Touring Ted

2 wheels & no sense. My Motorcycle travel blog.

Archive for December, 2007

Well i’ve finally made it to Tierra del Fuego (Land of fire) in the deep south of Argentina for Christmas. I left Rio Gallegos at 7.30 on Sunday morning and made my way 250 miles south to Rio Grande. There is no direct way to cross into Argetinian Tierra del fuego without going through Chille so I had to cross into Chille and then back into Argentina 2 hours later. So, my first border crossings !!  I didnt know what to expect but it was very easy and straight forward and the border guards were polite and helpful. I actually had to go through 4 checkpoints… Argentina out, Chille in, then Chile out, Argentina in.. Comprende ?? :)

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Tierra del Fuego is a large island so you have to take a ferry in Chile accross the straighs of Magallan. Its a short 10-15 minute crossing but you have to wait upto 90 minutes for the ferry. On the ferry I get chatting to a really friendly Chillian guy. He barters with the ticket man for me and gets my ticket reduced from 80 pesos to 24 because im on a bike and not a car. He was totally made up when he found out I was from Liverpool as hes a big Beatles and Liverpool FC fan… Its a strange world !

I roll off the ferry onto Tierra del fuego. Tierra del Fuego reminds me a little of Mordor without the Orks. Lots of volcanic features and geology and huge expanses of open country. Very beautiful but again, very windy and cold.. There are few cars about and the roads are mostly pretty good apart from 70 miles of ripio to get to the main large town of Rio Grande. 

So it was a long 8 hour day but I finally arrive in the large town of Rio Grande and to the Hostel Argentino. The Argentino is a brilliant friendly hostel owned by the lovely Graciela. There are lots of Swizz, French and Argentian travellers staying here and the atmosphere is fantastic. I got here on the 23rd December and fellow Brit, Mick O’Malley was already here. Yesterday (24th) we all had a great Christmas dinner and partied until 5am with all the travellers and friends of Graciela. Like always, the Argentinians are very hospitible and cant do enough for you.

I think ill chill out here for a couple of days to change my tyres, wash some clothes and take advantage of the free intenet :). Then its the one day ride south to Ushuaia, the end of the words and a huge New years eve party with all the other travellers who make the long journey south. I cant wait  !!!

Until then, Feliz naviva

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22.12.2007

So… It was over a week ago since I left the other guys and decided to ride alone.

The day after the crash I left the others and headed South to the seaside tourist city of Puerto Madryn. It was my hope to find “Gato Motos” there so I could change my crappy street biast Trailwing tyres for some decent duel purpose rubber. Sadly, they didnt have what I needed so after staying one night in luxury (2 star hotel), I rode a short 90 miles back North to the Peninsular Valdez.
Peninsular Valdez is a a well known nature reserve and tourist site which is famous for Whales, Penguins and other marine life. It has a infamous Ripio (gravel) coast road which claims a few lives a year and seems to attract the locals and crazy bikers alike who want to circuit the coast for a challenge. So, I pull into Puerto Piramides, the major town on the peninsular and straight away I see 5 overland bikes owned by the German guys.. Small world huh !! We eat lunch and decide to find a hostel and go whale watching the next day and then maybe ride the peninsular.

We stumble into a brand new hostel which I immediately fall in love with. Stone built, wooden ceilings scattered with big sofas, a kitchen and most importantly, clean hot showers and comfortable beds. We settle in with the usual routine of beer, wine and home cooked food and chat the night away.

The next day on the peninsular, we decide to go Whale watching. I love nature and have always wanted to see whales in their natural environment so I was well up for this. Sadly, the main whale season ended a few weeks ago but we were lucky enough (with the skill of our Captain) to find a Mother Southern Right Whale and her calf. We followed the whale for some time with a few other boats until the whale got bored with us which was our cue to head back to shore. It was really nice to be out on the water but it gave me a major appetite (not for blubber though).

That night we headed into the town for a big juicy steak with a newly arrived American guy who had just turned up at the hostel from Ushuaia,  a Spanish guy from Madrid who was travelling by car and Mick O’Malley from the UK. We ate and drank while the restaurant slowly transformed into a bustling night club around us. There was a brilliant local 5 piece band playing followed by a DJ and dancing.  We danced the night away with the help of numerous ‘Cuba Libre’ coctails and wine… The rest became a bit of a blank . A good night all round I think :)

So after another lazy day at the hostel, the Germans decided to ride the peninsualar. I debated with myself all day whether to ride the bad ripio roads with my street tyres and very fragile handlebar clamps. I knew that even a small topple could break my bars straight off and end my journey south for new years eve . I felt the need to be sensible for a change so left them to ride out and camp while I sulked in the sun with some Quilmes beer.

