Friday, February 25, 2011

Gravel N’ Guns

Angela writes:

So apparently deep gravel and I are not the best of friends either…
While riding through southern Argentina we have ridden several hundred kilometers of dirt roads without issue – through Chile on Tierra del Fuego, to Torres del Paine, up Ruta 40 to El Calafate -  yet we had heard from other riders about some atrocious gravel roads further north. When we decided to take a 200 km dirt “short cut” from El Chalten to HWY 3 we learned what these other guys were talking about.

The dirt and gravel  road we began taking had 3 dirt tracks on it. The track were the width of car tires.  Surrounding these tracks on either side was 6 inches of piled gravel and the shoulders of the road were 6 inches of piled gravel as well.  Not a lot of room for error! The first 10 kilometers that we travelled on this road went well, we concentrated hard on staying on the narrow dirt tracks.  Of the 3 tracks Daryll was riding the middle and I was riding the far right track. When I noticed some deeper gravel covering my track I decided that as soon as I could manage it, I would switch to riding in the middle track behind Daryll. When I hit this bit of gravel it bumped me up into the 6 inch pile of gravel and I decided well now is my chance to get in the middle track. Instead of smoothly transferring into the middle, I fish-trailed deep into the gravel pile and ended up swerving onto the far left track but not under control!  I think my bike swerved from left to right a few more times and eventually I ended up on the ground on the right side of my bike and ripped the right pannier off before I came to a stop.  I tried to get up from under the bike but my right leg was stuck. I waited for something to start hurting on my body but luckily I was complete okay, just had to look over the bike.  I was only going about 35km/hour so it wasn’t too bad of a crash. Daryll noticed my wipeout in his rearview mirror, stopped his bike in the middle of the road and came running back to me. I gave him 2 thumbs up letting him know I was okay but his adrenaline had already started pumping. He lifted the bike off my leg so I could slide it out and then we both struggled to heave my bike up out of the gravel and on to it’s kick stand.   Since the bolts holding my pannier had bent as it got ripped off the bike, Daryll had to strap it back in place to ensure it wouldn’t rattle too much and slip off the bike. Then when we tried to start the bike it wouldn’t start.  While I had been lying on the ground I checked to see if gas was leaking from the tank, it wasn’t but I did notice air bubbles going into the tank. Daryll figured out that gas had been leaking into my air box so after he drained the gas from the vent hole, the bike thankfully ended up starting again.  Since we still had 190 km to go on this terrible road and the wind hadn’t even started to push us around yet, we decided to take the longer way around to HWY 3, a paved 450 km road.  I’m glad we had the experience on this type of road so that we understand the perils that other riders talk about when they don’t have alternative routes. I’m glad we had another option.

The next couple of days were back on pavement, following the highway along the Atlantic coast took us back up north fairly quickly.  We camped in some sites we had used on the way down to Ushuaia so it was nice to be in some familiar towns. It made finding the gas stations, the grocery stores and the municipal camping – our stable destinations- much easier after a long days ride.

When we arrived at a campsite in Rada Tilly we met a nice local couple who appeared to be packing up their campsite even though it was late in the afternoon.  Daryll and he talked about the bikes for a while, while the guy poured cups of cerveza for both of them.  Later the lady came over to talk to me and told me how she used to work making fishing nets. Then she explained in broken English that she, her boyfriend and her 5 year old son were leaving the campsite and were going to find another one. The reason that they were leaving was because her husband was coming from a nearby city, after he discovered their location, and he was bringing his gun.  She had contacted her lawyer and he suggested that they flee to another campground immediately. I was going to ask where they were headed as we have become quite the experts on Argentinean campsites but I figured the less information I had the better!   After another 30 minutes of pleasantries, while her son watched cartoons on their laptop in the truck, they departed for their next “safe haven”.  That night Daryll and I watched for a “man with a gun” to wander through the campground but all we saw thankfully was a “man with sunglasses”.  We often wonder what happened to the trio and wish them well.

New photos added to the Argentina photo album.
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  1. Greg writes... Ang, I thought I always said ride safe! glad to hear no injuries occured during your mishap. damn roads! Yes blame the roads! LOl! not the rider! Hopefully the tents are all dried out and good roads and weather are ahead. Ride safe as always! Greg and Jill

  2. It was the road's fault!! I swear ;)
    Stuff is now dry - sun for the rest of South America is in store!