Ok... I rode from Los Angeles California to the southern tip of South America, and back. I started out with a friend from Alberta Canada - Larry is a rancher whom I met when I rode to Alaska a few years earlier and had stayed in touch with. He had recently bought a new bike and wanted to go for a ride. So we set our sights on Tierra Del Fuego. But, he had to turn back in Colombia. Then I rode with Brian from England, Patrick from Ireland, and Damon from New Zealand, from Columbia to Santiago Chile. After that, I was on my own.

This was an exciting trip for a number of reasons. It was over 30,000 miles thru Latin America and the Andes mountains, and I didn't speak much Spanish. There was also the small detail of the Darien Gap. And, then there was "Death Road" in Bolivia - supposedly the most dangerous road in the world.

Anyway, I blogged about the entire journey right here.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

South to the bottom of the world

Ok… we stopped in Santiago Chile for much needed bike repairs.  Brian and Damon also had to wait on parts to be shipped before repairs could begin.  Since I only needed a tire and wheel bearings, I was ready to move on in just a few days.  But, I decided to relax for a bit.  I ended up staying in Santiago for a week and didn’t really see any of the city and I didn’t take a single photo.   I'm sure there is a lot to see there but it just had that big city feel to me - much like back home in Los Angeles, even though it is in Chile.  Anyway, I headed south from Santiago - on my own once again.

The ride started with a few hundred miles of pavement - which gave me a chance to quietly think and ponder the journey ahead.  I began to think about my preparations and second guess some of my decisions.  I had decided wait on replacing the chain and sprockets until I reached the bottom of South America and headed north again to Buenos Aries.  But, the area I was heading into was quite remote - so, these parts would not be readily available.  And, I had forgotten to get some better rain gear which could be an issue as I get further south and the weather gets colder.  Oh well… onward!

This part of my journey took me thru the Carretera Austral - a very scenic region of South America that runs along the Chili and Argentina borders.  I crossed into Argentina for the first time and spent a very rainy night in the small town of Perito Moreno.  The rain continued until about noon the next day.  So, I got a late start on the next leg of my journey, down the famous Ruta 40, which was about 50% unpaved and quite remote.  Since gasoline was not available many places along the route, I needed to carry additional fuel. Using a map that showed towns with fuel, I calculated that I would need to carry an additional gallon.  But, I did not take into account that any of the known fuel stations along the route would not have any fuel - which is exactly what I discovered at my first scheduled fuel stop.  But, as luck would have it, there was a motorcycle tour group there taking a break from riding.  They were kind enough to fill my tank and in conversation they told me they had just come thru the area I was heading into and it was very muddy.  They had taken 9 hours to travel about 40 miles and suggested I wait a couple days for the ground to dry.  So, I spent the night there and took off again in the morning.  The road was still very muddy and I fell a couple times but managed to make it thru to El Calafate where I planned to watch some ice melt. 

The next morning I headed out to the famous Perito Moreno glacier.  It was an interesting experience. You could hear the ice crack - then you would try to visually locate where the sound came from so you could watch the ice fall off into the water below.  The glacier is enormous so it isn’t as easy as it sounds. Anyway, from there I headed south again - this time with my eye on the brass ring. 

I had been on the road for nearly 4 months and was within a couple days of Ushuaia on the island of Tierra Del Fuego.  It’s considered the southern most city in the world.  And, it was the target of this adventure from the start - the bottom of South America.  But, it would still take 2 days, 2 border crossings, and a ferry ride to get me to my destination, assuming that I encountered no other problems.  Border crossings are a real pain - you have to go thru Immigrations and Customs for the country you are exiting and then go thru them both again for the country you are entering.  To make things really challenging, the Island of Tierra Del Fuego is split down the middle with half belonging to Chile and the other half to Argentina.  And, of course, the road to the famed city at the bottom of the world travels thru both sides of the island.  So I would have to fill out forms for Immigrations and Customs offices for these two countries 8 times to visit Ushuaia.  Now that’s “Adventure” lol

So, I made it thru the perilous paperwork jungle of red tape required.  And, I made it to my last gas stop along the way.  Then as I’m looking for the road out of town… my chain breaks.  Great!  Only 2 hours away from the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow!   But, being the well prepared seasoned Adventure Rider that I am, I have a spare master link to repair my chain with.  However… there is one small problem - it’s doesn’t fit my chain.  So much for being well prepared!  Then, as I’m looking at the chain, a guy stops to help and ends up driving  me all over town to get a master link that fits.  But, as luck would have it, none of the shops has one.  Although, we did find one that “almost” fit.  So, Pablo takes me to his fathers house and modifies my chain to fit the new (almost the right size) master link.  And, I’m on my way in about an hour. 

The sun went down and it got very cold and windy as I got close to the end of my journey.  Then it started raining.  And, before long I was freezing - and with the high winds and low visibility, I was forced to slow my pace to a crawl.  The final miles seemed to take forever.  But I tell myself, in the end, it’s the journey, not the destination.

So I rolled into Ushuaia a little late, but I made it.… with the help of quite a few new friends along the way.

The road got really wide here.  If you look closely you will see that it doubles as an air strip.

I met Kurt from Switzerland at a campground on Ruta 40.  He was traveling very heavy.  But, he wasn't in a hurry and really enjoyed cooking fine cuisine to go with a carefully chosen wine.  He had a Tee-Pee tent that he could stand up and cook in.


 Yeah... I know!  It's not the right sign :)
Guess I'll have to go back - LOL