Shrinking The Planet – One Ride At A Time

Fin del Mundo

Ride To The End Of The World – Fin del Mundo (Part 11)

The gravel was a welcomed friend, a not so old acquaintance with whom we were about to re-rekindle that solid friendship from days recently passed.  Having the gravel under our wheels increased the excitement and intensity of the ride.   Along with the relentless and chilling Patagonian winds, we once again felt like we were “adventurers” heading into unknown territory.

We rode for a few hours on the plains of Chile to rising winds and rising terrain.  The wind was chilled and the air crystal clear.  Even though we could not yet see them, we could tell we were approaching tall mountains and the cold air that flowed among them.  Still, it was an enjoyable experience and only made us more anxious to see what lay ahead.

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We had seen peeks and glimpses of the spectacular mountain range in the distance and even stopped to take a few “tourist” like pictures when we had a clear view of certain sections.   We posed and smiled, with and without our bikes like we were the first people to have discovered this marvelous sight.  In retrospect, it might have been a bit silly, but we were really enjoying ourselves and the preview of the beauty that is Torres del Paine.

After a few hours of riding, we came upon the entrance of the Torres Del Paine National Park and paid a fee to enter. It was not much, but it would be worth every peso that we paid.  The gravel roads winded their way around and over mountain passes, exposing beautiful views of Torres del Paine.  It was not long after we entered the park that we first sighted our first herd of guanacos.

What the heck is a guanaco I can hear you thinking.  Well they are llama like animals and they are to be found throughout Torres del Paine.  Sometimes solo, but most often in small herds, they graze casually beside the roads and on the mountainsides, quite happy to watch you as you watch them.  It was quite exciting to see so many of these animals in their natural habitat and not be fearful of man.  It seemed that with each bend we rounded, or each crest we reached, there was at least one guanaco lazily grazing nearby.  It was a marvelous experience.

But this experience was only the beginning.  For as we passed each guanaco, we also rode closer to to the Torres del Paine mountain range.  Soon a competition for our attention began.  Our attention was divided between the twisting gravel mountain road, lazy guanacos grazing at the roadside and our view of the approaching Torres del Paine mountains.  As we rode closer, towering mountain spires conspired to steal our attention from the road and place it firmly on their granite majesty.

The closer we got, the more we were amazed by the scene.  But then we got another treat.  As we neared Torres del Paine’s towering spires, mother nature decided to up the ante with lakes as blue as any we had ever seen.  They were sprinkled all along the road providing the perfect frame to Torres del Paine.

Transfixed as we were by all the surrounding sights, we soon came upon our stop for the next three days.  The Lago Pehoe’ campground.  We’ve camped in a lot of places, but we must say that the views nearby Lago Pehoe’ were unsurpassed by any other place we’ve ever visited.  Just over the trees of the campground stood the Torres del Paine mountain range fronted by the multi-hued blue Lake Pehoe’.

It was not long before we arrived at Lake Pehoe’ Camping campground.  We rode in and found our “camping” spot.  Once again, it was excellent.  Our digs for the two nights of camping were to be “permanent” metal framed geodesic dome tents set off the ground on large wooden platforms.  This was as far from primitive camping as you can get.  Inside the tents were two bunk beds with equipped with a mattress and a blanket.   We even had a flushing toilet facility and showers and a sit down restaurant outside.  Wow, was this terrific!

There were not many people in the campground so we essentially had the place to ourselves for the first day.  It was already a quite chilly day, and the clear skies bode for a cold night.  But with these amazing surroundings, we were happy as can be to be in such an awe inspiring area.    We decided to go for a walk along the gravel road to take in some more scenery and get a better look at Lake Pehoe’; it was well worth it.

We wandered the road staring at the mountains and gawking at the lake.  They seemed to compliment each other so well that as I snapped each picture, I didn’t think it could get any better, but every few minutes we walked brought a different angle or scene to see.  It was unbelievable, but the views and scenery were in fact getting better.

I turned the camera on some trees and flowers for a change and even they seemed spectacular in these surroundings.  How could this be?  Were our senses just heightened by our surroundings or was there in fact just more beauty around each and every corner?  I had no answer for this question, but I happily kept snapping pictures and enjoying the amazing walk we started.

