Friday, 7 December 2012

CHAPTER. DONE!

WE HAVE ARRIVED !

WE HAVE ARRIVED !

WE.HAVE ARRIVED !


And the pictures say it all-

Arctic !


-

Antarctic !



The top of the world




The bottom of the world





Leaving Vancouver. 1 July 2012





Arriving Ushuaia. 6 December 2012!





And of the arrival into Ushuaia? Well those 99 kilometers counted down quickly. It was 40 km to go. Then 20 km! Then 10 km......

At the 5 km mark there were a few people on the side of the road. Then they were lining the road. Then they were several deep. They looked happy! They were throwing rose petals on the road. They were cheering! They were waving New Zealand flags! The cheering changed to a roar as Richard John Hubbard and Diana Katherine Hubbard rode triumphantly into Ushuaia. The oldest ( or at least the most mature!) couple to have ever ridden a motorbike " 2 up " from Prudhoe Bay to Ushuaia had arrived.

Church bells started peeling. The message went out round the world!

Then of course there was the civic welcome. The mayor, the brass bands and all the Tierra del Fuego celebs were there. The President of Argentina flew in specially. She graciously pronounced an Argentine public holiday to be forthwith as "Kiwi Day" to mark the occasion.

Messages poured in from overseas! The President of Chile pointed out ( a little huffily!) that without Chile owning half of Tierra Del Fuego we would have never made it.

And of course our beloved Prime Minister of New Zealand and said he was the "Key" to our success! He then declared that all the new cycle ways he is building in New Zealand would henceforth become motorcycle ways!

The Prime Minister of Australia indicated that there must be an Australian connection somewhere!

Then it was the dawn break at the dawn break. I woke with a start! The dream was over. But it was a nice dream anyway and the most important thing was that we were really really were in Ushuaia.

In Prudhoe bay I picked up a little stone at the waterline of the bay and put in in my tank bag. It was now placed gingerly at the waters edge at the bay at the end of the road ( El Fin Del Mundo) in Ushuaia. You have travelled from one end of the earth to the other little stone!









And finally a few statistics

We have travelled 37,875 kms
We have passed through 14 countries
We have done 19 border crossings
We have had no speeding tickets
We have not hit anything or been hit by anything or anybody
We have gently tipped over and off 3 times
We have had no breakdowns or punctures
We have had no sickness
We have had thousands of laughs
We know each other better

And we believe we truly are the oldest couple in the world to have done this trip two up on a motorbike .

The world has not changed because of what we have done but we have !

Was it about the journey or the destination? It was about both. They are intertwined concepts and you cannot separate the two out. And that applies to life really also. This we now know!

And on that note............


CHAPTER. THE FIGHTING FIFTIES

No,we are not talking about age here. We are talking about the latitude below the roaring forties and just as mariners feared these winds so do or should the motorcyclists in Tierra del Fuego. It seems as if these southern global winds that circumnavigate the globe at the 50's latitudes do not slow down at all for the little bit of land that juts into the southern ocean and culminates at Cape Horn,

Radioman checks the wind



So into the cross winds we rode as we headed down to the ferry crossing of the narrowest part of the Magellan straits. It was hard work leaning the bike sideways into the strong gusts. It was a nice relief to get to the ferry and find that in spite of high winds it was still operating.













So across to Tierra del Fuego it was and down the road to a nice warm and welcoming hotel at the town of Cerro Sombrero.

The last of a total of 19 border crossings!



Then dawned " the day ", the final day and the ride into Ushuaia. Just a matter of one final border crossing back into Argentina and suddenly in early afternoon the GPS showed 99 km to Ushuaia! It was indeed a strange feeling after 39,000 odd kilometers to see that there was less than 100 kilometers to go and we would be there

In case we forget!




Almost,almost almost there!



What happening next? Well that has to be a chapter in itself does it not!


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Monday, 3 December 2012

CHAPTER. DON'T CRY FOR ME ARGENTINA!


We are now in Argentina and in the Argentinian version of Patagonia. It is very different from the Chilean version. The Argentinian side is the dry side and therefore is largely barren, bleak and treeless.

But then it has Ruta 40 - that famous road that has been known to reduce grown men (or, at least motorcyclists) to tears and wrecks Why so?

"Now what is that brown stain on my bike seat? "



Well firstly about two thirds of this "Rollicking Ruta" is still gravel and this amounts to about 400 km of the 600km section down to El Calafate. It is gradually being sealed but the gravel section is a lot of loose metal. And very loose at that with lots of nice round rolling river stones to keep the bike like a bucking horse.

Then overlay this with the wind! We only had a brief taste of the famed wind and were very lucky but it can quite readily blow motorbikes from one side of the road to the other and off the road ( and it does!) Cross winds on loose gravel roads on a motorbike are ugly indeed.




