Uruguay, our last chance…

… to say goodbye to some of our dearest Friends.

It’s 250 km (126 mi) from San Isidro to the big toll bridge spanning the Rio de la Plata effectively connecting Argentina and Uruguay. Thanks to the German author Karl May I always had a romantic picture of the Rio de la Plata being a blue silver shimmering expanse of water ;-D But already in Buenos Aires I had to adapt my fantasy to the brown murk of reality. Maybe the inundations they currently have along the tributaries aren’t helping either.

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,

on the Rio de la Plata, proofed to be educative. The Museo de la Revolución Industrial

is located here. The huge industrial complex,

founded in 1865 by the Liebig Extract of Meat Company, used to be a real village beside the town.

Its main product: the Oxo cube!

In its heyday they slaughtered 1’600 cows –

and an unnamed number of sheep – daily. These were processed into the famous stock (broth) cubes, Corned Beef and about 150 other products.

Since its shutdown in 1979, the buildings decay despite the UNESCO funds.

The next riding day showed Uruguay as a green plain with a lot of agriculture. A short side trip down a country lane told us

it wasn’t the time to try some off-road.

Colonia del Sacramento is the oldest town in Uruguay.

As town with a small colonial center

she enticed us with good weather, astonishing old-timers

and the historical buildings, of course.

Naturally, the town is situated on the Rio de la Plata.

Slide show: Uruguay

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

– mainly exploring the local gastronomy.

A quick glance at the Rio de la Plata confirmed: Yep, it’s still brown!

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.

Brazil!

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!

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Good times in “Good Airs”

Buenos Aires, the City of the Good Airs (or Winds), as her seafaring city founders called her.

Puerto Madero

Our apartment wasn’t in downtown but in the suburb of San Isidro – a small village in the big metropole.

The hottest as well as the rainiest days were simply spent in our apartment. But on the nice days, we explored the city. District after district, n;ms

La Boca

neighborhood after neighborhood. Strolls through the pedestrian zone of the Centro

Galerías Pacífico

and along the basins of Puerto Madero.

We gained a first impression of the “Casa Rosada,

the presidential palace – tried to imagine what it was like when Eva Perón or even Madonna (in “Evita”) were standing on its balcony, gazing out onto Plaza de Mayo.

We met up with other bikers,

With M’hamed, Arjan and Lisa in Recoleta

had a delicious Moroccan dinner at M’hamed’s place,

watched Tango

in San Telmo

and visited La Boca.

The football (soccer) stadium “La Bombonera”, where young Diego Maradona had his first success, is in the La Boca neighborhood. Therefore he’s omnipresent in the small district.

La Boca is colorful, humoristic and as touristy as it can get.

On a sunny day, Thomas had to work on the KTMs.

After 43’000 km (27’000 mi) resp. 39’000 km (24’000 mi) the chains were goners.

Old versus new

We visited the cemetery of La Recoleta,

where the rich, the influential and famous find their final resting place.

To round off our B.A. experience, we even cycled through the parks of Palermo.

Floralis Genérica, the solar powered flower

Buenos Aires provides its citizens – and tourists – with free to use bicycles.

BA EcoBici

During the week for one hour at the time, but after a wait of 5 minutes you can retrieve a new one. On weekends you can use the bicycle for three hours.

Slide show: Buenos Aires

The “Casa Rosada” can be visited on a free guided tour.

Inner Courtyard of the Casa Rosada

We were lucky to participate in an English tour.

Since the “poor” president had to work on that sunny Saturday, we enjoyed a somewhat shortened tour.

Evita Perón is still very present.

In the “Casa Rosada” they dedicated her a flight of rooms.

Her image decorates houses.

And her grave in La Recoleta Cemetery is very likely the most visited.

Argentineans place flowers, some even shed a tear or two – and the tourists flock in mass…

But why you find Frida Kahlo’s image all over Central- and South America remains a mystery to us.

A last excursion let us into the area of the government buildings,

Congreso de la Nación Argentina

an obelisk that reminds of the Place de la Concorde in Paris,

then a side trip in an old cinema that now serves as a book store

and our month was up. Time to load the KTMs and hit the road again. We had a rendezvous with very dear friends that we just had to make 😀

January Hole

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.

THE wine for bikers at the End of the World – from the Bodega Fin del Mundo 😀

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.

Fernanda, Juan and Fernando with the mandatory Mate tea

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.

If you don’t have a bottle opener but plenty of tools

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.

The broken parts in the starter

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 😀

For the first time in 6 months (15’000 km / 9’375 mi) the kick starter WASN’T needed

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.

Is this the end of our trip?

After the welding

and smoothing

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.

Culinary “Highlight”: Pizza Alemaña – with Sauerkraut and Vienna Sausage

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.

Worthy is the Worker – Caleta Olivia

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.

Every couple of kilometers these gates povided us with some exercise

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.

Visiting the Magellanic penguins

was a further diversion on the long ride north.

In Trelew we spend 6 days in an ultra-cheap AirBnB – 10 USD per night (for 2) incl. breakfast.

Out on the Pampa

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,

finally seeing some sea lions

and visiting a parrot colony

where the highlights of a long, hot leg.

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.

Slideshow: Sea lions and parrots

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 😀

At the End of the World

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

Waking up to snow covered mountains is not uncommun during Ushuaia’s summer

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.

Our last evening in Ushuaia was spent gloriously as a celebratory “We made it to Ushuaia” dinner with Mandi, John, Kirsi, Peter, Megan and Mike.

Picture taken by John

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!

Towards the End of the World

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

Lord Lonsdale

as these ships in Punta Arenas.

A ferry and 475 km (297 mi) separate us from Ushuaia – a two days ride. And then, well then, we have to decide how many Ends we want to visit… 😀

Seems like we are not the first Swiss in Punta Arenas

The “real End of the World”, the end of Ruta 3, only the end in Ushuaia?

Patagonian break

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!

Back on Ruta 40

Riding out of the “Jurassic Park” like scenery of Parque Patagonia, the landscape became flatter towards Ruta 40.

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.

Kick starting on the road

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.

But Steve really wanted to go…

Coffee break in El Chaltén

And it was so worth it. You just have to see Mount Fitz Roy.

Yeah, yeah, you see it from Ruta 40 – from far away. But it’s a nice ride –

you just have to ignore the wind; it’s blowing no matter where you go.

Located exactly half way between El Chaltén,

at the foot of Fitz Roy, and El Calafate, access town to the Perito Moreno glacier, is the historic Parador La Leona.

Again, it’s a gas station, hotel, store and restaurant deal – perfect for a coffee break.

The parador was founded in 1894 by a family of Danish immigrants. 17 years earlier Francisco P. Moreno (Perito Moreno) was attacked by a female puma at exactly the same spot.

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.

Steve was in a hurry to see Perito Moreno glacier before heading on to Ushuaia.

He absolutely wanted to spend Christmas at the End of the World.

Perito Moreno is one of the few glaciers in the world that isn’t retreating, it’s not melting.

Famous as well because it frequently calves into the lake. Since the weather wasn’t that good, we only saw that spectacle once.

But the glacier is crackling and popping – like gun fire – with a certain regularity.

Even in bad weather the glacier is an amazing sight.