By the time we returned to the campground, other travelers had arrived in their machines.  This time they were not on bikes, but were in elaborate 4 wheel drive vehicles and they were on a 147 day circumnavigation of six South American countries.  Mostly from Germany, they had already covered Bolivia, Peru, Chile and Argentina and had Brazil and Uruguay yet to cover.  We chatted a bit and then went on our way to dinner.

After a good dinner, it was time for bedtime and we turned in for the night.  It was quite cold, but we were secure in our tent and we bundled up as best as we could.  It was still an enjoyable night.

The following morning we decided to take another walk, this time up into the mountains a bit.  Our goal was to see the famous Andes Condors.  So we headed over to the Mirador Condor Trail where we will take you in Part 12.

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.

Ride 2 Adventure – Shrink the Planet One Ride At A Time

Ride To The End Of The World – Fin del Mundo (Part 10)

We glided over the paved narrow two lane following the contours of the fjord.  The mountains rose even higher around us and the peaks were covered in a gleaming white snow.  The brightly shining sun bounced from mountain top to the water’s surface and back creating a spectacular sparkle.  Sunglasses were indeed necessary as we wended our way closer to the Perito Moreno glacier.

We stopped at a little toll booth at the entrance to the park and paid a small fee to see what would be yet another marvel on this trip.  Just a few more miles down this winding and now forested road, lay an icy giant, silent and seemingly unmoving, yet amazingly powerful.

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At road’s end, we found ourselves in a fairly large parking lot complete with a few tour busses and hundreds of cars.  A couple of well maintained and new buildings sat to our left, providing places to eat and relax at what is one of Argentina’s natural treasures.  There were several walking paths and we randomly chose one that split the two buildings.

Soon we were on an elevated and grated walking trail above the surface of the ground, heading along the water and then…  There it was, the first close up sight of the Perito Moreno glacier.  Just the far end was in bright sun and the remainder was in shadow, but the size and the power of the glacier could not be hidden.

Giant spires of ice rose from the face of the glacier like the pikes of an advancing ice army.  As we got closer, the shadows could no longer hide the spires and they became clearer and larger.  The immensity of this frozen monolith was as apparent as its ability to act as an irresistible force of nature.  As the sun navigated its way in and out of the clouds, the ice sparkled, and the snow changed from dark grey to gleaming white, changed merely by the passing of clouds and will of the wind.  Nature could indeed paint pictures using its own natural pallete.

We lazily walked our way closer towards this awesome sight on the elevated metal corrugated carpet, eyes riveted to the ice and snow.  Just when we thought we’d seen it all, almost right in front of us, a grey fox rambled by us, not so much in a rush to hide from us, but more interested in finding a tasty morsel to dine upon.  We were truly getting the whole show today.

As close as we could get to the glacier on our man made walkway, it was nothing compared to the up close and personal look we would get from the giant sized catamaran that would take us to within 100 feet of the glacier.  As the time for departure approached, we eagerly boarded in anticipation of catching the aura of the glacier.

We were not disappointed as we slowly cruised out to the glacier.  It was far better to slowly cruise out to it.  The mountains framed the glacier perfectly and the passing clouds provided a cottony backdrop.  Never had white taken on some many different shades.  White ice, white snow and white clouds were all different shades of white and they were perfectly offset by the black of the rocky mountains and grey blue of the sea and the sky.

After about ten minutes of cruising, we reached the glacier.  For a brief period of time, the giant catamaran turned off the engines and the glacier came alive.  At times, we could hear the ice creak and groan as if it were restless and yearning to move faster.  A cool and sometimes downright cold wind flowed from the top of the glacier and spilled over the edge like a waterfall of cooled air.   Jackets were zipped and hats securely fastened in response to the glacier’s cold heartbeat of air.

So while we stood and stared in awe, we heard a gigantic crack like a single clap of thunder and a then a slight rumble.  About 500 yards away, a large chunk of ice had wrested itself free of the glacier’s face and plummeted to the water below.  We saw but did not hear the gigantic splash made by the ice and the waves generated by the bus sized chunk of ice now floating before us.  It was an awesome sight.  We were on a nature overdose and loving every moment of it.

But like all good things, our time at the glacier passed so very quickly.  Soon it would be time to start our ride back to our little hotel in El Calefate for the night.  As we walked back to the bikes, we marveled at how much we had seen in such a short period of time and how much we had enjoyed ourselves already.  But still, we had a two hour ride back through gorgeous country to the hotel to look forward to.  Not bad, not too bad at all.