Then to this mix you add the cold and you get the picture. So you "survive" Ruta 40 rather than ride it. And we did I am pleased to say . Did the bikes stay " paint side up" all the way? Well let us just say " mostly" and leave it at that !




So we rode out of Perito Moreno and across the bleak and relatively featureless Patagonian steppe. For the first while it was lovely high speed sealed road but alas and alack then came the deadly gravel. And to make it annoying there are big stretches that are sealed or almost sealed but they are closed off and you have the bumpy gravel temporary road on the side to travel on. The nicely sealed road is out to the side goading you.

And our road is out to the left on the fence line



And in the middle of Day One on Ruta 40 right in the bleakest most inhospitable part we came across a man pushing a pram. It was Richard from South Africa who was walking and pushing a 3 wheeled pram ( with his camping gear in it rather than a baby!) As he headed north. He had started out in Ushuaia and was walking to Mendoza in Argentina from where he was going to climb Mt Aconcagua ( which is the highest mountain in the world outside of the Himalayas and is 23,000 ft ). As you do I suppose! Several years ago he had walked from Capetown to the base of Mt Kilimanjaro and then climbed it. So he seemed to know what he was doing. He was a nice chap and saw nothing unusual with what he was doing

A man not caring a damm about pushing a pram!



So after a long tiring day in the saddle we pulled into the town with the sexy sounding name of Gobernador Gregores which is the half way point for this section of the " Rolling Ruta"

Day 2 and it is more of the same as we head down to El Calafate and it was rather nice to see the fleshpots of a tourist town after the " Rigours of the Ruta" ! El Calafate is the gateway town to the increasingly popular world famous Perito Moreno glacier and has up to 3,000 tourists in it on anyone day.

So it was then a rest day in El Calafate and we did the day trip up to the glacier , the boat trip and the glacier walk. Again let the photos do the talking as they say it all.








Now just how do I pull my motorbike up after me?







And one suddenly realized this was our first rest day or non riding day since Antofagasta in northern Chile nearly three weeks ago. We were not tired but it was kinda nice to have two nights in one place.

And how many men does it take to fix a lady's helmet?



From El Calafate it is again south into the noticeably increasingly cold wind to the border crossing back into Chile so we could visit the Los Torres de Paine National Park. This is supposed to be the most spectacular National Park in South America. Alas the weather was overcast with light drizzle so we did not see the famed Torrres in all their naked glory. However as a consolation prize we stayed in an upmarket lodge at the base of the mountains and after several of the strongest Pisco Sours ever tasted on the trip we sort of lost interest in seeing the mountains anyway !

Roughing it in luxury!



The final day of this leg sees us winding thru the park. We had visions of camping in a nice area under lots of trees and besides a nice lake. It seemed all very romantic! However it transpired that the reality was that there were no trees, but a cold wind, a grey coloured lake and passing showers to contend with so in true adventuring spirit and with great sacrifice we opted for Plan B which was a cozy hotel in Puerto Natales .

Selecting a nice Chilean steak for tonight's dinner!





So here we are with just 850km, one border crossing and two days to go to get to Ushuaia. It is a funny feeling. After 5 months and 39,000 km we are so close. Will it be all just an anticlimax or an emotion ridden tear jerking event or something in between? Well dear reader, on the next installment of this blog you will find out! Until then..........

Friday, 30 November 2012

CHAPTER. POSITIVELY PATAGONIA



Well it is the Chilean Patagonia. Now it is a turning point in the trip because we leave Autopistas and super highways and sealed roads and now take off onto gravel roads and tough roads and that is going to be the story of our lives for the next few weeks until we get close to Ushuaia. So there is a bit of excitement and a bit of trepidation in the camp and we enter a new phase of our push south.

The first week of this Patagonia sector is the Careterra Austral which is about 1000km of gravel road leading down to the most southern border crossing into Argentina. It is roughly like going down the West Coast of the South Island as it is about the same latitude. The similarities continue as the forest is almost identical to the beech forests of the South Island and there are also stunning mountain vistas and views of lakes and glaciers just like on the West Coast. However I am getting ahead of myself.

No this is not the road!



We start our odyssey South by leaving the flesh pots of Puerto Varas relatively early on the first morning as there are ferries to catch.

So the first day goes something like this -

One hour on the road thru Puerto Montt and to the first ferry

Half an hour on the first ferry

A one hour dash over gravel roads to the next ferry

This ferry goes once a day and takes four hours so is a " must catch".

It leaves at 10.30 in the morning. After screaming over the gravel road we arrive at the wharf at 10.32 a.m.

The ferry is 5 mins late leaving and has two small spaces left to take two motorbikes.

