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?

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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.

Carretera Austral

First of all – what is the Carretera Austral really? You hear catch-cries like longest dead end in the world, ultimate road trip, glaciers calving right into the ocean, a dirt road leading past glaciers, through rivers and along lakes.

It’s a, officially, 1’247 km (775 mi) long road that leads from Puerto Montt to Villa O’Higgins. President Augusto Pinochet ordered the construction of this amazing road in 1976. In 1996 it was officially finished, but ended in Puerto Yungay. The last 102 km (63 mi), to Villa O’Higgins, were done in 2000. Investment: laughable 200 Mio. USD and some change. The road workers not only had to fight with the isolation of the area but really had to overcome nature – virgin forest, fjords, swamps, rivers, lakes, mountains and valleys. Additionally to the Carretera the Cuerpo Militar del Trabaja constructed 227 km (141 mi) of access roads. In these 20 years they built 3’086 m (1,92 mi) of bridges, moved 4,082,344 m3 (5’339’504 yd³) of earth and 7,955,618 m3 (10’405’555 yd³) of rock; used more than 500 t of dynamite and constructed 27 camps. Most of this was done by hand as they only could bring in heavy machinery once the road had progressed to a certain stage. Nowadays the road connects 37 towns south of Puerto Montt.

Between Coyhaique and Puerto Rio Tranquillo

The border crossing at Futaleufú is small and doesn’t really take time. The officers are straight forward but friendly. Now, it’s not like you end right on the Carretera Austral. No, first you follow Rio Futaleufú, a whitewater paradise for kayakers and rafters, up to Lake Yelcho.

A little bit further, after 86 km (53 mi), you finally hit the Carretera Austral in Villa Santa Lucia. On purpose, we had left out the first bit, 243 road km (151 road mi) and 3 ferries – of the Carretera Austral, from Puerto Montt to Villa Santa Lucia.

On December 16, 2017, the small town of Villa Santa Lucia sadly made the headlines, when a flood wave annihilated half the village. According to the owner of the local store, the wave destroyed 21 buildings and killed 28 people.

It was caused by heavy rainfalls, 122 mm (4,8 in) in 24 hours, which lead to a glacier slide. Even today, almost a year later, you can still see the destruction.

From the local shop we drove up to the Carretera Austral and turned left, south, onto the road. Asphalt, nice to ride. Scenery – mainly green. Puyuhuapi, our destination, was a just a bit off the Carretera Austral. Really super warm living room with kitchen access and a nice little room for us. The village offers a couple of shops and two or three restaurants. Our hosts were very nice, so I asked them how people around here make their living. Mainly tourism, some agriculture and in winter road construction…

We found the regional guide to the Carretera Austral, in Spanish but still really helpful since it explained sights, infrastructure and road surface. We soon found out that most sights are off the Carretera Austral – all in dead ends – allowing us to almost double the distance if we wanted to. First highlight of our ride along the Carretera Austral was Ventisquero Colgante,

the hanging glacier in Queulat National Park.

Along the fjord, through some mountains

and along lakes

we continued to Coyhaique, where we met up with Steve and his Africa Twin.

Sunshine,

a good road

and nice scenery.

Road construction with a café

were you could wait for the next green light.

Sadly, we missed the turn-off to the next attraction as it was in the middle of the construction site.

Unanimous we decided not to turn around. The organization around road construction was similar to Peru 🙂

Soon we reached Puerto Rio Tranquilo.

Finding accommodation proofed to be a bit more demanding but in the end was successful. Since it was only early afternoon, we decided to visit the marble caves.

A 90 minutes boat ride visiting the wonders of Lake General Carrera.

Here pictures are more telling than words.

Slideshow: Marble caves of Lago General Carrera

Steve decided to change his plans and join us for the ride to the end of Carretera Austral a bit outside of Villa O’Higgins 😀 What followed was the best part of the Carretera Austral – in our opinion. A short ferry ride, free of charge,

and that was it. We did it! We had reached another milestone of our journey! The end of Ruta 7, the Carretera Austral!

Taking the mandatory pictures…

Then there was only one thing left to do… Turning around!!!

Early in the morning it was cold.

Steve started the fire so we could have a nice breakfast before we started our trip north.

Leaving town we saw a bunch of BMW riders loading up.

We kept going – we wanted to reach the ferry ahead of them and not ride in the dust of another 8 or 10 motorbikes. We almost made it. Then, during a break, two overtook us.

I caught up with one and overtook him fairly easy. More and more dust indicated that I was catching up to the other one, too. Coming around a bend I saw a BMW lying in the ditch.