After what seemed to be a very quick night’s sleep, we were back on the road early and covering some significant miles on mountainous yet smooth pavement.  We swooped around corners and leapt over the tops of the mountains and dove down their backs.  Four hours of pavement passed almost instantaneously.

But almost as suddenly as the road had been smooth and mountainous, we entered the plains again and were back on gravel.  As much as we had enjoyed the pavement, it was good to be back on the gravel and heading into some remote areas again.  As the mountains began to fade, the wind began to increase and once again we found ourselves crabbing into a steady wind with our 2 wheeled craft.

But we would not be too long without our friends the mountains, for we were headed to Torres del Paine and the most impressively beautiful mountain sunsets we have ever seen.  We’ll take you there in Part 11.

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.

Ride 2 Adventure – Shrink the Planet One Ride At A Time

Ride To The End Of The World – Fin del Mundo (Part 8)

Having sneaked our way into El Chalten in the midst of a snow and rain storm, we had been quite pleased to make it to our comfy little hotel snuggled in the back of this hiking and trekking town.  The rooms were small and spartan, but they were indeed warm and inviting and we took off our cold and damp riding gear and put on some nice dry warm clothes.  It just felt good to be out of the wet and wind.

We hung around our little hotel catching glimpses out the back picture window of the hotel of what was supposed to be beautiful mountain scenery.  But rushing clouds and quick bursts of sun only served to tease us with a quick sighting of a sheer rock wall or shining ice, which would almost immediately become engulfed in a roiling mass of heavy wet cloud.  If these gringos wanted to see the mountain scenery, they were going to have to be patient.

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.

It began to get a little later in the evening so we decided to stroll into town as the days wind started to diminish as did the rays of the sun.  Whether it was it the setting sun taking pity on us or the spirits that surround El Chalten, something seemed to want to take pity on us and the rain and snow stopped as quickly as it had started and the clouds raced away to parts unknown.  For as we walked out of our place of respite and looked behind us, two towering behemoths came into view.  Pointed and sharp as only newly minted mountains can be, they pointed skyward, appearing to rend the clouds from the sky.  Then a third smaller pike came into view, these rock monoliths were not to be ignored, they wanted their presence known.

They had made their points.  We stood there slack jawed, clicking pictures at alarming tourist rates.  It was a conundrum of sorts.  I wanted to take pictures to have memories, but I didn’t want to experience the sight solely through the limited view of a camera lens.  I must have looked pretty foolish, camera up, camera down, camera up, camera down. The net result, fuzzy pictures and an even fuzzier remembrance of the exciting scene.  Next time I’ll have to choose.

Ultimately, we were able to tear ourselves away from the scene and do a little strolling, get some dinner and even a little shopping done in town.  Kim got some fun things and even I got something that you’ll see later (shade your eyes and hide small children).  We chatted with the shop keepers as best we could and even a couple of locals.  Overall we had a pretty nice late afternoon in El Chalten but we were pretty tired from the day of riding in the weather so after filling ourselves with empanadas, we headed back to the hotel for a good nights rest.

When we awoke the following morning the sun was out but the wind was again up.  However, we weren’t going to let that stop us from investigating the rest of El Chalten.  We’d heard that as well as being a climbing and hiking center, El Chalten also had a reputation for being a bit of a hippie throw back town.  This we had to see.

So we started out after breakfast and just started walking around the small mostly dirt streets.  Houses were in varying condition from very good to not very good, but everyone in the town seemed to be in good spirits and even though the town did not seem affluent by any stretch of the imagination, people seemed to take pride in what they owned and they tried to make their places look nice.  Some folks were very creative in their decoration.

Hand painted tiles were fitted into the sides of buildings leaving a rather beautiful adornment to what would otherwise be a very plain house.  Another had used stencils to make “cave paintings” on the side of their house.  There was just a great deal of creativity amongst the townspeople.  But we would find even more later in the day.

As we walked to the back of the town, we found a staircase that led up to the top of a plateau.  You could see that it led up, but you couldn’t ultimately see where it was leading to.  So curiosity obviously not under control, we marched our way up the stairs to the top of the plateau and found…  another town!