We drive on, the ramp goes up behind us and the 4 hour ferry trip starts.

After 4 enjoyable hours on a lovely scenic ferry ride it is off for another half hour ride on a gravel road.

Then it is another half hour ferry ride.

Then to finish the day it is another 54 km rode of gravel road to our destination for the night. - the town of Chaiten.




And who pays the ferryman!



A tight squeeze



The last section of road to Chaiten was tough. They were fixing parts of it by dumping river stones on the road. Now quarry stones are sharp tough on the tires but easy on the nerves when they are newly on a road. However round river stones are the opposite. They are easy on the tires but rough on the nerves as they roll under the tyres of the bike causing the bike to slip and slide all over the place. Anyway in spite of all this the bike stayed paint side up all the way to Chaiten.


So we overnighted in Chaiten. What a sad town! This town had a huge amount of ash dumped on it during an eruption of a nearby volcano in 2008. All the residents were evacuated. The town is roughly half rebuilt and roughly half the population have come back. Every street has derelict houses damaged by the weight of ash. When is the next eruption going to be one might well ask?

No one home anymore!






Every problem in the world always has a source!




So Day two of Chilean Pategonia section sees us heading down more gravel roads and thru beech forests to the town of Puyuhuapi. This town only had road access put thru with the building of the Carreterra in the 1970s. Before then access was only by boat or plane. Interestingly enough the town was settled by Czech settlers escaping the wars and famines back home.

A more friendly sort of volcano



We stayed in a lovely home stay run by a German " no nonsense" type of lady who ran a warm and friendly place.

Day 3 of the Carraterra and it is off down the gravel roads yet again. But what treats were in store. First off was side trip to see a big hanging Glacier.

One hanging glacier



As we came down from our little walk to the Glacier another touring motorbike pulled in. It was non other than the famous " Radioman" alias Mark Donham. Mark has been travelling the world by motorbike for the last 17 months. He decided to do it after his wife tragically died of premature Alzheimer's disease and this was his way of starting life again. He has an amazing blogsite going which has had nearly a million hits. His theme is " Faith, Hope and Courage"
His blog address is -

Radiomanridestheworld.com

It is an inspiring and moving read.

Anyway Mark was also heading to Ushuaia and has now joined us to make a foursome and we are thoroughly enjoying his company.

So after having picked up Mark ( so to speak) we carried on over a highly scenic mountain pass and from there down to Coihaque. This is the biggest town in the area and is a little oasis of civilization. And lo and behold it has sealed roads going in and out of it. It is the southern most significant town in Chile.
.



Now we are into Day 4 ón the Carraterra Austral and it just gets better and better. Today we started circumnavigating the Lago General Carrera. Actually it straddles the Chile/Argentina border and is called the Lago Buenos Aires in Argentina. Same lake,different names!

So we are off round about two thirds of the lake because it is the second biggest lake in South America and therefore is fairly ginormous and the road is slow.

Motorcycle heaven



Not so motorcycle heaven!






Again it was mostly gravel roads and again it was like the West coast of the South Island. Near the bottom of the lake we stopped at a place rather nicely named Rio Tranquilo where we went out on a boat trip to look at some fascinating limestone/ marble caves on the waters edge.

Hundreds of thousands potential bench tops just waiting to be mined!






And the highly satisfactory day was finished by a stay in a delightful lakeside Cabina a little further around the lake.



And thus dawns Day 5 on the Carreterra Austral for today we go into Argentina.

But the day itself was magnificent,superb,stunning and stupendous. It was a sunny day with crystal clear blue sky and the ( again gravel ) road wound around the lakeside with stunning vistas of turquoise lake water backed with a backdrop of snow covered mountains. There were Oohs and Ahas coming from the back seat at every turn.It was just like riding along Lake Wakatipu to Glenorchy except for the gravel road and the fact that it was at least 5 times longer. However let the photos do the talking............

Wakatipu ?



And only one horsepower!









And the odd reality check to avoid complacency!



Then to finish it was across the border into Argentina to a town about 50 kms in from the border called Perito Moreno. In every town in Chile the Main Street is almost always called Avenida Bernardo O 'Higgins. He must have been some Irishman and is known as "El Liberador".

So we can tell we are now in Argentina because the Main Street has a different name. And no it was not Avenida Evita Peron !


One day soon in the next ten years or so the Carraterra Austral will be all paved I think and really opened up to the tourists. It will be a fantastic tourist trip and would really give the West Coast of the South Island a run for its money. However at the moment it still seems like frontier land and I am rather glad we have found it that way. It is at the moment an adventure doing it and once opened up it will become a journey rather than an adventure. Sigh !

And thus ends our meandering down the Carreterra Austral!



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