Day 212 – La Herreria to El Calafate, Argentina

Day 212 – La Herreria to El Calafate, Argentina      03/21/11       Mileage: 293

The wind…it hounded me all night and was blowing so hard I can’t believe my tent is still in one piece…score one for Mountain Hardware. So while it did not cave the tent in, it did however fill the inside of it..and cover me with a fine powdery dirt that was able to get by the fine tent mesh. My sleeping bag, helmet…everything had a layer of dirt on it…and my boots were filled with it…just f–king grand. So with the wind still howling out of the west, I broke camp and continued south on Ruta 40. The road surface was loose gravel….which by itself can be slippery, but it’s fine. But when combined with a 40 mph cross wind…it royally sucks. The loose gravel offers little traction, so the wind essentially has it’s way with you, blowing you and the bike several feet left or right at will….whether that’s off the road, into an oncoming truck or into the 6-12 inch deep gravel berms that will throw you down in heap. This goes on for hour upon nerve racking hour of desolate road…and might be the only time on this entire trip where I actually would have preferred to be at work…that’s how much it sucked!

In the misery I wasn’t compelled to stop and take pictures…but I did take these two token shots….

The misery ended with the beginning of the pavement as the wind is then much more manageable. I rolled into and through El Calafate on my way to see the Perito Moreno Glacier….one of the first places I knew I wanted to see when planning this trip. It cost $25 to get in, but the sight before you does not disappoint.

To give you a sense of scale…look at the people at the bottom of the pictures…incredable!

The glacier was calving off into the lake and the sound of 5 story tall ice blocks tumbling into the water sounded like canons firing…it was unbelievable! I stood there and watched (and listened) in awe at what was one of the most amazing natural wonders I’ve ever seen. Afterwards I headed back to El Calafate and found a room, some dinner and a few beers. Tomorrow it’s back on the road south…

Advertisements

Day 211 – Paso Roballas, Chile to La Herreria, Argentina

Day 211 – Paso Roballas, Chile to La Herreria, Argentina      03/20/11      Mileage: 237

With dawn came a great sunrise which I lingered to enjoy before breaking camp and getting back on the road.

The scenery was great and I had the road, little more than a rocky two-track, to myself.

In two hours I was at the Chile border outpost where the officer had me and the bike processed out in 10 minutes.

Quite a nice setting to work for the Chile border officials….

 A few kilometers later I arrived at the Argentina border post and was processed in almost as quickly. Crossing between these two countries, even with the bike, is completely free and aside from the formalities pretty easy.

Continuing on the mountains gave way to more of a desert landscape but it was still enjoyable to ride through.

Soon I arrived back at the famous Ruta 40 where I hung a right and continued heading south. The landscape was now more open and without the protection of the mountains the strong westerly winds were free to hound me at will…easily moving the bike 2-3 feet sideways on the loose gravel. With nightfall rapidly approaching I began to look for a good spot to bush camp…which I found about a 1/2 mile down a rutted 2 track.

Tuna wrap…which I washed down with hot chocolate and whiskey….good eats!

I found a nice spot for the tent, once I kicked the dried cow shit out of the way, and I was once again treated to great sunset.

Another great day on the road south….

Day 210 – Coyhaique to Paso Raballos, Chile

Day 210 – Coyhaique to Paso Raballos, Chile      03/19/11       Mileage: 214

It absolutely poured all night, so much so that it woke me up several times which almost never happens. Around 9:30 the rain let up, so I packed the bike and continued south on the Carretera Austral.

Aside from a few rain squalls, the weather steadily improved as I rolled south and eventually gave way to sunny skies with just enough clouds to make for good pictures….I hit the jackpot! It seems my waiting a day was the right move after all, and I was basking in the warmth of the sun and glad to not be drenched in the cold driving rain again.

The scenery went from great to unbelievable as I rode along the aquamarine waters of Lago General Carrera, the largest lake in Chile. This is what I came here for, and I would have disappointed to miss out had the mountains been obscured by the rain and clouds.

This one day made it all worth it. Late in the afternoon I stopped and setup camp on a small bluff and enjoyed an amazing Patagonia sunset…a fitting end to a memorable day of riding on the Carretera Austral.

Tomorrow it’s back into Argentina and onto the famous Ruta 40…

Day 209 – Coyhaique, CL

Day 209 – Coyhaique, CL      03/18/11      Mileage: 0

Kyosti and Joachim had decided to take a more direct route back to Argentina, while I chose to continue farther down the Carretera Austral before crossing back over to Argentina. They wanted to get an early start and I wanted to use the wifi for a bit, so we said goodbye and they were off.

It was great riding with them for the last 3 days…we shared a lot of good stories and laughs and I’ll miss their company. I went to work on the blog, but before long I could hear the unmistakable sound of rain on the roof of the hostal. Crap. Given the weather and that the blog was still over a week behind, I decided to stay one more night to get caught up….and hopefully the weather will be better tomorrow morning…

Day 208 – La Junta, CL to Coyhaique, CL

Day 208 – La Junta, CL to Coyhaique, CL      03/17/11      Mileage: 166

The hostal barely had heat so none of our gear was really dry. We certainly weren’t going to stay, so we packed the bikes and grabbed a quick breakfast of yogurt and fruit on the way out of town.