Yes, there was another little town within the town of El Chalten.  It had a glorious view of the town below as well as the surrounding mountains.  It was breathtaking.  But there was more to come.  This town was just being built and many of the houses had yet to be completed.  Some were actively under construction while others seemed to be waiting for their next phase to commence.

But what was really cool about this little town within a town was that each street had its own ambassador waiting to greet you as you entered.  Hand crafted from whatever was available, there were statutes of birds, bicyclists, guitar players, skiers, and whatever the towns people felt would be a nice welcome to their little street.  It was great to see that the residents of this little town had taken the time to build a little more charm, a warm welcome for themselves and everyone who came to visit them.  It was great!

There was also another ambassador of sorts.  An Old English sheepdog that had a habit of sneaking around following Kim wherever we went, but never got close enough for her to pet.  He must have been the shy type.  But he did indeed turn up in several pictures, pictures that I didn’t know he was in when I was taking them.  He was sort of like a Where’s Waldo dog!

We enjoyed ourselves immensely up on the little plateau taking pictures and strolling the streets with Waldo.  Ultimately we had to head back to the hotel because the wind was still up and it was getting chilly.  So back down the stairs we went and we spied a couple of the locals chatting in local clothing.  I just loved the look of their local garments.  It make me aware of the fact that I was in Argentina where there are still Gauchos!  Awesome.

As we made our way back to the hotel, we were thankful for all that we were able to see and do in El Chalten.  We’d enjoyed every minute we’d been there, and tomorrow, rain (or snow) or shine or heavy wind, we were headed off to El Calafate where we’ll take you in Part 10.

Ride 2 Adventure – Shrink the Planet One Ride At A Time

Ride To The End Of The World – Fin del Mundo (Part 7)

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

Ride To The End Of The World – Fin del Mundo (Part 6)

We overnighted in Perito Moreno in a drab little hotel room with bars over the one tiny window.  It was dark and dingy, but it was warm and dry so we had no complaints.  Striking out fairly early in the morning, we were soon out of the town limits and back on the gravel of Routa 40.  The sun was brightly shining in a bright blue sky with some puffy white clouds.  The road surface was fairly firm with some loose gravel strewn about, but overall it was easy going.  The wind was up once again with a steady 30+ MPH wind blowing from a single direction.  The upside was that the constant dust that had been our companion earlier was now destined to blow directly to the side out of whomever followed.  It was a nice break from eating dust.  However, necks soon became tired and sore from holding a crab against the wind.  So it was a tradeoff of sorts, dust for neck ache.  Hmm… which was better?

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.

The gravel seemed endless.  While the scenery was beautiful, there were long stretches of straight, unrestricted view plains that ran until they were blocked by surrounding mountains.  Sight planes disappeared in a “V” in front of us as the seemingly endless gravel road continued unabated and without a twist or turn.  Every once in a while, we would reach the mountains that had previously been long in the foreground but were now immediately in front of us.  This gave us the opportunity to lean the bikes a bike and twist the throttles.  Kim especially took the opportunity to wick it up a bit, her confidence growing after riding in the wind for a couple of days.

Sooner than we knew it, we had made it through that mountain’s passes and were back on the plains gravel with fields of grasses surrounding us, wind blowing and miles of straight gravel road in front of us.  So straight in fact that as we made our way toward Tres Lagos (Three Lakes) we came upon a sign that directed us towards three different towns, 16, 246, and 345 kilometers away.  The thing was, they were arrowed all straight ahead.  Guess that road was really going to be straight for a while eh?

Covering such distances with only your thoughts and the wide open spaces gives you time to think.  Think about the beauty that surrounds you, about how lucky you are to have this wonderful circumstance that you are able to travel the world and see things like this unhindered and unfettered by day to day tribulations.  It really makes you humble.  Over the comms, I told Kim how I was feeling and we decided to take a few minutes to stop and just soak it all in.

There we were, somewhere in the middle of Argentina with nothing around us for miles and miles but open fields surrounded by mountains, blue skies and fluffy white clouds.  Frankly, it was a wonderful few moments in time.  It was like we were on our own little planet and we were so thankful to be there.  But it was quite strange, we didn’t feel like we needed to keep it for ourselves, we felt like we needed to share it with everyone, hence the couple of pictures you see in the gallery here.  You’ll know which ones I’m talking about when you see them.

