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…

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…

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 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…

Day 202 – 205 – San Carlos de Bariloche, AR

Day 202 – 205 – San Carlos de Bariloche, AR      03/11-14/11      Mileage: Local miles

I spent the last few days mostly getting caught up on the blog, running errands and drinking my body weight in cheap (but very good!) Argentinian wine.

 The hostal had a pub downstairs and it was always full of partying travelers, so that was good time! They also had a big traditional Argentinian assado Friday night which was great. 

Meat, it’s whats for dinner….  😀

I took a day trip on the bike out to tour the west end of the lake on some spectacular roads, passing by the famous Llao Llao Hotel which is situated in an amazing setting.

You can see the Hotel Llao Llao on a hill in the middle of the picture….

I’m not sure what kind of birds these are, but they were big!

The famous Hotel Llao Llao

I also went up to have a look at the Catedral ski area and rode to the top of Cerro Otto with a great panoramic view of the whole area.

The view from the top of Cerro Otto…

Bariloche is a great place to relax and spend some time for sure. I also bumped into Alex yet again, which would make it the 4th time in 4 different countries. He saw my bike out front when he passed by and stopped in to say hi…too funny!

I also went to the Honda dealer to borrow a 27mm socket and breaker bar to change out the drive sprocket, rear sprocket and drive chain as it was starting to show signs of significant ware.

 They offered to wash the bike for free, didn’t charge me for using their tools and moved some of their bikes out of the way so I could use their patio to work on my bike…..great guys!

Looks good as new!

Tomorrow it’s back on the road south and back over the Andes to Chile to ride the Carretera Austral…

Day 201 – San Martin de Los Andes, AR to San Carlos de Bariloche, AR

Day 201 – San Martin de Los Andes, AR to San Carlos de Bariloche, AR      03/10/11     Mileage: 126

In the daylight my stealth campsite ended up not being so stealth, but it was still free and nobody bothered me. I rode back a few miles to San Martin de Los Andes to have a better look around and some breakfast which I found and quaint cafe.

I really like San Martin…I wish I could spend more time here…but I need to keep moving south. The road to San Carlos de Barlioche from San Martin passed by some spectacular alpine lakes and the scenery was great despite the light rain that was falling.

More lines for gas…..and this station is in a very wealthy resort town….so it’s not a money thing….

I saw these maps for sale and it dawned on me I just crossed another off my life list….to go to Patagonia…

Looking acorss thelake to San Carlos de Bariloche…

I rolled into Bariloche mid-afternoon and found a hostel thanks to another biker who came up to me and told me where he was staying. Brian is from the UK on his BMW F800 and is doing nearly the same trip as me…it’s hard to believe we didn’t bump into each other until now! I settled in and tried to update the blog but the internet at the hostel was pretty bad. At night I wandered out for a look around, some dinner and a bit of fine chocolate which is one thing that Bariloche is famous for.

San Carlos de Bariloche at night….

Day 200 – El Zampal, AR to San Martin de Los Andes, AG

Day 200 – El Zampal, AR to San Martin de Los Andes, AG       03/09/11      Mileage: 397

I lingered a bit in camp this morning to write a bit for the blog and enjoy the nice setting over a morning coffee.

Packed and rolling south on the dirt I recall laughing inside my helmet at just how fortunate I am to be right here right now….man I’m lucky bastard. The scenery was great and always changing and eventually I hit the pavement again which allowed me to ramp up the pace.

I used the last of my pesos to buy gas in a small town I passed by…enough for around 2 gallons. I was now out of money again until I can find someplace to change my dollars, which I figured I could do at Las Lajas or at worst Zapala.

Nothing but skin and bones….  Actually, that hide might make a nice rug…

 Well, when I arrived in Las Lajas the bank was closed (I guess bankers keep the same shity hours everywhere) and all the businesses appeared to be closed…maybe the power was out…not sure, but the place was half deserted. My next chance was Zapala which turned out to be a half descent sized town. I went straight to the bank but it had closed at 1pm…despite the fact that it was 3pm and still FULL of people. Those poor fookers have been in there waiting for at least 2 hours now! WTF?

Here’s a picture of the “closed” bank and all the people waiting and waiting….crazy.

I asked a nice gentleman in a suit where I could find another bank, money changer….anywhere that would change dollars. He said I could try the gas station, but he didn’t think they would either. He offered to change what he had on him which was a nice gesture, but he barely had enough for 1 tank of gas, so I thanked him and politely declined. I went across the street to a restaurant and as luck would have it he would take and change dollars…sweet! So I had a lite lunch and paid with my crisp $100 I’ve been carrying from the motherland. So now with a full belly and half full wallet, I set off to get gas. The first gas station was out of gas, and so was the second. So I was told there was one other gas station in town, and when I arrived…this is what I saw…

Yes folks, that is what an hour and 15 minute gas line looks like. And no, this picture is not some third world banana republic or the US in the 1970’s, this is modern day Argentina. WTF?! It’s weird, some towns seem to have plenty of gas, others almost none…haven’t figured that one out yet. So now with a full tank to burn, I continued south battling the west winds the entire time.

