Monthly Archives: March 2013

Iguazu Falls and Salta


We left Uruguay and crossed back into Argentina through the border north of Salto, crossing over a long dam.

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Our next destination was Iguazu Falls. The ride was a nice one, twisty at times (oh, we so missed that in the last while), through swamps and green jungle. The earth turned red too (they call this area “Tierra Colorada”)

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We ended up again riding until late in the dark trying to get to the next town that would have a hotel. We were on the highway close to Paso de los Libres, riding at over 100 km an hour when I saw Vasile swerving slightly right in front of me. I thought he was trying his tires, he does that sometimes. On the side of the road I saw a shade that looked like a flag or something. But the next second when I got right by it, the shade started to move towards the center of the road, and that’s when I saw it was a horse! I swerved quickly as much as I could, and as I was doing this, I saw another horse on the other side of the road, so I was going straight towards it. Swerved again and luckily managed to avoid them both. I guess this is one of the biggest reasons why people should not ride or drive at night in these countries. Both Vasile and I were like “What the hell was this?” Around Buenos Aires there were signs on the highway encouraging people to call police if they see loose animals on the side of the road. Maybe they should do that everywhere.

Happy we got away unharmed, as this could have turned into a disaster, we soon got to Paso de los Libres and called it a day.

The next day we had an awesome ride through beautiful, rich jungle vegetation.

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We got to the famous Iguazu National Park where there is the Iguazu Falls, the second largest falls in the world as volume of water. We left the bikes at the entrance of the park and we took a little train to the cataracts.

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And we saw myriads of butterflies

IMG_6840Once we got off the train we started walking on a bridge over the swamps and the river

IMG_6856And here we were lucky enough to see a caiman and a big cat-fish in their natural habitat.

IMG_6854 IMG_6855The butterflies were very friendly and welcoming

IMG_6862 IMG_6864And we finally got to The Devil’s Gorge, the most spectacular and astounding view.

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On the way back we had the chance to see some more of the fauna of Iguazu.

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We saw lots of big, colorful butterflies, the ones that you only see on tv or at the butterfly garden and a toucan on top of a tree,with his big, orange beak. Unfortunately it was too high in the tree, so we could not take a picture.

I felt like I could have spent a couple of days in that park, it was so special.

Before we left Puerto Iguazu we went to see the intersection of the Rivers Uruguay and Parana, which are the borders between Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil.  On each side there is a monument representing the flag of each country. You stand in one place actually and you can see a bit of each country.

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There was a ferry crossing the river actually to Paraguay, so we thought we would give it a chance and try to cross. As Canadian Citizens we need a visa for Paraguay, but we were hoping that we could get it at the border. Unfortunately this was not possible, but the border officer directed us to the Paraguayan Consulate in Puerto Iguazu. We went there, but they could not give us the visa, as their computers system was not working. But they were very nice though and they recommended us to go to the consulate in Posada. They even called the consul there to make sure we could get the visa the next day. But later on that day we gave up on this idea, and we decided to go to Salta, and skip Paraguay.

The ride to Salta was not too bad, despite the straight road. It was nice and warm (28 C), green, and lots of wildlife to see, among which this “little” friend.

IMG_7002IMG_7003Yes, that’s right, a dead yellow anaconda on the side of the road. He must have gotten out of its swamp to warm up and he got hit by a car or something.

While riding on Ruta 12 we saw some big electrical towers, so Vasile figured we were close to some big dam that someone told us about. We turned right onto a side road, and we got to a small border point, where the officer told us we could not ride to the dam, but we could go on an organized tour the next day, all free. So we stopped for the night in Ituzaingo, the next day we went to the “Oficina Central” where they put us in a van and took us in a guided tour to see the dam. I have to admit, it’s quite impressing, especially when you have someone very qualified who explains to you all the details.

