Patagonia and the end of the world!

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South America » Argentina » Tierra del Fuego » Ushuaia
March 20th 2013
Published: April 5th 2013
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Thursday 7/3/13 – Knowing that we had absolutely nothing to do today meant we had a great night’s sleep and even enjoyed a sleep-in this morning. With our ferry tickets already booked and no mechanic in town, we enjoyed the day walking around town and buying some snacks to take on the boat.

It was pouring with rain tonight so we decided to make dinner in our hotel room. As the floor was carpet, I didn’t want to use the burner in the main room so I had to sit cross legged in the bathroom, cooking on the floor and using the toilet lid as a kitchen bench. The chicken soup I made tasted pretty much like it was prepared in a hotel bathroom, totally uninspiring, no character, no colour, no flavour, no style, no taste – just a utilitarian meal that gives you no pleasure but gets the job done.

After our tame dinner, we heard some commotion outside and later we went down to see that someone had moved our bikes into a corner and then blocked them in with 2 cars. I was not happy as firstly we had to leave early the next morning and we were now blocked in, secondly I don’t like the idea of strangers moving my bike, and finally Kenz’s bike was standing almost straight up with no lean at all and right next to a huge window that it thankfully had not yet fallen through.

Friday 8/3/13 – We packed up this morning and warmed the bikes up with no sign of smoke or fire coming from any wiring. There was a car blocking us in (the guy who moved our bikes last night) but there was no sign of him after we had warmed the bikes up for a few minutes. I started banging and rocking his car hoping to set off his car alarm but he still didn’t show. Eventually I had to go to the office and ask the hotelier to make him move. Once we made our escape, we made the short but wet journey down to the ferry terminal which was just as chaotic and disorganised as we expected, but somehow we managed to check ourselves and our bikes in. We were told to wait for 4 hours and then we could ride the bikes onto the ferry, so we left the bikes on the wharf, covered our bags with a tarpaulin and walked into town.

We returned 4 hours later to see that our tarpaulin had blown off and was only attached to the bike by one corner meaning the bags we were taking on the ferry were all wet. There was also a few guys just standing around a few metres away staring at the tarpaulin blowing in the wind whilst they waited to load the boat. A short time later we rode onto the boat and watched as the workers tied down the bikes using some ropes and short sticks of wood. After some instructions they managed to secure them and we collected our wet bags from the bikes. We also met a Swiss man on a BMW 1200 who had been wandering around the world since 2008 and was eager to chat to some fellow riders.

We unpacked our gear in our cabin and met the quiet young German couple that we would be sharing our cabin with for the next 4 days. They were friendly but quiet (a good combination to be sharing a cabin with!) and we spent the next few hours exploring the ship which was slow in loading and departed 2 hours late. We would be on the ferry for 3 nights as it left Puerto Montt and travelled around 2,500km to Puerto Natales.

The price for our ticket included 3 meals a day which we were keen to eat as our recent diet had mostly consisted of bread and pasta. Tonight’s offering was pork loin with potatoes and gravy which went down fast. We were pretty tired so we had an early night after poking our heads into the bar and seeing an awful but enthusiastic Karaoke session well underway.

Saturday 9/3/13 – The cabins are pretty tight but I managed to get a good night’s sleep despite being worried I would roll out of the top bunk and crack my head on the cabin floor. The ship did roll around a little as we passed through the Gulf of Ancud (at a similar latitude to Hobart) but the roughest section of the trip would be tonight. They served up some pretty dodgy looking ham for breakfast so we skipped that and just had some cereal and a cheese roll each. The weather was pretty misty this morning; however the sun came out for most of the afternoon so we got to see some of the spectacular mountains and islands as we travelled through the fjords. To help with boredom (after a while every mountain and waterfall looks the same) they presented some lectures in both Spanish and English on the birds of Patagonia (did you know that a hummingbird’s legs are so short they can’t walk? They only use their legs to stand on), and then there was a demonstration about sailors’ knots but the people spent so long trying to learn the different knots that we only did the bowline, and a half and rolling hitch. They then played a movie which Kenz went to watch, and they announced that a pod of whales was swimming nearby.

