November 18, 2012 GMT
Argentina - Fitz Roy to Ushuaia

Still in Fitz Roy we are up and at em early-ish, the sun is out, it's still semi-windy but there is no dust storm, so we pack up, Skill takes the bike seat off to find the tubing to decant some fuel into our emergency bottles (starting to get a little further between fuel stops now). There is sand/dust in every nook and cranny, under the seat, covering the battery, in the tool compartment, everywhere, all from the dust storm.

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Filling emergency fuel containers and cleaning out sand/dirt

We decide to skip Puerta Deseado, get fuel and we are off, it's cold today (about 8 degrees C) and we don't get far before the wind picks up again and we are buffeted for the next 100 km to Tres Cerros where surprisingly there is a big YPF service station and hotel and nothing else in the middle of the desert. We refuel the bike and ourselves and sit inside in the sun out of the wind to warm up. We then make a move and do another windy 100km to Puerto San Julian where we discover the town's highlights before finding an expensive dodgy cabana, beggars can't be choosers. As I look out the window across the main road I see a travellers bike come into town. They are 2-up and the poor guys are struggling in the wind just like us.

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The highlights of Puerto San Julian (There is also a national park where you may see the Commerson's dolphins apparently)

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It is also at Puerto San Julian we see our first flamingo!

Well no, not really, we did see real pink flamingos on the ride into Sarmiento but we were too tired and sick to take photos

Next morning the wind is still howling but we decide to move on, as we get on the bike I say to Skill “You know I am absolutely terrified in this wind don't you?” His calming response is, “You will be OK and its only 150km, Lan”. OK stop being a princess and get going, we refuel and ride in the wind getting the usual buffeting, bike tyre skidding, helmet wrenching and today I experience another phenomenon, the wind is coming up underneath my rain jacket and physically lifting my armpits up, I feel like I am a giant parachute. Skill said he thought the fuel economy suddenly went bad????? When the sidewinds are really bad I try my yoga breathing to calm myself and when that doesn't work I seem to hum “Don't Cry for me Argentina” I am not sure why, because that doesn't work either. Skill says he hasn't got time to do anything other than keep the bike upright and sort of on the right side of the road.

We arrive at Comandante Luis Piedra Buena (yes that's the name of the town) alive and windblown, it is a neat green little town, much nicer that Puerto San Julian. We ride around to have a look before heading out to Isla Pavon where they have a picnic area and camping ground a few kilometers out of town. Amazingly someone had the forethought to plant 100s of poplar trees that act as an amazing windbreak, some must be 50 meters high and planted so close together they almost form a wall. We decide to camp even though the winds are still howling but the camping areas are quite sheltered and almost still.

We find milk, cold beer and water so don't have to go back into town and just chill back for the afternoon and do a few jobs, get the washing done, also time for Skill to have a bit of a sideburn trim. As I am cutting his hair with my nail scissors the caretaker lady walks over, indicates that she is a hair dresser and takes over the job. Bargain! Camping and a haircut.

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Skill getting a free haircut with my nail scissors

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Camp at Pavon Island

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Sunset at Pavon Island

Well the camping was actually not a bargain, it was very expensive and they assured us there was hot water. Well there was no hot water so we couldn't shower and next morning the toilets had all backed up and overflowed the whole toilet block - all for more than triple the price of any other camping place we have stayed so far, we are not very happy with the rip off! We want a partial refund, but since we don't speak any Spanish, it would be more trouble than it was worth.

But that night as we pondered over which one of our emergency meals we would have for dinner, pasta, soup or risotto, a family moves in next door and begins to prepare for an asado. Hmm, makes our dinner look a bit grim.

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A local family preparing for an asado

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They start to cook the salted whole lamb about mid-afternoon. A few whole chickens were cut open butterfly-style then salted and put on the horizontal grill with hot coals under it from the main fire, then beef roast and sausages also went on the grill later again.

About this point another guy walks over and tells me (Skill is down by the river) we will have to move the bike off the field out to the dodgy parking area . “NO” I say. He continues on with a little bit of English “You will move moto, festival tomorrow” “NO” I say again. Minana vamos. Las diez en punto. Camping uno nochos. He persists and so do I “NO NO NO we are not parking the bike out there.” We come to an agreement, we will put the bike into our poplar enclosed camping area beside the tent. Skill comes back when the debacle is over and after listening to the story says “Are you still friends then?” “I think so” I say. We manoeuvre the bike into the enclosure.

By 10.45 we have had our not-so-gastronomic risotto feast and around 11.00 pm we are in bed reading.

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Dinner

I am actually nearly asleep, when there is a “Hello, you come eat”. Our asado party are inviting us to eat. We would dearly have loved to (it smelled great), but had just eaten and were both in our sleeping bags nearly asleep. Besides I would have terrified them if they had seen me in my thermals. (I look like a big blue worm squeezed in the middle) We politely thanked them over and over again for their kind offer, and really hope we didn't offend them. The Argentinians are on the whole a really friendly lot.

We wake reasonably early and take out our earplugs, there is something wrong, I'm not sure what it is. “OH MY GOD NO WIND” The day is incredibly calm, a quick cereal breakfast, cup of tea, and a speedy pack up, we are on the road by 9.30am (By the way absolutely no sign of the festival organisers).

