Friday, 31 January 2014

279 Back to Bariloche and off to BA

Tuesday 28th Jan 2014
Miles Today 233  Total  38,891
We spent last night at a very pleasant campsite in an town called Esquel that allowed us to have a decent shower and clean up. Also internet access let us post the previous blog. Internet access around here is patchy. Many places only use a satellite link and it is seriously crap and is on and off all the time.

We set off for our final ride in the hire car and ended up back in Bariloche around 1pm. We booked into the same hotel as last time. The difference now is that the place is deserted. The hotel and the streets outside are virtually deserted.
We managed to get our laundry put in at the local 'Lavanderia'. £7 for a full service - nice.
Our main job for the day was to take the car back and rescue Wallace. We drove the 14km to the airport only to find the AVIS kiosk shut till 8:30 pm. We hugged Wallace and promised to be back for him ('her' if Karen reads this) and drove back into town for dinner. 

We eventually dumped the car and the AVIS rep did not bat an eyelid at the mileage or the state of the car. Wallace breathed a sigh of relief when I hit the starter and he was re-united with his family. We drove back into town and started to sort our kit out for the ride towards Buenas Aires tomorrow.

Wednesday 29th Jan 2014
Miles Today 0 Total  38,891
We awoke later than we intended today. I suppose 4 nights sleeping in the front seats of a Chevrolet Corsa had taken their toll on our bodies.
It did not take long for us to decide to stay another day at this hotel. Some would say we were just plain lazy. I would have to agree !
It did give us the opportunity to do some e-mails and research into our departure from South America. We managed to pencil in some flights for us but need to finalise the arrangements for Wallace before we book them. We finished the day off with some shopping and I bought a rather fetching Indiana Jones hat to replace the one I left in the motorhome we rented in California 6 years ago.

Thursday 30th Jan 2014
Miles Today 297 Total  39,188
We had just over 1000 miles to ride to Buenas Aires and 3 days to do it in so being clever we divided the journey roughly into 3. We wanted to do a bit more that 300 miles but there was nowhere to stay after our days stop at  a place called 'General Roca'.
The journey was a nightmare. Our rear tyre is badly worn (but not illegal I hasten to add). A bike tyre starts out round and squares off with wear. This gives some unusual handling on roads that are rutted from big trucks. Add to this the wind that had us riding sideways virtually all day and as you can imagine, it was hard work.
Besides this the scenery was very pleasant and made the trip more enjoyable (when I could look at it). 

We stopped eventually in General Roca and found a smashing little hotel for what we thought was about forty pounds, which overnight changed to 32 pounds.  Argentina's peso is going through a financial crisis, and it is working in our favour at the moment.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

278 More Patagonia

One thing we forgot to put in the last post was an incident at the hotel in Bariloche. When we went out into the town, I realized we had forgotten the camera so nipped back to the hotel to collect it. As I got out of the lift I saw our room was open and I could hear the cleaners giggling away inside. I walked in to find 4 of them in there and 2 of them had our helmets on. They did not see me immediately so I shouted WAAAAA.....
They all collapsed with embarrassed laughter and one took the helmet off, hid her face in her hands and ran out. It was hilarious. They were so embarrassed but hysterical at the same time. Needless to say I did not help them get over the embarrassment too quick, I was having far too much fun myself. They soon got the message that I really did not mind all and we all laughed it off in the end.