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One annoying thing in Argentina were the “routine police checks”. We were getting stopped sometimes twice a day for these checks. And yesterday we got stopped twice in a two minutes span. The first time, there were 8 of them in the middle of the road, stopping all the motorcycles. Reason: we did not have a fire extinctor,which apparently is mandatory in Argentina. We explained to them that in case of a motocycle accident we would not be able to use it anyway. We totally understand each country has its laws, but this one we found it a bit of a money grab law. And what really bothered us was that he said “The fine is 4000 pesos (about 800 USD, which I totally doubt, that’s their salary per month), but this time I will make an exception. You give me 700 pesos and I let you go”. I guess he was not expecting Vasile’s answer “No way, man. I am not giving you a penny” cause he looked kinda shocked, and he let us go right away. We barely took off and turned right onto a big avenue, when we got pulled over again. We were thinking “We won’t get away until they make us pay for that freaking fire extinctor”. But no, this time there was something else. Apparently motorcycles were not allowed on that avenue. We apologized to the officer and told him we did not see any signs suggesting that, so we didn’t know. He told us there was a sign four blocks before and that we would see another one six bloks further. I explained to him that we had just turned onto this avenue at the previous intersection, therefore we could not see that sign. We promised to get out of there at the first turn, and eventually he let us go. We got off that avenue and took a side road parallel with it, kept riding, but we did not see any signs that would say motorcycles are not allowed on the main avenue, and this time we really looked for it. As we were following the GPS, the GPS was directing us back onto the main avenue, as we had to cross a big bridge over a river. We took our chance again and turned onto the main avenue again. Three seconds later we saw a police station, but they did not stop us or anything, nor were they bothered by the fact we were riding there. We were just curious: if motorcycles are not allowed on the main avenue, the one that was crossing the bride, how do motorcycles cross though? I guess we will never find out.
A couple of hours later, Vasile stopped as he felt there was something wrong with his bike. It had a very slight wobble. He checked his front wheel out, and he realized the bearings were gone, so he had to do another fix on the side of the road. And this time he wanted to do it the right way:)

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IMG_7031 IMG_7028 IMG_7027Once this done, we thought that would be it for the day. But we were wrong. Vasile’s bike was running out of gas. We have done a long stretch in between cities, and we didn’t gas up in the last one. We were really hoping we would make it to the next town, but we didn’t. The bike died, so we had to pull over into the grass, as the highway didn’t have a shoulder. My bike still had enough gas to run another 14 km (according to the bike’s computer) and Vasile found on the GPS a gas station 12 km  away. As it was getting dark and I am blind like a bat in the dark Vasile took my bike and went to get some gas, while I was waiting by the big KTM, waiving proud to all the bikers passing by and waiving at me:)

Vasile came back 20 minutes later with a jery-can of gas, and this way we could make it to the gas station, and then to Salta. And before we got to Salta we had to go through a storm too, which left us nice and soaked. And in Salta another surprise (man, I thought that day was never gonna end): all the hotels were full because of the Easter. It was a Thursday, and apparently here everyone is off for Good Friday and they all go, for whatever reason, to Salta. We asked at quite a few hotels, no rooms, and they told us they didn’t think we would find any. So we found a campsite on the GPS and we decided to go there. But on the way there, we stopped by a Yamaha shop, as the KTM needed a new front tire and my bike a new chain. We didn’t find what we needed for the bike,  but the owner there told us about a hotel close by that might still have rooms, so he escorted us there. And indeed, we found a room! No camping in the middle of the night.

And here are some pictures we took the next day.

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And our dear hotel. Don’t let the old sign full you, it was not cheap, but it was decent, and the people very nice.

IMG_7051Next we will do some riding around Salta, and then head to Atacama Desert. Stay tuned.

 

 

 

Categories: Argentina | Leave a comment

Little Switzerland of South America


The ferry took us to Colonia del Sacramento, the oldest town in Uruguay, on the banks of Rio de la Plata. I followed the advice of a friend, who told me that Colonia was one of the most beautiful towns she has visited in her whole trip. And was I ever glad I did! Colonia is a gorgeous little colonial town, one of the best preserved in the whole Latin America, gaining its well deserved title as a UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s narrow cobblestone streets and its amazing architecture impress thousands of tourists from all over the world every year.