As evening fell we began to cross a large bay that was open to the ocean, meaning that the ferry rocked as it rolled over the large waves. There were a lot fewer people for dinner, and many of those eating looked a little green, but after our Colombia to Panama crossing, we had armed ourselves with seasickness tablets, so we were fine.

Sunday 10/3/13 – We awoke this morning and just after breakfast we started seeing large clumps of ice floating in the water. There were a few larger ones with the part floating above the water being about the size of a family car. They became much more common and eventually we arrived at the Tempanos glacier – a huge slab of deep blue ice that looks like a giant tsunami frozen in time. Later we passed the shipwreck of the ship Capitan Leonadis, and then a small town where the boat stopped for a few hours to pick up some people.

Despite the amazing views of waterfalls and snow capped mountains, it was a fairly uneventful day with the highlight being the rumour spreading around the ship that tonight was Bingo Night! After it was confirmed that it was indeed Bingo Night but that you had to pay to play, we cracked the shits and had another early night.

Monday 11/3/13 – After another mild night in the skinny cabin, we woke and stumbled out onto the deck with a stiff cold breeze blowing and the ambient temperature being just 8 ⁰C, so we quickly made our way to the dining deck. After another solid breakfast, some sitting around, and then a strange lasagne made mostly with corn, we walked down to the open car deck with our luggage in hand and strapped it all to the bikes. We rode down the ferry ramp and into the port town of Puerto Natales. We rode about 400m before we got waved into a small carpark where we had to visit the customs office for the pointless exchange of paperwork (both ports were in Chile!).

We then rode along the waterfront looking for some dodgy looking accommodation when we came across the town’s tourist information, so we went in to visit them and suss out the conditions of the roads in Torres del Paine National Park. Whilst here we found a small stack of photocopied faded flyers for a hostel that looked like it was in our price range. We rode straight to the hostel and were greeted by a cowboy-booted insane guy with long hair and unruly whiskers, who was the happiest Chilean that I have met so far. His head barely came up to my chest and he was a hunchback who was always singing, laughing or whistling. We have no doubt that he was certifiable; however his manner was so pleasant that we could overlook his shortcomings (pun intended). The room was cheap and had a heater so we hung up our clothes, towels, bike gear and blanket to dry. The teeth on Kenz’s rear sprocket had finally given out today, most looked like hooked shark fins and a few were worn down to small little nubs. So under the expert wrinkled gaze of the insane hunchback, we changed her destroyed sprocket for the slightly less worn one that we have been carrying since Colorado whilst he whistled, winked at us and laughed at nothing. I think we can confidently get at least 3000km out of this sprocket, easily far enough till we find a new one.

We cleaned up and then went out for pizza at a restaurant which only had one long table with everyone sitting around. Once we returned to the hostel, we received an email from Kenz’s mum to tell us that our pet ferret back home had died. It was tough news and we spent the rest of the evening in our room.

Tuesday 12/3/13 – We fuelled up in town before heading north towards the Torres del Paine National Park. It was the first time that we have actually ridden any great distance in a northerly direction since Mexico but it didn’t really feel any different. The road to the NP was nice being mostly paved and winding amongst some forest, grassland and pastures with the snow peaks and glistening glaciers in the distance. Whilst riding we got to admire some wildlife, such as Patagonian birds of prey, guanacos (like llamas) and some Patagonian foxes who often ran across the road in front of us and almost get hit by my front wheel. Our favourite bird was the noble looking Caracara who often stood on fence posts and watched us ride past under their critical gaze. They reminded Kenz of the stern looking muppet Sam the Eagle. We also saw some giant birds flying high in the sky just off a steep hill side. By their shape and size they must have been condors, although they were too far distant to observe their unique neck markings.

