Week 93 - Windy Ruta 40 & Perito Moreno Glacier!
We woke up early and hoped our bikes had managed to stay upright over night in the crazy Patagonian wind. Rich was on the road early and the Aussies left just before us. It was a bit better than the day before but still way windy! We topped up the tanks at the petrol pump they had on site, which was caked in so many travellers stickers and kept us entertained while we waited for the matey to come out and sort the fuel, had a measly breakfast and then we were on our way. We were glad of the rest and that we hadn't pushed on the previous day, so we were more prepared for the blustery, energy-zapping day ahead trying to keep our bikes in a straight line!
Today was 220 ish km of just wind and long straight roads. We finally got to the town of Gobernador Gregores and stopped at YPF for fuel and some WiFi. We then decided to search for a hostel as it was going to be 380km ish to El Chalten; further than anticipated because we wanted a detour of a particularly crap bit of road we'd been warned about, but who knows what it was really like. We found a few places on iOverlander and the map, but checked out one that seemed good for the money and cheerful at just £25 called Hospedaje Aldo! It seemed to be the going rate locally, so not a bad deal for a Patagonian town. It had gas heaters, a kitchen, lovely hot showers, parking, WiFi and comfortable beds so it was even better. The owner was really lovely and her dogs were so beautiful and friendly. I was shattered and overjoyed at somewhere to stay out of the wind; option B was the communal camping ground, but although free may have ended up with our tent being demolished by the wind!
We chilled out a bit then went for a walk and found a little bike shop for some much needed supplies, although £17 for chain lube and about same for 1 litre oil was a bit steep. The supermarket was reasonable so we got stuff to cook, and loaded up on veggies and some fresh meat. We had to use own pots and pans, but we'd got so good at cooking between the two we had, so it was no issue. We found out the Aussies (Gordon and Craig) were in the same town but sadly different hostel and we definitely didn't have the $$$ to drink or eat out; £1 wine from the supermarket did us fine and the bonus about cheap wine in Chile and Argentina is that you can find a lot of decent stuff for that price, not like back home where it'd be vinegar. Ooh, and we finally washed clothes...Yay, exciting!
We slept well but I was feeling exhausted. I was feeling quite under the weather, but i'd had very few episodes of sickness on the trip overall. We came to the decision to stop still for a few days to recoup and to do bike maintenance, plus the wind forecast was quite horrendous, so why not wait until it died down a bit...for me it seemed the safer, less draining option, and we weren't in any rush. I have to admit, I was feeling a bit unhappy about high costs of travelling in this area as it was just so expensive with fuel, accommodation etc, but 'c'est la vie', and we would only likely be here once in our lives, so I decided to suck it up and stop worrying about it, or at least try not to worry! At least the accommodation generally included a reasonable hot shower and a basic breakfast, although we've found we've generally ended up in single beds so no cuddles.
Kelvin got to work on the bikes, and the dogs tried to help him! They were adorable, even if they did slow him down a bit. He put on the handle bar muffs (one of the best decisions we made for this section of the journey), new fork gators and sorted my clutch lever play. He changed the direction of the front tyres around as well, which he managed to do super swiftly, and would mean slightly better longevity.
Whilst I helped as and when required with the bike stuff, I had to sadly start looking into our departure from South America in six months time. I looked at finances, logistics, final destination points etc...a tad depressing but we had to keep in mind all we'd got to see and do on the adventure so far, plus we'd experienced some of the best riding you could ever ask for. Normally I don't plan ahead too much but I started to do a little more route planning for the next section of the trip and the last things we wanted to see and do before we got to the final countdown. It was also a great opportunity to get caught up on writing, photos, videos and everything else we hadn't got a chance to do lately. Plus, I really felt under the weather so it was good to rest in a comfy bed.
All in all we stayed 4 nights. During that time we also met couple from Canada on Husky 701s called Meghan & Dave, who we'd also meet again later in our trip. They were passing through and we'd talked to them online, so the next morning we met up with them at the gas station for a coffee and chat, before they headed South. They were really lovely and their bikes were awesome. At the hostel we also met Nathan and Ciaran from Australia. Nathan had Brent's old DRZ400 (the guy we met all the way back in Lima who'd pushed my bike with his leg through the Lima traffic); small world!