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Unfortunately the weather was not on our side.

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I loved these beautiful collection cars.

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This restaurant (Drugstore) had a very original idea.

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Plaza de Toros

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And me playing el toreador:)

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As we left Colonia the sun came out, finally! And we found ourselves riding through this amazingly beautiful and green landscape, which made us understand why Uruguay is called the “Switzerland of South America”.

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We stopped for the night at some hot springs south of Salto and we pitched our tent.

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To end the night we jumped in the hot spring pools they had there.

IMG_6781We were kind of sad when we left Uruguay, as we liked it a lot. But we were sure there were lots of other nice things and places waiting for us:)

Categories: Uruguay | 1 Comment

The ride through the great nothingness


When we left Ushuaia it was 2 degrees C and pouring. I decided to put my GoreTex gloves, even though they were really bulky and I could barely reach the clutch and throttle with them. It was so cold I was looking at the temperature display on my bike all the time hoping that I would see an increase. We decided to ride as far as we could that day to get out of the rain and cold. So we did 300 km of paved road to the border, crossed the border into Chile, then 160 km of gravel and mud road, took the ferry and crossed the Strait of Magellan north this time, crossed the border back into Argentina, another 100 km (approx) of paved road, and in Rio Gallegos we decided to call it a day. The whole ride was in horrible conditions. It was dumping on us, the temperature did not go higher than 4 degrees C and because of the rain the gravel road was even worse. It was all potholes everywhere and where there were not potholes, there were deep washboards. In normal conditions, the road with potholes is my favourite type of gravel road. I love to stand up on my pegs and feel the bike going up and down. But when you have to do that for so many km, it’s no longer fun. My bike is a good bike, but the suspension on it is not the best. My tiny wrists were hurting so bad, I almost felt like crying. And on top of it the winds were getting stronger and stronger. When we saw the paved road ahead, both Vasile and I were happier than if we won the lottery. That day we did 560 km in total, paved and gravel, took a ferry and crossed two borders, all in the pouring rain and heavy winds.

We were warned by another fellow rider from Spain that Rio Gallegos was going to be expensive. And he was right. For a little town in the middle of nowhere, the price was higher than we’ve ever paid in the very touristy places. And again, I guess the prices for gringos kicked in. When Vasile went into the hotel (it looked like a family business) he was given two different prices by the father and the son. I guess the price given by the son was the regular price, and one given by the father was the price for us. While we were unloading our stuff from the bike, they must have talked to each other, as suddenly the correct price was the higher one for us. As we were tired and cold and we had a tough day (probably the toughest in the whole trip) we took it, but the room conditions did not justify the price at all.

The next 4 days was just another long ride in the rain with nothing to see around but this.

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The only thing that was keeping me from falling asleep were the strong winds. Now these were the kind of winds we were actually expecting in Patagonia. So far we kept thinking that we got lucky and the winds were not that strong (at least not as we were expecting them to be after all the stories we’ve heard), but this time we felt the full Patagonian winds. Luckily at times they were blowing from behind, and that was actually helping us with the gas consumption. It was flat, rainy (never in my life have I traveled for such a long distance without changing the weather or the landscape), windy and freaking boring. We started doing shorter days (500 km, after two days of 700 km each) as we could not handle the boredom of such long rides anymore. After four days of riding we were stoked to see the first tree! And the only exciting thing along the way was the view of the Atlantic Ocean.

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As we got close to Buenos Aires it got a bit warmer though and we started to see some vegetation and a lot of farms. The traffic also started to change, becoming a bit  more aggressive. But it was still way better than the traffic in any central american countries or any countries in the northern part of South America.