We turned off the main road and rode for a few kilometres to the Cave of the Mastodon. Here there is a large and deep cave where a German explorer found the remains of a gigantic land-sloth as well as skeletons of other animals from the time before humans inhabited the area. We got to walk to the back of the cave and gaze back out the opening where we could see the beautiful mountains of Torres del Paine. On the way back to the main road we passed a dog that was trotting down the road carrying the rear half of another dog in its mouth, wagging its tail and looking like all its Christmases had come at once. Further along the road turned to gravel with a few sections being severely corrugated meaning that it was a rare occasion that we actually got to ride along and look at the magnificent mountains surrounding us.

When we stopped at the NP office to pay a fee and register our visit, a middle aged Australian man came over asking me all about the trip and the bikes. It turned out that 3 years ago he had ridden a KLR across Russia and Mongolia – a trip I would love to do! We rode into the NP and visited the Salta Grande waterfall. We walked the short path and ate lunch on a grassy bank near the top of the waterfall. The falls weren’t particularly high, but the amount of thundering water falling down was astonishing. When we returned to the car park we met two Americans on KLRs, one who had just done a similar route to us, and the other was heading North to the US. One of the KLRs was in pretty bad shape and using about 1 litre of oil per 300km, half of his panniers were just full of spare oil! We then rode the short distance to Pehoe Lake and pitched a tent in the small secluded campsite here.

Wednesday 13/3/13 – Last night was freezing, literally. We spent a long night shivering with cold and trying to snuggle together under our big red blanket. It’s hard to snuggle when we’re in separate sleeping bags, especially now that Kenz is a few inches off the ground on ‘Cloud 9’, whilst I am reeling in the mire on my shabby 3cm thick mat. We woke to find the bikes covered in ice, and a thin layer of ice on the inside of the tent fly, so we weren’t just imagining the cold. To warm up, Kenz ran over to the ranger’s office and brought us each a small cup of hot chocolate which cost a predictable $4 each (much later in the day we went to the supermarket and brought a giant bag of both hot chocolate powder and milk powder for a fraction of the price). We waited around for the sun to crest the mountain which we were camping under so we could warm up a little before riding out of the camp. The sky was a perfect blue with no clouds to obscure the beautiful mountains and glaciers all around us. We stopped a few times for some photos, and once to turn around in search of my sunnies which had flown off the bike. We rode out of the NP in the afternoon and headed south back to Puerto Natales dodging foxes and some guanacos which were fighting and chasing each other across the road. Before we reached Puerto Natales, we had to ride along the teeth-rattling corrugated gravel road for around 100km. The bikes still haven’t forgiven us and now rattle and creak all the time, even on the pavement. Somewhere along this road, the surface was so bad that it vibrated one of the tent poles out of the storage tube on the back of my bike and its now located somewhere inside Torres del Paine NP. Back in Puerto Natales when we realised we had lost it, Kenz went crazy and spewed out all sorts of nasty names towards me, insisting that she had told me to secure it properly before we left that morning, before abruptly stopping and refusing to talk to me. We walked around the town not really knowing if we should try and find somewhere to buy a replacement pole, or to just buy a cheap tent to last us for our remaining 3 months. Spirits were low as we remembered how many shops we visited in Alaska when we previously needed a new pole which cost an exorbitant amount. Unfortunately siestas are almost mandatory here, with all shops shutting between 12 and 3 for lunch which meant we had to sit on the side of the road waiting for the shops to open whilst sharing a bag of extremely cold and brittle Skittles. Eventually the shops reopened and we were turned away from the first shop with a brisk shake of the shop assistant’s head; but we then spied a camping equipment rental place nearby and knew we had struck tent-pole gold. The guy inside spoke English and produced a duffle bag full of tent poles for us to select from. We found one exactly the same thickness and just 2 cm shorter than our original, so we jumped at the purchase when he offered it for $20.