After about twenty minutes of awe, gawking and picture taking, we got back on the bikes for the final leg of our ride to the Estancia La Angostura, a working ranch (estancia).  We hit several zones of construction which made the going a bit slow in places but was not difficult.  But it did bring to mind that Routa 4o is changing and that the gravel will soon turn to pavement.  So if you would like to ride Routa 40 in its gravel state, do it soon, because change is coming (for the better of the people of Argentina).

Another two hours on the rippio and we found a small sign announcing our arrival but the estancia was nowhere to be seen.  All that was nearby was a gravel and sand two track leading off Routa 40.  Since there were no other signs and Routa 40 continued on straight ahead for miles, we followed the little gravel two track for about two miles and there it sat, the Estancia La Angostura.  Surrounded by cypress like trees and wrapped in bushy like vegetation it was a haven from the continuous winds.  Once inside the surrounding trees and bushes, the wind was almost non-existent.

The estancia itself did indeed look like a ranch house.  A long plain white washed building with no-nonsense windows, you could see it was made for work and not for style.  Still, it had a natural beauty as it blended into its surroundings and seemed to be perfectly in place with all that surrounded it.

Inside it was even better.  The tools and necessities of ranch life adorned the walls and tables.  An old coffee grinder here, a saddle there, a set of bolo balls hung from the walls as well as a well worn and abused revolver.  Each was capable of telling a story of its life on the plains of Argentina and the work that it had done in making the Estancia La Angostura successful.

We walked around a bit and were shown to our room.  It was a modest bunk room with little adornment.  However, the people had done their best to make it cheery and leave their marks.  Although the walls were bare, without even sheet rock to cover the walls studs, the insulation’s batting had been decorated with multiple handprints.  The handprints were in different colors and were all over the wall.  It made for a very nice personal touch and gave you the feeling that folks who had done hard work lived in the room and you were now their honored guests.  It was quite comforting.

Before we knew it, it was time for dinner.  Once again it was to be an asado of lamb and sausage.  We walked to the dining hall where in the corner, an entire lamb was skewered and slowly cooking.  We sat waiting for dinner to cook chatting with friends and drinking some wine when the owners came in with their pet dog and their other pet; a lamb!  It was a strange feeling seeing your lamb dinner cooking on a skewer and then the owners come in with their pet lamb!  But this one was special, it had been abandoned by its mother and had become their house pet.  It would never see the skewer!

We had a marvelous dinner and soon were off to bed for the next days ride to El Chalten the climbers paradise, where well take you in Part 7.

Ride 2 Adventure – Shrink the Planet One Ride At A Time

Ride To The End Of The World – Fin del Mundo (Part 5)

Having enjoyed hugely comfortable digs for a couple of days we were ready to make our way toward Esquel.   We’d be traversing some mountain roads, but it was to be easy going with smooth pavement all the way.  But we did have some nice twisties and a few nice stops with overlooks.  We could tell that we were truly enjoying the trip since we were bypassing the opportunity to stop and take pictures at some pretty beautiful spots.  It’s just that there were so many opportunities to see them, we had to force ourselves from becoming jaded to all that we were seeing and were still to see.

We breezed along the mountain roads swooping and gliding, powering up steep inclines and gliding down the backs.  There was great joy in twisting the throttles and rolling the bikes side to side.  Magic.  Our bikes and our bodies flowed with the earth and easily followed its contours.  It was as if the mountain had a giant magnet under its road and our bikes were magnetically bonded to the earth as were we to the bikes.  We passed beautiful valleys hemmed in by great mountains and made few stops along the way.

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.

Because of this, our first stint of the day on the bikes was fairly long, we had lost track of the time.  One such stop was for lunch.  We often packed power bars and some fruit in our top boxes for an easy and quick snack.  Kim remembered that she had stored a banana in her top box and was ready to eat it for her lunch’s dessert.  But we’d done quite a bit of riding that day and the sun was beating down on us and the bikes.  In addition, the banana had worked its way to the bottom of Kim’s top box where it had been bouncing about with all her other gear for most of the day.  When she opened her top box and searched for her banana, she found on the bottom, a fine banana and dust puree a mixture.  Eww!!!

