On the Road (A New Beginning)


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South America » Argentina » Santa Cruz » El Chaltén
January 29th 2010
Published: February 12th 2010
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The BeginningThe BeginningThe Beginning

actually, I forgot to take the photo of the odometer before we started, so this is at our first rest stop, about 30km in to the trip
We've been on the road for a few days now, and there's a lot we've seen and enough to tell. First off, in stark contrast to the fabulous bus service that puts Greyhound to shame, my trip from Pucon to Bariloche was a pain in the ass, with a two hour delay caused by (1) some sort of mechanical issues and (2) a wait for some other bus to arrive so that we could add a few passengers. Not going into any details on this, since it won't interest you or me to read about. Suffice it to say that instead of arriving in Bariloche at 8pm with time to see some of the town, I arrived at the hotel where I met my dad around 10:30pm, luckily having met a couple of Israelis while waiting for our delayed bus in Osorno (where I had to transfer, as there is no direct service on Friday) who graciously let me ride along in their cab (since there was no ATM at the bus station in Bariloche, and all the businesses were closed so I had no way to get Argentinian money to pay for a cab or bus into town).

Bariloche
First LunchFirst LunchFirst Lunch

the restaurant owner was as eager to photograph the group of us as we were to photograph everything else
is a moderate sized town, much larger than Pucon but offering much of the same in the way of activities. It is also the world's chocolate capital - forget Belgium. Bariloche literally has a dozen or so supermarket sized stores that sell only chocolates of various kinds, and it's very good stuff (think Wal-Mart size, not your average 7-11), and numerous smaller shops, too. It's also known as the best place in the world to have a steak, so me and my dad went to the most famous of the steak shops in town (actually, they have four locations in town) even though the Israeli couple I had met before said that we should skip it and go to Tony's instead.

I took a shower in the hotel, and used conditioner for the first time in a while. I forgot how nice that feels. In the morning, I signed over my life and my credit card over to Mathias, the German tour organizer who runs Horizonte Tours, the company we're riding motorcycles with. The waiver made me laugh, since it required me to acknowledge something about (I don't recall exact wording) the "reckless and irresponsible way South Americans drive."
me and my dadme and my dadme and my dad

day one (exact location need to figure out still)

Day 1: Bariloche to Trevelin (Ruta 40 to Ruta 259)



We traveled Ruta 40 from Bariloche to El Bolson and Los Alerces National Park, ending up in Trevlin. Los Alerces has some really cool plant life, and sequoia like trees.

Today was a day of firsts.
* My first time on a dual-sport bike (it sits much higher than my other two bikes, and I can't get both feet flat on the ground, so getting the kickstand up is a bit of a pain unless I put it up before I get on the bike). I'm riding a 2007 Honda Transalp 650.
* The first flat tire (only about an hour in to the trip).
* My first time on a gravel road. Of course, we started with the deep stuff, so that Ignacio ("Nacho") - who was riding behind me - was probably about as scared as I was when he saw how my bike fishtailed for about a kilometer or so before I finally regained some control. I was later told that I have to relax and let the bike do its dance on the gravel, and stop trying to keep the wheels straight because
lincoln logslincoln logslincoln logs

now in life size!
that's just more likely to make me lose control. Like I said above, I've become a lot more expert at navigating gravel in the last week.
* The first fallen bike (my dad dropped his bike on his left foot coming to a stop at one of the police checkpoints they have at the outskirts of a lot of these cities).
* Our first lunch stop, which became our first detour because the restaurant had closed. We found another town about 10km out of the way and stopped there for a quick (overcooked and watery) spaghetti bolognese lunch. The restaurant owner probably had never seen so many gringos or bikers, since she was pretty eager to take photos of us. Oh, there are 7 guys on the bikes plus our bike leader (Matias) for a total of 8 bikes. There is also a support vehicle that rides behind us driven by Mathias (the tour organizer), and two passengers.

At the end of the day, though, I was especially grateful for a nice, cold beer. Really refreshing after this sort of ride. A beer at the end of the day became a theme for our group.

Day 2: Trevelin

wild horseswild horseswild horses

taking a drink at a roadside watering hole
to Puyuhuapi (Carretera Austral)

We crossed into Chile today, where we spent the next few days riding the Carretera Austral. Today the road was almost entirely gravel, except for a short respite just after the border crossing. Yesterday's first gravel road really shook me up and made me wonder whether coming on the trip was a mistake, but by the middle of today I was feeling pretty confident. Which is why the road beat me, twice, in less than fifteen minutes. My first fall was around a left turn, and I ended up going off the road to the right. No injuries, no damage. My second fall was essentially the same, but caused less by overconfidence than by distraction - Werner was stopped (with the group) up ahead, but I was looking at him and his video camera rather than at the upcoming curve, so that when I realized that the whole group was stopped just a few feet ahead I tried to slow down and stop rather than continue into the turn and then stop on the straightaway. The whole thing is on video, so hopefully I'll be able to get a copy of that bit. The scary
leaving argentinaleaving argentinaleaving argentina

going to chile for the first time on this roadtrip
part was not the fall, but rather the thought that I and the motorcycle would slide into Werner and then maybe over the edge of the cliff. Damage: broken mirror. Injury: pinky-nail sized scrape on my ankle. Don't worry, though, this was a day that put me back in my rightful place.

