Day 218 – Rio Grande, Argentina to Puerto Natales, Chile

Day 218 – Rio Grande, Argentina to Puerto Natales, Chile      03/27/11      Mileage: 348

It was below freezing overnight and there was a lot of frost on the bike cover this morning. Last night Collin and Derek rolled into the hostal unexpectedly after having suffered yet another flat! They had hoped to get much farther but had to hold up in Rio Grande because of all the time it took to fix the flats.

In addition to the 3 KLR’s, there were two local Argentinians on an Africa Twin and a KTM 990A at the hostal tha night…

Well, the upside is we got to chat more and we also road together this morning until parting ways.

It’s a KLR covention…above at the Argentina border and waiting for the ferry to cross the Straits of Magellan below…

They were heading due north for Rio Gallegos and I was turning west to Puerto Natales and the Parque Nacional Torres del Paine. The wind was strong but manageable in the morning but got brutal in the afternoon. At least by then the road was paved so it was more frustrating than dangerous.

The strong westerly wind also severely cut into my mileage…and I ran both my main and reserve tanks dry 23 miles short of my planned fuel stop. Luckily I carry two extra gallons strapped to my passenger footpegs for just such an occasion. All gassed up I continued pushing ahead into the wind all the way to Puerto Natales where I got a room for the night. The hostal had a dodgy vibe, but the price was right at $10. Tomorrow it’s off to the Torres del Paine…which will be amazing to see if the weather cooperates…

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Day 217 – Ushuaia to Rio Grande, Argentina

Day 217 – Ushuaia to Rio Grande, Argentina       03/26/11       Mileage:  138

Beto, Tracy and I were all a little slow out of the gate this morning after last nights festivities. We chatted over breakfast about possible routes north, swapped tales from the road south and talked about other adventures someday to be realized. But soon it was time for me to go as the road north beckons…and after packing the bike and saying adios to Beto and Tracy, a pointed the KLR out of town.

The weather was great and I could see so much more of the amazing scenery than I could on the ride in. My plan was to only ride as far as Rio Grande, so I wasn’t in any rush and a savored each mile.

I passed two other KLR’s on the side of the road so I stopped to say hi. Derek and Collin had shipped their bikes to Santiago, Chile, rode down to Ushuaia and their plan is to ride them home to Canada.

Collin was in the process of fixing his 11th flat in about 2,000 miles….crazy! They have a blog as well: southandback.blogspot.com  I have been extremely lucky in that department…and that’s all I’m going to say lest I jinx myself! Back on the throttle it was a windy last 100 miles into Rio Grande where I worked on the blog, grabbed some dinner and called it a night. Tomorrow it’s back into Chile to head for the Parque Nacional Torres del Paine…which should be spectacular if the weather cooperates….

Day 216 – Ushuaia, AR

Day 216 – Ushuaia, Argentina      03/25/11       Mileage: 0

Ushuaia is a long way to go for a photograph, but like life, it’s all about the journey and not where you end up. For me it’s been an amazing journey on many levels and I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity. The end, when it comes, will be bittersweet I’m sure. So after spending the morning updating the blog and returning emails, I walked around downtown Ushuaia and it really is quite a nice little town…a nice mix of local and tourist oriented businesses.

The weather is also surprisingly warm for being this far south and given it’s location on the water. Late in the afternoon Beto and Tracy (the couple I met in Machu Picchu and again in El Calafate) arrived at the hostal on their KTM 990. It was great to catch up with them and we celebrated our arrival in Ushuaia that night in an Irish pub in town. We had as many laughs as we did beers and Beto also had a celebratory fox hat that he was saving for the occasion…too funny!

Tomorrow, it’s back on the road, but this time it’s the road north…the road home…

Day 215 – Rio Grande to Ushuaia, Argentina

Day 215 – Rio Grande to Ushuaia, Argentina     03/24/11     Mileage: 171

It was raining when I got up this morning, but I only had a little over 2 hours worth of riding to get down to Ushuaia…so I waited for a break in the rain and then got on the road. The scenery was nice for the first hour but was really good the last 40 or so miles up and over a small mountain pass.

They even have this sign that tells you where to take the picture…though…that is one funny looking camera!

I would have stopped for more pictures, but I had this need to just get there! Once over the pass, it was a nice roll down a picturesque valley until the sign for Ushuaia came into view.

And that was it…7 months and 3 days after setting out from New Jersey, I was finally here in Ushuaia, the self proclaimed “Southernmost City in the World.” I’ve seen many pictures of it before, but the town is in a spectacular setting on the Beagle Channel surrounded by mountains…and is much nicer in person than in pictures….not at all what I expected.

And while Ushuaia might be the last town on the road south, the road itself, Ruta 3, continues another 20 kilometers into the Parque Nacional del Tierra del Fuego to the very end of the road….and after dropping my bag at the hotel,  that was my next stop. Just on the other side of town the road turned to dirt before arriving at the entrance to park.

The scenery was again much better than I expected and remember from the pictures. The trees were turning in the autumn weather and there was snow on the high peaks…it was spectacular.