So we cleaned up her top box and got to the business of eating lunch and taking a few pictures.  There were some local flowers that we took a few photos of and before we knew it, we were back on the road.  Once again there were few pictures taken as we zoomed our way to Esquel.

It was a fairly long day in the saddle but time really did zoom by.  In fact, before we knew it, the sun was getting low on the horizon by the time we reached the border of Esquel.  We were fairly tired by the time we reached our motel which was like a little hacienda at the outskirts of town.  Complete with wooden rail fences and a central square area in the interior it was a great place to stop and catch 40 winks before we once again got back onto the rippio (gravel) on the famous Routa (Route) 40.

The following morning dawned nearly overcast, the few breaks overhead letting the sun’s warmth through occasionally.  Our spirits however were on high since today we were going to ride the rippio of Routa 40, famous for making its way southward to Ushuia and also for the Patagonian winds that blow.  We were about to find out what both were like on the first day our journey over its length.

Shortly after leaving Esquel, we made our way onto Routa 40 and the rippio.  The towns gave way to large open plains of tall grasses.  Some were populated with cattle and horses while others were empty and open for as far as the eye could see.   About an hour into the ride, we spied a splash of color, pink color, not too far off the road.  Two pink flamingos, not lawn ornaments, but the real things, stood as a pair, wading in a marshy area.  I said to Kim over the intercom, that we weren’t in the States any more and there was the proof.

Shortly after we passed the flamingos, the wind began to pick up.  Lightly at first, but then more steadily until it became intense.  Severe is the word that comes to mind.  A consistent 30 – 40 MPH wind that gusted even higher making the riding quite challenging.  We would get accustomed to the steady wind leaning the bikes and our bodies into the wind causing the bike to take on a significant lean just in order to ride straight.  A gusting of wind would require even more lean just to stay on course.  Complicating things even more was when the gust would stop, we’d have to quickly take out the lean or risk falling off.  It was quite an interesting and tiring riding situation.  But after riding a few hours in these conditions we were becoming accustomed to it and riding became more easily to us.

About half way into the riding day, we came upon our first of many Gauchito Gil shrines.  We would come to find that these shrines were all over Routa 40 and were filled with drinks, money, cigarettes, gifts, prayers and requests for help.  The shrines in memory of Gaucho Gil and if you are interested, you can learn a bit about it here:

Gauchito Gil

We stopped at several shrines and took some pictures and also took the time to get a measure of the wind.  It’s difficult to explain the Patagonian winds.  They’re really something you have to experience for yourself.  Here’s a bit of a taste of how insistent they really are…

Roadside Patagonia Winds from Mike & Kim Botan on Vimeo.

Back on the road, we made our way towards the town of Perito Moreno and our stop for the evening.  We came upon this rather interesting sculpture.  At first we couldn’t make out what it was, but when we referred to the drawing at its base, it became clear what it was.  It was pretty cool now that we knew what to look for and we enjoyed finding it in the middle of what was pretty open and deserted spaces.  After another couple of hours on the road, in the distance, we could make out Perito Moreno.  Tomorrow we’d be heading for a working estancia (ranch) out on the plains with no communications to the outside world.  It was a marvelous place and we’ll tell you all about it in Part 6.

Ride 2 Adventure – Shrink the Planet One Ride At A Time

Ride To The End Of The World – Fin del Mundo (Part 4)

We rolled into Bariloche in quickly gathering darkness.  Up a paved road past some houses and a barking dog who chased us for a short distance.  Not to long thereafter, we found the sign for the hostel we were to call home for the next two nights.  The road into the hostel was dirt and lazily curved and climbed the hostel grounds.  We finally came to the place where we were told to leave our bikes which was not level and had deep random holes surrounded by tree roots.  Kim attempted to dismount her bike  in the dark and for the first time on this many thousand mile trip, dropped her bike.  She was bumming big time since she rarely drops her machine.  But it turns out that as she pulled up, there was earth below her right foot, but nothing below her left but a significant eight inch drop and a tree root.  She semi fell and hopped off her bike and emerged only with a damaged ego.

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.

By now it was fully dark and we were unloading our night’s gear from the bikes.  We walked down the hill to the room where we would be staying.  The owner unlocked the door for us turned on the light and wished us a good night.  As we walked inside, we found a very nice apartment!  We were not expecting anything like this, it was indeed a small house and we were inhabiting the entire downstairs.  We had a bedroom, kitchen, livingroom, bathroom and even a nice porch.  We were psyched!  We couldn’t see the outside surroundings, but the inside was certainly nice.

