
A few days ago we still had to put used toilet paper in a bin, now we can put it down the pan again.
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