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..........