In the center of the hostel yard was a dining area where were to be served a home cooked asado dinner by the hostel’s owners who happened to be South African expatriates.  Dinner time was not too far off and we sat down with several of our friends for a nice home cooked asado accompanied by some nice Argentinian Malbec.  Mmmm…. it was good.  Good food, good company, good stories and good wine.  What a great way to top off the evening and a great day.  Before we knew it, it was almost midnight and we wearily dragged ourselves back to our little apartment.  Tuckered out from a long days ride, terrific food and perhaps a bit too much Malbec, we were really ready for the sack.  We just dropped into bed and were almost immediately sound asleep.

The following morning dawned bright and sunny and we were anxious to see what was outside our little apartment.  We were not disappointed.  We did indeed have a nice little house surrounded by trees and shrubs with other small houses nicely situated not too far away.  There was even a little man made reflecting pond with flowing water.

After a quick breakfast, we got onto our bikes and rode out into the surrounding countryside.  We came into the town of Llao Llao and rode around its beautiful lake and some of the surrounding mountains.  There was a small turnoff at one particularly beautiful overlook and there were several school buses with children ages from about 10 to 15.  They giggled and ran and played at the roads edge and took pictures of each other at the not so significant drop off overlooking the lake and the mountains behind.  It was a time for all to enjoy what nature was offering and the kids were keen on doing their best to enjoy it.  We milled around with them and soon we had integrated into their little group.  They were a bit curious about our Aerostiches, but they did offer to take our picture as we did for them.

Soon their teachers called for them to get back on the busses and we were almost alone at the roadside overlook.  The view was all the more exquisite in the peace in quite that now enveloped us.  We lolligagged around a bit longer and soaked it all in until it too was time for us to be on our way.  It was lunch time and we found a small out of the way restaurant and enjoyed a nice slow Argentinian lunch.  This trip was clearly becoming a journey of contentment.  With all the mountains in the area you might imagine that there would be ski resorts around and indeed there were.  The resort had an almost European feel with chair lifts operating and out-door places to eat and view the mountain scenery.

With some more riding, we headed back a little early into Bariloche itself for a quick look at the town and to pick up some supplies for dinner that night.   We bought that staple of travelers everywhere, pasta, and of course, some more Malbec to go with it.  Some cheese and crackers and we had a complete and ready to go dinner that was quick and could be made with little fuss and few ingredients.   As we got to the check out, I struggled a bit with my Spanish, but I was able to pay the correct amount (I think) and we left to return to the hostel.

Before dinner, we did a bit of cleaning and attempted to clean off some of the dust from the road.  There was plenty of it and it took us a good hour to get everything fairly spic and span.  By the time we had finished it was dinner time and we embarked on the journey to make our pasta dinner.  We had most everything we needed.  A deep pot, a colander, a smaller pot for some sauce, some spoons for stirring and a couple of forks.  But what we didn’t have were any pot holders.  Dang it!  But Kim being the resourceful soul that she is, simply said, no worries and broke out her riding gloves and we were immediately provided with two insulated pot holders.  Bravo!

Ultimately, we were able to get the pasta served, our cheese, crackers and wine ready and sat down at the table next to the outdoor porch.  We looked outside and to our dismay saw we had an interloper.  A good sized bird perhaps about a foot tall, waited on the rail of the porch looking for some handouts.  He cawed at us and jumped around on the rail.  When I opened the sliding door to the porch he would fly off, only to return.  I wanted to leave him/her some pasta, but he/she would always fly away.  Hmm… come to think of it, perhaps it wasn’t the pasta he/she wasn’t interested in, could it have been the Malbec?

I’ll never know what was on his/her mind, because he/she didn’t come back after about the fourth attempt.  So we were left to eat our dinner in peace and have a nice quiet evening.  Tomorrow we would head to Esquel and the beginning of the famous Ruta 40 and the infamous and fierce Patagonian winds.  We knew they could be strong, but we’d really underestimated their ferocity.  We’ll tell you all about it in Part 5.

Ride2Adventure – Shrink the Planet One Ride At A Time