As we got to the city, the traffic got pretty jammed, as we were expecting in a capital city. But the city is beautiful; very nice old buildings, built with good taste, proof that a lot of artists were involved in it.

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And here is the oldest Cafe in Argentina.

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We decided to stay there for a few days as our bikes needed some maintenance.

One day we celebrated Saint Patrick’s day. It looks like here they celebrate it even more than they do it in Ireland:)

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And then it was work time. My BMW was due for a general maintenance, plus we had to replace the sub-frame. Vasile went to the BMW dealer and picked up a new sub-frame and new steering column bearing (the beemer had steering problems since Baja Mexico, that we thought we fixed, but it wasn’t fixed 100%). The two parts were somewhere over $300 USD. He also asked BMW if he could work in their shop, but the answer was negative. So far KTM rocked (Vasile had to mention that to me several times and I had to admit), they always let Vasile work in their shops, and made their tools available to him at no charge. So then Vasile went to the parking lot where we parked the bikes over night (public parking) and changed the sub-frame and replaced the steering column bearing right there.

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The next day Vasile went to KTM to buy oil for his bike, but as it was Saturday, their mechanic shop was closed and the guy there could not find the keys to let him in so he could work on the bike, so Vasile had to find a different option. And he found this Yamaha dealer, and the guy there was more than excited to let him work in his shop. They were so excited talking about bikes, that they didn’t even introduce each other. The only identity of him that we have is his facebook name, Polaco. So that’s what we are going to call him here.

Vasile did the oil change on the KTM and oil change and valve adjustment on the BMW. Polaco offered him all the tools that he needed for that, and he even offered his help. Him and his team were just incredibly nice and helpful. At the end Vasile wanted to compensate him for all the help, but he didn’t accept anything. Another proof of Argentinian hospitality. Thank you Polaco & co.

For our fellow riders, if you are in Buenos Aires and you need some help, there is no better place to go (it is on Av. del Libertador Gral San Martin,in Vicente Lopez)

IMG_20130318_175525 IMG_20130318_160043 IMG_20130318_160027Now after a face lift, my bike feels really nice and smooth, I can actually enjoy the ride again:)

After a few rest days in Buenos Aires we decided to take the ferry to Colonia, Uruguay. The other option was to ride around the water, about 870 km to get to the same place on bikes. As we were afraid that it would be just as flat and boring, we preferred to take the ferry. In one hour we got to Colonia. But about that, in a new post. Stay tuned.

Categories: Argentina, Chile | Leave a comment

The end of the world


As we headed south from Torres del Paine the weather got harsher. The temperatures dropped substantially and the rain started.

We rode to Punta Arenas where we were supposed to take the ferry across the Strait of Magellan to Tierra del Fuego. All these places that I’ve studied in my geography class and seemed so far away to me back then. I can’t believe I have actually been there! The ferry normally leaves every day in the morning. That day was leaving at 4 pm, and we got there just in time to catch it.

IMG_6474 IMG_6478Along the way we had company: some cute playful dolphins.

IMG_6488Two and a half hours later we got to Porvenir. That’s it! It’s official: we are on Tierra del Fuego! There’s no turning back now, Ushuaia here we come!

Here 140 km of gravel were waiting for us.

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We were planning to stop for the night in some little village that was showing on our map. But when we got there, there was just a big tower, nothing else. So we had no other option but to keep going.IMG_6505We rode until late in the dark, looking forward to San Sebastian, our only option to spend the night. It was getting really cold and my hands were frozen, despite the heated grips. We finally got there and we stopped at the first hotel we saw. Turned out it was the only one in town anyway. Got the room and big disappointment: the rooms were cold, the heat was not on. We convinced the owner to turn the heat on and in the meantime went to the restaurant to warm up with some hot tea and pisco. At that point we were so happy we found a room, that we didn’t even care anymore that the price for it was outrageous.

