Our 31st country on this trip seems to have little to offer apart from the beaches along the Atlantic Coast. But honestly, at home, what do we really know about Uruguay? Well, our first stop, in the small town of Fray Bentos,
For the last time in South America some of our dearest friends were assembled at one spot.
Kanako (Coco), Takeshi and Wasabi had already shipped their car to Europe. They would be flying from Buenos Aires to Amsterdam at the end of March. They plan to explore Europe for three months before they start their overland journey home to Japan. Mid-March Mandi and John would load their van into a container to ship it back to Florida but fly ahead on March, 18th. We spend two nights at Chacra Holandesa with all of them.
Then, to soften the goodbyes a bit, we spent another two days with Mandi and John in a rainy Montevideo
Everything must come to an end – like the comfortable, funny meetings with our friends. Riding out of Montevideo I shed a couple of melancholic tears. Most of our friends were already long gone. But soon I had to concentrate on traffic and our next destination.
Yes, my heartrate still accelerates when we head for a new destination. Curiosity takes over. Antsy, with a – I’m pretty sure – stupid grin on my face, I sit on the bike – following Thomas into the next adventure!
Okay, there is no translation for “Januarloch” but the meaning is quite simple. After all the festivities, the money spending there is the January Hole – no festivities, no money, tiredness, long winter nights, people being just a bit depressed 😉
So, apart from the fact that we reached Ushuaia, January hadn’t started on a good note.
But since we got our spare parts, fixing the starters was top priority. Therefore, we returned from Ushuaia to Rio Grande. We not only had a nice apartment but a motorcycle mechanic had agreed to let Thomas work in his shop – while he was on holidays. When we were ready to get started, his daughter couldn’t get hold of the workshop key.
Luckily, Fernanda had a boyfriend with a small workshop, he and his friends used for their ADVs, which we were allowed to use. My bike came first.
All went smoothly
until the side cover cracked while Thomas tightening the screws. No way to hit the road without being splattered with engine oil. The guys agreed that JB Weld and some kind of bracket should do the deal.
Then the paper seal of Thomas’ side cover ripped. To find seal paper was kind of difficult but in the end we got lucky. So I cut a new one.
Friends of Fernando, the shop owner, showed up and invited us for an impromptu BBQ session.
They had a huge build-in grill in the workshop.
We were driven home after a fun evening and then picked up again the next morning. Hoping that all was fine, we took the motorcycles back to the apartment.
But both side covers were still leaking. That meant more time in the workshop, drinking more Mate.
Finally, after four days, Thomas was willing to ride on. It’s so easy, when you can simply press a button
and the engine roars 😀
After 369 km (230 mi),
two border crossings and a ferry,
that brought us from the Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego back to the argentine mainland, it was clear that we couldn’t continue without spending more time trying to fix my side cover. On iOverlander we found a recommendation for a local mechanic. Luis proofed to be our savior in Rio Gallegos.
Not only was Thomas allowed to use his workshop, free of charge,
but he knew a welder that he trusted to weld my aluminum side cover. Thomas had removed the JB Weld very carefully.
After the welding
a new paper seal was cut and then we could only hope.
Rain cut our next riding day short. But after 237 km (148 mi) the side cover was still dry/sealed. An entire landslide went off our hearts – what a huge relief. It would have been almost impossible to get a replacement in Argentina.
The only reason to stop in Caleta Olivia would have been the sea lion colony directly beside the road. But that day, there wasn’t even a single one on the beach, of course. The locals assured us that this was very exceptional. Ha, big help, didn’t mean the beasts returned…
As it turned out, we wouldn’t have time to return and have a second look after finding a hotel room. Unloading our tail bags, we discovered that Tom’s rear tire had simply dissolved on the last kilometers.
Completely unexpected, we had to find a new rear tire. Sadly, 18 inch (in our width) isn’t really common down here. But we were lucky and found one at a reasonable price. Thomas took the wheel out, carried it to the dealer who took him to a shop to have it mounted. Soon, the wheel was back in and we went to pay for the tire. Suddenly, the dealer wanted 50 USD more for the tire – mounting not included. If Thomas didn’t want to pay the more expensive price, the dealer wanted the tire back. Huuuu???? After a long discussion that let to nothing but hot tempers on all sides, we put cash on the counter – the original price and 15 USD extra – and left the shop without another word. Since the guy didn’t show up at the hotel he must have been satisfied.
After the experience with Tom’s tire, we weren’t willing to take chances but ordered new tires all around. 10 days later we should be able to pick them up at the post office in Puerto Madryn, a bit further north.
That left us with a lot of time to ride a part of Argentina that most people describe as boring.
In almost all the blogs we follow people choose either the route along the Andes, take the ferry back north or are suddenly in Buenos Aires.
We decided to ride some more dirt, which provided us with some change.