My tyres were really pissing me off by then so I made the decision to have some sent down from Buenos Aires. Javier in Dakar Motos had a set of Metzeler Karoos and agreed to send them far south to the city of Rio Gallegos where I could collect them from a bus depot before heading to the Souther island of Tierra del fuego..The next day I set off alone for the long 3 day ride south to Rio Gallegos. I stopped at Comodore Rivadavia that night and then the next day I rode another 200 miles to Puerto San Julian.

I stopped in San Julian, one days ride away from Rio Gallegos where I can pick up my tyres and finally head the final stretch to Tierrra del Fuego and Ushuaia. This place was touristic but with not many people around which confused me as to why I couldnt get a room in a hotel anywhere. Maybe the thought of a smelly Englishman staying in their hotel doesnt appeal to them. Maybe it has something to do with the huge memorial to the Argentinians who died in the Malvinas (Falklands). Funny thing as you get further South in Argentina is that there are a lot of memorials and strong feelings to the Malvinas. They still take it very much to heart and there are a museams and tours devoted to explaining why the Malvinas are historically Argentinian. I just tell everybody im Irish to save any poential ill feeling. !!!  So another nights boring camping alone. Thank god the wine is so cheap and I still have my laptop full of music and videos.

The next morning I was woken up by wind violently flapping my tent. I just knew this was going to be a bad days riding. I lay in my sleeping bag hoping the wind would suddenly drop but it just seemed to get worse. I packed up my tent and geared up the bike up knowing that the longer I procrastinated, the worse it would probably get. It turned out to be the worst days ride of my life. The wind was just horrendous. I couldnt ride faster than 45mph with the head wind and it was a constant fight to keep the bike from blowing into the side of the road or into oncoming trucks. The other drivers were as crazy as ever, overtaking within cm’s and overaking on blind bends. There were more than a few moments when I saw my life flash between my eyes. The sensible thing would of been to pull over and sit it out but over here thats not really an option. You are so far between fuel stops and towns that theres just nowhere to stop, just praires and pampas. I battled for 7 hours in the cold, strong wind and finally made it into Rio Gallegos. I was soo cold and pissed off that I wanted to be back home with a hot cup of tea and a bacon butty. No such luck for me though as I still needed to find the bus depot to collect the tyres that were meant to be waiting for me and then find a hotel, as camping in this wind would be a nightmare.

In one moment of luck, the bus depot happened to be on the main route into town. In another moment of bad luck, the tyres wern’t there. By now I was just so pissed off. The guy just shrugged his shoulders and said “Manana” (Maybe tomorrow) so I just said thanks and left in search of a hotel where I would wait for my tyres to arrive.

After riding around the city for 30 minutes with every hotel turning me away I was really feeling sorry for myself. It had been a truely awful days riding, I was shivering cold, my tyres wernt there and I couldnt get a room.  I turned to my GPS to show every hotel in the vicinity and god bless it, it found me the one that im writing this post from. The downside is that i’m in the the last room which has 3 beds so I had to pay from them all :( A horrendous £26 a night for a 3 bed room which is pretty expensive on my budget and especially for a uber basic room.

On top of all that, the hotel staff are really miserable and unfriendly.  Breakfast which was included in the price was never brought to me unless I haseled them, and one day they even dropped it on the floor infront of me and put it back on my plate which out even a sign of remorse.   My only example of poor hospitality from Argentina !!  Theres something about this town that just doesn’t sit well for me.

 So today is Saturday and iv just been back to the depot for a 3rd time (they had a siesta the 2nd time). Thank god my tyres were there so I can now leave tomorrow and hope to make it to Rio Grande in Tierra del Fuego for Christmas eve. I have to cross the border into Chille then back into Argentina to get there. Its going to be cold, wet and miserable but im used to that now !!!! Until the next time….

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16.12.2007

After the meeting in Viedma I joined a group of Germans to ride down the east coast on the way south. Sebastian, Uchi and myself started first with Ra, Ali and Korolla following an hour behind. The plan had been to take a ripio (gravel & sand track) road down the coast so we could avoid the painfully dull Rta 3 again. We were all riding pretty slow at first but gaining speed and confidence on the gravel & sand track as we rode on. After a while, the other Germans caught up with us and the boys (as boys do) started going faster and faster. It feels great to ride on these roads at speed. You feel like you are in the Paris Dakar Rally with clouds of dust behind you and gravel and sand spitting up from under your tyres.

A real sense of speed and calm and control takes over, but, as in life, all good things have to come to an end…… I was riding at about 70mph on this ripio surface for a good hour or two and feeling pretty good about life. The thing about ripio roads is that the faster you ride, the easier it feels to ride. You start gliding over the surface instead of bumping and sliding about in the gravel. This leads you into a false sense of security which made me have my fist big crash of the trip.