We quickly fuelled up and headed south towards Punta Arenas. The trip was cold but mostly uneventful except for the many large rheas which we passed on the way. They remind me of Australian emus which I don’t really like as one once snatched my bag of bird seed from over my shoulder when I was a kid visiting a wildlife park. I’ve never trusted emus since, in fact most large birds give me the creeps - they seem to look at you with nothing but belittling disdain.

Once we arrived we visited 4 places before stumbling across a small hostel which allowed camping in their front yard which was full of mud and dog shit. We walked in to ask if we could camp, but the hostel was so warm, snuggly and cheap that we ended up getting their only private room for the next 2 nights. We made a classy meal of bread and soup in the hostel kitchen and chatted to some Dutch and Americans who were making a chocolate raspberry cheesecake for one of their birthdays. It was worth hanging around and chatting with them as they were happy to share their cake with us.

Thursday 14/3/13 – We woke up this morning and as we walked out of the hostel towards the bike Kenz managed to tread in a huge dog shit. After she cleaned her shoe off and after I considered cleaning her mouth out with soap, we rode to the only motorcycle shop in town. We had heard that he specialises in adventure bikes, particularly BMWs but also KLRs. We were grinning stupidly when he nodded and rode off to return a few minutes later with a new and original Kawasaki rear sprocket! Why the deuce did no one else in all of Chile have one or even have the ability to order one, but this guy in a tin shed near the bottom of the world had one?!

With our new sprocket safely tucked away in a pannier, we then rode down to the large section of the port which is a duty free shopping area. There were so many things for sale here, but all we needed was a dry bag to store our blanket in as our old bag has a few holes and rips which seem to spread a little more each day. After our successful shopping day we returned to the hostel and met Tarmo, an Estonian man (the first we’ve ever met – and to be honest I had to glance at a map to double check that Estonia was actually where I thought it was!) who has been driving a Mitsubishi van around the world over the last 26 months. He started in Europe and has recently spent over a year driving around Africa. It was such a coincidence as Kenz and I have been spending the last week musing over the logistics of circumnavigating Africa in a small truck or van and then we bump into someone who has recently done this trip! He was a friendly guy who was keen to talk as he has mostly been traveling solo for the last 2 years, and when he realised I had been considering a similar African trip he was happily giving us tips and showing us all around his vehicle. It’s no coincidence that we are meeting these RTW travellers here as there is only a small window of time each year where it is possible to visit this part of the world by road vehicle, meaning that they all tend to congregate here during the few short summer months.

Friday 15/3/13 – We woke up and packed up and ate a silent breakfast in the hotel kitchen, only whispering as everyone else was still asleep except for the owner. After he moved his car we were able to wheel the bikes away from the house to warm them up and then ride out of town and head towards the end of the Americas! The sky was mostly covered in a thick duvet of cloud (why do clouds always get the analogy of blankets?) with the sun only peeking out a few times all day. Luckily we haven’t encountered the infamous Patagonian wind yet which is so strong that it can blow you off your feet. Every biker we have met traveling north just shakes their head with a haunted look in their eyes when you ask about the wind. After almost hitting another lucky fox, we rode to the dock at the Magellan Strait where a ferry would carry us across to the island Tierra del Fuego (or Land of Fire) which would be our most southerly point of the whole trip. The captain of the ship never asked us for a fare which was nice, we had heard that he liked bikes and rarely charges them for passage across the strait. Once we rode off the ferry, we made a mistake in choosing our route south. Everyone had told us to take the central road down the Chile section of the island and not the eastern road, but for some reason we decided to follow the GPS and travel down the eastern side and return along the central road a few days later. We should have listened to their sage advice. The route we took was 120km of terrible gravel road, TERRIBLE. And the last 40 km was freshly laid deep gravel which made the bikes swerve all over the road dangerously, and the low side of some of the corners was so deep in thick gravel it was almost unrideable. Wisely we took our time being very careful and made it through without serious incident - it would have been a disaster if it was windy…