Then, around a bend in the road the famous sign that I have seen in so many other pictures came into view…the literal end of the road south.

In English: 
Land of Fire National Park
Lapataia Bay
Republic of Argentina
Here is the end of National Route No. 3
Buenos Aires: 1,913 miles
Alaska: 11, 090 miles

If my eyesight was as good as Sarah Palin I might be able to see Antarctica.  😉  I took the requisite pictures, smoked a big cigar that Johnny O gave me before the trip and lingered for a bit to reflect and take it all in. Well, that was it…nothing left to do but point my trusty KLR north and head for home…

It’s official…

It’s official, I reached Ushuaia, Argentina earlier today….post for today coming soon….

-Lenny

Day 214 – Rio Gallegos to Rio Grande, Argentina

Day 214 – Rio Gallegos to Rio Grande, Argentina      03/23/11      Mileage: 248

I worked on the blog over breakfast and then went out to the auto parts store to be there when they opened at 9. They had the bulb in stock and I also got more electrical tape for the short in the tail light wiring. Back at the hotel I spent the next hour putting humpty dumpty back together…then packed the bike and split. With the late start, it was doubtful that I’d make it to Ushuaia given that there are two border crossings (out of Argentina into Chile and back to Argentina) and a ferry in between. The first police checkpoint I was stopped and asked to go in the building with my passport. I’ve been through dozens of checkpoints and have always been either waved through or asked 1 or 2 questions and sent on my way…so I’m not sure why this guy had a burr in his ass. Anyway, it didn’t take too long but it set the tone for the day. At the Argentina side of the border the immigration officer went to take a shit for 20 minutes as soon as I walked up with my passport. fortunately it took 30 seconds to cancel my bike import permit..usually it’s the other way around. Anyway, once done it was on to the Chile side were I arrived just after a bus. Super…more waiting. All that done I was off to the ferry across the Straits of Magellan.

I arrived and was told the next ferry would be here in 20 minutes, and sure enough you could see it making it’s way here. When the blue ferry arrived, some trucks got off…then some trucks got on…then the ramp went up and it buggered off leaving me and 5 other cars waiting there wondering what just happened?

Nobody seemed to know why as there was still plenty of room. WTF? So we sat there for another hour and eventually another red ferry showed up, but after they let everyone off, the didn’t start boarding for almost 40 minutes for what looked like some inspection or something.

Once loaded we set sail across the straits to the island of Tierra del Fuego, which took about 20 minutes.

Strapped in for the short but choppy ride across the Straits of Magellan…

Back on dry land I hit the gas still hoping to make it to Ushuaia, but that hope evaporated at the next border as soon as I saw the line waiting at the Chile immigration. It took 45 minutes to get my exit stamp…something that usually takes 30 seconds(unless the officer goes to take a dump of course). So after exiting Chile and reentering Argentina, I stopped in Rio Grande to look for a room and some dinner. Tomorrow, it’s on to Ushuaia for sure!

Day 213 – El Calafate to Rio Gallegos, Argentina

Day 213 – El Calafate to Rio Gallegos, Argentina      03/22/11      Mileage: 209

I spent the morning updating the blog and doing some maintenance on the bike. The headlights and tail light were out due to a short in the wiring that was blowing the fuse…seems all the washboard dirt roads the last few days took their toll on the bike wiring. I couldn’t be bothered with tracing it down at the moment though….that could take hours to find. So I packed the bike and split without the lights…which I really won’t need unless I get caught out in the dark. On the way out of town I bumped into Beto and Tracy who I met at Machu Picchu back in Peru! It was great to see them again and we chatted for a bit. They were just pulling into town…so hopefully we’ll catch up again…perhaps in Ushuaia! Back on the gas it was all business down the pavement to Rio Gallegos…battling the west winds the whole way.

I decided to stop in Rio Gallegos and find a room with a good spot to work on the bike as finding that short could require taking a lot of the bike apart. After finding a room with parking out back, I unpacked and started looking for the short. The factory wiring to the headlight is pretty bomber and well protected running inside the main wiring harness from the fuse and battery to the front of the bike, so I started with tail light as it is much more exposed running under the rear fender. After 30 minutes of looking I found a short in the tail light wiring where the power lead and ground wires had rubbed through..but when I put another fuse in it popped as soon as turned the ignition on…crap. Two shorts…what are the odds…so I started looking at the headlight wiring. It’s mostly buried in the main wiring harness and it’s doubtful it shorted inside the harness and if it did it would be damn near impossible to find and fix without destroying the harness.

The leads to the headlights looked good so I tried another fuse just for giggles and it was fine…but then I noticed the low beam connector was not fully seated, and when I seated it the fuse popped. Huh…so I took out the headlight bulb and sure enough one of the posts in the bulb had bent and was touching the other post causing the short-circuit. Damn…I never saw a bulb fail that way…but I’m glad I found the second short and it only took about an hour total. It’s too late to get a new bulb now, so I’ll have to do that first thing tomorrow morning at the auto parts store. That done I scared up some dinner, worked on the blog and then called it a night…