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Published: January 18th 2006
Bit of a backtrack as I don't think I did the glacier justice. I still can't believe that it is moving!...like a river in really slo-mo...(and why abbreviate a word like slo-mo?) and the middle runs (?) a bit faster than the sides, and the face we see probably fell as snow about a million years ago!!.....and the snap, crackle and pop is exactly like a hugely amplified version of pouring your single malt over frsh ice...(I had a girlfriend once, she never believed in, or understood 'fresh' ice!)
I saw another (little) glacier today on a tour of the lake out of Esquel, and saw some shaky looking rare and really old trees!..but also met some nice people, good to do a toury thing and give the bike a day off just for a change!
Now, back to the story....
Down at this latitude Argentina is only a few hours wide. Raf and I headed out due East, cutting straight across to just south of Puerto San Julian. I spoke too soon, again, 200 kms of bloody rippio but enough of that.
Raf busted his pannier bracket and we both scraped a bit off the centre stands in
the sharper potholes, and there were some beauties, great bogholes from the last rain and washouts.
At the start of this road are all manner of warnings about the perils of travelling in wet weather..... its fine, so we just go for it.
Stopping every 50 kms or so to have a look around, take some pics and get the dust out of eyes and ears.
Leaving Calafate we meander thru' smooth, furry and sensually rounded hills, following the same milky blue river. Soon the road winds up to the top of the valley and we follow along the edge for the next 150 kms with fantastic views down into this monster glacial valley. Mles and mles across to the other side and nothing growing except really low, stubbly grassy stuff...soem wild wild flowers on the side of the road but that's for later........
And only glimpses of the view because on the rippio you only get glances at the scenery as the gravel, potholes and animals take 101% of one's attention.
Quite a lot of guanacos all over the place, bounding across the road, skittering off over the edge as I approach, and I think I have the evolution
answer, they have longer necks to see cars coming and get out of the way...true, there are dead animals on the road, but never guanacos!...saw some rheas, these emu-like birds but I didn't get the chance to try the old mirror trick to see if they were really emu-like!, also rabbits or hares, foxes and occasionally horses!
The first horse I saw was a monster pure white stallion just standing by the side of the road, unmoving, I really thought I was hallucinating it was so bizarre, looked like a flipping marble statue... then I started to see more, groups and individuals just hanging about. But they were big, solid, strong looking horses like I've never seen. Can't tell if they're wild or used? I'm thinking they belong to someone but I only see estancias or turn-offs to them every 50 kms or so.
Everytime we stop, the sound of the bikes is quickly absorbed and the intense silence settles. This is really remote, not a person or anything person-made anywhere, I saw only a few other vehicles in the whole 200 kms. And majestic views out across the valley, the river, still milky light blue, winding aross the valley
floor. The vegetation is low, struggling saltbush on pebbly soil with some yellow low grass. Doesn't look like it would support much but there are fences along most of the road and cattle grids every 20 kms. The only animals were the aforementioned, and the guanacos glide over fences with the most nonchalant ease and the horses seemed to be free on the road! So, what's with the fences?
So to San Julian and found a sort of garage open, the mechanic is a bike nut and looks like he supports most of the town's dirt bike teams, garage full of bikes and bits, he helps Raf to re-rivet the pannier bracket...while this goes on I spot the next door car wash, actually a shed with a kid and a hi-pressure bizzo. He lets me go for it and I give the bike her first wash for how long I can't remember, maybe since landing in LA. Altho' I have a vague memory (aren't they all?) of giving her a wash somewhere along the trail.
Previously it has been a sign of honour, or legitimacy, to have them all grubbed up, especially for the pressos. So I hose her down
then the kid comes up with a brush and bucket of suds!!, then a the rinse off and she's looking pretty shmick.
We decide to stay here a night, no rush, but at 5 in the arvo everything is shut! A town of 9,000 inhabitants and lots of touries, and not a restaurant open!.
We hit the only stupormarket in town, get some sangers and beer and sit down by the beach, perfect sunny day, light breeze, tempted to take the plunge but the tides out and its about nap o'clock.
Will I get the stick and try for some photos? Will I just sit here talking to myself? Is it really the full moon? Maybe that's it!
Another backtrack...I saw my first beaver dam in Tierra del Fuego, forgot to tell you, in fact I saw several...they were introduced and are now regarded as a pest...they really stuff up a good river system apparently...however the local toury board use beaver as promo material so I guess emotions are mixto. Every day a giant beaver and an equally giant penguin would walk down the main drag of Ushuaia, those ill-fitting saggy animal suits that look a total embarrassment except
to small children who automatically block out the ever-obvious eye holes in the chest, and take whatever is being handed out!
Stopped by the boy soldiers for a pasport check coming into Calafate in a huge dust storm...I'm leaving everything sealed except for a 2mm gap in the visor...poor kid is getting blown off the road but manages to write some detail of me in his book.
OMG and then the rain day...after the perfecto afternoon in Julian, next day its howling wind and pissing down...it eases somewhat and we head off...more rain....... trucks coming the other way throw up swimming pools of water, nearly knock me off the bike and take about 10kph off the pace, passing cars and trucks is soo hazardous with puddles, patches of crap asphalto, wind and water...impossible!
Get to Calieta Oliva, the old Bob-the-Oil-Worker town, stay at the same hotel and they take all our wet stuff and dry it!..too cool!
We are back in the lovely named state of Chubut, visions of chubby cheeked babies, yes?... and it is a richer state, lots of oil wells everywhere aong the road, and little power lines going off all over the
countryside, no vgetation at all, just the old pivot-head-pumps slowly going up and down, pumping the black gold...
Then off towards Esquel on the asphalto..hehehe..then the 20 km of ripio they forgot to put on the map!!.. and really thick, loose gravel, sharp chunky bits, you can feel the rubber being flayed off the tyres...then realise the map has double crossed us, we are out in the middle of nowhere, ripio, and running out of gas!!...stop a truck and he says gas in 30 kms at the end of the ripio!!....just get 30 kms and there's the start of the asphalto again...thank some deity...but no gas, one of the road workers tells us the next gas is 180kms..... ffaaarrrccckkkk, so there's the road workers camp (all diesel) and a small, run-down house with a sign up saying its a museum!!...a liitle old lady comes out and tells us the next gas is atually only 30kms down the road...Raf has just enough but I'm opening the tank and seeing a puff of dust come out!!...luckly she has 5 litros of gas for me!!...whoo hoo...and then she only charges me the regular price...I would have paid 10 times!
As I said,
she told us the next gas is only 30kms down the road. Its like this, everyone has a different concept of time and space!..I wonder how the road will turn out with this halfwit working on it?
So, we cruise on, another perfecto day, just sublime, snow capped mountains over to the left, getting closer and then across half the horizon....your dinky-di Andes...altho' I guess it was the same chain in Calafate?..anyway, pretty speccy....mega views...we are on Ruta 40 now, but the good bit...but I can go out and get the 'I did Ruta 40' tattoo now! hahaha
Esquel, what a lovely little town, more Swiss than cheese...like chocolate shops, houses with A frames and snow capped mountains, I could just about crack a yodel, its soo pretty...
Went to the lake today, took a tour to give the bike a break...great for a change and met some new people, some are coming to our museum/hotel later...this hotel, what a bizarro place. The Hotel Argentina...gotta tell more but I'm getting hungry and my time is up...great cyber cafe tho' so I've got some pix up for you...try Raf's site too e's got more pix.
Biggest, Oldest Tree in the World (?)
Parque Nacionale Los Alerces - Esquel
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