Part of the road that ran along a fjord was under construction, so they had a ferry take you around the construction zone…nice!

The rain was coming down but it would occasionally stop to lift your spirits even if only for a moment…and a picture.

The last 40 miles to Coyhaique were in a downpour the tropics would be proud of, so we decided to seek out a hostal (with heat) to dry out our gear and regroup. The rain ended late in the afternoon as we wandered out for dinner. Hopefully tomorrow will bring better weather so we can enjoy riding what is surly one of the most spectacular roads in the world.

Day 207 – Futaleufu, CL to La Junta, CL

Day 207 – Futaleufu, CL to La Junta, CL      03/16/11      Mileage: 237

It was raining on and off in the morning and it didn’t look like it was going to stop. We had breakfast and waited for it to let up, then packed the bikes and headed west for the Carretera Austral…a remote, mostly dirt road connecting the towns in the far south of Chile in Patagonia.

The quaint if not so bustling town of Futaleufu…

The scenery, when we were able to see it through the driving rain and low clouds, was spectacular. Some of the rivers were a turquoise blue that I just could not capture with my camera.

You can actually see the rain coming down in these pictures…

We pressed on through the rain and cold but eventually cried uncle and sought refuge in a small rustic coffee house on the Austral. We were chilled to the bone and drowned like rats, and thankful to be out of the weather. The owner stoked up the wood stove and made some hot tea and coffee while we listened to the rain pounding on the metal roof.

We tried to dry our gloves by the fire as our hands were suffering the worst from the cold.

Fresh steaming gloves hot off the stove….

We sat down and laughed at ourselves and thought at moments like this…why can’t we be like normal people and go vacation in the Caribbean and sit on the warm beach…washing down conch fritters with fruity rum drinks. Well, that was a good laugh but it was only a temporary relief from the misery ahead, as the rain if anything was only getting worse. So we thanked our host for her hospitality (and heat) and we put our gear back on and went back out to finish what we started. The owner gave us the name of a friend in La Junta that ran a hostal, so that was now our goal. Needless to say I did not stop to take many (and by that I mean any) pictures, partly because the scenery was largely shrouded in rain, fog and clouds, but mainly because I couldn’t be bothered with stopping to take the 10 minutes it would take me to get my soaking wet numb hands in and out of my drenched riding gloves to work the camera. We finally arrived in La Junta and ended the misery when we found the hostal.

The owner turned out to be bat shit crazy, and we would have told her to shove it and left were it not such a pain in the ass to re-pack the bikes. Over dinner we had some laughs (mostly at her expense) and shared stories from the road, the craziest of which I’ll summarize here. Back in Quito, Ecuador… 5 men armed with guns and knives broke into the apartment where they were staying, held them at gunpoint, made them get down on the floor and tied their hands behind their back…then robbed them. HOLY SHIT is all I had to say…in addition to they are lucky to live to tell the story…

Day 206 – San Carlos de Bariloche, AR to Futaleufu, CL

Day 206 – San Carlos de Bariloche, AR to Futaleufu, CL      03/15/11       Mileage: 237

After running some last minute errands, I packed the bike and pointed the KLR south out of town. The scenery was epic, the weather was fantastic and all was right with the world.

I stopped for lunch in the small town of El Bolson which had a nice vibe and a great setting below the towering nearby mountains.

 Even the gas station in El Bolson had a nice view…

A month ago I would have stayed just to have a better look, but I need to keep pushing south if I’m going to beat winter to Ushuaia. On the far side of El Bolson I caught up to 2 other riders and we pulled over to chat. Kyosti and Joachim are a father and son team from Denmark and have been on the road since August and also started in NY! We were heading the same direction so we saddled up and hit the road together.

We stopped for gas in Esquel and then continued to the Chile border, passing more amazing scenery along the way.

Crossing the border back into Chile…

We found a nice little hostal for the night in the tiny town of Futaleufu just over the border and then wandered out for dinner. There were only 2 restaurants open so we chose the one that had a pretty extensive menu. We sat down and began looking at the menu and noticed X’s next to many of the items on the menu. We asked the waitress if the X’s indicated that they did or did not have that item as it was not clear…and neither was her answer. So I order lasagna, which did not have an X, but the waitress said, “no hay”…which means they don’t have it. Next I tried ordering a burger, which did have an X next to it…but she said, “no hay”. Joachim and Kyosti tried ordering as well with similar results. I asked if she could just tell me what she DID have and we’ll choose from that. So, she went to the kitchen and returned 10 minutes later and said they have lomo (meat) with potatoes or soup. I asked what kind of soup, but she didn’t know and once again returned to the Kitchen to find out. Tomato soup, perfect…I’ll take it. Joachim and Kyosti went for the lomo and we added a round of beer to the order. 15 minutes later she returned and said, no hay lomo. We started laughing hysterically…and they amended their order to tomato soup as well.

Our “no hay” dinner….

So, with a menu of at least 50 items on it, it came down to they had tomato soup, bread and beer….which was fine with us and we got a good laugh out of it as well. Such is life in the remote area’s of Patagonia…