The next day we crossed the border again into Argentina. We were getting so close to Ushuaia! Unfortunately the weather got worse, it started pouring and it was very cold. My leather gloves got soaked and I realized that my old Goretex jacket was not waterproof anymore as all my clothes were moist underneath. At least I had my heated jacket and that helped a bit. Vasile was not as lucky though and he was very eager to get to Ushuaia.

Here we are crossing the Garibaldi pass.

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And we made it! We got to our destination.

IMG_6522IMG_6523We wanted to take a picture together, but we were so cold that we didn’t have patience to wait for someone there to take the picture for us.

We were starving too, so we started looking for a restaurant. Not easy task here, as it was about 3 pm and here all restaurants are closed in the afternoon, until 7 pm. We found something that looked like a restaurant, we parked the bikes, just to realize it was just a grocery store. Back to the bikes – surprise: the KTM’s battery was dead. So Vasile had to engineer something and take some juice from my bike. This entertainment lasted about half hour. It didn’t matter anymore that we were freezing and hungry, the bike wouldn’t move, like that was the last thing we needed. But Vasile managed to fix that and then we started the hunt for a restaurant. Mission impossible. All we found eventually was a sandwich place, but at this point in time we were happy with that too. Now we were just worried that we wouldn’t find a hostel room, as there were lots of tourists in town, but we managed to find that too. The only problem was that even though they advertised as having wi-fi, it was not working, all three days we stayed there (Lupitos hostel, or something like that).

But hey, we are not at the end of the road yet. The road still goes for a bit through the national park.

IMG_6524 IMG_6528And here we are, literally at the end of the road, the tip of the world!

IMG_6532 IMG_6533 IMG_6535It looked like animals were excited for us too.

IMG_6552We made it! We had such mixed feelings about it: excitement and sense of achievement as well as sadness as half of our vacation was gone.We still couldn’t believe that we were actually there, at the southernmost point on the continent. I got to feel that the next day, when we took a tour to Isla Martillo (Hammer Island) to see the penguins. We were at 1000 km away from Antarctica, and we felt it. Freezing cold and windy.

Here is for you to see how windy it can get here.

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But the penguins were well worth it. They were so incredibly cute. We saw two different kinds: the Magellanic Penguin (most of them there) and Rockhopper Penguin.

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We were lucky to see one King Penguin as well, no one knew what he was doing there, as apparently they do not leave on that island (somewhere in the middle of the picture).

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There was one little fellow there, a Rockhopper Penguin that looked exactly like the Mexican fellow in the Happy Feet movie “Let me tell something to giu”.

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After seeing these little cute creatures I realized that my trip in the cold and rain for the past few days was well worth it. And even though we were so excited about being there, we were both now ready to go somewhere warm and chill in a hammock.

Categories: Argentina, Chile | Leave a comment

Torres del Paine National Park


We left El Calafate in the morning and headed south, towards the Chilean border. The ride was again a very boring one most of the time, in the wind, and to top it off, with some showers. It looked like we left the nice weather behind us.

The border crossing was a pretty fast and straight forward one, with no problems this time. Once we crossed the border, we were debating whether to go straight to the national park, or to go to Puerto Natales and get some food first, as in the park we were told that everything was extremely expensive. Puerto Natales was about 50 km south of where we were, so we would’ve had to do a bit of a detour. We realized that the money we would have saved on food we would’ve spent on gas to go there, so we decided to go straight to the park. But one minute into our ride Vasile had a thought: what if there is no gas in the park? no one builds gas stations in national parks, so chances are there is none, and we did not have enough gas left. We asked some bikers that were just returning from the park, and they confirmed for us: no gas station anywhere except Puerto Natales. So we had to go there after all. As it was afternoon already, we decided to go and stay there for the night, and go to the park the next day.

We got to Puerto Natales and now the challenge was to find a hostel. They were all full. We finally found one that still had rooms, and that was because the girl in charge was not there all day long, so people had to wait for her if they wanted to check in. But the hostel was very nice and the room very clean and cozy. At the hostel we met another two fellow riders from Australia, on two BMW F 800 GS. They were coming back from Ushuaia and taking the ferry north.