Well trained as I am, I stopped and helped the rider getting his Beemer back up – forgetting that my e-starter is broken and that I can’t kick start it on my own. Therefore I had to wait for Thomas. We made it to the ferry in the middle of all these BMWs.

The hour we had to wait for the ferry was spend talking to the Argentinian riders and ended in an exchange of WhatsApp numbers.

Slideshow: Carretera Austral

A bit outside of Cochrane we left the Carretera Austral.

The ride through Parque Patagonia, founded by the late Douglas Tompkins – founder of North Face – and his wife, was spectacular.

Slideshow: Parque Patagonia

Herds of Guanacos all over the place.

Then the rock formations, wow!

The land is wild, pristine.

Not as green as along the Carretera, more arid – somehow rougher and lonelier.

It wouldn’t have surprised me to see a dinosaur drudging along 😀

When in Patagonia the Scotch Broom blooms

Back in Argentina, back on Ruta 40 – the legendary road that leads from the Bolivian border almost all the way to Ushuaia. The part of the Ruta 40, which leads through the Lake District, is also known as Camino de los siete Lagos (Seven Lakes Road).

These seven lakes (Machónico, Falkner, Villarino, Escondido, Correntoso, Espejo and Nahuel Huapi) are not the only attractions along the way. Additionally, there are Lanin N.P. and Nahuel Huapi N. P.

San Martín de los Andes, our first stop in the Argentinian Lake District, was such a lovely town that we had to spend more than one night.

Kiosco “All’s good”

We strolled through town, sat in the sun and watched life go by.

Of course, Lake District is known for its lakes. Surrounded by mountains, they set a nice stage. But what really fascinated us was the incredible amount of Scotch Broom.

Never in my life have I seen so much Scotch Broom. Whole mountain sides, river beds and road sides painted in yellow.

The fragrance was sometimes so intense that I could scent it in my helmet while riding. While the mass of color pleases the eye, it does apparently not so much for the local farmers. It’s an imported, invasive plant that takes over more and more.

In spring Patagonia blossoms – trees, bushes, grasses, on pastures and in gardens – gloriously. Whole meadows full of lupines. First mostly the blue ones, later on the pink and even yellow ones too.

From San Martín de los Andes the Ruta 40 leads past San Carlos de Bariloche through the Lake District. We didn’t stay in this “most German” of all Argentinian cities. Little called to us while riding through. But San Carlos de Bariloche is even in our Hemisphere a known name. After the 2nd World War many Germans immigrated to Argentina. Even some “gentlemen” of the SS and other Nazis, which then settled in mentioned San Carlos de Bariloche.

After the Lake District the land becomes flatter, rougher. But luckily without the ever so feared Patagonian wind.

Since we had heard, plenty of times, how unpredictable the weather in Patagonia is – with plenty of rain and stormy winds – we decided not to explore the area any further. Instead we planned to use the announced good weather window for the Carretera Austral in Chile. Shortly before the town of Esquel we turned off the Ruta 40. We would rejoin it a bit further south.

But first, we headed west – on to Chile!

Araucarias and Streams of Lava

Leaving Santiago, we had the intention to spend as little time on interstates as possible. It’s not always comfortable to be one of the slowest on the road, especially if it’s right the opposite on the country roads 😉

Therefore, we first headed west to the coast – with an Empanada stop in Pomaire. Spending the night in not so spectacular Pichilemu on the coast before we headed inland towards the “Reserva Nacional Radal Siete Tazas”. In Lolol we couldn’t resist any longer and had to visit the local café.

We enjoy these little European souvenirs too much to deprive us very often. And in Chile you find them basically at every corner.

The “Seven Cups” have been named after the string of seven ponds

interconnected by waterfalls.

In Talca we caught up with Steve, Arjan and his friend Greg – spending an enjoyable evening. Of course, Thomas had to suffer through some spectators, and the usual teasing remarks, when he kick-started both KTM’s – like he had done each morning for the last four months.

Yes, in moments like this we really wish it were already January 10 and our friend Peter would be landing in Ushuaia – being the nice guy he is, bringing our spare parts with him. But sadly, that is still a bit off.

We returned to the coast. Spent two nights in a little cabaña – aka hut or bungalow – at the beach in Cobquecura. Main attraction of the little town are a couple of rocks about 50 m from the beach, inhabited by a colony of sea lions. The barking of the males can easily be heard from the shore.

Our strategy to follow the coast south proved to be inefficient. We ended where we didn’t want to end – on the interstate and in the city of Concepción. The interstate was pretty empty, apart from an unhappy Pudu – one of the rare smallest deer in the world – that desperately tried to cross it. Running in front of Tom’s KTM, then slipping and tumbling on the asphalt and thereby narrowly escaping my wheels.