We arrived at the San Sebastian land border which splits Tierra del Fuego for the Chileans in the west and the Argentinians in the east. The land borders here are very strange and often zigzag haphazardly with no obvious pattern; but they do take their borders very seriously. It wasn’t far into Argentina when we started noticing many signs on the roadside claiming the Falkland Islands for Argentina and (less than politely) telling the English to GTFO. The border crossing went smoothly with little waiting or questioning. There was a fuel station just inside the border so we stopped here to get fuel for the bikes. The fuel here is considerably cheaper in Argentina than in Chile; however the attendant was very grumpy and we wrongly assumed that it was common for Argentinians to be gruff with foreigners. It turned out he was the exception as most of the Argentinians we met later in the day were far friendlier, in fact the Chileans even became far more friendly the further south that we have ridden.

We then rode the 70km of paved road to the coastal city of Rio Grande with the bikes shaking and rattling in protest at their previous mistreatment on the gravel roads. We tried to stay at a biker-famous Ruta 40 Hostel, but the door was shut and no one around. I enquired at the tattoo joint next door but they had no idea where the owners were. There was a dodgy looking place across the street above a hardware store but they wanted $75 with no place to park the bikes. After riding around for a while, we saw an old hotel which was closed but had a grassy area around the back. We knocked on the door until a young kid answered and eventually agreed to let us camp in their backyard for $10. We rode in and were immediately bailed up by their two staffordshire bull terriers who just wanted to chase rocks or wrestle over their deflated soccer ball. I made the mistake of wrestling with them for about 15 minutes which meant we were immediate buddies and they followed me around all afternoon sitting on my feet or leaning against my legs. The younger one kept chewing a large rock and would often get it wedged in between his jaws but unable to open his mouth enough to dislodge it. He would lie at my feet whining and panting struggling to breathe around the rock, but I didn’t really want to stick my hand inside its huge mouth to dislodge the rock. After I helped him the first time he just got it stuck again a few minutes later so I figured he would just have to learn the hard way - they are definitely not the smartest breed of dog and this one seemed like an especially dull version.

Saturday 16/3/13 – We endured another cold night in the tent last night, but we really can’t afford to stay in hotels, or even eat out at restaurants anymore, Chile and Argentina are just so expensive compared to the rest of the countries we’ve visited. It’s rare to find even a dingy hotel for less than $60 and a simple sandwich and drink at a café costs at least $10 each. It rained overnight and was overcast this morning so we tried to snuggle down and sleep in waiting for the sun to come out. With no sign of the sun we packed up and left at lunch time for our last foray south along the Ruta Fin del Mundo (the road to the end of the world). We were freezing for most of the 200km stretch south, but after passing over a steep bluff which then wound for a few kilometres over a fog covered hill, we emerged under a blue sky and bright sun for the last 50km to the city of Ushuaia. Ushuaia is on the southern coast of Tierra del Fuego and is the southernmost city in the world; and it’s also the last stretch of road in the Americas. Finally after 275 days and 40,557km, we had travelled from Deadhorse (the northern most road in Alaska at 70⁰N) to Ushuaia (the southernmost road in Argentina at 54⁰S) and it was a great feeling as we rode down the main street at our destination. Rather than sit around congratulating ourselves, we went about trying to find somewhere to pitch our tent and rode straight around to a highly recommended campsite on a sunny hillside overlooking the small city. The city looks similar to Hobart with a considerable port and extensive forests and hills nearby (although these were snow-capped and a few glaciers could be seen amongst the larger mountains). The city was originally an Argentinian penal colony, modelled on the one in Tasmania. I’m still not sure why the bureaucrats insisted on sending their prisoners away to beautiful remote places like Ushuaia or Tasmania. In the evening we decided to walk into town for a nice dinner to celebrate our accomplishment. However we couldn’t find a restaurant that was opening for dinner any earlier than 8pm, and most weren’t opening till 8:30! We settled on a small all-day café where we ate an uninspiring dinner but still felt proud of our achievement. We weren’t getting too carried away though as we knew we still had a 3 month journey riding north to Brazil ahead of us!