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Getting the bike out of the poplar lined camping enclosure

What a great ride, we get to enjoy the scenery see more flamingoes at a distance and even take a few Guanaco photos, and do battle with the Rheas that look like a small Emu and seem to possess exactly the same limited number of brain cells when near roads.

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Guanacos - they can jump the fences with ease, even with no run-up.

We arrive in Rio Gallegos after being waved through a couple of police checkpoints, it has been a great ride, we actually got to enjoy the stark scenery. We find a hotel, leave our bags in the foyer (rooms not ready) and find a great place to eat. As I said some days are easy. This was one of them, we check out the sites of the town and walk along the river foreshore where we think there must be a festival in progress. Most of the town is out along the waterfront, picnicking on the grass, playing games, or just walking. Every open space area is literally packed with people. But we found no festival, we think it was just because it was sunny warm day with no wind on a Sunday that everyone was out enjoying themselves. Along with this, there was a major traffic jam with all the young lads out with their cars giving their best to outdo each other with loud exhausts and even louder music. It is the Hunter Street of Argentina. (The Newcastle Song)

We leave Rio Gallegos with the intention of stopping in Cerro Sombrero if the conditions are bad, but once again the Gods are being kind and there is NO wind, not a breath. On the bike and away by 8.30, we ride to the border (Argentina/Chile) to find the Yamaha Tenere 660 travelers Bike parked out the front (the same bike I saw come into Puerto San Julian). After a brief chat with German owners Ingolf and Antje we manage to negotiate our way through the border and ride the 50 km to Punta Delgada where we meet up again and wait to catch the Ferry. We have a chance to have a longer chat, like us they are on a long term journey.

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Looking back to Punta Delgada

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Catching the Ferry to Chile

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Antje and Ingolf

The ferry crossing is calm and quick. It is still early by the time we refuel in Cerro Sombrero so decide to press on, the next 110 km is gravel, but not overly difficult and unbelievably we still have no wind. The scenery is stark but incredibly impressive, we really enjoy the ride.

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The ride to San Sebastian

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The ride to San Sebastian

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Guanacos cross here

We make it to San Sebastian, lunch (4.30pm) at a delightful little restaurant and do yet another border crossing – Chile to Argentina with the Chilean authorities and then 5 km up the road we deal with the Argentinian contingent. We still have hours of daylight so on to Rio Grande, where we run into Ingolf and Antje yet again. After a few fruitless attempts to secure accommodation (all outrageously expensive) we settle for sharing an adequate over heated 2 bedroom apartment in an old run down hotel, and share a lovely evening with Ingolf and Antje, the first travellers we have met on the road.

The further South we have come the more and more expensive accommodation has become, our beautiful double room with ensuite in San Andes de Los Martin only cost $39 AUD, yet we have paid up to $75 AUD for the dodgy cabana (which only slept two) in Puerto San Julian. It seems to be the less touristed the town, the less options you have and the more expensive the rooms are. We really hope that on the way back North the weather is better and we can camp more as most campgrounds range from adequate to amazing.

Next morning we are up and at em early, and we can't believe it, still NO WIND. We say goodbye to our new delightful friends, refuel and we ride the now paved 250km to Ushuaia in near still conditions. I say to Skill “Can you believe this, we have battled the wind for two weeks, and we get to ride the supposed windiest part, Tierra Del Fuego in absolutely perfect conditions, how lucky are we???”

The ride is stunning, we admire the huge and well kept estancias (large farms), ogle at the scenery and the closer we get to Ushuaia the more beautiful and vegetated the landscape becomes. Up and over the amazingly impressive snow strewn Garibaldi Pass, down the other side and suddenly we are there. Welcome to Ushuaia. WOW!!!!!

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Morning Tea Stop at a River on the way to Ushuaia

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What a view with our cuppa!

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On the way up the Garibaldi Pass

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Just over the Garibaldi Pass

We are getting better at hand-held video from the bike, check out this clip that Lan took on the Garibaldi Pass, copy and paste the following to view in Youtube -
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gmrDhTD_4mY&feature=youtu.be

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Welcome to Ushuaia

I guess this blog sounds a little negative, the wind has certainly made life on the bike difficult, but we are still lucky to be here seeing the things we are seeing, meeting the people we are meeting, and generally living our simple and somewhat nomadic life.

Cheers and Beers,
John & Lan

Things that we find amusing (NB: we are staying mostly in cheaper places)

I have not seen one single plug for a sink since entering South America. I don't know how they wash up.

Plumbing, we are yet to find a toilet that actually flushes properly AND then stops running. Most showers don't drain, not always because of blockages but usually because the drain hole is the highest point in the shower floor. Most sink/shower taps and flick mixers are not attached to to the bench/wall and are only held in place by the water pipes they are connected to.

Most toilet seats are broken, ie not actually attached to the pedestal so you slide off when you sit down, or the lid won't stay up, or it smacks you in the back when you sit on the seat, or all of the above.

Oh and just like many parts of Asia and the middle-east, we are back to putting toilet paper in the bin beside the toilet, not into the toilet (it's funny how you forget all these things when in the comfort of your own home for a while).

Posted by John Skillington at November 18, 2012 06:45 PM GMT
 


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