Patagonia – Day 6: Perito Merino, Argentina

Date: 11/15/2014 Saturday
Starting Location: Esquel, Argentina
Ending Location: Perito Merino, Argentina
Mileage Today:  338 Miles (A very long day)
Mileage Total:  821.4 miles

Esquel Departure

I’ve tried to show our morning departures from the helmet cam.  So, in keeping with that tradition, you’ll see this morning’s video below.  The parking area had quite a bit of pretty deep gravel, but being the smart ass that I am, I couldn’t just exit like a civilized person, I had to rev the bike drop the clutch, and kick out some gravel.

OMG, What a day

The trip from Bariloche to Perito Merino is roughly 550 Kilometers, or 384 miles.  In addition to being a pretty high mileage day, it has lots of gravel, and wind.  In fact, this portion of the tour is where we just start to get a good feel for the Winds of Patagonia, but I’m getting ahead of myself.  I’ll explain that a little later.

This portion of the trip is considered to be the gateway to Patagonia.  Considering that Patagonia is about 1500 miles long, and we’re just now entering it, we’ve still got a good amount of mileage yet to go.  As you know, Patagonia is known for for being remote, windy, and beautiful.  While we’re just entering it, it has proven to be all three, already!

What happened to the gravel?

At the beginning of today’s ride, we were told that today would be the longest day, and that the last 130 Km would be gravel.  In fact, the story goes that the last 130 Km would be very difficult gravel, deep at times, unpredictable always.  We were also told that this was to be the only gravel that we would experience today.

So, in case you were wondering what all the fuss is about, this is what a gravel road in Patagonia looks like.

So, in case you were wondering what all the fuss is about, this is what a gravel road in Patagonia looks like.

As is often the case in South America, and in particular in Argentina, just about all of what we were told was wrong.  By 11:30 we came upon a new section of Route 40 where the Department of Transportation had decided to remove all of the old tar, and lay down new tar.  Now, this might not sound like a problem, but these folks are very procedural, if they’re anything at all.  So, it appears that they removed about 15 miles of tarred road, and replaced it with a gravel bed, onto which they will build a new road.

In the meantime, I’m afraid that we’ve got no tarred road to ride on, and as a result we had to ride on Ripio (the Argentine word for gravel roads that are known to sap your strength, wear you down and sometimes take your life).  This little section of Ripio is parallel to a brand new section of road, tarred to perfection, but not yet opened.  So, we were forced to ride in the gravel, while just 80′ to our right was perfectly tarred ,and brand new road.

Go figure…

A bit of dirt riding

 

The wild ones

As previously mentioned, on today’s ride we we’re just entering into Patagonia.  In Patagonia, you can expect to see some extraordinary creatures, big and small.  As it turns out, we did manage to see a few of them today.

Sorry about the picture quality.  These little critters were off the road about 150'

Sorry about the picture quality. These little critters were off the road about 150′

Riding South on Ruta 40, at speeds approaching 145 Km/Hr, we scanned the horizon, looking for wild-life.  Now, at this point, I’m sure that my Mother is going to say something like “Clifford, please slow down”, so in order to put my Mom at ease, let me just say that it is quite common to be riding on Ruta 40, for as long as 15 minutes and not see another car, motorcycle, or human being.  So, at speeds like that, considering that the road is completely empty, and sometimes straight for 15 miles at a time, I would have to say…  “Don’t worry Mom, I’m being safe”.

This is a pic, taken from the Internet.

This is a pic, taken from the Internet.

Thanks for your indulgence, I’m sure that all of you would also want to make sure that your Mom wasn’t worrying about you.  Now, back to the animals.  Where was I?  Oh yeah, we’re riding down Ruta 40 at 145 clicks, and I look to the right, and see a few of these creatures that look like the Lach Ness Monster, except that they have 4 legs.  They produce their forward motion by doing this strange kind of movement that is somewhere between a hop, skip and a jump.  Above is a shot of the Guanacos in the wild, and also a shot that I found on the Internet, which is more pronounced.  I hope that by tomorrow, I’m able to find a pic that is a nice close up.  I’m still hoping to come around a turn and have one of these creatures on the side of the road, ready to be made into a star.

You might be thinking that these critters look a bit like llamas.  Well, after a bit of digging I was able to find that the scientific name for them is Lama guanicoe, and while I’m no scientist, it would seem that they are related.