Sunday 17/3/13 – The weather last night and today was amazing. It was a warm night and there were no clouds in the sky for the whole time we were in Ushuaia! We enjoyed a sleep in and relaxed for the morning, the only disheartening occurrence in the morning was the extremely cold shower I had when the gas hot water ran out (and seeing the effect it had on me was even more discouraging). We then headed south out of town and on the road heading towards the Tierra del Fuego National Park; the end of this road is actually the southernmost road of the Americas, so after coming this far we had to do it. We had to pay the $22 each to enter the park (which was almost a deal breaker) and travelled the 12 kms to the end of the road. It was no relaxing ride as there were a few insane drivers here and we did pass a car that was upside down on the side of the road with petrol and coolant running out of its destroyed engine and flowing across the gravel road. The police had already arrived so we just continued south with little help for us to offer other than a stern lecture about South American drivers and gravel roads which I figured would not be appreciated (it’s not that they are bad drivers, they’re just lunatics behind the wheel).

We arrived at the end of the road and took the obligatory photos at the sign here. We then went for a relaxing hike which wound along the coast and through some small rivers and forests. There was meant to be an active beaver colony here, and we did find the colony (a large collection of dead trees and branches stretching across a swamp) but we couldn’t spy any of the beavers busying themselves by beavering about. We did stop to observe a fox that came right up to us and walked right past us.

We rode out of the park and bought some steaks to make our own celebratory dinner back at the campsite. We also lined up at the fuel station along with 8 other cars waiting for what seemed like ages to get petrol. After our congratulatory meal of steak and pasta with $2 cask wine, we headed to the tent to snuggle down for the night. I got up in the middle of the night to pee and was stunned by the brightness of the stars here; it was a special moment to stand there gazing up at the beautiful light show. I looked for the Southern Cross constellation but couldn’t find it.

Monday 18/3/13 – Today’s task was to hunt down some moto insurance for the countries we are about to visit: Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil. Insurance here is compulsory and yesterday we had to stop at police checkpoints whilst they checked the paperwork of the cars in front. Luckily though, both times they just waved us through without requesting ours. Today it took about 3 hours and plenty of walking around town before we found an insurer that would cover international motorcyclists. We walked around the city in the afternoon and bought some giant ice-creams dipped in chocolate. Dinner was less fancy: 2-minute noodles. In the evening we prepared for tomorrow’s ride north. Ushuaia has been amazing, the weather perfect and the people friendly, and it had been a pleasure visiting another of this trip’s major milestones.

Tuesday 19/3/13 – We woke up this morning surrounded in tranquillity and peacefulness. After reaching our most southern point, we now have no real plans besides reaching Brazil by mid-June. It’s a great feeling knowing that we aren’t racing time or the weather to get somewhere; hopefully it will be a relaxed journey north. We packed up the tent and headed downtown to post some postcards from the most southern city in the world. Whilst here there was an unusual parade down the main street with people carrying large green aliens on poles. Not in the mood to be probed, we quickly jumped back on the bikes and rode out of town, only stopping for a few stupid photos at the giant Ushuaia sign on the town’s outskirts.

There was a little low lying cloud around as we rode north but there was no fog or mist for the whole day. We rode back to Rio Grande and to the same closed hotel which we camped behind last week. I made the same mistake again by playing with the dogs here, and again they followed me around all evening. Whilst Kenz made some more pasta for dinner (now our staple source of sustenance), I found an old punctured soccerball which the dogs locked their jaws onto as I spun them around at waist height like helicopter blades. They loved it until one let go and went rolling across the yard which almost made me fall over from dizziness and the sudden change in weight. We walked up to the market to replenish our supplies where we found a proper jar of proper jam. It’s the first jar of proper jam we have found in months as they usually sell it in plastic bags and it is extremely processed and jelly-like.

