Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Winds of Patagonia

Daryll writes:

San Carlos de Bariloche is one of those towns that anyone visiting will fall in love with.  We did!  It reminded me of being in the Swiss Alps.  The town resembles any small town you would find in the Alps.  We wondered around the town on one of our rest days and tried some of the amazing chocolate that can be found here as well.  The camp ground that we stayed at also had it’s resident St. Bernard to entertain the campers and after spending three warm sunny days, having steak and wine for dinner for three consecutive nights, we had to say goodbye to Bariloche and continue our journey south through Patagonia.  Before we left though, we did manage a short side trip to admire some of the amazing lakes southern Argentina has to offer.

Many of the YPF Gas Stations have free wi-fi; however we’ve just been having bad luck in trying to connect to these and in probably 9 out of 10 attempts we are able to connect to quickly check emails before having to get back on the road.  Hence the lack of response’s via email and failure to update our blog.

We’ve been riding solid for seven consecutive days and only managed to cover a distance of about 2,250km.  We would be up at 6am, have breakfast, pack up the tent, pack the bikes and be on the road by 8am.  We found that the earlier we got going, the more distance we could cover in the morning as come afternoon, the wind would pick up and we would barely get anywhere.  It was slow going and the wind at times was brutal and many times I had to fight with the bike to stay on my side of the road as the wind would push me into the oncoming lane.  I could safely cross the yellow line and steer the bike back onto my side but it was a different story when there was a semi-trailer heading towards me.  Off the throttle and brake and pray that I can get the bike back onto my side before the semi. creates another wind blast pushing me off in the opposite direction.  We’ve been on Ruta 3 coming south, so most of it has been paved , except for 110km of ripio (gravel) in Chile.  Steering the bike back onto my side of the road on pavement is slightly easier as compared to trying to do it on a gravel road with distinct tracks.  We were down to 20km/hr at times on the dirt section just trying to stay upright.  We had been warned by other travelers that had done similar trip’s that the wind can be bad, but nothing can prepare you for the relentless wind and cold.  For the past week, I’ve been wearing the following:- base layer thermal pants; Gore-Tex pants liner, riding pants and on my upper body: short sleeve wicking t-shirt; long sleeve wicking t-shirt; heated jacket; fleece; Gore-Tex jacket liner; riding jacket – yup, that’s 6 layers on my upper body and I would still be cold on my hands.  Even with the heated grips, my fingers would get numb after a while and when we would stop for a break, I would try and warm them up against the bike’s engine. 

Winds of Patagonia from One World 2 Explore on Vimeo.

After the first day or two, the scenery was the same, just open fields of pampa with lots of sheep grazing the lands.  At one point we had to stop in the middle of the road to wait for a herd of sheep to cross the road.  The funny part is that the sheep were being herded by a guy on a dirt bike and and dog in the back of a pick-up truck – how things have changed.  We are in the height of summer and I can’t imagine how these small towns survive over the long winter with all the snow and wind that they would get.  It is cold in summer and I really don’t want to be here over the winter.  We are lucky to live in Vancouver with such a moderate climate.  As we left the open plains and headed towards the coast, the Atlantic Ocean came into view.  The wind continued to be merciless.  Our fuel economy was dropping so much so that Ang can normally do 440km before switching to reserve, on one afternoon, she went into reserve at 320km and almost ran out of gas.  Thankfully, there was a gas station a few meters away.

Along the road, there are road signs warning of strong winds that are depicted by a tree blown over.  I am yet to get a picture of this because it is just too dangerous to stop of fear of having the bike blown over.  We’ve been camping since leaving Mendoza, normally staying at municipal camp grounds.  We had to stop in a small town (Caleta Olivia) as the next town was too far to continue for the night, so were forced to stay at one of the most expensive private camp grounds thus far.  I guess the benefit was that we set up our tent next to some vines and we met two Welsh couples in their overland vehicles, so we had a good chat to them about their decked our trucks.  I’ve decided the next trip we are going to take is going to be in one of these.

We had to take a ferry to get onto the island of Tierra del Fuego and part of the island belongs to Argentina and another to Chile.  We spent most of the day on ripio and even though the Argentinean border was 500m away, the next town was another 88km away, we decided to set-up our tent behind a barn – free camping is always good.  Alberto and Naomi – you would be proud of us, dedicated campers now.

Between a year and a half or two years ago, I met Michael Madill from Alberta on the HUBB as he was prepping 3 DR650’s for his wife, son and himself for a similar trip.  Our bikes are set up almost identical.  We had communicated several times whilst traveling; however had never met up as they had left two months prior to us and were always ahead.  As we crossed onto the island of Tierra del Fuego a few days ago, I see 2 DR650’s coming towards us.  Really didn’t think it would be them, as there should have been 3 bikes; but as they passed, we knew that we had finally met.  We all quickly made u-turns and stopped safely for hugs all around.  We had never met before, but we were like old friends.  Michael, Jing and Sean were heading north after spending a few days in Ushuaia.  Jing had encountered horrible headwind a few days earlier and had crashed, but not too seriously injured and was riding 2-up with Michael.  Her bike needed some work done before they headed north again.  We spent about 45 mins chatting, and could have spent the entire afternoon sharing stories about our journeys south.  We hope to run into them again over the next week.

New photos added to both the Chile and Argentina photo albums.
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