Week 96 - Punta Arenas
Updated: Nov 1, 2021
It was time to say farewell to Ushuaia and get going, so we said goodbye to everyone and set off on the road again, plus Gary joined us for the first section until Rio Grande... his first trip on the KLR. Unfortunately Momo wasn't awake so we couldn't say goodbye, but we were so grateful to have been able to camp at his place.
It was quite rainy and so bloody cold. Gary wasn't happy with the suspension or his rear tyre to go off-road, so he decided to stay in Rio Grande to find a tyre and get things sorted. We managed to bump in to an English speaking Chilean guy in the petrol station who was able to help Gary out. We left shortly after as time was getting on and we needed to do the border crossing before it got too late and also have time to find somewhere to camp. We said goodbye and left Gary with the chap at the petrol station, and headed off on the dirt road to the border. It was a super easy and friendly crossing, very quiet with minimal passing traffic, and then about 30km more to Lago Blanco, complete with a free campsite. Fabulouso!
We pitched up in the camp area among the trees (I know, not always the best plan) and then some guys came to tell us about not making a fire, which was no problem as we hadn't really intended to. It was such a lovely place, with the lake only a short distance away, so we went for an evening stroll after we'd had some grub. Unfortunately, we didn't sleep that great. In the early hours of the morning it was raining again, but in the end it stopped for a while. We took the opportunity of a break in the rain to pack up, and we even managed to get the tent dry, before heading out on the beautiful dirt road to 'Parque Pinguino Rey'.
Visiting the King Penguins was high up on my list of things to do as we were in the area, and I'd never seen King Penguins in the wild. As expected it was super touristy and expensive. I went on my own because Kelvin couldn't really be bothered with the touristy things and crowds, plus he'd seen King Penguins before. You couldn't get too close to the penguins but they had some binoculrs to look at them through which was quite good. They really were so beautiful and their colourings were stunning. After I trundled back to meet Kelvin we met a couple in a van from Montreal and chatted for a while, and they were a big fan of bikes to.
After leaving the penguin park we continued on the dirt road a little, before joining the main highway to Cerro Sombrero and back to a hostal that we'd stayed in previously. The local supermarket was closed but fortunately we had enough supplies for a breakfast. The next day we filled up (almost) with fuel. The fuel pump ran out and the attendant was trying to get every last drop available in to our tanks. We were so lucky that someone hadn't filled up with the last fuel before us, otherwise we would have been staying put! We headed to the ferry and luckily only had to wait a very short time. I felt a bit sick on the crossing as it was much more bumpy this time around and the wind was howling. After a very windy 200km ride or so to Puntas Arenas we tried to top up our fuel tanks, but again the petrol station was out of fuel. We managed to get into Punta Arenas via a free camp spot that we checked out just before entering the town. It looked quite good and had some shelters for sitting and cooking, plus quite a few hedges to act as wind breaks. We took note and then headed in to the town to a bike shop called La Guarida, but unfortunately it was closed. We went in to the cafe next door and the lady said it'd be open again at 4pm so we got ourselves a coffee and cake and waited. In this time I also went to check out a hostal close by with camping. At 6000pp ( Chilean Paso) about £5.30 and with many tents crammed in to a small space I decided it was a no-go, and walked back to the coffee shop. La Guarida opened at 4pm as promised and we went in for a chat.
We chatted to Cami for a while who was lovely. We managed to find front and rear tyres for both bikes, all Continentals (3 Conti-Escape's and one TKC 70), which we hadn't tried on the trip as yet. We were so glad to have found some decent tyres, and the bikes were crying out for some new rubber. They were expensive compared to the cheap rubber we had been using but that was expected, especially so far South in Patagonia, but the huge upside was that they also allowed to use their lovely workshop. Salva came in to the shop after a bit, who was a really nice guy and we chatted a bit more, looked at all bikes in the shop, had coffee and just generally had a bit of a chill-out. We used the wifi and I managed to talk to a lady from an Air BnB on What's App and booked ourselves in to her spare room for four nights, but it was only available from the following day so we decided we'd go back to the free camping we'd checked out on the way in to the town...at least we wouldn't be crammed in a hostel with loads of other tents.
My bike for some reason wasn't sounding quite right and was stalling easily. My gut instinct was that something wasn't right, and it was bugging me, but I didn't know what the issue was. Anyway, I got it fired up again and we set off back to the camp ground and got set up. It was very windy and cold but the shelters were a god-send and the one we happened to go to had 'Life we love' writing in it, which was from the Polish couple we'd met previously, Loki and Liwia. Small world! We went to bed early and it was so windy that ear plugs were most definitely needed, but fortunately there was less wind over night, although nevertheless, not a great sleep. We were up at 8.30am to pack to get to the Air BnB on time. We found it relatively easily and met Monse, who was such a lovely person. We chatted lots and lots and settled in to our new home for the next few days.
We all went to Uni Mart together and did some food shopping, plus I managed to find an aluminium pot, which we bought as I'd crushed the last one, I think from dropping the bike several times getting in and out of our amazing wild camping spot on Ruta J. We also visited an amazing Choripan shop called 'Kiosko Roca'. It was a whole different level of Choripan and I have to say, we really understood afterwards why this place had such a good name for itself, and why the queue was so big. Literally the shop was filled with people ordering Choripan. It was super delicious and worth the wait. We then headed back to the house for a chillax. Nikita, Monse's dog, was a little wary of strangers at first but she settled with us relatively quickly.
At 4pm we went back to La Guarida to work on the bikes. Cami wasn't there but Nora was later. Kelvin changed one rear tyre and 2 fronts. A few people came to look and have a chat whilst we were in there which was nice. It was fantastic to have workshop and compressor to work with, it definitely sped things up a bit compared to the normal tyre changing we were used to. The plan was then to do the other rear tyre and the valves tomorrow once we'd had a good sleep.
We returned to the Air BnB. I cooked a big curry dinner, which was super yum and chatted extensively with our host Monse. Nikita still seemed happy, and was quite keen on some fuss. Monse shared that she had written a book about loss called 'Lucky' and she volunteered with the Scouts to. A very interesting lady and we were very fortunate to have found her place on AirBnB.
21 Second tyre change, I wish! This included taking the tyre off twice as Kelvin had nipped the tube.
20 Seconds to sort the valve clearance! I'd become a dab hand at the valves after all the issues I'd had with my engine!
We went to a local park for a a walk with Monse and Niki, which again was crazy windy but pretty and it had some ducks milling around on the large pond there, plus there was a great view of the sea. We also had a good walk into the centre of Punta Arenas and the Sara Braun house, the crematorium and then to the Zona Franca with Monse as our guide, fantastic. In the evening we then met a fellow biker who was staying long-term in Punta Arenas called Daniel Fraser. We had arranged to meet in the bar on the top floor of the building (a hotel) but unfortunately it was closed so we had to settle for the coffee shop on the ground floor. Daniel was a big fan of Lyndon Poskitt and was talking about how they'd met and about his bike, racing etc. We had a couple of coffee's and then headed back to the AirBnB for our final night of sleep in the lovely, comfortable bed.