Wednesday 20/3/13 – As soon as we slipped into the tent last night the rain began pouring down. It didn’t stop all night and only let up at about 7am, but by the time we climbed out of the tent, the sky was sunny and the ground dry. Stumbling out of the tent I trod on the sticky remains of our previously unopened carton of orange juice which the dogs had destroyed sometime during the night – at least someone had a nice breakfast. Instead we ate stale bread and jam, but the new jam tasted even better than it looked so it was still a morning to celebrate.

We rode north towards the Argentina to Chile border, where we fuelled up (its much cheaper in Argentina) and spent our remaining Chilean pesos on blocks of chocolate. The quarantine officer asked us a few generic questions and briefly checked our food bag for fruits and vegetables and then waved us on our way. This time we took the central route through the Chilean gravel which was indeed better than the route we took last time. Despite still being gravel it was much more compact than the other road and only a few sections gave us any sort of trouble.

We were extremely excited as today we would be passing the only colony of King Penguins outside of Antarctica (they are similarly coloured to Emperor Penguins but even more beautiful). A few years ago someone stumbled across this colony which is right next to a small gravel road near Bahia Inglesa. We had read on the internet that you could just pullover, jump a fence and walk 200m to the colony but when we arrived, the farmer who owned the thin 200m strip of land between the road and the beach wanted $60 for us to cross his land. I was so infuriated at his exorbitant demand that we got into an argument where I refused to pay and he was shouting and taking photos of our bikes in case we caused trouble. I was expecting to pay 10 or maybe 20 dollars, but this guy was just ripping people off. There weren’t even any facilities, not even a toilet or an information sign so I couldn’t justify paying what he demanded. He was also a very wealthy man with a brand new Hilux and he let slip that he had travelled to New Zealand, Canada and Australia. So instead we just stood at his fence on the side of the road and took photos of the penguins from about 200m away, they looked really cute and their chest and head markings were beautiful.

The farmer put me in a bad mood for the rest of the day which made traversing the gravel road seem much worse than it was. We had to pull over for the large trucks coming the other way as they threw up huge storms of dust and gravel as they passed us. Finally we were on the last 200m of gravel before the road became paved when Kenz’s stretched chain finally gave out. Her chain slipped and then jumped off the sprocket and jammed between the sprocket and swing arm. Somehow she managed to keep the bike upright, and keep under control before stopping just 100m from the paved road. We managed to unjam the chain and also to move the rear wheel back another couple of mm to its very end in an effort to reduce the slack of the chain. With fingers crossed we carefully continued north to the second border crossing.

We rode to the Magellan gap and caught the ferry across to the mainland of South America. It was a different captain from last time and this time we had to pay $15 per bike for the transport across the narrow stretch of water. As we rode off the ferry, the rain started pouring and the infamous Patagonian wind started howling. We rode very carefully with little faith in my rear tyre or Kenz’s chain/sprocket. Neither the wind or rain let up for the rest of the day but we were just happy to be off the gravel now that the conditions were so poor.

We then crossed the other border from Chile back into Argentina near Rio Gallegos. Not even the rain could dampen our spirits as we crossed into Argentina and left Chile behind. As we were waiting for paperwork at the border we watched a red fox walk past just a few feet away. He didn’t have to fill out paperwork and I tried to warn him to stay in Argentina and not to cross into Chile, but he didn’t listen and just trotted past.

As we continued north the rain stopped and we started seeing the many different birds and animals of Patagonia such as foxes, swans, ducks, birds of prey, giant emu-like birds and llama-like guanacos. We rode into the industrial town of Rio Gallegos, which was as inspiring as most small industrial towns, but we did spy 2 moto shops which hopefully stock the equipment we need. We found a small hostel with a shower and space for us to dry out our gear, so we warmed up and ate a hot meal after our long day of 400km, gravel roads, the wind and rain, 2 border crossings and the penguin-farmer giving me the shits. Now we hopefully have 3 months of leisurely riding north towards Brazil through (the so far) promising Argentina and Uruguay.

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