Moto Adventures

Friday, February 23, 2007

Ushuaia to Mendoza

After reaching our main goal of making it from one end of the Americas to the other, Ken and I both felt a little lost. Which way did we go now? But after a short time of reflecting on the last 35,ooo kms we decided that this was not the end, but the beginning of another leg. We could slow down a little and enjoy the rest of our time in South America.

Ruta 40 is not a road to ride and enjoy. As we headed north up the highway we had heard so much about we realized it was time to buckle down and do some real riding. With nasty 80 km per hour winds and gravel and rock 3 to 4 inches deep it was like riding on ball bearings. This was the hardest test yet for the pavement loving V Strom. The KTM 950 would have been the preferred bike for this road but Suzie handled it better than we expected. She didn´t come away unscathed as both rims got dinged up and the rear tire got cut up so bad it had to be replaced in Mendoza after only 3500 kms.

Ruta 40 is well worth the hardships of the road the scenery was far better than any we had seen lately. As we made our way north into Chile we stopped in at Punta Arenas to visit the Penguins. A must for me, you just can´t go this far south and not see these one of a kind amazing birds. They waddle along on the ground but when they reach the water they are faster than you would believe. Farther north in Chile, we stopped at the Parque National Torres Del Paine but we were both too sick to see the park and do any hiking. Next time!!!

Ruta 40 crossed back and forth across the Chilean-Argentinian border several times and as we headed back into Argentina I couldn´t help comparing the idea of travelling Ruta 40 and travelling the Alaska highway 25 years ago. A trip for the adventurous and one not all that easy. Long distances between gas, food or another person. Not many travellers set out on this road, and many that do leave the remnants of tires and car parts along the roadway. The landscape turns arid and flat again with lots of sheep, rheas and guanacos until we make the turnoff into El Calafate and the Moreno glacier. The glacier is the most impressive either of us has seen, it is so close you can almost touch it. El Calafate was our first attempt at camping. Ken invented a device for blowing up the air mattress with the super clean, no emission exhaust from our Suzie. I think he will patent the invention when we get home! The two nights we spent in the tent were the coldest is history and we decided we had to invest in sleeping bags as we were only using the cover for the bike and a mosquito net for covers. We don´t have much room for extravagances like sleeping bags must be done, it is high season here and the price of hotels is out of our budget (we are trying too keep to $60/day).

As we get father north we start to see a little pavement which is more than a welcome sight and the wind starts to subside a little. Our necks are getting sore pushing against the wind that insists on blowing only from the west. Ruta 40 hugs the snow capped Andes as we head into Bariloche. The weather has brightened up a little but it is still cool (I still have to wear my long johns during the day) and we are looking forward to warmer weather. Camping is fun and we have met some great people but it is too cool, even with the bags.

As we got to Malargue, our wishes came true. The temperature rose and the long johns came off. The weather was so nice we camped in Choa Malal for two days and made new friends Graciela and German from Buenos Aires. Neither of them spoke much English so it was an immersion lesson in Spanish, after our time together my brain needed a little rest (but I think my Spanish is a little better off). We plan on visiting them at their home when we get to Buenos Aires in a few weeks, parrillada (Argentinian BBQ) and good wine on the agenda.

Speaking of wine Mendoza, our latest stop, is the heart of the Argentinian wine belt. I like it here! Warm, a abundance of street side cafes/bars to stop in at and enjoy a cold beer and a cup of coffee (real coffee), many parks with shady benches and lots of good wine. It is harvest time here now and yesterday we took in a tour of several wineries, including a wine museum that dated back to the 1800´s. We found it interesting to compare the old wineries here to the young ones at home. After a long afternoon of wine tasting, last night was the first night I was in bed before midnight. Argentinian restaurants don´t even open until 9 p.m. and on the weekend the party goes on until 5 or 6 in the morning. We are getting way to old for this (Ken turns 50 in less than a month, oops I wasn´t supposed to tell anyone!). Well here we are in Mendoza for 2 more days (at least I have 2 more bottles of wine to drink and they won´t fit in the bags on the bike) until we move on, it is a beautiful city and it reminds us a little of the Okanagan.

Ruta 40, the infamous highway from hell. Over 1000 kms of gnarly, rocky and treacherous road, only for true adventure riders.

Penguins are soooo cooool!

Roadside monument to ???

Rheas, birds as big as sheep but run faster.

Moreno glacier, the most accessible active glacier in the Americas.

Dry but interesting vistas.

Another dead soldier on Ruta 40.

Vista over Lago Nahuel Huapi, Bariloche.

This hotel was a little out of our price range, but beautiful all the same.

Kens new invention.

Our campsite was homey but still a little cool.

Lots of volcanos off in the distance.
Central Parque in Mendoza.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Fin del Mundo, Tierra de Fuego

Town square just across the border in Argentina

The countryside is flat but scenic

It doesn´t matter how you make the journey, as long as you ride

Did I mention the road was flat, watch out for the killer corner!

The weather is getting cold and nasty. Snow is flying!

Cold and Windy!

Ushuaia, the end of the earth and cruisers domain.

Hey!!!! We made it to the¨fin del mundo¨
Close to 27,000 kms from home

After four days of sitting back and letting someone else do the driving Ken took to the last 100km of dirt road before the Argentine border like a man possessed. Back in the saddle again.
With the Argentina border came pavement, almost immediately you could notice more prosperity, houses with tile roofs (not straw), cars (people actually own their own vehicle), and everything became more expensive. But we like it, it´s almost like being transported from the the 1800´s back into the 21st century. We decided to take the fast route down to Ushuaia via ruta 9, 35 and 3, leaving the ledgenary ruta 40 for the way north.
Rolling hills and farms dominate the landscape for the first few hours of the ride, until Salta. Another must see colonial city. We decide to stay a couple of days, do laundry and get cleaned up and ready for the last 5000 kms thru Argentina (and a bit of Chile) to Ashuaia, the end of the earth. It´s as far as we can go anyway!
The road after Salta turns flat.....and straight......and I am glad I´m not driving. I think I slept through the whole first day or two. The road just goes on and on, sometimes without a turn for an hour. 5000 kms in 8 days. Across the Chilean border and back to Argentina within an hour or two (they should really figure out who has what down there, join forces or something just on the tip). From 45c degrees to snow in a matter of days. Yes, I said snow and wind. On the last 200 kms before Ushuaia the plain turned to mountains with snow. Man, it is very cold, we are wearing every bit of clothing we have. I have on long johns, pants, rain pants, 3 shirts, 2 jackets, 2 pair of socks, gloves and a hoody under my helmet and I´m still cold! I don´t think I signed up for this! But is is worth it, we have made it to the southern most city in the world!
Ushuaia, not much to the city itself, really. Alot of over priced hotels, restaurants and shops. Oh yes we did shop and bought a new rear tire for the bike and three liters of oil, we should be good to go until Mendoza. Ken is not too happy with the last Dunlop tire as he only got 10,000 kms. The new tire is a Brasilian made Metzler Sahara so it should be good for the gravel on Ruta 40. We had to pay for the most expensive room yet on this trip. But we fork out he cash for 2 nights, take a good look around the city and then head our sights NORTH. We want to see the penguins. Punta Arenas is our last chance along the way.
Chile, Argentina again, and Brazil. Home...when and how???