I rolled through the quaint town of Junin de los Andes and then I was on the hunt for a stealth campsite. It proved pretty hard to find as there were cattle fences that ran on both sides of the road…or I would have just ridden off into the bush. I kept rolling and searching and eventually came to the super cool lakeside town of San Martin de los Andes. Wow, what a great little town…too bad I had to roll through without stopping. Fortunately a few miles further I found a descent little stealth spot just off the road. Tomorrow it’s on to San Carlos de Bariloche where I’m going to splurge on a room and have a long overdue shower.

Parting shot: Rolling in the twilight….

Day 199 – Uspallata, AR to El Zampal, AR

Day 199 – Uspallata, AR to El Zampal, AR 03/08/11 Mileage: 434

I was up early, broke camp and was on the road around 8 and rolling south towards Mendoza.

My stealth campsite actually turned out to be pretty picturesque in the morning…

The vineyards around Mendoza with the Andes looming in the background…

I wanted to have a steak and a bottle of red in Mendoza, but the road south beckons and it will have to wait for the way back up. Eventually the vineyards around Mendoza gave way to open rocky desert and I was making good time.

I took a detour up to Las Lenas, another well-known ski resort, and had a nice lunch and a beer.

Let the good times roll indeed! But why is that sign in english?  lol

Back on the road I continued south across the scenic but barren landscape.

These cute donkeys stood and watched me watch them for quite a while…

Nightfall finely caught me and I stopped and bush camped along a river….another great day on the road south…

Day 198 – Valle Nevado, CL to Uspallata, AR

Day 198 – Valle Nevado, CL to Uspallata, AR       03/07/11       Mileage: 221

I made some coffee and walked out a bit further on the outcropping just in time to catch the sunrise over the high peaks of the Andes.

Some wild horses were nearby as well…

I lingered a bit to take it all in, then packed up and continued up to the Valle Nevado ski are to have a look. As a die-hard skier, I’ve always wanted to ski in South America in Chile and Argentina, so even though it’s not ski season I’m still drawn here like a spanning salmon.

The resort sites on a knife ridge with spectacular views in every direction…and it’s only an hour ride from Santiago…pretty cool.

I also swung by La Parva on the way back down to Santiago.

Back in Santiago I went to draw out more pesos but three different ATM’s said there was a problem with my card…damn! So I stopped into a Starbucks and used the wifi to call my bank, and they said my card was disabled because a merchant I bought something from(they couldn’t say which one) back in the states got hacked, so they disabled every credit and debit card ever used at that merchant. I know that’s for my own protection, but what a pain in the ass for me. I only had around $8 in pesos left which wasn’t going to last long…Chile is as expensive as the US. The banks were already closed, I couldn’t change any of my US dollars….so I decided to use my remaining pesos to buy gas and head for the border into Argentina….country number 16. It took about 90 minutes to get there and the road climbed up a scenic mountain pass past the ski area of Portillo.

Now that is a twisty road!

The immigration and customs for Chile and Argentina were both in a combined building in Argentina…..brilliant! When you pulled up, you gave your passport to the Chile official who stamps you out, then they slide it over to the Argentina official sitting right next to them, who stamps you in…20 seconds tops! Same for the customs, an official from each country sits right next to each other, so they processed the bike in and out at the same time. There were no money changers at the border, so I continued down the valley to the town of Uspallata….a cool little place that seems to be a base for trekking, rafting and other outdoor activities.

 The bank was already closed, so I tried to change money at 2 pharmacies, a gas station, 2 restaurants, a market and the casino…and nobody would change or accept US dollars. Next I went into a hotel and they said no as well, but I pleaded my case. They said it was illegal to change anything other than Chilean pesos, which I had none of either, but in the end they helped me out and changed $100. I thanked them for breaking the law and now I had money for gas a food. It was already dark by this point, but I rolled south in search of a stealthy place to camp. The road was pinched between cliffs and a river so finding a spot to camp proved difficult, but I did muscle the bike down onto a small embankment about 30 yards from the road by the river. I’d like to be farther from the road, but at least I was well hidden given the pitch black darkness. I had a quick bite to eat and then crashed.

More posts coming soon…

Hi All!

Sorry for the long gap in posts but I’ve been on the throttle getting south and I’m currently in San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina. I’ll have more posts up today as soon as I find a good internet connection to upload the pictures…