The next day we woke up in a crisp but sunny weather and we headed to Torres del Paine. We basically had to go back to the border we crossed the day before, and from there towards the park. Most road was paved, just as we got closer to the park the gravel started. As we got to the park, the entrance fee was $40 USD per person! Just to enter the park. But that was, of course, as for everything else, just for foreigners. Locals pay only $8. Maybe we should do the same in Canada, have different prices for tourists, and see how they feel about it when they visit our country. I could understand the different prices for tourists in the very poor countries, but it’s not the case for Chile and Argentina.

Anyway, once we entered the park we forgot about the money, as the view was magnificent.

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Lots of wildlife on the way

IMG_6455 IMG_6459The only downside was the wind, that started blowing really strong; and on gravel, very loose at times, strong wind is no fun at all, believe me! It was blowing me from one side of the road to the other making it impossible for me to stay on the tracks. At some point I thought of stopping, but that would’ve meant falling, as I wouldn’t have been able to hold the bike up in that wind if stopped. So the only option was to carry on.

We managed to get to the campsite beautifully located on a green patch of the park.

IMG_6470 IMG_6469Again, the only problem was the wind. And to give you an idea of how strong the winds were, hear this: we pitched the tent, put all our stuff in it and Vasile was in it too; a wind gust flipped the tent over with Vasile and everything in it. And Vasile is not a small guy. He came out of the tent all shocked “What the heck was that?”. Therefore we were afraid to leave the tent for one minute, as we would’ve been left without it. Not to mention that we had some clothes out in the sun to dry out; we looked for them for half hour:) The good part was that is was just wind gusts, so we had moments of peace in between.

At night it got so cold I could not sleep all night long. The next day I was like a zombie. We were planning to do a hike, but in the morning it was all overcast, so we wouldn’t have seen much. The other thing was that if we did the hike, we would’ve had to camp one more night, and that was not an option for me. I was already tired after one night with no sleep, it was even colder now, one more night would’ve been too much, and then we had to ride on gravel and wind to get out of the park. So we decided to just ride all across the park and see as much as the clouds allowed, and then go back to Puerto Natales.

The ride through the park, even though very tiring from the riding point of view (very strong winds again and loose stretches of gravel at times) was incredibly beautiful. This park is just amazing, it has so much to offer! And we were lucky and the sky cleared out too.

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Categories: Argentina, Chile | Leave a comment

Los Glaciares National Park


As we left Bariloche the whole landscape changed. The mountain view faded making room to the steppe-like plains.

As we were riding straight on the Ruta 40, the sky got covered in clouds. Ahead of us it was looking really dark. We were wondering if we were going to hit the storm, or if we were going to be lucky, as most of the time, and go by it. We stopped and put our rain gear on though. And we were glad we did, since this time we were not as lucky and we went straight through the storm.

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At some point it was raining so hard that we could barely see the road in front of us. On the bikes stopping and waiting for the storm to pass is not an option, as you’re not sheltered, so we kept going slowly. Then the rain turn into hail that was hitting us so hard it was hurting. I was only happy that this happened while we were on paved road, as here it gets pretty nasty and muddy when it rains.

After about an hour and a half of riding through the storm we managed to get to Gobernador Costa, where we decided to call it a day. We found a cosy hostel that looked like a grandma’s house, with warm and clean rooms and some delicious pies. It was perfect for our soaked bodies and gear. We slept like babies till the next day.

From all the shaky gravel we’ve done so far all the jb weld on my bike gave in, and the whole front of the bike was wiggling like crazy, so Vasile zip-striped all the broken parts on my bike. Hopefully it will hold well enough until we find a BMW dealership, as it looks like there is none in Patagonia.

IMG_6155 IMG_6157Next morning we packed up everything and headed to Perito Moreno (the town, not the glacier). The road was mostly paved with short sections of gravel in between. It was the most boring day of riding in the whole trip, just straight road through the steppe and the wind started to show its wings, hitting us from one side or the other.