Then we reached Nahuelbuta National Park. Pine forests. Ha, some sort of pine that we surely don’t know. Irritatingly, these “pines” are so high, that I almost broke my neck.

Moreover, it became increasingly difficult to keep the bike on track. I needed to look, look, look. Actually, it probably was more like stare, stare, stare 😀 These “pines” are called Araucarias, some sort of conifer. They can reach a height of 89 m (290 ft) and live about 1’000 years. I found them very archaic, like leftovers from the last ice age.

We would be spending a bit more time in Temuco as we should be able to collect some spare parts at the local KTM dealer. But Mandi and John, our friends from Florida in their Ford van, decided to keep us company. They camped directly in front of our door. Thanks to them, nights were filled with smart talk and laughter, the throats wetted by some red wine. John volunteered to help my absolutely favorite mechanic

changing tires and break disks. Then it was time to collect our spare parts. For the second time within a few days I was speechless.

What a store!

And Richard, the owner, is a jewel. He offered Thomas the use of the workshop should the need arise. ff

The nneed did arise.

A bearing in both linkage parts

of the suspension needed to be replaced (a part known for it’s weakness).

Finally, our bikes were ready again. Mandi and John left for Pucón while Thomas and I rode to where they had come from. In Conguillío National Park the roads had not yet been prepared for the coming tourist season. Some ruts as well as puddles made for an interesting ride until we reached the “spectacular” view. By which I don’t mean the obvious volcano…

First we drove through some jungle,

then another Araucaria forest

and finally through a fast lava field.

The grand finale – some more Araucarias.

I’m really fascinated by these “monkey puzzle trees”, could sit there for hours and just look at them. First of all the trunk…

Then the branches…

Out of Huerquehue National Park we received the following foto.

Ah, four – well, actually more like five – of our friends in one place. Couldn’t miss that! But after a not so comfortable night we preferred to move into Pucón and to spend some more time there.

Mandi and John joined us while Coco, Takeshi and Wasabi wanted to spend another night in the park. With a somewhat heavy heart we finally said goodbye to our friends. They would spend more time in Chile while we rode on to Argentina. Drivers are somewhat slower travelers than riders – they do live in their mobile home.

The ferry over Lago Pirihueico, in Huilo Huilo National Park, brought us close to the Argentinian border.

A little bit of Luxury in Santiago de Chile

Every now and then woman – no matter how frugal a life she is willing to lead – needs a little bit of luxury 😀

Riding towards Santiago de Chile I didn’t count on it. On the forefront of my mind was the question how we would get into this big city without spending hours in traffic jams or waiting at traffic lights. 

Ha, easy. A small road construction site, an interstate through the heart of the city and then only a few blocks before we parked the bikes in the underground garage of our temporary home.

On AirBnB we had booked an apartment with parking space. Since Coco, Takeshi’s wife, was currently in Japan we had decided to keep him and Wasabi company for a few days. They would be arriving later in the evening.

If you book something online there’s always a certain feeling in your stomach –dread combined with a large portion of anticipation. After entering the apartment I posed myself only one single question: Have I really booked that place? Stylish, in shades of white-gray-silver with discreet colorful accents. On the breakfast bar, separating the small kitchen from the living room, a personal, handwritten greeting.

No small, cheap soaps or diluted liquid soap awaited us in the bathroom. Instead, brand new flasks of some pricey skin- and hair care product line.

Who, then, wants to know about the fluffy towels or the either down quilt (duvet) on the bed? Even though, not to feel the heavy weight of wool blankets on my legs during the night – a truly liberating experience. There I had my luxury –nicely wrapped, decorated with a big bow 😀

The pleasure didn’t quite last after Takeshi arrived. His car, with the roof box, proofed too high to enter the subterranean garage and there was no place in the garage to store that thing. Story ends with the box decorating our designer apartment! Yeap, that’s what I always dreamed of… A Yakima box in my livingroom 😦

We all used the time to get our affairs in order – meaning, ordering spare parts, new tires and try to cut down on the many small things that have to wait their turn while on the road.

Of course, we explored the city – at least the part that was in walking distance. Enjoyed the delicious, in this case very German, offers of bakeries and supermarkets. But, in order to keep my audience smitten – I will write another post to get into details 😉

Our daily walks delighted and exhausted Wasabi.

After returning to the apartment he mostly went for a nap.

Santiago is quite a modern city. 

Not all’s new,

not all’s modern.

But with nice corners,

cozy cafés and its own charming flair.

Of course, when residing in the same city and reading each other’s ride report on ADVrider, you can’t miss out on meeting other riders. Arjan and Steve didn’t live far from us and didn’t mind the car driver in our middle – therefore we enjoyed more than one beer/coffee together…