It was time to get going again. Our plan had worked and the wind had calmed down a good bit when we finally got back on the road. The roads weren't great with lots of loose gravel, and we knew that many people avoid it all together and do a huge detour. We had initially planned to do this, but after speaking to a couple of people we decided not to and just brave it. All in all it was actually fine for us, plus we got a trail ride for about 10km to which we did around a particularly gnarly section of deep gravel road! On our trail ride section there was one super deep bit gravel for just a few meters but we got through. There were lots of Ostriches, Guanacos and Rabbits on our mini detour and beyond, which was fantastic and made the day all the more interesting. Pulling into the only gas station on route to El Calafate, we met girl who sadly had badly sprained he ankle; some locals picked up her and bike in the back of their truck and were taking her to the nearest town. She'd come off on one of the really gravelly sections and got her foot caught under the bike so not nice.
Unfortunately we didn't get fuel because there was none. We were told it would be half an hour, and then 20 minutes later we were told it would be half an hour...we knew from previous incidences that a South American half an hour may be several hours, the next day or possibly even longer! We had only done 180 km and we had 160 left, so we made the decision to crack on. The slight error in our calculations was just how much extra fuel the bikes used in the strong winds. We continued and on entering El Calafate the bikes both started hunting and we had to put them on reserve. We only just made it to YPF gas station and just before fuel tanker arrived. Phew! When the tankers arrive the station gets cleared for a good chunk of time, so we were really lucking.
We rocked up at Camping Amsa, which we'd seen on iOverlander. It was nice, with hot showers, a supermarket close by, and WiFi near the main building, although we didn't use it. They also had electric points in the campground which they switched on at night, so we could charge up the headsets. We got everything set up and then I got a message from a guy called Eduardo who I'd met on Facebook. He and his wife lived in the town and I let him know where we were staying. He stopped by on his way back from work at the campsite and invited us to stay and dinner next night. He said we could come and stay that night, but as we'd already set up camp we were quite happy to stay put and go to their place the next day. It was unbelievably kind of him to invite us.
I will just mention here that I was completely unaware at this time of a little additional project Kelvin was undertaking. I would find out soon (see the next blog), however he was keeping himself busy whittling something!
The next day we packed up and set off to Eduardo and Rosanna's place towards the other side of town. We offloaded our stuff in to their garage and then they got all kitted up to go out with Eduardo and Rosanna on his bike. We were all off to Perito Moreno Glacier, one of the things I most wanted to see in Patagonia, I'd heard so much about it and never seen anything remotely like it in my life. It was 700 ARG pesos each for us, and zero for them being locals, which was great as it meant they could come with us, show us some good stops and things without it actually costing them a tonne. It truly was an amazing place.
We saw the Ural guys Marie and the other three that had previously met at the Chile-Argentina border crossing at Paso Reballos. They were such lovely people and we had a good catch up and took a couple of photos. Eduardo and Rosanna came with us as far as the top of the walkways around the glacier before they left us to it and we walked around glacier walkways for three whole hours. It wasn't a place you could get bored if you are mesmerised by the ice. It was absolutely immense and the sound of the ice cracking was eery and out of this world, but fantastic to listen to. We were also witness to several significant ice falls, which is part of the daily life of this glacier. The ice segments coming off didn't look to huge from afar but the splash they made soon demonstrated just how big these pieces were...you wouldn't want to be near one when it fell and the tourist boats looked so small against the backdrop of the grand glacier. Before departing we met guy hitchhiking who had previously hitchhiked from China to Germany, and now was tackling Ushuaia to Alaska. Quite an amazing and challenging adventure, although I was still glad to be doing it on a motorcycle.
Once we finished gawping at the glacier we headed back to Eduardo and Rosanna's appartment. We took the dirt road Eduardo had suggested, which was so beautiful and no other traffic in sight. We stopped in a couple of places to take some photos as the colours and landscapes were just stunning. We finally made it back to El Calafate via a fuel stop and the supermarket for wine (of course).
Back at the appartment we got everything together to prep for a BBQ and brought it down to the large garage that they had, complete with indoor BBQ and a huge pan. We all prepped the yummy food, made salads, got the veggies and meat ready and then Eduardo set to cooking.
Dinner was awesome!! Car and Fer of 'Caravana America' had also joined us for the evening, so there were six of us all chatting and laughing in a mix of English and Spanish. The food was totally yummy and we were so tired by 1am and could barely keep our eyes open. It had been a truly great and memorable day.