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We got to Perito Moreno, a little town in the middle of nowhere, where there is nothing interesting happening, yet the cheapest hotel room was $65 USD. We asked some guys if there were any hostels around, with more economic prices, and the answer was “No, there aren’t. But if you want, I give you the keys of my house, and you can stay there. I am going to work now and I will be back in the morning, so no one will bother you.” Once again we were blown away by how friendly and trusting people were here. He just met us and he was offering us the keys of his house. We took the offer and we went to his place, had a good rest and we were ready for another day’s ride.

The next day was another straight ride through the steppe. The wind started to blow stronger and stronger. I was leaning into the wind big time so I could go straight. As I am not a big person, I was afraid that the wind would blow me off the road, as a few times it almost happened. We were looking for the turn we were supposed to take to go to Cueva de las Manos (The hands’ cave). At some point I saw a gravel road to my left and I was thanking God I didn’t have to ride on that loose gravel in that wind.

Along the way we saw a variety of animals specific to Patagonia: the fox, the guanacos and plenty of nandus.

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We stopped in Bajo Caracoles to gas up and when we asked the locals where the road to Cueva de las Manos was they told us we just passed it. Turned out the gravel road that I saw was the road we were supposed to go on. As it was very windy and the road was supposed to be pretty bad, we decided to leave my bike at the gas station and go two up to the cave. And it was a good decision, as the road was indeed very bad, stretches of very loose gravel  and stretches of semi-dried mud ruts that made it quite technical and challenging even for Vasile.

But the ride was well worth it, as Cueva de las Manos (which is a World Heritage site since 1999) was incredibly interesting. The cave is in a canyon well hidden in the steppe, in the valley of Pinturas River.

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Those paintings are dated 9000 b.p., so that makes them over 11000 years old! That is unbelievable! And yet they are so well preserved. And it was so amazing to find out more about the way people lived back then and how they were using everything nature was offering them.

IMG_6194 IMG_6196 IMG_6208After this beautiful history episode we turned around to Bajo Caracoles. We met here a group of 5 Argentinian bikers with a support vehicle. They were heading south to Gobernador Gregores. As the hotel in Caracoles had no rooms left, we had a sandwich and decided to head there too. We had to rush a bit, as the road from Caracoles to Gobernador Gregores was supposed to have a stretch of about 70 km of gravel, and it was passed 5 pm already.

On the way we met another fellow rider, Dave, a guy from Seattle on a V-Strom 650. He left Seattle 18 months ago (now that’s a vacation!) and it looks like he is still enjoying it. He told us about a gorgeous place, El Chalten, which was supposed to have world class mountaineering. So we decided to check it out, and instead of going straight to El Calafate, to take a detour and see El Chalten.

Turned out that part of the 70 km of gravel that we were supposed to have on the way to Gobernador Grigores had been paved in the meantime, so there were only about 30 km left. But most of it was very loose gravel, with some tracks here and there.

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But we made it, had a good rest, and the next day we were ready for the longest stretch of gravel we had in Argentina.

In the morning, at the gas station while we were fueling up, we met a Brazilian rider, Raphael, riding a Honda Varadero. He was coming from south heading north. We exchanged travel and road information. He was just returning from El Chalten and he showed us some awesome pictures. He was so excited about it that it just made us more anxious to get there. He was a very nice, friendly guy, who invited us to stay at his place if we go to Brazil.

With our tanks full and our hearts filled with excitement we headed to El Chalten. We had ahead of us about 120 km of gravel road – a mix of packed dirt, super loose gravel, big rocks and as it looked like it just rained the night before, a lot of mud and ruts.