PeritoMerino-Inbound-horsesWild, Wild Horses

Also, as I took pictures of the guanicoe, and turned to get back on my bike, I found that on the other side of the road a herd of wild horses had wandered up near the fence.

There is some doubt about whether these horses are wild, or domestic, and one of the folks on our tour group said that he believes that they are domestic, because they are not covered in Shit.  I’m not sure that I buy this explanation, so I took a moment to ask one of the horses.  He said his name is Ed, and is most certainly a wild horse.  So, there you have it.  Wild, Wild Horses, and no matter how anyone tried, they could not drag me a way from looking on in awe.

By the way, Ed is the white and black one left of center.  He was quite striking, and exuded a confidence that only a wild Patagonian horse could have.

The days are getting longer

or, am I just getting older?

Let me take a moment and state the obvious.  As we head further South, just as if we were heading North towards Alaska, the days get longer, and longer, until each and every day is more than 24 hours long.  Oh, sorry, the days don’t actually get longer themselves, but the amount of time that we spend in daylight increases.

Down here in Perito Merino the sun was setting at about 9:45 last night, and the sun was up by 5:30 AM today.  As a result of these longer days, we can choose to sleep less, or work on the ‘Blog more.  I don’t need a whole lot of sleep, so what do you think I’m going to do?

Can you just feel the suspense?

My Health

So, how’s the knee doing

Prior to starting on this trip, I was a bit worried about whether my leg would hold up, or not.  When there is a lot of gravel and dirt roads, we stand on the foot pegs, and ride standing up.  Riding standing can put a good amount of stress on the knee, and can fatigue the muscles in the leg.  In this case, I’ve been standing an awful lot, and I have not experienced any issues or problems at all. This leg is working like it just left the factory.

As you know, I’ve heavily modified my car, and it now performs much better than when it was stock.  Because the car can sometimes be run under “extreme conditions”, the car, like my knee can be tested.  I’m hoping that my leg holds up as good as my car has.  Strike that, I hope that my leg holds up better than my car does.

The car has a warranty, and the folks at Audi Stevens Creek have always been fair to me about getting things repaired, but they leg…  The leg does not come with a warranty, so I better take good care of it.

About the Author

Cliff Musante

Cliff Musante is a technologist, business leader, motorcycle enthusiast, father, grandfather, and more. In June, 2013 his passion for motorcycles was revitalized, and he set out to ride across Patagonia. This 'Blog is the story of all of his adventures.

Comments

  1. Have to say Cliff, I’m loving reliving this ride. You do it great justice mate and I’m recalling things I had forgotten about completely.

    1. Hi Andy,
      I’m so glad that I can give you a way to recall the adventure that you had, when you came to this glorious place. It’s kind of funny, but if I wasn’t writing it down, I would never be able to remember it myself.
      Welcome aboard Ghost rider.

  2. Cliff, when Andy and I did this ride we ran into a perfectly great bit of Rutta 40 that was not open. We decided to take things into our own hands and transitioned onto the virgin pavement and rode it like we stole it – after some miles the hard surface disappeared, then the compacted gravel turned to loose gravel, then compacted dirt, then loose dirt and finally a large swampy field separating us and the rippio – oh and a hill on the last 150 feet up. Many went down but eventually all made it. BTW, I believe there were about 6 bent rim charges at the end of the trip $$$. Really enjoying virtually residing this fantastic ride.

    1. John, I can’t tell you the number of times that I looked over to my right, where I could see a perfectly laid, brand new section of pavement, thinking to myself… Would anyone know; Would anyone see if I just rode over to that strip of pavement and “had a go of it”. Somehow (and I really don’t know how), I managed to keep within the rules and stay on the rippio, staying off of the “beautiful new pavement”.
      As far as the charges for bent rims, we’ve been lucky so far, but we’ve still got a few days of rippio left, so time will tell which of us has the skills to avoid the $1000 charge for a bent rim.

  3. Nice write up! Planning on that trip Nov 2015… Its nice to have a heads up before hand… I rode with Compass on another trip… Edu and Alain are great guides!

    See you in Alaska! Thats where I ride…

    1. Hi Cynthia,
      You’re right. Edu and Alain are taking good care of us, and the trip is an amaazing journey, as long as you have the right attitude. These trips are not for the faint of heart, but with the right attitude, you’ll find magic at every turn. All the best…

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