We were looking for somewhere nice to spend the night camping wild and coming the other direction were two big bull dozer vehicles with massive scoops on the front. They were smoothing over the surface of the track as it becomes corrugated and portioned by car and truck tyres. So, I pass these big bull dozers and start going faster and faster again. 30 seconds later I’m flying along at 70mph like before totally oblivious to the fact that the track had turned into more sand than gravel due to the smoothing process. 40 seconds later and my front wheel goes into an uncontrollable wobble. I try to fight it straight and power out of the weave but its too late. Before I have time to soil my underwear, the bike buckarooed me and flipped itself over into the dirt at 70mph.

I lay there on the gravel surprised to be conscious and tried to work out if I was hurt. Miraculously, I could feel no pain and had the use of all my limbs. I stood up and took a look around. The bike was buried in the side of the road and my luggage boxes were about 10 metres further down the road with all my possessions scattered across the place. BOLLOCKS !!!

I automatically assumed that my trip was over there and then. No bike, no luggage, no nothing ! The others caught up with me and instantly started to pick up my things and we all got our tools out and assessed the damage. Surprisingly the bike was intact apart from the left hand luggage box was battered out of shape with the fixings ripped off, the handlebar clamps were bent and hanging out of the top yoke and the clutch lever and mirror were bent. L Ali wandered off into the bushes and in a complete stroke of luck, returned with a scaffold pole. What it was doing there in the middle of nowhere is anyone’s guess but it helped to bend the pannier frame out of the back wheel. The handlebars were soon back together but there was no way to straighten them without breaking them but at least the bike was ridable. I’m really surprised how tough this bike is. Many a bike would have been written off and beyond repair by this crash and my Metal Mule box still looks like a box and is useable if a little awkward.

By this time is was getting late so we decided to all rough camp on the side of the road. I was feeling sore by now. My lower back and ribs were pretty bruised and it was a major effort to bend over and move about but nothing a dose of painkillers couldn’t cure.

It actually turned out to be a really good night. Due to me crashing we camped in the scrub in total darkness. All lying together on a sheet staring up at the most amazing night sky I have ever seen. There were more stars than black. Mists of stars, comets and satellites were flying about all night. We lay there making silly jokes (usually at my expense) and looking on the very bright side of life.

So, I’m now riding with 1 battered and bent luggage box which is strapped up to the bike and bent handlebars. The important thing is that I’m still mobile and travelling.

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10.12.2007

Just a quick post to let everyone know that im not “banged up abroad” just yet.

I finally left ‘La Posta’ in Azul on Wednesday and rode the long boring Ruta 3 to ‘Sierra de la Ventana’ for a halfway stop before the Horizons Unlimited biker meeting in Viedma.  Routa 3 is really starting to bore me now. Its just open straight highway through the praires with nothing to keep your attention apart from the road kill and 50mph winds which try and blow you into the dirt. Things picked up as we entered the area of ‘Sierra de la Ventana’ which is GORGEOUS. Lots of lush green fields and moutains which reminded me a lot of Snowdonia National park in North Wales. The plan was to camp one night there and climb the highest mountain in Argentina (La Ventana) then ride down to Viedma the next day… We couldnt find anywhere to camp near the Moutain so we stayed in another nice campsite nearby but too far out to do the walk the next day. So, the next day i awoke with a bad hangover and decided to ride down to Viedma alone.

It was another long boring ride down RTA 3 with some absolutely killer winds. At points I was riding at a 30 degree angle to keep in a straight line. I actually saw some mini twisters kicking up sand and debris on the road and not being familiar with these in Britain, I wasnt sure what to do… Images of me being sucked up off my bike and deposited in a tree spung to mind but sadly as i rode through them, I barely felt a wobble !!

So…. 5 hours later I rolled into the campsite in Viedma for the HU meeting. Bikers we already pouring in, mostly from Canada and Germany. One thing about travelling on a bike in South America is that 75% of the other travellers are German. ITS CRAZY ! I think my German will be better than my Spanish when I return :) The good thing is that they are all lovely, friendly, helpful and always up for a beer and a party ! My new favourite European neighbours !!

So, we all spent the last weekend cooking, eating, and generally drinking loads of Quilmes (good Argie beer) and going for rides out to to see the Sea Lions on the beach. 

Tomorrow I think I will be riding down to Las Grutas for a stop before Peninsualr Valdez to see some Whales etc. The next two weeks will be long rides down Ruta 3 to get to Ushauia and the “End of the worlds” for Xmas and New year !! 

P.S  As always i havnt got my photos with me so maybe next time huh !  😉