Saturday 25th Jan 2013
Miles Today  513  Total  37,731
After a very uncomfortable night’s sleep in the car we set off for another long slog South. Patagonia is an unbelievably large expanse of very little but low mountains and scrub. What does surprise us is the volume of wildlife (not the variation). There are llamas absolutely everywhere. On top of that we have now come across whole families of Darwin’s Rhea’s. They are like small ostriches but for some reason they seen to gravitate to the only strip of tarmac for hundreds of miles around, much like the llamas really !
However we cannot grumble at the scenery, although bare it had a strange beauty of it own in its rawness. Our reason for coming here was to see the Perito Moreno Glacier. Sadly we arrived a bit late and on arrival at the National Park gates only had an hour before closing and with an entry fee of £12 each decided to wait till the next day and drove back 50km to the only town in the region, El Calafate. We found the second most crappy campsite in the known universe, picked a spot and went out for some food. After grub we went in search of a local bar, to mix it with the locals and found one on the lake shore. We spent £4 each on a local liquid that the barman said was beer but we suspect it was brewed from llamas poo. It was disgusting, even for us beer monsters. Then it was off to seat, by this I mean ‘bed’ but as we were sleeping in the car, it was ‘seat’.

Sunday 26th Jan 2013
Miles  Today 353 Total  38,084
The sun was our alarm this morning but it allowed us to get an early start for the glacier. We spotted this beast on a fence post on the way there. We think it is a Black Chested Buzzard Eagle but as you can see it is not black but it’s our best guess. It was however huge and around 2 feet tall.

It was then on to the park and glacier. The glacier is one of the few in the world that is not shrinking and at several places reaches the moraine lake formed from shrinkage after the last ice age. This is good because you can sit and watch chunks of it fall off into the lake. It is absolutely incredible to watch and as you do you can hear the ice cracking inside the glacier. The blue colours in the ice are amazing and I hope the photos below show it.

We decided to leave the park early to do some bird watching in El Calafate and as we were leaving the park we came across this beast.

An Andean Condor. Now it is not a good photo as these things are a long way off but this bird has a 10 foot wingspan and when we first saw it, it was just above us. It was like a WW2 bomber. We were just a bit chuffed.

Then it was down to the glacial lake for some bird watching.

A family of geese.

Flamingo bums.

An Andean Ibis.

A local Lapwing.

At around 3 we went for some lunch and then it was the start of the long haul North and back to a lonely Wallace. Now imagine this. Virtually all of our 1000 mile route was on Ruta 40 (road 40) except the last 20 miles to/from El Calafete. Karen set off and although I usually navigate, this time I took the opportunity to look at some of the photos on the lap top. After a while I became annoyed at the sun streaming straight through the window and realized we were going South. Not a good idea. We stopped and I figured out that we had missed the only turn off in the whole journey and had covered an extra 20 miles. What a pair of muppets. That added an extra 40 miles to our return trip. Just what we needed – not !

I did not tell Karen how far we had gone astray till it was over. The view from our 'extra' mountain.

Our target for the day was a place called Gobernador Gregores. It was a long haul but there is not too much choice around these parts for fuel etc. It was another 300 or so km and just under half was dirt road. It was going to be a long drive and end up in the dark thanks to our cock up missing the turn off.
(Karen) Good grief he does go on, it added about half an hour to the journey, and we would still have arrived in the dark!

These roads are real bone shakers and the car rattled like mad.

Imagine driving from London to Birmingham on this as a main road. It is in Argentina.

We arrived at Gregores just after complete darkness at around 11pm. We filled up with fuel, got some dry food and drinks and settled down for the night in the petrol station car park along with another 7 various vehicles doing the same thing.

Monday 27th Jan 2014
Miles Today 574  Total  38,658
The sun got us out of ‘seat’ again and after using the petrol stations services we set off again. It was only 7:30 am. What is happening to us ?
We then drove in the early morning sunshine to the next sign of habitation (aside from the odd house) 150 miles away. In this distance we only saw 14 other vehicles and this was Monday morning rush hour.

Vast openness.

Doesn't he blend in well.  He just sat there ready for his public.