In Trelew we spend 6 days in an ultra-cheap AirBnB – 10 USD per night (for 2) incl. breakfast.
Our landlady lent us her car to visit closeby Gaiman to enjoy some welsh afternoon tea. We visited a tea room where, once upon a time, Diana, Pricess of Wales, had a cup of tea.
With 36° C, 97° F, in the shade, it was too warm for us to drink afternoon tea. Instead we went for an aperitif.
Then it was time to change location. Over the next three days our three tires arrived in Puerto Madryn.
Our landlord was fine with us changing tires in the yard and even took care of our rundown ones.
Still kind of undecided, we continued north.
The coastal towns and the transit stations were full of tourists. The hotels overpriced and therefore not worth their money. Vacation season, high season, then transitions into Carnival Season in certain regions. Riding a bit more dirt,
1’000 km (625 mi) before Buenos Aires we reached our limit. Our only thought was getting out of the hype. The idea to continue along the coast and meet up for a beer with the bikers we had met on the Carretera Austral wasn’t attractive anymore, since they lived in the biggest beach resort – Mar del Plata.
Settling down, waiting for the high season and the Carnival to pass, not playing the hotel game for a month… Three dusty, boring and hot days later we moved into our little apartment. A bedroom, a bathroom, a kitchen, a living room, WIFI, a washing machine AND AC 😀
Taking the ferry to the Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego we left Punta Arenas. It was an uneventful, bumpy two hours ride crossing the Strait of Magellan. In stormy wind we arrived at our little hostel in Porvenir, a village enthusiastically named Future. There’s hardly another place in South America where locals gave us such a friendly welcome. Within 30 minutes we knew the family history of at least three people 😀
Mind is set on reaching the End of the World – should be easy all is planned out. Of course, it didn’t go according to plan. First, the king penguin colony was still closed when we arrived –opening at 11 a.m. only. Second, Thomas had a flat. Sure, this couldn’t have happened in any other place than the no man’s land between the Chilean and Argentinian border and it had to be the rear tire.
Naturally, this was not a wind covered place either. Does that even exist down here???
Then there is always a first – even if you have been riding as long as Thomas: No way we wanted to take of the helmets in this cold wind.
As for the gloves, well, no choice there. After 90 minutes we were back on the road.
About a 100 km (+/- 60 mi) before Ushuaia the landscape changes. Instead of dry, windswept plain mountains start gracing the view.
In super high spirits we rode up to the city limit to take the absolutely mandatory pictures.
Then, the TWO HOUR search for our accommodation started, which was supposed to be a mere 15 minutes’ walk from the city center. Urgh, our elation had turned pretty sour by the time we finally got into our apartment. There, we discovered to our surprise that our mood manages to drop even further. Luckily, Megan and Mike had made it to Ushuaia ahead of us. They were joining us in drinking ourselves from misery to bliss 😀
Ushuaia is a very touristy place. During the season, most days, it has a cruise ship or two in port.
Another big tourist magnet are the Antarctica cruises. Filled with tourists in the summer months the city offers a pedestrian zone with a wide range of restaurants, cafés, bars and shops. bo
More and more of our friends made it to the End of the World. Some only stopped to shop for groceries, others overnight. Peter arrived from Germany – with our spare parts.
Thank you so much, dear Peter!
We rode to the end of Ruta Nacional 3, the road that leads from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia, the second End of the World.
That was it! Our KTM’s, Thomas and I made it safe and sound to Ushuaia. We rode the 51’000 km (31’875 mi) – most direct route according to Google Maps: 21’808 km (13’630 mi) – in only 240 days (which leaves us with 309 days off the bikes).
The biggest mechanical problem had my KTM in Cuauhtémoc, Mexico. We can look back on thousands of good experiences and nice encounters – without a single negative one that would be worth mentioning here. We had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with old friends and to make new ones. Therefore we take this opportunity to thank each and every one that was part of this piece of the trip and that contributed with their presence to make it into an unforgettable experience. It would take too long to mention everybody but they can be found in the blog since Deadhorse. Thank you for your friendship, help, support and all the good times we could spend with you!
To our surprise and great pleasure we were contacted by Megan and Mike, an Australian couple on the same Africa twin as Steve, on December, 30th. Easily we agreed to spend New Year’s Eve together. After consuming our lamb leg, while keeping our throats moist,
we run out of drinks by 23.30 h. That just wouldn’t do. Being the ADVriders we are, we headed into town. Successful in our quest, we could raise our beers to a toast at the stroke of midnight!
On January 2nd, we packed up and said our final goodbyes to Steve. The road to the “End of the World” is marked by scarecrows –
at least on the Argentinian side.
