Argentina/Chile: going further south
Sebastian: So, from O’Higgins we drove back north to take a perfect road over the Roballo pass to reach Argentina, which is necessary to visit El Chaiten, Calafate (both in Argentina) and the world famous Torres del Paine national park in Chile. The weather is perfect as we float over the gravel road where fascination rises as we see yet again lamas but also for the first time in my life ostriches, flamingos and wild gooses (anybody remembers Niels Holgerson ?) running and flying around freely! It is just a fairy tale… After an uncomplicated boarder crossing we continue the ride on the argentinian side of the pass where a huge condor decides to fly in circles 15 meters over my head… I just can’t believe how “National Geographic” like our life is at the moment! The whole day warms our hearts with a breathtaking landscape wherever we look.
Our plan is to reach a place called Bajo Caracoles but on the way there a guy we meet tells us that we will only find thieves there – so we do not know what to except. When we arrive I am already good for a warm shower and bed but as I enter the only hostel in the whole village which is a bar as well (like in a movie, full of drunk truckers that stop talking and stare at me when I step in and a biiiiig boss with a character face) to ask for a room I understand very well what “thieves” means. They ask around 90 dollar for a room with shared bathroom !!! After a 3 second discussion with Martin the decision is easily taken: we continue even though night falls and it’s still over 200 kilometers to the next bigger city.
The ride is one of the harder ones given the fact that we had been driving all day long already and the wind is almost blowing us off the bikes. But it’s a small price for a fantastic night sky full of stars and a much cheaper and nicer place in a Gobernador Gregores, as the small city is called. The next day we get ready to finally ride on the Ruta 40, the longest and most famous road of Argentina (starting in the south and going all the way to the north) and I am exited as hell. Only thing I didn’t know is that exactly the part we were going to drive would be the hardest time (at least for me) on the bike so far during our trip around the world.
At the beginning the road is paved, so everything fine until a part where the asphalt is still soft and wet so our bike get covered in Tarmac from head to toe… Not nice because extremely shitty to get rid of. After that the roads is just gravel – which would not be a problem if it wasn’t for the deep gravel that you better don’t drive though if you are not in a mood for a summer salt. We have to drive on the good part and between to lines of up to 20 centimeters high gravel, and that while the wind is blowing so hard that we have to ride the bikes in a completely tilted position. I feel like in a circus: driving on a rope (the thin line between the gravel) trying to calm a bull taking it by it’s horns (the handle bar of the KTM ) and at the same time being pulled left and right by some nasty dwarfs (the wind…). I am not amused as you can imagine, sometimes even having to stop because the wind almost blew me off the road, and more than happy when we finally arrive in El Chalten where you find the famous Fitz Roy and the Cerro Torre granite mountains.
We stay for a couple of nights due to not perfect weather conditions before we decide to hike to the Fitz Roy. Normally an eight hour hike we take it easy and only walk up to the so called Laguna Capri from where we already have a wonderful view on the needle like mountain with a perfect reflection in the lagoon. Two days before we also road into the national park to hike up the Huemel glacier but didn’t see too much because of the fog and the SNOW! Yes, it was really snowing and walking thought the silent forest I felt somehow like at home for a moment .
Our next stop should be something really special, Calafate further south where we want to visit the impressive and world famous Perrito Moreno glacier. We find ourselves a cheap hostel where we also meet a great couple from Austria and get up early the next morning to see the sunrise over the glacier. The temperature is under zero (-2,5 to be exact) and with the windchill at around 130 km/h try to imagine in what condition we arrive at the glacier after a 45 minute ride… Completely frozen, brrr!
But, we are the first one to be there and enjoy the silence while listening to the cracking of this beautiful and immense ice river – a glacier as I have never seen it before and hardly will see it ever again. When the sun comes up the white turns into flourishing blue and from time to time parts break of and fall into the water. And this is exactly what this glacier is known for, huge parts of the up to 70 meter high front and falling into the water making an unbelievable noise that one will never forget. As most of now many tourists (we are here for a couple of hours already) have to take their tourist busses to get back we decide to stay a bit more, being quite sure that we will witness a big part to break off. What can I say, in a kind of “in your face” manner the biggest part of the day breaks off ride in front of us only 20 minutes later… Just unbelievable!
We are the happiest people ever as we continue our ride the next day to Puerto Natales, again going to Chile where we plan to visit the Torres del Paine. What can I tell you… On the way there I have yet again a flat tire – the last one I just had to fix recently in El Chalten only 200 kilometers earlier – and I am just not I the mood for that at this very moment. Luckily the hole is very small and I am loosing little air so we can continue and I have to pump up the tube every 50 kilometers. Like that we reach Puerto Natales without further complications but I am somehow not in the mood anymore for big “taking off he tire, fixing the hole and putting the tire on again” action. Since the tire is completely worn off anyways (the wire construction already starting to show) we decide finally not to go to the Torres del Paine or further down to Punta Arenas or even to Ushuaia.
Our new plan is to take the ferry backs to Puerto Montt where we also need to service the bikes. We have heard that this ferry trip should be amazing but have to admit that either we were not lucky (April is not the best season) or we were fooled by great marketing . During the three day trip we see hardly any animals (we hoped to see wales, penguins and the like…). I have been fighting with a nasty cold already in Puerto Natales for a week and on this cold and windy trip it doesn’t really get better… But there is one highlight to talk about: the twelve hour part of the trip that leads us through the rough Golfe de la Pena (pena = pain) where the waves shake the ship like crazy.
Most of the people who were in a great mood on the first day sit around quietly with whitish green faces and don’t talk a lot. Martin and me were feeling quite well until we got dinner served… When I tasted one bite of the pasta bolognese I felt sick right away and decided to go to bed instantly to avoid a worse scenario . Martin stays cool until the end without any problems – respect for that!
The last evening on the boat we then have a backlash playing “Mäxchen” (a drinking game we played in our high school days) with lovely Austrian, Swiss, German and Argentinian people that we got to know on the boat and already before in Calafate. The next day we arrive in Puerto Montt where we head directly to the KTM store to have our bikes fixed and serviced. Juan, the mechanic who takes care of our babies actually lived for over 28 years in Spain and worked for KTM/RedBull Racing so we feel on the save side when he takes them apart . While waiting for the bikes I have to realize that either I am too old for playing drinking games or that mixing vodka and red wine is one of the most stupid ideas one can have… I guess it’s a bit of both .
After the bikes are ready for Martin and me it’s time to split up again for a couple of days since he is going to surprise Eva One (his girlfriend) in Santiago while I decided to cross the boarder to Argentina already here in the south and meet him up in Mendoza to get to know the argentinian side of the Andes (you remember that we already drove down from Santiago to Puerto Montt, so I don’t see any sense to do it again. With the bikes up to date and new tires plus a “heavy duty” tube I am set to go and sure that nothing can happen on the way, nothing! If I was right or once again mistaken you can read in our next story.