You are the master of your bike, its boss, and if you tell it the right way it will do what you want. Still, you have to pay attention to your own boss, the road, because like any worker, the bike will respect the higher authority.

One other thing - on gravel roads, occasionally we hit very dusty spots. Today, there were a few trucks on the road that kicked up so much dust, you could hardly see the front of the motorcycle. Passing them was a necessity, but also incredibly scary, since you couldn't even see where the truck was, let alone what oncoming traffic there might be.

Day 3: Puyuhuapi to Villa Cerro Castilo (Carretera Austral)



Today we rode from Villa Cerro Castillo, passing through Coihaique on the Carretera Austral. We took a short trip to Parque Nacional Queulat, where we hiked up a
changing roadschanging roadschanging roads

as we crossed into chile, we got a short respite from the gravel roads
trail to view our first glacier. Later we rode along Lago General Carrera. Today was the nicest day of the trip, I think.

Day 4: Villa Cerro Castilo to Puerto Rio Tranquilo (Carretera Austral)


We started today by visiting the waterfall at Salto del Ibañez, then passed Cerro Castillo, the Dead Forest Valley and the village Bahia Murta to get to Puerto Rio Tranquilo.

Day 5: Puerto Rio Tranquilo to Perito Moreno (Ruta 40)


The windy day. This day was difficult, both physically and emotionally. After crossing into Artgentina, we faced winds of well over 70mph. That of itself would have not been all that bad, but coupled with the deep gravel, it was a day of struggle just to keep the bike vertical and on one side of the road. I'm pretty sure my dad never recovered from this day - it seemed to zap his will to continue the trip - but by the end of the trip he seemed to be at least enjoying riding again. When the winds are that strong and you have to stay in an 18 inch wide tire track or else get blown into 16 inch deep loose gravel, the
lakes and riverslakes and riverslakes and rivers

somewhere on day 2
ride is all about will and not about enjoyment. Still, we made it to the end of the day alive and unhurt, if a bit drained. Still, we decided to visit the Cueva de Los Manos (Cave of the Hands), where we saw hands painted on the rocks in negative, estimated to be about eight to nine thousand years old.

One of the best parts of my trip was on this day, though - we hit a stretch of paved road, about 100km or so, where the wind was at our back. Riding 120kph (approx 70mph) with the wind at your back at the same speed is a pretty unusual experience. Normally, at that speed you would feel a lot of wind resistance and hear a lot of air rushing into your helmet. But on that particular stretch, all I could hear was the pistons in my bike's engine, and I felt the same breeze you might feel sitting on your couch in the living room with a fan on in an adjacent room. Quite surreal.

Day 6: Perito Moreno to the middle of nowhere (Ruta 40)


The rainy day. All gravel, lots of dust, mixed with milder
typical road conditionstypical road conditionstypical road conditions

not so easy . . .
winds and occasionally lots of rain. Visibility out of a muddy facemask is poor, to put it mildly. Today, a lot of desert. As with last night, we stayed in a traditional Patagonian estancia, basically a ranch in the middle of nowhere. Dinner was the same, though a bit better than yesterday: a whole lamb spilt down the middle and grilled over a low wood fire for several hours, accompanied by various salads and boiled potatoes. As with everywhere around here, there was no shortage of mayonnaise.

Day 7: Somewhere on Ruta 40 to El Chalten (Ruta 40)


A lot mor desert (steppes, I guess is the more precise term), though we passed lake Cardiel and Lake Viedma, finally arriving at El Chalten, from where we could see Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre. The winds and rain seem to have caused the temperature to cool - I've started using the heated grips on my bike (I'm the only one that has them, so I gave my dad my glove liners). On the other hand, we've been told the weather here today is the best they've had in a month, so I suppose the winds may have been a good
wide anglewide anglewide angle

cool tree (forget the name, will fill in later)
thing.


Additional photos below
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lunchlunch
lunch

well, maybe not today's lunch, but possibly tomorrow's?
Parque Nacional QueulatParque Nacional Queulat
Parque Nacional Queulat

took a lot of photos, this one probably best shows the blue color of the glacier at
thumbs up?thumbs up?
thumbs up?

hanging in there
taking a breaktaking a break
taking a break

and taking in the scenery
recharging the chain luberecharging the chain lube
recharging the chain lube

Mathias, our trip organizer, recharging my bike's chain lube.
Street SignStreet Sign
Street Sign

I really don't get why this sign was on the side of the road in the tiny little town where we wtopped to eat lunch at Yussef's restaurant.


13th February 2010

I'll be seeing you
I'm so glad you took this trip. Give aba a hug from me. See you soon.

Tot: 2.338s; Tpl: 0.066s; cc: 11; qc: 51; dbt: 0.068s; 2; m:saturn w:www (104.131.125.221); sld: 3; ; mem: 1.4mb