As fascinating as these might be, we enjoyed the rheas, guanacos and extremely wooly sheep more. When the head is in the grass it’s very easy to mistake the local sheep for some pile of dirty wool or garbage 🙂
Torres del Paine is one of the attractions that you just can’t miss in southern Patagonia. The traffic on the gravel road seemed to prove that point. But already before the park entrance you are offered great views of the mountain range.
Thomas sadly had the wrong lens on the camera
when two condors glided just above our heads.
They would only have shown as black blotches in the sky 😦
Lake Pehoe, with its intense turquois color,
is a great setting for the Torres del Paine.
Contrary to its name as a tourist destination Puerto Natales proofed to be a laid back town.
We had a small apartment, walking distance from town, breakfast included.
Every morning breakfast was delivered to our table – the eggs still warm.
Our experience with the Patagonian wind is, even after the 250 km (156 mi) from Puerto Natales to Punta Arenas, almost nonexistent. We had 30 km (19 mi) of battle – very strong but not very gusty side wind. In comparison to friends and acquaintances, that rode this stretch before us, we seem to have been lucky.
But the End of the World is getting close. Hopefully, not in the same sunken mood
Three weeks without riding the motorbike… Three weeks living in a small cabaña in El Calafate…
Okay, almost no riding. Sadly, we had to move once in these three weeks.
We said our goodbye to Steve, then moved into our first place. A bit out of town, but still in walking distance.
Thomas finally had time to service the KTMs. He even cleaned the air filters.
Changing the brake pads on my front wheel proved to be a bit of a challenge. The caliper was stuck on the pins it’s supposed to slide on. With good advice from ADVriders and some action on his side the matter was successfully resolved.
He even got rid of his beloved gloves that have been protecting his hands for over 7 years.
I had no problem keeping myself busy 😀 Having to overcome the challenge of baking in a gas oven. Too bad that I started the whole experiment with brownies. They ended up with a very dark rim. Since there wasn’t a suitable form to make them in, Thomas had screwed off the handle of the frying pan. It worked so well that I not only baked the brownies in it but as well onion pie.
The onion pie turned out to be perfect. So good, that I had to repeat it. A pumpkin pie was to follow. I made the rest of our Christmas cookies with the simplest tools available.
Luckily, we are quite good at improvising.
A wine bottle as rolling pin,
a wooden ladle as egg beater and mixer…
Our relocation brought us closer to town. Right at the entrance of town we found that microbrewery where we did spend a bit of time every now and then. The offer was manifold,
the beer good
and the atmosphere cozy.
I spent quite some time cooking. Christmas we had some appetizers
followed by pumpkin soup,
then beef roast in red wine sauce.
Dessert: Christmas cookies 😀
On December 28, the Patagonian wind blew Steve back to us.
We will spend New Year together. Then, on January 2nd, he will move on to Buenos Aires while Thomas and I will start out on the last leg of our journey to the End of the World.
I hope, you all had a nice, peaceful Christmas Holiday.
We wish you a smooth slide into the New Year and a very successful 2019!
The wind increased a bit. Towns, gas stations and accommodation are a bit scarce in this neck of the woods.
We decided to stay in Bajo Caracoles – gas station, restaurant, shop and hotel all in one. 300
All in all not that great a place but the next option was 80 km (50 mi) further down the road without guarantee of being any better.
Decisions, decisions, decisions… The three of us agreed on taking the old routing of Ruta 40 – now Ruta 29.
The ride through the wind was spiced with guanacos on/beside the road and the eventual nandu.
Steve wanted to stay on an Estancia, a sheep farm.
As far as value for your money for accommodation goes, it was pushing it.
But dinner, an Argentinian lamb parrillada, was great.
After a hearty breakfast we started out on the “worst” part of Ruta 40. Deep ruts in gravel with plenty of side wind were the predictions. In cases like this personal expectations are always decisive.
My knees wobbled just think about deep gravel in combination with side wind. I already saw myself lying somewhere in the pampa. Eventually the signal came that these bedeviled 30 km (80 mi) were starting. Maybe it was just the already spoken of expectations from my side, but it wasn’t that bad. Yes, there was gravel. In some places a bit deeper. Yes, there were ruts. Yes, one had concentrate to find and keep a good line.
But we went at 50 – 60 km/h (30 – 35 mph), even overtaking a big overland bus.
Then the spook ended in good Asphalt – all the way to the turnoff onto Ruta Provincial 23.
That was a side trip Thomas and I had actually decided to skip since it went into an 88 km (55 mi) dead end.
1905 three “gringos” sought shelter for the night – on their way to the Chilean border. Sometime later, the owner of La Leona recognized his guests on some pictures the police showed him. It was Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid as well as his wife Ethel Place who were on the flight after robbing a bank in Rio Gallegos – a bit further south in Argentina.
Our little cabaña in El Calafate greeted us with small towel elephants on the bed.