We stopped for breakfast of dried bread wrapped around a few microns of ham and cheese. The birds got the lions share after we left, as is Karen’s want. This place had a fuel pump that was working today, unlike when we stopped here 2 days ago.   Life is not easy or to be taken for granted out here.
I think I have mentioned it before but the wind here is a serious issue. In the UK we usually associate wind with anti-cyclones and hence bad weather, rain etc. Here it is a part of life. The wind is constant, extremely strong and a general pain in the butt. We have had a few brief spells of strong breeze strength wind but most of the time it is approaching gale force. The odd thing is that it is virtually always from the same direction and this dictates the direction many of their buildings face out of the cities. I posted a picture of a motorcycle coming towards us in the last post and aside from it also being a Yamaha Super Tenere like Wallace, you can see the rider fighting with the wind. He will be doing this all day, every day he is in Patagonia. This place has a fearsome reputation among adventure bikers for this reason, which along with the dirt roads that gives Ruta 40 it’s notoriety.
Some of you may remember Nick Sanders, an English guy who we met in Monument Valley, USA. He did the trip 3 times, back to back from the bottom of Argentina to Alaska in 3 months. One word: ‘Nutter’ !

Again... lots of this.

One of the churches we passed on our dash through.

It was like this all the time.

As I write this, Karen and I are agreeing that given our circumstances and time restraints we did the best thing in hiring a car. I think had we done it on the bike, it would likely have terminated any future trips on the bike, but who knows ?
Some people may think we are wimps. DILLIGAF. Google it.
On part of the dirt road today, we came across this little fellow. We had seen larger ones in Florida but never managed to get a photo. This little guy is just so cute.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

277 Into Patagonia

Monday 20th Jan 2013
Miles Today 274 Total  36,328
The long slog south starts today. After the Rally our aim is to get to and through Patagonia and then to Buenas Airies for out trip home so the order of the day is head down, arse up and go. Nothing of note today except miles of boring motorway.

Tuesday 21st Jan 2013
Miles Today 215 Total  36,543
We stopped for fuel and a cup of coffee at a Gasolinera. Whilst there, another biker pulled in for fuel, saw our UK plate and walked over to introduce himself. Brian Montague, from Dublin. He was a bloody nice chap and was on a Patagonia trip too. It was good to chat with a like minded guy for a while. At the same time a group of Brazilian riders came in. They were all with wives and on big bikes. They were en route to Ushuaia, the most Southerly city in the world. Again we chatted briefly and discussed itineraries as is the norm with bikers.
We drove further south and could see a definite German influence creeping in. So much so that we found a German restaurant and despite many pleas, they did not have currywurst, so I had settle for bratwurst and chips. Never the less it was wonderful.
We popped into a town called Temuco and bought some oil for Wallace's last change.
We ended our days travel at a town called Osorno, sadly soaking wet and a bit fed up. We had been warned about the wet weather by the Brazilians earlier.
 We found a small hotel with parking for Wallace. I asked if I could change Wallace's oil in the hotel car park and they even sought out a bowl to drain it into. Would that happen in the UK. No!
We were so tired we did not even bother with dinner and went to bed.

Wednesday 22nd Jan 2014
Miles Today 150 Total  36,693
Today we set off fairly early for our last border crossing. It was about 130km to the border and despite a clear start, the weather closed in very quickly. By the time we reached the border we were soaked and it was freezing cold. We had most of our kit on already and had not anticipated such cold weather in the height of summer and had (Ray), sent our heated gear back to the UK previously. The lonely Planet guide warned us of overheating and dust storms. We have been dogged by inclement weather for all of this trip so I suppose we should have anticipated it.  Doh!

Andean Ibis'

The vegetation has now changed to that akin to the UK in the summer.

Could be Surrey aside from the sign post.

The Lake district of Patagonia has started.

Its been wet lately as we well know.

One of the Caraca family.

