Day 221 – Torres del Paine, Chile to Rio Gallegos, Argentina

Day 221 – Torres del Paine, Chile to Rio Gallegos, Argentina     03/30/11      Mileage: 223

It rained hard all night and into the morning, but around 9am it let up to a light drizzle so I quickly broke camp and packed up the bike.

Even in the light drizzle I was cold and wet by the time I finished packing so I rolled over to the Hotel las Torres to warm up and dry off a bit before hitting the road. Again it started pouring though…and even the roof in the lounge where I was sitting sprung a leak.

Finally around 11:30 the rain stopped and I made a run for the Argentina border. The road was loose gravel and again the wind was hounding me…pushing my bike around at will.

I stopped at a little cafe in Cerro Castillo for a quick bite and to soak up some heat from the wood stove before crossing back into Argentina. The border crossing was fast and straightforward…which seems to be the case for all of the small border posts I’ve crossed….the bigger ones are almost always more trouble and slower.

This German Shepard was the Argentina border post’s mascot…he was adorable…

Back on the road I rolled into Esparanza for gas and to ask the locals about which route to take to the Argentina coast and Ruta 3…the shorter but all dirt road or the longer but paved road. They unanimously said the paved road back towards Rio Gallegos…which I had passed through on the way to Ushuaia. So that settled I rolled down the road and pulled into Rio Gallegos early enough to run some errands to the market and to the bank. I also had to get 3 quarts of oil so I can do an oil change first chance I get.

Do you think you could find anything in this auto parts store? Yeah, I couldn’t either!  LOL

Tomorrow it’s back on the throttle north up the notoriously windy Ruta 3…

Day 220 – Torres del Paine, Chile

Day 220 – Torres del Paine, Chile      03/29/11       Mileage: 0

It poured almost the entire night, but around 8:30 the sun poked out from behind the clouds while I made breakfast.

Then there was a sudden shift in the wind and within minutes the weather had turned cold and a driving rain began to fall. I retreated back into my tent and listened to the rain pound on rain fly. It didn’t let up so I caught up on my guide book reading and waited for a good window to break camp. Well, that window never came and it continued to pour into the afternoon. In the mountains near camp I could see the snow line had come down considerably from yesterday and was only maybe 200-300 vertical feet where I was.

 There was a hiking refugio a short distance away so I made the dash over there to continue waiting out the rain. I brought my laptop to plan out some GPS routes for the road north and sort through my pictures. It was apparent though that I was going to be here another night as even if the rain stopped it was now too late in the day to get any distance. Such is life…and there are worse places to be waiting out the weather…that’s for sure. Hopefully the weather breaks so I can get back on the road tomorrow…

Day 219 – Puerto Natales to Parque Nacional Torres del Paine, Chile

Day 219 – Puerto Natales to Parque Nacional Torres del Paine, Chile      03/28/11      Mileage: 112

After packing the bike I hit the grocery store for some provisions as I plan on camping in the Torres del Paine if the weather cooperates.

Puerto Natales…

That done I headed north out of town and the road ran along the water providing amazing scenery.

Soon it turned to dirt as it began to wind it’s way up a picturesque valley. It was hard to pay attention to riding with the amazing scenery, but the wind was gusting hard in spots which certainly got my attention back on keeping the bike upright and on the loose gravel road.

Farther up the valley, I came around a corner and there were the Torres del Paine in all their grandeur. It was the same sense of awe that I got back when I was riding with my friend Paul in Wyoming the first time we crested a hill and saw the Grand Tetons…the sight of them just stops you dead in your tracks.

….and a close-up.

Continuing on into the park I rode around the south side of the Torres (Towers) and stopped in many spots to enjoy the view.

 I made my way over to the east side of the park and found a campsite with the Torres towering overhead.

The famous torres (towers) of the Torres del Paine….

Hotel las Torres….way out of my budget….my sweet digs are below…

Tomorrow I hope the weather continues to be as good as it was today…

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…

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 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…