A swift and simple border crossing and I’m back in Argentina for the second time.
Back to desert. Windy windy desert.
It’s a long days ride with lots of ripio before I arrive in Gobiernos Gregaros
The wind has picked up significantly since the border and the landscape has changed back to Pampa. There’s lots of rheas too. They are these funky mini ostrich type birds. They run fast along the road as I pass.
There’s only 4 hospadejes to stay in and they’re all full. Fortunately, I convince the last one to ask if anyone is willing to share a room and I’m lucky to find a bed for the night. The next day it’s more of the same – ripio and wind. Some sections are particularly challenging. I’m riding on a path not more than a foot wide. On either side is a 6 inch tall strip of deep gravel. The wind is howling and I’m leaning the bike over 30 degrees just to stay in a straight line. Every once in a while the wind pauses and then picks up with a strong burst. I struggle to correct and sometimes I’m not good enough and I run into the gravel patch, losing control and fishtailing wildly. Somehow I managed to keep the bike upright and even with many close calls I never dropped the bike. Here’s what the loose gravel looks like.
I pulled over for a snack break and saw a campesino on horseback coming my way. He and his dog were herding sheep through the hillside. His skill was amazing.
Did I mention that it’s windy out here?
Reaching the tarmac in Tres Lagos was heaven. As the road wound through the hillside I turned to a direction that yielded a tailwind. If I matched the speed of the wind I could ride in complete silence (except the engine). No wind was blowing in my face or across my helmet and it was magical serenity. I didn’t have to struggle to keep the bike from being blown off the road. But all good things must come to an end and when the road changed directions (even slightly) the wind came back with a force and the battle continued. This sign pretty much sums it up – WINDY!
Here’s some video of the windy Pampa. Click the link if the video doesn’t appear in your browser: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xARXCUaLITw
Arriving in El Calafate I ran into Jeff (who I met back in Mexico) and Oliver (from England, riding Alaska to Ushuaia). We went out to dinner at a parrilla (grill house).
Dinner = meat meat and more meat along with some Patagonian wine.
The next morning I set off to visit one of the world’s last remaining stable glaciers in Los Glaciares National Park. The drive in traced Lago Argentino with spectacular views.
The Perito Moreno glacier is BIG. This view (with terrible light) is from the road. It covers an area larger than the city of Buenos Aires!
I took a boat ride to get closer to the massive glacier. It’s hard to get a reference scale but these walls are 60 meters (200 feet) tall!
Twice, school bus sized ice chunks broke off from the face as the glacier advanced. These enormous masses of ice roared and plunged into the lake below. Incredible power! Here’s a few shots of the sparkling blue glacier.
As I left the park the clouds disappeared and the sun shined through (figures). I stopped for a photo and my bike wouldn’t start back up. For reals?!?! Luckily I was on a hill so I coasted down and popped the transmission into gear, bump starting the bike. I figured my battery was shot since I rode out there on low RPMs with my heated grips cranked on high. I rode back with high RPMs and without the heated grips. Close to town I climbed a hill and stopped the bike to test it. Nope, nada. What a pain… OK, so I found the only mechanic in town and we diagnosed the problem as a busted starter relay. Unfortunately, they don’t have a spare and I’m not wanting to wait around to get one shipped in. He showed me that I could use a screw driver to short circuit the relay and essentially hot wire the bike. SOLD! But that’s going to be annoying. Together we fashioned up a switch that I can use to complete the circuit. It works! Now let’s just hope it can hold the current over the next 3000 miles. Man rule #73: Find Solutions.
Here’s some route details for the adventure riders out there. Chile Chico to Perito Moreno (the town – there’s a town with the same name as the glacier but they are over 700 kilometers apart) is all paved. You an find gas in Chile Chico, Los Antigous, and Perito Moreno (be sure to fill up here). From Perito Moreno head south on Ruta 40 which quickly becomes desvio’s and ripio (they have construction going on. I imagine it will be finished within 50 years). There’s a sweet 50K of pavement somewhere mid way and then it’s back to dirt. Turn off Ruta 40 for Gobernos Gregaros to fill up with gas and spend the night (rumor has it you can stay on Ruta 40 and you’ll find another small pueblo – I didn’t have it on my map though). I left Chile Chico at 9am and arrived in GG at 5pm – 340 kilometers? The next day head towards Tres Lagos on all ripio. You’ll find gas just past the turn-off for the town and the pavement begins. It’s all pavement to El Calafate. I left GG at 9am and got to El Calafate at 4pm (with a long lunch in Tres Lagos) 330k in total? (My speedo cable broke so I’m not sure on exact distances). This can be done on street tires but if it’s wet, you’ll want some knobbies. Some of the dried mud looked horrendous. I can only imagine how challenging it would have been in the rain.
The final push for Ushuaia is coming up next, stay tuned!