Anyway, the exit border from Chile was actually 20km before the actual frontier. The exit was very quick and simple and there were signs telling you where to go and more importantly, in what order. Chile was a very westernized and organised place. We like it a lot.
After crossing the mountain pass and watershed of the Andes and into Argentine territory, we had another 13km ride to their border post. Here we met the Brazilians from the day before. It was not surprising really as there is only one road South. The border crossing was again very quick and efficient. The number of staff and sensible signage helping again. We set off  and left the Brazilians behind but they soon caught us up as I was driving very cautiously.
The rain was still very heavy and the road down the side of the Andes was windy and wet. Sadly, the dork that controlled the mixture for the road surfacing decided it would be a good idea to increase the amount of bitumen in the mix and as time has gone on, the bitumen had risen to the surface to form a very efficient bob sleigh run instead of a road. We were riding at only 25 or 30 mph and slower on the bends when the rear of the bike became twitchy as though I had a puncture. I slowed even more and said to Karen, “I think we may have a puncture”. 30 seconds later, we were halfway around a right hand bend when Wallace’s back wheel slid sideways. I kicked it back up and it just fell over onto the left side and we were all sliding merrily down the hill on the smooth bitumen. Wallace came to a halt on the opposite soft verge and Karen and I came to a halt in the middle of the road. Me on my bum and Karen on her hands and knees. We both quickly got up and aside from bumps and braises were in good fettle. Neither of us were looking forward to the adrenalin wearing
We were immediately joined by the Brazilians who had also commented on the slippery surface (they spoke good English). The helped up pick Wallace up and were extremely helpful and attentive. So much so that they insisted on waiting for us and rode with us till we got to the bottom of the mountain. Again, the good people of South America have shown us their worth.
Wallace had lost one of his metal boxes and after a bit of kicking at the mechanism it was good enough to put back on. I had holed my waterproof trousers and we both had bitumen stains on our jackets. They would normally have been worn away by road stone, sadly today there was little to be seen, hence our little tumble.
Wallace was remarkably unscathed. Aside from scratches on the crash bars and a small dent in one of the foot pegs there was no damage whatsoever.
I got back on to test the basic functions and absolutely nothing was amiss. It seems that the Ray school of crash bar manufacture is now certificated. Wohoo.
We both got back on and with the Brazilians as escort, gingerly finished off the crappy stretch of tarmac. Thanks guys.

It is funny, that we both have a slightly different recollection of the crash.  I don't remember any conversation at that time, although I do remember it from earlier in the day.  I was very aware that it was super slippy out there and I knew it had gone seriously wrong when the back slid off one way, so that we would land on our right side, but then flipped back and very gracefully, we landed on our left side.  Not the most appealing thing for me, as my left shoulder had only just got itself sorted from being broken.  However,  I don't really remember  touch down, but I did get a clean sweep with the medals, I slid the fastest, the longest and flipped from my back to my front in one continuous movement with thanks to adrenalin (normally I would do this with a lot of huffing, puffing and flailing of limbs).   Ray was up and about, I joined him and thank goodness we were all fine and the bike not too bad, poor old Wallace.  As Ray said we were then joined by the other riders who helped us, but in all honesty, right at that moment the last thing I wanted to do was get back on the bike, but it is probably a good thing I did.  In a split second of sliding along the road, I must have had a dozen thoughts, one of them being, having watched super bikes, and when they crash, the riders try to stay in the same position till they stop, and also thinking, I don't know where I am in the road, I've got to get out of the way of other traffic.  Anyway, the shock set in later, and the bruises started to shout, but all in all we were very lucky, and we can still finish off the trip and my shoulder is fine despite the fall.  

We got to the next village, Valle La Angostura, and went in search of a hotel. It was earlier than we wanted but we were wet and pissed off so an early day seemed appropriate. Sadly, there was a small army of bikers all looking for beds in a village that was clearly full to capacity already. We ran into some Australian bikers who had rented bikes here. They were having the same trouble as us. We all then decided to ride to the next city, San Carlos De Bariloche. We left first and with haste telling the Auzzies that we wanted to beat them to it. Fortunately they laughed, there was a lot more of them !!
We got to Bariloche and on the way there the weather broke and the sun came out. The difference was incredible. The place was absolutely beautiful. We were now in Patagonia’s lake district.