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The only place that was supposed to have gas in between was Tres Lagos. I still had gas, but Vasile was afraid that his bike was not going to make it to El Chalten, so we stopped to look for gas. The road to the little town was very confusing. At some point we found ourselves on a big gravel site with big machines working. They turned us around and pointed the direction to us. After we passed through some deep wide mud sections, we found a tiny road all mud, puddles and bumps, that looked like it was heading to town.

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We got to town, but we found out that the gas station didn’t have gas in the past year, so we could not fill up. We stopped to eat at a restaurant and it happened that the owner had 20 l of gas. He had an unfortunate event, a car accident in which he broke his collar bone so he was not driving anymore; therefore he had some gas left. Not that we were happy for his misfortune, but we were definitely happy he had gas. We filled up and off we went. As we were leaving the town we met a German couple on a bike looking for the gas station, a bit confused about the road too.

From here on we were on paved road again. Despite the rough conditions of the road up to Tres Lagos we actually really enjoyed the ride. Part of it was probably because we had a good sleep the night before and we had the energy to put up with it.

As we were getting close to El Chalten, the view changed completely and became one of the most spectacular views of the trip. We missed this kind of view in the past few days.

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And here is El Chalten beautifully hidden in the valley.

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Once we settled down we went out for dinner. The owner of the restaurant where we were eating, and Argentinian girl passionate about climbing, started chatting with us and telling us about the beautiful hikes and climbs in the area. We were planning to do a one day hike to see the Fitz Roy, as we do not have a proper backpack with us to carry all the camping gear. But she convinced us to stay and camp at the base of the glacier and she lent us her backpack.

The hike up was one of the best hikes we have done, comparable only to the trek we’ve done on the Himalayas, in Nepal, two years ago.

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Once at the campsite, we pitched the tent and then continued our hike to the glacier.

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The last part, for about an hour and a half, was the most difficult part. Very steep climb up through loose rocks.

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And this is what we found when we got up there.

IMG_6330 IMG_6333 IMG_6336We sat there in awe for more than an hour contemplating the beauty of the nature. It was hard to turn around and leave. But eventually we had to do that. We turned around to our campsite, and the next day we woke up to this.

IMG_6350We have been so incredibly lucky to have such a perfectly clear sky, as apparently this is quite rare in this area. Not many people manage to see Fitz Roy without clouds. We had blue sky both days, so we could fill our eyes with the beautiful view and take it with us.

Once back in town and to the hostel we met Ramon, a nice guy from Ushuaia, who offered to cook for us. As he was a chef we trusted him and accepted:)

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We decided to leave the next day and head to El Califate. But we received a facebook message from our friends Kurt and Cory that they were in El Califate and heading to El Chalten the next day, so we decided to stay one more day so we could meet up with them.

It was so great to see them again. With them came Dana, an old girlfriend of Cory’s from Williams Lake, Canada, who came to travel with them for a bit. We had a blast together, laughing with tears to all the travel stories we all had since we split in Cartagena. We went to bed late not looking forward to parting ways again. We were just having too much fun together. But they are towards the end of their trip, they met their goal, Ushuaia, and now they have to ship their bikes and fly back to Canada.

So after having some delicious waffles for breakfast together we headed to El Calafate. There were only about 200 km of paved road, so we got there early. Since we had time, we decided to go see the Perito Moreno glacier, so we can leave the next day early in the morning. So we dropped some of our stuff in the hostel room, jumped on the bikes and headed to the glacier. There are about 90 km from El Calafate to the glacier. On the way we met a French girl, who lives in Vancouver now, Anne-Sophie, on a unicycle. She’s going across Patagonia on a unicycle! Wow, she’s our hero!

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Once we got to the glacier, it left us out of breath. I do not know how to describe it as no words would make it justice. Neither do pictures, but at least you can get an idea.

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Back at the hostel we met again our friend from Ushuaia, Ramon. We offered him some veggie omelette, as that’s what we were cooking, but he turned it down with a smile. I guess chefs don’t have omelette for dinner?:)

Next will be Torre del Paine, Chile. Stay tuned.

Categories: Argentina | 6 Comments

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