We awoke to more bright sunshine and the ever present strong and gusty winds. But it was another beautiful day and we were soon loaded up and ready to head back out onto the rippio of Routa 40 towards El Chalten. It was to be rippio for a large portion of the day and once near El Chalten, we would once again be on pavement for a while. Wow pavement, smooth, wide and potentially with road markings defining left and right lanes. At first I thought it would be a pleasant change, but then something odd hit me. I had become so accustomed to riding the rippio, with all its undulations, bumps, holes, random rocks, asteroid and pea sized gravel, sometimes very loose and very deep, sand, and unknown hazards, that I actually felt I was going to miss it. A lot!
Where was the adventure in pavement riding? Anyone could ride pavement! I suddenly didn’t want the rippio to end; ever! It seemed too sedate and boring in such an exciting and adventurous environment, it was truly going to be a let down once we reached it; or so I thought.
By the way, if you don’t know, click on any one of the pictures in the gallery below and it will open that picture into a full size picture and then you can click your way through the remainder of the pictures in either direction in full size.
With the push of the bike’s starter button the unwanted thoughts of the potentially smooth pavement ahead were ignited and expelled from my mind. The engines twin cylinder song sang sweet rhythmic melodies, raising my spirit with each rise and descent in the note of the engine. And as the wheels turned, the sound of crunching gravel beneath my tires crushed any concerns of boredom into nothingness, just like the Patagonian winds dispersed the dust of the rippio behind my bike.
Once on Routa 40, we rode many miles in two tire track ruts surrounded somewhat deep gravel. The road was straight as an arrow, as far as the eye could see, with scraggy brush extending to both sides of the horizon. First it was brown and as we headed south, it became greener and greener. It was easy going, but it was a bit mesmerizing and if we weren’t careful, we could find ourselves wandering out of the tire tracks and in the deeper gravel. That itself wasn’t really bad, but the wind was well and truly up which made recovery from the gravel all the more difficult.
We also had to keep our wits about us due to wild and unfenced animals. Cows and bulls roam free on the plains, as well as other plains animals like horses, sheep, foxes and rabbits. Sometimes they stay put at the side of the road and sometimes they bolt out right in front of you. Extra caution is necessary as you approach a heard or even a single stray animal. You really don’t know what they are going to do and help is pretty far away if something were to happen.
After about 5 hours of riding, we came upon a large lake. It was a sight to see, for we had been on open plains for days and had not seen a large body of water for quite some time. It was quite beautiful and we had to stop to take some pictures. We were getting a bit goofy since we were happy to see the lake, know that we were nearing El Chalten, our destination for the day, and that we were reaching pavement for the first time in days. It was just a strange brew of feelings poured into a single cocktail which we had apparently gulped down on empty stomachs. We were silly happy but we knew we were going to be somewhat sad once we got back on the pavement.
About an hour later, there it was; the pavement. It was indeed smooth, wide and it did indeed have excellent road markings. Oh crud, where’s the adventure in that? As a bit of an offset, the plains began to rise and turn into mountains. Green scrub turned into hills which turned into rock. Ultimately, the closer we got to El Chalten, the more we were surrounded by towering mountains; mountains with glaciers even. The thought of seeing the glaciers raised my spirits, and I was looking forward to seeing them. We stopped a couple of times to take some pictures but now the clouds were descending and the clouds had obscured some of the mountains from sight. Bummer! We did catch occasional glimpses of the end of a glacier, but nothing spectacular.
As we got closer to El Chalten, the temperature started to drop rapidly. In fact, it sort of started to plummet. The clouds that had started to lower, now appeared to be racing for the ground. Ice pellets were being flung from the cloud’s bottom and we knew we had to make a run for El Chalten before it really began to snow in earnest. We picked up the speed a bit and rolled on by a large lake complete with icebergs freely floating about. However, with the weather rapidly worsening, the only thing to do was to take a one handed snapshot from the handlebar of the bikes as we motored on past hoping to make it to El Chelten before the road coated with snow and ice.
It was becoming darker and the road was now wet. We were trying to beat the weather but it wasn’t clear who would win this race. Helmets down on the tank to beat the freezing snow/rain mixture, we made our way towards El Chalten. Cold, wet, and wind blown, we made it into town with minutes to spare. The wind started to really gust and we hightailed it to our little hotel. We quickly unloaded our bikes in the wind and snow and made our way into the warm hotel. It was a great feeling to be out of the wind and snow/rain.
So as I peeled off my riding gear I thought to myself, maybe it wasn’t so bad riding pavement on the last part of the day, for surely we wouldn’t have made it into town before the real snow and wind hit had we been on the rippio all day. So there it was, we could have adventure on pavement! I should have known better! With that thought, I was stoked, for tomorrow was a non-riding day and we would be exploring the hiking/climbing town of El Chalten where we’ll take you in part 8.
Ride 2 Adventure – Shrink the Planet One Ride At A Time