The weather was starting to brake. At last.

We found a hotel after about the fifth attempt and they could accommodate Wallace too. Bonus !
We occupied our room and went next door the Rock Chicken restaurant. Aside from chicken they also had Stella Artois beer in liter bottles and at only £1.75 a bottle. If anything could cheer us up it was this. Wohoo again. We popped some Ibuprofen to stop us whining about our bruises and we were well away.
We were not long going to bed, we were knackered, sore and just a bit fed up, especially me – I felt guilty about dropping Wallace but Karen kept telling me not to be stupid. Come to think of it, she does that a lot.

Thursday 23rd Jan 2014
Miles Today 0 Total  36,693
We awoke late, missed breakfast aside from grabbing a coffee for our room and decided to stay another day. We needed to chill out a bit, we have ridden some long days recently and yesterdays fall has left us both with aches and pains. Again, nothing serious, but deliberate movements bought on niggling muscle aches. In retrospect, it was a good idea as we went into town for a walk. The town was beautiful. It was a ski resort in their winter and for what it looked like, we could have been sat in Europe somewhere during the European summer. The only downside was that the cold snap had bought the snow to the mountains about 3 months early and it was bloody freezing.

Karen in the town center of Bariloche.

Graffitti sucks...   everywhere.

Last nights rain fell as snow on the pass we came through.

Zig Zag road like in San Francisco.

The Tyrolean (Austrian) bar.

We had a heart to heart and decided to give Wallace and us a rest for the next few days. On looking at the map, to get to where we wanted to go was a one way trip of over 900 miles and we were running out of time so we decided to try and hire a car as it was easy to do ridiculous mileages in a car that would not be thinkable on Wallace. Aside from that we know that the journey includes hundreds of miles of punishing dirt roads. Easy enough solo but when 2 up it was a lot harder.  On top of that Wallace would need a new rear tyre for the trip, about £180 here and we could also sleep in the car to save ourselves some of the hire costs. Add to this the fact that the weather was about 10C colder than normal. It was a no brainer, after all we are here to enjoy the place, not endure it.
The only other thing I needed to do today was to get some obligatory insurance for Wallace. We tried yesterday at our first village but the offices were all closed so it had to be done today. I was not risking being a Brit and being stopped by the Argentine police for misbehaving. The political situation between Britain and Argentina is the worst it has been since the Falklands war in 1992.
I had a lot of running around to do but sorted it in the end. 200 pesos, about £18.
On the way back from the insurers I found pub land. Austrian,  Irish, Scandinavian and others. Guess where we went to finish the day off !

Friday 24th Jan 2014  525m
Miles Today 525  Total  37,218
Following an early night we woke early, in time for a crap breakfast in fact. We are so looking forward to getting home to a good old fashioned English breakfast.
We checked out quickly and rode to the airport to try and get a car. We know we would be struggling. Having tried on-line to hire a car, they were either sold out or only had expensive 4x4’s available. We were in luck. An English couple were at the AVIS desk waiting to check a cheap car in. We took the dirty car as was for £266. Normally there is a 200km per day limit but we managed to get it with unlimited mileage. We did not tell him we would be bringing it back in 5 days with 3000km more on the clock. 
We parked Wallace as secure as possible in and AVIS bay, took all our gear off and headed into the hills at 10:30am. It was a long day and even accounting for the dirt roads, we managed to clock up over 500 miles. We found a campsite in Perito Moreno (this name is used a lot around here) at around 10:30pm, got our sleeping bags out and I fell asleep curled up in the driver’s seat in seconds, much to Karen’s annoyance. 

The Patagonian scenery was vast and beautiful. But after 1000 miles even this gets boring.

A real Argentinian Gaucho. 

These were everywhere. 

A Scottish connection ??

Will you stop this beast so I can get off....